A San Antonio theater owner who entered the distribution business via the roadshow racket, Gidney Talley became one of the "forty thieves" of the exploitation world when he bought the 1948 sex hygiene film THE STORY OF BOB AND SALLY from - no joke - Universal Pictures. According to David F. Friedman's autobiography A Youth in Babylon, Universal executive Cliff Work produced BOB AND SALLY after seeing how much money roadshow king Kroger Babb was making with the trendsetting MOM AND DAD, one of the most successful movies of the 1940s. However, because of the Motion Picture Production Code and the certainty of the film receiving a "C" (condemned) rating from the National Legion of Decency, Universal couldn't release THE STORY OF BOB AND SALLY and sold it off to Talley, who immediately formed a company called "Social Guidance Enterprises" and hit the roadshow circuit with his new acquisition.
Following the blueprint drawn up by Babb for his MOM AND DAD roadshow event, Talley ran THE STORY OF BOB AND SALLY (later re-titled TELL OUR PARENTS) for separate audiences; mothers and their high school age daughters attended the early shows, fathers and their teen-aged sons were admitted to later ones. Nurses were on hand in case someone got sick or fainted, a "noted commentator" was there to lecture the audience before the film (in this case it was Roger T. Miles, "the renowned exponent on sex hygiene"), and two different sex educational manuals were hawked after the screenings: Personal Hygiene for Every Woman and Girl and Personal Hygiene for Every Man and Boy. Talley would eventually join forces with Babb and two other sex hygiene hucksters, Irwin Joseph (BECAUSE OF EVE) and Floyd Lewis (STREET CORNER), to form the roadshow monopoly known as Modern Film Distributors, which continued to find bookings for their creaky exploiters well into the 1970s!
Gidney Talley, Jr. followed in his father's footsteps as a Texas theater owner as well as a distributor, and then added producer credits and even a director credit to his resume. With partner Steven A. Coulter, he founded Magus Films at the start of the 1970s. One of their first big successes was PRINCE OF PEACE, a 1972 re-release of Pier Paolo Pasolini's THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO ST. MATTHEW (1964).
Later in '72 Magus unleashed FESTIVAL OF THE UNDEAD, a triple feature horror roadshow presentation featuring "Count Demonicus," a real mummy that was displayed in the theater lobbies and drive-in concession stands. A special "anti hex" coin was also given to each patron to ward off evil spirits. As for the horror movies, the triple bill differed from one theater to the next, depending on what was available.
PRELUDE TO HAPPINESS, Talley's sole directorial effort, was shot in San Antonio in 1973 and stars real-life amputee Rose Petra as a hit-and-run victim who wakes up in the hospital to find that her leg has been amputated above the knee. After her rotten fiancee dumps her, she wallows in self-pity and rejects the romantic overtures of the handsome doctor who performed the amputation and has fallen in love with her. The trailer is exploitative but the movie itself is absolutely sincere, and despite its technical deficiencies PRELUDE TO HAPPINESS is an incredibly watchable and satisfying sudser; a Douglas Sirk storyline on an Ed Wood budget, it would make a perfect drive-in double bill with another Texas-shot cheapie weepie, FULFILLMENT - SOMETHING WORTH REMEMBERING (1969).
THE SENATOR (1972) and SEXUAL FANTASIES U.S.A. (1973) were two "adults only" movies that may have been released in hardcore versions. Note that the one-sheet for THE SENATOR shown below credits all of the actors and actresses whose names also appear in the billing block for another Magus production, the R-rated sci-fi sexploitation film THINGS TO COME (which was released in 1976 but may have been completed as early as '72, under the title VIRGIN PLANET). Several of the stars of THE SENATOR took legal action against the producers, claiming that they didn't know the movie was going to be X-rated. The names Jim Curtis, Teresa Smith and Barbara Fisk were missing from all promotional materials when THE SENATOR made the theatrical rounds again in 1976.
In 1974, Magus re-released MARS ATTACKS THE WORLD (1938/1950) and PLANET OUTLAWS (1939/1953) on a Flash Gordon/Buck Rogers double bill.
A horror film called THE CREEP and an action-adventure movie called THE CORRUPTOR (both 1972) were listed in Boxoffice as Magus productions but apparently were never released or finished (if they were even started). Magus was no longer active by 1979 and Talley Jr. finished his life in Pleasanton, Texas as a theater owner and the president of Talley Enterprises.
We'd love to know more about Gidney Sr., Jr., the Magus Film Group and anything else covered in this post, so don't be shy. We encourage comments!