The Party Animal (1984)

David Beaird seems like the least likely person to direct a teen sex comedy. Or a boner movie. Or a lemon popsicle.

Born in Shreveport, Louisiana, he made his way to Chicago’s Goodman School of Drama and by the age of nineteen, he was already being hailed by The Chicago Tribune as “a young man who will one day be a consummate and famous actor.” He won the Joseph Jefferson Award for Best Actor in a Supporting Role for his performance in the play The Hot L Baltimore and soon after founded the Wisdom Bridge Theatre, which was inspired by a subtitle he read on a painting: “The bridge to wisdom is in the continual asking of questions.”

David, his obituary suggests, used his plays to ask questions. At Wisdom Bridge, he staged avant-garde versions of Cyrano de Bergerac and Twelfth Night while staging his own story of Socrates called Dignity and even a stage version of the comic strip The Wizard of ID. Due to health issues, he left the theater n 1977 and headed out west, which led to him directing movies.

According to an article in The Los Angeles Times around the time this was made, The Party Animal would be the movie that would start his Hollywood career.

“I found out that I could only sell this sort of film and only on the basest of terms. It was my breakthrough,” said Beaird.

One movie in and he as already showing signs of burnout: “This is movie making at its most crass. It’s no great accomplishment to achieve nudity and violence–you can buy them.” He also referred to the “great, gulping appetite for tastelessness in this teen-oriented genre.”

“I’ve watched grown men of 50 or 60–top executives in a major film company — sit around in three-piece suits and argue for half an hour about whether or not to put a whole nipple onto the widescreen. And I heard some of them say with a very straight face that perhaps only half a nipple would be far more tasteful.”

Even with all those nipples on screen — or half nipples — David tried to get his sister Joanna to bring her teenage son to watch the movie, as he was the target audience. She refused and told the paper, “I’m really angry that a man as talented as David has to make a movie this junky just to get started in Hollywood. It makes me very, very sad.”

He may have complained to his sister that she wouldn’t allow her child to see his movie, but he was going through issues of his own getting it completed. The producers made him go back and shoot more nudity, a fact that he found embarrassing. He recalled, “I was shamefully forced to go back to my cast and ask them to debase themselves.” But then he got naked too, just to show them that he wouldn’t do anything they wouldn’t do. That said — wasn’t he in a position of power and had the choice to do this and still get paid?

His next film — also for the same producers, International Film Marketing (the people who brought you Surf IINight of the DemonsToo Scared to ScreamScared Stiff and Sole Survivor) — was 1982’s Octavia, the modern-day fairy tale of a blind girl who is abused by her father and eventually assaulted by a convict. Now, The Los Angeles Times article claims that was second, but IMDB says it was made in 1982, and we all know that IMDB is totally the absolute truth, right? Right.

Also: This film and Octavia list Alan C. Fox as both writer and executive producer, going as far to say that The Party Animal was based on a story by Fox. So that’s who to blame.

The movie that most would know Beaird for would be 1986’s My Chauffeur, which has Deborah Foreman fall in love with Sam J. Jones, who is the son of her boss, played by E.G. Marshall. It’s a screwball comedy that seems out of step with the raunch of the 80s and has a great cameo by Penn and Teller. He followed that with Pass the Ammo a year later and man, that movie has a cast I’d love to see in a movie (Bill Paxton! Tim Curry! Annie Pots! Night Slasher Brian Potts?!? Anthony “Serenghett” Geary?!?) and It Takes Two the year after that, also with Anthony Geary in the cast.

Again, we go back to the obituary and learn, “His films had commercial success and led to other offers, not all of which he wanted to pursue.”

Leaving the movies behind, David founded the Whitefire Theatre in Sherman Oaks. There, he wrote the play Scorchers when he wasn’t teaching acting, giving newcomers the chance to work in his theater in exchange for their tuition.

Movies weren’t far away, however, as in 1991 that play became a film directed by Beaird. Starring a cast that includes luminaries like Faye Dunaway, James Earl Jones, Denholm Elliott, Jennifer Tilly, Luke Perry, Patrick Warburton and, yes, Anthony Geary, it also featured David’s lifelong friend and collaborator, Leland Crooke, delivering the opening soliloquy.

He also created the Fox series Key West which ran for 13 episodes in 1992. In the series, Fisher Stevens wins the lottery and follows Hemingway’s inspiration to the Florida town and a future as a writer. Working for network television didn’t seem to work well for Beaird, who went all in and wrote, directed and produced the series.

While he made one more movie in 2008 — The Civilization of Maxwell Bright — what is astounding is that one of Beaird’s plays, 900 Oneonta, played the Old Vic in London, New York City’s Circle Repertory Theater and LA’s Odyssey Theatre.

Reading of the life of this film’s creator, I was struck by just how much people loved him. And how much he loved life and being creative. His page is filled with stories of how he treated and mentored people and says that he “went out of his way to encourage and celebrate the creativity of others and sought, in his own relaxed and tolerant way, to support his friends and family.”

It also says, “He had faith in his personal artistic vision and tried to protect it from whatever self-styled experts or critics said.”

Well, he’ll never read this. But if he does, if there’s some other world or reality that allows the dead to read — or care — about long-winded nerds writing about teen sex comedies at 2:37 AM when they should be in bed, well, maybe he’ll like the fact that I spent some time considering his life and how it can inform mine.

And I can’t believe the same guy I just read about made this movie.

Pondo Sinatra (Matthew Causey, now Dr. Matthew Causeym a senior lecturer in the School of Drama, Film and Music at Trinity College Dublin who received his B.F.A. from the California Institute of the Arts, M.A. from New York University and his Ph.D. from Stanford University) arrives at his first day of college as a literal pun come to life. He falls off a turnip truck in a joke you’ll see coming for miles.

This also feels quite strange right from the beginning, as it’s structured as both a comedy where the camera can move and change shots, but also is set up as a documentary of the life of Pondo after he’s become famous. This strange break of the rules of filmmaking continues throughout the movie, but even in the life story of Beaird, it’s mentioned that he didn’t realize that he was the one who said “action” or “cut” at this stage of his career. He’d only done plays, so who knows how he was approaching this.

Note: Thanks to The Unknown Movies, I’ve also learned that Beaird wasn’t alone in the director’s chair. Harvey Hart, who was directing TV all the way back in 1955, was also on hand. It’s unclear to what capacity, but Hart was a vet, working on stuff like Dark IntruderThe PyxThe Starlost and episodes. of ColumboPeyton PlaceThe Wild Wild West and more. My theory is that one or the other of the directors shot the interview footage and edited pieces together, which explains why some shots at the end are reversed and why some bits seemingly start or close with no explanation. I really believe there was just no coverage and someone said, “Oh well.”

Back to Pondo.

There’s nothing our protagonist — B&S About Movies secret: If I hate a lead character in a movie, I refer to them as the protagonist, not the hero. Go back and read older reviews with that knowledge — wants to get laid. He wants to have sex so bad that he’d “sell his soul for a piece of ass,” at which point a blonde woman who never speaks in the movie perks up and hey, maybe she’s Satan.

