Sunday, September 30, 2007


THE DUNWICH HORROR is based on a story by horror legend H. P. Lovecraft . This 1970 curiosity stars Sandra Dee (A SUMMER PLACE), Dean Stockwell (BLUE VELVET), Ed Begley (SR., not JR.), great character actor Sam Jaffe, and Talia Shire (Coppola).

Following the trippy-iest animated opening titles I've seen in a long time (with a fantastic musical score by Les Baxter), we meet Professor Henry Armitage (Begley) and two librarians Nancy (Dee) and another one. We also learn about The Necronomicon (?!) - an ancient book filled with mystical secrets. As they return the valuable book to its display case in the library, a young man named Wilbur Whateley (Stockwell) asks to see the book and Nancy readily agrees to let him —even though she was told how rare and priceless the book is! Armitage reappears and is annoyed at everyone, declaring the book needs to be put back in it's case. Wilbur states that there had once been another copy of the book belonging to his his great-grandfather, who had been hung and burned for practicing witchcraft. After this revelation, Armitage takes a sudden interest in the young Wilbur. Then they all go out for dinner. Bennigan's?

Nancy offers to drive Wilbur home after dinner. Once at the beautiful, yet spooky house, Nancy decides to snoop around (while Wilbur makes sure her car doesn't start). She knocks over some modern glass sculpture...then he slips her a mickey and Nancy falls into a deep sleep, dreaming that she's being attacked by some sort of tribe. This is the first of many ROSEMARY'S BABY - inspired nightmare sequences.

Things continue to get creepier as we meet Wilbur's cranky Grandpa (Jaffe). But there's still some fun ahead when a snobby Christian couple gets devoured by THE DUNWICH HORROR and when a security guard battles Wilbur in a BATMAN-like POW-fest that ends with someone impaling themselves. Oh yeah, and Nancy is offered up as a sacrifice in a Satanic ritual. The monster itself, doesn't appear til the very end, reminding me very much of SIGMUND (from...& THE SEA MONSTERS fame).

Sandra Dee once again plays the innocent girl who falls for the bad boy. Though Sandy gets to show a little flesh in the climax of the film this time. Dean Stockwell sports a very bad mustache and at times is mistaken by me for Mike Brady. Begley Sr. looks too much like a cross between Garry Marshall and Commissioner Gordon to be taken seriously, especially when he uses his red bat-phone! (Honestly - he has a red phone!) Sam Jaffe bears an odd resemblance to Whitman Mayo, who played Grady on SANFORD & SON and its various spinoffs. And yes Lloyd Bochner from DYNASTY and IT SEEMED LIKE A GOOD IDEA AT THE TIME (see review from a few days ago) has a small role.

Overall, I found DUNWICH to be a colorful treat for the eyes and ears. It may move a bit slow for today's horror crowds, but for it's style alone I give this baby a 9 out of 10 "Huhs?"


Joan Crawford, Bette Davis, Olivia DeHavilland, Shelley Winters, Agnes Moorehead, Tallulah Bankhead, Geraldine Page, Ruth Gordon - these were the women of Grand Guignol - macabre cinematic tales of subtle terror and sudden shocks starring faded Hollywood stars who were ripe for a comeback vehicle. But what if a man starred as the victims in one of these twisted tales?

That would bring us to Anthony Perkins starring in HOW AWFUL ABOUT ALLAN, directed by Curtis Harrington ( also WHAT'S THE MATTER WITH HELEN? and WHOEVER SLEW AUNTIE ROO?) and produced by Aaron Spelling for the ABC MOVIE OF THE WEEK.

Perkins plays Allan, who has been blinded in a fire that killed his brilliant father and left his sister Katherine (Julie Harris) disfigured. Allan is in a hospital and declares that he doesn't want to see anyone. Has he forgotten about his blindness? After 8 months, he's released from the hospital and goes home to live with Katherine, who wears a big pink plastic patch over her burn scar. She tells Allan that she has been renting out rooms to students to help pay the bills. She has closed off the room where Daddy got cooked. Allan begins recording a diary about all the fun he's having since his return home. He seems to spend most of his time drinking coffee and modeling pajamas for his ex fiancee Olive (Joan Hackett from THE LAST OF SHEILA - dressing like Eliza Doolittle here).

Allan's sight still isn't perfect (he sees things as if he were looking through a bumpy piece of frosted glass) and the new whispering "roomer" Harold Dennis makes him as uncomfortable as the wallpaper in the house makes us. I've decide to nickname this film I HEARD A ROOMER.

Allan decides to find out more about this college student, so STILL PARTIALLY BLINDED, he gets behind the wheel of his car and drives to the nearby campus, causing a few accidents. Back home, Allan figures out that the student isn't real , but maybe he's Katherine's lover Eric Walters! Lots creepy shadows appear inside the house (ghosts?) and then Allan cuts his hand on a carving knife. Olive the ex comes to his rescue.

Later, there is a storm and blind Allan winds up outside in the rain - and pinned under a downed tree. We now flashback to his childhood and witness the abuse and torment foisted upon him by his father and sister! What a couple of evil bastards those two are!

The whole thing leads to a climax that is a homage to PSYCHO - right down to the swinging light fixture -and the killer and his/her motives are revealed. Shocking! Not.

ALLAN is fun little footnote that is worth watching (if you can find it). It probably would have been a lot more fun with a old woman in the lead role, but I guess Aaron Spelling hadn't hooked up with Joan Collins yet. I'll give it 7 out 10 "Huhs?"

