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PART TWO: LOST IN THE CINEMATIC TRASH BIN
One thing out of the way first: I think DVD’s are shit. To the cinephile, that may seem weird. But let it be known there’s been a lot of thought to my backlash. The technology is available to make a film look and sound better than they ever were on any video cassette. Or any laser. Or even videodisc. Hell, even better than at their initial theatrical premiere. The problem being is sometimes these new technological advances can outright kill the proper viewing experience of certain movies. As the advent of DVD took off in the early 00s, I was excited to take in the new format. So many worthwhile flicks could use the sprucing up. Criterion was on top of the game early on. The 'Brazil' 4-disc box set, Kurosawa samurai giants, Renoir and Fellini art house faves, and so on. The colors were rendered crisp and sharp. True blacks in the shadows. Aspect ratios corrected. Boat loads of extras and commentaries like on the laserdiscs for a fraction of the cost and a quarter of the size. All good things. Sign me up.
Then, after all the initial excitement waned, it hit me. It wasn’t the avid film collectors that the major studios were grasping for. Laser and VHS coincided for years in a harmonious relationship. Now they wanted to kill off the tape. Corner the market. Bully it, just like the Eighties Beta tape debacle. Everything was to get a disc release, not just the important classics, cult films and high art. Everything. The death rattle to my fandom ended early on. In the first wave of the studio DVD onslaught, there was a premonition of the hell soon to come. Monthly sales adverts had this available for pre-orders:
Like witnessing a sign of the upcoming apocalypse, I felt doomed.This was first film I noticed in the press sheets that I thought of as total brainless shite. The one that tainted my vision of what DVD could have been utilized for and what it was actually going to be: Mass marketed on the end racks of Target Superstore checkout lines. A sad, sad turn of events.
Let’s take a look at these aluminum coated mini Frisbees for a second. A VHS tape is damn near indestructible. Like a roach. Some folks will argue this, but it’s really the truth. You can destroy its casing with heat, run it down with a car, let a dog eat it, whatever…then you just switch the reels to an empty cartridge and you’re golden. Tape garbles? Tape breaks? A screwdriver, scotch tape and scissors and it’s on the road to recovery (usually with a few seconds of static, but at least watchable). As a rental object in brick & mortar stores, DVD’s were doomed. The first greasy fingered customer and the flicks ready for the glitch bin. A small scratch? Digital pixilation and freeze ups push my buttons a hundred times worse than that ol’ tape chew. I grew up with that kinda’ shit. It’s natural.
So now the mom and pop video stores that thrived in the Eighties/Nineties go down the tubes because every Tom, Dick and Nancy can by a brand new disc for dirt at their corner store. Rental shops couldn’t afford to re-purchase their entire film stocks…I know I couldn’t. The coexist dream, shattered. But with all my prejudice and beef towards DVD, I’ve come to accept them. I take care of them the best I can. And deal with what the Gods hath given me./p>
The real rub comes in this: the digital remastering, refurbishing and (ugh) re-imagining of movies. This is NOT just some problem that Star Wars fans have when Lucas insists on something like “Greedo shoots first!”. Or some kid-friendly jerkoff decides to remove the handguns from his action film, only to replace them with CGI walkie talkies. Or throwing a lame computer illustrated alien in the mix for no damn reason. People…er, “fans”, want the highest quality image and sound available. Fans want all the bells and whistles you can stuff into that five-inch circle.
As for me, I just want the damn movie.
I do like bonus trailers, documentaries and such, but what’s most important: I want the movie uncut. With its proper aspect ratio and whatever audio suits the project best. When it comes to Sixties sleaze and Seventies drive-in trash, part of the charm…or in some cases, the only reason the film works…is its inferiorities. Muted colors. Bad lighting. Off sync dubbing. Choppy editing. Grainy 16mm film shot thru a cheese cloth for visuals. And the mother of all things I hold dear: print damage. I love scratched, scarred and faded horror flicks. A badly duped and damaged video copy of a film like 'Last House on Dead End Street' can take the awful art film it is and make it into the snuff film of legends. True story. The sickly color palletes of wear and tear keep me from getting rid of classics like 'Invasion of the Blood Farmers' or 'The Ghastly Ones' on tape, long after the DVD has been released. I have both. Nerd. Has anyone out there ACTUALLY watched the glut of 'Evil Dead' re-re-re-issues on the market? Cleaned up to the point that every effect shot looks phony (er, phonier?) and they even had the guts at one point to release it in widescreen when the film was shot in an almost full frame ratio. All they did was add black bars to yer screen. Faked letterboxing. Just like the old timers thought all along. Appalling.
