2021 Scarecrow Psychotronic Challenge Day 22: Night Creature (1978)

DAY 22 — BEASTS OF BURDEN: One where a horse/donkey/mule/ox, etc. (or a jungle cat?), is doing some serious work.

Sam, the head honcho at B&S About Movies, speaks a lot of celluloid truths: one of them is that Donald Pleasence really will take anything for a paycheck. Now, Ross Hagan, we know that he always takes everything offered. But wow . . . why is the stunning Nancy Kwan, here? Well, when times are tough and a buck is a buck, you sign on the dotted line for a ripoff of The Most Dangerous Game* — only set on a hunter’s private island. To that end: Donnie is our big-game hunter (and entrepreneur, race car driver, archeological temple restorer, etc.) who brings a killer leopard to his private island, turns it loose, and starts his hunt. Oops! Don’s daughter, played by Nancy Kwan, with her Texan squeeze, played by Ross Hagan, show up for an unexpected visit. Or something or other. . . .

Yeah, in the tradition of William Girdler’s Grizzly, we sort have a Jaws ripoff, here, or as we like to say, a “Bastard Pups of Jaws,” with a killer leopard on the loose, gnawing its way through its cast . . . like one of those killer dog flicks (which we explore in full, with our “Ten Horror Movie Dogs” feature) starring Joe Don Baker, David McCallum, and Richard Crenna. Yep. Just like a William Girdler flick — be it Grizzly . . . or Abby or Project: Kill or Day of the Animals or, hell, The Manitou, which, even though it’s based on a best-selling novel, is still a cash-in on The OmenNight Creature, aka the poor leopard who was captured by ol’ Donnie and dumped here, doesn’t have an original spot on its hide.

But wait . . . it’s an all black leopard.

Eh, all I know is that Lee Madden, he of my beloved biker romps Hell’s Angels ’69 (1969) and Angel Unchained (1970), is knocking out his second horror film of the triple-threat that takes Charles Manson, washed-up studio contract players, aka “Hags,” and Jesus Christ to exploitation task with The Night God Screamed (1971).

Sadly, even with my fandom for those entries in Madden’s resume, I’ve never made the effort to seek out his sexploitation-action romp about three girls running their own brothel with The Manhanders (1974), which is an oversight that only a Mill Creek public domain box set can correct. I will not, however, ever . . . never, subject myself to Mr. Madden’s final film, Ghost Fever, for I have no desire to see a movie with TV’s George Jefferson as its star. (Besides, Madden knew a real dog when he scratches the fleas: he took the Alan Smithee credit.) Anyway, after Angel Unchained, this is Madden’s second and final writing credit, which, again, serves as his second and final horror film after — IMO — his best film, The Night God Screamed.

Speaking of movie wisdoms: Bill Van Ryn of Drive-In Asylum loves films — such as Prey — where nothing happens. But I don’t even think the Ryn can handle these maddening Madden reels of nothingness. Thankfully, someone took the time to cut this meandering, 83-minute snore fest into a 13-minute edit. Yeah, its like that: 70-plus minutes of this film isn’t necessary to get to the point of it all.

However, I’d be remiss if I didn’t tell you something about the film.

Well, it’s not — in spite of the “Donald Pleasence of Halloween” plug — a horror film: this is pure a thriller . . . with no thrills nor suspense. And the leopard is just a regular, run-of-the-mill leopard: it’s not possessed by Satan or injected with any manipulated DNA strands. The poor leopard is just sacred — after it’s capture from its jungle home in Thailand — and dumped into a foreign habitat. Wouldn’t you be pissed off after being drugged and caged and dumped in a foreign wood? Man encroaches on the animals’ environment, but the animal is the “monster.” So either kill it or capture it, for the tourism trade can’t suffer.

And suffer the animal does.

We are in the middle of Thailand and shooting on the sly, so PETA wasn’t on site, and it’s 1978 pre-CGI, so yes: We have ourselves a vile-as-fuck Ruggero Deodato joint of the who-gives-a-fuck-about-spider monkeys-and-river turtles variety, for we need the cat to do what we need it to do before we loose “the Golden Hour.”

