Wednesday, October 21, 2020

The Endangered List (Case File #168)




JINSEI GEKIJO
(1972)

aka THEATRE OF LIFE

Starring
Muga Takewaki
Jiro Tamiya
Hideki Takahashi
Tetsuya Watari
Yoshiko Kayama
Mitsuko Baisho
Hisaya Morishige
Junzaburo Ban

Directed
by
Tai Kato

Screenplay
by
Tai Kato
Haruhiko Nomura
Yoshitaro Nomura

Based on the novel
by
Shiro Ozaki

Produced by
Yoshiji Mishima
and
Yoshitaro Nomura

Cinematography by
Keiji Maruyama

Music by
Hajime Kaburagi

Running time: 167 minutes

A Shochiku production

Honolulu premiere: November 1, 1972
New York premiere: May 12, 1974

Sunday, October 18, 2020

Movie Ad of the Week: QUEEN OF FIST and FIST ON THE WATERFRONT (both 1973)

The Taiwanese kung fu film SHAN DONG LAO NIANG (1973) opened in San Francisco as QUEEN OF FIST on October 24, 1973. The distributor, Pacific Grove Films, sold the film to Crown International Pictures...
...which released it nationally with a new ad campaign under the title KUNG FU MAMA beginning in April 1974.
Pacific Grove followed it with another Taiwanese martial arts movie, HUANG PU TAN TOU (1972), which hit the Golden Gate Theater in San Francisco as FIST ON THE WATERFRONT on December 12, 1973. Within a few months, Pacific Grove changed the title...
...to SHANGHAI CONNECTION, and found national distribution for this film and three others -- BRUCE LEE AND I (a.k.a. FIST OF UNICORN), KUNG FU - THE BROTHERS and KUNG FU MASTER, BRUCE LEE STYLE -- through Goldstone Film Enterprises.

Sunday, October 11, 2020

Mystery Movie Solved! HOUSE OF SHAME (1979)



A decade ago we posted a Mystery Movie entry about the "Double Dose" combo of "two smash shockers," both of which were mysteries to us, and six years later we learned that GIRLS IN BONDAGE, the latter half of the combo, was another retitling of THE CULT. It took another four years but we now have the first movie ID'd thanks to our friend Don Zessin, who recently screened one reel of HOUSE OF SHAME and then called us to report that it's DAUGHTERS OF DARKNESS! This is great news -- and not surprising, since DAUGHTERS OF DARKNESS and THE CULT (a.k.a. THE LOVE CULT) were both originally released by Maron Films Ltd. and were even booked together in some situations, like this playdate at the Rochester Drive-In in Rochester, NY on November 3, 1971...

Thanks again, Don! Hopefully we'll meet up next summer for one of those great Drive-Insanity screenings at the Skyline Drive-In.

Sunday, October 04, 2020

Movie Ad of the Week: THE STUDENT BODY (1976) a.k.a. VALIUM HIGH (1978), WET & WILD (1981), and CLASSROOM TEASERS (1981)



There was an uncut Planet Video cassette of THE STUDENT BODY in the Temple library for many years -- a plastic clamshell case with a pink paper insert (looked kinda pretty) -- so we were never exposed to the shortened version that Continental Video released on a double feature tape with JAILBAIT BABYSITTER a couple of years later. Unfortunately, that shorter cut became the standard until Code Red's double feature JOCKS/CLASSROOM TEASERS disc came along three decades later and restored seven or eight minutes of running time to this interesting drive-in drama, which was filmed in Kansas City in 12 days for under $250,000 and peddled on the exploitation circuit as a wacky sex comedy. One thing about it that always stood out, at least to us, is a nicely executed long take during a pool party scene about 15 minutes into the film, which resembles the long take in TOUCH OF EVIL during the search of Sanchez's apartment (no doubt thanks to cinematographer Gary Graver and the influence of his mentor, Orson Welles). Above is the ad for its Miami opening on April 23, 1976.


