La Orca (1976)

After Patty Hearst — and The Last House on the Left — movies where young women were kidnapped kind of became a thing. This adjacent giallo tells the story of one such girl named Alice (Rena Niehaus, who could really pick them, between this movie, its sequel, Angel: Black Angel and Damned In Venice) who is taken against her will by three men, kept in an abandoned house and forced to write a ransom letter. One of the men, Michele (Michele Placido, Tulpa) falls in love with her and she’s able to use that to stay alive.

The other two are played by Flavio Bucci (Daniel the piano player from Suspiria) and Bruno Corazzari (Live Like a Cop, Die Like a Man). It’s director, Eriprando Visconti, would go from great commercial successes to major flops, all while funding his own films. He was married to a princess, so maybe that had something to do with it.

For a movie that is sold on sex, this has some of the most unerotic scenes ever filmed. That was Visconti’s idea, as he didn’t want to glamorize the act. But then, you know, he made an exploitation movie about it…and then made the sequel, Oedipus Orca, which shows what happens after this ordeal, including Alice trying to seduce her mother’s ex-lover who is really her father. And that man is played by Visconti.

Oh Italian film. You never cease to astound me.

ABC Afterschool Special: Blind Sunday (1976)

You’re a young acting hopeful, in the business since 1965, who has worked alongside Tommy Kirk and a young Ron Howard in Burt I. Gordon’s Village of the Giants, and alongside Bob Hope in Eight on the Lam. Then you hit pay dirt, the dream of every actor: a steady acting gig. You just booked a starring role as Jan Brady on TV’s The Brady Bunch . . . then Sherwood Schwartz — who made a bundle in TV syndication with all of his ’60s and ’70s series, but “legally” wasn’t obligated to share the bounty because there were no residuals clauses back in the day — decides he wants a cast of “all blonde girls.”

But as you mature into a young adult, you end up in — of all things — The Brotherhood of Satan, a movie we love so much in the B&S About Movies offices, we reviewed it three times. Then you’re cast as the female lead in one of the ’70s most iconic and influential horror films of all time: William Freidkin’s The Exorcist*. And one of the actresses that also auditioned and was seriously considered as Regan MacNeil was Anissa Jones — and you worked alongside Buffy on a couple of episodes of TV’s Family Affair. And your parents — as did Denise Nickerson’s, who portrayed Violet Beauregarde in Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory, and was in the running — made you drop out of the project because of the troubling, controversial subject matter.

No pea soup for you, NEXT!

Sorry, Sam. The Seinfeld references can not be stop!

Eventually Sherwood Schwartz tosses you a bone to work on the show he fired you from — over hair issues, mind you (there was no Clairol or wigs, Woody?) — with a guest-starring role as the homely-to-hot Molly Webber in “My Fair Opponent,” a 1972 episode of The Brady Bunch. And, at the mercy of channel surfing the retro-channels Cozi or Antenna TV, you can still be seen in the still-in-reruns Adam 12, Green Acres, and Emergency! — sans residuals, natch.

Actress Debi Storm as Molly in The Brady Bunch.

Meanwhile, Leigh McCloskey (later of Hamburger: The Motion Picture) is climbing his way up the network TV ladder with roles on The Streets of San Francisco (that’s sadly absent from reruns) and the miniseries ratings juggernaut that was Rich Man, Poor Man (1976; that starred Peter Strauss of The Jericho Mile), while on his way to star with the very actress that got Debi Storm’s job in The Brady Bunch — Eve Plumb — in another ’70s ratings juggernaut: Dawn: Portrait of a Teenage Runaway. Then, Leigh gets a leading man gig in the post-Exorcist marketplace with Dario Argento’s Inferno. (Do we need to mention that Karl Malden (Meteor) from Streets also worked for Dario in his early Giallo, Cat o’ Nine Tales?)

