Monday, May 18, 2009

The Crawling Hand (1963) and The Slime People(1964): A Grindhouse B&W Double Bill

Some things were just made for the Dive In circuit and a lot were recycled on that circuit up until ten years after their initial release. I caught these two as they were running in a local grindhouse around 1968.

The Crawling Hand Directed by Herbert L Strock( I was a Teenage Frankenstein, Gog, Blood of Dracula) Starring Peter Breck, Kent Taylor, Alan Hale, and Alison Hayes. Breck & Taylor are scientists and we see a sweaty, black rings around the eyes astronaut begging them to blow up his ship before he returns to earth. They blow him up after realizing that he is alive with no oxygen.

A couple of teens on the beach (Rod Lauren & Stirry Steffan) find the dismembered arm of the astronaut. Rod wraps it in a blanket and takes it home. Funny moment, Stirry was changing into her swimsuit and the projectionist decided to “censor” the scene by putting his finger over the projector lens. More than half the audience was made up of 12 to 16 year old kids who nearly rioted after this stunt.

The hand comes back to life and strangles Rod’s landlady. It also tries to strangle Rod. Rod morphs into a black eyed killer who tries to strangle the owner of the local malt shop. During that struggle, the juke box turns on and we get Papa O Mau Mau by the Rivingtons. The police (Alan Hale) are closing in. In the climatic battle, in a junkyard, Rod slices up the renegade appendage with a broken bottle and the rest is eaten by cats, no I’m fuckin’ serious. The remains are placed in a sealed box and Rod returns to normal. When two guys, who are supposed to dispose of the box, open it, the hand is gone and the inevitable sequel never came.

Interestingly all three leads starred or would be starring in TV series. Kent Taylor was Boston Blackie in the 50’s series. He did a lot more low budget horror, Brain of Blood, Brides of Blood, Phantom for 10,000 Leagues, before his death in 1987. Alan Hale went on to be the Skipper on Gilligan’s Island, then played a Sheriff in another B horror flick, The Giant spider Invasion before his death in 1990. Peter Breck went on to star on The Big Valley as Nick Barkly. Rod Lauren was in Terrified and The Black Zoo. He also guest starred in a few TV series. He died in 2007. Look for Alison ( Attack of the 50 Foot Woman) in a small role.

The Slime People 1964 Directed by & staring Robert Hutton, also starring Les Tremayne. Los Angeles is under attack by giant, rotting vegtables. Ok, they are not as bad as the critics make them out to be. Actually the creatures are pretty cool and are defeated by this cast of seven or so. I think it was in Les Tremayne’s contract to appear in just about every late 50’s and early 60’s creature fests.

The Slime People have surrounded the city with fog that solidifies into a wall. The kill everybody. We get lots of stock footage of demolished building to achieve this end. Seems our atomic tests have pissed off these creatures and they are about to let us know it. Being that they can’t breath our air( like we can?) the have some machine making oxygen or whatever for them. Machine is destroyed, creatures drop dead, and the world is safe again.

Funny thing is that both films have only one kill in each of them. The landlady in the Crawling Hand & a wino is killed in an empty movie theater in the Slime People. Real low budget, but two of my all time favorite from my early grindhouse days.
42nd Street Pete

The Frozen Dead and It!: World Premiere in Beautiful Downtown Newark

Wow, it was 1967 and a bunch of us got the balls to go into wonderful post riot torn Newark , N.J. to see a world premier of two not so classic horror films. Both directed by Herbert J Leder, they were released by Warner Brothers/Seven Arts. Both had one name, Dana Andrews and Roddy McDowell. The theater was the Bradford.

Frozen Dead was in black & white, though there are reports of it being filmed in color. Dr Norberg is a Nazi scientist living in the English countryside. He has about 1500 elite Nazi soldiers frozen. His job, thaw them out so they can finish WWII. Problem is their brains are damaged when they are thawed out, making them violent psychopaths.

The doctor’s niece, Jean, and her friend Elsa visit the castle. After the Doc messes up another experiment, he decides he needs a live brain to experiment on. His assistant drugs Elsa and lets one of the more violent Nazi zombies kill her. The keep her head alive, just like the girl in the Brain that Wouldn’t Die, in a cabinet.

