REPOST: Bermuda Triangle (1978)

AUTHOR’S NOTE: This originally ran on the site on August 4, 2018. I’ve brought it back for this week of Mexican horror. Please enjoy!

René Cardona Jr. gave us Tintorera, a Susan George-starring vehicle that is less the Mexican version of Jaws and more softcore three-way porn, as well as  Guyana: Crime of the Century, which somehow included Stuart Whitman as Reverend James Johnson leading Johnstown, along with Gene Barry and Joseph Cotten. If these things warm your heart, you’re reading the right website.

Based on Charles Berlitz’s best-selling book, this one has it all. Atlantis. A possessed doll. Black characters dubbed to sound like they’re coming straight out of Amos ‘n Andy. John Huston.

The Black Whale III has set sail for the Bermuda Triangle with the Marvin family leading the way. Sure, they’re looking for Atlantis, but mostly they just argue with one another. Finding a doll in the water, the family’s young daughter Diana becomes possessed, telling people how they’ll die and locking the cook in the freezer.

Oh yeah — there’s also a scuba diving expedition that leads to the oldest daughter getting her legs crushed and her father just can’t decide whether or not to cut her legs off. Such is the drama of this film.

People start getting killed off until the desperate captain tries to call other ships for help. They end up hearing multiple distress calls, including their own being played back to them. When they finally reach someone, they learn that everyone on board died ten years ago. All that’s left is the doll floating in the water.

Claudine Auger (Black Belly of the Tarantula) shows up here, livening things up somewhat. This film is strange, as it wants to be about so many things while struggling to be about anything. And as mentioned before, the near minstrel show dubbing of the black cook is quite troubling at worst or hilariously inappropriate at best.

Let me reiterate: Hollywood legend John Huston is somehow in this piece of shit. Oh the 1970’s, when once big time talent would show up in the strangest of films!

I found this for free on Amazon Prime, so I recommend you do the same. The doll parts are at least somewhat cool, as is the atonal soundtrack and poor dubbing.

Cyclone (1978)

Rene Cardona Jr. made Survive!, a movie that gets into the cannibalism after some rugby players on Uruguayan Air Force Flight 571 that had to confront the need to survive or eat their fellow players. He followed that up with this movie, also known as El Ciclon and Terror Storm. It’s also kind of stolen from Hitchcock’s Lifeboat.

An airplane goes down during a storm and the few survivors pile on to a small tour boat that is swept out to sea, where they have no food or fresh water. Will they decide to eat one another before the sharks eat them? Or will they be saved?

This movie is ridiculous and even more so because it has an all star cast, and by that, I mean a cast of people I would see as stars, including Arthur Kennedy (The Living Dead at Manchester Morgue), Carroll Baker (oh so many Umberto Lenzi films that I enjoy), Lionel Stander (from Hart to Hart!), Andres Garcia (Tintorera), Hugo Stiglitz (Nightmare City) and Olga Karlatos (ZombieMurder Rock).

This movie takes things from bad to worse and it gets even rougher from there. I adore movies that put actors through horrible things and this is definitely one of those.

You can watch this on Amazon Prime and Tubi.

Damned In Venice (1978)

Ugo Liberatore’s Nero Veneziano (Venetian Black) is a strange movie. It’d be easy to just say it’s a ripoff of Rosemary’s Baby or The Omen, but it really is an odd demented little film unique to itself.

Mark (Renato Cestie, who other than being in Fulci’s Challenge to White Fang and Torso, made a career of playing neglected boys who die of some disease by the end of the movie) is a blind boy who is given to disturbing visions. His parents have died and now he’s stuck living with his gorgeous sister Christine (Rena Niehaus, who is in the fantastically scummy Arabella L’angelo Nero) and their strict religious grandparents. That won’t last long because Mark causes an accident that leads to the old lady spectacularly going up in flames.

Yes. The hero of the movie just set his grandmom ablaze. It gets weirder.

Mark and Christine must now go live in Venice — look for Olga Karlatos in several roles — to live with another near-death relative, this time an aunt and her suicidal husband. They soon die and Christine decides that she’s going to start a brothel when she isn’t having a virgin birth.

Some people comment on how brutal she is to her brother. If you have to put up with Mark, you’d abuse him as well. All he keeps doing is claiming she’s having the Antichrist, with the father being the mysterious boarder named Dan that no one can see.

Can Christine’s ex Giorgio save the day? How about Father Stefani? Or Mark just trapped in the predestined end of all there is? And man, how rough is that scene with the baby?

Bonus points for having Ely Galleani (Five Dolls for an August MoonBaba Yaga) and Lorraine de Selle (Emanuelle In America) as two of Christine’s friends.

If you loved Don’t Look Now for all the canal scenes but wanted things to somehow be even more downbeat, this movie is your jam. I have no idea what the ending of this movie is all about, nor do I even know what large pieces of this movie are attempting to do. That is the wonder of near-lost Italian ripoff cinema and we should all be so lucky as to be confused at 2:17 AM by a movie just this out there.

