I Think I’m Having a Baby (1981)

While not produced or directed by Dan Curtis, this made for TV movie was produced by his company. It was produced by former actor Joseph Stern, Eda Godel Hallinan and Keetje Van Benschoten.

Directed by Arthur Allan Seidelman — yes, the same man who made Hercules In New York — and written by teen fiction writer Blossom Elfman, this is a movie filled with nascent Hollywood talent.

Jennifer Jason Leigh, Helen Hunt, Tracey Gold and Ally Sheedy are all on hand for about 28-minutes in the hopes that you’ll learn to talk out sex before you have it. As Becca told me that she learned, stop fooling around with boys and just get a bunny instead.

You can watch this on Amazon Prime or the YouTube link below.

Kiss Daddy Goodbye (1981)

This is why I have insomnia. Because I try to sleep, but then I start worrying about being able to pay the bills and what will I do next and how am I going to take care of my wife and then I realize, “Hey! Fabian made a movie with Marilyn Burns from The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Marvin Miller, who was the voice of Robbie the Robot…”

And now I’m awake.

Otherwise known as Revenge of the Zombie, this movie was directed by Patrick Regan, who also wrote the lost slasher movie — seriously, someone help me find it, The Farmer. This is his only directing credit, though he did second unit on a bunch of movies, like The Phantom.

It starts his kids — Nell and Patrick — as Beth and Michael Nicholas, psychic kids who have been homeschooled by their dad, Guy. He runs afoul of some bikers, who kill him, so the kids keep him alive Weekend At Bernie’s style so that the Board of Education employee Nora Dennis (Burns) doesn’t put them in an orphanage. Also — Fabian plays a local sheriff, outdoing his work in Disco Fever

Chester Grimes plays the leader of the bikers and if you wanted a biker in the 1980’s, you called Chester. From CHiPs to Electra Glide in BlueThe Rockford FilesPee-wee’s Big AdventureBosom BuddiesThe Garbage Pail Kids Movie and Dragnet, there he is.

And look out! There’s Robert Dryer, who if you watched lots of movies like I do at 4 AM, you’d recognize as Jake from Savage Streets, the titular character in The Borrower and Lord Barak from The Sisterhood.

Is that Jon Cedar from The Manitou as a shady land owner? Yes it is.

Kids that raise dad from the dead, so that he can kill bikers and bury himself in the sand, while Fabian and Sally Hardesty make eyes at one another. Yeah! This movie makes no sense, so I advise you to see it as I did: on a VHS tape uploaded to YouTube with obtrusive Spanish subtitles. Trust me — it makes it all so much better.

Murder Obsession (1981)

Riccardo Freda was the first director of an Italian horror movie, 1956’s I Vampiri. He left the production midway to have it completed by Mario Bava, which he would also do on the film Caltiki – The Immortal Monster. He’s also known for Iguana with the Tongue of FireThe Horrible Dr. Hichcock and The Ghost.

Before Michael became an actor — when he was but a child — he stabbed his father to death. Today, he’s visiting his mother for the weekend and has brought along his girlfriend Deborah (Silvia Dionisio, Live Like a Cop, Die Like a Man) and the crew of his latest movie. The sins of the past, however, are waiting for all of them.

Martine Brochard (Mannaja), John Richardson (The ChurchFrankenstein ’80), Anita Stringberg (who is in everything from A Lizard in a Woman’s Skin to The Case of the Scorpion’s TailWho Saw Her Die?The AntichristAlmost Human and Your Vice Is a Locked Room and Only I Have the Key) and the always welcome Laura Gemser (Black Emanuelle herself!), who is menaced by some of the largest and most fake spiders this side of Fulci.

In the early 70’s, this film’s writer, Fabio Piccioni, wrote a comic book story called The Cry of the Capricorn, which he sold to Dario Argento. Elements of that story would appear in The Bird with the Crystal Plumage and Deep Red.

Piccioni would reuse elements of this story again years later, along with scriptwriters Antonio Cesare Corti and Riccardo Freda, to help create this film, which is also known as Fear and The Wailing.