He gets coached in the ways of wooing by Studly (Tim Carhart, who shows up in everything from Beverly Hills Cop III and Ghostbusters to Candyman: Farewell to the Flesh and Black Sheep) who tries everything to get Pondo in the sack with a willing partner. He even does that scene from Cyrano — a callback to Beaird’s days of Chicago stage directing — by coaching him through trying to win over one lady in the woods.

It’s easy to see why Pondo can’t get any. He’s in his mid 20s (spoiler, he’s 26, even if his tombstone says he died at 22) is always wearing a rebel flag shirt, has a room filled with rebel flags and just looks like he smells of pimento olive sweat. Amazingly, he’s played by someone who would grow up to write scholarly pieces like “The Ethics and Anxiety of Being with Monsters and Machines: Thinking Through the Transgenic Art of Eduardo Kac” but here we are.

Studly’s teachings are also supplemented by lessons from a janitor named Elbow (Jerry Jones, who the arty side of me would know from The Long Goodbye, but come on, he’s in all of Rudy Ray Moore’s movies), but that doesn’t really work either.

This movie is more kaleidoscopic than episodic, but it’s that too. At one point, we’re in a male strip club for no reason and one guy — sans kneepads — does the wild spinning jump that almost broke Johnny Castle in Dirty Dancing and the irony is that this guy is dirty dancing three years before that movie is not lost on me — and then just as soon we’re watching Pondo on stage performing the song “Party Animal” before he sees the devil. Again.

Upset that he can’t get any while Studly is in the middle of a menage a trois, he decides to hang himself, but his friend says that he will try.

Smash cut.

Pondo is getting looked at by a nurse (Joan Dykman, perhaps the only person I can think of that is in both sex comedies like this and Weekend Pass as well as a Cassavetes film, Love Streams) when he tells her his hooter is broke. Wait…that’s not what you call a penis, right? This movie confounds me because it literally has moments where it tries to deconstruct comedy without ever following or establishing the rules. Like, the Cyrano scene, does the girl know Studly is talking to Pondo? She can see it, right? And in this, doesn’t the nurse realize that Pondo should perhaps be in a place where people can work on his mental health? This is why PCPs use the seven-question GAD-7 (Generalized Anxiety Disorder) test now.

Also: Pondo has on a rebel flag polo. Where is he buying these? The weird van near my house that puts up fifty hate-filled right wing shirts every weekend and people line up and I scream really insightful things but I’m driving too fast and all they hear is unintelligible screaming and that’s their language and they think I’m on their side?

The nurse then fixes his balls with malley.

Everywhere you go on this campus, women are sunbathing, on waterslides, doing aerobics and even if they’re reading, they just wink at you as if to say, “I’m just kidding, I think this book makes me look nerdy smart hot, don’t you?” All of this while The Convertibles’ “She’s Just a Girl” plays as if we’re in on the joke but you can never be sure.

Another threeway for Studly and another suicide attempt for Pondo, but they can’t understand one another. He takes the gun out and kills one of the girls and apologizes. Studly says, “It’s alright,” and no one reacts. Is this a real universe of a ZAZ universe? The movie never tells us.

After chanting, “Hound dog is gonna eat that pussy” and learning what the word means, Pondo goes to an all-black party which is exactly where you don’t want this movie to go. Of course, he shows up in an outfit that Huggy Bear would think was too far. Like this is sub-Anthony Michael Hall in a blues club racism here. While we can only assume that Pondo is being murdered, Studly has a snake-charming belly dancer performing for him.

Smash cut.

Pondo is army crawling into a panty raid situation. If you were wondering, would Pondo dress like a woman and play strip poker with a whole bunch of ladies and look Peter Scolari unconvincing, then yes, you are correct. Will this be the scene my wife will wake up and just shake her head? Probably yes.

Again, after the strip poker doesn’t work, Pondo claims he will sell his soul for a piece of ass. Comedy works in three and there’s Satan again, but of course, there’s no payoff.

Smash cut.

Pondo gets a punk rock makeover and looks like Quasimodo and I have to admit, this movie has brutalized me — y’all are brutalizing me, I sang — to the point where a scene of our protagonist being chased by villagers with torches and pitchforks made me laugh. Then, an Elephant Man reference? Do you need to change references like that?

Smash cut.

Pondo goes to a bordello and somehow is still Quasimodo. This movie is a cartoon the entire time and now, it decides not to be. Pondo then breaks the fourth wall, for the first time, and says, “Damn. All dressed up with no place to go.”

Smash cut.

More male gaze antics and hey, slow-motion running too because the padding at this point is obvious. I really have the feeling that this is nearly two movies: an art film by Beaird and Fox and Hart thinking, “Anyone can make one of those teen sex movies.” Maybe somewhere in between?

Finally, after Studly and Elbow have a heart-to-heart, it’s time for Satan and Pondo to meet as he has nightmare visions of women and stares at himself in the mirror. He later says, “I see that girl everywhere I go. I’m even dreaming about her.”

They still don’t meet.

Smash cut.

Pondo goes to a party where he shotguns a beer, rolls a gigantic joint that he lights with a torch, takes an entire bottle of pills and then drinks a can of Coke.He then brings out a gigantic mirror and fills it with more coke than the entire budget of Scarface and cuts it with a butcher knife before the cops arrive to watch him do a mountain of it. The cops then do what cops do and beat him into oblivion.

He wakes up covered in coke and now, yes now, Satan appears.

Then he is raised from the dead in a vampire movie-looking like moment that appears lit by Mario Bava and directed by Gregory Dark before waking up in his bed.

Smash cut.

Pondo can’t ride a bike.

Smash cut,

Pondo goes to Sex ‘R’ Us, which is pretty forward for a porn store, advertising gay, bondage and TV. For some reason, the film goes to black and white here while he looks at realistic cocks. You may think it’s because this is supposed to be some kind of security footage, but I also think it’s a Sam Raimi trick where if the phalluses are in black and white and not flesh toned — like how the Deadites have multihued blood — they could still get an R. Meanwhile, the front desk guys debate the SALT missile talks and one sounds like Marlon Brando.

If my theory holds up about two different movies, this would be, I think, the Beaird art movie side, as this is one long stage scene between two actors that completely breaks the film. It has almost nothing to do with the film for a very long time until Pondo asks for help with women and buys the MX missile of vibrators.

Somehow, Pondo has an attractive girl in bed with him and he’s dressed like Napoleon. As The Buzzcocks’ “Why Can’t I Touch It?” plays– a song about not being able to trust your own senses — he blows the bomb up and you figure everyone died. Again, the movie breaks the rules it never established in the first place. If he can get this girl, why isn’t he just sleeping with her? Why does he have this outfit on? How did we get here?

Smash cut.

Pondo is back alive and at the dean’s office. This would be when the movie remembers it’s a teen sex comedy and needs some homophobic humor. What’s wild is that the dean’s secretary is played by Leland Crooke, the very same lifelong friend of Beaird that he wrote the long soliloquy for in Scorchers. He knew the guy since they were in Chicago, even appearing in Cyrano all those years ago. And here he is, playing the most mincing of roles in this aberration of a film. But hey, Hollywood.

