Drive In . . . Saturday?! Punk Night II

Rock ‘n’ Roll Week at B&S About Movies was a smashing success . . . one that can’t be contained in just one Drive In Friday* featurette! So, for this week only, we’ve opened up the Drive In for a special Saturday edition for you old punk codgers n’ sods. You know who you are . . . you were in middle school or high school during the advent of the cable TV boom and a fan of the USA Network’s “Night Flight” Friday night video programming block, channel surfing HBO and, later on, haunting the shelves of your local video store . . . so you’ll remember seeing these four punkumentaries. It’s been years since I’ve watched these gems myself, so this’ll be a fun night for all.

Oi! Hey, ho! Let’s go! All Aboard for Punk Night!

1. Punk In London (1977)

Director Wolfgang Büld bounced around the Germany film and TV industry since the early ’70s and made his English language debut with this German-produced documentary that accompanied the release of a coffee table book of the same name. The film features live performances — some of the footage and sound is of questionable quality — from some of the scene’s top bands, such as the Adverts, the Boomtown Rats, the Clash, the Lurkers, the Jam, Killjoys, the Sex Pistols, Sham 69, the Stranglers, and X-Ray Spex.

Büld followed up this document on the rise of punk rock with a sequel on “the fall” of punk rock, 1980’s Punk and Its Aftershocks, which featured the rise of the new, more commercial crop of ska, new wave, and mod bands that pushed out the punks, such as Madness, Secret Affair, Selector, and the Specials. As with any old VHS reissued to DVD, the reissues company had to tinker with the sequel and give it a new title (the lame “British Rock”) and edit out some footage from the original cut. Ugh!

The restored DVD digital rip of Punk in London currently streams on a variety of VOD platforms, but you can watch it for free on Flick Vaults’ You Tube channel. You can view a complete track listing of the bands and songs that appear in the film on Discogs.

Büld’s other punk documents include the hour-long 1980 TV document Women in Rock (leftovers not used in Punk In London), which centers on the German tours of British metalers Girlschool, along with Brit punkers the Slits, Siouxsie and the Banshees, and Nina Hagen (Cha Cha), along 1978’s with Reggae in Babylon centered on the career of English reggae pioneers Steel Pulse. Büld made his narrative, dramatic debut with the German language (dubbed into English) film debut of Nena (of “99 Luftballoons” fame) in Gib Gas – Ich will Spaß! (Hangin’ Out).

2. The Punk Rock Movie (1978)

And you thought the footage featured in Punk In London was rough . . . the grainy, shaky images and muddy sound of this debut film by British punk scenester and club DJ Don Letts makes Büld’s works look like award winners . . . but we thank Letts for gearing up that Super-8 camera to chronicle those 100 glorious days in 1977 when Neal Street’s fashionable disco The Roxy booked punk bands in the venue where Letts spun records.

The live acts and backstage interviews include Alternative TV, the Clash, Generation X (Billy Idol), Eater, Johnny Thunders and the Heartbreakers, the Sex Pistols, Siouxsie and the Banshees, Slaughter and the Dogs, the Slits, Subway Sect, and X-Ray Spex. So, regardless of its home movie quality, the film serves as a vital document of London’s then burgeoning punk rock scene.

Letts went onto form Big Audio Dynamite with Mick Jones (after his firing from the Clash) and directed a number of short-form music videos (the Clash’s “Rock the Casbah”) and long-form TV and DVD documentaries, such as 2005’s Punk: Attitude (Euro TV/U.S. DVD) and Westway to the World, his 2003 Grammy Award-winning documentary on the Clash.

The Punk Rock Movie is available on a few VOD streaming platforms, such as Amazon Prime (region dependent), but there’s a VHS rip available on You Tube. You can review the film’s full track listing on Discogs.

Intermission: Punktoons!

. . . And Back to the Show!

