Facetious tales of pleasure-loving wives and penitent husbands – Decameron number 69 AKA More Sexy Canterbury Tales AKA More Filthy Canterbury Tales* is most assuredly a Joe D’Amato movie. At the time, he didn’t want to lose work as a cinematographer, so he used the name Romano Gastaldi, which mixed up assistant director Romano Scandariato name a bit. In the English version, he’s listed as Ralph Zucker. However, D’Amato used his real name, Aristide Massaccesi, for the cinematographer credit. He also shows up briefly as one of the monks who this film revolves around.
Obviously, this is a decamerotici film, a series of movies that had their main popularity between 1971 and 1975. Much like every trend in Italian exploitation, it all started with the success of Pier Paolo Pasolini’s Trilogy of Life, which were The Decameron, Canterbury Tales and Arabian Nights. Beyond the box office success of those three films, the Italian censors were beginning to relax their grip and allow more nudity, so more than fifty of these films were made in four years. D’Amato also made another film in this subgenre, Novelle licenziose di vergini ogliose, which features Giovanni Boccaccio, another of the direct inspirations for these stories.
In between the three stories in this film, the framing device has some young monks attempting to get with some nuns while the Father Superior who tries to stop them ends up taken in by a very needy older nun.
In “Le due cognate,” an older husband leaves his young wife for a business trip and this leads to her going heels to Jesus with a young sculptor, who also ends up sleeping with her husband’s sister. The second story is not as kind or nice, as in “Fra’ Giovanni,” a young priest falls in love with a woman during her confession at which point she seduces him and makes him pay for their sexual encounters. When she’s sick of him, she tells her husband, who puts the priest’s penis in a chest lid and squeezes it until the holy man must castrate himself. This will not be the last D’Amato story that ends with a man removing his own sex. And then, in “Lavinia e Lucia,” a young man sneaks into a rich man’s home and into his wife’s bed which is all good with the older man, who believes that the offspring of a hermaphrodite is always male.
At the end of all this, the monks walk back, exhausted by their sexual adventures and also because the Father Superior told them it was unfair that he never got to sleep with a young nun, so they all tried to satisfy the older nun.
Eventually, this subgenre would become the much more popular commedia sexy all’italiana genre, which was popular until 1981. But by that point, D’Amato — while he made a few, like Vow of Chastity and Il Ginecologo Della Mutua — had moved on to making horror and erotic films that combined the tropics with gross out moments.
*In Germany, it was known as Hemmungslos der Lust verfallen or Falling Unrestrainedly into Lust.
Also known as Pistoleiros de Trinity, Go Away! Trinity Has Arrived in Eldorado, Stay Away from Trinity… When He Comes to Eldorado and Trinity in Eldorado, this stars Stan Cooper (AKA Stelvio Rosi, The Hanging Woman, Something Creeping in the Dark) and Gordon Mitchell (a man so into the Italian Western industry he was paid with a Western town of his own that other movies were fllmed at) as some criminals who decide to rob Mexican general El Dorado (Craig Hill, The Bloodstained Shadow).
So yeah, the signature on the movie may be Dick Spitfire, who is really Diego Spataro, but this is all the show of Joe D’Amato, who also was the cinematographer under his real name of Aristide Massaccesi. Supposedly, D’Amato was embarrassed by the material — other stories are that he didn’t want directors to think he was coming for their jobs and he wanted to keep on being a cinematographer — so he asked Spataro, who was producing, to use his name.
If that’s not enough to get you to watch, Erika Blanc briefly appears. There are also card tricks!
In short, Ma Yung Cheng leaves behind the poverty of Shantung for the corrupt city of Shanghai, a place where he becomes the first Chinese fighter to defeat a professional Russian wrestler (Mario Milano, who was born in Italy, started wrestling in Venezuela and became a star in Australia), only to find that the fame that he achieves is more dangerous than he ever imagined.
This film is a marvel of the Shaw Brothers production team, as while most of their movies had two months to shoot, this only had one, meaning that director Cheh Chang was only able to direct during the night while uncredited director Hsueh-Li Pao directed during the day. They needed all the time they could get, as the battle with the Russian took six days and the hatchet mob fight took ten.
Ma Yung Cheng and the gangster he befriends, Tan Si, are two men who have ideals in a world that has none. Having that mindset is their hubris; even when Ma Yung Cheng becomes a gangster, he refuses to allow his men to take money from the poor for protection and also honors the territory of Tan Si. Their enemies will not allow them the same courtesy.
Imagine if Scarface had stabbings and punches in the face instead of all that cocaine and you’ll have a bit of an inkling of just how awesome this movie is. I mean, I lost count of all the blade and axe wounds and the final battle is as heartbreaking as it is incredibly packed with action.
The Arrow Video Shaw Scope Volume One box set has a brand new 2K restoration of The Boxer from Shantung from a 4K scan of the original negative by Arrow Films. There’s uncompressed Mandarin and English original mono audio, as well as newly translated English subtitles and English hard-of-hearing subtitles for the English dubs.
It also has interviews with Chen Kuan-tai, David Chiang and assistant director John Woo, as well as a talk with stars Chen Kuan-tai and Ku Feng filmed at a Shaw Brothers reunion in 2007. You also get Hong Kong and German trailers and a U.S. TV commercial.
You can also stream this movie on the Arrow player. Visit ARROW to start your 30-day free trial. Subscriptions are available for $4.99 monthly or $49.99 yearly. ARROW is available in the US, Canada, the UK and Ireland on the following Apps/devices: Roku (all Roku sticks, boxes, devices, etc), Apple TV & iOS devices, Android TV and mobile devices, Fire TV (all Amazon Fire TV Sticks, boxes, etc), and on all web browsers at https://www.arrow-player.com.
“After the destruction of the Vatican and the bombings in Florence, it seemed as though World War III was inevitable. Now, that was before The Man took power. And there were those, including the club of Rome and a large number of scientific and cultural societies throughout the world, who became quite concerned about saving the great works of mankind.” — Tallman, the Curator of the Museum of Man
It was the swingin’ ’70s: we just came out of the Vietnam war and the wounds of the Korean War were still fresh. We worried about, not “if” but “when,” the next war would occur. Man was disillusioned and afraid. And Hollywood loves to exploit man’s celluloid schadenfreude to turn a buck. So, after the one-two-three punch of Charlton Heston in Planet of the Apes, The Omega Man, and Soylent Green, the Tinseltown apocalypse as was in full swing*.