The dean is a woman and she’s rubbing the missile dildo.

Nothing happens.

Smash cut.

Professor Schmidt is lecturing the class while a blonde winks at him. This teacher is played by Frank Galati, who wrote The American Clock and The Accidental Tourist. He’s also a Chicago theater veteran, as he was in plays at the Wisdom Bridge Theatre and directed many at the Steppenwolf Theater. Pondo asks what an aphrodisiac is and he tries to make one in the lab. The first batch takes all the hair off the head of a girl.

Pondo stays in the lab, like some kind of mad scientist, and keeps trying out his formulas on another woman. One spray even turns her into an ape.

Again, if he can get these girls into a car and on Lover’s Lane, what’s holding him back?

Two women sneak in and Pondo accidentally has his formula switched out for gas pills before Studly sets him up with Sophia Sophia (Lucy Roucis, who sadly died of Parkinson’s Disease; she’s the stand-up who makes Anne Hathaway laugh and accept her condition in Love and Other Drugs), an Italian student who is dressed in a white suit like something Sylvia Kristel would show up in.

For some reason, we are now following a traditional narrative and Pondo feeds her the pills, thinking they are going to get him laid. Instead, as you can imagine, they make her ass sound like The New York Ripper.

Only King Frat has a fart scene that seems to last longer and someone dies in that one.

I misspoke. She lights a match and the car explodes.

Smash cut.

Pondo is back in the dean’s office and all of the women that he’s hurt — which gradually pans back to reveal the bald woman, an ape, the burned-up Italian woman, someone bandaged, a woman with a beard, a werewolf, a skeleton with arms folded, one that looks like Bernie Casey from Gargoyles, The Old Witch from The Haunt of Fear and one that looks like Figrin D’an from the cantina band and did you know the music they play is called jizz? Man, George Lucas doesn’t even know how funny he can be.

“Not a pretty sight, is it Pondo?” asks the dean.

He gets thrown out of school and goes back to the lab to clean up. As he’s pouring the chemicals down the sink, the devil or Miranda (Susanne Ashley, who was in Private PassionsNo Justice with Cameron Mitchell and Camille Keaton and a cameo from Donald Farmer, and an episode of Dream On, a show that gave you clips from old movies and at least one guaranteed nude scene) makes the chemicals work. Holly,  a girl who just minutes ago scoffed at him, slaps him around and takes him right there in the chemistry classroom.

There’s a montage of them being tender, followed by her attacking him, which again made me laugh. But when Pondo cleans off the formula on his hands, he washes away the chemicals that got him laid. He gets back to the lab just in time to save what’s left of it before Elbow pours it down the sink.

Pondo drinks the entire formula and pours it on his head. Soon, he’s wearing sunglasses and a satin tiger head jacket as women crawl to be near him. The song that plays, “Rain” by Dream 6, is awesome. Oh Dream 6? Yeah, that would later become Concrete Blonde.

More on the soundtrack soon. I promise.

As Miranda looks on wearing all red, Pondo walks confidently through campus as lights turn on in each building. Women leave the beds of their lovers, even Studly loses his women to Pondo and can only watch. Why is there a Napoleon poster here? What was the lost subplot about the French leader? All we can do is wonder.

Pondo yells, “I’m a party animal!”

Smash cut.

Pondo doesn’t look as cool as he used to and is back to his rebel flag look. But as Studly takes notes and tracks how his powers work like Elizabeth Sullivan using a stopwatch to track Miracleman’s speed in the Alan Moore revival. Even at a half mile, his powers can lure any woman in.

Also: The Untouchables are playing “The General” at a party.

They go to I Phelta Thi, where the hottest women on campus live and no man has ever made it to the third floor. A leering maniacal Pondo does it while Studly can only watch and track his time. In the middle of all of this sweaty sex, the movie still has time to make fun of a larger woman.

Ah, the 80s.

I mean, ugh the 80s.

Pondo goes to see the dean and is nearly assaulted by the secretary who tries to hypnotize him and then pulls out a tube of KY Jelly. The new dean is a larger black woman, allowing two jokes about weight in a row.

All Pondo wants to do is sleep in class and read comic books, but women can’t leave him alone. As Miranda looks on, he’s chased by so many women that it seems like either Richard Lester or George Romero directed this scene.

“I have been greedy. I am like King Midas; everything I touch turns to poontang!,” laments Pondo.

Smash cut.

The movie has just remembered that it’s supposed to be a documentary as talking heads explain what happened to Pondo.

Smash cut.

Pondo is hiding in a laundromat filled with heavy women because this movie decided to go all in on weight humor. Once they realize he’s in their midst, elephant noises play.

Then we see Pondo’s grave.

“For a white boy, he did alright,” muses Elbow.

Studly lights a cigarette, cool guy again in a leather coat.

Pondo is reincarnated as a bunny with a rebel flag in its fur.

Miranda watches the same road that Pondo came in on as The Buzzcocks come back to play us out.


I would never say The Party Animal is a good movie. It’s a confounding one. I have no idea how it even adds up as I feel like the scenes I enjoyed were because I had been Stockholm Syndromed into laughing. Yet I didn’t hate the time I spent with it.

Where it really succeeds is the soundtrack. Beyond the songs I mentioned, it also has “I Don’t Mind,” “Harmony In My Head” and “Everybody’s Happy Now” by The Buzzcocks, “Right Side of a Good Thing” and “Roman Gods” by The Fleshtones, “War Across The Nation” by Chelsea, “

The UK video release has a different soundtrack slightly, as the male strip club scene has “Roman Gods” by The Fleshtones in the American cut but “Radio Free Europe” by R.E.M. in the UK. That same song is used in the porn store, which has no music in the American version.

Yes, the first movie to ever use a R.E.M. song has it in a porn scene. They must have felt like Bono and The Edge when “I Will Follow” scored an abortion scene in The Last American Virgin.

The soundtrack was never released, but someone has made a Spotify playlist here. There’s also a Mystic Record spunk/hardcore compilation called The Party Animal that came out in 1984 that has No FX playing “Ant Attack.”

I have no idea how the soundtrack happened, but some facts I did learn were that the movie was “filmed in a shut-down college in Illinois, near the Iowa border” and that a lot of the visuals from this movie — especially when Miranda appears — look a lot like Steve Miller’s video for “Abracadabra.” The same director of that video, Peter Conn, did the video sequences in RoboCop and George Clinton’s video for “Atomic Dog.”

Miranda in The Party Animal

The Steve Miller video model

I leave you with alternate titles and close off the story of David Beaird.

In French-speaking Canada, this movie was called Campus Aphrodisiaque (Campus Aphrodisiac). In Finland, Mielessä vain… which means Just In Mind… France saw it as Un tombeur de folie (A Crush of Madness) while it was Selskapsløven (The Company Lion) in Norway, El otro mujeriego en la fiesta de los animales (The Womanizer At the Animal Party) in Peru, Towarzyska bestia (A Sociablle Beast) in Poland, The Real Man Is a Wanker in Russia and Party Animal – Der Typ, der jede Bluse sprengt (Party Animal – The Man Who Blows Every Blouse) in Germany.