Elsa’s head has telepathic powers. She communicates with Jean , who she scares the shit out of. An American scientist, Ted Roberts arrives and says he saw a girl matching Elsa’s description leaving on a train. Actually it was a girl wearing Elsa’s clothing. Ted is impressed when he see Elsa’s severed head. Jean is learning too much as her father is one of the frozen krauts. They decide to kill her, but Elsa warns her. After discovering that her uncle is a Nazi, she is taken into a room with a bunch of severed arms mounted on the wall. Elsa gains control of the arms and they strangle the doctor and his sadistic assistant. Elsa’s head pathetically moans “bury me over and over again at the films end. At this point we all wanted to see this film buried as well.

It! Was in color and featured Roddy McDowell channeling Anthony Perkins. Roddy is the assistant curator of a museum. Roddy and the head curator go to a warehouse that had burned down and find the original Golem. When the curator uses the Golem as an umbrella stand, he gets his head crushed. A worker, who strikes a match on the statue, has it fall on him and crush him to death.

Roddy, who lives in a flat with his dead mother, figures the head curator job will be his. He also realizes that, as the legend states, that once revived in the 20th century, the Golem can’t be stopped. Roddy uses the Golem to dispose of his enemies. He also has a crush on the former curator’s daughter, Ellen. Roddy not only uses the Golem to kill his enemies, he boasts to Ellen that It will do anything it asks, so he has It destroy the London Bridge.

Roddy, who is getting crazier by the minute, tries to destry the creature that he caused to become indestructible. He gets thrown in an asylum, but the Golem gets him out and takes Roddy, Ellen and the dead mother to a country estate. After freeing Ellen , they drop a small nuke on Roddy’s place. After the mushroom cloud subsides, we see the Golem wadding into the ocean to await the sequel. He is still waiting.

Not really a bad double bill, but the ghetto audience verbally ripped the two pictures to shreds. That’s why I loved going to a grindhouse like this where the patrons became part of the show.
42nd Street Pete

Grindhouse 1967 Style: Death Curse of Tartu & Sting of Death

I was like 14 years old and this double bill was playing at The Paramount in wonderful Newark, NJ. I was out and out forbidden to go because of the racial tension in the area following the riots a couple of years prior. Sounded like a great show, but I never saw it until Tartu wound up on broadcast TV, heavily edited. Sting of Death never saw a TV release or a VHS release. I remember seeing Tartu in a big box at one point.

Anyway the good folks at SWV released this double feture as it was originally shown. Released by Thunderbird International, I wonder if the same company put out that cheap wine, directed by William Grefe, who went on to do the Hooked Generation, Stanley and Mako Jaws of Death. He also did the second unit direction for the shark scene in Live and Let Die.

Death Curse of Tartu involves some anthropology students who desecrate an Seminole witch doctor’s grave. Tartu came shape shift into a snake, a shark, an alligator ect. That’s how he picks off the students, one by one. The effects, for the time, are pretty good and the mummified version of Tartu could have been nightmare material for a 14 year old. The climatic showdown between Tartu and the last two survivors ends with a muscular warrior Tartu being tossed into some quicksand, then morphing back to the mummified Tartu as he sinks out of sight.

Death Curse of Tartu was filmed in the Everglades. The wind is constantly blowing and the music is very familiar to me as it was used in countless old serials and shows that ran on TV when I was a kid. Sting of Death takes us to a mad scientist’s under water lab where he has managed to transform himself into a humaniod half man, half jellyfish. He looks like he has a big trashbag for a head and the “tentacles” looks like the hoses from a swimming pool. As crazy as this might sound, the underwater stuff is beautifully shot in contrast to the weird plot and crappy acting. 60’s singer, Neil Sedaka may have embarrassed himself into early retirement with the "Jellyfish" song. In fact, Neil is billed as “special Guest Singing Star”, something I’m sure he leaves off his resume. Both films are a great combination of 50’s monster films and mid 60’s cheezy gore.
42nd Street pete

Legend of Nigger Charley and Hannie Caulder: A Paramount Double Bill For the Grindhouse

1972 was the beginning of the “blaxploitation” craze. Fred Williamson was being pushed as a big star, so he was put in this movie, which barely got print ads because of it’s title as newspaper were loathe to use the word “nigger” in an ad. The changed it to The Legend of Black Charley or Black Charley’s Revenge. Strange thing was that the drive in that I saw it at put Hannie Caulder, a year old film that tanked, on top of the bill.