However, while the end of the world was all the rage, it wasn’t a rage in which everyone could afford Charlton Heston. Or apes. Or contact lenses and monk habits. Or dump trucks with bulldozer scoops. But they could afford the dependable character actors of Bryon Clark (Weekend of Terror with Lee Majors) and the always awesome Joe Turkel (best known as Dr. Edlon Tyrell in Bladerunner and Lloyd the Bartender in The Shining; but this is B&S About Movies, so memory banks err to Free Grass, The Dark Side of the Moon, and his serial killer role in the biker flick, Savage Abduction). TV channel surfers may also recognize actor John O’Connell; he debuts, here, as Lt. Baldry. He matured into a respected, U.S. television career on shows such as Barney Miller, Wonder Woman, The Incredible Hulk, and M.A.S.H. as well as the TV Movie The Triangle Factor Scandal. Ed DeLatte, primarily a stage actor, here as Karsch, made his last film appearance in the family-friendly, Benji (1974). Our director, Tom Doades, briefly (and competently) appears as the Officer welcoming Turkel’s Colonel to the installation; the fifth member of the installation, the also-fine-in-his-role Al Chavis, is one-film-and-gone.
Unlike most of the film’s we’ve reviewed this week — as well as the past reviews we’ll recap in our “Exploring: Christian Cinema of the ’70s” feature to end the week — this Christian apoc’er has a secular pedigree behind the Brother Deluxe 700: Marshall Riggan. Making his debut with the counterculture crime-drama Cry for Poor Wally (1969) (which starred Sherry Miles, of another lost Christploiter, The Ballad of Billie Blue), he closed out his dramatic career (he transitioned into documentaries, after) with the more familiar, ’70s drive-in horror So Sad About Gloria (1973). In that film, Dean Jagger (Evil Town) stars in a tale of young woman released from a mental hospital; she relapses into visions — or gaslighted — and commits a series of axe murders. Think Let’s Scare Jessica to Death meets Messiah of Evil, and you’re in the ballpark of that forgotten, horror non-hit . . . from the guy who gave you one of the earliest films — long before The Omen appeared — concerned with calculating the identity of the Number of the Beast.
Yes. From a church-backed (well, a non-profit think tank) apocalypse flick to and early ’70s Romero-Friedkin-inspired horror film. Who knew? Well, we do. This is B&S About Movies, after all, where one’s oddball resume — in this case, Marshall Riggan — is king.
There’s nothing known about the film’s production history, outside of the fact it was produced by a concern known as the Evangelical Christian Research Center. Did a now “saved” Marshall Riggan pen the script on his own and the secular shingles he worked with passed on his Christian-slanted apocalypse tale? Was Riggan hired by the ECRC think tank to pen a science-fiction palpable “teaching and preaching” screenplay to spread the world of the foretold apocalypse? Again, the apocalypse was celluloid chichi at the time.
What we do know: Gospel Films, the distributor and co-producer behind my cherished childhood TV series Davey and Goliath, distributed this Riggan penner. Among Gospel Films thirty-plus productions over the years, the faith-based shingle also distributed the later, “Number of the Beast”-concerned Christian apoc’ers Early Warning and Years of the Beast (both 1981; reviews coming this week). Another known about the production: Tom Doades’s daughter, Lynn, commented on a trailer upload (embedded below) for the film by Brooklyn, New York’s Spectacle Art Cinema**, in conjunction with their special, 2018 screening of the film; she stated that she remembered when the film was made — and that her dad was Tom Doades; so we assume she means he has since passed away.
Anyway . . . with a Holy Bible opened next to his Deluxe 700 — and a little inspiration from Colossus: The Forbin Project (1970), The Andromeda Strain (1971), and Silent Running (1972), as well as the (neither made yet) trapped-in-a-bunker-by-bats apoc’er Chosen Survivors and John Carpenter’s Dark Star (1974): We have group of scientists, military and government types trapped in a secret mountain-computer brain facility (the new “Tower of Babel” if you will) when the Rapture, then Armageddon, breaks out. (While not inspired by it: As everyone runs around the underground bunker, we can’t help but evoke the forth serial of the twelfth series of the BBC-produced Dr. Who with the great, Terry Nation-penned Genesis of the Daleks. Never seen it? Find the unserialized movie version; it’s fantastic.)
While not inspired by it, a closer — and better known — Fundamentalist cousin to Six-Hundred & Sixty Six is its-released-in-the-same-year doppelganger by Mark IV Pictures: A Thief in the Night. If you thought that eventual, four-part Donald W. Thompson series (across a decade) had the science-fiction/horror hybrid of the Christploitation spectrum locked up, think again: this lone effort by director Tom Doades — courtesy of Riggan’s smart script — is intelligent, imaginative, against-the-budget filmmaking at its finest.
That’s not to say the film — which is nicely framed and well-shot by Tom Doades — doesn’t have its flaws (and we’re not referring to the condition of the uploaded steamer we’ve linked; it’s a washed out, beat-to-hell “roadshow print” that’s to be excused). As result of its non-budget . . . well, sure, there’s a production value to the proceedings, overall, but there is nothing in way of any techno-trinkets; there’s none of the spinning tape reels or rows of flashing computer banks of the film’s sci-fi antecedents. In fact, with a just a little bit more budget, we could have had, instead of an underground bunker, the later Canadian apoc’er Def Con 4 (1985) — but just the cool, budgetary space station part, not the rest of the fell-to-Earth part (which sucks). It’s Doades creative framing that sell us the idea that we are, in fact, deep inside an underground military installation (e.g., Joe Turkel meets with a superior, walks into a chamber with a Star Trek-swooshway, cross-straps himself into a flight chair; add a sound-effect: poof!: he’s descending down a shaft. Riggan’s script also intelligently tech-predicts the use of microprocessors to store large banks of data).
