Satan’s Cheerleaders (1977)

Why did it take this long to get this movie on this site?

Ms. Johnson (Jacqueline Cole, director Grayden Clark’s wife) has perhaps the smallest cheer squad ever. Just four girls — Debbie (Alisa Powell, The Toolbox Murders), Sharon (Sherry Marks), Patti (Kerry Sherman, Eyes of Fireand Chris (Hillary Horan, Young Doctors In Love) — who are more interested in playing touch football and getting scored on by the football team than doing their routines. 

After their car breaks down on the way to their big game, Billy the janitor and bus driver (Jack Kruschen, The Apartment) rescues them. And by rescue, I mean sacrificing them on an altar to Satan. They’re saved again by a hobo (John Carradine), the sheriff (John Ireland) and his wife (Yvonne De Carlo) and you know what I always say: never trust Old Hollywood.

Shot in ten days with no permits, Satan’s Cheerleaders is mindless fun with an entire town devoted to the Lord of the Flies and a cheerleader with a secret of her own.

KINO LORBER BLU RAY RELEASE: Yeti Giant of the 20th Century (1977)

EDITOR’S NOTE: This originally was posted on the site on March 31, 2021 but now the Code Red blu ray has been re-released by Kino Lorber. This release has been remastered in HD from the original Italian 35mm camera negative. It’s a must buy.

Somewhere deep in the middle of the Canadian mountains, Professor Wassermann (played by John Stacy and voiced by Gregory Snegoff, who was Scott Bernard on Robotech and Golgo 13 in the translated American version of his cartoon) is looking for a giant iceberg that has a yeti (Mimmo Crao, the only actor that I know that is in a Jesus movie — Jesus of Nazareth — and an Edwige Fenech sex comedy — Sex With a Smile — and this monster movie).

Morgan Hunnicut (Eddie Faye, who is really Edoardo Faieta from Plot of Fear, and also voiced by Snegoff) owns a multination oil company that funds the expedition to study him but he really wants the yeti to exploit. He’s also brought along his orphaned grandchildren for some reason — what, a Fortune Six company doesn’t have daycare for their CEOs? — named Jane (Phoenix Grant*, AKA Antonella Interlenghi, Emily from City of the Living Dead) and Herbie (Jim Sullivan), who had been mute since the death of his parents and only communicates with his dog Indio.

There’s an astounding scene where the Yeti is fitted into what is basically a giant telephone booth and airlifted by helicopter to a height of 10,000 feet because the air up there is what he’s used to and it’ll be easier to thaw him out up there. This is bonkers Italian cinema science at its finest, dear reader.

The paparazzi wants to see more of the yeti and surrounds everyone, freaking him out as if he were in a Dino De Laurentiis movie from 1976 and sending him running with Jane, Emily and Indio in his hand. He gets so excited by Jane rubbing against his paw  — and I’m not making this up — that he gets erect nipples. Later, as he combs her hair with a giant fishbone — again, not making anything up — they are found by the professor who claims that she has been adopted as his wife and Herbie as his son. Cliff Chandler (Tony Kendall**, AKA Luciano Stella, AKA Kommisar X!) is one of the company men who comes to their rescue and he comments that she’ll have to put out soon for the ape man.

Speaking of putting out, the Yeti has been marked much like Kong was in the wake of Dino’s remake. You can find Yeti shirts that say “Kiss Me Yeti” — a phrase that makes no sense — and a disco song and a commercial for the gas stations that ask you to put a Yeti instead of a tiger in your tank.

Then things get bad when the new leader of Hunnicut turns out to be the evil Cliff. He decides to kill anyone connected with the big lug.

How bad do things get?

The kind of bad where autistic children are threatened, Yetis break free over the Niagra Falls, where old kindly professors are killed by Aldo Canti, who was once Angel the acrobat from Return of Sabata and even cute dogs get stabbed.