3. D.O.A (1980)

London-born Polish documentarian Lech Kowalski’s feature film debut (he made a few shorts and TV films) centers around the 16-mm footage he shot during the Sex Pistols’ 1978 seven-city club ‘n’ bars tour of the United States — their only U.S tour — that ended with the band’s demise. The behind-the-scenes interview footage features the now infamous “John and Yoko” bed-inspired interview of Sid Vicious and Nancy Spungen (You Tube). To fill out the short running time, Kowalski cut in performances and interviews with Iggy Pop, along with the Clash, the Dead Boys, Generation X, the Rich Kids (featuring ex-Pistols bassist Glen Matlock), Sham 69, and X-Ray Spex.

Lech’s other rock documents are 2002’s Hey! Is Dee Dee Home, about the life and times of Ramones bassist Dee Dee Ramone (1952-2002), and 1999’s Born to Loose: The Last Rock ‘n Roll Movie, concerned with the life and career of Johnny Thunders (1952-1991) of the New York Dolls and the Heartbreakers (the second, at one time featured, Richard Hell from Blank Generation). Meanwhile, footage from D.O.A appeared in Julien Temple’s 2000 Sex Pistols document The Filth and the Fury (which I went to see in a U.S art house theatre setting).

This one’s not streaming as VOD, but we found two VHS rips on You Tube HERE and HERE to enjoy. You can view the full track listing of the film on Discogs.

4. Urgh! A Music War (1981)

. . . And we saved the best-produced documentary for last: this one dispenses with the backstage tomfoolery and goes right to the stage with professionally-shot footage compiled from a variety of 1980-era shows held in England, France, and the United States. And there’s a couple of reasons why the Police spearhead Urgh! A Music War: Not only were they the most commercially radio-successful “new wave” band of the groups featured; Derek Burbidge, the director, helmed several videos (the famous “Roxanne”) for the Police (he also did Gary Numan’s “Cars”), while Miles Copeland, the brother of the Police’s drummer, Stewart Copeland, managed the Police and operated IRS Records, which produced the film. The film briefly appeared in U.S. theatres via Filmways Pictures (seen it in an art house theatre, natch), but gained its cult status due to its frequent airings on HBO and the USA Network’s “Night Flight” video block.

Beginning in 2009, Warner Archive (the successor-in-interest to Lorimar Pictures, who co-produced with IRS) released an official DVD-R of the movie — burned on a made-to-order basis. As result, this one’s not available as a cable PPV or VOD online stream and the freebie You Tube and Vimeo rips don’t last long. However, searching “Urgh! A Music War” on You Tube populates numerous concert clips from the film. The bands you know in those clips are the mainstream MTV video bands the Police, Devo, Echo & the Bunnymen, the Go-Go’s, Joan Jett, Gary Numan, Oingo Boingo, Wall of Voodoo, X, and XTC. The lesser known bands featured — that some know and most don’t — include L.A.’s the Alley Cats, the Dead Kennedys (Terminal City Ricochet), Magazine (off-shoot of the Buzzcocks), the Fleshtones (Peter Zaremba hosted IRS: The Cutting Edge for MTV), Orchestral Maneuvers in the Dark, 999, Pere Ubu, the Surf Punks, and Toyah Wilcox (Breaking Glass).

You can view the film’s full track listing on Discogs while you listen to the soundtrack in its entirety on You Tube: Side A/B and Side C/D.

All images of the ’80s original issue VHS covers — the cover arts I remember when I rented them — are courtesy of Discogs.

* Be sure to join us for Sam’s “Drive-In Friday: Movie Punks” featurette.

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

The Decline of Western Civilization (1981)

Penelope Spheeris may be best known for Wayne’s World, but her life and films are more than just one movie.

Until the age of seven, Spheeris grew up in a traveling carnival until her father was stabbed after intervening in a racial dispute. After his death, she grew up in California trailer parks with a succession of stepfathers, yet still graduated high school voted “most likely to succeed.”

Working at Denny’s and IHOP in Los Angeles — one wonders if she even encountered David Lynch — she put herself through UCLA and started her career producing short films with Albert Brooks, several of which aired during the first few seasons of Saturday Night Live.

