Mill Creek Sci-Fi Invasion: Galaxina (TAKE 2) (1980)

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Herbert P. Caine is the pseudonym of a frustrated academic and genre movie fan in Pennsylvania.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Your eyes do not deceive you. This is the second time we’ve featured this movie today.

Galaxina is a comedy with no laughs, a sex farce with no titillation, and a star vehicle with an absent star. As a science fiction movie, it reminds one of nothing so much as a black hole, sucking up all talent and effort that its cast and crew may have thrown at it. In short, it is a terrible movie.

Galaxina traces the adventurers of the crew of the Infinity, a police cruiser patrolling the galaxy and weakly attempting to maintain order. The ship is captained by one Cornelius Butt, played by Avery Schreiber. (Get it? His name is Butt! The film reminds us of this every few minutes!) However, the real power running the ship is the comely android Galaxina, played by the ill-fated Playboy Playmate of the Year Dorothy Stratten. This hyper-advanced AI can run an entire starship, yet is unable to speak. The plot meanders for a good half hour or so until the crew receives orders to retrieve the Blue Star, a MacGuffin that grants incredible power.

There are numerous flaws in this film to discuss, but perhaps the most glaring is its almost complete lack of humor. William Sachs, the writer and director of this film, simply did not know how to pull off a joke. In many cases, the “joke” consists of nothing more than referencing another movie. For example, early on, we hear the theme from 2001: A Space Odyssey, only to reveal Captain Butt walking down a hallway. There is no real joke, just a 2001 reference. Now, references can actually be funny if they are done well; consider the Jaws reference at the beginning of Airplane!, which came out the same year as Galaxina. However, there needs to be a punchline to it, or at least some wit.

Galaxina does manage a few humorous bits which land, but they are few and far between. All too often, it drags out sketches for too long, as in an extended dinner scene involving an egg. Although the scene leads up to a parody of Alien which draws a few chuckles, it takes over five minutes to get to the point, stretching things out and boring the audience.

The film also fails as a sex comedy. Although the poster, which features a busty Galaxina, seems to imply that the film will have a good amount of sex and nudity, the movie itself fails to deliver. The only real nudity in the film comes via a holographic message the crew receives in which a secretary flashes them for thirty seconds. Although much of Galaxina’s sex appeal comes from the presence of Dorothy Stratten, the most you’ll get in this regard is a scene in which she wears a French maid outfit.

Galaxina is mainly remembered as being a star vehicle for the late Dorothy Stratten, who was murdered by her estranged husband approximately two months after its release. Many modern viewers are likely to seek out this film solely because of the presence of Stratten. However, even on the level of showing off a rising actress, the film fails. For roughly the first half of the movie, Stratten has no dialogue, as the android is mute until she programs herself to speak. In the few scenes she has in the first half, all she does is walk around and look pretty. There is no real opportunity to develop any interest in her character, and by the time the character develops the ability to talk in the second half, the viewer has already lost interest. A mute android has no real charisma; the character is as empty and vapid as the film itself.

Mill Creek Sci-Fi Invasion: Galaxina (1980)

Editor’s Note: This review ran on December 20, 2019, as part of our month-long Star Wars tribute month. And be sure to read Herbert P. Caine’s alternate take, as part of our Mill Creek month of films.

As long as you don’t go into William Sachs’s (The Incredible Melting Man) intentional sci-fi homage that tips its hat to Star Trek: TOS, Star Wars and Alien expecting a “naughty” Spaceballs-styled parody, you might get a few The Ice Pirates-like chuckles. However, regardless of the presence of its adult-centerfold star, don’t expect a variation of the sci-fi porn parody Flesh Gordon (1972). If you’re into porn films that take out the sex and leave in those films’ bad dialog and worse acting: this is your movie. If you’re okay with special effects of the low-budget, Dark Star (1974) variety: this is your movie.

