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The only movie missing are: The Making of Bikini School 3 Daddies' Girls
The Godfather of Mexican independent cinema, Arturo Ripstein got his start working for Luis Buñuel and this film has a very similar feel to that director's work.
Before World War II begins, Romanian count Liviu (Peter O'Toole) and countess Julia (Charlotte Rampling) have set up an Art Deco tent on a deserted island in the hopes of escaping their past and the war. All of their servants have come along and all of the conveniences of their palatial home, but before long, their friends start to arrive and take most of the servants and kill every animal that is near the island. They leave Liviu and Julia without supplies and without anyone else but Larson (Max von Sydow) and their servant Eusebio (Jorge Luke). There are no supplies coming but there is a war simmering between the three men and the one available woman.
Irish writer H. A. L. Craig was a contributor to the recut Lisa and the Devil known by the name House of Exorcism. He wrote the script along with Ripstein and José Emilio Pacheco. This was re-released with more sex scenes as The Far Side of Paradise and The Other Side of Paradise.
Making her theatrical debut in 1947, Jeanne Moreau went from actress and singer to director and screenwriter with this film, one of three she'd direct (along with L'Adolescente and Lillian Gish). It's a semi-autobiographical tale about the lives four actresses, their loves and their friendship.
Nearing forty, Sarah (Moreau) invites her best friend Laura (Lucia Bosè, Arcana, Something Creeping In the Dark), Caroline (Caroline Cartier, The Nude Vampire) and Julienne (Francine Racette, Four Flies On Grey Velvet) to stay a few days. Each woman has a tale of love to share - which makes this ironic that it's a New World distributed picture, as it's a classier version of the narrative in their occupation films - as Sarah has just left her longtime lover. Laura may be pregnant, but is having an affair with a woman. Caroline is unlucky in love and Julienne is dealing with the overly amorous attentions of an American actor (Keith Carradine).
Some could say this is a self-indulgent film about the women that Moreau knew. But it was all rather interesting and shows a side of women of a certain age that we never really get to see on film and is therefore brave of Moreau to share with us.
L'argent de poche (1976)
François Truffaut started collecting tales from and about children since he made The 400 Blows and used them in this film, including the story of his first kiss. The main kid is the motherless Patrick Desmouceaux (Geory Desmouceaux) and his friend Julien Leclou (Philippe Goldmann), who is dealing with abuse at home. Yet most of the movie is episodic, with kids getting in trouble, learning about love, going on dates, watching a cat in peril, bad haircuts and yes, that first kiss.
It ends with Julien's abuse becoming known to all and a teacher telling the students, "Of all mankind's injustices, injustice to children is the most despicable! Live isn't always fair, but we can fight for justice. It's the only way. It's a slow process, but we do move forward. All people with power like to claim they are impervious to threats. But they do give in to pressure. A show of strength is the only way to get results. Adults understand that and they obtain what they ask for by demonstrating. I want to show that when adults are determined they can improve their lot. But children's rights are totally ignored. Political parties are not concerned. With kids like Julien or you. Do you know why? Because children don't vote! If kids had the right to vote, they would have better schools and sports facilities. You would get them because the politicians need your vote. You could come to school an hour later in winter instead of rushing out before daylight. I also want to say, because of my own childhood, I feel kids deserve a better deal. That is why I became a school teacher. Life isn't easy. You must steel yourselves to face it. I don't mean 'hard-boiled'. I am talking about endurance and resilience. Some of us, who had a difficult childhood are better equipped for adult life than those who were overprotected by love. It's the law of compensation. Life may be hard, but it's also wonderful. When we are confined to the sickbed, we cannot wait to get out and enjoy life. We sometimes forget how much we really love it. Time flies. Before long, you will have children of your own. If you love them, they will love you. If they don't feel you love them, they will transfer their love and tenderness to other people. Or to things. That's life! Each of us needs to be loved!"
The translation of this movie's French title L'Argent de poche is Pocket Money, but it was Steven Spielberg who came up with this title. He also directed Truffant in Close Encounters of the Third Kind.
This movie feels like childhood does, small moments that begin to add up, many faces and friends finally giving way to one set group of friends and eventually, when you grow old and look back, memories. As I read back on that speech above, I see so much honesty in it.
How amazing that again, Roger Corman was the one to release this in America. There was even a paperback of the script, which Truffaut wrote with Suzanne Schiffman.
Tomorrow's Hope (2021)
Tomorrow's Hope is about The Beethoven Project, a school in the middle of the South Side of Chicago and one that tried to - as the title says - give hope to students who otherwise had none. It eventually became a project called Educare and this film is about three students from the first class: Crystal, who is about to go to college with the dream of being a psychiatrist; Jalen, who hopes to be a pediatrician and Jamal, who has a future in music.
Directed by Thomas A. Morgan (Storied Streets, Scrum) and produced by The Saul Zaentz Charitable Foundation, this movie is just 45 minutes but instills a promise for tomorrow. For a program that began in the largest public housing project in America, this program has found committed teachers and students willing to put in the work to not only transform their lives, but the lives of everyone around them.
Qui comincia l'avventura (1975)
Man, I loved this
Lucky Girls is the name New World Pictures gave to Qui comincia l'avventura or the even better title Blonde In Black Leather. It was directed by Carlo Di Palma, who is probably better known for his cinematography on movies like Mighty Aphrodite, Shadows and Fog, Hannah and Her Sisters, and, under the name Charles Brown, Terror-Creatures from the Grave. He also directed Teresa the Thief and was a focus puller all the way back in 1948 on Bicycle Thieves.
