Right after the H.R. Pufnstuf television series ended its initial run, this film was quickly made to take advantage of its popularity. Financed by Universal and Kellogg’s, the sponsors of the TV show, this film adds two new witches alongside Billie Hayes’ Wilhelmina W. Witchiepoo: Witch Hazel, played by co-creator Sid Krofft’s neighbor Cass Elliot and Boss Witch, played by Martha Raye, who was so beloved by the cast and crew that she ended up playing Benita Bizarre in the Kroffts’ next show The Bugaloos.
The first choice to play Boss Witch? Bette Davis. When Sid called her, she was so upset that she was his first choice to play a witch that she hung up on him.
Pufnstuf is going to seem absolutely insane to anyone who didn’t grow up in the 70s. It tells the story of Jimmy (Jack Wild), who gets along with absolutely no one in his school and then ends up getting kicked out of the school band before he meets a magical talking flute named Freddy. Today, we would get Jimmy the right drugs and therapy and he’d be successful integrated into a group of kids that would understand him — before mercilessly roasting him on social media — but in 1970 Jimmy ends up on an evil boat and being taken to Living Island, which is ruled by Mayor H.R. Pufnstuf.
As for the antaognists, Witchiepoo wants to steal Freddy the Flute away from Jimmy in order to impress the visiting Witches’ Council and win the Witch of the Year Award. Oh yeah — th witches also plan on eating Pufnstuf, who I assume tastes like the best sashimi ever made.
What’s wild is that Norman Gimbel and Charles Fox worked together for the first time creating the music for this movie and stuck together afterward, writing the songs “Killing Me Softly with His Song”, “I Got A Name”, “Ready To Take A Chance Again” and many other popular songs.
You know who had it rough? Marty Krofft, who accepted the guardianship of Jack Wild while the teenage boy was working in the United States, in addition to producing the show and movie.
I’ve always wondered if McDonald’s ripped off the Kroffts. And I was right. The show was the subject of a successful lawsuit — Sid & Marty Krofft Television Productions Inc. v. McDonald’s Corp., 562 F.2d 1157, — which was decided in the Krofft’s favor by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in 1977.
Pufnstuf the movie was directed by Hollingsworth Morse, who also made Daughters of Satan and Ark II, and was written by John Fenton Murray, who also scripted Arnold, Lidsville, Sigmund and the Sea Monster and Partridge Family 2200 AD., and Si Rose, who wrote plenty of TV.
You can now get this movie from the awesome people at Kino Lorber, who have released it on blu ray along with an extra trailer. I’m excited to have this film as part of my collection and you will be too.
EDITOR’S NOTE: We originally covered this giallo cornerstone back on March 26, 2019 and then expanded on it when Arrow Video has released a UHD edition of this film. This is playing on the second night of the Drive-In Super Monster-Rama Giallopalooza on September 17 and 18. You really can’t get into giallo without seeing this film, so I’m excited to share these thoughts with any first-timers who will be checking out L’uccello dalle piume di cristallo at the Riverside!
Sam Dalmas (Tony Musante) is an American writer suffering from an inability to write. He’s gone to Rome to recover, along with his British model girlfriend (yes, everyone in giallo can score a gorgeous girl like Suzy Kendall). Just as he decides to return home, he witnesses a black-gloved man attacking a girl inside an art gallery. Desperate to save her, he can only watch, helpless and trapped between two mechanical doors as she wordlessly begs for help.
The woman is Monica Ranier and she’s gallery owner’s wife. She survives the attack, but the police think Sam may have had something to do with the crime, so they keep his passport so he can’t leave the country. What they’re not letting on is that a serial killer has been wiping out young women for weeks and that Sam is the only witness. That said — he’s haunted by what he’s survived and his memory isn’t working well, meaning that he’s missing a vital clue that could solve the crime.
As you can see, the foreign stranger who must become a detective, the missing pieces of memory, the black-clad killer — it’s everything that every post-1970 giallo would pay tribute to (perhaps rip off is the better term).
Another Argento trope shows up here for the first time. It’s the idea that art itself can cause violence. In this film, it’s a painting that shows a raincoat-clad man murdering a woman.
Soon, Sam is getting menacing calls from the killer and Julia is attacked by the black-clad maniac. The police isolate a sound in the background of the killer’s conversations, the call of a rare Siberian “bird with the crystal plumage.” There’s only one in Rome, which gets the police closer to the identity of who is wearing those black gloves (in truth, it’s Argento’s hands). It’s worth noting that the species of bird the film refers to as “Hornitus Nevalis” doesn’t really exist. The bird in the film is actually a Grey Crowned Crane.
Alberto, Monica’s art gallery husband, tries to kill her, finally revealing that he has been behind the attacks. Ah — but this is a giallo. Mistaken identity is the main trick of its trade. And even though this film was made nearly fifty years ago, I’d rather you get the opportunity to learn for yourself who the killer really is.
I may have mentioned before that my parents saw this movie before I was born and hated it to a degree that any time a movie didn’t make any sense, they would always bring up “that weird movie with the bird that makes the noises.” Who knew I would grow up to love Argento so much? It’s one of those cruel ironies that would show up in his movies. I really wonder if my obsession with giallo and movies that are difficult to understand is really me just rebelling.
An uncredited adaptation of Fredric Brown’s novel The Screaming Mimi, this film was thought of as career suicide by actress Eva Renzi. And the producer of the film wanted to remove Argento as the director. However, when Argento’s father Salvatore Argento went to speak to the man, he noticed that the executive’s secretary was all shaken up. He asked her what was wrong and she mentioned that she was still terrified from watching the film. Salvatore asked her to tell her boss why she was so upset and that’s what convinced the man to keep Dario on board.
The results of all this toil and worry? A movie that played for three and a half years in one Milan theater and led to copycats (and lizards and spiders and flies and ducklings and butterflies and so on) for decades. Argento would go on to film the rest of his so-called Animal Trilogy with The Cat O’Nine Tails and Four Flies on Grey Velvet, then Deep Red before moving into more supernatural films like Suspiria and Inferno.
Drive-In Super Monster-Rama is presenting “Giallopalooza”, two big nights of classic, fully restored giallo thrillers from such maestros as Dario Argento, Mario Bava, Lucio Fulci and Sergio Martino!
Les animaux dénaturés was written by Jean Bruller under his pseudonym Vercors and it was printed in English under the titles You Shall Know Them, The Murder of the Missing Link and Borderline. One imagines that producer Saul David and 20th Century Fox were looking for another ape-related story after the success of their last simian-centric adaption of a French novel. That would be La Planète des Singes. And the movie would be Planet of the Apes.
David replaced original director Richard Wilson and brought in In Like Flint— and Viva Knievel!— director Gordon Douglas, who was not well-thought-of by star Burt Reynolds, who turned down M*A*S*H* for this movie! Burt would tell Roger Ebert that the movie had a good script, continuing “The guy’s a good writer, Lorenzo Semple Jr. Badly directed, kind of sloughed off. Susan Clark was good; she’s a good actress. But nobody knew how to sell the picture. Any time you have Pat Suzuki dressed as a small ape, I think you’re in trouble.”
During an expedition to Papua New Guinea, Clark and Reynolds discover a tribe of ape-like people, called the Tropis. They may be the missing link, but no one will know if they are human or animal. The only way to know the truth is if someone knocks one of them up, which if they don’t have a child means that it’s just bestiality. And if they have a kid, well, evolution is going to get a lot weirder.
Anyways, one of the Tropis gets murdered — actually a whole bunch of them get barbecued and chowed down upon at one point — leading to a murder trial, so this is one of the few courtroom science fiction ape movies not called Planet of the Apesor Escape from the Planet of the Apes movies to have a court scene. Man, maybe apes lend themselves to legal drama, what with that whole Scopes trial.
But do those movies have Blacula, William Marshall, as the attorney general?
I love that Burt Reynolds is in this, just gamely playing along. I’m sure he was having the time of his life.