Trauma (1978)

This isn’t Red Rings of Fear, a 1978 Fabio Testi movie that is also a giallo-type film. Not is it the 1993 Dario Argento movie. Instead, it’s a Spanish film directed by Leon Klimovsky (The Vampires Night OrgyThe People Who Own the Dark).

This is all about a gorgeous inn in the country that seems like the perfect place for Daniel to do some writing. However, from the moment he meets Veronica, nothing will be as it seems, as guest after guest gets dispatched by the razor of a killer. In the morning, even the luggage of the sex-crazed guests is gone and so are they.

This gets the sex and nudity part of the giallo right, if not the fashion and originality. It’s not a bad film, but not one you’ll remember.

Trauma is available on the Vinegar Syndrome Forgotten Gialli box set.

Brutes and Savages (1978)

The difference between a mondo and the kind of movie that a school teacher would make you watch is that these movies may seem like they want to educate you, but they really want to brutalize you with “1,001 forbidden scenes” and blast you with “fantastic brute sound.”

What else do you expect from Aquarius Releasing, which also put out Faces of Death (perhaps the most viewed mondo of the VHS generation), Evils of the NightSilent Night Deadly NightRaw Force and so many others, as well as the American releases of The BeyondCannibal FeroxBeyond the Darkness and Dr. Butcher M.D.

Riz Ortolani music? Check. Animal sacrifices? You know it. Mating rituals? We got that. Brain surgery? Yes. Brain surgery.

This is a movie that does not know the difference between alligators and crocodiles. Also, much like Faces of Death, much of this movie is reenacted to the point that it becomes laughable.

You can get this from Synapse.

Police Story: A Chance to Live (1978)

Okay. Alright. Settle down, everyone. Yes, we’re reviewing a David Cassidy movie for this latest “TV Week” installment here at B&S About Movies. Sam said it was okay, really. Just be grateful Danny Bonaduce’s role in the 1975 Police Story episode “The Empty Weapon” wasn’t spun off into a series.

Knock “Keith Partridge” if you will for the “Cassidymania” that swept American in the early ‘70s, but how many artists can you name that played to two sellout crowds of 56,000 each at the Houston Astrodome in Texas over one weekend and sold out New York’s Madison Square Garden in one day in 1972? Cassidy was the Beatles. He was Kurt Cobain. But he was also on his way to becoming the Knack.

The turning point in his career — a tragic one — occurred on May 26, 1974. A gate stampede at a show in London’s White City Stadium resulted in the injuries of 800 people in a crush at the front of the stage. Thirty were taken to the hospital, and a 14-year-old girl, Bernadette Whelan, died four days later at London’s Hammersmith Hospital.

The tragedy haunted Cassidy until the day he died, as he blamed himself for Whelan’s death. And he stepped back from music and acting. Then an opportunity to return to the small screen — in an adult role — was offered.

The story begins with NBC-TV’s hit anthology crime drama series Police Story that aired from September 1973 to May 1978 and was developed by East Pittsburgh-born Joseph Wambaugh. Upon his retirement from his fourteen year career with the Los Angeles Police Department, he turned to writing. And when it came to true crime stories in the ‘70s, Wambaugh was the man. His 1971 novel The New Centurions was turned into a 1972 hit film starring George C. Scott, and the rest of his novels became films in quick succession: The Blue Knight (1972/1973), The Choirboys (1975/1977), The Black Marble (1978/1980), The Onion Field, and The Glitter Dome (1981/1984).

Just prior to the cancellation of the series, David Cassidy starred as undercover police officer Dan Shay in “A Chance to Live.” As result of his youthful appearance, Shay was recruited to infiltrate a high-school drug ring as a fellow student. After his typecasting as a teen idol during his four year run on The Partridge Family, the episode was his triumphant return to acting, as he earned an Emmy nomination for “Best Dramatic Actor.” Courtesy of the award nod and the show’s high ratings — as everyone was intrigued to see Cassidy in an adult role — it led to the development of a series: David Cassidy: Man Undercover.

While he was once again praised for his acting, it wasn’t enough to overcome the Partridge albatross: the show was cancelled after 10 episodes. Many believe the decision of having Cassidy record the show’s theme song, in lieu of a traditional instrument theme song (think “The Rockford Files,” “Starsky and Hutch,” or “S.W.A.T“; each which became U.S. Top 40 hits), gave the show a “teeny bopper” feel. Others felt prefixing his name to the show’s title was a mistake. Everyone stayed away. And, as with the White City Stadium tragedy, the failure of the series always gnawed at him — especially when FOX-TV copied the formula with 21 Jump Street and it launched Johnny Depp’s career.

Keen eyes will notice Dee Wallace (Stone), later known for her work in The Hills Have Eyes, The Howling, Cujo, Critters and, of course, E.T: The Extra-Terrestrial, as Cassidy’s wife in the telefilm. She was replaced in the series by Wendy Rastatter, later of another well-regarded TV movie, Midnight Offerings. Keener eyes will notice David’s squad commander is Simon Oakland of Psycho (1960), Bullitt (1969), and TV’s The Night Stalker. Comic book fans of all things Marvel know the telefilm and series writer/producer Larry Brody for his work on the late ’90s animated Spider-Man and Silver Surfer franchises.

