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.

Nightwing (1979)

Martin Cruz Smith may be best known for his Arkady Renko books, which start with Gorky Park, but he also wrote the book that this vampire bat movie is based on. It has the tagline “Day belongs to man, but night is theirs!” and is much closer to Jaws than any Dracula film.

Arthur Hiller directed and he was behind plenty of great comedies, like the Gene Wilder and Richard Pryor vehicles Silver Streak and See No Evil, Hear No Evil. He was also the Alan Smithee who directed An Alan Smithee Film: Burn Hollywood Burn and his last film, perhaps ignominiously but hey, we all need to work, was National Lampoon’s Pucked, which starred Jon Bon Jovi.

Youngman Duran (Nick Mancuso) is a deputy on a New Mexico Native American reservation who is investigating a series of cattle mutilations, which seemed to be happening all the time in the 70’s (or maybe all I did was watch In Search Of and horror movies, so perhaps I was more attuned to it happening).

His foster father — a medicine man — reveals that he has conducted a ritual to bring about the end of the world and his body is soon found drained of all its blood. There’s also a tribal council member named Walker Chee (Stephen Macht, who teaches ethics at Harvard) who has found oil and plans to keep it all for himself.

With the help of a British scientist named Phillip Payne (David Warner!) and medical student Anne Dillon (Kathryn Harrold, the only actress I know who has been paired with both Arnold Schwarzenegger (Raw Deal) and Luciano Pavarotti (Yes, Giogio). Strother Martin shows up, too!

This is perhaps the only vampire movie to feature “Lucille” by Kenny Rogers and “Don’t It Make My Brown Eyes Blue” by Crystal Gayle on the soundtrack.

While this movie was destroyed by critics in 1979, it has acquired somewhat of a cult audience ever since. If you’re looking for a slow boil about ecology and the plight of our indigenous peoples that suddenly gets awesome when bats swarm a campfire and an old woman gets set ablaze, good news!

Vampire Hookers (1979)

“Hey, Moe! These chickees are vampires!”
“Shut up, numbskull. I’m having sex!”

“Why soitenly! Woo-woo-woo!”
— Curly and Moe in The Three Stooges Meet The Vampire Hookers

Just when you thought The Thirsty Dead was the end all be all of Filipino vampire movies, here comes Cirio H. Santiago with his own Filipino vampire movie. Like Cirio was actually going to produce 64 films and directed 105 of his own — and NOT make a vampire movie.

What the . . . you mean the guy that kept remaking — thanks to financial backing by Roger Corman’s New World Pictures, Concorde Pictures and New Horizons Pictures — Mad Max* over and over again (seven times between 1983 to 1992!) by recycling the same post-apoc stock footage over and over again, with Stryker, Wheels of Fire, Future Hunters, Equalizer 2000, The Sisterhood, Dune Warriors, and Raiders of the Sun . . . he made a vamp flick?

Yep.

How bad?

Oh, man. Strap on the popcorn bucket.

Long before Roger Corman ponied up the post-apoc cash, poor ‘ol Cirio did the best he could with his harshly-lit, 16mm epics — this one written by Chicago-born Howard R. Cohen, who also gave us The Unholy Rollers, Space Raiders**, Saturday the 14th, the aforementioned Stryker, Deathstalker, Barbarian Queen, and Time Trackers. Wait a second . . . those have Corman stank on them! You mean Corman did back this vamp romp?

Yep.

What’s it all about?

Again. Popcorn bucket. Strap.

As if his starring role rife with lame, one-liner jokes about dental and erection issues in Nia Bonet’s Nocturna, Granddaugther of Dracula (1979; also reviewed for “Vampire Week”) wasn’t embarrassing enough, Sir John Carradine didn’t learn his lessons with this 79-minute epic rife with the same one-liners, this time as the aging vampire Richmond Reed. Spouting Shakespeare as only Sir John can, he lords over a coven of three sex-o-licious, negligee-clad ladies who pose as prostitutes to lure victims to Drac’s lair for a little sexploitation bloodletting.