And the six degrees of Debi Storm stops here, since she did not work with Maestro Argento or Karl Malden, but it does bring us to this lost TV movie for the young adult crowd** starring Leigh McCloskey and Debi Storm. The poster says it all: In an effort to understand his blind girlfriend, a teenage boy decides to spend an entire Sunday blindfolded. It’s simple. It’s heartfelt. And a great lesson is learned. And teen love in the ’70s was a beautiful thing, indeed. And is that my teenage crush Cindy Eilbacher from The Death of Richie and Bad Ronald alongside a pre-L.A. Law Corbin Bernsen (The Dentist, Major League) as a lifeguard?

Director Larry Elikann, who did 18 ABC Afterschool Specials and 5 CBS Playhouses (that became Schoolbreak), also gave us a slew of network TV movies, including the The Big One: The Great Los Angeles Earthquake (1990). So if you’re in the market for a disaster flick starring ’80s TV mom Maggie Seaver and TV dad Jack Arnold, then that’s your movie (yep, it’s on You Tube).

I remember Blind Sunday — as with most of these young adult network TV movies (via reruns into the mid-80s) — as if it was yesterday (thanks to my McCloskey fandom*˟). But wouldn’t you know it: with all of the various network teen flicks uploaded, there’s not a copy of Blind Sunday to share. But we did find this nifty You Tube playlist of other ABC Afterschool Specials to enjoy. Ah, but get this! We also found a clip from 2014 of Debi singing at a Brady Bunch convention . . . and she’s BLONDE!

About the Author: You can learn more about the writings of R.D Francis on Facebook. He also writes for B&S About Movies and publish music reviews and short stories on Medium.

* Speaking of The Exorcist: We explore its everlasting influence with our “Exploring: Ten Possession Movies (and more) that Aren’t The Exorcist” featurette.

** Be sure to visit our reviews of these ’70s “Big Three” network daytime TV movies for young adults:

ABC Afterschool Special: The Amazing Cosmic Awareness of Duffy Moon
ABC Afterschool Special: Hewitt’s Just Different
CBS Schoolbreak Special: Portrait of a Teenage Shoplifter
NBC Special Treat: New York City to Far From Tampa Bay Blues

Then, when we got a little bit older, we watched “after dark” troubled-teen TV movies:

Angel Dusted
The Death of Richie
The Killing of Randy Webster
Police Story: A Chance to Live

*˟ No, I really am. Come on, you have to remember Leigh’s work in The Bermuda Depths, Fraternity Vacation, Just One of the Guys, Dirty Laundry, Cameron’s Closet, Double Revenge, and Lucky Stiffs.

The ’90s Alt-Rock We Miss MTV’s 120 Minutes Sidebar: If Eve Plumb didn’t get the job on the Brady Bunch . . . would this ’90s alt-rock band have called themselves Debi’s Storm? No, they didn’t do “Don’t Crash the Car Tonight” — that was another “female food” band, Mary’s Danish. No, they didn’t do “Love Crushing” — that was Fetchin’ Bones.

Mayday at 40,000 Feet (1976)

David Janessen is Captain Pete Douglas . . . and his life is in a talespin: his wife is in the hospital for a life-saving operation and he can’t get out of flight duty . . . and he ends up piloting an airline through a storm. Complicating matters is Marjoe Gortner (Star Crash), in his full-crazed mode that we love (aka, The Survivalist), as a prisoner-transfer who escapes his shackles and skyjacks the plane.

Yeah, if this sounds a lot like Charlton Heston’s Skyjacked (1972; reviewed this week) with its tale of a crazed Vietnam vet with a bomb hijacking a Boeing, then it probably is. Yeah, this is purely unabashed in its Airport series airline disaster rip-offery. But you know what? With this project’s director and the cast he brings to the table, this is a lot of fun. And since we’re mentioning Charlton Heston and his disaster movieness within the context of a David Janessen movie: they both starred in the “Dirty Harry”-inspired football disaster movie, Two-Minute Warning (1976).

