The World Beyond (1978)

If you don’t get your pilot greenlit the first time — I’m looking at you, The World of Darkness — try again with another take at sports writer Paul Taylor (Granville Van Dusen), who died for 2 minutes and 37 seconds, which gives him the power to hear the voices of ghosts.

This has brought him to New England, where a golem has been attacking people. A golem of all things!

JoBeth Williams is somehow in this, but try as they may, CBS could not get anyone to want this to be a full-time series. If they had, it would have aired on Friday or Saturday and died a quick death. Such was the way of pre-The X-Files series. I can name so many — The Man From AtlantisMisfits of ScienceAutomanManimalThe Powers of Matthew StarThe PhoenixBattlestar GalacticaGalactica ’80The HighwaymanGemini Man and many, many more. I watched them all and would bemoan the fact that they never could last.

This was created and written by Art Wallace, who developed Dark Shadows with Dan Curtis. He also wrote the TV movie She Waits and episodes of the Planet of the Apes series that were made into the European films Forgotten City of the Planet of the Apes and Back to the Planet of the Apes.It was directed by Noel Black, who made Pretty Poison and Private School, yet mostly directed television programs.

Speaking of TV Guide, Barnard Hughes — grandpa from The Lost Boys — is in this!

The Crash of Flight 401 (1978) and The Ghost of Flight 401 (1978)

We’re reviewing both of these TV movies side-by-side as result of their basis in the December 1972 crash in the Florida Everglades near the Miami International Airport of Eastern Flight 401 scheduled from New York JFK to Miami. The flight ended with 101 fatalities: the pilots and flight engineer, two of the 10 flight attendants, and 96 of 163 passengers; 75 passengers and crew survived. The crash was documented in the national best-selling paperback Crash (1977) by Rob and Sarah Elder. The supernatural aftermath of the crash was documented in the equally popular The Ghost of Flight 401 (1976) by John G. Fuller.

Paramount and Universal Studios quickly adapted the properties into TV movies: Paramount Television produced Crash (1978), aka The Crash of Flight 401 in its video shelf life, for ABC-TV. Universal Studios optioned the supernatural tales and retained Fuller’s book title for their NBC-TV movie.

Barry Shear (Madam Sin) directs The Crash of Flight 401 with William Shatner starring as National Transportation Safety Board Investigator Carl Tobias (purely narrative; not a factual character), under pressure to exonerate Lockheed, the manufacturer of the wide-body L-1011. Eddie Albert (TV’s Green Acres, the POTUS in Dreamscape) and Lane Smith (District Attorney Jim Trotter in My Cousin Vinnie) star as the surviving Eastern Airlines’ captain and flight engineer under investigation for causing the crash. The passengers and FAA personnel read as a who’s who of ’70s television: Adrienne Barbeau (who returned to the passenger cabin in the 2020 horror-parody Exorcism at 60,000 Feet), Lorraine Gary (Jaws), Christopher Connelly (Raiders of Atlantis), Ron Glass (TV’s Barney Miller), Ed Nelson (Roger Corman’s Rock All Night and Night of the Blood Beast), and Joe Silver (Rabid).

The late Steven Hilliard Stern (This Park is Mine) directs The Ghost of Flight 401, a tale concerned with the ethereal sightings of pilots Robert Loft and Don Repo on other planes that had salvage parts from the wreckage. Ernest Borgnine stars as flight engineer Dom Cimoli alongside Russell Johnson (TV’s Gilligan’s Island) as Captain Loft; Gary Lockwood (of the TV Movie Earth II) is the FAA investigator on the case. The rest of the cast features a young Kim Basinger with a when-you-see-’em-you-know-’em TV and feature-film character actor feast of Robert F. Lyons, Allan Miller, Alan Oppehheimer (a quickly gone-and-replaced Six Million Dollar Man TV movie cast member), Eugene Roche, and Hal Holbrook’s then wife, Carol Eve Rosen.

As is the case with all TV movies of the ’70s, while they’re up against the budget, the production values are high and — according to the comments of IMBb uses involved in and experienced both incidents as airline industry workers — are technically accurate. The acting, of course, is excellent across all quarters.

Barry Shears’s 80-plus credits, which began in the early ’50s, were mostly in episodic TV, Tarzan and Police Woman in particular. His dozen-plus TV Movies include Power (1980; Joe Don Baker as Jimmy Hoffa), Undercover with the KKK (1979; a true story about an FBI infiltrator), and Strike Force (1975; with an early Richard Gere in a cop vs. drug dealer drama).

Other works in Stern’s superior TV movie oeuvre (on U.S. TV and cable; in Canada, they ran as theatrical features) are the James Brolin-starring The Ambush Murders (1982), the pre-stardom Tom Hanks-starring Mazes and Monsters (1982), and the Ned Beatty-starring (Ed and His Dead Mother) Hostage Flight (1982).

