Wednesday, December 31, 2008

The Endangered List (Case File #14)



THE DIRTY DOLLS
(1973)

An Edward E. Paramore Production

Starring
JOHN ALDERMAN
and
DENISE DRAKE

with
Sharon Kelly, Chris Schwarzer, Cindy Summers, Jeff Marlow,
George Pursell, Esther Abbott, Lyllah Torena [uncredited],
Gary Graver as Charlie
and
C. D. LeFleure (George "Buck" Flower)

Director: GODFREY DANIELS (Stu Segall)
Associate Producer: MURRAY M. PERLSTEIN
Production Manager: JOHN HERSHEY
Assistant Director: LARRY LABIDO
Cameraman: GARY GRAVER
Assistant Cameraman: ROGER NELSON
Grip: GLENN JACOBSON
Script Girl: MARIA LEASE
Stills: CHET NORRIS
Make-up: RAY SEBASTIAN
Sound: GEORGE MASTERS
Production Secretary: SUSAN McDOWELL
Released by The Film Makers Company


PLOT
(from the pressbook)

Johnny Feral, a ruthless clever psychopath, has recruited a band of young girls to commit robberies for him. These nubile disciples include even his own younger sister and his domination of this group is absolute. They will do anything for him.

After successfully heisting a bar, Feral sends his girls out on their next job, a diamond exchange, without him. The girls accomplish their objective, but are forced to take a courier and a female witness as hostages.

Feral's girls return to their hide-out and despite his pleasure with their diamond haul, he is furious at the intrusions of unwanted captives. He has good reason. Later on that night the gang's fence backs out of the deal because he wants nothing to do with kidnappings. Feral's fierce temper is partially mollified by an orgy of sex arranged by three of his girls who spice up the occasion with the unwilling participation of Linda Phipps, the female prisoner. Feral even devises another way of converting the jewels into cash and for the moment, his tight little world seems well under control.


Dee Dee Feral, Johnny's sister, does not share her brother's satisfaction. The gang's other hostage, the courier, has correctly diagnosed that Dee Dee does not belong with this group and is only with them because of her love for her brother. The courier works on her to free him and after Johnny kills the other hostage who tries to escape, Dee Dee confronts her brother in a final effort to have him disband the gang and free the courier. A furious argument ensues in which old sibling passions rise to the surface. In a blinding flash of lust Johnny proceeds to rape his own sister, only to find that she is more than willing to break the taboos of incest!

Later on, deeply shamed at her actions and knowing only too well that her brother plans to kill the courier, Dee Dee steals a gun from one of the other girls and sets the courier free. Their escape is discovered, however, and they are forced to shoot their way out to freedom.


BILL LANDIS says...
Playing with THE CONCRETE JUNGLE on 42nd Street is one of Times Square's staple second features, THE DIRTY DOLLS. This shot in L.A., early 70s softcore porn effort combines an interesting sexual situation with execution that's the quintessence of sleaze. Unstable, macho Johnny (softcore superstar John Alderman) leads a band of four slutty-attractive girls, including his sister, who commit various thefts and robberies. During a bungled diamond heist, two office workers are kidnapped. While the girls amuse themselves sexually with the hostages, Johnny panics and becomes increasingly unglued. THE DIRTY DOLLS defies any sort of normal standards of filmmaking so thoroughly and consistently it's a delight to any trash aficionado. The dialogue is laughable, the lighting is as loud as the overacting, the camera placement reeks of short shooting schedule, the sex scenes are strictly heavy breathing, and movie muzak accompanies the proceedings. Amazingly, this all works, lending THE DIRTY DOLLS the authenticity of the unintentional. -- (Sleazoid Express, Vol. 3, No. 3, February 1983)

RICHARD GREEN says...
Still playing at 42nd Street's Selwyn Theater as the co-feature to THE CONCRETE JUNGLE is THE DIRTY DOLLS, an outrageously cheap ultra trash soft core film from what appears to be the late 60's or early 70's. Its only discernible feature is star John Alderman who has made dozens of soft core low rent films like this one over the years. DIRTY DOLLS has the basic elements typical of soft core films: long drawn-out non-explicit sex scenes coupled with a who-cares plot. Its main emphasis is on sex, not violence, as when someone gets shot they just fall down, no blood. What plot there is to speak of is involved with a girl gang led by Alderman, responsible for the holdups of local bars and a botched attempt at a diamond heist. One somewhat compelling aspect is Alderman's fear-induced control of the gang members (including his sister), which eventually leads to his downfall. It's never really interesting, but I always find a strange fascination about this type of film. (When was it made? Has anyone else ever seen or heard of it before? What's the releasing company? Who is the director? Who are the stars? Is this the only print in existence? Where was it made? I must find out, etc.) It's surprising to see DIRTY DOLLS playing in this day and age, especially when the market is so saturated with hard core product. Trash fiends are strongly advised to check this one out (check out those opening credits) even though it's pretty awful stuff, mainly as a point of history. You never know when (or if) this stuff will surface again. I want to see more no matter how bad it is! This is trash in its purest form. -- (Confessions of a Trash Fiend, Vol. 1, No. 14)

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

"Free admission to all bringing black cats" promotion

"Joe Kelly, manager of Meiselman's Palm Drive-In in Miami, earns a citation for his promotion of the horror duo THE BLOOD DRINKERS and THE BLACK CAT. His ad, 'Free admission to all bringing black cats,' not only brought 60 persons with cats, but three Humane Society agents with investigative interests."

(Boxoffice, 8/14/1967, p.126)

One-Sheet of the Week: 69 MINUTES (1976)


69 MINUTES (1976)

Monday, December 29, 2008

THE TEENY BOPPERS (1970)

"I am a gynecologist. My name is unimportant. It is for this reason that you will not see my face during this film. Yet you will see exactly as I see: these human beings and their problems through the eyes of the doctor who has made this extraordinary document."

If you’re familiar with the wildly successful SCHULMÄDCHEN (SCHOOLGIRL) REPORT series or any of the West German softcore sex “reports” that proliferated during the 1970s, you’ll know what to expect from MÄDCHEN BEIM FRAUENARZT (GIRLS AT THE GYNECOLOGIST) as it follows the same anthology format: half a dozen or more young lovelies reveal their first sexual experiences in nudity-filled flashbacks, sometimes presented under the guise of a serious sociological study but usually just for the filthy leering hell of it. Adequately directed by Ernst Hofbauer, who helmed nine of the original SCHOOLGIRL REPORT movies, GIRLS AT THE GYNECOLOGIST first turned up stateside in 1972 with a self-imposed X rating as TEENAGE SEX REPORT, a Jerry Gross presentation released through his Cinemation Industries. Pic resurfaced with an MPAA rating of R in 1976 under the title THE TEENY BOPPERS, courtesy of the bottom-feeding Beacon Releasing Corporation (the short-lived distribution arm of a Boston-based tax shelter company), sometimes co-billed with SCHOOL GIRL TEMPTATIONS, a repackaging of Massimo Dallamano’s DEVIL IN THE FLESH with Laura Antonelli.

The stories are run-of-the-mill “report” material but Hofbauer breaks from the formula during the wraparound scenes by letting the camera assume the doctor’s POV in the examination room. The young women look at the camera as they converse with the doctor, whose soothing voice is heard but his face never seen. Stirrups and specula aside, the result is more intimate and non-exploitative than if a fifty-something actor had been hired to portray an onscreen gynecologist.