Director Robert Butler’s career as a writer, director, and executive creative consultant in TV drama and movies is extensive. His 100-plus credits that began in the early ’60s culminated with Hogan’s Heroes, The Fugitive, and Batman; his moves into theatrical work gave us Kurt Russell in Disney’s The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes and The Barefoot Executive. He began his TV Movie career with the admittedly odd (for television, that is) Death Takes a Holiday (1971), a fantasy-romance where death visits earth and falls in love with Yvette Mimieux; he also gave us Gene Roddenberry’s post-Star Trek effort Strange New World. Do we want to mention the summer camper rip-off with the Cheap Trick theme song, Up the Creek (1980)? Oops, we just did.

And look at the rest of that cast! No need to even mention their movies, for you know ’em well: Don Meredith, Christopher George’s wife Linda Day George, Ray Milland, Hari Rhodes, and Broderick Crawford . . . just wow, it’s all the actors we know and love ’round ‘ere and have written about many, many times in our reviews.

You can watch this on You Tube.

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

Seven Women for Satan (1976)

By day a mild-mannered businessman, Boris Zaroff chases women across his country estate. Often, they are naked. Then, they get killed. Just like his father before him, he becomes legendary for his cruelty, which leads a young girl to his estate where she asks to see the famous Zaroff torture chamber. Can this be love? Well, when your father was Count Zaroff and they wrote The Most Dangerous Game about you, anything can happen.

Oh yeah — there’s also a ghost of a dead countess who calls to our — well, he’s not the hero, I guess — and beckons him to follow her.

I’d say that this movie has a ton of dream sequences, but then again, maybe the whole thing is a dream sequence. It looks beautiful. It was written, directed and stars Michel Lemoine (Threshold of the VoidCastle of the Creeping Flesh) and if you’re going to have a passion project, make it one where you freak out amidst gorgeous estates while seventies disco jazz blares and ridiculously attractive European women drop their clothes at the rate that I post about Lucio Fulci movies.

Howard Vernon — yes, Dr. Orloff — shows up to play the butler who must instruct the young Master Zaroff in the matters of trapping and killing women. Yes, this is a movie that Jess Franco probably could have made, but it looks like one of his films when he actually cares about the images on screen and not just the sheer amount of pubic hair he can display.

There’s a scene where Zaroff tells a woman to give in to the magic mirror and refers to her as a skylark, which is probably how French noblemen picked up women in 1976. That and lots of cocaine and giant rooms filled with mirrors, feathers, giant beds and statues of satyrs. There’s also a statue that comes to life and a trap called the lover’s bed, which impales whoever chooses to make love within it.

This movie was banned in France in the 1970s, then censored, then forgotten about. Luckily, the people at Mondo Macabro have worked with Lemoine to bring not only an extended version of the film to maniacs like me, they’ve put together an hour interview with cast member and assistant director Robert de Laroche, as well as half an hour of deleted, unused or alternate scenes.

You can get this directly from Mondo Macabro.

Dixie Dynamite (1976)

Okay, so this is more grindhouse . . . than fast. And it’s more hicksploitation . . . than furious. But this Smokey and the Bandit, drive-in rush job by Lawrence Woolner’s — an exhibitor who had made a number of films, including several with Roger Corman — Dimension Pictures under the thumb of Warner Bros. is rife with all of the fast and furious car chases and crashes we came for.

And besides: we’re talking Dimension Pictures here. Do you realize how many Lawrence Woolner drive-in flicks you’ve seen: Invasion of the Bee Girls, ‘Gator Bait, and Dolemite are a few. And how can we forget Scum of the Earth and The Redeemer: Son of Satan (aka Class Reunion Massacre).

And if that doesn’t entice you: Quentin Tarantino “Easter Eggs” the Dixie Dynamite theatrical one-sheet in Deathproof. And, for you Steve McQueen fans: he’s an uncredited motorcycle stuntman on the film. (Hey, $200 bucks is $200 bucks.)

You still never saw Dixie Dynamite? Well, you surely saw its stunts recycled as stock footage (as with Flash and the Firecat; also reviewed this week) in the Lee Major-starring TV series The Fall Guy. (Opps! Lee starred in his own fast n’ furious romp: The Last Chase; also reviewed this week).

