Gamera Super Monster (1980)

The first Gamera film in nine years — following Gamera vs. Zigra — this is somehow the strangest of all the movies. That’s an accomplishment.

This entire movie is made up of recycled footage from the entire Gamera film series, as well as Space Battleship Yamato and Galaxy Express 999. This was an attempt to help Daiei get out of financial trouble. Bad news: the film failed to succeed at the box office and Daiei still had to file for bankruptcy six months later.

So they did what the Japanese do best. They kill off Gamera at the end.

Yes, the alien Zanon has come to enslave Earth and even the three Spacewomen, Earth’s defenders, can’t stop him. You know who can? A little kid. As always.

By the way — Mach Fumiake, who portrays the Spacewoman Kilara, was a pro wrestler.

That kid has a connection to Gamera, so he takes us back in time through all the films, as Gamera battles Gyaos, Zigra, Viras, Jiger, Guiron and Barugon before sacrificing himself to save the Earth from Zanon.

Depressing? Yeah. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve watched a Japanese film that ends this way and I end up thinking about it for years.

There is a funny scene where Gamera smashes up a Godzilla billboard. But this is the end of the so-called Showa Gamera era and there would not be another film with the giant turtle for fourteen more years until Gamera: Guardian of the Universe was made.

It’s sad. There’s no Gamera theme song. Only two minutes of new Gamera footage. And yeah — Gamera dying. You don’t need to be depressed. But I still found the YouTube link for you.

Times Square (1980)

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: An American living in London, Jennifer Upton is a freelance writer for International publishers Story Terrace and others. In addition, she has a blog where she frequently writes about horror and sci-fi called Womanycom.

A cult classic about teenage rebellion, the medium of radio (and the importance of rock music) features throughout Times Square (1980.) In the plot, it’s the vehicle through which the two protagonists connect. Initially, to each other and eventually to the greater adolescent female population of 1980 New York City. 

Two girls, Nicky Marotta (Robin Johnson) and Pamela Pearl (Trini Alvarado) come from divergent backgrounds. One is a street kid with no family bounced from home to home and the other the motherless daughter of a wealthy politician gaining notoriety for cleaning up the area where Nicky lives. Times Square. The two meet in the hospital where each is being examined for perceived mental illness.  

Despite their apparent differences, both are misunderstood by the adult establishment.  The girls connect through their love of music their shared fandom of an all-night radio show hosted by Johnny LaGuardia played by the velvety-voiced Tim Curry, who is excellent as always. Pam admires Nicky’s free spirit, and Nicky admires Pam’s intellect. The casting of the two leads is perfect. 

Following her discharge, Nicky goes back to break Pam out, wandering the hospital corridors, blasting The Ramones’ classic “I Wanna Be Sedated” on her boombox to entice her new friend to defiance. Together, they escape in a stolen ambulance and hole up in an abandoned warehouse by the east river. 

DJ Johnny picks up on the story and uses it to start a movement against Pam’s father, whom he despises for trying to gentrify his neighborhood. He puts the girls on the air and makes them famous. They become Icons for other disaffected young ladies itching to rebel against the “banality” and “boredom” of their everyday lives. They start a band called The Sleeze Sisters and begin spreading their message through their music all over the airwaves in graffiti throughout the city. Even when the girls engage in potentially dangerous hijinks–they throw televisions off of high-rise buildings onto busy sidewalks as a symbolic gesture against societal brainwashing–Johnny supports and protects them. 

 

Eventually Pam, who has been building up her self-confidence working as a stripper who “won’t dance nude” tires of Nicky’s high jinx and develops a crush on Johnny. Although it never explicitly says the two are lovers, their sleeping arrangements and Nicky’s jealous reaction to Pam’s wandering eye says it all. Nicky sets up an interview situation designed to prove to Pamela that Johnny is only in it for himself. He’s tired of his job on the night shift and sees this movement to boost his own brand and his show’s ratings. She suffers a mental breakdown and throws herself into the East River only to climb out asking herself, “What the fuck am I doing?” Johnny calls a doctor, who sedates her. Upon seeing this, Pam confronts Johnny angrily. She hates seeing her friend devoid of her usual fighting energy and inspires her to perform one last act of ultimate provocation. An illegal concert in Times Square. 