Ulrike (20 years old), a secretary who feels no pleasure while making love to her fiancée, tells the doctor about her first sexual experience: she was 15 and lost her virginity to a young man she met on a train (the deflowering is the film’s most memorable scene and nicely handled by Hofbauer). Ulrike rejects the young man later in favor of masturbation and a lesbian relationship with Inga, an older woman who seduces her during a photo shoot. When Ulrike meets her fiancée and falls in love, he takes her away for a weekend trip and from that point on she’s unable to reach orgasm. The doctor gives her a prescription for medication to ease cramps and encourages her to talk about her condition with her fiancée. “Nature has not placed you precisely in the category of a young woman without complications,” he says before subjecting her to a slideshow about the three different types of physical constitution recognized by medical science.

Brigitte (21 years old) is a beautician who goes on a three week beach vacation in the Canary Islands with a girlfriend, then returns to her fiancée and refuses to have sex with him. The reason: green and yellow vaginal discharge and a burning sensation while urinating. “I’m worried that it’s something contagious,” she tells the doctor with averted eyes, “You know the conditions of toilets at beaches.” (“Toilets -- always the same excuse” the doctor mutters). It’s the clap, of course, and Brigitte caught it from some sleazy guy she met while on vacation. She’s prescribed antibiotics and told to abstain from sexual intercourse for at least three weeks.

Inge (16 years old) is a sexually active high school girl whose period is 5 weeks overdue -- not because of pregnancy but because of nervousness brought on by the fear of becoming pregnant. In order to prescribe birth control pills the doctor needs the consent of Inge’s mother, which leads to an explosive confrontation.

Karin (15½ years old) is brought to the gynecologist by her father, a woefully naïve widower who thinks his little girl is still innocently sucking her thumb and sleeping with teddy bears. Lately she’s become moody, fatigued, runs a temperature, complains of stomach pains… “It’s certainly a cold or something like that” the father says just before he’s led out of the room and his daughter is brought in for an examination. Karin, who’s anything but innocent, believes she contracted gonorrhea from a construction worker, but the diagnosis turns out to be infected fallopian tubes.

Anja (17 years old) was a virgin before she went off to a nearby lake with four bikers to go swimming. The doc examines her at home and then calls for an ambulance to take her to the hospital.

Renate (18 years old) thinks her breasts are too small. The doctor prescribes hormones.

Monika (16 years old) loses her virginity to Tony, a jerk who gets her pregnant and then sends her to a back alley abortionist who nearly kills her. When Tony refuses to visit her in the hospital, Monika tries to kill herself by overdosing on sleeping pills. The good gynecologist reads Tony the riot act (“Even a doctor has the right to get annoyed sometimes!”) and at the end the two young lovers stroll out of the hospital arm-in-arm, leaving the doc with another dozen or so patients to examine.

The VHS from Something Weird, long deleted from their catalog, runs approximately 82 minutes. Print damage is mostly confined to the ends of the reels.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

The Endangered List (Case File #13)

THE TRANSFORMATION
(A SANDWICH OF NIGHTMARES)
(1974)

Combining a sex and horror story with elements of comedy and mysticism, this low-budget effort surrounds the fictional plot with a documentary about the making of the film. Producer Elliot Krasnow, director-writer Lewis Jackson, stars Dianna Mitchell and Michael Baxter are seen discussing the shooting and generally reacting to the situations at hand. The real people are so unaffected that they overshadow the screenplay, dealing with a sex-and-sadism cult investigated by Baxter and Professor David Kirk. Novice Baxter falls in love with exotic singer Mitchelle before discovering she's the high priestess of the cult. Jackson, a former trade press reporter, can also be seen in at least one bit. It's an interesting try at something different, but might appeal mainly to the underground culture. Music by Broken Wing.

[Boxoffice, 11/25/1974, p.66]

Written and directed by Lewis Jackson
Produced by Elliot Krasnow
Palomino Productions
87 minutes, Color
Self-applied X rating
(later rated R by the MPAA)
Released by Howard Mahler Films as
TRANSFORMATION in September 1976

Starring
Dianna W. Mitchell, Michael Baxter, David Kirk, Les Crook, Elliot Kastner, Lewis Jackson

Saturday, December 27, 2008

THE ICEMAN #1: BILLION DOLLAR DEATH


Last month I tore apart the first book in the Black Cop series by Holloway House hack Joseph Nazel (writing under the pseudonym “Dom Gober”), so I had pretty low expectations when I sat down the other day to slog through Billion Dollar Death, number one in his Iceman series, published the same year (1974) under his real name. It’s better plotted and more imaginative than Black Cop, but ultimately witless garbage more offensive than any so-called blaxploitation movie of the period; instead of a Green Beret, cop or private investigator, Nazel’s action hero is a Harlem pimp who operates a high-tech whorehouse in the desert fifty miles outside Las Vegas. Since prostitution isn’t a crime in Nevada, the Iceman was considered an ”entrepreneur” and these books passed with a clean bill of health while movies like THE MACK and WILLIE DYNAMITE (in which the criminal protagonists are served heaping portions of humble pie at the end) sparked public outrage and a backlash from the NAACP.

Henry Highland West is “The Iceman,” who went from being the youngest and most successful pimp in New York to the owner and operator of The Oasis, a multimillion dollar adult fantasyland of pleasure and recreation that’s equal parts Caesar’s Palace casino, Disney World hotel and Bunny Ranch brothel. Because he’s an arrogant s.o.b. who every criminal in the country would love to cut down to size, the Iceman has equipped The Oasis with more security than Fort Knox and even has the whores he employs doing double duty as his private army of martial arts-trained guards! But even with the guards, dogs, closed-circuit TV, electronic sensors, radar, electrified fences and patrolling helicopters supposedly keeping the place safe, someone still manages to detonate a half ton of TNT under the bed of Mafia chieftain Mario Valducci as he enjoys the services of the Iceman’s favorite employee, the luscious Beverly [insert “bang” joke here]. Super pissed that his super security has been super breached, Super Henry – er, I mean The Iceman – sets out to nab the ones responsible for making him look like a chump and, um, for blowing up a fine piece of moneymaking tail like Beverly. Main suspects are Johnny Palermo, Valducci’s injured bodyguard, and Angelo Pettreno, next in line behind Valducci to take over the west coast Mafia operations. Next is J.J. Brown, a friend of the Iceman’s from back in New York, who is working off gambling debts by singing in The Oasis lounge, and his dizzy girlfriend Gloria, one of the Iceman’s former whores who blew the stable for the “straight life.” Let’s not forget Umoto, the prime minister of a small African nation, who’s a guest at the Oasis and has a diamonds-for-weapons exchange going with a seedy U.S. senator.

