A Quiet Place to Kill (1970)

Umberto Lenzi and Carroll Baker made quite the giallo duo. Their 1969 pairing Orgasmo had been released internationally as Paranoia and this film, known as Paranoia in Italy, was retitled A Quiet Place to Kill. That’s not the end of the confusion, as this year Severin will release this on their Lenzi/Baker box set and Mondo Macabro also released An Ideal Place to Kill, another Lenzi film that you may also know as Oasis of Fear.

Would it simplify things if we used this movie’s Spanish title Una Droga Llamada Helen (A Drug Named Helen)?

Baker plays race car driving Helen, whose life is beyond a mess. How else can you explain why she’d accept an invitation from her ex-husband’s new wife Constance Sauvage to stay at their palatial home? And what if Helen and Constance soon bond over the fact that they hate Maurice (Jean Sorel, The Sweet Body of Deborah) and murder him on a sailing trip?

Of course, this being a giallo, things don’t work out that well and Constance ends up dying at sea. Her daughter shows up and that’s when things get worse for all involved. This is a classy giallo, filled with lush camerawork and a solid script from Marcello Coscia (The Living Dead at Manchester Morgue), Bruno Di Geronimo (What Have You Done to Solange?), Rafael Romero Marchent (the director of Santo vs. Dr. Death) and Marie Claire Solleville (Orgasmo).

Helping out on this film’s cinematography? None other than Aristide Massaccesi himself, the man of many names who most know as Joe D’Amato.

You can get this as part of Severin’s The Complete Lenzi/Baker Giallo Collection. Baker and Lenzi made four movies together, but I really wish they had made many more.

The Weekend Murders (1970)

Known in Italy as Concerto per Pistola Solista (Concert for Solo Gun), this Michele Lupo (Arizona Colt) film takes place in England instead of the Italy we’ve come to depend on for our giallo adventures.

As a family comes to an estate for the reading of the will of Henry Carter, Second Earl of Vale, and get murdered one after the other. Is it because his niece Barbara got all of his money? Was the sniper who killed the butler trying to shoot her all along? Did the makers of Knives Out watch this and figure that everyone would think they were making an Agatha Christie film and not aping a giallo?

Inspector Grey, who takes the case, is played by Lance Percival, who was the voice of Paul and Ringo in Yellow Submarine. Beryl Cunningham (So Sweet, So Dead) and Marisa Fabbri (Rabid Dogs) also appear.

Chris Chittell plays George, who is pretty much the villain of this movie. You may remember him from The Wild Geese and They Call Him Cemetery. There’s a scene where he decides to sexually assault one of the maid, who tells him he could have just asked and she would have given in. They end up making love, but visions of his overbearing mother lead to more bloodshed. Ah 1970! What a time you were for things no one would try in a movie today.

Ida Galli, who also used the name Evelyn Stewart, is on hand. She was in Special Mission Lady ChaplinFootprints on the Moon and The Case of the Scorpion’s Tail.

This might not be my favorite giallo of all time, but it’s fine for what it is. It’s closer to a detective tale with some trapping of pre-Argento and much Christie influence. It’s not bad, but I just demand more weirdness from my murder movies.

You can watch this on Amazon Prime.

The Old Man Who Cried Wolf (1970)

Luther Davis wrote Across 110th Street and this nihilistic TV movie, originally airing October 13, 1970. It’s directed by Walter Grauman, who was behind more than fifty episodes of Murder, She Wrote.

What a cast — from Jay C. Flippen (a former blackface vaudevillian known as “The Ham What Am”), Martin E. Brooks (Dr. Rudy Welles from The Six Million Dollar Man, the role originated by Martin Balsam, who is also in this), Ed Asner and Sam Jaffe to Percy Rodriguez (Genesis II, as well as the voiceover artist on the trailers for The ExorcistChopping MallHouseThe Great Outdoors and many more), Ruth Roman (The Baby), Diane Baker (Lorraine Warren in The Haunted), Balsam and Edward G. Robinson.

Robinson is an old man who watches his friend die and no one believes him. When he keeps telling anyone who will listen that they were attacked, his relatives try to get him psychiatric help. He decides to try to find the killers himself, but someone is watching his every step and the story grows darker and darker.

If you want to watch a real downer, the kind of rough ending that only the 1970’s can give you, this movie is on YouTube:

How Awful About Allan (1970)

Along with What’s the Matter With Helen?, this movie is one of the two collaborations between writer Henry Farrell and director Curtis Harrington.  It was the ABC Movie of the Week on September 22, 1970 and has stood the test of time as one of the better TV movies. And there’s some stiff competition for that.

