The Incredible Two-Headed Transplant (1971)

EDITOR’S NOTE: Obviously, I liked this enough to watch it twice.

What was in the water of the early 70s to make this movie and The Thing with Two Heads within a year of one another?

This one has Bruce Dern putting the head of a serial killer onto the body of the son (John Bloom, who was the monster in Dracula vs. Frankenstein) of the man who he has just murdered, because that’s how movie science works. What happens when you combine the head of a murderer with the head of a manchild with the mental capacity of an eight-year-old and an extremely powerful body? You get murder and mayhem.

Second Marilyn Pat Priest gets kidnapped and Casey Kasem comes to the rescue and you know, I’m a huge fan of movies where Casey show up, like Disco Fever, in which he tries to find cocaine in the carpet of a nightclub inside an airplane.

American-International Pictures put this on a double bill with Scream and Scream Again, but poor Bruce Dern had his check bounce and when he went to the set the next day to get paid, there was no set left.

Brotherhood of Satan (1971)

We’re all over this movie. Dustin Fallon reviewed it for us. So did R. D Francis. Sam took a shot at it and even appeared with Groovy Doom and Drive-In Asylum’s Bill Van Ryn on Scream Queenz to dish on its Satanic majesty.

Now, Arrow Video has released this 70s shocker on blu ray and we couldn’t be more excited.

Ben is a recent widower, but hey — he’s taking his new girl Nicky on a road trip and making out with her whenever he can. Unfortunately, that trip also has his daughter K.T. (fake Jan Geri Reischl) along for the ride and she’s perfectly ready to drip sticky melted snow cone all over her new mommy’s face and ruin some side of the road necking.

The journey takes them to the town of Hillsboro, where the townspeople have been hiding from a great evil that seems to be killing everyone and making their children go missing. And the murders? Well, toys are involved and people are reduced to madness just by confronting the evil in their midst.

Strother Martin is Doc Duncan, who is either the human behind all of this or Satan himself and man, he’s great in this movie. Everyone is. It’s a low budget drive-in film, sure, but it’s also astoundingly sure of itself and a film that presents itself with great intelligence. It has one hell of an exploitation title but also has so many disquieting moments that will stay with you long after you finish watching.

The new Arrow Video release has a great looking version of the film, plus brand new audio commentary by writers Kim Newman and Sean Hogan, a video essay by David Flint entitled Satanic Panic: How the 1970s Conjured the Brotherhood of Satan, an exclusive new interview with actors Jonathan Erickson Eisley and Alyson Moore, plus original trailers and TV and radio ads.

Santo contra los Cazadores de Cabezas (1971)

You may notice that as I expound on the films of Santo, I often refer to him as a storytelling engine. John Seavey wrote a book on this subject, Storytelling Engines: How Writers Keep Superhero Sagas Going and Going!

As he broke down several comic book characters setting, origin, characters and their motivations, he realized that these elements all added up to create what he calls a storytelling engine. This makes it simpler for writers to make no end of stories. To wit: the better the engine is built, the easier it is to write a new story.

The engine can also shift and Batman is a great example. The character started as a takeoff of The Shadow, a very hard-boiled detective before getting softer with the introduction of Robin, the 50s science fiction era and the 60s pop art Batmania fad. By the 70s, however, Batman had grown to become the hairy-chested love god with Neal Adams art, battling an international army of assassins and even falling for one of them. At this point, Batman has grown to have so many different versions — or engines — that you can approach the character in nearly any fashion.

Hellboy was the first character that I consciously studied with this theory in mind. Hellboy has his backstory of being the son of the devil destined to bring about the end of everything, yet he was adopted and brought into an occult task force that fights monsters just like him. Within this sentence, you can see an infinite array of storytelling ideas.

Santo is the maestro of the storytelling engine. Just look at all he can do. First and foremost, he’s a capable fighter who can defeat just about any foe in hand-to-hand combat. He’s also an inventor who has created video screens before smartphones and even time machines. His enemies start with other wrestlers and gun-toting gangsters, but also have in their number aliens, a blob, vampires, werewolf women, a cyclops, witches and even Mexican folk characters. And the narrative shifts of his films allow them to fit into nearly any genre, from Italian-style western to Eurospy, karate film to Eurospy.

Now we can add the mondo to the films of Santo.

The Jivaros are the descendants of the Incas, the ancient indigenous people of Mexico whose empire and treasures were stolen by Spain. One of them, Tirso, has already tried to stab Santo with a bamboo dagger. Now, he wants to kidnap a wealthy explorer’s daughter, shower her with riches, give her the title of the Bride of the Sun, then sacrifice her to their gods.