Yes. You heard right. Howie wrote us a script that crosses ugh-inducing, vaudevillian comedy, ’70s grindhouse-styled sexploitation (in slow motion; you know, for that extra, emotional-visual impact), and vampires. But why did . . . a guy from Chicago . . . Corman . . . shoot this in the Philippines? And where’s the native peoples? Where’d did all of these Americans come from?

Well, why did they shoot The Thirsty Dead and Daughters of Satan with a bunch of white Americans? Because it’s cheaper to shoot in the lands below The Rising Sun. That, and the angle that the vamp-vics are dopey-horny American sailors of the McHale’s Navy-variety on shore leave at a Manila-based U.S. port of call — and that’s why the count set up shop there. But hey, ubiquitous Filipino actor Vic Diaz is here — just one of his 158 credits (including Daughters of Satan and Equalizer 2000, along with Black Mama, White Mama, just to name a few) — so it all balances out the studio’s affirmative action paperwork.

Keep your eyes out for the deli counter-styled, meat cleaver-editing and out-of-sync dubbing . . . and again, the slow-motion sex scenes that make Tommy Wiseau’s sex scenes in The Room less offensive and expertly stage — if that’s even possible. And thanks to this Santiago vamp romp: it is. And it comes complete with Three Stooges-styled buffoonery, plenty of ta-tas, and an awesome theme song that makes “The Green Slime” from, well, The Green Smile, seem like a Grammy winner. Yeah, the punctuated-by-trombone “Wah-Wah-waaaahhhhhhs” of The Undertaker and his Pals has nothing on this Cirio vampfest. Nothing.

In other words: this is epic.

Between 2013 and 2018, the fine folks at Vinegar Syndrome put this out on DVD and Blu-ray, so it’s easy to get a copy; it also appears on a number of public domain sets. But we found you a freebie rip 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.


* Be sure to check out our two-part “Atomic Dust Bin” blowout chronicling all of the Mad Max-inspired post-apoc films you know and love.

** Be sure to visit our “After Star Wars” round up of all of the “Star Wars Droppings” you know and love.

Drive-In Friday: Pasta Wars with Alfonso Brescia

It all began with the 1964 sand n’ sandal flicks The Revolt of the Pretorians and The Magnificent Gladiator, along with an array of Poliziotteschi flicks. In between was an X-rated romp with 1969’s The Labyrinth of Sex and 1974’s seen-to-be-believed Super Stooges vs the Wonder Women. And it all pretty much ended when Uncle Al decided to take on George Lucas. We never saw him again on U.S. screens—big or small.

So, have you ever met two guys debating the content of Alfonso Brescia’s “Star Wars” rips? Welcome to mine and Sam’s world: a bizarro-universe where he mixes colorful, alcohol concoctions based on movies and we destroy our livers debating superfluous movie facts, much to the chagrin of poor Becca. Not even a Bill Van Ryn smack-on-the-side-of-the-head cures our Bresciamania.

Sam is of the critics who believe Uncle Al’s “Pasta Wars” is comprised of only four films: Cosmos: War of the Planets (aka Year Zero War in Space), Battle of the Stars, (aka Battle in Interstellar Space), War of the Robots (aka Reactor), and finally, Star Odyssey (aka Seven Gold Men in Space, Space Odyssey, Metallica and Captive Planet).

I’m on the side that there was actually five films in the series, which completed with 1980’s La Bestia nello Spazio, aka The Beast in Space in English venacular, aka “Star Wars V,” aka “Porn Wars,” because, well . . . it’s a porn movie.

Four!

Five!

Four!

Five! Arrrgh! Let’s break ’em down! But first, this 2012 trailer remix for the best known of Uncle Al’s “Pasta Wars” flicks: Star Odyssey.

