Hou wang da zhan tian bing tian jiang (1979)

Monkey King With 72 Magic is another take on Journey to the West and as you may have learned this week, that means monsters against our hero Monkey King (Ting Wa-Chung). This one takes place before that, so you’ll learn how he was born from a large stone on the mythical Flower Fruit Mountain and tells how he led an army of other ape children.

The title refers to the 72 forms that Monkey King can transform into and you’ll see all of them — and one more because Yang Chien (Lung Siu Fei) knows 73 different arts — in a wild battle scene. There’s also a scene where the Monkey King transforms into the wackiest looking octopus ever. Thanks to Die Danger Die Die Kill, I now know that these effects come from Gozo Matsui who also made the gigantic reptilian menace in King of Snake.

Monkey goes to Heaven, steals some magical peaches and gets pursued by all manner of celestial avengers, including the wheels-on-magical feet adversary Na Cha (a male character played by female actress Liu Chuan Hua). Yes, this is a movie where a monkey goes absolutely wild and makes a mess out of Heaven and needs to be admonished by Buddha.

Taiwan, never change. I mean, you probably have changed a great deal since 1979, but I just saw a Wuxia puppet movie from there, Demigod: The Legend Begins and the art of making movie drugs martial arts fantasy movies with animal heroes and villains is still strong.

You can watch this on YouTube.

CANNON MONTH 2: Terror (1979)

EDITOR’S NOTE: This originally appeared on February 16, 2021Cannon didn’t produce this movie but did release it in Germany as Killing House on the Scotia/Cannon label. You can also read Jennifer Upton’s take on this film here.

Norman J. Warren is the kind of director that knows exactly what you want. You aren’t coming to one of his movies to learn some kind of life lesson or to go out to a salon and debate afterward. No, you’re here for all the reasons that you watch horror and exploitation movies. You want to be shocked, scared and stimulated.

What makes this one even better is that the script comes from David McGillivray, who also wrote Satan’s Slave for Warren and Frightmare, House of Whipcord, House of Mortal Sin and Schizo for Pete Walker. He is, to quote British writer Matthew Sweet, “the Truffaut of Smut.”

Also, if you’re watching this and are thinking, “Hey, Warren must have just seen Suspiria when he made this,” then yes, that’s exactly what happened.

The movie starts three hundred years ago, as we watch a witch named Mad Dolly about to be burned at the stake under the orders of Lord Garrick. She then calls on Satan to free her, setting an executioner on fire, a disembodied arm to kill Garrick and for her to rush through the Garrick house with a sword, which she uses to chop the head off his wife before cursing their descendants.

Like I said, Warren knows exactly what you want. That beginning pretty much has everything I watch movies for.

What we’ve just seen is a movie made by director James Garrick — yes, a descendent who lives in the very same house that we’ve seen and for some reason has decided to own the sword of Mad Dolly — and he’s previewing it for his friends and his cousin, Ann. Of course, he also has a mesmerist put her under a spell and she nearly kills him.

This being a Warren movie, of course Ann works at a strip club. And certainly she’s going to be stalked by all manner of ruffians, including Peter Mayhem outside of his Chewbacca costume.

This unleashes a wave of artful violence, including panes of glass chopping off heads, stabbings in the woods, perverts dropped onto spikes, lamps crushing directors and so much more. And the end, well, it’s absolutely bonkers, with levitating cars, more impalings and Mad Dolly’s sword getting used to its fullest power.

As for the Argento inspiration, Warren has claimed that he saw that movie as something freeing, telling Sense of Cinema, “It was just liberating in that you could suddenly get away with doing whatever you liked.”

Since making Bloody New Year, Warren had been promising a sequel to this movie that would be about music and dancers. Sadly, with his death, we won’t see it.

CANNON MONTH 2: The Bitch (1979)

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

Jackie Collins gave her sister Joan the film rights to both The Stud and The Bitch for free so that they could become movies. Both were co-produced by the sisters’ husbands at the time (Oscar Lerman was married to Jackie and Ron Kass was married to Joan). Both were huge successes and brought Collins’ acting career back; when Aaron Spelling saw these movies, he knew she’d be perfect in the role of Alexis Carrington in Dynasty.

