VIDEO ARCHIVES WEEK: The Con Artists (1976)

VIDEO ARCHIVES NOTES: This movie was discussed on the April 18, 2023 episode of the Video Archives podcast and can be found on their site here.

Also called Bluff, High Rollers, The Switch and The Con Maas well as its Italian title, Bluff – storia di truffe e di imbroglioni (Bluff – Histories of Scams and Cheaters), this movie finds director Sergio Corbucci making a transition from violent Westerns like DjangoThe MercenaryThe Great Silence and The Hellbenders and into making comedies such as The White, the Yellow and the BlackThe BeastWho Finds a Friend Finds a Treasure and Super Fuzz. You know those social media posts that say “four films, all the same director?” Corbucci made movies where a gunfighter’s hands were ruined before he opened a grave and massacred his enemies with a gigantic machine gun, Civil War soldiers keeping a treasure hidden in coffins and a mute hero who dies in front of his lover in an inverse of every Western ever with, well, a movie where a super cop is invulnerable against everything except the color red. It’s a big shift but his movies are united by their quality.

Philip Bang (Anthony Quinn) is expecting his ex-wife Belle Duke (Capucine!) and his daughter Charlotte (Corinne Clery!) to get him out of the high security prison he’s supposed to live out the rest of his days in. But in the middle of the plan, Felix (Adriano Celentano) gets sprung instead. He’s coerced into breaking Bang out — which he does — only to learn that the elder con man might not want to see his former love, as he stole plenty of money from her. That means it’s time for one movie long scam — well, a series of them — as Felix has fallen in love with Charlotte and Bang has reunited his gang.

Writer Dino Mauri directed and wrote Kiss the Girls and Make Them Die as well as serving as one of the writers of one of my favorite Franco Nero movies, Street Law. He wrote this along with Massimo De Rita, who wrote Violent CityThe Heroin Busters and Blastfighter.

The tagline was “A comedy of stings and double stings!” so if you’re wondering what movie this should remind you of, it does it twice.

ARROW BLU RAY RELEASE: Hand of Death (1976)

When Golden Harvest first released this movie, no one knew who director and writer Wu Yu-sheng, actor Chen Yuen-lung or fight choreographer Hung Chin-pao were.

Today we know them as John Woo, Jackie Chan and Sammo Hung.

After Shih Shao-Feng (James Tien), a traitor to the Shaolin eliminates thousands of their number for his own power, a surviving Shaolin master named Yun Fei (Tan Tao-Liang) has one goal. Revenge.

The problem is that he’s going up against an army — and Tu Qing (Sammo Hung) — all by himself. He’s already lost one battle against Tu Qing and his extended iron claw technique. Saved by a blacksmith by the name of Tan Feng (Jackie Chan), and soon joins forces with a swordsman named Zorro (Yang Wei) who has refused to draw his weapon since he accidentally killed a lover.

You can see the influence of Chang Cheh on Woo, as he allows us to get to know every single hero so that their heroic sacrifice means something at the end of the movie. The action is great in this, giving you an idea of the magic that Woo would bring in the 80s, as well as the loyalty between violent men, another theme that continually comes up in his movies.

It’s interesting to see Woo tackling a traditional Hong Kong film, one about the Shaolin Temple, the brave warriors who defend it and the cruel ones who attempt to tear it down. Tao-Liang Tan fights literally armies of people in this all by himself and looks great doing it. Credit for the fight choreography goes to Hung, who also has to wear a ridiculous set of teeth.

The Arrow Video blu ray of Hand of Death has a 2K restoration from original film elements by Fortune Star. There’s also a new feature commentary by martial arts cinema experts Frank Djeng and Michael Worth; From Hong Kong to Hollywood, an archive featurette on John Woo’s early career, including interviews with Woo, Chow Yun-fat and Peter Lau; a never-before-seen archive interview with star Tan Tao-Liang, filmed by his former student Michael Worth; an archive interview with co-star Sammo Hung; the Countdown to Kung Fu credits; a trailer and image gallery.

You also get a double-sided fold-out poster featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Colin Murdoch, a reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Colin Murdoch and an illustrated collectors’ booklet featuring new writing by film programmer William Blaik.

You can order Hand of Death from MVD.

