Sunday, May 30, 2010

One-Sheet of the Week: BLAST OF THE IRON PALM (1984)


U.S. release in 1984 as BLAST OF THE IRON PALM

Friday, May 28, 2010

New BEAST OF YUCCA FLATS documentary!

From the direcTOR of the critically acclaimed documentary short, SANTA CLAUS CONQUERS THE DEVIL: A 50 YEAR RETROSPECTIVE, comes the shocking true sTORy behind one of American cinema's most misunderstood pieces of celluloid. Ballyhoo Motion Pictures and Shout! Factory present NO DIALOGUE NECESSARY: MAKING THE BEAST OF YUCCA FLATS, an all-new, 30 minute documentary short featuring exclusive interviews with cult filmmaker Larry Blamire ('Lost Skeleton' series), B-movie historian Bob Burns, MYSTERY SCIENCE THEATER 3000 alumnus Frank Conniff, and YUCCA FLATS cinematographer/editor Lee Strosnider.

And, as an added bonus, Ballyhoo Motion Pictures produced an additional featurette entitled COLEMAN FRANCIS: THE CINEMATIC POET OF PARKING with Lee Strosnider (cinematographer/editor of BEAST OF YUCCA FLATS and SKYDIVERS). In this candid documentary short, Strosnider recalls his experiences with the enigmatic actor/director, from their first discussions regarding YUCCA FLATS to shooting SKYDIVERS. Both documentaries are produced and directed by Daniel Griffith.

Available only on the MYSTERY SCIENCE THEATER 3000 VOLUME XVIII DVD box set, coming July 13th, 2010 from from Shout! Factory!

COMING SOON to the Ballyhoo Motion Pictures Store: Exclusive BEAST OF YUCCA FLATS documentary mini-posters and button-sets.



Wednesday, May 26, 2010

This Week on 42nd Street -- 1982

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

North Side of the Street





South Side of the Street


Cine 42





Sunday, May 23, 2010

One-Sheet of the Week: KUNG FU WARLORDS PART II (1983)


U.S. release in October 1983 as KUNG FU WARLORDS PART II

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

This week on 42nd Street -- 1983

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

North Side of the Street


Victory: 3 adult hits


Times Square: THE HUNGER / SCUM


South Side of the Street

Cine 42





Sunday, May 16, 2010

One-Sheet of the Week: KUNG FU WARLORDS (1983)


U.S. release in June 1983 as KUNG FU WARLORDS

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Happy Birthday NORMAN WHITFIELD (1940-2008)

(May 12, 1940 – September 16, 2008)

The late, great Motown producer-songwriter Norman Whitfield would've turned 70 today, so we got together with Schlockmania's Don Guarisco, another big Whitfield fan, for a crossover birthday post lists. Don's "Top 10" list of essential Whitfield songs is here, and we recommend you head over there for delicious appetizers before coming back to the Temple for our belly-busting feast. Bon appétit!


1. “Smiling Faces Sometimes,” The Undisputed Truth: Yes, “Cloud Nine” was Motown’s first Grammy winner, “I Heard it Through the Grapevine” was proclaimed the greatest pop single of all time by Dave Marsh in The Heart of Rock and Soul, and “War” is still timely as ever and good for absolutely something (namely, ASCAP royalties that must be well into the six-figure range), but for me, this dazzling hit (#3 Pop, #2 R&B) and oldies station staple is the quintessential Norman Whitfield production and a fine example of his "psychedelic soul” style boiled down to 45 rpm length. Whitfield was a master at grabbing the listener from the start, and this one’s a whopper, but the hair standing up on my neck tells me the real heart of "Smiling Faces Sometimes" - the paranoia - is reached at the 52-second mark as horns, strings, and Dennis Coffey’s menacing fuzztone guitar slither in and around each other like the snake in the handshake Billie Rae Calvin, Brenda Joyce and Joe Harris are warning us about. In a perfect world, Whitfield would’ve been hired to score LIVE AND LET DIE, with something very similar to “Smiling Faces Sometimes” playing over the Maurice Binder credit sequence.

Recommended reading: “You Caught Me Smiling: The Smiling Faces Trope of Seventies Soul” (p.120-137) in Peter Shapiro’s Turn the Beat Around: The Secret History of Disco (Faber and Faber, 2005).

Trivia: Whitfield also produced versions of this song by The Temptations, Rare Earth and David Ruffin.