Obviously, this movie is why the world hates America.

Now for that story.

When The Party Animal made more than $1.5 million in its first two weeks in Los Angeles and Texas theaters, International Film Marketing offered Beaird six figures to make Revenge of the Party Animal.

He replied, “Never!”

You can watch this on YouTube and download it from the Internet Archive.

ARROW UHD RELEASE: The Last Starfighter (1984)

EDITOR’S NOTE: This was on the site back on November 1, 2020 but now Arrow has released a UHD version. The beauty of the Arrow re-release — beyond the gorgeous 4K rescan of the 35mm negative — are all the extras. Not just one, but three commentary tracks are on this (star Lance Guest and his son Jackson Guest; Mike White of The Projection Booth podcast; director Nick Castle and production designer Ron Cobb), along with interviews with Catherine Mary Stewart, composer Craig Safan, screenwriter Jonathan Betuel, special effects supervisor Kevin Pike, a breakdown on the landmark effects and even a featurette with game collector Estil Vance, who has actually made the game from the movie.

I have to say, the Castle and Cobb commentary is packed with info, from who is playing the aliens to how the effects came together to even plenty of fun asides about how they tried to tie the video game world and real movie world together. It’s like listening to two friends talk about a really great time in their life. Castle is super honest about the lack of time they had to film and things he feels could be better today. It’s exactly the kind of thing that film lovers get into the most and, as always, Arrow delivers the goods.

I also love the reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Matt Ferguson and the collector’s booklet featuring writing by Amanda Reyes and sci-fi author Greg Bear’s Omni magazine article on Digital Productions, the company responsible for the CGI in The Last Starfighter.

You can order the 4K UHD or blu ray from MVD.

As much as we decry practical effects over CGI — in the same way we demand physical media over streaming — there are times when it doesn’t have to be all that bad. I decided that instead of finding a poor example of computer generated animation, I’d share something that I love.

While the first CGI in mainstream film was probably 1976’s Futureworld (several modern techniques were innovated in this film, from an animated CGI  hand that was taken from Edwin Catmull’s 1972 experimental short subject A Computer Animated Hand and an animated face from Fred Parke’s 1974 experimental short subject Faces & Body Parts to an early example of digital compositing to place live actors over a previously filmed background), the two movies that I can really remember to use extensive computer-generated imagery were Tron and The Last Starfighter.

In place of physical spaceships, 3D rendered models were used to depict this film’s Gunstar and spacecraft. Their designs came from artist Ron Cobb, who also worked on Dark StarAlienStar WarsConan the Barbarian and wrote the initial script for Dark Skies, which Steven Spielberg rewrote into the mich friendlier E.T. He’s also listed in the credits for Back to the Future as DeLorean Time Travel Consultant.

There are over 27 minutes of effects in this film, which was a tremendous amount of computer animation for its time. However, this animation required half the time of the traditional miniature special effects, allowed the film to be made for just $14 million dollars.

That said — there are still plenty of practical effects, like the creature and Beta Unit special makeup, as well as the Centauri’s Starcar, which was a real vehicle created by Gene Winfield, who also created the spinners for Blade Runner and the 6000 SUX for RoboCop. His car design for The Reactor was used in a variety of TV shows, including Catwoman’s Catmobile on the Batman TV show, the Jupiter 6 car in the “Bread and Circuses” episode of Star Trek, Bewitched and Mission: Impossible, where it was part of a scheme to make a bank robber believe that they’d been asleep for 14 years.

The idea that video games were recruiting players for some high end military service started as an urban legend that games like Missile Command were saving information on its players so that they’d be ready to defend America from the inevitable Russian ICBM strike that was coming in the 1980’s. There was also the There’s also the weird tale of Polybius, a video game that never existed — or did it? — that was an MK Ultra style experiment unleashed on Portland, Oregon arcades that led to addiction, hallucinations and visits by the Men in Black. Obviously, those legends led to this film or this is all an elaborate piece of disinformation to hide the truth in plain site. I leave your version of reality up to you, dear reader.

Alex Rogan (Lance Guest, Halloween 2) is going nowhere, stuck in a trailer park taking care of everyone else. His scholarship has been rejected and he has to keep fixing things and watching his little brother instead of getting to spend time with Maggie (Catherine Marie Stewart, The Apple).

The only fun he has is playing the Starfighter arcade game in the trailer park, which allows him to pretend that he’s defending the Frontier from Xur and his Ko-Dan Armada.

After Alex becomes the game’s highest-scoring player, the game’s inventor Centauri visits, offering him a ride in his fancy car as a prize. He’s played by Robert Preston, who is really just reprising his role as Harold Hill from The Music Man, which is an ingenious gambit.

The car is really a spaceship and Alex is taken to meet the Rylan Star League while a Beta Unit is used to replace him on Earth. That’s when he learns that the game is actually a training unit meant to find starfighters ready to battle very real Ko-Dan Empire.

Alex is expected to be the gunner for the Gunstar along with the reptilian navigator Grig (Dan O’Herlihy, who pretty much owned the 1980’s between this movie, playing Conal Cochran in Halloween 3: Season of the Witch and the Old Man in RoboCop). However, all our hero wants to do is go home.

It takes alien assassins attacking the trailer park and the death of all of the other starfighters and Centauri — who takes a laser blast meant for our hero — for Alex to join the cause. While he fights the Armada in space, Beta and Maggie battle the Zando-Zan killers back down on good old Mother Earth.

Of course, Alex has the gift that all great starfighters need and saves the day. He lands his ship on the trailer park and takes Maggie into space with him, while his brother starts playing the game in the hopes of joining his brother.

This is a film with real heart, beyond its aspirations of being a blockbuster. It’s directed by Nick Castle, who you probably already know played Michael Myers in the original Halloween. What you may not know is that he wrote the movie Skatetown U.S.A. or directed Tag: The Assassination Game, The Boy Who Could Fly and Dennis the Menace. Plus, he, John Carpenter and Tommy Lee Wallace all formed The Coup De Villes and played much of the music for Big Trouble In Little China.

Despite the film being based on the idea of an arcade game, there never really was one despite the promise in the closing credits of an Atari-created edition. The game was actually started and would have been Atari’s first 3D polygonal arcade game to use a Motorola 68000 as the CPU. It would have used the Star Wars arcade controls and been much like the game Lance Guest plays in the film, but it was canceled once Atari representatives saw the film in post-production and decided it was not going to be a financial success. That said there were Atari home versions in development and they were eventually released as Star Raiders II and Solaris.

There is an NES game — it’s a reskin of the computer game Uridium — and Rogue Synapse created a freeware PC game in 2007 that’s very close to the game in the film.

The themes of The Last Starfighter have been repeated in plenty of other stories, like Orson Scott Card’s Ender’s Game and Ernest Cline’s Armada, which is pretty much a note for note reboot of the same story. Of course, Cline wrote Ready: Player One and works in a reference to the original film, but he wears his influences on his sleeve. Interestingly enough, Wil Wheaton read the audio version of this book — which will be a movie soon enough that’ll cost a hundred times what The Last Starfighter did and have a sliver of the soul — and he appears in this film.

