Wednesday, May 30, 2007

JACK THE RIPPER GOES WEST

Okay, I have seen my share of weird before, but this may take the proverbial cake. I know what the picture to the left says, but I saw it under the nom de plume of JACK THE RIPPER GOES WEST. Seems that there's a knife wielding maniac in the town of Mescal and he's slashing up the small amount of hookers in town. He started with Travis Mescal, the son of the founding father of the town, but now just likes to slice and dice the ladies.
The townsfolk are sick of it and call in private eye Burns, played by the magnificent Jeff Cooper. He brings his high brow detective skills to town and sheriff Jack Elam, that's right I said Jack Elam, wants none of it. Of course, after the two of them have a fist fight they are the closest of friends and decide to team up to find the killer. What follows may well be the most convoluted plot in the history of film and when all is said and done there is very little, alright nothing, to do with Jack The Ripper.
What can I say? Sure, this flick is a muddled mess, but we get Jack Elam and Jeff Cooper. Jeff Cooper! Is there nothing this man can't do? From the fighter who learns the true secrets of the universe in CIRCLE OF IRON to the uber wise mystic from Mexico in KALIMAN. Now he's the detective in a western hunting down a killer in a small western town. The man is the ultimate example of cool even in this piece of dreck.
The director, one Larry G. Spangler is probably more famous for being involved with the God awful LEGEND OF NIGGER CHARLEY and it's sequel THE SOUL OF NIGGER CHARLEY with the one and only Fred Williamson. It was a time when Blaxploitation was in full bloom and the establishment knew it and made as many rip offs as they could muster in a short period of time, regardless of how bad they were.
So, in the end JACK THE RIPPER GOES WEST, while unique for trying to be a western slasher flick, fails miserably. There is minimal blood, although the slit throats look pretty good, no boobies which is an abomination when it comes to slasher flicks, but we get Jeff Cooper in all his glory. The sad part is I could not find a decent picture of Mr. Cooper anywhere on the net. Go get Circle Of Iron or Kaliman to see how cool this guy was.
I did find that it funny that the killings stop the minute Burns gets to town and the whole thing lapses into a western for a while with some subplot about the local saloon owner trying to be sheriff and then it jumps back onto the slasher aspect at the end to get it done with. Oh, and the end? You will never see this particularly twisted finale coming. Not a chance.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

BLOOD SONG

It was the 80's and the slasher genre was running rampant throughout the land. This was a good thing in that I really liked slasher flicks. There was a little mom and pop video store where I would rent a video player and tapes from and on this particular occasion I was going over to this girl's house that I wanted to jump so I thought I would rent some scary flicks to help that along. Long story short, it didn't, but BLOOD SONG was one of the flicks and it sort of stuck in my head.
Recently my oldest son got me some flicks for my birthday and one of them was a four back entitled Blood Something or other and it had Blood Song on it. Hurray! I could watch it again and see if it measured up to my memories.
I was rather surprised that it did.
The basic plot gives us young Marion played by the incredibly hot Donna Wilkes. She was hot then, the young lady seems to have dropped off the planet. Anyway, she gets in a car accident and has a rare blood type so she gets a transfusion by this guy Paul Foley, who happens to be psychotic and now that his blood is in her he can track her down. Seems that blood transfusions lead to some sort of psychic link. This is bad for Marion because this cat is waaaaay messed up. Seems that he has this flute that he plays that he had given to him by his dad many many moons ago. And he always plays it before he kills. Now, whenever he kills Marion sees it happen in her dreams and she realizes that he is getting closer and closer to her and that she will be his final victim. Armed with this knowledge she tries to get help to no avail. Her father, the fantastic character actor Richard Jaeckel, thinks she's just a slut and the cops don't believe her. Even her boyfriend thinks she's a little goofy. So, Marion has to take things into her own hands in a final showdown that may leave her sanity ravaged.
I know, it sounds a lot like a lot of other slashers flicks that came out of the 80's but this one has that one thing that will make it rise above the mediocre. Okay, two things. One, it's very well directed. The actors are all believable, the gore is minimal, but it keeps moving along, but that doesn't matter because of number two. The second thing that makes this a film worth watching is the fact that the psycho, Paul Foley, is played by none other than...FRANKIE AVALON!!! I have no idea why he decided to do this flick, but he is fantastic in it. He comes across as a man trapped by his own insanity and is in pretty damned good shape too. You see it's Frankie Avalon, but have no problem believing that he is Paul Foley. Just a great flick with a bowl of popcorn on a warm summer night. The haunting flute music will bore into your very soul. Okay, not really, but this is a shining example of what was good about the slasher genre.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

