Drive-In Friday: Harry “Tampa” Hurwitz Night!

A toast! Let’s raise those waxed cups n’ strawed A&W Root Beers to Harry “Tampa” Hurwitz and his return to the big screen with Robert De Niro starring in the remake of Harry’s 1982 feature, The Comeback Trail.

Prior to his tenure as a screenwriter, director and producer, the New York born and raised Hurwitz worked as a professor of film and drawing at several New York institutions, including a prestigious tenure at New York University.

That’s what I get for hiring a high school kid to do the sign. Eh, you get what you $5.00-buck-an-hour pay for, right? Know your “rose” suffixes, kid.

He made his debut as a filmmaker with 1970’s critically-acclaimed The Projectionist — a film noted as the acting debut for a then unknown comedian named Rodney Dangerfield — in a tale about a lonely projectionist (Chuck McCann) who imagines himself in the films he shows. Hurwitz also translated his life-long love of Charlie Chaplin in the 1972 sophomore effort, The Eternal Tramp.

While his films would see distribution with major studios, such as MGM/United Artists (Safari 3000), and major-independents, such as Almi Pictures, a division of Carolco (The Rosebud Beach Hotel), and Compass International (Nocturna), Hurwitz produced and directed 12 pictures, 9 of which he wrote, independently.

His resume features two films produced with a pre-Empire Studios Charles Band: the late ’70s sexploitation pieces Fairy Tales and Auditions. Hurwitz also wrote and directed 1972’s Richard, a social parody on President Richard M. Nixon. He re-teamed with his lifelong friend Chuck McCann in 1982’s The Comeback Trail, a somewhat semi-autobiographical tale about two independent film executives against-the-odds in producing a western with a washed-up cowboy star.

“Rose” BLANK
And the $50 response is . . . “Is a Rose”
The $150 response is . . . “Wood”
And the $500 response . . . “Bud”

What the hell? Napoleon Solo? Well, it was either Match Game . . . or do a film with Harry. Oh, shite . . . say it ain’t so, Solo! The “comeback trail” isn’t paved with Harry Hurwitz films, Mr. Vaughn. Just ask Christopher Lee. . . .

Repeating the semi-documentary cinéma vérité style of 1978’s Auditions, Hurwitz also concocted 1989’s That’s Adequate; a Spinal Tapish tale about a troubled film studio that features an eclectic cast of comedians with Sinbad, Richard Lewis, and Rick Overton alongside a starbound Bruce Willis, Maureen “Marsha Brady” McCormick as a Space Princess, Robert Vaughn as Adolf Hitler (which is “funny” to fringe movie fans, when we remember Vaughn starred in 1978’s The Lucifer Complex), Susan “Laurie Partridge” Dey as a Southern Belle, and Robert Downey, Jr. as Albert Einstein. (Seriously: the film is that crazy.)

Harry’s most significant screen credit was working as one of the five screenwriters on a tale about the 1939 production of The Wizard of Oz, the 1981 Chevy Chase-starring Under the Rainbow for Warner Bros.-Orion Pictures. And we can’t forget Harry dipping his toes in the Blaxploitation pool as a producer with 1983’s The Big Score starring Richard Roundtree and the late John Saxon*.

Harry “Tampa” Hurwitz passed away on September 21, 1995, at the young age of 57 from heart failure while awaiting a heart transplant at the U.C.L.A Medical Center. This Drive-In Friday is for you, Harry. May your films live on for a new generation of video fringe enthusiasts. And they do!

In the ultimate show of respect to Harry’s imagination, on November 13, 2020**, the remake of The Comeback Trail, starring the Oscar acting elite of Robert De Niro, Morgan Freeman, and Tommy Lee Jones, was realized by writer-director George Gallo of Bad Boys fame.

Way to go, Harry!

Now, Mr. Gallo . . . about that Safari 3000 remake. . . .

Movie 1: Nocturna, Granddaughter of Dracula (1979)

What do you get when you go into business with a noted Las Vegas belly dancer who appeared on TV’s The Beverly Hillbillies . . . then cast Lily Munster, a B-Movie Dracula, and a couple of on-their-way-down ’70s disco stars — and negotiate a deal with MCA Records to release a disco-flavored soundtrack double album to promote the movie?

You get a Harry Tampa box-office boondoggle with John Carradine making back dick jokes. Can Countess Dracula turn her gay singer crush, straight? Do we care?

And to think the Compass International — a studio that had a worldwide hit on their hands with their debut release, John Carpenter’s Halloween — backed this vampire hookers romp. But they also made Roller Boogie, Tourist Trap, Blood Beach, and Hell Night . . . so you know where this disco Dracula romp is heading. Flushing is required.

