Record City is no High Fidelity,Empire Records, or even FM. Not even Trax in Pretty In Pink. Nope, Record City is a huge story filled with way too many people that all meander around with no story whatsoever, but if you’re interested in film as time capsule of an era, this is certainly one worth opening and looking inside.
DJ Gordon Kong (Rick Dees, the creator of “Disco Duck,” which along with “Dr. Disco” appear in Saturday Night Fever; Dees also wrote the theme for Meatballs, plus hosted Solid Gold and the late night show Into the Night Starring Rick Dees) has a fake gorilla arm and is hosting a talent show in the parking lot while we watch the records get sold inside.
This is an American-International Picture, believe it or not, but it comes at the end of a great run. Get ready for 1978’s best — or worst depending on your point of view — cast, replete with pop culture bit players, the kind we love most around here. There’s Jeff Altman, two years away from The Pink Lady and Jeff (the kind of culture clash that we really would write about if we covered television series, as an engineer. Altman’s in a ton of stuff that I love, like American Hot Wax and Easy Money, as well as some stuff I downright hate like Wacko and Highlander II: The Quickening. Familiar faces include Ed Begley Jr., Sorrell “Boss Hogg, but he’s also in Devil Times Five” Booke, Ruth Buzzi, Pittsburgh native Frank Gorshin, Ted “Isaac the Bartender” Lange, Gallagher, Harold “Oddjob” Sakata, Larry Storch, Tim Thomerson and Wendy Schall (who is in everything from Innerspace to Creature, Munchies, The ‘Burbs and Small Soldiers; you’ll also recognize her voice as Francine on American Dad).
But the film excels at presenting those on the fringes of relevance, even in 1978. Like Dean Martin’s dancing uncle Leonard Barr. Sylvia Anderson, who was in She Devils In Chains, Angels’ Brigade and Dawn: Portrait of a Teenage Runaway. John Halsey, who was Barry Wom in The Ruttles. PSA star Joe Higgins. Russell Howard, a skateboarder who also ends up in two Andy Sidaris movies, Hard Ticket to Hawaiiand Seven. Nadejda Dobrev from Ed Wood’s Orgy of the Dead. Alan Oppenheimer, the voice of Skeletor, Man-At-Arms, Beastman, Cringer, Inch High Private Eye, Vanity Smurf and more. Alice Ghostley (Bernice from Designing Women and Mrs. Murdock in Grease). Tony Giorgio, Satan in Night Train to Terror! March 1974 Playboy Playmate of the Month Pamela Zinszer. And weirdest of all, one-time leader “The Texas Jewboys,” writer Kinky Friedman.
I can’t stop you from checking this out for yourself. I can only tell that this is a total mess. But sometimes, those are the movies we love best, right?
You know how some idiot always ends up pulling the stake out of Dracula? This time, a moron does the same thing to Dracula’s dog Zoltan. Yes, an entire film about vampiric dogs — not to be confused with Devil Dog Hound of Hell — directed by Albert Band.
Veidt Smit (Reggie Nadler, who would go on to be Mr. Barlow in a much better vampire film, Salem’s Lot and Van Helsing in Dracula Sucks) was once the owner of the dog in the title, but Dracula (Michael Pataki!) turned man’s best friend against him.
Pataki also is the ancestor of Dracula, who Smit wants to carry on the family curse. So they start biting every dog — the family has four, which seems close to hording — including a really cute puppy that ends up surviving at the end — and looking like my much-missed long-eared pal Angelo, so this made me happy.
Star Trek fans will be overjoyed to see Arlene Martel (“Amok Time”) show up for a few minutes, as well as Jan Shutan (“Lights of Zetar”).
Let me tell you how dumb this movie is. We’re repeatedly told that Pataki is the last descendent of Dracula, but he has two kids. That’s how dumb it is.
I’ve been really looking forward to this film and it did not disappoint.
Maurizio Merli (Violent Rome) stars as Blade, a bounty hunter who favors a tomahawk as his weapon. After all, Mannaja means hatchet. I have no idea why they didn’t just call him that instead of Blade. Anyhow, our hero comes to the mining town of Suttonville with Burt Craven (Donald O’Brien) as his captive, but he just wants to kill mining boss Ed McGowan, who he blames for the death of his father.
However, when he meets the man, he’s in a wheelchair and “not worth it.” However, he will take the man’s money and decides to rescue the man’s daughter from Theo Voller (John Steiner), who is really working with her to take over the mine. They kill a prostitute who is in love with Blade right in front of him and bury him up to his neck in the desert, leaving pins in his eyes to force them open, blinding him. He’s rescued by Craven, even after he took that man’s hand. Now, that vengeance that Blade has always been looking for will finally be his.
This movie stands out — not just for its prog soundtrack (which sounds a lot like the music in Keoma) by Guido & Maurizio De Angelis (Oliver Onions!) — but for the foggy ending and the sheer weirdness of the proceedings. It doesn’t feel like any other Italian Western you’ve seen and credit is due to Martino.
Someday when we can travel, I want to drink at Saloon Brew in Brazil. They feature a different Italian Western star on every one of their bottles. A good cold Mannaja would be perfect right now.