VIDEO ARCHIVES WEEK: Mr. Scarface (1976)

VIDEO ARCHIVES NOTES: This movie was discussed on the January 17, 2023 episode of the Video Archives podcast and can be found on their site here.

Also known as Rulers of the CityThe Big Boss and Blood and Bullets, this was directed by Fernando Di Leo. He started his career mainly being known for his writing, including A Fistful of DollarsFor a Few Dollars MoreMassacre TimeLive Like a Cop, Die Like a Man and so many more. He co-wrote it with Peter Berling, who was often in Kalus Kinski movies before writing a series of conspiracy novels about the Priory of Sion.

Tony (Henry Baer) works as a money collector for Cherico (Edmund Purdom) but he dreams of leaving his life of crime behind and settling on the beaches of Brazil. He decides to fast forward all the hard work of being a henchman by working with Rick (Al Cliver) and Napoli (Vittorio Caprioli) to rob the biggest boss of all, Scarface Manzari (Jack Palance).

It takes its time getting there, with Tony mostly cracking wise, cracking schools and, well, cracking smiles at the many ladies he sees during his days and nights of collecting blood money. He would have never even considered going after Scarface if he didn’t kill Cherico instead of repaying his debt. By the end, our hero has tracked his enemy — actually, his lifelong enemy, even if we don’t get that knowledge for some time — to a slaughterhouse where he wipes out the entire family.

Added bonus: Gisela Hahn (Devil HunterWhite Pop JesusDisco Fieber) is in the cast. And man, Jack Palance is so macho that he even makes a cigarette holder look manly. Like, the same kind of long effete cigarette holder that, let’s say, Cruella de Vil would use.

VIDEO ARCHIVES WEEK: Lipstick (1976)

VIDEO ARCHIVES NOTES: This movie was discussed on the November 22, 2022 and November 29, 2022 episodes of the Video Archives podcast and can be found on their site here.

Never trust Chris Sarandon.

I learned this at a young age with Fright Night, but this was before that and you still should never trust him. Don’t trust him in The Sentinel, don’t trust him in The Princess Bride, don’t even trust him as the voice of Jack Skellington.

Christine McCormick — played by Margaux Hemingway, herself a supermodel who appeared on the covers of Cosmopolitan, Elle and Vogue as well as serving as the spokesperson for Fabergé’s Babe perfume — is the face of a new brand of lipstick. She also is the guardian of her 13-year-old sister Kathy (Margaux’s sister Muriel, who was also in Star 80 and Personal Best), who has a young girl crush on her teacher, Gordon Stewart (Sarandon). For some reason, he thinks that Christine has the connections to get his music out to the world.

He comes to her beach photo shoot, but there’s no time to chat, and she forgets that they were to meet at her apartment. As he plays his atonal music — more on that in a second — she leaves the room to take a phone call from her lover Steve (Perry King, who really was in some awesome junk and I say that in the best of ways).

Hurt by her seeming rejection, his assault is brutal in its quickness. Saying, “So you fuck priests, too” he shoves a photo of her brother Martin (John Bennett Perry, Matt Perry’s dad) in her face, breaks it and then smears lipstick all over her face, telling her he wants it all over him. He ties her to the bed and takes her — the scene is too male gaze, too beautiful in a way because it’s a disgusting act — and even when they’re caught by Kathy, he suggests that the little girl joins them.

Once free, Christine gets a lawyer, Carla Bondi (Anne Bancroft), who tells her that it won’t be easy to convict him. And it isn’t. Christine’s sexual image as a model, even the fact that she has fantasies and a sex life, is used against her. So when Gordon goes free, it’s no great surprise.

Christine decides that she’s done with California and modeling after one last job. Except that the last job is in the same exact abandoned building where Gordon is rehearsing a synth ballet. He ends up finding Kathy, using her heartbeat as an instrument and then raping her as well. When she gets back to the photo shoot, Christine finds the rifle she had packed — literally, they packed to leave and are doing the photoshoot and then getting out of town — and shoots at Gordon as he tries to get away. As he gets out of the car, she pumps round after round into him. And in the end, no jury will convict her.

But maybe not. Because I believe that everything that happened after the not guilty verdict is in her head. There’s no way that she’d leave modeling literally from her last shoot. The coincidence that Gordon would be in the same building, in a California filled with places to rehearse, is infinite. The idea that she can successfully shoot him so many times in broad daylight and still not go to jail is the kind of fantasy that only appears in exploitation movies. Like Lipstick.

