When Every Day Was the Fourth of July (1978)

Dan Curtis wrote this movie all about his childhood in Bridgeport, Conneticut (it was shot in Echo Park, California for budgetary reasons), inspired by many of the people he’d grown up with. However, he did not have a sister. That character is based on co-writer/producer Lee Hutson’s sister Sarah. The two would also work together on 1980’s The Long Days of Summer.

Here’s the best fact I can tell you about this movie: It was Matt Groening’s first job in Hollywood. He’s an extra that you may or may not spot.

In 1937, 12-year-old Daniel Cooper (Chris Petersen, The Swarm) and his 10-year-old sister Sarah (Katy Kurtzman, The New Adventures of Heidi) are enjoying their summer. The kids have been taught to think for themselves and that leads them to protect Albert “Snowman” Cavanaugh (character actor Geoffrey Lewis) from bullies and finally, the court when he’s accused of murder. Thet convince their attorney dad (Dean Jones, That Darn Cat!) to take the case.

Michael Pataki shows up, which is always a delight. So does former pro wrestler Hard Boiled Haggerty, Charles Aidman (House of the Dead), Henry Wilcoxon (the bishop from Caddyshack), Scott Brady (the sheriff from Gremlins) and soap opera star Louise Sorel.

This was obviously a project near and dear to Curtis. You can watch it on Amazon Prime and Tubi.

RADIO WEEK REWIND: FM (1978)

Michael Brandon (Four Flies on Grey Velvet) stars as Jeff Dugan, the ultra-cool program director at Q-SKY Radio, LA’s number one rock station. Never mind the fact that the station has the frequency 71.1, which is impossible in the US as the FCC frequency range goes from 87.8 to 108.0. Also, in the US, there are no radio stations with “Q” prefixes: East of the Mississippi, all stations begin with “W,” while stations west of the Mississippi start “K.” There’s only one major exception — KDKA in Pittsburgh. In Canada, stations use “C,” while “X” is utilized for stations in Mexico.

Q-SKY has all manner of crazy on-air personalities, like Mother, who sounds a lot like Alison Steele, the Nightbird, who also inspired Stevie in The Fog (others have said she’s based on Mary “The Burner” Turner from KMET). She’s played by Eileen Brennan from The Last Picture Show. There’s also The Prince of Darkness (Cleavon Little, who beyond Blazing Saddles, Surf II and Once Bitten also played the DJ Super Soul in the movie that inspired Tarantino’s Death ProofVanishing Point), low rated Doc Holliday (former Detroit Lion Alex Karras), his replacement Laura Coe (Cassie Yates, The Evil) and Eric Swan (Martin Mull!) who is obsessed with being a success in show business and with women.

Despite Jeff getting the station to number one in the number two market in the country, his corporate bosses only want him to sell more advertising time. Then, sales manager Regis Lamar gets him a deal to advertise for the Army, he refuses. His bosses order him to run the ads so he quits. The remaining DJs protest by locking themselves in and even physically battling the police.

Everything works out — the station’s owner (Norman Lloyd, Jaws of Satan and Amityville 4: The Evil Escapes) is inspired by the DJs and fires the sales staff. Meanwhile, dumped by his true love and fired by his manager, Eric Swan has a mental breakdown while on the air.

Director John A. Alonzo, then noted as a cinematographer on Vanishing Point, Chinatown, Black Sunday and — after this film — Scarface, made his directorial debut with FM.

Screenwriter Ezra Sacks worked at Los Angeles’ fabled FM station KMET in the early 70’s when AOR — Album Oriented Rock — was in its infancy and being created by KMET program director Mike Herrington. The Army commercial incident depicted by Sacks in the film is based on an actual on-air incident in which KMET’s top-rated nighttime DJ, Jim Ladd (On the Air Live with Captain Midnight) ran an anti-army commentary on the air after running an army spot. The incident is chronicled in Ladd’s autobiography, Radio Waves: Life and Evolution on the FM Dial.

The head of MCA Irving Azoff participated in the making of the film as executive producer, but he disowned it before release and asked that his name be removed from the credits, as he felt that the film was “not an authentic representation of the music business” and that the studio didn’t give him creative control over the film, particularly when it came to the music. Then again, nearly every band in this movie was on MCA. You know — a movie all about rock and roll and rebellion with Jimmy Buffett in it. A negative soundtrack review by Rolling Stone magazine pointed out the music was heavily biased towards “commercial” musicians who Irving Azoff managed — in conflict with the so-called rebellious, progressive-underground rock format practiced by the very stations on which FM’s faux-station was based.

