REPOST: Truck Stop Women (1974)

EDITOR’S NOTE: Seeing as how this week belongs to Mark Lester, who am I to deny bringing back this article, originally from August 9, 2019, all about trucks, the mob and Claudia Jennings?

Why would I be awake at 2:51 AM on a school night watching a movie called Truck Stop Women — as well as Road Angels — when I could just as easily be in bed? Well, some would say it’s a devotion to our readers who demand to know more about mid-70’s truck driving action films. But we all. know it’s because this movie has Claudia Jennings in it and that name is enough to make me say, “Well, I’ll at least watch this for a few minutes.” Before you know it, the sun is coming up and I’ve spent all of my beauty sleep hours watching the dearly departed Ms. Jennings skate roller derby or fight the syndicate or play post-apocalyptic games with David Carradine. Tonight is no different.

What can you say about a movie that starts with two gangsters assassinating a naked couple in a bathtub? You roped me in again, Mark Lester, director of CommandoFirestarterClass of 1984Bobbi Joe and the OutlawRoller Boogie and so many other movies that have also kept me awake late into the small hours.

Anna (Lieux Dressler, Grave of the Vampire) runs a brothel for truckers — yes, there was once a thing and I bet there probably still is — in New Mexico. He daughter Rose (Jennings) is one of her girls (so is Uschi Digard!) but she’s tired of her mom running her life and dreams of more money, so she starts working with the Eastern Mafia — led by Smith (John Martino, Paulie Gatto from The Godfather) and Rusty (Speed Stearns, Eat My Dust!)  — to take over the racket.

Oddly enough, $15,000 of this film’s budget came from politician Phil Gramm. There were some articles that made a big stink about it being an adult film, but it’s honestly softcore at best.

Look, any movie where Claudia Jennings yells, “Would Jackie Onassis eat chicken fried steak!?” is going to be one that I end up watching. Whether or not you have the same bad taste as me will determine whether or not you should watch this movie.

Does it help if I tell you that the entire movie stops dead for a montage of an 18 wheeler going across the entire country to the tune of “I’m a Truck,” sung from the POV of the truck itself? Because wow, that totally happens. Hey — Dennis Fimple is in it, so maybe you really should stay up all night. I know that I did.

You can watch this on Tubi and Amazon Prime.

The Girl In Room 2A (1974)

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Mitchell Hillman is a freelance writer who has spent most of his time in print writing about music, movies, art, and pop culture. He is also a professional artist, occasional pop-up chef, and suffers an addiction to curiosity and discovery. Over the last year he has watched over 300 Giallo and Giallo related movies, finding that they influence not only how he thinks about film, but also art.

The Girl in Room 2A (1974)
‘La casa della paura’
Directed by William Rose

I promised myself that if I ever found a better transfer of this particular Giallo, I’d have to watch it again. The first time I saw it was like watching a muddied copy of a copy from VHS. I came across a much nicer transfer recently and thought I’d indulge myself. It’s got a great story going for it and it’s a completely underrated entry into the genre in my estimation. Perhaps it’s because it’s the crowning achievement in William Rose’s otherwise unremarkable catalog of films that it’s overlooked, but it has charm and mystery and something that sticks with you somehow.  Of note the original Italian title translates to “House of Fear,” but there were several of those in English already, so we get The Girl in Room 2A.

It’s got a pretty brutal opening sequence, with Bruno Pisano’s soundtrack sinister intensity backing it as we see a young women leave a dark boarding house, only to be abducted off the street, thrown in a car, drugged, subsequently tortured, murdered and thrown from a cliff.  It’s a harsh start that leaves you wondering, but it all comes together in the end. Next we see Margaret leaving a women’s prison, and after missing a bus and calling her social worker while being followed by a strange man, she checks into the boarding house run by the strange Mrs. Grant. Nothing is right about the house, from Mrs. Grant, to the blood red stain in her room, to the strange footsteps outside her door as she tries to nap. The creep vibe is everywhere. 

Mrs. Grant invites Margaret to tea and a sedative, while explaining the death of her husband, and her loneliness in the house with her son. She then lays down a heavy speech about how justice and vengeance must prevail over forgiveness and her tone is more than a little worrisome as she talks about the felon that killed her husband. Margaret doesn’t go for any of that. Her first night is a creepy one as she envisions a red clad masked person coming into her room, but does it happen? We don’t know, she may have been dreaming, she was sedated after all.