Director Lamont Johnson started as an actor and was mainly known for TV movies like Crash Landing: The Rescue of Flight 232Crisis at Central High and That Certain Summer, as well as Spacehunter: Adventures In the Forbidden Zone. It was written by David Rayfiel, who was the scriptwriter for The FirmHavana and the 1995 remake of Sabrina.

Michael Winner turned down producer Dino De Laurentiis’ offer to direct this film and that shocks me. In his autobiography, Winner said that “Chris Sarandon was not a very good actor unless he was playing nut cases.” Then again, he used him in The Sentinel.

Even stranger, in 1998’s Little Men, Muriel Hemingway and Sarandor played husband and wife Jo and Fritz Bhaer.

That’s really fashion photographer Francesco Scavullo shooting the lipstick ads, while the clothes for this movie were designed by Jodie Lynn Tillen, who was the costumer for Messiah of Evil and Lemora! While uncredited, Donfeld also worked on the clothes. He was most famous, perhaps, for creating the TV costume for Wonder Woman.

French singer and music composer Michel Polnareff did the music for this, which is beyond wild. It’s completely unsettling — he also did a disco soundtrack for the film — and when it plays while Gordon assaults Christine, it’s horrifying, setting up his assault of her body, brain and ears as his atonal noise blasts, filling the room with painful beats and shrill screams. Later, when it’s played in court and the jury must hear it, you nearly feel bad for the bad guy but no, he’s absolutely the worst.

Despite critics hating this movie and it failing with audiences, it was remade as Insaf Ka TarazuCollege Girl and Edi Dharmam Edi Nyayam in India and Arzu in Turkey.

The real victim? Margaux. This movie was supposed to launch her career in Hollywood, but Muriel got most of the notice. She would few movies over the next seven years — Killer FishThey Call Me Bruce and Over the Brooklyn Bridge, the first movie for Sam Firstenberg — before working in foreign genre movies like Goma-2 and straight to video films like Fred Olen Ray’s Inner Sanctum and Inner Sanctum II, Joe D’Amato’s A Woman’s Secret and Donald Farmer’s Vicious Kisses. Sadly, she became heavily involved in drugs and died at 41 from suicide. Her sister Mariel has always claimed that her death was not self-induced, but instead drugs.

Harlan Ellison, that cantankerous madman of my heart, once said of this movie, “Lipstick panders to the basest, vilest, lowest possible common denominators of urban fear and lynch logic. It is the sort of film that, if you see it in a ghetto theater filled with blacks, will scare the bejeezus out of you. The animal fury this film unleashes in an audience is terrifying to behold. It gives exploitation a bad name; and it has less to do with rape, which is the commercial hook on which they’ve hung the salability of this bit of putrescence, than it does with the cynicism of Joseph E. Levine, a man who probably has no trouble sleeping with a troubled conscience.”

VIDEO ARCHIVES WEEK: Alice, Sweet Alice (1976)

VIDEO ARCHIVES NOTES: This movie was discussed on the October 25, 2022 episode of the Video Archives podcast and can be found on their site here.

Alfred Sole was an architect who dreamed of making movies. His first film, 1972’s Deep Sleep, which starred Deep Throat‘s Harry Reems and The Devil In Ms. Jones‘ Georgina Spelvin, was made for only $25,000. However, it was ruled obscene and pulled from theaters. His second film — the one we’re about to cover — may not have done well at first thanks to spotty distribution, but thanks to Brooke Shields’ popularity and multiple re-releases under multiple titles, like Holy TerrorCommunion and The Mask Murders.

Sole wrote the film with his neighbor Rosemary Ritvo, an English professor who he often discussed films with. A Catholic herself, they would often talk at length about the church in between discussing theater and horror films. Nicolas Roeg’s Don’t Look Now was a huge influence, as is obvious by the yellow raincoat worn by the film’s villain.

The film is set in 1961 Paterson, New Jersey, the hometown of the director, and as such much of it was based on his childhood. In fact, Mrs. Tredoni is directly based on a woman who lived next door to his grandmother who would look after the priests.

