Thursday, December 18, 2008

Gruesome Grindhouse Double Feature: Make Them Die Slowly and Savage Man, Savage Beast

It was a hot September day in NYC. Walking down the “Deuce” with my buddy, Richie, we were looking to kill some time. As we approached The Liberty, we just froze in our tracks. A really sick poster was advertising the fact that someone had raped & killed someone’s sister and now it was his turn to Make Them Die Slowly. The poster featured a bloody woman and people holding bloody machetes. It looked like a rape/revenge flick, but it was anything but that.

The Liberty had a monitor out front and they usually ran trailers for the films showing. The monitor was turned off, making this viewing a little more ominous than usual. I wanted to check it out, but Richie was freaked out by it. He was more interested in hitting a massage parlor than checking out this blood bath. I didn’t give a shit, I wanted to see this show. So off he went in search of a blow job and I went to the movies

Both films were released on that hot day in 1981. First up was Savage Man, Savage Beast which was shot in 1975 to cash in on the “Mondo” craze. Picture Faces of Death lite, that’s what this film was. Some parts were as exciting as a travelogue, others were just fuckin' weird & stupid. Lots of cruelty to animals, enough to make you want to walk out. There is footage of someone stupid enough to get out of his car in a safari park and get eaten by lions.

One segment has natives digging holes in the ground and fucking the earth. I swear to God this is true. This one scene, racist in nature, elicited a lot of catcalls & obscenities from the mostly black audience. The film did suck, but nothing could have prepared the crowd for Make Them Die Slowly.

A disclaimer rolled across the screen, narrated by a soft female voice telling us that this film depicts over 32 acts of barbaric torture and cruelty. We are advised that if this kind of material offended anyone, they should leave. Needless to say, no one left, just proving what a bunch of sic fucks we were and still are. It also told us that this film was banned in 30 countries. I’d like to see that list.

This film was directed by Umberto Lenzi, who single handedly created the Italian Cannibal Subgenre with Deep River Savages. Lenzi seemed to be in a pissing contest with another director, Ruggerio Deodato, who made Last Cannibal World( aka Last Survivor, Jungle Holocaust, Carnivorous, & Cannibal). Deodato’s Cannibal Holocaust blew away Lenzi’s two films. This film was his payback. But where Holocaust was grin & unrelenting, this film was just too over the top to work as effectively as Holocaust did.

It starts out, as most Italian cannibal films do, in Manhattan. A junkie is gunned down by two mob guys, looking for a dealer named Mike. Robert Kerman plays a detective in a scene shot near the West Village. Then we shift to the Amazon where three students are out to prove that cannibalism is a myth. They encounter some nasty stuff before they meet up with Mike & Joe, on the run from some locals.

Supposedly the two were looking for emerals and pissed off the locals. Joe, who is dying from a fever or something, lets it slip that Mike tortured a local to get some coke. Mike is the dealer the mob is looking for. Mike (played to the hilt by John Morghen) was a character that was all too familiar to the audience: a dangerous, out of his mind, cokehead. Mike tied the guy to a pole and cut out an eye with a knife, then castrated him. Mike and Pat, (Zora Kerova) snort coke, then try to make it with a native girl. Mike kills her and the tribe wants revenge.

Mike’s buddy dies of a fever and is gutted and eaten. Mike, Rudy, Pat & Gloria are put in a cage. Mike escapes and has a hand chopped off. Rudy gets a poison dart in the neck after he hides in water infested with Piranhas. Mike is tied to a pole and is castrated, and yes, the camera doesn’t shy away. Then he is placed under a table with a hole cit in it. Part of his head sticks out and that is lopped off with a machete & the tribe eats his brains. Pat is hung up with hooks through her tits, in the most appallingly famous shot from the film. Gloria escapes with the help of a friendly native, who gets impaled by a spring trap. She goes back to school and publishes her paper which says cannibalism is a myth.

Make Them Die Slowly was hyped as the most violent film ever made. It was ultraviolent and unrelenting. Where Deodato’s films could pummel the most jaded audiences into stunned silence, this one didn’t. Oh, it did elicit groans of disgust from the crowd, but it did lack the punch of the other cannibal films. Make Them Die Slowly was maybe the most prophetic title ever slapped on a “deuce” marquee. In 1981, the area was in it’s death throes due to crack, the AIDS epidemic, and greedy realtors.

John Morghen, arguably the most abused man in Italian gore films, was completely out of his mind here. The audience was all to familiar with the character he played. Psychotic pipeheads roamed the “deuce” like zombies, looking to pull a ripoff for their next rock. Morghen’s leering ,foulmouthed, sweaty performance was typical of coke fiends in the area. And, that , boys & girls, is what put one of the final nails in the “deuce’s “ coffin.

Make Then Die Slowly was a perennial favorite at The liberty, popping up from time to time until it closed. Cropped versions showed up in some of the inner city theaters in Jersey. The biggest cropping occurred in Mike’s castration scene.

Make Them Die Slowly may be one of the last great exploitation films to play the grindhouse circuit. It is now on DVD, under it’s original title, Cannibal Ferox. Pass the barbecue sauce, will ya.
42nd Street Pete

Spaghetti Western Double Feature: Payment in Blood and Navajo Joe

Westerns were a grindhouse staple, but most of the American made westerns of the 60’s were pretty tame until 1969’s Wild Bunch changed all that. Spaghetti westerns were a lot more violent than our stuff, so they were a no brainer for grindhouse and drive in bookings.

These two I caught at The Embassy Theater in Orange NJ. I was cutting class, probably for the 3rd time that week. I caught the afternoon matinee for these two. Payment in Blood 1966 aka Seven Winchesters for a Massacre starred Ed Byrnes and Guy Madison. It was directed by Enzo Castellari.

Madison is a former Confederate officer who is still fighting the war. He leads raids on small towns, wiping everybody in them out. He has seven members of his gang who kill in various ways, knife, bullwhip, spurs , fists ect. Sort of an evil version of the Magnificent Seven. Each killer has a wanted poster of them pop up during the credits.

Byrnes is a government agent sent to infiltrate the group. Seem that they have a stolen chest of government gold stashed somewhere. The group finds a woman who catches Madison’s fancy. She too is an agent, working with Byrnes. This is a really violent film. People are gunned down in the streets, the camera is on Madison’s screaming face as he yells “ kill them all’. Eventually the “good guys” win out. Byrnes did Any Gun Can Play and a couple of others before appearing on Married with Children and then vanishing into obscurity.

The audience was up for the first film, but crapped all over Navajo Joe.

Navajo Joe 1967 Starring Burt Reynolds, Aldo Sambrell, and Fernando Rey. Directed by Sergio Corbucci.

Reynolds and Clint Eastwood were close friends. Eastwood showed Reynolds A Fistful of Dollars. Reynolds was blown away and wanted to work with Sergio Leone. He got Sergio Corbucci instead. Reynolds wears a fight wig , making him look like the kid from Frankenstein Conquers the World.

The film opens up with Duncan( Aldo Sambrell) and his gang massacring an Indian village to get some scalps to sell. Duncan , when trying to sell the scalps, finds out that he and his gang are now wanted for murder. He kills the sheriff, then forms an alliance to steal a train load of money with a crooked doctor. Burt shows up from time to time to knife a few of Duncan’s gang.

Bury foils the heist. The gang wipes everyone out on the train. A mother is gunned down in front of her baby. Anyone familiar with Corbucci knows that he has a tendency to take it a little further than other directors. Being that the film was backed by Dino De Laurentis, Corbucci was kept on a short leash. Burt hides the money, but is forced to give himself to Duncan’s gang when Duncan threatens an Indian girl.

Burt takes the required beating that all Corbucci’s heroes seem to get in his films. Burt’s friends free him and he goes on a killing spree. He wipes out Duncan’s gang, then has a brutal showdown with Duncan at an old Indian burial ground. Duncan is beaten half to death. He shoots Burt four times before taking an axe to the head.

This was Burt’s first and only Spaghetti western. He did stuff like 100 Rifles and the Man who loved Cat Dancing, but they were more mainstream. This film is more Aldo Sambrell’s than anyone elses. His portrayal of Duncan is brutal and he’s the one to watch in this. Sombrell was a fixture in Spaghetti westerns going back to For a Few Dollars More. In a recent interview he also agreed that this was his best performance.