He co-wrote this film with Barbara Alberti, who also worked on one of my favorite films, Hotel Fear, and Amedeo Pagani, who had collaborated with Alberti on that film and The Night Porter.
What emerges is a charming romp in which the leather-clad Miele (Monica Vitti, dubbed by Carolyn De Fonseca) takes her friend Claudia (Claudia Cardinale, The Butterfly Affair) on an episodic adventure driven by the sheer force of the personality of its leads. Miele spends one moment having her leather suit hand polished while she's wearing it; if you were Claudia, slaving in a laundrette for a horrible husband, wouldn't you leave behind your mediocre life and jump on the back of Miele's motorcycle?
There's also an incredible moment where Miele and Claudia outfight every man in a casino and the scene almost takes on a filmstrip feeling where with each click, we're seeing her knock out another man. As if that isn't enough, the score by Riz Ortolani makes it all work even better.
By the end, maybe Miele is more of a tall tale teller than we originally believe, but she's given agency and escape to Claudia. Consider this Thelma and Louise but with a happier close.
New World released this on a double feature with Candy Stripe Nurses, which is what I call a dream night at the drive-in.
L'histoire d'Adèle H. (1975)
Love is blind
Distributed by United Artists in director and co-writer François Truffaut's native France, this was put out by New World in the U. S. It's a love story about Adèle Hugo (Isabelle Adjani), the second daughter of Victor Hugo, and also was a love story for Truffaut, who fell for his twenty-year-old leading lady. She turned him down; dude, I saw Possession and yeah, I get it. I totally get it.
Also, by love story, I mean that Adèle spends the entire movie pining for Lieutenant Albert Pinson (Bruce Robinson), first in innocuous ways and then in ways that ruin his life and then in ways that grasp at straws, such as trying to have him hypnotized into loving her and attempting to connect with her dead by drowning sister from beyond the grave to aid her in winning over the military man.
She says at one point that she will walk across the ocean to be with her lover. She has built him up into near mythic levels of nobility and romantic power. Surely, were their relationship to ever be consummated, he could never live up to the man that he is inside her head. Again, I totally get it. While never consumed with the mania that she displays - the film ends with her wandering the streets of a foreign country, unable to even recognize Pinson but still in love with the man she conjured years before - I am guilty of falling in love with the people I have believed people to be, want them to be, need them to be and unfairly wondering why they can never live up to my near-impossible romantic notions. It's a horrible thing to be in love with someone who does not exist as the person you know them as.orrible thing to be in love with someone who does not exist as the person you know them as.
Die verlorene Ehre der Katharina Blum (1975)
It's pretty amazing seeing how many movies from New World or distributed by Roger Corman are in the Criterion Collection: The Harder They Come, Cries and Whispers, Fantastic Planet, Amarcord and this movie. While Corman's produced films may be about car crashes and half-nude nurses (in jail), he could certainly pick movies to champion.
The Lost Honour of Katharina Blum, or: How violence develops and where it can lead is based on the novel of the same name by Heinrich Böll and is an indictment of how society and the media can demonize women, which is a heady subject for a movie, again, distributed by Corman.
Katharina Blum (Angelina Winkler) is a housekeeper whose lawyer boss refers to as "The Nun" because of what a prude she is. Yet when she gets involved with Ludwig Götten (Jürgen Prochnow), an anarchist and bank robber, she gets her name hung out to dry in the tabloids and accused of aiding and abetting the would-be terrorist. That newspaper goes so far that it ruins all of Katharina's relationships and even causes her mother to die in the hospital, misinterpreting her last words to make it appear like she hated her daughter.
Unable to get her own story out, she finally kills a reporter and his photographer. That reporter is buried as a hero, seen as someone using his ability to tell the real story. His coffin gives the film an opportunity to call out the yellow journalism of German tabloid Bild-Zeitung.
When this was made, West German tabloid newspapers worked hand in hand with the police to publish pretty much anything they wanted about anyone they wanted. The reporter makes up stories about Katharina for the entire film and then expects her to sleep with him because he gave her what so many people want. He made her famous.
Burn it down
Christine (Eva Green) designs clothing for children and one day, at work, she has a breakdown after receiving a phone call. Then, a ghostly dog appears and shakes ticks and fleas all over her with one lodging at the nape of her neck. Her life is destroyed, her work suffers and she must take multiple drugs and sleep with a mask on just to keep some semblance of health. That's when her new caregiver Diana (Chai Fonacier) -- who she doesn't remember hiring -- comes to save her. Then again, as we're in the realm of folk horror, much less Filipino folk horror and more specifically Bisaya/Cebuano folk horror, a lot can and will happen.
Her husband Felix (Mark Strong) distrusts Diane yet she's able to return the spirit and health that Christine lost while being able to find a way to bond with Bobs (Billie Gadsdon), their unreachable daughter. Of course, that's because she's an ongo, a sorcerer of sorts who was given her powers when she watched an old woman die and her powers -- in the form of a bird -- flew into her mouth. While her power allowed her to heal the people around her, they also feared her and stayed away.
Felix finds Christine's drugs, which have been hidden away, as well as an altar in Diane's room. They make her leave the house but by then, the spell has been cast. The illness inside Christine is directly related to her destroying -- man, spoilers on, obviously -- Diane's life when she demanded that the sweatshop that makes her clothes -- the same place Diane made her living -- increase production and be locked so that people can't leave with her product. A fire soon destroys everything and because the door was locked, everyone dies, including Diane's daughter while she watches helplessly outside, clutching the coconut water that her daughter had asked for.