Thanks to labels like Something Weird Video or Code Red for giving us the grindhouse fodder (thanks for ruining the word, Q.T.) uncut and of the “best elements available”. Stuff looks good, but not too good. The grit needs to be there. The slime is intact. Screw yer Blu-Ray.
NOW, back on track. Rant over./p>
It’s been ten years since the DVD hit the mainstream. I’m buying into it more and more every day...but my tape shelves aren’t really dwindling. What gives? So many outside-the-box films have hit the market (like 'Deathbed: The Bed That Eats' or 'The Pink Angels') it would seem impossible that there’s still favorites of mine still floating in limbo-land. So here’s a pile of still out of print, if even in print the first time, films that I still bang my head in the lack thereof. Some are actually classy. Some are really horrible. All are must see and/or great hole fillers for the scum collectors. Some are available overseas on foreign formats, it’s true. Most can be found through some light digging at garage sales, usually for pennies. Others may show up on grey area bootlegs. Buyers beware: even though versions may exist through semi-legit labels, that don’t mean their uncut or right as rain. Read on.
DARKTOWN STRUTTERS (William Whitney - 1975)
aka: GET DOWN AND BOOGIE
This is what happens when a major studio thinks they got their finger on the pulse of the urban market and everything goes horribly, horribly wrong. Wrong in a grandiose trainwreck of a way. Possibly the only blaxploi-biker-kung-fu-musical ever made. Directed by the late, once great William Whitney (of cowboy serials and television fame) for the Corman controlled New Line Pictures, 'Strutters' came in too late and too white to be taken seriously by the inner-city crowds. If the title alone didn’t push racial relation buttons, the script shoulda caused a Watts-scale riot. I guess tongue planted firmly in cheek saved all involved from a good tar-n-feathering. Dig this:Syreena (Trina Parks) rolls into town with her gang of P-Funk reject motorgals looking for her missing mother. Things get off to a rocky start when the local fuzz start cracking jive-ass jokes and getting’ fresh at a local BBQ joint (now with free watermelon!). After some Tex Avery styled violence and second grade sight gags, the ladies meet up with a local scooter gang that are willing to help fight in the good fight. The plot thickens like a pan full of day old bacon fat as we learn through local pimps, playas and Syreena's kung-fu fighting brother that the evil Colonel Louisville Cross is on the scene taking over the hood with his rib joint franchise. He’s masterminded a scheme to clone famous black political leaders in a Wonka-built birthing machine and use them for a Manson-style new world order. Figure that’n out. I haven’t even mentions his chopper riding KKKlan yet. Or the bank robbing bazooka pimps in their clown car. Or the ice cream pot-sicle dealer who lives in an igloo. Or the random musical appearances of The Dramatics. !?!? The police have their bullet belts, psychedelic sirened squad cars and over the top “alert” system (yeah, they did...) back at the station. The list goes on and on like a live action Ralph Bakshi ghetto ‘toon. Everything is bigger than life. It all comes to a head at Col. Cross’ plantation with a blackface minstrel show and militant stand off. The end of the blacksploiters. End of the careers for most involved. ‘Cept for our beloved Dick Miller, who continues to this day cameoing in everything Eighties from 'Terminator' to 'Gremlins'. Whitney died. The scooter gang leader went to be TC on 'Magnum PI'. Rowan and Martin would’ve been proud to have their hands in this slapstick mess. Think Cracked magazine humor…PG rated, but tooling for an R these days. A somewhat hard to come by VHS on Charter exists (find it on eBay or Amazon fairly cheap), though no true DVD release has escaped. Now ya’ll got something to play double feature with that 'Black Gestapo' clamshell you’ve been clingin’ to.
