Complacent (2012)

Two sisters, Myah Sanderson and Beth Wilkensen, struggle with their differences but have settled in to whatever life is going to be, just trying to get through another day of life. Finally, one of them can no longer take it and tries to break out of the rat race, the day to day drudgery, and it sets up a chain reaction that everyone must deal with.

Complacent is a movie that attempts to do what Crash — no, not the one with the automobile crash obsession — and Magnolia did so well. So does it succeed?

This was written and directed by Steven R. Monroe, who usually delivers fare such as It Waits, the 2010 remake of I Spit On Your Grave (as well as the 2013 sequel) and, as we’ve realized by now, holiday movies, which seems to be the twin genre to scary movies. He’s made A Bramble House ChristmasChristmas ConnectionChristmas In HomesteadChristmas Tree LaneReunited at Christmas and The 12 Disasters of Christmas.

Speaking of horror, leads Celina Vincent and Joey Kern were also in Cabin Fever. You may have also seen her in Not Another Teen Movie and as Maya the Yellow Ranger in Power Rangers Lost Galaxy. And oh yeah — big for all horror fans, Adrienne Barbeau is also on hand!

If you love eighties films, this is Kerri Green’s (LucasThe Goonies) first acting role in over a decade. Nineties movies? Elisa Donovan from Clueless and A Night at the Roxbury is in the cast.

Other actors and actresses appearing include Keir O’Donnel (who was in the TV show Project Blue Book, as well as Wedding CrashersAmerican Sniper and played Ben Schmidt on the Fargo TV series), Michael Worth, Christopher Showerman (who played George of the Jungle in the 2003 direct to video sequel), Melanie Monroe, Tate Berney (a child actor who I think I auditioned for a paint commercial a few years back), Dean Alioto (who directed The McPherson Tape, which AGFA just re-released), Carson Durham, Leif Gantvoort, McLean McGown, Allie Smith and Jan Munroe.

There are moments of long silence and just staring as music plays over the film, like some icy break people the dialogue. These types of drama movies usually don’t work for me — if you read our site, you know that my heart lies in the blood soaked films of foreign countries, but if you enjoy family drama and lives caught in the balance, perhaps you will enjoy this. As for me, it just reminds me of extended family dinners that feel as if a stick of TNT has been lit and we all either attempt to blow out the fuse or relight it, depending on our temperment.

It has a decent budget and, as we mentioned above, several actors and actresses that you’ll recognize from the past.

Complacent is available on demand from Amazon, Apple, Google, Mtonomy, VUDU and other platforms. It was on Netflix for a period of time, so if you think you may have seen this before, that may be where it was.

2020 Scarecrow Psychotronic Challenge Day 31: Halloween Revenge of the Sandman (2012)

31. I REMEMBER HALLOWEEN: Something from the Halloween franchise or anything with trick or treating in it. You did it! Another successful challenge achieved. Now you can stuff yourself with candy and listen to The Misfits.

We’ve watched every Halloween movie in this house so many times that sometimes, I just play the soundtrack album from the second and Becca does the dialogue while I chase her around and scream things like, “An hour ago I fired six bullets into him and he just walked away. I am talking about the real possibility that he is still out there!”

Anyone who has spent more than ten minutes with me knows how I feel about the series (one great, two both better and worse yet more giallo, three should have had a different title but still great, four has a good opening, five has some interesting idea, six is lovable for how it takes the series in an occult direction, then you can just stop watching), so when this challenge came up, I decided to take a look at a fan film of the series.

Fan films are interesting to me. I remember when I first started watching them at Star Trek conventions in my youth and they looked amateurish, shot on video and filled with hammy acting and bad effects. However, today’s iPhones and free editing tools — not to mention consumer-available tech — enable anyone to make a movie that looks as good or better than the genre films streaming online.

Written and directed by Ron McLellen, who also made 2009’s The Return of the Sandman and 2013’s Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The New Blood, this is a polished reimagining of the Michael Myers mythos. The film begins with exactly what happened when the young Michael was taken to the emergency room by cops, then wisely takes a riff on the autumn farmland opening visuals of the fourth film before settling in to tell another side of the story.