Another funny point of contention is that AM stations made their own edit of the movie’s theme song, Steely Dan’s “FM (No Static at All),” by clumsily interjecting the letter A in the title from the song “Aja” so that the song became “AM” on their channels.

Finally, while some claim that the TV show WKRP in Cincinnati was based on FM — an easy mistake, with so many characters seeming so similar (WKRP’s “Venus Flytrap” vs. FM’s “Prince of Darkness” in particular) — WKRP series creator Hugh Wilson has claimed that the sitcom was already in development and I’ve also read that a pilot had already been shot. Seeing as how the show debuted in September and this movie came out in April, that was a real worry. But by the time the show aired on CBS, many had forgotten this movie.

For years, this has been a difficult release. The soundtrack gave the film issues when it was released, with multiple versions being released due to the lack of clearing music rights. In fact, this movie was originally on our list of movies that have never been on released on DVD until Arrow made the announcement that they were releasing it.

The film includes “acting” appearances by Tom Petty and REO Speedwagon, along with live performances by Linda Ronstadt and Jimmy Buffett (who recite a few lines of dialog in the process); Steely Dan performs the title theme, which became a real-life radio hit. The Eagles, James Taylor, Bob Seger, Dan Fogelberg, Billy Joel, and Queen were also featured on the Platinum-plus soundtrack album. While the soundtrack became more popular than the actual film it promoted and there was a need to repress copies, it was stymied by clearance rights; it was remedied by having a group of session musicians — Studio 78 — cut an all-covers version for bargain label, Pickwick.

In addition to a high definition 1080p presentation of the film — transferred from original film elements — this blu ray also includes new interviews with the movie’s star Michael Brandon, its writer Ezra Stacks and a video appreciation of the era of FM radio and the soundtrack of the film by Glenn Kenny.

You can get FM from Arrow Video or directly from MVD.

Thanks to R.D Francis for his help with this article, as FM is one of his favorite films.

DISCLAIMER: This movie was sent to us by Arrow Video, but that has no impact on our review.

RADIO WEEK REWIND: Martin (1978)

In the five years between The Crazies and Martin, much had changed, both in the life of George Romero and his adopted hometown of Pittsburgh.

After the post-World War II economic boom, an outdated manufacturing base — that had already been overextended for the past two decades — was further taxed by hostile relationships between management and labor. And Pittsburgh had even worse issues than the rest of the country, as the raw coke and iron ore materials to create steel were depleted, raising costs. The giant Pittsburgh mills also faced competition from non-union mills with lower labor costs.

As a result, layoffs began happening throughout the region. For example, Youngstown, OH — about an hour and a little more from the Steel City — never recovered from the Black Monday of September 19, 1977 and the closing of Youngstown Sheet and Tube.

According to a 2012 story in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, by January 1983, the regional economy officially bottomed out. Unemployment in Allegheny County (where most of the Pittsburgh metro calls home) hit between 14 and 18% with 212,000 jobless individuals. It’s never been that high before or since. And in areas like Beaver County (close to where your author grew up and also where my grandfather worked in the furnaces for forty years), home to industry giants Jones & Laughlin Steel Corp. and Babcock & Wilcox Co., the unemployment hit a staggering 27%. That’s higher than the Great Depression. And for many of the 300,000 manufacturing workers impacted by these changes — before this, you went to high school, you worked in the mill, you had kids, you died — Pittsburgh was dying.

George Romero found himself in similar straits. He was nearly a million dollars in debt thanks to the failure of every film after Night of the Living Dead. He’d taken to working on sports documentaries like his Pittsburgh-centric series The Winners and even directed The Juice is Loose, the story of football hero OJ Simpson — albeit years before his reversal in fortune — and Magic at the Roxy, a TV magic special. He confided in producer Richard P. Rubinstein that he was nearly out of cash. While the producer counseled Romero and explained that bankruptcy was an option, Romero didn’t want to screw over the people who helped him make his films. This action gave Rubinstein plenty of respect for the director and led to their partnership. While this, their first film together, didn’t pay back those investors, Dawn of the Dead would.