For what it’s worth, none of the actors recall this picture very fondly. Gemser referred to it as a nightmare and said that Strindberg almost stabbed her with a real knife, while the chainsaw that decapitates Brochard’s character nearly killed the actress.

While this isn’t the best giallo you’ll find, there’s still plenty to enjoy here, even if it’s just ogling Ms. Gemser. There’s also the best reason why the cops don’t get involved — a character says that they meant to call them, but forgot.

This is available from Raro Video and on Amazon Prime.

ANOTHER TAKE ON: The House by the Cemetery (1981)

Have I ever told you how much I love Lucio Fulci?

Oh, I have? Like, thousands of times?

Like when I talked about this movie a few years ago?

And when I talked about Don’t Torture a Duckling?

Or when I talked about his deeper cuts, like ConquestMurder Rock and The Devil’s HoneyAenigmaContraband and Perversion Story?

Yeah, I love me some Fulci.

So this review isn’t going to objective.

You have no idea how happy I am to own the 4K version of Fulci’s classic Quella Villa Accanto al Cimitero. Blue Underground has been releasing some astounding versions of Fulci’s masterworks this year, such as Zombie and The New York Ripper. Now, they’re giving the same high quality treatment to Dr. Freudstein and, of course, little Bob.

Norman and Lucy Boyle (Paolo Malco, Thunder and Catriona MacColl, who is also in Fulci’s City of the Living Dead and The Beyond) have just left New York City behind to live in the country, which Norman will work on the same research that his friend Dr. Peterson was undertaking — you know, before he went nuts and killed his mistress and himself.

Why should Norman tell his family that they’re moving into such a frightening house? He can just scream at his wife and demand that she start taking her pills again when he isn’t exchanging sex eyes with Ann the babysitter (Ania Pieroni, Mater Lachrymarum!).

70’s scream queen Dagmar Lassender (The Iguana with the Tongue of FireHatchet for the Honeymoon) shows up as a real estate agent, Fulci himself appears as a professor and Giovanni Frezza owns the film as the female-voice child Bob Boyle. You’re either going to hate Bob or love him. I belong to the latter camp. Frezza also shows up in Warriors of the WastelandDemons and Manhattan Baby.

Hey Blue Underground — I’m the only one asking for it, but where’s the 4K Manhattan Baby?!?

I adore this movie because it’s really all over the place. It’s kind of, sort of The Amityville Horror by way of The Shining while also being a zombie picture and at other times, becoming a slasher. Dr. Freudstein is a mess, falling apart, losing his hand and killing everyone Bob loves for reasons that are left up to you — the viewer — to define.

It also ends up a great quote — “No one will ever know whether the children are monsters or the monsters are children” — that is attributed to Henry James but really came from Fulci. I have no idea how it ties to this movie at all and I’ve watched this film potentially hundreds of times.

I’ll be honest — I first discovered this movie at an all-night drive-in series of zombie films. I wondered why it was part of the show and thought that it surely would suffer compared to the other movies shown that evening. I was completely wrong.

You can watch this on Amazon Prime, but really, you owe it to yourself to purchase the Blue Underground set. Beyond the best that this movie has ever looked — and will probably ever look, until they figure out how to beam it directly into your skull — you get an entire disc full of extras, such as new audio commentary by Troy Howarth, author of Splintered Visions: Lucio Fulci and His Films, interviews with MacColl, Marco,  Lassander, Carlo De Mejo, Giovanni De Nava and child stars Giovanni Frezza and Silvia Collatina.

But this set goes even further, spending time with co-writers Dardano Sacchetti , Giorgio Mariuzzo and Elisa Briganti, as well as interviews with cinematographer Sergio Salvati, effects artists Maurizio Trani and Gino De Rossi. There’s also a new Q&A with MacColl and an interview regarding the film with Stephen Thrower, author of Beyond Terror: The Films of Lucio Fulci.

Is that enough? No. It’s not. Blue Underground also throws in a lovely book — which has much better printing than the one inside The New York Ripper set — and a CD of the film’s soundtrack.

Now, do you aleady own this film? Are you someone like me who has purchased it more than twice? Do you really need another copy? Do you need the good doctor to come to your house and seep maggots all over your hardwood floor to convince you?

