The Apple Dumpling Gang Rides Again (1979)

Amos Tucker (Tim Conway) and Theodore Ogelvie (Don Knotts) have gone straight and try to start over when they get robbed and then blamed for a series of thefts that were actually committed by the very men who stole their money.

Trying to stay on the right side of the law leads them to the United States Cavalry at Fort Concho and as part of Jack Elam’s plan to rob a train. Luckily, they have army intelligence operative Jeff Reed (Tim Mattheson) to help them. All ends well and they end up right where the last movie finished, as they go to Russell Donovan’s farm to try and get some work.

Your enjoyment of this movie is directly in proportion to how much you enjoy the antics of Conway and Knotts.

How similar were Disney’s 70s films? They had to put a sticker on the posters for this movie ensuring audiences that it was a new movie.

Unidentified Flying Oddball (1979)

I’m certain I saw this at a drive-in as A Spaceman in King Arthur’s Court, because I am sure I saw nearly every Disney 70s movie at the drive-in. As for kids born later than me, you can be forgiven for thinking that this movie is A Kid in King Arthur’s Court as they are the same movie down to the role of Merlin being plated by Ron Moody.

Dennis Dugan plays Tom Trimble, the astronaut who goes back in time, but today he makes movies like Jack and JillGrown Ups and You Don’t Mess with the Zohan. But here, he’s a dude going back to Camelot and wowing them with stories of Uncle Miltie, which seems dated even when I realize that this film is 42 years old.

Also — why is Merlin the bad guy in this? Maybe I shouldn’t be wondering these things and just enjoy myself, which is pretty much what I’ve been doing with Disney week. I wonder what post-Star Wars kids thought of this.

Pat Roach shows up. That guy — between being a German mechanic, a guard and a gestapo that fights Indiana Jones, General Kael in Willow and the Toth-Amon in Conan the Destroyer — is the best bad guy ever.

Russ Mayberry, who directed this, is probably better known for his TV work. The only theatrical movie he made outside of this — that I can think of — is the biker movie The Jesus Trip.

Norman J. Warren Week: Spaced Out, aka Outer Touch (1979)

“Computer’s Log: Star Date 6969: Space, Space, Space. I’m sick of schlepping through space. I though it would be exciting to boldly go where no computer has gone before. To check out strange, new galaxies and kinky, new life forms. But noooo. I’m stuck, here, on this spaceship with three crazy chicks. All they do is snort coke, pop ludes and play with themselves. Its obnoxious.”
— Heed the words of the (fey-gay) ship’s computer. For you will not laugh in the year 6969. You’ve been warned.

The whole universe?

By the time of the release of this not-funny Star Wars, well, more of a Close Encounters of the Third Kind rip, Norman J. Warren had two sexploitation flicks under his belt with the 1968 pairing of Loving Feeling and Her Private Hell; then he branched into horror with a trio of films: Satan’s Slaves (1976), Prey (1977; which had a sci-fi twist), and Terror (1978). So, after those films, of course, Norman’s next logical step was . . . a space comedy.

Courtesy of Simon Sheridan’s liner notes for the 2008 DVD reissue of the film, we come to know the original script was presented to Warren as “S.E.C.K,” aka Sexual Encounters of the Close Kind. Warren found the script a “funny but very corny” take on Fire Maidens from Outer Space (1956), so he agreed to direct, provided he was allowed to do a re-write. His new take on the script was known as Outer Touch, a play on the fact the aliens of the film are “out of touch” with Earth-human customs. The title was later proven as too esoteric, so the title of Spaced Out was used in the international marketplace.

And the studio behind the reimaging: Miramax. In addition to the new title, the Weinstein brothers, Bob and Harvey (the 30-year-old teenager rock ‘n’ roll comedy, Playing for Keeps was another of their early films), re-edited the film with new, sexed-up voice overs (provided, in part by Bob Saget, later of U.S. TV’s Full House fame; for another such, horny computer; see Warriors of the Lost World with its comic-crackin’ smart-cycle). As is the case with most directors-for-hire on a producer’s product: Warren wasn’t consulted on the Americanized changes by Miramax.