DEVIL DOG: THE HOUND FROM HELL


I have friend in England named John. John finds the most amazing things on DVD. Because of him I have a copy of Killdozer, Bad Ronald and now this cinematic wonderment. Television in the 70's was a fantastic thing that may never be redone. DEVIL DOG is a fine example of this brand of film making. Helping the film out is the fantastic directing of the recently departed Curtis Harrington.

Waaay back when I used to stay up late on Saturdays to watch Shock Theater. It was my first exposure to a lot of movies and, if the wind was right and the sun spots didn't interfere, I could get channel 28 and catch Double Creature Feature out of Mishawaka, Indiana. Ah, those were the day. Before all this new fangled technology so you can program your own double features at your leisure and pause it whenever you want. It was better forcing yourself to miss sleep and become friends with coffee at a young age so that things like INVASION OF THE SAUCER MEN and a truly creepy flick called NIGHT TIDE. This was before I had an inkling of who Dennis Hopper was and the grainy black and white photography of that little film kept me up for many a late night. I have the late Curtis Harrington to thank for such truly scary thrills. In DEVIL DOG he continued to impress me.

Seems there's this coven of witches that have summoned a beast that must be born of a dog. They pick a German Shepherd named Lady and it isn't long before R.G. Armstrong is out peddling a pack of demon dogs. Is it a coincidence that Richard Crenna and his wife Yvette Mimieux lose their dog Skipper? Seems he was run over by a black station wagon just like the one the devil worshippers had in the beginning of the film. Coincidence? I think not. Of course Richard and Yvette have the two adorable children played by Witch Mountain alumni Kim Richards and Ike Eisenmann. The new pup doesn't take long before bending the children to his will and then Crenna's wife falls to the dog's charms.

And the list of victims continues to grow; the maid, the neighbor and his dog, the guidance counselor at school. Finally, Richard Crenna gets the drift and decides to take matters into his own hands. He makes an emergency trip to Ecuador (???) to discover the origins of the hound that is taking over his family. And old shaman explains that he is one of the chosen ones who can defeat the dog and return it to the depths of Hell from whence it came.

Now, there are a lot of things wrong with this flick. Richard Crenna taking so long to accept the demonic origins of his kid's dog even though it tried to chop his hand off early on with an upside down lawnmower. Even though that would be impossible because the mower would stall, I would have dropped that damned mutt off at the dog pound before you could say boo. And sure the effects when the dog becomes the Devil Dog, which is only twice because, well because the effect is horrible. They put horns and what appears to be a feather boa on the poor dog and managed to get him to bark once. It's the worst kind of back screen projection to make the dog appear huge and it comes across as super cheesy. And, probably because of the television budget most of the action takes place at the family home. Even the trip to Ecuador was stock footage airplane and what appears to be a waterfall somewhere in California. The rest was just set pieces. But, you know what? With all these things the flick works. It gives another take on the devil and in the 70's the devil was hot. We get it under the innocent guise of the family pet. Another plus is Yvette Mimieux is without a doubt drop dead gorgeous in this movie. Especially in the really tight, high riding 70's pants. Oooff!! Media Blasters did a great job with the transfer from what must be old television film stock. It could have used some better extras, but who am I to complain? Although Kim and Ike doing a commentary would have made this a must have DVD. Ah well, I can dream can't I?