Somehow, however, Indoo shrugs off this 1d4 slashing damage and survives to come running across the field like Wuthering Heights at the end as the Yeti goes back home to the frozen Canadian tundra, leaving behind nothing but death, destruction and flipped over toy vehicles with dead industrialists trapped inside.

Oh yeah and Dr. Butcher himself, Donald O’Brien, is in this!

A lot of folks hate on this movie and for really poor reasons. This is the very best kind of trash, a movie blessed with great poster art and the worst in special effects. These people are morons that don’t understand the wonder of a film that has high budget dreams and bottom basement budget realities.

Writer Mario di Nardo also wrote another astonishing film, the revenge picture by way of slasher grossout Ricco AKA Cauldron of Death and one of the best giallo films ever, The Fifth Cord, as well as Five Dolls for an August Moon. He was joined by Marcello Coscia on the screenplay, who also wrote Mission Bloody MaryA Quiet Place to KillWhen Women Lost Their TailsThe Living Dead at the Manchester Morgue and Tex and the Lords of the Deep. There was some talent here, at least in the script.

Director Gianfranco Parolini went from writing peblum films to the scripts for all three Sabata movies and God’s Gun. His directing resume has some decent stuff on it as well, including several of the Kommisar X films, If You Meet Sartana…Pray for Your Death and The Fury of Hercules. He also produced this film. Again, he had a record of producing solid work, but I think they shot too high and paid the price.

And by paid the price, I mean made a movie that completely entertained me for its entire running time.

*According to Wikipedia, Jessica Harper (yes, from Suspiria) is the voice of Jane. This seems way too good to be true.

**Kendall and O’Brien are dubbed by Ted Rusoff, the son of screenwriter Lou Rusoff and nephew to B-movie titan Samuel Z. Arkoff. He relocated to Italy to dub movies — where he met and married Carolyn De Fonseca — and you can hear his voice in movies like Voyage Into Space, Deep Red and The Strange Vice of Mrs. Wardh.

Oedipus orca (1977)

La Orca told the story of Alice (Rena Niehaus, who also was in Angel: Black Angel and Damned In Venice so she had no issues with being in offensive films), who was taken against her will by three men, one of whom she fell in love with.

This is the sequel and wow, it’s…something. Alice sits around reading in the nude, which is intercut with slaughterhouse footage because Italian movies. Seriously, this movie looks Umberto Lenzi and Ruggero Deodato right in their eye stems and raises them to a level that made me skip lunch. Then, she decides to pursue an old lover of her mother’s — who is probably her father — while remembering the criminal who died because of her — and when they finally have sex, well — spoiler warning — he’s killed by a gigantic pane of slow motion glass in an ending I had to watch multiple times to make sure I actually saw it happening.

This film’s director was Eriprando Visconti di Modrone, Count of Vico Modrone, who upset his noble family by deciding to make movies. Often, he’d spend his own money and use unknowns, and he bombed as much as he was a success. But he made this, and it blew my mind multiple times because while not good, it sure is willing to show you some things that you definitely never needed to see.

La ragazza dal pigiama giallo (1977)

The Girl in the Yellow Pyjamas AKA The Pyjama Girl Case is more than just a giallo. It’s based on a true story, the 1934 Australian cold case that concerns the murder of Linda Agostini. Born Florence Linda Platt in a suburb of South East London, she left the UK behind for New Zealand after a broken romance, then went to Australia where she worked at a cinema and lived in a boardinghouse. Post-murder gossip claimed that she was a heavy drinker, a jazz baby and someone who entertained plenty of much younger men, which became an issue when she married the Italian expatriate Antonio Agostini. He moved her to Melbourne to try and get away from the bad influences that he felt existed in Sydney, but four years later she disappeared.

Her body was found inside a burning grain sack left behind on the beach. Her head was wrapped in a towel, her body was badly beaten and she had been shot in the neck. But what defined the case were her intricate silk pajamas, complete with a Chinese dragon design, a look that was not the type of clothing favored by your average Australian housewife.