To that end: If you read our reviews of the later — and equally intelligent — Canadian TV productions 984: Prisoner of the Future and Music of the Spheres, as well as PBS-TV’s Hide and Seek, then you’re familiar with their wall-to-wall talky scripts more suitable for the theater stage than the sound stage.
“The literature, art, the artistic expression, scientific thought; because we all knew what enormous damage the next war could bring. So we decided to store all the cultural treasures into the memory banks of computers and then bury those computers beneath a mountain, where they would be safe. The accumulated knowledge and wisdom and artistic expression of an entire civilization called Earth.” — Tallman, the Curator of the Museum of Man
When we first meet Colonel John Feguson (Joe Turkel), he’s the newly appointed Head of Operations Officer of what he believes is an underground missile silo; it is, in fact the world’s underground digital archive (much like ZERO, housed in Geneva, Switzerland, in 1975’s Rollerball — only with none of the prop pomp and circumstance of that A.I influencer*˟ ) created to preserve (i.e., save) man’s culture in the event of a war. We’re advised, via budgetary dialog, natch, that, through the use of “lasers and holographic memory,” the mountainous mainframe not only digitally stores books, but 3-D images of works of art and photographs of nature and architecture˟*. (There are a few convincing computer touches credited to the still-in-business, Midwest-based Communications Systems, Inc.; all of the set furnishing are courtesy the now-defunct, Lebanon, Pennsylvania-based “You’ll love it at” Levitz).
We also learn — again, in a budgetary, twenty-minute heavy, expositional dialog dump — in our not-to-distant future, the United Arab Nations, as well as the Soviet Union has fallen; China has grown in power. The world is split apart as warring Eastern and Western Hemispheres (a U.S./Europe political amalgamate, “the United States of Europe,” aka, “the New Roman Empire,” controls the latter from the capitol of Rome). As result of the ensuing political and religious unrest, both the National Museum in Venice and the Vatican were destroyed in bombings (both stopped World War III, it seems, at first) — and an organization known as “The Brotherhood of Man” has risen, with the goal of abolishing religion — to create a new, hodgepodge belief system based in Israel — as a way to a unified, world piece.
In an effective homage to Michael Anderson’s minimalist, 1956 Edmond O’Brien-starring production of George Orwell’s 1984 (which provides Tom Doades with production cues, in our opinion), an image of the world’s new leader, aka The Man, overloads throughout the film; at times, his words of wisdom echoes throughout the complex; meant to inspire, as are the perpetual poetry refrains and bible verses by the complex’s computer, Angela Company, the pontificates only demoralize. (Malachi Thorne, a long-time, respected, animated voice artist; but lots of ’60s and ’70s on-screen TV gigs, voices The Man; Helena Humann, credited in everything — from 1972’s The Last Picture Show to 1980’s Roadie to 1988’s Problem Child, along with lots of TV credits — serves as the A.I voice. Robert L. Crawford, Sr. an Emmy-nominated film editor and actor, who appeared in the late ’60s TV series, Manhunt, serves as the enigmatic image of The Man; his sons, Johnny and Bobby, appeared as child actors on The Rifleman and Laramie, respectively. Learn more with his Hollywood Reporter obituary.)
As Col. Ferguson’s assignment wears on, it’s clear the civilian-government overseer, Tallman (a great Bryon Clark), is already a wee-bit tweaked being cooped underground so long, as well as a wee-bit power mad in his job as the curator of all of the world’s historical information. In an event that foretells John Carpenter’s later remake of The Thing (1982), the mountain facility is rocked by a nuclear strike — so Ferguson and his men, think.
Cut off from the world above, the elevator damaged, and their life support systems compromised, with air, water, and medical supplies running out, the already-closed in walls, close in even more, paranoia ensues: just what Tallman needs to justify the executions of the bunker’s occupants to reserve resources. Then Ferguson and the rest of the crew — with the perpetual bible-verse and wisdom taunting of The Man and Angela, as well as observing “the end of the world” unfolding via the installation’s recording uplinks to the world’s satellites and computers (via dialog, not images that we see) — come to believe that it wasn’t a just nuclear strike on the installation: the bible-predicted apocalypse has, in fact, occurred.
As the quintet begins to decipher The Bible, plotting on maps, to figure out what happened . . . their mental state isn’t going to get any better. Then they learn, as the Euphrates River “mysteriously” dries up, China invades the Middle East; remnants of the Soviet Union and the New Roman Empire join forces to stop the invasion — and WW III breaks out at the foot of Israel’s Mount Megiddo. Ferguson, the eventual sole survivor, trapped in the complex, learns — finally — that The Man, numerically decoded, is the prophetic beast . . . and his number is Six-Hundred and Sixty Six. As with Burgess Meredith in “Time Enough to Last,” an iconic, 1953 episode of The Twilight Zone . . . Colonel John Ferguson is now just a part of a smashed landscape, just a piece of the rubble, just a fragment of what man has deeded to himself.
In the end, that’s the goal of the Evangelical Christian Research Center: not so much to entertain, but to teach you — through rambling, Biblical-based conversations dressed in a sci-fi sheen — about bible prophecy. But why does it have to be so gosh darned dry and chat-chat-chatty slow?
Yes, again, Turkel and Clark are both excellent throughout, especially Clark, in delivering their slow-burn unraveling, but outside of a little bit of chasing an off-his-nut Tallman around the complex, and his dispatching one of his charges with a rifle-shot, the action is non-existent, as the narrative relies too much on woe-is-me contemplating (“The Eurphrates can’t just dry up! Nothing can stop the Chinese from invading Israel!”) and prophetic map-plotting to decipher Bible prophecy.
This could have made for a very taunt, suspenseful episode — sans of or a lightening up on the Bible prophecy angle — of the TV anthology series The Twilight Zone or The Outer Limits. To that end, considering most of the church and tent revival films of the day clocked-in at 60-minutes maximum, cutting this 90-minute apoc’er by ten-minutes to 80-minutes may have helped to rise the proceedings to the professional polish of a “real” apoc movie — and not just a proselytizing apoc one. Even Cornell Wilde’s No Blade of Grass and Richard Harris’s Ravagers were secular-apoc swings-and-misses, but even their dragging, too-long woe-is-me moments were punctuated with several fits of action: a little bit of “action” outside of the bunker; e.g., having Ferguson arrive by a helicopter with an exterior shot of the complex; showing us a missile launch or a missile striking the mountain complex, would have been welcomed gear-changers. (But that would taken away from the film’s purposeful claustrophobia, so we’ll still cut the film some slack.)