If it seems like Burt is doing a cameo appearance , it might be due to the fact that Burt had to go back to do a TV series and a lot of his scenes were shot first, then inserted later. Burt , himself wasn’t too fond of this film. Neither was the audience that day as Burt’s appearance in the film was ridiculed mercilessly.
42nd Street Pete

Euro Trash Grindhouse Double Feature: Grand Slam and Dog Eat Dog

A Grindhouse staple from the mid 60’s to the late 70’s was a steady stream of low budget European imports. Films from Italy, West Germany, Spain and England were picked up cheap by distributors. Some were used to pad out a double bill. Others were “angelosized” and released on their own.

You had crappy James Bond rippoffs, West German Edger and Bryan Wallace films, War films , and crime dramas. Of special interest would be films with “washed up” American stars who still had some box office clout. Back in those days, a color film would be the headliner and a black & white film would be the co feature. Some really sucked, some were really good. These two films are actually quite good.

Grand Slam 1967 starring Janet Leigh, Edward G Robinson, Klaus Kinski, and Adolfo Celi. Directed by Guiliano Montaldo.

This is an elaborate heist caper in the mode of The Score and Ocean’s Eleven. A school teacher (Robinson) comes up with a plan to ripoff ten million dollars in diamonds from a vault in Rio De Janeiro during the Carnival, His criminal mastermind friend( Celi), backs the plan. They recruit a team of international criminals to pull off the heist.

Each has a specialty that is need to pull off the heist. There are some nail biting moments here. All of the robbers wind up dead. The diamonds are stolen, and the twist ending comes out of nowhere. This was a pretty “cerebal” film for a grindhouse, and the audience was pretty sedate for it. My question would be how did old timer Robinson and the flamboyant Kinski get along?

Dog Eat Dog 1966 starring Jayne Mansfeild, Cameron Mitchell, Ivor Salter and Werner Peters Directed by Ray Nazarro, Richard Cuna & Gustav Gavin. It took three people to direct a fuckin’ movie?

Well a semi naked Jayne Mansfield rolling around on a money covered bed was enough to rouse the more sedate members of the audience. This was a West German production , so it’s dubbed. Mitchell and Salter rip off a cool million from the US treasury. Salter turns on Mitchell, pushing him off a cliff.

Salter and his girl Jayne, who keeps saying “crackers” though out the film , decide to take off with the loot. Mitchell returns with blood on his face and jacket, he spends the remainder of the film not washing his face and wearing the bloody jacket. Cam is pissed, but he, Salter and Jayne grab the loot and head for a deserted island.

The island isn’t deserted. A lady has come home here to die and is assisted by her manservant ( Werner Peters, a fixture in these type of films). Mitchell and crew are followed by a hotel manager who knows they have the money and his ice queen sister. Cam hides the money, but the old lady finds it and hide it herself. Now things start to heat up.

Salter is found dead in a fountain. Mitchell is the likely suspect, but it’s not him. Next up is the ice queen and Jayne get into a vicious cat fight. Peters is found knifed. Someone is knocking off most of the cast. Guess who?

Even though this film is very cool, the real reason to watch it is Jayne Mansfield. She is completely over the top and in rare form. At one point she just starts doing the twist, the frug or some damn dance out of nowhere. A wacky crime caper with two of our most enduring stars.
42nd Street Pete

Grindhouse Classic Double Feature: Night of the Lepus and Stanley

It was the summer of ‘72, a hot night on the “Deuce”. Time to grab a bottle or two of Bali Hai and find a nice , air conditioned theater to drink it in. The Rialto was showing these two films, so I figured I’d duck in there to get out of this miserable heat. A double bill of animals on the rampage: Rabbits & Rattlesnakes, how could you go wrong?

Well actually you could. Is a guy in an Easter Bunny suit scary? Didn’t think so. Well you get a shit load of real bunnies hopping around miniature sets and some guys in bunny suits that drool a lot. Seems that some kid felt sorry for bunnies being experimented on, so one bunny is set free, screws every female rabbit on Arizona, they give birth to mutant, giant bunnies in search of fresh meat.

Janet Leigh, Stuart Whitman, Rory Calhoun, and Deforest Kelly all embarrass themselves in this laugh riot. The usually sedate crowd was laughing their collective asses off at this film. Leigh looks like she wished she stayed in the shower and Kelly keeps looking upward in the hope that someone will beam him up out of this movie. The rabbits leave bloody bodies all over the desert. Best line in the movie is when a deputy goes to a drive in and tells the patrons a horde of killer rabbits is headed their way.

The rabbits are eventually mass executed on some train tracks. Whitman made a couple of more genre films, Ruby and Eaten Alive. Rory Calhoun was in Motel Hell, Hell Comes to Frog Town, and the Angel series. He Died in April , 1999. Best scene in the movie has the heros trapped in the cellar. The start shooting through the floor and one bunny gets shot in the balls. The crowd went crazy over that.

Night of the Lepus was laugh fest, but Stanley was more of a what the fuck is going on? Directed by William Grefe, Stanley was shot in the Everglades and Ivan Tors Studios in Florida. Tim is a Seminole Indian who has just come back from “Nam. His best friend is a rattlesnake named Stanley. Tim’s dad was killed by poachers employed by Alex Rocco.

Tim has set up house in the ‘Glades with Stanley, his “wife” Hazel, and a houseful of snakes. Tim talks to his friends, even has them at his dinner table with a mouse under a glass for each of them. Audience members started to get really creeped out by this. Tim is made an offer by Rocco to catch him some snakes so he can use their skins. Tim is appalled that his friends might be killed for their skins.

Another “friend” of Tim’s is a washed up exotic dancer. Her manager suggests that she bite the heads off snakes during her act to attract more crowds. Tim gets “headaches” that seem to make him more unbalanced. Tim frees a bunch of snakes that the poaches have caught. He gets into a brawl with them and they vow revenge.

They hire a druggie called Psycho to come with them on the hunt. He is so fucked up that he is useless to them. The poachers leave him and go hunt for snakes. Tim has Stanley bait them . The follow Stanley into some quicksand. Holding on for life, Tim orders Stanley to bite their hands so they sink to their deaths. Psycho has found Tim’s home and he kills Hazel & her babies. Tim brawls with Psycho until Stanley bites him and he dies.

Tim goes to the nightclub and sees his friend biting off the head of a snake. He waits until she is in bed with her manager, then dumps a bunch of snakes in their bed. He also loads up Rocco’s swimming pool with water moccasins . His morning dip turns deadly. Tim grabs Rocco’s hot daughter and takes her with her. When things don’t work out, Tim orders Stanley to kill her. Stanley, obviously sick of this shit, just lies coiled up. Tim frees the rest of his friends and orders them to kill the girl. They don’t. He yells at Stanley, who bites Tim in the eye. He bites him a few more times, then the predictable fire breaks out. The girl escapes, Tim is charred , and Stanley slithers off into the swamp and retirement.

If you have any phobia about snakes, this isn’t for you. These are all real and lead actor , Chris Robinson, has a rattler wrapped around his neck during most of the film. Forget about that CG mess, Snakes on a Plane, these are the real ones. Bill Grefe , who I met a few years ago, is a cool guy and gave us Death Curse of Tartu, Jaws of Death, The Hooked Generation, and others. Chris Robinson’s portrayal of Tim is some great acting. As Tim, he seems detached from the real world as, unfortunately, some veterans were. Both films are available on DVD.
42nd Street Pete

Monday, December 8, 2008

Choppin’ Em Up at The Liberty Theater: Pieces and The Hills Have Eyes

The Liberty Theater , close to the corner of 42nd Street and 8th ave was THE place for any type of Euro sleaze. In 198, The Liberty premiered a film the really blew away the jaded audience at this venue. Pieces was the film. It’s tagline read “ You Don’t have to go to Texas for a Chainsaw Massacre”. On the one sheet was a girl that was all stitched together.

Obviously, whoever booked this film wanted to attract a big crowd. So they paired it with a proven winner, 1977’s The Hills Have Eyes. Most of “the Deuce” crowd tended to watch these films over & over again, so this pairing made a lot of sense. Truth be told, “Hills” was one of the few films that actually scared the crap out of me when I first saw it.

