Posts Tagged ‘mill creek’


I fucking hate the suburbs. Seriously. Could never live there.

Country living I get — it’s nice to see the stars at night, you’ve generally got plenty of land, no one else’s house comes right up next to your property line, and the neighbors are salt of the Earth folks who generally treat you nice (as long as you’re white, and straight, and Christian).

City living is more my speed, though — it’s what I grew up with, it’s where I live now, it’s what I know. Bitch all you want about the crime, smog, traffic, and high property taxes, at least an urban environment offers a wide variety of people and shit to do. It ain’t perfect, but I’ll take take it.

The ‘burbs, though — fuck ’em and the horse they rode in on. Cookie-cutter houses next to dull Republican families with too many kids who all have too much privilege. Hour-long commutes to work every day punctuated by mid-week PTA meetings and Sunday mornings at the evangelical “free” church. Hushed-up alcoholism and domestic violence. Everybody playing out the dreary charade that is the “American dream” on cul-de-sacs that are as dead an end metaphorically as they are literally. Soul- death on the long, slow installment plan.

But you know who hates the suburbs even more than I do? Bigfoot.


Somewhere in formerly-rural Pennsylvania (West Chester, to be precise, if the IMDB’s filling location info is anything to go by), us greedy, land-hogging humans have encroached a bit too closely into huge n’ hairy’s home turf, and he’s decided to do something about it. The result, dear reader, is visionary Z-grade auteur Dave Wascavage’s 2004 shot-on-video piece of monster madness, Suburban Sasquatch, released under the auspices of the director/producer’s own backyard (or maybe it’s basement) distro outfit, Troubled Moon Films. And, as you’d expect, it’s all kinds of awesome.

Wascavage got this baby in the can for a grand total of, by his own accounting, $550, and it shows : an amazingly low-rent gorilla suit with prominent man-boobs. Even more amazingly low-rent CGI that makes the shit in Birdemic look Oscar-worthy. And lowest-rent-of-all acting that would be enough to make everybody in the cast blush at least, cringe at worst, if they were actually taking any of what they were doing seriously — which, fortunately for us all, they aren’t.

Yup, the whole thing’s just about perfect.

Anyway, here’s the rundown : Bigfoot’s killing people and the cops aren’t talking. Which is kinda funny given that the head officer investigating the case, one John Rush (Dave Bonavita — one of three actors, along with Juan Fernandez and Wes Miller, to don the endowed ape costume, as well — hey, ya go with whoever’s handy that day, I guess) has a rather personal stake in the matter seeing as how his wife was killed by this same (or it might be another, it’s never really made clear and doesn’t much matter, anyway) Sasquatch some years back. Fortunately for us, intrepid community-newspaper beat reporter Rick Harlan (Bill Ushler) is hot on the case, and no amount of stonewalling from the bullies in blue is gonna stop him.

Oh, and there’s a reasonably attractive young(-ish) Native American gal named Talla (Sue Lynn Sanchez — what tribe, exactly, does that last name hail from?) who’s taken on the powers of some ancient warrior goddess or something and has magical weapons (specifically arrows and a Tomahawk-style hand axe) with which to track down and defeat the run-amok creature. Which makes no freaking sense given that the white man’s insinuation of himself onto Native lands resulted in nothin’ but well-documented problems for her and, more specifically, her ancestors, so you’d think it might be more logical for her to be on Bigfoot’s side in this while conflict, but there you have it. There’s some “plot” “point” about her having to lay waste to the creature before the life force it”s absorbing from its victims makes it too mystically super-powered to ever kill, but whatever — it makes about as much sense on film — err, video , sorry — as it does on paper, so don’t sweat it too much.


As a matter of fact, don’t sweat any  of the proceedings here too much — that’s kinda the whole point of flicks like Suburban Sasquatch, isn’t it? It’s all about cheesy stories, cheesier costumes, still cheesier gore effects, and even cheesier than that performances. Sure, the movie grinds to an absolute standstill on numerous occasions (reporter guy’s arguments with the police and his editor get pretty tedious pretty quickly, for instance, and the love story between him and mystical Native girl is about as flat as they come), but shit pacing and lifeless “romance”  are all just part of the charm here, as well.


Obviously, this is a film you need to hunt down immediately if you haven’t seen it already, and fortune has seen fit to offer Suburban Sasquatch in a few different options for your viewing pleasure : it’s available as part of two  multi-disc DVD  packages from Mill Creek’s Pendulum Pictures sub-label (you can find it on the two-disc, six-movie Depraved Degenerates set or, better yet, as part of the 50-movie, 12-disc Decrepit Crypt Of Nightmares bargain pack), or it’s available as a stand-alone release from Troubled Moon directly. The Pendulum sets features a suitably crummy-looking full-frame transfer and competent, two-channel stereo sound (technical specs which, I’m assuming, apply to the stand-alone release as well) and offer no extras to speak of (which I’m assuming doesn’t apply to the Troubled Moon disc, although not having seen it I couldn’t say for certain), and for a cheap bumper-package release that’s pretty much what you’d expect, so no complaints here on that score.

Nor, really, do I have any about the film. Much as I love Bigfoot flicks like The Legend Of Boggy Creek  and Night Of The Demon, on some level they’re asking you to take the premise of a guy in a big hairy suit somewhat seriously for at least for a minute or two. Suburban Sasquatch doesn’t even waste your valuable time with that, and just gets right down to its campy-as-shit arm-and-leg-tearin’ business. There’s no pretense here — Wascavage and his buddies just wanted to make a cheap, fun, stupid movie because they had the cash, the equipment, and the ability.

You can’t ask for a more honest approach to movie-making than that. And yeah, it’s fun to see all these entitled suburban assholes get their come-uppance, as well. I don’t know about you, but I think every suburban community could use a Sasquatch of its own.



It pleases me to report that my home state of Minnesota recently became the 12th state to legalize same-sex marriage, and gay and lesbian couples will be free to say “I do” beginning on August 1st of this year. There were many celebratory shin-digs, large and small, thrown to commemorate this historic moment, and there will be even more if whack-job congresswoman Michele Bachmann follows through on her promise to move to a more socially retrograde region of the country, and it’s certainly no stretch to imagine  that there have been plenty of movies playing, at least in the background, at many of these joyous get-togethers. But I’ll bet you dollars to donuts that director Larry G. Brown’s 1972 Crown International gay-biker flick The Pink Angels wasn’t among the viewing choices on offer at any of them. Call it a hunch, if you will.