Santo does a lot of walking in this and a lot of fighting nature, going mano a garra with alligators, jaguars, vampire bats and native tribesmen who launch a monkey into a piranha-filled river* at one point.

I say that this is a mondo because large stretches of it deal with the “other” that exists within the jungle and the strange customs of another race. It also looks to the Bond films for inspiration as this has plenty of travelogue — and walking — scenes.

*Don’t worry. This was directed by René Cardona not Ruggero Deodato. Then again, Cardonna did make Night of 1000 Cats.

You can watch this on YouTube.

Bedknobs and Broomsticks (1971)

Based on Mary Norton’s The Magic Bedknob; or, How to Become a Witch in Ten Easy Lessons and Bonfires and Broomsticks, this film went into development in the 60s when it looked like Mary Poppins wouldn’t get made. Due to its similarities to that movie — Julie Andrews was considered for the lead in this, but hesitated and Angela Landsbury got the role — it was put on hold.

As the Sherman brothers’ contract with the Disney studios was about to end, they were brought back to work on this film, bringing back the song “The Beautiful Briny” which had been meant for Mary Poppins.

Taking place during the Blitz or World War II, Bedknobs and Broomsticks is the story of the Rawlins orphans, who are evacuated from London to the countryside and the care of Miss Eglantine Price (Landsbury). They decide to run away, but watch their temporary foster parent fly on a broomstick and decide to stick around.

She tells the chldren that she’s learning witchcraft to protect the UK from the Nazis and is currently a student at the school of Professor Emelius Browne (David Tomlinson). When she discovers that the school is shutting down, she travels to find the professor and discover the final spell she needs to learn to become a witch.

It turns out that Browne is a showman more than a sorceror and that he made up all of the spells, but they all still work when Price casts them. To get the final spell, she must travel to Portobello Road to locate the rest of the book that has been cut in half. It turns out that the rest of the spell is engraved on the Star of Astaroth, a sorcerer’s medallion that has been given to a pack of wild animals that were given the power to speak. The group joruneys there and enters an animated world where Browne is able to spirit away the treasure.

Yet when thety return home and the children consider that the two magic users could be their parents, it looks like things are going to become dark. And darker still when the Nazis finally attack. Will the skills that Price has learned be enough to protect them all?

The film originally ran 141 minutes. That said, the premiere at the Radio City Music Hall had to work in the theater’s elaborate stage show, so 23 minutes were cut from the film. Those lost scenes include nearly all of Roddy McDowall’s character and three songs, “A Step in the Right Direction,” “With a Flair” and “Nobody’s Problems.” “Portobello Road” had seven minutes cut out before the movie as restored as part of its twenty-fifth anniversary, with Lansbury and McDowall redubbing their voices. Sadly, Tomlinson was too ill to record, so Jeff Bennett recorded his lines.

I totally enjoy that this is a more occult-based Mary Poppins. Crowley, who invented the V for Victory symbol, would be proud.

ARROW UHD RELEASE: The Cat o’Nine Tails (1971)

Editor’s note: We originally covered this film on March 27, 2019, but want to bring it back to our readers’ attention, particularly as Arrow Video has released an amazing new UHD version of the film.

The second in Dario Argento’s “Animal Trilogy” with The Bird with the Crystal Plumage and Four Flies on Grey Velvet, this film isn’t one of the director’s favorites and it failed to follow up on the success of the first film in the United States, although it was very popular in Italy. It’s filled with a lot more humor — it still has plenty of shocking moments — and kind of meanders around. But there’s still so much to enjoy.

Franco “Cookie” Arno (Karl Malden) is a blind man who is obsessed with solving puzzles. One comes to him in real life as he walks at night with his niece Lori. They overhear a man plan to blackmail someone, then that man breaks into the Terzi Institute. We meet our second hero, the reporter Carlo (James Franciscus) when he investigates the affair.

The head of the institute, Dr. Calabresi, looks at his files in his office and phones someone who agrees to meet with him. He tells his fiancee Bianca (Rada Rassimov, the sister of Ivan, which you can tell by her eyes) that whatever was taken could be a big step forward. As the doctor waits on a train platform, he’s pushed off a train platform. This brings the two heroes together and starts a string of murders, as anyone connected to the mystery is quickly killed.

It turns out that the Terzi Institute is able to isolate the chromosomes that point to evil tendencies within people and they have a miracle drug that can change that. Carlo also becomes involved with  Professor Terzi’s daughter Anna and they’re followed by both the police and the killer.