At first glance, Billion Dollar Death seems to be an attempt by Holloway House to create the black equivalent of Pinnacle’s adventure paperbacks, but it’s too shallow and clumsily written to be of much interest to fans of the Destroyer or Penetrator novels. I have the strange suspicion that Nazel never bothered to read or even pick up one of the Pinnacle books before banging out this tripe, and instead based his series on the Mego toy commercials that were on TV at the time. The description of the Iceman’s subterranean surveillance control room – called The Brain Center – reminded me of the deck of the Starship Enterprise, only not the one from the TV series but the Mego toy version that one of my friends owned (I went for the Little Rascals clubhouse instead). Holloway House most likely had plans for an Iceman movie, but as pictured on the front and back covers, the character resembles a Mego doll of Jim Brown rather than Jim Brown himself. When a few Mafia gunmen get into a helicopter dogfight with the Iceman, the overlong setpiece is so poorly staged and unbelievable that I kept hoping Nazel would reveal it to be the playacting of two 8-year-old boys running around a backyard with toy helicopters in their hands. Even the cover art is more suitable for Mego or Matchbox toys than the front of an action paperback. Makes you wonder what the series would be like if a couple of kids had created it and not a committee of jaded publishing house editors. Maybe the Iceman would’ve been a real hero instead of a cold-hearted pimp.

This Week on 42nd Street -- 1979

Here are the double and triple features that played the Deuce twenty-nine years ago this week. Theatres are listed in east-to-west order.

North side of the street

Victory: 9 LIVES OF A WET PUSSYCAT / VISIONS OF CLAIRE / INTRODUCTIONS

Lyric: STAR TREK: THE MOTION PICTURE / END OF THE WORLD

Times Square: RESTLESS / CRY RAPE

Selwyn: THE FISH THAT SAVED PITTSBURGH / BLUE COLLAR


South side of the street

New Amsterdam: TERROR / DRACULA’S DOG

Cine 42: SKATETOWN U.S.A. / WHICH WAY IS UP?

Harris: LAST HOUSE PART II / SLAUGHTER HOTEL

Liberty: FYRE / NURSE SHERRI

Empire: HAMMER OF GOD / KUNG FU: PUNCH OF DEATH / THUNDERKICK

Anco: SCAVENGER HUNT / THE FURY

Friday, December 26, 2008

BILL LANDIS R.I.P.

Cult film legend Bill Landis passed away on Saturday at age 49 of an apparent heart attack. There were movie fanzines in circulation before Landis came along, but once that first one-side-of-one-sheet issue of his Sleazoid Express appeared in the summer of 1980, the face of film criticism changed forever. Sleazoid Express inspired a dozen imitators (Trashola, The Gore Gazette, Confessions of a Trash Fiend, Chicago Shivers, etc.) that in very short time attracted their own imitators until it seemed like every 17-year-old with access to a VCR, typewriter and photocopier was cranking out a ‘zine to spread the word about Andy Milligan, Herschel Gordon Lewis, MAKE THEM DIE SLOWLY, and Rudy Ray Moore. Nowadays ‘zine editors are called “bloggers” and they never have to leave their homes, but Landis put himself out on the mean streets to get the job done. Unlike the Golden Turkeys who encouraged readers to laugh at (or turn away in disgust from) the low-rent efforts of poverty row filmmakers, Landis saw gutter-level street art on display in every rotting grindhouse. He dove into the dark waters over and over again, always resurfacing with treasures many of us still watch and enjoy to this day. Would there be movies by Roberta Findlay, Andy Milligan or Lee Frost on DVD now if Landis hadn’t written about them in Sleazoid Express twenty-five years ago? It’s impossible to say, but one thing’s for sure: there wouldn’t have been a Temple of Schlock. Bill's shuffled off to the grindhouse in the sky, and if he isn't running the projector yet, I hope he at least has a front row seat.

NOW SHOWING -- December 26th, 1979

Here are some of the movies that were in theatrical distribution twenty-nine years ago today (December 26th, 1979) and quite possibly were playing at a theatre near you!

ALL THAT JAZZ
AND JUSTICE FOR ALL
APOCALYPSE NOW
BABY SNAKES
BEING THERE
THE BLACK HOLE
THE BLACK STALLION
CALENDAR GIRLS / PINUP PLAYMATES / OVERNIGHT MODELS
CANDY STRIPERS
CHAPTER TWO
CUBA
DON GIOVANNI
EACH OTHER
THE ELECTRIC HORSEMAN
THE EUROPEANS
FIDDLER ON THE ROOF (re-release)
GOING IN STYLE
THE JERK
KRAMER VS. KRAMER
LA CAGE AUX FOLLES
LAST HOUSE ON DEAD END STREET
MANHATTAN
THE MARRIAGE OF MARIA BRAUN
THE MUPPET MOVIE
1941
NORMA RAE
QUADROPHENIA
ROBERT ET ROBERT
ROLLER BOOGIE
THE ROSE
SCAVENGER HUNT
SEDUCTION
THE SENSUOUS DETECTIVE
STAR TREK: THE MOTION PICTURE
STARTING OVER
STAY AS YOU ARE
THE TATTOO CONNECTION
"10"
THE TREE OF WOODEN CLOGS

Thursday, December 25, 2008

DARKTOWN STRUTTERS (1975)

Reviewed by The Keeper of the Pit

Hey gang, The Keeper here, jest stinking, uh, thinking back to the daze of the oily 70s, when old New World was up to relatively new tricks, like its women in prison flicks, its student nurses/teachers epics, & even a few dynamite blaxploitation films witch hit the screens for one week only before they raced off. There was Cirio Santiago’s SAVAGE, a merc-for-hire item witch boasted the blurb “Men call him Savage…women call him all the time!” & there was THE FINAL COMEDOWN, a.k.a. BLAST! witch featured more flying bullets than the latest inStallone-ment of Rambutt. & lust we forget, there was the incredible TNT JACKSON, with a Dick Miller script that kept the action out of traction. Ah yes, but now the drive-ins are down, the Harrisburg black action theatre district has lickwise become a mall, so the only place the ole Keep can catch a good blaxploitation pic is on video. & believe me, DARKTOWN STRUTTERS is nothing like a good blaxploitation pic. It’s a (great white) wonder the video box doesn’t say “Dey doan shake ‘em like dese anymo’!”

Demean, I mean “I mean,” when the 1-sheet says “Better move your butt when these ladies strut,” they ain’t kidding. DARKTOWN was an unreleased product out of Tennessee from Roger Corman’s bro(ther) Gene, witch Rog in turn picked up when he should have dropped it. “Nurse” person George Armitage provided the screenplay, & long time Gene Corman protégé/director William Witney helmed it, or should I say helmeted it? It’s safe to say there’s not another pic like this in the world, & perhaps there shouldn’t be. There’s more our-butt-trary shakin’ of booties in this that CAN be believed, BUTT that’s okay, cuz Roger has gone on reek, uh, record, to say this is a “black comedy.” What it really is: one of those movies so BAAAAD they’re worse. If you like to seek out stuff that’s so bad, it’s good, shake on down no further, this pic is one of them. It even seems like 2 or 3 of them, as a mother of fact.

Butt, let’s STRUT through this baby, the monster & I will let you be the (here come da) judge. Pic opens with a disclaimer that any similarity between this true life adventure & the story “Cinderella”…is BULLSHIT. Ho-kay, fangs for setting me straight. We proceed to see 4 black mamas riding their cuss-tomized hogs to a roadside eatery. Maybe we should say “costume-ized”…one gal’s in a red suit, 1’s in pink, 1 white, 1 yellow, & they all wear these eye-bugging helmets right out of Labelle. A bunch of white Marines watch them strut by: 1 goes “left, right, left, right” as he tries to get BEHIND where they’re coming from. 2nd Marine gets even more brassy & sassy, so our lead mama (Syreena, played by Trina Parks) gives him a pie in the face and jest as he’s saying “The Marines have…” BOOM, pie in the face, he falls butt-first into a garbage can, “landed!” The rest of the Marines run into the foodstand only to get chased out by black guys wearing loincloths and waving spears. To witch our groovy gals walk off humming “Halls of Montezuma.” The whole film plays like this, & from the guy who did THE TRIPoli, shore enuff!

