The Little Girl Who Lives Down the Lane (1976)

What kind of movie is this? Is it horror? A children’s film? A coming of age story? A feminist or child’s rights message film? Or is it as director Nicolas Gessner said, “a teenage love story”?

The American release of the film — which was rated PG and deleted the nude scene that Foster refused, with her older sister Connie acting as her body double — offers these words: “She was only a little girl. She lived in a great big house…all alone. Where is her mother? Where is her father? Where are all the people who went to visit her? What is her unspeakable secret? Everyone who knows is dead.”

If you need to put this in a neat box, the term I’ve been using for films like this — and others that we’ll talk more about this week — is “coming of age while the supernatural lurks around the corner.”

Let’s travel to the small town of Wells Harbor, Maine, where Rynn Jacobs (Jodie Foster) is celebrating her thirteenth birthday alone in the home she shares with her poet father. The son of her landlady, Frank Hallet (Martin Sheen), visits and is immediately sexually aggressive to her. Later, his mother visits and demands to see her father, who she claims is in New York City before taunting the older woman about her son. Then there’s the cellar, which she’s obsessed with seeing. Well, curiosity killed the cat. And it kills Cora Halley, too.

The rest of the film involves Rynn hiding the body (and maybe even bodies), dealing with Frank and falling for Mario (Scott Jacoby, who of course was Bad Ronald), a young magician.

It also features Mort Shuman as a police officer. Shuman was once the partner of Doc Pomus and wrote “A Teenager in Love”, “This Magic Moment”, “Save The Last Dance For Me” and “Viva Las Vegas.”

While this is one of Foster’s least favorite films, I’ve always really loved it. That may be because she believed that one of the producers was crazy, as he wanted her to do have more nudes scenes. She also had a rough time filming the love scene.

While rated PG, this movie exudes menace and nascent sexuality. It also has plenty of dark moments, like Frank killing Rynn’s hamster. And then there’s the fact that Rynn’s father killed himself by drowning in the ocean before giving his daughter potassium cyanide so that she could kill her mother, then embalming her and placing her into that basement that interested the old landlady so much.

Mansion of the Doomed (1976)

Call it Mansion of the Doomed. Or The Terror of Dr. Chaney. You may also refer to it as EyesEyes of Dr. ChaneyHouse of Blood or Massacre Mansion. But whatever name you choose to refer to this Charles Band produced, Michael Pataki directed movie, you will probably enjoy it. Seriously, it’s packed with sleaze, eyeballs being removed and plenty of your genre favorites.

Dr. Leonard Chaney (Richard Basehart, Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea) caused the accident that cost the sight of his daughter Nancy (Trish Stewart, Salvage 1). Now, he is cutting up eyeballs so that he can get his girl to see again, starting with her fiancee Lance Henriksen and moving on to Marilyn Joi, who played Cleopatra Schwartz in The Kentucky Fried Movie.

Gloria Grahame — as Chaney’s wife — and Vic Tayback — playing a cop — are both in this, meaning that this is a Blood and Lace reunion. Pop the cork on that sparkling cider! Celebrate!

Frank Ray Perilli wrote this. He worked with Pataki on the softcore film Cinderella, plus he wrote the movies Dracula’s DogLaserblastEnd of the World and Alligator.

Come for the stars, stick around for the Stan Winston effects and enjoy the craziness of Basehart as he goes from loving father to kidnapper of children to a man who has an entire group of eyeless victims just meandering around his basement.

This movie is pure scum. It’s even a category 3 video nasty, which means that you know I had to watch it at midnight when I really needed to go to sleep. You can do the same and watch it for free on Tubi.

Massacre at Central High (1976)

23 years before Columbine, Massacre at Central High would predict not just violent school shootings but the rise of disaffected teenagers. It was directed by Rene Daalder, a Dutch writer and director who would go on to pioneer motion picture technology and virtual reality.

David is the new kid at Central High, but he already knows Mark (Andrew Stevens), a friend he has helped in the past. Mark relates that this place is a country club, but you need the right friends. Friends like Bruce, Craig (Steve Bond, Travis Abilene from Picasso Trigger) and Paul, who rule the school.

After watching these three bully — that’s putting it mildly — the student body, including beating up nerdy Spoony (Robert Carradine), deaf librarian Arthur, the poverty-stricken Rodney and the overweight Oscar as well as assaulting two girls named Mary (Cheryl Rainbeaux Smith!) and Jane (Lani O’Grady from Eight Is Enough), David has had enough.