The distributor, Surrogate Releasing, began life as Centaur Releasing, launched in June 1973 by Irvin Dorfman in New York and Frank Moreno in Los Angeles to release INVASION OF THE BEE GIRLS. The two had been indicted earlier in the year on obscenity charges involving the motion pictures TEEN-AGE FANTASIES and LITTLE SISTERS, both released by Dorfman through his Unique Film Distributors, Inc. Centaur followed INVASION OF THE BEE GIRLS with TEACH ME, BLOOD ON THE SUN, THE SWINGING CHEERLEADERS, THE GIRLS WHO DO, THE MAN WHO WOULD NOT DIE, and SWITCHBLADE SISTERS, and then changed its name to Dandrea Releasing to avoid confusion with Peter Traynor's Centaur Films, which was being investigated by the Securities and Exchange Commission. By the time THE STUDENT BODY was released in March 1976, the company's name had changed again, to Surrogate Releasing, though they did retain the Greek mythological creature as their logo. The above ad is from Philadelphia on September 15, 1976.


Apparently the film was sub-licensed to Empire Releasing, which changed the title to VALIUM HIGH for a reissue in 1978. Empire was a short-lived distribution outfit based in New York and run by Walter H. Durell, formerly the division manager of Allied Artists in Kansas City and the national sales manager of Film Ventures International. Other Empire releases include SUPERVAN and JAILBAIT BABYSITTER. The above ad is from Miami on June 30, 1978.


The VALIUM HIGH ad campaign was recycled by Empire a few months later for...
...SUBSTITUTE TEACHER, the U.S. release of the Italian sex comedy LA SUPPLENTE (1975) starring Carmen Villani and Dayle Haddon.
We were unaware that WET & WILD! was another alternate title until Temple contributor Mike MacCollum brought the ad above to our attention. CJ Ruff Film Distributing, which handled sub-distribution for New World, Centaur/Surrogate and other companies, opened this triple bill in Indianapolis on May 29, 1981.


Motion Picture Marketing (MPM) also had the film in circulation in 1981, under the title CLASSROOM TEASERS, with model Patty Kotero (later known as Apollonia in PURPLE RAIN) front and center in the advertising. The ad above is from Bismarck, ND on June 4, 1981.

Saturday, September 26, 2020

The Endangered List (Case File #167 )

DRAGONSPADE (1977)

Starring
Chuck McNeil (Johnny Ace)
Kathi Carey (Camile Giovanni)
Linda Miller (Carrie Washington)
Lance Calloway (Jelordie)
Teddy Carey (Sylvia)

with
Israel Hicks
Nat Moore
Michael Lewis
Don Ingraham
Robert Armstrong

Written and Produced
by
Chuck McNeil

Directed
by
Chuck McNeil

Executiver Producer
Kenneth Carey

Music by
Kathleen Carey

Released by
Aricorn International Pictures

***
The first of at least four Johnny Ace adventures that were supposedly made by African-American writer-producer-director-star Chuck McNeil, DRAGONSPADE is the only one that we know for sure was actually completed and released to a few theaters. The other three were TOOT (1978), SOUTH SIDE STRUT (1979), and DRAGON FROM THE EAST (1982), but McNeil also claimed to have made films with titles like ICE CREAM CHARLIE (1974), DISCO-DYNOMITE, and ANGEL DUST, DEVIL DRUGS. Here is footage from one of the Johnny Ace movies, probably DRAGONSPADE.
(Above): Shreveport, Louisiana - December 2, 1977

(Above): November 25, 1977 - Palace Theater - McComb, Mississippi. Here we have a pressbook ad for THE DRAGON STRIKES AGAIN (a.k.a. SHANGHAI JOE) standing in for DRAGONSPADE, and artwork of Gladys Knight and Barry Hankerson from PIPE DREAMS being used to sell a misspelled GET DOWN AND BOOGIE (a.k.a. DARKTOWN STRUTTERS).
(Above): Jackson, Mississippi - September 9, 1977

(Above): Kingston, Jamaica - 1980

In 1981, McNeil began work on DRAGON FROM THE EAST, a martial arts movie that would team his Johnny Ace character with a kung fu expert named Bruce (played by Nguyen Ly a.k.a. Jimbo Lee, but billed here as "Bruce Li"). According to the following article - from the September 1982 issue of Martial Arts Movies magazine (vol. 2, no. 8) - DRAGON FROM THE EAST was completed, but we could find no evidence that it was ever released. However, additional footage was apparently shot in the 1990s and added to DRAGON FROM THE EAST to create a 1996 movie called DRAGONS STRIKE BACK, which may or may not have been released somewhere on home video.
(Above): August 21, 1974 - No mention of footage being shown

(Above/Below): A scam in Miami that involved McNeil in 1980.


