Monkey Grip (1982)

“Songs about sadomasochism and masturbation can’t be on the radio. The children! Protect the children!”
— the battle cry of the PMRC’s  membership

Courtesy of the Divinyls’ MTV’s patronage—and the conservative right’s “outrage” over the songs “Pleasure and Pain” from their second album, What a Life! (1983), and “I Touch Myself” from their fourth album, Divinyls (1991)—Sydney, Australia’s doppelganger to Akron, Ohio-by-way-of-London the Pretenders (with a little AC/DC raunch and punky Blondie in the woofers), rose up the U.S. charts.

There’s nothing quite like a little Tipper Gore-mock controversy to inject a floundering career. . . .

I remember my ex-Operations Director, with her endless stream of inane memos and made-up-week-by-week-as-you-go-along “station policies” that she’d spring on us; she loved her “write-ups” and warnings. The memo I especially remember—in the context of this film review—is the one advising us that, while it’s a “real toe-tapper” (Her words, I kid you not. Who works in radio and vocabulary-holsters “toe tapper”?), “I Touch Myself” by the Divinyls will not be added to our rotation. Forget the fact we were an alt-rock station that specialized in indie-artists and unsigned locals in the midst of a grunge wave and if a mainstream Madonna-lite copy was put into rotation, it would have be accidently-on-purpose scratched-beyond-airplay or “misfiled” into the 40-pound hallway receptacle—then buried under more trash. “Toe tapper,” indeed. But, once again, I digress. . . .

Anywhoo . . . we say “floundering” because, unlike MTV turning around the then floundering career of Duran Duran (with those bane-of-my-existence Sonny Crockett-on-a-yacht videos), the audience response (due to MTV’s low rotation) to the Divinyl’s debut American single-video “Boys in Town”—was indifference. (That song, in addition to “Elsie” and “Only Lonely” from the soundtrack, were reissued on their international debut, Desperate.) But the late Christina Amphlett had black bangs (!), looked cute on the album cover, and she’d swing a neon-bluelight mic-stand like no other. And the song was like a chick-fronted version of AC/DC; even Blondie-heavy (before that band started meandering with disco-rap hybrids and faux-reggae tunes like a pre-Crash Test Dummies annoyance). So I bought the album. It was a hell of a lot better than Men at Work. And that Men Without Hats cacophony. Oh, wait. They’re from Canada. Never mind.

And if you’re creating a Divinyls-list for the .mp3 files: don’t forget their (minor) hit cover of the Syndicate of Sounds’ ‘60s garage classic “Hey Little Girl” (changed to boy, natch) on their third Chrysalis album, 1988’s Temperamental (which my old station did play, because it fit the format). And it if all sounds like Blondie, that’s because that band’s producer, Mike Chapman (Suzi Q), is behind the boards. And if you hear of a dash of Madonna erotica in the grooves, that’s because “I Touch Myself” was written by the team of Billy Steinberg and Tom Kelly, who wrote “Like a Virgin.”

Ack! Get back to the movie!

Anyway, before the bogusversy and before MTV, there was Christina Amphlett’s AACTA nomination for Best Supporting Actress in Monkey Grip (and she never acted again). Amphlett got her part by way of the Divinyls’ rise on the Melbourne local scene—and the film called for a band whose female lead singer is the gal-pal for the film’s domestically-troubled lead character. And instead of casting actors in a lip-sync faux-band, the producers cast a real band—in a rock flick doppelganger to Nina Hagen’s Cha-Cha and Nena’s Hangin’ Out (and, in a male perspective: Michael Hutchence of INXS co-starring in the punk chronicle Dogs in Space)—the Divinyls.