Movie 2: Safari 3000 (1980)

What do you get when you go into business with United Artists and convince them a Smokey and the Bandit ripoff set on the African tundra will work?

You get a Harry Tampa box-office boondoggle with Christopher Lee frolicking with baboons and the guy who voiced the CP3O knockoff in Luigi Cozzi’s Starcrash. Does the fact that David Carradine is behind the wheel giving us some serious Death Race 2000 and Cannonball vibes save this VHS flotsam? No. And we wished ol’ Dave got off a couple of his dad’s bad dick jokes from Nocturna to compensate for the fact that Stockard Channing’s comedic timing makes the monkeys look good.

Intermission! With the stars of our next feature on tonight’s program!

Back to the Show!

Movie 3: The Rosebud Beach Hotel (1984)

What do you get when you contractually flim-flam cinema’s requisite Count, an ex-Runaway, a B-Movie apoc anti-hero, a washed up Tom Hanks TV sidekick, and wardrobe left overs from Glen Larson’s crap-ass Buck Rogers remake for TV?

You get a Harry Tampa ripoff of Bob Clark’s Porky‘s set in a South Beach Miami hotel. Do the adult film actresses working as topless bell hops for Madam Bobbi Flekman from Spinal Tap’s management team seducing Paco Querak from Hands of Steel save it? Do the cut-rate AOR-synth soundtrack ditties from Cherie Currie save it? No. And we wished Christopher Lee stuck to his original plan of torching the joint for the insurance money.

Movie 4: Fleshtone (1994)

What do you get when Harry Tampa answers paid cable’s call for “after hours” erotic thriller programming fodder for the wee-lads who can’t get dates on Saturday nights?

You get the bassist from the bane of our New Wave existence — Spandau Ballet — as a struggling painter twisting down a soft-core film noir spiral in this final, bitter sweet Harry “Tampa” Hurwitz’s effort completed a year before his death.

Truth be told, Martin Kemp, who been in the acting game in the U.K. since the ’70s before finding fame as a MTV favorite, is pretty decent here (he was in Sugar Town with John Doe and Michael Des Barres) as the noir schlub who can’t stay away from dangerous women who enjoy erotic sex games. And it’s nice to see Tim Thomerson (yep, the one and only Jack Deth from Trancers) on top of the marquee in this who-killed-her potboiler.

Do the adult film actresses that Harry likes to cast for that extra titillation-inspiration and lesbian sex scenes helping? Does the fact that the singularly-named Daniella also starred in Anal Maidens 3 and Assy 2 exciting you? How about those exotic Jo-Berg, South Africa locations?

Eh, a little . . . but in reality, this is probably the best of Harry’s films, courtesy of Kemp and Thomerson giving the material some class, and ’80s U.S. TV actress Lise Cutter isn’t so bad, but she’s not leaving the direct-to-video realms any time soon.

Yes! You Tube comes through in the clutch! You can enjoy Harry’s final film on You Tube. You can watch the other films on tonight’s program via the links in those reviews.

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

* We honored the career of the late John Saxon with our “Exploring: John Saxon” featurette.

** The Comeback Trail premiered at the 43rd Mill Valley Film Festival on October 12, 2020. It was initially scheduled to be theatrically released in the United States on November 13, 2020. However, due to the affects of COVID on theaters, Cloudburst Entertainment has pushed the release date to sometime in 2021.

Drive-In Friday: Phil Savath Night

From Terminal City Ricochet with Jello Biafra to Beverly Hills, 90210 with Luke Perry? From the science fiction/horror musical Big Meat Eater featuring the soft-shoe of “Baghdad Boogie” to the historical drama Samuel Lount? Drag racing through the eyes of David Cronenberg? Children’s programming?

Welcome to the eclectic career of Phil Savath.

Phil Savath, born December 28, 1946, was an American-born Canadian film and television writer and producer. He was most noted as a two-time Genie Award nominee for Best Screenplay, with nominations for Original Screenplay at the 4th Genie Awards in 1983 for Big Meat Eater and Adapted Screenplay at the 10th Genie Awards in 1989 for The Outside Chance of Maximilian Glick. (The Genies are the Academy of Canadian Cinema and Television’s equivalent of the Oscars.)

Savath started his career in television in the late ‘70s as the co-creator and star of the CBC Television children’s comedy series Homemade TV and Range Ryder and the Calgary Kid, and then made his theatrical debut with David Cronenberg’s Fast Company.

