Wednesday, March 25, 2009

The Endangered List (Case File #26)

THE CULT (1970)

Blaisdell Makee
Debbie Osborne
Sean Kenney
Candice Roman
Cindy Barnett
Barbara Caron
Ingrid Moore
Vicki Peters
Fern Tom
John Vincent
Robert Warner
Tom Welch
Uschi Digard

Written and directed
"Kentucky Jones"
[Albert Zugsmith]

Produced by
Tony Anton

Cinematography by
Robert Maxwell

Nora Maxwell

Clark De Will

Still Photographer
Joe Bardo

Assistant Camera
Ken Gibb

Rocky Pebbles

Script Supervisor
Pamela Eddy

Released by Duffy Films, Inc.
(Maron Films Ltd.)

Later handled by Howard Mahler and Newport Releasing

Released with a self-imposed X rating in 1971
MPAA rating in 1976: R

The first quickie cash-in on the Tate-LoBianco killings, THE CULT was made in California sometime in 1970 by a producer and director who hid behind pseudonyms and never did reveal their true identities (Cinematographer Robert Maxwell, who had previously shot THE RAMRODDER, a softcore western that was filmed at the Spahn Ranch and co-starred Manson associates Bobby Beausoleil and Catherine Share, died in 1978 at age 54). The word on the street is that Albert Zugsmith was "Kentucky Jones," and his involvement with increasingly seedy product around this time seems to back up the rumors.

THE CULT was acquired for release by Maron Films Ltd., the new company formed by veteran New York distributor Mel Maron, a former sales manager for MGM and UPA. Some of the films released by Maron Films include B.J. LANG PRESENTS, DAUGHTERS OF DARKNESS, GODZILLA’S REVENGE, ISLAND OF THE BURNING DOOMED, TOWER OF SCREAMING VIRGINS, TOYS ARE NOT FOR CHILDREN, and NEXT! Maron also started a subsidiary company, Duffy Films Inc., to handle soft-X features like THE CULT, which was set to premiere in Philadelphia on February 26th, 1971 (It opened in Atlanta the following March as THE LOVE CULT, and made the rounds as TOGETHER GIRLS in early 1973). Despite a splashy start, Maron Films was in Chapter 11 bankruptcy by August of 1972, and Maron moved on to a sales manager position at Group 1 Films; he later was the president of Cinema Shares, World Northal, Almi Pictures and finally Castle Hill Productions. THE CULT languished in obscurity until shortly after the TV movie HELTER SKELTER hit the airwaves in April of 1976, when it reappeared as THE MANSON MASSACRE from Boston-based distributors Newport/Hallmark, who kept it on double and triple bills into the 1980s.

As of now, the only version of THE CULT that is available is a German-language print with no English sub-titles. Hopefully a print with the original English language soundtrack will surface eventually.

From the "What's Your Beef" column in the Times Record of Troy, NY (8/12/76), an angry response to a triple bill of THE MANSON MASSACRE, TWITCH OF THE DEATH NERVE and SISTERS...

"My beef is the movie 'The Manson Massacre.' This movie was not even 45 minutes in length, if that; had nothing to do with Manson; had no plot; and was nothing like they advertised in the paper. A lot of people were really ripped off. How can we stop this false advertising?"
-- Linda Kern, Troy

“Manson: Bad”
by Mary Strassmeyer
(Cleveland Plain Dealer, October 11, 1976, p. D-2)

THE MANSON MASSACRE is an assault on the sensibilities.

One-third of the film is devoted to Ivor, the film’s pseudonym for Charles Manson, picking up the girls who are to become members of his “family.” One-third delves into the psychological reasons why the girls are attracted to him and the psychological reasons behind his actions. The final third is devoted to the “family’s” murders.

In THE MANSON MASSACRE, the murders are accomplished not only with knives but also with whips and instruments of medieval torture. Along with the usual blood and gore, there are also gouged-out eyeballs brightening the screen.

While the girls commit the murders, Ivor rests in a casket in a hearse parked in the driveway. There is one moment of black humor – when the girls, covered with blood, climb into the hearse to be with their leader, Ivor asks, “How did you get the catsup on you?”

Two-thirds of the film are in color. The flashbacks, giving the reasons why family members act the way they do, are in stark black and white. That is all they deserve. Ivor, for instance, turned out the way he did because he hates his mother. Why? The hate grew out of an incestuous relationship with her.

I was the only one in the theater for a weekday matinee performance.


Samuel Wilson said...

That's my old hometown paper! Alas, I was still but a child in those days, so I had no chance to be ripped off like that irate reader. But I guess they figured out a way to stop that false advertising in the end, didn't they?

Anonymous said...

I wish that these comments were dated. They could have been posted yesterday, or five years ago. If MANSON MASSACRE may appear "sooner," it would help to know when the comment was posted.

I saw the film back in 1976, when it was the co-feature with TWITCH OF THE DEATH NERVE. Well, I saw the last ten minutes of it, because I was mainly there to see TWITCH. I didn't really like TWITCH very much, so I left the downtown urban hardtop theater without staying through the rest of MANSON MASSACRE. At least, I've seen the German VHS, but I'd certainly like to see an English language print of the film.

Temple of Schlock said...

Well, the post was put up in March and the blog has only been around a year so that narrows it down a little bit. :)

Anonymous said...

There's a good chance that Albert Zugsmith had something to do with this one.