Movie 1: Cosmos: War of the Planets (1977)

Many sci-fi connoisseurs believe Brescia’s “Star Wars” debut isn’t so much a rip-off of Star Wars: they opine it’s a homage to another Italian space epic, one that was produced amid all of those Antonio Margheriti-spaghetti space operas: Mario’s Bava’s Terrore nello Spazio, aka Terror in Space (known in American theatres as Planet of Vampires; then in its U.S TV syndication as Demon Planet).

On this point, Sam and I concure: Look at the costuming and alien-possession subplots of Bava’s and Brescia’s films for comparison. Adding to the celluloid confusion: Cosmos had similarly-influenced—if not the very same-recycled—costumes and sets as Margheriti’s films. In addition: Cosmos was also distributed as War of the Planets—which was the title of the 1966 second film of Margheriti’s Gamma One series.

Amid Cosmos’ self-recycled stock footage and shot-through-sheets-of-sepia-paper-and-cheese-cloth special effects, Cosmos also ineptly-lifted whole scenes from 2001: A Space Odyssey (an astronaut completes an upside-down communication device repair-in-space) and Barbarella (sex via touching a “blue orb of light” between beds). The “plot” for those who fell asleep: Our heroes journey to a planet where a green-skinned race is subjugated by an evil computer . . . and the Earth’s Italian “Hal 9000,” “The Wiz,” is possessed by the evil alien computer. . . .

Is this plotline picked up in the next movie? Nope. But all the sets, props, and costumes sure do redux.

Believe it or not, with everyone tricked into believing they were seeing another “Star Wars,” Cosmos: War of the Planets turned a profit in theatres (they got my coin at the duplex; the same plex that played Lou Cozzi’s Starcrash). It also aired forever during the ’80s on Friday and Saturday night and Saturday morning UHF-TV.

You can watch one of the many uploads on You Tube.

Movie 2: Battle of the Stars (1978)

. . . And Uncle Al returned with his “Empire Strikes Back” in the form of Battaglie negli spazi stellar (aka Battle in Interstellar Space), but it was given a new U.S. title because it sounds suspiciously like “Battlestar Galactica.” And since that was Glen Larson’s cheap-jack Lucas rip, that makes this a Star Wars rip twice removed.

Alas, Uncle Al’s “Star Wars II” suffered from poor theatrical distribution and a weak reissue via home video and TV syndication. Then, with all the alternate titling that plagues European films as they’re distributed to the international markets, spacesploitation buffs believed the almost-impossible-to-find Battle of the Stars was Cosmos—with a new title. Of course, when the main cast of familiar Italian actors Gianno Garko, Malisa Longo, Antonio Sabato, Yanti Somer, and John Richardson—along with most of their support cast—keep showing up in subsequent films, that only adds to the confusion.

Regardless, it’s not the same film.

Battle of the Stars is an entirely new film that cannibalizes Cosmos for stock footage—and all the costumes and sets return. As is the case with most “sequels” (Alien vs. Aliens and Mad Max vs. The Road Warrior being the exceptions to the rule), Battle is a just remake/reimage of Cosmos—with a little script tweak: Instead of Earthlings traveling to the planet-home of the evil computer, this time the rogue planet without-an-orbit-and-pissed-off-sentient-being comes to Earth, which . . . was the plot of Margheriti’s Battle of the Planets.

Hey?! What happened to the ship with its computer, “The Wiz,” possessed by the alien computer in Cosmos? Is that cleared up in Part III? Nope, that plotline is done and gone. . . .

You can watch a really clean Italian-language rip of Battle of the Stars on You Tube.

The snack bar is open . . . .

Intermission with Jason of Star Command and Space Academy . . .

. . . and back to the show!

Movie 3: War of the Robots (1978)

Yep, all of the one-piece spandex suits and pull-over headpieces were back for a third sequel . . . with a society of gold-painted skin people pinch-hitting for the green folks from Cosmos. Why? On this point Sam and I agree: There’s no “artistic” meaning behind it. Uncle Al simply ran out of the five-gallon buckets of green grease paint and he found some gold paint in the stock room. Ah, but all of the stock SFX footage, costumes, and sets—and whole scenes lifted from the previous two films—are back.