So, does this “low-budget humor-comedy” — as the U.S. VHS box claims — parody just about every convention in science fiction from 2001: A Space Odyssey* to Star Wars** — without mentioning its Spielbergian raisons d’être?

Well, Outer Touch certainly tries. But make no mistake: This is no BBC production of Red Dwarf or Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy. But to its credit: Outer Touch fairs better Galaxina in the comedy department (in my review’s opinion), but fails worse than its fellow Brit space comedy, Morons from Outer Space, in the production department — and that film’s no winner in the comedy department, either.

How cheap is Outer Touch?

Well, space ship exterior sections — when on Earth — were created by stretching sheeting over scaffolding.

Remember how David Winters cheapjacked all of his effects shot from Battlestar Galactica for Space Mutiny and Dünyayi Kurtaran Adam swiped their SFX from Star Wars — though Spaced Out isn’t as awful as either. But the mix n’ match SFX-jacking by Uncle Norm is worse than . . .

Remember when the 1977 Star Pilot recut of 1966’s Mission Hydra 2+5 Cormanesquely raided stock footage from Toho’s ’60s space epics Gorath and Invasion of the Astro Monster to “update” the film — with no care as to the continuity of the spaceships? Remember when 1967-to-1972 mess that was The Doomsday Machine ripped the same Toho footage to an even lesser, mismatched effect?

Well, that’s what we have in the frames of Outer Touch — only Warren clipped all of his spaceship footage from Britain’s ITV’s Space: 1999again with no care as to the continuity of the space ship changing from shot-to-shot.

To borrow from Sam Pacino’s review of Galaxina: “Cracked Magazine saw what Mad Magazine did and created a second-rate version that spent nearly half a century with a fan base primarily comprised of people who got to the store after Mad sold out.” And from frequent guest writer Herbert P. Caine‘s own Galaxina review: “Galaxina is a comedy with no laughs, a sex farce with no titillation. . . . as a science fiction movie, it reminds one of nothing so much as a black hole, sucking up all talent and effort that its cast and crew may have thrown at it.”

That’s — with all due respect to the late Norman J. Warren whom we love around the B&S Cubicle farm — is Spaced Out: A second rate version of a film void of laughs or titillation that you plucked off your video store’s rental shelf when copies of Leslie Nielsen’s later Naked Space, aka The Creature That Wasn’t Nice (1983) (itself awfully unfunny) wasn’t available to rent. I can’t believe I am saying this: I’d rather be watching Nielsen’s second sci-fi comedy, 2001: A Space Travesty — at least that film gives me Ophélie Winter to gander upon. (Sorry, there, Jennifer Upton, my fellow Norman J. Warren fan-in-arms. I know that’s sexist to call out an actress like that, but you’re not reviewing this film, now, are you? Can you give me a pass, here, sister-friend? I just need something to hang onto with these inept Not a Space Comedy, comedies.)

Oh, come on, You Tube: this film is not a “youth corrupter” by a long shot. It’s not like it’s an uploaded Russ Meyer movie. An age-restricted trailer that can’t be embedded? Please. You can only watch it direct on You Tube via an account sign-in? Ugh. Making our readers work for their analog noshin’ is not cool.

Not noted on the U.S VHS, as was the theatrical one-sheet: Oui and Playboy model Ava Cadell stars as the alien, Partha.

So, if the back of the VHS — and six minutes of the black leather fetish version of the purple-wigged and silver-suited babes of Space: 1999 (embedded below) — doesn’t sell the analog goods, we’ll make the effort to tell you that we’re dealing with, as the ship’s computer tipped us earlier, three horny alien babes (Partha, Cosia, Skipper) from Betelgeuse whose cargo ship (the Space: 1999 stock footage) crash lands on Earth to the attention of four sexually-hung up humans: the mild-mannered Oliver and Prudence, Willy (our bumbling, porn-obsessed comic relief), and a guy, Cliff, who would never associate with either — but so goes for walking the dog at the wrong time . . . and that’s not a sex pun; he really was walking his dog when abducted (don’t ask about the dog, as I lost interest and don’t remember).

