Sunday, October 30, 2016

Short Film: Bring Me the Head of Charlie Brown (USA, 1986)



"Happiness is a warm uzi."
Charlie Brown

OK, yet another student short film from Cal Arts as our Film of the Month. (The other is April 2015's Happiest Monster [2006]; unlike what some online sites report, Bambi Vs Godzilla [1969], our short film for September 2009, is a student film from Art Center, not Cal Arts.)
The maker of Bring Me the Head of Charlie Brown, Jim Reardon, has since gone on to a successful career that includes a long stint (1997-2005) at The Simpsons and the credits "screenplay" for Wall-E (2008 / trailer), and "story" for both Wreck-It Ralph (2012 / trailer) and Zootopia (2016 / trailer). Like many of the short films we present, possible copyright issues pretty much ensure you'll never see this one on television — and also probably explains the miserable quality of the online version.

"The creator of this picture wishes to state that he does not in any way wish to tarnish or demean the beloved characters of Charles M. 'Dutch' Schultz's comic strip, Peanuts. No malice or damage to their goodwill was intended. So please don't sue me, because it will drag through the courts for years, and I haven't got a lawyer — and besides, you've already got half the money in the world, and I haven't got any. OK?"
Jim Reardon

Bring Me the Head of Charlie Brown:

Bring Me the Head of Charlie Brown is 100% less a short film than it is a faux trailer, but who wants to be that pedantic? "Sponsored by Madison Farms, makers of Ding Dongs, Twinkies, Pooftas and Wussycakes," the short advertises an upcoming Charlie Brown TV special in which the Great Pumpkin puts a bounty on Charlie Brown's head and the rest of the Peanuts Gang try to collect it. At first the wimpy loser that he always is, Charlie Brown finally "unleashes the beast within" and not only goes postal, but discovers he has testicles and gets the girl.
Supposedly, Jim Reardon's original inspiration for the film came from a National Lampoon parody of TV Guide, which listed the show Bring Me the Head of Charlie Brown; we were unable to confirm or dis-confirm this factoid. The title, in any event, is an obvious reference to Sam Peckinpah's Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia (1974 / trailer), while Lucy shooting Charlie Brown in the back refs Peckinpah's Wild Bunch (1969 / trailer). There are also obvious nods to Taxi Driver (1976 / trailer) and Arnie and a variety of pop culture references of the time (1986) that probably no longer make any sense to many people today.
Oddly and famously enough, Reardon got sloppy with his credits and incorrectly credits the closing song, the 50's classic Charlie Brown (written by Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller), to the Platters instead of the Coasters* (who were, by the way, the first group inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, in 1987).

The Coasters sing
Charlie Brown 
on Dick Clark's
Saturday Night Beech-Nut Show (07 March 1959):

* "Leon Hughes is the only surviving member of the original Coasters. Some of the former members suffered tragic ends. The saxophonist King Curtis (the "fifth Coaster") was stabbed to death by two junkies outside his apartment building in 1971. Cornelius Gunter was shot to death while sitting in a Las Vegas parking garage in 1990. Nate Wilson, a member of one of Gunter's offshoot Coasters groups, was shot and his body dismembered in 1980. Former manager Patrick Cavanaugh was convicted of the murder, which took place after Wilson threatened to notify authorities of Cavanaugh's intent to buy furniture with stolen checks. Cavanaugh was convicted of the murder and given the death sentence in 1984, but his sentence was commuted to life in prison. He died at 60 in 2006, in Ely State Prison, in Nevada." (Wikipedia status: Nov 2016)

Monday, October 24, 2016

R.I.P.: Herschell Gordon Lewis – Godfather of Gore, Part II: 1961-63



"He seen somethin' different. And he done it."

15 June 1929 — 26 September 2016

A seminal force in the world of trash filmmaking, he is considered the inventor of the modern gore film. (In theory, a position he holds with David F. Friedman, but when the partnership ended Friedman's true interest proved to be sexploitation.) To use Lewis's own, favorite and famous words: "I've often compared Blood Feast (1963) to a Walt Whitman poem; it's no good, but it was the first of its kind." And a truly fun gore film, too — which makes it "good" in our view.
Unlike Blood Feast and his "better movies", many of the projects Lewis worked on are unbearable cinematic experiences; but more than enough of the others are sublime, otherworldly, like the best of Ed Wood, Juan Piquer Simón, or John Waters (the last, however, being a filmmaker of actual talent). Were it not for innovators like Lewis, A Wasted Life probably wouldn't be.
One of the truly great has left the building. A career review will follow — but first, a few films that may or may not have something to do with the Godfather of Gore.