Pieces started with a young boy putting together a nudie puzzle. His overbearing mother finds this and goes bonkers. She found a couple of nudie mags, slaps the kid around, then yells at him to get her a plastic bag to throw all this crap in. The crowd went nuts at the plastic bag comment because this part of the film was set in the 40’s. I don’t even know if plastic was invented yet. Anyway the boy returns with an axe and chops up mom, much to the crowd’s delight.

The boy fools the cops by hiding in a closet. They think the murderer escaped. Fast forward 40 years later. Someone is chainsawing up the girls at a private school. The evidence points to the hulking handyman (Paul Smith), but even with him locked up, after he beats the crap out of a bunch of cops, which had the crowd cheering him on, the carnage continued.

Although the crowd was rowdy, certain scenes put it into shocked silence. A topless girl is chased though a locker room and there is a close up of her pissing her pants before she is sawed in half. there is a cool, slow motion decapitation, and a girl rollerskates into a mirror. Each victim is missing a body part. It is pretty obvious what the killer is doing.

Christopher George plays a world weary detective. Edmund Purdom is the Dean, and Linda Day George is a potential victim. Chris George had starred in TV’s Rat Patrol and, I believe he also did a few Noxema Shaving cream commercials. He turned to horror and exploitation just to pay the bills. He was in Fulci’s City Of the Dead, Grizzly, Dixie Dynamite, Day of the Animals, Mortuary, Graduation Day, and The Exterminator. He died, prematurely of a heart attack right after Pieces.

The big payoff in Pieces was that the dean was the killer. He is about to gut Linda Day George after drugging her. He catches a bullet between the eyes for his trouble. But that’s not all. A sewn together body topples out of a secret hiding place. They cover it with a sheet, but a hand grabs the crotch of a helpful student and rips his balls off through his jeans. Every guy there was grabbing his junk at that point. Forget about how ludicrous the scene really was. It just came out of left field and fucked up everyone’s head.

Now it was time for the co feature, The Hills Have Eyes. Funny how that thirty some odd years have passed and that film still makes me nervous. It had originally opened at the Rialto on the corner of 42nd street and 7th ave. There was a huge blow up on the marquee of Michael Berryman’s face. It was being billed as the new Freaks. We all know it was anything but.

The crowd just loved this film and any tension that Pieces built up, was overshadowed as the crowd was in full swing talking back to this film and some people were cheering the killers on.

It was amazing the punch this film still packed almost five years after its release. Pieces came & went. It showed up a couple of more time before the “Deuce” finally died. The Hills Have Eyes was released on an obscure VHS label, Harmony Video. Pieces wound up on Vestron Video, a company that seemed to favor dark prints. It fell into public domain and was released on DVD by budget label Diamond. It has since been restored by Grindhouse Releasing with a ton of extras. “ Hills” got the special treatment on DVD a couple of years ago from Anchor Bay.
42nd Street Pete

Classic Grindhouse Double Bill of Depravity: Barbed Wire Dolls & Women’s Prison Massacre

Probably one of the more depraved double bills ever to hit The Deuce. Directed by the Deacons of Depravity, Jess Franco & Bruno Mattei, these two films stretch the limit of their questionable “R” Rating. Torture, rape, violence ect, these films got the audience response they deserved when playing at the showcase of Euro sleaze, the Liberty Theater on 42nd Street.

The Stars of both movies, Lina Romay & Laura Gemser, were queens of exploitation. Both made a living staring in these type of films. Romay was and still is married to Jess Franco. Gemser was married to her frequent co star , Gabrielle Tinti, and retired soon after his death. Both ladies are a big part of exploitation history.

Dolls was so depraved that it was seldom booked any where except the Liberty. Even with Women’s Prison Massacre on top in ‘83, most patrons had seen and wanted to see Dolls again.

Barbed Wire Dolls: 1976, Directed by Jess Franco, Starring Lina Romay, Monica Swinn, & “Peggy” Markoff. Released by Aquarius Releasing

One of the more depraved WIP pictures were the prison is located on an island. The place has a filthy look to it. The warden, Monica Swinn, is wearing the shortest hot pants in WIP history. She also has a monicle stuck in her eye. Her assistant, Nestor, is the white guard, with a black man’s voice, who metes out the torture.

Though the film is pretty bloodless, it more than makes up for that with sex scenes bordering on hard core. Plenty of beaver shots, a woman masturbating with a lit cigarette, lesbo hyjinx, and more.

A prisoner, Maria, is brought in for the murder of her father. She is sentenced to life. Her father had tried to rape her. This is shown in a flashback with Franco playing “Daddy”. She kills him , or does she? , and is caught and sentence to life. She is “initiated “by strapping her to a bed frame and applying electric shocks. Bedpans are strategically placed under the bed , adding to the scummy ambience of this scene. As we did deeper into the characters, Nestor is a rapist/torturer, the Doctor isn’t a real doc, the real one was killed and this drug shooting pervert took his place and the warden has a nasty little secret too.

The warden takes select prisoners to her apartment for some fun & games. One blonde, called ‘Peggy “ Markoff in the credits to try and cash in or false advertise Margret Markoff , a WIP staple back then. She is drugged up and abused by the warden. The warden has a special hated for Maria. Maria is constantly tortured on the electro bed by Nestor. At one cringe inducing point, he shoves a switch into he ass.

The “Doctor” complains to the Warden that Maria might have a punctured bowel and “we can’t have anymore deaths”. The Warden laughs and say Maria will die because she, the Warden , had killed her father. It seems the Warden and Dad were lovers and she came on the scene when Maria was running out of the house. The jealous bitch finished off Dad and pinned the blame on Maria.

Maria and two of the other girls escape. They are pursued by Nestor and a topless guard. Nestor finds one of the prisoners and is in the process of raping her, when he is machined gunned by another guard, who runs off with the prisoner. Maria and the other girl get to the Governor’s mansion and, to freedom. Or so they think. The warden is there waiting and shoots them down. This scene actually got applause from the crowd of miscreants in the theater.

Though “Dolls” what pretty lite on the bloodshed, Women’s Prison Massacre(1985) more than made up for that. Directed by sleazemeister Bruno Mattei, this is one of the most vile WIP flicks ever made.

Emmanuelle ( Laura Gemser) is a reporter who got the goods on a corrupt official. To silence her, he had her thrown in this shitty jail. The Warden ( Lorraine De Selle ) wants her dead at the bequest of that official. She sics an imate , Albina( Ursula Flores) on her. Albina runs the prison. When left alone in the yard with Emanuelle, Albina pulls a shank and attacks. Emanuelle gets the upper hand and slices up her foe. Albina winds up in the infirmary and Emanuelle is abused by the guards, The guards are really sadistic bitches who torture the inmates for any infraction of the rules. Two overly friendly inmates are tortured by water when discovered. One girl has a male blow up doll that she uses to satisfy herself.

In the midst of all this depravity, for male prisoners are to be held there for a day or so. Crazy Boy Henderson( Gabrielle Tinti) , “Blade” Von Bauer, and two others. Blade hides a razor in his mouth and slashes a guard’s throat with it. They soon control the prison and rape some of the women , including the Warden.

An attach on the prison by the law backfires leaving several inmates dead. One girl’s lesbian lover is killed, so she is out for revenge. She puts a razor blade in a cork and puts it in her pussy. She seduces Blade, who strangles her before raping her. This scene is high on the cringe factor as Blade’s dick is split down the middle. He staggers bleeding though the halls and is torn apart by some of the inmates.

Things are rapidly deteriorating. Crazy Boy wants out and needs a car. He engages in a game of Russian Roulette with Albina, just to kill some time. Albina’s brains wind up splattered on his face. Crazy Boy, his gang now wiped out, gets his car and leaves with Emanuelle and a wounded guard. The guard and Emanuelle get the upper hand and kill Crazy Boy. The official, who wants Emanuelle dead, winds up with a bullet between the eyes. Emanuelle goes back to finish her sentence.