You can watch The Crash of Flight 401 and The Ghost of Flight 401 courtesy of You Tube. In addition to ABC and NBC airing both of these fact-based airline movies, ABC also broadcast the adventure-drama SST Death Flight, while NBC took the subject matter into a sci-fi turn with The Disappearance of Flight 412 (reviewed this week); CBS-TV broadcast the horror-fantasy The Horror at 37.000 Feet, which also starred William Shatner. We’ve also reviewed all of the theatrical forefathers that inspired the “Big Three” TV Networks’ airline telefilms with our “Airport: Watch the Series” featurette.

And don’t forget: We’re TV movie crazy around here, so be sure to catch up with a wide-array of TV movies from the ’70s and ’80s with our tributes “Lost TV Week,” “Week of Made for TV Movies,” and “Sons of Made for TV Movies Week,” and “Grandson of Made for TV Movie Week.” And here we are, with another “TV Week” because, well, TV Movies rock. And there will be another one: that’s bank.

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

Mill Creek Sci-Fi Invasion: The Alien Factor (1978)

You know how we root for the self-made filmmaker at B&S About Movies, with backyard guys like Andy Milligan and Don Dohler. So while stuffy Leonard Maltin-styled critics catalog their filmpedia scoffs at Dohler’s “gripping sci-fi terror from beyond,” we, the staff of B&S About Movies appreciate Dohler’s debut film for what it is: a fun retro-romp from the ’50s “Golden Age of Horror.”

Considering Dohler began as an underground magazine publisher in the early ’60s at the age of 15 with the Mad Magazine-inspired WILD and the mid-60s filmmaking magazine Cinemagic (that was bought out by Starlog in 1979), his transitioning into producing his own films was a logical, natural progression.

Upon first watching the opening scene of two people in car in a remote, rural area being attacked by an alien creature, it’s obvious George Romero’s Night of the Living Dead is a sign post in Dohler’s creation. However, with only $3,500 to spend, Dohler couldn’t afford to shoot in graveyards and create zombie hoards: so he gave us a tale inspired by ’50s sci-fi films, such as The Thing from Another World.

If you’ve seen — or read our previous reviews for Dohler’s third and fourth films (the zombie-slasher hybrid Fiend from 1980 was his second) — Nightbeast and The Galaxy Invader, you know that an insect-esque monster is on the loose in “Perry Hill” (natch). The mayhem is triggered when a (character expositional) spaceship containing specimens for an intergalactic zoo crashes on Earth and lets loose its galactic menagerie: an Inferbyce (the aforementioned insect alien), a Zagatile (a giant furry beast with funky legs) and a Lemmoid (a ghostly like lizard that sucks energy from other creatures).

And I ask you: Did Speilberg watch this? I wonder, because we have a local sheriff besieged by the backwood (in lieu of sandy Amity Island) town mayor to find what’s causing the killings (not a shark) and to “keep a lid on it” because it’ll jeopardize the nearby construction of a multimillion-dollar amusement park that’ll boost the local economy.

The reference to Romero’s zombie classic — and our calling out a minor influence of Jack H. Harris’s Equinox — isn’t a critical misnomer (especially when you watch the ending and recall Duane Jones’s sad fate in Romero’s tale). While this Dohler debut received a widespread theatrical released in the post-Alien/Star Wars/Close Encounters of the Third Kind marketplace in May 1978, The Alien Factor was completed in 1972 — and had a slight, regional drive-in release around the Baltimore area in 1976.

For a film shot for under $4,000 bucks with local talent, a limited crew, backyard without-permit locales, and admittedly pretty decent process shots and practical in-camera effect, this — as with any Dohler flick — is worth the watch. You can watch The Alien Factor on You Tube and enjoy it as part of the Mill Creek Sci-Fi Invasion Box Set.

And did you know there’s a rock ‘n’ roll connection to this Dohler bit o’ nostalgia? Yep! Be sure to check out Sam’s take as he reviewed the film for the 24th “At the Gig” day of the 2020 Scarecrow Psychotronic Challenge.

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

Mill Creek Sci-Fi Invasion: War of the Robots (1978)

Editor’s Note: This review previously ran as part of our Mill Creek Chilling Classics Box set tribute on November 8, 2018.

Paul Andolina, whose writes the site Wrestling with Film, is in charge today. Beyond loving wrestling, he also knows a ton about Russian and lucha films (and he even speaks pretty good Spanish, so we hear!).

War of the Robots — originally titled La Guerra dei Robot — is an Italian science fiction film released in 1978 most likely to cash in on the franchises of both Star Trek and Star Wars. I’d like to imagine this film came about when Alfonso Brecia and Aldo Crudo were as high as cucuzzi (Italian squash) are long which just so happens to be extremely.