Deciding on Braddock — one of the hardest hit mill towns — and utilizing family and friends, Romero started to film what he would later call his favorite film.

In the film’s first script, Martin was an older man who is definitely a vampire, struggling to live (unlive?) in the modern world. But after seeing John Amplas in a Pittsburgh Playhouse production of Philemon, Romero rewrote the film to make Martin younger and more innocent.

Martin’s family has all died in Indianapolis, so he’s on his way to Pittsburgh — but not before shooting a woman up full of drugs and drinking her blood. He’s met at the train station by his uncle, Tateh Cuda, and taken to his new home. Even today, Braddock is one of the most run-down sections of Pittsburgh — the decay evident in the movie got a lot worse before John Fetterman was elected and numerous civic campaigns have brought new business in. That said — it’s still a great setting for a horror film.

Cuda and his niece Christine share a home and have allowed Martin to stay. The old man gives Martin several rules, including one that if ever kills anyone in Braddock, he’ll stake him through the heart. He keeps crucifixes and garlic all over the house, continually telling Martin that first, he’ll save his soul, and then, kill him. Martin yells at Cuda, showing him that he can touch the crucifixes and eat the garlic and bitterly exclaims, “There’s no real magic…ever.”

This is in direct contrast to Martin’s fantasies, shot in black and white (there’s supposedly a 2 hour and 45 minute cut of this film that’s only in black and white) like a romantic vampire movie, where women willingly give up their throats to him. The truth — he barely defeats the women in battle, needs drugs to sedate them and with no fangs, he must use a razor blade to kill them.

Despite Cuda’s continual threat of death, he hires Martin to work in his butcher shop as a delivery man. This allows him to meet several women, including Mrs. Santini, who tries to seduce him. Unlike his dreams of control over these women, he can’t even control his own feelings and runs away.

Pittsburgh has always been a talk radio town — local powerhouse KDKA boasts a 50,000-watt antenna that can be heard throughout most of the continental US in the evening — and Martin takes advantage of this, calling a local DJ (Michael Gornick, director of Creepshow 2) to try and figure out life. He becomes known as “The Count” and is one more lonely voice seeking comfort until the sun comes up — again, in marked contrast to the way vampires traditionally fear daytime. The DJ segments hit close to home — I was a long-time listener (1989-2005) of Bob Logue’s Undercover Club. Pittsburgh has a long history — as stated above — of radio shows like Party Line. We’re slow to give up on technology, so AM radio still remains strong here.

Martin tries to keep his thirst under control, but finally sneaks out to the big city — Pittsburgh is very much a bridge and tunnel town where folks stay within one of the ninety small neighborhoods that make up the overall town — and attacks a woman he’d seen at Cuda’s market. But she isn’t alone — she already has an extramarital lover over — and Martin barely overcomes them both before he drugs and rapes the woman. Martin gives in to another hunger after this — a yearning for sex based on love — that he finds with Mrs. Santini.

Meanwhile, Christine, Martin’s sole advocate in the home, finally gives up on living with the uultra-religiousCuda and leaves, despite her unfulfilling relationship with her boyfriend (played by an incredibly young Tom Savini). She is slapped across the face by Cuda and shocks him by not registering the blow, instead telling that his time is over and that she doesn’t care what he or the church says.

Martin loses control once he realizes that Christine won’t come back, so he goes into the city and attacks two homeless men, but is almost killed in a battle between the police and drug dealers. He returns to Mrs. Santini’s house to try and escape with her, but she has already killed herself.

In a quick, shocking scene, Cuda dispatches Martin — who he blames for Mrs. Santini’s death — with a stake. During the credits, Cuda buries him as radio callers ask what happened to The Count. The answer? He’s freshly buried, with a crucifix over his grave.

Martin is not only Romero’s most personal films, but it’s also one of his most technically polished. The scenes where the talk radio dialogue plays against Martin’s actions allow for exposition without sacrificing pace. And the black and white versus color sequences — particularly the exorcism scene — play out as a grisly counter to the expected Wizard of Oz dichotomy.