In place of John Candy and Rick Moranis efficiently camping up the joint, and instead of Mel Brooks and Dom DeLuise bringing great bits with the mystical Jew, Yogurt, and the truly icky, Pizza the Hut, we get ‘60s American comedian Avery Schreiber bumbling around as . . . Captain Cornelius Butt. Yes, Captain Butt: it’s like that.

And the homages run deep, so keep those eyes open. Keen sci-fi buffs will appreciate the tribute to the film’s distributor, Crown International Pictures (The Crater Lake Monster) with the crew watching a clip of the 1960 Eastern-Bloc sci-film film, The First Spaceship on Venus, which was a CIP release in the United States.

As far for the “plot”: In the year 3008, Playboy Playmate Dorothy Stratton (who was murdered by her husband-manager shortly after) is the sexy android-computer on the Infinity, an Intergalactic Space Police cruiser—that’s lost in the same lame, special effects galaxy as Battle Beyond the Stars. On their way home after an extended tour of duty, they’re reassigned to journey to the alien world of Altar One to find The Blue Star, a mystical gem that holds unlimited power. Along the way, as they save the galaxy, the crew of the Infinity visits a space brothel of alien women and tussle with a gang that worships Harley-Davidson motorcycles. And will pilot Sgt. Thor (Steven Macht of Nightwing, The Monster Squad, Stephen King’s Graveyard Shift, and the Trancers film series) and Galaxina find true human-robot love?

If there was ever a Star Wars rip that reached the end of the Kessel Run, only to have Boba Fett carbon-frost its ass: this is that movie. This isn’t 2001: A Space Sex Comedy. It’s too “clean” and not “naughty” enough to titillate.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Way to go, Harry!

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

Movie 1: Nocturna, Granddaughter of Dracula (1979)

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

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

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

Movie 2: Safari 3000 (1980)

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

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

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

Back to the Show!

Movie 3: The Rosebud Beach Hotel (1984)

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

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

Movie 4: Fleshtone (1994)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mill Creek Sci-Fi Invasion: The Day Time Ended (1980)

Dustin Fallon from Horror and Sons has returned to write this entry. He’s always been a big promoter of our site and has been instrumental when it comes to getting writers for this project. I’ve always had fun writing for his Halloween projects — I wrote about CHiPs this year — and love any time he comes to write for our site.

The Day Time Ended is a 1980 science fiction film released by Compass International Pictures. As I’m sure you know, Compass were also the distributor for John Carpenter’s Halloween in 1978, and producer Charles Band’s Tourist Trap in 1979.  As I’m sure you also know, both of those films are much better remembered than this film, and for a multitude of good reasons.

Band would also serve as the producer of The Day Time Ended, with former stuntman John “Bud” Cardos (The Dark, Kingdom of the Spiders) taking directing duties. Fans of Band’s Empire Pictures and Full Moon Features presentations will undoubtedly notice quite a few regulars among the crew, such as David Schmoeller (director of Tourist Trap and Puppet Master) and Ted Nicolaou (Terrorvision, Subspecies series), as well as Oscar-winning make-up artist Ve Neill!

The Day Time Ended was seemingly produced to cash-in on the still lingering success of Star Wars in 1976, a wave of science fiction hysteria that allowed filmmakers and distributors of the time to drop any genre-related turd upon a presumably unsuspecting, yet still eager audience. If you were a young male during this era, chances are that the presence of spaceships, aliens, laser guns, and other intergalactic trappings was generally all it took to get your butt in the seat.

In The Day Time Ended, a young couple (played by Robert Mitchum’s son, Chris and Marcy Lafferty, who had previously appeared in Kingdom of the Spiders) and their daughter move to the middle of the desert in order to take up residence with the husband’s parents (or, at least I think they are his parents) and younger brother in their solar-powered home that looks far too small for all these people. The elder couple, played by Western star Jim Davis and Peyton Place‘s Dorothy Malone, have seemingly “dropped off the grid”, retreating from the modern world.