From milk being poisoned to dead bodies being searched in the middle of the night inside a crypt, the noose tightens around our heroes’ necks, with even Cookie’s niece being kidnapped and in danger. And oh yeah — his girlfriend and her adoptive father have had an incestuous relationship for years.

There’s a rooftop battle that may or may not take out one of the protagonists — the movie doesn’t even tell us — and finally the killer is knocked down an elevator shaft, his hands bleeding as he tries to grab the cable to stop him. It’s one of the few moments of sheer awesome in this film, but hints that greatness is in the future of Argento’s films.

Arrow Video’s new release of The Cat o’Nine Tails hasa 4K restoration from the original negative by Arrow Films that has been released as a 4K (2160p) UHD Blu-ray presentation in Dolby Vision. The film has audio commentary by critics Alan Jones and Kim Newman, plus there are new interviews with Argento, co-writer Dardano Sacchetti, actress Cinzia De Carolis and production manager Angelo Iacono. The package also has script pages for the lost original ending, translated into English for the first time; the original Italian, international and US theatrical trailers; an illustrated collector’s booklet featuring an original essay on the film by Dario Argento and writing by Barry Forshaw, Troy Howarth and Howard Hughes; a fold-out double-sided poster featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Obviously Creative; six double-sided, postcard-sized lobby card reproduction artcards and limited edition reversible packaging. You can get it from MVD.

The Million Dollar Duck (1971)

Dean Jones somehow ended his career appearing in St. John in Exile, a wacky stage play of Jesus’ last surviving disciple breaking the fourth wall and yucking it up with a largely religious audience. Up until then, I only thought of Dean Jones as the perptually angry young man of many a Disney movie. Seriously, his entire character is milquetoast white man with a way too attractive wife who has been driven to seething red rage usually because of some intelligent animal or anthromorphic automobile.

This time around, enraged Dean Jones is Albert Dooley, a scientist who is struggling with money woes. Things are so bad that his wife Katie (Sandy Duncan) packs him an entire lunch of just screwed up applesauce, but Albert the duck eats that, gets irradiated and starts laying golden eggs. And oh yeah — Albert’s son Jimmy had wanted a pet, so why not just him a duck that wil soon either die of cancer or gain superpowers? Lee Montgomery never got a few animals and nearly killed a whole bunch of folks, right?

It gets to the point where the golden eggs make Albert rich, so he just cuts his son out of his busy life just in time for Richard Nixon to decide that the duck must be captured to save America.

Gene Siskel only walked out on three movies. One was Maniac, another was Black Sheep and this was the third. Roger Ebert said that it was “one of the most profoundly stupid movies I’ve ever seen.”

The Vampire Happening (1971)

Italian producer Pier A. Caminnecci, who was the money behind SuccubusCastle of the Creeping FleshTwo Undercover AngelsDeath on a Rainy Day and Kiss Me Monster, wanted to make a movie for his wife Pia Degermark, whose movie Elvira Madigan had been a major success. We’ve seen it before, but have we seen it as a ripoff of The Fearless Vampire Killers* with British horror director Freddie Francis, an international cast based in West Germany and the producer’s wife playing two roles, much less the producer himself in a cameo?

Decades later, as part of Italy’s Fantafestical 86, Francis would explain, “I was aware from the start of the difficulties in shooting a horror parody. I really believed that I was working with normal people in the movie industry, and thought I could have made a decent film. With time, I became aware that the producer was an imbecile who treated the project like a home movie. He wanted to do the casting, make cameos in the film, and wanted his wife as an actress. It was a disaster which I can’t say anything serious about.”

Degermark plays American actress Betty Williams and her great great grandmother Clarimonde, one of the many vampires here. She’s also nude for most of the movie, which I’m certain that came from her getting to show off for her husband. As soon as the vampiric relative rises from the dead, she sets about devouring and turning all of the young priests and nuns at the nearby monastery and girl’s school.

This is still not the strangest vampire movie Francis would direct, as just three years later, he’d make Son of Dracula. But that’s another story.

It’s not a great movie, but hey — at least it’s interesting. And quite frankly, Degermark is gorgeous. Sadly, this would be her last film and she’d divorce Caminnecci two years later. She suffered from anorexia, got into drugs and fell into a bad crowd, but then went further by being charged with stealing money from charities run by her stepmother. She lost her son to the child welfare system and went to jail for a period. Here’s hoping her life improved, as it seems like it was getting better in the last interview that I could find from her, which was conducted in 2004.

*It’s so influenced by that movie that Ferdy Mayne shows up as Fürst Christopher Dracula. Mayne also played a vampire in My Lovely MonsterFreckled Max and the Spooks and, of coure, Polanski’s comedy vampire effort. He’s literally Dracula here, showing up in his own helicopter.