Saturday, September 29, 2007


Imagine a 13-year-old Julie Kavner lookalike named Jessie. Now imagine Jessie reading a trashy romance novel in class when she's supposed to be watching a slide show about the birds and the bees. You see, Jessie's a bit mature for her age and her teacher Lynn Redgrave knows this. Lynn also knows how to put in a plug for the original BIONIC WOMAN series, which has just jumped to NBC the very season that SOONER OR LATER originally aired.

After school, Jessie makes a trip to the local mall with her nerdy blonde friend (we will call her Penny Pingleton because I don't think they ever say her name!). Once at Gimbels, Hollywood relic Vivian Blaine gives Jessie a makeover that transforms her into a 16-year-old whore. Then Viv charges Jessie $10 for a jar of Pond's Cold Cream. Outside of the mall, Michael Sky (Rex Smith) his Sky Band are giving a free concert. Jessie rushes to the stage and stares at Rex with his Leif Garrett hair, Godspell suspenders and camel toe. We can tell she's already smitten.

Next up we see Jessie in her bedroom, teaching herself to play guitar. Penny thinks she sucks, and tells her to get real lessons. Oh, then Penny tells Jess how she wants to makeout with her dentist. This gives me the creeps. Especially when we see her dentist - he looks like Larry from THREE'S COMPANY.

Jess decides Penny is right and takes the bus crosstown with her guitar, fending off all the mean folks who ride the bus. She arrives at the Eddie Nova Guitar Institute, where TV Land survivor Morey Amsterdam charges her $10 bucks for a guitar lesson - taught by...guess who? Michael Sky! With his lion's mane of hair, shirt wide open and ultra tight jeans, Jessie's putty in his hands. I think we learn that he's 17. Once back home, we meet Jessie's cool mom (Barbara Feldon), who we will call "99".

For her second lesson , Jess decides to dress to impress and starts to tell Rex lies about herself, saying she's 16, goes to Catholic High School and likes to jog. Rex drives her home, where she wipes off here make-up in time to light some candles in an obviously Jewish ceremony. We now meet Jess's dad - Judd Hirsch from TAXI!

The next day, Jess goes jogging (wearing an ascot!) as "You Take My Breath Away" by Rex Smith blares over the soundtrack. Jess meets up with Rex and pretends to twist her ankle to have him pay more attention to her. Afterwards, Rex takes his friends for a ride and we meet a slutty redhead who wants to get in Rex's pants! Later Jessie is seen putting on her makeup on the bus...and then sneaks into a crowd of high school girls so Rex will think she's as old as them when he picks her up.

At a Sky Band rehearsal, slutty redhead tells Jess that she was wondering if Rex was gay! After the rehearsal, Rex offer Jess a beer and then forces her to perform a song with him in front of all his friends. She does and they kiss!

Next, Jess is back home for a boring Jewish dinner. Grandma complains that the soup is too salty - AFTER she eats most of it! Then Judd puts in a plug for DAYS OF OUR LIVES. (wow that makes two NBC references that are both still relevant!!) Next Judd & 99 share an uncomfortable discussion about sex and who is gonna tell Jessie all about it. Grandma then takes upon herself to tell Jessie about her love for an older boy when she was a teen. The next day, Rex asks Jess out to see MANDINGO!!! Holy shit - MANDINGO!!!

While he readies himself for a date with 99, Judd treats us all to "Sunrise, Sunset" from FIDDLER ON THE ROOF - Wow they really are Jewish! Jessie is all impatient with her parents because she wants them to leave so she can sneak out with Rex. The parents and Granny leave, and Rex picks up Jess and takes her to the drive-in. Jess nervously orders EVERYTHING from the snack bar and eats it all. They then make out and Jess tells Rex that she's loved him since the shopping mall. Rex can tell she is hiding something from him. She confesses "I'm not Catholic...and I'm 13".

Rex freaks out and drives her home. She tells him she loves him and she didn't mean to be a tease. He drives away and she proceeds to eat an entire Sara Lee chocolate cake...and cries. She really is a young Julie Kavner! Meanwhile Rex buys a beer and redhead slutty girl tries to get all up on him. He rejects her...again. The next day, Jessie is sad, 99 tries to talk to her about sex -but there's nothing this little bitch doesn't already know, after all she's seen MANDINGO! Then 99 tells her about the older boy at sleepaway camp. Hmmm...first Grandma, then 99, then Penny now Jess...all young girls LOVE older guys!!!

In the end, Morey tries to teach Jess some fancy guitar moves, but then Rex shows up at the music school wearing gold cowboy boots and proclaims that he loves her back - and then they pledge to "take it real slow"...

Wow - what an epic love story. Denise Miller is really charming as young Jessie, and the film is highly watchable, despite the underlying creepy subtext about young girls and older guys. Penny even has a framed photo of Burt Reynolds in her bedroom - and she's overjoyed when she develops a cavity -another excuse to visit her sleazy dentist!

Special thanks to Brett Freedman for lending me this dvd. I can see why he loves it so much. This one's a keeper!
10 out of 10 "Huhs".

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

The Dollar Tree Double Feature

On a recent visit to the local Dollar Tree Store, I found an entire endcap of TWO FOR A DOLLAR dvds. After digging through hundreds, I actually found only two worth buying...and reviewing. Ladies and gentlemen I bring you The Dollar Tree Double Feature.