Based on the best-selling Australian cult novel by Helen Graham and fueled by a six-song EP soundtrack by the Divinyls, the story follows Nora, a single-mother in her thirties scratching out a living on the outskirts of Melbourne’s alternative music scene-business. In addition to struggling to raise her thirteen year-old daughter, she has to deal with her own mental and physical abuse at the hands of her heroin-addicted lover, Javo, a mostly-unemployed theatre actor. As result of the financial and domestic instability, she squats in a number of households with other single parents in Melbourne’s local art community (the suburbs of Calton and Fitzroy; think of New York’s Greenwich Village and Los Angeles’ Silver Lake communities) of musicians, actors, and writers. Nora, as with her likeminded contemporaries, refuses to play by the rules of conventionality, torn by their competing desires for freedom and stability that’s exacerbated by their artistic endeavors.

There’s no freebie online rips. But we found this 10-minute clip of scenes to sample and a VOD stream on Vimeo. You can learn more about the influential novel behind the film with its extensive Wikipage.

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

Starstruck (1982)

Journalist Stephen Maclean was raised by his mother as she worked in a Melbourne pub and had an early career as a child actor. He wanted to make an Australian musical and ended up working with Gillian Armstrong (My Brilliant Career, the 1994 version of Little Women) and production designer Brian Thomson (The Rocky Horror Picture Show, Shock Treatment).

Despite being rated NRC (Not Recommended for Children) in its native Australia, the Jo Kennedy song “Body and Soul” (written by Tim Finn of Split Enz) went to #5 on the Australian charts.

Jackie Mullens (Kennedy) dreams of being a star while working in her mother’s pub. Her young cousin Angus fancies himself her manager, so he gets her in front of The Wombats, a local band, and gets them on the road to appearing on The Wow! Show. That said, he promises that Jackie will walk a tight rope nude to get on, which ends up getting her sent to jail for the day.

Despite dating guitarist Robbie, she soon falls for the show’s host and works on changing her sound to be more commercial. It fails, just as her deadbeat dad comes home and steals what little money her family has left.

Starstruck comes at an interesting time in the Australian movie industry, as three musicals — also including The Pirate Movie and The Return of Captain Invincible — were made between 1982 and 1983.

While this movie pretty much disappeared upon release in the U.S., it had a rental and cable audience that has kept it alive. If you’d like to join that cult, you can watch this on Amazon Prime and Tubi.

Big Meat Eater (1982)

What is it about science fiction/horror musicals and why we love those so? The more cult — beyond Rocky Horror, there’s Shock Treatment, Voyage of the Rock Aliens and The Apple — the better, right?

Allow me to present Canada’s 1982 entry to the strange symphony, Big Meat Eater.

Director Chris Windsor co-wrote, co-edited and co-wrote the soundtrack along with producer Laurence Keane (who would go on to make Samuel Lount with the third member of the writing team Phil Savath) while in film school. It’s the story of Abdullah (played by Clarence “Bull” Miller, who was a Kansas City blues shouter so loud he didn’t need a microphone; racial tensions led him to travel the world and finally settle in Edmonton), a butcher (which has to be a pro wrestling reference) who kills the mayor of town and stashes the body at his new job, working for Bob the Butcher, who lives by the motto “Pleased to meet you, meat to please you.”

That would all be strange enough if there weren’t aliens floating above town, obsessed by the large deposits of Bolonium beneath the butcher shop, reanimating the dead mayor to do their bidding. Meanwhile, everyone sings, dalmatians get turned into spotted beef and mutations abound. Oh yeah, and Bob has invented a new language for the town’s future-forward theme park.

What a magical time 1982 was, when a film like this could come out and find just the right people in the right video store to send the right wavelength to. Sure, we can find things easily now, but we can’t get as invested, right?

There was a sequel planned, Teenage Mounties from Outer Space, that never happened. We’re all the poorer for this.

You can download this on Gumroad and visit the official site and Facebook page for more information and to order the blu ray.

Desire, the Vampire (1982)

When you see the name John Llewellyn Moxey on the credits of a movie, you know you’re getting into something awesome. Just look at The House That Would Not DieA Taste of EvilThe Night StalkerNightmare In Badham CountyDeadly Deception and, well, just about everything he did. I didn’t even mention The City of the Dead and Psycho-Circus!

