CANNON MONTH 2: Inga (1968)

After her mother dies, Inga (former ballet dancer Marie Liljedahl, who really hit the trifecta of late sixties sleaze being in this Joe Sarno movie and its sequel The Seduction of IngaMassimo Dallamano’s Dorian Gray and Jess Franco’s Eugenie… The Story of Her Journey into Perversion; she retired from acting by the time she was 21) goes to live with her aunt Greta (Monica Strömmerstedt), who only wants to set her up with a rich older man named Einar (Thomas Ungewitter) and make money off of her. Yet once Inga meets Karl (Casten Lassen) — her aunt’s younger lover — she runs from this rich world of decadence.

In November of 1969, the police busted into the Dakota Theater in Grand Forks, ND and arrested the manager and the projectionist, charging them with running an obscene film. They were found not guilty, which was a major step toward legally showing pornography.

That said — this is quite tame by today’s standards. And it’s filled with so much story and emotional content, it’s hard to compare it to what pornography has become.

There’s a gorgeous scene in the beginning of this as Inga, nude but for a diaphanous nightgown, takes a series of wind-up toys and lets them race across the floor in front of her. Inga continues to return to these toys as her sexuality is awakened and her innocence left behind.

The film is just as much about Greta, a gorgeous yet aging woman clinging to her youth by dating increasingly younger men which comes with it a price: these young men need money to stay around, not love or sex.

Sometimes, the feeling of sin is better than the sin itself.

CANNON MONTH 2: To Ingrid, My Love, Lisa (1968)

Also known as Kvinnolek, this Joe Sarno-directed and written movie is about Lisa Holmberg (Gunbritt Öhrström), who is the latest Sarno leading lady to be gorgeous and at the same time emotionally unsatisfied, no matter how well the rest of her high fashion life may be.

She heads to the country to rest and meets Ingrid (Gunilla Iwansson), a young girl who she convinces that she could escape her normal life and become a model. Of course, she also has her own designs on her young charge. Can Sapphic May and December — more like February and June — romance blossom?

This was brought to the U.S. by Cannon, which seemingly carried everything Sarno was making.

I love that when this played Pittsburgh, the Pittsburgh Press drama editor Thomas Blakely said “Yes” draws no from one critic: Swedish import is cheap, shoddy, ragged sex romp. They sent the drama editor to a Joe Sarno movie!

Meanwhile, I Am Curious (Yellow) was playing in New Kensington at the Dattola Theater.

CANNON MONTH 2: Scratch Harry (1968)

Referred to as an “amphetamine fantasy,” this film has the Harry of the title, played by Harry Walker Staff, hiding out in his mansion as the mob wants him dead over a drug debt. The only person he has around is not even a person, but a Greek chorus by way of John Lennon-glasses wearing hippie known in the credits as The Shadow (Mio Domani).

His wife Erica (Victoria Wilde) has left him, so he brings home a girl named Christine (Christine Kelly) just in time for his wife to return. He has a hit out on her. She has a hit out on him. The two women soon turn on him. Somehow an underground film that was sold under the name The Dirty Three which makes it seem like it’s going to get sexy and it never really does.

Alex Matter, who co-wrote this and made The Drifter with Stephen Winsten, was a production manager on Cannon’s The Swap and then went on to write the Kenny Rogers movie Six Pack, so yes, life is weird.

CANNON MONTH 2: The Wicked Die Slow (1968)

Of all the early Cannon movies, I would never have expected that a roughie American version of an Italian western would be one of the ones released on blu ray — Ronin Flix — but life is always so surprising.

The Kid (Gary Allen, one of the movie’s writers) and his Mexican sidekick Amarillo (Jeff Kanew, the other one of the movie’s writers) ride through the Wild West of New Jersey, a place where The Kid meets and falls in love with a young girl played by Susannah Campbell. Most of this movie will have her being assaulted by bandits, miscreates and even her father, who kills himself and gets buried by The Kid.

William K. Hennigar directed Mr. Mari’s Girls and Seven Days Too Long, another early Cannon movie. As for Allen, he would go on to act in everything from Annie Hall to Alice, Sweet Alice and The Sentinel while Kanew would direct Revenge of the NerdsGotcha!Tough GuysTroop Beverly Hills and V.I. Warshawski.

This is a more than sleazy regional oddity. I can get behind lots of scummy stuff in a movie, but one that has near-constant sexual assault isn’t really my thing. Your mileage — I hope not — may vary.

CANNON MONTH 2: Deep Inside (1968)

Cannon was making money on Joe Sarno’s films, getting them into theaters as Sarno divided his time making movies in the United States and in Sweden, Germany and Denmark. His early films are stark black and white affairs and life is never easy for anyone within them. Also, the phrase Deep Inside is the greatest adult title ever and would eventually be used along with the names of actresses, such as Sarno’s uncredited X-rated Inside Jennifer Welles and Deep Inside Annie Sprinkle.