& white, I mean, wait until you see the cops in this! They have these cars with bubble machines the size of nuclear warheads. Their station comes complete with a Ghetto Alert Map, & a siren labeled “Nigger Alarm.” One cop, named Officer Hugo, is played by Dick Miller, which could give you a hint that in THIS race riot the cops will be no victors.

Black, er, back to the plot. Syreena’s mom, Cinderella, has gone missing. (whew…almost said “gone Massa!”). Fear not, in no time our gals have the AIDS, I mean, aid of a gang of black guy motorcyclists who call themselves “The Batch,” 1 of whom goes by the monsicker of V.D. Yeah, right, & when his bike runs out of gas he’ll jest syphill-er up! Syreena & gang soon go social calling on her mom’s old cronies. A prime (rib) suspect is Commander Louisville Cross, white boss/Colonel Sanders look-alike of a food chain called Sky Hog, the original Hog Heaven. Hog Heaven stands roast, er, boast a giant figure of a pig in superhero tights & goggles in place of golden arches, & serve up items named cotton choppers, levee shakes & Swanee Rivers, witch I guess is one way to Foster social love, grease & hominy!

Syreena goes to a cop station during a “nigger alert.” Dick & dorks don’t gun her down, though, since she tells them she’ll “check the woodpile.” Instead they gun down their own inspector, who’s dressed up as a black female prostie because (he tells Trina) there’s a white female rapist out there preying on black faggots. Or is he dressed up like a black faggot in the woodpile? Oh, forget it! It gets worse! Prominent blacks are being kidnapped, & folks are asking questions about Syreena’s mom. “What color are they?” “Red…around the neck!” See: Syreena doing a dance scene right out of AMAZON WOMEN ON THE MOON, you know, like a black person without soul. & white, uh, wait until ya see the black gang fight it out with the Klan at an amusement park. Cops break it up, let the Klan get away on their bikes (!???!), then proceed to arrest anyone who isn’t…Irish. Our gang of guys & gals line up & go “Irish.” Next guy: “Irish.” Gal: “Irish.” Next black guy: “Polack,” whereupon the cop blows the whistle on him. Whoa…another routine like that could start up another civil Warsaw!

After a mind-altering bike chase between Trina & the Klan, she gets taken to lunch at the Cross Foundation plantation, where Massa Cross himself wants her to “dine at the sign of the swine” with him as he’s dressed in white super-shorts, little booties, white cape, & a white hood with pig ears. Well, since she won’t let him pork her, he stops the swining and dining bit & shows her his pig prison. Down there he has not only the kidnapped black folks, Syreena’s mom in chains, & his very own disco dungeon, he also has a machine named “Annie,” with witch he’s been taking unwed black mother genes & important black man genes & splicing them together to form, he says, black puppets who look like the real thing (baby!) who’ll vote for him. Annie, meantime, looks like a reject from SANTA CLAUS CONQUERS THE MARTIANS. Maybe those producers & the Cormans should get their Genes together & make snow clones!

Really, truly, you gotta see The Dramatics perform “Whatcha See is Whatcha Get” behind Cross bars in his disco dungeon. Bet that’s 1 gig they hoped would cell out! & you haven’t lived until you’ve seen Trina’s black motorcycle gang take on the Cross Foundation plantation guards in the (race) riot finale…ya see, the Klan guys wear Sky Hog suits, pink with capes & pig masks to boot. Or curse, when Dick’s dork cops see everybody else hamming it up, they have to get into the act, being porkers, & of curse, being a Corman movie, the cop car with the nuke warhead blows up. All this while black folks shuffle on the same lawn, picking cotton, lifting bales. Like Lenny Bruce used to say, to play the "Star Spangled Banner" you need both the white keys & the dark keys. I stink, uh, think he said that on a guest spot on Cotton Bowling for dollars!

So, there you have it, DARKTOWN STRUTTERS (later reek-released as GET DOWN AND BOOGIE), a true cultural rel-ick. Wish I could have seen it in Harrisburg with TNT, woulda been a BLAST! Talk about yer ALIEN NATION…enuff people rent this baby, we could have a bombin’ nation. As to (Weathermen) this is jest racist diatribe, or jest tripe, you got me! I believe the Harrisburg Theatre would have had a good 1-week run with it. I mean, it’s 1 of a kind. They DON’T shake ‘em like this anymore. Perhaps they shouldn’t. Perhaps the ole Keep shouldn’t so much cover it, as (Chuck) bury it. This is the kind of thing witch causes civil pun-rest!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

The Endangered List (Case File #12)


GUITAR PICKS & ROACH CLIPS
(1975)

90 minutes
MPAA rating: PG
Released by Sunshine Unlimited

Starring James Lewis, Jan Chamberlain, Roger Tallman

This Real Live productions film consists of a kaleidoscope of images and colors, flashes of real-life scenes and animated art work, all set to music. There is no plot. The thread that holds this full-length feature together is an animated hippie character who sits in his living room listening to a Los Angeles radio station while smoking marijuana. His “high” allows him to dream up all the images on-screen. Although the film is overly long and, for that reason, seems disconnected, the photography and art work (by Patrick) are quite enjoyable. The picture seems meant to be viewed by young people and might find appeal in selective showcasing. Anton Noel produced, directed and wrote the film, done in four-channel Quadrophonic sound. Soundtrack is available from Storybook Records.

[Boxoffice, 4/14/1975, p.6]

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

The Szurek Zone: HITCHHIKE TO HELL (1978)

HITCHHIKE TO HELL starts off with a sense of raw enthusiasm, but someone apparently ran out of steam long before they ran out of film. After a hilariously campy song called "Hitchhike to Hell" opens the credits, we are treated to sleaze assault after sleaze assault for about a half an hour, and then things get rather boring as a string of unsympathetic extras are constantly introduced for the sole purpose of undergoing uninteresting deaths at the hands of an apathetic, uninteresting protagonist.

Howard is the socially klutzy, overtly neurotic delivery boy for the town laundry. Played by an idiot named Robert Gribbens, who looks like Garrison Keillor, Howard lives with his obviously unstable mother and is traumatized by his sister having run away a couple of years before. As a result of the trauma, he has developed homicidal Jekyll-Hyde tendencies, having black-outs to overly-theatrical background music during which he drives down the nearby highway, giving a life to underage female hitchhikers (and in one case, which is evidently supposed to be funny but emerges just crude and tasteless, a homosexual). Howard finds out if they’re runaways (apparently a hell of a lot pass through this area) and if they are, he offs them, usually with a total absence of gore.

Before long, local cop Russell Johnson (best remembered for GILLIGAN’S ISLAND) concludes that a serial killer is at large. He and partner Randy Echols supposedly investigate, although no one is really sure what they’re doing other than walking around delivering lectures on the dangers of thumbing. Howard, meanwhile, has his memory refreshed a tad when he reads newspaper accounts of the murders, and undergoes the predictable anguish. Still, his alter-ego keeps taking over, and before we know it, he’s on the road again, being put through his paces by an unimaginative scriptwriter who’s reluctant to stop composing but seems to have writer’s block.