Sadly, that tragedy in the factory is based on reality. The film's credits have the Filipino song "Pugon" by The General Strike, a song all about the 2015 Kentex slipper factory fire that killed 74 people. The lyrics state:
They died at work This box caught fire Imprisoned and buried They were burned there In the factory that became a furnace
The credits feature the words "Justice for all Kentex fire victims."
Sadly, it will have to be in this movie.
Directed by Lorcan Finnegan and written by Garret Shanley, the surprises may be easy to see, but to see capitalism destroyed in such a final way by someone that has been forgotten makes this a film worth watching.
Natten har øjne (2022)
Better than expected
If anything, this movie has a relationship that you want to see make it. Maja (Josephine Park) and Leah (Ellie Kendrick) meet cute in a library and accidentally switch books. As they meet up again to trade, the two go for tea, which turns into wine, which turns into the kind of relationship that shuts out of the rest of the world. Everything is perfect until a night when Leah has a seizure that breaks her leg. That's when all the missed calls from her mother and avoidance of her past life all make more sense.
Maja goes with Leah back to her home in London, in the same building as her mother Chana (Sofie Gråbøl), a woman who seems to believe that only she can take care of her daughter. As you can imagine, there are the worries of a new relationship, much less what could be a forbidden one within the orthodox Jewish community where Chana and Leah live.
It might seem strange for anyone. But then throw in all those symbols, talk of demons and meetings with bookstore owner Lev (David Dencik) who reveals that there's even more going on -- he's also Leah's uncle and gets pulled into this drama -- and you have quite the predicament for young love.
Director and writer Gabriel Bier Gislason allows the leads time to win you over while also building the tension with Jewish mysticism and mentions of golem and dybbuk. It's intriguing to see a side of possession film outside of Catholic religion and Lev makes both great comic relief, source of exposition and someone who is amazed when what he has only read of in books because horrifyingly real.
Cover Girl Models (1975)
Cover Girl Models
One of the last movies New World Pictures made in the Philippines - due to rising costs - this was directed by Cirio H. Santiago and written by Howard R. Cohen. Outside of Hollywood Boulevard, it's also the last of the New World occupation movies.
Barbara (Pat Anderson, Summer School Teachers), Claire (Lindsay Bloom, The Happy Hooker Goes Hollywood) and Mandy (Tara Strohmeier, Van Nuys Blvd.) are, well, cover girl models flying from Los Angeles to Hong Kong for a photo shoot. As always, the three girls each get an adventure: Barbara finds a microfilm that several spies are looking for, Claire wants to be in a movie and Mandy falls for a photographer.
If you know me, you know that I wish this movie had been about fashion editor Diane (Mary Woronov), who only makes an appearance in the first few minutes. But hey! Vic Diaz shows up as a bad guy. This didn't really get a big release in 1975, but a year later - and a time when Charlie's Angels was big deal - it came back out.
Dersu Uzala (1975)
The difference between New World and, let's say, Cannon, is that New World has more movies that are in the Criterion Collection or considered high art, because Roger Corman distributed a lot of films from high end directors while staying hands-off on the final product.
Directed and co-written by Akira Kurosawa, this was both his only non-Japanese-language film and his only 70mm film. Based on the 1923 memoir of the same name by Russian explorer Vladimir Arsenyev, Dersu Uzala won the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film and was a big hit in the USSR, Europe and even the U. S.
This is a story told by Captain Arsenyev (Yury Solomin), who years ago hired a named Dersu Uzala (Maxim Munzuk) and was amazed by the way the man may have been uneducated, yet could deduce nearly anything and knew instinctively how to survive in the harsh world of winter that he lived in. Yet he was also capable of great kindness, as at one point he builds a hut and stocks it not for himself but for those who will come after him.
In 1971, Kurosawa attempted suicide, questioning his creative ability after the commercial failure of Dodes'ka-den and his inability to get another film funded. He had to have seen himself in Uzala, a man growing older whose once incredible powers are reduced to having to live in normal society and afraid when he can no longer see enough to hunt for himself.
He had wanted to make this movie since the 50s, but couldn't figure out how to make it in Japan. Imagine his surprise when a member of the Russian embassy reached out. He asked him to make a Russian film for Russians. They needed him as their country lacked the talent to make a quality film. It was as if two different dreams could come true and reason to remain alive. The Russians were shocked when he asked if he could film Vladimir Arsenev's book, because at that time it was little known outside their country.
Crazy Mama (1975)
Directed by Jonathan Demme and written by Robert Thom, Crazy Mama was the kind of movie you used to stay up late to watch on cable when your parents went to sleep.
Melba Stokes (Cloris Leachman) owns a beauty parlor and lives with her mother Sheba (Ann Sothern) and daughter Cheryl (Linda Purl, who has a career of playing relatives, as she was Matlock's daughter and Pam's mom on The Office; she's also in Visiting Hours). When their landlord Albertson (Jim Backus) kicks them out and takes their belongings, they go on the run and decide to start a crime spree, eventually joined by former Texas sheriff Jim Bob Trotter (Stuart Whitman) and pursued by Cheryl's would-be baby daddy (Donny Most).