Most strikingly, Martin presents a sympathetic hero versus a snarling monster. The true vampires in the film are the city of Pittsburgh itself, losing the vital blood of young men that once were pumped through its mills and mines and now would go elsewhere, abandoning the city for jobs and lives elsewhere. It would not be until the early 2000s that the city would rise, more phoenix than vampire, and become the tech and gourmet destination that it is today. To go from the Braddock of 1978 to a five-time most livable city in the country has been quite the journey.

The second — and perhaps main — monster of the tale is Tateh Cuda. Whereas we have been traditionally taught to see Dracula as the villain and Van Helsing as the hero, this is a man who will not break from the ways of old, the days when the word of men and church stood above all. He is not to be defied — and when he is and his manhood is decimated by Christine’s departure and final words — all he can do is reassert said manhood in the most phallic way possible: a wooden stake through the heart of the other child he has lost. More than Martin — who questions if he truly is a vampire or not and if he can escape the family cruse — Cuda is trapped in his ways and will never leave them.

When faced with the change of guard at his church, Cuda cannot understand why so many are abandoning not only their faith but the city itself.  When faced with the retirement of a priest he has known his whole life, he yells at Father Howard (Romero, in a small role) “Retired? Huh! Father Carelli is younger than I am. He asked to leave. He left like the rest of them. He thinks this town is finished!” Then, he learns that Carelli left only because cancer has taken him. Father Howard stands in contrast to the pre-Vatican 2 Catholic faith, a new style priest who laughs at The Exorcist without realizing that to someone like Cuda, those rites are very real.

Note: Lincoln Maazel, father of well-known orchestra conductor Lorin Maazel, played Tateh Cuda and lived to be 106 years old — he was already 75 when Martin was filmed.

Martin is not often said in the same breath as Romero’s zombie films and that’s a shame. It remains my favorite of his works, as there are so many ways to analyze the film. It’s not light watching or escapism, but the questions that it poses will stay with you long past the end of the film.

PS – Martin is not an easy film to find. I was satisfied knowing that I could get it at the Carnegie Library until I found my copy at VHSPS.com (sadly, it’s no longer available on their online store, so I’m glad I got my copy).

Box Office Failures Week: Sextette (1978)

Sextette is exactly the type of movie that this site was created to talk about.

For years, I’d read about it in the Medveds’ Turkey Awards books and since then, I’ve pretty much decided that the Medved brothers have no idea what fun is all about. Surely, Sextette can’t be as bad as people say it is, right?

Well, it’s…I have no idea what it is. It’s the kind of movie that felt like it took me six years to watch, yet I finished it in a morning.

In a time when women were seen and rarely heard, Mae West was an outspoken sex icon, a brazen beauty who hid her sexual openness within comedy. Indeed, she was the woman who said, “I believe in censorship. I made a fortune out of it.”

In 1926, West had her first starring role on Broadway in a play called Sex. It was also a play that she wrote, produced and directed. This would be rare today. Imagine how much rarer it was nearly a hundred years ago.

West became a movie star, but was always followed by controversy. However, her films contain no nudity, swearing or violence. But in a world where women were always in second place, she was a frightening aberration: a confident woman unafraid to use her sex appeal to get what she wanted.

Imagine this. When speaking to the ventriloquist dummy Charlie McCarthy, she referred to him as “all wood and a yard long.” She was nearly banned from radio so thoroughly that even her name was not allowed to be spoken.

West went to Vegas, where she could be herself. Her show at the Sands was famous for its muscle men who carried her around. One of them was Mickey Hargitay, who married another dangerous blonde, Jayne Mansfield. She also had a recording career, which is absolutely astounding, as she recorded songs about Criswell and performed covers like The Doors’ “Light My Fire.”

The counterculture discovered her in the 70’s, perhaps because of her appearance in Myra Breckinridge, her early crusades against censorship and her books, like her autobiography Goodness Had Nothing to Do With It and Sex, Health, and ESP

West, while not a traditional women’s liberation believer, was an early believer in women’s rights. And she dated across the color line before that was even remotely accepted. One boyfriend, boxing champion William “Gorilla” Jones, was barred from her apartment complex because he was black. She bought the building and erased that ban.

West was also smart about her money, producing her own work and investing her money in Van Nuys before Los Angeles grew into the sprawl that it is today.

In 1978, she started working on this film, her final one, and despite hearing and vision loss, her spirit carried it through. She was also dealing with production woes and near-daily changes to the script, necessitating that director Ken Hughes (Night School) read her lines via an ear piece.