Galoob planned to create a toyline for this movie that sadly never came to be. You can see images of it and learn more about it at Plaid Stallions.

If you’re looking for a great slice of 1984, you can’t go wrong with this movie. I love that it has a lizard best friend, fun spaceship designs, the Music Man conning people for money in the midst of a galactic war and even the promise of a sequel which never came. It’s the kind of movie that would always be a rental that everyone could agree on or the perfect film to veg out whenever HBO showed it for the two hundredth time.

Black Devil Doll from Hell (1984)

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Jennifer Upton is an American (non-werewolf) writer/editor in London. She currently works as a freelance ghostwriter of personal memoirs and writes for several blogs on topics as diverse as film history, punk rock, women’s issues, and international politics. For links to her work, please visit or send her a Tweet @Jennxldn

Shot on video in real Chicago locations over several years for a reported total of $10,000, Black Devil Doll from Hell is one of the most famous SOV movies ever made, preceding the more successful Chicago-based Child’s Play by four years. 

The story concerns a religious woman named Helen Black (Shirley L. Jones) in a constant struggle to remain abstinent in a society filled with temptation. It turns out, as with most religious zealots, she’s really just as horny as the rest of us. A fact revealed when she buys a puppet resembling Rick James in is “cocaine is a helluva drug” phase in a local thrift store. The sales woman warns Helen that the puppet is said to grant its owner their one greatest wish before returning to the shop on its own. Turns out Helen’s greatest wish is to get tied up and assaulted by a Rick James puppet while a stuffed bunny with a whistle in its mouth watches. <Insert Superfreak joke here>

The next day, the puppet returns himself to the shop as predicted. Helen throws away all her bibles and seduces several locals including a thief (Rickey Roach) who, upon hearing her story exclaims, “You were raped by a puppet? I’ve heard better stories than this before!” Really?? That’s a movie I’d like to see! 

Of course, no human can satisfy Helen like the puppet and she returns to the shop to buy it again. When the puppet refuses to make love to her, she threatens it. The puppet gets angry, the rabbit comes to life and Helen dies of a seizure. The film ends with yet another customer bringing the puppet home.  

Puppet porn and cheesy dialogue aside, this movie is a gem of a time capsule, filled with décor, locations and technology of the dawn of the SOV age. The opening titles and end credits, which add up to a total running time of over 7 minutes, appear to have been made on an Amiga Video Toaster. The footage is dark, blurry and grainy. The score, written and performed by director Chester Novell Turner, is a concerted effort to replicate any or all of John Carpenter’s themes with what sounds like a Casio keyboard recorded directly onto the boom box we see at 6:51 using the built-in mic. Ahhh, memories. 

The wall-mounted phone on the breakfast nook wall…the big-ass alarm clock with the annoying buzzer…it all brought back memories of a time when struggling indie filmmakers, even those armed with cutting edge 1984 tech, had to overcome many obstacles just to get their humble puppet porn finished.  

The tracking lines at the top of the frame made me long for the days of a 2-mile walk down to my local video store (housed in a barn) to rent a movie I was too young to watch, and buy a bag of Tato Skins and a Mandarin Orange Slice for later using the money I earned from babysitting and mowing lawns.  

My favorite thing (besides the foul-mouthed devil doll himself) is Helen’s lovely sofa she keeps covered in a thick sheet of plastic. If you grew up in the ‘70s or ‘80s in a working-class environment, you either knew or had in your own family an aunt or grandma who had a plastic-covered couch to “keep you kids from messing it up.” 

It’s not often modern audiences get to see a horror film like this one. There’s no CGI, and no pretentious storyline about familial trauma like the ones we get in so-called elevated horror films. It’s an evil puppet with beaded braids, a naked lady, a camcorder and a Casio keyboard. That’s pretty much it. Hey, they did the best they could, okay? It’s a miracle Chester Turner finished this film let alone sold it. Further kudos to the Turner for reportedly paying everyone involved. That’s generally not something you see in the SOV world. Especially in movies with devil dolls from hell with mad love-making skills. 

If you’re curious, you can seek out the Massacre DVD release from 2013 or watch the extended cut here:

Scream for Help (1984)

I love Michael Winner because, well, the dude was a lunatic and sometimes, he appears like the smartest director ever. And other times, you wonder if he’s ever seen a movie before. Working from a Tom Holland script, Scream for Help is pure psychodrama, a blast of absolute insanity filtered through teenage hysteria and told by a British pervert who once tried to eat nothing but steak tartare and nearly died.

Also: Winner somehow got both Jimmy Page and John Paul Jones to score his films.

New Rochelle, New York mast as well be Twin Peaks. It’s a town filled with lunatics, like Paul Fox (David Allen Brooks), the stepfather to Christie (Rachael Kelly) who seemingly is trying to kill her and her mother — and his new wife — Karen (Marie Masters).

I say seemingly and you should read that as “he’s totally trying to kill her.”

Paul is also sleeping with another insane person, Brena (Lolita Lorre), who has an even more unhinged sibling named Lacey (Rocco Sisto). All of them have this wild plan of taking Christie and her mom for all their money, then killing them, but their plan is at best nonsense and based around a set time that doesn’t matter, but who cares? This movie goes hard, stays harder and has pregnant teens getting plowed over, their boyfriends getting over it super quick, a near giallo-plot and oh yeah, a bloody deflowering that does not get glossed over in the least.

All of this set to John Paul Jones working on his first post-Zeppelin album with Jimmy Page, Madeline Bell, Jon Anderson from Yes and guitarist John Renbourn.

I have no idea how or why Antonio Cantafora shows up for a second as a man at the no tell motel. He was also in Baron BloodAnd God Said to CainThe BitchDemons 2 and so many other films. I need to know how he got into this film. Was he on vacation in the U.S.?

This movie is an Afterschool Special with boobs.

You did it again, Michael Winner.

In preparation for this movie, Winter spent time in New Rochelle meeting and speaking with teenage girls to audition for the lead role. Unfortunately, some of the local townsfolk suspected him of being a child molester. Winner knew the local chief of police, who talked them out of that, but if anyone was dangerous to be around nubile teens, it was Michael Winner.

Also: This was to be the third movie that Richard Franklin would direct from a Holland script after Psycho 2 and Cloak and Dagger. Franklin ultimately decided he didn’t want to do another low budget movie, so IMDB says, but those other two were not low budget. The movie that Franklin would have made would have been technically better, but it would not have been as memorable.

Here’s a drink.


  • 2 oz. J&B (or whiskey if you’re afraid of the taste)
  • 1 oz. amaretto
  • 5 oz. root beer
  1. Pile up a glass half full of ice.
  2. Pour scotch, then amaretto, then root beer.

April Ghouls Drive-In Monster-Rama Primer: Silent Madness (1984)

April Ghouls Drive-In Monster-Rama is back at The Riverside Drive-In Theatre in Vandergrift, PA on April 28 and 29, 2022.