2. “Lonely Lonely Girl Am I,” The Velvelettes: Whitfield had already produced a few pre-Supremes girl group hits for Motown (most notably “Too Many Fish in the Sea” by the Marvelettes) and was experimenting with the formula by the time this single came out and failed to make the charts. Lyrically it’s a spurned-girl-in-her-lonely-room number, only this one's uptempo and infectiously danceable despite a big, bold orchestral arrangement that seems to hover over the whole thing like a dark cloud. I think I get it: this lonely lonely girl plans to cry herself to sleep or dance herself to death, whichever comes first -- or until daddy bangs on the door and tells her to turn that damn noise down.

Extra credit assignment: Play the intro to "Needle in a Haystack" by The Velvelettes and name the first Dave Clark Five song that comes to mind!

3. Car Wash soundtrack, Rose Royce/Norman Whitfield: We never subscribed to the “great album but lousy movie” philosophy that seems to be popular nowadays regarding this box-office hit. We always dug the movie, and we really want Universal to issue an expanded edition on DVD that restores all the deleted scenes that show up in the T.V. version. On the other hand, we’re sick to death of having to skip over Richard Pryor’s “Daddy Rich” scene on the soundtrack – it isn’t funny at all without the visuals - and wouldn’t mind if future pressings of the CD omitted it entirely. Get that needless filler out of there and you’ll find Car Wash is not only a better album but it’s possibly the greatest soundtrack LP of the 1970s.

Note: Check out Don’s critique of Car Wash’s extended instrumental track “Sunrise” over at Schlockmania!

4. “Save My Love for a Rainy Day,” The Temptations: As much as I appreciate the psychedelic soul and funk of the early ‘70s Temptations, I wouldn’t argue with anyone who criticized Whitfield for downplaying the group’s vocal harmonies after “I Can’t Get Next to You” sold a zillion copies. As evidence of possible wrongdoing I present this dynamite album track, which closes out side one of The Temptations with a Lot O’ Soul. Not only does it boast a terrific lead by Eddie Kendricks and the very best foot stomps ever heard on a Motown recording, but the harmonies are dazzling and the tick-tock Swiss clock arrangement so infectious that you’ll find yourself clapping your hands and pounding the floorboards at the fade-out. Why this was never released as a single is a mystery for the ages.

Trivia: Whitfield also cut a version of this song as the debut single by The Undisputed Truth.

5. “The Way You Do the Things You Do,” The Underdogs: Motown president Berry Gordy chased the mid ‘60s garage rock explosion by signing this band from Grosse Point, MI. By the time they cut their one and only single on the label’s V.I.P. imprint (a cover of Chris Clark’s “Love's Gone Bad” b/w “Mojo Hannah,” previously recorded by Marvin Gaye and Stevie Wonder, among others), only the singer and lead guitarist remained, with the Funk Brothers filling in on all other instruments to guarantee that no one would ever confuse Gordy’s big discovery with The Sonics, Seeds or Standells. Sixteen other tracks were recorded by The Underdogs at Motown, none of them ever released except for this wacky cover of The Temptations hit, which didn’t see the light of day until 2004 when it turned up on the 2-disc Motown Sings Motown Treasures compilation. It’s a joke, with Motown handclaps, signature drums and James Jamerson’s rumbling bass leading in to singer Dave Whitehouse’s Syndicate of Sound-like exclamation, “Little girl, you’re so doggone fine! You’re about to mess up my mind!” The next minute and a half sounds exactly like what you’d expect a Motown-produced garage rock song to sound like, only funnier, and then -- when Whitfield skips a raunchy guitar solo at the midway point in favor of a half-assed “Land of 1,000 Dances” nah-nah-nah singalong -- we just about hit the floor…and we don’t mean the dance floor. Priceless.

6. “(I Know) I’m Losing You,” Rare Earth: Forget the hit single version -– we’re referring to the full album cut that runs nearly 11 minutes and, to these ears, holds its own against most of the Funkadelic catalog (Not surprisingly, the first Funkadelic album features future Rare Earth guitarist Ray Monette plus Motown session musicians like Earl Van Dyke and Dennis Coffey). It’s hard to say what gets more of a workout on this extended scorcher, the echo chamber or the wah-wah pedal, and I suppose the drum and bongo break around the 7-minute mark should remind me of “In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida” but instead I see it as another chapter in the education of Tom Moulton. Oh, and this cut gets extra points for adding the jazzy sax at the fade-out. If the Red Hot Chili Peppers had dumped Rick Rubin after One Hot Minute like they should have and tried something new and different, I'd wish for a whole album of Whitfield favorites with the man himself at the helm and this song smack in the middle of the collection.

