Knobby the Belwood Wampus Cat (1979)

R.C. Nanney shows up in four movies — other than this one — and they include Wolfman (a 3D movie made by Earl Owensby Studios, as well as their Hyperspace and two other near-regional slashers, Final Exam and Death Screams. Born in Cleveland County, North Carolina, R.C. was known as “The Rhythm Kid” on stage and Curly Lee on the radio. At some point in the 70s, R.C. bought land near his wife Sandy’s family in Knob Creek, a place where Knobby lives.

North Carolina’s own Bigfoot, Knobby is also referred to — at least in this movie — as a Wampus Cat, which is a half-dog, half-cat creature that can either walk like a man or a beast while having yellow eyes that can see inside your soul. That said, some claim that R.C. was the one to name Knobby. He’s definitely the one who made this movie, in which he appears and sings “The Knobby Song” in this shot on video film that was sold in tourist shops.

R.C. also made 1983’s Return of Knobby and 2005’s Knobbett, as well as screen printing his own Knobby merchandise. He told the Shelby Star, “I didn’t try to make any money. Big movie companies spend thousands of dollars with the expectations of getting more money. I spent $15 to $20 with the expectation of getting people to laugh and smile.”

In 2010, Tim Peeler saw Knobby and protected his dog from the creature by rough talking him and poking him with his stick before telling it to git. Knobby is still alive.

Sadly, R.C. passed in 2016. Yet he left behind this film, the attempt of a man to create some fun on the new magic of videotape — pretty advanced, when you think about it — and created a North Carolina version of The Legend of Boggy Creek, if one that’s even more raw and weird.

Don’t expect to find this on IMDB or Letterboxd. But watch it all the same.

You can watch this on YouTube.

Black Star and the Golden Bat (1979)

Who is the lead character in this? Batman? The Golden Bat of Japanese culture? The Batman of Zur-En-Arrh?

Who knows, but when a bunch of kids and their pet dog find supervillain Black Star and his army of henchmen, they must find the hero they worship and get his help, all to show their dying friend that they can be brave. Also, cats and dogs in this universe have the power of speech while humans are animated so poorly that they stand in place for several minutes at a time.

I always hated teen characters and sidekicks, because I never wanted to be Wendy and Marvin or Bucky or Robin. I wanted to be Batman. Years later, I still can’t figure out why comics and cartoons and pushed these second bananas our way. Well, this movie has like six Snapper Carrs in it and one’s dying and his mom died and now he’s going bald.

Made in Korea, dubbed in Spanish, combining a Japanese superhero with an American one. It’s a wild world, huh?

You can watch this on YouTube.

Legends of the Superheroes (1979)

January 18, 1979: I was six years old and in pure comic book mania, as Superman had come out, there was a DC ski stunt show at Sea World, The Incredible Hulk was on CBS, the Captain America TV movie would be airing the very next day and there had already been a few Spider-Man TV movies. It was an amazing time to be a kid and get free superhero stuff sent over the airwaves and often, we’d have no idea what we were about to get other than what TV Guide told us.

The Justice League of America were all showing up on my TV! And not just Batman and Robin, played by Adam West and Burt Ward, but the deep cut heroes I loved, like Hawkman (Bill Nuckols, Wally from Supertrain), Captain Marvel (Garrett Craig, the third man to play the man who says “Shazam!” in the 70s after Jackson Bostwick and John Davey), Huntress (Barbara Joyce) and Black Canary (Danuta Wesley, who took over as the Tea Time Matinee Lady on The Tonight Show after the death of Carol Wayne), plus more well-known ones like Flash (Rod Haase, Candy Stripe NursesIf You Don’t Stop It… You’ll Go Blind!!! and the sequel Can I Do It ‘Till I Need Glasses?) and Green Lantern (Howard Murphy, the gardener in Young Lady Chatterley II, which would become another important memory in my young life for different reasons).

A party for the retirement of Scarlet Cyclone (William Schallert from Inner Space and In the Heat of the Night) when the Legion of Doom spoils everyone’s fun by announcing they’ve hidden a bomb, so everyone must get de-powered, split into smaller teams and save the day. If that seems like a Gardner Fox story, it’s not a bad thing. The bad guys are Riddler (Frank Gorshin, who else?), Weather Wizard (Jeff Altman, who a year after this would star in one of the most baffling TV shows in broadcast history, The Pink Lady and Jeff), Sinestro (comedian Charlie Callas), Mordru (yes, a Legion of Superheroes villain! He’s played by Gabriel Dell, doubling down on oddball kids shows, as he had just been the voice of Boba Fett on The Star Wars Holiday Special), Doctor Sivana (Howard Morris, whose voice was all over the cartoons I grew up on), Giganta and Solomon Grundy (Mickey Morton, who was also in the aforementioned Star Wars nightmare, playing Chewbacca’s wife Malla).