Between DudesSuburbia and two of the Decline films, Spheeris has shown her understanding of punk even as she lays bare some of the sillier moments of the kids caught up in its wake. The decline of Western civilization could mean many things here. It could be a reference to Lester Bangs’ review of The Stooges’ Fun House, where a friend remarked that this album had to be the signal of the end of it all. Or it could be a reference to Germs singer Darby Crash Darby reading Oswald Spengler’s Der Untergang des Abendlandes (The Decline of the West).

The bands within this movie — as well as the punk rock fans — gave Spheeris some amazing access to their lives, warts and all. While some bands like Alice Bag Band and Catholic Discipline may not be well known, X, the aforementioned Germs, Fear, the Circle Jerks and Black Flag should be recognized by anyone, not just punk fans.

After the film was screened in Los Angeles, punk music fans got into so many fights and caused so much chaos that L.A. Police Chief Daryl Gates wrote the filmmakers a letter asking them not to screen the film again.

This series of movies was only available in bootleg form for years. This was because of licensing issues for all the songs and Spheeris not wanting to go back and relive them. She didn’t need the money, but then she decide dthat she’d rather be remembered for these films than her more commerical work.

You can watch this on Amazon Prime and Tubi. There’s also the official site which has press clippings and more info on the films.

REPOST: Demonoid (1981)

AUTHOR’S NOTE: This originally ran on the site on January 1, 2019. I love this movie so much and hope that it convinces you to check it out.

My wife wants to go away on a fancy vacation. While horror films have forever enriched my life, they’ve also damaged her chances of going anywhere. The tropics? Have you seen Zombi? A resort like Sandals? I assume that Laura Gemser will show up and I’ll be boiled in a pot. And now, thanks to this movie, we can also cross Mexico off the list.

As much as horror may have curtailed my partner’s opportunity to globetrot, it’s also imparted several important lessons to me. To wit: if your mine is over a Satanic temple where left hands were severed to honor demons and every single worker refuses to go any deeper, perhaps it’s time to find a new mine. And if by chance you discover a miniature coffin with a hand inside it, just leave it where you found it. Don’t take it back to your hotel room. This is why I’ve made it forty-six years on this Earth without being possessed or dealing with a face-melting cult in the desert.

My true joy in the movie Demonoid comes from reading the review that it received when it was released in 1981 and laughing in their prose faces. How can anyone dislike a movie where a possessed man decides that old school Las Vegas is the best place to hide out? Who can dismiss a film where Samantha Eggar obviously dressed herself in some of the most astounding fashions that the early 80’s could unleash? The woman wears an ascot and oversized orange counter to explore a mine (let’s be fair, every outfit she wears in this movie are a paradox, somehow both gorgeous and ridiculous at the same time). And damn anyone who speaks ill of Stuart Whitman! This former boxer and soldier had already played Jim Jones — I’m sorry, James Johnson — in Guyana: Crime of the Century, released less than a year after that tragedy? Here, he plays a battling Catholic priest who we just know could win over Ms. Eggar if he didn’t have that pesky collar and angel on his shoulder to worry about.

Maybe they weren’t watching the Mexican cut (Macabra!), which has more dialogue, more death and a different ending? Look, you can’t please all of the people all of the time. And most of those critics, they never got pleased all that much anyways. Demonoid is worth the whole lot of them. Would they dare to feature an ending so downbeat after 98 minutes of rooting for our British heroine? I dare say no. They’d be afraid to insert so many flashing shots of a demon raising his fist, they’d be too concerned about a soundtrack that practically screams in your face and they’d sooner hide behind their film theory books than make a movie in 1981 that feels like it came from 1974.