Adding more authenticity to the film is the location. Shot at The Myers House NC, a life-size replica of the infamous house, located in rural Hillsborough, North Carolina. Several other films have been made there, including  Judith: The Night She Stayed HomeScarecrow at Midnight and Honeyspider.

I remember someone once saying of comic books, “Everybody is somebody’s favorite character, so writers should be careful with them.” That’s how I feel about this movie. There are numerous people who only enjoy the first film in this series, while others pick and choose favorites and folks like Becca love each and every one of them. It also all depends on when you were born, as for many, the fourth through six entries may have been the first ones they could experience first-hand. This movie feels like it was made for those that really came in the series in that era, but want to see more of side characters like Ben Tramer and Brady Brackett.

Your enjoyment of fan films will depend on how much you tie the characters into the actor’s playing them. Obviously, no one is ever going to be better than Donald Pleasance. But if you can get past that — and have sixty minutes or so of free time and have seen all the other movies inthis series — you can at least have a few new Halloween films to watch this year while waiting for the pandemic to end and Halloween Kills to be released.

You can watch this on YouTube and learn more at the official Facebook page.

2020 Scarecrow Psychotronic Challenge Day 12: These Walls (2012)

DAY 12. THE FIRST WAVE: One by an indigenous filmmaker or indigenous cast members. 

Doreen Manuel is the sixth child of Grand Chief Dr. George Manuel and Marceline Manuel. From perusing her official site, I’ve learned that she’s a graduate of the Aboriginal Film and Television Diploma Program (AFTP) at Capilano University and earned her Master of Fine Arts in Film Production from UBC.

This film is informed by her extensive background working in First Nations education and community development in both rural and urban centers. And beyond that, she comes from a long line of oral historians and factual storytellers.

This is a short film with a big story behind it. The heroine, Mary (Grace Dove, an indigenous actress based in Vancouver, BC and Los Angeles, CA who appeared in The Revenant) and her mother Claire (Andrea Menard) discover the skeletons of children and babies at what is claimed to be a Catholic reservation school but what may as well be a concentration camp.

Despite her mother’s warnings, now Mary must confront the past that Claire has worked so hard to escape. Can the bones being taken away from the school destroy so much pain?

I was shocked just how much story fit into only nine minutes of running time. This deserves to be a much longer — and much more widely seen — story.

You can watch this movie on YouTube.

2020 Scarecrow Psychotronic Challenge Day 6: The Campaign (2012)

DAY 6. POLL PLOT: One that involves elections and/or voting.* Government not required.

While the election is something I try to avoid every single morning, I do have to say that The Election is a movie that continually makes me happy. Sure, it’s a big dumb Hollywood comedy, but it’s filled with just enough abject stupidity to make me laugh. Sometimes, that’s all you need.

Cam Brady (Will Ferrell) is a five-time North Carolina Congressman, running unopposed when he leaves an explicit message for one of his supporters on her family’s answering machine, throwing his candidacy into question. Soon, he has an opponent — Marty Huggins (Zach Galifianakis), who is the tourism director for the town of Hammond. Marty isn’t really made for the political machine, but thanks to the nefarious Motch Brothers (Dan Aykroyd and John Lithgow) and their ruthless campaign expert Tim Wattley (Dylan McDermott), soon the race is on.

Cam is a mess, either drunk driving or punching babies while Marty is a hapless fool. At heart, they’re both good men who have been pulled through the political machine, forced to become things that they don’t want to be.

Jay Roach went from films like Austin Powers to this and finally Bombshell, which takes the humor of this and adds it to a true — well, mostly — story. The script, taken from a story by Adam McKay and written by Chris Henchy and Shawn Harwell, is on the right side of clever versus stupid, which is continually the finest of barriers.

A native of North Carolina, Galifianakis’ uncle Nick had been a State Representative, yet lost the 1972 Senate election to Jesse Helms. Much of this comedy comes from truth, which is always the right place.