HITCHHIKE TO HELL is about ninety minutes, but feels like two hours wherein virtually nothing of any consequence happens. Final moments come across with such a lack of zest that one gets the impression the filmmakers are just as relieved that it’s over as the viewers.

Monday, December 22, 2008

MY BOYS ARE GOOD BOYS (1977)


Curious to see what the talent behind such skin flicks as MIDNIGHT PLOWBOY, THE PIG KEEPER’S DAUGHTER and THE DIRTY MIND OF YOUNG SALLY was capable of when given a few extra dollars and a couple of real (albeit past-their-prime) actors to work with, I grabbed this budget DVD the minute it surfaced at my local dollar store. Those familiar with the work of Bethel Buckalew will recognize MY BOYS ARE GOOD BOYS for what it is: a cynical sexploitation filmmaker’s idea of family entertainment. Everyone else will be left scratching their heads and wandering what audience this thing was intended for.

Teenaged troublemaker Tommy Morton (Jim Dandy), eager to besmirch the reputation of his loving father (Ralph Meeker) for reasons that are never adequately explained, robs a liquor store and gets sent to a juvenile detention center. Judging from the level of Tommy’s rebelliousness and the way his father has apparently pulled strings to get him out of previous scrapes with the law (“I vouched for you five times in the past five months!”), you’d think Papa Meeker was a judge, politician or prominent businessman, but no, the poor put-upon slob is an armored truck driver. “I’d like to nail him so good it would hurt him forever!” snarls Tommy as he and his juvie hall cronies Chunky and Pokie scheme to bust out of the detention center, stick up dad’s armored truck, and then break back into the joint in time for the afternoon roll call. The three manage to clumsily pull it off -- with help from Tommy’s sister Priscilla, some ski masks and a few cans of knock-out gas -- but Dad figures it out quickly and tips off armored security investigator Dan Montgomery (Lloyd Nolan), who goes to the detention center to get the money back. Attempt at a twist ending is a bummer.

A film that seems hell-bent on leaving an unpleasant taste in the viewer’s mouth, MY BOYS ARE GOOD BOYS was the final credit for veteran screenwriter Fred F. Finklehoffe, who in addition to writing many musicals and Mickey Rooney/Judy Garland team-ups also penned BROTHER RAT and received an Oscar nomination for MEET ME IN ST. LOUIS. His script plays like something written thirty years earlier and then sloppily revised by another party hours before cameras rolled -- which was probably the case, since this was his first credit in 14 years and Buckalew is billed as co-writer (Finklehoffe was dead by the time pic reached theatres). Meeker, the physical ravages of whatever sadly on display here, is okay in a rare sympathetic role but second-billed Ida Lupino chews scenery as his lousy wife. Both needed a better director than Buckalew at this point in their careers (Lupino could’ve made something out of the moldy script back when it was fresh). David Doyle brings ham to the table as Harry, head guard at the detention center and the only one who "understands” the kids, having spent eight years in juvenile hall himself for shooting his abusive dad; nervously awaiting the call from Aaron Spelling, he spits out the film’s title in his big show-stopper scene, underlining “good” in italic boldface caps. Old reliable Nolan, an actor who could file taxes onscreen and make it interesting, walks away from this one unscathed.

The photography by Don Jones looks like what you’d expect from the director of THE LOVE BUTCHER and SCHOOLGIRLS IN CHAINS. Car chase action is competently handled but Doug Goodwin’s depressing electronic funk score hinders an already downbeat story. Theme song by rockabilly songwriting legend Dorsey Burnette opens the film on a sour note. I’d love to know how Meeker and wife Colleen ended up with producer credits on this shabby project, which was released theatrically in 1978 by Buckalew’s frequent partner, Peter Perry.

Peter Perry says: “I didn’t produce that movie. I didn’t have anything to do with the making of it. All I did was distribute it. [Bethel Buckalew] is a real person. I used to use him in the early years as my production manager, but then he went off on his own and did those other things.”

Sunday, December 21, 2008

SCHLOCK-SHOCK by The Evil Twin

"Schlock-Shock" was a one-panel comic by Barry Wooldridge (a.k.a. The Evil Twin) that appeared in a half dozen or more issues of Temple of Schlock. Barry's a great guy and a talented artist who also created two of our logos, including the one you see on this page.

One-Sheet of the Week: DIARY OF A 19TH CENTURY JOY GIRL (1973)


JOSEFINE MUTZENBACHER / NAUGHTY KNICKERS (1970)

Rated X by the MPAA in 1973. Edited for re-rating R.


U.S. release as JOSEFINE M. in 1973 and later as DIARY OF A 19TH CENTURY JOY GIRL

Saturday, December 20, 2008

This Week on 42nd Street -- 1978

Here are the double and triple features that played the Deuce thirty years ago this week. Theatres are listed in east-to-west order.

North Side of the Street

Rialto: BAD PENNY / HOT WIVES

Victory: AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF A FLEA / VIRGIN DREAMS / LOVE COUCH

Lyric: MESSAGE FROM SPACE / AUDREY ROSE

Times Square: HALLOWEEN / DR. BLACK AND MR. HYDE

Apollo: MIDNIGHT EXPRESS / THE LAST REBEL

Selwyn: WANDA THE WICKED WARDEN / ILSA, SHE-WOLF OF THE S.S.


South side of the street

New Amsterdam: RITUALS / ADIOS AMIGO

Cine 42: MARTIN / SUSPIRIA

Harris: FISTS OF BRUCE LEE / HONG KONG STRONG MAN

Liberty: WHOSE CHILD AM I? / BLOOD MANIA

Empire: THOU SHALL NOT KILL BUT ONCE / THUNDERKICK / DOUBLE POSSESSION

Anco: BRUCE LEE: THE MAN, THE MYTH / DYNASTY

The Endangered List (Case File #11)

THE DEVIL'S SISTERS (1966)

CAST
Sharon Saxon (Teresa)
Fred Pinero (Antonio Sanchez)
Velia Martinez (Carmen Alvarado)
Anita Crystal (Rita Alvarado)
Ramiro Gomez Kemp (Robert Fernandez)
William Marcos (Jose Rodriguez)
Beryl Taylor (Mrs. Hernandez)
Mildred Rodesky (Marta)
Babette Sherrill (Ester)
Toni Camel (Dolores)
Joan Jacobs (Victoria)
Nora Alonzo (Emilia)
Tammy Simms (First Girl)
Michael DeBeausset (Englishman)
Mark Harris (Henchman)

CREW
Director: William Grefé
Writers: William Grefé and John Nicholas
Producers: Joseph Fink and Juan Hidalgo-Gato
Cinematography: Julio C. Chavez
Editor: Julio C. Chavez
Music: Al Jacobs

Released by Thunderbird International
Release date: December 1966
Aspect ratio: 1.85:1
90 minutes
B&W


SYNOPSIS
[from the pressbook]