Kino Lorber’s new blu ray release of Skullduggery has a brand new 2K master, as well as commentary by Howard S. Berger, C. Courtney Joyner and Sergio Mims and a theatrical trailer.
Hot Shadow would be the word for word translation of this movie but it played elsewhere as Shadow of Illusion and it presents to us a world where hippies are murderous maniacs, as the post-Manson world would give license to giallo creators to posit the love generation as those who come at you with knives.
Director Mario Caiano hit nearly every genre of the Italian industry, from peplum (Ulysses Against the Son of Hercules, Medusa Against the Son of Hercules) and horror (Nightmare Castle) to westerns (A Coffin for the Sheriff, Ringo the Lone Rider), poliziottesco (The Criminals Attack…The Police Respond!, Weapons of Death), Naziploitation (Nazi Love Camp 27 AKA Swastika on the Belly) and even the incredible western/eastern mashup that is The Fighting Fists of Shanghai Joe.
Years later, Caiano would share that this was a strange production as he never saw the money people before or since. He also never saw the movie after the rough cut. He was promised a name actor who never showed up, but when they got to Egypt, William Berger was already there making another movie and agreed to be in this. Because the movie needed actors, Berger’s daughter and his wife Carol Lobravico also joined up.
To make things even wilder, this was shot in Egypt during the War of Attrition, so the cast and crew had to be surrounded by soldiers who would turn of the lights in case of air raids.
Gordiano plays Gail Bland, a fashion model who has been brought to Egypt to appear in a cosmetics ad, but it turns out that she’s the reincarnation of Isis and a hard-partying cult of drug-loving hippies want to sacrifice her. And then she’s romanced by the enigmatic Caleb (Berger).
This has a glacial pace in moments but the ending makes up for it. Actually, this is the kind of giallo I love most, one that places you into a strange world of drugs, mystery, strange gods and sleaze. This really deserves a cleaned-up blu ray release so that more people can recognize it, as it fits in well with giallo like All the Colors of the Dark.
Way before Saturday Night Fever and even longer still than Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, the Bee Gees had been around. Brothers Barry, Robin, and Maurice Gibb first started recording in 1958 yet before that, they were a skiffle group out of Manchester called the Rattlesnakes and another act called Wee Johnny Hayes and the Blue Cats.
The family moved to Australia, where they started singing at the Redcliffe Speedway for Bill Goode. That’s where they got their name, which does not stand for Brothers Gibb, but instead because Goode and Barry shared the same initials. Throughout the 60s, they would record their own songs and write for other artists, not really finding much success until in 1967, when Go-Set, Australia’s most popular and influential music newspaper, named “Spicks and Specks” as their best single of the year.
That — and demos sent by their father to Brian Epstein, who passed them to Robert Stigwood — got the brothers signed to Polydor and a campaign that proclaimed them the most significant new musical talent of 1967. They were compared to the Beatles, which worked just fine, because when a white-labeled radio station single of their second release, “New York Mining Disaster 1941” ended up at those stations, it was just assumed to be a new Beatles song and placed into heavy rotation. Their next song, “To Love Somebody,” which was written by Barry for Otis Redding, was a huge success without any subterfuge.
For a time, the three brothers received a Beatles-like reaction from fans and had numerous big hits like “I Started a Joke” and “Words.” Yet by 1969, there were problems. Robin collapsed and fell unconscious, then was sent to a London nursing home for exhaustion; he missed recording sessions in America and felt that Stigwood was pushing for Barry to be the star. After “Lamplight” was put on the b-side of the song “First of May” as a single, he left the band and pursued a solo career. Drummer Colin Petersen also soon left the group and was replaced by Pentangle drummer Terry Cox* — and Gibb sister Lesley — to record the songs for Cucumber Castle.
Sadly, the album was a failure and the Bee Gees broke up.
There was a movie made to promote it and that’s what we’re really here to discuss.
Prince Frederick (Barry Gibb) and his brother Prince Marmaduke (Maurice Gibb) receive an audience from their dying father (Frankie Howerd, who played Mr. Mustard in the Bee Gee’s Beatles cover movie, but is better known as a long-time British comedian) who tells them that he is breaking the kingdom into two kingdoms for his sons. Frederick will be the ruler of Cucumber while Marmaduke will be the king of Jelly. And then he gets better and changes his mind.
While this film is a trifle, it’s worth it to see Lulu — the castle’s cook! — sing “Mrs. Robinson” and a great performance of “Well All Right” by Blind Faith, plus appearances by Ginger Baker, Vincent Price, Spike Milligan, Roger Daltry, Donovan, Marianne Faithful and Mick Jagger. Seriously, this little show had an A-list cast!
Cucumber Castle was oh-so-briefly released in the U.S. in the early days of VHS and Beta by the Video Tape Network, but quickly was quickly pulled due to a licensing issue. It’s been one of the rarest commercial releases ever and has never been officially reissued ever.
It was directed by Hugh Gladwish and Mike Mansfield, who went on to make the music videos “Charlotte Sometimes” for The Cure, “Goody Two Shows,” “Prince Charming,” “Ant Rap,” “Desperate but Not Serious,” “Stand and Deliver,” “Puss ‘n Boots” and “Strip” for Adam Ant, “Bark at the Moon” for Ozzy Osbourne and lots of video work for ELO.
*Peterson played on some of the album tracks and was in the movie, but got edited out after he departed.
After Cucumber Castle stalled, Maurice made an unreleased solo album. Barry did the same and only a single was released. And Robin had a decent hit with Saved by the Bell” and was constantly touring.
Somehow, someway, on August 21, 1970, the three brothers came back together with Barry announcing that the Bee Gees “are there and they will never, ever part again” as well as Maurice publically apologizing for things he’d said about Robin.
Sure, they went through a creative rut, but after adopting a more R&B sound on Mr. Natural, they recorded Main Course in Miami where “Nights on Broadway” and “Jive Talkin'” became monster releases. Their next album, Children of the World, pushed by the single “You Should Be Dancing,” finally made them huge stars in America. And then they did this little disco soundtrack and things worked out pretty well after that…
You can watch this on the incredible White Slaves of Chinatown 3DYouTube channel, which is always full of such amazing video and movie footage.
Wow! This movie has it all! It’s an American International Pictures release! Cheapjack drive-in copycat Larry Buchanan! Beach flick purveyor Maury Dexter! Still livin’ the dream ex-’60s teen idol Fabian! And a connection to Jim Morrison?
Strap on the popcorn bucket!
In 1967, Warner Bros. hit a $70 million payday on a $2.5 million investment with the Warren Beatty-produced and Arthur Penn*-directed (1969’s Alice’s Restaurant and 1970’s Little Big Man) Bonnie and Clyde. The film not only instigated a slew of “(criminal) lovers on the run” films, such as the Martin Sheen-starring Badlands (1973) and the Peter Fonda-starring Dirty Mary, Crazy Larry (1974), it also set off the production of more traditional gangster films, such as Roger Corman’s The St. Valentine’s Day Massacre (1967) — who never seen a hit film he couldn’t knockoff — and Dick Clark’s written and produced Killers Three (1968), a knockoff for — coincidentally, as was A Bullet for Pretty Boy — American International Pictures. Then there’s Roger Corman’s directed Bloody Mama (1970) starring Shelley Winters and a young Robert De Niro and, thanks to director Martin Scorsese (on his second film), Roger Corman’s superior Boxcar Bertha (1972) starring David Carradine and Barbara Hershey. As with Scorcese, another superior (but fictional-based on a late ’30 novel) gangster flick was the Robert Aldrich-produced and directed (but a box office flop) The Grissom Gang (1971).
Of course, the notorious career of this film’s subject, Charles Arthur “Pretty Boy” Floyd, was covered in the poverty-row production Pretty Boy Floyd (1960). You know that film’s German-American actor, John Ericson, for the sci-fi cheapy The Bamboo Saucer (1969), the early Charles Band-directed hicksploitation’er Crash! (1977), and Oklahoma-shot, poverty horror anthology House of the Dead (1978). And yes, Ericson, as most ’60s and ’70s B-Movie actors at the end of their careers, worked for Cirio H. Santiago (we love you, Uncle C!) in one of our beloved Philippine war romps, Final Mission (1984).