David and the bullies are on a fatal collision course, particularly after our protagonist starts making time with Mark’s girl Theresa (Kimberly Beck, Roller Boogie, Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter). One night while he’s working on Rodney’s car, the three kick out a jack and cripple him.

That’s when David goes slasher villain and takes them out, one after the other. Bruce’s hang-glided flies into a power line, Craig is tricked into diving into an empty swimming pool and then Paul’s van gets pushed off a cliff.

Now, the formerly bullied are the bullies and attempt to form alliances with David, but they keep dying off too. Arthur’s hearing aid takes him out. Oscar’s locker explodes and so does Rodney’s car. And Spoony, Mary and Jane are set up to look like they did it all when a rockslide and some dynamite kills them off.

Mark and Theresa know that David is the one who did it all, so they attend the school dance that he plans to destroy, refusing to leave. David then takes the bomb outside, where it explodes, making him a martyr hero and keeping the blame forever on Spoony, Mary and Jane.

Writer-director Rene Daalder was recommended by Russ Meyer, for whom the young man had previously worked for as a cameraman. That may or may not be the reason why this movie was released as Sexy Jeans in Italy, complete with pornographic inserts that are obviously not the same actors. I’ve seen it and have to tell you — it’s disconcerting.

This is a brutal and uncompromising film that would go on to inspire Heathers while sadly presaging the world we live in. Of note, the director intended for gravity to kill nearly everyone and no adults to appear in the movie, like some demented version of Peanuts.

2019 Scarecrow Psychotronic Challenge Day 19: Bloodsucking Freaks (1976)

DAY 19. VIDEO STORE DAY: This is the big one. Watch something physically rented or bought from a video store. If you live in a place that is unfortunate enough not to have one of thee archival treasures then watch a movie with a video store scene in it at least. #vivaphysicalmedia

I grew up in a small town about an hour north of Pittsburgh. Despite being a dying mill town of around 8,000 people, we still had three unique video stores to serve our movie needs — although eventually even the Uni-Mart and 7-11 would expand to have movies (the only ones I can remember getting from either are Death Bed and Gotcha!).

College Hill Video was a satellite store of the larger location in Beaver Falls, located on three spinner racks in a Giant Eagle grocery store. Their horror section was mostly new releases, nearly all mainstream.

Hollywood Video offered more video game rentals but didn’t have much selection. I can barely remember ever renting a movie there.

But Prime Time Video?

I haunted the horror section there, alternatively afraid of the lurid clamshell foreign horror and obsessed by their contents. They promised such foul delights! And of all the VHS boxes there, one cover promised the absolute bottom of the barrel. Somehow, in a small town where you had to verbally ask for adult films after looking through a gigantic binder of their covers, the forced embarrassment keeping you from every seeing something that filthy, this piece of sheer exploitation junk somehow ended up in my 16-year-old hands.

There’s really only one mom and pop rental place left that I can think of in Pittsburgh — Jack’s Discount Videos in Millvale — and three Family Videos which are located well out of the city in Moon Township, Lower Burrell and Greensburgh. Outside of Redboxes, we are sadly out of luck. So I’ve gone back to my childhood to look back at a movie I probably shouldn’t have been watching.

This is not the video store of my youth, only my dreams. Scarecrow Video in Seattle.

Bloodsucking Freaks is the kind of movie that — if it wasn’t so ineptly made — would make you think that anyone who watched it more than once certainly a maniac. And maybe I was back at that age, obsessed with Fangoria and heavy metal and trying to always find something heavier, louder and grosser.

Well, I found it.

This movie became the torture test for anyone that wanted to watch movies with my friends. We became fascinated with it, taking its villains into our roke playing games, drawing photos of the gore scenes and endlessly discussing how a movie like this could have ever been made.

We didn’t know that it ripped off Herschell Gordon Lewis.

We didn’t know that it was junk.

All we knew was that we had to watch it again.

While it was shot under the title Sardu: Master of the Screaming Virgins, it was retitled The Incredible Torture Show during its original run through grindhouses and drive-ins. By the time it made its way to the mom and pop video stores, it’d been purchased by Troma and retitled Bloodsucking Freaks.

We didn’t have an internet to teach us what this movie was about or spoilers to warn us of the content we were about to be barraged with. We just had ourselves.