So, yeah, there’s a lot of lost potential, here. However, if you’re an apoc fan, as well as a fan smart scripting and (very) solid acting — and you don’t mind a little ol’ Bible study mixed with your sci-fi, well . . . you could do a lot worse than spending time with this final feature film written by Marshall Riggan that also served as the lone directing effort by Tom Doades. Speaking of “worse,” we have: Remember all of the money our ol’ Uncle Al Bradley, aka Alfonso Brescia, spent on Star Odyssey*˟*, his boondogglin’ Star Wars rip, with all of its fancy techno-trinkets and the WIZ supercomputer? Sure you do. See, a bigger budget doesn’t always equate to better.
Since Six-Hundred & Sixty Six is in the public domain, you can stream the trailer on Vimeo and watch it on the Internet Archive. If you search for a copy in the online marketplace, the film was reissued under the more exploitative title of 666: Mark of the Beast during its video ’80s shelf life to expand its audience beyond Christian bookstores.
EDITOR’S NOTE: We originally watched this on August 26, 2020 in the midst of a werewolf heavy seven days. We can’t argue having a TV movie on a drive-in box set, but Mill Creek, we still love you.
Daniel Petrie made some pretty much films — Fort Apache the Bronx, A Raisin in the Sun and The Betsy — as well as some memorable made-for-TV movies like Sybil (which ruled mid-70’s bookshelves and viewings) and The Dollmaker.
Here, he’s in Louisiana along with a stellar cast making a movie that honestly could have played drive-ins. That’s how great these made-for-TV films were.
In the Lousiana bayou country of Marsh Island, two farmers (Royal Dano! and John Davis Chandler) find the ripped apart remains of a local woman. Sheriff Aaron Whitaker (David Janssen!) and the victim’s brother Lawrence Burrifors (Geoffrey Lewis!) both show up at the scene, but it’s soon determined that somehow, some way, the girl died from a blow to the head. Lawrence blames her most recent lover. The sheriff things it was wid dogs. And the Burrifors patriarch claims that it was someone named Loug Garog.
That mysterious lover could have been rich boy Andrew Rodanthe (Bradford Dillman!), who along with his sister Louise (Barbara Rush, It Came from Outer Space) lives in an old mansion, the last of a long line.
Based on Les Whitten’s novel, this originally aired as an ABC Movie of the Week on September 26, 1972, then reran as part of ABC’s Wide World of Mystery on May 20, 1974.
Well, you know how the VCRs roll at B&S About Movies . . . where a review of Peter Carpenter’s Point of Terror, as well as Blood Mania, leads to a reader inquiry and discussion on whatever happened ever happened to Pete . . . which inspires a two-fer review of Vixen! and Love Me Like I Do to finish off his all-too-slight resume. And those discussion about Pete left us wondering . . . “What ever happened to Gene Shane from Werewolves on Wheels and The Velvet Vampire?”
Well, as you know, we solved “The Case of Peter Carpenter” with that said, two-fer review, and we peeled away at the onion that is “The Mystery of Gene Shane” watering our eyes with our review of The Velvet Vampire. Luckily — because we are so exhausted from those two crazed investigations of our favorite actors of yore — “The Case of Sherry Miles,” now known as DeBoer, is more easier slice and diced, thanks to her involvement in her own IMDb page, along with the many, loyal websites* dedicated to all things Hee Haw (an old “Kornfield Kountry” TV series that aired on CBS in the ’60s).
So, let’s pay tribute to one of our favorite — and missed — actress of the ’60s and ’70s.
That Teen modeling spread we used for our banner, above, soon transitioned Sherry into an acting career, which began with the pre-Gilligan’s Island Bob Denver series The Good Guys (1969), an early Aaron Spelling series, the counterculture sci-fi drama, The New People (1969), and Medical Center (1969) starring Chad Everett (The Intruder Within). Sherry’s other, early ’70s appearances included the popular series Mod Squad, Nanny and the Professor, Pat Paulsen’sHalf a Comedy Hour, The Name of the Game, The High Chaparral, The Beverly Hillbillies, Adam 12, Love American Style, and The Partridge Family (Sherry over Susan Dey, every day of the week — and twice on Sundays!). As we crossed the nation’s bicentennial, Sherry appeared on the popular series Baretta with Robert Blake (Corky), Police Woman with Angie Dickinson (Big Bad Mama), Richie Brockelman, Private Eye with future director Dennis Dugan (Love, Weddings & Other Disasters), and Wonder Woman with Lynda Carter (Bobbi Joe and the Outlaw). And let’s not forget Sherry’s 26-episode run as part of the comedy ensemble on the homegrown variety show Hee Haw* during its 1971 to 1972 season.
A one-time heiress to the Hawaii-based Long’s Drug Store chain (now owned and operated by CVS since 2008; I’m in there, often), Sherry Miles got married, became a DeBoer, and retired from the business after her final, on-camera appearance during the third season of Wonder Woman. Since her retirement, she’s become a long-respected animal rights activist.
Some of Sherry’s films you may not know. Others you have seen. And, hopefully, after this “Exploring” feature, you’ll search out the others. But you’ll surely revisit with Sherry in everyone’s favorite film of her career: The Velvet Vampire, a film so gosh-darn fine that, no offense to Sherry, intended: even if she weren’t in it . . . basically, we’re telling you to put The Velvet Vampire on your must-watch list, unintended insults to Sherry, be damned.
Okay, let’s unpack Sherry’s all-too-brief, big screen career, shall we?
Cry For Poor Wally (1969)
Russell Johnson (the Professor of Gilligan’s Island fame) stars as the small town sheriff in this “based on a true story” crime-drama filmed in Dallas, Texas. Johnson confronts Wally (a very good Keith Rothschild in his only film role; Johnson is equally fine): a fugitive on the run who takes a woman hostage in a diner with the goal of staying out of prison — no matter the cost. As Johnson tries to talk down Wally, the story flashes back as to the “why” it all happened: upon the death of his mother, his father leaves (abandons) him for greener pastures; his girlfriend (Sherry Miles) also contributes to his psychotic break.