As we learn from a radio broadcast playing as the film opens, this move coincides with the occurrence of a triple-supernova. Almost immediately upon arriving at the desert home, the young child, Jenny, finds a strange, glowing structure while tending to a new pony that her grandfather has purchased. She runs off to tell her family, who find themselves distracted by the fact that the house appears to have been ransacked. The structure, about the same size as the horse, disappears before anyone else can see it. Once her family has left her side, believing the young child to be lost in childish fantasy, Jenny again finds the glowing structure, now no bigger than a large sugar cube or game die.

Other strange events begin to occur around little Jenny, but of course, no one takes any notice for an extended period of time. The grandparents soon witness two UFOs that fly over their heads as they walk the property, but think little of the incident other than being a little creeped out. Later that evening, when the family is in their beds, Jenny is visited by a tiny extraterrestrial creature. The mute creature jumps and spins around the room, but soon flees when another alien craft, also quite small, appears in Jenny’s bedroom. The grandmother also has an encounter with one of the small alien creatures.

In time, more alien craft of varying size and shape converge upon the home. The family is unable to flee due to the car acting erratically, and any attempts to call in or out on the phone line are either cut short or garbled with static, thanks to “atmospheric interference”, an “electrical storm”, or whatever you choose to call the electromagnetic disturbance caused by all this alien activity.

The Day Time Ended continues along with all sorts of extraterrestrial shenanigans occurring both within, as well as outside of, the home. Eventually, large monstrous creatures appear outside the house, further preventing any attempts at escape as they fight and maul each other to death. While these early examples of David Allen’s stop-motion work do show the early-stages of his abilities, they undeniably feel dated by today’s standards, and are far from “ideal” demonstrations of the talent that has made him a considerable legend by many and that earned him an Oscar nomination in later years for his work on 1985’s Young Sherlock Holmes. Overall, it’s still a fairly neat sight to behold by those of us still fascinated with cinematic monsters and aliens.

The film’s multiple effects are clearly on showcase here and are the obvious “star” of the film, covering up for (and at times, highlighting) the film’s thread thin and wildly incoherent plot. Sure, there’s some late-night, braindead entertainment to be found here if you aren’t looking for anything too deep or thought-consuming, but even the film’s veteran actors occasionally look bewildered and lost at times.

The Day Time Ended finally reaches its conclusion, only to become even more confusing. Drowning in visual nonsense, the finale presents endless questions with no clear answers given, other than what we interpret them to mean. Honestly, the whole thing just feels tacked on and more than a little rushed.

While I personally enjoy the stop-motion effects on display in The Day Time Ended, they are unfortunately an aspect of the film that many critics trashed upon its release, as well as in the years following. To further exemplify that just maybe I have no clue what I’m talking about, I personally felt that Lafferty wildly over-acted her way through her entire performance as “Beth”, the young mother. However, others clearly must have disagreed with my assessment as she was nominated for “Best Supporting Actress” at 1980’s 7th Annual Saturn Awards, losing to Alien‘s Veronica Cartwright. I can’t imagine there were many other viable competitors.

The Day Time Ended received a blu-ray release from Full Moon Features in early 2019. While the film, as well as Allen’s stop-motion effects, do benefit from a visual upgrade (well, the effects are debatable) thanks to the HD transfer, there’s really little to recommend here if you aren’t already an avid fan of Allen’s work or aren’t into watching painfully dull vintage sci-fi just for the sake of it.

 

 

 

2020 Scarecrow Psychotronic Challenge Day 18: Deadline (1980)

DAY 18. RESURRECTIONISTS: Watch something that came out on one of the many reissue labels that we love like Arrow, Criterion, Bleeding Skull, Scream Factory, Indicator, Vinegar Syndrome, AGFA etc.

Vinegar Syndrome has a near-magic touch, finding movies that once gathered dust in the back racks of mom and pop video store horror departments and restoring them and doing their homework, getting the filmmakers to contribute and be interviewed so that the fullest picture of what they made can be finally displayed.

Deadline is a great example of what they do.