What unspooled was a movie all about Master Sardu (Seamus O’Brien, a one and done actor who died shortly after making this movie, a victim of a burglar’s knife), who runs a Grand Guignol-style theatre with Ralphus, his demented little person. He’s played by Luis De Jesus, who was famous in Times Square for a loop he’d shot entitled The Anal Dwarf.

Yeah look — if you’re going to get offended easily, perhaps skip to our next review.

This is the kind of actor who just randomly would decide to gather all the other principals and stage an orgy. While he continued to act in adult films until the 1980’s — he’s Mr. Big in Let My Puppets Come, which Vinegar Syndrome just re-released, as well as appearing in movies like Fantasex Island, where he played Pu-Pu in an obvious send-up of Herve Villechaize’s famous role as Tattoo — he also tried to break into the mainstream, playing in Under the Rainbow and as an Ewok in Return of the Jedi. Yet in the very next year after he appeared in a Teddy Ruxpin video, he was back in adult before dying two years later.

Basically, just like Wizard of Gore, Sardu and Ralphus torture people for real on stage in front of an audience that thinks that what they are seeing is art. Then, they sell their victims into slavery.

The film unfolds in a loose collection of scenes, such as the two wiping out theater critic Creasy Silo — based on critic Clive Barnes — who made the mistake of giving them a bad review. I kind of love that the same actor who plays Creasy, Alan Dellay, also shows up as a judge in one of the junkiest mainstream films of all time, the utterly reprehensible — and fully awesome — Amityville II: The Possession.

Then, our evil duo abducts the ballerina Natasha Di Natalie and seek to break her will. She was played by Viju Krem, who is also in the aforementioned Let My Puppets Come, as well as Eros Perversion, a softcore send-up of Shakespeare, and an adult ripoff of M*A*S*H* where she appeared alongside Annie Sprinkle. Adding to the strange history of this film, she’d die young too, a victim of a hunting accident in 1983.

Football hero Tom Maverick (Niles McMaster, yes, the father from Alice, Sweet Alice) is seeking to save her before it’s too late. Speaking of that film, Alphonso DeNoble — who so memorably played the obese neighbor Mr. Alphonso in it — shows up here as a white slaver.

There are also a fair number of New York City-based adult actors of the era cast as female victims, such as Jenny Baxter, Ellen Faison (who is also in the British video nasty Dawn of the Mummy), Juliet Graham (who dated the previously mentioned Mr. Gillis) and Arlana Blue.

Basically, all of them are tortured, whether by being turned into a human dart board or being attacked with a vice, bone saws, thumb screws, meat cleavers, forced dental surgery, a drill, a guilotine and so much more. It’s still the only film I’ve ever seen where someone uses a straw to sip blood out of a person’s skull or throw darts at a naked woman’s rear.

Director Joel M. Reed — who would make Blood Bath the same year — didn’t want to make this movie. He had another script about a rock star haunted by a groupie, but he never got the money to make that one. He’d also make 1981’s Night of the Zombies, starred gonzo pioneer Jamie Gillis as CIA special agent Nick Monroe.

With good reason, this film was decried by Women Against Pornography. None of its female victims are named and they only show up to be maimed and decimated. Is there art and humor under the surface? Sure, but man, you need to crawl through an ocean of scum to get there.

I’ve always wondered how today’s internet-plugged in generation will handle life, as they’re not held back from adult materials at any time. They can basically jump right into the deep end when all we had was random issues of Playboy thrown into the woods. Then I remember that somehow, in the middle of comparatively chaste slashers, Bloodsucking Freaks was on the shelves of the mom and pop video store in my cozy and safe hometown. It made it’s way from the fecund streets of 1976 end of the world New York City to the same VCR we watched birthday parties and cartoons on. And we all watched it, over and over again.

The absurdity of it all amuses me to no end.

2019 Scarecrow Psychotronic Challenge Day 12 Option 2: Live Like a Cop, Die Like a Man (1976)

DAY 12. THE FRACAS AND THE FUZZ: Something revolving around cops and criminals.

While he may be most famous for Cannibal Holocaust, a movie so controversial that he lost his license to make films and was arrested for the suspected murder of the film’s cast, Ruggero Deodato is no one-trick pony.