Demonoid is why I watch movies. Samantha Eggar screaming at the top of her lungs while a mine explodes all around her? There. An appearance by Haji, she of Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill!, Bigfoot, Supervixens and the wonderfully titled Wam Bam Thank You Spaceman(whose real name Barbarella Catton wasn’t sexy enough for a stage name)? You got me. Overacting in nearly every scene? I’m riveted. A poster that promised nubile ladies reclining for a fallen angel carrying a gigantic sword? I might have piddled a little.

Keep your Oscar picks and guilty pleasures. I have no such taste or qualms. Give me Demonoid or give me a severed left hand!

This article originally appeared in Drive-In Asylum #13, which you can get right here!

Stripes (1981)

On his way to the premiere of Meatballs, Ivan Reitman got a great idea: Cheech and Chong join the army. He pitched it to Paramount Pictures and they greenlit the film instantly. The stoner duo’s manager loved the movie, but they wanted full creative control. That’s when Reitman got another great idea. He decided to revise the script for Bill Murray and Harold Ramis.

Within a few hours, John Winger (Murray) loses his job, his apartment, his car and his girlfriend. So he does what anyone else would do. He talks his friend Russell (Ramis) into joining the army.

After getting treated like, well, rookies by Sergeant Hulka (Warren Oates) and angering Captain Stillman (John Larroquette), our men at least get some romance from MPs Louise Cooper and Stella Hansen (Sean Young and PJ Soles, who gets “the Aunt Jemima treatment,” a scene that Murray totally improved making her reaction genuine).

There’s a great cast here, with Dave Thomas, Joe Flaherty and John Candy joining Ramis from SCTV, as well as Judge Reinhold and even a brief part for Bill Paxton. John Diehl is also pretty awesome as Cruiser.

By the way, that scene where John Candy gets his head shaved? He had no idea it was going to happen. That’s why he looks so depressed when he picks his hair up.

Black Noon (1971)

Bernard L. Kowalski has a decent horror pedigree, directing Night of the Blood BeastAttack of the Giant Leeches; Krakoa, East of JavaTerror in the Sky and Sssssss. Here, he puts the occult terror on a slow boil and puts Reverend John Keyes (Roy Thinnes, always battling the occult) and his wife Lorna (Lynn Loring, The Horror at 37,000 Feet) against an unseen force bedeviling a small Western town named San Melas.

There’s voodoo, devil worship and a mute young girl and a gunslinger possessed by the Left Hand Path. Ray Milland shows up, proving that Old Hollywood is never to be trusted. Plus there’s Gloria Grahame (Blood and Lace), Henry Silva (Almost HumanMegaforce), stuntman Stan Barrett, Joshua Bryant (Salem’s Lot), a young Leif Garrett and Jodie Foster’s brother Buddy.

70’s made for TV horror neglects the Old West, so this is a strange film to start with. Then again, it also plays the Troll 2 trick of a town with a backward name and a connection to witches, but it doesn’t telegraph that.

The ending — which moves to 1971 — more than makes up for the slow moving last 68 minutes. Actually, I love dreamy TV movies that seem to take forever to get anywhere. If this played on the CBS Late Movie, it would have probably taken two hours and forty minutes with all the commericals.

Actually, it did, on August 29, 1972 and March 6, 1975.

You, however, can just watch it on YouTube:

NBC Monday Night Movie: Angel Dusted (1981)

As with our yesterday’s review of CBS-TV’s The Killing of Randy Webster, this NBC original movie held a young adult appeal, yet was far too dark for their weekday, Special Treat young programming block that also dealt with the issues of drug abuse — but not like this.

Dick Lowry, best known for his Kenny Rogers song-to-TV movie adaptation and NBC-TV’s In The Line of Duty film series, directs a script by actress Darlene Craviotto (feature film debut in Zoltan: Hound of Dracula, aka Dracula’s Dog) based on the biographical book Angel Dusted: A Family’s Nightmare by Ursula Etons.

Jean Stapleton and Arthur Hill stars as Betty and Michael Etons, while Stapleton’s real life son John Putch stars as the drug addicted Owen. Helen Hunt (Trancers, Twister, As Good As It Gets) appears as his sister, Lizzy. Percy Rodrigues (Primus Isaac Kimbridge from Genesis II, the “voice” of the Loknar in Heavy Metal!) stars as one of the doctors treating Owen.