Full soundtrack recreated on You Tube.

Pam calls all the news outlets and announces the free gig to take place on top of a theatre marquee smack in the middle of Times Square. Johnny’s message on the radio brings girls from all over the five boroughs to see their hero perform, dressed for the occasion with their eyes blacked out “like a criminal.” The cops show up to shut them down, leaving Nicky one last chance to grand stand “about life” and to thank Pam for changing hers for the better. She knows Pam must go home. Her Dad is watching from below. As a duo, the girls have taken things as far as they can and now it’s time for them to walk their own individual paths, each armed with the determination and confidence inspired by the other. 

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As a final farewell, Nicky salutes the police and Pam and jumps into the crowd. They catch her and disappears into a sea of look-alikes. Pamela reunites with her Dad and the credits roll. Over a Bee Gee’s song. An odd, preternatural choice made by producer Robert Stigwood, who managed them at the time. They have no business being on a soundtrack with Patti Smith, The Ruts, David Johansen, Lou Reed,  XTC, and the Ramones. Moyle and star Johnson discuss this at length on the commentary track for Anchor Bay’s 2000 release. 

Along with being a fun ride, the film is also a beautiful snapshot of what Times Square was like in 1980. The real one. Before it became boring and banal. It’s magnificent in its corruption. You can almost smell the dried semen in the 42nd Street porn theatre the girls run through dodging law enforcement in the second act. It might be odd to say that I miss that time in New York’s history. As Nicky says in the film, “No sense makes sense.” 

RADIO WEEK REWIND: Don’t Answer the Phone (1980)

If any movie has earned being on the video nasty list — this one is on the Section 3 group of films, which couldn’t be prosecuted for obscenity but were liable to be seized and confiscated under a less obscene charge — it’s this movie.

This is the scummiest movie I’ve ever seen outside of films like Waterpower and Bloodsucking Freaks. Every single character is a horrible person, even the protagonists. It feels like you could take a Silkwood shower after this and it wouldn’t be enough. You’d still feel dirty.

Former paratrooper and powerlifter — who would later become a born-again Christian — Nicholas Worth plays Kirk Smith, who is also a veteran and bodybuilder. He has talent — well, when it comes to the lighting and composition of his pornographic photos, which have the ability to offend everyone, even scumbags like, well, everyone else in this movie. When he’s not grunting and lifting weights, he’s calling the talk show of Dr. Lindsay Gale (Flo Lawrence, who is also in SchizoidOver the Top and The Lords of Salem). When he gets on the air, he speaks in fake accents and complains that he has migraines and blackouts.

Dr. Gale on the air. While there is no radio station thanked in the end credits, it’s obvious this isn’t a set build and the film was shot in an unused production studio inside a real Los Angeles radio station. Bonus.

All of that would be fine if he wasn’t stalking and killing women right and left, not unlike the Hillside Stranglers of real life. That makes sense, as this movie was shot under the working title of The Hollywood Strangler. None of this was shot with permits, either.

It gets worse. He not only kills women, he has, well, intimate relations with their dead bodies before conducting religious ceremonies, trying to talk with his dead father and crying

Two detectives — Hatcher (Ben Frank, Death Wish 2) and McCabe (James Westmoreland, who was in Stacey and was married to Kim Darby; also in The Undertaker and His Pals) — are on the case, but it feels like they’re just as horrible as anyone else in this movie, overworked and on the edge.

There’s also a porn dealer named Sam Gluckman, played by Chuck Mitchell, who would one day be Porky himself from Porky’s, a role that is packed with more class than this movie. The sheer amount of salaciousness and scum in his scenes nearly fills the scene with bile.

Dr. Gale and McCabe quickly go from love to hate. Neither actor liked one another much, so Lawrence — who played Gale — ate a bunch of onions and Westmoreland — who was McCabe — didn’t shave on the day that their tender and romantic scene was shot.