After growing up nearby Rome’s film studios and being friends with the son of director Roberto Rossellini, he worked his way up to being the assistant director on the film  Django before helping Antonio Margheriti finish Hercules, Prisoner of Evil, a peplum that also has horror elements like a werewolf. He also directed the superhero film Phenomenal and the Treasure of Tutankhamen and Zenabel before taking time away to work in advertising.

He returned in 1976 for the film Waves of Pleasure and then made the film we’ll be discussing today. Later Deodato films of interest include Jungle Holocaust (which stars future cannibal icons Ivan Rassimov and Me Me Lai), Concorde Affaire ’79 (which has a veritable murderer’s row of junk cinema stars in it, like James Franciscus, Mimsy Farmer, Joseph Cotten and Edmund Purdom), The House On the Edge of the Park (which rips off The Last House On the Left so much that it even has Davis Hess in it), the slasher Body Count and late in the game giallo like Phantom of Death and The Washing Machine.

But Deodato will forever be known for his cannibal excesses, so much so that he was in Hostel II as a cannibal character.

When Edgar Wright was writing Hot Fuzz, Quentin Tarantino played him this film and Walter Matthau’s The Laughing Policeman for inspiration. On the commentary track for the movie, Tarantino says that it has “one of the greatest titles of all time, and it lives up to its name.”

Screenwriter Fernando Di Leo was behind several of the most well-regarded spaghetti westerns, like A Fistful of Dollars and Johnny Yuma before moving into the poliziotteschi genre. His Milieu Trilogy, which he both wrote and directed, includes Caliber 9, Manhunt and The Boss.

This movie, however, is all about the Fred (Marc Porel, Don’t Torture a Duckling) and Tony (Ray Lovelock, The Living Dead At Manchester Morgue), two members of the Special Squad. This secret arm of the Italian police seems to have complete impunity and grants their agents a license to kill.

Fred and Tony take full advantage of that. The film begins with them chasing purse snatchers — to be fair, the failed heist leads to them killing a woman directly in front of children waiting in line to meet Santa Claus — for nearly twelve minutes before impaling one and breaking the other’s neck before the normal cops arrive. As people wait for them to be arrested, they just casually walk away and ride their motorcycle together. Yet for all the killing, shooting and wanton seduction of women these two will accomplish in the next 100 minutes, they really have no issue holding one another.

Keep in mind that Deodato shot this epic sequence with no permits whatsoever and you may see that he saw these two as kindred spirits.

Their boss is played by Adolfo Celi, who you’ll probably recognize for playing Ralph Valmount, the villain in Mario Bava’s Danger Diabolik. They pretty much drive him crazy for most of the film, with him opining that they’re probably worse than the criminals that they go after.

Yes, this is probably the only cop movie you’re ever going to see where the good guys wait for the bank robbers to start their job, then just walk up and shoot them with silenced handguns with no due process. And then they go off and do target practice, which is pretty much them shooting at one another and dodging the bullets.

Silvia Dionisio plays Norma, the tough secretary for their boss. The film pretty much sets its tone when they have their conversation with her before seeing him. You expect the Bond/Moneypenny type flirting until she tells them that men often talk a great game, but she can go twenty times in a night while they’ll be sleeping after one orgasm. That’s why she keeps flirting with both of them, because they may have to team up to satisfy her. It’s disarming and shows that she’s no shrinking violet. Also, if anyone in this movie was smart, it’s Deodato, as he married Dionisio right around this time.

The boys’ big assignment is to stop crime boss Pasquini, which they start by visiting one of his finest clubs and setting all of the patrons’ cars on fire. He eventually comes after them, even slicing out the eye of one of their informants (and stepped on the eyeball, in a screen that Fulci must have been jealous he didn’t direct) to get them mad. This scene was censored from how it originally was intended, but the intent is there. There’s also a bonkers scene where the boys visit a relative of Pasquini and end up taking their turns with his needy niece.

Of course, everything works out for our heroes, thanks to their boss being a much better cop than both of them. But hey — they still get to blow up a boat.

If you ever watched a movie like Lethal Weapon or Cobra and thought, boy the captain is coming down pretty hard on this cop and he’s just doing his job, you should check this out. These supercops make Dirty Harry look like a third-grader with their near-limitless brutality.

Sadly, this was Ruggero Deodato’s only poliziotteschi film. But really, where do you go from here? A sequel was in the planning stages, but ended up being canceled due to Marc Porel and Ray Lovelock not getting along.