While Sole claims he had never seen any giallo before he made this, Alice, Sweet Alice is perhaps the most giallo of all American films before DePalma would make Dressed to Kill.

The film begins with Catherine Spages (Linda Miller, the daughter of Jackie Gleason and the mother of Jason Patric) visiting Father Tom with her two daughters, nine-year-old Karen (Shields) and twelve-year-old Alice (the astounding Paula Sheppard), who are students of St. Michael’s Parish Girls’ School. Father Tom gives Karen his mother’s crucifix as a gift for her first communion, making Alice jealous.

Alice is a wild child, her hair barely tied back, constantly in trouble for all manner of mischief. Is she a bad girl or just a misunderstood little girl dealing with the specter of her parents’ divorce in 1961, a time when this rarely happened and in a heavily Catholic neighborhood where this would surely be judged? Her antics include wearing a clear mask and repeatedly frightening and threatening her sister.

This all ends on the day of Karen’s first communion, when someone in the same school raincoat and mask as Alice kidnaps the young girl, strangles her, rips the crucifix from her neck and then sets her body on fire inside a church pew. This is insanely brutal and allows the viewer to know that this is not a movie prepared to take it easy on you.

At the same time, Alice enters the room and attempts to receive communion while wearing her sister’s veil. It’s never really established as to where she found it and whether or not she knew it belonged to her sister. There are no easy answers here.

Catherine’s ex-husband Dominick (Niles McMaster, Bloodsucking Freaks) comes back for the funeral and fulfills the giallo role of stranger pushed into becoming the detective. Furthering the giallo narrative, the ineffective Detective Spina takes over the case, pursuing the lead that Alice is the killer thanks to the suspicions of Catherine’s sister Annie. This lead seems even more obvious after the killer attacks Annie and Alice is found at the scene, wearing the same clothes.

Alice is sent to a psychiatric institution where it’s revealed that she’s been in trouble numerous times in school, a fact that Father Tom has concealed as he believed he could solve her problems.

The killer tightens her noose around Alice’s neck by luring her father to an abandoned building where she gets the jump on him, beating him with a brick, binding his body and pushing him off a ledge. Before he dies, he’s able to swallow the crucifix that the killer had stolen from his daughter. That’s also when we learn who the killer is, way before the film is over: it’s Tredoni, who sees Dominick and Catherine — and by extension their children — as sinners due to their premarital sex and divorce.

Alice may have been eliminated as a person of interest, but the danger remains. On a visit to Father Tom, Catherine learns that Tredoni lost a daughter on the day of her first communion, which taught her that children pay for the sins of their parents. In her grief, she gave herself over to the church. Her feelings about her calling are confirmed when Father Tom misunderstands her confession.

Finally, Alice’s scheme to leave cockroaches all over frightening landlord Mr. Alphonso neatly ties into Tredoni sneaking in to kill either her, Catherine or both of them. Alphonso is stabbed and the mad older woman runs to the church. Father Todd assures the police he can handle her, but even his mercy and the teachings of the church fail in the face of mania.

The end of this movie shocked me out of my theater seat. It’s visceral in its intensity and the end — where Alice walks away — is even more harrowing.

It’s rare to find a movie that completely destroys an audience. Alice, Sweet Alice did that when it played here to a full house as part of a Drive-In Asylum night of movies.

In these post-#metoo times, Alice takes on a whole new light. Nearly every male in the movie treats her blossoming womanhood as an invitation, from the lie detector operator who says that when he bound her breasts with the machine it looked like she wanted it to the guard at the children’s home who silently watches her as she meets with her parents. Perhaps even more disquieting is that Sheppard was 19 when this was made. Her only other film appearance is in the equally bizarre Liquid Sky, which is a shame, as she was incredible in both of these equally strange movies.

Alphonso DeNoble, who plays the grotesque Mr. Alphonso, also appeared in Bloodsucking Freaks. While his main career was a bouncer at a gay bar, as his side hustle Alphonso would dress up as a priest and hang around cemeteries, where widows would ask for a blessing and he’d indulge them for a monetary donation.

This film truly lives up to the ninth Satanic Statement: Satan has been the best friend the Church has ever had, as He has kept it in business all these years! And the Satanic Sin of Herd Mentality is obvious. To quote from the actual Chruch, “…only fools follow along with the herd, letting an impersonal entity dictate to you.”

