SAVAGE CINEMA: Best Friends (1975)

Mill Creek box sets are among my favorite things in life, as otherwise, I’d never discover so many movies. However, for every Cathy’s Curse, Welcome to Blood City or The Alpha Incident there is a Best Friends. Such is life. Savage Cinema box set, you so crazy.

Jesse (Richard Hatch, Battlestar Galactica) is the mature one. Pat (Doug Chapin, Where Have All the People Gone) is the goofy one. Together with their girls, Kathy (Susanne Benton, A Boy and His Dog) and Jo Ella (Ann Noland, Satan’s School for Girls), they decide to go on a RV trip across the country. For everyone that has told me what a good idea that sounds like, I point them to movies like this. Actually, have any movies about being on a Winnebago trip ever gone well?

Director Noel Nosseck made the move from movies like this into TV movies like this. Good for him. As for this movie, well, this movie promises some drive-in scumbag narrative and delivers a relationship film. No matter what, I always end up judging movies by their cover.

You can watch this on YouTube, if you haven’t bought the set.

Confessions of a Pop Performer (1975)

Part of the four-part series of British Confessions sex farces, this installment focuses on Timothy Lea (Robin Askwith, Four Dimensions of Greta), who is trying to make it in the world of pop music as he joins the band Kipper while remaining a window washer.

Seriously — this movie is a Benny Hill-ish romp that I don’t think would play well with today’s audiences. You can guess how much I enjoyed it.

Keep an eye out for appearances by future Darth Vader David Prowse, Rula Lenska (Queen Kong), Benny Hill girl Helli Louise, Rita Webb (Frenzy), Richard Warwick (If….), Benny Hill and Spike Milligan straight man Bib Todd and a fake band called The Climax Sisters.

This was the only movie in the series to get a sound track record on Polydor, featuring songs from the first movie, Confessions of a Window Washer, as well as dialogue. It’s also the only original script not based on one of Christopher Wood’s books.

This movie tied another movie for Worst British Film of 1975 by Sight & Sound. That movie? The Rocky Horror Picture Show.

There was also a paperback, which has a great cover.

Norman Cohen took over for the first film’s director Val Guest (The Quatermass Xperiment ) after Guest’s wife wouldn’t let him on set with all the near-nude women. Cohen was a great pick, as he’d already worked on two mondos, The London Nobody Knows and London In the Raw.

White House Madness (1975)

Dennis Fimple played many roles. Many here would know him as Grandpa Hugo in House of 1000 Corpses or saw him in Creature from Black Lake. Here, he’s Bob Haldeman, just one of the many White House members caught up in this satire of Watergate, directed by Mark Lester.

It’s also the only movie I can find with Steve Friedman in it. He plays a really bad Nixon in it, who talks to stuffed dogs and has the worst prosthetic nose ever. But that said, Grandpa Al Lewis plays Judge Sirica, who is called Judge Cirrhosis here.

White House Madness was written by Sebastian, who was really Milton Miron. He managed the Cockettes drag queens at San Francisco’s Palace Theater and also made the movie Tricia’s Wedding, which is about, well, Tricia Nixon’s wedding.

The money for this movie came from Republican Senator Phil Gramm, who had invested $7,500 of his money to make what he thought was going to be a beauty contest satire. Instead, his money was used to make this.

White House Madness was released on DVD by Lucky 13 Collectibles, who also put out Acapulco GoldEvil Laugh and Slaughterhouse in the mid-2010’s. I couldn’t find this anywhere, so shout out to my friend Hoss for hunting this down. Mark Lester week is better for your fine work.

Mary Mary Bloody Mary (1975)

Juan López Moctezuma only directed six films. La Mansión de la Locura, known in the U.S. as Dr. Tarr’s Horror Dungeon, To Kill a StrangerEl Alimento del Miedo, Welcome Maria, the mind-destroying Alucarda and this film. Some people are able to make a legacy with very few films. In my book, Moctezuma is one of them.

Mary Gilmore (Cristina Ferrera, who was once married to John DeLorean and a model before her acting career; she’s since become a TV host and cooking expert on other talk shows) is an American artist searching for something in Mexico. Her van breaks down on the way and she’s surprised by a homeless guy named Ben (David Young, NightbreedPoor Devil), who offers to help her in the morning. She agrees and while she sleeps, she dreams of the last man she murdered.