Writer Steven Lessey (Stephen Young, Soylent Green) is a horror writer who wants to be seen as an artist but is only known for his bloodier stories, such as The Executioners, a film in which children tie up their grandmothers and set them ablaze, or the shower scene bloodbath — quite literally — that opens the film or the gonzo psychic goat that forces a man to shred his own arms off or the appearance by Rough Trade as a band empowered by German scientists to make people explode via their bowels or the children clawing their way out of their mothers. His imagination is quite horrible in all the very greatest of ways and Deadline is at its best when these moments of insanity blast into the frame and by the very end, threaten to overwhelm reality.

While all that art against commerce war is going on inside his head, his marriage is falling apart and the horror of his writing intrudes into his children’s lives in a very shocking way. His agent responds by plying him with coke and women of loose morals, which leads to a brawl while watching his latest film that decimates the fanciest of houses before the drama leads to its foregone conclusion.

Deadline is a film that shocked me in parts and stayed with me way longer than I thought it would. It’s crazy seeing it in such high definition, as this is the kind of film that belongs marked with tracking issues. While he has worked mainly in television, I’ve heard that director Mario Azzopardi has also made a fact-based film called Savage Messiah which is the equal of this film.

This is everything you want from a horror film, whether you simply want an effects-based shocker or something that makes you think about the people who create the horror that helps you escape. Make it your own film. See it your own way.

You can get this from Vinegar Syndrome.

SLASHER MONTH: House On the End of the Park (1980)

I’ve had this movie for some time. Hell, I have a beta of this movie. But sometimes, I save Italian movies for when I need them most. Because for some reason, I worry that they are a finite source of escape from this world and I don’t want to use up all the water in my canteen as I stare out across that uncaring desert of reality.

Have I ever gone off and told you how much I love Ruggero Deodato? Oh, yeah. I totally have. Well, here he’s remaking The Last House on the Left and going so far to just have David Hess play Krug all over again*, except this time he’s called Alex.

Deodato shot exteriors in New York City and interiors in Rome’s Incir De Paolis Studios. It starts with Alex pulling over a young woman who he soon assaults and murders. To make you feel even queasier about that scene, I’ll let you know that she’s played by his wife at the time, Karoline Mardeck.

After putting her locket into his trophy case, Alex and Ricky (Giovanni Lombardo Radice, City of the Living DeadStage Fright) are closing up the underground garage where they work when a Cadillac driven by Tom (Christian Borromeo, Tenebre) and Lisa (Annie Belle, Forever EmmanuelleAbsurd). After Ricky fixes their car, they invite the antagonists to a party. Alex walks to his locker and grabs a straight razor.

They arrive at the home of Gloria (Lorraine De Selle, Emanuelle in America) and the party begins, along with guests Glenda (Marie Claude Joseph, who was only in the one film) and Howard (Gabriele Di Giulio). Alex realizes quickly that he and his friend are only there to be made fun of, as the rich partygoers encourage Ricky to drink. Alex takes Lisa upstairs but she teases him to the point of blue balled madness. As he comes back to the party, he realizes they are cheating Ricky at poker, so he beats Howard into oblivion, throws him in a pool and relieves himself all over him.

It’s his party now.

Alex has his way with all of the women, one at a time, when he’s not slicing up the faces of the men. Gloria tries to seduce Ricky in the hopes of getting him on her side, but when they return to the rest of the party, Alex is slicing an innocent neighbor named Cindy (Brigitte Petronio, Emanuelle Around the World) into pieces. When Ricky tries to stop him, Alex turns the razor on his friend.

Tom grabs a gun and blasts Alex repeatedly, including a bullet directly to the groin. He falls into the pool and in an inverse of the way Howard was treated, the victim destroys his victimizer with a bullet to the head. As they go to call the police, Tom says that despite some mistakes, it worked out for the best. It turns out this Alex’s victim was his sister and this was all a ruse to kill him and get away with it. To make it even more upsetting, Tom mentions how exciting it must have been for her.