Oh, yeah, the plot (such as it is): When their moonshiner pappy is killed by a corrupt deputy, two curvaceous young girls of the Daisy Duke-variety (the smokin’ Jane Anne Johnstone and Kathy McHaley as Dixie and Patsy) take over daddy’s business and set out for revenge in a Dukes of Hazzard meets Robin Hood tale. (Do you know your Dukes roots? No? Check out our review of Moonrunners.)

Hey, wait a cotton pickin’ minute ya’ll. Isn’t this just all a trial run for Thelma and Louise made 15 years later.

Oh, hell, yes, Bocephus!

But we’z all gits Warren Oates (Two-Lane Blacktop) as a motocross racer and old family friend that helps the girls, and we get our Sheriff Buford T. Justice in the form of Sheriff Phil Marsh played by Christopher George (Mortuary!, Day of the Animals! City of the Living Dead!, Grizzly!). And there’s the always welcomed R.G Armstrong, again, who’s been down this road before with Burt Reynolds in the rednecksploitation influencer, 1973’s White Lightning.

This is out in a couple of different reissue-imprints as an easily attainable DVD, but you can check it out on You Tube.

Don’t forget: We had a huge “Redneck Week” blowout back in August 2019, which we recapped — and explore even more films — with our “The Top 70 Good Ol’ Boys Film List: 1972 to 1986” featurette. There. Finally! We did it, Sam! We reviewed Dixie Dynamite! Cross it off the list!

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

Moving Violation (1976)

You know how it goes. You’re a drifter (in this case, you’re played by Stephen McHattie) and you pick up a girl with some ice cream (who in this occasion is played by Kay Lenz, who was so great in HouseThe Initiation of Sarah and Stripped to Kill) when you see a cop kill a man. Now, you’re both on the run across the country, as he’s made you both the prime suspects in a crime that he committed.

Oh the seventies and your road pictures that can’t end well for the heroes…

A Roger and Julie Corman produced movie that destroys 26 cars and has a scene where the hero attacks a police station that was 100% reused for First Blood, this is the kind of movie that played drive-ins all over the place in our country’s bicentennial year. It’s one of the few theatrical movies — if not the only one — that Charles S. Dubin directed, as the majority of his long career was spent in TV.

It’s not the best car crash film we watched this week, but McHattie would go on to be in Pontypool and Kay Lenz skinny dips in it and sometimes, that’s all it takes.

You can watch this on YouTube.

Mill Creek Sci-Fi Invasion: Death Machines (1976)

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Herbert P. Caine is the pseudonym of a frustrated academic and genre movie fan in Pennsylvania.

Before beginning this review, I should warn readers: Nothing that happens in the film Death Machines is remotely as cool as the film’s poster, which features an ominous metal pyramid with evil-looking faces glaring out of it. The poster suggests an epic science-fiction / action film. While Death Machines is a lot of fun, it nowhere near that memorable.

The film revolves around a multi-racial team of martial artists who have been drugged/brainwashed into becoming nigh-invincible assassins. (The film never makes it entirely clear how this process took place, or why it renders them all but immune to bullets.) The evil Madame Lee, played by Japanese actress Mari Honjo even though Lee is usually a Chinese or Korean name, uses her dangerous slaves to take over the underworld. The result is lots of gangsters dying in at times creative ways.

Death Machines’ biggest selling point is its frequent action scenes, which keep the viewer’s interest through an often-predictable plot. In one particular standout, the Death Machines take on an entire karate school, massacring the hapless students with fists, feet, swords, and electrocution. Other killings have an amusing element, particularly as the gangsters they target seem oblivious to their obviously impending dooms. Not one, but two mafiosos fail to notice vehicles rushing towards them, even as other people scramble out of the way. The film could easily have been subtitled “A Parable on Situational Awareness.”