Several organizations, including the NAACP, called the film racist and repellant. Hey, it’s grindhouse. Fred plays the titular character with a vengeance. As Charley he is beaten by his sadistic master, than escapes. He goes west and becomes an outlaw and gunfighter. He is feared and despised by the white man and he kills a shitload of them. He actually becomes as dangerous and psychotic as his tormentors. He guns down all the racist white folk in his path, then gets revenge on his former owner. I was actually glad that I saw this in a drive in as I’m sure this film would rile up an inner city audience.

Hannie Caulder was a vehicle for Raquel Welch dreamed up by her then husband, Patrick Curtis. Three inept outlaws, The Clemens Brothers wind up at her ranch after a botched robbery. They kill her husband, rape Hannie, then leave her for dead. She hooks up with a bounty hunter, Thomas Luther Price( Robert Culp) who teaches her to shoot. Then she goes out for revenge on the Clemens brothers.

The brothers are played by three of the best character actors who ever lived, Ernest Borgnine, Jack Elam and Strother Martin. They act like a dirty, psychotic version of the Three Stooges. The banter between them is priceless. All three actors had a flair for comedy, especially Jack Elam. Director, Burt Kennedy was the first to tap into Jack Elam’s talent and cast him in the two James Garner comedy westerns, Support Your Local Sheriff and Support Your Local Gunfighter. It is worth noting that John Wayne refused to work with Elam after he stole the show from Wayne in Rio Lobo.

Hannie Caulder also starred Christopher Lee as a gunsmith living in Mexico. Of the two films, I liked Hannie Caulder more because of the cast. Both films were released by Paramount. Hannie Caulder had a VHS release, but so far no DVD release. Legend of Nigger Charley and it’s sequel, The Soul of Nigger Charley never saw the light of home video. Because of the word “nigger” in the titles, they may never be seen again.
42nd Street Pete

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Cinema Wasteland April 2009 Report

About a week before Wasteland, I wound up with a pinched nerve in my neck. I was in excruciating pain and had little use of my left arm. I really wanted to be at this show, but it looked like I wasn’t going to make it. I was pissed off and depressed. I don’t like to disappoint the fans who look forward to my panels and buy my DVD's. Also I didn’t want to leave Ken, the promoter, in a bind as I was slated to do three things at the show.

Thanks to my chiropractor and a lot of fans who really wanted me out there, I sucked it up and called my friend, Amaryth, from, told her the situation. I asked her if she would get me there. She agreed. We left 9:30pm Friday night. I could only drive for two hours, so she took the wheel. We were going to cut the trip in half, but every time we tried to stop we got hit with a cloudburst of rain, sleet or hail. We also got nailed for doing 87 in a 55mph zone. The cop asked why we were doing 87 and my smart ass comment, that I held back was, because we couldn’t get it up to 90 before you stopped us.

Hey, some shit goes with the territory. We got to the hotel at 4:30am and checked in. We found out that one of the guests, Lou Perryman, had been murdered by some bi polar nut job on his way to the show. Pretty fucked up situation and I hope they hang the scumbag who did it. We caught some sleep and the Wasteland crew graciously unloaded my truck so I could set up.

The focus of the show was the 35th Anniversary of the Texas Chainsaw Massacre. All the original cast members were on hand. However the “star” of the show was Christina Lindberg in her first convention appearance. I have never seen a guest that was more gracious to the fans than Christina. She signed for hours and, unlike some other so called stars, was very fair in her autograph prices. We chatted a bit and she was very cool. Talked briefly to Gunner Hansen as he was busy at his table all weekend. Friday night came and went. Finally got to meet Todd Sheets, who I have been friends with for a couple of years. His table was right next to mine. He was like a kid in a candy store as this was his first Wasteland.

Saturday was the big day. 1st up for me was 42nd Street Pete’s Hardcore Wrestling Hour. I picked four bloody matches from my archives and put an hour program together. Great response as the room was filled quickly. Ran into Joe Knetter and finally got a copy of his long awaited book, Zombie Bukkaki. We shot the shit for awhile. I just hope I can read this epic without throwing up in my mouth, lol. After I read it, which might take months, I’ll have a full review here. All kidding aside, Joe is a great guy and a blast to hang out with.

