Ghost Story: Episode 2 “The Concrete Captain”

Ed Lucas (Stuart Whitman) has found his wife Kate (Gena Rowlands) the perfect souvenir. The Concrete Captain is a small chunk of concrete with a miniature harpoon in it. Lucky for him — and maybe not so good, really, when you see how it all happens — she loves it.

She’s actually obsessed with it.

The Concrete Captain ends up being real and his ghost thinks that Kate is his long-lost love Katharine. And he’s coming back for her.

This episode of Ghost Story was based on a short story by Elizabeth Walter, whose story “The Spider” was an episode of Night Gallery, “Fear of Spiders.” Three more of her stories would end up in this series: “The New House,” “Pendergast” (which was called “Elegy for a Vampire”) and “Travelling Companion” (which was called “Time of Terror). The story was adapted by JImmy Sangster and Richard Matheson, which if you think about it, is pretty much as good as it gets.

This was made four years — and plenty of TV work — before Richard Donner would make The Omen and show the world just how good he was. Anyone who watched this episode would already know that, as this gothic ghost story wanders the silent and gray shores of a coastal town that’s been shut down.

Blacula (1972)

William Crane mostly worked in TV, but we always will have him to thank for directing the first African-American vampire movie (and the first Jekyll and Hyde movie for a black audience, Dr. Black and Mr. Hyde).

Prince Mamuwalde (William Marshall) represents the Nigerian Ibani African nation as they ask Count Dracula (Charles Macaulay) to help stop slavery. Instead, Dracula laughs in his face and tells him he’s going to enslave the proud black man’s wife Luva (Vonetta McGee, The Great Silence). Mamuwalde is bitten, turned into a vampire, cursed with the name Blacula and imprisoned in a coffin as his wife dies beside him.

Two centuries or so in the future, interior decorators Bobby McCoy (Ted Harris) and Billy Schaffer (Rick Metzler) buy Blacula’s coffin at an auction, opening it and unleashing his thirst on the world.

At Bobby’s funeral, Blacula finds Tina Williams (McGee), who looks exactly like his dead wife. As the vampire kills and turns people, he also begins to convince his wife’s reincarnation that they must spend the rest of eternity together. Blacula is a romantic and that — along with his dignity — makes him a vampire who stands the test of time.

Crane worked hard to keep the movie as authentic to the black experience as possible, changing Blacula’s name from Andrew Brown to Mamuwalde and the unique concept of him being an African prince before he got his fangs.

I’m all for this movie. They should have made ten sequels.

Ghost Story: Episode 1 “The Dead We Leave Behind”

Originally airing on September 15, 1972, the first episode of Ghost Story has Winston Essex telling us the story of ranger Elliott Brent (Jason Robards).

His wife Joanna (Stelle Stevens) is bored, so he buys her a TV set. But now, all she does is watch her stories and neglects their home. As they argue, Elliot accidentally kills her and buries her behind their cabin. But now, when he turns on that TV, all he sees is her and sees episodes of shows in which she’s been unfaithful to him.

And when the man who she’s been cheating — in video form from beyond the grave — shows up, well, Elliot has to kill him too, right? But after that, when he starts seeing bodies rising from the grave on the screen, things don’t look good at all.

Director Paul Stanley’s career was mainly in television other than the 1959 film Cry Tough, which starred a young John Saxon. This episode came from a story by Robert Sprecht, who created the show The Immortal, and was developed for the TV format by Richard Matheson.

John Kenneth Muir’s Reflections on Cult Movies and Classic TV has a great theory on this episode and how it influenced numerous Stephen King stories from Pet Sematary and The Shining to the “Something to Tide You Over” segment in Creepshow.

Robards — as always — brings up the level of anything he’s in. And Stella Stevens is great in this too. I kind of love how it starts in the middle of their story, which already seems to be spiraling into darkness.

Ghost Story: Pilot Episode “The New House”

Becca and I got obsessed with this show, which lasted for just one season before it was canceled due to low rating. That’s a shame as this show feels like NIght Gallery if it remained all serious and didn’t have the abysmal comedy bits.

Even better, each episode looks like a movie, thanks to the producing skills of William Castle, and feels like one with Hammer scribe Jimmy Sangster overseeing the stories. It’s hosted by Family Affair star Sebastian Cabot as Winston Essex, who works in the elegant Mansfield House hotel, which is truly the Hotel del Coronado, the same place that Wicked Wicked was shot.

There was even a Peter Pan Records album of the show, which sadly only lasted 22 episodes, which includes a mid-season overhaul of the show’s format. We’ll get to that in a few months, but we thought it’d be fun to post each episode weekly and share it with you.

Originally airing on March 17, 1972, “The New House” has a killer TV movie pedigree, as it was directed by John Llewellyn Moxey and written by Richard Matheson. I mean, this is the team that brought us The Night Stalker.

Barbara Perkins (Betty Anderson from Valley of the Dolls and the maid of honor for the wedding of Sharon Tate and Roman Polanski) and David Birney are a couple that’s just bought a new home. As they wait for their child to be born, they learn that their home was once the site of a lynching and a hanged woman named Thomasina Barros is still there, at least in spirit, seeking new life that will allow it to enter our world. New life like, well, the baby that’s due any day now.