Originally called I, Desire and airing November 15, 1982 on ABC, who knew this little vampire film would be amongst the best ones I’d find for our vampire week? There’s a great cast — David Naughton from An American Werewolf In London makes for a fine lead, as well as Brad Dourif as a priest, Barbara Stock as the bewitching vampire, Dorian Harewood (he was in Sudden Death!) as a cop, Marilyn Jones as Naughton’s fiancee and even an appearance from Not Necessarily The News‘ Anne Bloom (or Frosty Kimelman in that long-lost HBO program).  Oh yeah — and Marc Silver, who was the guitarist in Ivan and the Terribles, the ill-fated band in Motel Hell.

There are some great twists and turns in this one, as well as an incredible vampiric apartment at the end that I wish that I could live in. I’ll assume it’s just a studio set so that I don’t get sad that I can never go back in time and see it for myself.

You can watch this on YouTube and feel the same way.

Drive-In Friday: Brett Piper Night

New Hampshire’s Brett Piper is a self-made screenwriter, director, and special effects artist who shoots most of his films in Pennsylvania, most notably in the western and northwestern counties of Cambria and Tioga County. He’s also a self-professed purveyor of “schlock” who eschews modern CGI for “old school” special effects, such as matte paintings, miniatures, and stop-motion animation.

And we, the staff of B&S About Movies, love Piper for it: For if Piper had been around during the regional era of Drive-in exploitation, we’d be warmed by the crackle of a speaker hanging on our car window. We’d rent every one of his VHS ditties from the ‘80s home video shelves, warmed by the cathode ray tube’s glow.

Piper’s resume is extensive, there’s a lot to watch: he’s directed 18 films, wrote 19, and created special effects for 22 films—for his own films as well as the films of his frequent brothers-in-arms collaborators, Mark and John Polonia (Empire of the Apes).

So if you’re nostalgic for the works of Ray Harryhausen, but burnt out on repeat viewings of that stop-motion master’s works; if you’re burnt out on today’s green-motion tracking and After Effects computer-animated extravaganzas; if you want aliens cast well-made masks and full-body suits and actors emoting alongside in-camera effects, then the films of Brett Piper are just what the VOD streaming doctor ordered.

Ice up that Orange Crush and defoil that burger . . . five, four, three, two, one!

Movie 1: Queen Crab (2015)

We’ll start off our Friday Brett Piper festival with my favorite of his films: one with best character development, acting, and special effects—and one that we have not yet reviewed at B&S About Movies. While there’s a soupçon of Ray Harryhausen in the crab pot (ugh, sorry!), this is a full-on Bert I. Gordon homage to his (very loose) 1976 H.G Wells adaptation of Food of the Gods (with an honorable mention to the Robert Lansing-starring Island Claw from 1980).

What causes the crab to go “gigantic”? A little girl brings home Pee-wee, a baby pet crab from the lake behind her house—and feeds it grapes infused with her daddy-scientist’s plant growth hormone. After her parents die in a freak lab explosion and she’s adopted by her uncle-sheriff, Melissa grows up into a tough-as-nails teenager, aka Queen Crab, who serves as protector to Pee-wee and her clan of babies—complete with a psychic link. Shotguns n’ rednecks, tanks n’ planes (well, one of each) ensues as the misunderstood crustacean who, like King Kong before her, didn’t ask for any of this sci-fi ruckus.

And speaking of misunderstood: There’s poor little Melissa, stuck in the middle of the sticks of Crabbe County with no friends and parents that constantly bicker and ignore her. She’s practically a latchkey kid with only a crab as her friend. So, do we root for the crab? Damn straight. Kick ass, Pee-wee, for Melissa is Queen in this neck of the Pennsylvanian countryside.

You can watch Queen Crab free-with-ads on TubiTv.