Of course, it ends with Smith attacking Dr. Gale and McCabe saving her, shooting the strangler many, many times before he falls into a swimming pool, upon which the hero — such as this movie is — says, “Adios, creep!”

Director Robert Hammer is a one and done wonder. Sure, he made documentaries on Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young and The Steve Miller Band, but that’s it. Otherwise, he became a CFO for several companies.

It was written by Michael Castle, who acted in films like Galaxina and Gas! -Or- It Became Necessary to Destroy the World in Order to Save It. It’s the only movie he ever wrote, working from the novel Nightline by Michael Curtis.

Keep an eye out for April 1978 Playboy Playmate of the Month Pamela Jean Bryant as Sue Ellen. She’s also in all manner of late 70’s and early 80’s films that probably only I care about like H.O.T.S. and Lunch Wagon. Dale Kalberg, who was in scumtastic flicks like Mistress of the Apes and SexWorld, is another victim. And Susanne Severeid, who was a former model, plays yet another prostitute who ends up in Kirk Smith’s list of crimes. Interestingly enough, her husband was a WWII Dutch resistance fighter who was hired by the Simon Weisenthal Center to hunt Dr. Josef Mengele in real life.

Gail Jensen is another victim in this movie. She also performed the song “Sweater Girl” from the movie of the same name, as well as two songs on the Maniac Cop soundtrack. It gets crazier — she wrote “The Unknown Stuntman,” the theme from Lee Majors’ TV series The Fall Guy, along with being married to David Carradine, who she starred alingside in Future Zone.

If you don’t have the Pure Terror box set, you can get this from Vinegar Syndrome.

Despite my warnings of the sleaze quotient of this movie, you should know that I loved early single moment of it. I’m ashamed, but isn’t that part of the fun of lurid movies like this? If you’re of a similar mind — let’s say you’re a maniac — you will probably feel the same way.

* This review originally ran on November 27 as part of our Mill Creek Pure Terror box set of reviews. If you missed any of those 50 films, you can catch up with our Pure Terror Recap.

The Pumaman (1980)

After Superman, the Italian film industry did what it always does best: figure out how to make their own versions of a film. However, the danger of making superhero movies is that. the special effects — particularly after Star Wars and Superman, which was sold on the idea of believing that a man can fly — had to be perfect.

Alberto De Martino knew that Italian trend quite well. When sword and sandal movies were big, he directed The Triumph of Hercules. He made Ringo and Django clones in the spaghetti western craze. And when James Bond got hot, he made several Special Agent 077 movies. Giallo? De Martino turned out the New Mexico-shot The Man with the Icy Eyes, the Telly Savalas-starring The Killer Is On the Phone and the Dirty Harry meets Italian psychosexual horror in Canada romp Strange Shadows In an Empty Room. As The Exorcist and The Omen got hot, the director answered with The Antichrist and Holocaust 2000.

But superheroes? Superheroes nearly broke the man.

In Roberto Curti’s book Diabolika: Supercriminals, Superheroes and the Comic Book Universe in Italian Cinema, De Martino was quite candid about the failure of this movie. The Pumaman “was a production based on the trend of the moment. I had always done it that way and always done well. But regarding this genre of film, there was the audience’s diffidence toward Italian movies featuring special effects. They knew we were not up to the task, and didn’t take us seriously.”

He’d go on to say that it was “the only pic I did wrong in my whole career. When I saw it was a flop, I started asking myself questions. I had made a film I shouldn’t have. However it did well abroad and managed to get the guaranteed minimum back, otherwise I’d have had to sell my house. It did not even gross half a billion lire in Italy.”

Pumaman was played by Walter George Alton, his only film role before he became a medical malpractice attorney in New York City. He’s the ancestor of ancient aliens that gave birth to the Aztecs and entrusted a guardian armed with a golden mask. Ah — superheroes, Erich Von Daniken and Italian cinema? Bellisimo!