Not that the film itself is especially offensive, mind you, even though most (though not all) of the characters are stereotypical “swishy” ’70s queens rather than the leather-clad “bear”types you’d probably expect to be a bit more representative of the reality of the homosexual motorcycle-enthusiast community. It would likely be quite a reach to describe this flick as being in any way a respectful treatment of its lurid-at-the-time subject matter, sure, but at least our titular Angels are depicted as being, by and large, decent, fun-loving guys who just want to be left alone to pursue their livesi n their own way, and the bad guys are the authority figures and gay-bashing, overly-macho hetero  Harley-heads who are out to rain on our (for lack of a better term) heroes’ parade.

Still — it’d giving it far too much credit to describe this film as a monumental leap forward for gay rights and/or tolerance in general, either. So what exactly are  we talking about here, then? Well, weird as it may sound to say this about a movie centered around gay folks made in the early years of the so-called “Me Decade,” The Pink Angels seems to have no political or social agenda whatsoever! But that’s just part and parcel of a larger issue, really — that being that it seems to have no clue what sort of flick it wants to be on any level, and Brown and company were quite obviously just winging things from the get-go and willing to settle for, well, whatever they ended up coming up with.

All of which means, of course, that’s this is an absolutely fantastic watch from start to finish — even if it doesn’t make a lick of sense. Or maybe because it doesn’t make a lick of sense.



The “plot,” to the extent that such a thing can even be said to even exist here, revolves around our erstwhile flamboyant protagonists making their way out to Los Angeles (from where it’s never stated) in order to attend a drag ball, and along the way they have a fancy roadside picnic, raise hell at a hot dog stand, get hassled by the cops, get hassled again by some of their straight freewheelin’ counterparts (led by B-movie stalwart Michael Pataki and future Grizzly Adams star Dan Haggerty) run afoul (from a distance) of a bumbling military General, pick up hitch-hikers, try on dresses, and generally engage in pointless tomfoolery just because — hey, they can. Throw in some bargain-basement wannabe-surrealism, a lame-ass pseudo-funky/pseudo-folkish soundtrack, uniformly bright and sunny cinematography, and the general “making this shit up as we go along” ethos of Easy Rider, and you’ve got a recipe for one thoroughly entertaining, always-engaging cinematic disaster.

Of the six principal players, John Alderman stands out as scruffy, rough-and-tumble leader Michael, Tom Basham takes a memorable turn as the ultra-effeminate David, Bruce Kimball does nicely as hulk-with-an-overly-sensitive- side Arnold, and Henry Olek is all kinds of stupid fun as the supposedly British, wanna-be-Oscar -Wilde-in-leather Edward, but it’s all such overtly campy and OTT stuff that you can’t fairly single out anyone as doing a “better” job than anyone else, I suppose.



And then there’s  that ending. Now, according to someone on IMDB who claims, at least, to be this film’s executive producer — one Gary Radzat — what they were really going for here was some kind of “cinema verite” thing, but director Brown was batshit insane, couldn’t keep things in order, and neglected to film a final reel altogether! So they had to get everybody back together and shoot some kind of conclusion (under whose direction the supposed Radzat never says), since CIP had picked it up, sight unseen, for distribution, and what they came up with was shockingly downbeat, even tragic, absolute “bummer” that, sure, at least ostensibly brings together the various strands of the impromptu “story” that had been left dangling and didn’t seem to be destined to meet up in any way, shape, or form, but that completely turns the light-hearted atmosphere established in the first 70-or-so mutes on its ear for no apparent reason other than a kind of ruthless-outta-nowhere expediency.

In other words, it’s fucking perfect.



Let’s be honest — anyone who wants to watch a flick that fits anything like a standard definition of “competent,” or that even has anything vaguely recognizable as a point,  will have checked out of this one at about the 15-minute mark. Those of us still left standing by the time they need to put a wrap on things are pretty much willing to take anything the filmmakers serve up and just go with it. Sure, it’s a shocker to have such a crash-and-burn (not literally, mind you, but it may as well be) finale tacked onto an essentially harmless — and formless — romp, but hey, nothing  else about the proceedings makes any sense up to this point, either, so why start now ?



So — what are you waiting for? Grab Mill Creek’s 3-disc, 12-movie Savage Cinema DVD bargain pack  (where it’s presented with a nicely-remastered widescreen picture, pretty damn good mono sound, and no extras) and give The Pink Angels a go right now. It’s quite literally unlike anything else ever made — which doesn’t, of course, mean that it’s actually any good, but is still pretty much the highest compliment I can think of to bestow upon anything.



Please note : I cannot be held responsible for any typos that may occur during the course of this review. Frankly, some of the terms most often used in 2001 shot-on-video shitfest Hip Hop Locos are ones I don’t even know how to spell, so you’ll just have to bear with me. Also, I should make it clear from the outset that I intend no disrespect toward Hispanic Americans, or anyone else for that matter, here — I’m merely trying to ape the absurdly over-the-top speech patterns of the two principle characters in this flick for the sake of — I dunno, authenticity, I guess. If you find the whole thing hard to understand, well — so is the movie. And trust me, I use the words “homes” and “ese”  far less than they do in the “script” for this thing, where each is employed in, at last count, every single fucking sentence from start to finish. And now that we’ve got all that out of the way —

Hey, homes, whas’is I be hearin’? Vatos be tellin’ me da’choo don’ like Hip Hop Locos, ese. Dey say you be dissin’ dis movie, homes. Dat true, ese? ‘Choo got somethin’ to say, homes, you say it to mah face.

Yo, ese, wha’s you’ problem, homes? Dis movie don’ be hard to understand or nothin’, homes. Da whole plot is right dere on de cover, ese, an’ it gets scrolled across da muthafuckin’ screen at the start, too. You slow or somethin’ ese? Ain’t nothin’ confusin’ goin’ on here, homes.



Okay, ese, maybe it looks confusin’, homes, dass true. Lorenzo Munoz Jr, de director o’ dis biyatch, he don’ point his videocamera in logical places. Even though de whole movie pretty much be nothin’ but closeups o’ “rapper”/”star”s Unodoz an’ J10, he don;t show ’em so clear an’ shit. He uses fucked-up camera angles an’ shit, homes. ‘Choo don’ like it? Muthafuka, watch somethin’ else, homes. ‘Choo can see da sides of da faces an’ necks an’ shit o’ dese guys plenny, ese. Iss all good, homes.