Go here for Part I: 1953-60


The Adventures of Lucky Pierre
(1961, dir. "Lewis H. Gordon")
 

"Filmed in Cutie Color and Skinamascope."

Trailer:
According to Talking the Talkies with Peter Waters, "After hitting it off with Friedman [while making The Prime Time (1960 [see Part 1]), Lewis decided to self-distribute their films and tap into the burgeoning market known as 'nudie-cuties'. These were films that [...] essentially feature naked beautiful women doing mundane activities (they were basically sex films with sex-less situations). Lewis and Friedman, on a two-man crew (Lewis as director/cameraman [plus scriptwriter], Friedman as producer/soundman), pooled together $8,000 and made The Adventures of Lucky Pierre (1961), a thinly plotted film about a voyeur who watches women undress (the entire script was written in only six hours). Once the film was released and turned a profit for the producers, the two went on to crank out more and more 'nudie-cutie' films 'like so much hamburger' (HGL)."
Wikipedia makes the claim "The Adventures of Lucky Pierre is [...] the first of its kind to be filmed in color, the film starred comedian Billy Falbo. It was unique for its time and genre, adding successful comedy to the nudity and sensationalist material." They totally fail to remember Russ Meyer's classic color nudie-cutie, The Immoral Mr. Teas (1959), which The Adventures of Lucky Pierre emulates in a cookie-cutter fashion. That is the film which truly was "the first of its kind to be filmed in color", if not ever. It should be noted, Russ Meyer also had a far better eye for the attractive woman and great figure ... but then, Lewis (unlike here at A Wasted Life) was known not to be a fan of the buxom form.
The Immoral Mr. Teas (1959),
Full Film:
Over at All Movie, Robert Firsching cites the inspiration of the inspiration in his synopsis of The Adventures of Lucky Pierre: "When Russ Meyer ushered in the age of the nudie-cuties with The Immoral Mr. Teas, he chose to employ a parody of Jacques Tati's popular 'Mr. Hulot' comedies [E.g.: Les Vacances de Monsieur Hulot (1953 / scene) or Mon Oncle (1959 / trailer)]. Not to let a good idea pass him by, exploitation master Herschell Gordon Lewis copied that formula here with an hour of comic blackouts featuring Billy Falbo as 'Lucky Pierre', whose wordless misadventures always seem to involve nude ladies. Segments include 'Pardon My Pigment', 'The Plumber's Friend', 'For the Birds', 'The Photographer's Apprentice', and 'Drive-In Me Crazy'. On the whole, the film has extremely annoying music and photography which is often unflattering despite the vivid Mary Poppins-type colors. It's innocuous fun, though, and at least manages to be occasionally amusing, unlike most of the tedious nudie-cuties of the time."
Cinepassion points out: "Whether or not doused with copious blood, human flesh in Lewis's ingeniously debased comedies remains a tool for audience frustration."
Lucky Piere himself was played by Billy Falbo (1923 — 3 Nov 1999). According to imbd, Falbo was a "comedian at Las Vegas hotels such as Caesars Palace, the Flamingo, Dunes, Desert Inn and MGM Grand, who often opened for Frank Sinatra and other stars. He was a regular performer at the original Chicago Playboy Club and in later years he entertained on many Caribbean cruises."
Of the bared bodies, Gale Hale went on to play a part in David F. Friedman production The Notorious Daughter of Fanny Hill (1966 / trailer), while burlesque entertainer Toni Carroll (above and below) seems to have ended her non-existent film career with this movie.
Toni Carroll sings
 Be My Little Bumble Bee:


Living Venus
(1961, dir. Herschell Gordon Lewis)
Written by Herschell Gordon Lewis, James McGinn, Seymour Zolotareff (a known pseudonym of David F. Friedman), and William Kerwin; produced by H.G. Lewis, David F. Friedman, and Preston Collins. Famous for being the feature film debut of Harvey Korman, who worked previously with Lewis (and William Kerwin) in the 1959 industrial film Carving Magic (see Part I).
At Something Weird, Lisa Petrucci writes: "Herschell Gordon Lewis's second film and the first he directed, Living Venus is loosely based on the life of Hugh Hefner but so fictionalized as to avoid any possible legal repercussions. [...] Well-made, compelling, and featuring some fleeting nudity, Living Venus is often overlooked in favor of Lewis's more extreme titles, which is a shame since it's surprisingly good."
Fitting for a film based on the life of Hugh Hefner, there's a Playmate in the cast: Linné Ahlstrand (1 July 1936 — 18 Jan 1967), Playboy Playmate of the Month for July 1958, plays "Diane". Ahlstrand previously had a small part as "Natalie, the bar-girl" in Monte Hellman's legendary debut film, Beast from Haunted Cave (1959). Her centerfold was photographed by Frank Bez.
Trailer to
Beast from Haunted Cave:

Pulp Informer has the plot: "Jack (William Kerwin) works for a conservative magazine called NEWLYWED. He gets into trouble with the boss. Jack then proceeds to tell his former boss that he will create his own publication and outsell NEWLYWED. Jack convinces a tall and shapely waitress named Peggy (Danica D'Hondt), to work for him and appear in his new magazine. Soon after, he obtains the phone number of a struggling photographer named Ken (Harvey Korman). Jack and Ken become partners. Their new men's magazine is called PAGAN, and their featured model is Peggy. She ends up becoming the star of their new periodical. PAGAN is a huge success, and Jack's ego grows just as big. He becomes an even bigger asshole than he already was. A love triangle forms between Jack, Peggy, and Ken. Will they all live happily ever after?... What do you think?....."
Search My Trash, like Ms. Petrucci at Something Weird, doesn't find the movie all that bad: "Of course, the main selling point of this film at the time of its release was its occasional topless nudity (still something of a sensation in the early 1960's), carried by a plot that promised insights into the sleaze biz — and yes, the film delivered, and the girls were rather cute, too. But it's actually a pretty decent low budget melodrama as well. Sure, the plot is pretty clichéd, but the whole thing is pretty well-paced, the actors are uniformly up to the job — with William Kerwin giving what might be the best performance of his lifetime — and the whole thing doesn't take itself too seriously. This all doesn't make Living Venus a masterpiece of any sort, not even one of director Herschell Gordon Lewis's best films, but a very decent effort when nudies were usually made with half a braincell for some quick return at the box office (not that these are necessarily unfunny to watch of course) ..."
The "Living Venus" herself, Danica D'Hondt (above) as "Peggy", had a less than spectacular film career in Hollywood, the highpoints being a small part in A House Is Not a Home (1964 / full movie — where she's credited above Raquel Welch and Edy Williams) and the time capsule Unkissed Bride (1966). Miss Canada of 1959, perhaps the biggest career mistake D'Hondt made was turning down the role of "Ginger" in Gilligan's Island (1964-67). Her daughter Ameríca Athene Olivo has followed her mother's footsteps as a B actress, and has had meaty roles in fun films like The Thirst: Blood War (2008 / trailer), the failure that is the 2009 reboot of Friday the 13th (trailer), Neighbor (2009 / trailer), Bitch Slap (2009 / trailer), Circle (2010 / trailer), and the Maniac remake (2012 / trailer).
Danica D'Hondt in
Unkissed Bride (1966):