I also find it fascinating that Dan Aykroyd’s career has taken him from playing Louis Winthorpe III to now basically being one of the Duke brothers.

Triple Fisher: The Lethal Lolitas of Long Island (2012)

Back in 1992, the news cycle was dominated by Amy Fisher, a sixteen-year-old girl who had an affair with auto mechanic Joey Buttafuoco, the auto mechanic who had continually fixed her car. As their affair reached its close, she ended up heading to his wife’s house and shot her in the head twice.

Somehow, Mary Jo Buttafuoco survived and Fisher was named as the suspect, serving seven years in prison. In the pre-Twitter era, this was all people talked about in person, in the papers and on the relatively new idea of 24/7 news.

Back then — 28 years ago feels like a lifetime — three TV movies were made telling the story. This is what happened back then — news didn’t burn out in hours and we got to watch made-for-TV versions of stories ripped from the headlines. The three films were Amy Fisher: My Story with Noelle Parker in the lead (NBC, December 28, 1992); Casualties of Love: The “Long Island Lolita” Story had Alyssa Milano as Fisher and Lawrence Tierney as Joey’s father (CBS, January 3, 1993) and The Amy Fisher Story with Drew Barrymore (airing the same night on ABC). Of the three, the Barrymore version was considered the best — all things considered — and earned the highest ratings.

Now, writer and director Dan Kapelovitz (The Three Geniuses: The Re-Death of Psychedelia, the short Amazing Angelyne and the upcoming 48 Hrs. Literally) has taken all three films and remixed them into one overlapping narrative. Much like trying to combine the story of Fisher from The National EnquirerThe ExaminerThe New York PostInside EditionHard Copy and Star Magazine and creating your own version of what really happened inside your head, the Rashomon-esque overlayering of these films.

What is the real story of Amy, Joey and Mary Jo? Is it the one that played out in the media, including brutal back and forth moments on The Howard Stern Show? Was it in the tabloids that I devoured? Or did these movies tell the right story? Is there a right story? Can multiple people play multiple roles in multiple movies and all combine to tell one story that has numerous touchpoints that are told through multiple lenses and points of view?

I don’t have the answers, I just like watching movies.

As someone who has never been a sixteen-year-old girl in love with a Zubaz wearing older man — confession time! — I can’t really understand why Amy did what she did. But I do know that love makes you do things that money, obligation and duty can never match. I’ve also never had a woman eat a pizza in a sexual way while looking at me. And I have no idea if that’s actually possible.

This movie makes me happy for repetitive drug tracks, for protagonists doing blow while cops trail them then a race through a cemetery pausing only to kneel on your mothers grave, for beepers, for fake Long Island accents, for Le Barons, for dudes swept up in killing the wives of boyfriends because they’re also having sex with the girl, for made-up movies that aren’t nearly this convoluted and for the fact that this exists at all, while hair metal ballads blaring while three different Amys shoot three different Mary Jos and three different Joeys have no idea what to do. That doorbell keeps on ringing over and over and over and as all three wives approach all three doors to confront all three mistresses, I find myself asking myself, “What is truth?”

The answer? As Joey tells Amy when she asks what their future is going to be, “It’s whatever you want it to be.”

I got to see this via AGFA and Fantastic Fest, which presented it in a limited edition stream through the Alamo Drafthouse. It was worth every minute. To learn where it may play some day again, you can learn more at the official site or read more about the film at AGFA’s site.

Searching for Sugar Man (2012)

In the context of our previous “Rock ‘n’ Roll Week II” review for Orion: The Man Who Would Be King, we mentioned the unsung career of Detroit musician Arthur Pendragon cast as The Phantom by Capitol Records in 1974. By the late 1980’s, the overseas pirate industry would victimize his career on vinyl, which was later exacerbated by the advent of the compact disc.