We then cut to a villa in the countryside where the creepy son from the boarding house is hanging out with a writer named Mr. Johnson who wants to document what the group seemingly led by “Mr. Dreese” is doing. Dreese shows up and it’s the man that was following Margaret, who immediately turns on the writer with a Nietzschean speech about how “everyone must feel the pain of his own sins,” echoing Mrs. Grant’s sentiments from earlier.  Frank, the creepy son is sent back home, by Dreese while Johnson is locked in the parlor. He is subsequently tortured by two other men, and the caped stranger in the red mask from Margaret’s vision. Johnson jumps to his death out the window to escape the torture and they drive his car off a cliff in a fiery cremation.

This sets the stage for all that is to come. On the one hand you have the creepy house and Margaret’s ever-escalating post-prison life trauma, and on the other a weird cult adding a folk horror flare to the whole affair. It’s a pretty detailed intense story and while it could be better acted or shot with a better budget there’s something appealing about it and something deliciously appalling about it. Whether it’s Margaret’s uncomfortable interactions with Mrs. Grant’s strange son Frank, or the stain that keeps returning to the floor, which she dutifully cleans up repeatedly, there’s always something going on that will become clear in the last act. Rosalba Neri is always a delight and here she plays the social worker who arranged the housing arrangement for Margaret.  After confessing her discomfort, Neri promises to help find her new housing and loans her some money, before going out of town. 

Margaret continually professes her innocence, but also seems like the only genuinely decent person here, except perhaps for the social worker.  When she bumps into Jack on the street, the interaction is suspicious and brilliant, he’s looking for his sister who supposedly killed herself while staying at Mrs. Grant’s place. He ends up renting the place across the alley from her. Once Jack is introduced to the story, the movie really picks up. It turns out that a lot, or maybe all of the “troubled girls” who have stayed in 2A have died or gone mad–but what exactly is the connection to the cult that’s hell-bent on maintaining the war of “Good and Evil.” As the two become lovers, they also begin to investigate just what is going on at the Grant house in earnest.

Both times I’ve watched this I thought this would be an amazing film to reboot, there’s much more of a horror aspect to it than the usual gore laden bloodbath. It’s got a great story at the heart of it and I’d just love to see it treated to a decent budget. Everyone is creepy,  it seems that only Margaret and Jack are on the level, but you can never be sure about anything.  There are many elements that are just sheer fun, like Frank’s strange workshop or Mrs. Grant’s odd gatherings discussing vengeance, of course. It’s not a top tier Giallo by any means, but it probably fits inside the Top 100 or Top 150 due to its peculiar originality and rather complex story. The intertwining story between all the players is what keeps you going and the finale more than pays off in the end, and in this case, somehow, I didn’t see it coming. You might not either, which makes its 90-minute weight (and wait) worth it.

Don’t Open the Door (1974)

Don’t Open the Door! was originally released regionally in Texas under the title Don’t Hang Up in May 1974. It was then acquired by Capital Films Corporation, who re-released it in 1979.

Director S.F. Brownrigg made this movie with producer Martin Jurow (Breakfast at Tiffany’s), using a cast mainly made up of actors from Dallas-based actors.

The story is simple: young girl returns home to care for her sick grandmother and encounters weirdness at every turn. It’s Brownrigg’s skill that makes this movie unique.

Despite the lurid feel of this movie, it still has a PG rating. Life was cheaper in 1974.

Susan Bracken plays Amanda Post, who begins the film assured and cocky before returning to Allerton, the Texas town where she watched her mother get killed as a child. This would be the only theatrical film Bracken would do and it’s a shame because she’s great in this.

We live in a world of caller ID that renders so much of this movie a moot point, such as the reveal that the calls are coming from within the house. While that trope replays itself in so many 70’s horror films, I always find it so delightful.

Larry O’Dwyer, who plays the sinister Claude, was done with acting after this movie too. Again, a shame.

If you were born later than me, you may find this movie slow moving and not as filled with terror as you hope, particularly with the sinister VHS cover image that I attached to this review. Not all movies need to have a killing every two minutes and have geysers of gore. This movie does so much more with less.