Her body was kept in a formaldehyde bath for a decade and the public was invited to attempt to identify the body. In 1944, dental records proved that the girl in the yellow pajamas was Agostini. Meanwhile, her husband had been in an internment camp for four years during World War II due to his Italian heritage and sympathies toward the Axis. When he returned and was questioned by police commissioner William MacKay — a man he had once waited on — he immediately confessed to killing his wife.

There’s still some controversy over whether or not he actually confessed. There’s just as much as to who the pajama girl was. Regardless, her husband only served three years on manslaughter, as he claimed the shooting was an accident, and was extradited to Italy. Historian Richard Evans wrote The Pyjama Girl Mystery: A True Story of Murder, Obsession and Lies in 2004 and claims that police corruption meant that the case needed to be solved as quickly as possible, as the public sentiment had turned against the cops.

The giallo that is based on the case is really well made and has an intriguing split narrative. On one hand, we have the retired Inspector Thompson (Ray Milland) investigating the case and dealing with his own mortality. Meanwhile, we see Glenda Blythe (Dalila Di Lazzaro, Frankenstein 80, the monster’s bride in Andy Warhol’s Frankenstein, the headmistress in Phenomena, perhaps the other woman in Carlo Ponti and Sophia Loren’s marriage) struggle with the relationships in her life, including her husband Antonio Attolini, her lover Ray Conner (Howard Ross, The New York Ripper) and her mentor Professor Henry Douglas (Mel Ferrer). As the relationship with her husband starts to fall apart, she drifts into prostitution and in a harrowing scene, makes love to two men while one’s teenage nephew tries to not make eye contact with her.

Other than the Riz Ortolani score — Amanda Lear sings on two of them! — this isn’t a fashion-filled bit of fun. This is a dark and dreary journey through the end of a woman’s life and the elderly man devoted to finding out the answers to who and why, even if he knows that discovering that truth won’t change the fact that he’s closer to the end of his story than the beginning. At least he cares more than the modern police, who simply embalm her nude body, put it on display and allows people to stare at it.

I read the other day that giallo films were meant for the people outside of Rome, for provincial tastes that demanded a morality play. I’m not certain that’s entirely true, but this movie aspires to art and a heartbreaking moment as we reach the close and realize that the two stories are truly connected in the bleakest of ways.

The Amazing Spider-Man (1977)

I can tell you exactly where a five-year-old me was on the night of September 14, 1977.

Watching this movie on CBS.

I wasn’t alone, as it was the highest performing CBS production for the entire year and played as a theatrical movie in Europe, often in a double bill with Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger.

Directed by E. W. Swackhamer (Vampire) and written by Alvin Boretz, this TV movie has Nicholas Hammond as Peter Parker, who becomes Spider-Man when he’s bitten by a radioactive spider.

His first villain isn’t Doctor Octopus or the Green Goblin, but instead The Guru (Thayer David), who is mind-controlling people to rob banks and threatens to cause ten people to commit suicide unless he’s paid $50 million. The real drama happens when Peter becomes one of the people under the villain’s thrall.

It’s just sort of like the comic and not really filled with action, but it does have the wild stunt of Spider-Man climbing an actual building in New York City and swinging on a web, which wasn’t CGI back in 1977 and blew all of our minds.

Rogue Cops and Racketeers: Two Crime Thrillers: The Heroin Busters (1977)

Enzo G. Castellari directing the kind of action you demand from poliziotteschi.

Fabio Testi and David Hemmings as the tough undercover cop and driven agent against unstoppable crime.

Goblin fresh off Suspiria making this movie sound like nothing else.

The Heroin Busters is ready to own you..

Mike Hamilton (Hemmings) is an Interpol agent trying to keep heroin from taking over Italy from his office. And from the streets, Fabio (Testi) is his undercover agent, getting in deeper and deeper into the drug trade until his cover gets blown and the world of crime comes for him. Can Mike save him in time?