I think this was the last time that Laura Gemser played Emanuelle. She pretty much retired after her husband , Gabrielle Tinti passed away. This film was lost in the shuffle for many years, Shock O Rama got the rights to it and I was given it to review. I noticed that almost all of the violence had been edited out of this print. When I mentioned this to the company, they scrambled to find the uncut print. Thankfully Grindhouse Releasing had an uncut print which they graciously supplied for transfer.
42nd Street Pete

The Original Grindhouse/Drive In Double Bill: The Killer Shrews and the Giant Gila Monster

In 1959 in Texas, radio giant, Gordon McLendon, executive produced two low budget monster movies. They were produced by Ken Curtis, who later starred on the long running TV Show Gunsmoke, as Fetus. Director Ray Kellogg directed both pictures. Kellogg’s forte was special photographic effects and he is credited for close to 100 films for that. He also directed the John Wayne film, The Green Berets.

The two films packed the Drive Ins . They played the Drive In and Grindhouse circuit up until the late 60’s. Even though they were sold as a package to TV, they still showed up at the ‘Kiddee Matinees” in the early 70’s . I saw them at a matinee on my 15th birthday. Unfortunately they fell into the public domain in the early days of VHS. They were also listed as some of the worst films ever made, which I tend not to agree with.

Considering the budget restraints back then, I always found them to be entertaining. The ‘shrews” were dogs wearing fright masks and the gila monster were real lizards on miniature sets. Add casts of likeable characters to the mix, and they were pretty entertaining films.

Killer Shrews starred James Best ( Dukes of Hazzard), Ken Curtis, Ingrid Goude, and Baruch Lumet( director Sidney Lumet’s father). Captain Thorne( James Best) and his first mate, Ruk, a black dude, are delivering supplies to some scientists on an island. A storm is brewing , so he has to ride the storm out on the island. The main scientist ( Lumet), wants Thorne to take his daughter off the island. All get real nervous when they find out that Thorne won’t sail in the storm.

Thorne joins the group for dinner. Jerry ( Curtis) is a drunk and he cops an attitude toward Thorne. Thorne wants to leave , but the daughter holds a gun on him. He is told that it’s too dangerous to go out after dark. It seems that the group was experimenting with shrews. Jerry got drunk and left a cage open. Some of the experimental animals escaped and bred. A shrew must eat it’s own body weight every 8 hours or starve. Shrews usually weigh a couple of ounces, these puppies weigh 50 pounds or more.

One scientist explains that they put out poisoned meat for the beasts, but it had no effect on them. Now the creatures are eating up every living thing on the island. As darkness fall, Ruk is attacked and eaten. Thinking they are safe in the house, they plan to leave in the morning as the shrews are nocturnal. The shrews dig into the barn and eat all the live stock. One gets into the house as a falling tree rips open a shutter. Mario , the token Mexican, traps the shrew in the basement. He wakes Thorne up and they go to kill it. It bites Mario before it is riddled with bullets.

Mario dies from the bite. After an autopsy is preformed on the dead shrew, poison is found in it’s saliva. The strange parallel here is that a gila monster is one of the only lizards that has poison in it’s saliva. The shrews are now burrowing though the adobe walls to get to their victims. They decide to lash some metal drums together and use them as tanks to get to the beach, then the boat. Jerry refuses to go, stating that its suicide. Thorne and company make it to the beach. Jerry make a run for it and is killed. After they get to the boat the scientist tells them that in a few hours , the shrews will eat each other and the last one will die of starvation. ‘ a perfect example of over population” he says. Thorne makes a remark as he looks at Ingrid Goude, that “ he’ s not worried about over population right now” . wink, wink.

The Giant Gila Monster is another fun flick. Mysterious accidents are happening in a remote part of Texas. Could there be a huge, people eating lizard out in the wild area? Sure there is. Add some hot rod driving teens, a sympathetic sheriff, a lovable drunk, and a prick that wants everything his way, and you’ve got a cool movie.

Don Sullivan ( Monster of Piedras Blancas) is the older teen who keeps the others in his hot rod gang in check. The father of one of the missing teens has a king sized hard on for the kid and wants the Sheriff’s job. Mysterious wrecks keep turning up minus the people driving them. The culprit is a big lizard who attacks the cars and eats the occupants. The drunk ( Shug Fisher) see the beast derail a train. The sheriff thinks he is spinning a yarn and locks him up.

During a dance, the creature attacks. Crashing through the wall of the building. Don gets four quarts of nitro glycerin and drives his hot rod into the beast , killing it. A good film with a lot of quirky characters. A lot of McLendons were in it as Gordon McLendon was the executive producer.

I believe the company that released these was called McLendon Radio Pictures. Gordon McLendon is credited for creating the top 40 radio format and was inducted into the Radio Hall of Fame in 1994. Sadly , most of the people involved in these films are gone. Don Sullivan appeared at The Monster Bash last year in Pittsburg. Unfortunately his co star in Monster of Piedras Blancas, Jeanie Carmen, passed away of few weeks before the convention. She was also going to appear at that convention.

Though included in a lot of books as the worst films ever made, they are anything but. Sure , they are dated and you can poke fun at them. I laughed my ass off at the Mystery Science Theater 3000 versions of them. Bottom line is that they are good films and I’m glad I can say that I saw them on the big screen back in the day.
42nd Street Pete

Great Grindhouse Double Bills: The Skull and The Psychopath

I’m going to estimate the time at 1967. This wasn’t a kiddie matinee and I was about 15 years old. This double bill was playing at The Embassy Theater in Orange NJ. It was released by Paramount and produced by Amicus Productions. Both films were directed by Freddie Francis, who had worked for Hammer Films. Amicus wanted to be the successor to Hammer, the company who put British horror on the map.

Amicus even grabbed two of Hammer’s top stars, Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing, to star in the Skull(1965). Based on a story by Robert Bloch, The Skull of the Marquis De Sade, occult collector Dr Christopher Maitland ( Cushing)is offered the chance to buy the Skull from a thief. What he doesn’t know is that everyone who comes in contact with the skull meets a bad end.

The Skull was stolen from his friend Phillips ( Lee) , who is glad to be rid of it. Maitland finds himself under the influence of the Skull . Murder, black magic rituals, and violence occur. The Skull floats around and orders Maitland to murder people. The long end sequence has no dialogue or sound as Cushing is killed by the Skull.

Interesting back then, but too slow for today’s video game oriented audience. The Skull is now available on DVD , courtesy of an excellent restoration by Legendhouse. Serious fans of the genre should check out this underrated little gem

The Psychopath (1966) was the co feature. It’s tag line was “ Don’t Cross the Path of the Psychopath Unless your Tired of it All” . A detective investigates a series of murders where a doll of each victim is found at the scene. The murders are pretty inventive , including one via blow torch. The dolls belong to a crippled woman , who lives in a house full of dolls. Her weird , neurotic son lives with her and is the prime suspect. Unfortunately I had only seen this back then and haven’t seen it since. I remember the red rimed eyes of the son as he had broken his back . I believe that the mother turned out to be the killer. This never got a VHS release , but may have run on late night TV. It was a creepy little film that played well back then, but is probably too tame for today’s audiences.

Amicus films stayed in the game for quite a few years with a bunch of excellent anthology films: Tales from the Crypt, House that Dripped Blood, Torture Garden , Vault of Horror and others were all released by Amicus Productions. Most of these pictures were grindhouse and Drive In Double Bills. More to come.
42nd Street Pete

Drive In Double Feature: Sabata & The Bridge at Remagen

It was the summer of ‘71. I got my driver’s licence in ‘70 and now it was time to actually drive to that American institution , the drive in theater. And what a greater time than the 70's to sample what would soon be replaced with malls, corporate offices, and parking garages. It would be all over by the 80's but the drive ins were still cookin’ in the 70's.

We had the rural, at the time , highways dotted with these outdoor theaters. You had Morris Plains on Rt 10, Troy Hills on Rt 46, Union on Rt 22, Livingston on Rt 10, Totowa on Rt 46, Anthony Wayne on Rt 23, and others. Most were owned by the General Cinema chain of theaters.

Drive ins were outdoor grindhouses and played the same films. Sometimes they booked pictures that were completely at opposite ends of the film spectrum. Case in point with Sabata & Bridge at Remagen, a spaghetti western and a 1969 recycled war movie. We didn’t care, we just loaded the car with a couple of cases of beer and went to the Troy Hills Drive In for a night of viewing pleasure.