Another mysterious Detroit musician victimized by the pirate industry—but later, unlike The Phantom, finding success as result of those vinyl buccaneers—was Sixto Rodriguez, a singer-songwriter discovered in the late Sixties performing in a Detroit nightclub by an ex-Motown Records’ executive. With the stealthy shades of the outlandish, managerial marketing of Tony DeFries with John Cougar, Kim Fowley with the Runaways, Jerry Brandt with Jobriath, and Ed “Punch” Andrews with The Phantom, Rodriquez was hailed as the next “Bob Dylan”—and, as usual, the ostentatious promotion failed to translate into radio play or retail sales. The brief, promising career of Rodriquez, which garnered some critical acclaim, flamed out with an outlandish rumor: he committed a bizarre onstage suicide. Like the Phantom, hailed as the next “Jim Morrison,” the next “Bob Dylan” shined brightly, briefly, and then drifted into obscurity.

Except in South Africa.

The songs of protest by Rodriquez struck a chord in the poor, oppressed masses suffering under apartheid, who affectionately dubbed Rodriguez with the nom de plume: the Sugar Man (after his most infamous tune). Unknown to the mysterious, post-Rudy Martinez (of Detroit’s Question Mark, of ? and the Mysterians) and pre-Phantom Rodriquez, the Sugar Man’s compositions of dissent became as popular to South Africans as the Rolling Stones or Elvis Presley. Yet, as with the Phantom, the Sugar Man, never saw a penny in royalties—everyone thought Rodriquez (as well as the Phantom) was dead.

Forty years later, Malik Bendjelloul, a Stockholm, Sweden, documentary filmmaker, upon hearing the legend for the first time in a Cape Town, South Africa, record shop, set out to find the mysterious “Bob Dylan of Detroit.” The result of Bendjelloul’s search was the Sugar Man’s triumphant return to the stage with a 1998 series of South African concerts.

In the tradition of the positive effect the book and film documentary Anvil: The Story of Anvil had on Anvil, a previously obscure Canadian metal band, Rodriquez experienced a career resurgence resulting from the renewed interest generated by Bendjelloul’s 2002 film, Searching for Sugar Man. Becoming a hit on the film festival circuit, the document bequeathed the once “dead” Rodriquez his first worldwide, mainstream exposure for the previous South African “hit songs” of “Sugar Man,” “Inner City Blues,” “I Wonder,” and “A Most Disgusting Song.”

Searching for Sugar Man is readily available across all PPV and VOD streaming platforms, including Amazon Prime.

About the Author: You can learn more about the writings of R.D Francis on Facebook. He also writes for B&S About Movies and publishes on Medium. You can find his books on the career of Arthur Pendragon—The Ghost of Jim Morrison, the Phantom of Detroit, and the Fates of Rock ‘n’ Roll and Tales from a Wizard: The Oral History of Walpurgis—as softcover and eBooks in the online marketplace at all eRetailers—including Amazon.

Me & Will (1999)

So, did you know . . . sandwiched between the ‘60s original and Phil Pitzer’s 2012 revisiting, Easy Rider: The Ride Back, there was another unofficial “sequel” to Easy Rider, which concentrates on a search for the famed Captain America chopper that appeared in Easy Rider? Never heard of it? It’s okay. No one did.

Be it an unintentional sequel or a loose remake—with a Thelma and Louise twist—of the counter-culture classic Easy Rider, there’s definitely a dash of another late 60’s cinematic classic, Midnight Cowboy, in these engine revs written and directed by its stars, Sherri Rose and Melissa Behr. (Another Easy Rider-inspired biker-epic, the better known Roadside Prophets, made in the early 90’s with John Doe, the bassist and singer from X, and a Beastie Boy, may even come to mind as the story unfolds.)

Told from the point of view of Jane (the “me”), a hard-living aspiring writer, she meets an equally burnt-out artist-cum-party girl named Will in an L.A. drug rehab clinic. After watching a late-night showing of Easy Rider on TV, Jane (Sherri Rose) and Will (Melissa Behr, aka “Doll Chick” from Bad Channels and its sequel, Dollman vs. Demonic Toys) decide to make like Wyatt and Billy and break out of rehab to embark on a trip to find the legendary chopper ridden by Peter Fonda—which is rumored to still exist in the city of Willsall, Montana.