Movie 2: Muckman (2009)

When a TV producer’s (Piper acting-mainstay, ‘80s metal drummer-cum-actor Steve Diasparra; also of Amityville Death House, Amityville Exorcism, and Amityville Island*) career disintegrates on live TV when his report on a legendary backwoods demon haunting Pennsylvania’s Pine Creek Gorge is exposed as a fraud, he’s hell bent on redemption. When he convinces a cable TV mogul to back his quest, Mickey O’Hara heads back into the swamps with a sexy TV personality. Only, this time, there’s no need to “fake it” as the gooey, tentacled Muckman shows up—and he’s not only got the love jones for film crew member Billie Mulligan, Mucky’s brought along a tentacle sidekick of the Queen Crab variety.

Just a good ‘ol fashioned, campy monster romp from the analog days of old.

You can watch this as a free-with-ads stream on TubiTV.

The snack bar is open . . .

Thank you, Vinegar Syndrome for honoring the works of Brett Piper! Now back to the show!

Movie 3: Outpost Earth (2019)

Have you ever wondered what would happen if Bert I. Gordon produced a Ray Harryhausen-directed mockbuster of Independence Day? Well, wonder no more with Brett Piper’s most recent, eighteenth and best-produced film of his resume. And, bonus: we also get a throwback to all of our beloved ‘80s Italian apocalypse flicks** in the bargin!

Blake is the resident Trash-cum-Parsifal (known your ‘80s apoc heroes!) who teams with Kay, a radiant, supermodel bow-hunter, to help a crusty elder scientist discover the key to save the Earth from the invading alien hoards and their otherworldly “hunting dogs” in the form of giant, stout lizards.

A fun, something fresh and new watch filled with the nostalgia that we love in our films.

You can watch Outpost Earth as a with-ads-stream on You Tube.

Movie 4: Mysterious Planet (1982)

We confessed our perpetual love for this debut feature film from Brett Piper during our two-week December Star Wars blowout*ˣ in commemoration of the release of Star Wars: Episode IX – The Rise of Skywalker.

Pipers’s Star Wars-inspired take-off of Jules Verne’s Mysterious Island—by way of Ray Harryhausen’s classic 1961 film of the same name—concerns a “wretched hive of scum and villainy” band of mercenaries crash landing on an uncharted planet after a space battle. Adopting a jungle girl into their fold, they battle prehistoric snails and dragons as they make their way into a final showdown with the planet’s ancient ruler: a super-intelligent computer ˣ*.

You can watch Mysterious Planet on You Tube.

The bottom line: Brett Piper overflows with that same Tommy Wiseau-heart (The Room) and John Howard-tenacity (Spine) as he gives us a special, endearing quality with his films that’s absent from most—if not all—major studio offerings.

So strap on the popcorn bucket and ice up the Dr. Pepper and Doc Brown back to the Drive-In ‘70s with one of the greats of the retro-cinema. Keep ’em coming, Brett. We love ’em!


* We went nuts on Amityville and all of its sequels, rip-offs, and sidequels, etc. back in February with our “Exploring: Amityville” featurette. Uh, Sam? You’re the resident Amityville authority in this neck of Allegheny County. Time to get crackin’ on the newest, latest entry in the series: Amityville Island . . . and Amityville Hex, Witches of Amityville Academy, Amityville 1974, and Amityville Vibrator.

** Be sure to join us for our two-part September blowout as we explored the Italian and Philippine apocalypse of the ‘80s with our “Atomic Dust Bin” featurettes.

*ˣ Join us for our two-part Star Wars “Exploring: Before Stars Wars” and “Exploring: After Star Wars” featurettes overflowing with links to reviews of the films that inspired and were inspired by Star Wars.

ˣ* Sentient computers? Don’t forget to visit with four of sci-fi’s most-infamous artificial brains with our “Drive-In Friday: Computers Taking Over the World” featurette that posted on July 17th.