Also, Alice posits that even the pre-Vatican II Catholic Church of 1961 was finding itself ill-equipped to understand the modern world and that people — from the old like Tredoni to the young like Alice — would suffer. Mostly, in the Church, it’s women that do most of that suffering, constantly propping up the male members yet never able to ascend to the power of the clergy, unless they want to be second best sisters.

Even 43 years after its debut, Alice Sweet Alice has the power to destroy. It’s a near perfect film that demands introspection and multiple viewings.


For an even better look at this film, Bill Van Ryn of Groovy Doom and the horror and exploitation fanzine DRIVE-IN ASYLUM wrote this article for us last year.

We also had the opportunity to discuss this film with Alfred Sole’s cousin — and the maker of the astounding Desecration — Dante Tomaselli.

VIDEO ARCHIVES WEEK: Mikey and Nicky (1976)

VIDEO ARCHIVES NOTES: This movie was discussed on the September 27, 2022 episode of the Video Archives podcast and can be found on their site here.

Nicky (John Cassavetes) calls Mikey (Peter Falk) to bail him out of trouble. This happens all the time, but this time, there’s a contract out on his life for the money he robbed from a mob boss. Director and writer May had originally cast Paramount president Frank Yablans as one of the gangsters, but parent company Gulf+Western didn’t think that was funny and made her get someone else.

This was not the end of May’s battles with this movie, the last she’d make for a decade.

The next movie she would direct was Ishtar.

She shot over one million feet of film, three times as much as was shot for Gone with the Wind. At times, she kept three cameras running for hours at a time, all to better capture the spontaneity between Cassavetes and Falk. During one scene, both men left the set and she kept rolling. A camera operator yelled, “Cut!” and she flipped out, as that was her job. He said, “The actors are off the set.” She replied, “They might come back.”

At the end of production, May had gone over budget and lost her final cut, so she kept two reels in her husband’s garage. In response, Paramount played a continuity error-filled version of the movie into theaters for just a few days. Former Paramount acquisitions employee Julian Schlossberg purchased the rights from the studio with May and Falk. It was first shown as the Directors Guild of America Fiftieth Anniversary Tribute in 1986 and at the United States Film Festival’s Tribute to John Cassavetes in 1989.

As for the film, Mikey has to save Nicky from a hitman (Ned Beatty) as well as his own paranoia. They have their lives on the line, but for the killer, it’s just business, and he’s actually losing money when you factor in expenses. But maybe Mikey needs to get away from Nicky to save himself, because there’s a reason why he’s the only friend Nicky has left. And sometimes, being a man means being a better friend to yourself than your best of friends.

Needless to say, I would also just turn a camera on Cassavetes and Falk to see what they would do and just keep it running. May was just as tenacious and explosive as the men she’s captured on celluloid and who cares, decades later, how many feet she shot? More artists should be ready to throw it all away for their craft.


Directed by Kinji Fukasaku with screenplay by Kazuo Kasahara based on a concept by Norimichi Matsudaira, Naoyuki Sugimoto and Kyo Namura, Yakuza Graveyard is the story of Detective Kuroiwa (Tetsuya Watari, Graveyard of Honor) and his investigations into the Yamashiro and Nishida organized crime syndicates. He soon learns that his police bosses are just as corrupt as the criminals they face. They may as well be the criminals, as they are working with the Yamashiro.

Kuroiwa becomes close with Nishida executive Iwata (Tatsuo Umemiya) and soon finds himself falling in love with Matsunaga Keiko (Meiko Kaji!), the wife of an imprisoned gang member. Swearing allegiance to a criminal instead of his fellow cops and being in love with a woman used to the wrong side of the law puts Kuroiwa into a downward spiral of gun, blood and crime.

Yet how far from being a criminal is Kuroiwa? He drinks non-stop, sleeps with sex workers, embraces Western rock and roll and punches so many cops in the face. He’s as much of an outcast as the Korean characters in this film, people with a heritage that will never allow them to rise to the levels they may deserve.

How much is this movie on the side of the bad guys? I mean, the cops use Nazi truth serum at one point. Japanese yakuza films are a deep well to explore and this is a great start, all filled with frantic action, moments that transform into monochromatic psychedelia and the idea that a death bleeding out in the dirty street is the best almost any of these characters will get.