First up...EVEL KNIEVEL! Ever wonder how motorcycle daredevil Evel Knievel got his start? Well director Marvin J. Chomsky attempted to tell us all about it in this 1971 biopic which combines unintentional laughs as George Hamilton (looking a lot like Count Chocula) wears the helmet and real chills with clips of actual stunts (most of which end up with Knievel in the hospital). The film traces real events from Evel's life, from his early years as troubled young man to his success as the man with more broken bones in his body than anyone else.

There's plenty of white trash antics as we flashback to Evel's roots, and his career as a unsuccessful bank robber. At times I felt like I was watching an episode of MY NAME IS EVEL. The best scene involves young Evel busting into the all-girls home where his lady Linda lives. The den mother (let's call her Mrs. Garrett) seems more concerned that "there's a man in the house" than the fact that he's driving his cycle up and down the staircase and hallways looking for his gal. Another highlight is the decor of the apartment that Evel shares with his lady: one wall was black, one wall a brilliant blue and the third wall: wood paneling. The sofa? yellow leather! I kid you not. Just for that set decoration alone, this one gets 8 out of 10 "Huhs?". Also - there's a terrible theme song that we are treated to at least three times throughout the 90 minutes.

Our second feature has the unfortunate title IT SEEMED LIKE A GOOD IDEA AT THE TIME. Which of course, prompts one to ask "What time was that?". John Trent directed this 1976 Canadian romp which features John Candy (in his first film role) prominently displayed on the cover - despite him being in only two or three scenes.

The plot goes something like this: Anthony Newley (Joan Collin's real-life ex) plays a washed up writer is still shagging his ex-wife money-hungry Stefanie Powers, who is unhappily remarried to a wealthy construction contractor, who's sole aim seems to be to tear down her mother's house! Are you following this? Georgia then decides to support a candidate for mayor (Llyod Bochner, who married Collins on DYNASTY) by screwing him. Newley pulls a assortment of stunts in order to attract Stefanie's attention. Somewhere along the way, there's a crazy kidnapping scam, and two dopey cops (one played by Candy) show up to save the day. There's a madcap finale involving cops dressed as garbage men. Oh boy! Issac Hayes appears as Newley's artist friend and Yvonne DeCarlo (aka Lily Munster) has a few scenes as Stef's mother.

This is the kind of wild film farces that Americans and Brits made in the 1960s - it took our friends up north a bit longer to catch on. The tiresome slapstick is a bit much to take at times, as is seeing Newley with his shirt off. This one rates only about 5 out of 10 "Huhs?" - meaning it's bad, but not worth your time and effort to watch it. Even though it might seem like a good idea at the time...


This 1973 film was co-written by actor/PSYCHO Anthony Perkins (gay) and musical theater legend Stephen Sondheim (gay). Directed by Herbert Ross (not gay, but was a choreographer, and also directed STEEL MAGNOLIAS and was married to Jackie O's sister!) and it turns to be quite a gay old time! Especially since the Bette Midler song "Friends" was originally recorded for the soundtrack. Who knew?

The plot involves powerful Hollywood producer Clinton Green (the ever-frightening James Coburn) and his manipulative game of "who's who" that he somehow manages to get his "friends" to play over the course of a week...all while crusing the Mediterranean on his luxurious boat.

His friends just happen to include an sexy up-and-coming actress (Raquel Welch), her sexy English boyfriend (Ian McShane), a messy showbiz agent (Dyan Cannon), a very gay-looking writer (Richard Benjamin), his stuffy rich wife (Joan Hackett), and a cranky gay-ish old director (James Mason). A great cast and a great set up - so far, so gay.

We learn that a year earlier, after a cocktail party, (seen in flashback) there was a hit-and-run accident that resulted in the death of gossip columnist Sheila Green, who was also Clinton's wife! The plot thickens...

Clinton dubs the cruise "The Sheila Green Memorial Gossip Game" and hands out index cards containing a secret that each player must keep concealed from the others. The object of this sick and twisted palour game is to figure out everyone else's secret while protecting your own from being discovered. Okay - sounds like fun. I guess it's better than Cranium.

Okay, this is where it gets ridiculous - each night one of the six secrets is revealed to all the players, then they are given a cyptic clue, which will help them detect which player has the card with that night's secret. Ouch - my head hurts. I should not have to think this hard while watching a damn movie!!!

The gossip cards reveal things like "You are a SHOPLIFTER," "You are a HOMOSEXUAL" and of course "You are a HIT-AND-RUN KILLER." You can guess where this is going - one by one - as the cards are revealed, we learn that they are actually about one of the OTHER players. What's started out as fun (?) has become a game of intense paranoia, with lots of delicious revelations and red herrings along the way. Oh yeah - then there's a murder!

The cast is enjoyable, especially Dyan Cannon, who I think they really tried to drown during the filming. If not, she's a better actress than I ever thought. Richard Benjamin has the gayest moustache and wardrobe ever committed to film, hmmm....wonder if he is given the "You are a HOMOSEXUAL" card?

So, in conclusion, if you just love a good mystery and MURDER SHE WROTE reruns on the Biography Channel (what's THAT all about?) aren't cutting it for you, check out SHEILA. 7 out of 10 "Huhs?"

Sunday, September 23, 2007


Based on the smash hit Saturday morning kiddie series, PUFNSTUF brought the trippy Sid & Marty Krofft creation to the big screen in 1970. Hollingsworth Morse, who directed the TV series (and later many episodes of THE DUKES OF HAZZARD) expanded on the formula of bright colors, fast edits, sped-up film, and LSD-inspired musical numbers that made the NBC series so successful. To appeal to parents and gay men, they added Mama Cass Elliott and Martha Raye to the cast. Yay!