Yes, of course, the aliens kidnap the Earthlings. What movie did you think you were watching?

Then — keeping in mind that an alien-astronaut’s main sources of employment is examining and slaughtering Earth cows — mistakes a heard of stampeding cows as a “hostile force,” so they lift off, regardless of their ship’s damage.

Yes, of course, we are lost in space. What movie did you think you were watching?

Along with way, the alien babes learn about Earth sex from Willy’s porn magazine collection, the uptight Cliff’s scores with Partha; she transforms into a nympho, and, due to their exotic Earth-anatomy, the girls decide to sell Cliff and Willy to an intergalactic zoo. And, as I lazily finish off this review to a film that I’ve given more digital ink than it deserves: sexual intercourse and dirty jokes, (ahem) ensues, in this (ahem) trope-laden and (ahem) cliche-ridden universe. (Yes. Triple word score! All three — not just in one review — but in one sentence! I rock!)

But, seriously, folks. This comedy is not pretty and there’s nothing more to tell. Except we wonder who in the hell paid off the critics at the Monthly Film Bulletin and (GASP!) Variety for those VHS box plugs.

For there is no plot: Outer Touch is just a disconnected collection of soft-sex vignettes that makes David Zucker, Jim Abrahams and Jerry Zucker’s early “dirty-comedy” mess The Kentucky Fried Movie taste good. And that’s a pile of rank poultry that in no way foretells of that trio’s brilliance with Airplane! and Naked Gun — the very films that inspired this 2001: Not a Space Comedy in the first place. (Okay, well, yeah . . . they came after, but, well . . . oh, never mind. I give up on this review.)

In the 1999 article “Alien Women: The Politics of Sexual Difference in British SF Pulp Cinema” by Steve Chibnall, in the pages of British Science Fiction Cinema, Warren called the film “dreadful in a nice sort of way.

No, sorry, Mr. Warren, as much as I enjoy your works, this is just dreadful. There’s nothing “nice” about it.

Outer Touch, aka Spaced Out, was unavailable on DVD until 2008, when the original, U.K. Outer Touch-cut was reissued — but under the better known U.S. title of Spaced Out. According to Simon Sheridan’s DVD liner notes, prior to its DVD release, Outer Touch never aired on U.K. television. We did, however, experience the film on HBO and Showtime as Spaced Out via Miramax’s distribution of the film, which also issued it on VHS in the U.S.

Norman’s next “spaced out” epic, sans the comedy, but lots of gore.

Thank the cinema lords, Warren saw the sci-ploitation writing on the wall and returned to horror with the offensive-sloppy Alien inversion that was Inseminoid. Then he had to go make the (not a) spy comedy, Gunpowder. But Warren course-corrected with the bonkers horror, Bloody New Year. So goes Norman J. Warren’s nine-feature film career. Sadly, we lost him at the age of 78 on March 11, 2021.

You can watch Spaced Out on You Tube. Since that’s not Bob Saget’s voice — and the original voice of British actor Bill Mitchell — as the Voice of Wurlitzer the Jukebox, the upload is the U.K. version of the film. The film — in its Spaced Out or Outer Touch form — was not, thankfully, included as part of Bloody Terror: The Shocking Cinema of Norman J. Warren 1976 to 1987 — even though it is shockingly bad. For that, Powerhouse films, we thank you.

* Be sure to check out our tribute 2001: A Space Odyssey and its antecedents with our “Exploring (Before “Star Wars”): The Russian Antecedents of 2001: A Space Odyssey” featurette.

** You can learn more about Star Wars and all of its rips — its droppings, if you will — with our “Exploring: After Star Wars” featurette.

About the Author: You can read the music and film reviews of R.D Francis on Medium and learn more about his work on Facebook.