My devotion to Ms. West does not mean that this is a great movie. It is, however, an interesting one.

Screen legend Marlo Manners (West) is in England, where she’s just married the much younger Sir Michael Barrington (Timothy Dalton!), but before they can consummate their marriage, all manner of hijinks ensue, mostly because of her manager (Dom DeLuise).

To complicate matters, the leaders of the free world have gathered in the very same hotel to discuss the fate of the world. And soon, all of Marlo’s ex-husbands — diplomat Alexei Andreyev Karansky (Tony Curtis!), director Laslo Karolny (Ringo Starr!?!), gangster Vance Norton (George Hamilton, who I will opine has never been in a good movie, yet I love him), and the U.S. Olympic team — all show up to bed her again.

This movie is the 70’s all over — celebrities are the kings and queens of the world, even minor ones like Rona Barrett, Gil Stratton and Regis Philbin years before he’d work with Kathie Lee. And holy cow, George Raft shows up as himself and yes, he’s totally a gangster.

This movie is packed with people who should not be in a movie with Mae West, yet totally are. These folks include Alice Cooper, Keith Moon, Van McCoy (who wrote “The Hustle”), Juen Fairchilde (the jumper from The Monkees’ Head), Ric Drasin (who created the Gold’s Gym logo), weightlifter Denny Gable, Roger Callard (Conan the LIbrarian from UHF) and Walter Pidgeon.

For what it’s worth, Alice said that West propositioned him numerous times a day.

The soundtrack to this film has never been released, however, the song “Happy Birthday Twenty One,” which is in astonishingly bad taste today, was on West’s 1972 album “Great Balls of Fire.”

Go figure — the film’s producers couldn’t find a major studio to distribute the film. They did hold two sneak previews, including one on the Paramount Pictures lot and a second at the Fox Bruin Theater, where West received a standing ovation. Young folks flocked to its premiere at the Cinerama Dome, but the film was sadly a major flop, grossing just $50,000 on an $8 million dollar budget.

Critics were unkind, too. Rex Reed, who has his own sins to pay for his participation in Myra Breckenridge, said that the film was “a monument of ghoulish camp” and that West “looks like something they found in the basement of a pyramid.”

Whatever. Sextette is my dream film — a movie that by no means should ever have been made, yet there it is, living on streaming services, waiting for you to watch it, to be astounded by it, to be assaulted by it and finally, to proclaim that you survived it.

You can watch this on Amazon Prime and Tubi.

Pensione Paura (1978)

Four years after directing The Perfume of the Lady in Black, Francesco Barilli returned to direct this film. He had wanted to make a movie called L’Occhio, which had a very high budget, but producer Tommaso Dazzi had a treatment for this movie and, well, Barilli needed the money. An arrangement like that led to arguments on set, as the director and producer had very different ideas of the movie that they wanted to make.

During World War II, Rosa (Leonora Fani, who starred in The House at the Edge of the Park and the George Eastman film Dog Lay Afternoon which sounds like the scummiest or weirdest affair in, well, ever — which means I’m on the hunt for it) and her mother mourn the loss of Rosa’s father while running a hotel. After her mother dies myseriously, Rosa is constantly under assault from the insane guests, who are all murdered by a masked killer. Is it her dead father? Is this a gothic romance? Is it a giallo? Is it an exploitation movie? Who can say!

With a color template influenced by Suspiria and a predilection for art, this is one strange movie.  I’d compare it to Footprints on the Moon, a giallo that really isn’t a giallo and just has that label because it’s difficult to imagine what the hell it really is. It’s also known as Hotel Fear, which is a fine title for it.

Barilli also wrote Sacrifice! for Umberto Lenzi and Who Saw Her Die? for Alan Lado. He’s still making movies — mostly documentaries — but I really wish he’d made more of these uncatagorizable fantasy films. Is embracing violence part of growing from a girl to a woman? Is all male sexuality inherently brutal? Is Rosa becoming her dad or protected by him? And hey — isn’t it great that this movie gives you no real answers?

I mean — if you’ve been watching giallo long enough, you’re probably ready for a movie that punches your senses in the eyes and then doesn’t care to tell you what it all really means. In that way, the giallo prepares us for real life way more than any other genre. We never get all the answers and are always on the edge, lingering near madness, despair and death. Entertaining, no?