As the road trip unfolds, Jane and Will meet the usual cross section of bikers, hippies, burnt-out garage mechanics, psycho waitresses, abused women, and abusive cops—as well as the rock bands Space Age Playboys (yes! Kory Clarke and Warrior Soul!) and Keanu Reeves’s band Dogstar. (I played Dogstar on the radio and went to their shows back in the ’90s; they were a solid indie, alt-rock band and not the “actor-gimmick” they were smarmy-labeled.)

What helps this lost bikers-searching-for-their-souls flick is the cast featuring those actors we care about at B&S About Movies: Seymour Cassel (Trees Lounge), M. Emmet Walsh (Escape from the Planet of the Apes), Steve Railsback (Lifeforce), and Grace Zabriskie (Galaxy of Terror). (Oh, shite: she was also George’s mother-in-law on Seinfeld. Sorry, Sam.) And keep your eyes open for Johnny Whitworth (Empire Records), William E. Wirth (The Lost Boys), and Tracy Lords (Shock ’em Dead).

Oh, and Jane’s boyfriend, Fast Eddie, is Patrick Dempsey (the ’80s cable comedy-classic Can’t Buy Me Love and “McDreamy” from TV’s Grey’s Anatomy). Of course, when Grey’s Anatomy became a ratings juggernaut—and as with Katherine Hegyl’s equally unknown 2006’s Zyzzyx Road—the DVD reissues of Me & Will feature Dempsey front and center—with Rose and Behr kicked to the curb.

In addition to the ‘Playboys and Dogstar appearing on the soundtrack, there’s music by Dwight Yoakam, Josh Clayton, formerly from School of Fish (remembered for their ’90s hit, “Three Strange Days”), in addition to classic tracks by the Doors and a solo-bound Mick Jagger. Matt Sorum of the Cult/Guns n’ Roses scored the film—with a guitar-style that almost leaves it feeling like a Tangerine Dream-scored film (Thief comes to mind, IMO), sans the synths and moogs.

To dismiss Me & Will as a vanity-driven “female Easy Rider” and to be alpha-male ruffled by its “female empowerment” message is a chauvinistic disservice to Sherri Rose and Melissa Behr’s efforts to dissuade the film from disintegrating into a hail of bullets of a gone-wrong crime caper, ala the somewhat similar Don Johnson and Mickey Rourke buddy-biker action flick, Harley Davidson and the Marlboro Man (1991).

Me & Will is a gallant effort; a heart-felt, solid indie-film and Rose and Behr certainly deserved better than their exploitation resumes allow. And kudos to Columbia Pictures giving their blessings and not having the proceedings degrade into the legalese haze of Phil Pitzer’s not-as-bad-as-they-say Easy Rider homage. You can watch Me & Will as a free-with-ads stream on TubiTv or without ads on You Tube.

So, as with Phil Pitzer’s Easy Rider: The Ride Black: Me & Will is an alright effort. So do Sherri Rose and Melissa Behr a solid and support indie film by streaming the ad-stream version on TubiTV, will ya?

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

Easy Rider: The Ride Back (2012)

So . . . did you you know Easy Rider was followed forty years later by an unofficial sequel? It’s okay. No one does. . . .

The existential subtext and counterculture viewpoints (somewhat) of the original are lost . . . somewhere on a dusty, Baja road in this “sequel” (also working as a prequel) that explores the family history of Peter Fonda’s character Wyatt “Captain America” Williams through the eyes of his older brother, Morgan: a pot-distributing, Vietnam war deserter and custom jewelry-designer (specializing in Maltese crosses; not for the reasons you think, the eventual reveal is a clever trick-of-the-script) living in luxurious solitude on the Pacific coast of Mexico.