The features for Friday, April 28 are Silent Night, Deadly NightChopping MallSlumber Party Massacre 2 and Sorority House Massacre.

Saturday, April 29 has ManiacManiac CopThe Toolbox Murders and Silent Madness.

Admission is still only $15 per person each night (children 12 and under free with adult) and overnight camping is available (breakfast included) for an additional $15 per person. You can buy tickets at the show or use these links:

Silent Madness (1984): Shot with the ArriVision 3-D camera system, Silent Madness wasn’t just late to the 80’s 3D revival, it was late to the slasher madness too. It was directed by Simon Nuchtern, president of August Films. He brought over plenty of foreign films and had them re-edited for American tastes, like the film that the Findlays shot in Argentina called The Slaughter, which was released as Snuff. He also brought Karate Kiba to U.S. theaters with a new open and called it The Bodyguard and that’s why we call marijuana chiba, as well as directing New York Nights and Savage Dawn.

You have to love how Wikipedia has the writer of this movie, Bob Zimmerman, linked to Bob Dylan. Nope. This Bob was part of the camera crew for Don’t Go in the House and Nightmare. His co-writer was Bill Milling, who may be better known as an adult director using the names Philip Drexler Jr. (A Scent of Heather) and G.W. Hunter (Heart Throbs), Craig Ashwood (All American Girls), William J. Haddington Jr. (When A Woman Calls), Chiang (The Vixens of Kung Fu (A Tale of Yin Yang), Jim Hunter (Up Up and Away), Luis F. Antonero (Temptations) and Bill or Dexter Eagle (Virgin Snow). Some of the dialogue was written by Nelson DeMille, who would go on to write the book The General’s Daughter. They were all working from a story by Nuchtern.

The Cresthaven Mental Institute is, charitably, a mess. It’s also packed with patients, so they decide to just declare several of the patients cured, which means that Howard Johns (Solly Marx, Honcho from Savage Dawn, the Samurai from Neon Maniacs and plenty of stunt work too) is let go instead of John Howard. Years ago, after peeping on some sorority sisters, they had decided to strip for him — because that’s how we dealt with Me Too moments back then, kind of like giving someone a whole carton of cigarettes to smoke when all they wanted was one, and that’s a bad euphemism and I don’t condone this kind of behavior — and he lost it and killed them all. So to prove that the nature vs. nurture argument is a joke and the seventeen years of treatment did nothing, the very first thing John does when he gets released is kill an aardvarking couple in their van with a hatchet and a sledgehammer.

Dr. Joan Gilmore (Belinda Montgomery, who has been the love interest for The Man from Atlantis, Crockett’s ex-wife on Miami Vice and Doogie Howser, M.D.‘s mother) realizes that something smells bad in Denmark — or Cresthaven — and starts looking into this, only to learn that Howard Johns was already dead when the computer snafu happened. She teams up with a reporter and goes undercover as a legacy at the sorority where everything when wrong all those years ago, because she obviously realizes that she’s in a slasher movie and the killer always comes back to the scene of the crime.

There are so many plot threads going on here. There’s also the conspiracy at the mental hospital and the cyborg experiments being done on the patients that goes nowhere. Additionally two killers hired by Dr. Kruger* (Roderick Cook, who shows up in two of Becca’s favorite childhood films, 9 1/2 Weeksand Spellbinder, movies no seven-year-old should be watching and that’s why I love her) are on hand to kill off our protagonists. And there’s the killer coming back to the sorority house.

I’ve gotten this far and forgotten to inform you that Sydney Lassick (sure, he was Mr. Fromm in Carrie, but he’s also in Skatetown U.S.A.1941AlligatorThe Unseen and shows up as Mr. Lowry in Lady In White) plays the law in this and the house mother is Viveca Lindfors (The Bell from HellCreepshow). And two of the teens — Janes and Paul — are played by Katherine Kamhi and Paul DeAngelo, who we all know better as Meg and Ronnie from Sleepaway Camp.

Oh! One of the sorority girls — Barbara — is Elizabeth Kaitan from Silent Night, Deadly Night Part 2Friday the 13th Part VII: The New BloodRoller Blade Warriors: Taken by Force and, of course, Candy from Vice Academy 3 through 6.

Shot under the title Dark Sunday, with alternate names thrown about like Beautiful Screamers, The Omega Factor” and The Nightkillers, I have really no idea why this is called Silent Madness.

Teens are killed by vice, by steam, by nailgun and by aerobicide, while drills and crowbars and broken mirrors take out some of the antagonists. You’ll wonder, when we knew that toxic masculinity and the health care system were both the biggest issues we’d be facing as a society way back in 1984, why did we just concentrate on making sure the slasher killer was dead instead of working on the root cause? And that’s why we are where we are, except you know, there’s no real Jason Vorhees. Or Howard Johnson. Or John Howard.

*Seeing as how this was really shot in 1983, it’s prescient that the bad guy has that name and works out of a boiler room.

Here’s a drink to go with the movie.

Watermelon Madness

  • 1 1/2 oz. vodka
  • 1/2 oz. Watermelon Pucker
  • 1/4 oz. triple sec
  • 4 oz. cranberry
  1. Really easy. Just pour alcohol together over ice, then top with cranberry juice.

April Ghouls Drive-In Monster-Rama Primer: Silent Night, Deadly Night (1984)

April Ghouls Drive-In Monster-Rama is back at The Riverside Drive-In Theatre in Vandergrift, PA on April 28 and 29, 2022.

The features for Friday, April 28 are Silent Night, Deadly NightChopping MallSlumber Party Massacre 2 and Sorority House Massacre.

Saturday, April 29 has ManiacManiac CopThe Toolbox Murders and Silent Madness.

Admission is still only $15 per person each night (children 12 and under free with adult) and overnight camping is available (breakfast included) for an additional $15 per person. You can buy tickets at the show or use these links:

Silent Night, Deadly Nigh(1984): At one point in this movie, Santa Claus gets shoved down by Billy, our hero, and he yells, “What the hell is wrong with that kid?” And I yelled in defense, “Santa raped his mom, you fucking asshole!”

Merry Christmas, everyone, it’s time to descend into the absolute nadir of scummy movies and watch something that parents were right to worry about their kids watching.

Christmas 1971. Billy Chapman and his family go to see his grandfather in a nursing home. The silent, senile old man just sits there, but when Billy’s parents walk away, he tells him that he should be afraid when Santa comes, because he knows that Billy hasn’t been a good boy. On the way back, Billy’s parents slow down so he can see Santa walk along the road. Billy is already freaked out, but then Santa shoots Billy’s dad before raping and killing his mother — all while Billy and his infant brother Ricky watch.

Christmas 1974. Billy and Ricky celebrate in an orphanage. Well, there’s not much to celebrate. There’s non-stop punishment from Mother Superior and only Sister Margaret and Ricky are there to help Billy. Every holiday, our hero goes insane, drawing pictures of Santa killing his family and punching people dressed like Santa.

Christmas 1984. Sister Margaret gets Billy a job at a toy store, where things seem to be looking up. Billy even gets a love interest, Pamela, who he has wet dreams about that are interrupted by visions of Santa killing his family. Alright, I lied. Nothing is looking up, because Billy’s boss has a new job for him: he has to be Santa for Christmas Eve.