This story begins with Jimmy (played by Jack Wild of OLIVER! fame), a young English runaway, frolicking near the edge of a river with his flute. Suddenly the flute comes to life and begins talking - naming itself "Freddie". It also transforms into gold and grows diamonds on it's um, shaft. Jimmy them hops aboard a beautiful magic talking boat that wants to take him out to sea. Of course, Jimmy decides to take "the trip"...not a drug reference in any way, shape or form.

We learn that this boat actually belongs to Witchiepoo (Billie Hayes - giving her performance 1000%), who then turns the pretty boat into a dark, evil boat (i.e. a "bad trip") that traps Jimmy! Jimmy somehow manages to escape from the boat and is aided by a magical talking dragon named Pufnstuf (sounding here like Huckleberry Hound) and two "cops" named Cling & Clang (don't ask). Jimmy ends up on the shores of Living island - where everything is alive!

We soon discover that Witchiepoo is after Freddie the Flute to impress Boss Witch (Raye) and her friend Witch Hazel (Cass) - who are coming to visit for an annual witches' convention! What follows are actually some terrific musical numbers- the best being the anthemic "Different" by Mama Cass and "Zap the World" (which sounds amazingly like the WONDER WOMAN theme song, also written by Charles Fox). Oh - there's also a scene with Jimmy in drag. Very, very disturbing. For that alone I give it 9 out of 10 "Huhs?".

Overall, not a great film for today's kids (who would not have a clue who or what Pufnstuf is), but if you grew up watching the TV show, this is certainly a curiosity worth checking out. I was actually not a big fan of the show - something about the mix of real people and oversize puppets interacting always freaked me out. I preferred my weekly Krofft dosage in human form like ELECTRA WOMAN & DYNA GIRL and DR SHRINKER, thank you. Also, I was never really sure what Pufnstuf was supposed to be - he looked more like Mayor McCheese than any dragon I ever saw. I also had it in my head that the show wasn't made in Hollywood - but in some strange European country where things weren't quite right.

Exhibit A: Do these this theme song lyrics make ANY sense? "H.R. Pufnstuf, Who's your friend when things get rough?
H.R. Pufnstuf Can't do a little cause he can't do enough." I rest my case.

On a side note, any true Cass Elliot fan should seek out this movie, since it was her only big-screen appearance. One wonders what would her career had been like if she didn't die so tragically young? Would she have made more films? Would she have become what Bette Midler eventually became? Would she have attracted legions of gay fans and made Disney films? Would she have hosted her own Sid & Marty Krofft variety series? Would she have played Mama Rose on Broadway? Or would PUFNSTUF become the high point in her post-Mamas & the Papas career? Sadly, the world will never know...

HBO's MR. SHOW did an excellent parody of the Pufnstuf called "The Altered State Of Druggachusetts". You can watch it here.


Any film that exposes you to (in chronological order): a serial murder, a karate demonstation, an accidental electrocution, disfigurment, ESP, a witch, more serial killings, a ghost, an LSD trip and a sniper attack all within 80 minutes can't be all that bad...can it?

Well, 1967's SOMETHING WEIRD (directed by the legendary Hershall Gordom Lewis) is all that bad - and much, much more. Never before have I seen a cast that looked more like insurance salesman than actual actors. Never before have I seen so many people "pretending" rather than acting. It's almost like everyone is improving their dialogue - but not knowing what they are supposed to be talking about. Never before have I wished I was ON LSD just to make sense of it all!

So here's the premise: some guy named Cronin Mitchell gets zapped by a downed electrical wire and the result is a half-burnt face and some newfound psychic powers. Who knew? He wakes up in a hospital and is able to guess what playing cards his nurse is holding up. Then he tries to rape her. Charming fellow.

Meanwhile, we meet Alex Jordan, a karate-chopping federal agent who's hunting down a serial killer in Wisconson. Alex looks a bit like Al Gore, so we know he's the good guy.

After being told that no surgery can repair his face, Cronin sets himself up as a psychic reader wearing a mask to disguise his scarred face. He also uses a table lamp instead of a crystal ball and treats his clients like crap when they actually ask him to predict things. One of his patrons turns out to be an ugly haggard old witch (actually an over-acting young actress in the worst witch make-up EVER). This witch makes Cronin a deal - she'll repair his face if he becomes her lover. In an instant, she transforms herself into a blonde konockout named Ellen - and the two bump uglies.

So, somehow the duo end up helping Jordan with the serial-murder case - but first they must attend a glamorous cocktail party where Cronin levitates to entertain the guests. The next day, Cronin (without Ellen) decides to help the local Reverend contact a ghost who has been haunting his church (or is it a funeral home?). Of course the second he actually makes contact with this ghost, the Reverend tells him to stop. What the fuck? Meanwhile, Jordan starts to make his moves on Ellen - who tells him that she cannot be his lover until Cronin is dead!

SPOILERS AHEAD: Ultimately, Cronin drops acid (best part of the film) and cracks the murder case - and Jordan and Ellen wind up together. But after she reveals her true face to Jordan, he freaks out - running from her (as she cackles at him) falling on a traffic flare and burning half his face!!! Of course, old haggy Ellen makes a bargain with him...THE END. Totally 8 out of 10 on the "Huh?" meter.