This is one of the most entertaining films I’ve ever seen, a cops with guns movies that rivals the excesses that Hong Kong cinema would achieve a decade later. It really has no story, just hijinks, but you won’t notice. You’ll be too busy trying to get your jar off the ground, trust me. If it didn’t come through in all these words, I love this movie.

You can get this from Raro Video.

Cannonball (1976)

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 drink 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 The Cannonball Run. As always, he was right.

Rocky (1976)

Sylvester Stallone wrote the screenplay for Rocky in three and a half days after watching Chuck Wepner take world champion Muhammad Ali to 15 rounds, a feat that no one saw coming. Stallone was also inspired by two boxers named Rocky — Marciano and Graziano, as well as Joe Frazier.

United Artists liked the script as a vehicle for someone like Robert Redford, Ryan O’Neal, Burt Reynolds or James Caan. But Stallone demanded to play the main character himself. This was a smart gambit, as he knew that producers Irwin Winkler and Robert Chartoff’s contract allowed them to greenlight any project with a small enough budget (the final cost was about $1,075,000, with $100,000 spent on producers’ fees and $4.2 million on advertising costs).

To be fair, it was an audacious gambit. Stallone had $106 in the bank, no car, and was trying to sell his dog because he couldn’t afford to feed it. Instead of the $350,000 he could have made just for writing Rocky, Stallone wrote without a free and acted for scale. Don’t feel bad for Stallone’s dog — he ended up playing Butkus in the movie.

The other two main characters — Apollo Creed and Adrian Pennino — were difficult to cast, with boxer Ken Norton and Carrie Snodgress (The FuryTrick or Treats) originally picked for those roles. Finally, Carl Weathers and Talia Shire (the sister of Francis Ford Coppola, mother of Jason Schwartzman and aunt of Nicholas Cage) were picked.

As well as having to pay off Wepner for basically taking his life story, Stallone also took the cattle punching scenes and running up the steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art directly from Joe Frazier. Luckily, the story was continually worked on throughout filming, as originally, Rocky threw the fight so he wouldn’t have to be part of the scummy world of boxing and Mickey was also incredibly racist.

The movie begins with Apollo Creed announcing a big fight in Philadelphia to celebrate the Bicentennial. Trust me, that holiday was the biggest thing ever back in 1976. He gets some bad news — his opponent is injured and he can’t find another boxer who can draw. So he decides to give a local journeyman a chance — Rocky Balboa.

Rocky’s never boxed on this level before. He has semi-pro matches in small gyms and churches when he’s not working as a collector for loan shark Gazzo (Joe Spinell, who was a close friend of Stallone until the filming of Nighthawks; he was also Sage Stallone’s godfather; you may know him better from roles in movies like Maniac and Starcrash).

Rocky meets with promoter George Jergens (Thayer David, Dark Shadows) thinking that he’s just going to be a sparring partner for Creed, but then learns that he’ll be paid $150,000. Soon, he’s finally caught the eye of former boxer Mickey Goldmill (Burgess Meredith, who is astounding in this film), a man who ignored him for years.

Rocky also falls for Adrian, which means he has to deal with her brother Paulie (Burt Young). Adrian fills the gaps for Rocky, becoming the only person that he can confess that the things people say about him actually hurt and that he doesn’t feel that he has any chance to win. He just wants to go the distance to prove people wrong.

On New Year’s Day, the fight happens. Rocky comes out in an ill-fitting robe with a meat packing logo on the back. Creed is dressed as Uncle Sam and continually makes light of Rocky before he’s knocked down in the first round, the first time that’s ever happened.

The fight is sheer brutality — Rocky needs an eyelid cut open just to see and Apollo has his ribs broken — but the end is indecisive. Creed is obviously the better boxer, but Rocky has more heart. As the final bell rings, Creed tells him there won’t be a rematch and Rocky agrees that he didn’t want one.

The result of the fight — a 8:7, 7:8, 9:6 split decision — doesn’t even matter. All Rocky wants is to see Adrian and tell her that he loves her. He’s achieved his dream and become a winner, even if he didn’t really win. Instead, he’s achieved so much more just by being who he truly is.

The iconic scenes where Rocky jogs through Philadelphia were shot guerrilla-style, which means no permits, equipment or paid extras. In fact, the scene where the grocer throws him an orange was completely improvised. The man had no idea that there was actually a movie being filmed.