Fans of FOX-TV’s Beverly Hills, 90210 know him for the dozen episodes he wrote for that post-Brat Back series, as well as the oft-aired HBO favorite, The Outside Chance of Maximilian Glick, which was turned into a short-lived TV series, Max Glick. He also wrote the Canadian hockey drama Net Worth (1995) and developed the Canadian TV series African Skies (1992) about a bi-racial teen friendship in post-Apartheid South Africa. As a producer, before his death in 2004, he produced the late ‘90s series These Arms of Mine, along with the TV Movies White Lies, Little Criminals, and Liar, Liar: Between Father and Daughter.

Movie 1: Fast Company (1979)

The influence of this Phil Savath-penned script on the career of David Cronenberg can’t be denied.

The first of Cronenberg’s feature films for which Cronenberg did not originate the screenplay, he was hired by the producers to direct. It was on Fast Company that Cronenberg developed long-time working relationships with cinematographer Mark Irwin, art director Carol Spier, sound editor Bryan Day, and film editor Ronald Sanders — each worked on Cronenberg’s later films. Actor Nicholas Campbell, who plays William Smith’s young protégé, also went on to appear in Cronenberg’s The Brood, The Dead Zone, and Naked Lunch. Sadly, Fast Company also serves as final release for Claudia Jennings (‘Gator Bait), who died in a car wreck several months after this drag racing drama’s release.

Movie 2: Big Meat Eater (1982)

Take one part Ed Wood’s Plan Nine from Outer Space, one part Paul Bartel’s Eating Raoul, and one part Richard O’Brien’s The Rocky Horror Picture Show and vigorously shake in your “intentionally bad cult films” tumbler, and serve: We’ve got a mad butcher, a murdered mayor, and aliens who reanimate the mayor to assist in the harvesting of a rare, radioactive fuel deposit beneath the butcher shop. Oh, and there’s song and dance numbers (which you can enjoy during our intermission).

And those Great White Northeners “got it,” since Phil Savath and his co-writers Laurence Keane and Chris Windsor received Canada’s Oscar equivalent — a Genie Awards’ nod — for Best Original Screenplay in 1983. While Windsor never made another film, Keane and Savath continued onward and upward . . . and what could Phil possibly write as a follow-up feature? It’s not what you’d think.

Intermission! Courtesy of the Phil Savath-penned “Baghdad Boogie.”

Back to the show!

Movie 3: Samuel Lount (1985)

The man who gave us Big Meat Eater . . . wrote this? He did.

A historical drama set during the Upper Canada Rebellion of 1837, the film stars very familiar Canadian TV and film character actor R. H. Thomson (I remember him from the cable-played Escape from Iran: The Canadian Caper and The Terry Fox Story, as well as lots of American TV series) as Samuel Lount, an organizer of the rebellion who was ultimately convicted of treason and executed in 1838.

Receiving a limited theatrical run before debuting on Canadian television, it made its U.S debut on HBO and Showtime. While not winning any awards, it received five 7th Genie Awards’ nods for Best Actor, Best Cinematography, Best Costuming, Best Editing, and Best Sound Editing.

Yes, this powerful, fact-based drama is — in fact — from the pen of the man who gave us a film backed by a soundtrack performed by Alternative Tentancles bands. Yes, that’s right. Phil Savath worked with Jello Biafra. But Phil wrote “Baghdad Boogie” and incorporated “Heat Seeking Missile,” a song that would give Spinal Tap pause, into a movie — so what’s really shocking you at this point?

Movie 4: Terminal City Ricochet (1990)

So, Phil did a pretty good job with the sci-fi horror parody Big Meat Eater, so he took a crack at parodying the post-apoc sci-fi craze of the ’80s with this dystopian-political intrique romp. It’s the story of a media entrepreneur who weasels his way into the mayorship of Terminal City and manipulates the populace through television, with their ensuing addictions to consumerism lining his pockets.

Oh, and the good mayor’s Chief Social Peace Enforcement Officer? Jello Biafra of the Dead Kennedys.

Yeah, it’s a must watch.

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

2020 Scarecrow Psychotronic Challenge Day 15: Mr. No Legs (1979)

DAY 15. HELL ON FOUR WHEELS: Must involve characters in wheelchairs.

Also known as Killers Die Hard and Gun Fighter, the title of this movie pretty much tells you the main reason to watch this movie.

It’s really about a crime boss named D’Angelo (Lloyd Bochner, The Lonely Lady), who is smuggling drugs inside cigars, because that seems like the best way to move plenty of product inside the smallest delivery mechanisms possible. One of his smugglers is a student named Ken Wilson (Luke Halpin, who was on Flipper — and stay tuned for why that’s important), who one night gets in an argument with his girlfriend Tina and ends up accidentally killing her. D’Angelo’s men make it look like an overdose, which would be enough in any other reality to get Ken away with it, but Tina’s brother is Andy (pro wrestler Ron Slinker, who helped train The Rock, gave RVD his name and was the stepfather of Dennis “Mideon” Knight), a cop on the drug enforcement squad.