Take one look at the lenticular cover of this gorgeous set and try and say no. It’s impossible.

DISCLAIMER: This movie was sent to us by Blue Underground, but we were going to buy it regardless. I love this movie so much that there’s no way I wans’t going to love this. Sorry guys. I promise to be more objective in my non-Fulci reviews.

 

 

Play Dead (1981)

Made in 1981, this movie didn’t come out until 1986, when Troma would pick it up for distribution. Don’t worry — this odd little film has none of their horrific in a bad way hackwork infesting it.

Yvonne Decarlo plays Hester, a wealthy heiress who was jilted years ago when her boyfriend married her sister. Now, she’s out to not only get them, but their children too. And she has a 200 pound Rottweiler ready to make it happen.

Just imagine — Yvonne Decarlo electrocuting, stranging, crushing skulls and poisoning people when she’s not letting a dog bite and main everyone in its path. There’s also a scene where the detective on her trail gets drain cleaner dumped into his seltzer water. What a way to go!

Somehow, this came from the same director as 1984’s sex comedy Ellie, Peter Wittman. It has Stephanie Dunnam (Silent Rage) in it, in case you were all into that Chuck Norris vs. a slasher film and wanted to see more of her work. It’s also known as Satan’s Dog, which is not a better title.

Spoiler: I didn’t like how Hester gets rid of her dog. I mean, I’m totally into a movie that has dogs repeatedly killing humans, but leave the dog alone!

You can watch this on Amazon Prime.

Ape Week: Planet of the Apes: The Five Telefilms from the 1974 Series (1981)

B&S Movies’ readers are already up to speed on everything ape, with the franchise’s production minutiae readily available—if you want it.

But here are the basics that led to the post-Star Wars POTA movies: As result of the first four films’ box office returns—it was the Star Wars of its day—Arthur P. Jacobs, the producer of the films through his APJAC Productions for distributor 20th Century Fox, decided to capitalize on the theatrical success with an hour-long live action series. It was to start (and take place after the events in) after Conquest, which was believed to be the fourth and final film. Then Fox decided that, instead of a series, they wanted another movie, which became 1973’s Battle.

Apes DVD

Sadly, Jacobs died in June 1973 before his vision of the TV series could be realized. CBS-TV then purchased the broadcast rights to the first three films: each ran as a “Movie of the Week” during the month of September 1973 to, not surprising, high ratings. And result of Jacobs’s death, Fox was in full control of the decisions regarding the franchise.

So while the ape movies were breaking TV ratings records, Gene Roddenberry developed his Star Trek follow-up, Genesis II (1973), through Warner Bros. for CBS-TV—and the movie-series pilot garnered high ratings. Plans were made to go to series, with Roddenberry scripting a 20-episode season arc.

But the ratings for the Apes reruns rivaled Genesis II, which resulted in CBS turning their focus away from other contenders (what those series were, is unknown) for a new weekly science-fiction series—including Roddenberry’s. And with that, the network ran with Apes TV series idea and added it to the schedule for their 1974 autumn programming. Fox ordered 14 episodes.

The series started from scratch, with actors Ron Harper and James Naughton as Alan Virdon and Peter Burke, two astronauts who pass through a time warp while approaching Alpha Centauri on August 19, 1980, which results in a crash on June 14, 3085. They’re rescued by a human (for the sake of adding “drama” to the series, unlike the films, the humans can speak) who takes them to a bomb shelter and opens a book containing historical text and pictures of Earth circa 2500; the space explorers are convinced they are on a future Earth. A later check of their ship’s chronometer confirms their fears: they’re on Earth 1000 years in the future.

They’re soon befriended by a friendly chimpanzee, Galen, portrayed by Roddy McDowall—the only actor to return to the franchise. Booth Coleman (the 1956 post-apoc flick World Without End; pick a ‘60s or ‘70s TV series) took over the role of the orangutan Zaius from his friend, and former Dr. Zaius, Maurice Evans. In another Star Trek connection: Mark Lenard (Spock’s father Sarek in Star Trek: TOS, TAS, TNG) starred as gorilla General Urko.