Arrow released a soundtrack for the film, but the movie isn’t available on DVD or blu ray in the U.S. Honestly, I’ve heard that it’s not an easy film to find anywhere. I found an untranslated version of the film — in high quality nonetheless — on YouTube, which I’ve shared below.

The Sister of Ursula (1978)

After their father’s death, two gorgeous sisters – the sensitive Ursula (Barbara Magnolfi, Suspiria, Cut and Run) and promiscuous Dagmar (Stefania D’Amario, Zombie, Nightmare City) decide to escape to the seaside resort town Amalfi. Oh, if they only knew the madness that waited there!

The island is quite literally awash with the wrong guys, the wrong girls, the wrong couples and a killer who tears people apart with the biggest member this side of Incubus. Get ready for a movie that isn’t sure if it wants to be sexploitation or giallo but is ready to do everything that it can to entertain you.

Director and writer Enzo Milioni also was behind the Lucio Fulci presented Luna di Sangue. In this movie, he’s created a world of pleasure and murder, which at times exists side by side. It seems from the cut I’ve seen that there may have been even longer — and more explicit — lovemaking scenes.

So who is the killer? Dagmar’s new man Filipo (Marc Porel, The Psychic), who just might also be a drug smuggler? The hotel owner (Yvonne Harlow, who claimed to be the great-granddaughter of Jean Harlow)? Perhaps dad isn’t quite so dead? Or are the sisters both insane? After all, Dagmar is given to loving herself just feet away from her sister, who hates just about everyone she meets.

According to Milioni, Porel was a drug addict who had earned a bad reputation as an actor. Magnolfi got him hired for the film and he behaved for the entire shoot and ended up getting clean. Sadly, while shooting a commercial in Monaco, he relapsed and overdosed.

You can get this from Severin.

Laserblast (1978)

For years, I wanted to see this movie. In 1978, my options were limited as it never played our drive-in, or if it did, I was six, so I couldn’t just drive out and see it. But I’d see stills of it in Starlog and think of how cool it looked. I mean, just take a glance at the poster!

It wasn’t until years later that I’d realize that my dreams of how awesome Laserblast could be are way better than the actual final product.

The one and only directorial effort of Michael Rae — I don’t count the Full Moon mixtape Aliens Gone Wild — this movie was produced by Charles Band, who in addition to producing so many movies that proclaim his love for puppets also directed movies like Metalstorm: The Destruction of Jared-Syn and Trancers.

The alien effects are by longtime Band collaborator David Allan. As we discussed back in our review of The Dungeonmaster, Allen had an interesting life. He got his start on the movie Equinox and worked on Flesh Gordon, Laserblast, The Howling, the Puppet Master series, Willow and so much more. But after dying in 1999, a crazy story emerged.

Allen used to be married to a woman named Donita Woodruff, who learned that Allen had an ex-girlfriend named Valerie Taylor — who also used to be a man and had enough of a criminal record that Woodruff found evidence that she’d committed murder in 1979. As a result of that evidence, Taylor went to jail and Allen and Woodruff would eventually divorce, according to Woodruff’s book Deadly Masquerade: A True Story of Illicit Passion, Buried Secrets, and Murder.

But hey — let’s talk about Laserblast.

A green-skinned man is wandering the desert when two aliens emerge and blow him away, returning to their spaceship without the weapon and pendant he was wearing.

Non-sequitur time: Billy wakes up millions of miles away. He’s played by Kim Milford (Rock-a-Die-Baby, Wired to Kill), an angry teenager miffed that his mother is leaving to go on a trip to Acapulco. He goes to visit his girlfriend Kathy (Cheryl Rainbeaux Smith, who will forever be Lila Lee in Lemora, but she’s also Lavelle in Caged Heat, Cinderella in Cinderella, Mary in Massacre at Central High and so many more roles, as well as a drummer who played with a bastardized version of The Runaways and with Joan Jett; see du-Beat-e-o), but her insane grandfather Colonel Farley (Keenan Wynn!) is so bonkers that he just leaves.

Billy hates the town he lives in and everything and everyone in it, like Chuck Boran, Froggy (Eddie Deezen in his first role) and the cops (who include Dennis Burkley, one of my favorite sitcom stars as Cal on Sanford and Son; he’s also the biker Dozer in Mask).