The “plot,” such as it is: Gold Aryan robots with Dutch-boy haircuts are on the brink of extinction. And the solution is to kidnap a couple of Earth scientists to save their planet. So a crack team of space marines (see Aliens; which wasn’t made yet!) are sent in for a rescue.

What makes “Pasta Wars III” so utterly confusing: All of the same actors from the last two films come back—as different characters. So, it’s a “sequel” . . . then it’s not. Will the fourth film tie up the loose end regarding the possessed Wiz from part one. . . .

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

Movie 4: Star Odyssey (1979)

So . . . George Lucas was still in production with the second Star Wars movie, The Empire Strikes Back (1980)—and Brescia is already on his 4th sequel with 1979’s “The Gold Ayran Dutch Boy Robots” (as I like to call it) . . . but they really were back in Sette Uomini d’oro nello Spazi, aka Seven Gold Men in Space which, if you’re able to keep up with the alternate-titling of Italian films, became Star Odyssey for English-speaking audiences.

And you thought Roger Corman was the king of set, prop, and wardrobe recycling? Uncle Al’s recycling makes Glen Larson’s cheap n’ shameless footage, prop, and costume recycling from the Battlestar Galactica and Buck Rogers franchise-axis seem inspired.

The plot: In the year 2312 the Earth is referred to by evil aliens as “Sol 3.” “Darth Vader” is some guy in a (quite impressive) lizard skin mask (but it’s topped with a Farrah Fawcett-’70s feathered hair cut) that “buys” Earth in some inter-galactic auction to cultivate Earthlings as slaves to sell on the open market. And his army is the gold Dutch Boy robots . . . but didn’t we save them in War of the Robots? Welcome to the Brescia-verse. . . .

“Han Solo” is some guy in a shiny-silver Porsche racing jacket and a funky, disco-inspired spider web tee-shirt contracted for a The Magnificent Seven-inspired recruitment of a rescue team of rogues . . . thus ripping off Roger Corman’s Battle Beyond the Stars. Part of the “seven” are Uncle Al’s R2D2 and C3PO: a bickering male-female robot couple (the female has eyelashes and red lips) dealing with “sexual dysfunction” and “relationship issues.” And there’s a scrawny n’ skinny Han Solo-replicant acrobat who backflips and summersaults into battles—and makes a living fighting in boxing rings with Rock ’em Sock ’em Robots (know your ’70s toys). And what’s up with the “Luke Skywalker” of this space opera: Lt. Oliver ‘Hollywood’ Carrera? What’s with the obviously drawn-on mustache? Why is he hunching his back and arching his shoulders? Is it a parody of some Italian comedy actor we Americans don’t know about?

As result of Star Odyssey never playing in U.S. theatres or airing on U.S. UHF-TV in-syndication (at least not to mine and Sam’s recollections), the only way we watched this fourth “Pasta Wars” sequel was on numerous public domain DVD multi-packs. And regardless of the distributor, the “cut” of the film is always the same: somewhere along the way, the scissors were taken to the film and there’s several scenes out of sequence. Remember in Space Mutiny, when Lt. Lemont is dramatically killed off in a scene . . . and she shows up just fine in the very next scene? It’s like that, only it happens several times in Star Odyssey.

I keep promising myself that I’ll rip Star Odyssey and do a proper “fan cut” and put it back into its proper sequence in homage to Uncle Al. . . . Don’t hold you breath waiting for that You Tube upload.

You can watch Star Odyssey in all its continuity-screwed glory on You Tube.

Movie 5: Beast in Space (1980)

And now for the movie that’s come dangerously close to destroying a friendship. Alfonso Brescia’s oeuvre has that effect on people . . . well, just me and ‘ol Sam.

Anyway . . . remember the infamous, 1972 X-rated Flash Gordon porn-flick, Flesh Gordon? Did you ever wonder if Reece and Ripley (and we know they did, off-script and off camera) “got it on” in Aliens? Ever ponder if Han threw Leia across the Dejarik Chess Table and undid her cinnabons?