Then there’s the not so “magical” cinematography.

Here we are, in the middle of one of the most exotic lands on the friggin’ planet, and yet, Lee Madden managed to make Thailand look like a shot-through-cheese cloth fucking mess. Even the Nancy Kwan, Jennifer Rhodes, and Russ Hagan (as our resident Texan-styled tour guide, natch) sub-plotted love triangle is an utter bore. Oh, but out-sucking the lover’s plot is the POV-cat stalking, which is out-sucked by the voice over narration required to thread the travel log footage into non-coherency.

Everything in this movie sucks. Shame on Lee Madden for snookering a film studio for a free Thailand vacation as a poor leopard suffered for it.

Don’t pay a time for this offense to cinema. Watch it for free on You Tube — if only to scratch another Donald Pleasence flick off that must-watch-everything-Donnie-ever-did watch list.

* We run down the “human death sport” genre in our review of Elio Petri’s sci-if pop art’er, The 10th Victim.

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

Chant of Jimmie Blacksmith (1978)

This critically acclaimed Australian film about an aborigine man pushed to the brink somehow ended up as a section 3 video nasty.

Director Fred Schepisi left Australia for a decade after making this movie, directing films like RoxanneIceman and Six Degrees of Separation. That’s because that even though this movie was a big success, the promptional costs took away the profits, taking Schepsi’s entire monetary investment on the film.

Jimmie Blacksmith (Tom E. Lewis) is the son of an Aboriginal mother and a white father, a fact that brands him as an outcast even through Reverend Neville and his wife Martha attempt to raise him to have better opportunities than society would expect. Of course, when he goes out into the world to work, he’s taken advantage of at every turn, from employees that don’t pay him fairly to others that force him to found up other Aboriginals. Finally, when he gets a decent job on the Newby farm he’s able to bring his girlfriend — already pregnant with another man’s child — as well as two relatives to live with him.

The Newby family soon turns against Jimmie, with even the women telling his girlfriend to take her child and leave him behind. He decides to put a scare into them, but it gets out of hand and nearly every Newby woman and child is hacked to pieces. Jimmie goes on the run but delcares war on everyone that has wronged him, seeking out past employers and butchering them.

Yet Jimmie can’t stay on the run forerver, not when the entire town — maybe the entire world — wants to see him hung.

Just as much a lesson on racism as it was when it was released, The Chant of Jimmie Blacksmith doesn’t relaly belong amongst the video nasty cannibals and beasts. But there it remains.

You can get this from Kino Lorber or watch it on Tubi.

I Miss You, Hugs and Kisses (1978)

Also known as Drop Dead Dearest and Left for Dead, this Canadian movie is based on the case of Peter Demeter, a Hungarian-born, Toronto-based real estate developer convicted in 1974 of hiring a hitman named “The Duck” to murder his wife in what may be the longest trial in Canadian history. It was also one of the more sensational ones, as Demeter’s wife Christine was a much young and more attractive person than her husband.

Even better, both Peter and Christine were trying to kill one another to collect a $1 million dollar insurance policy. While Peter claimed he was innocent, he was later charged with trying to arrange the kidnapping and murder of the son of his cousin, who was managing his affairs.

Elke Sommer plays Christine, here known as Magdalene Kruschen, in the fictionalized retelling of the real tale. Compared to the other section 2 video nasties, this doesn’t really seem up to the gory label, but there you go. It was eventually released in the UK as Drop Dead Dearest in 1986 by Heron Video after 66 seconds of head blows, clubbings and a scene where a woman’s dead body being sexually caressed was all cut from the film.

More courtroom drama than vile exploitation — and therefore not a video nasty that anyone but the completists track down — this was the last movie by writer, director and producer Murray Markowitz.

I Spit on Your Grave (1978)

Also known as Day of the Woman, this film was prosecuted in the U.K. — placed on their Section 1 list — while being outright banned in countries like Ireland, Norway, Iceland and West Germany. A 2001 re-release saw seven minutes of the film being cut, mostly the lengthy rape sequence that has earned this film its misogynistic label.