Yes, Mary is something like a vampire, but she must use drugs to slow her victim down as she gains no real powers from her vampirism. In fact, unlike the typical movie vampire, she can move freely in the day. I was reminded of Martin here, as the only magic of this curse is the overwhelming need to destroy and kill. Often, the people that Mary destroys have given her kindness, like the art dealer (Helena Rojo, Más Negro Que la Noche) who she seduces or the old fisherman who offers to teach her. They get drugged and slashed and stabbed instead of what they expected.

Meanwhile, a bandaged man is stalking Mary, killing other women and trying to run her down with his car. If that wasn’t bad enough, Ben is wanted for the murder of the fisherman. No one would suspect our heroine, after all.

Things come to a head when the masked man attacks Mary at a party,  which leads to a chase with the police behind them. One of the inspectors is killed and just as Mary is about to devour Ben — who she had earlier drugged for just such a purpose — the masked man (John Carradine) reveals that he is her father. His face has rotted away and he explains that this is what the disease does. He must kill her before she is taken the same way that he is.

Ben wakes up and kills the father with the dead policeman’s gun. Mary begins him to leave and he keeps embracing her. As the camera moves above the scene, we see that she has consumed both of the men’s blood.

At the close, the police believe that the dead masked man is the one responsible for all the killing. This leaves Mary free to drive away and continue her travels.

There’s so much to love here. The painting that Mary has done of her father is a portrait of him as Dracula. There’s also something interesting about how she is the destroyer of so many lives, yet creates with her artwork.

This is the kind of movie that plays with the paradigm I’ve discussed so much: the difference between grindhouse and art house. A scene that should be pure exploitation, like the lesbian bubblebath scene, transforms into sheer artistic bliss (and bloody murder). Carradine feels like he stepped straight out of an Italian giallo. And the young lovers on the run in a foreign country film feels New Hollywood. It is all of those things and more.

Moctezuma has never failed to surprise and delight me.

Mas Negro Que La Noche (1975)

When it comes to 70’s Mexican horror, the name Carlos Enrique Taboada is one that you can depend on. This one is a modern gothic horror about four young women who get to move into a large mansion with one condition: the dead aunt’s black cat Beker.

Yet when the cat is found dead, so are two of the girls — Aurora (Susana Dosamantes, Brian Trenchard-Smith’s Day of the Assassin) and Pilar (Helena Rojo, Mary, Mary, Bloody Mary).

Ofelia (Claudia Islas, the “Mexican Brigitte Bardot”) and Marta (Lucia Mendez, who as Vanessa was one of the first starring telenovela characters to be killed off) must now try to survive, but seeing as how Marta had joined the other two girls in the killing of the cat, it’s only a matter of time before she joins them in the great beyond.

This is a classy horror film that I’d compare to Corman and Bava, except set in modern Mexico. In 2014, it was remade in America as Darker than Night by Henry Bedwell.

You can watch this on YouTube.

Reflections In Black (1975)

A mysterious woman, dressed all in black, is killing beautiful women. Tano Cimarosa — usually an actor — directs this film, where we soon learn that all of the women are connected to affairs that they had with another woman, which was quite shocking in 1975.

Former Miss Italia Daniela Giordano (Your Vice Is a Locked Room and Only I Have the Key), Dagmar Lassander (Forbidden Photos of a Lady Above Suspicion, The Iguana with the Tongue of Fire and The House by the Cemetery) and John Richardson (Black Sunday) all make appearances.

This is really just for those that have to see every giallo ever made. Which would be me. Probably you too, if you’re reading this.

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.

Alien Lover (1975)

An entry in ABC’s Wide World of Mystery (Rock-a-Die, Baby) this quick burst of shot on video is way ahead of its time and way worth watching. Produced by Dan Curtis, directed by Lela Swift (who also helmed Dark Shadows and several of these ABC mini-movies) and written by George Lefferts (whose made for TV career includes several of the 1960’s Special for Women specials and episodes of afterschool specials for both ABC and CBS), it’s all about an orphan (an incredibly young Kate Mulgrew) who discovers an alien TV signal and falls in love with Marc, a man from another dimension played by John Ventantonio (Private Parts).

Sure, she may have just left the mental institution, but who is to say what’s real and what is not in her world? And man, if you only knew Pernell Roberts as the kindly Trapper John, get ready to be upset.

Sadly, so many of these genre TV shows have never been released and many of them are lost. Thanks to YouTube, you can watch this.