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

Cat People (1982)

Producer Milton Subotsky — all hail Amicus! — bought the rights to Cat People from RKO and began developing a remake, with the rights going to Universal eventually. Roger Vadim was going to be the director with Alan Ormsby and Bob Clark — all hail Children Shouldn’t Play With Death Things — working on several versions of the script.

Paul Schrader ended up making this, making a movie that is way more sexual — man, understatement of the year — than the film that inspired it.

Irena (Nastassja Kinski) and Paul (Malcolm McDowell) Gallier have been separated since their parents died. He’s now involved in a church in New Orleans and lives with his housekeeper Female (Ruby Dee), but has gone missing.

Of course, panther attacks start happening — look out Lynn Lowry (I Drink Your BloodThe Crazies) — and zoologists Oliver Yates (John Heard), Alice Perrin (Annette O’Toole) and Joe Creigh (Ed Begley Jr.) are on the case. They capture the panther, who Irena finds herself attracted to. If you think that this is the end of the animal and human sexual attraction in this film, well, stay tuned.

Joe ends up getting mauled by the panther, which disappears just as Paul reappears to make a Flowers In the Attic move on his sister. Oh yeah — that’s when we find out that his basement is filled with the remains of people, so everyone thinks the big cat belongs to him.

Oh man — where do we go now? We find out that in the mythology of this movie, any time one of these catpeople do the horizontal mambo with a human they turn into a cat and can only become human again by killing another person. Mama and papa Gallies were siblings because werecats are ancestrally incestuous and — oh yeah — only aardvarking between two catpeople doesn’t cause a transformation. So Paul tries to get with his sister again, just in time for Oliver to save her and her to shoot her brother.

This movie ends in perhaps the most insane way possible. Irena begs to be with her kind, so Paul ties her up and dips the stinger in the honey, as it were, until she transforms back into a panther, at which point he donates her to the zoo.

Holy cow, movies were absolutely insane in 1982. Wow and the soundtrack! Bowie and Giorgio Moroder? You can not get more absolutely 80’s than that. Oh yeah — and another RKO movie was remade in 1982. The Thing. Both failed at the box office, but only one is remembered quite so fondly.

You can get this on blu ray from Shout! Factory.

The Beast Within (1982)

Man, talk about a movie that is out to assault its audience. The poster for this says, “The shocking nature of the subject matter prohibits revealing the frightening transformation that occurs in this film.”

They aren’t kidding.

This is one of those legendary HBO movies that kids breathlessly described in my grade school classes, daring one another to watch and others claiming that it was so frightening that they kept seeing the monster from the movie in their windows.

Yeah. I can see why.

Directed by future Howling sequel maker Philippe Mora, written by Tom Holland and based on Edward Levy’s 1981 novel, Eli (Ronny Cox, RoboCop) and Caroline MacCleary (Bibi Besch, MeteorWho’s That Girl) get stuck out on an abandoned road just as some kind of inhuman monster tries to break free. It escapes, brutalizes Caroline and gets shot.

Seventeen years later, whatever it was has a son. And he’s slowly growing sicker.

Before you can debate a woman’s right to choose, their son Michael is eating and murdering everyone he can get close to. That’s because he’s now possessed by Billy Connors, the man who is really his father, a cannibal who has left behind an entire mass grave of gnawed up bones.

This movie is basically an excuse for that aforementioned transformation scene, which is amongst the most pus-ridden and disgusting moments of filmmaking the world has ever seen. In short, it’s awesome and worth watching the rest of this movie just to witness its power.

There are also some awesome foreign titles for this movie. In France, it’s known as Les Entrailles de l’enfer (The Entrails of Hell), while in Germany it’s called  The Angel Face: Three Nights of Horror.

A great cast of supporting players has been assembled, including R.G. Armstrong (Pruneface from Dick Tracy), Don Gordon (The Towering Inferno), L.Q. Jones (yes, the director of A Boy and His Dog) and a young Meshach “Hollywood” Taylor as a deputy. Paul Clemens, who plays the monstrous child of the MacCleary’s, was also in the Sybil Danning movie They’re Playing With Fire.