Directed and written by Gerry O’Hara (Fanny HillThe Mummy Lives) takes place after The Stud — which Collins watches on an airplane in a meta moment — and finds Fontaine Khaled (Collins) divorced but still living that disco diva life. Yet her club Hobo is now struggling. But all that she can think about is Nico Cantafora (Michael Coby), a gambler who owes the mob big money and is using her, first to smuggle a stolen diamond. When she finds out, she’s upset, but soon lets him back in her bed.

This entire film is about her trying to save Nico from his debts and save her club, but at the end, it turns out that crime lord Thrush Feathers (Ian Hendry) now owns Hobo. This was to set up a third book and film that never came.

You know what I liked? John Ratzenberger showing up as a disco swinger.

The soundtrack, put out on Warwick Records, is pretty great. There’s the title track by Olympic Runners is solid, plus there’s Blondie’s “Denis,” The Gibson Brothers  song “Cuba,” Quantum Jump’s “The Lone Ranger” and Leo Sayer’s “You Make Me Feel Like Dancing.”

You can watch this on Tubi.

KINO LORBER BLU RAY RELEASE: Mysterious Island of Beautiful Women (1979)

Also known as Island of Sister Theresa, this was the last movie that director Joseph Pevney (Man of a Thousand Faces) would make, working from a script by Gary Sherman (Dead and Buried) and Sandor Stern (The Amityville Horror).

When wealthy Gordon Duvall (Peter Lawford) uses his private plane to get Danny, one of his workers (Michael McGreevey), to the hospital, pilot Stu (Sandy McPeak) gets lost and they have to land on what they think is an uncharted and isolated island. Too bad for the men — which include Mike (Steven Keats), Wendell (Clint Walker) and J.J. (Guich Koock) —  that a crash of women and nuns years ago turned that into a place where Lizbeth (Jaime Lyn Bower) communicates with the spirit of the long-dead Sister Theresa.

With a tribe of women that includes Snow (Kathryn Daniels), Chocolate (Jayne Kennedy from Body and Soul!), Flower (Rosalind Chao), Bambi (Deborah Shelton, Sins of the Night) and Jo Jo (Susie Coelho, Breakin’ 2: Electric Boogaloo), the normal matriarchal society moments happen — “What is a kiss?” Snow asks one of the men — and Lizbeth agrees to let the men stay if they take care of the cannibalistic headhunters that live on the island.

I mean, yes, it’s cheesy, but how magical of a world did we once live in where this kind of stuff aired on TV with no warning? We were once better.

The Kino Lorber blu ray release of this made for TV movie has a new 2K master and commentary by Made for TV Mayhem‘s Amanda Reyes and Kindertrauma co-founder Lance Vaughn. You can get it directly from Kino Lorber.

CANNON MONTH 2: Don’t Go Near the Park (1979)

EDITOR’S NOTE: This was originally posted on October 26, 2019Don’t Go Near the Park was not produced by Cannon but was theatrically distributed by Cannon Releasing Corporation.

Cannibalism. Incest. Pedophilia. Yes, folks, Don’t Go Near the Park has it all. That’s why it made it to the category 2 video nasty list, a feat for a director who was just 19.

I also have no idea what Aldo Ray’s deal is in this movie. As Taft, he’s an older man who just so happens to make friends with the young Nick and takes him, Bondi and Cowboy home to live with him — and sleep half-naked while he smiles on — as special friends.

That’s the good guy! What is this movie!?!

Let’s see if we can make sense of it.

Thousands of years ago, Petranella cursed her children Tra and Gar (Barbara Bain played both female roles here under the fake name Barbara Monker while the male is Robert Gribbin under the nom de plume Crackers Phinn) to live for 12,000 years eating the flesh of humans. If one of them has a baby after that long stretch, they can live forever.

Fast forward to 1965 and the siblings are killing kids in California. Gar decides to work on the babymaking, reinventing himself as the human Mark and knocks up Linnea Quigley and has a kid named Bondi, who he cares about way more than his marriage. We see years pass in the span of minutes, which is how I’d think immortals perceive time and also really shoddy filmmaking all at the same time.