Speaking of that theme song, let me share the lyrics with you: “You’re alone. A solitary man. And when the sun goes down, your memories back around with you and your heart is breaking down. This here was your father’s land. Nothing bad, you can’t pretend. You love justice and you love peace. When the time will come to kill, to destroy who loves to kill and your hand will stop the axe and your conscience will be satisfied. Yes. You’re a good man, no one will put you down. Your feel is right, down worry man. Keep going, you know the way. That’s the right way. Keep going. You’re alone. A solitary man.”
I loved every single second of this. If only all movies could make me this happy. Also, this has more fog than The Fog but less than Conquest, because no more can ever have that much fog.
Rock ‘n’ Roll Week at B&S About Movies was a smashing success . . . one that can’t be contained in just one Drive In Friday* featurette! So, for this week only, we’ve opened up the Drive In for a special Saturday edition for you old punk codgers n’ sods. You know who you are . . . you were in middle school or high school during the advent of the cable TV boom and a fan of the USA Network’s “Night Flight” Friday night video programming block, channel surfing HBO and, later on, haunting the shelves of your local video store . . . so you’ll remember seeing these four punkumentaries. It’s been years since I’ve watched these gems myself, so this’ll be a fun night for all.
Oi! Hey, ho! Let’s go! All Aboardfor Punk Night!
1. Punk In London (1977)
Director Wolfgang Büld bounced around the Germany film and TV industry since the early ’70s and made his English language debut with this German-produced documentary that accompanied the release of a coffee table book of the same name. The film features live performances — some of the footage and sound is of questionable quality — from some of the scene’s top bands, such as the Adverts, the Boomtown Rats, the Clash, the Lurkers, the Jam, Killjoys, the Sex Pistols, Sham 69, the Stranglers, and X-Ray Spex.
Büld followed up this document on the rise of punk rock with a sequel on “the fall” of punk rock, 1980’s Punk and Its Aftershocks, which featured the rise of the new, more commercial crop of ska, new wave, and mod bands that pushed out the punks, such as Madness, Secret Affair, Selector, and the Specials. As with any old VHS reissued to DVD, the reissues company had to tinker with the sequel and give it a new title (the lame “British Rock”) and edit out some footage from the original cut. Ugh!
The restored DVD digital rip of Punk in London currently streams on a variety of VOD platforms, but you can watch it for free on Flick Vaults’ You Tube channel. You can view a complete track listing of the bands and songs that appear in the film on Discogs.
Büld’s other punk documents include the hour-long 1980 TV document Women in Rock (leftovers not used in Punk In London), which centers on the German tours of British metalers Girlschool, along with Brit punkers the Slits, Siouxsie and the Banshees, and Nina Hagen (Cha Cha), along 1978’s with Reggae in Babylon centered on the career of English reggae pioneers Steel Pulse. Büld made his narrative, dramatic debut with the German language (dubbed into English) film debut of Nena (of “99 Luftballoons” fame) in Gib Gas – Ich will Spaß! (Hangin’ Out).
2. The Punk Rock Movie (1978)
And you thought the footage featured in Punk In London was rough . . . the grainy, shaky images and muddy sound of this debut film by British punk scenester and club DJ Don Letts makes Büld’s works look like award winners . . . but we thank Letts for gearing up that Super-8 camera to chronicle those 100 glorious days in 1977 when Neal Street’s fashionable disco The Roxy booked punk bands in the venue where Letts spun records.
The live acts and backstage interviews include Alternative TV, the Clash, Generation X (Billy Idol), Eater, Johnny Thunders and the Heartbreakers, the Sex Pistols, Siouxsie and the Banshees, Slaughter and the Dogs, the Slits, Subway Sect, and X-Ray Spex. So, regardless of its home movie quality, the film serves as a vital document of London’s then burgeoning punk rock scene.
Letts went onto form Big Audio Dynamite with Mick Jones (after his firing from the Clash) and directed a number of short-form music videos (the Clash’s “Rock the Casbah”) and long-form TV and DVD documentaries, such as 2005’s Punk: Attitude (Euro TV/U.S. DVD) and Westway to the World, his 2003 Grammy Award-winning documentary on the Clash.
The Punk Rock Movie is available on a few VOD streaming platforms, such as Amazon Prime (region dependent), but there’s a VHS rip available on You Tube. You can review the film’s full track listing on Discogs.
. . . And Back to the Show!
3. D.O.A (1980)
London-born Polish documentarian Lech Kowalski’s feature film debut (he made a few shorts and TV films) centers around the 16-mm footage he shot during the Sex Pistols’ 1978 seven-city club ‘n’ bars tour of the United States — their only U.S tour — that ended with the band’s demise. The behind-the-scenes interview footage features the now infamous “John and Yoko” bed-inspired interview of Sid Vicious and Nancy Spungen (You Tube). To fill out the short running time, Kowalski cut in performances and interviews with Iggy Pop, along with the Clash, the Dead Boys, Generation X, the Rich Kids (featuring ex-Pistols bassist Glen Matlock), Sham 69, and X-Ray Spex.
