La Controfigura (1971)

Giovanni (Jean Sorel, Perversion Story) is shot in an underground car-park by a mysterious man and as he dies, he flashes back on his life — including jealousy, adultery and worse — in this 1971 giallo known here as The Double.

While vacationing in Morocco with his stunning girlfriend Lucia (Ewa Aulin, CandyDeath Smiles On a MurdererDeath Laid an Egg), Giovanni grows jealous of an American named Eddie (Sergio DoriaCave of the Sharks). In retaliation, he forces himself on Lucia’s mother Nora (Lucia Bose, The Legend of Blood Castle) and then becomes obsessed all over again that she’s also in love with Eddie. To top all of that off, he soon finds the American’s body in her apartment, so he disposes of the body to protect her. But if she wasn’t in the country when it happened, who killed the man?

Oh yeah, and between being caught in a mother-daughter triangle with Lucia and Nora, there’s also the gorgeous — and face-painted in one scene — Marilù Tolo to deal with.

Romolo Guerrieri also directed another giallo I really enjoyed, The Sweet Body of Deborah, and his artistic sensibilities elevate this film as well, starting with the Sunset Boulevard conceit of the main character getting killed off before we discover anything about him. And even more interesting is the fact that the more we learn of him, the less we like Giovanni.

You can watch this on YouTube.

Marta (1971)

Marisa Mell is the female George Eastman. No, she doesn’t act like a wide eyed gigantic maniac in every movie. It’s just that no matter what movie she appears in, just her name being in the credits guarantees that I will watch the film.

Also known as …dopo di che, uccide il maschio e lo divora (…After That, It Kills the Male and Devours It), which is one of the best titles ever.

A wealthy landowner  named Don Miguel (Stephen Boyd, who was in Ben-Hur) is haunted by his dead mother and missing wife, who may have been murdered, when he meets a gorgeous runaway named Marta (Mell), who may have killed the man who she was running from.

I haven’t seen any of José Antonio Nieves Conde’s films before, but this movie makes me want to watch every single one of them.

The strange thing is that this movie pretty much became true in a way, as Boyd and Mell fell in love, as they made this and The Great Swindle one on top of the other*. Despite Boyd not wanting anything to do with Mell at first — was the man made of stone? — he eventually fell for her and they married in a gypsy ceremony near Madrid, cutting their wrists and sealing their blood. The couple was so possessed buy the mystical and sexual desire they felt for one another than they even went to have it exorcized in another ritual.

Boyd had to run from her, as the relationship physically and mentally exhausted him. As for Mell, she’d tell the Akron Beacon Journal that “We both believe in reincarnation, and we realized we’ve already been lovers in three different lifetimes, and in each one I made him suffer terribly.”

In the same year that all this happened, Mell was also dating Pier Luigi Torri, an aristocratic nightclub owner who fled the country after a cocaine scandal. Arrested in London after it was discovered he had a $300 million dollar gold mine and had also scammed a bank, he somehow escaped his jail cell and ran from the police across rooftops, escaping to America for 18 months. Evidentally, Mell dated Diabolik in art and in life.

So let’s talk about the Mell relationship in the film instead of reality. She has come to live with Miguel, who collects insects and has two servants who keep things tidy. She enters his life by claiming that she is on the run for a self-defense murder. Miguel decides to protect her from the police because she looks like his wife Pilar (also played by Mell) who has left him or was killed. He’s also tormented by the death of his sainted mother while she may not be who she says that she is.

Oh yeah — and now Marta is acting as Pillar to throw the police off the scent of the man who she either wants to marry or destroy.

Marta is a gothic-style giallo but is also dreamlike throughout. There’s a continual obsession with placing Mell in front of mirrors. And for someone who was rarely used outside of her sex appeal in films, she absolutely haunting here. Somehow, Spain put this movie forward for Oscar consideration and if I ran those popcorn fart boring awards, I would have given this every single award.

Sure, this movie rips off Hitchcock, but it also wallows in sin, which is what I demand from the giallo that I come to adore. Somehow, someway, this aired on broadcast TV as part of Avco Embassy’s Nightmare Theater package, along with A Bell from Hell, Death Smiles on a Murderer, Maniac MansionNight of the SorcerersFury of the Wolfman, Hatchet for the HoneymoonHorror Rises from the TombDear Dead DelilahDoomwatchWitches MountainMummy’s Revenge and The Witch. Man, how did any of those air on regular TV?