The series, which ran during the highly-coveted ratings sweet spot from 8 to 9 p.m on Fridays in September 1974, was a ratings disaster. The failure was attributed to the high production costs against the low ratings, ratings that resulted from repetitive stories (boring stories) that relied too much on human philosophical dilemmas and not enough ape action—which is what everyone came for in the first place: the apes. After 14 episodes, which ran from September 13, 1974 to December 20, 1974, the series was cancelled. (Sounds like Battlestar Galactica‘s dilemma to catch some “Star Wars” success.)

In 1981, in the wake of the Star Wars-inspired sci-fi boom on theatre screens and television (check out B&S Movies’ “Ten Star Wars Rip Offs” and “Attack of the Clones” tribute weeks as proof), Fox reedited ten of the fourteen episodes—two episodes stitched together—into five international TV movies (that also played as theatrical features in some overseas markets). To achieve continuity and flow, new prologue and epilog segments were filmed starring McDowall as an aged Galen telling the “past” tale of the Earth astronauts. Those five films were:

  • Back to the Planet of the Apes
  • Forgotten City of the Planet of the Apes
  • Treachery and Greed on the Planet of the Apes
  • Life, Liberty and Pursuit on the Planet of the Apes
  • Farewell to the Planet of the Apes

(In addition to the Planet of the Apes series, CBS-TV also recut episodes of The Amazing Spider-Man and their two ‘70s pilots for Captain America into overseas theatrical features (which became box-office hits) and telefilms. Other TV series recut into theatrical/telefilms in the wake of Star Wars’ success included Sylvia and Gerry Anderson’s syndicated UFO and Space: 1999, the 1973 Keir Dullea Canadian series The Starlost, and Universal’s Buck Rogers in the 25th Century for NBC-TV and Battlestar Galactica for ABC-TV (BSG’s “Commander Cain” story arc was cut into a successful foreign theatrical: Mission Galactica: The Cylon Attack; trailer). Even the early ‘70s pilot-movies for Earth II, The Questor Tapes, and Genesis II found new life via new edits and new titles. You can learn more about those telefilms with the Medium article, “In Space No One Can Hear the Pasta Over-Boiling: The ’80s Italian Spacesploitation Invasion.”)

However, before Fox edited those ape movies, the studio teamed with NBC-TV and created Return to the Planet of the Apes, a 1975 Saturday morning animated series (as was Star Trek) produced by the team behind the popular Johnny Quest. The series went back to the beginning, once again, as three American astronauts—including Jeff Allen (voiced by Austin Stoker, who played MacDonald in Battle; John Carpenter’s Assault on Precinct 13)—time jump into Earth’s future. The storylines closely mirrored Pierre Boulle’s Monkey Planet source novel and the Vietnam War and Cold War themes of first two ape movies. In addition, the series featured characters that originated in both of the Fox films and the CBS live action series. NBC broadcast 13 episodes between September 6 and November 29, 1975. As with the live action CBS-TV series, the kids stayed away in droves, as the show’s message was too complex and heavy-handed for children. NBC cancelled the series.

In addition to Marvel Comics’ longer-running Adventures of the Planet of the Apes series published from August 1974 to February 1977, Power Records issued a 1974 comic book-audio series, Planet of the Apes (which can be enjoyed on You Tube).

And that was the end of the Apes franchise—until Tim Burton’s 2001 reboot.

Numerous episodes of CBS’s live action and NBC’s animated series are uploaded on You Tube. You can sample the first episode of the hour-long live action series (Part 1 and Part 2) and the half hour animated series. The fan-made clip, seen above, is based on deleted, lost footage shot for the opening of the third Apes theatrical film, Escape. Based on the original shooting script, the segment featured the apenauts inside the space ship, seeing the Earth destroyed, and encountering the time continuum. The scene was ultimately scrapped and the film began with the ship already crash landed on Earth.

Wanna play?

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 Movies.

Firecracker (1981)

Have we ever mentioned how much we love Cirio H. Santiago?

Oh yeah. We have.

If you watch that quick clip of this movie and don’t fall in love with this movie, there’s no hope for you.

Firecracker, also known as Naked Fist, is everything you want in a mindless action movie.