I Spit on Your Grave is easily found across VOD and PPV platforms as well as DVDs and Blu-rays across various imprints.

But somehow, I’ve never seen it. Maybe the giant clamshell with the handwritten must be 18 to rent note frightened me. I mean, I was certainly aware of it, but while most slashers allowed enough voyeuristic fun for teenagers in my small hometown, I Spit On Your Grave just seemed like a bummer trip. And yeah, it is, but I’m glad I’ve finally watched it.

Short story writer Jennifer Hills (Camille Keaton, the Solange of What Have You Done to Solange?) is tough and independent enough to live in Manhattan, but when she rents an isolated cottage in Connecticut, her very presence makes the men of the town wary. Even the mentally challenged man she has been kind of, Matthew, is a party as they abduct and assault her. Johnny, Stanley and Andy then tell the young man to kill her, but he fakes the job and she survives.

They took not just everything from her, but even tore apart the book that she came to this quiet place to complete. Now, as she reassembles the manuscript, she begins destroying the men, starting by making love to Matthew before hanging him and dumping his body in the lake.

By the end of the film, she has become a destroyer, giving Johnny the mother of all ruined orgasms, slamming an axe into Andy and ordering Stanley just as he told her to “suck it” by forcing him into the outboard motor of her boat. 

Is the revenge catharsis enough? I’ve always wondered.

Writer-director Meir Zarchi came up with this movie — his wife typed the script on the very typewriter that Jennifer uses in the film — when he met the survivor of an assault in the mid 70s. He couldn’t sell the idea to anyone, so he made it himself before losing money each time he played it as Day of the Woman, I Hate Your Guts and The Rape and Revenge of Jennifer Hill. He got the Jerry Gross Organization to distribute it and the deal was that they could change the title to anything they wished. Look, no one could rename a movie like Jerry Gross and that’s where we get the best part of this movie, its title: I Spit on Your Grave.

This film was universally hated by critics, but Zarchi had no time for them, saying “”Frankly, I’m not concerned whether it receives bad press or not. It doesn’t touch me one way or the other whatsoever. If you told me that the public does not like it and the critics like it, then there is something very, very bad about that. Who am I reaching? Three-hundred critics around the United States, or 2,000 around the world? It’s really the public that counts, the 20 million who have seen the film around the globe.”

Keaton married Zarchi in 1979 and they divorced in 1982, which is pretty wild considering what she was put through in this film. She was also the fifth wife of Sidney Luft, who was once married to Judy Garland. As for her and Zarci, they’d work together again in 2019 when he made I Spit on Your Grave: Deja Vu

The Evil (1978)

Psychiatrist C.J. Arnold (Richard Crenna) has bought an abandoned Civil War mansion that was built over hot sulfur pits, which seems like it may instantly be an issue beyond the fact that, you know, the house is totally haunted. But sure, why not turn it into a place where drug addicts can cold turkey sweat out all the stuff in their systems.

His wife Dr. Caroline Arnold (Joanna Pettet, who had lunch with Sharon Tate the afternoon of her death) is able to sense that there’s something wrong, so she heads to the basement and unleashes it because, well, we wouldn’t have a movie otherwise.

And what a movie we have, with people spontaneously combusting, dogs suicidally knocking Cassie Yates (Rolling Thunder, Sarah Curtis on Dynasty) off a balcony, people sawing off their own hands, Mandy Pepperidge being abducted by some kind of ghostly entity, bodies coming back from the dead, said entities ripping clothes off of women, Andrew Prine drowning in quicksand and Victor Buono as the devil.

Shot at the Montezuma Castle in Las Vegas, New Mexico — a one-time health spa and retreat that became a Jesuit college that had fallen into decay — The Evil is yet another dependable movie by Gus Trikonis. Between this, Nashville GirlThe SidehackersMoonshine County ExpressShe’s Dressed to Kill and Take This Job and Shove It, his name guarantees that I’ll be totally entertained.

