2020 Scarecrow Psychotronic Challenge Day 20: Don’t Look Now (1973)

DAY. 20: HINDSIGHT IS 20/20: This one’s gotta have flashbacks in it (since looking ahead doesn’t seem to be working amirite?).

Don’t Look Now is the kind of movie that people should talk about in the same hushed tone that they reserve for The Exorcist and The Bird With the Crystal Plumage and they don’t. That makes no sense to me, so perhaps these words will do something to change that.

Compared to Performance, director Nicolas Roeg’s directorial debut (he co-directed with Donald Cammell), this is a simple film. Compare it to anything else and it’s as complex as it gets. Roeg had already contributed to the horror genre with his director of photography work on The Masque of the Red Death, but this rumination on loss stands apart, using the genre itself to try and make sense out of the senseless.

In the same way that the giallo plays with themes of misinterpretation and mistaken identity often when it comes to sexual identity, this movie does the same when it comes to trying to get through the grief of losing a child and perhaps a marriage.

It’s also a deconstruction of how we perceive time through the lens of film. Instead of just flashbacks, this movie is filled with a fluid sense of time, in that we experience the past, present and the future almost simultaneously, as if we were Jon Osterman becoming the ubermensch Dr. Manhattan.

Real-life couple Natalie Wood and Robert Wagner (ironic, as this movie concerns a drowning death) were suggested for the leads of Laura and John Baxter, but Roeg only saw Julie Christie and Donald Sutherland in his film. Sutherland was worried that the film gave a bad name to ESP, but Roeg told him this was the story they were telling.

John and Laura have come to Venice after the death of their daughter Christine in a drowning accident. While working to restore an ancient church, he meets two sisters. One of them, Heather (Hilary Mason, I Don’t Want to Be Born), is a psychic and she reveals that a great danger is coming for John. This danger — in all ways that we see time in the film — hangs as heavy as the death of his daughter, who the psychic reveals that she can see around the couple.

That night, before dinner, John and Laura finally make love after a long period of coolness, as she is relieved that her daughter seems to be at peace. This moment — the love scene is intercut with them getting ready for dinner afterward — plays with our notions of time, making this entire scene feel like a dream. It could also very well be an actual sex scene, as it was rumored for years that the acting couple was really having sex, to the consternation of Christie’s boyfriend Warren Beatty, who was usually the one doing the cucking.

At dinner, the couple is briefly separated and John sees what he believes to be his daughter. This image of her in the red coat she died in dominates the movie, luring him into more foreign places and deeper dangers. As their son is injured at boarding school, Laura must return home. Despite this, John sees her as part of a canal funeral procession. And oh yes — there’s also a serial killer on the loose.

I know that I often discuss the spoilers of films that are half a century old here, but in the hopes that you haven’t seen this film, I want you to enjoy the mystery that it presents for yourself. Roeg emerges as a consummate filmmaker here and this English giallo shot in Venice deserves so many more words than it has received.

If you don’t already own this — and you should — it’s on Amazon Prime.

Bankaku Rokku (1973)

If there’s one thing I love — this site is really about the many things I love, but indulge me — it’s movies with girl gangs up against horrible odds. The Japanese sukeban genre — delinquent girl — isn’t just up my alley. It’s the entire city block.

The Akabane 100 Club and the Ikebukuro Cavalry are at war. Yukiko (Emiko Yamauchi, School of the Holy Beast) is fresh out of reform school and decides to live up to her role as the chief bodyguard of the Akabane, deciding it’s time to finish her war with the entire Calvary gang. Yukiko is so far gone that her father urges the police to put her to death.

Imagine, if you will, a female gang movie with music by Japanese Group Sounds band Carol (their lead vocalist and bassist Eikichi Yazawa went solo and recorded the albums YazawaIt’s Just Rock ‘n Roll and Flash In Japan with members of the Doobie Brothers and Little Feat) and slow motion violence that looks like it was influenced by Peckinpah.

While many use the title Farewell to Rock’n Roll, the actual translation is Ranking Bos Rock.

Slipstream (1973)

“If I ventured in the slipstream
Between the viaducts of your dreams.”