Nature's Playmates
(1962, dir. "Lewis H. Gordon")
"Nude twisting! Nude trampolining! Nude beatniks! These are among the many highlights of Nature's Playmates. [Internet Archives]" Written by David F. Friedman (as Seymour Zeletarell) and Bently Williams (as Ben T. Williams).
TCM has the plot: "Chicago private detective Russell Harper (Scott Osborne) and his assistant, Diana (Vickie Miles), are hired by Mrs. Sandra Elliott (Teri Stevens) to find her husband who has disappeared. Mrs. Elliott tells the detective team that her husband, formerly a nudist, may be found in a Florida nudist camp. Mrs. Elliott explains that the sole identifying mark on her husband is a tattoo on his arm. The detective team leaves for Miami, and after some reluctance on the part of Diana to remove her clothing, they begin to search the nudist camps in the Miami area. Diana soon begins to enjoy nudism; at one of the camps she enters a Twist contest with one of the nudists. They win the contest, and she introduces the man to Russell. Russell notices a mark on the man's arm that he suspects is covering a tattoo. When confronted, the man admits he is the missing Mr. Elliott (Peter Lathrop). A confirmed nudist, Elliott states that he will not live with his wife who continually harangues him on the subject. Russell and Diana call Mrs. Elliott and ask her to come to the camp to persuade her husband to leave. Mrs. Elliott arrives the next day, and the two detectives persuade her to remove her clothing and enter the camp. She does so, and the Elliotts are happily reunited. The two detectives, who have fallen in love in the course of the case, leave the camp with the intention of marrying."
Lead actress "Vicki Miles" is no less than Allison "Bunny" Louise Downe, or Mrs. Herschell Gordon Lewis (from 1962 — 1971). Aside from a variety of other Lewis movies, Bunny can be seen in Barry Mahon's Pagan Island (1961 / trailer) and The Beast that Killed Women (1965 / scene); Doris Wishman's Diary of a Nudist (1961 / full movie) and Blaze Starr Goes Nudist (1962 / trailer), and more.
Speaking of Doris Wishman, in his book Down and Dirty: Hollywood's Exploitation Filmmakers and Their Movies, Mike Quarles points out, "She actually appeared in an H.G. Lewis-Dave Friedman nudist camp picture (with her clothes on) as Doris Wisher." There is a "Doris Wisher" on the cast list of Nature's Playmates.


Daughter of the Sun
(1962, dir. "Lewis H. Gordon")
Written by Lewis & Friedman — not that there is really all that much of a story. It is included in Rolf Giesen and Ronald M. Hahn German-language book Die schlechtesten Filme aller Zeiten ["The Worst Films of All Times]. It was produced by "Lucky Pierre Enterprises". (Hah Hah Hah!)
Mubi keeps it short when explaining the plot: "When she is discovered to be a nudist, a school teacher (Rusty Allen) is called before the board of education to defend herself. A young male teacher (Keith Lawrence) decides to accompany her to her nudist camp to find out for himself exactly what goes on there."
Rusty Allen (10 March 1944 — 1 Nov 2004), above and below, born "Terry Kay Dennis" went on to not have much of a film career, her last film project being Jerald Intrator's less than spectacular The Sexperts: Touched by Temptation (1965).
At good ol' Something Weird, Nancy Nudenik says: "Never in my life have I felt so clean, so natural, so alive! And you will too after watching Daughter of the Sun, [...] shot at the Spartan Tropical Gardens in Miami, Florida. [...] Surprisingly, most of the members are actually somewhat attractive. Unclothed activities abound: naked weightlifting, naked swimming, naked volleyball, and of course, naked lounging around soaking up the rays. [...] In a wonderful exploitation gimmick, Daughter of the Sun's nudist-camp scenes were shot in Eastman color, while the non-naked scenes were filmed in good ol' black & white."


Boin-n-g
(1963, dir. "Lewis H. Gordon")
Filmed in beautiful Barrington, Illinois; written by Lewis & Friedman, produced by Friedman and Stanford S. Kohlberg, the latter of whom once owned a chain of 50 drive-in theaters and supposedly came up with the idea of putting movie theatres in shopping malls. Basically: Lewis & Friedman go meta.
Trailer to
Boin-n-g:
John Harrison of Reel Wild Cinema writes the following at Something Weird: "[...] Herschell Gordon Lewis bode(s) farewell to the nudie-cuties via this semi-autobiographical comedy filled with sly comments on the sexploitation industry and those who populate it. Suffering through a double-bill of The Adventures of Lucky Pierre and Nature's Playmates at the Studio Theatre [...], best buddies Al Harding (William Kerwin / "Thomas Sweetwood") and Bob Stevens (Bill Johnson) decide they could do better and, just like that, enter the nudie film business. [...] The blissfully inexperienced duo are joined by gauche cameraman Schmurtz (Robbie Bee), and quickly discover that anything that can go wrong, does [...]. [...] Al and Bob don't get time to look at it before screening the film for skinflick distributor Sonny Halitosis (comedian Lawrence J. Aberwood, acting as 'Lawrence Wood'), who exclaims, 'I'll take it! It was the worst picture I ever saw! It'll be a smash at the box office!' [...] And, as always, the original organ score by Lewis is an absolute pearler."
H.G. Lewis seems to have viewed this as his best nudie cutie. In John McCarty's The Sleaze Merchants, he says "We [Lewis & Friedman] were quite successful, but after a time I became increasingly disenchanted with them [nudie-cuties]. After all, there are only so many ways to show girls in a nature camp playing volleyball. I told Dave I didn't want to make any more nudies. I felt out picture BOIN-N-G! was the best one yet made and that we weren't going to beat it. I told him I could see the grosses dropping. We sat down to figure out what else might suit us, and we put down, tentatively, the stark single word GORE."
But they made at least one more nudie-cutie...
Has Nothing to Do with the Movie, 
but Here's Jane Russell Singing
Boin-n-n-g:

 

Goldilocks and the Three Bares
(1963, dir. "Lewis H. Gordon ")
Once considered a lost film, but someone at Something Weird checked their attic. Supposedly aka somewhere as Goldilocks' Three Chicks. The movie's title is slipped into the dialogue at 1:05:30. Filmed in "Buffocolor" and "Seemorescope", according to Nationmaster.com, this flick is the "second to last nudie-cutie from the legendary exploitation team of Herschell Gordon Lewis and David Friedman." Billed as the "first nudist musical" — a soubrette perhaps better held by another movie released that year, Loel Minardi's Sinderella and the Golden Bra (trailer) — it did, in any event, long precede the self-congratulatory titled The First Nudie Musical (1976) by 13 years. (That said, unlike either Sinderella or Goldilocks, First Nudie is a really entertaining film from start to the end.)
Fan-made Trailer to
The First Nudie Musical:

The least verbose synopsis we could find was the one at both TCM and imdb: "Lounge singer Eddie Livingston (Rex Marlow) and comedian Tommy Sweetwood (William Kerwin) work at Joey Maxim's Roaring Twenties nightclub in downtown Miami. One day, Tommy is thumbing through a nudist magazine in a local drugstore and making wisecracks to Eddie. Tommy tries to pick up an attractive blonde woman (Allison Louise Downe aka Vickie Miles) who responds with walking out of the store with disgust, followed by the apologetic Eddie. Later that evening, while Tommy is on stage repeating a routine he worked up about the nudist magazine, Joey Maxim brings the offended blonde to a table. Eddie learns that the woman is Alison Edwards, the club's new publicist. Eddie tries to elect the reason for Alison's indignation, but Myrna (Netta Mallina), Eddie's girlfriend and agent, jealously intervenes. Eddie begins to date Alison, and Tommy begins to date Cynthia Martin (Judy Parsons), a photographer friend of Alison's. Both men become curious as to why their new girlfriends refuse to see them on the weekends. Tommy follows both women one day and discovers that they spend their Saturdays and Sundays at a nearby nudist camp. Eddie becomes very uncomfortable and jealous when he learns that he is dating a nudist and he openly resents Alison's subterfuge. As a result, Eddie publicly embarrasses her during a live radio program. Cynthia and Alison get together and invite the boys to give nudism a chance, so Eddie and Tommy accompany the women on a fun-filled weekend at the camp. Afterwards, Eddie and Tommy realize that nudism is not so bad after all and decide to remain together with their women."
The guy staring so intently into the camera during the trailer (found further below) is former light heavyweight champion Joey Maxim nee Giuseppe Antonio Berardinelli (28 March 1922 — 2 June 2001) as the owner of his eponymous nightclub where Eddie and Tommy perform. As he says on the poster: "It's me...Joey Maxim, the former world's light heavyweight champion! I'm one of the stars! My first screen appearance." His film career went nowhere fast.
DVD Drive-In says, "The 63-minute running time of Goldilocks feels like an eternity, but to the film's credit I can't think of another nudist camp flick with horseback-riding! And of course there are the token naked pool parties, nude sunbathing, nude yachting, ad infinitum. You get naked Bill Kerwin, naked Vicki Miles, naked Rex Marlow (who?), naked Mal Arnold, naked Delores Carlos, and naked Craig Maudslay, Jr.!!! But long before the final 20 minutes (where all the nudity appears), there are long, LONG musical performances and even LONGER comedy routines by a painfully unfunny Kerwin. In the end, Friedman and Lewis' nudist camp musical isn't as entertaining as some of their other nudies, but it has its moments and they're better moments than entire films by other directors!"
Trailer to
Goldilocks and the Three Bares:
According to DVD Talk, among the film's "Notables" are: 33 breasts, giant novelty sunglasses, a gratuitous apocalyptic newspaper headline, a lengthy snail-speed car chase, and a gratuitous prize-fighter Joey Maxim (who wears his script on his sleeve).
 