Rocky was only the third film shot with the Steadicam (the other two are Bound for Glory and Marathon Man), which was integral when it came to capturing the aforementioned jogging scenes. In fact, the Philadelphia Art Museum steps came from the test footage Steadicam inventor Garrett Brown shot of his girlfriend running those steps to wow filmmakers. Director John G. Avildsen, who was prepping storyboards for the film, saw the footage and knew it would work.

Stallone and Avildsen disagreed on many parts of the film and nearly came to blows over the film’s ending. Stallone thought Creed had to be the clear winner of the fight to prove that a victory for Rocky doesn’t necessarily have to be in the ring, but Avildsen cut the conclusion to make it more ambiguous. They did agree to reshoot the ending so that Adrian came back into focus with her showing up to watch the final round of the fight. This ended up solving their issues with the final scene, as Stallone got his upbeat ending without really needing to decide who won the match.

Rocky was a major part of my childhood. I grew up in a town split between Eastern European and Italian families, where there’s still plenty of anti-Italian racism even to this day. Having an Italian hero who wasn’t a mobster meant a lot to me, particularly because Rocky was from my home state and not somewhere far away. As I’ve grown older, the story of a man who looks back on his life and sees the time he’s wasted means more and more to me. So I get something new from this film every single time that I see it. It’s pretty amazing that this character has survived eight movie appearances, changing to reflect his age and the time when those new films are made.

Plus, how cool is it that Stallone still has Cuff and Link, his turtles from this movie? They came back to make an appearance in Creed 2.

You better believe that I own the Meat figure from the Jakks Pacific Rocky toy line.

Nashville Girl (1976)

I discovered this movie thanks to Joe Bob Briggs’ How Rednecks Saved Hollywood presentation. The clips he showed were absolutely astounding and there was no way that the actual movie could live up to his speech about the film, right? Nope. This is one sordid piece of scummy moviemaking that does all that and more.

Director Gus Trikonis started his career as a dancer in West Side Story, playing Indio, a member of the Sharks. His directing work for Roger Corman’s New World Pictures led to Corman claiming he was one of the best young directors that he had worked with. His films run the gamut of hicksploitation, from The Side Hackers to The Swinging BarmaidsSupercockThe EvilMoonshine County Express and the movie based on the Johnny Paycheck sung and David Allen Coe written song Take This Job and Shove It. He was also married to Goldie Hawn for awhile.

Monica Gayle (The StewardessesSwitchblade Sisters) stars as Jamie, the Nashville Girl of the title (the film also played under the titles New Girl In Town and Country Music Daughter in an attempt to convince people it something to do with the Loretta Lynn bio Coal Miner’s Daughter). She’ll do anything to make it in Nashville after leaving town when she’s assaulted by a boyfriend and abused by her father. It doesn’t get any better in music city, trust me.

Somehow this movie goes from jailbait in trouble to massage parlor receptionist to women in prison to young girl getting pawed by every man in town in very short order, ending with her under the thrall and ownership of big time country star Jeb (Glenn Corbett of TV’s Route 66) and enduring the attentions of Kelly (Roger Davis, TV’s Dark Shadows, as well as Ruby and Killer Bees).

Judith Roberts shows up as Jeb’s long-suffering wife. She’d go on to star in things like Orange Is the New Black, but we know her best as Mary Shaw in Dead Silence.

Singer Johnny Rodriguez and songwriters Rory Bourke, Gene Dobbins, and John Wills all show up here and contribute music. None of this makes Nashville look like a great city to live in or be a rising female artist. There are more #metoo moments in five minutes of this movie than in pretty much everything Hollywood will release this year. It gets to the point that you honestly worry about Monica Gayle’s personal mental health. She might change her name to Melody Mason and get a whole new life story, but she can never escape the past that got her here.

Somehow, there’s a novel version of this movie that has even more sex in it. It’s written by Gary Friedrich, who co-created Ghost Rider. So there’s that.

You can watch this on Tubi and Amazon Prime. Or go all out and grab the Scorpion Releasing blu ray from Ronin Flix.

Bobbie Jo and the Outlaw (1976)

Mark Lester’s IMDB list is filled with drive-in and VHS era gold. There’s Steel Arenatruck Stop WomenRoller Boogie (with Linda Blair, of course), Class of 1984 and it’s kinda/sorta spiritual sequel Class of 1999FirestarterCommando and Showdown in Little Tokyo.