A section 1 Video NastyHouse on the Edge of the Park is not an easy watch. It’s a scummier version of Craven’s film, which may not seem to many like it is possible. I’m glad I waited so long to watch this, because it’s not a movie that will leave me quickly. Deodato makes a film that continually assaults not just the characters, but the audience, who remain spellbound by the performances.

* The filmmakers wanted Hess so much, supposedly they gave him half of the film’s rights.

SLASHER MONTH: He Knows You’re Alone (1980)

Look, not every slasher has Tom Hanks in it. Actually, this would be the only one. So if you’re ready to see America’s favorite actor in a movie that is directly inspired by Halloween, then this would be your one and only chance to get it done.

This was Armand Mastroianni’s first movie, way before he’d start making TV movies. It’s all about young brides getting killed before they even make it to the altar, so at least it isn’t a holiday-centric slasher. That means that the film is free to explore all of the parts of the wedding, from the home of the bride to a dressmaker’s shop and, of course, the wedding chapel itself.

Our heroine is Amy Jensen (Caitlin O’Heaney, Savage Weekend), a bride-to-be who is in the crosshairs of whomever the killer ends up being. This movie takes the typical loose woman must die formula of the slasher to a ridiculous degree, as the main character is unsure of her fiancee while her best friend is having an affair and they all pay, along with nearly everyone else they come in contact with putting together this wedding.

Sure, the killer is Ray Carlton, a man left at the altar, but this movie decides to do the “it’s not over” ending as well, so when I say “whomever the killer ends up being,” I’m playing it coy.

While Mastroianni originally wanted to make a movie based on the urban legend “The Hook,” he sold the movie as containing a self-referential film-within-a-film. That would form the start of the movie, where a couple watching a horror movie are soon killed by the movie’s villain. If you’re saying. “Isn’t that exactly how Scream 2 begins?” Good news. You’re learning just how original those movies — which proclaimed to be the most original slashers in years — really were.

Hanks’ character was supposed to die, but everyone liked him so much, they kept him alive. See, even in his film debut, he was already everyone’s favorite.

SLASHER MONTH: To All a Goodnight (1980)

What is it about Christmas that engenders just as many slashers as Halloween? Is it the ennui? The dread? The hatred of being forced to be nice and needing the release that only violence can deliver?

While this film borrows liberally from Black Christmas, it does have David Hess as a director, which was my primary reason for tracking it down.

Two years ago at the Calvin Finishing School For Girls, a student was killed when she was accidentally pushed over a balcony. Now, as the school empties for the holiday braeak, five of the girls decide to not go home and have a weekend alone with their boyfriends. But by the end of the first night, one of their classmates is dead.

The girls convince Nancy (Jennifer Runyon, who ended up in another seasonal slasher, Silent Night, Bloody Night 2: Revival) to drug their house mother so that they can all go to an airstrip and party with the guys outside their private plane. How rich are these dudes? This leads to, of course, more murder. And oh yeah — Deep Throat star Harry Reems as their pilot.

Unlike the aforementioned Black Christmas, the killer is revealed in this movie and it’s very Mrs. Vorhees. There’s a second twist as well to liven things up, as if things need any more color after the airplane itself is used to kill two of the teenagers.

This was written by Alex Rebar, who B&S About Movies’ eagle-eyed readers will spot as Steve West, The Incredible Melting Man. Kiva Laurence, who plays the housemother Mrs. Jensen, would go on to appear in the Americanized giallo Schizoid the same year.

This film is inredibly dark and the VHS format did not help that at all. Today’s blu ray transfers have helped, but that fact has kept it from being included in the discussion of best slashers. It doesn’t belong there, but that doesn’t mean that it’s not worth watching.

You can watch this on Amazon Prime.

The Great Rock ‘n’ Roll Swindle (1980) and The Filth and the Fury (2000)

“The gospel according to the Ayatollah Malcolm.”
— Johnny Rotten

So agent provocateur and clandestine entrepreneur Malcolm McLaren owns a London fashion shop called Sex . . . eh, we don’t need to go that far back. . . . So co-founder/bassist/chief songwriter Glen Matlock is kicked out the Sex Pistols for “liking the Beatles. . . .” No, we don’t need to go that far back. . . .