The real excitement of this movie comes in when we meet Mr. No Legs himself. He’s played by Ted Vollrath, a Lancaster, PA native and U.S. Marine veteran who lost his legs after thirteen years after surviving a mortar shell explosion during the Korean War. Despite what some would see a set-back, Ted still became a karate Grand Master and acquired black belts in several disciplines of the martial arts. In 1971, he founded the Martial Arts for the Handicapable Incorporated. He pretty much makes this movie with his extended fight sequences and gimmick-laden wheelchair.

If you don’t think Mr. No Legs isn’t cool enough, how about the fact that he hangs with a guy named Lou, who is played by Rance Howard (Smokey Bites the Dust), the father of Clint and Ron?

Somehow, this movie was able to round up plenty of old movie stars — who one presumes all moved to Tampa, Florida where it was made — including former husband of Shirley Temple John Agar, Richard Jaeckel and Templeton Fox, while also finding plenty of martial artists, including Jim Kelly from Enter the Dragon and a smaller version of him named Tiny Kelly.

Speaking of Florida, this movie feels grimy and sweaty. Much like other Sunshine State scumtastic blasts of insanity like Satan’s Children, the films of Bill Grefé and My Brother Has Bad Dreams, everyone in this movie doesn’t look like anyone you’d see in a Hollywood big budget film. Even the character actors in it have moved on to leading man status just for being in this with them. There are several scenes in bars where nearly every person looks meaner and more dangerous than the next. It feels like murder, sex or murder after sex could happen at any minute.

Sherry flavored sauerkraut. Really.

There are plenty of fights, like one between women who have smashed beer bottles and knives that ends up with nearly everyone in the bar dead and another where a Stingray Corvette faces off with a maniac with a sword. But the real standout is any time Mr. No Legs is on screen, whether he’s firing a throwing star out of his chair, shotgun blasting folks or diving into a pool to kill off two henchmen sent to dispatch him.

That said, there’s plenty of padding, like the band Miracle playing in a club and a ten-minute car chase that ends up smashing into a wall of ice that has a bad guy only loosely tied to the rest of the story. As I grow older, however, I admire these non-sequitur moments, as one looks at old wallpaper in a house that is otherwise completely modern.

Oh yeah — FlipperMr. No Legs was directed by Ricou Browning and written by Jack Cowden, who previously created that family-friendly TV series. Cowden also wrote Island Claws and ended up as the script supervisor on Band of the HandThe New Kids and Police Academy 5: Assignment Miami Beach. And yes, that’s the very same Ricou Browning that was in the suit as The Creature from the Black Lagoon and was the second unit director on Thunderball*).

But man, the real star of all of this is greasy and flopsweat laden Florida.

You can get this from Massacre Video, whose new release has a brand new 2K restoration from an extremely rare French print.

*Browning and Cowden would also work together on Island Claws and Police Academy 5. I also never knew that Browning did second unit on Caddyshack.

2020 Scarecrow Psychotronic Challenge Day 13: Concorde Affaire ’79 (1979)

DAY 13. OPEN SOAR: This should focus on flying or aviation somehow.

I’ve gone on record proclaiming my love for the Airport movies, specifically their continual devolution from high end picture to scummy cash-in — and therefore, more awesome films — as the series progressed. By Airport ’77, things had become goofy. And by The Concorde … Airport ’79, any semblance of being a quality picture went out the window, the same one that George Kennedy opened and fired a flare gun out of to throw off a heat-seeking missile.

Which means that of all the four films, the 1979 one — blame a cast that includes Sylvia Kristel, Robert Wagner, Jimmie Walker, Susan Blakely, Martha Raye, Charo, John Davidson, David Warner, Sybil Danning and Harry Shearer (where were Edmund Purdom, John Carradine, Donald Pleasance and Cameron Mitchell and what were they doing at the time to not be in this movie?) — is my favorite.

Let’s smashcut to Italy, where Ruggero “Monsieur Cannibal” Deodato — the very same man who made Cannibal HolocaustLive Like a Cop, Die Like a Man and the astounding Dial Help, amongst others — would join with scriptwriters Ernesto Gastaldi (The PossessedDay of Anger) and Renzo Genta (Jungle Holocaust) to try and get a few extra kilometers (it does 2,179 an hour) out of the Concorde, which trust me, was all the rage in 1979.

If you could make a Venn diagram out of my film loves — and you totally can — this exists at the absolute center point of Italian ripoffs, American actors in foreign films, disaster flicks and opportunities to dream of making a souffle for Mimsy Farmer.