Lech’s other rock documents are 2002’s Hey! Is Dee Dee Home, about the life and times of Ramones bassist Dee Dee Ramone (1952-2002), and 1999’s Born to Loose: The Last Rock ‘n Roll Movie, concerned with the life and career of Johnny Thunders (1952-1991) of the New York Dolls and the Heartbreakers (the second, at one time featured, Richard Hell from Blank Generation). Meanwhile, footage from D.O.A appeared in Julien Temple’s 2000 Sex Pistols document The Filth and the Fury (which I went to see in a U.S art house theatre setting).
This one’s not streaming as VOD, but we found two VHS rips on You Tube HERE and HERE to enjoy. You can view the full track listing of the film on Discogs.
4. Urgh! A Music War (1981)
. . . And we saved the best-produced documentary for last: this one dispenses with the backstage tomfoolery and goes right to the stage with professionally-shot footage compiled from a variety of 1980-era shows held in England, France, and the United States. And there’s a couple of reasons why the Police spearhead Urgh! A Music War: Not only were they the most commercially radio-successful “new wave” band of the groups featured; Derek Burbidge, the director, helmed several videos (the famous “Roxanne”) for the Police (he also did Gary Numan’s “Cars”), while Miles Copeland, the brother of the Police’s drummer, Stewart Copeland, managed the Police and operated IRS Records, which produced the film. The film briefly appeared in U.S. theatres via Filmways Pictures (seen it in an art house theatre, natch), but gained its cult status due to its frequent airings on HBO and the USA Network’s “Night Flight” video block.
Beginning in 2009, Warner Archive (the successor-in-interest to Lorimar Pictures, who co-produced with IRS) released an official DVD-R of the movie — burned on a made-to-order basis. As result, this one’s not available as a cable PPV or VOD online stream and the freebie You Tube and Vimeo rips don’t last long. However, searching “Urgh! A Music War” on You Tube populates numerous concert clips from the film. The bands you know in those clips are the mainstream MTV video bands the Police, Devo, Echo & the Bunnymen, the Go-Go’s, Joan Jett, Gary Numan, Oingo Boingo, Wall of Voodoo, X, and XTC. The lesser known bands featured — that some know and most don’t — include L.A.’s the Alley Cats, the Dead Kennedys (Terminal City Ricochet), Magazine (off-shoot of the Buzzcocks), the Fleshtones (Peter Zaremba hosted IRS: The Cutting Edge for MTV), Orchestral Maneuvers in the Dark, 999, Pere Ubu, the Surf Punks, and Toyah Wilcox (Breaking Glass).
You can view the film’s full track listing on Discogs while you listen to the soundtrack in its entirety on You Tube: Side A/B and Side C/D.
All images of the ’80s original issue VHS covers — the cover arts I remember when I rented them — are courtesy of Discogs.
George Armitage wrote Gas-s-s-s, Private Duty Nurses, Night Call Nurses and Vigilante Force before scoring mainstream success with Miami Blues and Grosse Point Blank. He told Film Comment, “I wrote Darktown Strutters in three days, and the script form is all one sentence, the entire script is one sentence.”
While he had wanted to direct this, William Witney ended up making it. Witney was a Hollywood vet, starting all the way back at Republic where he worked n movie serials. He worked a lot with Roy Rogers and at the end of his career, made a few movies with Gene Corman, including I Escaped from Devil’s Island and this movie.
This is less a narrative film and more collection of hijinks as a gang of black bikers interacts with the police, all until Syreena starts to search for her missing mother, Cinderella. Turns out an evil barbecue chain — with an owner in full Klan regalia — has her.
Trina Parks from Beyond the Valley of the Dolls and Diamonds Are Forever is Syreena, backed up by a cast featuring former Ikette Edna Richardson, Roger E. Mosley (TC from Magnum, P.I.), Stan Shaw (Detective Sapir from The Monster Squad), Alvin Childress (Amos of the Amos ‘n Andy TV show), Zara Cully (Mother Jefferson!) and, this being a Corman family film, Dick Miller.
Get ready for a fairy tale mixed with blaxploitation, basically, with plenty of great tunes from The Dramatics as well as John Gary Williams and The Newcomers.
And remember: “Any similarity between this true life adventure and the story Cinderella … is bullshit.”
“Hey, just wait a minute there, you smug and pretentious, know-it-all pseudo-film critic . . . what’s this disaster-suspense drama doing in the middle of a “Rock ‘n’ Roll Week” of reviews? This is just a knockoff of Dirty Harry crossed with Earthquake, and instead of Clint Eastwood’s police inspector, we get an amusement park safety inspector. And while George Segal is pretty cool in the role, he’s no Dirty Harry Callahan.”
“Well, don’t forget that George is teamed with Richard Widmark as FBI Agent Hoyt.”
“Uh, no. Sorry. Still not Dirty Harry Callahan.”
“Well, do the factoids that Rollercoaster not only has a rock ‘n’ roll connection, but a connection to Pittsburgh and Star Trek as well, Mr. Critic of critics?”