Our hero — I guess, he’s kind of a spoiled jerk — wanders the desert and finds the laser cannon and pendant. Whoops — I guess aliens aren’t as smart as we think they are, leaving that kind of weaponry behind on our backwater planet.

Chuck tries to pick up Kathy, which means he has to pay. Billy uses his new firepower to basically nuke Chuck’s car from orbit.

This show of force puts government official Tony Craig (Gianni Russo, who was Carlo Rizzo in The Godfather films — well, the first two that matter — and was also the owner of a Las Vegas club and casino at one point. Once, a patron was bothering a female guest and Gianni intervened. The man broke a champagne bottle and stabbed the actor, who pulled his gun and shot the man twice in the head. While that was considered a justifiable homicide, it turned out that the dead man was a member of Pablo Escobar’s cartel. A hit was ordered on Russo, but canceled when the drug lord learned that Russo had been in The Godfather; good thing he never saw Laserblast) on the case. He works with the sheriff (Ron Masak, who was a commercial voiceover guy who is the first cousin of Family Ties and Tremors star Michael Gross and Saturday Night Live castmember Mary Gross — who I never realized were related) to find out what the hell is going on.

Billy has a growth on his chest, so Kathy makes him go visit Doctor Mellon (Roddy McDowall, who deserves better; he definitely deserves better than to have his name misspelled as McDowell in the credits), who removes a metal disc from Billy’s chest. For this act, he and his car are blown up real good by Billy, which is a mercy killing, removing McDowall from this shoddy film.

It turns out whenever Billy wears the pendant, he becomes a green-skinned killer. He wipes out the deputies and nearly kills Kathy before she escapes. He also gets Chuck and Froggy before going full-on alien and screaming like a petulant child as he destroys his hometown. He feels like me, yelling at people who won’t let him skate at Rite Aid with his crappy Valterra skateboard back in 1988.

The aliens return to kill him, but guess what? They forget the pendant and laser gun again! Aliens! What is your problem?

This is a movie that takes potshots at Star Wars, including blowing up a billboard advertising that film. I’m trying to think of an analogy, but instead, whenever something inferior takes a cheap shot at a much better thing, I’m going to say, “That’s like Laserblast making fun of Star Wars.”

If you watch this and wonder, “Where have I heard this music before?” perhaps you’ve seen Band’s film Auditions. Or Robot Holocaust. Or The House on Sorority Row.

It was released along with End of the World by the Irwin Yablans Company, the same folks who brought you the first thee Halloween films. There was talk of a sequel in 1988, but the money never showed up. However, the Band production Deadly Weapon is exactly the same story as Laserblast.

What else can you say about a science fiction movie shot over three weekends for basically no money on an abandoned 1920’s Chicago set somewhere in California? Just imagine if you’d seen this movie under its awesome Spanish title of El Rayo Destructor Del Planeta Desconocido (The Destructive Beam of the Unknown Planet) or Greek name O Ektelestis Me Tis Aktines Thanatou (The Performer with Her Death Ray), two incredible names that would make the disappointment of watching this hurt even worse!

You can watch this with or without Mystery Science Theater riffing on Tubi. You can also get the blu ray of the film directly from Full Moon.

Best of all, you can grab one of the aliens from the movie from Big Bad Toy Store. I kind of love that these exist!

Devil Dog: Hound of Hell (1978)

Curtis Harrington knew all about the occult, thanks to his friendships with Marjorie Cameron and Kenneth Anger. This made-for-TV movie, which originally aired on CBS on October 31, 1978, is all about a suburban family who just wants to have a nice dog and ends up with a Satanic pooch.

Ah man, made-for-TV movies are where it’s at. Seriously, what a magical time to be alive, when these movies just blasted their way into your home via network TV.

As featured in our Ten Horror Movie Dogs article, this movie tells the story of the Barry family — Mike (Richard Crenna!), Betty (Yvette Mimieux, Jackson County JailThe Black Hole) and their kids Bonnie and Charlie (played by aunt of Paris Hilton Kim Richards and Ike Eisenmann, who were in the Witch Mountain movies) — get a new German Shepherd from a fruit vendor after theirs dies in an accident.