The best thing about SOMETHING WEIRD is that it actually gave birth to an amazing video label, Something Weird. They specialize in finding the most obscure exploitation films, particularly the works of Harry Novak, Doris Wishman, and H.G. Lewis. Have the largest selection of weird films in the world and most are genuis!

Saturday, September 22, 2007

THE APPLE (A Vintage Review)

I posted this review originally on May 1, 2003 on IMBD. I just came across it today for the first time in four years and decided to republish for old time's sake. Notice how I was "over Britney" before most people. Enjoy! Be warned: there are spoilers.

In this age of putrid merchandised crap like Britney, boybands and AMERICAN IDOL, it's refreshing to see what America would have looked and sounded like in 1994 if a truly fabulous madman like Boogalow was in charge.

The look of this film is shiny and bright, it's loud and disturbing, it's sometimes hard to watch...but I'd also hard to look away. All the holographic triangles...the multi-colored hair...the "futuristic" baby strollers, drinking glasses, automobiles...this is the America that we were promised in 1980 and somehow we were sadly deprived of.

My favorite sequences are Bibi & Alphie's "rain" duet; Pandi's big "sex" number, Bibi & Pandi's "morning after" duet and of course, Mr. Topps' arrival...I just love how "god" basically tells Boogalow and the audience that the hippies were right...that peace, love and living in caves (without television) is the true road to salvation.

I like to describe this movie as LOGAN'S RUN meets HAIR, but it's more like everything good and bad about the 70s all in one big sloppy package. Speaking of packages, could George Gilmour's Alphie have any tighter pants?

I'll cast my vote for "Speed" as our new American anthem, screw "God Bless the USA"...

"Do the BIM!"


Wow! I don't know if it's because it was a dark, stormy night or because I was a little buzzed or just the fact that the storytelling was so serious and clinical - but this film actually scared me!!!

This 1973 horror classic is from John Hough, the same director of Disney's two WITCH MOUNTAIN flicks and Disney's Bette Davis thriller WATCHER IN THE WOODS (which is notorious for not having an ending) - so I expected a campy good time. What I didn't expect was great cinematography, pretty good acting...and some genuine chills. Totally a notch above BURNT OFFERINGS (also Bette Davis) and THE AMITYVILLE HORROR.

Set in England, the plot involves 4 people (a physicist, his wife, a mental medium and physical medium - wonder which kind Patricia Arquette is?) who spend a weekend in a haunted house - The Belasco House! Oddly this film takes place in late December, but no mention is made of Christmas or Boxing Day or whatever wintery holiday they celebrate in the UK.

Things start off slow, but once the Belasco ghosts start welcoming the visitors, it turns into quite a thrill ride. There's a great scene at dinner table, two amazingly dark and dirty scenes (for a PG-rated film) involving a phantom rape(!) of the female medium (played convincingly by Pamela Franklin) and demonic seduction of the other medium (the always fun-to-watch Roddy McDowall) by the doctor's sexy wife (the beautiful Gayle Hunnicutt). Don't get me wrong, there are some very funny over-the-top scenes too. One standout is when Franklin is attacked by a very persistant feral cat and the other when McDowall has a total shit fit. Keep your eyes peeled for a fun cameo by Michael Gough (Alfred the Butler from the 80s/90s BATMAN films).

There's some wacky stuff dealing with the doctor (Clive Revil) and this machine he invents that is supposed send poltergeists running for the hills and also some "cool for the 70s" special effects involving ectoplasm. All in all, a fun rental for the upcoming Halloween season.

So as far as Haunted House movies go (and there are plenty of them) - I'd put this one near the top of the list. There were enough "Huh?" moments for me to include it here. I'd give it an 8 out of 10.

Friday, September 21, 2007


I remember this movie being on TV alot when I was a kid. I also remember being afraid to watch it cause it sounded so damn spooky. Well, I'm all grown up now and it was time to face my fears. So, I got up the nerve and rented it.

Yawn...Wow - what a boring horror film. It might as well be called LET'S BORE THE GOYA BEAN LADY TO DEATH because that's a more accurate description of what JESSICA is. Not a terrible film - just a quiet one.

John D. Hancock (not the guy who signed the Declaration of Indepence or started the insurance company) directed this 1971 snoozefest. The plot revolves around Jessica (played by Zohra Lampert, bean-pusher extraordinaire), a looney woman who was recently released from a nuthouse. Desiring a fresh start, she moves from the big city to an abandoned creepy old New England farmhouse with her nerdy husband Duncan and his hunky friend Woody. Once they arrive they discover an attractive guitar-playing young hippie chick squatting in their new home. Jessica invites Emily to stay for the night, hoping that her and Woody will pair off. Unfortunately it seems Emily would rather pair off with Duncan.

Nevertheless, Jessica decides to invite Emily to LIVE with them all on the farm!!! What the fuck? Then Jessica finds an old photo from the 1880s in the attic - and Emily is in the photo!!! Is she a ghost? A vampire? Or is Jessica just crazy? We then learn that the woman in photo lived in the house and drowned on her wedding day. When Jessica and Duncan go into town to try to sell some of the crap they find attic, they discover that all the menfolk are weird and have patches on their necks and arms. Hmmm...

Well, you'd think this would be enough for Jessica and company to high tail it back to the city, but no - they stay and things continue to get strange. Especially after a mysterious little girl leads Jessica to a dead body. I'm not gonna spoil the plot any further, becuase I really think this film is worth seeing. Just NOT when you are already sleepy!