“No, not really. But you’re going to ramble about it anyway. I’m going to go take a piss. Later, dude.”
Critics of critics. God, how we love ’em at B&S About Movies. . . .
So, the connection to Star Trek comes courtesy of director James Gladstone, who directed the classic September 1966 episode, “Where No Man Has Gone Before,” you know, third episode of the first season that served as the second series pilot when the first pilot, “The Cage” (starring Jeffrey Hunter as Kirk), failed . . . you know Gladstone’s episode: Gary Lockwood (2001: A Space Odyssey, Earth II) and Sally Kellerman (the original “Hot Lips Hoolihan” in the theatrical version of M.A.S.H) obtained psychic powers after the Enterprise crossed The Great Barrier. And, as we learned, courtesy of B&S’s Chief Cook and Bottle Washer, Sam, in his review of 1974’s Cry Panic, James Gladstone directed that John Forsythe-starring TV movie written by Jack B. Sowards who, in turn, came up with one of the greatest tales of Federation folklore: the Kobayashi Maru, a no-win scenario for new Starfleet captains that was first brought up in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan.
Gladstone also directed the ’70s duplex favorite, When Time Ran Out (1980), an Irwin Allen-produced disaster-suspense boondoggle about an island volcano. That film reteamed Paul Newman and William Holden from the disaster bonanza The Towering Inferno and Ernest Borgnine and Red Buttons from the water epic The Poseidon Adventure. And Gladstone, along with producer Jennings Lang (Airport ’75, Earthquake, Airport ’77, The Concorde : Airport ’79, as well as Play Misty for Me, Slaugtherhouse Five and The Nude Bomb!!), previously worked together on Swashbuckler (1976), Universal’s forgotten “pirate comedy” flop starring Robert Shaw from Jaws.
The plot of Rollercoaster was described by Gladstone as more of a Hitchcockian cat and mouse story than as the disaster movie it was marketed; Segal concurred: he saw it as a well-structured, Hitchcock-styled action-adventure, combined with Universal’s (“Sensurrond”) technology. And Rollercoaster was, in fact, the fourth film in the studio’s “Sensurrond” oeuvre: the aforementioned Earthquake, the WWII epic Midway (1976), and the theatrical version of Battlestar Galactica (1978).
The film stars Timothy Bottoms (Up From the Depths! Thank you, Charles B. Griffith for that duplex classic!) as a mad bomber blowing up the nation’s rollercoasters to extort a million dollars from a Chicago-based amusement amalgamate. Now, if you’re keeping track, that is pretty much the plot of Dirty Harry — only with the mad bomber replaced with an assassin, and Georgy-boy not slingin’ a .357 and quipin’ one-liners. And if it all sounds like Speed, with Dennis Hooper’s “mad bomber” blowing up a bus-for-bucks (which is just Die Hard on a bus), then it probably is.
“Hey, man. I’m back from my piss. And one hell of a loaf-pinch. You’re still rambling? Did you get to the rock ‘n’ roll part, yet? Time’s a-wastin’. I need to go do my yard work.”
Ugh. Critics of critics, again I say. . . .
Anyway, as for the Pittsburgh connection: Mine and Sam’s beloved Kennywood Park out in West Mifflin in Allegheny County was originally set as the location for the film’s opening “crash” segment. When the park got cold feet at the last minute, producer Jennings Lang reset the scene for “Wonder World” at Kings Dominion outside of Richmond, Virginia. (This extended interview, seen below, with King’s Park Manager, Dennis Speigel, who also starred in the film, tells it all.)
And now for the rock ‘n’ roll part . . . finally!
So, do you remember during your MTV youth, the quirky “Cool Places” that featured the annoying and least-attractive member (well, opinions vary) of the then hot the Go-Go’s, Jan Wiedlin? Well, you might recall that wasn’t a Jan Wiedlin solo tune: it was the lone U.S. Top 50 radio hit by Sparks, which was featured on their twelfth studio album, In Outer Space (1983), issued by Atlantic Records.
Anyway, Spark’s previous label, Columbia (the band burnt through six deals over the years), decided a great way to promote their new signee was by casting them in movie and feature the planned singles of “Fill ‘Er Up” and “Big Boy” from their mutual debut, Big Beat (1976; produced by Rupert Holmes . . . yes, the “Escape (The Piña Colada Song)” dude). Sadly, the genius of the Columbia promotions department didn’t work: after one more flop album, 1977’s Introducing Sparks, the label dropped the band.
Okay, so this is where Sam just says, “F it,” and lets me free range across The Point, gushing in gaiety over the quirky, they’ll-never-be-The Cars-no-matter-how-much-the-label-wishes-it-so Sparks. But I say “bollocks” to the industry: I love Sparks!
It all began for the Los Angeles Mael brothers with their ahead-of-its-time new wave precursor, Halfnelson (“half nelson,” get it?). The band featured the likes of Earle Mankey (later of the Pop and 20/20), his brother, Jim (later of the alt-rock chart-topping Concrete Blonde), along with Leslie Bohem and David Kendrick of L.A.’s Bates Motel. With fellow Bates Motel/Sparks’ members Jim Goodwin and Bob Haag, the quartet became the Gleaming Spires. Their new wave hit, championed by Rodney Bingenheimer (The Mayor of Sunset Strip), “Are You Ready for the Sex, Girls,” appeared on the soundtracks to The Last American Virgin and Revenge of the Nerds.