— Van Morrison, “Astral Weeks” (1968)

My attendance of the recent Saturday Night Drive-In Asylum Double Feature Watch Party on September 5 — which featured The Redeemer (1978) — brings us to this review. And I have to admit that, until this most recent viewing of The Redeemer and digging deeper into the film’s history, I had no idea of that occult-slasher’s connection to this Canadian radio drama by way of actor Michael Hollingsworth. If we are to believe the digital content managers at the IMDb, Hollingsworth, in the role of the hippy Billy, made his acting debut in Slipstream—and vanished from the business after his portrayal of the gay actor, Roger, who met his fate at the hands of The Redeemer.

The writer of Slipstream, William Fruet, aka the “Roger Corman of Canada,” is a name oft mentioned around these ‘ere parts of Steel Town, U.S.A., if not in a direct review, such as for his works Funeral Home, Baker County, U.S.A., Killer Party, and Blue Monkey, we’ve mentioned his work in passing within the context of other canuxploitation flicks.

One day, we’ll get to three of my personal favorites of Fruet’s oft-run, ’80s HBO and Showtime oeuvre with the Perry King and Don Stroud Vietnam-slanted serial killer drama, Search and Destroy (1979), the Peter Fonda and Oliver Reed-starring giant serpent romp, Spasms (1983), and, what I consider Fruet’s crowned jewel: the home-invasion classic, House by the Lake, aka Death Weekend (1976), which also stars Don Stroud, along with Brenda Vaccaro as the damsel-in-distress. Of Fruet’s seven writing credits, among his thirty-nine directing credits, he directed House by the Lake and Spasms. He already proved his skills as a director on his first feature film: Wedding in White (1972), a film starring Donald Pleasence and Carol Kane which he also wrote. Why the reins of Slipstream were turned over to first-time director David Acomba, who never expanded his recognition beyond the Great White North’s borders, sans his work on The Star Wars Holiday Special (1978), is a reason lost to the ages.

Now, looking at the theatrical one-sheet, we’re sure your eyes perked up at the sight of Macon, Georgia-born actor Luke Askew, who first came to widespread acclaim with his role as Boss Paul in his third feature film, Cool Hand Luke (1967) starring Paul Newman, and the Charlton Heston western follow-up, Will Penny (1967). In addition to appearing in the war flicks The Devil’s Brigade (1968) alongside William Holden and The Green Berets (1968) with John Wayne (Hey, Pops!), Askew delved into Italian spaghetti westerns as a first-time leading man with Night of the Serpent (1969), and the annals of bikerdom with the likes of Easy Rider (1969), and Angel Unchained (1970) with Don Stroud. By the time of his role as troubled DJ Mike Mallard in Slipstream, Askew began his long-fruitful transition as a well-respected U.S. television actor, appearing in both series and TV movies. But Askew took the time to work with David Carradine in The Warrior and the Sorcerer (1984) and Ciro H. Santiago’s Mad Max rip, Dune Warriors (1991). Oh, and there’s Paul Schrader’s Rolling Thunder (1977) with William Devane.

Yeah, we could go on and on with all of the great movies we’ve watched with the late Luke Askew. . . . Oh, almost forget: he was a recording artist that Bob Dylan likened to blues great Bobby Blue Bland.

And that brings us to this Canadian film that’s mismarketed as “featuring” the music of Van Morrison and Eric Clapton”; in reality, it features only a snippet of one Morrison song — the title cut from his breakthrough album Astral Weeks (1968) that bookends the film — and one Clapton song in its entirety — “Layla” from Derek & the Dominos.

Askew is Mike Millard, a popular but brooding-reclusive Albertan DJ who runs his popular pirate radio station from a remote wilderness farmhouse. As with Clint Eastwood’s Dave Garver on KRML in Play Misty for Me (1971), Millard is all about mood; he spins off-beat tunes interjected by poetic passages that connect with the youth counterculture. Millard’s soul rolls with the independent spirit of Wyatt Williams from Easy Rider; in lieu of a motorcycle, Mike uses the airwaves; his on-air style is one where he sticks the studio’s microphone outside the window to capture the sounds of a thunderstorm as he begins the refrains of “Layla” by the then “hot” Derek & and the Dominos.

The mysticism and mystery of his secluded broadcasts — a gimmick devised by his producer to develop an audience — has led his listeners painstakingly searching the wilds of Alberta to find him — one listener, Kathy, does, which Mallard begins to romance. Adding to Millard’s aggravation: as the show’s popularity grows, his producer wants him to play “more commercial music,” so as to expand the audience even more — even if it alienates the listeners who made his career.