*Credit to the Stephen Boyd Fan Page and Marisa Mell: Her Life and Her Work for this information.

Senza via d’uscita (1971)

Translated as No Way Out, this movie is also known as Devil’s RansomLa MachinationTerroriThe VictimsDiabolicalThe Devil and His Diabolical Mistress and Photos of a Decent Woman. 

While this was sold to me as a giallo, it feels closer to a krimini film, as the genre had not yet fully begun to ape — bird? cat? — Argento yet.

Gilbert Mardeau (Philippe Leroy) is a bank courier stuck in a loveless marriage with Michele (Marisa Mell, so obviously this is science fiction because Marisa Mell is literally the entire reason why I have suffered through some movies). He has a woman on the side (Lea Massari, who no offense, but is a major step down) and a problem: someone has kidnapped his son and wants big money or he’ll never see him alive again.

Piero Sciumé only directed one more and this is it. It’s definitely not a straight-up black gloved, knife wielding killer movie, but the end has some nice psychedelic visuals, Mell is actually really solid as the mother driven to do unspeakable things and setting it in Stockholm is an interesting change of pace.

Obviously, for giallo completists only, but if you read this far, look in the mirror and realize that yes, you are one.

A Howling in the Woods (1971)

The November 5, 1971 NBC World Premiere Movie, this movie reunited Larry Hagman and Barbara Eden after their sitcom I Dream of Jeannie, which went off the air on May 26, 1970. It’s based on Velda Johnson’s novel of the same name.

I’ve often said, when it comes to horror movies, that no one should ever go home again. This movie would be another example of that, as Liza Crocker (Eden) runs from her rumpled husband Eddie (Hagman) back to her Nevada hometown, where she soon learns that her father is missing and that she also has a new stepbrother (John Rubinstein, who was also in another great TV movie, Killjoy). Meanwhile, everyone in town is acting deranged, children are randomly being drowned and she can hear a howling in the woods at night.

Vera Miles, who starred in both Psycho and Psycho 2, plays her stepmother. There’s also a strong role for Tyne Daly, who always elevates any material. But if you’re hoping for an extended reunion of Hagman and Eden, their shared screen time is minimal.

Daniel Petrie, who directed this, is a solid hand. He also made the TV movies Moon of the Wolf and Sybil, so he certainly knew how to take advantage of the budgets and limitations of television. He also made the Harold Robbins adaption The Betsy for the silver screen, as well as A Raisin in the Sun.

You can watch this on YouTube.

Terror in the Sky (1971)

CBS-TV got its start in the airline disaster sweepstakes in September 1971 with this tale about transcontinental flight struck with food poisoning. To save the aircraft, the cabin crew locate a passenger with enough flying experience so that he can be coached by an experience pilot on the ground. Doug McClure, it goes without saying, is very good in his role as a Vietnam war ex-chopper pilot who’s called into action to safe the day.

While many write this off as a rip-off of ’70s airline disaster flicks — and, in a way, it is (which we will get to) — Terror in the Sky has it roots in an Alex Haley-written Canadian telefilm starring James “Scotty” Doohan, Flight Into Danger (1956). The CBC-TV screenplay was quickly rebooted as the Paramount Pictures features film Zero Hour! (1957) starring Dana Andrews — each deal with a “food poisoning” premise. Haley then took the premise and retooled n’ tweaked it again for the novel Runway Zero-Eight (1958), then again as novel Airport (1968), which, in turn, became the Burt Lancaster-starring Airport (1970). So, officially, Terror in the Sky is a bigger-budget TV remake of Zero Hour! and a loose cousin to Runway Zero-Eight. which aired on CBS-TV in September 1971.

As for Zero Hour!: Interest in the film was renewed in the ’80s when it was revealed that the Abrahams-Zucker Brothers’ (The Kentucky Fried Movie) Airplane!, which spoofed the Airport series of movies of the ’70s, was actually an almost verbatim comedy-remake of the film.

Yeah, you know why we love this, as it’s another airline disaster TV movie with bonkers casting: assisting Doug McClure are Roddy McDowall and Kennan Wynn, along with ’50s gents Kenneth Tobey (The Thing) and Leif Erickson (On the Waterfront).