The Radiance Flms blue ray of Yakuza Graveyard looks gorgeous and comes with some amazing extras, including an appreciation by filmmaker Kazuya Shiraishi, a visual essay by critic Tom Mes on Meiko Kaji and Kinji Fukasaku’s collaborations, promotional imagery, a trailer, newly translated English subtitles, a reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Time Tomorrow, a limited edition booklet featuring new writing on the film by Mika Ko on the representations of Koreans in the yakuza film and newly translated reprints of a contemporary review and writing by screenwriter Kazuo Kasahara. This is a limited edition of 3000 copies, presented in full-height Scanavo packaging with removable OBI strip leaving packaging free of certificates and markings. You can get it from MVD.

APRIL MOVIE THON 2: Chesty Anderson, USN (1976)

April 19: Weird Wednesday — Write about a movie that played on a Weird Wednesday, as collected in the book Warped & Faded: Weird Wednesday and the Birth of the American Genre Film Archive. Here’s a list.

Chesty Anderson is a WAVE (Woman Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service) in the U.S. Navy and the lead character in a movie that promises that you will see bare breasts. That’s 1976, I guess, and Shari Eubank is the right actress for this. A former cheerleader and homecoming queen at Farmer City High School in Illinois, she only was in one other movie and what a movie: Russ Meyer’s Supervixens. After this movie, she quit acting and moved back home where she became a drama teacher. And she’s a way better actress than most people would be in sexploitation film, but man, Supervixen is your drama teacher? The world is fascinating.

While this movie is a snooze — how can a movie named Chesty Anderson, USN be boring? — it does have a fun cast. It left Scatman Crothers ill-prepared for dealing with Kubrick, as one can only assume every scene is done in one take; I’ll bet there were fewer takes in this all put together than in one scene of The Shining. Timothy Carey is devouring scenery and being a lunatic as a mobster, while Ilsa herself Dyanne Thorne is in this as a fellow WAVE, while Joyce Mandel (Wham Bam Thank You Space Man), Uschi Digard (so many mammary-based movies), Rosanne Katon (Bachelor Party), Marcie Barkin (Fade to Black), Connie Hoffman (The Naughty Stewardesses), Dorrie Thomson (Policewoman) and even Betty Thomas show up. Fred Willard too, as Chesty’s square boyfriend.

Chesty’s sister has been killed after taking photos of Senator Dexter (George Dexter) in drag, which gets organized crime involved. And a man-eating plant is part of the story.

Yet through all this — a movie with all of these people — it’s very PG. And look, I’m not demanding sin, but in a movie with this cast, even the shower scenes could be watched on regular television. It promises you vice and gives you virtue. Well, not much, but you get the point.

Director Ed Forsyth also made SuperchickCaged MenThe Ramrodder and more, while writer Paul Pumpian mostly worked in animation after this and this is the only film for his co-writer H.F. Green.


EDITOR’S NOTE: This was on the site on August 25, 2019.

Cannonball is why I watch movies.

It stars a cast of people that honestly, only someone like me would care about, and it’s made by people just as colorful, a crew of folks that would go on to dominate the film industry after emerging from the Roger Corman film cycle. It’s everything great about Cannonball Run, but both more serious and ridiculous, sometimes within the very same scene.

This is everything I want to watch.

Much like the aforementioned Cannonball Run, as well as Speed Zone and The Gumball Rally, this movie was inspired by Erwin G. “Cannonball” Baker, who raced across the United States several times and by the race named after him, the Cannonball Baker Sea-To-Shining-Sea Memorial Trophy Dash. This illegal cross-continent road race was started by Car and Driver editor Brock Yates to protest the 55 MPH speed limit.

David Carradine plays Coy “Cannonball” Buckman, who has just been released from serving time for the death of a girl while he was driving drunk. He’s been entered into the illegal Los Angeles to New York City Trans-America Grand Prix in the hopes that he can get his racing career restarted.

That’s because Modern Motors has promised a contract to either him or his arch-rival Cade Redman (Bill McKinney, Deliverance, First Blood). Meanwhile, Coy has to somehow convince his lover/parole officer Linda Maxwell (Veronica Hamel, When Time Ran Out) to allow him to race.