Well, welcome to Porn Wars.

There’s George Lucas, killing the box office with The Empire Strikes Back, and Brescia responds with his “Star Wars V”: 1980’s La Bestia nello Spazio, aka The Beast in Space. The interesting twist to this “sequel” is that it not only occurs in the same Brescia Pasta-verse (courtesy of footage, costumes, props, sets, and actors recycling) continued from Star Odyssey, it’s also a “sequel” to an infamously popular, 1975 Italian exploitation movie, The Beast. The “connection” between both films: erotic/exploitation actress Sirpa Lane sporting a pair of Brescia-space tights.

So how did they come up with the title Beast in Space, you ask? As result of her erotic/exotic films—especially The Beast—Sirpa Lane was a major star (and marketed as the “next Brigitte Bardot”) in Europe and christened with the affectionate stage name by the Euro-press: “The Beast.”

Issued in “PG,” “R” and “X”-rated formats, the “plot” concerns the Earth’s search of the cosmos for a rare element: Antallum, the key ingredient for bomb construction to basically kill off everyone in the universe. But wait . . . Earth already possessed that wonder-metal to accomplish space travel in the first film . . . so is this a prequel?

Eh, that’s plot piffle in the Brescia-verse.

The real story: The crew is “horny,” with chauvinistic men and slutty women astronauts seducing each other on their way to the planet Lorigon to plunder the planet of its Antallum honey hole. Well, the planet’s sentient super-computer (not again!) isn’t having any of that nonsense. That’s his Antallum. So “Hal 9000” sidetracks the Earthlings . . . by inciting them to indulge in their deepest, darkest sexual desires. Oh, did we mention the gold Aryan Dutch Boy robots are back as well? And the well-hung minotaur from Lane’s sexual dreams is real and lives on Lorigon?

The English language upload is gone. All we have is this Spanish-language upload on You Tube for you to sample.


So be it Star Odyssey or The Beast in Space—or four or five films—Uncle Al’s “Pasta Wars” was over. After turning out his “Star Wars” films in a short four years, Brescia turned over the keys to the Millennium Falcon. But let’s cut Uncle Al a break: he was saddled with the cheapest budgets and pressure-shoot schedules that no filmmaker should endure in their careers.

Brescia continued to make non-science fiction films for the remainder of his career—14 more films for the next 15 years. At the time of his retirement in 1995, Brescia completed a career total of 51 films.

Most of Brescia’s post-1980 work was primarily restricted to Italy-only distribution. His career took a financially-positive turn in the late-‘80s with the worldwide-distributed Iron Warrior (1987; the third in the hugely successful Italian rip-off series of Conan the Barbarian) and Miami Cops (1989; violent Miami Vice-inspired buddy-cop flick starring Richard Roundtree). Sadly, even with the success of Iron Warrior and Miami Cops, Brescia was unable to secure distribution for his self-financed final film, the 1995 action-comedy, Club Vacanze.

Alfonso Brescia, the king of the Star Wars-inspired spaghetti-space opera died, ironically, in 2001.

And that’s the story behind tonight’s “Drive-In Friday” salute to Uncle Al.

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

Fast Company (1979)

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.

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

SAVAGE CINEMA: Burnout (1979)

The Mill Creek Savage Cinema box set has twelve movies, some with great looking pictures, others that have been battered beyond belief. If you’re not a snob, you’ll find something enjoyable on this. I know I did! I started with this film, one of the few drag racing movies that I’ve ever watched.

If you know anything about drag racing — and I sure don’t — this movie is filled with the stars of the 70’s. That’d be Don Garlits, Marvin Graham, Gary Beck, Don Prudhomme, Raymond Beadle, Tony Nancy and Shirley “Cha Cha” Muldowny, the only name I know beacuse the movie Heart Like a Wheel is all about her. Shirley is great because she’s super outspoken, claiming that Jamie Lee Curtis should have played her instead of Bonnie Bedelia, who she called a “snot.”