This film starts with a great disclaimer, which is always the way the best of films begin:

“This story is imaginary, and any reference to actual events or to real persons living or dead is entirely coincidental. The supersonic airliner “Concorde” is a stunning reality, however, the result of space-age technology, it links continent to continent, flying in complete safety at over 1,200 miles per hour. The production wishes to thank “British Aerospace,” English builders of the “Concorde,” for their kind cooperation and for producing film footage and materials.”

I am willing to bet that the makers of this film never spoke to anyone who made the Concorde and my proof is that this movie starts with one of them wrecking, which was the greatest fear of this plane and one they’d probably never want in a film.

L.P.A. Flight 820 is the test flight that has crashed off the coast of French Antilles of the Caribbean, with French air hostess Jean Beneyton (Ms. Farmer, who is also in The Perfume of the Lady in Black Body Count) as the only survivor. She’s rescued by two fishermen who are soon killed to keep any witnesses from learning what has happened.

Moses Brody (James Franciscus, the voice of Jonathan Livingston Seagull) is an investigative journalist on the case, brought on by his ex-wife Nicole (Mag Fleming, who is in everything from Cannibal Ferox to Nightmare City and A Policewoman on the Porno Squad) who dies from a “heart attack” before he gets to see her. As soon as he arrives, he’s attacked by a gang of ne’er-do-wells before he’s saved by a man named George.

We soon learn that two men are behind all of this mayhem: the superstar powered duo of Milland (Joseph Cotten) and his business partner Danker (Edmund Purdom), who are using their Old Hollywood energy and big business scumbag savvy to keep all of this a secret.

Our heroes rescue Jean and find the wreckage of the Concorde underwater, but George loses his arm in the wreckage and gets shot several times because this is an Italian movie. I’m shocked that a turtle hasn’t been ripped asunder or a pig hasn’t been landed on by a jet engine at this point.

From here on out, the movie becomes Venantino Venantini (Father Moses from Warriors of the Wasteland) chasing Farmer and Franciscus while another Concorde, flown by Van Johnson (once second to only Frank Sinatra in bobbysoxer’s hearts), is being attacked by a vial of acid that heats up in the microwave and destroys the electrical lines of the plane. If the science of this all seems way off, welcome to the glorious world of Italian xerox cinema and its utter lack of making any sense. May it never change! And speaking of great things about this movie, the Stelvio Cipriani (A Bay of BloodDeath Walks on High HeelsBaron BloodPiranha II: The SpawningTentacles) score is fabulous!

Somehow, this movie has the budget to have a nerve-wracking landing sequence. Our protagonists aren’t even on the plane, which is kind of an anti-climax, but at least Brody is ready to take down big business now that the henchmen are all members of the choir invisible.

Look for Robert Kerman from Cannibal Holocaust as the London air traffic controller. Years later. Deodato would say that if he had known that Kerman was a porn actor, he wouldn’t have hired him. Oh yeah? Well the other air traffic controller, Jake Teague, was in Debbie Does Dallas and Deep Inside Annie Sprinkle, so I think he isn’t being all that honest and is more upset about the fact that Kerman continually had horrible things to say about the hell he put the cast of the aforementioned human gutmuncher through inside the Green Inferno.

Two years after this movie, Franciscus would star in The Last Shark, making him that part of a very rare breed of actors: those that ripped off two major franchises aided and abetted by Italian magic makers. He’s also the kind of guy that can take over for Charlton Heston — who was in Airport 1975 — not once, but twice, seeing as how he did the honors in Beneath the Planet of the Apes.

This movie makes no sense and spends more time underwater than in the sky on a supersonic jet. 900 thumbs up, 300 stars out of 5, 300/10 would see this again.

PS: I couldn’t find this movie anywhere, so I had to watch it on a Russian video site, which meant that a Russian voice had to say every line a few seconds after it was voice as well as read every single block of text on the screen. The guy doing it even roped a female voice — I imagine it was his bored wife, much like how Becca reacts when I force her to watch Italian blockbuster remixes, to be the Soviet-friendly voice of Mimsy Farmer.

PPS: Keep an eye out for former pro wrestler Dakar as a fisherman. He was the High Priest of the Spider in Ator the Fighting Eagle and also shows up in all manner of Italian films, including Zombie HolocaustZombi, Mission Stardust2 Mafiosi Against Goldginger and Papaya: Love Goddess of the Cannibals.

SLASHER MONTH: Buio Omega (1979)

I love Joe D’Amato. I can’t hide my devotion and even when his movies descend into outright exploitation, I love him even more. This is probably his best film — a remake of the 1966 film The Third Eye — that he would talk down by saying, “I personally opted for the most unrestrained gore, since I don’t consider myself very skillful at creating suspense.”