The Evil is a section 3 video nasty and totally earns it. You can watch this on Tubi.

Rings of Fear (1978)

This is the third entry in a loosely linked series of films that are known by the pretty much pervy title of the Schoolgirls in Peril trilogy. All of these movies have young girls shockingly be interested in sex and being murdered for it.

The series starts with Massimo Dallamano’s What Have You Done to Solange?, one of the best films in the giallo form, which he followed with What Have They Done to Your Daughters? Sadly, Dallamano would die before this movie was made, but he is credited for writing the screenplay.

When the body of a teenage girl is discovered wrapped in plastic twelve years before Laura Palmer, Inspector Gianni DiSalvo (Fabio Testi) finds himself investigating a clique of young women called The Inseparables” who attend a prestigious all-girls’ school and were friends with the victim.

One of their number is Fausta Avelli, who was also in Don’t Torture A DucklingThe Psychic and Phenomena. And Helga Line, who was in everything from So Sweet…Perverse and Nightmare Castle to The Vampires Night OrgyHorror Rises from the Tomb and Black Candles, is in this.

Most of this movie recycles the past two films, but man, the ending where the first killer casually kills himself and then there’s the reveal of the real person behind everything? That makes watching this all worthwhile.

The Frenchman’s Garden (1978)

The Frenchman’s Garden Murders were a series of 6 murders committed by Andrés Aldije Monmejá — known as El Francés as he was from France — Hosé Muñoz Lopera in Seville, Spain at the start of the last century.

Monmejá and Lopera had set up a gambling and prostitution establishment where they would rob and even kill their guests, then bury them in — you knew it from the title — the garden behind the building. They were both executed by the garrote in 1906.

Don’t expect a Naschy horror film here. This is a historical crime drama about one of Spain’s most notorious serial killers. According to Mondo Macabro, this was a very personal project for Naschy, who wrote, directed and acted in the film. He even omitted his name as an actor from all the promotional material for this movie, instead making María José Cantudo (Horror Rises from the TombThe Killer Is Not Alone) and Agata Lys (The Return of the Musketeers) the stars. He also used his real name, Jacinto Molina, for the directing credit. Also, keep an eye out for Silvia Tortosa,  who was Countess Irina Petrovska in Horror Express.

It’s really intriguing to see the non-horror side of Naschy, even if this is a dark-themed film.

As always, you have to love Mondo Macabro. They’ve made this movie available, fully uncut and restored, for the first time on US home video. Beyond the gorgeous new 4K restoration, there’s audio commentary by The Naschycast‘s Troy Guinn and Rodney Barnett and Human Beast: The Films of Paul Naschy author Troy Howarth, as well as an archival interview with Paul Naschy. You can buy it directly from their site.

Circuito Chiuso (1978)

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: When Frederick Burdsall isn’t at work or watching movies while covered in cats, you can find Fred in the front seat of Knoebels’ Phoenix. 

What we have here today, my friends, is your standard supernatural made for TV Giallo. From 1978, comes Circuito Chiuso (Closed Circuit),  directed by Giuiano Montado, who is probably best known for the trilogy of films he made dealing with the various abuses of power, the most known being Sacco and Vanzetti. It stars Flavio Bucci, Tony Kendall and to an extent Giuliano Gemma. Let’s look at the story…

A harmless, movie loving old man goes to the cinema to watch the Giuliano Gemma western now appearing. Everyone takes their seats and the film begins to roll. Nothing out of the ordinary happening here until the final confrontation, when the Pistolero (Gemma) fires at his adversary and the old man is struck and killed by a bullet. With police already in the theater, it is quickly locked down so the killer can’t escape. We watch tensions build as the interrogations begin and no one is allowed to leave. The police chief decides to re-enact the crime in the hopes of figuring it out and gets a volunteer to sit in the death seat. When the final confrontation takes place, the pistolero fires and the volunteer is gunned down. There doesn’t appear to be any connection and finally the chief runs the film a final time, taking the death seat himself. Not to spoil anything but it doesn’t end well for the chief and the mystery is solved. 