Now, we gave you that little bit of back story on the admittedly dashing — and a pretty decent thespian, natch — on John Ericson, in that, this time, Pretty Boy Floyd is now portrayed by . . . you guessed it, teen idol Fabian, who started using his last name, Forte, on his works. He was, certainly, looking for this “grown up” gangster romp as a role that would bury the teen-memories of his lightweight beach romp Ride the Wild Surf (1964) and the process-shot racing rallies of Fireball 500 (1966), Thunder Alley (1967), and The Wild Racers (1968). Oh, and let’s not forget Fabian’s work in the James Bond-cum-beach knockoff Dr. Goldfoot and the Bikini Machine and Mario Bava’s sequel, Dr. Goldfoot and the Girl Bombs (1966).
Then the reviews for A Bullet for Pretty Boy came in.
The New York Times accused Larry Buchanan of making “a murderous gangster movie full of mostly nice guys which looks a little as if they had taken the members of the cast of, say, Beach Blanket Bingo and put them in costume and given them old cars to drive and told them to play it for real.”
The Los Angeles Times opined the film was “surprisingly free from gratuitous gore, but was still another very pale carbon of Bonnie and Clyde, in which Fabian handles himself in competent fashion amidst a host of amateurs.”
The film did, however, prove to be a box office hit, grossing over a million dollars in drive-in receipts; however, even though he was called out for the quality of his thespian turn across the board by critics, the film was not the critical and commercial breakthrough Fabian had hoped.
At that point, Fabian diddled in some guest television roles of no consequence, eventually returning to the big screen alongside Karen Black in, ironically, another based-in-fact gangster film — for Crown International Pictures, no less — Little Laura and Big John (1973) — that film concerned with the 1910s and 1920s-era Ashley gang. (The only film directed by art director Luke Moberly, it was made in 1969 as a failed/shelved Bonnie and Clyde cash-in.) Then Fabian gave us the trashy one-two punch that we so cherish here at B&S About Movies: Soul Hustler (1973) and Jukebox, aka Disco Fever (1978) — again, two “grown up” films rejected by the mainstream box office hoards. Fabian’s career then wound down (but not to the Cirio H. Santiago depths, thank god) after his working in the ’80s slasher genre with Kiss Daddy Goodbye (1981) and a bit-support role in the rock comedy Get Crazy (1983). (Hey, how did we miss his work in the George Peppard-starring airline disaster flick Crisis in Mid-Air (1979) for our “Airline Disaster TV Movie Week” feature?)
In typical A.I.P fashion, the against-the-low-budget and bargain-basement talents (the acting, outside of Fabian, is pretty abysmal) behind the film, in front of and behind the cameras, made the production a troubled one. The studio, while fronting Larry Buchanan a $350,000 budget, the largest the writer-director every worked with — and Fabian ever worked on — the studio, well, mostly studio head James H. Nicholson, grew concerned Buchanan (who gave us the likes of Mistress of the Apes and “It’s Alive!”) would fail to bring the film on budget and schedule with “some level of quality.” So A.I.P replaced Buchanan with Maury Dexter — in his final directing effort. While Dexter and the studio were ultimately impressed with what Buchanan shot, it was considered “too slow and talky.” So Dexter took a small pick-up crew, along with stunt doubles and the lead actors, to shoot action sequences to splice into the film.
Shot and produced in five months betwen June to October 1969, Buchanan’s story was inspired by Woody Guthrie’s folk-tune “The Ballad of Pretty Boy Floyd,” while TV series scribe Henry Rosenbaum (1970’s pretty cool budgeted-horror The Dunwich Horror and the aforementioned Get Crazy) whipped the concept into shape. And yes, it’s the same Henry Rosenbaum who penned Sly Stallone’s Lock Up (1989).
Needless to say, if you’re tempted to stream a Larry Buchanan-with-Maury Dexter-on-the-assist gangster flick, just know you’re not getting a gritty gangster romp on the level of the superior, John Milus-directed Dillinger (1973) starring Warren Oates: you’re getting a Roger Corman-backed New World Pictures-exploiting ’30-era gangster romp in the vein of his Big Bad Mama (1974) and The Lady in Red, aka Guns, Sin and Bathtub Gin (1979). Actually, the proceedings are closer to Buchanan’s own — long forgotten and of no consequence — take on the Bonnie and Clyde legend with The Other Side of Bonnie and Clyde (1968), which is the reason why he got the green light on his Pretty Boy Floyd project, in the first place.
Buchanan’s gangster chronicle — like the recently (some quarters) critically derided bio-flicks Bohemian Rhapsody, The Dirt, and Hidden Figures — plays it very loose with the facts. And, instead of documenting Floyd for the violent criminal that he was, Buchanan transforms the bane of Bureau of Investigations’ (the BOI was the precursor to the FBI) agent Melvin Purvis as a romanticized, misunderstood product of the Great Depression (that swept across 1930s American) by casting Floyd as a Robin Hoodesque folk-hero for the people.
Sure, Floyd gained his “hero” (well, anti-hero) status for burning mortgage documents, which effectively wiped-out people from their debts (but is not based in fact and believed to be folklore myth), but Floyd was still, first and foremost, a bank robber — who not only robbed “evil” banks, but also terrorized citizens by robbing company payrolls and committing numerous highway robberies. In reality, the newspaper-reading public who considered Floyd a “folk hero” of the downtrodden, was a multiple murder behind the killings of two police officers, one federal agent, and two, rival hood-cum rum runners who crossed his path. Then there was the Kansas City Massacre of July 1933 that resulted in the death of four law enforcement officers (though Floyd’s involvement is disputed, in some authoritative circles).
Charles Arthur Floyd wasn’t a hero, anti or otherwise. He was a thug who struck fear and dread in people, aka a terrorist. His exploits were so feared, officially, in July 1934, the newly formed F.B.I ranked Floyd as “Public Enemy No. 1” — and yet, the citizens of Oklahoma and Texas still helped him evade capture.
As you can see, the tale of Floyd is heavy material. And you can see why Fabian lobbied for the role.
Of course, keeping in mind Roger Corman backed the gangster romps Bloody Mama (1970) and Boxcar Bertha (1972) — themselves recycling off the A.I.P prop house from The St. Valentine’s Day Massacre (1967) — Buchanan easily pulled together a film that, while not fictionally accurate, is at least historically accurate in its set and costuming (we’ll forgive those few 1940’s model cars). And, if you know Larry Buchanan’s filmography, a resume rife with one, cheesy science fiction, inept horror, and conspiracy flick after the another, this gangster flick is one of his better, if not the best, films on his resume — thanks, in part, to Maury Dexter injecting those action set pieces.
Of particular interest in the cast department, especially to uber fan Bill Van Ryn of the Groovy Doom and Drive-In Asylum collective: Fabian’s supporting cast of Annabelle Weenick, Camilla Carr, Hugh Feagin, and Gene Ross appeared in the films of the all-too-short resume of S.F Brownrigg, he of the films Don’t Look in the Basement (1973), Don’t Hang Up (1974), Scum of the Earth (1974), and Keep My Grave Open (1977). And, why yes, Brownrigg does connect back to Larry Buchanan: Brownrigg worked as an editor and sound engineer on Buchanan’s ’60s flicks The Naked Witch, High Yellow, and the sci-fi epics Zontar: The Thing from Venus and Attack of the Eye Creatures.
Oh, and lets not forget Fabian’s co-starring moll was Jocelyn Lane, an Elvis flick vet co-star in Tickle Me (1965). An admittedly smokin’ hot, but (very) marginal actress, who certainly hoped for more from the film, as did Fabian, left the business after the crushing reviews for A Bullet for Pretty Boy. Also look for Fabian’s criminal side kick portrayed by ’60s B-Movie leading man Adam Roake (who appeared in the aforementioned Dirty Marty, Crazy Larry), and character actor extraordinaire and Buchanan stock player Bill Thurman (‘Gator Bait, Creature from Black Lake). Those who look really hard will see Morgan Fairchild (The Initiation of Sarah, Shattered Illusions) in her uncredited, feature extra debut.