Trivia: In addition to The Temptations hit (#8 Pop, #1 R&B), Whitfield also cut this song with Gladys Knight & The Pips and The Undisputed Truth.

7. “Ball of Confusion (That’s What the World is Today),” The Undisputed Truth: Another example of echo chamber abuse is this acid-soaked 10-minute-plus rendition of The Temptations’ tongue-twisting hit (#3 Pop, #2 R&B). The back-and-forth between Billie, Brenda and Joe never got better than this, with the three working in bits from “Funky Music Sho Nuff Turns Me On” and Kool & the Gang’s “Let the Music Take Your Mind” (The Truth also pop up in Edwin Starr’s version of the song, which is almost as far-out as this one), while Whitfield gives Dennis Coffey plenty of room to shred on his guitar and try out his latest effects pedals. We love the sax and flute, too…and did we mention that echo chamber? That echo chamber? That echo chamber? That echo chamber…

8. “I Heard It Through the Grapevine,” Gladys Knight & the Pips: Motown’s best-selling single until Marvin’s take on it hit the charts a full year later, this one’s the out-of-control family response version with outraged Gladys working older brother Merald and cousins Edward Patten and William Guest into a frenzy, as opposed to the meditative slow-burn of Gaye’s way. After 40 years, we’re still not sure which we prefer.

Trivia: Whitfield also cut this song with The Temptations, The Undisputed Truth, Smokey Robinson & The Miracles, Bobby Taylor & The Vancouvers, and even The Isley Brothers (although that version remains unreleased).

Further reading

9. “That’s the Way Love Is,” Marvin Gaye: Whitfield and writing partner Barrett Strong took a cue from Holland-Dozier-Holland and rehashed “I Heard It Through the Grapevine” in much the same way H-D-H had recycled “I Can’t Help Myself (Sugar Pie Honey Bunch)” as the snickering quickie knockoff “It’s the Same Old Song,” only Whitfield-Strong played theirs straight and still managed to squeeze a second Top 10 hit (#2 R&B, #7 Pop) out of the same basic arrangement. We knew what it was the first time we heard it, and we loved it anyway -– but that’s the way love is, baby.

10. Masterpiece, The Temptations: Its detractors refer to it as a Norman Whitfield album with special guest appearances by The Temptations, but only the 14-minute title track lives up to that label. What’s left opens with the stunningly beautiful “Hey Girl (I Like Your Style)” and closes with the 8-minute long junkie nightmare “Hurry Tomorrow.” In between you get “Plastic Man” – not the funny superhero, unfortunately – plus “Ma,” a pleasant counterbalance to the previous year’s smash “Papa Was a Rolling Stone,” and “Law of the Land,” which overcomes its count-the-cliché lyrics with a terrific hand-clapping opener, an unrelenting beat and a tripped-out middle section highlighted by the jazz guitar playing of Joe Messina. There are 6 tracks in all, no filler to speak of, yet I still hesitate in calling it a masterpiece (Hell, I wouldn’t even call it the best Whitfield album produced that year). It certainly is the most powerful shot of pure uncut Norman that’s easily available on the market, though, and when it comes to Paul Riser arrangements, too much is never enough.

Trivia: Whitfield also cut versions of "Ma" with Rare Earth and The Undisputed Truth, two different mixes of "Law of the Land" by The Undisputed Truth, and in 1980 signed an R&B vocal group called Masterpiece to his Whitfield Records label.

11. "Runaway Child, Running Wild," Earl Van Dyke: The haunting Temptations message hit (#6 Pop, #1 R&B), which ran just under 5 minutes as a single and almost 10 minutes as an album cut, is transformed into a jazzy and comparatively upbeat 3-minute instrumental by the leader of the Motown house band, who played the organ on the original but here sticks to the piano. In other words, unlike earlier singles credited to Van Dyke, this one’s a whole different production and not simply an instrumental track. The Earl’s playing is marvelous and the snappy arrangement (presumably by David Van De Pitte) has him matching wits with Coffey on lead guitar and a killer horn section, while getting terrific support from either Jamerson or Babbitt on bass (the liner notes are incomplete) and Eddie “Bongo” Brown on congas. The b-side, a reworking of Jimmy Ruffin’s “Gonna Give Her All the Love I’ve Got” that was also tailor-made by Whitfield as a showpiece for Van Dyke and Coffey, is equally essential.