Repost: Terror in the Sky (1971)

Editor’s Note: This review ran on December 28, 2020, as part of another one of our “TV Week” tributes — dedicated, in part, to TV airline disaster movies (see our end of the week Round Up). We’re bringing it back for our our second day of our three-day “Bernard Kowalski Week” tribute — a great director!

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.

Crucible of Terror (1971)

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Mark Rochester is a librarian. Mad about movies and books and film soundtracks. His favorite film is The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes.

Crucible of Terror is a British horror movie about a crazy, lecherous artist who entombs his favourite models, whilst still alive, in molten bronze.  It also has a poorly formed nonsense sub-plot about a haunted yellow kimono and a strange cult thrown in for good measure. Top billed Mike Raven, a British radio DJ who looks a bit like Christopher Lee and here has a wonderful Karloffian lisp,  plays the artist and sculptor – and a really enjoyable, scene-stealing performance it is too. When his wimpy son, played by Ronald Lacey (Red Sonja)  and art dealer James Bolam (familiar in many 60’s/70’s British tv series such as The Likely Lads) turn up at his studio with their girlfriends to try to persuade Raven to sell him some his art, he turns his pervy charm on the girls, played by Mary Maude (Larraz’s The Uncertain Death) and Beth Morris (Son of Dracula), trying to persuade them to ‘model’ for him.  And then people get knocked off, one by one, and the film becomes an enjoyable whodunnit. Raven is the obvious number one suspect, but his crazy wife, who carries her dollies around the house and his creepy best mate, who has a spear collection in his bedroom, are, for obvious reasons, also near the top of our suspects list.

In a bizarre instance of life mimicking art Raven, whose voice was dubbed in his most well-known movie, Hammer’s Lust for a Vampire, actually DID become a sculptor, in a studio in Cornwall, the setting for much of this movie.  And a terrific location it is too. Some of the shots around St Agnes; the beach and the crumbling tin mine walls are superb, a nice juxtaposition to the cramped and claustrophobic interior shots, and dark, murky scenes inside the mine tunnels.

Arguably the best bit from the movie is the opening sequence in which Raven ’embalms’ his drugged semi-naked model, played by Burmese actress, and star of numerous cannibal movies, Me Me Lai, who wakes up, her eyes suddenly staring wide in horror, just as the molten bronze is poured over her.  Also great fun, especially for giallo fans, are the gruesome murders by an unseen assailant wearing black gloves.  This is by no means a classic – it’s a kind of humourless version of Corman’s A Bucket of Blood  –  the dialogue is weak, and the hurried, muddled ending will probably leave you a bit disappointed, but this is still good fun, and worth watching for Raven’s performance – and to hear his wonderfully ‘fruity’ voice (famously dubbed by Valentine Dyall in Lust for a Vampire).

Junesploitation: A Town Called Hell (1971)

June 4: Junesploitation’s topic of the day — as suggested by F This Movie — is western.

I always say that Italian westerns bring the world together. Take this one, which is an Italian western by form, but really a co-production of the United Kingdom and Spain.

Directed by Robert Parrish — one of the many hidden hands that made Casino Royale — this is an example of one of my favorite subgenres of the cowboy movie and that would be the horror western.

Ten years ago, a group of Mexican revolutionaries led by the revolutionary leader Aguila murdered a priest and his followers. Now, a widow — Stella Sevens — has come back looking for revenge.

Talk about a cast! The town is now ruled by a priest (Robert Shaw!) who may be Aguila. Stevens hires a sadistic Mexican outlaw (Telly Savalas!!) named Don Carlos who promises to help her in exchange for gold. And soon, an army colonel (Martin Landau!!!) arrives in an attempt to find Aguila himself.

The same team made Pancho Villa, another British and Spanish western that Telly Savalas was involved with. They also made Horror Express and hired Savalas, who no doubt used the paycheck to cover his partying and gambling lifestyle. I say that not as an insult. If I could have been one person other than myself, Savalas seems like a great choice.

I’d like someone to explain to me why Stevens sleeps in a coffin — is she a ghost? — and exactly how the filmmakers arrived at setting the dance hall scene to Johnny Horton’s “Battle of New Orleans.” It’s not the best western, Italian influenced or not, I’ve seen, but it’s certainly one of the more interesting, in theory if not in actual filmed practice.

This is also a tremendous spolier, but Savalas’ death scene took me by major surprise and I love how he’s as shocked as I was. He keeps trying to figure out what to do when he’s emasculated by losing his trigger finger and never gets it together. As always, a wonderful performer.