A thinly disguised treatment of a bizarre news story that made international headlines in 1964. The film is based on testimony given during the long trial of three sisters who operated a white slave ring throughout Mexico. They were charged with the deaths of more than thirty-five young girls. The enslaved women who numbered over two thousand ranging in age from fourteen to twenty-­five were subjected by the evil sisters to a tyranny of torture and depravity. Humiliated by the man she loves, Teresa (Sharon Saxon), young and romantic, leaves town to seek a new life in the city of Tijuana. Encouraged by a help wanted item in the morning newspaper, Teresa makes her way to a secluded hacienda at the edge of town. There she falls prey to the blandishments of Rita Alvarado (Anita Crystal). Believing herself employed as a domestic, she follows the manservant Jose (Bill Marcos) to a beautifully furnished room. Instead she discovers, soon afterward, that she is being held captive in the windowless room.During the days that follow, Teresa's spirit is broken. She is beaten and starved and eventually forced by Rita and Jose to accept the attentions of many men. Teresa is surprised one evening when among the visitors to her room one turns out to be the young man whom she had loved before coming to Tijuana, but whose indecent advances she had spurned. Antonio Sanchez (Fred Pinero) is a police officer now, and apparently corrupted by the powerful influence of the three sisters. There is a dramatic scene. Antonio is enraged to find the same innocent girl who had spurned him selling her favors in a bordello. Not wanting trouble with the police, Rita hurriedly packs Teresa off to "the barn," a lonely place in the country where sick, pregnant, and rebellious girls are emprisoned pending their sale to "girl buyers" who come from afar seeking new merchandise. Scourge of the place is Marta (Mildred Rodes), a sadistic, cigar-smoking tyrant. Along with the other girls, Teresa suffers daily privations and tortures. She meets Carmen Alvarado (Velia Martinez), who gives her stern warnings against trying to escape. Soon the time arrives when it is Teresa's turn to be "sold." Teresa and another girl are taken to the ranch house where Carmen exhibits them to a "girl buyer." While the man is inspecting them, the other girl cracks him over the head with an empty wine bottle. For this, the girls are whisked away. That night they are made to dig their own graves while Carmen watches. But the other girl makes her escape. She is run down with a truck, tossed in the open grave, and burned with gasoline. Teresa is returned to the barn. She is stripped and bound with barbed wire and left to die. The girls revolt. One of the guards is killed. Teresa makes her escape, but she is pursued by Carmen's chief executioner: After a long chase, she is caught in a swamp, turns in desperation and shoots the man. Teresa makes good her escape, reaches a small settlement. There she tells her story to the police. They immediately investigate. A fierce gun battle ensues. When Carmen's accomplices are slain, she escapes to the barn. She is overpowered by the girls, threatens then pleads with them, but is beaten to death before the police can reach her.

[The following is taken from Boxoffice, Bookin Guide, 12/12/1966, p.3080]

THE STORY
Humiliated by the man she loves, Sharon Saxon seeks a new life in the city of Tijuana. Falling prey to blandishments of Anita Crystal, she finds herself in a secluded hacienda at the edge of town, now a captive in a windowless room. She is beaten and starved, eventually forced to accept attentions of many men. After a corrupt police officer, Fred Pinero, turns out to be the man Sharon has been pining over, Anita hurriedly packs the girl off to "the barn," a lonely country place where sick, pregnant and rebellious girls are imprisoned pending sale to "girl buyers" from other locales. Condemned to death after a fellow prisoner is run down with a truck, tossed in an open grave and burned with gasoline, Sharon escapes to a small settlement, where she alerts the police.

BOXOFFICE REVIEW
Fast-stepping, Miami-based Thunderbird International has a "sleeper" motion picture of the first order in this no-holds-barred, dramatically realistic study of modern-day white slavery operations, loosely based on a bizarre news story that made international headlines in 1964. The Joseph Fink-Juan Hidalgo-Gato production, directed with swift and sure touches by William Grefé, from a John Nicholas-Grefé shooting script, stars Sharon Saxon as a young woman humiliated by the man she loves, making her uncertain way to Tijuana and subsequent involvement in a vast white slavery operation, the adventure climaxed by abrupt rebellion on the part of fellow "captive" girls and apprehension of the higher-ups by the arriving police. Significantly, the Nicholas-Grefé screenplay doesn't dawdle; it hits hard at the central storyline, giving their narrative a documentary-like flavor, and director Grefé has captured the merciless, devastating forcefulness of depraved ring kingpins, among them Mildred Rodes and Velia Martinez, in ruling the lives of girls falling prey to blandishments of Anita Crystal, initial Tijuana "contact" for wayward women seeking roots in life. Grefé's previous credits include "Racing Fever" and "Sting of Death."

EXPLOITIPS
Use teaser ads run-of-paper for several weeks ahead of opening. Use spot announcements on radio and television. Set up a lobby display with recent headlines on similar case studies.

CATCHLINES
They corrupted the Sweetest Sin Known to Man! . . . .A True Story – Torn From Today's Headlines! . . . Daring! Incredible! True! Take From True Life! The People Are Real! The Treatment Inhuman! … A True Story For Mature Viewers!

Grefé says
The distributor of STING OF DEATH and DEATH CURSE OF TARTU liked that package so much that he wanted me to do another film, and that's how THE DEVIL'S SISTERS came about. I based it on a true story that happened in Mexico, where these two sisters would go out into the rural areas and advertise for maids. They'd lure these young girls to Mexico City, then force them into prostitution and keep them as slaves. They killed over 150 girls and buried them on a ranch outside of Mexico City. We shot the whole film in Davie, Florida.

THE DEVIL'S SISTERS was re-released by Trans-International Films in 1968 as SISTERS OF THE DEVIL, as a K. Gordon Murray presentation

Friday, December 19, 2008

NOW SHOWING -- December 19th, 1975

Here are some of the movies that were in theatrical distribution thirty-three years ago today (December 19th, 1975) and quite possibly were playing at a theatre near you!

AMERICAN GRAFFITI (re-release)
AND NOW FOR SOMETHING COMPLETELY DIFFERENT
BARRY LYNDON
BENJI
BEYOND FULFILLMENT
BEYOND THE DOOR
THE BLACK BIRD
BLACKMAIL FOR DADDY
BROTHER, CAN YOU SPARE A DIME?
BUCKTOWN
BUG
BUGS BUNNY SUPERSTAR
CALL HIM MR. SHATTER
CAPONE
THE CATAMOUNT KILLING
CHARLOTTE
CLEOPATRA JONES AND THE CASINO OF GOLD
A CLIMAX OF BLUE POWER
CRAZY MAMA
DELIVERANCE (re-release)
DISTANCE
EMMANUELLE
THE 50,000 MARATHON

FLESH GORDON / THE GROOVE TUBE
THE FORTUNE
THE FRENCH CONNECTION 2
GOD'S BLOODY ACRE
THE GOLDEN VOYAGE OF SINBAD / 7TH VOYAGE OF SINBAD
GONE IN 60 SECONDS
THE HAPPY HOOKER
HARD TIMES
HESTER STREET
HOOKERS' REVENGE
THE HUMAN FACTOR
HUSTLE
ILSA, SHE-WOLF OF THE S.S.
IN SEARCH OF DRACULA

JAWS
THE JOY OF LOVE / LOVE TIMES THREE / LOVE UNDER 17
THE KILLER ELITE
THE LAST DAYS OF MAN ON EARTH / DEATH RACE 2000
LENNY
LET'S DO IT AGAIN
LIES MY FATHER TOLD ME
LINDA
LISZTOMANIA
THE LONGEST YARD
THE LOST HONOR OF KATHARINA BLUM
LOVE AND DEATH
LUCKY LADY
THE MACK
THE MAGIC FLUTE
MAHOGANY
THE MAN WHO WOULD BE KING
MANDINGO
MASSAGE PARLOR WIFE / TEENAGE COEDS