THE MUTILATOR (Buddy Cooper - 1985)
aka: FALL BREAK
Low brow North Carolina cheapie for the obscure-slasher fiends out there. We learn that little Eddie Jr. killed his mom in a gun cleaning accident. Oops. Ed Sr. is none too pleased. Daddy goes ‘nanas and tries to murder his son; but Jr. escapes, leaving pops in a state of mental breakdown. Ed Sr. settles into a drinking stupor with his dead wife near and….pffft. Flash ahead ten years. After this usual pre-credit routine to let you know someone is messed up and is gonna’ kill folks, a jaunty theme song with a sex comedy vibe kicks in...“Goin’ on ah’ Fall Break…FALL BREAK”. Yeah! Or something like that. Catchy shit. Ed Jr. is all growed up now and a bunch of his chums head off during school vacation. Where? To the beach house where all the badness went down, of course. Soon they find out pops is still holding a grudge and he’s gonna’ do something about it…by sword, by pick, by axe, bye bye…
Most of the films running time is the usual rehashed 'Ten Little Indians' plot, the one that all Eighties slashers were based upon. Add the genius touch of a simple hide and seek game and blammo: instant (and only) plot device. What hinders it most is the stilted and awful acting that stoops to even lower levels than most of Jess Franco’s Euro output. So what does this film offer genre fans besides the greatest video box tagline in history? The gore. The grue. What this movie lacks in every other way is made up for in spades in its gratuitous kill scenes. Every bit of money and all production effort were held back so that the F/X crew could be utilized to their full potential. A state trooper is split in two, guts strewn across a car hood. Meat hooks tearing through blue-jeaned vaginas (oof). Beheadings and boat motor intestinal play. Pitchfork stabbings and cigarette lighter burns. List goes on and on. Line up the dumb-as-stump teens and mow ‘em on down. Piece by pieces. I’d believe if yer a fan of 'Slumber Party Massacre', you’d wanna run out and grab this. Be warned though. The original VHS release came in an R and Unrated version back in the day, so you could get hosed if yer not careful. I’ve seen the cut version and it’s brutally truncated. Code Red DVD was supposed to release a US disc of this turd/gem, but it never came to light…as of yet. There are UK discs available I believe for you PAL friendlies out there. The theme song is available right here for you city rockers out there.
THE BED SITTING ROOM (Richard Lester - 1969)
Mod director Richard Lester gets one off with the 'Goon Show'. Shoulda’ been a direct hit…it wasn’t. At least on these shores. Spike Milligan penned this surreal & darkly warped post apocalyptic flick (and play) that follows the aftermath of WWIII, the shortest war in history at just under 3 minutes, and it’s survivors (all 20 of ‘em or so) as they wander about a psychedelic wasteland slowly transforming into…well...a bedroom and its accoutrements. Some mutate into chests of drawers, others chairs. One a parrot. Not yer average film by any means. Dudley Moore & Peter Cook are the last of the British police force, floating around in hot air balloons telling people to always keep moving. Googly-eyed Marty Feldman plays a cross dressing nurse trying to help the sick and soon furnished by issuing pre-death certificates. Rita Tushingham and her family live on a subway car (and have for over a year) riding the line, surviving on only candy bars, waiting for her to birth a 17 month overdue child. There’s a traveling newscaster who’ll project from behind your bombed out television, catering the newscast just to you. Lets not forget dear Mrs. Ethel Shroake of 393a High Street Leytonstone, she’s the appointed queen. High art and political satire put to good use in a fairly big budget barrage of otherworldly landscapes. Mountains of shoes and broken crockery sprout on the horizon and auto debris has been constructed into makeshift fortresses. The film looks incredible in every way. Acting is superb and the writing is snappy as hell. It’s hard to see this not ranking high within the Python crowd. So why has it never been legitimately issued on video here? Who the hell knows? Four years ago I saw an advertisement for a special edition disc coming soon…it never happened. For fans of everything between The Monkee’s 'Head' to 'The Ruling Class'. (I learned as I wrote this there’s a UK disc available…but it still goes unreleased in the states.)
THE GREEN SLIME (Kinji Fukasaku - 1968)
Before Fukasaku’s success cornering the Japanese Yakuza film market, or much later taking over the world with his 'Battle Royale', he bottom fed in the drive-in market with flicks like this lil’ sci-fi grinder. The Sixties were a great time for tag team co-productions and we got a ton of Italio-US space flicks to prove it lucrative. So throw them Asian nations into the money pot as well. 'Green Slime' came a tad late to look this hokey (much like Mario Bava’s 'Planet of the Vampires')…hell, Kubrick just up the ante with '2001' a few months prior. This was no direct competition, though it is more entertaining. 'Green Slime' is a candy colored shock rocket full of noise. The visuals are bright and garish, the sets are strictly for the rubbersuit sect and the monsters look a lot like Sigmund the Sea Monster with cyclopean eyes. The mostly Anglo cast shows that the Japanese at least had enough sense to stay behind the camera. But who cares…this puppy chugs along at light speed. A one way trip to planet ridiculous.