Okay . . . this is where, as with the mix up of actors in The Killing of Randy Webster, we need to clear up the Helen Hunt confusion with Angel Dusted.

After making this cautionary juvenile delinquency tale in a support role, Helen Hunt headlined — alongside Diana Scarwid (Mommy Dearest) and the who’s who cast of Tom Atkins, (pick a John Carpenter movie), Sam Bottoms (Open House), Art Hindle (Clint’s Dirty Harry movies), and Diane Ladd (Something Wicked This Way Comes) — the other “Angel Dust” cautionary tale, Desperate Lives, for NBC in 1983 . . . and Desperate Lives is the movie where a drug-crazed Helen Hunt “touches the grass” and jumps out of a high school’s third floor window.

There. Glad that’s settled.

Now back to the other PCP movie with Helen Hunt.

In this tale, John Putch (Sean Brody in Jaws 3-D; now a director banging out American Housewife episodes for ABC; Scrubs for NBC) is a doted-upon son who finds solace from the pressures of excellence from his affluent parents by developing a drug addiction. And he falls into a drug-induced psychosis after smoking pot laced with PCP.

While Putch is stellar in his acting debut, this is clearly mom’s show. For anyone who’s never experienced Jean Stapleton outside of her Edith Bunker character on CBS-TV’s long running All in the Family, they’ll be amazed at this master thespian’s range.

While the doctors just go through the motions — plying Owen with even more drugs-as-antidotes, such as the schizophrenics Haldol and Thorazine — Betty Etons struggles to hold her marriage and family together as she tries to nurse Owen back to a life of normalcy.

You can watch a pretty clean TV-taped VHS rip of Angel Dusted on You Tube. And since it’s owned by Warner Brothers (they provide the above trailer) this one is readily available to purchase for your collection of Jaws ephemera. Warner Bros. also owns Desperate Lives and since released it on VHS and DVD; that is if you’d like a copy for your ’70s juvenile delinquency film collection.

Sorry, I can’t not spin the pentagram. Hail Cronos!

About the Author: You can read the music and film reviews of R.D Francis on Medium and learn more about his work on Facebook. He also writes for B&S About Movies.

CBS Wednesday Night Movie: The Killing of Randy Webster (1981)

Considering its juvenile delinquency plot and rock soundtrack (like an even bleaker Over the Edge), this was certainly made for young adults, but was far too dark for CBS-TV’s Schoolbreak Special young adult programming block. And it’s one of the greatest TV movies ever made. Yeah, I know we say that a lot about the TV movies we review here. But wow. This friggin’ movie.

Once again proving that all actors have to start somewhere: Sean Penn stars in a support role in his first feature film. Before he gained notice for his supporting Tom Cruise in the military school drama, Taps (1981), and then blew up with his roles as Jeff Spicoli in Fast Times at Ridgemont High (1982) and Bad Boys (1983) as Mick O’Brien, he was the undercard in this cautionary tale based on journalist Tom Curtis’s award-winning article “The Throwdown.”

The teleplay was written by prolific TV scribe Scott Swanton in his feature film debut. Regardless of his ratings successes on TV, Swanton only moved into theatrical features — once — with Racing for Glory (1989), a bike racing flick starring Peter Berg (who you know as an actor from Shocker, but as a director from Hancock and The Losers). But on the small screen? Wow. Swanton brought his A-Game with the Calendar Girl Murders (1984; Tom Skeritt/Sharon Stone) and Nightmare at Bitter Creek (1988; Tom Skeritt/Lindsay Wagner). Great TV movie stuff!