MR. QUILP
NAKED CAME THE STRANGER
NASHVILLE
THE NAUGHTY VICTORIANS
THE NINE LIVES OF FRITZ THE CAT / FRITZ THE CAT
ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO'S NEST
ORDER TO KILL
THE OTHER SIDE OF THE MOUNTAIN
PINOCCHIO / TREASURE ISLAND
THE REINCARNATION OF PETER PROUD / SISTERS
ROLLERBALL
ROOSTER COGBURN
ROYAL FLASH

SANTA AND THE ICE CREAM BUNNY (matinees)
SENSATIONS
SEVEN ALONE
SHERLOCK HOLMES' SMARTER BROTHER
SMILE
SNOW WHITE AND THE SEVEN DWARFS / FANTASY ON SKIS
SPECIAL SECTION
STEVIE, SAMSON & DELILAH
THE STORY OF ADELE H.
THE STORY OF JOANNA
THE STORY OF "O"
STREET GIRLS
THE SUNSHINE BOYS
SUPERBUG
SWEPT AWAY
TAKE A HARD RIDE
THREE DAYS OF THE CONDOR
THE UNHOLY CHILD
VICE SQUAD WOMEN
THE WETTER THE BETTER
WIN, PLACE OR STEAL
WINTERHAWK
A WOMAN UNDER THE INFLUENCE
THE YAKUZA

Thursday, December 18, 2008

PETS (1973): From Playhouse to Grindhouse

Maybe you've seen the trailer -- pretty blonde starlet Candice Rialson doing a go-go striptease to "Soul Kitchen" by the Doors, while an announcer informs us that "There is an animal in every woman! A rare and dangerous species!" That's kid's stuff compared to the one-sheet poster: a photo of Ms. Rialson and co-star Teri Guzman chained and leashed like animals in a zoo. "PETS -- Fondle them! PETS -- Play with them! Love them! But watch out! PETS -- They bite!"

Richard Reich's no-budget oddity PETS reared its ugly head on the exploitation circuit in 1973, sporting one of the most lurid and misogynistic advertising campaigns ever aimed at the drive-in crowd. Forget about WOMEN IN CAGES, THE WOMAN HUNT ("Women were made for men to HUNT!"), THE BIG BIRD CAGE, or any of the other R-rated cheapies cranked out during the same period; those were prison movies for the most part -- BRUTE FORCE in drag -- so at least the filmmakers had a legitimate reason to work the image of caged/chained women into the publicity materials. Besides, the posters and trailers for those movies usually showed the women fighting their way out of bondage -- like the one-sheet for BLACK MAMA, WHITE MAMA, with the titular heroines using the chains that enslave them to strangle and whip one of their male captors to a bloody pulp.

Sadly, even that Roger Corman-styled veneer of pseudo-feminism is missing from the PETS poster. There's no sign that Candy and Teri are going to put up any kind of struggle at all. Shit, they even look happy to be leashed -- or at least resigned to the fact, with expressions on their faces that all but scream out, "I guess it's time for you to whip my ass and rape me 'til I enjoy it."

But let's be fair for a moment. Exploitation films have always been about selling the sizzle, not the steak, so we couldn't possibly blame the guy in publicity for concentrating solely on the S&M aspects of the story. What other choice did he have? "PETS! Straight from an unsuccessful off-Broadway run! PETS! The play that ran 30 weeks in London's West End! PETS! Coming soon to a drive-in near you!"

PETS, three one-act plays written by Richard Reich, was first performed onstage in May of 1969, at the Provincetown Playhouse in Greenwich Village. The first playlet, "Baby with a Knife," co-starred two thespians who are probably familiar to most Temple of Schlock readers: Marlene Clark, a regular on Sanford and Son, who also turned up in B-films and cult favorites like PUTNEY SWOPE, GANJA AND HESS, ENTER THE DRAGON, and SWITCHBLADE SISTERS, and Alan Weeks, who would later go on to supporting gigs in THE FRENCH CONNECTION, SHAFT, TRUCK TURNER, and BLACK BELT JONES.

The story opens at midnight, with fortyish lesbian painter Geraldine (Frances Helm) trying to discourage her sexy young live-in "model" Hilda (Clark) from going shopping the next day. Geraldine -- the jealous, man-hating type of lesbian -- realizes that Hilda still has a strong desire for dick, so she rarely allows the teenage beauty to leave the house. Hilda, sick and tired of playing mannequin for this dreary dyke, would gladly trade the good life in Geraldine's swanky beach house for a good ol' fashioned roll in the hay with a man again. Luckily for her, opportunity breaks a window and sneaks into the house in the form of Victor (Weeks), a hapless, knife-wielding burglar she immediately takes a liking to. After a night of good lovin', Hilda's ready to take off with Victor -- but only if Geraldine refuses to let her "keep" him around the house for a while. Needless to say, Geraldine isn't crazy about either scenario, and takes drastic action to avoid losing her treasured "pet" to this potentially dangerous man and his "knife."

In "The Silver-Grey Toy Poodle," two pretty hitchhikers -- twentysomething Pat (Carol E. Marnay) and her teenage companion Shelley (Laura Wallace) -- kidnap the middle-aged Dan Daubrey (William Grannell) on his way home from the beach with his toy poodle Bibi and rob him at gunpoint by the side of the road. Pat, a sadistic lesbian, ties up Dan and sticks him with pins until he tells her where the cash and his wife's jewelry are kept. With Bibi in tow, she then heads over to Dan's house to clean it out, leaving Shelley to guard him with the gun until she returns. Shelley squirts Dan in the face with the gun -- it's just a water pistol -- and tells him that she ran away from home because her big brother forced her to sing slave songs while he whipped her. Pat returns with the cash and the jewelry, but tells Dan that she tossed Bibi into the ocean because she wouldn't stop barking. Shelley and Pat argue; Shelley is upset because Pat killed Bibi, and Pat is furious with Shelley for telling Dan that the gun is fake. Eventually, Pat tricks Shelley out of her share of the loot and leaves her behind to deal with Dan.

The theme of sexual domination is driven home with a sledgehammer in "Pets," the third and final playlet, which can either be viewed as the icing on the cake or the straw that broke the camel's back. After a disastrous dinner date, the liberated young Janet (Frances Helm) reluctantly goes home with the insanely chauvinistic Ron (William Grannell), who's dying to show her his collection of animals. "All my pets are she's," he gushes as he introduces her to Kerian the dog, Lila the cat, Ladylove the parakeet -- and Bonnie, the beautiful teenage girl he's kept caged in the basement for two years. Uh-oh! Before Janet can get to the door, Ron pulls out a bullwhip and starts trying to "tame" the newest addition to his "zoo."

Unfortunately, subtlety gets flogged to a pulp long before Janet feels the sting of the zookeeper's whip, since Reich overdoes the pet-and-master/S&M imagery right from the start. In "Baby with a Knife," Geraldine refers to Hilda as "my pet" and at one point says to her, "the dog licks its master's hand." She also tells her that she had a horse she used to whip when she was a little girl. Tired of modeling in the sun for one of Geraldine's paintings, Hilda says, "I'm hot, slavedriver."