Keep your eyes open for another slight-resume actress in Barbara Hancock, who we enjoyed in her fourth and final film, the “GP” horror film, The Night God Screamed (1972). In addition to Russell and Sherry, this is packed with a great cast of familiar character actors of the you-know-them-when-you-see-them variety of Elisha Cook, Jr., Bill Thurman (!) ,Gene Ross, and Paul Lambert.
Cry for Poor Wally proved to be the only producing and directing effort by Marty Young. Screenwriter Marshall Riggan followed with the Christian apocalypse drama Six-Hundred & Sixty Six (1972) and completed his features career with the lost, psychological horror, So Sad About Gloria (1973).
There’s a copy on the Internet Archive to stream. There’s also a ten-minute highlight reel — of its opening diner scene — courtesy of our friends at Scarecrow Video on You Tube, who also contributed the film’s full-digitized upload to the IA.
To say Sam and I love this movie — Sherry’s presence, aside — is a well-worn trope.
The Phynx are a manufactured band — kind of like the Monkees meets Stripes — made up of A. “Michael” Miller, Ray Chipperway, Dennis Larden and Lonny Stevens. They’re trained in all manner of espionage, as well as rock ‘n roll, including meeting Dick Clark, record industry-emissary James Brown, and being taught how to have some “soul” by Richard Pryor. Hey, wait a sec . . . didn’t Cliff Richards and the Shadows do the “spy rock” thing in Finders Keepers (1966)?
At once an indictment of the system and the product of the very hand that it is biting, The Phynx occupies the same weird space as Skidoo, i.e., big-budget Hollywood films trying desperately — and failing — to reach the long-haired hippy audience — like the Monkees with Head — yet failing to understand them at any level. Sort of like the next film on today’s program.
Since this is locked up in the Warner Archive, there’s no streams to share, but here’s a clip on You Tube.
Making It (1971)
Ugh. The marketing of movies.
Based on the theatrical one-sheet and the R-rating, you’re expecting a soft-core sexploitationer: you actually end up with a not-so-bad, smart “coming of age” teen dramedy. As it should be: it’s written by Peter Bart (for 20th Century Fox), who you known best as the co-host, with film executive Peter Guber, of AMC’s film talk and interview programs Shootout and Storymakers, as well as Encore’s In the House. True movieheads known, that, after his screenwriting career, Bart was a writer at the New York Times, an Editor-In Chief at Variety, and later a Vice President of Production at Paramount Studios. While serving as the screenwriting debut for Bart, Making It was also the feature film debut for longtime TV director John Erman (Outer Limits, My Favorite Martian, Star Trek: TOS); continuing with TV series, Erman directed numerous TV movies into the early-2000s.
While Sherry Miles is what brought us here: we’re also captivated by a cast that features early roles for the familiar Bob Balaban, David Doyle (yep, Bosley from TV’s Charlie’s Angels), character actor extraordinaire John Fiedler, Denny Miller, Lawrence Pressman, and Tom Troupe, along with the brother-sister thespian duo of Dick and Joyce Van Patten.
Based on the ’60s best-seller, What Can You Do?, a very young Kristoffer Tabori (later of Brave New World and a Star Wars video game voice artist) stars as Phil Fuller: a 17-year-old ne’er-do-well clone of David Cassidy (who would have been perfect in the “grown up” role) living with his widowed mother (Joyce Van Patten). He quenches his self-centered needs by using the girls in his school (prom queen, Sherry Miles), his nerdy best friend (a very young Bob Balaban), and his basketball coach (Denny Miller) — by taking up with his wife (Marlyn Mason). Meanwhile, Joyce Van has or own sexual issues: she’s facing the thoughts of an abortion after shacking up with an insurance agent (played by her brother!). Then Phil, himself, deals with the issues of abortion when he gets one of his high school-conquests, pregnant.
In the end, what you get in the frames of Making It is not a sexploitation comedy, or even a “coming of age” dramedy, but an insightful examination of a pre-Roe vs. Wade world regarding the legalities surrounding abortions (then illegal in California, where this takes place, but legal in New York, where a Patten’s character considers going to get one).
It’s pretty heavy stuff of a time and place, but without the favorable atmosphere of Fast Times of Ridgemont High — if that film centered soley on Mike Damone knocking up Stacy Hamilton. My youthful nostalgia for movies like this slide in nicely next to an early Sam Elliot in Lifeguard, Dennis Christopher in California Dreaming, and the genre change-up with Cathy Lee Crosby in Coach. Your own nostalgia mileage — and for all films Sherry Miles — may vary.
My enjoyment of this movie, which serves as the suffix-title to this retrospective on Sherry Miles, is unbound. Sherry is not only stellar in it: so is the cast, under the pen and lens of Stephanie Rothman. Simply put: this is a beautiful, creepy film.
Swinging Lee Ritter and his vapid, but pretty wife, Susan (Sherry Miles), make the mistake of accepting the art gallery invitation of a mysterious, red-dressed vixen, Diane LeFanu (Celeste Yarnall), to visit her secluded, desert estate. The couple soon discover Diane is a centuries-old vampire — and both are objects of her bisexual thirsts.
The Todd Killings (1971)
Fans of the based-in-fact teen murder tale of River’s Edge (marketed on the later VHS “slasher” reissues as Maniac; it’s why we rented it) will enjoy Sherry Miles’s second — after Cry for Poor Wally — true crime drama, this one based on the true story of ’60s thrill-killer Charles Schmid, known as “The Pied Piper of Tuscon.”
The film was inspired by a March 1966 Life magazine article about the killings, which, in turn, inspired the 1966 short anthology story “Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?” Schmid’s exploits were also loosely adapted into the Treat Williams-starring Smooth Talk (1985), as well as the (woefully inferior) films Dead Beat (1994) and The Lost (2005).