“Hey, wait a minute, R.D! What about the ‘Jim Morrison connection,’ you teased?”
Read on, ye reader!
The Soundtrack by Richard Bowen and the Source
American International Pictures started their recording branch, American International Records, distributed by MGM Records, on March 19, 1959. Early on, AIR’s catalog was mostly 45-rpm singles, with rock and roll selections from their horror films, most notably, The Ghost of Dragstrip Hollow (1959). Later, AIR’s catalog featured long-play soundtrack releases, such as A Bullet for Pretty Boy. A decade later, in 1969, AIR and another company, Together Records (also distributed by MGM Records), went into business together — and shared the (sometimes confusing) sequence of catalog numbers on their releases. One of the label’s coveted records is “(Oooh, I’m Scared of the) Horrors of the Black Museum” b/w “The Headless Ghost” by The Nightmares (1959). (The Nightmares were fronted by Jimmie Maddin, who also appeared and performs in The Ghost of Dragstrip Hollow with the tune, “Tongue Tied.” He also cut “Roadracers” for the 1959 film of the same name.)
The soundtrack for A Bullet for Pretty Boy was produced by Harley Hatcher. B-Movie fans of all things Roger Corman know Hatcher for his scoring, penning and singing songs for the biker and rock flicks The Glory Stompers (1967), Wild in the Streets (1967), and The Hard Ride (1971). His other contributions are the Peter Fonda biker classic The Wild Angels (1966), several songs to Satan’s Sadists (1969), and Fabian’s Christsploiter, Soul Hustler (1973). Hatcher, who also served as the singing voice of actor Christopher Jones’s rock star Max Frost in Wild in the Streets, went on to become a top executive at Curb Records**. (Angel, Angel, Down We Go, another of AIR’s film soundtracks (1969), served as an A-Side album showcase for actor-singer Jordon Christopher, formerly of The Wild Ones.*˟)
Richard Bowen and the Source
And that brings us to Richard Bowen, the lead vocalist of the L.A. band the Source, who serves as the “Jim Morrison connection” teased at the beginning of this film review.
Richard Bowen and the Source never released an official album through AIR; none of the label’s artists did. Their “debut album” was the A-Side of A Bullet for Pretty Boy, in which the B-Side features Harley Hatcher’s film score. Of the six songs by the Source produced by Hatcher, he wrote three: “”It’s Me I’m Running From,” “I’m Gonna Love You (‘Til I Die),” and “Got Nowhere to Go,” with the former paired for single release with “Gone Tomorrow” penned by Richard Bowen. Bowen wrote the remaining songs “Ruby Ruby” and “Ballad of Charles Arthur Floyd.” The Source, which also featured Danny Heald, Harold Finch, Jr., and Robert Gilly, also placed a song on the soundtrack for John G. Avildsen’s (Rocky, The Karate Kid) third film, Joe (1970), starring Peter Boyle (the single, image above, issued in 1971, was backed with the non-film track, “Hummingbird”). The vocals on that single are shared by later members Tim Garon and Robin Baker.
And we fast forward to the early ’80s.
Buchanan was fully committed to his faux-biographical drama format — mixed with his ubiquitous speculations and conspiracy theories — a format that dated to his “exposés” on the Kennedy assassination with The Trail of Lee Harvey Oswald (1964), the gangster chronicles The Other Side of Bonnie and Clyde and A Bullet for Pretty Boy, and the “romance” between billionaire Howard Hughes and actress Jean Harlow in Hughes and Harlow: Angels in Hell (1977). Buchanan twice explored the life of Marilyn Monroe with his same theories-vigor in Goodbye, Norma Jean (1976) and Goodnight, Sweet Marilyn (1989). Not even folklore dinosaurs were immune from the depths of Buchanan’s conspiracies: he made the speculative-drama The Loch Ness Horror (1982).
Then, with Jim Morrison mania sweeping the world in the wake of Jerry Hopkins and Danny Sugerman’s runaway best seller — and the first biography on the Doors’ lead vocalist, No One Here Gets Out Alive (1980) — Buchanan concocted Down on Us. Finally seeing release in 1984, it wasn’t a Jim bio-flick as Oliver Stone’s later The Doors (1991) — it was a “What If” tale about the deaths behind Jimi Hendrix, Jim Morrison, and Janis Joplin. Remembering the Morrisonesque qualities of Richard Bowen’s voice, Larry Buchanan brought Bowen on the project to be “Jim Morrison’s” vocals. So Bowen took an old 1970 tune, “Phantom in the Rain” (the image of the original 45-rpm single, seen above), that never appeared in an American International Pictures production, and retooled it as a faux-live cut for the film.
Upon the 1984 release of the Down on Us — and Bowen’s eerie Morrison qualities on the songs “Phantom in the Rain” and “Knock So Hard” (it’s unknown if the second song was an old ’70s song by the Source or a newly-penned tune for the film) — for a time, before the early-’90s rise of Internet, it was believed — amid assumptions it was Iggy Pop and the Doors, or an ad-hock group of Detroit musicians, or Capitol Records’ SRC with a new lead vocalist — that the infamous, post-death “Jim Morrison solo album” known as Phantom’s Divine Comedy: Part 1 (1974) was recorded by Richard Bowen and the Source.
Of course, when CEMA, Capitol’s digital reissues arm, released the first-ever compact disc version of the album in 1993 — and the truth, every so slowly and inaccurately, came out across blogs and music sharing sites — it was learned the faux Jim Morrison solo album was the lone release by Detroit musician Arthur Pendragon and his band, Walpurgis, a group managed by and recorded for Ed “Punch” Andrews’s Hideout Records and Palladium Productions that also oversaw the career of Bob Seger (Seger’s Gear Publishing published the album’s songs). (The 1974 studio version of Phantom’s Divine Comedy is also available on You Tube.)
Buffaloes, Grass Roots, and Eagles, Oh, My!
In addition to his catalog with American International Records, Richard Bowen penned the song “Trivial Sum” with Terry Furlong of the Grass Roots (the ’60s hits “Temptation Eyes” and “Midnight Confessions”) for the band, Blue Mountain Eagle.
Blue Mountain Eagle, hailing from Texas, was a quintet assembled in 1968 by Dewey Martin, who served as the original drummer in the Buffalo Springfield, and Randy Fuller, brother of the late Bobby Fuller of the Bobby Fuller Four (his brother Bobby, another celebrity murder mystery like TV’s Bob Crane and Iron Butterfly bassist Philip Taylor Kramer), to tour as “The New Buffalo Springfield.” When Stephen Stills and Neil Young took legal action to prevent Martin from using the “Buffalo Springfield” name, the band became Blue Mountain Eagle and recorded one album for Atco in 1970.
The group toured extensively, opening for Santana, Jimi Hendrix, Love, and Pink Floyd before their demise. Dewey Martin was eventually sacked; he formed Medicine Ball with Randy Fuller, while the rest of the band — Bob Jones, also formerly of Buffalo Springfield, along with David Johnson, formed Sweathog with the one-named sticksman Frosty from Lee Michaels (the early ’70s hit, “Do You Know What I Mean?”). Prior to the band’s formation, BME’s guitarist and vocalist, David Price, through his old Texas friend Micheal Nesmith, came to be Davy Jones’s stand-in on The Monkees TV series.
* We discussion the career of Arthur Penn’s son — and later, production partner on the Law & Order television franchise — in our review of the lost rock flick Rock ‘N’ Roll Hotel.
** You can learn more about the career of Harley Hatcher at his official website.
Oh, by the way . . . we are deep into our third “Rock ‘n’ Roll Week” blowout. Yes, we’ve done this twice before, and you can catch up with our “Rock ‘n’ Roll Week” Round-Ups 1 and 2 with their full listings of all the rock flicks we’ve watched.