Unlike the genre’s most popular film, the Michael Brandon-starring FM (1978), William Fruet dispatches with that radio chronicle’s slapstick moments for an introspective examination on the psychology; the need of a DJ being on the air and the responsibility of connecting with one’s audience through integrity and not gimmicks; about the creative, audio war where the commercial needs of the bean counters clashes with the artistic needs of a radio station’s airstaff. Fruet’s anti-hero soon comes to realize the allure of the “glass booth” that once gave him freedom is now a psychological prison.

The walls of that prison become more evident as the now emotionally-crumbling Mallard shatters the illusions of his beloved on-air persona with a half-baked interview that crushes the fandom of a young journalist-fan who successfully tracked down his broadcast.

As with most Canadian-made films, the recently reviewed Terminal City Ricochet in particular, Slipstream had a virtually non-existent VHS release south of the border and no (possibly limited; I never seen it) UHF-TV or ’80s HBO or Showtime replays. This is one of those films that — being a radio DJ and big Luke Askew fan, with a desire to see this lost Canada radio drama — I had no choice but to purchase it as a grey market taped-from TV VHS. And as with most of those back-of-magazine grey market distributors utilizing low-grade VHS tapes in multi-packed, shrink-wrapped bricks and churning out copies via high-speed dubbing machines, I lost that cherished copy of Slipstream to the blue screen of death. Chatting with one of my Detroit-based radio contemporaries who’s lived in Canada for a number of years, tells me Slipstream has never been issued on DVD and rarely airs on Canadian TV; not only has it been years since he’s seen it on TV, he hasn’t seen a VHS for as long.

My hats off to Bill Van Ryn of Groovy Doom and Sam Panico of you-know-who for their joint Drive-In Asylum Double Feature Watch Party nights and screening The Redeemer, affording me the opportunity to revisit a radio film — and one of my favorite films overall — that is truly lost for the ages.

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

Turist Ömer Uzay Yolunda (1973)

Tourist Ömer first appeared as a supporting character in a 1963’s Helal Olsun Ali Abi as a friend of that film’s hero. He was so beloved that he ended up being the lead in eight films, with Ömer the Tourist in Star Trek being the final in the series. He’s played by Ayhan Işık in all these films.

Somehow, this became the first Star Trek theatrical release, beating 1979’s monotonous Star Trek: The Motion Picture by six years. It’s a retelling — let’s be fair, outright rip-off — of “The Man Trap” episode. Everything is copied, from the look of the bridge, the characters, the music, sound effects and miniature footage of the Enterprise. Yet the things that are different — Spock wears yellow and Yeoman Rand is a lieutenant — are so off-brand that they are striking.

Oh yeah — the other big difference is that Ömer is beamed onto the ship from modern Turkey and proceeds to drive Spock beyond bonkers. If that isn’t enough, this turns into a greatest hits episode, bringing in elements of “Arena,” “What Are Little Girls Made Of,” “I, Mudd” and Kirk and Spock brawling from “Amok Time.” I was waiting for a Tribble or two just to see what a Turkish Tribble would look like!

Seeing as how the outside footage was shot in ruins of Ephesus — one of the Seven Wonders — instead of Bronson Canyon, this version of Star Trek somehow has better production values than the show that inspired it.

You can watch this on YouTube.

Demir Yumruk: Devler Geliyor (1973)

This is a superhero movie — I guess, the jury is really out — that is also a Fu Manchu movie because, well, look when you’re watching Turkish cinema, your best weapon in the face of insanity is to just shut off your brain and go for the ride. So if Fu Manchu ends up being a transvestite in a wheelchair, you just slowly say the words, “Of course he is.”

Enver is a supercop who can outfight — and let’s come clean, outaardvark — anyone else in Turkey. His regular girl Meral (Feri Cansel, the Emmanuelle of Kasımpaşa who appeared in more than 120 seks filmleri before being murdered by her fiancee in 1983) just deals with all his sleeping around because she’s too busy infiltrating the evil gangs by posing as a masked bellydancer.

There’s also another gang — Russians! — led by Zangof, a man with a facial scar and a metal hand that can shoot bullets. He looks like a member of Big Jim’s P.A.C.K. (Professional Agents – Crime Killers) in real life. He has a henchman named Çengel, who has a double hook for a hand.