12. 1990, The Temptations: The follow-up to Masterpiece, released later the same year (1973), actually IS a masterpiece. Seven songs, all of them keepers, each one memorable and unique in its own way. Synthesizers, sound effects, looping, drum boxes -- this is not only the Tempts' most consistent and satisfying LP, it's also their toughest. Whitfield fleshes out the few remaining Motown session guys (Van Dyke, Willis, Wah Wah, Coffey) with Billy "Bass" Nelson and Eddie Hazel of Funkadelic and a fresh group of L.A. musicians who would soon become famous under the name Rose Royce. The Temptations got a beautiful ballad out of the deal ("Heavenly") as well as a 14-minute trip to the moon ("Zoom") and one of their hardest funk numbers ever ("You've Got My Soul on Fire"), and still insisted that Whitfield be replaced as their writer-producer -- a big mistake, because they never did anything this good again.

13. "Funky Music Sho Nuff Turns Me On," Edwin Starr: I like the Temptations version (an All Directions album cut, also the b-side to “Mother Nature”), I really like Yvonne Fair's take on it from The Bitch is Black, but I love Edwin Starr's loud, fuzzed-out, funked-up original -- and I'm not alone in that opinion, 'cause this is the only one that charted (#6 R&B, #64 Pop). A great song to have blasting out of your car stereo when you're stopped at a red light. "Ba-ba-ba-boom-boom, higher!/Music's got my soul on fire!"

14. Ma, Rare Earth: One of Whitfield’s three auteur pieces from 1973, released in between his final – and most artistic – Temptations long players (Masterpiece and 1990), Ma finds the man continuing to expand musical boundaries, this time with Motown’s album-oriented rockers Rare Earth. Side one consists solely of “Ma,” a song that ran 4:46 when the Tempts introduced it on Masterpiece but is blown out to 17 minutes and 22 seconds here for a completely unique listening experience. I’d be selling the work way short if I said it was a perfect fire-up-the-bong-and-sink-into-the-beanbag-chair album side, but you’re certainly not gonna dance to it. “Big John is My Name” later showed up on the Undisputed Truth’s Down to Earth album, and although I prefer that version because of its intense lead vocals, almost hostile harmonies, and gratuitous censor bleeps (“Some of my friends smoke a little *bleep*/Some of my friends sniff a little *bleep*”), this one proves to be a damn good groover as well, and forms a nice bridge from “Ma” to yet another cover of “Smiling Faces Sometimes” (I defer to Don Guarisco's list for this one). “Hum Along and Dance,” previously done to perfection by the Temptations on Psychedelic Shack as a nod to Sly Stone’s “Dance to the Music,” is hardened almost to the point of industrial rock here. Interestingly, it's this arrangement that the Jackson 5 covered later the same year (8:38 on the Whitfield-heavy Get It Together LP, pared down from a staggering 15-minute-plus version that surfaced later on Joyful Jukebox Music) and not the more vocally interesting Tempts original. Finishing off Ma with a happy ending is "Come With Me," Motown's first hump-along: 5 minutes of mellow, spacey keyboard and electric guitar accompanied by pre-"Love to Love You Baby" female moans that out-"Pillow Talk" Sylvia Robinson. My only complaint with this set? There should've been a sixth song. Otherwise, A+

15. "Don't Let the Joneses Get You Down," The Temptations: Nestled between four bigger hits -- “Cloud Nine” and “Runaway Child, Running Wild” before it, “I Can’t Get Next to You” and “Psychedelic Shack” after it -- this is the one that stands the test of time, and only partly because it hasn’t been killed by oldies station overexposure. Mostly, the brilliant intro is pure soul cinema strut two years before SHAFT, and the breathless pace of everything that follows says this is the only one of the batch that could be convincingly covered as an all-out rocker by Little Richard. Speaking of covers, I can’t think of a single one, which means this could be the biggest hit Whitfield had that he didn’t beat to death through re-recording. Nope, the Tempts own this one.

16. "I Want My Baby Back," Edwin Starr: Guy screws up, loses his girl, and spends two minutes and forty seconds telling us how much he wants her back. The thing is, Starr is so cool about it that we don’t believe what he’s singing for a second, let alone the entire first verse. Then, at the one minute mark, he suddenly has a few too many words to work with as Whitfield picks up the pace and whips the production into a near-frenzy, revealing the panic and desperation behind a macho façade that threatens to crumble at any second. Done a couple years earlier by Stevie Wonder as an Uptight album cut, Starr’s version was a single that didn’t chart, and I’m not surprised: The 7-second bass intro nearly falls to pieces before the drums come in to bail it out, which makes sense artistically but isn’t the type of thing to set jukeboxes on fire. Oh well.