The movie suffers from very basic filmmaking flaws, some of which suggest a troubled production. For example, in the film’s prologue, a bearded man is introduced as the creator and true controller of the Death Machines, with the implication that he may clash with Madame Lee. He never appears again. Furthermore, the film never settles on a protagonist. Some might carp that this is a silly consideration for a genre film, but to really get invested in a story, you need to care about at least one character. First, it looks like it will be the paperwork-averse police detective investigating the killings, but he fades into the background two-thirds of the way through the film, with the focus shifting to the sole survivor of the karate school massacre, who want revenge for the Death Machines amputating his hand. The Death Machines themselves might be considered villain protagonists, but they have so little characterization that IMDB lists them by their race. (They even dress alike through most of the film.) The constant shifting of focus and outright vanishing of certain characters lead one to wonder whether the production ran out of funds to pay actors. 

The acting is passable, with Ron Ackerman, who plays the detective, being the most charismatic. However, Mari Honjo gives a weak performance hampered by her strong accent and apparent poor knowledge of English. At some points, her dialogue is difficult to follow, and at times she even seems to be working out her lines phonetically. This immediately takes you out of the story.

Even so, Death Machines is an effective time-waster for a boring Saturday afternoon. The action sequences come often enough to keep your attention, and there’s enough unintentional humor for a few chuckles. It’s not worth going out and buying, but can easily be found on Tubi and YouTube. The YouTube version is a higher quality print, but has been slightly edited for violence and nudity.

WILLIAM GREFE WEEK: Mako: The Jaws of Death (1976)

EDITOR’S NOTE: We already posted this back on December 12, 2018.As this is William Grefe week, we figured we should fish it back up — groan — and repost it.

The Florida-based director William Grefe has brought many swamp-tinged bits of exploitation goodness — or badness — to the screen, such as Alligator AlleyThe Wild RebelsThe Hooked Generation and so many more. As one of the first films made to take advantage of the shark craze in the way of Spielberg’s success, this film’s sympathetic view of sharks as victims is a pretty unique take on the genre.

Marine salvager Sonny Stein (Richard Jaeckel, who pretty much had a one-man war against nature with him battling bats in Chosen Survivors, bears in Grizzly and, well, any and all beasts with a chip on their shoulder in Day of the Animals) is given a medallion that allows him to communicate with sharks. He becomes increasingly disconnected from humanity — easy to do, everyone in this movie is scum — and uses his sharks to take out those who go against his beliefs.

One of those people is an incredibly chubby club owner who is using high-frequency sound to train his sharks, as well as kind of pimping out his wife Karen (Jennifer Bishop, Bigfoot) to get Sonny on their side. Have you ever seen a movie where strippers have been trained to swim with sharks? Who would want to see that? This movie provides the what, if not the why.

Another is a shady shark researcher that murders a shark and her pups. You will stare unbelieving at the screen while Jaeckel overly emotes as he clutches a dead baby shark in his mitts. Oh yeah — Harold “Oddjob” Sakata is also in this.

The stunt footage is pretty amazing and even gets a mention before the movie even begins. Other than the weird premise and a few good scenes, you can nap through most of this and not feel bad.

You can get this as part of the He Came from the Swamp box set that Arrow Video has just released. Diabolik DVD has it for sale now.

2020 Scarecrow Psychotronic Challenge Day 30: Scorchy (1976)

DAY 30: BRING IT ON HOME: Something filmed in Seattle.

“She’s killed a man, been shot at, and made love twice already this evening…and the evening isn’t over yet!”

I mean, how am I not going to watch this movie after all that?

Man, American-International kept putting out awesome movies late into the 1970’s, with this Howard Avedis written, produced and directed caper (made back when he was still Hikmet Avedis). If you’re looking for more Avedis goodness (Goovedis?), I’d recommend The TeacherDr. MinxThe Fifth Floor, They’re Playing With Fire and the awesome Mortuary.