This was to be originally directed by Shirley Clarke. I have no idea how her dance and art background would have worked and we'll never find out, because she was fired ten days prior to filming. Demme changed the ending to the movie, which was to have everyone die, which he just thought was too much.
Hey - it's also Bill Paxton and Dennis Quaid's debut! And John Milius is a cop!
The Romantic Englishwoman (1975)
Blacklisted by Hollywood in the 1950s, Joseph Losey moved to Europe. His exile from Hollywood started when Howard Hughes bought RKO and purged it of people he thought were Leftists. In the book Losey On Losey, he said "I was offered a film called I Married a Communist, which I turned down categorically. I later learned that it was a touchstone for establishing who was a "red": you offered I Married a Communist to anybody you thought was a Communist, and if they turned it down, they were." He'd later tell the New York Times that although the blacklist was frightening at first, it ended up making him a better artist: "Without it I would have three Cadillacs, two swimming pools and millions of dollars, and I'd be dead. It was terrifying, it was disgusting, but you can get trapped by money and complacency. A good shaking up never did anyone any harm."
Losey made The Boy with Green Hair; noir like The Big Night and The Lawless; The Damned for Hammer; Secret Ceremony and Boom! With Elizabeth Taylor; Modesty Blaise and the Palme d'Or winning The Go-Between. He was right. The blacklist didn't harm him as an artist.
What's amazing is that this film, screened out of competition at Cannes in 1975, was released in the U. S. by New World. I shouldn't be surprised, as along with drive-in movies about women in prison and men in cars, Roger Corman championed films by artists like Fellini and Bergman.
Lewis Fielding (Michael Caine) is a pulp novelist who provides for his wife Elizabeth (Glenda Jackson), but she finds their marriage boring. She runs to Germany and into the arms of Thomas (Helmut Berger), a younger and much more exciting lover, but also one who doesn't have the stability and, well, legal standing of her husband. They never consummate their affair, but when she returns home, he follows. Lewis decides to hire him on as his secretary. As you can imagine, being alone in the house with the object of her lust ends with Elizabeth and Thomas canoodling and running back for Germany with gangsters seeking Thomas' head and Lewis wanting to win his wife's heart back.
Thomas gives Elizabeth the attention her husband holds back - he doesn't even react when she walks across their yard nude in front of the neighbors - while his disguise as a fan of the writer's work feeds Thomas' needs as well. Whether that attention is carnal or artistic, he's the person that each wants and needs. The only problem is that Thomas is none of those things. He's just a con man that screwed up a drug deal and is trying to save his own life. And yet while Thomas holds back the sexual energy his wife demands, he grows angry and resentful of his secretary, knowing that they're about to have that affair as if he has willed it into existence as a self-fulfilling prophecy.
In his biography, Caine said that Losey was so dour that he bet the crew that he could make Losey laugh before the movie wrapped. Caine lost the bet.
Dong kai ji (1975)
As bloody as it gets
New World had already brought The Water Margin to the U. S. as Seven Blows of the Dragon, so they also played the sequel here as Seven Soldiers of Kung Fu, which is I guess thematically a decent sequel title.
Co-directed by Chang Cheh and Wu Ma, this follows up the 108 Bandits having freed second-in-command Lu Jun Yi and being called by their former enemies to stop a rebellious new faction, led by Fang La, and promised a pardon upon the success of that mission.
Where the first film takes time to introduce the viewer to so many characters, All Men Are Brothers is all about action, with gigantic battles taking place on the sprawling Shaw Brothers backlot sets.
If you've watched enough Chang Cheh movies, you may have been a bit weirded out when The Water Margin ended and all of the heroes were alive. Don't worry - he comes back to form on this, which ends with the kind of sacrificial bloody battle that he's better known for. In fact, this just might be the bloodiest of all Shaw Brothers films. The American cut goes to black and white in some of these moments, one of those tricks that get you an R rating instead of an X.
The early to mid 70s were a magical time for martial arts films, as just about anything could come to America and play drive-ins, grindhouses and even occasionally mainstream movie theaters.
Scream VI (2023)
Still doesn't work
I'm fully aware going in that I'm the worst person to try and watch this movie. Even the first two films, Scream and Scream 2, the ones most people point out as the reasons why they love this series, do beyond nothing for me. The fan service 2022 not a sequel Scream 5? Scream 4? Scream 3?
Yeah. Not a fan.
So why am I writing about this?
Well, I don't write about movies to talk about how much I hate them. That'd be too easy and, frankly, boring to write about. So here are some nice things about these movies: I think the idea of the first film is admirable, to send up slashers. Sure, it's a few years too late. My issue comes in that these movies complain about movies more than me. Yes, we get how predictable slashers are. But if you know that, if you make fun of it, then you're even worse because you know the pitfalls and willfully lead right into them.
Man, I said I was being nice.
So here you go: I liked when Parker Posey playing Courtney Cox in the third film is pretty great. I always thought Dewey was the best character because he was an everyman you could follow through the movie. Neve Campbell makes a great final girl. And I liked that the series beecame meta with the Stab movies remaking the events we had already seen in the Scream series.