The mask is discovered by archaeologist — and the daughter of a Dutch ambassador — named Jane Dobson (Sydne Rome, who grew up near Cedar Point in Sandusky, Ohio before heading out to Italy to make movies like Man Called Amen and Sergio Martino’s Sex With a Smile). She learns that it can control minds, which pleases her boss Dr. Kobras (Donald Pleasence!) who takes over her brains instantly and then decides to start a Herrod-like campaign to kill Pumaman before the reincarnated hero becomes a threat.

Pumaman ends up being American paleontologist Tony Farms, who learns of his powers after the Native American named Vadinho throws him out a window and he survives the experience. How many people did Vandinho toss before he met the real Pumaman?

Of course, Tony and Jane are destined to fall in love and make the Pumababy, as foretold when the aliens visit Stonehenge and take the golden mask back. Of course.

You can watch this on Amazon Prime and Tubi with riffing from Mystery Science Theater 3000. You’re going to need it, because the man who never said no to a role, Donald Pleasence, stated that this was the worst movie he did in his entire career. Just imagine the depths of that statement.

Trhauma (1980)

Back when he was a child, The Being — the bad guy in this movie who has that name because there’s no way the creators of this film didn’t see Halloween and say, we need The Shape — was made fun of for his white eyeball-less eye and then fell out of a tree. That’s the kind of traumatic — trhaumatic? — adolescent experience that makes you strangle dogs and make love to corpses. Such is life in Italian slasher scum movies.

Yes, it’s another in the long series of films where my wife wanders in just as a nude woman is being photographed in a park, only to be mercilessly dispatched by a killer. She looks at me in disgust and says, “Your movies…”

Director Gianni Martucci was also behind 1988’s The Red Monks. Here he’s basically making an American slasher, complete with characters you learn nothing about other than the fact that you can’t wait to watch them die.

That said, the killer plays with Duplo blocks when he isn’t popping the heads off of obviously stuffed cats. And the film is quite literally packed with disco music. I think that more slashers could use some disco, but that may just be the result of me loving Prom Night so much.

This isn’t available in the U.S., so let me save you some time and attach the YouTube link below. It’s not exactly great, but it’s certainly not boring.

Ombre (1980)

Giorgio Cavedon created Italy’s first openly erotic fumetti — photo comic — Isabella. This tale of 1600’s France was adapted into the film Isabella Duchess of the Devils by Bruno Corbucci, which was released in the U.S. as Ms. Stiletto.

Working under the titles Self-Portrait and Portrait of a Ghost, this film finally settled on the title Ombre, which means Shadows. I’ve seen Mario Caiano credited as the co-director on this film. He also was behind the films Nightmare CastleShanghai Joe and Eye in the Labyrinth.

Renato is depressed and has a past filled with trauma. But perhaps things are looking up thanks to Monica, a college girl that he’s met. Unfortunately for him — and perhaps the opposite for us as we’d not have a movie to watch otherwise — she lives in a dismal home haunted by the spirit of her evil grandmother.

Ombre was a failure in theaters and has only been released n VHS in Italy. Somehow, thanks to the miracle of the internet, I’ve had the chance to watch it. Several members of the Gialloholics Facebook group got together to restore this, a movie that has no major re-release, which is amazing in the digital world that we live in today.

That said — it’s a slow-moving film that is more psychological than what I was hoping for. There is disco dancing, which I always appreciate in movies, however. Check it out for yourself and see what you think.

PURE TERROR MONTH: Don’t Answer the Phone (1980)

If any movie has earned being on the video nasty list — this one is on the Section 3 group of films, which couldn’t be prosecuted for obscenity but were liable to be seized and confiscated under a less obscene charge — it’s this movie.

This is the scummiest movie I’ve ever seen outside of films like Waterpower and Bloodsucking Freaks. Every single character is a horrible person, even the protagonists. It feels like you could take a Silkwood shower after this and it wouldn’t be enough. You’d still feel dirty.