At 5pm it was time for Tales from Time Square. A panel consiting of Ken Kish, Andy Copp, Art Ettenger, Jason Martinko, and Todd Sheets got to grill me on every aspect of my time on “The Deuce” . Then we opened it up to the fans. Art Ettenger opened it up with “tell us a hooker story”. Then we covered just about everything, from peep shows, massage joints, Al Goldstein, NYC Liquidators, and everything in between.

At 8pm, it was time for Horror Jeopardy. This was concocted after the last show as Myself, Ken Kish, and Ghastly brainstormed into the wee hours over cocktails. In typical Wasteland fashion, the board crashed, some questions got confused and lost, but we just adlibbed our way through it and everybody dug it. We’ll do it again in October as we are working the bugs out of it. Spent the rest of the night partying into the early am.

Sunday was pretty laid back. We finished up our sales, said our goodbyes, then headed over Ken & Pam’s for some Chinese take out and to wind down. We left in the morning and got back home in record time.

Even though I was still in a lot of pain, I was a great show. Unlike these other cons that have to have 200 guests or some other stupidity to get themselves over, Wasteland has a core group of fans that really appreciate the whole genre of the grindhouse & drive in culture. No long waits in line and a great selection of dealers that have cool merchandise that you can’t find anywhere else. If I’m willing to drive that far to have a good time, what does that tell you? No other con has films running constantly, panels, talks and other stuff the minute the doors open. I already planning my trip out for October.

Special thanks to Ken & Pam Kish for giving me the opportunity to showcase my stuff and treating me like gold. Thanks to the Ghoulish and Ghastly Griff for offering to drive seven hours out of his way to pick me up. Thanks to Amaryth for all her help and support. You want some custom made horror stuff that is really unique, check out her website at Thanks to all the Wasteland staff who helped me out, and last, thanks to all the fans who came to see me because without you guys, there would be no 42nd Street Pete, all you crazy fuckers rock and I love ya all. Be back in October.
Later, 42P

Friday, March 13, 2009

The Snuff Film: Urban Legend or Fact ? How this “Legend” Has Influenced Film Makers

The 70's were turning point in many ways. "Graphic" would be the word to describe the events taking place in the film world. With the film “The Wild Bunch”, violence became more prevalent in mainstream films. Of course horror and exploitation film makers took the violence to another level. Even in the world of porn, films became more explicit, and a tad rougher than they had been.

The “roughie” had always been around, but in the 70's, Avon Films, took sexual violence to a whole new level. Films like Taming of Rebecca, Kneel Before Me, Forced Entry, and others pushed the limit of psycho sexual behavior. These films were so vile and repellant that they became a target of the dreaded Meece Commission as examples of violent, "mob controlled pornography".

But these were just movies, right? They weren’t real. But there was a new kind of animal lurking in the murky shadows of the porn world. In the early 70's, rumors persisted about films in which one of the participants was murdered on screen during sex. They were called “snuff films”. People in positions of power and members of law enforcement, particularly the FBI, denied their existence.

Other people had something to say about this. Hollywood maverick, Robert Blake, mentioned something about these films in a Playboy interview. Some people in law enforcement let things slip out, like a mutilation murder where a couple of empty film rolls were found on the scene and yeah, they were 8mm.

In the 70's NYC was a scary place. The nation was in the throes of a recession, crime was at an all time high, and seedy porn joints flourished in this environment. It was one of those drunken Saturday nights on the Deuce. One of the guys I was with wanted to see a peep show for his birthday. We wound up in one of the most depraved sinkholes in Manhattan, Crossroads Books.

Located on the island between Broadway and 42nd Street, Crossroads Books was a dirt streaked, off white building. It was loaded with peep booths featuring every perversion known to man. One of the booths had a big sign over it that said “Snuff, The bloodiest thing on 42nd Street”. Money being tight as it was back then, three of us squeezed into the booth.

The loop started out with a woman being whipped, normal stuff for that era, except the blood wasn’t fake. About three quarters later, a steak knife was shoved into an orifice that was never meant to receive that kind of treatment. One of my companions started to get sick and left. We quickly followed. There was no doubt in my mind that this was real. This was way before anyone was doing special effects make up. I had been apprenticing as a meat cutter for the A & P Supermarket chain. I knew real raw meat when I saw it. This stuff was real. A couple of weeks later, a mysterious fire burnt the place to the ground. Urban Legend? No way, what I saw was real.