The idea that the survivors of the Woodsboro legacy murders movied to New York City and are now in film school is an interesting start to this movie, as is the idea that Samara Weaving -- alright, spoilers on -- is the first kill, a role that Drew Barrymore started -- yes, I know her boyfriend was the first kill and not her, maybe the first on-screen kill is a better choice -- and has been continued by Omar Epps and Jada Pinkett in the second film, Kelly Rutherford and Liev Schreiber in the third...you get what I'm saying. As she's an expert that teachers classes in slasher movies, you'd think there'd be more to her scene, but this movie keeps setting up the idea that it's going to be very meta and comment on those who make and consumer violent horror and it never goes more than a cursory step in that direction. Instead of actual references and nods, it just has characters say, "That guy was really into Argento," and we're to say, "Wow, this movie totally gets it!" when all it gets is throwing a name out that you recognize and going nowhere with it other than that mention.
Sam (Melissa Barrera) and her half-sister Tara Carpenter (Jenna Ortega) are two of the survivors who have moved away, along with twin sisters Chad (Mason Gooding) and Mindy Meeks-Martin (Jasmin Savoy Brown), plus Quinn Bailey (Liana Liberato), Anika (Devyn Nekoda) and Ethan (Jack Champion). The hijinks have already begun, as Jason Carvey (Tony Revolori) is the one who lured Samara Weaving's professor character to her doom and is working with his roommate Greg to finish what Richie and Amber tried to do in the last movie -- they're fans -- before both are murdered by another Ghostface. There's also a theory in social media that Sam was the real killer.
Quinn's father Detective Wayne Bailey (Dermot Mulroney) is on the case of these murders and has found Sam's ID near Jason's corpse, along with the Ghostface mask used in the last film. There's also another Ghostface -- with a gun, which for some reason excited people in the trailer -- who shoots up a bodega named Abe's Snake -- Abe Snake was Wes Craven's porn making pseudonym -- while under the mask from the 2011 Woodsboro killings in Scream 4.
Speaking of that movie, Kirby Reed (Hayden Panettiere) survived that movie and is now an FBI agent. That's right about when Gale Weathers (Courtney Cox) shows up and has some exposition to let us know that Sidney Prescott won't be showing up and it's totally not because the producers didn't pay Neve Campbell what she's worth.
Campbell released this quite classy statement: "As a woman I have had to work extremely hard in my career to establish my value, especially when it comes to Scream. I felt the offer that was presented to me did not equate to the value I have brought to the franchise. It's been a very difficult decision to move on. To all my Scream fans, I love you. You've always been so incredibly supportive to me. I'm forever grateful to you and to what this franchise has given me over the past 25 years."
At the same time, Ghostface -- wearing the Scream 5 mask -- kills Sam's therapist and steals her file and shortly after, kills Quinn and Anika while wearing the mask from Scream 2. Wayne is taken off the case but decides to go after Ghostface himself, just as Gale finds a theater that is a shrine to the Ghostfaces of the many Stab movies. She later takes a call where Ghostface kills her boyfriend and nearly murders her before Sam and Tara save the day.
Everyone converges at the theater -- after a subway scene where Ghostface walks alongside The Shape and Pinhead costumes *-- and that's where I feel like you should see the end of this movie for yourself, as that level of spoilers would give you no reason to watch. I will say that I liked how Billy Loomis shows up.
Directed by Radio Silence (Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett) and written by James Vanderbilt (Zodiac) and Guy Busick, this feels like a sequel that was made because the last movie was a success instead of because it was something people really wanted, like the last film.
The idea of the rules being discussed feel almost tossed in for no reason now, the references to other movies rememberberries at best, the idea that this many people could have all been Ghostface kind of ludicrous and this is from someone who accepts Jason being alive for so long at the bottom of the lake.
I think that if you're a fan of these films, you've already seen it, posted about it, said that it's not the best in the series and still went and saw it again. I can think of a ton better slashers and even many better meta slashers -- don't get me started on that AV Club list of twenty best -- but as I've proved in my watches of these movies, they aren't for me. But I'm trying to find the good in even the things I don't always want to watch.
*Other costumes include The Babadook, Peachfuzz from Creep, Emerald from Nope, the Tethered from Us, Jason Voorhees, Samara, Kayako, Grace from Ready or Not, Chucky, Pennywise, The Grady Twins and Freddy Krueger.
Street Girls (1975)
A sleazier Hardcore
Before he moved into making TV movies, Michael Miller made Silent Rage and Class Reunion in the same year, as well as another rough film, Jackson County Jail. Street Girls is more raw than all of them, a movie that seemed to be sleazier than the majority of New World's catalogue.
Shockingly, it was co-written by Barry Levinson.
Yes, the same person who directed Rainman.
Angel (Christine Souder in the only movie she'd ever make) goes from college girl to exotic dancer to getting hooked on heroin. Her father (Art Burke) decides to go the Hardcore route four years before that movie was made and head out into the filthy streets to find his little girl. At first, he has the help of her co-worker Sally (Carol Case, also in her only movie) until he learns that she was Angel's lover. Disgusted, he abandons her and continues his search.
This also shows the life that Angel is in, down to a scene where a client brings her a swimming mask so that he can urinate on her. She locks herself in a filthy motel bathroom while he keeps banging on the door, begging for the opportunity to defile her. This scene goes way beyond any small town girl gone wrong movie than any I've seen in mainstream movies.
It's not great, but man, it's not afraid to show how cheap life can be.
Making Scents of Love (2023)
As she hurries to create a new fragrance to impress g a famous fashion icon Amy Song (Jean Yoon, Kim's Convenience), organic chemist Shay Robson (Katherine Barrell, Star Trek: Discovery, Wynonna Earp) ends up spilling it all over said fashionista's hot nephew Austin (Patrick Kwok-Choon, who was also on Star Trek: Discovery and Wynonna Earp).