17. "Wishing on a Star," Rose Royce: I second everything Don wrote in his Top 10 post (where it comes in at #9), and add only this: It's one of the band’s signature tunes, and I know Gwen Dickey’s vocals really help knock it out of the park, but “Wishing on a Star” is and always will be Billie Rae Calvin’s song and I can’t get her out of my head whenever I hear it. Whitfield later cut an instrumental version with Junior Walker, but I still wish (on a star) that this heartbreaker had been written a few years earlier and recorded first by the Undisputed Truth, if only to give the underutilized Calvin (R.I.P.) a crack at it. Sequel: “Angel in the Sky” from Rose Royce III.

18. Cosmic Truth, The Undisputed Truth: The group's fifth album. The bad news is that Billie Rae Calvin and Brenda Joyce are gone. The good news is that Whitfield tries to out-funk the whole damn Parliafunkadelicment Thang, from Eddie Hazel's squealing guitars ("Earthquake Shake") and Bootsy's space bass ("UFO's") right down to the copycat album title (ripped from Funkadelic's Cosmic Slop), and winds up with something that sounds like the space between Westbound (Tales of Kidd Funkadelic) and Warner Brothers (Hardcore Jollies). We thought the cover of Neil Young's "Down by the River" was the album's weak link until our friend Bob Plante explained that it's actually a cover of Buddy Miles' cover of Neil Young's "Down by the River." Plus, the gatefold artwork looks more like Willie Hutch's Mark of the Beast than a Pedro Bell creation and the inside photo of the group calls to mind THE OMEGA MAN instead of the P-Funk clan. Memo to Hip-O Select: A remastered 2-fer CD of this paired with Higher Than High would be nice.

19. "I Saw You When You Met Her," David Ruffin: Estranged from the Temptations at this point, Whitfield reunites with the “superstar”
lead vocalist who split the group five years earlier in a blaze of glory. It’s a treat to hear egomaniacal junkie has-been and woman abuser Ruffin pushed painfully to the highest reaches of his vocal range and beyond by a producer who apparently hated his guts so much he made him do a cover of “Superstar (Remember How You Got Where You Are)” -- the acidic Temptations hit written about him -– a few tracks later on the same album. A pathetic domestic situation gets inflated to near-Wagnerian proportions in this sweeping mini epic (running time: 6:49) arranged by Paul Riser, with rain-and-thunder sound effects and electric piano courtesy of L.A. Woman. “I must search the endless night/I was wrong and now she’s gone/I’ve got to make her see/The girl she saw me with meant nothing to me.” Yes, it’s another dumb-guy-screws-around-on-his-woman-and-loses-her song, but the best thing the dumb guy can come up with this time is “I didn’t go to stay/I only went to play,” which he has to repeat twice to himself, ‘cause even he doesn’t believe his jive anymore. The version Whitfield cut a year later with the Undisputed Truth for their Higher Than High LP is damn good also, but this one’s the keeper.

20. "You Can't Judge a Book by its Cover," Yvonne Fair: Like Tammi Terrell, Fair had recorded singles for James Brown before signing a contract with Motown, and -- like Brenda Holloway, Kim Weston, Blinky, Barbara Randolph and all the other female vocalists at the label not named "Diana Ross" -- was pretty much relegated to third tier status by the time the ink on that contract had dried. Five years after she cut her first single for Motown, Fair underwent an image makeover and emerged a Millie Jackson/Laura Lee-style spitfire armed with an album titled The Bitch is Black that featured a half dozen new Whitfield produced tracks. Our favorite is this funked-up Stevie Wonder cover, which we're pretty sure was recorded during the same sessions that yielded much of the Undisputed Truth's Cosmic Truth LP the same year (especially "Earthquake Shake"). Babbitt's slap bass and the triple guitars of Eddie Willis, Wah Wah Watson and Dennis Coffey are pushed wayyyyy to the front of the mix (at a time when Wah Wah and Coffey's playing could be heard every week on S.W.A.T.), and Fair's guttural growls sound right at home on this bumpy ride.

