Unknown Powers (1978)

Directed by Don Como (World of the UnknownThe Unknown Force), this is three episodes of a canceled TV series that had Jack Palance, Samantha Eggar, Will Geer and Roscoe Lee Brown as the hosts.

It’s your typical mid-70s paranormal BS, except then there’s this credit that says “All of the following scenes were filmed within the guarded confines of the People’s Temple in Los Angeles, The Reverend Jim Jones presiding” and you see footage of people being healed there and you realize that this was made and aired before everyone went to Guyana and well, you know what happened there.

There’s also a guy who was going to kill himself, went to a psychic and learned that if he gets stigmata, he finds oil. You can’t tell me that There Will Be Blood is more entertaining than that.

Psychic surgery. Talking to snakes and goats. Needles going through arms. Martial artists who claim that they can channel their powers into lying on beds of nails which in no way makes you good in a fight. Palance in a turtleneck. As always, Eggar provided her own wardrobe. A couple that built a pyramid over their bed to have better sex. Spitting up ectoplasm. Talking to plants. All the drugs.

People used to say that doing Ripley’s Believe It or Not was the down part of Palance’s career and he was like — imagine his voice — “I’ve done way worse, friend.”

You can watch this on Tubi.

CULT EPICS BLU RAY RELEASE: The Last Romantic Lover (1978)

Directed by Just Jaeckin, this film has magazine editor Elisabeth (Dayle Haddon, Sex With a SmileSpermula) having a contest to find the greatest lover in the world with each of the selections getting to spend quality time with her. One of those men is liontamer Pierre (Gerald Ismaël), who works for a destitute circus run by Max (Fernando Rey).

This movie may be less thought of than Jeackin’s Emmanuelle yet it’s a worthwhile film. Perhaps less overall sex, sure, but it still has an erotic charge and more of a romantic story. If you had The Playboy Channel in the 80s, there’s a good chance you probably saw this. And hey — Dalila Di Lazzaro (Frankenstein 80, the female monster in Andy Warhol’s FrankensteinThe Pyjama Girl Case, the headmistress in Phenomena) plays herself!

The Cult Epics blu ray release of The Last Romantic Lover has a new 4K HD Transfer from the original 35mm negative supervised by cinematographer Robert Fraisse; audio commentary by Jeremy Richey, the author of the book Sylvia Kristel: from Emmanuelle to Chabrol; interviews with Just Jaeckin and Dayle Haddon; a presentation at the Cinematheque Francaise and trailers. You can get it from MVD.

MILL CREEK NIGHTMARE WORLDS: The Alpha Incident (1978)

EDITOR’S NOTE: This was first on the site on November 15, 2018.

The first Bill Rebane movie I saw was the berserk Tiny Tim vehicle Blood Harvest. Once I realized that The Alpha Incident— one of his older efforts — is on so many Mill Creek box sets — I jumped on it.

Much like Night of the Living Dead, a space probe has returned, this time from Mars. It’s brought back an organism that can kill all life on Earth. As it’s being transported by train, an employee accidentally releases it and the entire station is quarantined and must wait endless hours for the government to find the cure. There’s only one problem — if they fall asleep, the organism will kill them.

Basically, this is a movie about a bunch of people drinking coffee. doing amphetamines and making horrible decisions. Ralph Meeker (Without Warning) stars here, bringing along several unknowns and George “Buck” Flower (who shows up in nearly every John Carpenter film). It’s basically a movie where people stand around, upset one another and stand around some more.

With a better team of actors, this could be a much better film. That said, it’s enough to keep me interested. My disclaimer is that I’m exactly the kind of person who loves watching horrible movies with bad transfers from a $9 box set with fifty movies on it.

“What year is this from? Is this foreign?” asked Becca. No, this movie is magically made in this country, unless Wisconsin is really a foreign country. “Is this the end of the movie?” she also asked. Yep, that’s the kind of film this is.

2022 Scarecrow Psychotronic Challenge Day 6: The Swarm (1978)

DAY 6. BEE AFRAID, BEE VERY AFRAID: Buzz through a bee picture, there’s a whole swarm to choose from.