An’ yo, dis be da real shit, ese. Dis be da hip hop lifestyle, homes. Dese muthafuckas got dreams, ese, an’ dey gon’ make ’em happen. Dey gon’ be hip hop stars. Dey don’ need no talent, homes. Dey don’ need no eqipment, homes. Dey jus’ need’a take what dey ain’t got, dig? ‘Choo don’t like it, ‘choo don’ know da streets, ese.



Maaaaan, fuck you, homes. Dis art. Dis ain’ no bullshit, ese. ‘Choo don’ need’a see what be happening ta know what da fuck be happenin’, homes. An’ even if ‘choo don’t get it den — well, like I fuckin’ said, ese, dey ‘splain it to ya in words an’ shit. An’ ain’t no need to spend no muthafuckin’ money on nothin’ here, ese — dis jus’ take a camera out onto da streets an’ see what the fuck happens,  homes. Shit gets fuuuuuucked up, ese, ‘choo know dat’s right!

‘Sides, homes, iss only, what, ese? Maybe 70 minutes long an’ shit? ‘Choo ain’ ‘dat busy, homes — ‘choo can make it t’rough dis. An mebbe you even learn some fuckin’ shit, ese — like, I mean, ezzackly how not to make a muthafuckin’ movie an’ shit, homes. ‘Cuz Hip Hop Locos at least be a — wha’choo call it, ese? — a tex’book ‘zample a dat.


‘Choo wanna find dis muthafuckin’ thing, homes, it ain’t hard — dem vatos at Brain Damage Films done put it out on DVD an’ shit, ese. Prob’ly it gots extra features an’ shit on dat, too. But I ain’t seen it like dat, homes — I caught dis bitch on the Decrepit Crypt Of Nightmares 12-disc, 50 fuckin’ movie box set from dat Mill Creek label, muthafuckin’ Pendulum Pictures, ese. Iss full screen wit mono sound an’ it look an’ soun’ like shit, homes, but fuck it, ese — iss all good an’ shit.

‘Choo wise to whassup yet, homes? ‘Choo gon’ see dis t’ing? Or ‘choo gon’ keep talkin’ shit, bitch, like you some expert ’bout somethin’? Man, choo don’t know notheeng, homes. ‘Choo fucked up. ‘Choo talk too much. ‘Choo donno da muthafuckin’ streets, ese.



Anyway, fuck you, homes. Dis da gen-u-wyne- muthafuckin’ t’ing. ‘Choo can’t see dat, homes, you ain’ got fuckin’ eyes in yo’ muthafuckin’ head, ese.



It’s definitely a tough call, with many worthy contenders to the “throne,” but if someone were to ask me what the out-and-out sleaziest entry in the Crown International Pictures “canon” is, I’d probably have to go with writer/director Richard Kanter’s ultra-mean-spirited, deeply misogynistic Wild Riders, a bikesploitation flick that positively oozes ill will toward the fairer sex and does its best to make tragic heroes out of a pair of thieves, rapists, and murderers. As is so often the case with movies we look at around here, they sure don’t make ’em like this anymore, and maybe that’s not always such a bad thing —

Consider : the “action” here starts with two obviously fucked-in-the head bikers (our titular “Wild Riders”), whose names we later learn are Pete (the comparably “suave” one, played to the hilt by Arell Blanton) and Stick (the scruffy one, played by Alex Rocco in the same year he’d take his legendary turn as Moe Green in The Godfather), not only raping some luckless lass, but then proceeding to nail her to a fucking tree, an act so outlandish and beyond the pale that it proves to be too much even for the outlaw Florida cycle club they’re riding with, with the end result being that the gang gives ’em the boot and Pete and Stick make tracks for sunny California (which is where the supposed “Florida” scenes were shot, anyway).

Our psychopathic twosome doesn’t waste too much time getting to know the lay of the (La-La) land once out west, deciding almost immediately to go have some — ahem! — “fun” at the snazzy Hollywood Hills home of a good-looking young lady they spy laying out by her pool. It turns out the aforementioned mistress of the house, buxom brunette Rona (Elizabeth Knowles) , who likes to live on the wild side a bit, is sharing her semi-palatial digs for a few days with her equally-buxom, but frankly kinda repressed, red-headed gal pal Laure (I know, I know — it looks like there should be an “i” in her name, but there isn’t — oh, and she’s played by Sherry Bain) while her apparently-not-all-that-missed hubby, an accomplished cellist, is away. If  all that sounds to you like a sure-fire set-up for disaster —well, you’re right.


Pete manages to smooth-talk his way into Rona’s pool, then her house, then her bed, but things don’t go so well for semi-retarded dirtball Stick and Laure, and when she insults his manhood, he ends up raping her in rather savage fashion.  To her credit, she doesn’t take this indignity laying down (no pun intended, honestly) and after informing Rona what her new house “guests” are really like, Pete flips his lid and decides to get just as rough as his buddy. An odyssey of home-ransacking, hostage-taking, and violent sexual assault soon unfolds — and then things get really weird.


Despite his rather sudden and violent about-face, Rona actually finds herself falling in love with Pete (hey, actor Arell Blanton did, in fact, sing this movie’s low-grade folk-ish theme song, so maybe he’s got other hidden “talents,” as well), and Kanter most definitely plays up some kind of pseudo-sympathetic angle vis-a-vis his thoroughly sadistic protagonists, to the point that what when the cello-wielding man of the house makes his return , finds what’s happened to his home and his honey (and her friend), and uses his instrument to exact murderous revenge on the interlopers, we’re actually supposed to feel, well — kinda sorry for them!

I’m sure, at this point, that this all sounds, as the title for this review would imply, like Dennis Hopper and Peter Fonda have wandered into Wes Craven’s classic The Last House On The Left, but this movie actually came out a year before Krug and his fucked-up family changed cinematic history forever. Am I saying Craven copied Kanter in any way, shape, or form? Probably not — it’s been well-established that Bergman’s The Virgin Spring was the thematic progenitor for Last House, and we’re definitely supposed to sympathize with the victims and their grief-stricken paretnts in both those films rather than their attackers, but the timing is quite interesting, to say the least.


