Joyride to Nowhere (1977)

Written in four days by co-directors Ronald C. Ross (who mostly did stuntwork, other than writing and directing 1987’s Burning Vengeance) and Mel Welles (who directed Lady Frankenstein) along with George ‘Buck’ Flower and John F. Goff (who also wrote ButterflyHundra and C.B. Hustlers), this is the story of two girls named Cindy (Sandy Alan, The Glove) and Leah (Leslie Ackerman).

They leave behind their abusive lives and hit the road, but on the way decide to rob Tank, a sleazy bankrobber. He’s played by screenwriter and co-director Welles, who was also Gravis Mushnick in the original Little Shop of Horrors. Driving away in his car, they soon realize that he has $2 million dollars in it and won’t stop hunting them.

It’s not great, but it does predate Thelma and Louise, which is a very similar tale with older heroines. Trust me, you can find better on the run movies.

You can watch this on Tubi.

Speedtrap (1977)

Oh for the era that Joe Don Baker was a sex symbol. Yes, it really happened, it was not an imaginary story. This 1977 film — which suggests the volcanic coupling of Baker and Tyne Daly — is evidence.

An insurance company calls in private investigator Pete Nobeck (Baker) to solve several car thefts that have baffled them. You have a decent cast on hand — Richard Jaeckel, Timothy Carey, Robert Loggia, Morgan Woodward (Cayman from Battle Beyond the Stars!), Lana Wood — and direction from Earl Bellamy, who mostly worked in TV but did also make Walking Tall Part 2.

This was released in Japan as the sequel to Gone In 60 Seconds from 1974, which makes no sense at all, as it has none of the same characters.

Also, speaking of Joe Don’s husky charms, there’s a scene where he as a one night stand with Lana Wood’s psychic character New Blossom. Originally, that character was named Mira and played by Dianne Marchal, who also sang the film’s theme song “Speedytrap.” For some reason — probably to get a PG rating in the U.S. — the Wood scenes are much more chaste. Foreign markets got the Dianne Marchal nudity that we never knew we were missing.

Crash! (1977)

I have a real weakness for Charles Band’s movies. I think any study of the past articles on this site will point to this, but today’s example is 1977’s Crash!, a movie where Sue Lyon plays a wife who has to deal with a jealous husband played by José Ferrer who keeps trying to kill her. So she does what any one of us would do. She uses black magic to get back at him.

Will the burned visage of Reggie Nalder show up? How about John Carradine? What about the gorgeous Leslie Parrish, who pretty much created C-SPAN and was a major activist in addition to being a frequent talk and game show host? As you can see, Mr. Band knows exactly what I want, which is possessed cars and occult 1970’s buffoonery.

You have to love that Band has a best of montage right before the end of the movie, reminding us of all the vehicular non-driver homicide that we’ve already watched, which includes a giant dog against a possessed wheelchair.

This movie just barely beat The Car to theaters, but that movie blows it away in almost every way, except that this has Carradine cashing a check and Sue Lyon making my heart flutter. Otherwise, I’ll stick with Anton LaVey’s gas guzzler in the desert, if you make me pick. You didn’t, so I’ll just let you know that I enjoyed this, but I’m also a sucker for things blowing up real good and Satanic shenanigans.

You can watch this on Tubi.

Double Nickels (1977)

While it’s not an official sequel, car aficionados and ’70s drive-in connoisseurs consider this rebel-rousing Smokey and the Bandit ripoff as a “sequel” to 1974’s Gone in 60 Seconds, as result of most of the cast and crew — Jack Vacek in particular, who serves as writer and director — from Gone appearing-working on this film; when Burt Reynolds broke box office records in his Pontiac Trans Am infomercial, this was re-released to drive-ins as Split-Second Smokey.