There’s a scene where Billy tells a young girl on his lap that he’s going to punish her — while two moms look on approvingly — that is total insanity. Sister Margaret calls while this is happening to see how Billy is doing, only to learn that he’s doing the one job he never should be doing.

There’s a party in the store and Billy leaves on the Santa suit. The owner tells Billy to keep on drinking and he’ll think he really is Santa Claus. Pamela leaves with Andy, the employee that always gives Andy a hard time. As Billy follows, he sees them making out, but soon Andy starts to rape his love interest. Billy responds in the way that any rational human being would: he hangs Andy with Christmas lights and stabs Pamela while describing how punishment is good.

Billy has followed his boss’ advice: time to do what Santa does on Christmas Eve. Billy’s version of Santa? His job is to kill. Billy lives up to that job description by killing his boss with a hammer and the store manager with a bow and arrow. Seriously, this movie has gone off the rails. Even scenes where people sing carols take on menace and dread.

Billy can’t stop his rampage now. He kills a young couple just for having sex, impaling the girl on a deer’s antlers and throwing the guy out the window. Talk about reindeer games! He then wakes up a little girl in the house and keeps asking her if she was naughty or nice. When she answers nice, he gives her a knife!

Don’t be a bully harassing sled riders in Billy’s neighborhood either, because he’ll chop your head right off.

Sister Margaret turns to the police, who rush to the orphanage. One of the cops screws up on arrival and kills a cop dressed as Santa right in front of a kid. Santa lives matter! He pays for his naughtiness by getting axed by Billy, who makes his way into the building to  confront Mother Superior. She taunts Billy, telling him she doesn’t believe in Santa. Billy goes to kill her and is shot by a cop. Sister Margaret is sad that Billy is dead and tenderly touches his face. Yep, a nun is sad that a serial killing Santa Claus has been stopped from killing another nun. Such is this movie.

Billy dies, but not before telling the kids “You’re safe now, Santa Claus is gone.” Ricky, his brother, looks at Mother Superior and says one word: naughty.

Ricky would return in Silent Night, Deadly Night Part 2 and Silent Night, Deadly Night 3: Better Watch Out!  There were also two unconnected sequels, Silent Night, Deadly Night 4: Initiation and Silent Night, Deadly Night 5: The Toy Maker, as well as 2012 remake, Silent Night.

Originally, this film was released by Tri-Star Pictures. But people weren’t ready for it. Maybe they’re never ready for it. Parents groups demanded that the film be removed from theaters and the ad campaign, which ran during family-friendly shows, scared the seasonal shit out of plenty of kids.

People even protested the film, standing outside and singing Christmas carols. This movie was the Crispus Attucks in the War on Christmas!

Silent Night, Deadly Night was later re-released by Aquarius Films, who obviously gave zero fucks. They’re the folks who re-released Cannibal Ferox with the amazing title Make Them Die Slowly and transformed Zombie Holocaust into Doctor Butcher, M.D.

Critics were…unkind to say the least. Gene Siskel read the names of the crew on At the Movies with Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert to shame them and the LA Times claimed the film was one of the worst of all time. Leonard Maltin also gave the film zero stars. Oh yeah? Bah humbug!

Silent Night, Deadly Night came from Charles Sellier, who also was responsible for TV’s The Life and Times of Grizzly Adams, which was based on a book he wrote. According to Wikipedia, “Sellier was born as a Cajun Catholic, later converting to Mormonism and then to evangelical Christianity.” What is a Cajun Catholic?!?

Maybe this is why — other than this film — Sellier was known for creating family-friendly movies and shows with Christian themes, like In Search of Noah’s Ark and In Search of Historic Jesus. To be fair, he also produced some ridiculous conspiracy stuff like Chariots of the GodsBeyond and Back and 1980’s Hangar 18 (another TV commercial that gave me nightmares), as well as various apocalyptic, Da Vinci Code and far-right Christianity documentaries.

Sellier was a believer in market research and the master of four-walling, a practice where he rented out theaters and kept the profits for himself. This enabled him to, in the words of his IMDB bio, gain “the distinction of having more pictures in the Top 50 independent grossers than any other independent producer in the 1970s.” He also produced The Boogens! Man, I wish Charles Sellier was still alive so I could find out how he came to make a movie as blissfully batshit as this one!

Needless to say, I loved this movie. It’s a gutter crawling piece of pure garbage, perfect for my holiday season (or a night at the drive-in). I savored it by literally screaming my throat raw whilst dancing around my living room in pure holiday celebration!

APRIL MOVIE THON 2: Alley Cat (1984)

April 8: Film Ventures International — Share a movie that was released by Edward Montoro’s company. Here’s a list!

Alley Cat has three directors. I have no idea why, but Victor M. Ordonez (who is in Nine Deaths of the Ninja and Hellhole), Ed Palmos and Al Valetta (who is in Sole SurvivorRunaway Nightmare and Hollywood’s New Blood) all had their hand in this movie, leaving Robert Waters, who also wrote Fighting Mad, to write the actual story.

Billie (Karin Mani, who was also in Avenging Angel) is our heroine Billie. She starts the movie by stopping some scumbags from stealing her car. They go their boss Scarface (Michael Wayne), who decides that he’s going to turn this tiger into an alley cat, a plan that starts by putting her grandmother in the hospital and beating her grandfather something fierce. The one good thing that happens is that she falls for a cop named Johnny (Robert Torti), who ends up having to arrest her with his partner Boyle (Jon Greene) when she defends some joggers from the very same criminals and has a gun without a permit.

When Billie goes to court, she pays twice the fine of the rapists, whose victims are intimidated by Scarface and never show. Billie reacts like a manaic, gets charged with contempt of court and turns her movie into a WIP film for a little, complete with requisite shower moment.

This is the only women’s revenge movie — yes, Billie gets out and gets said payback — in which the lead character eats at an Arby’s. The old Arby’s, before they had the meats and all they had was that giant beef hat on the sign. And oh yeah — while she’s in jail, her grandmother dies and Billie is robbed of those last moments, so even though her boyfriend wants to legally deal with Scarface, you will be hoping that she shoots him right in the dick.

Day of the Reaper (1984)

Shot for $1,000 in Florida on Super 8 — yes, so much SOV is another format, but go with this — Tim Ritter and Joe Preuth made a movie that is basically two teenagers playing Jason and The Shape in their sunburnt hometown and yet there are moments that transcend just dicking around with a camera.

For 70 minutes, a hooded killer (Todd Nolf) does what he does best: kill. Kill and kill and kill and kill, killing bikini girls, killing people in white cutoffs, killing as he menaces Jennifer (Cathy O’Hanlon), the only survivor of his killings from before when he killed now. He can’t stop. He won’t stop. Even death can’t stop him. Even his opposite number, his mind destroyed by the electric chair and the sinister therapy of Doctor Bloch (Patrick Foster) to become an unstoppable force of destruction can’t stop this. Nothing ever will.