Shot in just 12 days, it stars Anthony Perkins as Allan Colleigh, who has psychosomatic blindness after an accident — he left paint cans too close to a fire — that killed his abusive father and scarred his sister Katharine (Julie Harris from the 1963 version of The Haunting).

After Allan returns to their home after time in a mental hospital, he’s convinced that everyone is out to get him, including a new boarder with speaks in a hoarse whisper and one of his sister’s ex-boyfriends on the phone.

Joan Hackett — who was in two great TV movies, Dead of Night and The Possessed — appears as Allan’s former girlfriend. She gets caught up in his mania as rooms of the house explode into flames and he’s kidnapped by that mysterious ex.

How Awful About Allan has plenty of actors as comfortable on the stage as they were on the big or small screen. Perkins agreed to wear special contacts that completely made him blind so that his performance would be more realistic.

This didn’t get great reviews when it came out, but do the movie we love ever do?

You can download this on the Internet Archive, watch it on Amazon Prime or just use this YouTube link:

Santo and Blue Demon Against the Monsters (1970)

Lucha libre is to American pro wrestling as a movie like Alucarda is to an American possession film. Sure, they’re in the same category, but they’ve gone off into their own strange world where reality — the things we know and see and believe every single day — no longer exists.

Lucha takes the Catholic morality of Mexico to the extreme, with los technicos (the good guys) battling valiantly against los rudos (the bad guys) in matches that are often about technical skill versus brute force. There’s also the idea of putting your manhood on the line, as often there are chop and strike battles to prove who is more macho. And then there are the outfits and masks and characters, with each person exemplifying a different heroic or villainous ideal. When a feud reaches its conclusion, it often costs a combattant their mask — honestly, their face — or their hair. 

There has never been a luchador like El Santo. While he began as a rudo, once he achieved his fame, he became the kind of celebrity that Hulk Hogan could only dream of. Santo isn’t a big time pro wrestler; he’s a cultural icon on the level of someone like Elvis Presley. He starred in fifty-two movies between 1958 and 1982, along with winning thirty-eight matches where he put his famous silver mask up against the hair and masks of opponents like Perro Aguayo, Espanto I and II, Black Shadow, Bobby Bonales, La Momia and so many more.

The first Santo comic was released in 1952 and after years of resisting appearing in the movies — the ring was his first love — Santo made his first two films, el Cerebro del Mal (The Evil Brain) and Hombres Infernales (The Infernal Men), in 1958. By 1961, Santo was just as big of a movie star as a wrestler.

El Santo was known to never remove his mask, even in private. When traveling, he made sure to take a different flight from film crews so they would never see his face as he went  through customs. The only time Santo removed his hood in public was a week before he died from a heart attack, an action thought to be him realizing the death was near and he wanted to say goodbye. 

Lucha libre owns a place in my heart that pro wrestling never will. It means so much more; it’s a passion play in the midst of the squared circle that still draws a huge crowd every Friday night in Arena Mexico. 

Santo and Blue Demon Against the Monsters is a piece of magic. Here, our silver masked hero and his sidekick Blue Demon don’t just battle one monster. They battle every single one of them, one after the other, for nearly ninety mind-destroying minutes.

Leading the mob is El Vampiro, a vampire with the temerity to challenge Santo to a mask versus mask match in the middle of the holiest of all holy places, Arena Mexico, and the rudo nature to allow his army of monsters to invade before he loses

There’s also El Hombre Lobo, a werewolf that basically is just a hairy dude with fangs. La Momia, a skinny old man who looks like he could fold with one chop from Santo. Franquestain, who we can only assume is Frankenstein’s Monster with a van dyke! La Mujer Vampiro, who proves that ladies can be just as deadly as their male monster counterparts! El Ciclope, who takes over for the Creature from the Black Lagoon and looks like a beast straight out of Plaza Sésamo! Santo literally beats this dude with an ugly stick for twenty or more unanswered shots in a row while I yelled with madness and glee! There’s also a mad scientist named Bruno Halde and his dwarf sidekick Waldo, who struggle to keep these monsters in one piece. Oh man – I also forgot that there’s an evil clone of Blue Demon to deal with too!

This is the kind of movie that’s perfect for kids — think 60’s Batman mixed with some James Bond — except that there’s also a scene where a wolfman rips apart a kid’s parents in front of him, then does the same to the kid! In Mexican lucha films, rules don’t exist and life is cheap! And I haven’t even got to the scene where Franquestain stomps out a kid’s head. American History X has nothing on lucha monsters!