If you’re familiar with the plot and action of Gone in 60 Seconds, then you’re up to speed and ready to enjoy this loose hicksplotation entry in the drive-in derby. This time, instead of a professional car thief . . . Smokey is the bandit, aka car theif, as two highway patrolmen (Jack Vacek and Ed Abrams from Gone) who pick up extra cash repossessing cars . . . and come to realize they’re working for a car theft ring. They, of course, spring into action to break up the ring and stay out of the slammer.

Is it dumb and pointless? Yep. But it’s also a lot of fun and the amateur Vacek and Abrams actually make an affable screen duo and the comedy is well-written and executed. Vacek went on to work with H.B Halicki on his own follow ups to Gone: The Junkman and Deadline Auto Theft (reviews for both coming, or may have already, coming this week; search for them).

Vacek’s second and final film is the even more obscure and hard-to-find 1988 Dirty Harry knockoff Deadly Addiction, that made it onto home video as Rock House — starring Vacek and his wife, Trice Schubert, from Double Nickels.

You can watch two extended clips (12:00) and (17:00) on You Tube that center on the chases and crashers. And we are in luck! Someone uploaded the full film on You Tube.

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

Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger (1977)

Samuel Wanamaker, CBE was an American actor who moved to the UK after his communist leanings led to a fear of being blacklisted. He was also a director — we’ll get to that in a minute — but strangely enough, he has the credit for saving The Rose Theatre, which led to the modern recreation of Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre in London.

On his first trip to London, he searched for the theater and only found a plaque. He was upset and in 1970, he started paying for the new theater out of his own pocket, despite the scepticism of British actors and a hostile city council. So yeah — that’s why he has a Commander of the Order of the British Empire honorary title after his name, which is rare for an American.

Oh yeah — he also directed this movie (and plenty of TV, including an episode of Lancer, which means that he shows up in Once Upon a Time In…Hollywood and is played by former Spider-Man Nicholas Hammond).

The third and final Sinbad film released by Columbia Pictures was produced by Ray Harryhausen and Charles H. Schneer, who told Starlog he hired Wanamaker because “I wanted an actor’s director for Eye of the Tiger, to see if we could get more dimension out of other-wise cardboard characters. Sam didn’t have to handle any of the technical aspects of the picture. He merely had to pay attention to them. Within the parameters of the technical work, he directed the dramatic sections. The technical work was carried out by Ray and me.”

As for the actors, this is an attempt at using the next generation of Hollywood royalty, as John Wayne’s son Pat as Sinbad and Tyrone Powers’ granddaughter Taryn as Dione.

Sinbad has come to Charak to ask Prince Kassim (Damien Thomas, Count Karnstein from Twins of Evil) if he may marry Princess Farah (Jane Seymour), but the evil stepmother Zenobia (Margaret Whiting) has transformed Kassim into a baboon and sent all manner of creatures after our hero. Even worse, if he can’t figure out how to change his friend back into a human, the evil Rafi (Kurt Christian) will take over.

Of course, adventure beckons, which means that Sinbad and his crew encounter everything from ghouls, giant wasps, a magical bronze robotic minotaur called the Minoton (the first appearance of Peter Mayhew, who would go on to be in some space movie made the very same year that came out at the same time as this movie), an evil walrus and a sabretooth tiger. Luckily, said crew contains Melanthius (Patrick Troughton, the second Dr. Who), his daughter Dione (Power) and a caveman they call Trog*.

Let me tell you what, escaping the news by watching old stop motion movies is the best decision I’ve made in 2020.

*The stop motion model for Trog was used again for the villainous Calibos in Clash of the Titans.

WILLIAM GREFE WEEK: Whiskey Mountain (1977)

EDITOR’S NOTE: Man, are we doing re-runs as much as Carson in the late 90’s? No, we just wanted to make sure to include all the William Grefe movies we’ve seen in this week of his movies. This one was originally posted on October 20, 2020.

Bill (Christopher George, taking a vacation from his wife, who is in nearly every movie with him), Jamie, Dan (Preston Pierce, Angels’ Wild Women) and Diana (Roberta Collins, Matilda the Hun from Death Race 2000) are on a treasure hunt deep in the Southern backwoods, seeking an inheritance of prices Civil War rifles. Sure, why not?