The plot follows a space station crew headed by the slumming Richard Jaeckel ('The Dirty Dozen') and western vet Robert Horton, who have spotted an asteroid on a direct collision course with Earth. They’ve decided the best way to deal with this pesky rock is to send out a mining crew, drill into its core, and blow it up. Whoah…hold the phone. Michael Bay has some ‘splainin to do. Before it turns entirely into the precursor of 'Armageddon', the miners discover some green gook at the drilling sight. And like all explorer/scientist types, they decide to jar it up and bring it back to the lab for research. Always a bad, bad idea. So the movie takes a drastic turn around the 1/4 mark. The glop starts to grow and multiply into the Kroft-like creatures mentioned previously. The leads fight for the heart of ex-Bond femme Lucianna Paluzzi and go about one upping each other in the “I got a great plan” dept. The last half of the film has some delirious outer space battles (blue-screen effects are meagerly attempted). Lots of screeching beasties on wires and laser weaponry that evidently only have the blast power of 4th of July sparklers. Sweet times. The pace is brisk, the film is short and the monsters are some of the best of the era (up there with the 'It Conquered the World's onion head creation, or my Brain-y midget buddies of 'Saucer Men' fame…more on them below). Hard to knock this cornball thrill ride too hard with such a catchy theme song. A radio 45 promo exists and I will find it before the world screeches to a 2012 halt, I guarantee…The amazing theme heard in this here fan boy video.
MGM was nice enough to release this on tape in the early Nineties but since then it’s been floating in a limbo-land. A perfect candidate for the Midnite Movies series…and I'm still waiting for that glorious day. Bootlegs are peppered all over the inter-web. Have at it.
INVASION OF THE SAUCERMEN (Edward L. Cahn – 1957)Late night childhood fave that has been leaving me speechless since I picked up a Famous Monsters issue with production stills inside 28 years ago. The perfect alien entity. In rubber. Draped on a midget. Frank “Riddler” Gorshin & Lyn Osborne play troubled teens on the make-out that run across (literally…laid out in the grill) a little green man. They rush into town to tell the adults, but as usual, no one wants to believe the kooky kids. Their closest ally is a bumbling drunk who comes to his demise fending off the intruders. Did I mention they have detachable hands that can see via eyeballs and have needle fingers that inject you with alcohol? This should be a plus effect…but… The local police arrive to find the dead drunk dead and assume the teens hit him. Now on the run, our heroes search out there car club friends to aid in the good fight. The plot is pretty damn similar to 'The Blob', which was released a year later, and this device has become a genre staple ever since (in 'Night of the Creeps' for instance). The movie is relatively short, initially playing double bill with 'I Was A Teenage Werewolf'. Nothing is taken too seriously and it’s all good matinee fun, even with some of the adult themes that run through it. The moment when a local farmer’s cow is attacked rodeo-style by the space critters and left in a sad drunken mass should be enough to make you want this schlock shelved in yer rumpus room.
A tape existed through Columbia / Tri-Star, and it’d set you back about a $20 these days. Not bad. Again, there are bootleg DVDs out there of varying quality. An Aussie disc exists as well, but somehow it’s been transferred from a shorter UK cut…which I find stupid since it was only a 70 minute movie to begin with. And rated PG to boot. Lame. A nice double feature disc would make many happy. Boom.
GIRLY (Freddie Francis - 1970)
aka: MUMSY, NANNY, SONNY AND GIRLY
Veteran Hammer & Amicus director Francis delivers a warped slice of English family values. A rich and fatherless clan (are they really related? The incest vibe makes you hope not…or so…) hole up in a stately mansion going along their day to day routine. The nanny looks after the children, both dressed in prep school attire, though neither seems to attend any school. Mumsy properly orders demands from above, keeping everyone in line. These children seem closer to drinking age than puberty, that’s for damn sure. Sonny and Girly are always in search of playmates to brighten up their droll and sheltered lives. So there they go, collecting the homeless and loners to partake in their games. But if the playmates don’t play by the house rules…it’s off with their heads. And off to find a “new friend”.