Based on Arthur Herzog’s novel, this is from a time when our greatest fear was bees. Killer bees. So many bees that there was movie after movie reminding young me that I was going to be killed by bees. It was not a fun time to be a neurotic child.

Dr. Bradford Crane (Michael Caine) is our only defense from the black mass that is formed by tons of enraged African bees. He has help from the military, which doesn’t believe the danger posed by bees, and another scientist, Helena Anderson (Katherine Ross). The bees that have taken over the military base have spread to a small town in the middle of a summer festival, which means that the bees are about to sting everyone to death.

This is the kind of movie where bees swarm into a nuclear reaction and wipe out an entire town, including scientists Dr. Hubbard (Richard Chamberlain) and Dr. Andrews (Jose Ferrer). Where Dr. Walter Krim (Henry Fonda) injects anti-bee serum into his bloodstream and instantly dies. A place that has Lee Grant, Olivia de Havilland, Ben Johnson (also in The Savage Bees), Patty Duke, Slim Pickins, Bradford Dillman, Fred McMurray and yes, Cameron Mitchell all up against those little stingers.

There were approximately 22 million bees in this movie, 800,000 of them surgically altered to not be able to sting. There was so much talent making this, like Jerry Goldsmith scoring (the score uses the notes B-E-E), Sterling Silliphant scripting (how does one man go from In the Heat of the Night to Village of the DamnedThe Towering Inferno to Over the Top?) and disaster king Irwin Allen directing. All for a really dumb and kinda way too long movie about bees. This was such a disaster at the box office that it ended disaster movies. But let me tell you that six-year-old me couldn’t even watch the trailers for this, as I was convinced that the bees would fly out of the TV and murder me.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Thanks to Craig Edwards for reminding me this was Irwin Allen and not Bert I. Gordon.

2022 Scarecrow Psychotronic Challenge Day 5: Night Creature (1978)

5. CAKE IN FRIGHT: To celebrate the birth of Donald Pleasence, light a candle, eat a slice and watch one of his many.

You can read another take on this movie here.

If you want to see what Donald Pleasence movies I’ve seen, here’s the Letterboxd list. I love him because he was a working actor. Like John Carradine, he was there when you needed him. And at times, he’d show just how good he was. But he’s a workmanlike — in a good way — presence in so many movies.

Directed by Lee Madden (The Night God Screamed, the Alan Smithee who made Ghost Fever) and written by Hugh Smith (second unit director of Abby, writer of The Glove), Night Visitor has Pleasence as Axel MacGregor, a writer and big game hunter who has unleashed a deadly black panther and doomed everyone around him which is a real problem as his daughters Leslie (Nancy Kwan, Wonder Women) and Georgia (Jennifer Rhodes) have just come to town along with Ross (Ross Hagen, who also produced this movie), a guide who seems pretty sleazy.

All this movie should be about is Pleasence hunting this animal that has already hurt him and he’s brought it to his turf for one last battle. You have the great thespian monologuing and trying to imitate the big beast and man, his eyes bugging out and him snarling and that’s the best.

At times, I’m given to just yelling out Pleasence line reads, like “The evil is gone” and “I shot him six times.” I celebrate him eating at a salad bar in 90s giallo. I’ve read that he drank through this entire movie and I in no way want to judge him for that. My memories of the actor are always wonderful and he lives again every time someone watches one of his films, whether he’s playing a President, the devil or a preacher who turns into a warthog.

Shi er sheng xiao (1978)

Known as Dragon Zombies Return and Zodiac Fighters, this movie is the kind of movie I just let wash over me.

Polly Shang Kuan Ling-Feng plays East Sea Dragon, a woman who has spent a year in a cave to study her fighting style and now is searching for the other, well, zodiac fighters like Rooster, Rat, Ox, Snake, Horse, Ram, Monkey, Dog, Pig, Tiger and Rabbit. Everyone has a costume that ties into their sign and martial arts to match.

Their enemy? Tiger Shark, played by Lo Lieh, who has an army of crab men, a boat that launches rubber sharks and the Five Elements, Fire, Wood, Water, Air and Gold. You thought there were only four elements? You aren’t ready for this.