After thirty minutes of more of travelogue and dirt bike footage, you may wonder, “Has slasher month gone to Sam’s head? When are we going to get to the senseless violence?” Patience, slashawan.

The deeper into the South our protagonists find themselves, the less hospitality they get from the locals, but hey, there’s plenty of money on the other side of the rainbow on Whiskey Mountain, right? Well, there’s also a drug operation that runs everything around, even the cops, all headed up by Rudy (John Davis Chandler, probably the only actor I know that appeared in both Adventures In Babysitting and High Plains Drifter).

This is a movie that has all real marijuana as props and a soundtrack by the Charlie Daniels Band, along with the exact kind of horrors you know await them yankees when they ask too many questions and push too hard. It’s also filled with Peckinpah-esque slow-motion — most effectively when George is double firing shotguns — to go with a brutal scene where we only hear the assault on the girls and see still evidence as it develops on Polaroids. Also — it’s 1977 and technically a motorcycle movie. so that means that it also has a potential downer ending freeze frame.

I tell you what, William Grefé has never let me down. You can get this as part of the He Came from the Swamp box set that Arrow Video has just released. Diabolik DVD is a great bet to find a copy.

You can watch this on YouTube.

Mill Creek Sci-Fi Invasion: The Crater Lake Monster (1977)

Man, I keep getting sucked into the world of Crown International Pictures, don’t I? Well, that’s also Mill Creek’s fault, as so many of their box sets are filled with the output of this studio.

That brings us to Susanville, CA, known as Prison Town, USA and the home of Ken Shamrock, and also the Crater Lake, which is also where the Crater Lake Monster lives. If you’re thinking, “Will this be a Bigfoot film?” No, my friend. This one is all about a giant Plesiosaurus, just like Loch Ness.

Speaking of obsessions, director William R. Stromberg has one other credit to his name: he did the stop motion animation for Night Train to Terror. He’s working from a script by Richard Cardella, who also stars in this as Sheriff Steve Hanson, the man who has to protect his town from the sea monster.

The main issue with this film is the problem that many a giant monster movie faces. We don’t really care about the townspeople and the robberies that the sheriff is uncovering. Nor do we care about the forced humor from the stereotypical backwoods people of the small town.

No. Not at all.

We just want to see a dinosaur eat people.

According to  Cardella, Crown International took over production and did very little of it. He claims that’s why the day for night shots just are day and also why there are so many plot holes. I really don’t think anything would improve this script, because you can throw money at feces and it remains feces.

The poster for this movie promises a T. Rex and delivers a completely different dinosaur. Five-year-old me would be incensed.

But you know, once that rubbery stop motion monster — born when a meteor blasted into the lake and woke up a sleeping dinosaur egg — shows up, I forget all the padding, all the cornball humor, all the boredom and just enjoy that beast biting down on some humanity.

You can watch this on YouTube.

Mill Creek Sci-Fi Invasion: Prey (1977)

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Bill Van Ryn is the man behind Groovy Doom and Drive-In Asylum. As soon as I saw the list of films on this set, I knew that this would be the movie he’d choose.

Norman J. Warren’s unique brand of low budget bat shittery is all over the damn place. While not always totally satisfying (I’m looking at you, Inseminoid), when he’s hot, he’s hot. 1977’s alien freakout Prey is one of the hot ones.  Its everything-but-the-kitchen-sink approach blends elements of D. H. Lawrence’s The Fox, Close Encounters of the Third Kind and a dash of Night of the Living Dead thrown in for the hell of it, and this is no accident – the script was being written while filming was progressing, with Warren taking on the project based on the premise alone.