Did you like seeing Cookie (Jillian Kesner) kick ass in Raw Force? Of course you did.

Did you love watching Cody Abilene (Darby Hinton) make love to the ladies and being sauve in Malibu Express? You know you did.

What if we put them both in the same movie, had them fight a lot and then throw in a love making scene where they use scissors to cut one another’s clothes off?

And what if it was gory and had dinner theater that featured martial arts battles to the death?

Kesner is Susanne, a karate instructor who travels to the Philippines — where life is cheap — looking for her missing sister. That’s when she meets the mustache that she must ride on the face of Chuck, played by Hinton. This movie has enough sexual tension to burn down the internet, intercut with all manner of ridiculous fisticuffs.

People get impaled. People get killed with snakes. People act sleazy. People eat dinner while other people fight to the death.

Some movies, you wonder, can it live up to the poster? Firecracker is the kind of movie where you wonder, “Can the poster be good enough for how awesome this movie is?”

You can watch this on Tubi.

PURE TERROR MONTH: The House by the Cemetery (1981)

About the Author: Paul Andolina is one of my favorite people to talk movies with. If you like his stuff, check out his site Wrestling with Film

The House by the Cemetery is an Italian horror film directed by Lucio Fulci from 1981. Fulci has been a favorite director of mine since I first started watching Italian horror films back in 2007. His film Zombi was one of my first forays into the milieu of Italian horror and I was hooked when I saw a zombie fight a shark.

The House by the Cemetery is about Norman Boyle and his family who move from New York to Boston. Norman is moving into Oak Mansion also known as the Freudstein house to research old houses. His colleague who was the previous tenant of the house committed suicide under unusual circumstances. Norman and his wife Lucy, have a son named Bob who sees a girl in a photo at his house in NY that tells him not to go to the house but his mom won’t listen. The house just so happened to a deranged doctor.

This film takes a while to get insane but it is so worth sticking through. If Bob’s hilarious dubbing doesn’t get you fully invested from the opening scene by the end of the film you’ll surely have witnessed something that really grabbed your attention. There is a scene where Norman listens to the ramblings of his colleague Dr. Peterson on a tape recorder that seems like the rambling of a tortured protagonist from a Lovecraft story, that is excellent.

The soundtrack is perfect for the movie and the imagery is haunting and beautiful. This film also heavily influenced Ted Geoghegan’s We Are Still Here. In fact Ted made an entire thread on Twitter on how it influenced him. If you have somehow managed to not see The House By The Cemetery yet, you should check it out. It’s pretty crazy. 

The Burning (1981)

Back in the days of VHS rental, The Burning was my holy grail. That’s because its effects were featured in Tom Savini’s book Grande Illusions, his how-to guide to creating the gore he’d so expertly brought to the screen. Like any good little gorehound, I had an autographed, dog-earned, karo-syrup sticky copy (I still have it, barely held together and hidden away in my library) that I paged through nearly every day, wishing I could see The Burning, a movie that had to be completely and utterly awesome.

I built this movie up to the kind of hype that today’s always-on social media Hollywood can only dream of, so it could only be a letdown. And I’m sorry to say that every few years, I try and go back to this movie in the hopes that this will be the viewing that makes me fall in love with the actual film. It’s never really happened. I’m not alone in this — my wife has watched the 2018 Halloween in the double digits, hoping she’ll find the same love for it that she has even for the fifth and sixth installments.

Other than the Savini effects, which live up to every bit of their promise on the black and white pages of his aforementioned book, The Burning is probably most notable for its translation of the Cropsey mythos and for featuring early appearances of Fisher Stevens (Short Circuit and Eugene “The Plague” Belford from Hackers), Jason Alexander (Seinfeld) and Holly Hunter (who went on to become an accomplished Academy Award-winning actress in Coen Brothers movies like Blood Simple and Raising Arizona).

The film comes from people who would go on to become Hollywood power players. The screenplay was written by Bob Weinstein (along with Peter Lawrence, who would write for the cartoons Silverhawks and Thundercats), working from a story by producer Harvey Weinstein (yes, the very same), Tony Maylam (who also directed) and Brad Grey (who would go on to be the chairman and CEO for Paramount).