Halfnelson signed with Bearsville (home to Foghat, Todd Rundgren’s Utopia, R.E.M clones the dB’s, and NRBQ), with Rundgren producing. After one belly flop of an album, the label wanted a name change (their moniker was “dumb and confusing” per the label) and reissued the album. Three ignored albums later, Sparks were signed by “fan” Muff Winwood (Steve Winwood of Traffic and Blind Faith’s brother) to Island. So off to England Sparks went, to ride that country’s then hot “glam” wave, where they fit right in with the likes of David Bowie (his long time producer, Tony Visconti, produced them), T.Rex, Mud (Never Too Young to Rock), and Slade (Slade In Flame).
Then, when glam became passe in the U.K. under the rise of punk rock and the Maels didn’t fit in with that Sex Pistols-inspired scene, they returned to the U.S., where hard rock was on the rise in a post-Van Halen world. And Columbia’s brain trust had Sparks make a “big rock move” for two more albums. And that “move” led to Sparks’ appearance in Rollercoaster — a role that the Brothers Mael described in a September 2006 Mojo interview as “the biggest regret” in the career of Sparks.
Regret? I went screaming from the duplex to find used Sparks albums at the local used record store. Hey, at least Columbia converted one person into a “Sparkhead” via the film.
And how is this not on TubiTV, considering it’s been re-released on Blu by Shout Factory, who has their own Tubi channel? No online stream, either? Not even on Amazon Prime? What the hell! Well, we found this — as a commenter dubbed it — “Glaucomavision” copy (you’ll get the joke when you open the link) on You Tube, for those of you that have never experienced the wonder of the members of Sparks fleeing the shrapnel of a rollercoaster.
About the Author: You can learn more about the writings of R.D Francis on Facebook. He also writes for B&S About Movies.
This was Bob Shaye’s — and New Line Cinema’s — first full-length production after a decade as a pure distribution company. Director Mark Lester would tell The Pink Smoke, “They were distributing Truck Stop Women to college campuses and they already had a script, so I was hired to direct it. We hired Robert Forster because he had done Medium Cool. Don Stroud was supposed to star in it but he got into a motorcycle accident the night before shooting.”
The film starts with the death of one of Greg Wilson, one of its stuntmen, who was set up. His brother Glen (Forster) arrives on the set, along with B.J. Parswell (Fiona Lewis!), a reporter who wants to write about the danger of the stunt game. The minute Glen gets there he gets hit on by the producer’s wife (Candice Rialson, in one of her last roles; she’s also great in pretty much everything she ever did, like Chatterbox, Hollywood Boulevard and Moonshine County Express).
Glen joins the stunt team of the film, who all promise one another that if anyone gets hurt, they’ll always pull the plug for one another, predating Dr. Kevorkian by several years. Screw the law. We’re stuntmen!
One of the people that have to get the plug pulled on them is Chuck, played by Bruce Glover, always a welcome sight. He’s married to Joanna Cassidy, who is — again, you’re going to get this a lot with this cast — astounding in everything I’ve ever seen her in. In this one, more than aardvarking with Crispin’s dad in a waterbed in the back of a custom van, she’s punching the faces of an entire bar of rednecks.
The death keeps coming, as Paul (Ray Sharkey? This is like a B&S About Movies dream cast and it gets even better) gets trapped in a burning building. That means that our hero has to finish the film, figure out who the killer is and get some revenge.
Former pro wrestler Hard Boiled Haggerty shows up, as does Richard Lynch. And you know how I feel about Mr. Lynch and the fact that he can make any movie better just by walking on set. Suffice to say he does way more than saunter on here.
This is why we’re doing an entire week of Mark Lester’s films. He knows how to get a story told, gather the right people to help tell it and get out of the way. He’s never let me down yet.
If you’ve spent any amount of time at B&S About Movies, you’re sick of our waxing nostalgic for USA Network’s “Night Flight” weekend, four-hour programming block that ran on Friday and Saturday nights . . . it’s what got us through middle school and high school, and even college, from 1981 to 1988. But what more can we say about the visual-arts magazine and variety program that hasn’t already been said? Just drop “USA Night Flight” into Google or You Tube or Letterbox’d and you’ll have a good night’s nostalgic reading n’ watch.
The great news is that “Night Flight” is back as an online subscription service, Night Flight Plus, and as an entertainment news and information site at Night Flight.com. The greatest aspect of the new online version of “Night Flight” is their programming of a whole new batch of quirky, underground programming — such as I’m Now: The Story of Mudhoney, American Hardcore, and L7: Pretend We’re Dead — in addition to streaming all of the ’80s classics we know and love: such as the films on tonight’s Drive-In roster:Ladies and Gentlemen, the Fabulous Stains, Liquid Sky, The Brain, and Kentucky Fried Movie.
So strap on the popcorn bucket and lite up that cathode ray tube. Let’s rock!