A Cry for Help (1975)

Here’s another winner from the awesome “Big Three” network TV movie-era of the ‘70s. Also known as End of the Line in its overseas theatrical and later U.S TV syndication runs, A Cry for Help stars Robert Culp (Calendar Girl Murders, The Gladiator, Spectre) as Harry Freeman, a cynical and acerbic, Don Imus-styled radio talk show host who abuses his on-air callers. When one of those callers, a troubled young runaway, threatens to commit suicide, Harry dismisses her, but informs the police anyway. However, when the cops dismiss him, he comes to realize his mistake. So he recruits his audience to help him track down the girl—but is it to assuage his own guilt or as a ratings gimmick?

Involved in the mystery are lots of familiar ‘70s and ‘80s TV faces with Bruce “I’m not Bruce Jenner” Boxleitner, Gordon Jump (WKRP in Cincinnati), Michael Lerner, Chuck McCann, and Ralph Manza (you’ll know him when you see him; his career goes back to the mid-‘50s), and Ken Swofford (Black Roses and Hunter’s Blood). You’ll also notice TV actor Julius Harris (Cannon, Ellery Queen, Harry O) from his Blaxploitation resume with the likes of Black Caesar, Friday Foster, Let’s Do It Again, Shaft’s Big Score, and Superfly, and as Tee Hee alongside James Bond in Live and Let Die. (Look out! April is “James Bond Month” at B&S About Movies.)

What is all that stuff? Well, those are carts, cart decks, reel-to-reel decks and VU meters, you adorable, little Spotify youngins. The “radio” in this is, of course, excellent, and Robert Culp did his homework.

If this ABC-TV production plays like a ‘70s TV detective yarn, only with a disc jockey instead of a private eye, that’s because Executive Producers William Link and Richard Levinson were behind the popular TV series Columbo, Ellery Queen, Mannix, and Murder, She Wrote. Writer Peter S. Fincher wrote and directed episodes of Baretta, Columbo, and Kojak, while director Daryl Duke came from the Columbo family as well. Duke also directed the highly-rated 1973 TV movie The President’s Plane is Missing and the 1978 Elliot Gould-starring theatrical The Silent Partner. And for the country music fans: Duke directed 1973’s Payday starring Rip Torn as a burnt-out country singer.

You can watch A Cry for Help for free on You Tube. Caveat emptor on those grey market DVDs, as this has never been officially released on video. There’s no trailer, but you can watch a 14-minute film clip on You Tube.

What’s that? Where can you get more TV movies? Not a problem, we love the TV movies of the ‘70s and ‘80s here at B&S About Movies. Be sure to visit our “Week of Made for TV Movies,” “Son of Made for TV Movies Week,” and “Grandson of Made for TV Movie Week” explorations. And there’s even more TV movies to be had with our upcoming “Dan Curtis Week” on March 22 through March 28. And again: April is “James Bond Month,” so join us, won’t you?

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.

 

The Suspicious Death of a Minor (1975)

A few minutes into this movie and you realize that you’re watching the work of a master. Sergio Martino made a series of six giallo from 1971 to 1975 that — for me — define the genre. The Strange Vice of Mrs. WardhThe Case of the Scorpion’s TailYour Vice Is A Locked Room and Only I Have the KeyAll the Colors of the DarkTorso and this film point to a high watermark for the genre.

This is the last of Martino’s giallo and doesn’t feature his usual cast, like Edwige Fenech or Ivan Rassimov. It does, however, have Claudio Cassinelli, who was in Murder Rock and What Have They Done to Your Daughters?

Cassinelli plays police detective Paolo Germi, who meets a girl named Marisa (Patrizia Castaldi, in her only acting role before becoming a costume designer) who is soon murdered. She was a prostitute and now, Germi is haunted by her death and wants to find the killers. Unfortunately, Marisa was in way over her head and getting the answers won’t be simple. After all, there’s a man with mirrored shades killing everyone that gets close to the truth.

This film is a combination of poliziotteschi and giallo, shot under the title Violent Milan. It was written by Ernesto Gastaldi, who wrote everything from Werewolf in a Girls’ Dormitory and The Horrible Dr. Hichcock to The Whip and the BodyThe Long Hair of DeathThe PossessedLight the Fuse… Sartana Is Coming, All the Colors of the DarkTorsoAlmost HumanConcorde Affaire ’79 and Once Upon a Time In America.

There’s even a meta moment where the cops question a subject in the movie theater while Martino’s Your Vice Is A Locked Room and Only I Have the Key plays. And look out — Mel Ferrer (Nightmare CityEaten Alive!) is in here as a police captain.

While this film doesn’t reach the lunatic heights of Martino’s finest works, it’s still a gleaming example of how great 1970’s Italian genre film can be.

You can watch this movie on Amazon Prime or get the blu ray from Arrow Video.