It all came about because Harvey was looking for some way, any way to break into movies. Along with his producing partner Michael Cohl, he knew that low budget horror was a great way to do that. Swapping old horror stories, Weinstein brought the legend of Cropsey that he had heard while camping as a teenager in upstate New York and they kicked off production in 1979 with a five-page treatment called The Cropsey Maniac that predated Friday the 13th. There must have been something in the water in 1980, as while both of these films were in their various stages of production, Joseph Ellison was finishing a film he wanted to call The Burning, yet retitled to be Don’t Go in the House.  Keep in mind that this was the very start of the slasher boom, before films began self-referencing one another to death. It’s just that the archetype of young campers being menaced by a maniac was, believe it or not, an untapped well at one point in time.

That also explains Madman, which was in casting when an actress told that film’s producers that her boyfriend was acting in another movie with the same story called The Burning. As a result, that film was delayed until 1982, when the slasher wave had already started to see lesser returns.

To fund the movie, the Weinsteins formed Miramax, named for their parents. They were able to get around $1.5 million, although the movie did go over budget. Ironically, while the film depicts a monster, perhaps Harvey ended up being the biggest one of them all.

I say this because this film’s production assistant Paula Wachowiak alleged that his predatory ways were already happening on this film. One night when Wachowiak needed Weinstein to sign checks for the accounting department, he answered the door wearing only a towel, which he dropped to reveal himself to her. When she refused his attentions, he allegedly continued to harass her throughout the film’s production.

The one thing you have to give the Miramax guys credit for is that they knew talent. Getting Savini meant an audience of Fangoria nerds — like me — would line up for this film. The special effects auteur had already turned down the second go-round for Jason Vorhees, unable to understand how the character would be able to survive for so long alone in the woods, and spent just three days creating the burn makeup for the villain of this film, basing his look on a homeless burn victim he’d seen walking the streets of his native Pittsburgh.

The story starts at Camp Blackfoot, where campers once pranked the caretaker Cropsey by placing a worm-festooned skull in his bed. This starts a massive fire that engulfs the man, who emerges with third-degree burns over most of his body. According to director Tony Maylam, who also helmed the Rutger Hauer versus Aliens film Split Second, he played this antagonist for most of the film to ensure that his trademark garden shears reflected the light in the right way.

Five years — and many failed skin grafts — later, Cropsey is released from the hospital. One wonders how insurance worked in the 1970’s, because a half-decade of hospital care would cost an astronomical sum today. He hides his scars in a long coat and hat as he walks the streets, ending up in the apartment of a hooker that he dispatches with a pair of Fiskars®.

Grabbing a shiny new set of garden shears, he heads over to Camp Stonewater where he soon makes short work of an entire crew of campers. There’s Sally, Alfred (Brian Backer, Mark “Rat” Ratner from Fast Times at Ridgemont High), Michelle (Leah Ayers from Bloodsport and the second Marcia Brady for the 1990’s The Bradys series, which took that happy family and placed them into a drama that went face to face with hot button issues with unintentionally hilarious results), Todd (Brian Matthews, who acted in plenty of soap operas before becoming a therapist and running for office in Texas), Tiger, Karen, Fish, Woodstock (Fisher Stevens) and Eddy (Ned Eisenberg, who is Roger Kressler on the Law & Order shows). I nearly forgot Barbara, Dave, Marnie and Sophie.

Actually, take it from me, there are way too many campers here. Luckily, Cropsey is around to wipe them out with his garden shears, which he jams into throats and uses to cut off fingers. The real star of the show here are the Savini effects, as gleaming blades are pushed into teenage flesh, resulting in showers of blood and gore.

Sure, it takes an axe to the face and a flamethrower to kill Cropsey, but his legend continues at the close, as a new group of campers tells his story. There were plans to make a sequel, but the film didn’t do well in its original theater run. After all, it was up against not just Friday the 13th Part 2, but also Happy Birthday to MeFinal ExamGraduation Day and a re-released The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.

It was distributed by Filmways, which wanted to rename it to Tales Around the Campfire, which is a pretty decent title, but not as great as The Burning.