I can say one more nice thing: the poster for this movie is beyond great. It’s still striking and makes me want to watch this movie again nearly forty years after it was designed.

Rocco, ang batang bato (1982)

A formula, if you will: Clash of the Titans X made in the Philippines X werewolves + witches + a cyclops + vampires = Boy God, one of the strangest films I’ve seen (and just think what that entails).

Long story short: A young boy who has superpowers and is immortal battles to free his parents from the limbo where they are doing penance for their sins.

See, his parents got gunned down the night he was born and now, he’s super strong and can roll as a ball, except when he gets wet. Got it? He battles Dr. Meagele, then some werewolf witches — yes the same people — who want to cook him like a pig before a giant vampire bat attacks him and he meets the god Vulcan.

I also forgot that the Stone Boy/Boy God was of divine birth, but it feels more like The Entity than the Good News. Also: This is a kid movie.

Why Mondo Macabro hasn’t released this yet astounds me. I love those guys, but they gotta get on it. It’s the best movie I’ve ever seen where werewolf women baste a small boy while discussing how they can’t wait to eat him.

You can watch this on YouTube.

Class of 1984 (1982)

“When does a dream become a nightmare?
When do we learn to live with fear?
When we cry out for some salvation?
Why is it no one seems to hear?”

When your movie has an Alice Cooper theme song and exudes punk rock menace, you get my attention. Mark Lester’s 1982 kids against teachers drive-in epic boasts a Tom Holland story (he co-scripted as well) and a truly no future mindset.

Andrew Norris (Perry King) has come to a new school to teach music, but he’ll soon learn that this is a war. That fact is continually taught to him by Terry Corrigan (Roddy McDowall, always perfect), an older teacher who carries a gun.

The teachers are more babysitters and cops than educators. When they’re up against the gang led by Peter Stegman (Timothy Van Patten), there’s really no way that they can win.

These kids are absolutely the worst human beings ever, like movie serial villains in punk fashions. Things reach a climax when Terry’s beloved animals are murdered, sending him into a suicidal rage. And then, somehow that is topped when the gang assaults Andrew’s wife and places a polaroid of it on his podium right before a band concert. Can it get more insane? Sure. Terry and Peter fistfight on the roof, ending with the offending young person goes crashing through a window, being hung as the entire band concert watches.

Let me explain how crazy that is in real life, because the wife who gets so abused is played by Merrie Lynn Ross, Lester’s wife.

This movie is packed with stars. And by stars, I mean people only I care about like Stefan Arngrim from Fear No Evil, Keith Knight from Meatballs and My Bloody Valentine and Lisa Langlois from Happy Birthday to Me and Deadly Eyes. Oh yeah. Some guy named Michael J. Fox is in this too.

By the way, if the police station seems familiar, that’s because it was the same one as Black Christmas. And Van Patten was a renaissance man on this movie, as he wrote the concerto his character performs and even made Drugstore’s graffiti-covered shirt. He still is, as he’s the director making the new Perry Mason series on HBO.

You can watch this on Amazon Prime and Tubi.

Drive-In Friday: USA’s Night Flight . . . Night!

If you’ve spent any amount of time at B&S About Movies, you’re sick of our waxing nostalgic for USA Network’s “Night Flight” weekend, four-hour programming block that ran on Friday and Saturday nights . . . it’s what got us through middle school and high school, and even college, from 1981 to 1988. But what more can we say about the visual-arts magazine and variety program that hasn’t already been said? Just drop “USA Night Flight” into Google or You Tube or Letterbox’d and you’ll have a good night’s nostalgic reading n’ watch.

The great news is that “Night Flight” is back as an online subscription service, Night Flight Plus, and as an entertainment news and information site at Night Flight.com. The greatest aspect of the new online version of “Night Flight” is their programming of a whole new batch of quirky, underground programming — such as I’m Now: The Story of Mudhoney, American Hardcore, and L7: Pretend We’re Dead — in addition to streaming all of the ’80s classics we know and love: such as the films on tonight’s Drive-In roster: Ladies and Gentlemen, the Fabulous Stains, Liquid Sky, The Brain, and Kentucky Fried Movie.