The rest of the cast is a who’s who of ’70 and ’80s films and television. Of course, you recognize the adult leads with the always welcomed Hal Holbrook (Creepshow, Rituals) and Dixie Carter from her wealth of TV series. But you also get Barry Corbin of WarGames (as Holbrook’s work partner) and an early roll for Jennifer Jason Leigh, who just came off her support role in Eyes of a Stranger (1981), and on the way to her breakout roles in Fast Times at Ridgemont High and Easy Money (1983). And there’s Anthony Edwards, also of Fast Times, and on his way to Top Gun (1986) with Tom Cruise.

The rest of the cast is filled with the familiar faces of Chris Mulkey (a cabie witness), Scott Paulin (portrays writer Tom Curtis; yes, he was Red Skull in Captain America ’90) and Anne Ramsey (trailer park witness). Uber keen eyes will also notice the familiar John Dennis Johnson (48 Hrs., Kiss Meets the Phantom of the Park) and Nancy Malone (too many TV series to mention), and James Whitmore, Jr. (now a prolific TV director, most recently for the NCIS franchise). And do we really have to go into the acting resume of director Sam Wanamaker? Billy Jack Goes to Washington (1977) and “Luigi Patrovita” in Raw Deal (1986) ringing any bells?

Courtesy of Getty Images/Made for TV Movie Fandom Wiki.

Sorry. I know. I get carried with the backstories and casts with these old TV movies. You’d probably like to know the plot now, right?

Randy Webster (Gary McCleery; who vanished from the biz after roles in Baby, It’s You (1983) and Matewan (1987) for John Sayles; oft confused with Paul Clemens of The Beast Within and Michael Kramer of Over the Edge: that settles that argument) is a troublesome high school student (his buddies are the nebbish Penn and Edwards) who, after a fight with this mom and dad (Carter and Holbrook) and his girlfriend (Jennifer Jason Leigh) on the same night, decides to let off some steam by breaking into an auto showroom and steal a van — and it ends with his death at the hands of Houston police officers. To cover up the incident, the cops use a “throwdown”; Holbrook and Carter are determined to clear their son’s name and prove he was murdered.

Oh, I almost forgot. The soundtrack. Oh-ho-ho, this friggin’ soundtrack!

Since this was a Canadian-made movie and April Wine just released their mainstream breakthrough album, 1981’s Nature of the Beast, half of the album was used in the film, most notably, “Crash and Burn” during the culminating cops vs. van chase.

And now, I go off the rails with April Wine love: No hard rock collection is complete without copies of their ’80s “big three” of Harder . . . Faster, First Glance, and The Nature of the Beast (honorabe mentions to ’75’s Stand Back and ’82’s Powerplay). The ‘Winers made their soundtrack debut with their two best-know hits, “Just Between You and Me” and “Sign of the Gypsy Queen,” in the Canadian comedy Gas (1981; back when Howie Mandell had hair and worked as an actor). One of their later, last and lesser and weaker hits, “Rock Myself to Sleep,” was used in vampire comedy Fright Night (1985) (and became a hit cover for the Jefferson friggin’ Starship; just to show how far the ‘Wine whoosed and slipped off the hard-rock tracks).

Hollywood’s music consultants eventually come to realize the majesty of the ‘Wine, with the Canadian rockers earlier tunes “Say Hello,” “You Could Have Been a Lady” and “Oowatanite” appearing in numerous films. “Roller” from First Glance has appeared in Joe Dirt, Machine Gun Preacher, The Heat, Grown Ups 2, and Game Night, while “I Like to Rock” appeared in Nick Cage’s Drive Angry. Most recently, “Say Hello” turned up in the 2019 Dave Bautista-starring action flick, Stuber. And it looks like I’ll have to music consult a film myself to finally get the epic Brian Greenway-penned tunes “Before the Dawn” and “Right Down To It” on a soundtrack. . . .

Okay. Geeze, R.D. Here’s the friggin’ Charmin. Clean yourself up already.