If you want to know more about this movie and where it was filmed, watch my friend J.H. Rood’s film Don’t on the Internet Archive.

BONUS: You can listen to Bill Van Ryn, J.H. and me discuss this movie on the second week of our streaming web show, Drive-In Asylum Double Feature.

Prey for the Wildcats (1974)

Do you want to see Sheriff Andy Taylor as sociopath? Do you want to see a spineless, suicidal Captain Kirk? How about Mike Brady as a bastardly dolt of a husband? Or Marjoe Gornter (Starcrash and The Survivalist) with a knocked up girlfriend half his age? How about a movie where they’re bedding and cheating with Angie Dickenson (Dressed to Kill) and Lorraine Grey (Jaws)?

Aired on ABC-TV January 23, 1974/image courtesy of blue-ray.com.

Well, Robert Michael Lewis, who made his network teleplay debut with 1972’s The Astronaut, and cut his teeth with episodes of ABC-TV’s The Mod Squad and McMillan & Wife, answered that question with this, his fifth telefilm. The scribe behind the scenes, Jack Turley, was known for his work on Rawhide (where Clint Eastwood got his start), The Fugitive (starring David Jannsen of Inchon), and the show where he met Lewis: The Mod Squad. The duo also worked together on their next telefilm, 1974’s The Day the Earth Moved (starring Jackie Cooper from The Astronaut).

Andy Griffith (No Time for Sergeants) is Sam Farragut, a businessman who hires William Shanter (Big Bad Mama), Robert Reed (Haunts of the Very Rich), and Marjoe Gortner’s advertising executives for an ad campaign shot in Baja, California. But before he’ll sign on the dotted line, Farragut pressures the trio to take a dirtbike trip though desert to “search for just the right location.” Desperate for business — and with no camping or dirtbiking experience — they accept, as the deal could save the agency.

Yeah, you guess it.

Farragut is a reckless sociopath and adrenalin junkie that dragged them into the desert for a little “human death sport” of his own making. The “game” goes sideways after a couple of American hippies at a Mexican bar smart mouth Farragut . . . and now the “Wildcats” are not only Farragut’s game pieces, but murders on the run.

Obviously, not the actual 1974 trailer, but a very funny send up.

Surprising, unlike most high-rated TV movies, this one actually made it to video in 1987. The caveat is that the only official DVDs are the 2012 versions issued on the now-out-print 8 Movies for the Man Cave – 4 and the four-movie Andy Griffith Collection: America’s Favorite Actor sets (which features the TV films A Song for the Season, Street Killing, and Daddy & Them). Any single-DVD issues you find are grey market burns, so emptor that caveat when you buy.

This movie is a really fun watch, as we get to see Andy Griffith as we never seen him before, along with the range of the underated shakespearean trained Robert Reed (Gene Hackman was orginally cast as Mike Brady; when Hackman hit paydirt with The Conversation and The French Connection, it gnawed at Reed until his dying day), and Bill Shatner going way, way out of his comfort zone.

There’s several rips of varying quality on You Tube, but with the way uploads come and go, we’ll give you three to choose from HERE, HERE, and HERE.

There are more TV movies to be had with our “Week of Made for TV Movies,” “Lost TV Week,” “Son of Made for TV Movie Week” and “Grandson of Made for TV Movie Week” tribute spotlights to those films that, in many cases, are even better than the movies that played in theatres.

About the Author: You can read the music and film reviews of R.D Francis on Medium and learn more about his work on Facebook. He also writes for B&S About Movies.

Cry Panic (1974)

Jack B. Sowards created perhaps one of the most interesting parts of Star Trek: the Kobayashi Maru, a no-win scenario for new Starfleet captains that was first brought up in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. He also wrote this TV movie which was directed by James Gladstone, whose tie to Star Trek is directing the classic episode “Where No Man Has Gone Before.” He also was behind the films Rollercoaster and When Time Ran Out…

Dennis Ryder (John Forsythe, who is astounding in this movie) is driving to San Francisco for a job interview when he hits a man who no one will admit is dead. No one — the sheriff (Earl Holliman from Police Woman), Ralph Meeker from The Alpha Incident, the town doctor (Noman Alden, Kansas City Bomber) and certainly not Anne Francis.

Jason Wingreen, who is in this, was also the voice of Boba Fett.