A drunken conman and his date stumble upon these children and are asked to play with them in the moonlight. When his date tires of the twosomes antics, she’s forced to take a tumble. In shock, the new “new friend” follows them home and hopes to dispose of the body, keeping it their little secret. He awakes to find the family is blackmailing him into staying, placing the accident/murder all on him. So he stays and plays their Cowboys and Indians; pretends in their home movies; lives out their make believe. But their biggest game is letting him become part of the family. As days linger on and he’s not allowed to escape, “new friend” works out a seduction plot to turn the whole family on itself. But the lot has other plans. They have rules. And “new friends” never leave.
Based on a UK stage play 'Happy Family', 'Girly' is reminiscent of US Indies like Jack Hill’s Spider Baby, only polished with a Euro-Gothic feel and it’s a hell of a lot more sexualized. Vanessa Howard’s Girly is so on target with her childlike innocence/schoolgirl slut routine that she could give Carroll Baker’s Babydoll a run for her money. Well acted, well directed, and well…down right unnerving in its black comedic delivery. The film has been announced to have a summer disc release through one of the better trash labels, Code Red. So I probably should have left it off the list. Sue me. Just get see the flick when ya finally get a chance.
DADDY'S LITTLE DARLING (Marc Lawrence – 1972)
Marc Lawrence directs and stars in this hogsploiter along with his daughter, Toni. The film (as it’s initially intended to unfurl) has a battered and abused girl escaping an institution after some lock down time for patricide. She rolls up to a small café out in nowheresville, looking for employment. Lawrence, café owner and local pig farmer, hires her up and gives her a room outback. Unaware of her past, sure, but the proprietor has some secrets of his own. On her arrival we see him disposing of a corpse to his barnyard friends. He has a conversation with the dead body and apologizes as he cuts ‘em up for the porkers feed. Locals warn the girl that the old farmer is a madman, chopping up his other work staff, but she pays them no mind. Many a sleepless night occur due to some gnarly sex attack flashbacks and a few gentleman callers bite the dust in fits of papa-hatred delusions. A bond of kinship sprouts up between the two murderers and Mr. Lawrence starts to dispose of any of her problems thru his porcine accomplices. Local sheriff Jesse Vint (star of 'Macon County Line') arrives after hearing the neighbors complain of incessant squeals up at the ranch. But who’s gonna’ believe who, and the sheriff also can’t turn his gaze away from the hack-n-slash lass…
A strange little film to say the least: being directed by the father of the leading lady, who wrote himself in as a parental figure to her sexually abused daddy-killer. Dario Argento knows a few tricks to this trade. The general tone of the flick is sleazy and downtrodden, and it does pack some visual punch with its straight razor slicing and fish eye lensed cinematography. It doesn’t seem that Toni went on to do much else; sad…she comes off totally believable in this role. I guess it’s a good thing that she’s just acting. Righty? Daddy?
Not that hard to come across in its more famous (and apt) title 'PIGS!'. Problem being the 'PIGS!' version of 'Daddy's Little Darling' is missing quite a bit of violence and some important plot points. Also: as 'PIGS!', it has been released on disc thru the ever so shitty Troma Films, and it happens to be even darker and blurrier than the initial video prints.