It’s also a movie that he shouted — while filming — “We’re making a movie to make people throw up. We must make ’em vomit!”

I wish he was still alive so I could hug him right now.

Frank Wyler has just lost the love of his life, Anna Völkl (Cinzia Monreale, Emily from The Beyond). That may have something to do with his voodoo using, wet nursing maid Iris (Franca Stoppi, The Other Hell and the dog-loving mother in George Eastman’s Dog Lay Afternoon), who is only too happy to have her boss suckle on her bosoms for emotional succor.

So our protagonist does what any of us would. He digs up his woman and turns her into a body that will never age. Of course, any other filmmaker wouldnt show this process in graphic detail, but you’re not watching any other director make this movie. This is the kind of film where a hitchhiker is killed and when our hero gets too stressed out, his mother figure gives him an old fashioned and then helps him hack up the corpse.

The crazy thing is, Frank can pick up women, like the jogger he gets in the sack in less time than it will take you to read this. Of course, he has to show off Anna, the girl goes nuts and Frank ends up biting through her neck. Such is life. Or death.

Imagine how Frank feels when his dead lover’s twin shows up! Why it’s enough to call of his engagement to Iris, which is one of the oddest scenes in a movie that pretty much starts strange and finishes beyond strong in the category of astounding weirdness.

Come for the necrophilia. Stay for the awesome Goblin soundtrack.

You can watch this on Tubi or buy it from Severin.

SLASHER MONTH: Don’t Go In the House! (1979)

If any film earned being a video nasty, it would be this one, a movie that has a man who was abused as a child growing up to be a serial killer obsessed with burning people alive. There is no one to root for or cheer for, only mayhem, malice and murder.

In short, the kind of movie that Gene Siskel would have a conniption over.

When Donald (Dan Grimaldi, a math professor who also played Philly and Patsy Parisi on The Sopranos) was a kid, his mother would use a stove to burn the evil out of him. Now fully grown, he seeks out women that remind him of her and kills them with a flamethrower in relentlessly graphic detail.

While the killer tries to confess his sins, he can’t stop. Even a simple double date ends with him smashing a candle over a woman’s head. And get this, it even has an ending very similar to Maniac, another movie that offers no easy answers or way out.

You can watch this on Tubi.

Süpermen Dönüyor (1979)

The makers of The Return of Superman didn’t have money to create a field of stars. They did not feel like stealing the footage from another film. So instead, they laid several Christmas ornaments on a blanket and just let the camera roll. If seeing that makes you say, “How cheap!” then you aren’t ready for the world of Turkish remixes.

This is 67 minutes of Superman’s origin, except that it’s really Captain Marvel — the Shazam! version — who has the wisdom of Solomon, the strength of Hercules, the stamina of Atlas, the power of Zeus, the courage of Achilles and the speed of Mercury.

Tayfun Demir plays Tayfun, who is our Clark Kent here. Once he learns from his Earth parents that he came from space, he’s given a green Plexiglass paperweight that leads him to the magical cave of Shazam. Or his father. Before you know it, he’s trying to win over Lois Lane when he isn’t using his X-ray vision to check out the other ladies at the Istanbul Planet.

According to director Kunt Tulgar, the budget was so small that Demir had to resew his shirt every time they shot a scene where he pops the buttons off his dress shirt to reveal his Superman shield. After the fourth time, Demir refused to sew any longer.

Richard Donner’s Superman was sold with the idea that you would believe a man could fly. Here, that man is a Ken doll being held by a string in front of photos of Istanbul. The logo at the end of our hero’s shield? A latch hook rug.

Some will be put off by this thrift store level effort. As for me, I found it charming, a film closer to the George Reeves-starring TV version than a big budget Hollywood blockbuster.

You can watch this on YouTube.

Thirst (1979)

What happens when you mix Soylent Green with Elizabeth Bathory and throw in the end of the world pre-millenial tension and madness that was 1979 in one movie? Then you get this Australian freakout, which I really want more filmlovers to discover.

Director Rod Hardy had the literal balls to remake High Noon in 2000. He also made the Hasselhoff-starring Nick Fury movie, which is a really crazy directorial doubelshot, huh?

The Brotherhood has taken Kate Davis (Chantal Contouri) captive, as they feel that she could be a direct descendant of Elizabeth Bathory. They use fake silver fangs and brainwashing with hallucinogenic drugs — Henry Silva, being evil as always — to bring her into their fold, a practice that Dr. Fraser (David Hemmings, who made some awesome movies in Australia at this time, including the also-somewhat unknown Harlequin) does not agree with.