I could not ask for a more crazy colored sci-fi romp than what this film offers. Female scientist Lois and male professor Carr are on the cusp of something extraordinary; they soon will be able to create any creature they want and make the first immortal man! However, their plans are cut short when a mysterious group of gold-clad humanoids attack and abduct them. It’s up to Lois’ lover Captain Boyd and crew to rescue them from their captors.

War of the Robots has a lot of twists and turns during its hour and thirty-nine minute runtime. There also is a cut of the film that is four minutes longer but the cut included on the Chilling Classics set is the shorter one.

When the crew finally gets to Lois and Dr. Carr it turns out nothing is what it seems at all. Louis is now an empress and Carr is mad with power over the gold-clad humanoids who turn out to be androids. The inhabitants of the planet Louis and Carr are taken to also happen to be wrinkly old monster folks. The latter half of the movie turns into a whole scale war. Battle is waged in caves, palaces, command decks and even in starship space battles.

This movie has a bit of everything; it’s got phasers, it’s got laser swords, it’s got mutants who live on irradiated asteroids but most importantly it has West Buchanan! West Buchanan is an American actor who starred in his fair share of Italian genre films. It just so happens that West Buchanan looks like he could be Harley Race’s twin brother. Harley Race is a wrestler who has worked for NWA, WWE, and WCW. I was really surprised how similar they look. Now the reason I bring that up is that I’m a collector and avid watcher of films that star professional wrestlers. That’s not the sole reason I enjoy this film so much it’s not the greatest film by any means but those who like campy science fiction films should find plenty to enjoy. I think most folks will especially like the scenes where androids are sliced in half by laser swords.

I must also point out the amazing score is by Marcello Giombini who also scored some of the Emmanuelle films, Sabata and even Antropophagus. If you have the chance to watch this I do recommend it. Apparently it is part of a series of science fiction films by director Alfonso Brecia, The films that precede it are War of the Planets, Battle of the Stars and it is followed by Star Odyssey. I hope I stumble across the other films as I truly did enjoy this film.

You can watch this one of the many uploads of War of the Robots on You Tube.

Don’t forget: We also reviewed Brescia’s Star Odyssey as part of our month-long tribute to the release of Star Wars: Episode IX – The Rise of Skywalker. You can catch up with all of those reviews with our “Exploring: After Star Wars” featurette. And we way over thought Brescia’s “Star Wars” movies with one of our weekly “Drive-In Friday” featurettes: “Pasta Wars with Alfonso Brescia.”

Mill Creek Sci-Fi Invasion: Eyes Behind the Stars (1978)

They might say that this was directed by Roy Garrett, but that’s really the Americanized name for Mario Gariazzo, who directed Enter the Devil, AKA The Sexorcist, AKA The Eerie Midnight Horror Show, which is perhaps the scummiest of all Italian sexualized ripoffs of The Exorcist (and also the most awesome). He also made Play Motel, which is a giallo complete with hardcore inserts.

If you’re reading this and suddenly got a little flush, you’re my kind of people. I feel the same way about as I am about to watch Gariazzo make the first of two Close Encounters of the Third Kind cash-in films that he’d direct in 1978 (the other is Very Close Encounters of the Fourth Kind, in which three nerds dress up like bondage-loving aliens to get their astronomy teacher into bed.

Peter Collins (Franco Garofalo, The Return of the Exorcist) is a photographer who cuts a session short with model Karin Hale (Sherry Buchanan, who was Emanuelle in Emanuelle and Joanna and is also in The Last House on the BeachDr. Butcher M.D. and played Belle Starr in Escape from Galaxy 3) after they both start to feel like they were being watched. When he develops the photos, he discovers evidence of alien creatures, which puts them both into a nascent X-Files conspiracy plot.

This being an Italian film, you need some more star power, so Monica Stiles is played by Nathalie Delon (A Whisper In the DarkBluebeard; she was considered one of the most beautiful women in the world at one point and dated Richard Burton and Eddie Fisher after both divorced Elizabeth Taylor, which is pretty odd when you think about it), Robert Hoffman (Naked Girl Killed in the ParkDeath Carries a Cane) is in this as Tony Harris and Martin Balsam appears as Inspector Jim Grant. And The Silencers, a government organization, soon are on his trail, led by Sergio Rossi, who was the narrator of Africa Blood and Guts, who has Mario Novelli (the engineer from Beyond the Door III/Amok Train and Tango from Fulci’s Warriors of the Year 2072) and George Ardisson (Theseus from Hercules In the Haunted World) under his command.

The poster and giallo sounding title of this movie have always placed it on my watchlist and that’s why I love Mill Creek month. It’s an opportunity to finally get to watch movies that I keep saying, “I need to get to that” and then for some reason always overlook.