JESSICA is not really a *bad* movie, but I just wish it were better - and scarier. I know we've been desensitized by modern horror films, but JESSICA sometimes made me feel like I weas watching a really long Maxwell House International Coffee commercial. Maybe the misleading title is why I expected to actually be SCARED TO DEATH, not driven to distraction.

The simple musical score is effective and Lampert is quite charming in her natural awkwardness. The style of the movie invokes the far superior ROSEMARY'S BABY, so if you're a fan of quiet, creppy films with very little action - check this one out. I'll give it 7 out of 10 "Huhs?".

There's actually a very well-done fan site here.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

The Top Ten Movies That Make You Say "Huh?"

Since I've started reviewing odd, ill-concieved and downright freaky old movies - memories of some of favorites from the past have been haunting me. Sure there are movies that I love - and some of those happen to actually be *good* movies - but what about the bad ones that I just can't get enough of? Well, that's what led me to compile this list. All this flicks rate a 10 outta 10 in our "Huh?" scale - meaning if you haven't seen them - you've just gotta! Counting down...

Number 10 - SHOWGIRLS (1995, Paul Verhoeven) - I know, I know. Everybody loves to hate SHOWGIRLS, but I was there first. I actually saw it the first time IN A MOVIE THEATER. Expecting to hate it, I just fell in love with (almost) every over-the-top minute of it. It's the only movie that actually gets better each time I watch it. Gina Gershon is pure genius. Elizabeth Berkley is sheer skank. There are so many "Huh?" moments that it boggles the mind, therefore it just had to make my list. Fans of SHOWGIRLS are encouraged to see VALLEY OF THE DOLLS and GLITTER for more wacky showbiz hilarity.

Number 9 - A SUMMER PLACE (1959, Delmer Daves) - My favorite 1950s soap opera. At two and a half hours, it's practically a miniseries! Watch as a great all-star cast (Troy Donahue, Dorothy McGuire, Richard Egan, Sandra Dee, and the AMAZING Constance Ford aka Ada Hobson on ANOTHER WORLD) chew the scenery and deliver some of the campiest dialogue ever ("Have you been bad, Johnny? Have you been bad with other girls? "). Plus the theme song is still one of the best ever. Watch it. Today.

Number 8 - ROLLERCOASTER (1977, James Goldstone) Forget JAWS and THE POSEIDON ADVENTURE - this flick is the craziest mainstream Hollywood action thriller of the 70s. The plot involves a psycho extortionist who is trying to blackmail a bunch of business executives - or something to that effect. So he gets their attention by blowing up some roller coasters."Huh?" It's worth watching just to see all the great theme park attractions and bad fashions. Plus Helen Hunt is in it.

Number 7 - HARPER VALLEY PTA (1978, Richard C. Bennett) Before the TV sitcom, there was this theatrical indie based on the #1 hit song by Jeannie C. Riley. The plot goes like this: townsfolk think slutty divorcee Barbara Eden is trashy, and they tell her so. Barbara she gets revenge on them one-by-one by exposing their deepest, darkest secrets - most of which deal with how much boozing they do. A who's who of bad 70s comedies (Nanette Fabray, Louis Nye, John Fiedler and Pat Paulsen - all on leave from THE LOVE BOAT) make up the citizens of Harper Valley - but Eden is the main attraction as the titular Stella Johnson. My only complaint is that she doesn't have her groovy genie powers anymore. Needs to be remade by David Lynch. Also see Stockard Channing in THE GIRL MOST LIKELY.

Number 6 - HOT RODS TO HELL (1967, John Brahm, James Curtis Havens) Two directors! Twice the fun! This movie feels like someone at MGM saw FASTER PUSSYCAT KILL KILL (which I consider one of the *best* movies ever made) and decided to remake for the whole family. The plot: Dana Andrews, his wife (Jeanne Crain) and annoying kids are driving across the California desert heading for a new life running a motel. Things go a bit off-kilter when they encounter a teenage bad girl and her two delinquent boyfriends. Some amazing over-the-top overacting makes this cautionary tale a real fast & furious ride for all!

Number 5 - BESERK! (1967, Jim O'Connolly) After 3 great thrillers (WHAT EVER HAPPENED TO BABY JANE, STRAIT-JACKET and I SAW WHAT YOU DID) - and before the career-ender known as TROG, Ms. Crawford made this amazing technicolor oddity. This time out Joan is the owner and ringmaster of a traveling circus who is driven to attract bigger audiences. When a series of bizarre murders begin, her ticket sales soar. She hires a handsome and muscular young man to help her run the show. Many suspect Joan of the killings, especially British pin-up model Diana Dors, who has set her sights on the new circus hunk. At this point, Joan's unruly daughter (Judy Geeson) shows up and joins the circus. This film has grotesque murders, a musical number performed by "freaks" AND Intelligent Poodles! Holy shit - did I just say "Intelligent Poodles"?

Number 4 - SKIDOO! (1968, Otto Preminger) Jackie Gleason! Carol Channing! Frankie Avalon! Frank Gorshin! Burgess Meredith! Cesar Romero! Mickey Rooney! Groucho Marx! Dancing garbage pails! LSD! Saw it once, I still have acid flashbacks. Nuff said.

Number 3 - THE APPLE (1980, Menahem Golan) If LOGAN'S RUN had musical numbers it would look like this. US soap star Catherine Mary Stewart, awarding-winning theater legend Miriam Margolyes and an international cast of nobodies star in this amazing mish-mosh of MTV, the book of Genesis and your worst nightmares. Great musical numbers include Bibi & Alphie's window duet, "Speed" and Pandi's Donna Summer knock off "I'm Coming". Must be seen to be believed. Do the BIM.