Do you know how Ritter raised the money for this? He washed dishes. How many dishes did he have to wash, how many hours did he have to touch half-eaten food from strangers, to earn the money to fill the screen with bending video fuzz, scorching your ears with drone synth, messing with your sense of story by just having the death be the story?

This whole movie is made with ADR sound and a soundtrack that sounds like the synth parts that go whoosh on Van Halen albums when Eddie got sick of playing guitar once he lapped everyone else. What’s even more amazing that by the end, the lack of explanation comes up against exposition that gets so dense, like a pro wrestling fan bugging you with lore that even most of the grapplers haven’t considered. The Festival of the Sanguinary finds one violence-obsessed person every seven years to become a specter and therefore become undying and eventually, it will kill everyone on Earth unless you cut out its heart and eat it in time.

There are just as many people that love this that hate it. Perhaps you will only see the flaws, the lack of budget and the fact that this movie was made with no experience. Or, and I hope this with all my still beating cholesterol ridden heart, that you see past that and allow it to take you over, like when you eat way too strong of an edible and have that sinking feeling that any moment you are about to be overtaken by a high that you may not be able to ride out but then, where is it you wonder, so you take even more and you’re overtaken by tracking lines and sticky corn syrup and food coloring blood melting in the humid Florida sun.

Herschell Gordon Lewis once made a mess here too.

You can get this from SRS.

Screambook (1984)

Joseph Zaso did better than make a whole bunch of shot on video films in his childhood. He made all of them available on his YouTube channel.

Made when he was just 14 years old, you can see the skeletal hands of Creepshow all over this horror anthology, which even has handdrawn panel intros to every story and the first one, “Family Reunion” is completely “Father’s Day” except that instead of being made in Pittsburgh, it’s shot in a muddy backyard in New Jersey. That said, there’s even an attempt to put the Bava-esque colors into this scene and yeah, maybe it’s not perfect, but it’s pretty fun. Also: instead of Ed Harris and Viveca Lindfors, this is performed by a cast of teens with the big haired girls significantly further along into young adulthood than the boys.

The dead body back from the grave keeps saying, “Come to my renunion” and it makes me laugh every single time. There’s also a preponderance of people reading cue cards which is equally charming, as are the giggles that the maid keeps having as we approach the end of thee first story.

In “Tommy,” we’re introduced to, well, Tommy, a kid who gets locked inside a cardboard box for years and emerges as a monster. Props to Zaso for obviously shooting some of this segment in his high school.

“Secret of the Bottle” uses the pause bottom to give a great bit of exposition over footage as a scientist gets the gift of whiskey that transforms him into a monster. Also: prank calls and because kids are interchangeable with adults, it’s difficuly to determine the age of anyone within this story. This story is amazing because it has a Ben Cooper masked monster that looks kind of like the cover of Dr. Octagon’s first album who is slow motion moving toward a child victim who merely deadpans, “Oh, my God.” This segment has a total murderdrone of a car driving first person over piano music before  a jump cut to a girl getting yelled at by her mother.

It also has a visit from grandma right in the midst of it, which is the kind of casting I love in SOV. This  is followed by a young girl being beyond annoying as the old woman tries to read and oh man, the slow motion is astounding in moments as this moves outside and gets distorted and is distortion never not amazing?

“The Toy In the Window” has a drawing to SOV match cut, which is pretty wild, followed by a living room turned into a toy store with blankets and drapes, as well as Cyndi Lauper showing up on the soundtrack. I love that this segment has adults that were roped into this madness. This segment also has prank phone calls which is totally on-brand for the teenage years.

“Worms” has kids in a classroom listening to 38 Special’s “If I’d Been the One” and torturing their teacher with worms which are really just pasta. I mean, this dude gets put through worm upon worm. Then his stomach explodes and worms pour out of him, accompanied by tracking and static and I don’t think I’ve been this happy in probably months.

You have to enjoy a filmmaker who names his company Splatter FIlms and has ads for future projects throughout this movie. Zaso is still making movies and has grown from these humble beginnings, but I think it’s great that he’s shared them. I’m certain that like me, he was drawing and writing in every class and barely paying attention to boring high school classes that in no way help him today in what he does for a living.

You can watch this on YouTube.

Blonde Death (1984)

Teenage Mother may have been 9 months of trouble, but Tammy the teenage timebomb is eighteen years of bottled-up frustration about to explode.

Vern (Dave Shuey) and Clorette (Linda Miller) have moved Tammy (Sara Lee Wade, who was a set dresser from Friday the 13th: A New Beginning and Return of the Living Dead and worked in props on Lady In White and was also in Darkroom) from Mississippi to California and now that she’s off the farm, she’s never going back.

But despite the Baptist veneer, maybe Vern’s a little turned on when he spanks Tammy and how he used to let her wear mommy’s high heels and walk all over his face. Mother isn’t much better, giving forced enemas to her daughter as punishment, so is it any wonder that when tammy meets Link (Jack Catalano) she goes all Mallory Knox and the two of them are in and out of bed when they’re not killing everyone in their way and oh yeah, staying away from one-eyed obsessed girlfriends and prison boyfriends and dead bodies stinking up the joint, but these two make anything a party.

After all, Tammy says, “By the fourth day Burt was starting to stink pretty bad. But we even turned disposal of his body into a fun-packed afternoon.”

References to Richard Gere being a coprophagy fantasy object, a last girlfriend who stood up on the rollercoaster and lost her head and an audacious final beat that was filmed — with no permit, come on, this is a $2000 SOV blast to your brain — inside the Magic Kingdom.

The James Dillinger who made this was really James Robert Baker, who left a “stifling, Republican Southern Californian household” to explore speed, booze, art and his hidden homosexuality as his father sent a private detective on his tail. He ended up going to UCLA for film and made two movies, the one we’re talking about and Mouse Klub Konfidential, which tells the story of a Mouseketeer who becomes a gay bondage pornographer and came so close to celebrating Nazism that the 1976 San Francisco LGBT Film Festival was scandalized and may have caused Michael Medved to abandon his dream of film making and instead become a film critic or whatever the fuck he is.

After five years of writing scripts, he was already burned out on Hollywood and started writing novels like Adrenaline, in which two lovers on the run battle homophobia and the oppression of gays in a Republican-dominated America; Fuel-Injected Dreams, which is about Phil Spector; Boy Wonder, the oral history of Shark Trager, who was born in the back seat at a drive-in movie and became a filmmaker and Tim and Pete, in which the lead characters deal with the AIDS crisis by planning to kill Reagan. That book was so controversial that he was labeled “The Last Angry Gay Man” and he couldn’t find anyone to publish his later books.

Baker ended up killing himself with carbon monoxide in his car, just like two of the characters in this movie, which is a tragedy. After his demise, he became better known and Testosterone became a movie in 2003.

This gets compared to John Waters a lot but I think that’s because it’s the easiest comparison to make. People really talk like this, this kind of filthy explosion of violent noise and you can hear the need to be heard in every word. Now, you may have to strain to hear it, as the video quality is, well, shot on video in 1984 but you should lean in as close as you can.

You can download this from the Internet Archive.