I actually looked up other drag racing films — just to see if there were any other than these two examples. There are! They would be Funny Car SummerSeven-Second Love AffairDrag RacerWheels of FireFast Company (directed by David Cronenberg!), Right On TrackMore American Graffiti and Snake and Mongoose. If you’re now thinking, “I bet B&S About Movies is going to do a theme drag racing week,” you know us oh so well.

Scott (Mark Schneider, Supervan) wants to be a drag racer. His dad doesn’t want him to be one. Soon, they learn that they can bond by being part of the sport. Scott is also incredibly hard to like. And there’s the movie.

Director Graham Meech-Burkestone only made this one movie. But man, he was all over the place in Hollywood, doing Oliver Reed’s hair for Burnt Offerings and makeup for Day of the AnimalsThe Manitou and The Exterminator.

“This picture is dedicated to the men and women in drag racing — they are all winners,” says the credits. Nope. This movie is dedicated to my Letterboxd Crown International list. Someday, somehow, I’m going to get 100% that thing.

Hair (1979)

Made nearly a decade after this play took Broadway by storm in 1967, Milos Forman created his own vision of the stage play, working alongside Michael Weller (they would also collaborate on Ragtime). The changes they made are minor — Claude is a Vietnam War draftee instead of a hippy and Sheila is a high society girl — and major — the focus on the film is the peace movement instead of just the hippy antics and the ending is completely different. Many of the songs from the stage version were omitted as well.

Gerome Ragni and James Rado, who wrote the original play along with composer Galt MacDermot, would go on to say, “Any resemblance between the 1979 film and the original Biltmore version, other than some of the songs, the names of the characters, and a common title, eludes us.”

Hair focuses on Claude Hooper Bukowski (John Savage, The Deer Hunter) and George Berger (Treat Williams, Night of the Sharks) as they deal with the country attempting to handle the Vietnam War, as well as the people in their orbit. There’s Sheila Franklin (Beverly D’Angelo, The Sentinel), Jeannie Ryan (Annie Golden, who was in the 1977 revival of this show), LaFayette “Hud” Johnson (Dorsey Wright, The Warriors), Woof Daschund (Don Dacus, who has been in Chicago and Badfinger), Hud’s fiancee (Cheryl Barnes, who sang backup for Leonard Cohen along with Laura Brannigan), Sergeant Fenton (Richard Bright, Cut and Run), as well as roles for Ellen Foley (who sang “Paradise by the Dashboard Light” with Meat Loaf), Miles Chapin (Richie from The Funhouse), Broadway star Laurie Beechman, Nicholas Ray (yes, the director of Rebel Without a Cause), Michael Jeter from TV’s Evening Shade, Renn Woods (who sings one of the play’s best-known songs, “Aquarius,” she’s also in The Jerk) and an uncredited David Rose as The Acid King. Rose wrote one of the most famous songs of all time — “The Stripper.” Oh yeah! And the Vietnamese girl singing on “Walking In Space” is an uncredited Betty Buckley, Miss Collins from Carrie.

NBC must have been watching this movie, because eventually Nell Carter and Charlotte Rae would be starring in sitcoms on their network, yet they only get cameos in this film.

Olive Films has given this movie a new HD restoration, as well as plenty of extras, such as audio commentary by assistant director Michael Hausman and actor Treat Williams, featurettes with the surviving actors and interviews with choreographer Twyla Tharp, editors Lynzee Klingman and Stanley Warnow, and production designer Stuart Wurtzel. There’s also “Artist, Teacher, Mentor: Remembering Milos Forman,” a remembrance with director James Mangold (Walk the Line) and an essay by critic Sheila O’Malley.

I expected this film to be incredibly dated, yet at the end, as a huge throng of people ran toward the White House singing “Let the Sun Shine In,” I was overcome with emotion. We’ve been protesting for more than half a century and while forward progress has happened, it sure doesn’t feel like it today. Forman’s film remains vital if it can impact me so.

You can order this blu ray from Olive Films, who were kind enough to send a copy our way.