Still, to be perfectly honest, that strange historical parallel is probably about the only reason I can think of to recommend that anyone sit through Wild Riders. This is some thoroughly unpleasant stuff, and the “just a good ol’ boy, never meanin’ no harm” angle that Kanter plays is only compounded in its offensiveness when he has one of his victims end up having her hear stolen by her victimizer. I’m normally the first guy in the room to enjoy it when all conventions of good taste and morality are thrown out the window (the less enlightened might go so far as to celebrate this film’s “political incorrectness,” but there’s nothing noble about bucking the supposed “PC” status quo when we’re talking about rape, for Christ’s sake), but this one was a little much even for me. Sure, later fare like I Spit On Your Grave is much more graphic and brutal, but at least Meir Zarchi had enough sense to know who the villains were in his film.


What the hell, though — if you’re curious, Wild Riders is available on DVD from Mill Creek as part of their three-DVD, 12-movie Savage Cinema collection, where’s it’s presented with a nice-looking widescreen transfer, good mono sound, and no extras. This set’s pretty heavy on biker fare in general, so all in all it’s a solid purchase — especially given its well-under-$10 price point — but honestly, this particular flick is only worth taking in for its value as a historical curiosity, and is repugnant enough to probably  make even the most die-hard Tea Party supporter and/or Fox “news” viewer thankful for at least some social progress.



You gotta hand it to Crown International — they knew how to market their merchandise. Even when their promo campaigns had little if anything to do with the actual goings-on in a particular film itself — as was the case with Best Friends, a flick we took a look at around these parts a couple days back — they could still find a lurid, sleazy peg around somewhere to hang their metaphorical coat on. It didn’t always take that much effort and creativity, though, when the movie they were pimping was generally scummy enough on its own merits.

One-and-done writer/director Earl Barton’s 1975 rape-revenge mini-thriller Trip With The Teacher is a perfect example of what I’m talking about. I don’t know about you, but when I see a poster as shamelessly exploitative (a compliment around these parts, I assure you) as the one reproduced above, my first thought is “come on — this thing can’t possibly be as bad as all that.” And then, of course. I sit down and watch it to find out whether my cynicism is justified or not.



In this case, I’m happy to report that Barton definitely delivers the goods. On paper, the story actually seems pretty tame in comparison to the plethora of similar fare out there for the discerning viewer — pretty high school teacher Miss Tenny (Brenda Fogarty) is taking a mini-bus with four of her youthful charges and a typically useless driver  out to spend a day exploring some Navajo ruins in, I’m assuming, California someplace. The bus breaks down, and the nubile young flesh is quickly set upon by a gang of three horny bikers (well, in fairness one guy’s not too bad and hardly knows the other two, who are brothers) led by the always-dripping-with-menace Zalman King , who plays a hard-core psycho with the disarmingly blase name of Al.

Everything you’d pretty much expect to happen from this point on does, with Miss Tenny “giving” herself over to Al’s lustful tendencies if he promises, just promises, to please leave her students alone. Do I even need to tell you whether or not he keeps his word?

Speaking of words (every writer does), I dropped the word “tame” a moment ago, and it actually does apply here, after a fashion : the body count here is pretty low, with only one of the girls and the driver not making it out alive, and the rape stuff is certainly not I Spit On Your Grave-level material, by any stretch. Yeah, it’s unpleasant enough in its own right, but you’ve seen worse (although hopefully only in the movies). It’s almost as if Barton, after “dreaming” the whole plot up in the first place, decides he really doesn’t wanna go there and tries to put the brakes on things a bit.

Funny thing is — Zalman King just won’t let him. Behind those bug-eyed sunglasses and that blank facial expression lurks a very palpable and genuine menace. This dude is just plain bad fucking news. He may not speak much, but he doesn’t need to — evil is just radiating from him like stench from a three-day-old burrito left out in the sun. Ladies, this definitely isn’t someone you want to bring home to meet your mother. Ore even your least-favorite sister or aunt.



Honestly, if you want a textbook example of how one performance can elevate a flick weighed down with a mediocre script and a director who apparently only knows two words (those being “point’ and “shoot”), Trip With The Teacher is it. King doesn’t go the over-the-top route of, say, a Wings Hauser in Vice Squad, but damn if he doesn’t seem almost as dangerous. This guy’s just straight-up unhinged, and you know it before he even proves it (not that he doesn’t prove it — on multiple occasions, no less). His work alone makes this a memorably unpleasant affair, and for that we thank and congratulate the late Mr. King.

TripWithTeacher (21)


Now, this being the movies and all, it goes without saying that Al’s gonna get his comeuppance, and unfortunately that’s where Barton’s lack of imagination really hampers things. King’s made such a thoroughly reprehensible bastard  of him that you really want him to meet a spectacular, up-in-flames finish. I won’t give away how he does finally meet his maker, but be prepared for a disappointment. It’s not pretty, I suppose, but it could — and should — have been both much more clever and much more ugly.

Still, every time I see Trip With The Teacher (which is, by the way, available on about a half-dozen different DVD packages, all bare-bones with no extras whatsoever — your humble host recommends Mill Creek’s “Drive-in Cult Classics” 12, disc, 32-movie box set since you get great value for ten bucks and the occasionally-blemished-and-choppy widescreen transfer looks pretty solid all told while the mono sound is likewise perfectly adequate) I find myself appreciating it a little bit more, and honestly not just for King’s amazing performance or composer Igo Kantor’s awesome beyond words theme tune. Not quite rough enough to be a “roughie,” but certainly not watered-down enough to appeal to those with sensitive stomachs or strong consciences, this is a movie that’s sort of out there on its own, carving out space no other films either could, or cared to, occupy. Its subject matter is hardly unique, but it remains a singular work nevertheless.


Not that singular necessarily translates as good to any and all parties, mind you. Those looking for balls-out graphic nastiness, for instance, are probably going to find this to be a bit disappointing and maybe even dull. We’re not talking about a Harry Novak production here or anything. But if you’re the sort of person who gets a bigger case of the heebie-jeebies from Hal’s voice in 2001 than you do from Darth Vader’s costume in Star Wars, or if Michael Myers’  blank mask creeps you out more than Freddy Krueger’s burned-up remnant of a face, then I think you’ll be very pleasantly surprised by Trip With The Teacher. It may not spoon-feed it to you as blatantly and obviously as some, but it definitely serves up everything you’re expecting and then some, and leaves a mighty unpleasant aftertaste.