That’s also totally Testi flying the plane in this movie.

Years before John Woo gave us bullet romance violence, Castellari has Testi sliding down stairs, blowing people away while looking improbably, effortlessly cool. It takes some time to get the action at the end of this movie, but you know, we could all use a little patience, because the payoff, for once, is more than enough.

The Arrow Video limited edition of Rogue Cops and Racketeers: Two Crime Thrillers has this movie and The Big Racket. Both films have brand new 2K restorations from the original 35mm camera negatives by Arrow Films, with restored original lossless mono Italian and English soundtracks and newly translated English subtitles for the Italian soundtracks. Both movies also have new audio commentaries on both films by critics Adrian J. Smith and David Flint and the limited edition packaging has reversible sleeves featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Colin Murdoch, as well as an illustrated collector’s booklet featuring new writing on the films by Roberto Curti and Barry Forshaw. If that’s not enough, you also get twelve double-sided, postcard-sized lobby card reproduction artcards.

The Heroin Busters also has new video interviews with Castellari, Testi, Vanni, editor Gianfranco Amicucci, retired poliziotto and criminologist Nicola Longo (who consulted on the film); The Eardrum Busters, a new appreciation and career retrospective of composers Goblin by musician and disc collector Lovely Jon; the film’s trailer and an image gallery.

You can get Rogue Cops and Racketeers: Two Crime Thrillers from MVD and Diabolik DVD.

KINO LORBER BLU RAY RELEASE: Tentacles (1977)

EDITOR’S NOTE: You can check out my first take on this movie — posted December 20, 2018 — but I got so excited about watching it that I wrote something new.

Ovidio G. Assonitis just wants to entertain you. Starting in the 60s, when he brought Shaw Brothers movies to the west and started producing his own movies like The Labyrinth of SexWho Saw Her Die? and Man from Deep River, his films were lean, mean and audience pleasers, too. Supposedly, he tried to buy the rights to The Exorcist, which sounds kayfabe, because his Beyond the Door is literally the same movie.

So he already had some experience taking a blockbuster and making his own version. Therefore, when a great white shark took over the movie world, he made this one. He went so far to have Percy Rodrigues, who announced the trailers for all of the Jaws movies, read his sell copy.

Before we get to the movie, I really need to do a month of Assonitis produced and directed movies. Between this, the supposedly Emmanuelle Arsan-directed LaureThe VisitorMadhousePiranha II: The SpawningIron WarriorThe CurseCurse II: The BiteBeyond the Door IIIAmerican Ninja 4: The AnnihilationLambada and being the chairman of the newly relaunched Cannon Pictures Inc. after the departure of Menahem Golan and the restructuring of The Cannon Group.

Solana Beach is a seaside tourist resort dealing with undersea terror. And it’s not a shark. No, the title spoils it by revealing that a giant octopus in in town.

Science fact: According to America’s Oceans, “Giant Pacific Octopuses are creatures of high intelligence and high amicability. While they have the ability to inflict harm on humans if they wanted to, no attacks thus far have been fatal or even harmful.”

Also, I doubt if an octopus has foresight.

Unlike messy eaters like Orca — who didn’t even finish his meal of Bo Derek — or Piranha, this cephalopod leaves behind skeletons totally bereft of flesh, muscles and organs.

Assonitis spent nearly $1 million on a life-sized replica of the giant octopus, which promptly sank the exact second that it was put in the water. So the octopus that dies at the end? That’s a real one. An already dead one. But it’s getting torn up — spoiler — by killer whales, so the fact that a dead octopus is defiled should remind you that this is a movie made by Italians.

But hey –even though this movie is named Tentacles, octopuses don’t have tentacles. Instead, they have arms. Squid have tentacles. Again, an octopus have none. They also don’t roar, but then again, neither do sharks and that didn’t stop the creators of Jaws: The Revenge.