Fu Manchu raises the odds by having an entire army of machine gun-toting women, because that’s how Eurospy movies roll on their way into Turkey.

As for Iron Fist — remember him? — he’s not even a superhero, but an identity for one of our heroes who cheats death. And then there’s another Iron Fist at the end! Let me tell you what’s so great about Iron Fist. He has a mask, which seems enough for most superheroes. He tops that off with Superman’s symbol on his chest, which again, would be way more than adequate. But no. No, this is a Turkish hero, sho he finishes his look with Batman’s belt, but it also has an S on it.

There’s a whole big deal about uranium and everyone wants to get it and then Fu Manchu gets out of his wheelchair and goes mano y claw with Iron Fist and pays for his bad behavior with death.

What a circuitous route this movie takes, but along the way, it does take place in a magical world of movie serials, copyright infringement and evil Russians tying up Feri Cansel into bondage. In short — our highest recommendation.

You can download this on the Internet Archive.

Karateci Kız (1973)

Zeynep (Filiz Akın, who starred in 116 movies in just over thirteen years and even survived being stabbed in the leg by an obsessed fan — she even went on stage to perform that same night!) is a mute girl content to be a florist with her father. They’ve been saving money for an operation that will allow her to speak, but one night five men break in, steal the money and kill her father. She refuses to testify against them because she wants them to all get away with it so she can hunt them down herself.

What really makes her story kind of Ben Parker tragic is that she falls for a man named Murat who teaches her how to shoot a gun and to defend herself with karate. He never tells her that he’s a policeman, despite being set up by his superiors to get her to testify. In what is either committing way too much to being undercover or just really taking advantage of his job, they get married. The five men? They show up and kill him.

Oh man, Turkish cinema, I love you so.

The bad guys in this film are so evil that one of them steals a baby and threatens to break its neck if anyone gets in his way. You will not feel badly at all, even if you’re the most liberal of left-leaning people, when they all get their karate chopped and bullet blazed comeuppance.

The really strange thing is that after the five men attacked Karate Girl, she could speak again, which really seems like a backward way of retelling They Call Her One-Eye. This one also doesn’t have the heroine getting assaulted or porn inserts, but it does have the kind of extended fight scenes that you come to these movies for.

Tarkan: Altin Madalyon (1973)

The fourth of five Tarkan films — based on the comic book barbarian created by Turkish cartoonist Sezgin Burak — this is a great place for anyone to enter the world of Turkish psychotronic cinema.

Tarkan was orphaned by Iranian nomads and raised by wild grey wolves. He travels with Kurt, a wolf, as he adventures in the service of Attila the Hun. Think of him pretty much as Conan and you can enjoy this film.

Tarkan goes up against a witch named Gosha who is revived by the blood of a dancer and a nun before using her evil powers to mesmerize our hero. She’s played by Sweden-born Eva Bender, recreating her role from 1970’s Tarkan and the Silver Saddle. She’s also in the Turkish version of The Strange Vice of Mrs. WardhThirsty for Love, Sex and Murder.

Can Tarkan save Attila’s son? Can he resist the charms of Gosha? Will anyone realize that his wolf is really a German Shepherd? Who cares! Just relax, turn off your mind and enjoy this on YouTube.

El Retorno de Walpurgis (1973)

For the seventh appearance of Count Waldemar Daninsky, Paul Naschy threw out everything that came before and decided on a new origin for El Hombre Lobo. Now, his bloodline was cursed by Countess Bathory, a servant of Satan who one of Daninsky’s ancestors had burned at the stake.

Well, there’s that, and then there’s Daninsky killing a wolf on his grounds that transforms into a man. He’s cursed again by a gypsy witch who sends a young girl to seduce him and then bite him with the skull of a wolf while he’s sleeping.

I kind of love the alternate title for this, The Black Harvest of Countess Dracula, which really has nothing to do with this story at all. But the real joy of this is one of its taglines: “Damn the Exorcist! The Devil won’t let go!”

Insane murderers on the loose, Satanism, beheadings, gore, bad dubbing, Daninsky as a rich nobleman and witchfinder, more gore and, yes, the flesh that you expect when you watch a Naschy movie.