I was a big Lee Van Cleef fan , after seeing him in For a Few Dollars More, Good , The Bad, & The Ugly, Big Gundown & others. Sabata may have been his best role as “ The Man with the Gun Sight Eyes Comes to Kill!!” that’s what the ads said. Sabata was sort of a western James Bond. Dressed impeccably in black and armed with a bunch of deadly gadgets, Sabata decimates the army of killers that the corrupt town bosses send after him. Aided by some quirky characters, Carricha, a knife throwing drunk, Banjo, who keeps a rifle in his instrument, and Alley Cat, an acrobatic, silent killer, Sabata is never dull.

Sabata was the main feature and it started around 8;30. It was still light out, so you missed the first few minutes. Of course we were going to hang around and see it again. We had gone through one case of beer already and now it was time for the war movie. Bridge at Remagen was originally released in 1969. We had been seeing war films that kicked ass like , The Dirty Dozen, The Devil’s Brigade, and others. Bridge didn’t kick ass, it sort of sucked.

Based on a true story, Bridge at Remagen starred George Segal, Bradford Dillman, Ben Gazzara as a sergeant, and Robert Vaughn as a German officer. It was about the last intact bridge on the Rhine River and the view point was from both the American & the German side. After seeing guys like Lee Marvin, William Holden, Charles Bronson take on the entire German army, this was kinda boring. We drank more beer to make it interesting, but it wasn’t.

There were a lot of tanks in that movie. When you drink enough beer, the stupidest of ideas become intriguing. Someone starting talking about tanks and now Sabata was back on. The place was almost deserted except for couples too cheap to get a hotel room. This tank conversation took over until I decided that I was going to play tank and shut these guys up. I drove to the back of the drive in and started hitting the mounds between speakers at about 30mph. We flew about two feet in the air in my ‘63 Dodge Dart. These guys were bouncing of the ceiling and each bump rattled my teeth, but this was good , drunken fun.

They begged me to stop, so I parked and we finished Sabata for the second time that night. Admittedly , Sabata & The Bridge at Remagen were a weird pairing. Both films were released by United Artists. I would guess that action films were just hooked up with other action films, regardless of the genre. There were a lot of weird pairings back then. But none weirder than the 42nd Street double bill of Hells Angels ‘69 & Spirits of the Dead. But that night is a whole other story
42nd Street Pete

My First Euro Horror Double Feature: The Bloody Pit of Horror & Terror Creatures from the Grave 1965

I was a whole 13 years old when I got dropped off in front of the Embassy Theater in Orange ,NJ for the weekly “kiddee matinee” on Saturday. If I remember correctly, the movies that day were two AIP beach party movies. But as I stood in front of that theater, I saw something that was a lot more interesting than Annette Funicello.

The regular features running that week were two films that I never had heard of before, The Bloody Pit of Horror & Terror Creatures from the Grave. “ My Vengeance Needs Blood” the one sheet screamed. Now this looked really good, but how was I going to get away with seeing them when I was getting picked up a 5pm and this double feature started at 6pm?

Even at 13, my mind was already warped. I called home and said that so and so’s Mom was picking us up and we were going over his house to hang out and I would call when it was time to go home. It worked. When the Beach Party stuff was over, I just sat in the back of the darkened theater. A couple of winos were passed out back there, so no one really paid any attention.

At 6pm Bloody Pit of Horror came on. The late Mickey Hargitay had been in Italy filming Primitive Love with his wife, Jayne Mansfield. In between , he found time to do this exercise in sadism. Mickey is the owner of a castle that he has rented out for a photo shoot. A horde of buxom models and their photographers show up. The castle previously was home to a sadistic torturer known as the Crimson Executioner.

When the models enter the torture chamber for some cheesecake shots, Mickey loses it and becomes The Crimson Executioner. He dons some red tights and a mask, then busies himself by cutting, burning, and stretching the rest of the cast. As cheezy as this film may look today, this was the greatest stuff my 13 year old eyes had ever seen. Mickey was out of his fucking mind, shamelessly chewing up the scenery and mugging for the camera. He laughed like a crazy man as he did his thing.

Using various devices, he had strapped a woman on this thing that had knives slice into her as it turned. Another lucky victim had boiling oil or tar splashed on her. There is also a scene with a big spider web and a giant spider. Mickey is eventually pushed into his own iron maiden. As he dies, he yells something about ruining his perfect body.

Terror Creatures from the Grave was in black & white and starred horror queen, at the time, Barbra Steele. Where Bloody Pit of Horror was completely over the top, Terror Creatures was more atmospheric and spooky. An occultist is murdered by his wife ( Steele) and friends. He returns as a ghost and, though some really spooky recording, vows dire revenge on his murderers.

His ghosts summons some dead, medieval plague victims to help him get revenge. These “victims” were put to death for actually spreading the plague. A showcase of severed arms comes to life in a creepy scene. Victims are picked off one by one. In my first on screen disembowelment, a wheelchair bound victim runs himself into a sword rather then face the plague spreaders. A rotting, sore covered arm pulls the wheelchair away as his intestines fall out.

You never see the plague spreaders, just their arms. Plague spores are tossed into victim’s faces where it works like acid. All involved in the murder of the occultist are killed. The plague spreaders are closing in on the hero & heroine, when it starts to rain. The pure water forces the creatures back to their graves.

Both films were directed by Massimo Pupillo under English pseudonyms. For Bloody Pit he was “Max Hunter” . For Terror Creatures, he was Ralph Zucker. Both films were released by Pacemaker ,who also gave us Fiendish Ghouls & Horrors of Spider Island. For whatever reason, Pupillo was unsatisfied with the way Terror Creatures turned out and gave the films producer, Ralph Zucker, directorial credit. When Zucker passed away in 1982, a lot of people thought it was Pupillo who died. Puppilo direct a spaghetti western, Django Kills Softly in 1967. Though he is still with us, he hasn’t done any films since 1981.

Both films fell into the public domain. Sinister Cinema had released them as one of their drive in double features . Something Weird Video found a mint print of Bloody Pit of Horror and released it on Image. Terror Creatures from the Grave was kicked around on a bunch of PD tapes & DVDs. The print offered by Alpha is horrible and has a listed running time of 60 something minutes, but it runs way longer than that. If I remember correctly the Sinister Cinema print was widescreen, I just order that DVD from them to put in the archives.

Oh, I did wind up getting caught in the lie. I stayed to see Bloody Pit of Horror a second time. By the time I called home, it was after 10pm and I was in deep shit. I got grounded from the movies for two weeks. I would have to say it was worth it.
42nd Street Pete

Great Grindhouse Double Features: Sssss & The Boy Who Cried Werewolf

I was working the job of a life time, or so I thought, I was managing the Livingston Drive In. It was the summer of “73, I was on break for college. I was soon to be on permanent break ‘cause of the gas shortage of “74, but that’s another story.

I thought this would be a great job, silly me. It was a split shift. You came in at 10am, did paperwork, cleaned up the field, painted, repaired speakers, and other hump work until 2pm. Then you had to be back at 5pm until whenever. I thought I would get to see some great movies. Unfortunately I wasn’t privy to how these films were booked.

Union Drive In got all the Blacksplotation stuff and Spaghetti Westerns. Morris Plains , Troy Hills & Totowa got all the horror, exploitation, and Euro Action films. We got Disney, Egg Head Films, and big mainstream shitty movies.

I could go , on my day off , to any of the other Drive Ins for free. That I did. Then I finally got a horror double bill, Sssss and The Boy Who Cried Werewolf. I was excited until I saw the PG rating. “ Gonna suckl” I thought. I had to screen the prints when we opened Wednesday night just to make sure you could see them. Sssss was no problem, but Werewolf was dark. I complained ,but the company didn’t want to replace the film as it was a “package deal” from Universal. Actually ,it was one of Universal’s last double features.

So now I had to leave a recorded message of the start times. How do you say Sssss? I just hissed it and hoped for the best. Sssss was arguably the better of the two films. Starring Strother Martin, Dirk Benedict, and Heather Menzies, and supported by 70's stalwarts Jack Ging and a young Reb Brown, Sssss used real snakes , a King Cobra, Black Mamba, & a Python, instead of the fake rubber ones. In fact none of the snakes were defanged for this film. Five King Cobras were brought in from Thailand and the python was from Singapore.