When it came to the Sex Pistols, it was all about the marketing manipulation and McLaren the Machiavellian squeezed out every last drop of the group’s nihilistic sociopolitical ejaculate from their fourteen-month existence (November 1976 to January 1978). Regardless of their extensive discography that, by 1990, swelled to 20-plus albums, the group recorded only one actual studio album: the high-expectation and commercially-disappointing Never Mind the Bollocks, Here’s the Sex Pistols (1977). (The “flop” in the U.K. and Euro-markets was result of the album’s composition from the band’s already released 45-rpms and a “legal” 1977 bootleg album, Spunk.) And part of McLaren’s high-profile manipulations was to create a punk version of Richard Lester’s A Hard Day’s Night—with Johnny Rotten refusing to have anything to do with the project. The “project” was initially developed by—of all peoples—Russ Meyer, with snobby film critic Roger Ebert as the screenwriter, in tow—both who had a little experience in the rock ‘n’ roll genre with their “epic” about the rise and fall of the Carrie Nations, 1970’s Beyond the Valley of the Dolls . . . but Meyer also had lots of experience with large-breasted women (1965’s Motor Psycho and 1966’s Faster Pussycat! Kill! Kill!).

Yeah, this is going to work just fine. . . .

Well, it didn’t.

So, two-plus years later of false starts and stops with an array of people and footage shot here and there—which produced the Meyer-unfinished Who Killed Bambi?, British music video-artist, filmmaker, and ‘Pistols running mate Julien Temple (1989’s Earth Girls are Easy) got the Alan Sacks job of “doin’ a duBeat-eo” with the hours upon hours of narrative footage and concert clips of the Pistols during their heyday, along with surreal Kentucky Fried Movie-esque skits (that go beyond the funny into the silly . . . and the outright stupid).

Now, for those of you wondering: “What da frack does ‘Doin’ a duBeat-eo’ mean . . . and who is Alan Sacks . . . and what does this all have to do with the friggin’ Sex Pistols?” Well, impatient one, here’s your answer:

Alan Sacks came to fame as the creator of ’70 TV’s Welcome Back, Kotter; you know, that’s the show with the “Ooo! Ooo! Mr. Kotter!” pop culture catch phrase . . . the show that gave John Travolta his start. (He was most recently in the one-two punch bombs The Fanatic and Gotti.) And Alan Sacks got the job of taking the analogously dead pet-project of America’s Malcolm McLaren-doppelganger, record producer-songwriter Svengali Kim Fowley who, ironically ripping off McLaren’s idea, wanted to put his own “female” version of the ‘Pistols, the Runaways, into a “Beatlesesque” movie. (Remember: the ‘Pistols had “Anarchy in the U.K.” while the Runaways had “Cherry Bomb” as their signature tune.) Failed-developed as We’re All Crazy Now, Sacks got the Julien Temple-job of creating coherency out of chaos—and came up with duBeat-e-o, a film that has as much to do with the Runaways as The Great Rock ‘n’ Roll Swindle has to do with the Sex Pistols.

So, what did Temple come up with?

Well, he cut Who Killed Bambi? into the film. Sid Vicious—post-Sex Pistols—cut an album, Sid Sings (1979), and cut a video for that album’s centerpiece: a cover Elvis’s and Frank Sinatra’s signature tune, “My Way”—so Temple cut that into the film. (Warning: Sid pulls a gun and shoots into the audience.) And since Johnny Rotten wanted nothing to do with the project from the get-go, Temple opens the film with the snotty lead singer burned in effigy . . . and created an animated sequence that chronicles a beating the vocalist behind “God Save the Queen” took at the hands of Queen Mum-lovin’ thugs. And guitarist Steve Jones’s Rio de Janero visit with infamous British bank robber Ronnie Biggs is cut in. (Jones, ironically, along with Paul Cook and Glen Matlock, worked with Joan Jett on her self-titled solo debut, aka Bad Reputation.) And yeah, and Kurt Cobain Sid Vicious and Courtney Love Nancy Spungen, aka the punk rock John and Yoko, go through their own little psychodrama safety-pin voguing on screen. And, instead of Sex Pistols tunes: you get disco versions of Sex Pistols tunes by a group called the Black Arabs.