Skipper Todd (an outstanding Robert F. Lyons, a much-seen ’60s TV actor in his fourth feature film, but first starring role) is a charismatic, 23-year old ne’er-do-well who charms his way into the lives of out-of-his-age-bracket high school kids in a small California town. The girls, of course, fall instantly for him and head out to the desert for some romantic fun — only never to return. As in the true crimes that inspired River’s Edge, Todd, aka Schmid, was assisted by his girlfriend and best friend in luring, killing, and burying the victims. Shocking for its time, Belinda J. Montgomery and Richard Thomas are frontal nude; Montgomery’s is cut from the later VHS versions.
As with Cry for Poor Wally, this is another one of those lost, underrated gems — it’s heartbreaking for all concerned, even the beyond salvation Skipper Todd — of the Drive-In era rediscovered, not during the UHF-TV ’70s, but the home video ’80s. The quality comes courtesy of its familiar cast of a just-starting-out Richard Thomas (as Skipper’s loyal hanger-on buddy), along with Edward Asner, Barbara Bel Geddes, James Broderick, Michael Conrad (remember the gruff commander on Hill Street Blues?) Gloria Grahame, and Fay Spain. Also keep your eyes open for musician-actress Holly Near in her third role; she made her debut in the critically lambasted Angel, Angel Down WeGo (1969).
There’s no trailers or streams to share — well, there’s a You Tube Italian-dub to skim — but the DVDs abound in the online marketplace. This is a great film. It’s also a nihilistic, downbeat one, but still worthy of a watch.
“Spoofs today’s sex films (i.e., porn) the way Batman spoofed Super Heroes!” — tagline for the original, first release of Calliope
I just can’t see my dearest Sherry signing on the dotted line for a goofy, post-Russ Meyer wannabe skinflick that proclaims: “It spreads, and spreads, and spreads,” only to equate its comedy to a beloved Adam West TV series. Obviously, what was presented during negotiations to Sherry, and what was distributed to theaters, differed. Wildly. But what else should we have expected from writer-director Matt Climber, he who gave us The Black Six (1973), Pia Zadora in Butterfly (1981), and a sex-bent take on Indiana Jones with Yellow Hair and the Fortress of Gold (1984)?
Well, this movie. That’s what. And this one is truly a lost film.
So much for producing an Americanized remake of the significant and cinematically-respected La Ronde (1950), a 1900s-era, spicy-romantic, French-language comedy by German-born director Max Ophüls, which earned a 1952 “Best Screenplay” Oscar nod. He also repeated that Oscar feat with his next film, Le Plaisir (1952), which earned a 1955 nod for its Art Direction, done by Max, himself. So loved was La Ronde in its homeland, as well as across Europe, Roger Vadim (Barbarella) updated the film as Circle of Love (1964), with his soon-to-be lover, Jane Fonda. As for the Ophüls original: it took four years before U.S. film sensors approved the film, sans cuts, for theater showings in 1954.
As for the U.S. remake, originally released under the title, Calliope, what could go wrong: everything. Didn’t you hear the sound of two-time Oscar-nominated Max Ophüls turning over in his grave?
Both films are concerned with ten people “in various episodes in the endless waltz of love” (they go “round and round,” thus the titles), as they each hop from encounter to encounter . . . and that’s were it all stops. Dead.
Since Americans were still swingin’ from the free-loving, Summer of Love ’60s, and Mike Nichols answered the “sex revolution” charge with the aforementioned Carnal Knowledge (1971) (and Paul Mazursky’s 1969 effort, Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice), Allied Artists (an outgrowth of Monogram Pictures, a library now owned-split among Warner Bros., Metro-Goldwyn-Mayor, and Paramount; Warner owns Calliope) decided that, instead of the main protagonist (now a hippie musician instead of soldier-on-leave) eventually finding love with the partner he started off with (Sherry Miles, now a band groupie, instead of the original’s prostitute) . . . he receives “the gift that goes on giving”: a sexually transmitted disease, i.e., venereal disease, since this was the ’70s and not the AIDS ’80s.
Calliope (no theatrical one-sheets exist, at least online), needless to say, bombed. Ah, but the “Golden Age of Porn” was in full swing, so Allied Artists didn’t give up: a year later, in 1972, the reimaged Love Is Catching hit the circuit; it opened in, of all places, the home base of B&S About Movies: Pittsburgh. It bombed, again, and harder than a Richard Harrison Philippine film he was edited-into and never signed on to do.
This soft-sexploitation romp causes me to reflex on poor Gerald McRaney and Tom Selleck, each scoring their first major roles in Night of Bloody Horror and Daughters of Satan, respectively. The scripts are pretty good . . . and work is work . . . and they thesp’d up a sweat to make it all work . . . then J.N Houck, Jr., and worse, in Tom Selleck’s case, since U.S. major, United Artists, backed it, cheesed the films with exploitative ad campaigns. Just like Calliope. And Skidoo. And Myra Breckinridge.
Sherry, six films in to her career, and just missing out on a co-starring role with Jack Nicholson in one of Mike Nichols best films — a frank, adult-discussion of modern-day sexual issues — was deserving of a better, leading lady role than this STD sex farce.
Sure, it’s a well-shot picture, and the acting is pretty decent (we have great character actors Marjorie Bennett and Stan Rose, on board). And it’s not all that bad; sure, modernizing from the early 1900s to the late 1960s is inspired. And it’s not at all porny, since the sex scenes are implied, more than shown . . . but I still have this need to go back in time and kick someone . . . for having my sweet Sherry transmitting VD in a movie.
But things are looking up, nicely, with our next feature.
The Ballad of Billie Blue (1972)
From a sexploitation flick to a Christian cinema obscurity: only in Tinseltown, baby. And while his name is nixed from the one-sheet (whatever, Plekker, nice n’ cheesy paste-up work): the writer-director here is Ken Osborne, the man behind the pen and lens on the biker flick Wild Wheels (1969). He also appeared in our Uncle Al Adamson’s Blood on Dracula’s Castle (1969), Five Bloody Graves (1969), and Hell’s Bloody Devils (1970).
And there’s more!
In addition to Sherry Miles, we have Marty Allen and Eric Estrada? Ray Danton (too many ’60s to ’70s TV series to mention)? Bruce Kimball (Rollercoaster)? Where’s the VCR. Load the tape. LOAD THE TAPE!