NIGHT OF THE DEMON (James Wasson - 1980)
One of the earliest entries to the video nasties list, this little piece of Bigfoot trashsplatter eluded collectors like me for years. I finally found a copy at a video store closing, sitting pretty thrashed in an old faded big box. Stoked as I was, I have donated this sleeve to Scarecrow Video in Seattle, since their copy came without one. Don’t worry though…oh, believe me…I kept the movie. Like the steroid engorged bigger brother to the Scooby Doo-ish 'Shriek of the Mutilated', 'Night..."s plot starts the same but gets pumped up with an ass ton o’ gore and boobity play. Then it derails into much weirder territory. After many (and I mean many) flashback scenes play out through the surviving victims, a crew of research students heads to the wilderness to seek the beast out. Along the way more folks get picked off slasher style. For real slasher style. The Bigfoot actually uses an axe at one point on a victim. Claws just not good enough. Gratuitous sleeping bag thwacking and face thrashings. Girl scouts are smacked together. A biker gets his cock ripped off during a roadside piss break. That’s a new one. Meanwhile, the students set up camp just a few feet from a local hunter’s shack and he tells them the area legends. You learn there’s a mad woman out in the woods named Wanda…who’s holed up in a cabin, catatonic from a Bigfoot rape. Another new one. She had the offspring to prove it. Townsfolk tell stories of backwoods attacks and the movie rolls into 'Race with the Devil' (or even a redneck 'Wickerman') territory with its cult of fur suit worshipers that go cavorting in the dark. The whole caboodle comes to a head in Wanda’s cabin, featuring a standoff with the angry wookie, hell bent on a path of destruction. All this and its in glorious slow motion. Just in case you wanted to see what the hokey monster really looks like. Alfred E. Numan, evidently. Mixed with an orangutan.None too bright and borrowing from a good decade worth of celluloid’s horror hits, 'Night...' is still a thoroughly enjoyable ruff rider. There’s some highly imaginative violence (the bull-whipped intestines idea had gone unseen again till 'Dead Snow' earlier this year) and the off putting 'Rosemary’s Baby' subplot takes all the fun to a darker and nastier realm. Acting is…um…well, better than 'Don’t Go into the Woods' or your average local appliance dealer commercial. Who cares. It’s rare, its fun, its great drive-in fodder for yer couch. So where then is my DVD? Why did it take ten years to actively find this on tape, and that being one of the only two legit copies I’ve seen? Code Red? Severin? Someone pony up some dough. This shit is worthy.
GONG SHOW MOVIE (Chuck Barris – 1972)
Mashed together from a hodge-podge of uncensored 'Gong Show' “greatest hits” moments and Chuckie Baby’s true to life nervous breakdown, this film strikes a nerve in those who know how mentally fried Barris was at the time this was made. If you’ve read any of his books or have seen 'Confessions of a Dangerous Mind' you’ll get the frustration and despair he felt loud and clear. Besides the whole “hit man for the CIA” stuff. Robert ('Putney Swope') Downey co-wrote it with its star and occasionally Robert Altman’s name has been attached as a director…probably a mistake due to leading lady and partner of Barris, Robin Altman. The film shows the madness that was going on in the game show moguls’ daily life, unable to escape the jack-assery or the contestants he coddled and created. Constantly under attack from talentless talents on all sides, Chuck looks for an out from his rapidly tanking TV monster. No one close to him can understand why he’s unhappy (‘cept for the pesky studio executives who harass him about his “rating slippage”) and he constantly asks to just disappear and go far away from all this. Chuck finally gets his wish and goes on the run. He ends up in the Sahara Desert alone…until Jamie Farr, cast and crew show up for an impromptu song and dance routine. Fans of the show will love all the filthy and absurd outtakes, plus the notorious Popsicle Twins, the Unknown Comic and JP Morgan’s final broadcasted flash of her breasts. Sinking down with the ship, I suppose. It’s funny how most of this wreck still rings true in the reality TV bullshit of today. Actually, it was loosely remade as the Jerry Springer movie, 'Ringmaster', or so it seems. The film had a minor theatrical release and was pulled abruptly. Now the studio sits on it. Forever. I assumed George Clooney and the '...Dangerous Mind' brigade woulda brought it to the light of day, maybe as an extras disc, but it seems that even Chuck doesn’t want to open up these wounds again. Bootlegs are readily available for the taking but all seem to be from 10th generation tapes with glitches, tracking problems and rolls, etc. Mine is watchable for what it is.
OK, I’m gonna’ cheat a bit now. Everything up to this I’ve seen (and actually own), even if it has been a while and memory's gotten a little wonky. I apologize in advance if you find time to watch one and some details are wrong. Like a lead character dies by a stab to the heart instead the neck or something…sooo sorry. Sue me. I’m a forgetful old man.