21. Midnight Lady, Rare Earth: Speaking of judging a book by its cover, I've seen this slammin' LP referred to as Rare Earth's disco album, presumably by a handful of people who confused it with “Warm Ride,” the band's subsequent single, which was written by the Bee Gees and is a disco record. Except for one track written by Jerry LeCroix ("It's a Natural") and one arranged by Paul Riser ("Let it Go") -- the opening and closing songs on side one, respectively, and both very tasty -- Midnight Lady is an awesome slab of hard rock funk “written, produced and arranged by Norman Whitfield.” It also sports a 1976 copyright date, making it the last Motown recording to carry Whitfield's name until his reunion album with the Temptations in 1983, Back to Basics. The Foghat-like “Finger Lickin' Good” managed to beat the Dennis Coffey album of the same name to stores by several months while boasting some of Whitfield's most cringe-worthy lyrics (“44-24-38/You look like the Colonel's chicken on a plate/And that's my favorite dish I do declare!”), but you won't care once you hear the echoing harmonica on top of the killer keyboard and guitar combo. "Do It Right” is another rocker, this time backed by Riser's ominous orchestral arrangement, while the driving beat and sweeping strings on the LP's upbeat title track (and lone single) sounds to me like Whitfield's nod to the Doobie Brothers' cover of Holland-Dozier-Holland's "Take Me In Your Arms (Rock Me a Little While)" from the previous year. Hardcore Motown fans will eat up the two classic Whitfield covers included here, “He Who Picks a Rose” and “Ain't No Sun (Since You've Been Gone),” both of which manage to break new ground despite having already been produced by Stormin' Norman three times each.* “Wine, Women and Song” ends the album on a bittersweet note; at a length of nearly 12 minutes it's the last extended jam Whitfield recorded for Motown, ever -- and he must've known it, too, because he ends the song about 6 minutes in, then seemingly changes his mind and lets it go off in a completely different direction for another 5 minutes or so. A marvelous album from start to finish, Midnight Lady is criminally ignored, even by Motown fans and Whitfield buffs, but we love every second of it and can't recommend it enough.

* "He Who Picks a Rose" was previously recorded by the Temptations, Jimmy Ruffin, and Edwin Starr, while "Ain't No Sun (Since You've Been Gone)" was done by Gladys Knight & the Pips, Chuck Jackson, and the Undisputed Truth.

22. "It Makes You Feel Like Dancin'," Rose Royce: The title says it all, and to write anything more would sort of defeat the purpose. Still, we’ll direct your attention to the running time (8:46) and tell you that this contains everything you’d ever want to hear in a Whitfield disco epic. “Feel the funk, feel the funk/Come on, come on, shake your rump!”

23. "Don't Let Him Take Your Love From Me," The Four Tops
24. "I Gotta Let You Go," Martha Reeves & the Vandellas: The departure of the Holland-Dozier-Holland songwriting/production team from Motown in 1967 was a blow that the company never fully recovered from, and the two acts that suffered the most in their absence were the Four Tops and Martha Reeves and the Vandellas. These catchy but minor Motown hits are included here more for their historical significance than anything else, since they’re the only singles Whitfield cut with the two groups. “Don’t Let Him Take Your Love From Me” (R&B #25, Pop #45) had been recorded previously by Jimmy Ruffin (a single that didn’t chart) and Gladys Knight & The Pips under Whitfield’s direction; he also did versions with the Temptations (1969) and the Undisputed Truth (1972). “I Gotta Let You Go” also began life as a Ruffin track, but Martha’s was the one that made the charts (R&B #43, Pop #93).

25. "The Cat and Me," Stargard: A funked-up, spaced-out girl group put together by Whitfield to fill the void left after Labelle broke up in early 1977, Stargard consisted of 3 gorgeous women (Rochelle Runnells, Janice Williams, Debra Anderson) with good voices and decent songwriting skills. Their first assignment was to record a Whitfield-penned disco-funk theme song for the Michael Schultz-Richard Pryor comedy WHICH WAY IS UP? Their second single was another Whitfield composition, “What You Waitin’ For.” Both hits were produced by Whitfield protégé Mark Davis, while Whitfield himself turned his attention toward Rose Royce, The Undisputed Truth, Willie Hutch and several less interesting acts signed to the newly formed Whitfield Records label. After Stargard appeared in Schultz’s SGT. PEPPER’S LONELY HEARTS CLUB BAND (1978), performing a cringe-worthy cover of “I Want You (She’s So Heavy)” with Donald Pleasence (!), the group quickly fell off in popularity, just as their recordings started to get really good with The Changing of the Gard, their third long-player. Whitfield stepped in and took over the production reins on their fourth, Back 2 Back, but Anderson was gone by then and sales continued to slip. “Diary” and the lovely Runnells-written ballad “Just One Love” are the best tracks on the album, but it’s Williams’ “The Cat and Me” that really lingers long after the record is back in its sleeve. First of all, it’s the only Stargard song that’s as adorable as the women who are singing it (Not surprisingly, it appears on the only album where said women are smiling on the front and back covers). Second, it’s probably Whitfield’s shortest, most straightforward and laidback latter-day production. Third, and most important, is this: the simplicity of the lyrics makes them easy to visualize, but also leaves a few important questions unanswered, namely who and why. “The cat sat in the window, and we both watched you leave/The cat had known you longer, but she didn’t cry like me.” We’ve known some pretty stupid men in our time, but never one who was so stupid he’d walk out on Janice Williams and his own cat!