He instantly falls for Shay because of the accidental mixture that she's made. Or maybe it's true love. Either way, Shay's business -- run inside a storage unit next to a Dungeons and Dragons play group -- and her heart are both in danger, which makes her overanalyzes everything to the point that she almost loses it all.
With the help of her friend Darian Wilson (Tom Hearn), Shay has to solve it all, because there's no way -- at least she thinks -- that she could win over such a catch. Can she learn to love herself and see that her ideas have value?
Directed by Robin Dunne (who has mostly directed holiday movies and two robot dog movies about A. R. C. H. I. E.; he also acts and is in this as Jorgenson), who co-wrote it with Arcade Riley (he's also Rick Shaw, the RPG gamesmaster in this), Making Scents of Love is pretty much exactly like a perfume you buy at Target. It does what it should, it's maybe a bit more memorable than you thought it would be and it's affordable. Or, because this is on Tubi, free.
Night Gallery: The Dark Boy/Keep in Touch - We'll Think of Something (1971)
The Dark Boy
I prefer the episodes of Night Gallery with fewer stories, as it allows each tale time to stretch out and capture you. Sadly, this episode only has host Rod Serling appear as the host; the first segment "The Dark Boy" is directed by John Astin and written by Harland Welles from an August Derleth story and "Keep in Touch - We'll Think of Something" is directed and written by Gene R. Kearney.
"The Dark Boy" has a widowed schoolteacher named Judith Timm (Elizabeth Hartman) coming to a small town in Montana to take over the one room schoolhouse. She rents a room from sisters Abigail (Gale Sondergaard, the original Wicked Witch of the West from The Wizard of Oz who was replaced because the makeup team could not make her into a suitably ugly witch; she's also in The Spider Woman Strikes Back) and Lettie Moore (Hope Summers, Mrs. Gilmore from Rosemary's Baby).
Judith claims she has seventeen students, but one can't be found in the list of her pupils. It's the same issue the last teacher dealt with, a dark haired boy of mystery. It turns out that it's Joel Robb, a child who died two years before who has been haunting the entire neighborhood and everyone in it. She begins to get to know the boy's father and understand the grief that the man has been living.
"The Dark Boy" is a strong episode and Astin shows some skill as a director.
"Keep In Touch - We'll Think of Something" is all about a piano player named (Alex Cord) and his obsession with a woman named Claire Foster (Joanna Pettet; she was married to Cord at the time). He dreams of her every night, while her husband dreams of a man with a scarred hand trying to murder him. Strangely, when he finds her - using the police to track her down, claiming that she stole his car - she isn't nervous about this strange man. She also knows they are destined to be together.
It's a decent story but struggles following the first story in this episode. Still, two serious stories in one Night Gallery? That's how it should be.
The democratic nature of exploitation films means that everyone will be exploited and also everyone will be seen. Blacksploitation allowed black actors to star for often the first time ever in films and be seen as heroes while also appearing in movies that often glorify the worst parts of the black experience. In the same way, drive-in and grindhouse films allow groups of geographic audiences - like southern folks who often only saw themselves as dangerous rednecks - being given the chance to be heroes, often in regional films like Charles B. Pierce's The Town That Dreaded Sundown and The Legend of Boggy Creek which gave Texarkana drive-in audiences a film that showed real stories, legends and people from their own small corner of the universe, a place that Hollywood would rarely if ever portray.
Based on Cockfighter by Charles Willeford, who also wrote the script, this was directed by Monte Hellman, who had already made Two-Lane Blacktop with Warren Oates, who plays Frank Mansfield. When we first meet the mute lead, he's slicing a chicken's beak so that it appears weak; sadly this actually makes it weak and causes him to lose a major match which costs him his trailer, his money and his woman.
Frank could settle down, stay back on the family farm, make Mary Elizabeth (Patricia Pearcy) an honest woman and just live a life of planned nothingness. But that's not for him. There's something else, the draw of putting roosters into the ring, the chance to win everything and lose it all. His goal has put tunnel vision on him, forcing him to never speak until he succeeds yet he has no idea what that success is. His life is just drifting and moving toward an endless nothingness yet if he can make some money along the way, raising his birds knowing that all his work will still mean that they'll eventually be destroyed in front of him. And yet at the end, he's willing to sacrifice even his finest fighter to cause a woman to smile, a woman who walks away and doesn't care one bit.
Warren Oates remains the same stoic heading toward destruction and yet being the resolute person he's been in nearly every movie I've seen him in. Never compromise, even in the face of the end.
Cockfighter just by its title is the kind of movie that people are going to skip and yeah, it's pretty much an entire movie of roosters killing one another. Yet just as much as Cannibal Holocaust is about more than a turtle getting killed - a boa constrictor, a tarantula, a young pig and two squirrel monkeys also are murdered - but also about inhumanity, this movie tries to break free of that and say something about a life that was - and is - rarely shown.
Much like blacksploitation, I feel like my Yankee upbringing keeps me from fully understanding this experience. I reached out to my friend - and amazing writer, seriously, join his Patreon - Raven Mack for some insight, as he's from Virginia and knows more than a few things.
B&S About Movies: Maybe I just don't get Cockfighter and never will. I've been raised to not be into animal violence yet I know that we consume animals and never consider all that goes into making them ready for my food.