So strap on the popcorn bucket and lite up that cathode ray tube. Let’s rock!

Movie 1: Ladies and Gentleman, the Fabulous Stains (1982)

Sam, the chief cook and bottlewasher at B&S About Movies (I just clean the grease pits, scub the grills, and mop up around here the best I can), loves this movie (as do I). And we’re both gobsmacked as to how acclaimed screenwriter Nancy Dowd made her debut with, of all things, the raunchy Paul Newman-starring sports comedy Slap Shot, moved onto the Oscar-winning war drama Coming Home and the acclaimed Straight Time with Dustin Hoffman, then one of the best football flicks of all time, North Dallas Forty, and then a second Oscar winner with family drama, Ordinary People, only to end up with a movie that was only seen by a mass audience courtesy of USA’s “Night Flight” overnight-weekend hodgepodge sandwiched between rock videos and film shorts.

How?

Well, it’s because Nancy Dowd met music impresario Lou Adler. And we met her “Rob Morton” nom de plume as result. And her rock-centric statement on female empowerment — that could have ranked alongside Times Sqaure as the greatest female empowerment rock flick of all time — became, as we look back on the film all these years later, as a slightly creepy titillation fest. Could you imagine Tim Curry’s DJ Johnny LaGuardia leering endlessly at Pammy and Nicky with the same camera-lingering “male gaze” as on Corrine, Jessica, and Tracy?

True, Adler had the rock-centric Cheech and Chong’s Up In Smoke under his director’s belt, and it was a huge hit for a first-time director. But that feature film debut for the stoner comedy-duo was not so much a narrative-movie, but a series of dope-inspired skits masquerading as a movie (as is the case with our fourth flick on tonight’s program). And sure, Adler produced The Rocky Horror Picture Show, and it was a huge midnight movie. But it was also huge a box office boondoggle during its initial release. In the end, as with the equally successful film composer and arranger Richard Baskin (Nashville, Welcome to L.A., Honeysuckle Rose) taking his first step behind the camera with the disaster that was 1983’s Rock ‘N’ Roll Hotel, Alder probably should have stuck to his forte as a record producer and music svengali and shouldn’t have been directing a movie in the first place.

In then end, while our big brothers and sisters were out hitting the rock clubs and going to concerts, we, the wee-lads haunting the middle school halls and shopping malls, fell in love with Diane Lane courtesy of Nancy Dowd’s well-intentioned rock flick airing on the USA Network. It’s what geeky, socially maladjusted kids did back then. And besides: where else can you get a punk-supergroup comprised of Paul Simonon from the Clash on bass and the Sex Pistols’ Steve Jones and Paul Cook on guitar and drums (and journeyman Brit-actor Ray Winstone from the Who’s Quadrophenia) as The Looters?

Factoid: The Looters were actually . . . the Professionals, Jones and Cook’s first post-Sex Pistols band (rounded out by guitarist Ray McVeigh and bassist Paul Myers). You can listen to their one and only album, 1981’s I Didn’t See It Coming released on Virgin Records, on You Tube. “Join the Professionals” from the film eventually ended up on the 2001 CD reissue. The Professionals, sans Jones, is back in business since 2017 and you can visit them on Facebook.

Movie 2: Liquid Sky (1982)

It goes without saying that we, the wee-lads spending our Friday and Saturday nights by a cathode ray tube’s glow, watched an edited version (as with the Mike Ness and Social Distortion-starring Another State of Mind) of this . . . well, as Sam pointed out in his review . . . we’re not really sure.