It is part sci-fi, part social commentary and somewhat supernatural making for an interesting watch. If you go in expecting the usual black gloved killer and lots of bloody violence you will be very disappointed. Go in with an open mind, then watch and enjoy this visual experiment that has been overlooked long enough and I’ll see you at Knoebels.

I Wanna Hold Your Hand (1978)

Despite the low budget of this film, seeing as how it was Robert Zemeckis’ first movie — and Steven Spielberg’s first produced film — Spielberg promised to step in if things ever got out of hand.

Written by Zemeckis and Bob Gale, the film pulls off an interesting paradox. It’s a movie about the Beatles but we never see them. Instead, Pam Mitchell (Nancy Allen) and Rosie Petrofsky (Wendi Jo Sperber, forever in my heart; unlike the twentysomething teenagers in this movie, she lied about her age and she was only seventeen when she was hired) dream, plan and scheme to get to the Ed Sullivan Show to catch the first U.S. appearance of the lads from Liverpool.

Along with Grace Corrigan (Theresa Saldana), Larry (Marc McClure), Janis (Susan Kendall Newman, daughter of Paul) and Tony (Bobby Di Cicco), they’re grabbed a limo and headed out to the Fab Four’s hotel. Pam even ends up trapped up John’s bed as the band hangs out in their room, as all manner of hijinks ensure, as this is a movie with a very simple premise and an episodic unfolded of the panic that happens when Beatlemania took over the country. And oh yeah — Eddie Deezen!

Di Cicco, Sperber, Allen and Deezen would all appear in Spielberg’s next movie 1941, which was also written by Gale and Zemeckis. Sperber and McClure would also appear in another Spielberg, Gale and Zemeckis associated series: Back to the Future.

It’s pretty astounding that twelves Beatles songs were cleared for this movie, which just didn’t happen back in the late 70s. At the time, the rights were spread across numerous entities, which made it even more difficult to get all of the soundtrack approved.

I first saw this late at night on a UHF channel and ended up loving it way more than I thought that I would. It just works; seeing it again years later, it holds up.

Be sure to join us for our three part “The Beatles: Influence on Film” series as we look at 33 films dealing with the legacy of the Beatles.

The Force on Thunder Mountain (1978)

Pumpkin, peaches, pumpkin pie, stick a needle in my eye . . . this friggin’ movie. Well, at least it gives us a lead actor — Christopher Cain, in his only film role — crooning his original tune, “Thunder Mountain.” But it ain’t no Jay Ferguson singin’ “Thunder Island” or Michael Martin Murphy lamenting about Indian girls from coming down Yellow Mountain in “Wild Fire.”

No, dear reader, be not copywriter duped: for wisdom nor terror is to be found in the abyss that is The Force on Thunder Mountain, Benjy and ghost skulls, and Osmond family connections, be damned. Yes. Osmonds.

Paul Z. at VHS Collector.com with the clean JPEG assist. What would B&S do without him?

We get a portrayal of “Alan Osmond” in the deal — that is, if you watched the TV movie Side by Side: The True Story of the Osmond Family (1982) — by Todd Dutson, here, in his second and final film role; he debut-stars alongside the once-and-gone, croonin’ Cain. But don’t come a-knockin’ for anymore roles from Borge West (who produced) and David Fogg (who did sound), as they’re done and gone as actors, padre. But producer George Gale, who got his start as an editor on Phantom from Space (1953), stuck and stayed in the business. His crazy, 80-plus credits producer resume led to his working with our beloved J.S Cardone on Outside Ozona (1998) to hooking up with Sly Stallone on Rambo (2008) and The Expendables 2 (2012), as well as Conan the Barbarian (2011).