Seriously, this entire town is against Ryder. It’s a taunt 74 minutes and gets more out of that time than three movies today. I’ve heard people say it has a David Lynch vibe, which I can see. It’s intriguing when a man knows that he’s killed somebody and begs the police to charge him.

You can watch this on YouTube:

Leyendas Macabras de la Colonia (1974)

Tinieblas — wearing an awesome brown suit — buys an ancient painting of a dead woman, despite the warning that it is haunted, because he thinks it’ll help him with the ladies.

After a trios match with his partners El Fantasma Blanco (The White Ghost) and Mil Mascaras, they head off to a party with two ladies. Soon, that painting has taken them back in time and they’re battling a witch played by Lorena Velazquez, who was Thorina queen of the vampires in Santo Contra las Mujeres Vampiros. Her mother is the woman in the haunted painting and she’s a living dead woman who demands human sacrifices in her unholy name. She also has an army of conquistadors (no, not Jose Estrada and Jose Luis Rivera) and Aztec warriors who end up coming to our time to wrestle a trios match against our heroes. And oh yeah — she claims to be La Llorona!

I learned from this movie that while Mil has many, many masks, he is no master of history. As they go back in time, he says that they are sometime between 1512 and 1520. The Spanish have already conquered Mexico in this timeline, but that didn’t happen in our reality for many years aftward. Oh that Mil.

Your life is not complete until you watch Mexican wrestlers in all their finery battle rubber suited demonic soldiers.

This insanity comes from Arturo Martinez, who also had another film of Spanish zombies called The Mummies of San Angel. This one has a much better title, which translates as Macabre Legends of the Colony.

You can watch this on YouTube:

Ginger In the Morning (1974)

Oh man, that early 70’s generation gap.

Ginger (Sissy Spacek in her first starring role) is an attractive young hitchhiker who shacks up with a lonely, middle-aged ad guy (Monte Markham, We Are Still Here) who just got divorced.

Can he learn from her free spirit? Will she break him out of his shell? Will his friends act like jerks? Yes. Yes. Yes.

Mark Miller from Please Don’t Eat the Daisies, David Doyle (Bosley from Charlie’s Angels) and Fred Ward — yes, Remo Williams — are all in this.

This is an early version of the manic pixie dream girl trope. Watch it and think about 1974, a time when AIDS was a myth and the only pandemic we were worried about were killer bees.

You can watch this on Amazon Prime and YouTube:

The Man with the Golden Gun (1974)

The fourth and final Bond film directed by Guy Hamilton, The Man with the Golden Gun is everything that was 1974: oil crisises and martial arts films. It was seen by some — at the time — as a low point in the series. And it also marks the last Bond film co-produced by Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman, as Saltzman would sell his half of Danjaq, LLC, the parent company of Eon Productions, after the release of the film. As a result, this would be the last Bond film for three years until The Spy Who Loved Me.

The part of Scaramanga, the killer other side of the coin to Bond, was offered to Jack Palance, but he turned it down. Christopher Lee, Ian Fleming’s step-cousin (Fleming had suggested him for the role of Dr. No), would be the man to take the role.

He’s a killer paid $1 million dollars per hit. Supposedly, he’s coming after Bond, but only to throw him off the trail of a MacGuffin called the Solex Agitator. Along the way, Herve Villechaize show up as Scaramanga’s miniature henchman Nick Nack, Maud Adams makes her first Bond girl appearance as the villain’s mistress Andrea Anders, Britt Eklund shows up as Mary Goodnight and Sheriff J.W. Pepper comes back.

When I saw this as a kid, I always thought that Bond defeated his nemesis way too easily. I still feel that way. It’s filled with ridiculousness, a low body count and plenty of moments that Moore didn’t agree with, like pushing the kid into the water and threatening to nreak Anders’ arms.

The theme song by Lulu is alright, but I kind of love that Alice Cooper wanted to do it. His Bond theme is on his album Muscle of Love.

Shatter (1974)

The last film the classic Hammer made, Shatter was also their second film with the Shaw Brothers after The Legend of the 7 Golden Vampires. It was directed by Michael Carreras (The Curse of the Mummy’s Tomb).

It starts Stuart Whitman as Shatter, a hitman who is in the midst of international chaos after killing an African leader and heading back to Hong Kong.