Former paratrooper and powerlifter — who would later become a born-again Christian — Nicholas Worth plays Kirk Smith, who is also a veteran and bodybuilder. He has talent — well, when it comes to the lighting and composition of his pornographic photos, which have the ability to offend everyone, even scumbags like, well, everyone else in this movie. When he’s not grunting and lifting weights, he’s calling the talk show of Dr. Lindsay Gale (Flo Lawrence, who is also in SchizoidOver the Top and The Lords of Salem). When he gets on the air, he speaks in fake accents and complains that he has migraines and blackouts.

All of that would be fine if he wasn’t stalking and killing women right and left, not unlike the Hillside Stranglers of real life. That makes sense, as this movie was shot under the working title of The Hollywood Strangler. None of this was shot with permits, either.

It gets worse. He not only kills women, he has, well, intimate relations with their dead bodies before conducting religious ceremonies, trying to talk with his dead father and crying.

Two detectives — Hatcher (Ben Frank, Death Wish 2) and McCabe (James Westmoreland, who was in Stacey and was married to Kim Darby) — are on the case, but it feels like they’re just as horrible as anyone else in this movie, overworked and on the edge.

There’s also a porn dealer named Sam Gluckman, played by Chuck Mitchell, who would one day by Porky himself from Porky’s, a role that is packed with more class than this movie. The sheer amount of salaciousness and scum in his scenes nearly fills the scene with bile.

Dr. Gale and McCabe quickly go from love to hate. Neither actor liked one another much, so Lawrence — who played Gale — ate a bunch of onions and Westmoreland — who was McCabe — didn’t shave on the day that their tender and romantic scene was shot.

Of course, it ends with Smith attacking Dr. Gale and McCabe saving her, shooting the strangler many, many times before he falls into a swimming pool, upon which the hero — such as this movie is — says, “Adios, creep!”

Director Robert Hammer is a one and done wonder. Sure, he made documentaries on Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young and The Steve Miller Band, but that’s it. Otherwise, he became a CFO for several companies.

It was written by Michael Castle, who acted in films like Galaxina and Gas! -Or- It Became Necessary to Destroy the World in Order to Save It. It’s the only movie he ever wrote, working from the novel Nightline by Michael Curtis.

Keep an eye out for April 1978 Playboy Playmate of the Month Pamela Jean Bryant as Sue Ellen. She’s also in all manner of late 70’s and early 80’s films that probably only I care about like H.O.T.S. and Lunch Wagon. Dale Kalberg, who was in scumtastic flicks like Mistress of the Apes and SexWorld, is another victim. And Susanne Severeid, who was a former model, plays yet another prostitute who ends up in Kirk Smith’s list of crimes. Interestingly enough, her husband was a WWII Dutch resistance fighter who was hired by the Simon Weisenthal Center to hunt Dr. Josef Mengele in real life.

Gail Jensen is another victim in this movie. She also performed the song “Sweater Girl” from the movie of the same name, as well as two songs on the Maniac Cop soundtrack. It gets crazier — she wrote “The Unknown Stuntman,” the theme from Lee Majors’ TV series The Fall Guy, along with being married to David Carradine, who she starred alingside in Future Zone.

If you don’t have the Pure Terror box set, you can get this from Vinegar Syndrome.

Despite my warnings of the sleaze quotient of this movie, you should know that I loved early single moment of it. I’m ashamed, but isn’t that part of the fun of lurid movies like this? If you’re of a similar mind — let’s say you’re a maniac — you will probably feel the same way.

The Silent Scream (1980)

Rebecca Balding seems like someone who could have been a scream queen, between appearances in this movie, the made for TV movie Deadly Game and The Boogens.

That said — this movie ended up changing between it being shot and shown in theaters.

Diane McBain (Wicked Wicked) was originally cast as a police detective but the first take on the movie was considered unwatchable. So the script was rewritten by Jim and Ken Wheat (The Return, A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master, After Midnight and Pitch Black) and then reshot with genre stars Yvonne De Carlo, Barbara Steele and Cameron Mitchell.

All in all, only 15% of the original footage remained in the film.

Balding plays Scotty Parker, a college student in need of a last minute place to stay. That place ends up being the cliffside home of Mrs. Engels (DeCarlo), who lives in the house along with several college students and her son Mason.