39 Stripes (1979)

Man, in 39 Stripes, Tim Ormond nearly makes a roundtrip, going from the young kid protecting a convict in Girl from Tobacco Road to playing a criminal himself, portraying Ed Martin, former chain gang convict who converted to Christianity in prison in 1944 and formed the HopeAglow Prison Ministries.

A life of petty crime led Ed into prison, a place where they whip you 39 times — there’s an old Jewish tradition that if you get hit 40 times, you die — when you screw up. But a letter from Ed’s sister’s friend Alfreda Enders saves Ed’s soul.

This is sadly the last film that Ron Ormond would make. He directed the film and co-wrote it with Tim. It isn’t berserk like his early work and is very settled down versus the excesses of movies like The Believer’s Heaven. But man, I love Tim as an actor. He’s like a bad Jerry Mathers, sounding like the Beav while speaking about how heavy Christ’s cross was as the music gets way too loud over him.

The poster for this is great, but I think Ron was getting tired. But when you succeeded in making movies that non-stop blow minds, from your time making quasi-mondo movies about hypnotism to films where swamp monsters, the mob and strippers all live in the same swamp, you get a last movie pass.

Then again, Tim pretty much makes this movie. The film sets him up to be a major preacher and when he gets the mic, he kind of warbles his way through it. But again, the Ormond family has so much good will in my life that I would make dinner for them and give them a room in my house and they wouldn’t even have to ask.

You can watch this on YouTube.

Malibu High (1979)

Straight up, this movie is insane.

Just look at that poster. You may be led to believe that this is a cute little teen sex comedy.

You will not expect a single thing that happens in this movie.

If you want to be surprised, seriously, stop reading now, because the world needs more surprises.

Still with me?

Kim Bentley is played by Jill Lansing, who only made this one movie. That’s a shame because she’s completely the most incredible part of this movie, a girl who is so sick of life by her teen years that she just sits on her bed naked, smoking, staring at the mirror and angry at even being alive. When she smokes her way through breakfast, her mother starts to yell at her and she point blank tells her that if only mom had sexed it up a bit more, her husband wouldn’t have killed himself.

At school, she gets dumped before class even starts, as Kevin leaves her for a rich girl (Tammy Taylor, Nancy from Meatballs II). Then she finds out that she’s failing every class and has no money. So she does what any of us would — she starts sleeping with every teacher in school and improves her marks. Then she blackmails them and when the one female teacher and the principal figure it out, she strips in the old man’s office and kills him with a heart attack.

Kim somehow makes the move from hooker to fancy call girl to a killer in self-defense and finally a hitwoman for the mob. I have no idea how a movie named Malibu Beach that seems like it’s going to be a fun beach movie or a sex comedy ends up being so dark. But I love it. I seriously love every single minute of this film.

This movie has the oddest soundtrack ever to make it even weirder, with off synth pieces coming out of nowhere, including the music that starts off SCTV’s broadcast day. It also has the theme from The People’s Court, “The Big One” by Alan Tew, used throughout the movie. Perhaps the more prurient of us also recognize that it was used in Barbara Broadcast before that.

Director Irvin Berwick also made The Monster of Piedras BlancasThe 7th CommandmentStrange CompulsionReady for Anything!The Street Is My BeatSuddenly the Light and the incredibly scuzzy Hitchhike to Hell.

Perhaps the greatest thing about this movie — which originally had the title Lovely but Deadly before those maniacs at Crown International Pictures gave it the name that hides its menace and mayhem — is that Lansing was asked to pose for the poster. She demanded to be paid an outrageous sum of money, so Mary-Margaret Humes got the job.

Jill Lansing should have made a thousand movies.

Caligula (1979)

Caligula is a movie that several wanted to make their own, but only its producer could fully own.

Scriptwriter Gore Vidal had intended to call it Gore Vidal’s Caligula, writing a script that had a strong focus on homosexuality and only one heterosexual scene. That one was between Caligula and his sister Drusilla. He was paid $200,000 for his work and received the credit that the movie was adapted from his script, but he wanted nothing to do with the film.