About the Author: You can learn more about the writings of R.D Francis on Facebook.He also writes for B&S About Moviesand publishes short stories and music reviews on Medium.
Poet, novelist, playwright and screenwriter Robert Thom is someone the B&S About Movies crowd knows best for Roger Corman’s quest to beat Rollerball to the theaters, with an adaptation (which Charles B. Griffith* doctored) of Ib Melchoir’s short story “The Racer” as Death Race 2000 (1975). Thom’s Hollywood (or is that Hollyweird) resume goes back a bit further, with the “teensploitation” screenplays for All the Fine Young Cannibals and an adaptation of Jack Kerouac’s The Subterraneans (both 1960). His screenwriting debut, Complusion (1959) — in which he was rewritten and not credited — was based on the infamous Leopold and Loeb murders and starred Orson Wells. (For Don Kirshner, he’d write the 1975, Kim Milford-starring Song of the Succubus.)
Thom’s next teen-oriented romp was the more “hep” counterculture-rock flick Wild in the Streets (1968), based on his short story “The Day It All Happened, Baby!”. When that American International Pictures’ $700,000-budgeted project cleared $4 million in drive-in receipts, Thom was given an opportunity to direct his first film, which he also wrote — and is the film we’re reviewing today: Angel, Angel, Down We Go.
Is it a counterculture drama . . . or a horror flick? Hey, whatever AIP – American International Pictures needs it to be to make a buck.
As with Wild in the Streets, Thom’s sole directing credit centers around a disillusioned rock star; its genesis was an unproduced stage-play of the same name written as a vehicle for his then wife, Janice Rule (better known for her ’70s guest-starring TV work than her films), who later became the wife of Ben Gazzara (The Neptune Factor, Road House).
By the time the script made it to the big screen, five-time Academy Award nominated and winning actress Jennifer Jones (won for 1944’s The Song of Bernadette) was cast as the affluent Mrs. Astrid Steele, the downtrodden wife of an airline magnate (think a gay Howard Hughes) and mother of the overweight and emotionally troubled Tara (folk musician, Broadway musical actress, and ’70s TV actress Holly Near in her feature film debut; she was Barbara Pilgrim in Slaughterhouse-Five) who becomes involved with Bogart Peter Stuyvesant, a charismatic rock star who takes advantage of the Steele family’s damaged emotional state to integrate himself and his Manson-like clique into their lives.
So, for his rock star, Thom cast . . . well, remember how Ben Affleck and Jennifer Aniston experienced a career boost based on their marriages? Such was the case of struggling Ohio-to-New York-based rock singer Jordan Christopher.
After his unsuccessful years as the leader of the doo-wop-inspired the Fascinations in the early ’60s (they recorded a few singles; here and here), Christopher came to join New York’s the Wild Ones, which replaced Joey Dee and the Starlighters¹ (of which Joe Pesci was once a member; without Pesci, they starred in Hey, Let’s Twist!) as the house band at New York’s famed Peppermint Lounge (where that movie was filmed). After that successful residency, the Wild Ones booked the same gig at the more chichi club, Arthur, operated by Richard Burton’s soon-to-be ex-wife Sybil Williams, aka Burton; Burton owned the club.
As with Ben and Jen after her, Sybil found her fame via her marriage to Richard Burton, who was a huge screen star at the time. And when Sybil came to become involved with — and within a month of the band’s residency, married — Jordan Christopher, his “star” began to rise, as well. Thanks to the pre-Internet gossip press and scandal sheets of the day, not only did Arthur transform into a “hot” club that decimated the Peppermint Lounge out of existence, Jordan Christopher’s the Wild Ones signed a record deal with United Artists Records to release the live-recorded The Arthur Sound (that’s Christopher at cover right; that’s Sybil hoisted on the band’s shoulders).
However, after that lone album, and his “image” hotter than ever, Christopher left the Wild Ones to become a “star” in Hollywood. An accomplished stage actor in minor productions back in New York, Christopher booked supporting roles in the forgotten late ’60s flicks The Fat Spy (a really awful “beach movie”; the worst of the pack, which featured the Wild Ones), Return of the Seven (the awful nobody-wanted-it bomb-sequel to western classic The Magnificent Seven), and The Tree (a kidnap drama). Angel, Angel, Down We Go, his fourth film, was Christopher’s leading man debut. In addition to recording the soundtrack to the film, UA signed Christopher as a solo artist for the album Has the Knack; without Christopher, the Wild Ones recorded the first, original version of “Wild Thing,” which was penned by Chip Taylor (brother of actor Jon Voight) specifically for the band (the Troggs version is the one you know).
So, since you probably never heard of Jordan Christopher, you have probably guessed the fame-cum-career by marriage and connection to the Richard Burton dynasty doesn’t not a solo career or a hit film make.
As with any of today’s cable TV-cum-Internet social media influencers, Jordan Christopher’s Kardashianesque fame, well . . . down, down it went, as the all-important Los Angeles Times and New York Times referred to his leading-man debut film Angel, Angel, Down We Go as “a pretentious mess” and “an unmitigated financial disaster,” respectively; the NY Times’ review was titled “The dime-store way to make a movie and money.”
Actress Holly Near, already Rubensque (think of a ’60s Ricki Lake of Hairspray; chunky-cute), put on even more weight for her debut film role, had hoped the film would transition her out of stage work, referred to the film as “it was trash.” She left film at that point and retreated into stage and limited TV guest-star work.. And it’s no loss, for Near’s no prize in the acting department; her binge eating scene at the coming-out party is still cringe-inducing; she even gorges on the scenery throughout. The gist behind party: Near’s Tara Steele turned 18 and returns from boarding school; her parents hired Bogart Peter Stuyvesant and the Rabbit Habbit to play the party . . . and Tara falls in love.
While Christopher never publicly spoke of the film, he retreated into stage work as an actor and theatre operator — not appearing on the big screen again until Star 80 and Brainstorm (both 1983). Truth be told, Christopher’s departure into theatre was no big loss to Hollywood, either; he’s simple awful in both films marking his return — and truly annoying as a childish/horny, unrealistic “scientist” in the latter. And he’s pure ham — by lack of a thespian skill set, not an acting choice — here, and you see why the undercarded Roddy McDowell, and not Christopher, had the career.
As for Robert Thom, who actually was a decent writer in the low-budget realms, came to write the ’70 gangster romps Bloody Mama and Crazy Mama for Roger Corman — but he never directed another film.
And Jennifer Jones, starring here as a former porn actress whose mainstream Hollywood “movie star” career is on the skids, playing up an overtly, sexed-up homage to Gloria Swanson’s Norma Desmond in the noir classic, Sunset Boulevard (1950), well, just what was she thinking? Jennifer couldn’t have possibly been hoping for a repeat on the lessons of social obscenity with Madame Bovary (1949), in which she starred? Doing an AIP grindhouse flick is a long, hard fall for Jones — who was long-time married to David O. Selnick, the producer who gave us the original King Kong**. Sadly, this was Jones’s first film after her much-publicized suicide attempt; then, later, her daughter committed suicide by jumping from a 20-story window.
To see an Oscar-caliber actress quoting the likes of . . . “I made thirty stag films and never faked an orgasm,” “In my heart of hearts, I’m a sexual clam,” “Do you want me, or do you want my daughter?,” and “You’re a bloody, sadistic dyke” . . . you’re sorry and embarrassed for her. So, with the one-two punch of her performance slammed by critics, and her daughter’s later suicide, one can see why Jones walked away from the biz, only to return one more time in Irwin Allen’s The Towering Inferno (1974). And, in the end, out of her mere 26 films, Angel, Angel, Down We Go is the one film of her’s that trash cinema lovers care about because, well, video fringe fandom is all about the trashy.
Meanwhile, American International Pictures wasn’t about to flush $2 million down the toilet. So, courtesy of Jordan Christopher’s Manson-like rocker, and with Charles Manson all over the press as result of the Tate-LaBianca Murders of August 8-9, 1969 (which fueled Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time . . . in Hollywood), AIP retitled and reissued the film as Cult of the Damned on a double bill with the first entry in Hammer Studios’ “Karnstein Trilogy,” The Vampire Lovers. And the Los Angeles Times slammed it, again, as “a terrible piece of trash.”