Directed by Bernard Kolwalski ( Attack of the Giant Leeches) and the make up is credited to a John Chambers. Before the credits, Dr. Stoner, ( Martin) is selling something in a crate to a guy who runs a freak show. It seems the demented Doc has been trying to turn his lab assistants into cobras to survive the coming nuclear holocaust. The thing is the crate is one of his failures.

A new assistant is recommended by a rival doctor. David is his new assistant, who Stoner wastes no time giving him “immunization” injections. David has some hallucinatory dreams on this shit.

Stoner has a King Cobra that he calls “The King”. He runs a venom show to get the cash he needs to keep his experiments going. Things go wrong when his pet boa, Harry, is killed by a drunken jock( Brown). Stoner releases a black mamba while the jock is taking a shower. David now is starting to shed his skin. He visits the carnival and comes face to face with his predecessor, now an exhibit, in the freak show.

The professor, who recommended David for the job, tells Stoner his grant has been refused. Stoner knocks him out and throws him in a cellar with a hungry python. Stoner’s daughter, Kristina, is worried about David. She goes to the carnival and realizes that the snake man is Tim, Stoner’s last assistant. She then knows that David is going to wind up the same way.

David now morphs into a King Cobra . Stoner , for some reason, decides to have it out with “The King”. Things are deteriorating rapidly. A mongoose gets out of it’s cage and attacks snake Dave. Stoner is bitten a couple of times by The King. Kristina arrives to find Dr. Stoner dead and “ The King” in attack mode. The sheriff takes the King’s head off with a shotgun blast. Snake David is being chewed on by the mongoose as the film freezes on Kristina’s screaming face.

This was pretty good. The presence of the great character actor, Strother Martin, gave the project credibility. Martin’s earnest performance of the deranged Dr Stoner saves the film from being your typical ‘ Mad Scientist Creates Monster ‘ roots. You actually feel sorry for David as he painfully turns into a snake.

Martin, who achieved fame in films like Cool Hand Luke, The Wild Bunch and others, did a few more genre films, westerns and TV shows before his death in 1980. Dirk Benedict found fame on the TV show, the A-Team. Heather Menzies did a couple of more genre films, Piranha and Endangered Species plus a lot of TV shows. Director Kolwalski directed a ton of TV Shows like Magnum PI, Nightrider, Air Wolf, Jake & the Fat Man and many others before his death in 2007. Look for Addams Family star , Felix Silla as The Seal Boy in the freak show.

As good as Sssss is , The Boy Who Cried Werewolf sucked. I had more problems with rowdy patrons during that film. Where Ssss held their interest, Werewolf seemed to piss them off. First mistake was showing a fully transformed werewolf before the credits. Second was having this whinny bitch of a kid, Scott Sealey, in a pivotal role. The main star, Kerwin Mathews, was in a bunch of regular people meet big monster period pieces like 7th Voyage of Sinbad, Jack the Giant Killer, Three Worlds of Gulliver & others. The director, Nathan Juran, was no strangers to giants either as he directed Attack of the 50 Foot woman. Both directors directed Attack of the Something films.

Let’s see, we have an annoying kid, a werewolf that causes traffic accidents, pushes a camper off a cliff, and rips an arm off, ( off camera).Jesus freaks, a tough sheriff( veteran western actor ,Robert J Wilke), some blood , and a lot of boredom. Like the boy who cried wolf story, no one pays attention to this kid. Considering that he did this film and one episode of Emergency!, no one was really paying attention to his career either.

The werewolf make up was an early creation of Tom Burman. However a werewolf wearing a turtle neck sweater just doesn’t cut it for me. I kept thinking about the Warren Zevon song Werewolves of London, the line where , “his hair was perfect”. Even the cheap dissolve transformation scene bites more than this werewolf.

I never saw this film even though I had it running for a week. I was breaking up drunken fights and escorting the rowdies off the lot. Ssss ran twice a night, Werewolf ran only once as the co feature. We started running films around 8;30 pm as the sun was setting. Intermission was at 10pm, then the second film at 10:20. Snack Bar closed at 11;30 pm. Last showing was around 12;30. I only recently caught up with this on a “convention” DVD-R. So I waited over 30 years to see this clunker and ,trust me on this, it wasn’t worth the wait.

Star Kerwin Mathews also did a lot of Euro films, Octaman with Pier Angeli & Jeff Morrow, Barquero with Lee Van Cleef & Warren Oats, and some TV appearances. He died in 2007. Director Nathan Juran also moved on to direct TV shows like Lost in Space, Time Tunnel, and Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea. He had won an Oscar for art direction in 1941 for How Green was my Valley. He died in October of 2002. Looks like a lot of former B Movie directors found a home directing TV shows. More great and not so great grindhouse double bills to come.
42nd Street Pete

Tuesday, November 25, 2008


Back in the 60's the MPAA came out with a ratings system. A lot of the grindhouse flicks, believe it or not, were originally rated X. A few distributors just stuck an R on the ads and the one sheets after they got the dreaded “X” rating.

Sometimes they got away with it, sometimes they didn’t. When they got caught, the “offensive “ parts were hacked out and sometimes rendered the rest of the film incoherent. Thus legends were created.

Last House on the Left was the hardest hit as quite a few scenes we cut out. The disemboweling scene and the scene where Krug carves his name on a victim’s chest come to mind. Legendary cuts were talked about as the film was passed around the country and each “ territory” seemed to take a chunk out of the film.

The X rating was totally unfair and lumped these film into the realm of porn. A lot of newspapers wouldn’t run an ad for anything X rated. 1969's Midnight Cowboy got the dreaded X , but went on to win an Oscar or two. Funny, after that, the rating dropped to an “R” without any cuts being made.

Here are a few films that got the dreaded “ X”. Some wore it like a badge of honor, others quickly cut their film to get the “R”. And others just flew under the radar. Most of these are now available in all their sleazy glory on DVD.

I Drink Your Blood 1970 released by Jerry Gross’s Cinemation was one of the first “ blood horrors” to get the dreaded X rating . Gross was a ballsy guy who openly challenged the MPAA and talked about it openly in print. Blood was given the X for violence, not for sex, but that X was the kiss of death as it invoked images of porn.

Jerry agreed to cut the film to an “R”, but just released it as it was, figuring that the MPAA wouldn’t bother checking up on it. He figured wrong and the MPAA was going to withdraw the “R” rating and fine Cinemation. Jerry pulled the prints and hacked out the “offending “ scenes. Some prints had more footage than others. The two scenes that were definitely chopped were an Asian woman’s self immolation and a gang bang with a group of construction workers and an infected woman.

For those that don’t know, Blood was one of the first American Night of the Living Dead ripoffs. A group of satanic hippies set up shop in an almost abandon town. They mess with the locals and give an old man some LSD. His grandson shoots a rabid dog, then injects some of it’s blood into “ meat pies”.

The pies are sold to the hippies and the fun begins. The cult members begin foaming at the mouth and turn on each other. One girl infects a bunch of construction workers after a gang bang. This film is extremely gory as one girl ( Lynn Lowry) cuts off and old lady’s hand with an electric knife. Swords, axes, ect are all brought into play.

I Drink Your Blood was paired with a retitled clunker, I Eat Your Skin ( Voodoo Blood Bath) by Del Tenny ( Horror of Party Beach). It opened at the Rialto, right on the corner of 42nd street and 7th Ave. It played various “Deuce “ grindhouses for 6 months. It was paired up with Carnivorous at the Times Square Theater in 1979. The audience was just pulverized by this double bill. Blood was directed by David Durston, who had previously directed some gay porn films. I Drink your Blood is now available , uncut, from Grindhouse Releasing. Required viewing. But now on to Carnivorous.

Carnivorous, aka, Last Cannibal World, Cannibal, The Last Survivor, Jungle Holocaust 1977. Directed by Ruggerio Deodato.

Man from Deep River may have been the “first” in the Italian Cannibal sub genre, but this film just blew it away. The violence was just too real and the animal cruelty was just vicious.