Redman doesn’t have it easy either — his expenses are being paid by Sharma Capri (Judy “The Ozark Nightingale” Canova, who hosted her own national radio show from 1942 to 1955) and client, country singer Perman Waters (Gerrit Graham, amazing as always, just like he is in Terrorvision and Phantom of the Paradise).

Other racers include:

  • Young lovers Jim Crandell (Robert Carradine, Revenge of the Nerds) and Maryann (Belinda Balaski, every Joe Dante movie), who take her daddy’s Corvette and enter the race
  • Terry McMillan (Carl Gottlieb, one of the writers of Jaws!), a middle-aged man driving a Chevrolet Blazer
  • Beutell, who has taken a Lincoln Continental from a kindly old and rich couple and promised to get it to New York City safely
  • A tricked out van driven by three waitresses — Sandy (Mary Woronov you have my heart), Ginny (stuntwoman Glynn Rubin) and Wendy (Diane Lee Hart, The Giant Spider Invasion)
  • German driver Wolfe Messer (James Keach, Sunburst) in a De Tomaso Pantera
  • Zippo (Archie Hahn, who was one of the Juicy Fruits in Phantom of Paradise), who is Coy’s best friend and drives a Pontiac Trans Am just like his buddy.

What Coy doesn’t know is that his brother Bennie (Dick Miller) has bet that he will win and will do anything to ensure that happens, including killing Messer. Meanwhile, McMillan has his car — and mistress Louisa (Louisa Moritz, Myra from Death Race 2000) — flown to the finish line.

Redman kicks Perman — who becomes a big country star when his song about the race takes off — and Sharma out of his car, but in his final battle with Coy, a piece of Perman’s guitar gets stuck in the gas pedal and he dies in a big crash. While all this is going on, Zippo is in the lead, so Bennie sends out a hitman to off him. Coy had put his girl in that car as he felt it was safer — actually it was Zippo who did the drunk driving and Coy covered for his friend — but a major crash ensues and Linda is taken to the hospital by Jim and Maryann.

Terry and Louisa arrive first at the finish line, but Louisa accidentally tells the judges that they flew most of the way. The girls in the van get lost and crash, while Coy makes it to the finish line. Just before he’s about to win, he learns Linda is in the hospital and races off to see her. This leaves his brother to be killed by gangster Lester Marks (Paul Bartel, who also directed the film) and his men (Sylvester Stallone makes a cameo, as does Martin Scorsese, as mafioso).

Jim and Maryann win the race and the $100,000, while Coy gets his racing contract and the girl, and Beutell delivers the now destroyed Lincoln to its owners.

Other actors who show up for the madness are John Herzfeld (who was in Cobra and wrote and directed the films Escape Plan: The Extractors and 2 Days In the Valley), Patrick Wright (Wicked Wicked, Caged HeatGraduation Day), future directors and at the time Corman assistants/editors Allan Arkush (Rock ‘n Roll High School) and Joe Dante (more movies than I can name, all of them wonderful), Roger Corman himself as a District Attorney, Jonathan Kaplan (director of White Line FeverThe Accused and The Student Teachers), Aron Kincaid (who was the voice of the Iron Sheik and Bobby Heenan on Hulk Hogan’s Rock ‘n’ Wrestling and Killer Croc on Batman: The Animated Series), Joseph McBride (writer of Rock ‘n Roll High School), Read Morgan (The Car), John Alderman (New Year’s Evil) and even superproducer Don Simpson, who co-write the movie with Bartel. This movie is what happens when everyone working for Corman at the time all gets together so the budget can have extras.

Paul Bartel did not enjoy making this film because he felt he was being typecast as an action director. But after he only made $5,000 after spending a year of his life making Death Race 2000, it was the only kind of movie people wanted from him. “Corman had drummed into me the idea that if Death Race 2000 had been harder and more real it would have been more popular. Like a fool, I believed him.”

Bartel wasn’t a fan of cars and racing, so he loaded the movie with cameos and character gimmicks. His favorite scene was when he plays the piano and sings while two gangsters beat up Dick Miller. And the end is pretty rough for a movie that’s so funny, so star David Carradine tried to talk to Bartel about how disturbing he intended it to be.