As the Los Angeles Times’ review stated in their negative review of this tale centered around the overweight debutante daughter of a wealthy couple who falls in with a tripped out, skydiving-addicted rock star and his reactionary clan, “. . . it can never be said to bore.” Hey, we never said bad films can’t be entertaining . . . well, except the ones with Jennifer Aniston and Jennifer Lopez, for the two-Jens — that’s just movie hell in a hand basket (and their bitching when they’re not “nominated” come awards season, doesn’t endear them to anyone; at least Holly Near has reality on her side).
Valley of the Dolls (1967), the trashy, celluloid doppelganger to Angel, Angel, Down We Go, is in no way a good movie nor a classic; however, that Patty Duke-starrer is an undeniable guilty pleasure. And Angel, Angel, Down We Go so wants to be that Jacqueline Susann-adapted flick, but only ends up being even abysmal-trashier than the Roger Ebert-written and Russ Meyer-directed ripoff sequel Beyond the Valley of the Dolls (1970). And let’s not forget: Susann called the adaptation of her own book, “a piece of shit.” So that gives you a good idea on the low-grade, non-quality of Robert Thom’s sole directing effort. I’d even take the critical comparison a wee-bit lower, down to Peter Carpenter’s trashy, sexually-manipulating lounge singer in Point of Terror (1971). (If Christopher didn’t star here, Carpenter could have filled the role, admirably; hey, anything to bring back that red-fringe Elvis get-up, Peter! We recently honored Peter with a two-fer review-career blowout with Vixen! and Love Me Like I Do.)
Then again, if you’re into these counterculture LSD flicks of yore and enjoy the whacked-out realities of Skidoo (1968), The Phynx (1970), or the “fucked up future” of Gas-s-s (1970), then there’s something in the frames of this symbolism feast of the stoned senses. For lost . . . somewhere . . . in the frames is a statement on the nihilism of wealth and celebrity. But my inner being tells me even Kant and Nietzsche would reject Robert Thom’s tales as poppycock . . . once the house maid is exposed as a lesbian and the husband’s bisexuality come to light (he’s shower be-boppin’ the butler). And never in the writings of those metaphysical thinkers, did they ever dream up the Machiavellian likes of the Rabbit Habbit, a band which features Lou Rawls (in his feature film debut) and Roddy McDowall . . . with McDowall’s Santoro spewing his nihilistic sociopolitical ejaculate over his love for carrots. Yes, Cornelius is “turned on” by veggies. Read into that as you may, you dirty bird.
In the end, both the counterculture hippie masses, as well as the conservative masses (aka my parents, who got dressed up for dinner and a movie to see Valley of the Dolls, as parents did in the ’60s; mom loved the book, but HATED the movie), rejected Robert Thom’s attempt to graft the teachings of Kant and Nietzsche into the taboo-intellectual visuals of Pier Paolo Pasolini*˟. An allegorical work on the level of Pasolini’s underbelly tale of pimps and thieves in Accatone (1961) and his bourgeoisie-supernatural thriller Teorema (1968), Robert Thom’s lone directing effort, is not; it’s as inept as an inept high school production of a Tennessee Williams play.
The only real stand out of the film is Jordan Christopher (by singing, not acting) cloning a shirtless and leather pant Jim Morrison — with a touch of Iggy Pop — as our ersatz rocker belting the Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil-penned tunes (as part of Don Kirshner’s house of hits, they supplied tunes to the Monkees˟*) “Angel Angel Down We Go,” “The Fat Song,” “Hey Hey Hey and a Hi Ho,” “Lady Lady,” “Mother Lover,” and “Revelation,” which are actually pretty good tunes. Oddly enough, Lou Rawls — who reached his own solo career highs with the Top 40 ’70s hits “Lady Love” and “You’re Gonna Miss My Love,” doesn’t sing in the film.
If you read our recent review for Breaking News in Yuba County, you know that on October 7, 2020, four decades after the imprint’s closure, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer reactivated the AIP-imprint to release digital and limited theatrical releases (MGM will handle streaming while United Artists will handle the theatrical end). The studio was founded by James H. Nicholson and Samuel Z. Arkoff and all AIP releases followed the ARKOFF formula:
Action (exciting, entertaining drama) Revolution (novel or controversial themes and ideas) Killing (a modicum of violence) Oratory (notable dialogue and speeches) Fantasy (acted-out fantasies common to the audience) Fornication (sex appeal for young adults)
So, yeah, Angel, Angel, Down We Go is a bizarre pint of an ARKOFF-crafted microbrew (bubblin’ with images of Near’s face on a guerilla, and then a lion, as part of a trip and its “message”), a libation of choice that we gulp with glee at B&S About Movies. You know us, with our celluloid schadenfreude of the Sexette (1978)˟˟ and Myna Breckenridge (1970) variety (both spiritual, washed-up actor sloppers), for that is what it’s all about, out on the video brewin’ fringes. So pair Angel, Angel, Down We Go with Robert Thom’s rock “prequel” Wild in the Streets and Mick Jagger’s decadent rock star turn in Performance (1970), toss back an ARKOFF, and pop open a bag of salty American International Psychedelic Trash Nuggets. Yum.
You can stream Angel, Angel, Down We Go on You Tube. For a cleaner, commercial-free stream, we found a PPV copy on Vudu.
¹ Felix Cavaliere, later of the Young Rascals and the Rascals, got his start with Joey Dee & the Starlighters. He, along with Gene Conrish, have recently reactivated the Rascals (then, as with all other tours, got COVID derailed); after his stint with Joey Dee, Cavaliere formed the Young Rascals with Gene Cornish, Eddie Brigati, and Dino Danelli.
After the Rascals collapsed, they morphed into the harder rocking Bulldog, with Gene Cornish and Dino Danelli at the helm. After Bulldog’s two albums in the early ‘70s, Cornish and Danelli teamed with Wally Bryson, from the early ‘70s “power-pop” pioneers the Raspberries (also out of the same Akron, Ohio, scene as Jordan Christopher), to form Fotomaker, which issued three albums in the late, new-wave ‘70s: Fotomaker, Vis-à-vis, and Transfer Station. A Cars or Knack-like success for Fotomaker was not meant to be, even with their great, debut single, “Where Have You Been All My Life.”
While Fotomaker was going on, Felix Cavaliere — who once played with Joey Dee, mind you — formed Treasure, a harder AOR band that issued an album in 1977 — and featured Vinnie “Vincent” Cusano, later of Kiss, on lead guitar.
Dino Danelli ended up in Little Steven and the Disciples of Soul — playing alongside ex-Plasmatics bassist, Jean Beauvior. After the Raspberries, and before Fotomaker, Wally Bryson formed the hard-rock outfit Tattoo with Thom Mooney from Todd Rundgren’s the Nazz, which put out one album in 1976 on Prodigal Records (a Motown subsidiary). Thom also did time in Fuse with Rick Neilson and Tom Petersson, both later of Cheap Trick. And, the drummer in Fuse was Chip Greenman; he ended up in the Names, which doubled as faux “No False Metal” rockers the Clowns in Terror on Tour. And, of course, Cheap Trick came to be known via their first soundtrack effort, Over the Edge.
Don’t forget! We are deep into our third “Rock ‘n’ Roll Week” blowout. Yes, we’ve done this twice before, and you can catch up with our “Rock ‘n’ Roll Week” Round-Ups 1 and 2 with their full listings of all the rock flicks we’ve watched.