Tinto Brass ended up being the director, selected after elaborate sets, costumes, jewelry, hairstyles, wigs and makeup were created by production designer Danilo Donati. John Huston and Lina Wertmüller had already turned down the movie, but after Salon Kitty, it was decided that Brass would be a good fit, despite the knowledge that he was difficult to work with. He would only do the film if he could rewrite Vidal’s script, which is hilarious to me, and added plenty of orgies, female nudity and male genitalia pretty much in every scene.

In an interview for Time, Vidal called directors parasites and claimed that screenwriters are the true makers of the film. Brass demanded Vidal not be allowed on set and Vidal filed a lawsuit against the film. The battle between Brass and Vidal is, quite frankly, better than the movie, as Vidal wanted ten percent of all profits, calling the director a megalomanic while Brass would say, “If I ever really get mad at Gore Vidal, I’ll publish his script.”

The real power we alluded to earlier?

This was the only feature film produced by the men’s magazine Penthouse. The magazine’s founder, Bob Guccione, dreamed of making an erotic feature film narrative with high production values and name actors. He’d helped fund Chinatown, The Longest Yard and The Day of the Locust, but now it was time to make the Citizen Kane of adult films.

Vidal wanted the idea of absolute power.

Brass saw Caligula as a born monster.

Guccione wanted to see hardcore coupling on the big screen, something that neither Vidal or Brass wanted.

Well, Bob got what he wanted, locking Brass out of the editing process and shooting his own hardcore inserts — hell, most of the movie — with his Penthouse Pets as extras and using cameraman Giancarlo Lui as the director.

Caligula (Malcolm McDowell) is the next in line for the throne of the Roman emperor, but his uncle Tiberius (Peter O’Toole) is still on the throne, despite being absolutely mad due to advanced venereal disease. He wants to kill the boy, who is protected by Marco (Guido Mannari), who ultimately kills the old man to hasten Caligula’s path to power.

Caligula is proclaimed the new Emperor, then tells all that his sister and lover Drusilla (Teresa Ann Savoy, Salon Kitty) is his equal. To prove that he is his own man, he has Marco killed, which should show the world that maybe this kid is not alright.

His sister, who he cannot marries, picks one of her Isis priestesses — Helen Mirren! — to wed her brother, who soon goes wild, assaulting husbands and wives on their wedding days and coming up with all manner of off the wall tortures and gladiator affairs. After barely surviving a fever and enduring the death of his sister, Caligula fully gives in to the madness inside and destroys everything about Roman society before he is killed, his blood washing down the marble steps as the film closes.

The big disagreement between Brass and Guccione was over each person’s taste in women. Yes, this really happened.

When the film came to America, it battled pornography laws in nearly every place it played. It’s also one of the few movies that Roger Ebert ever walked out of.

Here’s a fact that I love about this movie: According to McDowell, Peter O’Toole’s first words to Sir John Gielgud were, “Hello, Johnny! What is a knight of the realm doing in a porno movie?” When McDowell first saw Gielgud, he asked him if he’d seen the set, to the reply of “Oh, it’s wonderful. I’ve never seen so much cock in my life.” Gielgud later told McDowell that he liked the movie so much, he paid to see it twice.

This movie was legendary in my high school days, as there was only one copy available in our very small Western Pennsylvania town and it was in the dreaded back room of Prime Time Video. Kids who may — or may not — have seen it spoke breathlessly of the wonders and horrors that it contained.

Drag Racing Week: Another take on: More American Graffiti (1979)

Drag Racing Week Banner 1

Where George Lucas’ American Grafitti showed the last few days before college for a group on American teenagers, the sequel — written and directed by Bill L. Norton, who was an actor in Messiah of Evil and also directed Baby: Secret of the Lost Legend — is about what happens next to the characters played by Candy Clark, Ron Howard, Paul Le Mat, Cindy Williams, Mackenzie Phillips, Charles Martin Smith, Bo Hopkins and Harrison Ford. Of them all, only Richard Dreyfuss didn’t show up. And this is Howard’s last role as a credited and named character in a movie.