While the show looked cheap and kind of silly, I was six. So I was beyond excited because there was another episode the very next week.

The next week is why I grew up to be the cynical person who will go on at length about why I hate Wed Craven or how no good slasher has been made with minor exceptions after 1984. All my pain came from this show, in which the adventure format was ditched to instead present a celebrity superhero roast of the superheroes hosted by Ed McMahon.

Now, I love celebrity seventies roasts.

I love Ed McMahon.

But I had been laughed at — and would be laughed at my entire life — for knowing too much about comic books.

Now, even comic books were abandoning me to the void of ennui. Yes, I was the kind of six year old that often asked for an Anacin because I claimed life was giving me a migraine.

Anyways…

New characters were added, including stand-up comic black hero Ghetto Man (Brad Sanders), Captain Marvel’s Aunt Minerva (Ruth Buzzi), Hawkman’s mother (Pat Carroll, the voice of Ursula in The Little Mermaid) and superhero reporter Rhoda Rooter (June Gable, Estelle on Friends) who lets the world know that Giganta (early trans actor Aleshia Brevard, who played one of the female creatures in Bigfoot) was marrying The Atom (Alfie Wise, who was Batman in Cannonball Run).

If it sounds horrible, well — it was. And it still is.

I mean, didn’t the producers realize that Captain Marvel lived on Earth-S, I wondered? Yet even I knew that this was above Wonder Woman, who had her own show, and Superman, who at one point eclipsed Batman, who bided his time and worked with the right directors obviously.

In his book Back to the Batcave, Adam West said that he regretted doing these shows. They couldn’t even get his Batman costume right.

But hey! Gary Owens showed up!

Captain America II: Death Too Soon (1979)

Airing on November 23 and 24, 1979 — the same nights that Salem’s Lot was also on CBS — with the new creative team of director Iván Nagy (perhaps better known as the boyfriend of Hollywood madam Heidi Fleiss) and Wilton Schiller (who produced the last season of The Fugitive and wrote this with his wife, former casting agent Patricia Payne).

According to star Reb Brown, Captain America wore a helmet in these movies because the California Highway Patrol — you know, CHiPs — said that he must have a helmet to ride a motorcycle on the freeway.

At least he gets to hang-glide this time. And get a decent villain, as Christopher Lee plays General Miguel, who is using an aging formula to hold Portland hostage. Cap has Connie Selleca on his side as a scientist, but this pitch for a series — the second if you count the other TV movie that aired four months before — didn’t get the ratings needed, what with those expensive stunts.

I kind of love reading reviews making light of Steve Rogers being a painter in these movies. That’s totally the character from the comics, one of the few things that made it into this film.

Captain America (1979)

On Friday night, January 19, 1979, a seven-year-old me sat down to watch this and promptly lost his mind.

There was supposedly a directive from CBS to not follow the comics exactly, which makes no sense, because the comics sell the show which sell the comics, but for some reason, no one figured that out yet.

So that’s how this version of Captain America is a legacy hero, even if they get the part about Steve Rogers being a commercial artist right. He’s almost killed by some spies who are trying to get the F.L.A.G. serum that his father invented and gave to himself to become the first Captain America. But all Steve wants to do is roam in his cool van because it’s 1979 and this Earth-CBS version of Cap is Nomad before he’s Cap.

He ends up being saved by the aforementioned F.L.A.G. formula, gets super-strength, a special motorcycle, a clear shield, a motocross-centric costume and the actual job of being the Sentinel of Liberty.

According to star Reb Brown at Comic-Con, CBS planned crossing over his character with Spider-Man (Nicholas Hammond) and the Hulk (Lou Ferrigno/Bill Bixby). Seven-year-old me loves that.

Writer Don Ingalls once worked on the LAPD magazine The Beat, as well as scripting The Initiation of Sarah. Director Rod Holcomb has worked on all sorts of episodic TV, including The Six Million Dollar Man and The Greatest American Hero.

The reviews I’ve seen for this online are a mix of “look how far we’ve come” and “the idea of Captain America is capitalist nonsense.” First, this show is just fine. It’s strange to compare low budget TV movies made forty years ago to glossy multimillion films on so many levels. And Joe Simon and Jack Kirby created Captain America to represent the best of this country and what it could be, a character that two Jewish men created to make a stand for America entering World War II, that protest groups came to their offices to try and find them, that became a character of a man lost out of time and with no country, even fighting the Secret Empire the whole way to the White House, exposing Nixon as a supervillain — who killed himself off-panel! — and then traveled the nation as the aforementioned man with no country called Nomad. And this was no millenial story for social media clout. This was in 1974.