Number 2 - THE WILD, WILD WORLD OF JAYNE MANSFIELD (1968, Charles W. Broun Jr. Joel Holt, Arthur Knight) Decades before reality TV, my favorite busty blonde bombshell Jayne Mansfield "hosts" this travelog - where she visits the world's sexiest places, encountering meeting male hustlers, drag queens, strippers, nudists, topless girl bands, and lesbians along the way. Just when we are enjoying ourselves and Jayne's naughty journeys, the film suddenly grinds to a halt with screeching tire noises, a simulated car crash, and gruesome police photos of Mansfield's fatal car accident!!! Fucking brilliant!! Wonder if Mariska Hargitay has ever seen this.

Number 1 - THE BLACK DEVIL DOLL FROM HELL (1984, Chester Novell Turner)
A friend of mine rented this "film" when she found it in the "African American Studies" section of her local video store. It's been in my collection ever since. The plot: An unattractive church lady woman buys a ventriloquist dummy with dreadlocks at a thrift shoppe. Unbeknownst to her, the "doll" is possessed by an evil spirit, and it proceeds to terrorize, torture and rape(!) her all while a Casio keyboard plays over the soundtrack. Obviously inspired by the Karen Black classic TRILOGY OF TERROR, this made-for-video atrocity is not for the squeamish ...but needs to be seen as part of any "African American Studies" curriculum .

That's our current Top Ten...I am sure I'll have many more to report on as soon as the SKIDOO acid flashbacks stop.


Imagine if LADY CHATTERLY'S LOVER had superpowers much like the Batman villain Poison Ivy - and there you have the premise of 1973's THE GARDENER (Released in 1975 as SEEDS OF EVIL). I came across this oddity last year during the Tower Records' 'Going Out of Business Sale' and finally decided to pop it into the DVD player. It was worth the wait...and the three dollar price!!!

Set in Costa Rica, Andy Warhol superstar Joe Dallesandro and Katherine Houghton (Katherine Hepburn's neice) co-star in this gothic horror/D.H. Lawrence/STEPFORD WIVES mash-up. Joe plays Carl, a mysterious and constantly shirtless gardener named Carl, who Ellen (Houghton) hires to bring her lackluster garden to life. He immediately plots to get rid of her elderly greensman- who mysterioiusly starts bleeding from his nose and needs to be hospitalized! Within weeks, Carl makes the plants bloom and everyone seems to love it - except Ellen's superstitious maids, and eventually her often absent plant-hating husband (lets just call him "Darren"). I figurde out that Darren gets jealous when he discovers that Carl does not own any shirts and that his workpants appear to be painted on his perfect body. Ellen's Bloody Mary-chugging socialite friends all think hunky Carl is a dream come true. So do we.

A couple of cocktail and costume parties later, Ellen starts to get freaked out by Carl. Especially after an erotic dream about him skinnydipping in her pool. Later Ellen's visiting neice disappears while she's out shopping with her fabulous, but lonely, friend Helena (played by Rita Gam) - and Helena convinces her that Carl should work for her now. No mention is ever made of her neice again. Hmmm. Outta sight, outta mind.

Ellen decides to investigate Carl's past - and it turns out that almost all his former clients are now either dead or insane. Stage and soap actress Anne Meacham (she played the Cory housekeeper Louise on ANOTHER WORLD for 10 years) almost steals the whole movie with her one scene as a former employee. There's an epic grande finale that I won't spoil, but suffice to say - Ellen flips out.

Acting wise, Houghton (primarily known for GUESS WHO'S COMING TO DINNER) is highly watchable, but other than Gam and Meacham - the rest of the cast seems to be phoning it in long-distance from Costa Rica. Dallesandro has about five whole lines, which he delivers with his usual wooden style. Gotta love that Joe! The sound quality is miserable, but score is quite magnificent. The DVD has some great grindhouse trailers as well as a few fun featurettes and interviews, including director James H. Kay.

We rate this one 6 outta 10 "huhs".


After recently reading Phyllis Diller's autobiography (brilliantly titled "Like a Lampshade in a Whorehouse"), I have decided to seek out her rare appearances in film. In her book, Ms. Diller describes 1966's THE FAT SPY as "one of the worst things ever committed to celluloid, full of lousy jokes and terrible music." With a description like that, I just had to find it!

Well, I found it (via Netflix). I'm just not sure what to say about it. It's basically a beach party movie without Frankie and Annette and without much of a plot. But what it does have is love goddess Jayne Mansfield!!! Our favorite 50s sex bomb (that's right, Marilyn, you heard us). From THE GIRL CAN'T HELP IT to THE WILD, WILD WORLD OF JAYNE MANSFIELD... from the TV-movie bio starring Loni Anderson to the awesome Siouxsie & the Banshees song "Kiss Them For Me" - Jayne has always been one of my special guilty pleasures. Phyllis describes Jayne as "overweight, hooked on pills and firmly on the skids." How could you NOT love that? Jayne was Anna Nicole before Anna Nicole was born!