Seriously, don’t let the David Cassidy connection deter you from watching. Not only was Police Story a high quality piece of work, Cassidy is excellent throughout. He deserved for it to be a hit. He deserved a hell of a lot more than the hand he was dealt.

You watch the full movie on You Tube and see why.

Oh, since we’re on the subject of teen idol actors and musicians: Be sure to check out our reviews of Lane Caudell (Getaway) in the ’70s Drive-In favorites Goodbye, Franklin High and Hanging on a Star, along with ex-Jeff Beck Group vocalist Kim Milford (Laserblast, Wired to Kill) in the Don Kirshner-produced TV movies Song of the Succubus and Rock-a-Die, Baby.

There are more TV movies to be had with our “Week of Made for TV Movies,” “Lost TV Week,” “Son of Made for TV Movie Week” and “Grandson of Made for TV Movie Week” tribute spotlights to those films that, in many cases, are even better than the movies that played in theatres.

About the Author: You can read the music and film reviews of R.D Francis on Medium and learn more about his work on Facebook. He also writes for B&S About Movies.

A Christmas to Remember (1978)

A Christmas to Remember is a TV movie that aired on the CBS-TV Network on December 20. 1978, starring Jason Robards (A Boy and his Dog, Something Wicked This Way Comes), Eva Marie Saint (Martha Kent in 2006’s Superman Returns), and Joanne Woodward (Mrs. Paul Newman, 1947’s A Double Life). The screenplay was based on the 1977 novel The Melodeon by Glendon Swarthout, whose novels Bless the Beasts and the Children, John Wayne’s The Shootist, and the beach romp Where the Boys Are were turned into films.

The screenplay was adapted by Stewart Stern, who wrote James Dean’s defining film, Rebel Without a Cause, Dennis Hopper’s 1971 directing flop, The Last Movie, a 1973 multiple-Emmy winning adaptation of Tennessee Williams’s The Glass Managerie (Tommy “The Room” Wiseau’s favorite playwright), and the 1963 Marlon Brando vehicle directed by George Englund, The Ugly American (ironically, Wiseau’s favorite actor). The holiday effort also served as the second-to-last directing effort by George Englund, who closed out his directing career with Rock Hudson’s The Vegas Strip War for NBC.

Rusty McCloud (George Parry, who ended his career with 1981’s The Burning; if you’ve seen The Burning, you’ll understand why) is sent by his economically-strapped mother (Joanne Woodward) to live on his grandparents’ farm one winter during the Great Depression. The grandparents, Daniel Larson (Jason Robards) and his wife Emma (Eve Marie Saint), are still grieving the loss of their son in World War I, and Grandap Larson is resentful of his grandson. However, a bond gradually develops as they work to deliver a melodeon (a pump organ) left by the dead son to the local church as a surprise Christmas gift.

Originally filmed in 1976 and intended as a theatrical release, this is an old fashioned Christmas they way they don’t make them anymore, with a stellar cast and comes highly recommended. You can watch a pretty decent taped-from-TV VHS rip for free on You Tube. And it’s the only way to see it, as it was never released on VHS or re-issued on DVD.

There are more TV movies to be had with our “Week of Made for TV Movies,” “Lost TV Week,” “Son of Made for TV Movie Week” and “Grandson of Made for TV Movie Week” tribute spotlights to those films that, in many cases, are even better than the movies that played in theatres.

About the Author: You can read the music and film reviews of R.D Francis on Medium and learn more about his work on Facebook. He also writes for B&S About Movies.

They Call Her…Cleopatra Wong (1978)

Bobby A. Suarez isn’t mentioned in the same breath as other genre directors, but if I have anything to say about it, that’s going to change. The One-Armed Executioner, two Bionic Boy films, Warrior of the Apocalypse — the guy has made some interesting films. Perhaps none as wonderuflly odd as this one — which somehow synthesizes the best parts of James Bond, martial arts films and the sheer insanity that is at the heart of all great movies from the Phillipines.

Cleopatra Wong (Marrie Lee, who also played the same role in two more films) is an Interpol agent who is a master of martial arts, archery and shooting guns. She’s ambushed by three clowns and escapes with a teleportation device — yes, Cleopatra’s world is much stranger than outs — and regroups.

Soon, she’s on the trail of a counterfeiting plot, which means that she must battle pro wrestlers and sniff out the fake money in jars of strawberry jam headed for Hong Kong. This all brings her to a strawberry plantation, where she assembles a team of four other female agents known as The Super Sirens to battle evil nuns and monks.

This movie is everything that I love in one package: fisticuffs, spy action and craziness. If it had a black gloved killer and better fashion, it might be the best movie ever made. You can watch it on Amazon Prime.

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.