It has aliens that wear full-body suits with mylar faces and the cleanest space ship you’ve ever seen and the ability to blind dogs, as well as Hoffman and Stiles pretty much playing Mulder and Scully* 15 years before the show even existed while also ripping off Gerry Anderson’s UFO, a soundtrack of drones and buzzes, plenty of alien point of view shots and a movie that switches protagonists midway through, which is ironic when you consider that Martin Balsam is in this.**

This movie has more twists and turns than any giallo and isn’t afraid to change gears quickly, going from alien movie to conspiracy tale to bringing in psychic and then remembering that it was made in the 1970’s and the rule that all seventies science fiction must have a downer ending.

Plenty of the reviews that I’ve read for this movie hate it. Perhaps they haven’t watched hundreds of Italian genre cinema and want everything to be paced normally and make sense. For those of you who have given up on movies that are sane and are thrilled by warming up leftovers from another era that don’t always taste as good as they once did, you’re going to really love this one.

Everybody smokes. Everybody punches one another in the face. The aliens are barely in it. The soundtrack is atonal and annoying. These are things that would chase off the hardiest of film watchers. To me, it’s the bread and butter that I dip into the sauce after devouring the cinematic pasta.

To make things that much better, it ends with a “this really happened” title card. I didn’t know I could be so happy.

You can watch this on Amazon Prime and Tubi.

*Ardisson is pretty much playing the Cigarette Smoking Man, when you come to think of it.

**Sometimes when you explain the joke it is no longer funny. However, for the non-watchers of ten movies a day, this is the exact same thing that happens in the movie that Balsam is best known for, Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho.

2020 Scarecrow Psychotronic Challenge Day 31: Halloween (1978)

31. I REMEMBER HALLOWEEN: Something from the Halloween franchise or anything with trick or treating in it. You did it! Another successful challenge achieved. Now you can stuff yourself with candy and listen to The Misfits.

Last night, Becca and I headed out to the Riverside Drive-In to see a double feature of The Thing and the original Halloween. While it’s impossible to see it as if you’re seeing the movie for the first time — it’s so pervasive in nearly every facet of my life — I wanted to watch it and wonder, “Why does it continue to work so well?”

For me, the biggest reason why it works is that we actually care about the girls. Beyond just Laurie Strode, Annie Brackett and Lynda Van Der Klok feel like people we actually know. When the moments that The Shape menaces them occurs, we’re been with them for the good part of an hour. The film doesn’t rush into the murder and even takes its time — despite a spartan running time of 91 minutes that feels way shorter — to get there, doing everything in its power to tell us that whomever Michael Myers once was, now he has become an inhuman killing machine that everyone should fear.

Credit for that is due to not just Carpenter and Deborah Hill’s script, but for getting Donald Pleasence on board as Dr. Loomis. When he becomes frightened of the killer, speaking in hushed tones of “the blackest eyes; the devil’s eyes” we know that there’s not going to be any stopping this killing machine.

The moments that have become tropes today, like Michael sitting back up when he should be dead, the ending that isn’t really an ending, the teens getting slaughtered by a killing machine — they weren’t necessarily invented here. But they were perfected and commercialized by this film. I’d site films like A Bay of BloodPeeping TomPsycho and Black Christmas* as proto-slashers** that set up the form. But this is where every studio in Hollywood — and around the world — saw that you can take a concept, throw some effects at it and make a lot of money. The results vary, of course.

Not many of them have the mind and soundtrack wizardry of Carpenter on hand, nor the eye of Dean Cundy guiding the camera.

The little moments of this movie are why I love it so much. The moments where a hedge of bushes holds more menace than every horror movie that will come out for the next five years. The usage of “Don’t Fear the Reaper,” which is in itself a strange song, one of the few pop songs that I can think of that outwardly worships death. The casual way that Annie smokes a joint versus the difficulty Laurie has with it. The perfect ending, as the body of The Shape is gone but his presence hangs upon every street of Haddonfield. And the knowledge that every time leaves blow across the screen, Carpenter and his crew had to gather them up in plastic bags, not wanting to waste the rare fall foliage that they’d brought to make this midwestern movie in the middle of California.

Watching this again for what has to be a hundredth or more time on a drive-in screen under a full moon, the night before Halloween itself, it just felt right. How odd that a grubby little movie that was untraditionally released would find itself a tradition, something that people like me turn to for comfort in uncertain times? Halloween has gone from a movie I feared — it kept my father awake all night it unsettled him so much — to a film my wife uses to chill out and relax to.

* Indeed, in a 2005 interview, Black Christmas director Bob Clark stated that Carpenter had asked, “Well what would you do if you did do a sequel?” Clarks’s answer? “I said it would be the next year and the guy would have actually been caught, escape from a mental institution, go back to the house and they would start all over again. And I would call it Halloween. The truth is John didn’t copy Black Christmas, he wrote a script, directed the script, did the casting. Halloween is his movie and besides, the script came to him already titled anyway. He liked Black Christmas and may have been influenced by it, but in no way did John Carpenter copy the idea. Fifteen other people at that time had thought to do a movie called Halloween but the script came to John with that title on it.”