Now, Utah-based actor James Lyle Strong is another story: Primarily a stage actor, he was in eight other films. Did you see Strong’s work in The Great Brain (1978), get this, starring Jimmy Osmond of the Osmond clan? (The other Osmond’s film was 1978’s Goin’ Coconuts!, if you care.) Now you see the connection on how Todd Duston got his Osmond bioflick gig — and proof that “networking” on the set, works. Oh, and Strong has a six-degrees of separation from Rollerball (1975), well, one degree: he co-stars in the abysmal remake of H.G Wells’s The Time Machine (1978; we’re working on that one) with John “Moonpie” Beck — a film so abysmal that it was meant for theaters but dumped on TV to be a ratings bomb.

It’s all brought to us by director Peter B. Good, here in his feature film directing debut. He’d go on to direct one more film: a shocking stylistic turn with an SOV-nasty take on the Jack the Ripper legend that is Fatal Exposure (1989). As a cinematographer and incognito producer, Good gave us the death-docs Faces of Death III and IV (1985/1990). This from a guy who was noted for his early ’70s wildlife documentarian work and made box office bank as the producer and cinematographer for the Stewart Raffill (High Risk) directed The Adventures of the Wilderness Family (1975).

While Good’s second and final directing effort, Fatal Exposure, showed a lot of potential for future growth, that potential is lost in wilds of this not-haunted forest romp. What’s really crazy: Good was also the cinematographer on one of my childhood favorites: the family nature movie Chandar, the Black Leopard of Ceylon (1972), which was part of The Wonderful World of Disney Sunday evening TV movie blocks.

No, Disney nostalgia will not blind this reviewer. Not this time. And no bogus “SF” sticker on the VHS will dupe me this time, either. Again, ghostly skulls, be damned. Or cute dogs. Or Osmonds.

Peter B. Good’s second feature film — as cinematographer and producer, after his work with Raffill — the 1975 thriller Johnny Firecloud.

Sure, there’s a sci-fi element stumbling about the Osmond Family Utah wood, but this is a straight up, light weight drama for the family set. Courtesy of United Home Video — one of the better distributors on the market — The Force on Thunder Mountain was everywhere, on every video store shelf out there, right alongside another hornswogglin’ family flick, Mystery Mansion (1984), which ended up in the horror section — but was anything but horror. We mention the latter since both family fests were paired as a Saturday afternoon UHF-TV two-fer programmer in the late ’80s. (Oy! Mystery Mansion; I never understood a “family” movie having bondage scenes with kidnappers making death threats by shotgun, but it exists.)

Anyway . . . what’s a single parent with a paranormal fetish to do when he’s stuck with his kid for the weekend and he needs to explore a haunted mountain forest: take the kid along for some fresh air and father-son bonding, demons — or whatever the hell is on Thunder Mountain — be damned.

So, is Ash up there poking around a skin-bound book and pissing off a Sumerian demon via a reel-to-reel?

Sorry, Cletus. Yahs gotta leaves yer Raimi hopes down at the general store at the small town at the foot of the mountain, as no Equinox (1970) — be it lunar or solar — shall converge on Thunder Mountain. But you’ll “taste the rainbow” as showers of Skittles will fall. Hopefully, you picked up a bag of Reese’s Pieces at the general store, Elliot . . . as we cue the UFO stock footage from the 1953 version of Invaders from Mars and a repurposed Jupiter-2 from Irwin Allen’s Lost in Space. Then we’ll call up a couple of 1800s Gabby Hayes-cum-Jack Elam prospectors to the set, as said UFOs will telekinetic some rocks, or is that electromagnetic-field some rocks, to scare them out of them there hills . . . because “something” is out there that can not be found. Mum’s the word.

Meanwhile, in the present day . . . father and son hike and talk. And ad-lib awful non-dialog. And hike. And talk. And dad assures his son that “. . . it’s just the wind” and not to worry about those never-seen-before footprints. And feign excitement at the animal stock footage of cougar cubs and coyote pups.