Raven Mack: Cockfighting is not out in the open, but I did live near a pretty major ring that got busted. I'd heard about it a lot, but never seen it in person, though I'm familiar with guys who were quite obviously raising fighting roosters. You can tell because each rooster is chained up in its own house, and the chains don't reach the next house. So there'll be a yard with like 50 little wooden doghouse looking structures, but each one has a rooster in it, chained by its leg to the side of the house.
B&S: I love the drive-in era stuff because it's so specific for non-urban audiences with racing and country-specific films.
Raven Mack: Cockfighter is one of my all-time favorite movies, not so much because of the cockfighting but because of how country it is, and how Warren Oates just kills it man. Definitely in my top 5 all-time movies personally, and I actually get mad when people talk about Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia as his greatest thing. Two-Lane Blacktop/Cockfighter is dream double feature in the Raven Mack Drive-In.
B&S: Was the drive-in part of your childhood?
Raven Mack: Yeah, my dad worked as a painter for this dude who lived just beyond the drive-in in Farmville. They'd be playing poker inside and us kids would be fighting and wrestling and stuff in the yard watching the movies across the way. They had occasional porn late night and the grown folks would make us all go inside and stay in the living room, but me and this other kid would sneak into the kitchen to peek.
Also with the drive-in being part of my childhood, down near where I grew up, there was still a Keysville Drive-in that was for sale at the start of the pandemic. I actually had a half-brained notion of trying to get financing to buy it. But the pandemic period of them playing non-new release movies was temporary, and I'd be miserable if I was working four nights around the weekend every week just to show another superhero movie. It would've been hell, so I'm thankful the universe trickstered me in the right direction.
Raven also added:
One reason I'm drawn to this movie, and the idea of cockfighting, is chicken watching. I used to have a decent sized flock, and my girlfriend has a large flock with a wide array of types. Just sitting there in the yard after having tossed scratch out and watching the chickens is very much like watching fish in a tank, which they say is therapeutic for you. I call it a ground murmuration the way the collective moves in weird, disjointed ways, but smoothly somehow. But also, you can't have too many roosters. Roosters are natural born a******s, or perhaps more likely it's the result of domestication, and they're actual natural instincts turn them into paranoid, quick to fight a******s. Whenever there's been too many roosters in the flock, either back in the day at my old house, or at my girlfriend's, they end up having to be culled anyways, which I can do as "humanely" as possible, but is always gory, especially if you don't know what you're doing, because just axing a chicken head off causes the body to have nervous reactions and it bounces all over the place quite disturbingly. But I used to joke about wanting to start an organic cockfighting ring, because roosters just wanna fight each other, and the way they fly at each other, with their legs dropkicking at each other in air... it's really a bizarre scene, and about as close as your average dilapidated compound gets to a Renaissance painting scene. Of course, people have to make it worse, and actual cockfighting involves tying sharpened gaffes to the rooster's legs.
Nonetheless, this movie gets at the slow boil of the better side of rural life, of course with those climactic moments of stubborn, contrarian conflict. Oates' character is a great embodiment of that, refusing to speak just because he didn't win the little Cockfighter of the Year award. It's also an incredibly artsy film for an exploitation era flick in terms of how the cockfighting scenes were shot. Of course, that's an outlaw practice now, so the film will only survive on the margins of Tubi. But it is one of my all-time favorites, signified by actually getting it on DVD in the past few years, because I hate trying to figure out where the hell some things are streaming (if they even are), so I can always have it available, in my milk crate full of absolute classics.
Marc (John DiMino) has put off his final paper way too long, so that leads him to a late night in the library and falling asleep, at which point his paper gets stolen and he's lured deeper into the mysterious world of the demonic Dewey Decimal System.
Directed and written by Abie Sidell, this movie puts Marc up against The Master of the Books (Brandon Burton) and the strange creatures and worlds that live within the stacks.
Where the most we can learn from most horror is to not have sex in the woods or go back home to deal with family business, Cram is unique in that it has a real message that's worth living up to: don't leave things until the last minute. Also, maybe don't go to graduation parties where you don't know anyone and still take a weed-lace cookie.
There's a lot going on - copy machines printing endless F grades for Marc, a couple making out that disappears, strange monsters lurking - and the story just kind of ambles around, but I found all of it rather charming. Sidell is pretty talented and this is a great film for a first full length.
The Assassination Bureau (1969)
Based on an unfinished novel by Jack London published posthumously -- it was finished by Robert L. Fish -- in 1963, this Basil Dearden-directed movie was written by Michael Relph and Wolf Mankowitz. Reporter and women's rights champion Sonia Winter (Diana Rigg) doesn't just want to expose the Assassination Bureau Limited, she wants to destroy them and have its chairman, Ivan Dragomiloff (Oliver Reed), assassinated.
This delights Dragomiloff, who goes back to the teachings of his father, who started the killing cabal and said that they needed to only kill people who deserved to be killed. Now, his father's colleagues kill for money instead of reasons of morality, so he dares them: accept Winter's contract and kill him before he murders them.
From Paris and Zurich to Venice and Ruthenia, they battle the killer elite in humorous battle, climaxing in the entire Assassination Bureau -- and their true leader, Lord Bostwick (Telly Savalas), who was Winter's boss who got this whole business started -- to protect the world's leaders as they enter peace talks while a bomb-bearing zeppelin hovers overhead.
Later this same year, Rigg and Savalas would battle again in On Her Majesty's Secret Service.