And oh, what a premise. Prey gives us the story of an alien creature who arrives on Earth in a spaceship (unseen by us, other than a colored light show that could have just been a groovy light from Spencer gifts) and immediately encounters two Earth people who are having a romantic tryst in a parked car. He murders both of them, assuming the identity of the man, whose name is Anderson. This being capable of interstellar travel uses a futuristic walkie talkie to communicate with some home base (apparently off-world, which…wow! That’s some wi-fi!), and appears to be on a mission to observe us in our natural habitat. He also likes to eat meat, and that’s it. Total carnivore, this alien.

He moves on and discovers a large secluded estate nearby, where lovers Jessica and Josephine are living an isolated life together. They encounter some mutilated rabbits, which Jo attributes to the work of a fox. They also find our space-hopping buddy “Anderson” (wink wink), seemingly injured, and even though Jo reacts with immediate total hostility, Jessica is excited to finally get someone to talk to other than Jo, who is suspiciously dedicated to making sure Jessica never, ever goes anywhere on her own. They take him back to the house and allow him to stay, which turns out to be a really bad idea on so many levels. 

I adore the fact that this movie is so low budget that it doesn’t even attempt to present any convincing alien technology, but it does have some built-in style that expensive effects could never buy. The manor where most of the action takes place is a fantastic location, with wooded areas bathed in muted green and overcast skies – this is England, after all – and amid all these earth tones are a few scenes with shockingly bright red gore. And for sheer “What the hell am I watching?” kicks, just wait until you see the weird slo-mo scene where Anders and the women roll around screaming in a shallow pond. There’s something almost S.F. Brownrigg about Warren’s work, despite their visual style being different. They both have the ability to create a memorable atmosphere in their films, despite having no visible budgetary advantages.

Anderson mostly stumbles around in a daze, acting like he has no idea what parrots are, or plants, or why people bring them into their homes for decoration. He doesn’t know any locations, either, claiming to be from London after he hears one of the women suggest it.  When they press him for his first name, he says “Anders”.  His hostesses serve him a vegetarian dinner – Jo goes total OG meatless preachy on him – but he responds by vomiting and rushing out of the house to find some more animals to mutilate for dinner.  He also doesn’t know anything about sex, and he spies curiously on Jessica and Josephine having screaming sex together. Jo develops a theory that Anders is an escapee from a local mental institution, and later on we come to realize she may have been doing some projecting when she came up with this idea.  

That’s one of the interesting things about this weird movie, there is actually an intriguing relationship between these two women, and the script ends up surprising us about one of them, but it exists uncomfortably alongside the fact that one of the characters is a flesh-eating alien, which sort of steals the spotlight.  For this reason, I suggest multiple viewings of Prey. In fact, it should be a tradition. 

Mill Creek Sci-Fi Invasion: Welcome to Blood City (1977)

Editor’s Note: This review previously ran on April 19, 2018.

Sometimes, I just sit and search through YouTube looking for a movie to watch while I work. Often, that search finds horrible films that I wouldn’t be able to enjoy if I were truly paying attention to them. And sometimes, like with this movie, I end up taking a break from writing and find something I really enjoy.

Directed by Peter Sasdy (The Lonely LadyTaste the Blood of DraculaHands of the Ripper), this film was a UK/Canadian tax shelter affair. But don’t hold that against it! Five strangers all wake up at the same time and have no memories of who they are, other than that they are all killers. They must travel to a Wild West town called Blood City.

Once there, they will spend a year in servitude before they can become free. Then, they’ll be able to own a business and work toward becoming immortal — free from constant worry of challenges to the death. They get there by winning twenty challenges. And there’s only one law in Blood City — Frendlander, played by Jack Palance. It’s no accident that the bad guy from Shane is playing this part. Palance might only be known to younger folks from his Oscar turn in City Slickers, but in the 1970’s he was taking whatever parts he could get. And then he’d sink his teeth into them! He’s fabulous in this movie!