Sam, the chief cook and bottlewasher at B&S About Movies (I just clean the grease pits, scub the grills, and mop up around here the best I can), loves this movie (as do I). And we’re both gobsmacked as to how acclaimed screenwriter Nancy Dowd made her debut with, of all things, the raunchy Paul Newman-starring sports comedy Slap Shot, moved onto the Oscar-winning war drama Coming Home and the acclaimed Straight Time with Dustin Hoffman, then one of the best football flicks of all time, North Dallas Forty, and then a second Oscar winner with family drama, Ordinary People, only to end up with a movie that was only seen by a mass audience courtesy of USA’s “Night Flight” overnight-weekend hodgepodge sandwiched between rock videos and film shorts.
Well, it’s because Nancy Dowd met music impresario Lou Adler. And we met her “Rob Morton” nom de plume as result. And her rock-centric statement on female empowerment — that could have ranked alongside Times Sqaure as the greatest female empowerment rock flick of all time — became, as we look back on the film all these years later, as a slightly creepy titillation fest. Could you imagine Tim Curry’s DJ Johnny LaGuardia leering endlessly at Pammy and Nicky with the same camera-lingering “male gaze” as on Corrine, Jessica, and Tracy?
True, Adler had the rock-centric Cheech and Chong’s Up In Smoke under his director’s belt, and it was a huge hit for a first-time director. But that feature film debut for the stoner comedy-duo was not so much a narrative-movie, but a series of dope-inspired skits masquerading as a movie (as is the case with our fourth flick on tonight’s program). And sure, Adler produced The Rocky Horror Picture Show, and it was a huge midnight movie. But it was also huge a box office boondoggle during its initial release. In the end, as with the equally successful film composer and arranger Richard Baskin (Nashville, Welcome to L.A., Honeysuckle Rose) taking his first step behind the camera with the disaster that was 1983’s Rock ‘N’ Roll Hotel, Alder probably should have stuck to his forte as a record producer and music svengali and shouldn’t have been directing a movie in the first place.
In then end, while our big brothers and sisters were out hitting the rock clubs and going to concerts, we, the wee-lads haunting the middle school halls and shopping malls, fell in love with Diane Lane courtesy of Nancy Dowd’s well-intentioned rock flick airing on the USA Network. It’s what geeky, socially maladjusted kids did back then. And besides: where else can you get a punk-supergroup comprised of Paul Simonon from the Clash on bass and the Sex Pistols’ Steve Jones and Paul Cook on guitar and drums (and journeyman Brit-actor Ray Winstone from the Who’s Quadrophenia) as The Looters?
Factoid: The Looters were actually . . . the Professionals, Jones and Cook’s first post-Sex Pistols band (rounded out by guitarist Ray McVeigh and bassist Paul Myers). You can listen to their one and only album, 1981’s I Didn’t See It Coming released on Virgin Records, on You Tube. “Join the Professionals” from the film eventually ended up on the 2001 CD reissue. The Professionals, sans Jones, is back in business since 2017 and you can visit them on Facebook.
It goes without saying that we, the wee-lads spending our Friday and Saturday nights by a cathode ray tube’s glow, watched an edited version (as with the Mike Ness and Social Distortion-starring Another State of Mind) of this . . . well, as Sam pointed out in his review . . . we’re not really sure.
It’s a dizzying kaleidoscope of colors, music, and fashion about New York’s City’s night-life denizens falling victim to endorphin-addicted aliens extracting the “Liquid Sky” chemical from human brains during sexual orgasms — and when the human’s die happy, the aliens suck up all of that energy as well. And to what end, who knows? And who cares: it was on Variety’s top-grossing film chart for over half a year.
Star Anne Carlisle, who played both male and female roles in the film, also starred in Susan Sidelman’s (Smithereens) Desperately Seeking Susan and appeared as the transvestite Gwendoline in Crocodile Dundee (You Tube). Oh, you’ll remember that “Sheila.”
The snack bar will be open in five minutes. . . and we don’t pee in the popcorn (you’ll get the “joke,” soon)!
INTERMISSION: The shorts Hardware Wars (1977) and Recorded Live (1975)
Ah . . . more sinfully-quenching brain fluids courtesy of “Night Flight.”
What more can we say about this Canuxploitation shocker from writer-director Ed Hunt? If he can’t go “all in,” he just doesn’t make a movie at all: you never get run-of-the-mill storytelling with Eddie-boy. And to that not-run-of-the-mill end: you’ll root for the evil alien (we think it’s “alien”) Brain and not the dick-whiny high school hero and his screechy girlfriend. That’ll never happen in a mainstream movie and that’s what made The Brain perfect, gooey fodder for us, the wee-tween denizens of the “Night Flight” hoards.
What’s it all about? Hallucinations of inward-pressing walls, come-live teddy bears bleeding from the eyes, demon hands tearing through walls, and monster tentacles punching out of TV sets. It’s about mind control of the Don Coscarelli’s Phantasmand David Cronenberg’s Videodrome variety. It’s about Dr. Carl Hill from Re-Animator as a self-help guru of wayward teens. It’s about a giant-brain-with-teeth that munches on nosey lab assistants, it’s . . . oh, just watch it!!