As for George Lucas, who created the first film, well, he was a little busy, what with starting Lucasfilm, developing Radioland Murders with Willard Huyck and Gloria Katz, planning Raiders of the Lost Ark and writing The Empire Strikes Back. Of the film, Lucas would say that it failed miserably and critics disliked how much fun it made the end of the 60s — not to mention all the cutting between film genres — seem.

Despite that negative critical reception, this film wasn’t the commercial failure Lucas claims that it was. Some filmmakers would be happy with making $15 million on a budget of $3 million.

Set during several New Years’ Eve celebrations, during which the times of that year are remembered, this follows the cast from the original. Each year is a different style of film, with 1965 being a grainy war newsreel of the Vietnam War and 1966 looking a lot like the movie Woodstock. Norton thought that cutting between four different time frames would be too jolting for the audience. Years later, Lucas would agree.

But hey — the drag race scenes, shot in a low aspect ratio like an exploitation movie? Those are pretty great. There’s a huge crowd of extras, who were all given Star Wars toys to show up.

Image courtesy of Vectezzy.

Drag Racing Week: More American Graffiti (1979)

Image courtesy of Vectezzy.

George Lucas, who directed the original American Graffiti, wanted to make a sequel. However, Gary Kurtz and Francis Ford Coppola, who produced that film, talked Lucas out of it because, in their opinion, “sequels weren’t well received.” So Lucas vested his time on Star Wars and Raiders of the Lost Ark.

Lucas should have listened: for he ended up with another Howard the Duck.

For his writer and director, Lucas picked Bill L. Norton, who gave us one of the best, if not the best, of the CB trucker romps of the ’70s — as well as one of the best films based on a song*, Convoy. And the Smokey and the Bandit knock off**, Outlaw Blues, with Peter Fonda was pretty good.

Besides, this will work because Ron Howard, Cindy Williams and Harrison Ford — who were nobodies when the first movie was released and now big stars as result of their respective TV and film successes — were returning to do the sequel.

Lucas should have heeded the words of Kurtz and Coppola.

Keep on Truckin’.

Also on board from the original are Candy Clark, Paul Le Mat, Mackenzie Phillips, (our beloved) Bo Hopkins, and Charles Martin Smith (of the “No False Metal Classic” Trick or Treat). Richard Dreyfuss, who had Jaws and Close Encounters of the Third Kind under his belt, knew enough to stay away from this critical bomb that, while it make $15 million against its $3 million budget, is still considered a box office flop.

Set over the course of four consecutive New Year’s Eves from 1964 to 1967, the viewer is tossed to and fro from Woodstock to Vietnam to Haight-Asbury, and protests and draft card burning — and Steve and Laurie’s perpetual bickering as their marriage fails (proving why Cindy Williams vanished after TV’s Laverne and Shirley and Howard, wisely, went into directing. Their scenes are just painful to watch). Rewatching this — well, skimming — to review was not enjoyable and the last time I’ll ever look at it. The old Woodstock-era split-screen narrative technique (if you’re familiar with that 1970 concert document) is annoyingly dated in 1979.

Ah, but why we are here — if you haven’t guess by the theatrical one-sheets and our theme week — is the drag racing. In this case, Paul Le Mat’s John Milner — who, it turns out, didn’t die in an insinuated car crash during the word-on-screen epilogue of American Graffiti: he became a struggling drag racer. The scenes (we care about) were shot at the since long gone (it’s a car dealership, of all things) Fremont Raceway, later known as Baylands Raceway Park, (before it being torn down) in Fremont, California.

The rail ain’t helpin’.

Luckily, for us, it’s all original shot footage and not cheap-jacked film clips from other sources. But the shot-for-the-film dragging doesn’t help, here. This is a boring film. Drag Racer and Burnout from Crown International Pictures — with their mutual stock footage drag inserts — are more entertaining, since they’re about drag racing and not treating the racing as subplot fodder. Where’s my copy of David Cronenberg’s drag romp, Fast Company?!