In just a few days, one of them is dead thanks to a knife and the cops — played by Cameron Mitchell and Avery Schriber, who you may remember as the Russian Olympics coach Markov in The Concorde … Airport ’79 — are looking into the Engels.

The big reveal of this is that Victoria (one of the last roles Steele did before taking an extended break from theatrical films; she did, however, act in and produce the hugely successful The Winds of War mini-series with Dan Curtis) attempted suicide when she got pregnant with Mason and has been both silent and filled with murderous rage ever since.

That 15% or less of original footage is mainly what Mason is watching on television. Crazy, right? Even stranger — Murray Langsdon, the Unknown Comic, was the original actor to play the role and treated him as an over the top homosexual villain.

The Engels house is actually The Smith Estate, which is located in the Highland Park neighborhood of Los Angeles. You may recognize it as the Merrye house from Spider Baby.

You can get this from Ronin Flix.

Maniac (1980)

William Lustig took the profits from 1977’s Hot Honey to make this guerilla shot piece of sleazy, slimy slasher brilliance. The other money came from half of star Joe Spinell’s salary from Nighthawks and British producer Judd Hamilton came up with the rest of the money (around $200,000) with one condition: his then-wife Caroline Munro would be the heroine.

Originally, her role was to be played by Daria Nicolodi, but she was unable to go to New York for filming because she was still filming her scenes for Inferno in Italy. Supposedly, Susan Tyrrell and Jason Miller were both going to be in the movie too.

Just to give you an idea of how outlaw this movie was, for the scene where Frank Zito — the film’s titular maniac — kills Tom Savini in a scene inspired by the Son of Sam, Savini had a cast waiting filled with blood and leftover food. He blasted it with a live shotgun, threw it in the trunk of assistant Luke Walter’s car and they all drove off. No permits. No asking for permission. No prisoners.

PS — That body that gets its head blown off? Its name was Boris and it also shows up in Dawn of the Dead. After this movie, According to Savini, it was locked in the trunk of the car used in the shotgun scene and both were sunk in the East River.

Maniac is nothing without Spinell, whose rantings and maniacal look lend this movie its soul, as gross and covered with muck as it may be. He was abused by his prostitute mother and has turned his rage into a need to destroy women. He does so in all manner of ways, always ending up by scalping them and placing their hair on the mannequins he keeps in his squalid apartment.

This movie is everything horrible that everyone ever told you that horror movies were. It has no redeeming qualities or pretentions to art. It’s as rough as it gets, like Pieces if that movie wasn’t so funny.

Believe it or not — this is a positive review.

I’ve always held off from watching this movie but I’m glad I did. Spinell was nothing short of brilliant in everything I’ve ever seen him in and this one just keeps that trend going. I love him in CruisingNighthawks and the Rocky films.

The only strange thing to me is how Anna (Caroline Munro!) is willing to be in the same orbit as Zito. It’s a small point. After all, they did three movies together (Starcrash and The Last Horror Film are the other two).

Abigail Clayton, who plays a victim named Rita, was an adult actress who successfully moved into mainstream roles. Sharon Mitchell also shows up as a nurse, as does Carol Henry (Bloodsucking Freaks), Hyla Marrow (also in Lustig’s Vigilante), Rita Montone (who was in Bloodsucking Freaks and The Children) and Kelly Piper (Rawhead Rex and Vice Squad),.

Maniac was a green movie, as it recycled two big things from past films: you can spot the headless corpse of Betsy Palmer from Friday the 13th in Zito’s hovel and the helicopter shots were taken from Argento’s Inferno.

This was remade in 2012, but I still haven’t seen that yet. I kind of don’t want to ruin the power of this movie, a film so strange that it’s not even sure of the fate of its main character even as the film draws to a close.

You can watch this on Vudu and Shudder. Also, Blue Underground — Lustig’s company — has an incredible 3-disc version of this that is the last word on the film, at least until we can beam movies directly into brains.