“The popcorn you’ve just been eating has been pissed in. Film at 11.”
And with that “classic” line, disconnect your brain and just roll with the childish insanity of John Landis, Jerry and David Zucker, and Jim Abrahams — before they unleashed the likes of National Lampoon’s Animal House, The Blues Brothers, Airplane!, and The Naked Gun upon us, the wee triplex hoards (with our older ‘rents or brothers and sisters in support). This quartet of box office-bonanza writer-directors had to start somewhere . . . and Kentucky Fried Movie is it . . . and we love them for this beautiful mess of a “movie” that we watched on USA’s “Night Flight” and taped-from-cable via HBO.
Back in the day, the ‘rents let us watch Don Kirshner’s Rock Concert and NBC-TV’s The Midnight Special. But under no circumstances were we allowed to watch Saturday Night Live. It was “inappropriate” for us. It was “for the adults.” But thanks to HBO and USA, this “film” comprised of non-narrative sketches and parodies of popular films and TV commercials got by our parental guidance sensors.
This cleaned up at the Drive-Ins during its initial release, and yes, that was a night where you were stuck with a babysitter, as mom and dad went for a “night out” — without you. As I watch this all these years later — as with Midnight Cowboy with Dustin Hoffman, Shampoo with Warren Beatty, and Patty Duke in Valley of the Dolls — I fail to see what all the fuss was about.
Yeah, Kentucky Fried Movie is all about “the times” and a case of “you had to be there.” And to that end: if you’re watching this for the first time in 2020, you’ll either love it for its nostalgia, or dismissed it — the same way we then kids dismissed our elder’s variety TV series from the 1940’s and 1950’s — as “dorky.”
Be sure to join us for “Rock ‘n’ Roll Week” coming Sunday, June 19 and running until Saturday, June 25, as we’ll be reviewing a few more of the films we enjoyed as part of The USA Network’s “Night Flight” weekend programming block.
Do you want to write a “Drive-In Friday” featurette for the site? Hit us up on our Feedback form. We’d love to hear what movies you’d feature.
About the Author: You can learn more about the writings of R.D Francis on Facebook. He also writes for B&S About Movies.
EDITOR’S NOTE: This originally ran as part of our Bastard Sons of Jaws week on December 22, 2018. Seeing as how it is a Mexican shark film, how could we not bring it back for leftovers?
When I was a kid in the 1970’s, I was sitting in a B. Dalton’s reading — parents routinely dropped kids off places to read without any fear of kidnapping back then — and discovered a copy of Alex Comfort’s The Joy of Sex on a shelf. I had no idea what it was at the time, but the drawings (by Chris Foss, who would go on to work on Alien, Flash Gordon and Jodorowsky’s Dune) were upsetting to me. Hairy soft focused seventies post-hippies getting it on didn’t jibe well with my single digit mind.
I forgot what that feeling was like. And then I watched Tintorera…Tiger Shark.
This movie is based on the novel of the same name by oceanographer Ramón Bravo, an undersea explorer who studied the 19-foot-long species of shark known as “tintorera” and also discovered the sleeping sharks of Isla Mujeres. You may know him better for his role as the underwater zombie in Lucio Fulci’s Zombi 2.
Here’s the thing — this is a shark movie, but it’s also pretty much a softcore adult movie about the three-way relationship between the heroes. As such, this is the only shark movie I’ve watched all week with full frontal male nudity, which is something of an accomplishment.
Hugo Stiglitz from Nightmare City plays Steven, born in the US but a Mexican businessman here in Cancun for vacation. He falls for Patricia (Fiona Lewis, Dr. Phibes Rises Again) but breaks up with her when he can’t decide whether or not he’s in love with her. Ah, the 1970’s.
Jealousy ensues when she starts hooking up with Miguel (Andrés García, a real-life former diving instructor who is also in Bermuda: Cave of the Sharks), the swimming instructor at the resort. After those two dance the devil’s dance and Steven gets all misty-eyed, she goes skinny dipping and ends up being eaten by a tiger shark that seems to have breathing problems, judging by the soundtrack.
The two fight over what happened to Patricia, but neither ever learn that she was devoured by a shark. That night, the two hook up with Kelly and Cynthia Madison, two American college students looking for fun, and swim to Steven’s yacht as the heavy breathing shark follows them. They swap beds all night long before heading back to the resort and the shark decides to leave them alone. Kelly is played by Jennifer Ashley, who was also in Phantom of the Paradise, Chained Heatand Guyana: Cult of the Damned, while Cynthia is Laura Lyons, which is her real name and not a stage name inspired by the Sherlock Holmes story The Hound of the Baskervilles. She was the Playboy Playmate of the Month for February 1976 and actually led a strike amongst the club bunnies that led to better wages and rights for them. Other than an appearance on TV’s Love, American Style, this is the only other acting role in her career.
Steven and Miguel decide to partner up both in a shark hunting business and in being womanizers. They start shooting all manner of sharks, but Miguel warns Steven that if they ever meet a tiger shark that they must immediately get out of the water.