Shatter then learns that he is the next target, as he’s being used by his client for a political agenda. He enlists the help of a martial artist named Tai Pah for help against the many killers coming his way.

This is Peter Cushing’s 23rd and final Hammer film. His scenes were shot by Monte Hellman (CockfighterSilent Night, Deadly Night 3: Better Watch Out!).

Lung Ti, who plated Tai Pah, would go on to appear in A Better Tomorrow and Legend of Drunken Master. Anton Diffring (The Iguana With the Tongue of Fire) is the bad guy.

This was intended to be a TV series, but it never really even makes sense as a regular movie. Oh well — it has some fun parts at least.

 

Kaiju Week: Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla (1974) and Terror of Mechagodzilla (1975)

Uh, oh. The Constanzaian Worlds are colliding once again at B&S About Movies, as “Kaiju Week” rear ends April’s “James Bond Month.”

Yes. There’s a Godzilla movie with James Bond-styled spies. And Apes. And not just one movie, but two movies. And my love for each, especially the first, is unbound.

Toho Studios had Godzilla. 20th Century Fox Studios had Pierre Boulle’s apes. And the American studio was kicking the Big Green One’s ass in the Pacific Rim box office. So what does Toho Studios do? They created their own race of sentient humanoid-ape aliens to introduce into the series.

Toho Studios celebrated the Great Green One’s 20th anniversary in style with this everything-plus-the-kitchen sink monster romp featuring the return of Anguirus from Ishiro Honda’s first Godzilla sequel, 1955’s Godzilla Rides Again, a new monster in the form of the good kaiju dog-deity, King Caesar, and a James Bond-inspired Interpol superspy to defeat the aliens. (Angie and King C returned in 2004’s 50th Anniversary blowout, Godzilla: Final Wars, and they should: director Ryuhei Kitamura cites Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla as his favorite Godzilla film.)

And if that wasn’t enough: they brought on the apes.

Toho’s new breed of intelligent apes, who hail from the “Third Planet from the Black Hole,” built a secret, underground high-tech base in Okinawa. And they have the ability to build robots. And they construct Mechagodzilla, a robotic doppelganger of Godzilla equipped with a wide array of weapons and flight capabilities.

Oh, yeah. And these apes enjoy their wine. And they can morph into human form.

The fun begins as an Oriental priestess has a vision of Japan’s destruction by a giant monster. Cue to a spelunker who discovers a chunk of never before seen metal in a cave. A subsequent archaeological excavation to find more of the metal unearths a chamber with a biblical-like prophecy of a forthcoming battle between huge monsters on the Earth.

Of course that errant hunk of metal is the work of The Simians and was used to construct Mechagodzilla to spearhead their conquest of Earth.

As crazy as it seems, it wasn’t 20th Century Fox who sued over this—but Universal Studios. When the film was released in the U.S in March of 1977 under the title Godzilla vs. the Bionic Monster, Universal took issue over the use of the word “Bionic,” as they owned the rights to The Six Million Dollar Man and The Bionic Woman TV series. That led to the title that we U.S kiddies saw it under: Godzilla vs. The Cosmic Monster.

Keeping with their “borrowing” of the 20th Century Fox franchise, another race of Toho aliens from the third black hole planet returned in the 1975 sequel, Terror of Mechagodzilla. This time the aliens “aped” the underground disfigured mutants from Beneath the Planet of the Apes—and hid their disfigurement under rubber masks. Oh, and they brought along another, new monster-partner: the aquatic, non-mechanical Titanosaurus. The Mechagodzilla sequel would prove to be the last of the films until the Big Green One’s 30th anniversary started a new wave of Godzilla films.

If you must have Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla in your collection, there’s the 1988 restored Japanese cut with English audio on a 1988 VHS, a 2004 DVD with both English and Japanese audio, and a 2019 Showa-era Blu-ray issued by the Criterion Collection alongside 15 other Godzilla films released from 1954 to 1975. Terror of Mechagodzilla also appears in that collection, along with its three singular DVD forms issued in 1998, 2002, and 2007.

The epic battle! This stuff rocks no matter how old you are!

About the Author: You can read the music and film reviews of R.D Francis on Medium and learn more about his work on Facebook. He also writes for B&S Movies.

This review first appeared on January 3, 2020 as part of our “Ape Week” retrospective.