I really had fun with this movie, as sure, it's a 1969 big budget and somewhat aged spy epic from a time unfamiliar to my American eyes. But man, Rigg is a delight and Oliver Reed is wonderful. And Telly seems to be having a great time, too.
Down and Dirty Duck
Charles Swenson worked on The Point and 200 Motels before this movie, which came into being once Fritz the Cat was such a success. It has the voices of former Turtles members Mark Volman (Flo) as Duck and Howard Kaylan (Eddie) as Willard Isenbaum, an insurance salesman whose brain is filled to overflowing with sexual fantasies.
He's sent out to check on the insurance claim of an older woman who believes that she will be killed by a bomb that will be delivered by a wizard on Tuesday. As she dies of a heart attack, she gives Willard her duck and they go on a wild series of adentures.
Producer Jerry D. Good pitched the film to Flo and Eddie and production company Murakami-Wolf - who would go on to make Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles - prepped to make the movie while Swenson worked on the escript. He wanted to call it Cheap! Because it might have been released as Roger Corman's Cheap! Swenson and studio owner Bill Wolf did most of the animation themselves.
The funniest thing about this film is that because the film was X-rated, The New York Times refused to run ads, despite the ad having a positive review from The New York Times. Making that even more humorous was that the movie was never submitted to the Motion Picture Association Of America and that X rating was just for publicity.
The animation looks really cheap, the story just goes on to anywhere and everywhere, and the credits claim that parts of the story came from people that Swenson encountered during the making of the film. I did, however, love the robotic cop with a John Wayne voice that was played by Robert Ridgely, who would go on to be a voice in The Nine Lives of Fritz the Cat.
Tender Loving Care (1973)
Tender Loving Care
Director and writer Don Edmonds (of course, you know him from Ilsa, She-Wolf of the SS) made this shot in a week and a day film that may have been distributed by New World but has nothing to do with their nurse films. Actually, Corman released it through Filmgroup.
This stars Donna Young (The Naughty Stewardesses), Marilyn Joi (Cleopatra Schwartz!) and Lauren Simon as the nurses, but unlike those Corman nurses films, these three girls have barely any social issues to solve and instead have to avoid Buck Flower as a horrifying sex offender, heal boxer John Daniels and handle Albert Cole's mobster.
This movie will make you yearn for the subtlety of The Young Nurses. It's violently not good, but I guess it had the kind of title and frequent nudity that it took to get on screens in 1974.
Gone in 60 Seconds (1974)
Gone in 60 Seconds
H. B. Halicki directed, wrote, starred in, produced and even did his own stuntwork to make this movie come to life, even hiring friends and family to keep the budget low. The cops, firemen and paramedics were real ones from Carson, California, as was its mayor, Sak Yamamoto. All of the vehicles they use were bought at an auction for $200 each and the fire trucks during the big chase at the end are Long Beach fire department trucks on their way to put out a real fire.
That final chase is forty minutes long and had no script. The whole movie had no script. Instead, Halicki showed editor Warner E. Leighton a piece of paper with a big circle, telling him that they went around a dust bowl twice and that was the script. Leighton had no idea what would be given to him each day.
H. B. Halicki Mercantile Co. & Junk Yard was the business that its creator ran and there were times that he would shut down the shooting so that he could fix some cars for money so that he could come back and wreck some for this movie.
Halicki is Maindrian Pace, an insurance investigator who runs a chop shop and is also the boss of a ring of car thieves. He has a code of honor, however, as everything he steals has to be insured so that the owners are compensated.
That code does not stop him from working for a South American drug lord who offers $200,000 to start and $2000,000 to finish taking 48 specific vehicles in five days. Each of the cars - given female names - have different degrees of difficulty to take, but Eleanor, a yellow 1973 Ford Mustang, is the toughest of all. Each time he attempts to find one, an issue keeps Maindrian from completing his order. The final chase in which he tries to complete the order takes up six California cities and seemingly hundreds of vehicles, ending when he jumps the car thirty feet in the air for 128 feet. Usually cars have a gas-driven catapult or the help of CGI to make the stunt look good. Nope, That's just H. B. in a car, compressing ten vertebrae and never walking the same way again. At one point, he hit a lamp post at more than 80 miles an hour and when he was finally awakened, the first thing he said was, "Did we get coverage?"
Sadly, his luck would not last. When making the sequel fifteen years later, a water tower fell incorrectly and the cable attached to it snapped. This chopped part of a light pole, which fell on Halicki, killing him. A shame and yet, how many times did he walk away from disaster?
For a movie that has 93 car crashes, of course Eleanor would be listed in the cast. That car deserves it.
Fiul Stelelor (1985)
The Son of the Stars
Directed by Calin Cazan and Mircea Toia (who also made Delta Space Mission) this Romanian science fiction animated movie is at once several films you've seen before and then like nothing you've seen before.
In the year 6470, two married explorers receive a distress signal from a female astronaut who went missing years before. Leaving their son Dan safely on their ship - or so they think - they go missing as well as the ship crashes into an alien planet that their son must soon learn to survive, then find his parents and battle the evil Von Kleefe.
The art style of this film brings to mind Heavy Metal and other 80s fantasy like Rock and Rule and Fire and Ice, particularly as the animation uses rotoscoping. Obviously, it has a debt to Star Wars, but then it has telekinetic blob aliens, a synth soundtrack and so many moments that become purely psychedelic.
This also has the most calming feel of any animated space opera I've ever seen. It's literally a chill out movie and I mean that in the most glowing of ways. It's the perfect comfort cartoon.