The end of this movie has Santo and Blue Demon — armed with torches and their pare fists, while wearing tight turtlenecks — murder nearly every monster thanks to the power of the cross and good old fashioned smashing everything. They also don’t even need hammers to stake vampires — our heroes do it with their bare hands.

As our heroes leave the vampires’ castle — leaving it ablaze after the staked vamps fade into nothing — the credits roll. In our overly CGI digital universe, a movie like this is a cool drink of aqua de fresa for what ails you. The best part is that this is just one of the many times Santo would go to war with the forces of evil. You can also watch him battle zombies, the king of crime, Satanic power, Martians, mafia killers, the Bermuda Triangle, karate experts and more.

Viva los luchadores! Viva la lucha! And most importantly, viva El Santo!

This article originally ran in Drive-In Asylum issue #18, which you can get right here.

Gamera vs. Jiger (1970)

Known as Gamera tai Daimajū Jaigā in Japan, or Gamera vs. Giant Devil Beast Jiger, this is the sixth Gamera film. In the U.S., it was released straight to television under the name Gamera vs. Monster X.

The American version contains stock footage from Gamera vs. Guiron and Gamera vs. Barugon to extend the movie’s release time.

As Japan gets ready for Expo ’70 in Osaka, they decide to take a mysterious status called the Devil’s Whistle off an island. Gamera tries to stop them, but they take it anyway. It makes everyone sick and insane that goes near it.

The sound that the Devil’s Whistle makes Jiger go crazy too, so the beast comes down and starts taking out everyone in its way, as well as using its spiked tail to mess up Gamera. It also has a spiky bulbed tail that lays an egg — and eventually a baby Jiger — inside Gamera’s lungs.

That baby looks like a cute version of Jiger, but damn if those little Japanese kids don’t go inside Gamera and kill that infant with static from their walkie-talkies. The scientists then use big speakers to keep Jiger busy while the kids go back inside the giant turtle and jump-start his heart.

In their final battle, Gamera uses telephone poles like earplugs — man, these movies are inventive — and he smashes Juger’s tail, finally making her weak enough to destroy.

Despite the increasingly low budgets and bad effects, Gamera movies remain willing to embrace pure insanity. Isn’t that what we’re all looking for anyway?

House of Dark Shadows (1970)

Dark Shadows was a phenomenon. The kind of cultural big deal that needed to be cashed in on, which is why producer and creator Dan Curtis started pitching a featuring length TV movie from 1968 on.

The original idea was to simply edit together old episodes of the show, but soon the idea to tell the entire Barnabas Collins saga — complete with bloody bites and gore — took over. As the TV series was still on the air, several of the actors were written out, with Barnabas being trapped in a coffin — for 28 episodes — by a writer who was trying to use the vampire for a biographical novel. Other characters were replaced in the 1970 parallel world story arc.

With a budget of $750,000 — that was probably enough for 750 episodes of the actual series — and on location shooting at the Lyndhurst Estate in Tarrytown, New York and that town’s Sleepy Hollow Cemetery (as well as the Lockwood–Mathews Mansion in Norwalk, Connecticut), this movie looks gorgeous. And it’s a joy to see so much of the original cast come back and play modified versions of their roles.

However, what takes years on the soap opera now takes moments. It’s a bit disconcerting.

Much like his entry on the show, Barnabas (Johnathan Frid) is found by handyman Willie Loomis (John Karlen) and within moments, is both introducing himself as a long-lost European relative while also taking bites out of almost every single female castmember.

Daphne Budd? Bitten. Carolyn Stoddard? She gets a bite. Maggie Evans? Yep, her too.

Barnabas also gets transformed into a human by Dr. Julia Hoffman, but she falls for him and jealously transforms him into his true age. No worries — a few bites from his chosen bride, Maggie, brings him back to vitality.

The only part that you may not enjoy is Willie turning on Barnabas and the titular vampire succumbing to a crossbow to the back. That said, his bat flies away — Curtis was doing end credit teases way before the Marvel movies — in a nod to a projected sequel that never happened, Curse of Dark Shadows.

There’s also a moment where Quentin Collins’ theme is heard, but he doesn’t show up. I’m certain there were many young ladies who were crushed by this fact.

If you’ve never watched the original episodes, this is a fun movie. If you have, you may just end up upset that so much is glossed over. Regardless, I saw it at the drive-in, paired with its spiritual sequel and I enjoyed the hell out of it.

BONUS: We discussed this movie on our podcast.

Beast of Blood (1970)

All good things must come to an end. This is the final of the Blood Island films — which also included The Mad Doctor of Blood Island, Terror Is a Man and Brides of Blood — and also the last movie that Eddie Romero would make for Hemisphere Pictures.