The guys meet Gabriella (Susan George, Die Screaming, Marianne) and take her shark hunting. She hates it, but falls for both men. They decide to form a triad relationship where they can’t be with any other woman or fall in love with her. Remember those The Joy of Sex drawings I mentioned earlier? Get ready to watch them play out as the three make love, make omelets and sightsee the Mayan ruins.
Sadly, the next time they go shark hunting, the tiger shark reappears — surprise! — and bites Miguel in half. Gabriella is so upset that she leaves, never to return. Steven vows revenge on the shark and beats up every shark he can find, upsetting even the most hardened fishermen. Surely, they tell him, he has killed the tiger shark by now.
Nope. It’s still out there, killing fishermen and lying in wait for Steven. At a beach party with Kelly, Cynthia and two new American girls (one of them is Priscilla Barnes from TV’s Three’s Company and The Devil’s Rejects), everyone skinny dips. As Steven and Cynthia make out nude in the water, the tiger shark comes back and tears the woman literally out of his embrace. Everyone is injured by the shark’s attack and Steven makes a promise to kill the shark himself.
You may be wondering: how will Steven go about killing this shark? If you guessed “he’s going to blow it up” then congratulations. You’ve been watching just as many shark movies as I have. Are explosives the shark’s natural predator?
Anyhow — Steven uses a devilfish to lure the shark close and then he hears its breathing, because that’s how sharks work. He succeeds in turning that shark into a million pieces, but loses his arm in the process. He wakes up in a hospital bed, minus an arm but filled with happy memories of the sexy times he shared with Miguel and Gabriella.
Keep in mind when you seek out this film that there are two versions. One is 85 minutes long and is more of a shark film. Then there’s the 126 minutes long cut that’s chock full of swinging Mexican resort sex. Also, a warning for those of you sensitive to these matters: many of the scenes of fish being caught and killed underwater are unsimulated. That should be no surprise to anyone who has seen a René Cardona Jr. directed film, as he threw live birds through windows in Beaks: The Movie and a cat over a wall in Night of a Thousand Cats. He’s also responsible for the borderline insane film Bermuda Triangle, as well as the scum-ridden cash-in Guyana: Crime of the Century.
Tintorera…Tiger Shark is one of the stranger films I’ve watched, not only in my shark obsessed week of trying to watch every single pre-Sharknado film of this genre, but really in all the films I’ve watched. I have no idea who it is truly for, yet appreciate its willingness to indulge in spectacle and scum, whether that be people hooking up or being eaten in front of your very eyes.
AUTHOR’S NOTE: This originally ran on October 26, 2017. If we’re discussing Mexican horror, we need to talk about this movie.
A 1977 nunspolitation/vampire/Mexican horror/Exorcist inspired film about two girls who become possessed by Satan.
The source of many My Life with the Thrill Kill Kult samples, specifically the song “And This Is What the Devil Does.”
A movie filled with so much screaming, it upset my dog.
All of the above and so much more.
Juan López Moctezuma, the director of the film, was close with Alejandro Jodorowsky (some claim he was behind the camera for El Topo). So you should expect something much stranger than your average horror film.
In a Mexican convent and orphanage, a new girl named Justine arrives. She becomes close with another orphan named Alucarda, who was born in a mysterious barn and may be evil before this film even starts. In fact, she often appears in the film out of the shadows, filled with menace and questioning everyone’s faith.
While the two girls — whose relationship is nearly sexual — play in the forest, they discover a band of gypsies and the barn where Alucarda was born. Then, of course, they open a casket and unleash Satan, who possesses them. They take part in an orgy where the literal goat-headed one himself shows up, which is only stopped when Sister Angélica prays for Jesus to intervene. The witch conducting the ritual is struck down in bloody fashion.
A title card comes up telling us that this is the end of part one. I stood up and cheered. I was home alone.
Justine and Alucarda start questioning every mass and even praise Satan out loud, questioning the faith of every member of the convent. Father Lazardo demands an exorcism, one that costs Justine her life. Alucarda is saved at the last moment by Dr. Oszek (Claudio Brook, who also appeared in Del Toro’s Cronos and who also plays the hunchback who leads the women into the forest). Now, Alucarda has a new love interest, the Doctor’s daughter Daniela.
Alucarda isn’t done. She must have her revenge. She possesses a nun and sets her on fire. Father Lazardo beheads her and the entire monastery must self-flagellate to prepare themselves to fight Satan.
Justine’s body is gone — it’s in the barn where Alucarda was born. When they open it, it’s filled with blood and she emerges, now a vampire. While Alucarda kills everyone else. Sister Angélica attempts to save Justine. The doctor tries little spurts of Holy Water but it’s not enough. He barely escapes with his life, while the sister pays the ultimate price. Only Angélica’s dead body can stop Alucarda, who screams and disappears.
You know how I get evangelical about movies? Well, Alucarda is one of them. From the sets to the clothes to the acting to sound design to the just plain weirdness of it all, there’s never been a movie quite this weird. And with the movies I’ve seen, that’s an achievement.