Courtesy of Bill Van Ryn, we know that Peter Carpenter had been selected by Russ Meyer for a small role in Vixen! after Carpenter’s then girlfriend included a photo with him as part of her audition materials. A role alongside Dyanne Thorne in 1970’s softcore drama Love Me Like I Do followed, and Carpenter’s later, one-two punch of his self-produced Crown International-starring vehicles of Blood Mania and Point of Terror, made with producer Chris Marconi, undoubtedly represented a bid for establishing Peter as a working actor—a Hollywood commodity, even. A career never manifested, and Carpenter disappeared. Despite rumors that he vanished because he died, he actually simply left the movie business, although he did pass away at the too-young age of 56—in Alhambra, Los Angeles County, on April 2, 1996, under his birth name: Joseph Nathaniel Carpenter, a former enlistee of the U.S. Air Force (thanks to Mike Perkins for that bio-postscript).
As Mike Justice of the Eerie Midnight Detective Agency site correctly pointed out: Peter didn’t do much in the way of acting in these films—but, in both, he did show a natural predilection for portraying a horny, muscular man who will stop at nothing to get laid. And I’ll have to add that quality carried to its zenith, with Pete as the red-jump suit clad n’ hip-swingin’ Tom Jones wannabe in Point of Terror.
So, how we ended up here, QWERTY’ing away in the B&S About Movies cubicles about these first two Peter Carpenter films is a tale of the coolness that is B&S About Movies. And this ain’t no trope of a tale we’re telling: B&S is a family of movie lovers who love film for film—a gaggle of crazy bastards and lazy sods who write for the love of film, money in our pockets for the efforts, be damned. (In fact, it’s how our newly-posted review of The Beast (1988) came together: reader feedback to our site. Ditto for our recent “Ancient Future Week” reviews of Future-Kill (1985) and Robo Warriors (1996): reader input.)
B&S reader and uber Peter Carpenter fan, Mike Perkins, a professional librarian, reached out to us upon discovering our review of Point of Terror with questions and some new, Pete-Intel. The Perk came to tell us he’s been working with B&S About Movies’ long-time friend and contributor Mike Justice to set the record straight on Peter Carpenter’s life and career.
It all began with Mike Justice asking the February 22, 2016, question in his article: Lost Actor: What Ever Happened to Peter Carpenter? on his site. So, Mike Perkins, the insane-uber Carpenter fan he is, started digging. And the two-Mikes’ investigations led to Mike Justice posting the follow up article: Lost Actor Found: Who Was Peter Carpenter? on March 7, 2021. Then Mike Perkins took it a step further by setting up a Flickr photo tribute page, finally convincing the IMDb to updated Peter Carpenter’s page, and setting up an all-new Find A Grave tribute page. Yeah, the Mighty Perk is working on that Peter Carpenter Wikipedia page, you know it!
The one thing we’re all in agreement on: Peter Carpenter was Tommy Wiseau before Tommy Wiseau was Tommy Wiseau making his The Room vanity project. And that Rudy Ray Moore was the blaxploitation version of Peter Carpenter—remembering Moore took the vanity route with Dolemite. And that we need a Peter Carpenter biographical dramedy, à la The Disaster Artist and My Name Is Dolemite. And that Jason Segel—as first suggested by The Great Protrubero, one of Mike Justice’s readers—should star.
Like I told Justice: If Netflix can bank roll Jack Black as the financial-scamming Jan “The Polka King” Lewen in a bioflick, then a Peter Carpenter film can be done.
Does anyone know how to reach James Franco and Seth Rogen? A Peter Carpenter movie—Point of Stardom—starring Jason Segel as Pete, must be done—if only to get Segel into a fringed, red-jump suit. And, in the way-back machine: Judge Reinhold.
Just think of it: A world where Peter Carpenter never left the business—and Peter, instead of Judge Reinhold—ended up as one of the (many) boyfriends of Elaine Benis on Seinfeld—or Carrie Heffernan’s gynecologist on The King of Queens (i.e., Judge, again). Why did you leave the business, Pete . . . the castings you missed . . . you could have been “the Close Talker” on Seinfeld! And yes, B&S readers: we’re accepting your casting suggestions for Dyanne Thorne and Russ Meyer in the comments section, below.
In fact, speaking of castings and Jack Black: If there’s ever a Paul Naschy biopic made, Jack Black is the man for the job. From Pennsylvania’s “Polka King” to Spain’s “Werewolf King”? Jack can do it!
And . . . Jack Black can be Russ Meyer to Jason Segel’s Peter Carpenter!!!
“Uh, the ‘rails,’ R.D. We talked about this. The rails. You’re friggin’ off them, again. Please get back to the movie,” Sam “The Boss Man” Panico, implores me.
Sorry, Sam . . . the Peter Carpenter love is, eventually, gonna getcha.
So, yeah. Bill Van Ryn. Eric Wrazen. Mike Justice. Mike Perkins. Sam “the Blender Master” Panico, and yours truly: We are family, and by golly, we’ll get the job done and solve The Case of Peter Carpenter. Get this: for the fun. We’re fracked up that way. And by hook or by crook, we will get that movie made, too.
Let’s roll Vixen! and Love Me Like I Do. To the aisle seats, Robin!
“The story of a girl who loves the joy of being alive.” — Now that’s how you pitch an X-rated movie
Yeah, you’re heard of this movie in the annals of X-rated films: it was the first film to be given the rating due to its sex scenes. Yes. It was a huge box office success ($8 million against $73,000) that not only inspired 20th Century Fox to green-light Beyond the Valley of the Dolls (Doh!), it also triggered the “Golden Age of Porn” with the likes of the equally successful Behind the Green Door, Deep Throat, and The Devil in Miss Jones. Howard Avedis, who we just did week-long tribute on, dove into the golden showers with this take on the trend with The Teacher. And speaking of teachers: Earl Barton’s Russ Meyer-wannabe, the sleazy drive-in take-a-shower-after flick, Trip with the Teacher, was his lone attempt at some “golden age” sexploitation.
Erica Gavin* (later of Meyer’s Beyond the Valley of the Dolls; stellar in Jonathan Demme’s Caged Heat for Roger Corman) is Vixen Palmer: an oversexed (big surprise), bored ne’er-do-well hottie stuck living in a Canadian mountain resort town with her naive, wilderness bush pilot husband (Larry Buchanan stock-player Garth Pillsbury, Mistress of the Apes).
While he’s off on assignments, flying tourists on fishing trips, the divine Ms. Palmer manipulates anyone and everyone to get her jollies: including an uptight, vacationing husband and wife flown by her husband, as well as a Canadian Mountie (cue Peter Carpenter to the set). Vix even dabbles in incest with her rough n’ tumble biker brother, Judd (because all Drive-In B-movie programmers must have a biker; played by Don Stroud lookalike Jon Evans). But Vix draws the line at interracial love: she won’t do the hoochie-mama with Judd’s black, riding buddy (Harrison Page, who carved a still-going, extensive U.S. TV career). Oh, and everyone has opinions on communism to go with their insights on the sexual revolution.
Sigh . . . sex and political dissertations with a side of racism: an exploitation Reece’s Peanut Butter Cup packed with M&M’s (or is that Skittles) if there ever was one.
When it comes to skin-flicks—and Meyer’s oeuvre, on whole—Vixen! is a solidly produced flick that’s well-directed with engaging cinematography. Courtesy of Erica Gavin going so over-the-top, along with Meyer working in messages on racism, communism, Vietnam, draft dodging, and the sexual revolution amid the nekked parts, this is not, not-an-entertaining flick. In fact, instead of flinching in repulsion, you actually laugh—with, not at—the film. How can you not chuckle, when Vixen and her brother lament on their special showers back when they were 12—as they have a nekked shower-sex reunion?
Look, this ain’t no 2 1/2 hour Zack Snyder zombie romp with the always career-bitching Dave Bautista: it’s a 70-minute skin flick from the limits-pushing Russ Meyer. (It could be worse: this was sliced to 63-minutes in other parts of the world.) So what’s not to likely? Take a chance, you analog masochist, to get your fix of Peter Carpenter strippin’ off that Royal Canadian Mounted Policeman’s uniform. Your own heart-breaking sighs for Peter, may vary.
Ugh. No trailers to embed. So log onto You Tube to watch them HERE and HERE. The DVDs abound, even on Amazon. Online streams. Yes. On torrent sites: don’t do it.