Leave it to the exploitation guys to jump on this sicko band wagon. Exploitation duo, Mike and Roberta Findlay had shot a film in South America about a Manson like gang, it may have been originally called Slaughter. Sleaze ball distributor, Allen Shackelton, quick to cash in on the snuff rumors, re titled the film Snuff. He had a phoney ending shot that had a blonde girl, who had nothing to do with any of the South American footage, being dismembered and disemboweled.

Snuff played at The National Theater on Broadway. People were hired to picket the theater to drum up some box office ballyhoo. The ticket price was raised to a least two dollars above the standard price then. Soon hired picketers were no longer needed as the film drew the ire of that group of manatees know as the Women Against Pornography who started picketing that theater.

This drew national attention. Shackelton admitted in print that he would be a fool to admit that the film was a hoax. What the WAP didn’t get was that their protests only drew more attention to the film. They tripped over their tits again when they did the same thing with Blood Sucking Freaks. The phoney ending on Snuff was shot by resident NY pornographer, Carter Stevens, who, of course, had done some Avon films.

Snuff actually out grossed One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest for three weeks straight. Cannibal Holocaust, another snuff oriented film, out grossed ET in Japan. Holocaust was one grim and nasty movie. Filmed in a documentary style, Cannibal Holocaust led the viewer to expect the worst, then gave it to them. Actually filmed in the jungles of Columbia, it’s jerky, hand held camera, and realistic SPFX, gave question to whether it was real or not.

Director, Ruggerio Deodato was put on trial in Italy for filming murders. He had told cast members to “lay low” for a year as sort of ballyhoo promotion for the film. He had to produce one of the actors, it may have been Gabriel York, to clear himself. The film was outright banned in Italy & Great Britain. It got a brief release here, then disappeared. Grainy bootlegs made the rounds of horror conventions. Rumors still persisted that it was real. Finally it was legitimately released by Grindhouse on DVD. The DVD extras cleared up the controversies surrounding the film.

Snuff had gotten the attention of the exploitation guys, but it had also gotten Hollywood’ attention as well as international attention. Joe D’Amato, a guy that had dabbled in just about every film genre, made a film called Emmanuelle in America. It was the continuing adventures of reporter Emmanuelle, who stumbles across a snuff film. D’Amato had heard the persistent rumors about a porn film where the actress is killed during sex and made a movie within a movie.

Emmanuelle in America(1976) may have been the first ‘mainstream” film that features hardcore sex scenes. The lovely Laura Gemser got naked and sexy, but wasn’t in the hardcore stuff. While investigating a stud farm, she stumbles across a couple running a film. We get about 30 seconds of some real grim footage of women being tortured and raped. Emmanuelle sees a story here and pursues it. She goes to a cop friend who tells her to go to Washington because that’s were the answers are.

She seduces a well heeled congressman. She asks him to put on a film to “get her in the mood”. He puts on a lame S &M film. She asks if he has something harder. He throws on a grainy loop. A longer and grimmer version of what we saw before. She asks who would make such a film. He flies her to a place in South America, obviously a prison. The are led to a window and a peepshow from hell. Women are beaten, tortured, raped, impaled, burned and then killed. It’s sickeningly realistic. Emmanuelle had been slipped some acid before they flew there. She is told that it was a hallucination. She believes that until she develops the photos she took.

He magazine refuses to print the story, keeping the cover up covered up. This film had D’Amato’s passport revoked for 5 years due to one of the actresses claiming that she was traumatized when she saw the footage of her getting a machete mastectomy. She sued D’Amato and the crew. SPFX man, Giannetto De Rossi did the snuff make up. D’ Amato had shot the footage in 35mm, but scratched the film up to give it tha 8mm look. This is the most disturbing and realistic pseudo snuff footage ever shot.

Director Paul Schader took on the subject in 1979's Hardcore. George C. Scott plays a father from a mid western town. His daughter has run away and is seen in a porn film. He goes to the city and poses as a money man for an impending porn film. He finds out that his daughter may be slated to star in a snuff film. You don’t see much ,if any, snuff footage in this one. But it’s pretty grim as it takes us on a ride through what Hollywood tells us is the porn biz.