When Joe Bob Briggs did his How Rednecks Saved Hollywood show, he mentioned that this movie destroys Cannonball Run. As always, he was right.


EDITOR’S NOTE: This movie has been on the site twice before — on March 20, 2018 and July 19, 2022 — but hey, you should watch it again. 

According to Larry Cohen, God is one of the most violent characters in literature. Take that insight, toss in some Chariots of the Gods, a little police procedural and a gradually involving drama that ends up taking over the life of the hero and you have God Told Me To.

New York City in the 1970s. It’s a horrible place to be. And now, with a gunman atop a water tower shooting into a crowd below, it’s a deadly place. 15 pedestrians are already dead before Detective Peter Nicholas (Tony Lo Bianco, The French Connection, TV’s Law & Order) climbs the tower to speak with him. Tony’s skilled at getting crazy people to back down and his technique is to communicate with them. He tells the killer everything — his age, what he’s doing, even the fact that he’s a devout Catholic — in the hopes that he can stop his rampage. Then, the killer looks Tony in the eye and says, “God told me to,” before he leaps to his death.

Attack after attack follows, all seemingly unconnected except for those words: “God told me to.”

There’s a stabbing in a supermarket. A cop (Andy Kaufman!) shooting into the St. Patrick’s Day crowd (there were no permits for this scene, which blows my mind. Also, while Cohen was organizing the crew to set up the shot, Kaufman antagonized the crowd by making faces, leading to people jumping the barricades to fight him, requiring Cohen to get in between the actor/comedian/force of nature and angry New Yorkers). And a man who kills his wife and children because God has always asked people to sacrifice their children since Abraham. This sends Tony over the edge and he attacks the man.

One of the killers says that his orders came from Bernard Phillips. Tony visits the address but is attacked by Phillips’ knife-wielding mother. She falls down the stairs as Tony dodges her attack and before she dies, she tells him that she was a virgin who was taken by aliens and given a pregnancy without taking her virginity, much like the conception of Jesus.

When Tony brings this information to his superiors, they tell him to put a lid on it. There’s no need for more religious panic. He leaks the story to the press anyway with the expected results.

That’s when Tony meets Bernard Phillips’ cult, who he contacts and controls with his psychic powers. He tells them when each murder will happen and now wants Tony to join them. Instead, Tony asks about Phillips’ mother, which causes a follower to drop dead. Another tries to kill him by pushing him in front of a subway train, but Tony defeats him and uses the man to come to Phillips’ underground lair. That follower — upset that he has come so close to his god — decapitates himself.

Upon meeting the glowing, ethereal and hermaphroditic Phillips, Tony realizes that the self-styled god cannot and will not kill him. Therefore, Tony realizes that he is special and has a purpose. Tony’s girlfriend and wife (look, it was the 70’s) come together to try and save him, but numerous revelations come out — Tony’s estranged wife had numerous pregnancies that her husband seemed to will into stillbirth, afraid of what his children would become.

Tony finds his adoption records, finally meeting his birth mother, who gave up her child — another divine birth — after being impregnated by an orb of light at the 1941 Worlds Fair. The footage accompanying this scene is digitally manipulated stock footage from Space:1999! This meeting nearly gives both a nervous breakdown and ruins Tony’s sense of self.

Tony decides to meet his brother/sister one more time and learns the truth: they are alien messiahs, children of an entity of light. Tony’s human side is dominant while Phillips is more like the alien that gave them life. Phillips reveals his true sex — a mixture of sex organs on his side and asks his brother to impregnate him so that they can create new life. Tony refuses and attacks his sibling, who retaliates by bringing the building down on both of them.

Only Tony survives and he is arrested for the murder of Phillips. As the police lead him away, a reporter asks him why he committed the crime. He answers simply, “God told me to.”

God Told Me To did not do well upon original release, but time has proven to be quite kind. Watching it forty plus years later, I was amazed by how prescient it is, with killers opening fire for no reason, with the schism between sexes being seen as divine and a public and leaders who are ill-equipped to deal with a true crisis of faith in their midst. It’s a brutal little film and a real triumph in the way that it starts as a simple police story and unravels not just the plot but the way the main character perceives himself. Even his multiple times a day shows of Catholic worship cannot protect him from the knowledge that he very well could be the Messiah — but not in the way that anyone expected.