Love Me Like I Do
“I thought I was safe as long as I kept my eyes wide open and my knees tied together.” — Another satisfied Peter Carpenter conquest
Writer and director Jean Van Hearn shot seven sexploitationer skinners between 1961 to 1973: Eternal Summer, Nymphs Anonymous, We, a Family, The House Near the Prado, The Hanging of Jake Ellis, Did Baby Shoot Her Sugar Daddy?, and this one—the only one starring Peter Carpenter. Oh, and Dyanne Thorne. Did we mention that Dyanne impressed Pete, here, so he cast Dyanne as his lead in his forth and final film, Point of Terror? We just did.
So . . . if you need films with soft-core kink titillations, trannies, way-too-many strippers, a world where women seduce men—while another man is dead, stuffed under a bed—all done at an Ed Woodian ineptness that makes a Doris Wishman joint look better that it should, then Van Hearn’s always-hard-to-plot-follow, seven-film oeuvre should be on your watch list.
Now, back to the Peter Carpenter love.
Sharon Sloane (Dyanne Thorne, in a bad wig) is a loyal, seemingly content suburban wife with a nice husband, Bill (Peter Carpenter, in his first leading man role), house and family—and she throws mod-swingin’ backyard parties. Well, things were content: Sharon just discovered—as a way to deal with the stress of his business ready to collapse in a takeover by his partner, Keith (the one and done Paul Flemming)—ol’ hubs cheats on her with the local, neighborhood nympho, Nanette (Maria De Aragon**, Blood Mania for Peter; the lead in 1972’s The Cremators). So, Sharon—while she attends to the woe-is-me problems of her horny-divorcee best friend (Lynne Gordon, her final film was Robert Redford’s The Hot Rock for Peter Yates)—does the only logical thing: she goes off the deep end. And so does everyone else.
Sharon pops off a couple o’ rounds at Bill’s squeeze, Nanette? Check.
Bill’s business partner, Keith, wants not only the business, but Sharon? Check.
Does Keith fail at goading Sharon into adultery, so he rapes her? Check.
Does she like it? Check.
Does Bill, the cheater, beat the hell out of Sharon for cheating? Check.
Divorce? Stressed out little ones? Check and double check.
Sharon and Keith run off to Las Vegas—and Sharon, the girl who won’t commit adultery—turns into the very nympho her ex, Bill, enjoys. Checky check check.
Just wow. If this is what the sexual revolution of the ’70s did for film . . . then we need Estus Pirkle to break out the bible to inspire Ron Ormond to get the cameras rolling to get our souls in check.
Look, if you’re a Peter Carpenter fan—and you were able to make it through the movie-where-nothing-happens stylings of Blood Mania, but enjoyed the mania where-everything-happens of Point of Terror—sans the musical numbers and slasher overtones of that later sex opus—then there’s something here for you to do on a Friday night.
Thanks to our bud, Mike Justice, while we do not have an online stream of the full movie to share (there’s a few torrent-to-porn uploads out there: don’t do it: unless you’re into virus alerts and site redirects), you can watch these two clips from the film HERE and HERE (but embedded, below). You want the DVD? Well, the DVDLady has multi-regional DVD-rs, if you absolutely must have it.
I’m excited! Let’s make this Peter Carpenter bioflick happen!
About the Author: You can read the music and film reviews of R.D Francis on Medium and learn more about his work on Facebook. He also writes for B&S Movies.
* Did you know Erica Gavin has an official website? True story. Check it out at ericagavin.com. The link will take you into a deeper plot synopsis and backstory on Vixen!, as well as direct you to her insights on her other films.
** Maria De Aragon was under the Greedo make-up, hassling Han Solo at the Mos Eisley Spaceport in Star Wars? Is that urban legend?
Let me tell you, if life isn’t doing it for you any longer, watch this movie. It will reaffirm your faith in the utter strangeness that this world can deliver to all of us. I mean, who knew that Santo would be in a remake of Black Sunday? A ripoff? Don’t speak ill of the man in the silver mask.
The film begins in 1676 with four men being burned alive at the stake — one of them literally has flesh crackling off their bones as we play the credits — as their high priestess Damiana (Pilar Pellicer, who was Don Francisco’s wife in Zorro the Gay Blade and won the Ariel Award for Best Actress for 1974’s La Choca; she’s your South of the Border Barbara Steele for this movie) kneels in a graveyard surrounded by followers praying for the help of Satan, who sees fit to send Blue Demon — in full wrestling garb — to help her get revenge on the world.
Already a minute into this movie and I’m sold. Completely and utterly sold.
That’s when we meet Santo, who in this timeline is known as Caballero Enmascarado de Plata (Silver Masked Knight). His outfit is the stuff that makes me keep watching movies, as he still has on most of his ring costume yet he’s added a silver jacket with frilly cuffs and a long silver cape with lush red lining. He is the fanciest of all heroes you will ever meet. He wants to marry Doña Aurora, but worries that perhaps his world of fighting against the left hand path may be too dangerous.
You know how cool Santo is? The seductively Satanic Damiana offers her body, her gold and all the power of Lucifer and he says no. And then he survives getting stabbed in the hand with a burning dagger? If church had more Santo, more people would go to church. She brings Blue Demon and a bunch of her burned up followers — yes, they rose again after being staked and flambéed — as Santo fights them with just the power of a crucifix and lucha libre. As this all goes down, Damiana stabs Aurora directly between her imposing breasts and lets her bleed out before she’s caught and sentenced to be burned alive, declaring that in three hundred years she’ll be back to kill everyone connected.
If you don’t think everyone is going to play a dual role in this movie, I have no idea what you’re thinking.
Santo’s girlfriend Alicia — also played by Pellicer — is soon possessed by the same dagger that killed Aurora. Soon, the ghost of the witch is attacking Santo through mental suggestion as he tries to wrestle. Our hero is even stabbed in the chest by three ghost wrestlers and has a tarantula dropped on him when he’s trying to read a book. I realize that the latter is worse than the former, but I don’t go about telling the ghosts of brujas how to do their nefarious business.
How does Santo survive being stabbed in the chest? With stock footage of open heart surgery, that’s how.
That’s when we learn that all of the possession is causing Alicia to die and unless Santo travels to the world of the dead, he’ll lose the love of his life — at least for this movie, there are always many daughters of professors for Santo to chastely court — forever. And how do you get to the world of the dead?
You think real hard.
If you read that and wonder, “Why does Sam love lucha movies so much?” then I’m never going to reach you.
Santo has to fight through red-colored gel lighting, strange music, lava and some scary monsters before Blue Demon shows up, going from rudo to tecnico and earning his liberation after three centuries trapped in the world of the dead which may be limbo, for all we know.
As for Santo, he and his potential bride must cross a burning rope bridge within an hour or be trapped for all eternity. Spoiler warning: They make it.
Just five years before this, Santo faced a similar predicament in El Hacha Diabólica. He learned absolutely nothing for this and we’re all the better for it. My love for this movie is exactly why I am not allowed to currate the Criterion Collection and we’re all the worst for that.
Santo vs. the Riders of Terror is a straight-up western except, you know, Santo is in it. It concerns a gang of lepers that has escaped an insane asylum and start to rob farms and attack people. Now, they’ve joined a gang of outlaws and that’s when the lawman Darío calls on the man in the silver mask. The strange thing is that the lepers are portrayed as sympathetic and simply on the wrong side of luck.
Santo eventually kills the gang, rescues the town and informs the lepers that a new drug will change their lives. Seems like a pretty neat wrap-up, all things considered and would be strange for any other film, but at this point, we’ve already seen Santo battle vampires, go back in time and battle Satan himself.
This was written by Murciélago Velázquez, who started as a wrestler and actor before writing films himself. Perhaps his best is El Mundo de los Vampiros. If he and René Cardona were still alive today, I’d ask how Santo went back in time to be in a cowboy movie and why they decided to go all Peckinpah with the squibs.