You can check out the track listings for each soundtrack on Discogs: Swindle and Fury.

. . . and the ‘swindle’ continues . . .

So Temple decided to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the film with a “sequel”. . . that cut The Great Rock ‘n’ Roll Swindle’s footage into the—admittedly—more coherent The Filth and the Fury (1990). And, if you’re keeping track . . . marks the third film chronicling punk’s most notorious band: the second was Alex Cox’s (Repo Man, Tombstone Rashomon) spunky, but not wholly historically accurate, Sid and Nancy (1986)—which Johnny Rotten also hated, natch.

With The Filth and the Fury—and without Malcolm McLaren’s marketing imperialism (. . . did you know he embarked on a “solo” career: with producer Trevor Horn, he assembled (McLaren never creates; he can’t. He thieves.) 1983’s Duck Soup)—Temple secured the full cooperation of Johnny Rotten, along with drummer Paul Cook, guitarist Steve Jones, and ex-bassist Glen Matlock, each who provide a new series of interviews, along with “new” interview footage of the late Sid Vicious not seen in Swindle. The interviews are well-executed: Temple peels Rotten-Lydon’s acidic layers and exposes his emotions over Sid’s decline and death. And there’s plenty of “new” footage, albeit, sometimes (most times) with grainy and out-of-sync sound, but kudos for Temple preserving those decrepit 16 mm and shot-on-videotape analog artifacts for the now, digital generations.

Temple was also able to circumcise McLaren’s cultural plundering of punk’s esthetics by showing us that punk rock wasn’t just about flogging the dead horse of Black Sabbath-inspired progressive rock and replenishing the wheezing lungs of rock ‘n’ roll. Punk was an artistic expression of the frustrations the British working class and unemployed (which include Rotten-Lydon’s contemporaries) against the stodgy and greedy British class system (a country where everyone’s on the dole, in poverty; meanwhile, Princess Di and Prince Charles have a huge matrimonial blowout). To that end, Temple also includes new footage of the protests, riots and unrest of the times (think of today’s Black Lives Matter movement and the upheaval in today’s Portland, Oregeon). So while Swindle was a “Swindle” to a point—which wasn’t Temple’s fault, he did a great job with whom and what he had to work with—Fury gets the facts straight and conveys the spirit of the times. So, as you watch both films as a double feature all these years later: you get Malcolm McLaren’s side . . . and the Sex Pistols side. And the twain shall never meet. Not even in the hands of Alex Cox.

The Great Rock ‘n Roll Music Trivia Swindle (you knew there was going to be a trivia sidebar): Before McLaren sunk his incisors into the Sex Pistols, he managed a down-and-out and ready-to-implode New York Dolls, which culminated with the 1975-recorded live, Euro-only album, Red Patent Leather (1984; which features new tunes not available on their two Mercury studio albums).

Also in Mal’s Svengali-stable was the burgeoning Adam and the Ants, who he subsequently “broke up” to provide musical backing for his own “Runaway” embodied in fifteen-year-old singer Annabella Lwin. Upon the eventual implosion of Bow Wow Wow (You do remember “I Want Candy,” right?)—as McLaren turned his Runaway into a singular-named solo artist, you know, like Madonna (not!)—guitarist Matthew Ashman formed Chiefs of Relief. And that band features another musician from the McLaren stables: Sex Pistols’ drummer Paul Cook (produced one eponymous debut album for Sire in 1988).