As Dr. Bill Foster (John Ashley) Sheila Willard, her father and Carlos Lopez escape from Blood Island, this movie’s Beast gets on board and goes buck wild, killing everyone he can and blowing up the ship. He survives and heads back to the jungle while Dr. Foster spends months recovering. Everyone he knew or loved is now dead.

Of course, he’s going back to Blood Island.

Dr. Lorca (Eddie Garcia), who apparently died at the end of the last movie, is still alive but horribly scarred. He controls the beast, which can live without its head. It can even talk and control its own body from afar.

This is less of a narrative movie for me and more a collection of magical images, as bodies squirt blood and beasts have swampy faces and make strange noises while their heads rot inside beakers and lab equipment.

To promote this one — which played a double bill with Curse of the Vampires, the producers printed counterfeit 10 bills printed that folded in half, with the other side revealing a poster for the film. Those fake sawbucks were scattered all around the neighborhoods where this movie played.

You can watch this for free on Amazon Prime. Severin released this — it’s sadly out of print — and also put out a swizzle stick with the Beast on it. You should totally order it right now!

Box Office Failures Week: Myra Breckinridge (1970)

Gore Vidal’s 1968 novel Myra Breckinridge was a landmark novel, an attack on the traditional norms of gender and sexuality, while also a biting satire of Hollywood. It was also seen as incredibly pornographic, so the idea that a movie could be made from the book seemed pretty out there.

After all, two weeks into writing the book, Vidal decided to make his main character transgender — and if you think transpeople are an issue today, you can only imagine how the world felt about them fifty years ago. An interesting trivia note — the name Breckinridge was taken from Bunny Breckinridge, who played The Ruler in Plan 9 From Outer Space. He was an openly gay man in a time when it was dangerous to be homosexual and was even jailed several times as a result. His desire to become a woman was ruined by the legal system and even a car accident on the way to get an illegal transition surgery in Mexico. In his later years, he’d open his San Francisco Spanish bungalow-style home to hippies and regale them with the history of closeted Hollywood.

Somehow, this got made, with Vidal making $750,000 ($5 million in today’s money) for the rights and screenplay. Original director — and Pittsburgh native — Bud Yorkin was replaced by Michael Sarne, an auteur who had made all of one film, 1968’s tale of swinging London Joanna. Somehow, he got complete creative control over this project.

Sarne quickly went over budget. One reason is that he’d often lock himself in a room while union cast and crew made money outside, thinking of what he’d do next for up to seven hours as a time. He also famously spent several days filming close-ups of food instead of handing that task off to a second unit. He also was big on getting the cast members to fight amongst themselves.

A former singer — who had a novelty #1 hit with “Come Outside” in the UK, somehow Sarne was able to do whatever he wanted, at least until this movie flopped. He never directed a movie in the U.S. again, but has acted in several films since this movie bombed oh so badly.  And his movie The Punk did well, but it took decades to revive his career.

I mean, Sarne trashed the entire cast long before the movie even came out. Welch was “useful only as a joke” and “an old raccoon.” Rex Reed was “faggy, prissy and unpleasant.” John Huston was “an old hack.”

When asked by The Independent about the film, Vidal minced no words. “One of the worst films ever made. A disaster. Myra was the most pre-publicized film since Gone with the Wind. It made the covers of Time and Newsweek. But you could tell it was going to be a disaster from reading Sarne’s script.”

So how bad is it? Well, somehow this 94-minute film feels like it takes 94 years to unspool. It ridicules old Hollywood for shock tactics, leading many of the Golden Era film actors who appeared in the movie to be angry that their old films were being used to punctuate puerile gags and a woman on man pegging assault. It got so bad that the White House asked for footage of Shirley Temple — now a U.S. ambassador — to be removed. Loretta Young successfully sued to have herself cut out of the film.

Yes, it’s a movie so bad that actors sued to get themselves on to the cutting room floor.

The film begins with Myron Breckinridge (critic Rex Reed, who also shows up in another megaflop, Inchon) has gone to Copenhagen to become the gorgeous Myra (Racquel Welch, who is, well, Racquel Welch and nearly melts the screen with each appearance). When he returns to the U.S., he heads off to his/her (Myra has no set gender pronoun) uncle Buck Loner’s (John Huston, who I would say deserves better, but he’s also in TentaclesBermuda Triangle and The Visitor, so he obviously would do anything; also all three of those movies are a billion times better than this) acting school, where he/she acts as his/her own widow to try and get half the school or a half a million bucks.