The format of this show is great, as the stories are given a full hour — forty-plus minutes with commercials — and the casts are always stellar, the stories frequently frightening and the sets all share a similar backlot feel. There’s also an orange cat in several episodes, which seems like a theme.

You can check out this episode on YouTube:

The Couple Takes a Wife (1972)

Jeff and Barbara Hamilton (Bill Bixby and Paula Prentiss) lose their maid and decide that if they’re both so busy, they should just get another wife because it’s 1972. And yet in the midst of porno chic, their new wife Susan Silver (Valerie Perrine) is only show to be fleetingly romantic with Jeff and not interested at all in the benefits of a true triad relationship. But hey — it was on TV in 1972, so why am I wondering these things? Too many Joe D’Amato movies, that’s why.

Throw in appearances by Myrna Loy, Robery Goulet, Nanette Fabray, Larry Storch and Penny Marshall and yes, you have a TV movie.

Somehow, this is my second Jerry Paris-directed movie in two days, so that means I’ll have to seek out his movies What’s a Nice Girl Like You…?Evil Roy Slade and How Sweet It Is!, which somehow has both Terry-Thomas and Paul Lynde in the same movie.

Seriously, why didn’t Barbara and Susan just run off and leave Jeff — who is a real cad for the entire movie — all on his own?

The Longest Night (1972)

Based on the 1968 Barbara Mackle kidnapping by Gary Steven Krist, this was the ABC Movie of the Week, airing on September 12, 1972.

Karen Chambers has been kidnapped and placed in an underground coffin with an air supply and water while the criminals try and get the money. Karen is played by Sallie Shockley, which is kind of interesting because The Candy Snatchers is pretty much the same movie — well, this is made for TV and doesn’t get quite so rough — and the female protagonist of that movie was played by another alliteratively named actress, Susan Sennett.

This was directed by Jack Smight, whose resume includes The Illustrated ManDamnation AlleyThe Traveling ExecutionerNo Way to Treat a Lady and Airport 1975, which is the very definition of an eclectic resume. He’s working from a script by Merwin Gerard, whose TV movie credits are The Screaming WomanThe VictimShe Cried Murder and The Invasion of Carol Enders. He also created the series One Step Beyond.

The cast is great. There’s David Janssen as the father, Phyllis Thaxter (Ma Kent from the Superman movies) as the mother, James Farentino as the lead kidnapper, Skye Aubrey as his partner and Mike Farrell as an FBI agent.

Beyond being referenced in the aforementioned The Candy Snatchers, this was also filmed in 1990 as 83 Hours ‘Til Dawn. There’s also an episode of Quincy M.E., “Tissue of Truth,” that is ripped from these headlines. This movie only aired once, as there were issues with who owned the rights to the story.

JOE D’AMATO WEEK: God Is My Colt 45 (1972)

A lot of times when watching Italian westerns I wonder, “Did I see this before?”

Sometimes that’s a trick question as this movie remixes Anche per Django le carogne hanno un prezzo (Even for Django, Death Has a Price) and Paid in Blood, which were both directed by Luigi Batzella.

I say directed and probably should have quotes around it because just like The Devil’s Wedding Night there’s a prevailing notion that Joe D’Amato is the one who really directed this.

Jeff Cameron saves a town from bandits as Captain Mike Jackson. Cameron was born Goffredo Scarciofolo and only made two more movies after this; the majority of his films are either westerns or peplum. Krista Nell, who tragically died way too young at the age of 28, is in this, as are Gianfranco Clerici (who went on to write Don’t Torture a Duckling, The AntichristCannibal Holocaust and The New York Ripper), Attilio Dottesio (Death Smiles at a Murderer) and Donald O’Brien, who was in so many of my favorite Italian movies that it’s hard to just pick one (or fifteen) to list.

The western genre was dying, but better things would come for D’Amato.

JOE D’AMATO WEEK: Un bounty killer a Trinità (1972)

The Carlo Croccol-directed Black Killer provided the majority of the footage for this movie, supplemented by pickups from Oscar Santaniello, who was there in name only, as the real director was Aristide Massaccesi, the man we know as Joe D’Amato. He also wrote this story, which is all about Jeff Cameron’s* bounty hunter being hired by the town of Trinity to protect them from a gang of bad hombres.

Here’s to the Bounty Killer, who says things like “the man who makes my coffin hasn’t been born yet” and makes $10,000 for the job plus $2,000 per dead body and any bounty he earns, which is why he carries a stack of wanted posters everywhere he goes. The Bounty Hunter also has a crossbow that fires explosive arrows, but that’s just movie magic to match up with the end of Black Killer, as a Native American girl has a similar weapon.

That movie had Klaus Kinski going for it. This does not.

This was shot at Cave Film Studios, which was a Western set built by actor Gordon Mitchell in the early 70s in the sadly dying days of the Italian Western. Gordon lost tthe title to the land, which he had earned in place of a salary for a movie he filmed, because the Italian courts said that foreigners couldn’t own land. The property was seized by the government and the town set was destroyed.

*His real name is Goffredo Scarciofolo.

 

JOE D’AMATO WEEK: Sollazzevoli storie di mogli gaudenti e mariti penitenti – decameron (1972)

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.

JOE D’AMATO WEEK: Pokerface (1972)

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 WomanSomething 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!