There was also some great talent behind the scenes. The soundtrack comes from Yes keyboardist Rick Wakeman who in addition to being a Freemason and Knight Templar also composed the scores for Crimes of Passion and She. Plus, it was edited by Jack Sholder, who would go on to direct Alone in the Dark, A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge and The Hidden.

You can get The Burning from Shout! Factory.

Strange Behavior (1981)

Also known by its much more in your face title Dead KidsStrange Behavior holds a place in New Zealand film history as the first horror movie made in the country. A homage to American horror films of the 1950s, it was intended to be part of a trilogy. However, after this movie and Strange Invaders underperformed at the box office, that was not to be.

It was relased in the UK as Small Town Massacre and ran afoul of the video nasty controversy, ending up on the Section 3 list of films.

This — and Strange Invaders — were both directed by Michael Laughlin (Two-Lane Blacktop), who co-wrote the film with Bill Condon, who would go on to direct Candyman 2: Farewell to the Flesh, both parts Twilight: Breaking Dawn and write 2002’s Chicago and The Greatest Showman.

Speaking of the word strange, perhaps the strangest thing in this movie is that while it’s supposedly based in Galesburg, Illinois, it couldn’t be geographically further from America if it tried. That’s because the movie was lensed in Auckland, New Zealand.

It all starts with the murder of Bryan (co-writer Condon), which ends with his body getting stuffed into a scarecrow.

Local cop John Brady (Michael Murphy, who has been in plenty of Robert Altman’s films) is on the case. And his son Pete (Dan Shor, who was in Wise Blood) and his friend Oliver (Marc McClure, who you’d know as 1970’s Jimmy Olsen) are learning all about the work of Dr. Le Sange from Professor Parkinson (Fiona Lewis, who was in plenty of films, but around here, we celebrate her for her work in the seminal — and semenal, really — Tintorera…Tiger Shark). Oh yeah — his dead mom (and John’s lost wife) once worked for Le Sange.

Pete wants to go to college and doesn’t have the money to apply, so he signs up to be part of the professor’s experiments. After all, Oliver did it and it wasn’t a big deal.

Or was it? Because later that night, a maniac in a Tor Johnson mask attacks and kills a boy at a party before being unmasked as — you got it — Oliver. He can’t remember anything, not even the bizarre surgical cuts that he did near his victim’s eye. That said — whoever killed Bryan and the kid at the party couldn’t have been the same person.

Despite all that, Pete stil undergoes one of the professor’s tests, swallowing pills and repeating key phrases. He also begins a romance with Caroline (Dey Young, Kate Rambeau from Rock ‘n’ Roll High School), a fellow student.

The murders only ramp up in intensity, with one woman finding her son chopped to bits in the bathroom before her throat is slashed. John, being a good cop, starts to feel that perhaps the professor has something to do with all of this, questioning her while being unaware that she’s about to inject his son in the eyeball with a concoction of mind-altering drugs.

That’s when we get the exposition — during John’s date with his girlfriend Barbara (Louise Fletcher, who everyone else will tell you was in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, but I’ll confide that she was Dr. Gene Tuskin in Exorcist II: The Heretic) — where we learn that everyone who has died — including his wife — was tied to the unethical experiments of Le Sange. Even worse, Le Sange is probably still alive, because when the lovey-dovey twosome break into his crypt — talk about a romantic date! — his casket is empty.

The end of this movie is a mix of mind control madness, a mistaken case of paternity, doctors ordering their patients to kill themselves and even a happy close. It all lives up to the title — strange — in the best of ways.

You have to love when a movie totally stops to give you a synchronized dance scene, like a slasher film variant of the same kind of stuff that used to happen in 1950’s films like I Was a Teenage Werewolf. That song — Lou Christie’s “Lightnin’ Strikes” — was also covered by Klaus Nomi.

Speaking of music, Strange Behavior also benefits from a score by Tangerine Dream. I really need to get on to writing a list of movies that thier music made even better. They rival Goblin for how many cult films they scored.

You can still grab this under its alternate title Dead Kids at Vinegar Syndrome, who have the out of print Severin blu ray. Or watch it on Shudder.