Saturday, May 26, 2007

STARLITE DRIVE IN THEATER DOUBLE FEATURE

BCI releases a lot of flicks on DVD. I think they may have struck gold with this little endeavor. They take two classics of the drive in era and package them like a drive in experience. Sure, there are other companies that do a better job, but these guys are packaging stuff that actually reminds me of the good old days of drive-ins.
First up is THE POM POM GIRLS. Directed by Joseph Ruben, this little slice of high schoolers life is actually a pretty realistic portrait of kids from the 70's. Having been a kid in the 70's I can tell you we did a lot of the joyrides and drinking and sex that is prevalent in this flick. And, while there are some laughs and some gorgeous cars in the flick, it isn't really a comedy. Robert Carradine (REVENGE OF THE NERDS) plays Johnnie, a hot head who is always ready for a scrap from the arch rival school. I thought it was amazing the shots that Ruben gets in this flick. Especially when the kids hijack a fire truck and visit the rival high school to hose them down during football practice. There is so much going on in this flick that would never make it to the screen today that THE POM POM GIRLS stands as a historical record of what the 70's were actually like. Sure, it's a little pumped up because it's a movie, but it hit pretty close to home for those of us that were there. I was amazed to see that director Ruben is responsible for some pretty solid mainstream work as well. From SLEEPING WITH THE ENEMY to THE GOOD SON, this is a guy who makes a solid, Hollywood picture that has legs. All of his filmography probably plays every day on any cable channel somewhere in the world. Not bad for a guy who started out with drive in fare like THE POM POM GIRLS.
The second feature is called THE VAN although it should be called CHEVY VAN because the song by Sammy Johns plays pretty much non stop throughout the flick. While there are a few returning cast from THE POM POM GIRLS it is lead Stuart Goetz who steals the show. Most people will remember Stuart from that episode of The Brady Bunch where Marsha eats a football and then her nose swells up and the cool guy, Doug, won't take her to the dance. Charlie, however, played by Goetz is the good kid who sees Marsha for what she really is and not just a pretty face. Those of us who have recently caught Maureen McCormick in VH1's Celebrity Fit Club do realize that Doug had the right idea because after all these years, Maureen MCCormick is going to be remembered for that pretty face that has turned into an alcohol soaked parody of herself. Anyway, Charlie..uh, I mean Stuart plays Bobby and Bobby has just graduated from high school with one thing on his mind.
Getting a custom van. Now, once again, I was around for this particular phenomenon and I'm kind of sorry that it didn't have better legs. Thousands of people drove these wild customized vans with cool artwork aribrushed on the sides and shag carpeting and a water bed in the back. Bobby is no different and gets the van of his dreams. He basically uses it to get girls and it seems that all he has to say is that he has a van and women are falling all over themselves to get into Bobby's pants and his van.
Of course, the inevitable happens when Bobby meets the girl of his dreams and she could care less if he has a van. In between Bobby has lots of adventures, works in a carwash managed by the one and only Danny DeVito and keeps one step ahead of a gorgeous blonde's jealous boyfriend who also has a custom van and is ready to throw down with Bobby at a moment's notice.
THE VAN is sort of the opposite of THE POM POM GIRLS. Where the director of that went on to other things and a few of the cast members continue to work, THE VAN cast and crew weren't so lucky. The director, Sam Grossman only made two pictures in his career; this and a sci fi flick called STATIC. And while Stuart Goetz is making a suitable career for himself as a television music editor he ain't burning up the silver screen. The only one in THE VAN to do anything with themselves would have to be Mr. DeVito.
Both the flicks bring back the feel of the drive in and the times they were made. BCI has managed to create a suitable cinematic time capsule for an era from a while back that just seems like yesterday to a lot of people.

Friday, May 4, 2007

My Apologies

It has been over a month since my last entry on this blog. Things have been busy. I have a new issue of the print magazine coming out in June and I'm producing a horrorfiction zine and a comic book as well. Like I said busy. I was going to cover some of that ground, but decided against it...for now. I have something else stuck in my craw and have decided to unleash it here. My good friend, Curt Purcell, who has the excellent blog, The Groovy Age Of Horror (www.groovyageofhorror.blogspot.com) also seems to be fed up with the current state of affairs as well. I have to thank him for saying what he said and that he was sort of an inspiration for what follows this brief introduction.
Have a nice day, folks.