More American Graffiti is easy to find in the online marketplace on vintage VHS and LaserDiscs. It finally came out on DVD in 2003 as a single release and as a double feature disc with American Graffiti in 2004. It hit streaming platforms in 2011, Blu-ray (Europe only) in 2012, and eventually in the U.S. on Blu-ray in 2018.

The four-sided double album is easily found on CD and worthy, unlike the film it promotes, of your purchase.

Oh, and Sam the Bossman offers his take on the film because, anyone who is connected to the majesty that is Messiah of Evil — in this case, Bill L. Norton, who acted in that Lucas-Star Wars sidebar – – always needs another take. Always, as guys Bill L. Norton is what B&S About Movies is all about!

* Join us for our “Movies Based on Songs” featurette.

** Join us for our blow out on the good ol’ boy craze of the ’70s with our “The Top 70 Good Ol’ Boys Film List 1972 1986” featurette.

About the Author: You can read the music and film reviews of R.D Francis on Medium and learn more about his work on Facebook.

Drag Racing Week: Fast Company (1979)

Editor’s Note: This review ran on August 8, 2020. We’re bringing it back for our “Drag Racing Week” tribute.

Image Courtesy of Vectezzy.

David Paul Cronenberg.

The man who gave ex-pornographic actress Marilyn Chambers a vampiric armpit. The man who made us lifelong fans of Micheal Ironside (John Saxon, Part Deux!) when he exploded his head via psychic brain waves. The man who knew we couldn’t pass up a film where Oliver Reed causes Samantha Eggar to “birth” an asexual dwarf-child. The man who turned James Woods into a human VCR. The man who dared adapt William S. Burroughs. The man who gave us “Brendel-Fly,” James Spader sexually aroused by car crashes, and made us lifelong Jeremy Irons fans by splitting him into twin gynecologists.

There wasn’t a body part, bodily function, brain wave, or hunk of technology Cronenberg didn’t like — and worked into his scripts. And when you take the mad Canadian’s “body horror” oeuvre into consideration, it’s not a wild stretch to realize that, in his spare time, he loved cars, racing bikes, and machinery. In fact, over the years, Cronenberg was — following in the burn marks of Steve McQueen and Paul Newman (and Tom Cruise) — a part time race car driver.

Look at that one-sheet! Now how can you pass up a cast (not in this neck of the Allegheny woods, buddy!) starring William Smith (Grave of the Vampire, Invasion of the Bee Girls), the late John Saxon (see our “Exploring” featurette on John), and Claudia Jennings (Unholy Rollers, Truck Stop Women, ‘Gator Bait, Sisters of Death, The Great Texas Dynamite Chase, Moonshine County Express, and Deathsport — yeah, we love our Claudia ’round ‘ere!).

Directing a screenplay written by Phil Savath (Big Meat Eater and Terminal City Ricochet), Cronenberg quenches his love for the scent of well-weathered leather, hot metal and oil in this tale of veteran drag racer Lonnie “Lucky Man” Johnson (William Smith). Driving for the Fast Company Oil team, Lucky deals with Phil Adamson (John Saxon), the “corrupt” team owner who’s more concerned with sponsor dollars and could care less who drives the car — provided he’s winning.

The always divine Mr. Jennings is the screenwriting androgyny-troped “hot chick with a guy’s name” (e.g., Alexandra = Alex, Charlotte = Charlie, no, not another “Frankie,” please!, etc., here, it’s Samantha = Sammy) playing up the romantic angle. The always-welcomed Nicholas Campbell (who went onto appear in Cronenberg’s The Brood, The Dead Zone, and Naked Lunch) is the ubiquitous protégé, Billy “The Kid” Brooker, who ignites a new sense of competitive spirit in Lucky to take on Adamson’s new hotshot driver, Gary “The Blacksmith” Black (iconic Canadian actor and voice artist Cedric Smith).