On Bondi’s sixteenth birthday, Mark gives her an ancient amulet, which finally causes his wife to leave him. Bondi runs away and is nearly raped in a van before she calls on her father to kill them with that amulet.

Bondi wanders into an abandoned house near the park, where her aunt Tra, who now goes by the name Patty, is starting to die. That’s when she makes friends with Nick and Cowboy, who sell flowers in the street and make friends — like I said before — with Aldo Ray.

There’s a whole lot of weirdness that happens — swallowed amulets, corpses rising from the dead to kill out former cave people and a twist ending that throws everything else in the trash. Little Nick is played by Meeno Paluce, who was all over the 80’s with stuff like Voyagers and appearing in the original The Amityville Horror.

I have a soft spot for this film. It’s not perfect, but I want to hug it and protect it from the mean reviewers who say things like it makes no sense and it has shoddy camerawork. What do you want? A classic every time?

CANNON MONTH 2: The Magician of Lublin (1979)

Based on the Isaac Bashevis Singer book The Magician of Lublin, this Menahem Golan-directed movie was co-written by Golan, Irving S. White and Sheldon Patinkin, who was a major force in Chicago theater, serving as a chair of the Theater Department of Columbia College Chicago, artistic director of the Getz Theater of Columbia College, artistic consultant of The Second City and of Steppenwolf Theatre and co-director of the Steppenwolf Theatre Summer Ensemble Workshops.

Yasha Mazur (Alan Arkin) is a con man and womanizer, but he’s also a stage magician of some fame. While he’s married to Esther (Linda Bernstein), but he never sees her. Instead, his life is on the road and filled with so many relationships with women, such as Zeftel (Valerie Perrine), his mentally deranged assistant Magda (Maia Danziger), the widow Emilia (Louise Fletcher) and her daughter Halina (Lisa Whelchel), a sick child who Yasa loves as if she were his own but will never be able to provide for.

Oh man — this all gets messy. Zeftel is leaving to work for a man who is really trying to sell her into human trafficking, so Yasha performs a smaller show and misses his big break and make enough money to be a success in Emilia’s eyes. Magda kills herself and as Yasha tries to burglarize a rich count, he has a vision of death. Also: Lou Jacobi, Murray from Amazon Women On the Moon, plays Yasha’s manager.

The magician comes home and lives in a tomb, giving advice to those who come to him. Emilia has become a rich kept woman for the rich man and begs for his forgiveness while Magda’s family — Shelley Winters is her mother; she also worked with Golan in DiamondsOver the Brooklyn Bridge, Déjà Vu and The Delta Force — comes and attempts to kill Yasha, but he has escaped and fulfilled his dream of flying away.

Isaac Bashevis, who wrote the original book, also saw his stories Yentl and Enemies, A Love Story made into movies in the 80s. Also, predating Stranger Things, Golan used “The Magician,” a Kate Bush song that doesn’t appear on any albums, as the theme for his film.

This is a magic-realist story that would probably have been a great film if made by someone like Ken Russell or Alejandro Jodorowski. I love Menahem, but this is perhaps a bit out of his scope, although the does throw a big cast at this.

CANNON MONTH 2: Going Steady (1979)

EDITOR’S NOTE: This was first on the site on November 7, 2021.

Yes, don’t be fooled by that title, as this is otherwise known as Yotzim KavuaGreasy Kid Stuff or, most obvious, Lemon Popsicle 2. Yes, the film that inspired The Last American Virgin doesn’t just have one sequel, but many, many chapters to tell.

Even better, it played on double bills in the UK with Rosemary’s Killer, which we know better as The Prowler.

Directed and written by Boaz Davidson, this film boasts the same lost in translation insanity of the last one as well as twenty-two songs from the fifties. Which is weird, because while the boys have hair and clothes from the era and the music is right, the girls have makeup straight out of 1979. Maybe memory really is a fickle thing, huh?

That said, every guy in this movie is beyond a jerk. Not just in a “aren’t 80s sex comedy guys horrible” way but in a “why aren’t these young men in jail” and “why do these women keep taking them back” way. Its “heroes” Benji, Bobby and Huey are willing to screw one another over to keep screwing and one just ponders why they ever became friends in the first place.

Nobody brings anybody a bag of oranges, I’ll tell you that much.