Then things go all phantasmal — sans any dimensional forks from red planet Tall Man — as dad and son walk from the woods . . . into a dry, desert lake bed. Is that the Overlook Hotel I see in the horizon? Is the kid going to channel Danny Torrence and redrum all of God’s creatures great and small? And we hope against hope that Steve Austin and Bigfoot from the two-part “The Secret of Bigfoot” story arc (1976) shows up. And we hope Christopher George will appear to bring along the bastard-pups-of-Jaws plot from Grizzly (1976). And we wished Dan Haggerty showed up . . . denied. Hags was committed to the NBC-TV series The Life and Times of Grizzly Adams, and chose to work with Linda Blair in The Chilling (1989), instead. And Elves (1989). And a couple of evil Keeblers in a Utah redwood would be welcomed. Even a errant, psychotic Leprechaun (1993) would help.

Yeah, if Lee Majors starred as the dad, Christopher George as a ranger, and Dan Haggerty as the mountain prospector. And we had a Bigfoot vs. Bear smack down to go with the UFO. And an Overlook Hotel. And some Coscarelli dimensional forks. And an actual Osmond showed up. But we digress.

Instead, we get James Lyle Strong — the most experienced, best actor of the bunch — as the scraggly-bearded not-Dan Haggerty dude named Om — a 1,000-year-old, crash-landed alien armed with a Translator, a techno-trinket that makes thoughts a reality, restores cut down trees, and scare off nasty bears. The Translator also needs to fend off Om, as the screenplay (unintentionally, we think) errs to the side of pedophile — with the “sleeping arrangements” to “teach” our young lad to inherit the Translator to protect the mountain. Or something. No wonder Jimmy Osmond traveled not to Thunder Mountain as a follow up to The Great Brain. Maybe if Angus Scrimm starred as Om, it’d be less creepy; he was also the Lady in Lavender, and the kids does need a mom, after all.

Just wow. The Force is not strong with this one.

If you thought Starship Invasions (1977), Ed Hunt’s Canadian E.T. knockoff courtesy of Hal Roach Studios, was bonkers. And that Sunn Classic Pictures’ picnic basket was a ham sandwich short with the UFO paranoia that is Hangar 18 (1980). Oh, dear reader, how ye assumed the alien nuns overlorded by Christopher Lee’s priest in the extraterrestrial Catholicism that is End of the World (1977) was a VHS force to be reckoned. Oh, no. Not when you have a 1,000-year-old pedophilic alien camped at the foot of Thunder Mountain dangling the “candy” that is the Translator. Calling Planet NAMBLA, there’s a faux-Elliot with dysfunctional family issues ripe for a home phoner. Ick.

So, who’s the production company behind this extraterrestrial nature film boondoggle, a company Mr. Lucas didn’t sue for wrangling his film for their title?

Hey! It’s drive-in and TV supplier American National Enterprises: a company steeped in nature documentaries since the mid-’60s. As with Sunn Classic Pictures, ANE occasionally broke away from the stock footagementaries to produce Z-grade dramas for the drive-ins and television. There are, however, a few highlights of the B&S About Movies variety, such as the Dennis Christopher curio Didn’t You Hear (1970), the Rod Serling-fronted anthology Encounter with the Unknown (1972), the Greek faux-giallo Medusa (1973), and the ancient astronaut oddity Mysteries from Beyond Earth (1975). ANE came to leave the producing to others and stuck to distributing films, such as She (1982), Ironmaster (1983), and, frack me, Joe D’Amoto’s Endgame (1983). The imprint closed shop after the Vincent Price-starring anthology TV movie Escapes (1986).

Since The Force on Thunder Mountain has never been digitized and officially reissued to DVD — not even in a VHS-ripped DVR grey format — there’s no VOD or freebie-stream to share, not even a VHS rip. There are, however, steeply-prices used VHS copies available in the online marketplace.

Hopefully, Mill Creek — which released the other American National Enterprises’ films we’ve reviewed, linked above, via their box sets — will reissue this family oddity. As with most of these lost obscurities of the UHF-’70s, the Park Circus/Arts Alliance TV distribution library catalogs the film. Other lost, out-of-print films in their library that we’ve reviewed include Song of the Succubus and Goodbye, Franklin High. So, yes, it’s time for Park Circus to get into the DVD box set business or work out a deal with Mill Creek to preserve these lost films.

Yeah, it’s the awful films I remember the best. My brain is weird that way.

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