I saw this film at the wonderful Castle Theater in Irvington NJ. It was called The Last Survivor. I expected your standard “lost in the jungle “ adventure. I was slammed into my seat by the carnage. The usual rowdy crowd here was stunned by the brutality on the screen.

Four people in a small plane fly into an unexplored part of the Phillippines to check on some oil exploration. They find no one at the camp, but obviously something is amiss as evidenced by some blood stains. They decide to spend the night in the plane. The one woman in the group has to answer the call of nature. She disappears into the night.

The men don’t search for her until morning. One of the guys triggers a trap that impales him on a huge ball of spikes. The others find that the girl is now the main course at an impromptu barbecue. The two men are separated. One is captured and witnesses a lot of real animal atrocities. Realizing that he is next on the menu, he escapes with a native girl.

She is caught and here is the scene that flatlined the audience. Her head is caved in, then decapitated, she is gutted, filleted, cooked and eaten. I heard some people puking behind me. This just pulverized the audience. The guy gets away after battling a cannibal chief and ripping out and eating his liver in front of the rest of the tribe.

There is no way that this was ever submitted to the ratings board. Somehow it snuck right by then and played on the grindhouse circuit for years under it’s many alternate titles. Available uncut from Shriek Show.

Succubus 1969 a Trans American Films Release got the X rating and stayed with it. One of Jess Franco’s better efforts, it’s about an S & M night club performer who loses her mind as she is manipulated by her lover and a psychiatrist. French actress , Janine Reynaud is the main reason to see this film.

She is one of those actresses who can tease you with her nude scenes and is a talented striptease artist. You watch her and you think she is barring it all, but in reality is showing you nothing. The film starts out with a staged S&M performance, then follows Reynaud’s descent into madness.

Lot’s of 60's style things like, strange clothing, LSD orgies, hallucinations, lesbian trysts, and other weirdness. Did she murder some people or didn’t she. Watch the ending, then decide for yourself. If I remember correctly, Succubus opened at the Cinerama. It had a strange ad campaign that actually worked. It stated: “ Because of the unusual nature of the title we suggest that you call ( name of the theater) for the full meaning so that you will not be surprised by the sophisticated subject matter of this film”.

This worked , as people turned out in droves to see what this was about. Blue Underground has just released a pristine copy of Succubus. It also stars Euro Trash favorites Jack Taylor and Adrian Hoven.

Kung Fu films started playing in the 60's at a small theater, The Bijou on 46th Street right off Broadway. As their popularity rose, they became a mainstay on the “Deuce” particularly at the Cine Twin, right next to the most out of control adult emporium, Blackjack Books.

Sometimes weird Asian horror films would be mixed in with the chop socky films. Black Magic, Black Magic II and Killer Snakes.

Killer Snakes 1974, released by The Shaw Brothers, might have been inspired by 1972's Stanley. Both films featured alienated losers who made friends with snakes.

Killer Snakes, however was rated X for probably many reasons. It never even tried to get the rating changed and nobody at the box office checked id’s , you had cash, you got in. The print that ran then was typical grindhouse, scratched, spliced, and burned. The print that SWV sold on VHS was just like the one they ran back then.

Killer Snakes is a really fucked up film. It has rough ( softcore) sex, bondage, some kung fu, and real snakes. The main character is a loser who works odd jobs. He finds a snake that has had it’s gall bladder cut out. Asians believe that cobra gall bladders have healing and aphrodisiac properties.

Our hero sews up the snake’s wound and they become friends. The snake brings back a few more of his slithery buddies to get fixed up. Bear in mind that these are real cobras, not the CG shit like Snakes on a Plane. Our hero’s troubles start when he delivers food to a whore house and one on the girls makes fun of him.

He gets waylaid, beaten and robbed because of the hooker. He loses his job because of the robbery. He frees some more snakes and plots revenge. He goes back to the house and hires the girl who mocked him and had him robbed. They have crappy sex. She sets him up for another robbery.

This time he has snakes with him. “ Bite them to death” he yells. The guys all die of snake bites. He takes the hooker back and ties her up. A lot of Asian style bondage in this film. He rapes her, then drops one of his scaley buddies between her legs. Not to get graphic here, but snakes seem to like warn, moist places. She actually likes it, so he lets a few more cobras loose and that’s the end of her.

He uses the snakes to kill a few more of his tormentors. When he feels the law is closing in. He puts his pals in boxes, soaks the boxes with gasoline, and lights them up. The original cobra survives long enough to bite and kill him.

The Image release of Killer Snakes has a disclaimer on the box reading “ Warning, contains sick and disturbing scenes. Not suitable for most people” See, ballyhoo isn’t dead. In this case , they ain’t lying. Just the fact that these snake are real and the majority of them are real speckled , banded cobras, is enough to unnerve anyone with even a slight fear of snakes. A really twisted film on many levels, but you’ll want to see it.

The Incredible Torture Show 1978 Directed by Joel Reed was given the X rating. That didn’t stop the film from getting distributed. What got the film yanked from distribution was the protests from the Women Against Pornography. Remember them? The fat whales that used to organize protests of all the sex related businesses in NYC? Usually business picked up when they were around. The sight of these manatees out in front of peepshows made the ugliest booth girls very desirable. But I digress.

Torture Show was pulled, re-titled Blood Sucking Freaks, made no cuts and got an “R “ rating. It went on to be a favorite on the midnight show circuit. Make no mistake about it, this is one sick movie. People are tortured, a hole is drilled in a woman’s head and her brains are sucked out. There is a cage of cannibal woman and an evil dwarf ( Louie De Jesus, who did porn loops) helps with the fun. Completely twisted and depraved. Available from Troma ( who else) Home Video.

So there you have the X factor in the wacky world of Grindhouse Films. The above five films are required viewing. They aren’t the only films that got hit with the X rating. Forbidden World and Inseminoid ( Horror Planet) had to make major cuts just to squeak by with the “R”. Other films managed to get by without being caught by the MPAA. This is part of what makes Grindhouse Films so interesting. Today, a low budget film goes straight to DVD, where, you can pretty much push the envelope. That’s why there are so many “ director’s cuts” of lukewarm genre releases floating around. Grindhouse film makers had big balls, something sadly lacking in films today.

People keep bringing up the term “ modern grindhouse” or maybe a guy with the initials QT coined the term. I don’t know but when you can smoke, drink, and have sex in a theater, that’s a grindhouse. When you can throw stuff at the screen, talk back to the movie, yell out to the killer where his victim is hiding, that’s a grindhouse. If you enter a theater and the smell of sweat, stale beer, pot, cigarette smoke, and piss make your eyes water, your in a grindhouse.

So, does anybody know of a place like that, and no, your living room doesn’t count. Nobody? So I would venture that it is safe to say that the grindhouse has gone the way of the dinosaur, extinct. But the films that were the life blood of these places are still here. And it’s all about the films now.

So what would I consider a “modern ‘ grindhouse film? Hatchet is very good and delivers the sauce in buckets. You would be hard pressed to top Black Sheep for the sheer audacity and violence. Killer flesh eating sheep? People that turn into weresheep? This fucker would have played at the Liberty to SRO crowds. The Hills Have Eyes remake is a definite, though I really fuckin hate remakes, this one actually worked. Chainsaw Sally is another one that would have packed the places on weekends.

If I tell ya what’s good ,it’s only fair that I tell ya what’s bad, really bad. Dimension Extreme’s Welcome to the Jungle is a complete ripoff. A Cannibal Holocaust “ revision” , produced by Gail Ann Hurd. The box will tell you that this is the most terrifying film of the decade. I’ll tell you that its a complete piece of shit, period. If watching four idiots play with their camcorder for about 70 minutes, until the “action” starts, is your thing, than enjoy.

The “premise” for this is that Michael Rockerfeller disappeared of the coast of New Guinea years ago. Our four insipid explorers try to find him for the reward. Then they try to copy Cannibal Holocaust. Remember the famous “girl impaled on a spike” scene? Now we have a girl with a spike through her head, sort of like whoever directed this had something wrong with their head.