This American Internation Pictures release was written by Vernon Zimmerman, who has gifted us with just as many demented films as Lester. You can thank him for Teen Witch — Top That! — as well as Fade to Black and Unholy Rollers.

Together, these two titans of, well, movies that only I love joined up to make a modern Bonnie and Clyde redneck film starring former child minister Marjoe Gortner and future Wonder Woman Lynda Carter.

Young country singer and dreamer Bobbie Jo Baker (Carter) runs away from her job as a carhop to ride around in a Ford Mustang with Lyle Wheeler (Gortner), who fancies himself the modern-day Billy the Kid. Gortner was the second choice for the lead after Sylvester Stallone backed out, which would have made the Lyle role seem much more menacing.

Belinda Balaski, who is in nearly every Joe Dante movie, shows up, as does Peggy Stewart (she’s an actress from the cowboy era who was also in the redneck film Black Oak Conspiracy) and Gerrit Graham, who was Beef in Phantom of the Paradise and also made appearances in TerrorVision and Chopping Mall.

You should watch this movie to see Marjoe do mushrooms, but for many, there’s a major other reason to see this movie, called out on the poster. If only they had spelled Lynda Carter’s name correctly…

If you think the world hasn’t changed, just take a look at the main selling point of this film: the opportunity to see Lynda Carter topless. 

You can watch this on Amazon Prime.

Jackson County Jail (1976)

As you may have learned by now, I absolutely love movies that are based on true stories that aren’t really true. This is yet another, directed by Michael Miller, who also brought us National Lampoon’s Class Reunion, a slasher spoof written by John Hughes, the martial arts/slasher Chuck Norris-starring Silent Rage and the TV movies A Crime of InnocenceDanielle Steele’s Daddy and Roses Are for the Rich, a movie that would fit right into our redneck week, as Lisa Hartman plays an Appalachian widow who vows to destroy Bruce Dern, the man who got her husband killed.

Dinah Hunter (Yvette Mimieux, The Time MachineSnowbeast) is an ad exec in LA who has just about had it. She quits her job after arguing with a client and leaves for NYC after catching her man having some aggressive cuddling in the swimming pool with another woman.

As she drives across our great nation, Dinah picks up Bobby Ray (Robert Carradine, Revenge of the Nerds) and his pregnant girlfriend Lola (Nancy Lee Noble, Honey Pot from She-Devils on Wheels). They end up robbing her for everything she’s got, so she walks to a bar and asks to use the phone. This being a 1970’s drive-in movie, the bartender (character actor Britt Leach, who was in the Jerry Lewis comeback movie Hardly Working that I endured as a child, as well as The Last Starfighter and Silent Night, Deadly Night) ends up assaulting her and then calls the cops when she defends herself. This isn’t the big city — the police believe the local, not her.

Dinah ends up in Jackson County jail — go figure, with a title like that — right next to Blake (Tommy Lee Jones), who awaiting extradition to Texas on a murder charge. Seeing as how Dinah has no ID, she has to wait until someone gets back to her from New York or Los Angeles. Deputy Hobie can’t even deal with her being in a cell for one night before he too attacks her, but she ends up killing him with a wooden stool and Blake helps her escape by stealing the keys. Sheriff Dempsey (Severn Darden, an original member of Second City and Kulp in the Planet of the Apes films) chases after them before running into a drunk driver in an accident that kills both of them.

Blake and Dinah go on the road, chased by the cops after being charged for Hobie’s death. She wants to turn herself in as she still believes in the law, even after everything. He lets her know that every small town cop is corrupt and that no one will believe that she acted in self-defense.

The police finally catch them during a parade in Fallsburg, gunning down Blake in the street, with him bleeding out all over the American flag. We’re left watching our heroine in the back of a cop car, going back to jail for what presumably is more hell on earth. And that’s it — were you expecting a happy ending from a 1970’s Roger Corman deep fried crime movie?

Jackson County Jail was written by Donald E. Stewart, who would go on to win an Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay for the movie Missing. He also wrote the films DeathsportThe Hunt for Red OctoberPatriot GamesClear and Present Danger and the TV movie Death of a Centerfold – The Dorothy Stratten Story.

Roger Corman would remake this movie in 1997 as Macon County Jail with Ally Sheedy and David Carradine as the leads and Charles Napier as the sheriff.

You can watch this for free on Tubi and Amazon Prime (with a subscription).