Effects (1980) was directed by Dusty Nelson and had some early Tom Savini make up effects work. He starred in the film as well as creating the snuff effects that are briefly seen. The film never got any kind of release and was just out on DVD a couple of years ago.

Star Chamber (1983) was another major film with a snuff theme. A group of judges dispense their own brand of justice when the courts fail. One of the cases involved little boys being abducted, tortured, raped, and killed for snuff films. A scene in which a bloody sneaker is found in a stolen van is pretty grim.

8mm (1999) was a big budget, major Hollywood film about a snuff ring. Investigator, Nicholas Cage, is called to a woman’s house after the death of her husband. She found a film in his safe and it’s a snuff film. She wants to know if it’s real and why he had it. Cage drifts into a twisted netherworld of porn’s underbelly. He finds out that these film are contracted to a certain director, who films them at the request of well heeled clients.

During an intense scene, Cage asks why the man wanted this film made. He is told because the man had that kind of money, he could do anything he wanted. “He did it because he can” Cage is told. This sort of echos something Robert Blake said in his interview about when people have too much money and power that they can just about get away with anything. The cast in this film is excellent and look for Sopranos star, James Gandofini as a sleazy pornographer. 8mm is nothing more than a high quality and better acted exploitation film.

Japan has always embraced the splatter film. The Japanese created a series of shocking murder & mutilation films know as the Guinea Pig series. Young women are dismembered, disemboweled, and murdered by deranged samurai’s and other demented characters. None of these were ever distributed in this country until recently. A coked out Charlie Sheen contacted the FBI after watching a bootleg of this stuff. The grainy bootleg was a little too real for him. The Japanese picked up the pace with more shockers like Entrails of the Virgin. Ever think that two bombs weren’t enough?

Pseudo snuff crept into the new decade wit Eli Roth’s Hostel. Not really high on my list of things I would want to watch, this is pseudo snuff at its worst. To me, watching people getting tortured and murdered for just the sake of killing, isn’t a horror film. Hostel, and films like it, are just part of a twisted, nihilistic, sub genre aimed at misanthropes who just revel in the suffering of others because their lives are so fucked up. You know the type, they live at home until they are 40 or until they kill their parents. They collect serial killer memorabilia, work at the same dead end job for years and blame the rest of the world because they can’t get their act together. Whew, got heavy there for a minute, didn’t I ?

Hostel was a big hit, but it’s sequel, which I actually thought was better, died quickly at the box office. Perhaps it wasn’t nihilistic enough or maybe people are getting tired of this shit. If 8mm wasn’t a true exploitation film, leave it to sleazemeister general, Bruno Mattei, to remake it as one. Snuff Trap (2003) is a scene by scene remake of 8mm. Thoroughly encrusted in sleaze, Mattei pull out all the stops here. This is one nasty movie and, of course, Mattei takes it a lot further than the original.

Vacancy (2007) has a run down hotel, with filthy rooms with video cameras. It’s like a roach motel, you check in and never check out. The place is run by three degenerates, who leave tapes of previous victims in the rooms. Genuinely creepy, you are left with the feeling that shit like this happens. In one scene a truck pulls into the lot. The couple tries to warn him, but he is there to pick up a box of films. He just smirks at the trapped duo.

So, is it an urban legend? Is it something that just was made up? “Fraid not. In his chilling expose’, Gods of Death, Yaron Svoray gives us the answers that we don’t want to know. He describes a viewing scenario were men pay to see this stuff. The film is delivered, but it never leaves the delivery man’s hand. He collects the money, then runs the tape for a group of well heeled business men. When they are done, he takes the tape and leaves. The price for this was $1500 per man.

Svoray just about got himself killed during his investigation. Run ins with the mob, the Russian Mafia, Thailand gangsters and a lot other unsavory characters. Bottom line is yes, they do exist as death squads in Serbia and Bosnia film their atrocities and sell it for a profit. With the availability of home video equipment, these bastards film their rapes, murders, and mutilation for a profit. With all of the civil wars, ethnic cleansing, etc, someone is profiting by it. When it come to money, life is a very disposable indeed.