Is the name of director Bernard Kowalski ringing any bells? It should. He gave us the Alien precursor Night of the Blood Beast, The Fast and the Furious precursor Hot Car Girl, and the giant monster mash classic Attack of the Giant Leeches, and the mad scientist romp Sssssss. Oh, and the western-horror about devil worshiping voodoo cowpokes, the most awesome TV movie ever, Black Noon (1971). And let’s not forget he closed out his career with TV’s Colombo, Airwolf, Knight Rider, and Jake and the Fatman.

You can watch this on You Tube.

About the Author: You can learn more about the writings of R.D Francis on Facebook. He also writes for B&S About Movies.

Santa’s Christmas Elf Named Calvin (1971)

Oh Barry Mahon.

While the rest of the world thrills to Tom Cruise cussing out castmembers concerning COVID-19, Mahon’s real-life story offers movie maniacs the kind f thrills that we breathlessly devour and share with one another. After volunteering for the British air force before America officially entered World War II, Mahon earned the British Distinguished Flying Cross and escaped from a concentration camp twice after being shot down, then became the personal pilot and manager of Errol Flynn before going into making his own movies.

And oh his movies.

Barry’s oeuvre is a madcap mix of ripped from the headlines fearmonger films like Rocket Attack U.S.A. and Cuban Rebel Girls along with horror like The Dead One and Sex Killer, then some nudie cuties like Fanny Hill Meets Dr. Erotico and The Diary of Knockers McCalla and finally, improbably, kids movies like The Wonderful Land of OzJack and the Beanstalk and the Thumbelina movie that is part of perhaps the most berserk holiday movie of all time, Santa and the Ice Cream Bunny. Oh yeah — and he also made Musical Mutiny, a movie that I have yet to come to grips with*.

I hesitate to even call this a movie because it was made with all the motion of, well, a slide show. Instead, it’s a series of still images with a narrator speaking every single part. It is the very epitome of low budget, with puppets and people shot in only the murkiest of lighting.

If you ever watched Rodolph the Red Nosed Reindeer and wondered why everyone treated the hero so poorly — and why he would not only forgive them but blame himself for so much of their horrific and abusive behavior — then get ready. Calvin gets brutalized throughout this movie with even the narrator continually reminding us of how ugly he is.

*Some people, if given a time machine, would go back to meet famous people or kill Hitler. I would just go to Dania, Florida and spend the day at Pirates World.

You can watch this on YouTube.

Drive-In Friday: Drag Racing ’70s Docs Night

Don “The Snake” Prudhomme and Tom “The Mongoose” McEwen were gods to us kids in the ’70. We bought the racing magazines and ripped out the glossy spreads of their cars and persons and Scotch Taped ’em to our bedroom doors and walls — right next to our Runaways (duBeat-e-o) and Suzi Quatro (Suzi Q) posters, and Roger Decoster’s mag-rips of his daring motocross jumps.

When the ABC Wild World of Sports held one of Prudhomme and McEwen’s drag or funny car races on a Saturday afternoon, the neighborhood streets cleared and everyone sat in front of the TV. The Snake and Mongoose were only matched by Richard Petty and Evel Knievel. They were the “Muhammad Ali” of racing. Everyone loved them.

So, to commemorate those “Funny Car Summers” of those youthful days of yore, let’s fire up that silver screen under the stars!

Movie 1: Funny Car Summer (1973)

Man, when this commercial came on TV . . . EVERYBODY went to see this documentary that chronicles a summer in the life of “Funny Car” racer Jim Dunn and his family.

The most popular, best known, and best-distributed film of the night — it is also the most disappointing (to those wee eyes of long ago) of the films of the night. You know how great Pawn Stars and American Chopper were when they first went on the air — then they turned into a Kardashians-styled sit(shite)com that’s all about Chum Lee and Corey Harrison bumblin’ about the shop and Junior and Senior fighting? Where’s the neat junk? Where’s the bikes? Where’s Frank and Mike? Who in the hell let Danielle, this Memphis blond chick, and Mike’s bumblin’ brother on the set? Where did the pickin’ go? This is American Pickers, right?

Well, that’s what watching this movie is like: all family drama and little vroom-vroom. Way to go marketing department and Mr. Distributor. You broke our little-tyke hearts — and pissed off our parents, who paid the drive-in fare, because we bitched from the backseat that we were bored — and watched 99 and 44/100% Dead (or was it The Exorcist) through the rear window, instead.