But here’s a couple I don’t have, or in the case of 'Blood And Lace', I still haven’t seen, so consider this a plea for help. Send me yer stuff. For free, preferably. I know I know…these films are readily available through internet bootleg bandits, or just get an import disc and an all region machine (cheapskate)…but I’m in it for the ARTIFACT people. Clamshell. Big box. Original. Etc. It’s like saying you want a Third World War LP and having a friend who sends you MP3s. Thanks. I’m happy for now, but by no means satisfied. Real deal. Or at least a re-release disc that ain’t crap. You’ll see…
WELCOME TO ARROW BEACH (Lawrence Harvey – 1972)
aka: TENDER FLESH
Directed by star Lawrence Harvey ('The Manchurian Candidate') on his deathbead, this lil’ slice of Korean War vet blues is some bottom ring scuzz in the cinematic trash barrel. Held up by a pretty swell cast and rollicking along like a “teen in trouble” public service announcement, 'Arrow Beach' deals with a sexy hippie hitchhiker that stumbles upon the beachfront property of a recluse vet and his equally reclusive, sassy sister. The siblings take her in for the night but she has trouble sleeping after dinner due to the loud chopping sounds coming from the basement storage. Evidently Harvey took to eating human meat as a Korean POW and thought he’d bring his culinary skill back to his sister to share. Now our drifter femme needs to sort things out or she’ll be up for the next meal. Cue Stuart Whitman (huzzah!) as the local sheriff who’s gonna’ get to the bottom of all the hubbub, bub. The murder set-pieces are the deal sealers here. There’s the 'Peeping Tom' camera-as-eyes homage as well as some drugged out double exposure, frantic jump cuts, and point-of-impact freeze framing that give‘em some added juice. A ventricle is left open in my slowly clogging heart for this weirdly cobbled together and oddly paced film. Sure, it feels like a TV movie...It’s got a Lou Rawls theme song and a score that’d point in that direction...but that’s probably the charm I get from it. 'Arrow Beach' is so dry, deliberately bland and talkie at first that when the attacks strike, they’re relatively jarring. I take notice. A sleeper for the acquired taste. A DVD was released a few years ago (a fairly shady release to boot) that seems to be missing all the guts as groceries. Avoid.
BLOOD AND LACE (Phillip Gilbert – 1970)
Since 1988, reading in the pages of Deep Red or some like-minded fanzine, I’ve been looking for this doozy. The trailer pops up on dozens of tapes and discs, yet…pffft. Never on video. For reals. A PG rated flick about a masked killer bashing folks with a claw hammer. I hear it is pretty damn violent and moody. Staring a slumming Gloria Gramme and the ever so awesome poor man's Telly Savalas, Vic Tayback. Now that is rad. I’m always down for some orphanage child murders or claw hammer POV shots (HAMMERCAM©). Always. So gimme. Reviewed a bazillion times, almost always in high praise and it’s still sitting on a shelf somewhere. Maybe when a complete box set of 'Alice' is released on disc, there’ll be a tie in push? Trailer here.
I could go on forever about the movies that should be seeing the light of day besides horse pucks like the bazillion 'Matrix' clones or other CGI embarrassments, but I’ve probably said enough already. Is anyone still reading? I’ll just leave with a quick round up of one-liners, last minute-ers, and a few more points of interest, then you can take it from there.
THE INCIDENT - 1967: Tony Musante and young Martin Sheen harass an all-star cast on a late night NY train. A tight Sixties noir that should be blowing minds and playing double bill with 'The Dutchmen'; itself a short stage adaptation from the same year dealing with race relations on a subway car. Really strong for as simple as it is. Tense stuff, kids. You can see a large chunk of both on YouTube.
Polanski? He’s still a big deal, right? Evidently not enough of to get stateside releases of one of his earliest (CUL DE SAC -1966) or one of his craziest (WHAT? -1972). Step up the game people. In related news, The Italian sex comedy/caper 12+1 (aka: Thirteen Chairs - 1969) had an early Eighties release, but no such love in these years of digital media. Staring an extremely voluptuous (and occasionally nude) Sharon Tate just months before her murder, the movie showcases all her, um “talents”. She looks great, works real wonders with physical comedy and could have been a serious contender. Everyone knows that. Bum deal. Let’s not forget Orson Welles, who sprouts up in this as a lunatic (not a stretch) playwright. Show must go on. A great movie? Nah. But the Tate poster image was good enough for me to drop $250 on it back when I had money...Again: hit up the YouTubes.I’m done now. Move along.
NEXT TIME: I’ll dig up some exploitation trailer action, perhaps a “Best Of” even. Possibly an interview with uber-trash fanboy, writer and Alamo Drafthouse curator, Zack Carlson. The history of punks on film. Etc. Who knows…?To read other installments of TV As Eyes please browse the archives here.
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