Hilda even tries to turn Victor into her pet, and Geraldine neuters him by taking away his knife (she finally gives it back to him -- only to shoot him dead a moment later). "You killed Victor," Hilda says to Geraldine, "You should be behind bars." In "The Silver-Grey Toy Poodle," Pat tells Shelley, "You look like a kitten," then compares Dan to Bibi, his pet poodle. Later, she suggests that the grey-haired Dan is actually his own wife's pet poodle (the silver-grey toy poodle of the title). The gun that turns out to be a water pistol represents Dan's impotence, and when Pat pulls a knife out of her pants, it proves that she's more of a man than Dan is. She even sticks Dan with pins -- the same thing her boyfriend used to do to her.

It's not surprising that few critics gave PETS a clean bill of health. Newsday's George Oppenheimer summed it up by writing, "Mr. Reich has given us three playlets which, to put it kindly, stagger the imagination," while Daphne Kraft of the Newark Evening News commented, "PETS, the three one-act satchels of emotion which got hurled on the stage of the Provincetown Playhouse last night, suffers from bad dialogue. The plays sizzle like wet firecrackers and make all of life look like exercises in hysteria." In the Manhattan Tribune, Clayton Riley wrote, "Nothing to recommend but a superb air-conditioning unit at the Provincetown. Doubtless it will outlive, by a good while, Richard Reich's slender trio." Worst of all were the opinions of a critic in Cue: "Richard Reich is a playwright who has discovered a fascinating new toy -- sadomasochism. So enthralled is he by the S&M mystique of discipline, power, sexual mastery and submission, torture and self-flagellation, that he has written no less than three one-acters in which people cage, whip, stab, and rape each other with gay abandon, all the while pontificating in language duller than an Abnormal Psych textbook."

Still, every play has its supporters, and PETS proved no exception. Daily News theatre critic James Davis wrote, "Playwright Richard Reich has a provocative idea in his PETS, the major offering in a 3-play bill of his authorship, and he makes the most of it," and William Hazlitt of the Hollywood Reporter felt that "Reich's dialogue is not the most adroit, but his sense of the theatrical is promising, his motivations are clear, and his characters are arresting." So Reich polished his script with rewrites, and more productions followed. One draft of the play, dated 1971, is typed in screenplay format, but retains the original stage directions. In this draft, Reich also changed the title of "Baby with a Knife" to "Lady with a Knife" and presented it as the second playlet instead of the first, reversing its order with "The Silver-Grey Poodle" -- a smart move thematically, and one that forms the structure of the film version. It should also be noted that Reich, a member of the Negro Ensemble Company, included the following message on the "Lady with a Knife" character page: "The parts of Hilda and Victor can be played by Negroes as in the New York production of the play."

Reich brought his PETS to the screen in 1973, with help from schlock producers Raphael Nussbaum (THE FEMALE BUNCH) and Mardi Rustam (EATEN ALIVE). Filmed as SUBMISSION, but released under its original moniker, the movie version is surprisingly faithful to the 1971 draft of the play (Reich and director Nussbaum share screenwriting credit, with additional dialogue provided by David Bowen). The stories are presented in the same order, but the screenplay unites them by turning Bonnie -- Ron's "pet" in the final segment, and the least developed character in the whole play -- into the film's central figure; she's simply inserted into the first two segments in place of the Shelley and Hilda characters. The film opens with a pre-credit sequence in which teen runaway Bonnie (Rialson) escapes from her abusive brother (Mike Cartel), who has come to Los Angeles to bring her back home. She then hooks up with Pat (Teri Guzman), and they do "The Silver-Grey Toy Poodle" pretty much by the book -- until Bonnie dances to some porno funk from THE BLACK ALLEYCATS, humps the lucky Dan (Brett Parker), and leaves him tied up and nude by the side of the road.

At a produce stand, lesbian painter Geraldine (Joan Blackman) saves Bonnie from a shoplifting rap and offers her a place to stay. What follows is pretty much "Baby/Lady with a Knife," but with two important differences: Victor's name has been changed to Ron the Burglar (Matt Green) -- presumably because Victor isn't much of a victor by the end of the story -- and Ron, the crazy zookeeper from the final playlet, is introduced here as an equally unhinged art collector named Vincent Stackman (Ed Bishop), who becomes obsessed with Geraldine's nude paintings of Bonnie. After Geraldine kills Ron the Burglar, Bonnie flees to Vincent's mansion. Months later, at a gallery exhibition of her work, the lonely Geraldine is approached by Vincent, who lures her to his home with the promise of seeing her beloved Bonnie again. Except for the twist ending, the rest of the movie sticks to the original "Pets" playlet almost word for word.

None of the playlets on their own are very interesting, but PETS as a whole is a strangely satisfying work -- especially the movie version, which pulls the three stories together beautifully, while omitting some of the play's more obvious (and embarrassing) thematic elements. Reich certainly had an agenda here, and even though his writing is often sloppy and sensationalistic, PETS is a remarkably coherent piece of storytelling for something that was probably just dismissed as drive-in dreck. I'm sure the movie didn't win over any more critics in 1973 than the original stage production did in 1969, when Harry Gilroy of the New York Times wrote, "It seemed at the opening of Richard Reich's PETS last night as if those books in the windows of 42nd Street had come to life and moved onto the stage of the Provincetown Playhouse exactly and perfectly detestable." I wouldn't be surprised if those words passed through Reich's mind four years later as he strolled down the Deuce and saw his name on a poster -- that goddamn PETS poster -- hanging out front the Lyric or the Selwyn or the Harris theatres.

[This is a revision of an article that originally appeared in Cashiers du Cinemart #10, p. 24-25, in 1999]

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Long A'Ghouled And Forry Away

The call came to tell me that Forrest J. Ackerman died. I hadn't heard. Dunno that I can yet spook of it. If there'd been no FJA, there'd have been no black and white shot of King Kong overlooking New York City, his beast gal in hand, the caption ghouling on that Kong was "Empire-roar of all he surveys." I feel like I did when I heard George Reeves had died, wayback when, and once more I'm not feeling too super, man. While I type this, I'm just like then, crying like a baby, I haunt kiddin'. I feel so down I'm bawlin', like when I furredst saw Kong a-fallen. Miss ya, Forry, batly. If yer ever lookin' down on me from those Karlofty heights, lemme know, so I can wave up to ya and ghoul "Slay man, fangs a rot!" Sure you've gone the way of mortal flesh, of old coat Kong fur, of the real Ann Darrow and her furfull Fayt. But I don't Kharis, I SAID care if the whole world knows, even if I should stay "Mum" about it. See, I figure ya got Anubis-ness venture upscares in horror heaven, and you're even now working away at the terror-type. And once I wipe away my tears, I know I'll see that you've sent aWray of hope to shine down oh-pun us. (May it shine Forryever.) -- T.K.

Have a very Murray Christmas!

I just got this great Christmas card from Daniel Griffith, maker of the upcoming documentaries on K. Gordon Murray and William Grefé! I loved Daniel's supplements on the new special edition DVD of Grefé's STANLEY so these two documentaries are at the top of my must-see movie list for 2009. In the meantime, keep your eyes peeled for the official WONDER WORLD OF K. GORDON MURRAY website, which should be up and running by early next week!