**I realize that The Texas Chainsaw Massacre also pre-dates this film, but that thing is a force of nature all its own. Nobody can even come close to making a movie like it, not even Tobe Hooper. It was lightning in a bottle, shot in an abattior smelling shack in the dead heat of the Texas sun, as close to a perfect horror film as you can find.

2020 Scarecrow Psychotronic Challenge Day 24: The Alien Factor (1978)

DAY 24. AT THE GIG: Something with live band scenes.

Man, I have so many movies with live band scenes that I’ve already used for this challenge, but I decided to look for something that has a band appearance that doesn’t fit into the actual narrative of the film, which is one of my favorite things in film.

I went with this Don Dohler made in Baltimore alien epic — that word may be stretching it — all about a spaceship containing specimens for an intergalactic zoo crashes on Earth, with the creatures escaping in killing all manner of small town folks.

What can you say about a movie where an astronomer doesn’t know the difference between a meteor and a meteorite? Oh well — it was Dohler’s first film and he certainly had no shortage of ideas and a definite finite cash supply. There are also moments of low tech effects glee here, like when the aliens make dotted fuzz patterns that possess people. Sure, they could have paid for a much better effect, but when it works this good, why worry?

The best reason to watch this — beyond the awesome monsters, which are really creative — is a trip to the AnIr Lounge, which promises discount liquors and has a bartender whose bottle blonde beehive would make my wife jealous. The band Atlantis is on stage, featuring Dohler’s brother on bass, and they look and sound like a band that was around at least a decade before when this movie was made in 1978. The movie completely stops so that they can play the song in its entirety when, let’s face it, deadly aliens should be on everyone’s’ minds at this point.

Isn’t it amazing that two underground voices rose from Baltimore? On one hand, you have the anarchy and boundary-breaking films of John Waters and then, there are the rubber-suited alien invaders of Dohler. What a magical place you are, Charm City.

SLASHER MONTH: The Last House on the Beach (1978)

Also known as La Settima DonnaTerror and Terror and The Seventh Woman, this is what happens when filmmakers dare ask, “What would happen if we mixed up The Last House on the Left with nunsploitation?”

In Roberto Curti’s Italian Crime Filmography, 1968-1980, he writes that this film was filled with “a succession of grim, misogynist and exploitative scenes: adolescent nudes, slow-motion sodomizations, vicious wounds, assorted killings.” I list this in case you are wondering why I decided to watch it.

Sister Cristina (Florinda Balkan, A Lizard in a Woman’s SkinDon’t Torture a Duckling) and the girls in her care (Sherry Buchanan from Tentacles and What Have They Done to Your Daughters?, Laura Tanziani, Laura Trotter from Nightmare City, Karina Verlier from Emanuelle In America, Luisa Maneri from Demons 6) are rehearsing A Midsummer Night’s Dream when three thugs, led by Rave Lovelock, show up to hide out from the cops. Of course, they also decide to terrorize everyone and probably kill several of the girls along the way. Can Sister Cristina renounce her Holy Vows and help the girls to escape?

Of course she can.

A movie that takes a disco scene from Eyes Behind the Wall and has a brutal murder occur in full view of a Scrooge McDuck poster, this is the Italian exploitation in its most undiluted form. Lovelock is a complete scumbag — and sings on the soundtrack — while there’s no way that Tarantino didn’t rip off the ending of this movie for Death Proof.

Francesco Prosperi — who wrote Hercules In the Haunted World — would go on to the next big craze, barbarian movies, making one of the better ones, The Throne of Fire. He also had his hand in a few cannibal films, like The Green Inferno and White Cannibal Queen. He should also not be confused with Mondo Cane director Franco Prosperi.

You can watch this on YouTube or you can try and hunt down the out of print Severin DVD.

Halloween (or That Time Halloween Was Changed Into a Commercial for Halloween 2)

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Jim Rex grew up in Texas then moved to Georgia when he was in his mid-20s. (He has remained in the south ever since.) He is not a movie reviewer or film journalist, just a guy who loves movies who keeps his wife up all night with the screams from chainsaw massacres and psycho madness coming from the TV. He misses video stores and believes the world would be a better place if we all slowed down and watched Tourist Trap once in a while. He appreciates Sam and B&S About Movies for giving him an opportunity to talk crazy about flicks he loves. 

2018 marked the 40th anniversary of probably the greatest story of teen chum in the suburbs ever told, the original, the classic, Halloween. The night HE came home, big, crazy Michael The Shape Myers. On Halloween night 1963 he stabbed up his sister Judith after she engaged in the fastest sex in the history of horny teenagers and then he did a stint in the juvie clink for terminally psychotic delinquents where he met a doctor crazier than he was and then he showed back up in Haddonfield fifteen years later on Halloween night 1978 to do the stick-and-stab boogie on a bunch of dumb disco teens who reminded him of his sister.