Back to the movie. The Trojan company has been building an underwater tunnels that uses radio signals that have driven the octopus insane. Blame Mr. Whitehead (Henry Fonda, who had a pacemaker put in right before this started filming, which is why he shot all his scenes in one day and barely moves in those scenes).

Marine expert Will Gleason (Bo Hopkins), Sheriff Robards (Claude Akins) and newspaper reporter Ned Turner (John Huston) are there to save the town, a pair of killer whales named Summer and Winter, who get a pep talk from Hopkins that makes me laugh every time I watch this.

“I guess you know now why I brought you here. I wanted to tell ya more about it, but there’ve been many people that died. I’ve lost a loved one. I need your help more now than ever. I remember the times when I was training you. People used to call you killers. They used to call me that on the streets. It doesn’t mean nothing. You have more love in your heart, more affection than any human being I ever met. But now, I can’t ask anybody else, so I’m asking you to help me kill this octopus. I hope you understand that. I know I’m in your environment. I don’t want it this way, but if I release you and you go away, I want ya to know I’ll understand. All right, enough said. I gotta go now. If you feel anything, you talk to me. Make some noises. I know people’ll think we’re crazy. Maybe we are. Maybe we are.”

Robert Shaw got the Indianapolis speech.

Bo Hopkins got talking to killer whales.

There’s a town festival scene right out of Spielberg and Shelley Winters is dressed like a child instead of a 57 year old woman. Also, she and John Huston literally disappear from the movie. Why were they in it? So that Shelley could have a kid talk to her this way?

Little boy: Mommy, you’re plump. There’s more to love.

Tillie Turner: Oh, sweet-talk me like your father.

If you like Italian casts, well, this movie is for you. Hey — there’s Cesare Danova from CleopatraThe Astral Factor and Mean Streets. Here’s Biloxi, Mississippi born Sherry Buchanan who replaced a production secretary during the shooting of My Name Is Nobody in Louisiana and ended up moving to Italy where she was in What Have They Done to Your Daughters?Eyes Behind the Stars, The Last House On the Beach and the movie that could be Starcrash 3, Escape from Galaxy 3. And take a look! It’s Delia Boccardo, Athena in Luigi Cozzi’s Hercules. Franco Diogene from Strip Nude for Your Killer!

It was written by Jerome Max (who only wrote six episodes of a soap opera otherwise), Tito Carpi (where to begin? MartaEscape from the BronxHoly God, Here Comes the Passatore!?) and Steven W. Carabatsos, who wrote episodes of Ben Casey and The Big Valley.

Bringing all the Italian madness together is a score by Stelvio Cipirani, which uses the theme from another movie he worked on, La Polizia Sta a guarde, multiple times. Cipirani scored lots more jawsploitation movies like The Bermuda TriangleEncounters in the DeepNight of the SharksBermuda: Cave of the Sharks and Piranha II: The Spawning.

Obviously, I must love this movie if I spent around a thousand words making fun of it.

The Kino Lorber blu ray comes with a trailer and a radio ad. You need this movie.

JESS FRANCO MONTH: Ilsa, the Wicked Warden (1977)

If you thought that Ilsa, She-Wolf of the SS was the limit, this movie makes it feel as if Jess Franco tool that movie as a personal challenge to somehow create something innumerable times sleazier.

Considered the third movie in the series — even if it wasn’t filmed as a sequel — and also known as Greta, the Mad Butcher, Ilsa: Absolute Power and Wanda, the Wicked Warden, this stars the women who is Ilsa, Dyanne Thorne, as Greta. She’s running a psychiatric hospital for young women, which gives her plenty of opportunities to indulge her more, shall we say, psychosexual side.

Probably shot at the same time — who knows, maybe even the same place — as Barbed Wire Dolls, the heroine of this story is Abbie Phillips, whose sister died inside the walls of Greta’s hospital, and now must infiltrate the hospital and find out why.