You can watch Funny Car Summer on You Tube HERE and HERE.

Movie 2: Wheels on Fire (1973)

Courtesy of Letterboxd

Wheels On Fire is a classic motor sports documentary — and also one of the most obscure and hard-to-find (as you can see, it’s even impossible to find a decent image of the theatrical one-sheet). But not in the land of Oz, since this was filmed in Liverpool, Sydney. This one kicks ass because of — before there were web-cam and fiber optics — has the first ever “race cam” strapped onto the drag car, which takes you behind the wheel at speeds above 300 kilometers (miles in the States) per hour.

Again, this one is near impossible to track down on VHS and DVD — and the DVDs are grey market VHS-rips. And there’s no trailer or clips . . . so in lieu of a trailer, check out these classic drag racing commercials.

Intermission! The Snack Bar is Open! Check out our classic drag racing poster art gallery while you wait in line!

Poster Top: All courtesy of Garage Art Signs. Bottom/From Left: Courtesy of American Hertiage USA, Garage Art Signs, Landis Publication Etsy, Repo Racing Posters

Movie 3: Wheels of Fire (1972)

Not to be confused (and it is) with the “on” movie above, Wheels of Fire focuses on the lives of five major drag racers of the era: Don Garlits, Don Prudhomme, Shirley Muldowney, Richard Tharp and Billy Meyer, as they are each followed through a complete drag racing season. Yep. This is reality TV before Robert Kardashian had his first kid (I think; too lazy to check K-Dash B-Days), the very same kids who unleashed the ubiquitously-hated broadcasting format.

As with the oft-confused Wheels on Fire, there’s no online streams of this lost, classic drag racing film. It was on You Tube in several parts, but was removed. Only this 10:00 minute clip is available, which we’re posting in lieu of an official trailer (and don’t be surprised if it also vanishes to grey screen). The now out-of-print DVDs are available in the online marketplace from time to time (and, as you can see, it’s impossible to find a decent theatrical one-sheet). The NHRA web platform and their upper-tier cable channel rerun it from time to time.

Movie 4: Seven-Second Love Affair (1965)

Documentarian Les Blank of Burden of Dreams fame, which chronicled the making of Werner Herzog’s and Klaus Kinski’s Fitzcarraldo, made his docu-debut with this drag chronicle — its seeds (A Rubber Tree plant, ha-ha! ugh.) planted courtesy of his first behind-the-camera gig shooting drag racers in Long Beach, California.

This one has it all: Souped-up “Blower” Mercurys and Chevys (like in Two-Lane Blacktop), rails, and funny cars. While it chronicles other racers, this one is a showcase for Rick “The Iceman” Stewart as he attempts to grab the world’s record — as Los Angeles’ Canned Heat Blues Band provides the musical backing.

Les Blank has made this easily accessible as an Amazon Prime and Vimeo VOD that’s also available for purchase at Les and on eBay.

And so goes our “Fast and Furious Week: Part Deux.” Can you smell the rubber Big Daddy is cookin’, Dwayne? And, do you have a hankering for even MORE drag racing films? Then check out our first “Fast and Furious Week” reviews of Burnout and Fast Company.

About the Author: You can learn more about the writings of R.D Francis on Facebook. He also writes for B&S About Movies.

Play Misty for Me (1971)

Before she was Lucille Bluth, Jessica Walter scared the hell out of the men of 1971 with her role as Evelyn Draper, the caller who continually asks KRML-FM* DJ Dave Garver (Clint Eastwood, making his directorial debut) to “play “Misty” for me.”

What started as a simple evening of sex — well, for Dave at least — has turned obsessive and he thinks he cuts Evelyn loose. She responds by slasher her wrists, then destroying his house and even stabbing his housekeeper (I didn’t realize DJs on 500 watt stations made enough to have servants).

While she’s in prison, Dave gets back with his ex-girlfriend Tobie (Donna Mills**) and deals with calls and letter from Evelyn that concern Edgar Allan Poe’s “Annabel Lee.” And oh yeah — she proves how cured she is by getting in bed with him and trying to stab him with a gigantic butcher knife.

Of course, she ends up taking his Tobie hostage and Dave has to punch her through a window, which is how I assume folks dealt with spurned women in 1971.