The flick was sort of a rite of passage back in the day. Kids were going to watch it to see if they could survive it. We were hearing reports of kids turning into puddles of Jell-O and having to be scraped off theater floors it was so dang scary. 

I was twelve when Halloween came out and mama refused to let me see it. She’d heard on the local Leo McNab radio news program that films like Halloween and KISS albums was steering teenagers towards hellfire and damnation. I reasoned that at twelve I’d be okay if it was just affecting teenagers, turning them into upside-down cross worshipping Satan-freaks. Mama wasn’t buying what I was selling, and daddy said he’d long learned to pick his fights with mama carefully, and he didn’t see any point throwing into the ring on this losing battle.

It killed me I couldn’t go see it but secretly I was kind of relieved. When word came down that a kid from Hill County Middle School was rushed to the hospital after he had a massive heart-attack at a 7:15 show Friday night show, I knew I shouldn’t push my luck. Up to that point in my life the scariest thing I ever faced was a long hot summer weekend at my grandma’s and she didn’t have air conditioning. I guess I could have sneaked in or got my uncle Tim to take me, but I tended to still listen to what mama said back then.

The next year they still hadn’t made a horror flick scarier than Halloween so they re-released it in theaters and you would have thought it was the first time. I don’t know what happened, but I missed it again.

Summer of 1980 hit and I had a lot more freedom in going to see movies, freedom in that I didn’t feel I had to ask mama about going to see what I wanted to see and she never asked so it worked out. A film “inspired by the true events of Halloween making a ton of dirty money” came out and it was amazing. Of course, I’m talking about the teen chum in the woods flick Friday the 13th. Gore and blood and boobs- whoa! It was a 90-minute blast of the cheapest of cheap thrills and I loved it.

This and a couple others like Terror Train, Prom Night and Silent Scream and I was hooked. I was now a full-fledged, frothing at the mouth teenage slasher movie fanatic. But there were all kinds of other great horror flicks coming out then, stuff like The Howling, Death Ship, The Fog, Scanners. It was a great time and I was at the theater almost every weekend seeing something.

Somehow, though, fate kept conspiring against me, and I never could catch up with Halloween. As far as cable, my daddy was always saying, “I pay to have the garbage picked up from the house, not dropped off,” so we didn’t have cable and we didn’t get our first VCR until 1983. (It was a glorious beast, big as an ocean liner, a top loader with wired remote.) So, there weren’t many options to catch up with it. Plus, honestly, with so many new horror flicks always coming out, there was always something playing to go see.

1981 come up on us and there was some buzz from my horror flick loving friends about Michael The Shape Myers returning to the big screen. I was out of the loop. Then Fangoria #15 came out with the grinning Halloween II pumpkin-skull on the cover and I was that 12-year-old kid again, dying to see the original.

As it happened, there was a big to-do about Halloween playing on broadcast TV, which coincided with the weekend release of Halloween II. I was determined to see Halloween II no matter what, so I was darn sure to have my butt parked in front of the TV on Friday night for the world premiere broadcast of the original.

I remember the night it filled up the screen of our 27” Curtis Mathes console TV like it was last night. It was Friday, October 30th, 1981 and it was a perfect night. There was a cool breeze blowing through the curtains, a little scrape across the windowpanes from the Live Oak just outside. It added just the right touch of creepy.

Me and my sister settled in with a big bowl of Jiffy Pop and ice-cold Big Reds for the flick.

Again, this wasn’t my first rodeo in Slasher City, but I knew Halloween was something different. It didn’t have a bunch of disgust-o Tom Savini blood effects, but it was definitely something that none of them other slasher flicks were, that being this was a bona fide scary dang movie. And when I say scary, I mean them little hairs on the back of your neck standing straight up shivering and ice water running through your veins.

We kept jumping in our seats and at one point, when that rusted length of gutter attacks Dr. Loomis in the Myers’ house,  I was so startled I let loose a popcorn fart that got us giggling through a block of commercials for Black Flag Roach Motel, Dr. Pepper and Frontier Motor Company’s used cars. I knocked over my Big Red and it left a stain on the carpet that remains to this day at my parents’ house.

The following night, Halloween, I went to see Halloween II with friends and with the original so fresh in my head I cheered as Michael The Shape Myers went after teens who not only reminded him of his sister Judith, but Laurie The Nerd Strode turned out to actually be his baby sister! (That’s what that business in the original was about when Loomis saw Michael had scratched the word “sister” onto the back of his asylum bedroom door.) Halloween II proved to be one of the best dead teenager flicks ever made.