The amazing thing about this movie is that as wild as Ilsa has been in the past, she’s now entering the ninth circle of voyeur hell where director Jess Franco and his muse, Lina Romay, reside. Lina plays a prisoner named Juana who keeps the other female prisoners in line as well as lined up for prostitution and pornography. Also, in one scene that might break your mind, she follows a prison toilet BM by forcing Abbie to be human toilet paper. Yes, this happens and yes, this movie played American theaters and I have no idea how.

Snuff movies, acupuncture gone wrong, scarred women being used by cruel men, Lina Romay no doubt looking as perfect as she ever will or ever did and being the meanest woman in the world in a manner so brutal that she can only devour — literally — the previous champion in an ending that is either going to flip your stomach, raise your fist in triumph or both and Franco pretty much running through the motions he did in so many other women in prison movies, except Franco through the motions is still way more magical and insane and upsetting and sleazy and can you endure this than anyone perhaps ever.

JESS FRANCO MONTH: Die Sklavinnen (1977)

At this point, Jess Franco was making movies like Women in Prison, Barbed Wire Dolls and Ilsa the Wicked Warden that have a similar story and interchangeable actresses and acts of depravity.

This time, Madame Arminda (Lina Romay) has been sent to prison but is broken out by the rich businessman Radeck (Vítor Mendes), awhose daughter Martine (Martine Stedil) has been kidnapped. Radeck thinks Arminda is behind it all, so his assistant (Franco) tries to kink the truth out of her, but she won’t crack.

This time around, things take on an almost noir feel as the truth is that Arminda and Martine were lovers until drugs made her forget her past and work in the brother, thinking that she’s a slave, and then a rival gang kidnaps her, so Radeck kidnaps their leader Ebenholz and gets Arminda to torture him and then, well…look, it’s like Shakespeare. Everyone dies.

There was no money anyways. And Radeck didn’t even love his daughter. So why were we even here?

Another Franco movie made for Swiss producer Erwin C. Dietrich, this is also known as Swedish Nympho Slaves, which is a title that demands that you watch this movie. I really wonder about this period in Franco’s filmmaking, because so many of these movies feel like they’re stitced together from other movies and shoots that had no purpose. That’s because that’s totally how they were made.

JESS FRANCO MONTH: Love Letters of a Portuguese Nun (1977)

It really says something about Jess Franco when the censored poster for one of his movies is filthier than the actual poster with nudity. I mean, red type that literally shouts, “Satanic lust behind cloister walls?” That’s how you get me to watch.

Who am I kidding? I watch anything and everything Jess Franco made.

Loosely based on the Letters of a Portuguese Nun attributed to Mariana Alcoforado, a Portuguese nun living in a convent named Convento de Nossa Senhora da Conceição, Convent of Our Lady of the Conception. There’s some debate over whether se was the real author of these letters, which tell the story of her affair with French officer Noël Bouton, Marquis de Chamilly and later Marshal of France. Some scholars think that the letters are fiction and were written by Gabriel-Joseph de Lavergne, although the actual Mariana did exist.

But this is a Jess Franco movie, so let’s prepare ourselves.

So while the basic theme of Maria (Susan Hemingway, born Maria Rosalia Coutinho) being in a convent stays the same, the convent is run by Satanists and our heroine is forced to make love to men women and even Satan himself. She writes a letter to God, which gets answered by a brave knight but ends up being taken by the inquisition and then tortured and burned at the stake.

So yeah, exactly like the book.

I mean, Jess Franco is the kind of storyteller that has Father Vicente (Wiliam Berger) bashing the bishop while Maria confesses that she wants to get biblical with her cousin. And she’s then forced to wear a crown of thorn over her privates because, well, I don’t know, it’s a Jess Franco movie. That’s usually my answer.

This is a filmed nightmare and also a dream, a time when Franco seemed to still take his time while never forgetting that it’s committing so many carnal and venal sins.