The drama and struggles center around Morgan’s cycle-lovin’ family friend, West Coast (Jeff Fahey of The Lawnmower Man, Psycho III), Williams sister Shane (Sheree J. Wilson of TV’s Dallas and as Alex Cahill on Walker, Texas Ranger; she also produces), and her wealthy-hubby (Michael Nouri of Flashdance) as it flashes to and fro from the 1940s to the present, concerned with Wyatt’s brother, Morgan (Phil Pitzer) visiting his dying, disapproving father. So, along with West as his “Billy,” Morgan mounts Wyatt’s Captain American chopper, which he recovered back in ’69 and restored, slaps on his brother’s old leathers, and takes a “ride back” to bury those family demons.

Of course, when it comes to making a sequel, the smart bet is to file legal actions against Bob Rafelson and Bert Schneider, the producers of the original through their Raybert Productions (the force behind The Monkees TV series), to block them from reclaiming their expired film rights. And don’t bring back any of the original’s cast or crew. And cavet those emptor for the ol’ home video bait n’ switch: courtesy of the flashing-back-and-forth, Fahey, Wilson, and Nouri are the marquee-stars, but only here as supporting characters. This show belongs to Phil Pitzer and Chris Engen (as the young, troubled third-brother Virgil; who despite his bigger role, is bumped off the marquee).

So goes this vanity-vision by producer and screenwriter Phil Pitzer, a former lawyer who, with a desire to enter the film industry with a bang, manipulated legal loopholes to get sequel rights. His co-writer and director, Dustin Rikert, fared better: his names pops up as a producer and director on a slew of telefilms broadcast on the Hallmark, Lifetime, and Syfy channels. Their Easy Rider part deux was initially completed in 2009 and appears in filmpedias with that release date; however, by the time it went through the festival circuits and film markets for distribution, it was formally released in 2012.

So, is Easy Rider: The Ride Back the most-unwanted-not-a-sequel since the days of Halloween III: Season of the Witch (which I really like) or House II: The Second Story (which I didn’t) or House III: The Horror Show (which I did, because well, it’s a friggin’ Lance Henriksen and Brion James movie)? And is stuffy ol’ Leonard Maltin—who hates everything the B&S About Movies crew likes—justified in calling the Pitzer’s effort “a staggeringly bad, cash-in bomb,” solely based on Pitzer’s clandestine legal maneuvers?

Eh, well . . . to Pitzer’s credit: He does, as you can see, resemble Fonda, so it lends to the credibility that he’s Wyatt’s brother, as well as “being” Wyatt in flashbacks that lend to the film-to-film continuity. All of the bikes (especially Wyatt’s chopper reproduction) and time-period designs (props, costumes, cars, etc.) are correct, the Korean war sequences are well-shot, and the cinematography by Brian Lataille (videos for Incubus and Linkin Park), while not up to the László Kovács-standard in the original, is pretty solid. And yes, as with any indie, flick: there’s a few strained thepsin’ moments. So, while it’s not exactly Easy Rider, Pitzer’s effort is not a Tommy Wiseau (or Neal Breen) biker joint as some threaders and reviews claim. No, it’s definitely not The Room on wheels” as some have said.

While the flashbacks and bike-riding interludes of Morgan’s and West Coast’s contemplations (most in voice overs as majestic “post-card moments” unfold) about life, e.g., homelessness and hunger, ecology, the meaning of patriotism and true freedom, make the film seem a bit longer than its 90-minute running time, Pitzer nonetheless crafted well-rounded characters for his actors to sink their thespin’ teeth into. He also developed a compelling “history” for an initially ambiguous, metaphorical-drifting character. So kudos to Pitzer for giving a structured “focus” to a film that was admittedly an “out of focus,” scriptless-improv in the first place (that Fonda and Hopper openly admitted in interviews).

And besides: I always enjoy seeing senior actors (e.g., the recently-released Nana’s Secret Recipe) given meaty roles and, to that end: Newell Alexander (who’s career goes back to the ’70s TV series Barnaby Jones and Battlestar Galactica ’79, The Kentucky Fried Movie; he also appeared in Walker, Texas Ranger with Sheree) and Ron Howard’s pop, Rance (The Andy Griffith Show, Grand Theft Auto, and Cotton Candy) are both excellent in their roles as Poppa Williams and his ol’ hog-riding Korean War war buddy, so much so, you’d like to see more of them in the film.