Somehow, Myra ends up becoming an etiquette teacher at the school, which means that he/she discusses mainly the Golden Age of Hollywood and female domination, all with the end goal of “the destruction of the last vestigial traces of traditional manhood in the race in order to realign the sexes, thus reducing population while increasing human happiness and preparing for its next stage.” Oh yeah — Myron also shows up as his/her conscience.

Myra has also grown obsessed with lovebirds Rusty and Mary Ann (Roger Herren, whose career was ruined after this lone role, and a very young Farrah Fawcett), who she sees as everything old fashioned, apple pie and America. To destroy them, she first pegs Rusty, who leaves his girl behind, then enters a lesbian relationship with Mary Ann, who wishes that Myra was really a woman so they could have a complete life. Ah, 1970.

Also — Mae West — pre-Sextette — is in here as a casting agent who is pretty much Mae West redoing all of her old routines. After auditioning plenty of men — look for a young Tom Selleck — she ends up getting the used up and presumably dilated Rusty as her next boy toy.

Buck is convinced that Myra is a liar and keeps trying to trip him/her up. These machinations end when Myra reveals that she hasn’t lost all of Myron, who then manifests himself and hits her with a car.

Myron awakens — in black and white thanks to a re-edit made to the DVD release to show us this was all a dream — and was never a woman at all.

All manner of people are utterly wasted in this movie, which I’ve come to respect in the same way that one looks up to rats for being able to get into social media eating pizza on a near-weekly basis. There’s Dan Heyada in a young role as a mental patient, Toni Basil more than a decade before her hit video “Mickey,” The Monkees’ actor Monte Landis, Helda Hopper’s son William, former pro wrestler Buck Kartalian, Kathleen Freeman (Microwave Marge from Gremlins 2), Grady Sutton (who was often in W.C. Fields movies and often played “sissy” roles), Andy Devine (who was Cookie, the sidekick of Roy Rogers), John Carradine (are you shocked?), Jim Backus, Calvin Lockart (The Beast Must Die), George Furth (Blazing Saddles) and Roger C. Carmel (Harry Mudd himself!).

Raquel Welch claimed that she was fascinated by Mae West, as she could never fully decide if West was a man or a woman. That seems like sour grapes, as West had a contract that allowed her to pick her costume colors above anyone else in the cast, leading to many of Welch’s outfits needing to be picked all over again.

And hey — Rex Reed refused to say the movie’s best — or worst — line, “Where are my tits? Where are my tits!?!” until he was told they’d just have someone impersonate his voice. He did it anyway.

As we’ve seen numerous times over Box Office Failures Week, many movies that were flops didn’t really flop. And some of the ones seen as poor films are actually pretty good. This is not the case. Not even a little bit.

Witchcraft ’70 (1970)

Witchcraft ’70 is a re-shot and re-edited U.S. domestic version of Angeli Bianchi… Angeli Neri (White Angel …Black Angel — more on that tomorrow). Because the U.S. producers changed so much, it’s nearly a different film, complete with Edmond Purdom (AbsurdDon’t Open ‘Till ChristmasPieces, 2019: After the Fall of New York) narrating the proceedings.

Lee Frost, who directed Love Camp 7Hot Spur, Dixie Dynamite, A Climax of Blue PowerThe Thing with Two Heads and The Black Gestapo, in addition to mondo films like Hollywood’s World of FleshMondo FreudoMondo Bizarro and The Forbidden directed the additional scenes in this revised version at the behest of TransAmerica Films.

Original director Luigi Scattini was behind lots of exploitation over in Italy like Sweden: Heaven and Hell and Blue Nude. He brought in Alberto Bevilacqua, who was a writer on films like Atom Age VampireBlack Sabbath and Planet of the Vampires.

How can you not love a movie that promises dialogue like “A ballad of the ’60’s said, “I left my heart in San Francisco.: Now in the ’70’s, it is possible to leave one’s soul there as well?” Yes, the biggest problems in 1970 were weed and witchcraft. Is it any wonder that this movie has led to so many samples in the songs of Electric Wizard?

Keep in mind, the ideas in this film — and the sheer nudity on display — destroys minds and reaped souls back in 1970. But in 2019? It could almost be on regular television. This version isn’t bad — the Italian version, like I said, which we’ll get to tomorrow, is missing plenty of the rougher footage from Frost, as well as a warning from Lieutenant David Estee of the Capitola California Police Department

But hey — you do get to see a Satanic wedding officiated by Anton LaVey, so there’s that.

I got this from the sadly gone Cult Action. I really wish that site was still around, if only to make me spend more money on movies that I can’t afford.