Anyway, The Killing of Randy Webster is one of the few TV Movies that, during the video ’80s insatiable appetite for shelf product, was issued on VHS — with gaudy, sensationalistic sleeves, natch — and you can easily find a copy on Amazon and eBay. But watch out for those DVDs, as they’re grey market rips. What makes this movie work is that scribe Scott Swanton used the Akira Kurosawa Rashomon approach (like Alex Cox’s recently released Tombstone Rashomon) to investigate what really happened on that Houston highway. Just a beautiful film on all quarters.

There’s two clean VHS rips uploaded to You Tube. One with commercials — the for the full retro-TV experience — and one without commercials. And we found this pretty nifty catch-all playlist featuring a plethora, a virtual analog cornucopia, of the “Big Three” network’s TV movies of the ’70s and ’80s. Enjoy! And rock to the soundtrack of The Killing of Randy Webster, aka April Wine’s The Nature of the Beast.

About the Author: You can read the music and film reviews of R.D Francis on Medium and learn more about his work on Facebook. He also writes for B&S About Movies.

Roar (1981)

Shudder just did a series about Cursed Films and while they covered The Exorcist, they completed neglected this off-shoot, which may be the most dangerous, most cursed movie ever.

Noel Marshall was William Peter Blatty’s agent and the executive producer of that film before he decided to make this movie. Perhaps the problem is what we often discuss: the auteur complex.

Marshall wrote, co-produced, and starred in this movie alongside his then-wife, The Birds star Tippi Hedren, his stepdaughter Melanie Griffith and his sons Jerry and John.

During the filming of Mr. Kingstreet’s War, Marshall and Hedren got the idea to make this film about the plight of big cats called Lions, Lions and More Lions.

They approached animal trainers for support on the training of numerous big cats, and were told the idea was impossible. Each cat would need at least two trainers on set at all time. They dismissed these experts, as we’ll soon learn more about.

Hedren originally wanted actor Jack Nicholson to play the lead role, but Marshall decided to play that part.

The six months of production stretched into three years of shooting and eleven total years of production. The lions would live in Marshall’s homes and would eventually reach more than 130 lions, tigers, leopards, jaguars and cougars.

I referred to this film being cursed earlier. Instead of theory and conjecture, ala that Shudder show, let me give you facts: seventy people were injured during the making of this movie. Marhsall’s wounds got so bad that he got gangrene and nearly died, taking an entire year to recover.  There was also a near Biblical series of calamities, including a flood, a fire, a feline plague, destroyed equipment, Hedren breaking her leg after falling off an elephant, John nearly being smothered by a lion and needing more than fifty stitches to his head and Melanie being attacked by a lion and needing facial reconstruction.

Two years in, most of the investors had left. Marshall would sell four houses to pay for the film, rebuild the sets and rehire a crew. At the end, the movie would cost $17 million to independently make; $48 million in today’s money.

It would play theaters for a week and only bring in $2 million. Then, it went away for decades.

This is a movie that destroyed lives and a marriage.

A year after, Marshall and Hedren would split. His son John would tell Xfinity that, “Dad was crazy. He was absolutely bat [expletive] crazy. He was worse than the whole family put together. He was actually quite dangerous.”

Marshall was known for screaming at the cast and crew, ignoring safe words and working to get a shot more than take care of them.

Jan de Bont, who would go on to shoot CujoBasic Instinct and, yes, Leonard Part 6 before directing SpeedTwister and The Haunting, was the cinematographer on this film. He was scalped by a lion and needed more than two hundred stitches. Of the film, he said, “The technical problems were gigantic. When you shoot with five cameras simultaneously, each has to be ingeniously disguised so they don’t appear in the shots. This was my first Hollywood film. And I’ll never be the same again.”

Togar was one of the lead lions. He was adopted from Anton Lavey, the leader of the Church of Satan, who could no longer keep him in his small San Francisco apartment. He was perhaps the most dangerous of the lions, despite being raised in a domestic situation. He would attack assistant director Doron Kauper, which required four and a half hours of surgery to survive. Twenty of the crew walked out and would not come back.