Jackie Parker (Connie Stevens!) is a cop by day and a drug smuggler by night, when she isn’t hooking up with Greg Evigan. She’s after drug dealer Philip Bianco (Ceaser Danova) and has to deal with the awesome William Smith as Carl, one of the henchmen, who leads her on a chase through the streets of Seattle that involves a dune buggy, a vehicle which seems quite out of place in the City of Flowers.

At some point in the 1980’s when this was released on VHS, the original Igor Kantor-supervised soundtrack was replaced with a Miami Vice inspired score, which is completely out of this world great.

Stevens had a clean image before this movie, so it must have been shocking to see her bed guys and suggest that her elder boss get some fellatio to improve his mood. It’s like this movie has the dialogue of an adult film without any of the actual penetration!

Actually, the only penetration is when Carl attacks Scorchy while she’s scoring with a guy, entering her Lake City home to shoot the guy in the ass cheek with a harpoon as if this was an Emerald City version of A Bay of Blood.

Man, I live in Pittsburgh and the movies that the world knows my hometown for all involve zombies, which is certainly an awesome thing, but if I were from Seattle, I would be quite honestly inordinately proud of having Scorchy made there. It’s a near-perfect drive-in movie and ends James Bond style with a barrage of cops descending on the drug dealer’s house and people being shotgun blasted left and right.

I wish Avendis made twenty sequels to this movie.

SLASHER MONTH: The Witch Who Came from the Sea (1976)

We’ve talked about the charmed life of Matt Cimber before. This is perhaps the best movie he made that doesn’t have Pia Zadora in it. It was written by Robert Thom (who also wrote Wild in the Streets), husband of star Millie Perkins, and supposedly based on elements from both of their lives. If that’s true, they led some really wild lives.

Helping this movie look way better than it deserves? Director of photography Dean Cundey.

Perkins, whose debut was Anne Frank in The Diary of Anne Frank, is a revelation in this movie as Molly, a woman for whom television has created a fantasy world that reality can never match. She was assaulted by her father at a young age and the impact of that horrific act ripples across every terrifying decision she makes in this film. She still worships the man, claiming that he died for love while her sister Cathy (Vanessa Brown) detests his memory and will only say that he was lost at sea.

Molly leads a double life, as when she isn’t working at the bar owned by her lover Long John (Lonny Chapman, When Time Ran Out), she’s using her feminine wiles to lure men to their doom, much like the sirens did to sailors. Of course, they didn’t castrate them with straight razors, but let’s not quibble.

Her orbit leads her into a world of football players and aging actors who only work in commercials now. Despite brawling with one of the latter, Billy Batt (Rick Jason of TV’s Combat!) at a party after discussing Boticelli’s The Birth of Venus — and showing a high faluting sensibility that gave this movie its title — she’s able to bed and destroy a series of lovers while getting her body inked by Jack Dracula (Stan Ross) to resemble the tattoo her incestual father once had.

She also falls for handsome Alexander McPeak, who already has his own issues with his strange girlfriend Clarissa Jenks (Roberta Collins, who made everything from Death Race 2000 and Unholy Rollers to The Big Dollhouse, both Hardbodies movies and Eaten Alive better).

There’s no way that Molly can find love or a place to belong in this world. She’s a constant storm destroying and snuffing out lives, unable to find peace or even a place to be. Her story will not end well (not when George ‘Buck’ Flower — who also cast the film and put his own daughter Verkina into the disturbing father/daughter love scene flashback — is on her case).

Every setting in this film feels rotten and everyone in it feels diseased as if the end of the 20th century is a rotting piece of carrion left out at the furthest edge of the surf, unable to wash back into the tide. That said, I want to drink in the bar where most of this is set, as I can imagine the rum was high proof and the conversation was minimal.

While this was a section 2 video nasty, don’t come expecting gore. Do expect to be upset by its unrelenting dread and evil-minded script, however. Also, if the poster looks familiar, it’s a direct ripoff of Frank Frazetta’s cover for Vampirella #11.

You can watch this on Arrow’s American Horror Project. It’s also available as a single blu ray. It’s also streaming on Amazon Prime and Tubi.