Well, back to the movie. From what I can ascertain, the plot goes like this: there is some island, which is is supposed to be the fountain of youth. An annoying teenage band, The Wild Ones, and their girlfriends, descend on the island for a scavenger hunt — which pisses off the island's owner, who enlists his daughter named Junior(?) (played by Jayne), to evict the kids. Junior 's lover Irving (played by comedian Jack E. Leonard) is asked to "spy "on the rowdy teenagers hence the "Fat Spy" title. Ugh. Irving's twin brother Herman, (also Jack E. Leonard) and his lover, Camille Salamander (Phyllis Diller), also show up - looking for the fountain of youth. In between all this The Wild Ones manage to perform about 100 crappy songs. Oh yeah, and some guy drowns himself so he can live with mermaids!

Phyllis describes the filming of THE FAT SPY on location in Florida as being a nightmare. Between the heat, swarms of mosquitoes and production problems, she often skips over discussing this film and calls 1966's BOY DID I GET A WRONG NUMBER her REAL first film. (Much like how Carol Channing dismissess the LSD musical-comedy SKIDOO).

Any Phyllis fan should check THE FAT SPY out as a curiosity. A friend of ours recently played it at a party and said it became a great conversation piece - definitely a movie that makes you say "huh?". Directed by Joseph Cates. Rating: 7 outta 10 "huhs".


Former child star Jay North (DENNIS THE MENACE) is all grown up and sporting bad Oompa-Loompa hair in this wacky 1974 soft-core skinflick/stalker film. Filled with John Waters-caliber acting and many topless shots of the beautiful Angel Tompkins - this "grindhouse" melodrama is highly watchable.

It's THE SUMMER OF 42 meets THE FAN (The great Lauren Bacall movie, not the crappy Robert DeNiro one) as sexy high school teacher Diane (Tompkins) seduces her student/neighbor Sean (North) much to the chagrin of a crazed Vietnam vet stalker named Ralph (who looks like the fucked-up love child of Michael Jackson and Tommy Tune).

It all starts off very innocently as a Eydie Gorme soundalike warbles a ridiculous theme song over the opening credits, but things soon get out of hand when Ralph's brother (and Sean's best friend) is accidentally killed while the boys are watching Diane sunbathe on her boat. Ralph blames Sean for the death and decides to make his life miserable - trying to kill him for the next 90 minutes.

Sean's parents steal the movie with their horrible acting, outrageous polyester clothes and garishly decorated San Fernando Valley home. The mother's lady friends and local restaurant customers are also fun to watch.

Jay North is much cuter here than as Dennis (and less annoying), spending much of his time in his undies, short shorts or bathing suits. He somehow manages to stay dressed for all his sex scenes - or hidden behind an umbrella!

THE TEACHER (directed by Howard Avedis) is available on DVD as part of the "Welcome to the Grindhouse Collection". It's packaged with a another bizarre softcore flicked called THE PICKUP, which is essentially a twisted T & A travelogue through the Florida everglades. Watch with gets pretty disturbing. The added bonus trailers are worth the price of the rental alone. Rating: 8 outta 10 "huhs".


I came across another forgotten "gem" this weekend.

Released on DVD by a no-name distribtor with no end credits 1975's POOR PRETTY EDDIE {aka POOR PRETTY EDDY aka HEARTBREAK MOTEL aka BLACK VENGEANCE(!) aka REDNECK COUNTY RAPE (!!!)} is what you would call a total mindfuck.

Imagine Tony-award winning singer Leslie Uggams, the great Oscar-winning Shelley Winters, TV"s ghoulish Ted Cassidy (THE ADDAMS FAMILY'S Lurch) and countrified oddity Slim Pickens - plus unknown Michael Christian as a demented Elvis wanabee named Eddie in a fucked-up story of rape, rivalry and revenge - all set in a backwards Bizarro Earth version of Harper Valley.

The film opens with "jazz singer" Liz Wetherly (Uggams) belting the Star-Spangled Banner at a sporting-event (I guess the producers didn't have to pay royalties on it. She also sings that old chestnut "Happy Birthday" later in the film) - before she sets out on a fateful car trip that leads her to an encounter with "Poor Pretty Eddie" when her car breaks down.

Shelley's character Bertha is an older, overweight, drunken showbiz hasbeen who is Eddie's current lover, but Eddie wants Liz. (Despite the fact that she just wants her car fixed immediately AND is super rude to everyone she encounters). Well, things go from bad to worse for poor Liz as Eddie forces himself on her repeatedly - and things go from worse to even worser for us the viewers as the initial rape scene is edited together with footage of two dogs fucking while a crappy country music tune plays over the soundtrack. Yikes!

Racist comments fly from the mouths of various characters as Liz is forced to take the stand in a mock trial where she refuses to show the "jury" bitemarks on her "titties". It's blaxploitation, sexploitation, hicksploitation, dogsploitation and pretty much any other "ploitation" you can think of. But it's still very watchable, if only to see how low some Hollywood celebrities will go for some camera time and a paycheck. At least we hope they got paid!!! Suffice to say everything winds up at a "shotgun wedding"...and very few people survive. Directed by Chris Robinson (he played Jason Frame on ANOTHER WORLD) and David Worth. Perfect score: 10 outta 10 "huhs".

This Here Blog is a Spin-Off

Hello there. When things got kinda slow over at my VELVET CANDY ENTERTAINMENT blog, I decided to tell readers about some great bad old movies that I recently watched.

Before I knew it, I was blogging more about those old chestnuts more often than news about my own productions. So, in an attempt to draw a line between my two passions, I now bring you all MOVIES THAT MAKE YOU SAY "HUH?": THE BLOG!

To start off I will be re-posting some earlier reviews from the other location, followed by some brand new posts about more crazy old classics. I hope you all enjoy what I have to say!