Friday, July 10, 2009

Gidney Talley and son and Magus Films

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!


Casey said...

PRELUDE TO HAPPINESS is the only Magus Film with a valid copyright, interestingly, so maybe there's some hope it will come out on DVD. PRINCE OF PEACE was acquired by a Tennessee businessman who also now owns FIREBALL JUNGLE and DEVIL RIDER. Wonder what the story with STORY OF BOB AND SALLY is? That film and MOM AND DAD are the vintage exploitation films that for some reason aren't readily available. Are they owned by a major studio?

Tim Mayer said...

Someone in Texas could find out more. Maybe there's a room full of press and production material waiting to be found?

Unknown said...

My Father Was the head stunt rider for the Gidney Talley movie "Things To Come". He donated all the dirt bikes from his shop.... "The Dirt Bike Shop" to help make the film. I have the original movie poster, and still shots of my father and his friends stunt riding in the movie, but I have yet to locate a copy of the film. If anyone can put me in touch with any people with the right channels please do.

Also, the movie finished filming in 1976 and released the same year

Erich Nordloh

Unknown said...

Gidney Talley was my father --and Gidney Talley ,Jr my brother--I still have our family home in Pleasanton--with some of the old stuff---people did faint---and these movies were a big deal in the 40's-50's---also---he had a movie about marijuana--She should have said No---My brother,Gidney,died today -twenty years ago--his widow ,June,found this website--and sent it to me--My family was something else-----we did have a lot of fun!! The mummy's name was Jimmy- Dale Talley Coker

Temple of Schlock said...

Hi Dale! Thanks for commenting! We'd love to learn more about your brother and father and their years as filmmakers and distributors. Please e-mail us at -- we're very interested in interviewing you and expanding this post.

Chris Poggiali

Anonymous said...

How could I buy a copy of Story of Bob and Sally. I live in Texas.

Mr.Cybrarian said...

I remember that Gidney Talley, Jr. used to own the Bijou Pizza Parlor in my hometown of Boerne, Texas. I believe he also appeared on PM Magazine on KSAT TV in the 80's.

Anonymous said...

LOL this is crazy Gidney Talley Jr is my Uncle Dale my Aunt.. I just happen to come across this blog and have to say I find it amazing to read up on my families past and show my husband. Very cool. Thanks

Leah Talley Bryant

I remember my dad telling me stories about him and Gidney driving a hurst around with the mummy in the back. How they would get all these strange looks. The mummy was stolen one day to try and prove it was a fake (so they tell me)

Mike H. said...

Great post! I have had a full color poster for "Sexual Fantasies U.S.A" on my wall for years, and finally decided to research it. Your post is about all I could come up with. I can't find a copy of the movie anywhere, let alone much information.

I live in Canada, and funnily enough, certain words on the poster were censored for it's Canadian release. Words were either blacked out, or with stickers with 'less offensive' terms written over them in ball point pen! I always wondered what was written underneath, and now I know. I guess the film was distributed in Canada.

Anonymous said...

I'm Gidney Talley Jr.'s daughter and yeah, I didn't get to know the man long but he's basically my hero. The funny thing is I'm only now finding out about a lot of this stuff. Seriously, I only found out about the whole "forty thieves" thing after a friend of mine read about it in a book and said, "Wasn't that your grandfather's name?"

Thanks for making this post. I pretty much crave any stories I can get about my dad. I'm still not sure how I can carry on his legacy of awesomeness but I'll think of something.

Allison said...

Dear Dale,

My mother is Gloria Marlen, the actress who played "Sally" of Bob & Sally fame (or infamy, depending on one's perspective). Mother is still with us, and her one request as she nears the end of her life is that we find a copy of "Bob & Sally" for her to see and to share with her family. This is heartbreaking, as I have searched through innumerable sources and, although people have paraphernalia and there are extensive catalog listings of the film, etc., it is considered to be lost. A trailer is all we have found of the film. My niece recently found this blog post, and although I'm afraid to get my hopes up too high, I am wondering if you have a copy of this film in your family archives. If so, please contact me as soon as possible so we can discuss how procuring a copy can be arranged. Thank you for any and all information you can provide!!

Unknown said...

i posted here a in 2009 and was looking for the things to come film. I finally found it and saw it in Austin Texas. If you are loooking for these old Gidney Talley films i would contact The Alamo drafthouse. The have a Film archive were they try hold on and preserve old films. This is how i found the one I was looking for. We had to rent out the theater and pay for private showing but it was a blast. So anyone looking for these films, it's good place to start.
erich nordloh

Anonymous said...

Sad to hear of Gidney's passing so long ago and I hadn't known until now. His friends called him Thumper, he told me it was because he played drums. I met him while he was editing "shape..." in 76. I didn't meet the mummy, but he described it as a funeral home worker who had no family and let the director experiment with a new embalming method on his corpse -- so the mummy was a dessicated corpse, not a mummy wrapped Egyptian style.

Steven Millan said...

In the first few early editions of John Stanley's Creature Features Movie Guide,John reviewed an obscure mid 70s T&A sci-fi film called ROCKET TO MARS(on which any info about that film is nowhere to be found). I'm wondering if that was a retitling of THINGS TO COME during one of its releases(since the way John described MARS,it sounds just like the same exact film as THINGS).