This is the story of a professional mourner who finds a magic cave and unites all of the animal forms of combat to battle rubber sharks. I have no other way to explain it. It’s one of the oddest movies I’ve seen — and just think about that and all that I have watched — and it’s so blobby and grainy and a bad transfer and you know, I kind of want it that way.

Want me to convince you?

Morricone’s theme from Exorcist II is in this.

You can watch this on YouTube.

Wu zi tian shi (1978)

You can call this War of the Wizards or The Phoenix but either way, this movie is astounding. It was co-directed by Chang Mei-Chun (DynastyRevenge of the Shogun Women) and Sadamasa Arikawa (the director of special effects for films such as Destroy All Monsters; Son of Godzilla and The Mighty Peking Man).

This played in the U.S. with a horrible dub but that doesn’t matter. What does is that this movie has fantastic visuals and seems closer to a fantasy children’s movie. I have no idea why it doesn’t get discussed at all because it’s just stunning.

Tai (Hsiu-Shen Liang) is a poor fisherman who reads all he can to become a better person. He finds the Magic Vessel of Plenty and the Bamboo Book of All Knowledge, which allows him to become a rich man, but he shares his wealth by buying his fellow townspeople food. This doesn’t impress the woman he’s in love with, Jasmine (Hoi Si-Man), who wants nothing to do with him even if he is rich and successful now.

One after another killer comes his way to take his life but end up killing one another first. He’s saved by Violet (Terry Hu) and Hyacinth (Chow Chi-Ming), who promise to protect him so he decides to marry them both. That’s stopped by two old wizards who claim that Tai is filled with lust and has no idea that fate is coming for him.

The sisters really work for an evil alien called Flower Fox (Betty Pei Ti) and Tai is going to need to transform into a silver-costumed sword-wielding hero if he hopes to break the sisters away and save his people. Then, he fights a rock monster and Richard Kiel, dressed as if he were in a Sinbad movie, which makes this movie so much better as he battles Tai with giant claws.

There’s also an incredible looking phoenix that yes, is a puppet, but who cares? Perhaps fantasy doesn’t need to look perfect to be perfect. When I read negative reviews of this, it upsets me because the people who feel that way have no joy inside them.

You can watch this on YouTube.

CANNON MONTH 2: The Image of Bruce Lee (1978)

EDITOR’S NOTE: Yes, this isn’t a Cannon. It’s 21st Century, which was later sold to Menahem Golan. But hey — it is a fake Bruce Lee movie too, so let’s get into it.

No less a luminary than Quentin Tarantino reviewed this movie, setting it up by saying that “Both Bruce Li and 21st Century kept kung fu flicks alive in the waning days of the genre before the emergence of Jackie Chan.”

The Han Family and a Japanese gang led by The Hakido Bear (Bolo Yeung) are unleashing counterfeit U.S. dollars on Hong Kong. Hi Chi (Bruce Li) and his partner Lai (Chang Lei) must stop them, which seeing as how this is a kung fu movie means lots of fights. While that’s all going on, one of the Hans named Donna (Dana Lei) has the paper needed to print more money and starts playing the two crime families against one another. She’s incredible in this, beating every one of these men at their game.

How would we confuse this with a Bruce Lee movie? Is it the Game of Death tracksuit that Li wears in the first scene? Maybe it’s Li himself, who was billed as Li Hsiao Lung (Lee Little Dragon). Man, the titles of Li’s movies are practically begging you to pretend that he’s the real Bruce, like Bruce Lee, A Dragon StoryBruce Lee Against SupermanBruce Lee, We Miss You and Exit the Dragon, Enter the Tiger. But it really has nothing else to do with Bruce, instead a buddy cop movie with two of the worst cops this side of a giallo arguing over who is going to get Donna, who is really the villain of the movie, but who can blame them? Between the 70s fashion and her doing everything she can to bend every man to her will, she owns this movie, but we needed the Brucesploitation connection to get us to watch it in the first place.

You can watch this on Tubi.

CANNON MONTH 2: Battle Force (1978)

EDITOR’S NOTE: 21st Century — pre-Menahem Golan — released this film originally known as The Biggest Battle on the Planet Video VHS label.