Sunday, May 09, 2010

One-Sheet of the Week: BEYOND THE DARKNESS (1976)



Re-released in 1976 as BEYOND THE DARKNESS

Saturday, May 08, 2010

State of the Temple Address 3

We’ve been busy with other projects as well as a lot of personal crap for the past few months, and have been somewhat remiss in our posting here at the Temple, but we’re hoping to remedy that soon with a handful of new pieces that have been on the backburner for a while now. Call it the intrusion of reality; lately it seems every time we sit down to bang out a quick post, scan a few ads, or simply watch a friggin’ movie, someone drops a quarter into the jukebox and selects the number about taxes, death and trouble, and before we know it another week has come and gone. But hey, instead of wasting time writing about how there’s never enough time, let’s get down to business, shall we?

(Above) The line outside the Silent Movie Theatre on March 30th

First off, we would like to extend a great big “thank you” to everyone who showed up for the screening of THE NAME OF THE GAME IS KILL on March 30th at the Cinefamily/Silent Movie Theatre, a beyond-sold-out affair with folding chairs quickly set up in the aisles to accommodate late arrivals. It was a great time, and we’re extremely happy that so many of you came out to support this event. Big thanks to our special guests -– cinematographer Vilmos Zsigmond, screenwriter Gary Crutcher, and composer Stu Phillips -- and filmmaker Joe Dante, who moderated the Q&A after the film.

(Above) Stu Phillips, Gary Crutcher, Vilmos Zsigmond, and Joe Dante

More big thanks to Hadrian Belove of the Cinefamily, who did the heavy lifting once Daniel Griffith and I located a 35mm print of the film, and thanks also to everyone at the George Eastman House who cut corners to make sure their print got to us by March 30th. Thanks also to Brian Quinn and Eric Caidin of the Grindhouse series at the New Beverly, who co-sponsored this special event with the Cinefamily, Ballyhoo Motion Pictures and Temple of Schlock, and Harry Guerro of Exhumed Films for providing the beautiful print of THE REINCARNATION OF PETER PROUD, the second feature of the evening (I'm very happy to report that more than half of the audience stuck around to watch it, too). Let’s also have a big round of applause for our friend Jim Healy at the George Eastman House, and also to Paul Rapp, who would’ve been another “special guest” if we had been able to secure a print of his film THE CURIOUS FEMALE as originally planned. Finally, my warmest thanks go to Daniel Griffith, Gary Crutcher and Bill Grefe, for allowing me to play D’Artagnon to their Three Musketeers for the past year and a half.

Never underestimate the power of ballyhoo. Daniel put together a sweet prize pack that consisted of a button (pictured above), a one-sheet reproduction and the “Pledge” card that was part of the film’s original ad campaign, and this went a long way in making what already was a really cool evening seem more like a special event. I stood at the entrance with Daniel and Brian Quinn and each of us handed out a different piece of the prize pack to the first 100 patrons who came through the door: Daniel distributed the one-sheets, I gave out the pledges -- instructing each ticketholder to sign it and swear not give away the film’s shock ending -- and Brian was on button duty. It’s always nice to feel like you’ve gotten an immediate return on your investment, and judging by the smiles I saw coming in that evening, these goodies really helped take the sting out of the $12 admission price. Daniel and I are planning to co-host another screening of the film in October or November at the George Eastman House, possibly on a double bill with PSYCH-OUT, and the prize pack will again be an integral part of the program. Stay tuned for more details.

Back in February we co-hosted (with Cultra DVD) a Friday night series of triple features on 35mm at the Cinefamily under the banner "The Art of Exploitation." We couldn't make it out to California for any of these shows unfortunately, but we're told they were a lot of fun. Below is a list of what was shown when.


Our friend Jake Perlin, film curator at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, deserves a huge round of applause for organizing the recent Bill Gunn retrospective at BAM, which included the first public screening in 20 years (and only the second one in 40 years) of Gunn's ill-fated major studio production STOP (1970). Sadly, Warner Brothers couldn't (or wouldn't) provide BAM with a 35mm print, but co-star John Hoffmeister saved the day with his personal VHS copy, which was shown to a large, appreciative audience on Easter Sunday. Leading man Edward Bell was there and got up afterwards for an impromptu Q&A that went from informative to funny to downright weird, and Jake made sure everyone knew that the concession stand was fully stocked with copies of Gunn's long out-of-print novel Rhinestone Sharecropping, which loosely chronicles the making of this X-rated major studio head flick. Coming less than a week after our NAME OF THE GAME IS KILL screening at the Cinefamily, we thought this would pale in comparison, but instead it played out like the east coast equivalent in terms of excitement and overall enjoyment. Bravo, Jake!