All in all, despite Leonard Maltin and the Internet hoards of war, Easy Rider: The Ride Back it’s not as Wiseauian bad as they’ll lead you to believe. (The same arguement we had with our review of Jeremy Saville’s radio dramedy, Loqueesha). And for those who have stated Phil Pitzer “thankfully, has never made another movie” and “hasn’t made another movie since”: Phil produced the upcoming Cannes Without a Plan (2021), the third writing-directing effort from Julie Simone Robb (NBC-TV’s Homicide: Life on the Street) that also stars Pitzer’s The Ride Back cast member, Jodie Fisher (of Charles Band’s Blood Dolls).

Courtesy of a new distribution deal with retro-imprint Kino Loeber, Easy Rider: The Ride Back is available worldwide as 2019-issued Blu and DVD and VOD stream on Amazon Prime and You Tube Movies. Yeah, you’ll find that errant You Tube freebie (you know you look there and TubiTV first before you buy), but do Phil Pitzer a solid and support indie film, will ya? Pay for it, okay?

Like Kowalski said in Vanishing Point: “Fuck the man!” Keep on making movies, Phil. You’re alright, kid. . . .

So, did you know . . . sandwiched between the ‘60s original and Phil Pitzer’s 2012 revisiting, Easy Rider: The Ride Back, there was another unofficial “sequel,” which concentrates on a search for the famed Captain America chopper that appeared in Easy Rider? Never heard of it? It’s okay. No one did. Join us at 3 pm for more tales from the fast and the furious . . . with Me & Will.

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

The Existential and the Furious: Part 3: Vanishing Point (1971)

Author’s Note: Yeah, we know you’ve seen them before and know them well. But we’ve got some movie “Easter Eggs” in these reviews. Thanks for revisiting the classics with the B&S gang, where we coddle the obscure and the forgotten films of the VHS, UHF, and Drive-In yesteryears.

This 20th Century Fox tale reminds a lot of Elektra Glide in Blue, United Artists’ 1973 existential road flick entry about a disgraced biker-cop (Robert Blake) produced-directed by James William Guercio, who managed and performed with the Beach Boys and produced several albums for ’70s pop-meisters Chicago (who appear in the film). We also had Vanishing Point on the short list for “Radio Week,”* thanks to Cleavon Little’s blind DJ. While it was bumped for that week—but it’s prime fodder for “Fast and Furious Week.” Thank god for Dodge Chargers. . . .

Kowalski (Barry Newman) is a Vietnam veteran, disgraced ex-cop and former professional road racer of motorcycles and stock cars. To cope with his personal demons, he lives on the open road as a driver for a car delivery service. Before heading out on his next assignment—transporting a supercharged 1970 Dodge Challenger from Denver to San Francisco—he scores a hit of speed and makes a bet with his drug-pusher that he can make the trip in 15 hours.

As the police follow in hot pursuit, Kowalski becomes a folk hero to the roadside eccentrics and Vietnam-war worn masses, thanks to the on-air updates of the cross country chase by a blind DJ “Supersoul” (Cleavon “The Prince of Darkness” Little of FM) on KOW, an 50,000-watt R&B/Soul station broadcasting across Nevada, Utah and parts of Colorado and California. (Little’s engineer—an unaccredited role—is John Amos of TVs Good Times, but youngins know him for his work in Die Hard 2: Die Harder and Coming to America.) (And, is it just me, or is Outside Ozona a slasher version of Vanishing Point? That’s not critical insult, but a kudos.)

Yeah, we love this movie, but this movie also really wants to be the next Easy Rider, with its replacement of Steppenwolf by way of the equally biker-acceptable Mountain with “Mississippi Queen,” along with the counterculture band Delaney, Bonnie & Friends (see the history of Eric Clapton and Fleetwood Mac), who also appear in the film as a singing group at a religious revival caravan.