Just look at this cast: Giuliano Gemma, Edwige Fenech, Ida Galli, Helmut Berger, Michele Soavi, Stacy Keach, Ray Lovelock, Samantha Eggar, Henry Fonda, Evelyn Stewart, John Huston and Orson Welles as the narrator.

Yes, you read that right.

Directed and co-written — with Cesare Frugoni, who also was the writer for Cut and RunThe Spider LabyrinthSlave of the Cannibal GodWarriors of the Year 2072The Island of the Fishmen and many more — by Umberto Lenzi, this starts at the 1936 Berlin Olympics, as German officer Manfred Roland (Keach) has dinner with a group of friends including German actress Annelise Hackermann (Eggar), Canadian reporter Sean O’Hara (Huston) and American Brigadier General Harold Foster (Fonda). The two military men give one another matching medals that say “In God we trust” and promise that in four years, they will have another meal just like this.

Six years later, that dinner hasn’t happened and the world is quite different. Roland is married to Hackerman, who has gone into hiding due to her religion but soon has to give sexual favors to an SS officer just to live while her husband executes her people. Foster’s sons John and Ted (Lovelock and Soavi, I mean, what a great bunch of kids to have!) have joined him in the war effort.

Another soldier, Lt. Kurt Zimmer (Berger) may be dating a French sex worker (Fenech), but he’s still killing her people until John joins the resistance. Everyone ends up in Tunisia, where John meets British commando Captain Martin Scott (Gemma) and the fighting increases. While this is all happening, Annelise commits suicide.

In the big battle, Scott kills Zimmer and rips the medallion from the dead body of Zimmer. He gives it to John who notices that it looks just like his father’s but has no idea why.

Lenzi spent a ton of money on this movie and it was a ton of tanks in the big battle. Meanwhile, Huston and Fonda were shooting Tentacles at the same time as this movie. Somehow, this movie mixes newsreel footage and episodic war stories and does it all in under two hours with the kind of cast that should be in a miniseries. It’s not good, but it’s something.

You can watch this — complete with really rough video edit of the title — on Tubi.

CANNON MONTH 2: The Stud (1978)

EDITOR’S NOTE: Cannon didn’t produce this movie, but released it on video in Germany on the Cannon Screen Entertainment label.

Directed by Quentin Masters and written by Dave Humphries and Christopher Stagg from star Joan Collins’ sister Jackie’s book, The Stud was seen as a British take on Saturday Night Fever. It has a great soundtrack that made it to #2 on the British charts and the Bee Gee’s soundtrack for that movie kept them away from #1.

It’s got some great songs in it, like the theme by the Biddu Orchestra, “Love Is the Drug” by Roxy Music, “I’m Not in Love” by 10cc, Sweet’s “Love Is Like Oxygen,” Heatwave’s “Boogie Nights,” Hot Chocolate performing “Every 1’s a Winner,” the K.C. and the Sunshine Band favorite “That’s the Way (I Like It)” and “Blinded by the Light” by Manfred Mann’s Earth Band, which has the lyric “revved up like a deuce” and not “wrapped up like a douche” as I usually sing it.

Anyways, The Stud.

Fontaine Khaled (Collins) is a disco queen married to an Arabic businessman (Walter Gotell). All she cares about is her nightclub Hobo and her wild life. When she hires Tony (Oliver Tobias) to run the place, she really means that she hires him to keep her satisfied. But he’s more interested in Alexandra (Emma Jacobs), her stepdaughter, who uses him to finally get her stepmother out of her life by showing her father a tape of Tony acting out an Aerosmith song with Fontaine. And no, I don’t mean “Chip Away at the Stone” or “Mama Kin,” but I could either mean “Love In an Elevator,” “Big Ten Inch Record,” “Get a Grip,” “Don’t Stop,” “Falling in Love (Is Hard on the Knees),” “Get It Up,” “Joanie’s Butterfly,” “Come Together,” “Lick and a Promise,” “Love Me Two Times” or “Bolivian Ragamuffin.”

There’s a scene where a nude Joan swings on a trapeze and a huge orgy scene in a pool in this, which caused the actress to say, “It was those nude shots in the pool that I was most unhappy with. But I was more unhappy because I had gotten so drunk to do them that I did things I normally wouldn’t do.” Poor Joan!