Nothing happens until about the last ten minutes, then one guy is found with his limbs eaten off and he is still alive. The others are presumably killed and eaten and an aging Mr. Rockerfeller makes an appearance from the knees down. The really shocking thing is that someone is actually planning a big budget remake of CH. The only reason CH worked in the first place was A: because of the time period and B: all the controversy surrounding the film. The only way a remake would work would be if they actually killed and ate the director of Welcome to the Jungle and Gail Ann Hurd. Now that I’d pay to see.

So the “spirit” of the grindhouse isn’t dead, just watch out for budget labels that say grindhouse on them. Now any former unreleasable piece of shit is all of a sudden a “ grindhouse “ film. Find the real stuff like Three On a Meat Hook, Fleshpot on 42nd Street, Screams on a Winter Night, The Ugly Ones, etc. That’s real GRINDHOUSE. Can I get an ‘amen” brothers & sisters?

42nd Street Pete

Reel Grindhouse Presents: The Blood-O-Rama Shock Show

The real funny thing about the film Grindhouse was that I noticed that people didn’t have the patience to sit though almost four hours of film. My, how things have changed. Back in the 70's, the grindhouse afficionado wanted more viewing time for his dollar. The distributors also realized this and came up with a way to squeeze a couple of more bucks out of previously released product. They created a marathon viewing experience: The Blood O Rama Shock Show.

This had been done back in the 50's & 60's around Halloween, so it wasn’t really a new concept. What made this one unique was you were never told what films you would see. It could be three, sometimes four movies. The Blood O Rama trailer had clips from several different movies, all with blood in the title. A lot of Hemisphere films were used.

I’m sure that Sam Sherman, Hemisphere’s state side partner, was involved in this. Sam’s company was Independent International, a company that turned out many grindhouse films, courtesy of Sam’s partner, director Al Adamson. Al gave us Satan’s Sadists, Dracula vs Frankenstein, Hell’s Bloody Devils, Five Bloody Graves, Nurse Sherri and many others.

The films used for Blood O Rama were Blood Creature ( aka Terror is a Man), Blood Drinkers, Blood Demon, Mad Doctor of Blood Island, Brides of Blood , Horror of the Blood Monsters, Beast of Blood, and others. Drive ins got into the act with a dusk to dawn show with six movies. Granted, you weren’t there until sunrise, unless you passed out in the car, but you definitely got your $2.50's worth.

Another company got into the act with their Spend a Night in A Grave concept. This one had three movies: Ted V Mikel’s Corpse Grinders, The Undertaker & His Pals, and The Embalmer( Monster of Venice) . It was a cold winter night in the old ‘63 Dodge Dart at the Morris Plains Drive In. Three pints of cheap hootch and a shitty heater couldn’t take the chill off. I left during the Embalmer with a pair of frozen nuts.

There is a back story here concerning three films. Brides of Blood, Mad Doctor of Blood Island, and Beast of Blood were known as the Blood Island Trilogy. And they were directed by Romero. Not George, swerved ya on that one!! Eddie Romero directed all three films as well as the “first” blood island movie, Terror is a Man.

All three films were horribly edited for late night TV. Even worse, they were given new titles. Worse than that, they were released to home video by a sleazy outfit called Regal Home Video. Brides of Blood became Brides of the Beast. Mad Doctor of Blood Island became the Return of Doctor X or something like that. But it’s gets worse. The box synopsis leads you to believe it’s the Mad Doctor, but it was the wrong movie. Something about plants. If you fans want me to write the definite article on the Blood Island Trilogy, Just ask.

Reel Grindhouse Presents: Classic Films

Since the film Grindhouse came out , I got a lot of emails from websites and fans. They want to know what I consider the top ten grindhouse films. Since the term” grindhouse “ encompasses at least 15 or more different genres, picking a top ten would be next to impossible. The good folks at Scars have given me a forum, so to speak, to steer you, the fan , in the right direction. When you figure that we have Horror, Sci-Fi, Biker, Women in Prison, Slashers, Spaghetti Westerns, Euro Shoot ‘em ups, Porn, Teen JD epics, ect, the list could go on and on. And it does. There is so much out there right now, that it’s a film junkie’s wet dream. So let 42P be your twisted tour guide as we paddle through the sludge of some of the greatest exploitation films ever made.

Woman’s Prison Massacre 1983 Starring Laura Gemser as Emanuelle, Directed by the late sleazemeister, Bruno Mattei.One of the wildest of all the WIP flicks. Reporter, Emanuelle is framed and sent to prison after she gets the goods on a corrupt politician. We have the usual nudity and lesbian hyjinks until three male prisoners, led by Crazy Boy Henderson( Gabriele Tinti, Gemser’s real life husband) take over the prison. Mayhem ensues with throat slashings, rapes, castrations, and the most horrific Russian roulette scene ever committed to film. The uncut version of this film is available from Shock O Rama.

Mad Doctor of Blood Island 1968 Starring John Ashley, Angelique Pettyjohn ( Star Trek) Directed by Eddie Romero.Second in the Blood Island Trilogy. A true Drive In classic. The prologue instructs the viewer to take the Green Blood Oath, ensuring that you won’t become a “ green blooded monster” Dr. Lorca has turned his former friend, Don Ramon, into a nasty monster. He treated his friend’s leukemia by injecting him with a chemical that turns him into a mentally unstable green monster that drips slimy green blood. Ramon escapes into the jungle where he plays annoying practical jokes on anyone who tries to ferret him out. Heads, arms and legs are ripped off and entrails are scattered about. There is some nudity and a pretty intense sex scene between Ashley and Pettyjohn. Lorca, Don Ramon, and Ashley returned in the sequel , Beast of Blood. Available from Image.

Northville Cemetery Massacre 1976 a biker film in which the bikers are the good guys and the cops are scumbags. A cop rapes a girl and tells her father that the bikers did it. They enlist a big game hunter and pick off the bikers with high powered rifles. The bikers are constantly harassed by the police and some are just gunned down in cold blood. The climax is a biker funeral , were the club hides guns in the casket. When the cop, the father, and the hunter attack the club with a helicopter, the bloodbath ensues. Even the biker chics are gunned down. One of the few films to portray bikers as the good guys. The Scorpions Motor Cycle Club stared. The original poster had a fat, redneck cop on it , holding a shogun. The tagline was “ The Day Law & Order Went Berserk”. Available from VCI.

The Cut Throats 9 1972 Starring Robert Hundar and Emma Cohen Directed by Joaquin Luis Romero Marchent. “Possibly the Most Violent Euro Western Ever Made” quote from The Psychotronic Video Guide. You ain’t kidding, this is one rough ride indeed. This was playing at the bottom half of a double bill at The Hollywood Theater in East Orange. I don’t remember the main feature as I passed out due to drinking a pint of T-Bird. When I woke up, this was on. This was one vicious movie. Nine criminals are chained together in a wagon. The are ambushed, their guards are brutally killed by throat slashing, shootings and one guys head is beaten into jelly by a rifle butt. The gang is pissed because there is no gold to be robbed. The gold is actually the chains that hold the prisoners. As the chain gang treks across the frozen tundra, they amuse themselves by killing each other off in various gruesome ways. Head shots, strangling, burning, disembowelments are all in this catalog of cruelty. Currently out of print, Cut Throats is going for big money on Ebay.

Forced Entry 1972 starring Harry Reams( as Tim Long) and Laura Cannon. Directed by Shaun Costello.A real libido crusher that was the first porn/ horror hybrid. It was also the first deranged Vietnam Vet on a rampage film. It was also the first film to use real war footage. When Reems sees a crowd on the street, they become Vietnamese villagers. This film sat around for a couple of years because no one would touch it. When it finally got released, it made the rounds of the Times Square porn grinders. Live sex show performers, many who were down and out Vietnam vets, turned their backs to it. Reems performance was so convincing, and , he took so much heat for it, that he never played a psycho driven character again. Entry virtually disappeared after the Meese Commission purge. It showed up on grainy bootleg VHS tapes from dubious mail order companies. While purusing Ebay, I saw a 16mm print for sale. My partner in my 8mm Madness series had bid on it. I contacted him and told him the importance of this film and that I would back him up with cash if need be. We got it and it’s out courtesy of After Hours Cinema.

So there’s a little taste for you fans. Hopefully I’ll be able to shine some light on more obscure gems from the golden days of the grindhouse . Later, 42P