The Miami News - August 27, 1980

The Palm Beach Post - October 21, 1980

Sunday, September 13, 2020

Movie Ad of the Week: TRAP THEM AND KILL THEM (1984)

The Italian sexploitation cannibal flick EMANUELLE E GLI ULTIMI CANNIBALI/EMANUELLE AND THE LAST CANNIBALS (1977) was picked up for U.S. distribution in 1983 by Megastar Pictures of Queens, New York, and the title was changed to TRAP THEM AND KILL THEM. The above ad is from its November 30, 1984 showing at the Fabian 5 Theater in Paterson, New Jersey, but Megastar's sole 35mm print had actually premiered at the 42nd Street Liberty Theater on June 1, on a double bill with STRANGE BEHAVIOR. After six weeks at the Liberty, the print toured other theaters in the area including the RKO Fordham in the Bronx on October 5. After the run at the Fabian, the print went to the RKO Kenmore in Brooklyn (January 25, 1985), the RKO Coliseum in Washington Heights (February 8), and elsewhere. The film was released on home video in March '85 via Trans World Entertainment's horror label, Twilight Video, but that didn't stop its theatrical life and it returned to the Liberty on May 23, 1986 on a triple bill with SHOCKING CANNIBALS (a re-release of MONDO MAGIC) and DOOMED TO DIE (a.k.a. Umberto Lenzi's EATEN ALIVE). It hit the Liberty one last time, in January 1987, on a double bill with Lamberto Bava's MONSTER SHARK, before Megastar ran the following ad in Variety on February 25, 1987...
Evidently there weren't many who were seriously interested, so a year and a half later Megastar submitted a cut version to the MPAA under the title EMANUELLE'S AMAZON ADVENTURE, received an R rating, and licensed the film to Showtime for its "After Hours" programming until the mid '90s.

Thursday, September 10, 2020

KOGARASHI MONJIRO: WITHERED TREE and SECRET OF MONJIRO'S BIRTH (both 1972)



Vagabond gambler Monjiro (Bunta Sugawara) is tricked into serving time at Miyake Island penal colony for a yakuza killing he didn't commit, then escapes to track down the former friend who betrayed him. In addition to his superior swordsmanship, Monjiro can also turn his homemade toothpicks into projectile eyeball skewers. The awkward structuring in the first act was probably done in post-production to fix pacing issues; it annoyed me both times I watched the film, which is otherwise a stylish, compelling combination of matatabi eiga and prison escape actioner. The title was MONJIRO THE DEADLY SWORDSMAN when it opened in Honolulu on November 15, 1972. Based on the novel Kogarashi Monjirō by Saho Sasazawa, its success spawned a sequel later the same year, KOGARASHI MONJIRO 2: SECRET OF MONJIRO'S BIRTH.


In the sequel, the wandering swordsman finds his long-lost older sister Omitsu (Etsuko Ichihara) working in a brothel, rescues novice gambler Tsunehei (Kunie Tanaka) from murderous bandits, and dodges hired swords in the employ of the vengeful Imai Group, whose boss was killed by Monjiro in a yakuza duel. The title is a misnomer – there's not much of a “secret” here – but the Toshiaki Tsushima score is really good, the swordplay and eyeball piercing projectile toothpicks still work the second time around, and I wish every sequel had Kunie Tanaka and Kyosuke Machida in it. I'm surprised these Monjiro adventures didn't play the U.S. samurai circuit of the '70s, because they're just as good as some of the ones that did make the rounds (the SHADOW HUNTERS and TRAIL OF BLOOD films, for example). This was Sugawara's second and last time playing Monjiro. However, Atsuo Nakamura took over the role later the same year for a television series that was written and directed by Kon Ichikawa, and two decades later Nakamura and Ichikawa brought the character back for a 1993 feature, KAETTEKITE KOGARASHI MONJIRO.