Sired in a Satanic ceremony to make the world think that evil will triumph, this lil’ mutt is soon killing maids and making Mike try to stick his hand into a lawnmower, which seems like small potatoes for the hound of Hell. Somehow, the dog also makes a shrine to the First of the Fallen in the basement and shrugs off some gunshots.

Mike goes the whole way to Ecuador — as you do — where Victor Jory, the voice of Peter Pan records, teaches him how to imprison the canine’s soul for a thousand years.

Ken Kercheval — Cliff Barnes from Dallas — is in here, as are R. G. Armstrong (who was also menaced by the Devil in The CarRace With the Devil and Evilspeak, which is some kind of record), Martine Beswick (who catfought with Racquel Welch in One Million Years B.C., played Bond girls in From Russia With Love and Thunderball, played Xaviera Hollander in The Happy Hooker Goes to Washington and was Sister Hyde in Dr. Jekyll and Sister Hyde) and Warren Munson, who played an admiral in Friday the 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan and Uncle Bill in Ed and His Dead Mother.

Satan’s Blood (1978)

Known in Spain as Escalofrio, this movie is exactly what you’re hunting for if what you want to see is late 70’s swingers stuck in a slowly going mad miasma of sexual depravity and Satanic hijinks. Go figure — that’s always exactly what I’m looking for in a movie!

Finally free from Francisco Franco’s repressed rule, Spanish filmmakers went nuts and made movie like, well, this one. Blame Carlos Puerto and Juan Piquer Simon (that magical lunatic who made Pieces and Slugs).

A young couple decides to see the city with their dog — they go get coffee and see Star Wars — and then meet up with another couple who live in a foreboding estate. Hey, it’s 1978 and the world is ending pretty much, so let’s see what happens next.

A big storm kicks in, the dog starts howling, it turns out that one of the girls used to sleep with the other girl’s brother and that one of the guys just nearly killed himself. And oh yeah — there’s a weird porcelain doll watching it all go down in front of the fire.

After dinner, they break out the black candles, the jazz cigarettes and the Ouija board — as you do — and things get weird.

Andy and Anna, the protagonist couple (I guess) decide that this would be a good time to head off to bed, but are awakened by loud noises and then a man in a black robe tries to attack Anna (keep in mind, every review I found online can’t agree as to the names of the couples, so let’s assume the other couple’s names are Bruno and Thelma).

Andy and Anna try to leave, but it’s too late — they keep getting pulled back to the house. So why not have a fourway romp on the pentagram rug with the hosts? Man, Spain was swinging in 1978!

Bruno, if that’s really his name, is played by Angel Aranda, who was in The Hellbenders. Ana is played by Mariana Karr, who went on to be in several Spanish soap operas. And that’s probably the only people you’d know, to be honest.

It doesn’t matter. This movie promises Satan, sin and sex and it delivers. I mean, it starts with a bunch of hooded worshippers all over a girl before they stab her with a big ceremonial blade. Some prints even start with a professor warning viewers of the dangers of Satanism! Wow!

Yes — the dog gets killed and eaten. I hate to be the one to tell you.

But hey — this is like 80 plus minutes long, the perfect length, and a real crowd pleaser. That is — if your crowd are all maniacs like me.

This was released by Mondo Macabro and Scorpion, but it’s out of print and commands high prices. Look for it at a used store, because trust me, you want this movie in your collection.

Star Wars Droppings: Os Trapalhoes na Guerra dos Planetas (1978)

Os Trapalhoes na Guerra dos Planetas is the thirteenth film of Los Trapalhoes, a Brazilian comedy troupe. You could translate it as The Bunglers in the War of the Planets or just call it Brazilian Star Wars. Either will do.

If you like jazzy music, dudes getting set on fire, hijinks and sped-up action, great news. These are not the droids you are looking for but this is the movie you are looking for.

Instead of Darth Vader, this movie features a bad guy named Zuco. Yes, Zuco. He looks enough like evil Anakin, I guess. Chewbacca didn’t fare much better, as his name is Bonzo and his voice is just him being recorded backward.

This is shot on videotape and blown up to 35mm, so it looks completely insane. It really looks like it came from another dimension. This is the kind of movie that I put on when I want people to leave my house in terror. So, you know, if you see me reach for one of my Os Trapalhoes DVDs, it just means that I am trying to get some sleep. The Force is not always strong in this one.