The pedigree is the thing in this imperiled-musician-in-a-spiritual-crisis tale, not only with our director, Ken Osborne: the scribe behind this Christploitationer, Ralph Luce, also wrote Wild Wheels. Why, yes, that’s Robert Dix and William Kerwin from Satan’s Sadists, and Herschell Gordon Lewis’s Blood Feast, respectively, in the cast, as well as, again, a very youthful, pre-CHiPs Erik Estrada. And we mention Erik a second time, since this second film in his career was also his second Christploiter. The first was The Cross and the Switchblade, which starred ’60s crooner Pat Boone, as directed by Don Murray (Conquest of the Planet of the Apes).
The Ballad of Billie Blue is the tale of a drug-and-boozed out country music star — our faux-message “Jesus Christ” of the proceedings — sent to prison, aka Hell, on a bum murder rap; he finds God by way of a prison preacher and a Christ-following country music star.
Regardless of its secular, exploitative pedigree, this was Rated-G — and it ran as a “Special Church Benefit” in rural theaters, as well as in churches and tent revivals. Granted it’s no country-cautionary tale in the vein of A Star Is Born (1976) with Kris Kristofferson, but it’s not a total disaster.
I still say the Oscar-winning dramedy Sideways (2004) starring Paul Giamatti (in the Beau Bridges role) and Thomas Haden Church (in the Rob Liebman role) stole this movie lock, stock, and wine bottle. But I digress. . . .
So . . . the ’70s and their slew of ne’er-do-well “buddy films” were entertaining times, with the likes of Midnight Cowboy (1969), starring Jon Voight and Dustin Hoffman, Busting (1974), with Elliott Gould and Robert Blake, Freebie and the Bean (1974), starring Alan Arkin and James Caan, and Let’s Do It Again (1975), with Bill Cosby and Sidney Poitier.
My old Pop loved his “buddy films,” so you didn’t have to sell us twice — especially when the buddies are Beau Bridges and Ron Liebman. And we ain’t hatin’ Janet Margolin in the frames, either. Mom and Pop dumped me at the sitter to see this back when; I watched it later, amid the ultra-high frequency haze of my pre-cable TV youth. All, of course, were rented, again, when they hit home video.
Oh, and speaking of Sideways: this isn’t just a buddy film. You know all of those Judd Apatow, gross-out “road movies” you love: this is where that road, began. Only without any of the Paul Rudd or Seth Rogen annoyance aftertaste.
Charlie (a perfectly cast Beau Bridges) is a henpecked office drone-doormat at a dead-end job, engaged to harping woman (Janet Margolin, Planet Earth). The lone spark in his life is his “idol,” Mike (an even more perfectly cast Rob Liebman), a narcissistic and misogynistic, well, dickhead, of a buddy. So, to get Charlie out from under his soon-to-be-loveless marriage — and his own, mounting debts and his recently cut-off unemployment benefits — the pair hits the roads of the California coast on Mike’s last two, usable credit cards, subsidized by a little bit of larceny. Along the way, the pick up two, nubile hippie chicks (in the expertly cast) June Fairchild (Up In Smoke) and Sherry Miles.
So, somewhere in the frames is a message about America’s newfound “liberation” forged in the ’60s (more effectively done with Beau’s brother, Jeff, in 1974’s Thunderbolt and Lightfoot), but while this warms the ol’ UHF-TV cockles of watching it with ol’ Pop all those years ago, Your Three Minutes Are Up is an erratic, rambling TV movie-flat messadventure that could have easily went the bloody-serial killer route — if not for its purposeful, comedic slant. Think Easy Rider sans the drugs and bikes, or Five Easy Pieces with Liebman as our ersatz Jack Nicholson, and you’re on the right road in this still, effectively cast and well-acted adventure.
Look, Steven Hilliard Stern (The Park Is Mine) is directing . . . so what’s not to like, here?
Well, uh, not much, in this woefully dated “sex revolution” tale that sequels the box office hit, The Harrad Experiment (1973), which grossed $3 million against $400,000.
So, why did this sure-fire hit, flop?
Well, the character of James Whitmore (Brooks Hatlen in The Shawshank Redemption) doesn’t return. Tippi Hedren’s does, but is replaced by a lookalike in Emmaline Henry (Ms Amanda Bellows from TV’s I Dream of Jeannie). And Don Johnson and Bruno Kirby bowed out. Sure, Laurie Walters (Warlock Moon; later TV’s Eight Is Enough), who made her acting debut in the original, is back, and so is bit TV actress Victoria Thompson, but who is coming to see either? And we want more Sherry Miles, thank you.
Note to executives: When you loose three quarters of your cast, don’t make the sequel.
Anyway, the premise is that faux-Stanley and Harry, along with real-Sheila and Beth, are out on summer break from their first year at Harrad College: it’s time to test their new found sexual freedom in the real world. Or something. Like going back and re-watching Bob & Ted & Carol & Alice and Carnal Knowledge.
Hey, I champion Stern’s TV work just as much as my fellow fan of the VHS obscure, but this is simply yawn-inducing . . . .the total opposite of The Harrad Experiment, which has Don and Bruno — especially Bruno — going for it. Robert Reiser and Richard Doran in their places, well . . . they’re not awful: they just don’t have the same spunk to make the hippie proceedings, hep.
No streams, but the DVDs are out there; here’s the trailer.
Okay. So, the heart breaker and dream maker of my wee-lad years, Sherry Miles, closes out her career by running around an island with Joe Don Baker to escape a pack of wild dogs . . . get this: under the lens of Robert Clouse of Enter the Dragon, Black Belt Jones, and Golden Needles fame?
Load. The. Tape. Now.
Sure, this beat Stephen’s King’s Cujoto theaters and was all about a literal army of dogs biting everyone on Seal Island — which has nothing on Dog Island from Humongous. So, was Robert Clouse inspired by the 1976 film starring David McCallum that you don’t want to confuse with The Pack, aka Dogs? Probably. No, not Devil Dog: Hound of Hell (1978), as that one starred Richard Crenna. Get your horror dog movies, straight, buddy! Did Clouse’s dog romp inspire Earl Owensby’s (Dark Sunday) backwater sheriff fighting off government-bred mutts in Dogs of Hell (1983)? Probably.