Man, I know way too much trivia about this film. Like how Ted Cassidy — Lurch from The Addams Family — was a writer. That three of the animals had to be shot by sheriffs after they escaped during the flood. And that was one of the other lions was named Christian and he’d live with the aforementioned Togar, which means smoke.

As for the actual movie, I’d describe it as a cross between Born FreeThe Birds and Jackass. It is less a narrative film when you know the story behind the movie.

Want to see it for yourself? Visit the official site or get it from Olive FIlms.

REPOST: Condorman (1981)

AUTHOR’S NOTE: This movie originally ran on the site a year ago, but it’s so related to James Bond week — and such an unappreciated film — I decided to bring it back.

The last time I saw this movie, I was 7 years old and watching it under the stars at the Spotlight 88 drive-in theater in Beaver Falls, PA. Sadly, that theater was destroyed by a freak tornado that tore through the Pittsburgh/Southwestern PA area on May 31, 1985. This was a seminal location for my childhood, a place where I saw tons of double features and built memories that would provide the foundation for the movie love that I still hold dear today.

Woodrow “Woody” Wilkins (future Andrew Lloyd Webber Phantom Michael Crawford) is a comic book artist whose devotion to realism extends to creating his own Condorman suit and attempting to fly off the Eiffel Tower. Instead of arresting him, his friend Harry (James Hampton, Uncle Harry the werewolf from the Teen Wolf movies), a CIA file clerk, asks him to exchange papers with someone in Istanbul.

Woody finds KGB spy Natalia Rambova (Barbara Carrera, Wicked Stepmother), who he tells that he is really Condorman. Impressed by how he protects her and how poorly she’s treated by her KGB boss Krokov (Oliver Reed!), she defects to the U.S., but only if Condorman helps her.

Woody’s already in love — he’s added Natalia to his comic as Laser Lady. When he’s asked to help her defect, he only agrees if the CIA designs him gear like his comic. Amazingly, they agree and the adventure is on.

Imagine James Bond crossed over with the Adam West-era Batman and you have an idea of how Condorman plays. For a Disney movie, Carrera is really sultry, which probably had an effect on my nine-year-old mind.

Before the days of licensing, Condorman had two cool tie-ins. A daily strip by Russ Heath and an ice cream flavor at Baskin-Robbins!

 

For Your Eyes Only (1981)

For Your Eyes Only was inspired by not just one Ian Fleming book. It has parts of Live and Let Die, Goldfinger and On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, as well as the short stories For Your Eyes Only and Risico. It was an attempt to move away from the silliness of Moonraker and get Bond quite literally back down to Earth.

John Glen was promoted from editor to director. His plan? “We had gone as far as we could into space. We needed a change of some sort, back to the grass roots of Bond. We wanted to make the new film more of a thriller than a romp, without losing sight of what made Bond famous – its humour.”

The movie begins with Bond laying flowers at the grave of his wife Tracy, whose inscription is her last words: “We have all the time in the world.” Soon, he’s attacked by a bald man in a wheelchair holding a cat. Is it Blofeld? Glen said, “We just let people use their imaginations and draw their own conclusions … It’s a legal thing”. After all, Kevin McClory owned the film rights to Ernst Stavro Blofeld, the organization SPECTRE and other material associated with the development of Thunderball. Bond bests his arch-nemesis and dumps his wheelchair down a giant factory chimney. Consider this scene a middle finger to McClory, as producer Albert Broccoli wanted the world to know that he had no use for Blofeld ever again.

This time, Bond must take an ATAC system that could be misused for controlling British military submarines back from Aristotle Kristatos (Julian Glover, who was almost Bond before Roger Moore was selected). Assisting our hero is Milos Columbo (Topol, Flash Gordon) and complicating matters are ice skater Bibi Dahl (Lynn Holly-Johnson, Ice Castles) and Melina Havelock (Carole Bouquet).

This is the only Bond movie not to feature M, as Bernard Lee was dying of stomach cancer during filming. Q has an expanded role as a result.