When she leaves, she thinks it was all a dream until she wakes up draining another woman of her blood. She’s trapped in a nightmare. I mean, did you see the tagline on the poster? “This woman is doomed to feel the awful, ancient hunger of the damned!”

There’s a crazy scene that double steals from Hitchcock, putting the shower scene from Psycho up against Marnie’s fear of the color red to create a blood shower that featured prominently in the film’s ads.

I love that this movie juxtaposes the clean metallic future that we in 1979 thought was coming, along with the dehumanization of mankind as cattle for the elite that couldn’t possibly ever come true. Right?

Nosferatu the Vampyre (1979)

This second of five Herzog-Kinski romps* is an impressionist-stylized remake of F.W. Murnau’s unauthorized, 1922 black-and-white silent adaptation of Bram Stoker’s Dracula (loosely chronicled in the drama Shadow of the Vampire). But how did Herzog manage to make this film without the same copyright issues that plagued Murnau’s version? Simple. The day the copyright expired on Stoker’s novel and entered the public domain, Herzog began his adaptation.

As with all of Herzog’s films, this is scored by the West German progressive rock group Popol Vuh who, when it comes to soundtracks, are that country’s greatest musical export, next to the commercially better known Tangerine Dream**. And as with Tangerine Dream, Popol Vuh released both independent studio albums and soundtracks. Seriously. The soundtrack is incredible. (I played the album until it split apart like a cinnamon roll.)

And we’ll leave it at that, as Sammy P, the bossman at B&S About Movies, did a commendable job at reviewing this masterpiece of horror. No disrespect to Max Schreck who scared the sand out of me, but Kinski giving a “voice” to the character really ups the game. A highly recommended horror watch if there ever was one. You know me and Kinski.

You can watch this as a free-with-ads stream on TubiTv. And Kinski made a pseudo-sequel with Christopher Plummer and Donald Pleasence in Italy—1988’s Nosferatu in Venice, which you can also stream for free on TubiTV.

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


* Be sure to check out our exploration of the Herzog-Kinski oeuvre with our “Drive-In Friday: Kinski vs. Herzog” featurette. **And don’t forget our review of all the films Tangerine Dream scored, with our “Exploring: 10 Tangerine Dream Film Soundtracks” featurette.

Nocturna, Granddaugther of Dracula (1979)

“On the other hand . . . if I’m dead, why do I have to wee-wee?”
— Grandpa Dracula (aka, John Carradine)

Vietnam-born Nai Bonet began her show business career as a belly-dancer at the age of 13 and headlined a popular belly-dancer show at the famed Flamingo Hotel in Las Vegas. And when a commercial, film, TV show (she appeared as a harem girl on The Beverly Hillbillies, for example), or a record company needed a belly-dancer for a cover shoot, Nia was there. Her famed reached a point — coinciding with the ’60s then-hot “Go-Go” craze — that, at the age of 15, she released the 1966 novelty-pop go-go song “Jelly Belly”; the video recorded for the song became a centerpiece exhibit of bar-arcade Scopitone video jukeboxes.

But what Nai really wanted to do was act. And she made her big screen debut alongside John Cassavetes and Mimsy Farmer (The Wild Racers) in the Daniel Haller-directed and Charles B. Griffith-penned Devil’s Angels (1967). But parts were hard to come by; so it wasn’t until 1973 when Nai was cast in her next co-starring role, this time alongside ex-60s teen idol Fabian Forte (Thunder Alley) in Soul Hustler. By the late ’70s, Nai wasn’t a star; she was buried in the credits of the “biggest” film of her career: the biographical sports drama The Greatest (1977) about and starring Muhammad Ali.

Frustrated, Nai decided to take matters into her own hands by writing and producing her own leading lady role (see Loqueesha and Easy Rider: The Ride Back for other examples of this filmmaking approach). And she wrote a vampire tale that filmed during a two-month period in October and November of 1978 for Compass International Pictures. At the time, Compass had a worldwide hit on their hands with their debut release: John Carpenter’s Halloween. Then the studio used their Halloween profits to finance Roller Boogie. And Tourist Trap. And Blood Beach. And Hell Night. And Disco Dracula, aka Nocturna. You see where this is going? Yep. The studio shut down for good in 1981. But, at the hands of studio co-founders Irwin Yablans and Moustapha Akkad, the 1985-reimaged and re-incorporated company, now known as Trancas International Films, retained the copyrights to the Halloween franchise and came to produce every picture in the series.