Someone does, however, throw eggs at a child directly after making out. I am not making this up.

CANNON MONTH 2: Incoming Freshmen (1979)

Eric Lewald developed X-Men: The Animated Series, but before that he directed — with Glenn Morgan — and wrote this sex comedy that got distributed by Cannon that played drive-in double features with Gas Pump Girls.

It’s about two roommates — small-town virgin Jane (Ashley Vaughn) and promiscuous Vivian (Leslie Blalock) — as they deal with their first year of college. Also, every few moments, a woman takes her clothes off because that’s the kind of movie this is.

Shot in Knoxville, TN, this also has Georgina Harrell as Maxine “The Machine,” a woman who will look down a man’s pants and declare, “What? All meat and no potatoes?” She would parlay this experience into being in The First Turn-On!! It also has a band with goat masks, a dream sequence with pig masks and a heavy teacher called Professor L.P. Bilbo (B.M. Culpepper) who ends up gang banging with every female in the movie, including our formerly innocent protagonist Jane.

Several IMDB posters — who claim to be in the movie — say that this was shot on location by two University of Tennessee Graduate students and that Cannon added in all the sex scenes. I have no idea how they did that when the leads are in several of them, but maybe they mean the cutaways to more nudity. They also would like you to believe that the original version of this movie is a coming of age film instead a movie about coming, but this sounds like the way Christopher Lee would claim Jess Franco fooled him into being in a softcore movie and was so angry he was in several more of his movies.

CANNON MONTH 2: Gas Pump Girls (1979)

It took three people to write Gas Pump Girls: director Joel Bender, who also wrote The Returning and The Immortalizer as well as editing Warrior Queen; David A. Davies, who also wrote the 1990 TV movie Buried Alive and Isaac Blech, who also wrote the songs.

June (Kirsten Baker, Friday the 13th Part 2) and her friends graduate high school and help out at the failing gas station run by June’s uncle Joe (Huntz Hall, who I was amazed that was in this; when I asked the late great Mike McPadden why, he said, “If you can get Huntz Hall and Joe E. Ross to do a few hours work in Gas Pump Girls, for example, you get them.”) and keep Mr. Friendly (Dave Shelley) from putting him out of business. Hiring her boyfriend (Dennis Bowen) and the local gang the Vultures, June works on keeping Uncle Joe’s business alive through titillating uniforms and sexy advertising.

Does this sound like Starhops to you?

The aforementioned Joe E. Ross shows up with pro wrestler Mike Mazurki as two gangsters hired to kill June, but the Vultures take care of that. Actually, the teens get through all of the challenges that Mr. Friendly throws their way and have a successful business — and plenty of sex, naturally — before college even begins.

The cast also includes the last movie role of Sandy Johnson, who was the June 1974 Playboy Playmate of the Month, but more importantly played Michael Myers’ doomed sister Judith in Halloween; Steve Bond (who did a Playgirl centerfold in October of 1975 and was in Massacre at Central High and Picasso Trigger), Ken Lerner (one of the Malachi Brothers on Happy Days) and Demetre Phillips (Stone Cold, Only You) as the Vultures; Cheech Marin’s one-time wife Rikki; Leslie King (who was Tammy in Jennifer and would later write To Die For, which starred Steve Bond); Linda Lawrence (Death Dimension) and Cousin Brucie getting to be this movie’s Wolfman Jack.

CANNON MONTH 2: American Nitro (1979)

I have no idea how this site has had a recap of drag race docs and a week of drag race movies and this doc never made it in. How many drag racing movies did the 70s have? How many did it need?

Directed by Bill Kimberlin, an Industrial Light and Magic visual effects editor, this was shot at Fremont Raceway and really has a lot of great footage of that era’s racers, as well as an interview with Ed Pink about the oil fire incident that claimed the life of John “the Zookeeper” Mulligan at the U.S. Nationals in 1969.

Drag racing used to be such a big thing in the 70s. I remember commercials for it and getting beyond excited. There was even a 1977 arcade game called Drag Race and the Activision game for the Atari 2600 Dragster. That’s how much people loved it. Just look at all the films on our list above. While I’m not a fan of the sport, it was fun to take a spin through its past.