We’ve all got ’em — friends we used to be pretty tight with, even inseparable from, that we just sort of part company with over the years. Sometimes it’s a long, slow, drawn-out process that we don’t even really notice taking place. Other times, there’s some definitive breaking point of sorts after which, as the saying goes, “nothing will ever be the same.” Whatever the case, life moves on and most of us make new friends to serve as de facto “replacements” for out former best buds or gal pals. At times, though, old friends can find it hard to let go, or to  accept that things are changing —

One of the things I love most about the heyday of exploitation cinema is that even a flick with a title as innocuous as director Noel Nesseck’s 1975 Crown International release Best Friends can actually prove to be a treasure trove of fucked-up psychodrama of the highest order. Hustled off on the public as something of a race-hate film (see the poster above) on the basis of a brief scene in which one of the female leads does an an impromptu strip-tease at a bar on an Indian reservation that leads to a fight between the movie’s two male stars and a bevy of Native American locals, it’s really, of course, nothing of the sort. Don’t blame Crown for playing the cheap and easy angle, though — I know that if I were a studio executive,  I’d be at a complete loss as to how best to market this flick, since it many ways it quite literally defies any sort of categorization. Read on and see if you agree , won’t you?



Best friends (hence the name an’ all) since childhood Jesse (a usually shirtless Richard Hatch, three short years from hitting it semi-big as Apollo on the original Battlestar Galactica) and Pat (Doug Chapin, who actually enjoys an “additional dialogue” credit vis-a-vis this film’s Arnold Somkin-penned screenplay) are just back from ‘Nam , where they were “Airbone, airborne all the way!” Pat’s sustained something of a gruesome hand injury and it’s obliquely hinted that he had a rougher time of it over there than Jesse in general, but never mind all that — the two lifelong pals are back in the States now and, together with their fiancees Kathy (Jesse’s gal, played by Susanne Benton) and Jo Ella (Pat’s lady, the one who drops her top on the rez, portrayed by Ann Noland) they’ve rented a Winnebago for one last cross-country road trip before they all settle down into married life.

There’s just one problem, though — Pat’s decided he doesn’t want to tie the not with Jo Ella, so that double wedding thing ain’t gonna happen. Furthermore, it’s pretty obvious that Pat’s resentful as hell of Kathy and wants Jesse all to himself. He dreams of him and his (purely platonic, apparently, but ya gotta wonder) buddy spending their army savings on a couple of bikes and hitting the open road a la Hopper and Fonda in Easy Rider (at one point they even go to the famous Sacred Mountain gas station/tourist trap depicted in that seminal film). Jesse, though, is having none of that. He’s played the field plenty and he’s finally found the girl of his dreams and is downright eager to settle down.



Pat lowers the boom on Jo Ella pretty early on in the proceedings, but the suddenly-uncomfortable foursome vow to “make the best of it” and enjoy the trip as much as they can anyway. Pat buys himself a 450cc (or thereabouts) dirtbike and is spending less time inside the camper anyway, riding alongside it “on his own,” so to speak, so who knows — maybe that will lessen the tension and things’ll work out, right?

Of course not. The real friction here comes in the form of Pat’s increasingly unsubtle attempts to bust up Jesse and Kathy. He engineers a set-up whereby he knows Jesse won’t be able to keep his hands off Jo Ella, and when Kathy gets wind of it she freaks as you’d expect — but only for a moment, By the end of the night she’s — here we go again — determined to “make the best of it” and plans on going ahead and marrying Jesse anyway. Undaunted, pat then tries to lure Kathy into the path of a rattlesnake so he can take credit for “saving her life” and get her to do him a favor — drop Jesse.  Still no luck. Then he tries to rape her so Jesse won’t want her anymore. That doesn’t work, either. There’s just no breaking up this hoping-to-be-happy couple. Jesse’s got a truck-driving gig waiting for him back home. It’s gonna pay him six or seven bucks an hour. Enough to put some money down on a house. Save up a little to have a kid in a couple years. Pat’s fantasy of a never-ending summer just can’t compete with that, it seems.

Best Friends Lobby 3



The weirdest thing about Pat’s whole Kathy obsession, though, is how disarmingly impersonal it all seems, even when he’s ripping her shirt off. She’s just an obstacle to him, something that’s getting in the way of what he really wants — Jesse, And him. Together. Forever. And yeah, okay, Nosseck never plays up any sort of explicit unrequited homo-lust angle here, but come on — does he really need to? Lines like “you always get the good ones, and I take the dogs — that’s how it’s always gonna be with me an’ you, an’ I’m okay with that,” really don’t require Chapin to stare at Hatch’s shirt-free torso to get their point across. “The love that dare not speak its name” isn’t spoken of here, but it’s the undercurrent that’s whisking all our young protagonists toward, wouldn’t ya know it, tragedy.

Best Friends Lobby 7


When Jesse does finally decide he’s had enough and boots Pat out of  the Winnebago for good, we’re headed for a shockingly downbeat finale that in no way plays out how you expect it to. Yeah, okay, Pat can’t stay away and comes back to get revenge for his banishment, but beyond that, who ends up dead — and who does the killing — really will surprise you. I’ll just say that somebody here wins by losing and that the “happiness” of one of the central characters is tinged with a hollow, soul-shattering defeat (and surrender) on the part of the other. It’s actually a pretty harrowing little way to wrap things up, and has something of the weight of inevitablity more commonly found in a naturalist novel than a ’70s exploitation flick.

Best Friends Lobby 9


So yeah. This one’s a tough beast to pin down. Part road movie, part homoerotic love story, part coming-of-age struggle, part returning-vets-are-scarred-physically-as-well-as-psychologically “message” film, part pre-Fatal Attraction cautionary tale about lusting after someone you can’t have — all in all, you can see why Crown just stuck with the easy — if tenuous — play and tried to plant butts in the seats by convincing the masses they were in for a rape-revenge story with red, rather than the customary black, tones. It does the film itself a disservice, sure, because this is actually a rather complex, generally-well-acted (Chapin in particular being terrific, Hatch’s quasi-pompous shtick, which grates after awhile, being the weak link), beautifully-shot (cinematographer Stepehn M. Katz is no Laszlo Kovacs, but he does his best to ape him) piece of work that frankly probably confounded the drive-in stoner crowd more than anything, but hey — I ask, again, what would you have done with it? Cannes was probably out of the question, but fuck it. Their loss. Best Friends is, dare I say it, an actual quality piece of cinema, no matter how hard it pretends to be otherwise.