Millicent Redmond (Peggy Steffans, the Findlay Flesh trilogy) is a woman who is frigid in bed and therefore gets her pleasure manipulating others, like seeing what kind of trouble she can get Lina (Mary Park) into; plays around with the relationship between her old lesbian roommates Neva (Tia Walter) and Jean (Sheila Britt, The Swap and How They Make It); heats up older lesbian who loves younger women Mavis (Bella Donna, not the Belladonna whose retirement still makes one wistful) and gets Pam (Lara Danielli) involved with the absolute wrong man.

Sarno’s movies have an existential sadness that I absolutely love. I can only imagine what raincoaters felt about these movies, already worried about being in public watching filth, worried about the cops coming in and then the movie they went up against so much just depresses them beyond comprehension.

CANNON MONTH 2: Seven Days Too Long (1968)

“And the heat goes on with Linda and Chuck, Lisa and Walter, Robin and John.”

That tagline and who is in this movie — thanks to the always astounding Grindhouse Cinema Database — is nearly all I could find about this movie.

Its director, William K. Hennigar, also made another movie Cannon released in their early days, The Wicked Die Slow, and ran camera on three Barry Mahon movies — A Good Time With a Bad GirlSex Club International and Run Swinger Run! — all made in 1967.

Some of its cast members did more than a one and done appearance, like Robin Nolan who shows up in Shaft and Teenage Gang Debs; Christopher Penncock was Gabriel Collins on Dark Shadows; Helen Stewart is also in Hennigar’s aforementioned The Wicked Die Slow; Verne Williams was Cujo in The Last Dragon and was part of Bad Guys Inc., a prank created by Joey Skaggs in The Art of the Prank); Maria Lease would go on to direct several adult films as Joanna Williams, Jack Williams, Wray Hamilton and Jennifer Ray; as an editor she used the name Mario Graves and edited Planet of the Dinosaurs; she appeared in Al Adamson’s Dracula vs. Frankenstein and finally, wrote and directed Dolly Dearest. That’s what I call a career!

CANNON MONTH 2: The Secret of the Ice Cave (1989)

As of the writing of this, one person each has written a user review and critic review on IMDB. Now, I join them, the smallest fan club of a movie that no one else wants or needs to watch. Yes, who was looking for Sally Kellerman and Michael Moriarty in a movie about a mysterious ice cave?

Made by Romanian director Radu Gabrea and writer Mike Werb (who would go on to make Darkman III: DIe, Darkman, DieFace/OffThe Mask and Food of the Gods II), this movie is essential for those of us who have a David Mendenhall and have already watched Going Bananas and Over the Top. Or maybe you’re doing a marathon of the films of Virgil Frye and need something to pair with Revenge of the Ninja or Up from the Depths.

Mendenhall plays Alex Ostrow, whose mother Valerie (Sally Kellerman) is a scientist looking for a rare Chilean spider. They’re soon joined by Manny Wise (Moriarty) and his daughter Ona (Marcia Christie) on the hunt for the cave of that spider and pursued by Valerie’s husband Victor Talbot (Norbert Weisser) and his underling Frank Hagen (Virgil Frye).

At one point, Alex has to fix a TV for a tribe of cannibals so fierce that they cut off their victim’s manhood and shove it down their throat. He gets I Love Lucy to air, but they’ve seen it before and grow angry. This is a movie for kids — well, it’s PG-13 — but it’s also Cannon.

VINEGAR SYNDROME BLU RAY RELEASE: Two Undercover Angels / Kiss Me Monster (1967, 1968)

EDITOR’S NOTE: As part of Jess Franco Month, these movies were on the site on February 15 of this year. Now, Vinegar Syndrome is releasing them as only they can, newly scanned and restored in 4K from their 35mm original camera negatives. Beyond English and German langauge tracks, there;s also an alternate feature-length extended Spanish versions for both films (sourced from tape with newly translated English subtitles). Plus, Franco expert Stephen Thrower is interviewed about both movies, there are two archival Franco interviews and trailers and still galleries for both movies.

Also known as Sadist Erotica, The Case of the Two BeautiesTwo Avenging Angels and Red Lips Sadisterotica, this mindblast from Jess Franco is kinda sorta a Eurospy movie, but you get the feeling that Mr. Franco just wants to get to the choking and nudity and whipping and forget whatever minor plot there is.

Basically: two lesbian detectives are trying to find criminals, so they themselves pose as a supercriminal named Red Lips (this goes back to Franco’s 1960 movie, Red Lips, which was before Bondmania). The police have no idea and the tone of the films go from swinging fun and humor to outright brutality with no warning whatsoever.

I have no idea if I can explain what happens in this movie, which starts with an attractive brunette — Franco loved his brunettes, so get ready — being ripped to shreds by a werewolf man while a rich guy named Klaus Thiller watches and paints it all.

Then Red Lips steals a painting and we learn that the two lesbians, the blonde Regina (Rosanna Yanni, Count Dracula’s Great Love) and redhead Diana (Janine Reynaud, The Case of the Scorpion’s Tail) wear the mask and outfit when it suits them.