What else can we say: it’s a killer dog movie. Not even Sherry’s presence can save it. But horror was hot and, as an actor, you jump the trend and hope for a hit. Well, it is to us, at B&S About Movies. We’re weird that way.
There’s no freebie streams, but the PPVs are out there; here’s the trailer.
So wraps this latest “Exploring” featuring, this one on (sigh . . . skyrockets . . . rainbows . . . fields of flowers . . . hearts with angel wings) Sherry Miles. Be sure to click the “Exploring” tag below to read the full list of all of our “Exploring” features on the lost, forgotten and awesome actors and directors, as well as genres, of the Drive-In ’60s, the UHF-TV ’70s, and VHS ’80s eras.
Yeah, we’re doin’ it for the celluloid love. And because we’re just crazy that way. This is B&S About Movies, after all.
I love Mill Creek multipacks. Sure, the quality is abysmal at times. Often, you get the same films on multiple sets. And you get bad dubs. But let’s face it — often you can find these sets used for $5 or less and you get up to 50 amazing films. That inspired me to spend the month of November gathering some of my favorite writers and fans of the site to tackle the Chilling Classics box set.
Originally released as La Mansion de la Niebla (The Mansion in the Fog) and also known as Murder Mansion, this Spanish/Italian film fuses old school haunted house horror with the then new school form of the giallo.
There’s a history of vampires in the house, the previous owner was a witch and hey — this is starting to feel like an adult version of Scooby Doo with better-looking ladies. That’s not a bad thing. But if you’ve never watched a badly dubbed giallo-esque film before, don’t expect any of this to make a lick of sense.
Don’t want to buy the whole box set? This is playing for free on Amazon Prime.
After shooting the racist sheriff in self-defense, Apache Chato (Charles Bronson) heads back home, far away from the affairs of the white men. However, former Confederate Captain Quincey Whitmore (Jack Palance) has put back on his uniform and brought together former soldiers demoralized by the end of the war — look at what year this movie came out and you can see what this movie really is saying — and begins hunting down Chato, who much like the Vietcong knows the land better and is fighting for his family, not for pride or because he’s been peer pressured.
That means he kills every single one of them.
Also, this is when you realize that Michael Winner directed this movie, because not only do four of the posse — Elias (Ralph Waite), Earl (Richard Jordan), Hall (Victor French) and Lansing (William Watson) — gang rape and leave Chato’s wife for dead, they also string up his best friend and set him on fire.
Yes, Michael Winner, the man who brings you the patriarch of The Waltons assaulting a woman.
The first victim afterward is Earl, who is obsessed with Chato’s wife. Like a slasher villain, Bronson’s character dispatches the men one after the other and leaves their bodies to be found. He’s gone full Apache, no longer wearing the clothes of the Europeans and the men begin to turn on one another, even killing Whitmore, who has long become disgusted by their actions.
Still, the odds are against Bronson. Then again, that’s usually how it is.
The first of six movies that Winner would make with Bronson, this was shot on some of the same Spanish sets as Once Upon a Time in the West. Winter would say, in the book Bronson’s Loose, that this was the only of their films that Bronson enjoyed watching.
The new Kino Lorber release of Chato’s Land has a brand new 2K master of the film, as well as new audio commentary by film historians Howard S. Berger and Steve Mitchell, an interview with screenwriter Gerald Wilson and reversible cover art. You can order it from Kino Lorber.
Not enough people talk about Pete Walker, whose movies are mind destroyers and who is all over the map when it comes to output, making giallo-esque in England films like Die Screaming, Marianne; House of Whipcord and The Comeback.
One of his obsessions was to make a movie where actors die in a themed way by those older than them. This is the first time he explored that and it’s all about a mystery producer who has gathered a cast of unemployed actors to be in a mysterious play, rehearsing them in an abandoned theatre beside the sea.
Meanwhile, a black gloved killer is murdering everyone, a killing spree that started thirty years ago when he trapped his wife and her lover behind a wall. Now, everyone is going to deal with his pain as he works it out by you know, killing everyone in the play.
This movie lives up to the flesh part of its title, as no matter how cold that theater looks, nearly every female star feels the urge to doff her bra and show the world their ample gifts. Pete Walker may not have invented the male gaze, but damn if I can’t think of someone who was in its grip more.
Parts of this movie were even shot in 3D, which makes me happier than you’ll ever know.
29. DOUBLE TROUBLE: There’s gotta be some twins in there somewhere.
Brian De Palma was inspired to make Sisters after reading an article in Life magazine about how Soviet conjoined twins Masha and Dasha Krivoshlyapova were separated. A photo at the end of the article — along with a mention that the girls were developing psychological problems — struck him, as one twin looked happy and the other appeared to be deranged. And, as always, Hitchcock loomed large, as the script that DePalma wrote with Louisa Rose was directly inspired by his films Rope — the tracking shot that follows the murder of Phillip — and Psycho, as the main character shifts during the movie. He even got Bernard Hermann to come out of retirement and record the music for the movie.
In fact, DePalma had cut his movie to another Hermann score. When he showed it to the composer, he answered back, “Young man, I cannot watch your film while I’m listening to Marnie.”
The film has since influenced countless others. I can see echoes of the documentary within this film on the film within Get Out that details another sinister operation.
An operation is behind much of the horror in this film, as Danielle Breton and Dominique Blanchion (Margot Kidder, as always perfect) were separated and perhaps one of the two did not survive. Then there’s Emil Breton (William Finley, the literal Phantom of the Paradise), who is either Danielle’s ex-husband or the doctor who helped take the twins apart or both. And an investigation into the murder that starts the film and the hypnotic suggestions that perhaps there was no real murder at all.
DePalma has a career that some would say is filmed with misogynistic films, but here, this is the rare slasher with female killers and male victims. Of course, you can also read into this that women’s liberation — somewhat literally — has caused all of these issues.
This is the film where DePalma found his way. Of course, he found it by following in the footsteps of someone else, but if anyone could be the next Hitchcock, he made the best attempt.