When 1983 was showing up on calendars we had a VCR and I had a part-time job flipping burgers at Dirty Martins, so I went over to Palace Video, paid my membership fee and started renting little black boxes with movies in them.

I finally got around to renting Halloween. In fact, I rented the first three Halloween flicks for my own little movie marathon. Right away, though, about fifteen minutes into the original, I felt something was amiss.

The scene of the stuffy doctor talking to Loomis, saying Michael The Shape’s real middle name is Audrey, was missing! Immediately following that, the entire dang scene that totally explained what Michael The Shape Audrey Myers was doing was gone, the whole scene that set up the entire sequel and tied the two movies together so beautifully was M.I.A. gone, vanished and that was Loomis seeing the word “sister” scratched onto the door. The absence of these two scenes were too distracting for the longest, but then the movie seemed to be finished messing with me and I just got caught up in its magic.

I popped in Part II, but I didn’t think it worked as well with the original now. I don’t know. It was like two puzzle pieces from different puzzles that sort of fit together okay enough to go on to the next piece, but they really didn’t fit.

For weeks it haunted me. My friends were split. The ones remembered watching it on TV said I wasn’t cracking up, that those scenes were in the original. My friends who saw it in the theater said we were all crazy, that those scenes never were in it. I was perplexed, but I was a teenager and life went on.

Years went by and I fought being an adult, but I lost, and it happened anyway. At some point in the ’90s I’m picking up some favorite movies on VHS because, well, tape is forever, and I picked up Halloween. It didn’t look any different than it ever did as far as the box was concerned but after I popped it into the player, it was actually the version I’d seen all them years back on TV!

I had no idea why those scenes were put back in but there’s the stuffy doctor talking about crazy little Michael The Shape Audrey Myers and “sister” is scratched onto his bedroom door and then a scene I’d forgotten where Laurie The Nerd Strode agrees to loan Linda The Tramp her sweater for her date with Bob The Drinking Horndog. (You probably remember Bob The Drinking Horndog pulling and tugging at that sweater, trying to get to Linda The Tramp’s perky pups, and Linda The Tramp totally telling him to cool his jets and not to stretch out the sweater.)

Well, over time I came to learn this version of Halloween I got on video was the TV version specially put together for that world premiere television broadcast on the same weekend Halloween II opened in theaters in 1981. As for why it was released on tape, supposedly it was an “accident” where the wrong version was duplicated but considering Halloween had been around on videotape as long as there were movies on videotape, I never believed that story. That release caused quite a stir with horror fiends and everyone bought up that “accidental” release to have the different version with all those extra scenes.

At the time of the broadcast Johnny Carpenter and Debbie Hill said these scenes were necessary to make up for the running time of all the “rough scenes” that had to be cut out for the broadcast. Now, Halloween was never some gore epic and there wasn’t enough gratuitous sex and boobage to make a real dent in the running time once removed. All this got me thinking and thinking hard.

With how perfect and precise those extra scenes added to the TV version were, and how perfectly they played with Part II, it dawned on me like a sinner in church that a greater power was at work here, and that was the power of the almighty opportunity to make dirty money.

Yup, the classic teen chum in the suburbs fright flick Halloween had been pulled and pressed and kneaded and stretched like pizza dough until it was transformed into nothing more than a two hour long commercial for the release of the sequel, Halloween II!

This gave Halloween II a knife’s edge over the competition of every other gut-stabber being released at the time in that it had a two hour infomercial on TV for free that set up the entire plot of the second one, disguised as a NBC Friday Night at the Movies broadcast. (To drive this point like a crooked nail a little further, making the original film nothing more than a commercial was an in-joke in Halloween III. When our alcoholic hero with zero Halloween spirit sees a commercial for the original film on TV in a bar, here the original film is being used in a commercial to help promote the “big giveaway” where the 2,000 year old warlock villain wants all the kids to watch so he can melt all their noggins down into a torrential rainstorm of crickets, chiggers and rattlesnakes. Halloween was acting as a shill for another sequel once again!)

Like Ralphie in A Christmas Story realizing his Little Orphan Annie secret decoder ring only worked for deciphering Ovaltine radio ads, this TV version was only altered, and its entire plot shifted, so as to sell tickets to Halloween II.

Honestly, in the world of crazy cinema marketing techniques, this is probably one of the greatest marketing gimmicks ever perpetrated, if not the greatest, if only for the fact that nobody seemed to notice or even care. Carpenter and Hill altered their classic to help hedge their bets on folks wandering into a theater to see Part II on opening weekend and they were correct. Halloween II was the number one flick that weekend, taking in seven and a half million dirty bucks, which was some considerable folding money in 1981.