Effects (1980)

Pittsburgh is more than just my hometown. If you believe a source as vaunted as Joe Bob Briggs, we’re also the birthplace of modern horror, thanks to George Romero and friends creating Night of the Living Dead right here (well, actually Evans City, 45 minutes north of the city).

Horror may have laid dormant for a decade or so, but the 70’s and 80’s were packed with genre defining creations made right here in the City of Bridges. There’s Dawn of the DeadMartin and Day of the Dead just to name a few.

Then there’s the 1980 fim Effects, made by several of Romero’s friends and all about the actual process of making a scary movie and the philosophy of horror. Much like every fright flick that emerged from the Steel City — let’s not include 1988’s Flesh Eater, a movie I’m not sure anyone but S. William Hinzman has any pride in — it goes beyond simple shocks to delve into the complex nature of reality, man’s place in the world and what it means to be afraid.

Pittsburgh is also a complex city, one that started last century as “Hell with the lid off,” died in the late 1970’s and rose, much like the living dead, to become a hub for tech many years later. Effects is a document of what it once was decades ago and holds powerful memories for those that grew up here.

Joe Pilato (Captain Rhodes from Day of the Dead) stars as Dominic, a cinematographer who has travelled out of the city to the mountains — around here, anything east of the city is referred to as “going to the mountains” — to be the cameraman and special effects creator for a low-budget horror movie.

In case you are from here, he’s going to Ligionier. For the rest of the world, imagine a rural wooded area, the area where Rolling Rock beer once came from — yes, I know it’s Latrobe yinzers — Anheuser-Busch bought it, moved the plant to Newark, New Jersey and stopped making it in glass lined tanks. As a result, it now tastes like every mass produced beer out there. It’s also a place with a Story Book Forest theme park.

I tell you that to tell you this — imagine a team of horror maniacs descending on this quiet little town to make a movie about coked up psychopaths making a snuff film in the woods.

Director Lacey Bickle (John Harrison, who created the music for many of Romero’s films and directed Tales from the Darkside: The Movie) is a strange duck, one who wants to push his crew to film scenes days and nights.

Luckily, Dominick meets Celeste, a gaffer who is disliked by the rest of the crew. They quickly fall in love at the same time as our protagonist discovers that an entirely different film is being made, one whose special effects don’t need any technical wizardry. As secret cameras begin to roll, what is real and what is Hollywood by way of Allegheny County wizardy?

Dusty Nelson, Pasquale Buba, and John Harrison — the three main filmmakers — all met at public TV station WQED, the home of Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood and all worked together on the aforementioned Martin. Inspired by their work on that film, they started an LLC and raised $55,000 from friends and family to make this movie.

Due to a distributor problem, Effects was never released in theaters or on home video. It’s lone theatrical screenings were at the U.S. Film Fest — which is now the Sundance Film Festival — and it had its world premiere at the Kings Court theater in Oakland, right down the street from Pitt, on November 9, 1979.

According to the website Temple of Schlock, Effects was picked up by Stuart S. Shapiro, a distributor who specialized in offbeat music, horror and cult films like Shame of the Jungle and The Psychotronic Man. His International Harmony company distributed the film, but it played few, if any, theaters. Shapiro would go on to create Night Flight for the USA Network.  In October 2005, Synapse would finally release this film on DVD for the first time ever.

Pittsburgh is a lot different now. The Kings Court, once a police station turned movie theater transformed into the Beehive, a combination coffee shop movie theater, is now a T-Mobile store, a sad reminder that at one time, we rejected the homogenization of America here in Pittsburgh. Nowehere is this feeling more telling than at the end of this film, where the movie within a movie has its premiere on Liberty Avenue. Now in the midst of Theater Square, this mini-42nd Street went the very same way, with establishments like the Roman V giving way to magic and comedy clubs. As a kid, when my parents drove down this street, I was at once fascinated and frightened by dahntahn. But no longer.

You can also get the AGFA blu ray release of this from Amazon. It’s made from a rare 35mm print that was made before the distributor backed out. You can also watch this on Shudder.