The veneer of civilization that we wear ,is very thin . Think of it, the “civilized” Romans watched life and death bloodbaths in the Coliseums. Are we any different today? Bloody movies, wrestlers rolling around in broken glass and barbed wire, reality shows, extreme fighting etc. Have we evolved? No we haven’t. Look how traffic slows to a halt by a terrible accident. 90% of the drivers will slow down to take a look. People can’t seem to avert their eyes from the blood. An old saying in the world of pro wrestling can sum this up: Red turns to green. As long as someone can profit by it, there will be blood.
42nd Street Pete

Friday, January 9, 2009

Spaghetti Western Grindhouse Double Feature: Blindman and Find a Place to Die

Blindman 1971 and Find a Place To Die 1968, were paired up for a Drive In double bill. Blindman star, Tony Anthony, had been pushed, unsuccessfully I might ad, as the next Clint Eastwood. He had been cast in a couple of westerns, The Stranger & Return of the Stranger, which were Man With No Name rip offs.

Blindman’s casting coup was that of Ringo Starr as Candy, brother of the head bandit, Lloyd Batista. I guess the producers figured that Ringo’s name would translate into box office magic. It didn’t. Blindman was playing at The Troy Hills Drive In on Rt 46 in the wilds of Jersey. Four of us and a couple of cases of beer piled into my ‘63 Dodge Dart for the evening’s entertainment.

Blindman rides into town on his seeing eye horse, no I’m not kidding. He’s looking for a guy named Skunk, who he was supposed to deliver 50 women to some horny miners with. Skunk sold the women to a bandit named Domingo. Blindman drops a bundle of dynamite on Skunk’s front door.

This film starts off pretty slow, so we started drinking heavily to make up for the lack of action. Candy has a fascination with a girl named Pillar, that he steals from her father. Ringo looks more like a Hasidic Jew than a Mexican bandit. Blindman arrives and shoots the remaining bandits with his rifle that never seems to run out of bullets. Funny thing is no matter who Blindman messes with, he always gets this rifle handed back to him.

Blindman catches Candy and wants to exchange him for the women. The women are sold to the Mexican army, but Domingo cuts them all down with a gataling gun. He saves the General to hold for ransom. Domingo goes through with the trade, but substitutes old women & his sister for the women. The sister is just as nasty as Domingo. Blindman is captured. He is tortured a bit before getting loose and tying the sister naked out in the court yard. He blows the place up to attract Domingo, then rides off, saying to the sister “the sun don’t shine on the same dog’s ass everyday”. Words to live by.

The women escape, but are caught by Domingo & his gang. They are brutally raped & beaten by his men. Domingo shoot a few of them just for the hell of it. Using Pillar for bait, Blindman kills Candy. Domingo catches Pillar and is about to bury her and Candy in the same coffin. Blindman starts blowing shit up again. Pillar escapes.

Blindman is about to take on the whole gang, when the General returns with his army. In a scene high on the cringe factor, the General burns out Domingo’s eyes with a lit cigar. Now he and Blindman are on an even playing field. Blindman shoots Domingo. The General steals the women and we are wondering what the fuck happened.

Intermission time & piss break. Hate to eat that snack bar crap, but now we all have the munchies. We return to the car with about twenty dollars worth of junk food that most will wind up on the floor of my car.

Find a Place To Die, what a horrible, choppy print. Jeffery Hunter is the lead. Jeffery may or may not have turned down the lead in Star Trek. His career in decline, he did this film and another before dying of stroke complications in ‘69.

Directed by Anthony Ascot (Giuliano Carmineo), this is a violent little film. Protecting their gold mine, a man is pined under some rubble. He sends his sister back to town to find some help to free him. She hires “Joe” an ex Confederate soldier, and three other men. By the time they get back, the brother has been tortured and killed by the bandit, Chato, and his gang. Chato also has the gold. One of the men, Gomez, had been feeding Chato information. He kills Chato and takes over the gang. Gomez and the remaining bandits shoot it out with Joe and the others .Joe, the sister, and one of the others, Paco, survive and split the gold. Joe gets the girl and they ride off into the Italian sunset.

Exhibitors routinely paired older westerns with newer ones. Even if the older film had been shown on late night TV, it was still re-released to the Drive In & Grindhouse circuit. Perhaps the fact that nobody really gave a damn about spaghetti westerns until Eastwood’s Man With No Name franchise took off. Then a lot of early 60’s stuff found new life being paired off with the newer releases.
42nd Street Pete