Prior to the Chiefs—and post-Sex Pistols (by the end of that band, only Steve Jones and Paul Cook were left to finish off a light smattering of tracks to close out that band’s career)—Jones and Cook formed the Professionals (with guitarist Ray McVeigh and bassist Paul Meyers). And, if you’re keeping track of your rock ‘n’ roll flicks, the “band” appeared—sans McVeigh and Meyers—with Paul Simonon of the Clash and British actor Ray Winston in their places, in Ladies and Gentleman, the Fabulous Stains.

Steve Jones’s solo career culminated with his forming a band around Iggy Pop, which recorded a couple of “comeback” albums for Detroit’s Jim Osterberg in the burgeoning years of the Year of our Lord Kurt Cobain. Johnny Rotten, as you know, reverted to his given name of Lydon and created the band Public Image, Ltd. with ex-Clash guitarist Keith Levene. Ex-Pistols’ bassist Glen Matlock formed the less-punk-more-Knacky new wave the Rich Kids with future Visage and Ultravox members Midge Ure and Rusty Egan, which scored a minor hit single with the title cut song from their lone album, 1983 Ghosts of Princes in Towers. Matlock eventually ended up in Concrete Bulletproof Invisible (an outgrowth of Doll by Doll that recorded one album for MCA Records) which released one pre-grunge album, Big Tears (1988).

Both films and their related soundtracks are easily availble as DVDs and CDs, with the films as VODs and PPVs on multiple, international online platforms.

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

Forbidden Zone (1980)

Somehow, Forbidden Zone was filmed in 1978 and 1979, but could really have come from any time after. It feels like a nuclear bomb that set off waves of influence well beyond and past its origination point. It was created by Danny Elfman and his childhood best friend, Matthew Bright, who would go on to make the two Freeway movies.

Based on the stage performances of the Los Angeles theater troupe The Mystic Knights of the Oingo Boingo, this is the kind of movie that everyone believed in, so much so that every SAG actor — including Hervé Villechaize, who even painted sets — gave their money back to keep the movie going (with the exception of Phil Gordon).

This was Elfman’s retirement from popular music to scoring films, as well as Oingo Boingo’s move from cabaret-style music to New Wave. It’s also astoundingly weird, even 40 years or more after it was made.

Richard Elfman, who started the Oingo Boingo troupe, directed this (he also made Shrunken Heads for Full Moon and used the pseudonym Aristide Sumatra to make the martial arts movie Streets of Rage). It’s literally an assault on all that anyone could hold dear, made in a time when rallying against values wasn’t crass or used to shove into people’s faces. It was a different time, I guess. That doesn’t excuse some of the worry that you’ll feel with seeing blackface, one of the few things that Elfman would take back, telling Dread Central, “From today’s perspective, if I could go back forty years, I certainly wouldn’t have included the brief blackface bits in Forbidden Zone. It was just one of hundreds of visual absurdities not at all important to the film and not worth its particular hot-button reaction. Although I have grown up in and around the African-American community (and have a racially diverse family), I don’t claim to know exactly what it is like to stand in a black person’s shoes and feel the effects of their particular oppression over the centuries.”

Man, how do I even explain this movie, one that starts with a Sixth Dimension hole inside a drug dealers’ house that leads to the kingdom of King Fausto (Villechaize) and Queen Doris (Susan Tyrrell)? I mean, for all the mindblowing things about this one, perhaps it isn’t even strange any longer to learn that Villechaize and Tyrrell had dated and warred throughout the making of this movie.

You get Warhol superstar Viva, a human frog, an apperance by Joe Spinell and Danny Elfman himself as Satan, all playing music from four decades or more before this movie was created. Marie-Pascale Elfman, who plays Susan B. “Frenchy” Hercules, also designed all of the sets and helped fund the movie by flipping houses with Richard, who was her husband at the time.

What started as black and white is now a colorized film that you can watch on Tubi. With it’s mixed of animation, song and dance, comedic violence and a willingness to offend in the most fun way possible, this is a movie worth setting aside time to view. Richard Elfman lost his house and all of his money making this happen, but after viewing it, I’m sure ypu’ll agree that it was all worth it.