While this was filmed a few years earlier — around the time Cronenberg made Shivers (1975) and before he gained notice outside of his native Canada for Rabid (1977) — courtesy of Burt Reynolds’s redneck rally Smokey and the Bandit (be sure to check out our “Top 70 Good Ol’ Boys Film List: 1972 to 1986“) creatin’ a need for that good ol’ southern speed, Fast Company, made its way to receptive Drive-In audiences in 1979. And while Roger Corman’s Deathsport (1978) served as her final casting, this Cronenberg race tale served as Claudia Jennings’s final film; she perished in a car accident a few months after the film’s release.

I was funny car crazy in ’79, with centerfold tear outs of Don “The Snake” Prudhomme and Tom “The Mongoose” McEwen on my walls, right alongside magazine rips of champion motorcrosser Roger De Coster. So I got my dad to take me to see Fast Company at the local-quad Drive-In. So — as with all of my reviews for these “classics” from the bygone days of UHF-TV and VHS-shelved dust bunnies — take my nostalgia into consideration when I say that, when compared against most of the ’60s “Fast and Furious” precursors we reviewed this week, this exhaust thrower is one the better racing flicks from the lost Drive-In era.

We found a very clean, four-part upload to enjoy on Daily Motion. You can also get this on a nicely packaged Blue Underground DVD. And be sure to join us for our “Phil Savath Night” as part of our weekly Drive-In Friday featurette.

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

Drag Racing Week: Burnout (1979)

Courtesy of Vectezzy.

We originally reviewed this drag flick on August 2, 2020, as part of our reviews for Mill Creek’s Savage Cinema collection. Then it came back on February 5, 2021, as part of Mill Creek’s B-Movie Blast pack. So, for this “Drag Racing Week” tribute, it’s time for a new, second look at this ’70s time capsule homage to those rails and funny cars of the ’60s and ’70s.

Hey, when you’ve got faux-Charlie’s Angels that look like they’re out of a The Dukes of Hazzard crossover episode . . . and rails on the poster, we aint’ hatin’, Hoss.

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This one really is for the drag junkies, for this isn’t just a T&A comedy fest with a hotrod in it. This is hardcore: Don Garlits, Marvin Graham, Gary Beck, Don Prudhomme, Raymond Beadle, Tony Nancy and Shirley “Cha Cha” Muldowny (who earned her own hot roddin’ drag flick with Heart Like a Wheel) appear.

So, we have Mark Schneider from Supervan as Scott, with aspirations to be a drag racer. Of course, his affluent businessman pop is against that career choice, even though his dad is a fellow drag fan. In spite, Scott signs up as a gopher for a driver and hits the road. Don’t worry: Dad and Scott come to find a common ground.

That’s the movie.

For this flick isn’t about the drama. Or Scott. Or pop. It’s about the drag racing padding. But, not footage shot for the film. It’s all stock footage creatively written into the “plot” of the film. Truth be told, there’s decent story here — even though it’s 80% stock and 20% real actors. Take Tom Cruise’s Days of Thunder, give him a pop instead of team captain, take out the stock cars, put in rails, and you’d have a box office hit flick about drag racing.

Yeah, this is one budgetary Crown flick I really like. Then again, I grew up watching weekend sports show on network TV in the pre-cable days for those drag racing “events,” so your own nostalgia mileage may vary from mine.

As for director Graham Meech-Burkestone: this was his only film. He entered the business as a hairdresser and makeup artist on Burnt Offerings, Day of the AnimalsThe Manitou, The Exterminator, Day of the Locusts, and The Amsterdam Kill. Wow. If he was a director on all of those films, that’d be a tribute week right there for the B&S About Movies’ schedule alongside Mark L. Lester and Michael Fischa.

But jam on this: Unlike most Crown International actors who vanish from the biz, Mark Schneider is still in the business. He worked his way up to being a regular on TV’s Matt Houston and had a long, successful career with the U.S. TV daytime dramas Santa Barbara and Days of Our Lives. In addition to a recurring role in the syndicated sci-fi’er Babylon 5, Mark recently appeared in the indie horrors Obscura (2017) and Remains (2020).

You can watch Burnout on You Tube.

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