So yeah. The girls get hired to find someone that Thiller probably killed, they sleep with every man around them and yet still wind up with one another. Also: every few minutes, just when things threaten to get boring, there’s a go go dancing scene filled with nudity and blaring music.

This movie made no sense and I loved it for that reason.

Regina (Rosanna Yanni, Count Dracula’s Great Love) and Diana (Janine Reynaud, The Case of the Scorpion’s Tail) are back again for the third Red Lips movie from Jess Franco.

If the last film — Two Undercover Angels — made no sense, guess what? This one doubles down, almost a stream of consciousness film made up of murders, jazz clubs, stripteases, our girls play saxophones and near-escapes.

The sell copy for this claims, “Stiffs, Satanists and Sapphic sadists all after a secret formula for human clones!”

Maybe it’s the fact that I watched Jess Franco movies one after another and pounded what’s left of my brain into putty, but I loved every single minute of this movie.

Also known as Castle of the Doomed, it feels like Franco ran out of ideas here and just decided to have more things happen to the point that continuity and plot became the contrivances that lesser people try to bring up as necessary elements for a movie.

Nope. Not to Jess Franco.

Knife throwing clones? Evil lesbians? Good lesbians? Satanic murderers? Yeah. It’s got all that and an ending that doesn’t solve anything.

The failure of this movie would bring an end to the girls’ adventures until 1999’s Red Silk, although you can perhaps consider Two Female Spies with Flowered Panties a spiritual side quest.

But I think you should only watch a few Jess Franco movies in a row if you want to survive. And my head is already throbbing.

Also note: Two Undercover Angels had a monster in it. Kiss Me Monster has no monster.

Somewhere in there is a koan that will change your life.

El Escapulario (1968)

As María Pérez (Ofelia Guilmáin) receives last rites, she tells Father Andrés (Enrique Aguilar) about the influence that a religious medal — The Scalpular — had on her sons’ — Julián (Carlos Cardán) and Pedro (Enrique Lizalde) — lives. Meanwhile, two robbers wait outside to attack and rob the priest.

Julián is a soldier who soon deserts the army to join the rebels — the film takes place on during the Mexican Revolution — blowing up a train before he’s arrested. A sympathetic soldier helps him escape, yet Julián denies the power of the medal — denying God — and is shot and badly wounded.

Pedro falls for a woman well above his social status, Rosario (Alicia Bonnet’s), and narrowly avoids being killed thanks to the power of the medal. It turns out her uncle wants their relationship stopped at all costs, so he sends a letter about an evening rendezvous from Rosario while hiring bandits to kill him.

Andrés and Federico, the other two sons, have been lost since being kidnapped by a gang, but perhaps the priest will soon meet them and they will all learn how the power of the scapular binds them all. And that strangely, the old woman has been dead for seven years.

Director Servando González makes a whimsical yet melancholy fantastic film here, powered by a script by Jorge Durán Chavez and Rafael García Travesi, who wrote 94 movies, including several Santo films and The Mummies of Guanajuato.

This movie looks beyond gorgeous, even as it shows scenes of condemned and hung men swinging after their deaths. Somehow uniting multiple genre and countries of cinema, as well as being folk horror by way of Mexican Catholicism, this movie finds death everywhere and still finds a reason to smile (and by frightened at the same time).

You can watch this on Tubi.

Chattanooga Film Festival: The Snake Girl and the Silver-Haired Witch (1968

Take Noriaki Yuasa, the director of the original eight Gamera movies, and pair him with Kazuo Umezu, who created The Drifting Classroom, and have them make a movie that should be for kids but is the type of motion picture that destroys minds and reaps souls (and is filled with nightmarish visions and brutal murders).

Sayuri has returned to her family after years in an orphanage but trouble has followed her. Before she even arrives, a maid dies of a heart attack, her mother has amnesia from a car wreck and her sister won’t leave the attic, all while her father ignores them to study poisonous snakes and a fanged figure haunts her dreams.

Soon, our heroine is staying up in that attic with her scarred sister who tells her that she just wants to taste her hands and who breaks her dolls and oh yeah, rips a frog in half and throws it in her face. Yes, a kid-friendly movie.

And an amazing one at that.

If you can’t make the fest — you can get a pass NOW at the official site — The Snake Girl and the Silver-Haired Witch recently made its worldwide blu ray debut and home video premiere outside Japan thanks to Arrow. This release also has commentary by film historian David Kalat, an interview with manga and folklore scholar Zack Davisson, a trailer and an image gallery. You can order the blu from MVD.

It’s also available on the ARROW player. Head over to ARROW to start your 30 day free trial (subscriptions are available for $4.99 monthly or $49.99 yearly). ARROW is available in the US, Canada and the UK on the following Apps/devices: Roku (all Roku sticks, boxes, devices, etc), Apple TV & iOS devices, Android TV and mobile devices , Fire TV (all Amazon Fire TV Sticks, boxes, etc), and on all web browsers at https://www.arrow-player.com.