Don't Be A Sheep!!!
I have said this many times and I mean it. Do not, for any reason, be a sheep. Do not be a mindless follower of anything. Even Jesus encouraged his followers to question everything. Listen to what you want to listen to, read what you want to read, watch what you want to watch. We live in America and every day we are losing some of our basic rights. The First Amendment is being attacked everyday. The documentary PORN KING from Blue Underground www.blue-underground.com is a fine example of our rights being attacked. I encourage everyone to watch this film. Go to www.noumbrella.org and read about that powerful short film. Buy it, too. The government has us where they want us. Complacent sheep.
Gas prices are so high it's not even funny anymore. The government blames it on refinery overhauls and the war and that it's easier to make gas in the winter than the summer (?????). We let them walk all over us. Explore different modes of transport. Use less gas and watch them fall over themselves trying to make up the profits they lose. The oil companies are making record profits. They are gouging the average American out of their hard earned dollar.
Hollywood produces multi million dollar pieces of dreck while true innovators in cinema are being left behind to scrape for pennies and hold down day jobs. Michael Legge, Mike Watt, Chris Seaver and Rock Savage to name a few.
Don't Be A Sheep.
I say it a lot and have decided to put my statement on merchandise. My lovely wife, Martha was quick to point out that if a lot of people buy this merchandise that they are becoming a different kind of sheep, but sheep nonetheless.
I see what she's saying, but I kind of hope that it sends a different message. One where we decide that what we have is worth defending from the fat cats who control this wonderful country of ours. There is a small percentage of those people in charge. Less than one percent, but they dictate our behavior? I don't think so. When will they realize that if every person who was tired of being beaten down by the big wigs just picked up a stick and smacked someone in charge on the head that the person in charge would look like strawberry jam in a short period of time? There are so many more of us than there are of them. Why do we let them do this to us?
In the film 300 (I know, I was spouting off about independent film a minute ago, but I really liked this flick) King Leonidas realized that Xerxes was a madman. Xerxes was proclaiming himself as a god and absolute ruler over all of the world. Leonidas knew that was horseshit and was not afraid to say so. Even when he was with just three hundred of his men at Thermopylae he knew that they were doomed. He also knew that history would remember them and they would stand as an example of people who knew that something was wrong and gave their lives to prove their point.
I am not advocating murder and senseless violence. That's the government's job. What I am advocating is revolution. Revolution in everything. From the way that the public school system is failing as a whole to our democratic government being a place where people get wealthy. People who are supposed to be fighting for our inalienable rights as American citizens and that among these rights are the rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Life? Our young people dying in a war that we can not win. I was little when Vietnam was here, but you think we would have learned our lesson and not done it again. Liberty? Tell that to Don Imus. Don't agree with what he said? Fine, that is your right. Telling him he can't say it ...WRONG!!! The pursuit of happiness? Prices out of control, mega marts taking over the wholesome mom and pop stores of yesteryear, cars made of plastic and dangerous, no pride in work because most of the things we buy is made in other countries. Not too happy a picture, is it?
The only answer is revolution. Revolt against the things that make you grit your teeth. Stand up for things you believe in with all your heart. Make a difference in the life of a stranger by doing something against the grain. Stand up and be noticed.
Don't Be A Sheep!
If you go to www.cafepress.com/dontbeasheep you can get that slogan along with a great piece of artwork from local artist Stew Miller on it. Wear it proudly. I didn't jack up any of the prices on the stuff there to make a profit. It's all Cafe Press base rate. And a percentage of all profits are going to charity.
I can't emphasize how important all of this is. It gets hard and people, myself included, get tired of fighting such an uphill battle. Take time for yourself. Enjoy the company of your friends and family. recharge those batteries and then get back up to the front and fight.
It's the only way.
Don't Be A Sheep.

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