And Nai Bonet’s leading lady and writing debut wasn’t just any low-budget ($200,000) Dracula picture. Compass International negotiated with MCA Records to release a disco-flavored double album film soundtrack headlined by then hot disco-queens Gloria Gaynor and Vicki Sue Robinson. (You can review the album’s liner notes on Discogs.) Was the soundtrack more successful than the film? Oops. It was. Not that the soundtrack saved Gaynor and Robinson from their inevitable, new-wave career oblivion. Of course, all those pesky music rights and major-label legalese gibberish bit (sorry) the film in the arse neck because, the film was barely released in the home video market; it’s currently lost to the ages, only available as a battered and ultra-rare VHS. The LP soundtrack is easier to find.

Yes. You heard right. In the grand tradition of Harry Hope meshing disco with hicksploitation in Smokey and the Judge (and hiring disco band Hot as “actors”), low-budget auteur Harry Hurwitz (here as Harry Tampa; he then taught at the University of South Florida in Tampa) came up with the idea of meshing disco with a Dracula picture. For reals. So what you have here is Saturday Night Fang. Or Thank God It’s Fang Day. Or Disco Dracula. And Uncle Harry probably wanted to use the titles Vampire Hookers and Lust at First Bite, but those were already used for a pair of slumming ’70s drive-in vamp romps. And Universal took Love at First Bite for their own George Hamilton-starring vamp comedy. So Harry and Company came up with — the admittedly original — Nocturna handle. And knowing he needed icon-horror names on the box to sell this mess — and that most of those “iconic” names were down-and-out and available on the cheap, he was able to convince Yvonne De Carlo and John Carradine to star. (Papa Carradine’s previous tenure as The Count was the western-vampire hybrid that was 1966’s Billy the Kid Versus Dracula. Poor John.)

And don’t be duped by that R-rating; this is a pure PG-13 boondoggle that ol’ Harry decided was a celluloid cluster that needed to be spiced-up with nudity because, well, no one counted on the Knack coming along and driving a new-wave stake through disco’s heart. What was Harry T. gonna do? Wipe the soundtrack and hire the Cars and Berlin to score the movie? Cut Vicki Sue Robinson’s part and graft-in Terri Nunn? Fire Moment of Truth and hire the Knack as Drac’s Castle house band? Let Rick Ocasek get fanged buy Nai?

There’s no doubt that Nai Bonet gives you that Garth Algar climbing-up-the-rope-in-gym-class-feeling, but yikes . . . she’s as wooden as a Van Helsing stake. So thank god Sy Richardson (Cinderella) shows up as a jive-talking vampiric pimp and Theodore “Brother Theodore” Gottlieb (Tom Hanks’s The ‘Burbs) is a piss as the Hotel Transylvania’s manager (with a boner for Nocturna that Papa Drac uses to his advantage). And Carradine — as Grandpa Dracula — and Yvonne DeCarlo — as “old” family friend and Drac’s ex-squeeze, Jugulia Vein — probably full knowing they were in a stinker, brought their A-game anyway and decided to have fun with this mess and own their roles. (There’s nothing finer than seeing the actors that you care about making chicken salad out of chicken shit. It only makes you love ’em more.) And Nocturna? Well, in addition Brother T., the Wolfman has the hots for her, but she only has eyes for Jimmy: the disco-drumming (and gay) Tony Manero-clone (Antony Hamilton, in his film debut; you might remember his later roles in Howling IV: The Original Nightmare and the late-’80s TV Mission: Impossible reboot).

And that sets up the movie. The tax man “haunts” the House of Dracula, so ol’ Drac turned the family castle into The Transylvania Hotel to pay the bills. Overseeing the operation is his granddaughter Nocturna, who also cares for ‘ol Drac hiding in the basement-crypt bowels (i.e., giving him his breakfast goblet of blood every morning, helping him with his false-fangs, and listening to him bitch about his erectile dysfunction and enlarged prostate).

But the estate’s blood supply is running low and business needs a pick-me-up, so Nocturna books American disco band Moment of Truth (who appear on the aforementioned soundtrack) to entertain the guests. And she begins to experience human love for the first time for Jimmy; she doesn’t want his blood and she sees her reflection for the first time. And she, unlike Elaine Benis in Seinfeld (sorry, Sam), can “turn” Jimmy back to the heterosexual nether regions.

So she runs away to New York with Jimmy and finds support with de Carlo, herself a vampire, who resides in darkness under the Brooklyn Bridge, and helps Nocturna avoid Grandfather’s henchmen who’ve come to return her to Transylvania. And mortal-immortal love, disco dancing, bat transformations, faux improv-crosses of neon-letter Ts, and vampires sharing their final kiss under a romantic sunrise, ensues.

Wow. There’s an actual VHS rip in the digital ethers? Yes! You can watch the full movie on You Tube, but because of the nudity, you’ll have to log in . . . if you dare to “turn that beat around,” that is. Bill Van Ryn is watching and getting his disco fix. So why not you? Don’t fret. You will survive.

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