And, if we’re still being honest, the TV version of Halloween didn’t take anything away from it forever being a classic. Heck, if anything, it adds another interesting layer of history on the flick which very few flicks have. It’s not like when all them man-babies were crying in their mama’s basements that their childhoods had been suddenly rendered null and void after George Lucas started tinkering with the Star Wars flicks. Or when Paul Feig dared to change up the sausage fest of the original and cast his version of Ghostbusters with ladies, it had the same man-babies crying that their childhoods were based on lies all because something in a remake for a movie they saw when they were kids was changed around.

Whenever I hear that kind of nonsense I can’t help but smile and think, “Heck, Johnny Carpenter and Debbie Hill did that first, and no one even batted an eye that time they took Halloween and turned it into a commercial for Halloween II.”

2020 Scarecrow Psychotronic Challenge Day 3: Dawn of the Dead (1978)

DAY 3. STOCKED UP: When you’re in it for the long haul, you’re gonna need supplies. Watch something with a supply run in it.

As we entered the dumbest and most boring apocalypse ever this year, I discovered that every plan, every zombie escape strategy I had, none of it mattered. Instead, I would sit in my living room and watch moronic leaders fight over whether or not we would wear a mask, people willing to die to eat at TGI Friday’s and actual liberty get booed by people who shouldn’t even be allowed to sit in the stands at a football game.

If George Romero was around, he wouldn’t be surprised, other than the fact that our end is so bloodless, so pointless, so vanilla.

I watched Dawn of the Dead so many times that I could recite it at will in high school. Obviously, my goal was not to get laid. It was to study this movie over and over.

While the rest of the world had to wait until now for the end times, Pittsburgh knew it was real long before, when our church of commerce was taken over in the middle of the night by a bunch of maniacs and filmed evidence would confirm every one of our greatest fears. Like Pogo told us we met the enemy and it was us. It still is.

Where Night of the Living Dead took place inside a cramped farmhouse, Dawn would take place in Monroeville Mall, a place that now has a bust of Romero and a photo of Dario Argento that refers to him as a “castmember.” The humor of this caption makes me overjoyed.

Romero knew one of the mall’s developers, who showed him the secret areas behind the mall, and told the director that people could survive a disaster inside the mall. He now had an idea for the movie, but he couldn’t find anyone in America to help make it. That’s how Dario Argento came in and made his way to Pittsburgh.

Shooting from 11 PM to 7 AM, when the holiday music would come on and couldn’t be stopped, the filmmakers — joined by a creative cast and crew, including special FX maniac Tom Savini*, made a movie that influenced the whole world and every horror film that would follow in its wake.

Where the zombie plague was confined to Evans City before, now the end of the world has expanded and much like how no one can agree on how to fix a simple plague these days, no one can agree on how to properly battle the newly dead getting up and killing those that they once loved.

Stephen “Flyboy” Andrews (David Emge, Hellmaster) and Francine Parker (Gaylen Ross, Creepshow) are planning on stealing the traffic helicopter from the TV station they work at and escaping Philadelphia. They’re joined by SWAT officers Roger DiMarco (Scott Reiniger,  Knightriders) and Peter Washington (Ken Foree, who is in so many horror movies, but let’s go with Death Spa) and land in Monroeville, hiding inside the mall and clearing it of the undead.

All the consumerism is too much. The living dead want to get into the mall, remembering their past lives, which were simply consuming. Now that money doesn’t matter, nothing that was worthwhile in the mall does either. The foursome decides to leave, but Roger has grown too reckless and is bitten. And one night, a gang of motorcyclists break in and allow the zombies to crash through the barricades. Stephen, angry at his loss of home, flips out and kills several bikers before he is bit.

As he turns and follows his former friends into their hiding place, the urge to give up is too much. Originally, Peter would shoot himself and Francine would walk headfirst into the helicopter blades. But in the small window of happiness here, the pregnant heroine lives as the black cop decides to stay alive and save her. We see them fly away to an uncertain future.

While the American version of this film is 127 minutes and features a mix of library music and the Goblin soundtrack, Dario Argento’s Italian cut, known as Zombi, features more of Goblin and cuts out any of the film’s comic book humor, concentrating on providing more action. It would lead to a revolution in Italian horror, of course.

I’ve debated featuring this movie on our site for some time. It means so much to me, but I didn’t know what else I could say about it that hadn’t been said. Yet today, as I sit here and wonder just how bad the world is going to get by the end of this year, I see that the zombie apocalypse that I spent my life preparing for — influenced by this movie — is almost preferable to the Fourth Reich or Civil War that we seem to be heading toward. I can only hope that a few years from now, I’ll read this and laugh at all the hyperbole. Or maybe I’ll be fortifying the Exchange on Miracle Mile, surrounding my wife and myself with guns, DVDs and all the supplies we need to survive. Because after all, when there’s no more room in hell, the dead will walk the Earth.

*Nearly every stunt in this movie was done by Savini and Taso N. Stavrakis, including a dive over a rail that led to the effects master nearly breaking his legs when he missed his mark.