(Above) Bill Gunn directs Linda Marsh and Edward Bell in STOP

Now we're gonna set the WABAC Machine to wayyyyyyy back in November '09 for our next long-awaited nod. Simply put, if you were within 10 miles of lower Manhattan on November 20th and you missed "A Night of 1,000 Dummy Deaths" at 92Y Tribeca, then you, my friend, are a dummy.

That's right, we called you a "dummy."

Plunging double dummy!

A great big dum-dum.

Nope, we're not finished with you yet, dummy!

A special presentation of Kevin Maher's monthly Kevin Geeks Out program, "A Night of 1,000 Dummy Deaths" was co-hosted by The Flying Maciste Brothers from Destructible Man, who for 2 solid hours came at us with film clips, special guests, cupcakes and fun, and I think the sharp, open-minded crowd actually learned a thing or two before it was done, hey hey hey.

Above: Kevin (not Marr) Maher of Kevin Geeks Out as Richard France in DAWN OF THE DEAD ("Dummies!")

Below: Kevin (not Maher) Marr and Howard S. Berger, a.k.a. The Flying Maciste Brothers

The program was such a big success and a kickass good time that I'm eager to see the Macistes take their show on the road -- so if you know of a venue near you that would be interested in doing a "Night of 1,000 Dummy Deaths," contact the Flying Maciste Brothers at destructibleman[at] The Dummyship may be landing in your town very soon, so don't miss the Connection!

Course, we've known the Macistes for nearly 20 years, so don't just take our word for it. Check out these other rave reviews:

Kevin Geeks Out

Love Train for the Tenebrous Empire

We have almost zero interest in reviewing new DVDs, but every so often a company will send us a screener to plug. We'll either forward it to Kris Gilpin to review or we'll try our hardest to string together a few of our own sentences of support for the product. About 8 months ago a very friendly young lady named Christy from Liberation Entertainment sent us a couple of DVDs that we were supposed to review, and instead we misplaced them somewhere in the Temple and never wrote a word about either one. Matter of fact, we got THE HOUSE ON SORORITY ROW before Fangoria received their screener of it, and we very nicely invited Mike Gingold over to the Temple for a showing so he could bang out a quick review for Fango (See, Christy? Sending us these discs wasn't a total loss!). Better late than never, we recommend both the special edition of THE HOUSE ON SORORITY ROW (without giving the time of day to the remake) and the double feature DVD of Greydon Clark's hilarious UNINVITED w/ Bud Cardos' very entertaining MUTANT.

As many of you have noticed, sometime back in January our long-running "Lost and Still Not Found" series underwent a quick overnight facelift and emerged from the blood-soaked bandages as "The Endangered List."

We did this because, frankly, we were getting fed up with all the e-mails that were coming in questioning our definition of "lost." Instead of packing up our pressbooks and ad mats and going home in a snit, we asked a handful of trustworthy and respected colleagues to come up with a more accurate label for this otherwise very popular Temple feature, and our friend Lars Nilsen of the Alamo Drafthouse hit the nail on the head with "The Endangered List." So thank you, Lars, and when we finally make it to Austin, the first couple of beers are on us!

Unfortunately, nature abhors a vacuum, and not five minutes after we rid our inbox of one headache, another began to appear. A half dozen people have written to us asking if we can burn them copies of Tom Hanson's THE BIG SCORE. We've talked to Mr. Hanson several times since the review was posted and he's told us he never saw a dime for this movie. Because he still has the uncut version (A TON OF GRASS GOES TO POT), we wouldn't want to undermine a potential DVD deal by disseminating the truncated Australian VHS transfer. Besides, I know at least one of you will upload it to Cinemageddon within five seconds of receiving it. So the answer is no.

Oh, and before we go, one last thing: scratch seven more films from our list of 100+ No-Shows on Region 1 DVD:

CHANDLER (Warner Archives)



SANDS OF THE KALAHARI (Paramount/Olive Films)

SLITHER (Warner Archives)

THE TERMINAL MAN (Warner Archives)

TROPIC OF CANCER (Paramount/Olive Films)

The Olive titles should be out by September, the others are already available. Phew! We need a drink now. Peace out. 5/8/10