APRIL MOVIE THON DAY 27: Battle Fever J (1979)

Battle Fever J was a co-production of Toei Company and Marvel Comics, inspired by Captain America and the third series in the Super Sentai series that would eventually come to America as the Power Rangers.

General Kurama has put together four young agents who have traveled the world to be trained. Along with FBI agent Diane Martin, whose father was murdered by the evil Egos, the team becomes Battle Fever J, kind of like a Japanese superhero show version of the Avengers. They are Battle France, Battle Cossack, Battle Kenya, Battle Japan and Miss America, backed up by their secret weapon Battle Fever Robo.

As for Egos, well, he works for a god named Satan Egos and has a series of monsters that he uses against the heroes, such as Death Mask Monster, Umbrella Monster, Psychokinesis Monster, Sports Monster, Anicent Fish Monster and Cicada Killer Monster.

At some point, Diane gets injured by the Dracula Monster and moves back home to the United States and is replaced by María Nagisa, another FBI agent trained by Diane’s father. She becomes Miss America II.

To prove that this is a Japanese show, death is a fact of life. Battle Cossack is killed in battle and replaced by his friend Makoto Jin, a silent cowboy who carries a trumpet into battle that he uses to taunt his enemies.

Across 52 episodes and a movie version of episode 5, the team battled evil and was popular not just in Japan but also in Hawaii. I love that Marvel has this property and doesn’t use it. Kind of like Toei’s Supaidāman show, which comes from a world where motorcycle racer Takuya Yamashiro takes the part of Peter Parker and gets his own flying car, the Spider Machine GP-7, and a giant robot named Leopardon.

You can watch this on YouTube.

APRIL MOVIE THON DAY 25: Tilt (1979)

Neil Gallagher (Ken Marshall, Prince Colwyn from Krull) wants to get back at Harold “The Whale” Remmens (Charles Durning), who just might be the best pinball player in the world. After he’s busting cheating, he leaves town and soon discovers 14-year-old pinball player Brenda “Tilt” Davenport (Brooke Shields), who comes from a bad home and has mostly turned to a bartender Mickey (John Crawford) as her father figure. She thinks she’s using her pinball skills to hustle players to fund Neil’s singing career, but it’s all about coming back home to win that big bet and get revenge.

With Lorenzo Lamas, Don Stark and Geoffrey Lewis, who is in a wild scene with Shields where she offends him by telling him that she wants to make love to his life — Shields was 13 at the time this was filmed, the 70s were insanity — this is a movie that makes us think that the economy of 1979 America was based on pinball.

I was wondering why this movie seems so deranged and then I saw the credits. It was co-written by Donald Cammell, who made Performance and it all makes sense. This was directed by Randy Durand, who only made this one film. Cammell left the movie when they wouldn’t hire Jodie Foster as the lead. Durand was the director, a co-writer, the producer, musical director, and in the sound department, was responsible for the pinball machine musical sound effects. He’d wanted to hire Orson Welles to be Durning’s role, but even though he couldn’t do it, he mentioned the movie on The Tonight Show, which helped Durand get some funding.

Even wilder, there was a Sahara Love pinball machine based on the Cannon film Sahara that Brooke made years later.

You can watch this on YouTube.

KINO LORBER BLU RAY RELEASE: Screams of a Winter Night (1979)

EDITOR’S NOTE: This movie originally was on our site on March 16, 2021. Now, Kino Lorber has released it on blu ray with a 2K scan of the uncut Director’s Edition — featuring the legendary thought-to-be-lost fourth story involving a creepy tree witch — as well as an interview with star Gil Glasgow and a theatrical trailer. You can get it from Kino Lorber.

Screams of a Winter Night is a regional movie inspired by regional movies. Director James L. Wilson had played Santa Claus in the Disney movie Lefty, the Dingaling Lynx before getting inspired by the movies that Charles B. Pierce (The Town That Dreaded SundownThe Legend of Boggy Creek) and Joy Houck (Creature from Black Lake) made. It has that hallmark of the regional film, a producer who was really a guy with some cash that never made a movie before, in this case, Mark Lovell, who was a real estate agent. And a local named William T. Cherry III made the special effects.

This movie does what Are You Afraid of the Dark? did for several seasons on Nickelodeon. A bunch of young people sit around a campfire telling stories, forming an effective anthology story that moves well and keeps you interested.

But man, what is really wrong with the characters in this movie? They go to John’s family’s cabin, which before that had belonged to the Durand family, who who weren’t just mysteriously killed at the cabin, they were found in pieces all over the place, possibly murdered by a demon called the Shataba. Why would you stay there after hearing this?