Now that you (hopefully) want to see this, go buy it. You can get it cheaply in a number of different DVD iterations, but I’d suggest your best bang for the buck is with Mill Creek’s “Drive-In Cult Classics” 32-movie, 12-disc set. These are all directly repackaged BCI Navarre discs, as Mill Creek picked up rights to the entire Crown catalog for a song when BCI folded up shop. There are no extras on any of the discs, but the quality of both picture and sound on all the films is surprisingly fantastic. In the case of Best Friends, sure there’s some artefacting and splotchiness here and there, but on the whole the remastered widescreen picture looks great and the mono sound is good, too. You don’t even have to go out of your way to find this set — Target, Wal-Mart, Best Buy, you name it all stock it for under ten bucks, and it’s got a genuinely nice variety of flicks, including Trip With The TeacherThe Creeping TerrorThe StepmotherMalibu High, Blood Mania, and The Pink Angels, to name just a handful of standout selections. Invite over a friend you haven’t seen in awhile and relive the good times.


As is fairly obvious to regular and/or unusually observant readers of this site, your host has been on quite a tear as far as these Mill Creek/Pendulum Pictures DVD bargain boxes go lately. And it occurs to me, perusing through my more recent postings, that I’ve only bothered to write reviews of “product” I found on these sets that I was, shall we say, less than fond of. In the spirit of absolute fairness, then, I think it’s only right that I scribble down some musings about at least one of these microbudget backyard horror “epics” that I actually like, wouldn’t you agree?

And so it’s my distinct pleasure to introduce you, my dear readers, to the $12,000 slice of sublime joy that is writer/producer/director Dave Wascavage’s Fungicide. One of two SOV flicks that he made in 2005 hot on the heels of the “success” of the previous year’s Suburban Sasquatch (the other being a rather blase affair entitled Tartarus), this straight-outta-redneck-country-Pennsylvania 80-or-so-minuter tells a pretty simple tale about a mad scientist who’s holed up in what’s supposedly a “bed and breakfast” (it actually looks — okay, fuck it, is — a conventional home that hasn’t been B & B’ed-up in the least) and ends up testing out his latest super-serum concoction on the local wild mushroom supply. Soon the other guests at the “inn” — a  motley collection of hilariously predictable stereotypes on legs — are under attack from fungi that have transformed into intelligent, ruthless killing machines!


Wascavage is lot more ambitious in terms of his CGI usage here than he was in Suburban Sasquatch, and the reults are, if anything, even worse. I mean, seriously — the effects “wizardry” on display here makes Birdemic look like a master’s thesis at the ILM training school (if such a place actually existed an’ all). It’s a damn good thing that the weirdly-boxed full-frame image on this film is so washed-out and hideous-looking, because if we could actually see these killer digital ‘shrooms in crystal clear, high quality resolution they’d certainly look even more hysterically shitty than they already do. in other words, don’t expect a Blu-Ray release for this flick anytime soon.


Still, ya know what? As lousy-in-a-fun-way as the computerized fungi are, the film really kicks into a whole ‘nother gear when they become so giant, so deadly, and so bloodthirsty that Atari 2600-style graphics just won’t do the job and Wascavage has to resort to people wearing beige(-ish) bedsheets and cardboard (I think) muffin-top hats in order to “convincingly” portray the full fury of his homicidal mushrooms gone wild. You need more proof than my mere say-so on this? Here ya go —


And that, right there, is pretty much what Fungicide is all about. Its raison d’etre, if you will. Get a bunch of friends together, go out to the woods,  throw some grade-school-play costumes on , cut loose, and have a good time.  If anybody out there in the entire universe is stupid enough to want to watch the thing apart from friends and immediate family members, so much the better. This is the pioneering DIY spirit of a Nathan Schiff (minus his sociopolitical commentary) back from the dead, and it’s good to see that some people with no actual talent, certainly no actual budget (IMDB lists Fungicide‘s total  expenditures as being $12,000, but that seems pretty generous) and, at the end of the day. nothing much to really even say are still more than willing to just go outside with a video camera and shoot something for no other reasons than that they’re bored, and they can.


As for which Pendulum box I found this  hiding it, it’s the 12-disc, 50-film Catacomb Of Creepshows collection. As already mentioned, the picture quality is positively atrocious and the stereo(-ish) sound is just as lousy — at least! — to boot. It’s also available as a stand-alone release from Wascavage’s own production “company,” Troubled Moon Films, and their release is supposedly a two-disc set loaded with extras — although, according a friend and fellow bad movie buff on facebook, his two-disc “special edition” arrived with only one disc in the case and it was strictly a bare-bones affair. He doesn’t mind in the least, and I can’t say as I blame him since that’s pretty much Fungicide  in a nutshell : a cheap, bad,  sub-sub-substandard, waste of time rip-off — that you love to pieces anyway.


I know, I know — that’s one dull image to start a review off with, isn’t it? Normally, I try to find the original theatrical poster for a film — or at the very least a DVD cover — to begin any piece with, but in the case of 2002 SOV obscurity When Heaven Come Down, you gotta take what you can get, and while this Woodstock, Illinois-lensed 75-minute homemade horror claims to have been released by something called Mind’s I Productions (no doubt the “corporate” brainchild of writer/producer/director Gary M. Lumpp), I can’t find evidence of its existence as a stand-alone DVD anywhere.

Which brings to mind the question, then, of how I actually managed to see the film. Get ready for a “no surprise there” answer — it’s available from Mill Creek’s Pendulum Pictures sub-label as part of a six-movie, two-DVD set entitled Savage Sickos. If you absolutely must be made aware of the technical specs in regards to this thing, it is, of course, presented full-frame, with horrendously uneven stereo sound that will have you adjusting and re-adjusting your remote constantly in an effort to either be able to actually hear what the characters are saying, or not hear the rancid, fourth-rate, pseudo-“death rock” soundtrack music. But enough about all that, let’s talk about the movie itself.