While Eastwood was sweating out his first-time behind the camera, he had help from his buddy Don Siegel (the director of the original Invasion of the Body Snatchers), who also plays a bartender, as well as Siegel’s usual team of cinematographer Bruce Surtees, editor Carl Pingitore and composer Dee Barton. It worked out — Eastwood came out $50,000 under budget and four days ahead of schedule.

Kino Lorber has just re-released this on blu ray, with some great extras to go with the new 2K transfer. There’s commentary by film historian Tim Lucas, an interview with Donna Mills, a video essay with film historian Howard S. Berger, a documentary on the film, a featurette about Siegel and Eastwood, and even the Trailers From Hell segment where Adam Rifkin discusses the film. You can get it here and it’s yet another great release from Kino Lorber, who are putting out so much good stuff as of late.

We also reviewed Play Misty for Me — with another take on the film — back in March as part of our “Exploring: Radio Stations on Film” week of film reviews.

*1410 AM, a real station in Carmel-by-the-Sea, California, the same town Eastwood was the mayor from 1986-1988.

**The greatest thing Donna Mills ever did was her how-to video, The Eyes Have It. Here’s  some clips.

2020 Scarecrow Psychotronic Challenge Day 18: Sometimes Aunt Martha Does Dreadful Things (1971)

DAY 18. RESURRECTIONISTS: Watch something that came out on one of the many reissue labels that we love like Arrow, Criterion, Bleeding Skull, Scream Factory, Indicator, Vinegar Syndrome, AGFA etc.

The American Genre Film Archive (AGFA) represents the world’s largest theatrical catalog of exploitation cinema. Their home video line presents a diverse selection of movies, ranging from new preservations of classics from the vast library of Something Weird to the wildest in shot-on-video (SOV) titles.

They’ve released some awesome things over the last few years, such as Scary MovieGodmonster of Indian FlatsThe Sword and the Claw and so many more. Now, they’re heading to the deepest, dankest and scuzziest parts of Florida to bring you this burst of weirdness.

Shot in Hollywood, Florida, this tale of Stanley (Wayne Crawford under the name Scott Lawrence, he also wrote Valley GirlBarracuda and Jake Speed) and Paul (Abe Zwick in his lone acting role) starts after they escape from Baltimore and go on the lamb. Paul begins to dress in drag and act as Stanley’s Aunt Martha while falling for Stanley, who only wants to do drugs and freaks out the moment a girl starts to undo his pants.

Thomas Casey wrote and directed this. This is the only movie he’d direct, although he also wrote Flesh Feast. That’s a shame that he didn’t make more films, because this movie captures the seedy side of life better than most. I honestly have no idea who this movie is for — at the time that it was made — but know that it’s perfectly made for maniacs like me who buy nearly everything AGFA puts out.

Florida is a weird state. The movies that come out of it are even stranger. This is probably one of the oddest. You can get this now from AGFA (through Vinegar Syndrome).

Roseland (1971)

Fredric Hobbs made some strange movies, that’s for sure. Only three are available — this one, Godmonster of Indian Flats and Alabama’s Ghost — and none of them are alike other than the fact that all three are movies made by either someone who was an artist, borderline insane or probably both.

Adam (E. Kerrigan Prescott) is a rock star — his big song is “You Cannot Fart Around With Love” — who has become obsessed with the Hieronymus Bosch painting The Garden of Earthly Delights. It’s led to him becoming unable to perform sexually and, as such, he must steal pornography.

So he does what any sex addict shouldn’t and gets a job at a burlesque theater, which ends with him stripping down to just his panties, which leads to him going into the psych ward. He can’t pay for therapy, but he doesn’t have a singing career without going through it. But suddenly, he falls for a nurse and we have a way too long softcore scene between them.

That’s when things get weird.

Hieronymus Bosch, who is now black and played by Christopher Brooks (Alabama from Alabama’s Ghost), arrives for exposition that tells us that it’s really the future and our hero — or whatever he is to us — is the new Adam after a future war and the painting is really his future, once he escapes from the doctor, who is now spraying the world with deadly gas. It ends as it must. with Adam and Eve making love on a giant flower and repopulating the world.

Say what?

This movie is totally 1971, an art film that hasn’t made any more sense with age. I wouldn’t have it any other way. Every Hobbs experience has made me question my own sanity, which is more than you should expect for an exploitation film about the evils of pornography.