It’s a dizzying kaleidoscope of colors, music, and fashion about New York’s City’s night-life denizens falling victim to endorphin-addicted aliens extracting the “Liquid Sky” chemical from human brains during sexual orgasms — and when the human’s die happy, the aliens suck up all of that energy as well. And to what end, who knows? And who cares: it was on Variety’s top-grossing film chart for over half a year.

Star Anne Carlisle, who played both male and female roles in the film, also starred in Susan Sidelman’s (Smithereens) Desperately Seeking Susan and appeared as the transvestite Gwendoline in Crocodile Dundee (You Tube). Oh, you’ll remember that “Sheila.”

The snack bar will be open in five minutes . . . and we don’t pee in the popcorn (you’ll get the “joke,” soon)!

INTERMISSION: The shorts Hardware Wars (1977) and Recorded Live (1975)

And now . . . back to the show!

Movie 3: The Brain (1988)

Ah . . . more sinfully-quenching brain fluids courtesy of “Night Flight.”

What more can we say about this Canuxploitation shocker from writer-director Ed Hunt? If he can’t go “all in,” he just doesn’t make a movie at all: you never get run-of-the-mill storytelling with Eddie-boy. And to that not-run-of-the-mill end: you’ll root for the evil alien (we think it’s “alien”) Brain and not the dick-whiny high school hero and his screechy girlfriend. That’ll never happen in a mainstream movie and that’s what made The Brain perfect, gooey fodder for us, the wee-tween denizens of the “Night Flight” hoards.

What’s it all about? Hallucinations of inward-pressing walls, come-live teddy bears bleeding from the eyes, demon hands tearing through walls, and monster tentacles punching out of TV sets. It’s about mind control of the Don Coscarelli’s Phantasm and David Cronenberg’s Videodrome variety. It’s about Dr. Carl Hill from Re-Animator as a self-help guru of wayward teens. It’s about a giant-brain-with-teeth that munches on nosey lab assistants, it’s . . . oh, just watch it!!

Movie 4: Kentucky Fried Movie (1977)

“The popcorn you’ve just been eating has been pissed in. Film at 11.”

And with that “classic” line, disconnect your brain and just roll with the childish insanity of John Landis, Jerry and David Zucker, and Jim Abrahams — before they unleashed the likes of National Lampoon’s Animal House, The Blues Brothers, Airplane!, and The Naked Gun upon us, the wee triplex hoards (with our older ‘rents or brothers and sisters in support). This quartet of box office-bonanza writer-directors had to start somewhere . . . and Kentucky Fried Movie is it . . . and we love them for this beautiful mess of a “movie” that we watched on USA’s “Night Flight” and taped-from-cable via HBO.

Back in the day, the ‘rents let us watch Don Kirshner’s Rock Concert and NBC-TV’s The Midnight Special. But under no circumstances were we allowed to watch Saturday Night Live. It was “inappropriate” for us. It was “for the adults.” But thanks to HBO and USA, this “film” comprised of non-narrative sketches and parodies of popular films and TV commercials got by our parental guidance sensors.

This cleaned up at the Drive-Ins during its initial release, and yes, that was a night where you were stuck with a babysitter, as mom and dad went for a “night out” — without you. As I watch this all these years later — as with Midnight Cowboy with Dustin Hoffman, Shampoo with Warren Beatty, and Patty Duke in Valley of the Dolls — I fail to see what all the fuss was about.

Yeah, Kentucky Fried Movie is all about “the times” and a case of “you had to be there.” And to that end: if you’re watching this for the first time in 2020, you’ll either love it for its nostalgia, or dismissed it — the same way we then kids dismissed our elder’s variety TV series from the 1940’s and 1950’s — as “dorky.”

Be sure to join us for “Rock ‘n’ Roll Week” coming Sunday, June 19 and running until Saturday, June 25, as we’ll be reviewing a few more of the films we enjoyed as part of The USA Network’s “Night Flight” weekend programming block.

Do you want to write a “Drive-In Friday” featurette for the site? Hit us up on our Feedback form. We’d love to hear what movies you’d feature.

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