Or, hell, maybe we really shouldn’t, because this one is pretty lousy even as far as these sorts of things go. Still, since I’m the one who brought the subject up in the first place —

Samantha “Sam” Eckhart (Emily Albright) was attacked and nearly killed three years ago by a religiously-tinged serial killer (who, by the way, wears the most laughably absurd, all-black, wanna-be- “signature” psycho costume I’ve ever seen) calling himself “The Savior.” She managed to escape his clutches simply because he took a likin’ to her, and the cops arrested him and hauled him off to prison — after the detective who ‘cuffed ‘im handed Sam his gun and offered to let her shoot him dead if she wanted and she, good girl that she is, politely declined the invitation. I know police in several jurisdictions are trying to do some “community outreach,” but come on.


These days, Sam’s a bartender by day and runs a support group for abused and traumatized women by night. She’s got a swell new boyfriend, too, a sincere-as-shit fella named Josh who sticks by her side through thick and thin even though she’s not “putting out” for him. So anyway, yeah — life’s looking good. Until the women in her support group, and even some of their abusive boyfriends, start turning up dead, in ways that eerily fit “The Savior”‘s M.O.

If that sounds at all interesting to you, trust me — Lumpp’s confused collection of going-nowhere subplots, going-nowhere-even-faster supporting characters (look for a cameo from the only semi-recognizable “name” in the film, Robert Z’Dar (who’s also credited as an associate producer) that serves no discernible purpose whatsoever), and gaping plot holes (the (now former) cop who brought “The Savior” in apparently somehow “lost his eye” doing so even though we clearly see him arrest and handcuff him in the film’s opening scene and he’s still got both eyes) will leave you more baffled then intrigued pretty quickly.

And not “good” baffled like, say, Mulholland Drive or something — I mean baffled like “why the fuck did he make this?” baffled.

Still, make it he did, and while that shows a certain amount of gumption in and of itself, it’s really no reason to waste a little over an hour of your life on this thing. Lumpp never made another movie and Mind’s I Productions appears to no longer be a going concern, so that pretty much tells you all you need to know. There are some quirky, idiosyncratic (if admittedly rough and unpolished) gems hiding on some of these Pendulum sets that are certainly worth a look, if for no other reason than curiosity value alone. When Heaven Comes Down isn’t one of them.

Dee Flowered [2006]_000


Okay, here’s a weird one : the “plot” (and I use that term very loosely) of 2008 shot-on-video n0-budgeter Dee Flowered  (alternately listed on IMDB and other sites that bothered to take notice of it at all as a single word,  Deeflowered ) apparently revolves around the spirit of Jack The Ripper which has, through methods unknown, settled upon a small town, and proceeded to drive the local residents apeshit.

Or so we’re told in the quasi-official-sounding descriptions of writer (I think)/director (I’m sure) Johnny Walker’s little opus of amateurism  floating around out there that had to have been written by somebody at some point, right? There’s just one problem : the movie itself makes no reference to this at all and instead proceeds to show us a series of thoroughly disjointed scenes that make no sense whatsoever. Not that this or any other flick actually needs to make sense in order to be, ya know, good, but the fact is that Dee Flowered just straight-up isn’t.

I’m all for weirdness for its’ own sake as much as the next guy, but shit — somebody needs to tell Walker (whoever he really is — hell,  even this guy’s pseudonym isn’t especially creative) that there’s such a thing as trying to hard to be strange, and Dee Flowered passees that point about ten minutes in.

Dee Flowered [2006]_002


Consider : Dr. Sunny Day runs an abortion clinic called, fittingly enough, Sunny Day Abortion Clinic. He does things the old-fashioned way, with straightened-out coat hangers, turkey basters, you name it. He’s also apparently got a lucrative side trade going supplying aborted fetuses and , so it seems, even full-term babies to the local Satanic cult, as well as the dog food processing plant in town (when they run out of horse meat). Sunny’s got a fake beard, but within a few minutes you’ll scarcely notice because almost everyone in this flick has a fake hair attached either to their chins or scalps for reasons that — well, fuck it, they just do.

Now, maybe it’s just me, but it seems that in the proper hands, this sort of premise could actually be, God (if he actually existed) help me, kinda funny. Unfortunately, in Walker’s hands, it gets buried under an avalanche of either only tangentially related, or completely unrelated, crap. Like what, you ask?

Like the comings and goings of a mysterious hooded figure who shows up and kills people but can apparently only be seen by the detective investigating the case, the Maniac Cop himself, Robert (“will act for food”) Z’Dar. Or the “story” of some unattractive couple who spend all day  in bed and are visited by a  fairy-like character called The Birthday Queen (who actually is rather fetching), who proceeds to get nekkid with them and spinkle their bodies with glitter. Or the random appearances of a grown man in a giant Easter Bunny suit. Or the cannibalistic (at least it seems, at any rate — hard to say for sure) nocturnal rituals of the aforementioned devil worshipers.



If each of these things sounds, to you, like it has pretty much nothing to do with any of the others, congratulations. You’re right. Not that it matters much, since none of the questions that naturally arise while watching this film are ever answered. Why is Robert Z’Dar sweating all the time and walking with an affected, exaggerated limp? Why is the boyfriend of one of the Sunny Day clinic’s — uhhhmmm — clients jerking off in the lobby? Why does Dr. Day’s midget, missing-toothed assistant, Griffen, get pissed on by some random drunk? And perhaps most importantly — what superhuman persuasive power does Walker possess that enables him to convince chicks to take their clothes off  in front of his camera for, mostly likely, not money whatsoever?

Dee Flowered [2006]_003


Still, like I said, about ten minutes into this thing, the one question you’ll have that dwarfs all others is — why the hell am I still watching this ???? Of all the mysteries offered up by Dee Flowered , trust me — that’s the most unfathomable. It’s not even stupidly, entertainingly bad, as so many of the films we take a look at around here are. Nor is it anything like the shocking, transgressive work that Walker so obviously is striving for. It’s both dumb, and dull. I can usually abide one or the other separately just fine, but combined? Forget it. Some things a re a bridge too far even for this admitted full-time denizen  of the celluloid (and video) trash heap.