There’s nothing like a movie starting with the beheading of a Satanic knight and ending with Bathory being reborn from her grave to engage a werewolf in combat. Pure magic.

You can watch this on Daily Motion.

The Fury of the Wolfman (1973)

La Furia del Hombre Lobo is a 1970 Spanish horror film that is the fourth in the saga of werewolf Count Waldemar Daninsky, played as always by Paul Naschy. It was not theatrically released in Europe until 1975, yet an edited U.S. version played on television as early as 1974 as part of the Avco-Embassy’s “Nightmare Theater” package, along with Naschy’s Horror from the Tomb and The Mummy’s Revenge.

For those that care about these things — like me — the other films were MartaDeath Smiles on a MurdererNight of the Sorcerers, Hatchet for the HoneymoonDear Dead DelilahDoomwatchBell from HellWitches MountainManiac Mansion and The Witch.

This time, Daninsky is a professor who travels to Tibet, only to be bitten by a yeti which seems like not the werewolf origin that you’d expect. He then catches his wife cheating on him, so in a fit of passion, he murders them both before being killed himself. But this being a Spanish horror movie, that’s just the start of the trials that El Hombre Lobo must struggle through.

Daninsky is revived by Dr. Ilona Ellmann (Perla Cristal, The Corruption of Chris Miller), who wants to use him for mind control experiments. Soon, however, our hero learns that she has a basement filled with the corpses of her failed experiments. To make matters even worse, she brings back his ex-wife from the dead and turns her into a werewolf too!

There’s a great alternate title to this movie: Wolfman Never Sleeps. How evocative! That’s the Swedish version that has all of the sex that Franco’s Spain would never allow.

Naschy claimed that director José María Zabalza was a drunk, which may explain how this movie wound up padded with repeat footage from Frankenstein’s Bloody Terror and some stunt double continuity antics that nearly derail this furry film.

You can watch this on Amazon Prime. It’s also coming out on blu ray from Ronin Flix.

The Fighting Fists of Shanghai Joe (1973)

According to the Spaghetti Western Database, lead actor Chen Lee may have been a Japanese karate instructor, but according to director Mario Caiano (Eye In the Labyrinth), he worked in a laundry, not in a dojo, and was picked because he looked like a young Dustin Hoffman. Some think his real name was Mioshini Hayakawa, which is Japanese, not Chinese. That said, if that being racist — not knowing the difference between two countries nearly 1,900 miles away from one another — then this movie is not for you.

Seriously, nearly every race gets denigrated in this movie audibly and physically. Luckily, Shanghai Joe ends up killing every single offender.

Also — the Bruno Nicolai music — recycled from Have a Good Funeral, My Friend… Sartana Will Pay — is so good you’ll want to stick around for the whole movie.

Shanghai — or Chin Hao — has come to this country and instead of finding whatever it is he’s looking for — he has tattoos much like Kwai Chang Caine — he’s found that aforementioned racism and a love interest in Cristina (Carla Romanelli, Fenomenal and the Treasure of TutankamenThe Lonely Lady).

Our hero’s skills as a fighting man make their way to cattle rancher Stanley Spencer (Piero Lulli, Kill, Baby…Kill!), who is really enslaving Mexicans to do his work. That means that the bad guys decide to kill him, but none of them can get it done.

Spencer ends up hiring four different killers, much like video game bosses, to do his work for him. There’s Tricky the Gambler (Giacomo Rossi Stuart, The Night Evelyn Came Out of the Grave), Pedro the Cannibal (Robert Hundar, Sabata), Buryin’ Sam (Gordon Mitchell, who improvised and sang the song “Chin-Chin Chinaman” while carrying a shovel to try to kill Shanghai) and Scalper Jack (an astonishing Klaus Kinski, who is obsessed with hair and you genuinely fear for the life of Romanelli in their scene).

Finally, Mikuja, the only person who has the same martial arts technique and tattoo as our hero, is hired to kill him. Their battle may not be a fight on the order of a Shaw Brothers technical battle, but it’s still fun.

This movie is incredibly strange, because every time I thought it was going to be normal, it would go from slapstick to our hero plucking out a bad guy’s eye and blood spraying all over the place. It’s closer to a horror film set in the West with martial arts than a straight-up Italian Western, but it’s better for that difference.

Totally recommended.

You can watch this on Amazon Prime and Tubi.