Made in Shreveport, Louisiana and premiering there, this movie feels like urban legends come to life, like the “Moss Point Man” that attacks a couple on lover’s lane, the “Green Light” that drives three college* fraternity kids mad and the story of a girl driven to insanity by a date rape.

The final story makes one of the girls frantic and before you know it, the wind has blows a window out and kills one of the girls before only four of the kids escape as the cabin crashes down. They run to the edge of a cliff and then they hear a howling behind them.

The Kino Lorber release of Screams of a Winter Night includes the director’s cut of the film that runs two hours and has one more story of people being chased by a witch through a graveyard. Dimension Pictures — the people that put out RubyReturn to Boggy Creek and Scum of the Earth — told the filmmakers that two hours was too long for the movie and that all the day-for-night footage wouldn’t show up well on drive-in screens.

This is a movie that sets up a really ominous mood from the very start. I appreciate that and love this movie because it feels like it was made by people who were excited at the prospect of creation instead of just commerce.

*This was shot at Caspari Hall, a dormitory on the campus of Northwestern State University in Natchitoches, Louisian. Its now abandoned and said to be haunted.

APRIL MOVIE THON DAY 1: The Jerk (1979)

I think I quote The Jerk and say lines from it more than any other movie, nearly having absorbed it into the ways that I think and do and act and live since I first saw it in my single digit years. It’s absolutely my junk food warm blanket movie, a reminder of a time when the only responsibility I had was to watch movies over and over again, unlike now, when I face a mountain of multiple responsibilities but you know, still watch movies over and over again.

Imagine, Steve Martin was probably the biggest deal in comedy in 1979, selling out arenas, having best selling albums, being a cultural force with his appearances on Saturday Night Live and now, he’s about to step into another media and take a chance at failure and somehow takes a movie about failure and becomes a success.

Instead of me telling you the whole story of how Navin R. Johnson was born a poor black child, found his special purpose and found his fortune and lost it through the invention of the  Optigrab, I will just tell you I love when I discover that the beliefs I have about this movie were true. In his book Born Standing Up: A Comic’s Life, Martin said that the set was joyous, with cast and crew eating together every day and you can feel the joy he had when they filmed the scene where he and Bernadette Peters sing “Tonight You Belong to Me” together.

I remember watching this at the age of eight and finally understanding why people did crazy things for love. If everyone was as wonderful and perfect and magical as Bernadette Peters, it had to make sense.

As I’ve learned and grown and loved and lost, The Jerk remains there for me, a movie I’ve watched hundreds of times and can turn down the volume and word for word recite the dialogue. I always find something new to laugh at, like the moment where Navin sees his name in print for the first time or the disco in his house that everyone leaves behind after it all falls apart.

If life is treating you like life treats you, I invite you to watch this movie. Allow it to wash over you. I think you’ll smile at least once and that’s better than staring into the void and screaming.

“Oh, this is the best pizza in a cup ever. This guy is unbelievable. He ran the old Cup ‘o Pizza guy out of business. People come from all over to eat this.”

88 FILMS BLU RAY RELEASE: Monkey Kung Fu (1979)

Wei Chung is a newcomer to prison and immediately starts fighting with Ma Siu Tien, a one eyed old man who is his cellmate. The Ma Siu Tien repeatedly defeats him and on the night before he’s to be executed, he gives the young man half of a medal, telling him that there’s a great secret if he can find he other half. Can Wei Chung escape prison and discover the secret? Or will he be stopped by Tung Hei Fung?

 

Now chained to another inmate named Zhou, Wei Chun soon learns that the man, who he once saw as a nobody, has the other half of the key to the treasure, which contains all of the secrets of monkey boxing.

Director Lo Mar mainly worked on comedies for the Shaw Brothers, like the Country Bumpkins series. There’s a wild fight on a bed when Wei Chun refuses to pay a woman what she’s worth in a brothel, a scene that never leaves the bed. I haven’t seen that in a martial arts movie before!

Known as Hooray the Bonebreakers Are Here in Germany and Stroke of Death in the U.S., Monkey Kung Fu and Drunken Monkey, this also has an incredible final battle with amazing staff fighting against the drunken monkey boxing style.

88 Films has just released Monkey Kung Fu on blu ray with a high definition 1080p presentation of the film, along with English and Cantonese dialogue with newly translated English subtitles. There’s also audio commentary by Kenneth Brorsson and Phil Gillon of the Podcast On Fire Network, an interview with choreographer Tony Leung Siu-hung, a trailer and new artwork by Robert “Kung Fu Bob” O’Brien. The packaging is amazing and also comes with a poster and lobby cards. You can get this movie from MVD and Diabolik DVD.