Dee Flowered [2006]_005


I caught Dee Flowered as part of the “Catacomb Of Creepshows” 50-movie bargain pack from Pendulum Pictures, the Mill Creek sub-label that specializes in these kind of homemade films gone horribly awry. There’s a lot of essentially un-watchable garbage in this set, but with it’s nauseating mix of third-grade bathroom humor, faux-surrealist pretentiousness, half-assed gore effects,  entirely forced an uninvolving confusion-just-to-be-confusing, and rancid, completely unshocking “shocker” moments, this is easily the worst of a  decidedly lousy bunch.



On the plus side, it’s only — mercifully! — 55 minutes long. Who says I don’t know how to end things on a positive note?


Maybe it’s just me, but the ultra-low-budget films of writer/director/producer Mark Pirro and his yes-he-really-does-call-it-that Pirromount production company always sound better on paper than they end up being. A Polish Vampire In BurbankCurse Of The QueerwolfRectumaNudist Colony Of The Dead — hey, they all sound like winners, right? Unfortunately, every single one of them demonstrates the annoying Pirro habit of having a great premise and then nothing much by way of a script to follow it up with. He shoots his wad early and leaves the building, just to mix metaphors for a second. Hell, he even manages, with Buford’s Beach Bunnies, to make a pretty dull pic that stars Tom Hanks’ slow-looking brother and features Kitten Natividad, Monique Parent, and Avalon Anders revealing their — ahem! — golden globes. That one starts out pretty good, too, but if you can’t maintain an audience’s interest when you’ve got Kitten Natividad’s gazongas hanging out, you’ve got a problem.

The same goes for his quite-likely-most-widely-seen effort, 1987’s Deathrow Gameshow. Filmed on the quick (and needless to say, the cheap) to cash in on the success of Ah-nuld’s The Running Man, this one was picked up for distribution by an at-this-point-on-its-last-legs Crown International, who even sunk a pretty impressive amount of promotional muscle into pimping it far and wide. I remember full-page ads running for it in the local papers within a month of The Running Man hitting theaters — not that it did much good, mind you. It was gone the following Friday.


And yet, as with almost all things these days — except for a few thousand films that, as a consequence of their absence more than anything else, you really absolutely are dying to see —it lives on, thanks to the miracle of DVD!  It’s even managed, somehow, to pick up something of a cult following over the years.

And ya know what? For a minute there — or, more precisely, for about 15 or 20 of ’em, since that’s about how long the good times last here — I was right there with ’em. Supposed “star” John McCafferty gives an amiably inept performance as shit-eating-grin gameshow host/producer Chuck Toedan, whose signature program, “Live Or Die,” gives condemned inmates a crack at a reprieve if they’re willing to successfully debase themselves in various creative ways (the best of which being when he’s got a reputed Mafia Don hooked up to some kind of contraption that sends a deadly current of electricity up his schlong if he pops a boner — he manages to remain limp all the way through a rather sultry striptease number performed by the fetching Debra Lamb, but when Chuck puts his hand on his shoulder to congratulate him for earning his freedom,  the poor yutz sprouts wood and gets zapped). Pirro regales us with a few amusing (in a “retard humor” sort of way) fake commercials.  Characters pop up with groaningly stupid names like a feminist “hater” of Toedan’s show named Gloria Sternvirgin (played by Robyn Blythe, who gives the closest thing to a credible acting performance here). And the film’s miniscule production values are a real treat, as well — despite being a multi-millionaire, Chuck drives a (maybe) $30,ooo MG; the exterior shots of his home show a palatial mansion, but his bedroom looks like a shitty college dorm (his bed doesn’t even have a fucking frame, it’s just a mattress tossed on top of a box spring); his office is a messy shoebox-sized affair that he enters through a back- alley door. These are the kinds of things we love around these parts, and I’m betting that you do, too.

Unfortunately, the whole thing falls apart both rather suddenly and completely when Pirro realizes that, once his set-up is complete, he’s still got about 60 minutes to kill (the film has a mercifully short 80-minute runtime) — and kill it he does when he decides, after an agonizingly-dumb-but-fun David Lynch-spoofing dream sequence that convinces us that maybe he’s gonna play up the film’s transparent absurdity for all its worth (which admittedly ain’t much, but still — ), to go, instead, into droll and predictable (but not in a good way) “comedy-thriller” territory  as Chuck attempts to survive the half-witted, half-assed attempts of a morbidly obese “Family”-connected hitman to kill him for a)exposing his boss as being gay on live TV before killing him, and b)stealing away the affections of Ms. Sternvirgin, who’s fallen for our gameshow Romeo’s supposed “charms” and spurned the affections of the bloated killer who talks with his mouth full — when his food’s not spilling out of it and down his shirt.


It’s all kind of a bummer, really, to watch  a movie that started out being amusingly stupid end up just  being tediously stupid.  Still, what the fuck, right? Better 15 or 20 good minutes than none at all, I suppose. And it’s rather gratifying to know , for fans like me of his seminal performance, that it was so obvious to everyone that Richard Dawson’s character was the most compelling thing about The Running Man that even the most brain-dead, one-nut producers in Hollywood understood that if you’re gonna churn out a rip-off of that movie in the space of about two weeks, it was the sleazy emcee guy that audiences really wanted to see more of.

I won’t kid you, though — if you make it all the way through Deathrow Gameshow awake, you’re gonna be the exception, not the rule. Once this movie “jumps the shark,” it jumps it with a foot to spare and no looking back.  Pirro had himself a pretty solid little idea — even if it was a completely stolen one — for, say, an SNL skit here, but stretched out over the course of entire feature — even a seriously short feature — well, let’s just say you should never try to run a marathon when all you’ve trained for is a sprint.


If you’re one of those contrary bastards who gets their kicks out of ignoring me, though — come on, show of hands! — you’ll be pleased to know that Deathrow Gameshow is available as part of Mill Creek’s Rare Cult Cinema 3-disc, 12-movie DVD box set, which is composed,  wall-to-wall, of stuff from Crown International’s damn sizable remainder bin. The widescreen picture, like a very pleasantly surprising number of these Mill Creek cheapies, has been cleaned up and remastered pretty nicely, and while the 2.0 stereo sound is a bit muffled in spots (especially, and annoyingly, during the opening theme song), by and large it gets the job done. While none of the films in the set are really any great shakes, even for what they are, at an average price online of about eight bucks it’s not the most complete waste of your money you could imagine. — which I guess is damning the whole set with some pretty faint praise,  but when it comes to receiving any praise at all, I think Mark Pirro and Deathrow Gameshow will take what they can get.