There’s no online streams, but Blus, DVDs, and used VHS-tapes are available on Amazon to watch Vanishing Point. . . .

So, we teased you about the two “sequels” to Easy Rider . . . but did you know their was a remake to Vanishing Point? It’s okay. No one does. Join us tomorrow, August 7 at 6 pm, for more tales of the fast and the furious . . . and the vanishing . . . with Vanishing Point ’97.

How much is this film loved? It has die-cast cars!

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

The Existential and the Furious: Part 2: Two-Lane Blacktop (1971)

Author’s Note: Yeah, we know you’ve seen them before and know them well. But we’ve got some movie “Easter Eggs” in these reviews. Thanks for revisiting the classics with the B&S gang, where we coddle the obscure and the forgotten films of the VHS, UHF, and Drive-In yesteryears.

This Universal Studios tale in which the bikes of Easy Rider meet the Dodge Challenger of Vanishing Point was on the short-list for our “Rock ‘n’ Roll Week” tribute (ran Sunday, July 19 to Saturday, July 25) of films as result of ex-Beach Boys drummer Dennis Wilson starring as the “Mechanic” and ‘70s soft rocker James Taylor as the “Driver.”

But wait! There’s those celluloid bonus points, since this is directed by Monte Hellman, who made his directorial debut with Roger Corman’s Beast from Haunted Cave (1959)—a relationship that lasted for several films over fifteen years. And Hellman gave us Silent Night, Deadly Night III: Better Watch Out (another “unwanted sequel,” ala Phil Pitzer’s Easy Rider: The Ride Back, that’s actually better than you think, as result of the Hellman touch), and he executive-produced Reservoir Dogs. So, courtesy of that Corman lineage, Hellman’s not giving you a typical Universal picture. This is an A.I.P-styled romp that’s not for the mainstream cinema folks.

As with Wyatt and Billy’s biker travels, Two-Lane Blacktop is an existential road trip into metaphorical ambiguity—only from inside the cockpit of a Black 1955 Chevy 150. Unlike most major studio buddy-road adventures, this one’s void of exposition to the point of silence: the Chevy’s passengers are perfunctory to the story, operating more like “parts” to the car than actual people.

As the stoic duo travels across country entering impromptu and legalized dragstrip races, they pick up the hitchhiking “Girl” (Laurie Bird, who became Hellman’s girlfriend), meet a homosexual hitchhiker (Harry Dean Stanton, later of Alien and Repo Man), and a New Mexico to Washington D.C. “pink slip” challenge is made by “GTO” (Warren Oates), an insecure braggart who discover a vicarious purpose through the freedom-lives of the Chevy’s “internal parts.”

Regardless of its rock-star casting, neither Wilson nor Taylor provide music to the film and no Easy Rider-styled soundtrack was ever released. The film does, however, features songs by the Doors, Arlo Guthrie, and Kris Kristofferson. Lori Bird, in a James Dean-tragic life, only made three films: two with Hellman, the other being Roger Corman’s Cockfighter (1974; also with Warren Oates), and in Woody Allen’s Annie Hall (1977; as the girlfriend to Paul Simon’s character). Coming to live with Simon’s musical partner, Art Garfunkel, she committing suicide-by-pills in his apartment at the age of 26.

There’s no online streams, but Blus and DVDs (co-issued by Universal through Criterion Collection and Anchor Bay) and used VHS-tapes are to be found on Amazon.

My buddy Eric, as with Easy Rider, takes me to task with this movie as well: “Duke, your idea of “classics” sucks ass,” he tells me. According to him—a car nut, mind you—”nothing happens.” “It’s like watching a stoner version of Seinsuck.” (Sorry, Sam!)

Friends and film, huh? It’s not so bad: chicks and film is worse.

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

UPDATE: Out in the social media ethers, reader Jake Garrett schooled us on this fun car flick fact: The ’55 Chevy in Two-Lane Blacktop is the same car as Bob Falfa’s in American Graffiti. Did you know that? We didn’t. Hey, we’re big enough to admit that we don’t know all of the film trivia out there. Thanks, Jake!