Keir Dullea (Black Christmas2001The Haunting of Julia) stars as Lewis, who finds himself coming up against Frendlander over and over again. The real secret of the film? None of them are in this town at all — it’s a virtual reality simulation to determine the best warriors in a future war. So basically, it’s a combination of WestWorld and The Matrix.

Samanta Eggar (The Brood) shows up as a scientist who falls in love with Lewis and inserts herself into the virtual reality experiment. Barry Morse is also in here, who you may remember as Lt. Philip Gerard from TV’s The Fugitive. And Chris Wiggins is in this as well. He was Jack Marshak on Friday the 13th: The Series.

If you’re looking for this movie, you can find a horrible transfer of it on the Mill Creek Sci-Fi Invasion 50 Pack. That said, the set is pretty worthwhile, as you also get stuff like The Crater Lake MonsterDeath Machines, Sergio Martino’s Hands of SteelHorror High, the Florinda Bolkan film Le OrmeThe Raiders of AtlantisR.O.T.O.R., Robo Vampire, one of the worst/best films ever Rocket Attack U.S.A. and more.

This is totally part of the doomed 1970’s genre and the end — where Lewis chooses the fantasy of Blood City instead of the lies of modern life — still rings true today. I completely expected a ripoff of WestWorld and FutureWorld, yet was rewarded with something really good. It’s slow moving, but if you understand that and can see a movie for what it could be versus what it is, I think you’ll enjoy it.

SLASHER MONTH: The Toolbox Murders (1977)

Not only does this movie excite me because it’s a slasher and a Cameron Mitchell movie, but it’s also a “based on a true story” riff, which is always fascinating.

Los Angeles producer Tony Didio wanted to make a low-budget horror film after seeing how well The Texas Chain Saw Massacre. He knew the film’s distributors — uh-oh — and contacted them to see why they were re-releasing the movie again. While he should have realized it never really stopped playing theaters until the advent of home video — and even afterward for some time — he was smart enough to stay clear of working with the, and making and releasing his own slasher.

Supposedly based on a series of killings in either Michigan or Minnesota that were ritualistic and sex-based, this has famously been cited as one of Stephen King’s favorite movies.

If Pieces can say that “it’s exactly what you think it is,” The Toolbox Murders takes things even further into what I refer to as the pornography of violence, treating each kill as another scene in a gradually escalating orgy of evisceration. That said, the film then goes from slasher to character study in the final act, totally changing everything up on the viewer.

As for Mitchell, he’s completely off the rails in this and I loved every minute of his performance. And this being 1977, of course there’s an incest angle, because the 70’s were just greasy and sweaty and gross.

Vance Kingsley, Mitchell’s role in this, tries to rise above all the sin by using every tool in his, well, toolbox to perforate, slash and decimate every sinner he meets before being killed for love, which then uses scissors to escape into the night. There’s even a square up card at the end for a “this really happened*” shocker.

Wesly Eure loved being in this, relishing the opportunity to do something subversive after being the goody Will Marshall on Land of the Lost. I wonder how Pamela Ferdin felt, as she is better known for being the voice of Lucy on Peanuts (though she is also in the original The Beguiled).

Director Dennis Donnelly would go on to direct plenty of TV, including one of The Amazing Spider-Man episodes in the 70’s, along with SupertrainHart to Hart and The A-Team. That makes sense, as this really does look like a TV movie, unless you take into account all the nudity, sex and gore. And speaking of carnal knowledge, that’s adult actress Kelly Nichols playing Dee Dee, the woman who gets nail gunned in the tub (she was still working in the field doing makeup as Marianne Walters, the name she used for this film, as late as 2015).

Despite a 1986 sequel never happening, in a strange twist Tobe Hooper would direct the remake to this in 2004, which was followed by an official sequel in 2015 and an unoffical one, Coffin Baby, in 2013 that used footage from a scrapped sequel. That movie was tied up in legal wrangling, but has since been released. They all have a more supernatural element than the down-to-earth feel of the original.

You can watch this on Tubi.

*But totally didn’t.