What we see as notable: famously 9-fingered crooner Rex Marlow made only one other film, Deadwood '76 (1965 / trailer), with the great Arch Hall Jr (of the masterpiece The Sadist [1963]). Among the nudists: Dolores Carlos, the covergirl above (also found in Naked Complex [1963 / trailer], Herb Jeffries's Mundo depravados [1967 / scene], and Mafia Girls [1969 / trailer]), and Maria Stinger (1931—1967), below. A mild Florida celebrity at the time, in 1954 Maria was crowned Miami's Marilyn Monroe in a beauty contest sponsored by the The Miami Herald. She is said to be the first model to pose for Bunny Yeager. She killed herself with an overdose of pills.


Bell, Bare and Beautiful
(1963, dir. Lewis H. Gordon)

Lewis & Friedman's last nudie-cutie / nudist film. At The Daily Public, Lewis claims that it was while making Bell, Bare and Beautiful — a "four-day wonder" — that he and Friedman came up with the idea of doing a gore film.
The plot of the movie, as described at imdb, is hardly Shakespearean: "Rick Bradshaw (William Kerwin) is a young millionaire who consults with his therapist, Dr. Everett (Al Gordon), about a persistent dream about an unknown, beautiful woman. Dr. Everett takes Rick to an artist, who sketched a likeness of Rick's dream girl, and the picture is run in the newspapers. Within a few days, Rick is swamped with replies from dozens of women, but the genuine one comes from the agent of burlesque queen Gina Adair (Virginia Bell). Rick follows Gina and her act to Miami, searching in vain for her at her favorite nudist camp. Later, Rick approaches Gina at the theater where she works, but he is assaulted by her manager, Barney (David F. Friedman), who controls Gina because of an unpaid loan once given by her father. After doing some investigating about Gina and her true connection to Barney, Rick repays the loan when he finally finds Gina at the nudist camp. But a jealous Barney sends a thug friend after Rick to recover the loan note. But Rick beats up and detains the gangster, informs the police who arrest Barney, and goes off with Gina to discuss their marriage."
Trailer to
Bell, Bare and Beautiful:

Over at Boobpedia, it says: "Bell, Bare and Beautiful [...] is also significant as the only starring feature role of Cincinnati stripper Virginia Bell. While [...] Boin-n-g! (1963) was being shown on the distribution circuit, theater owners Eli Jackson and Leroy Griffith suggested producing a film starring Jackson's wife, the well-known exotic dancer Virginia Bell. Lewis recalled, 'I had never heard of Virginia Bell, but other people assured me she was a big star in the burlesque circuit. Eli and Leroy wanted to shoot this film in a hurry, and the reason was that Virginia Bell was pregnant.' Herschell Gordon Lewis gave the film the title Bell, Bare and Beautiful as a pun on the name of the star of the film and a take-off of the popular Jimmy Stewart film, Bell, Book and Candle (1958 / trailer). Not a fan of large busts himself, director Lewis commented, 'Virginia Bell had, as her primary asset, a 48-inch bosom. She was also three months pregnant, and I could only hope, while we were shooting the picture, that she wouldn't trip and fall on me.' In later years David Friedman always maintained that Bell had no sex appeal at all off-stage." One might argue, going by the trailer to the movie, she didn't have any on film either, were it not for her earlier loops (like below) which display an appealing playfulness.
Virginia Bell's
Ding Dongs:
Virginia "Ding Dong" Bell (14 Aug 1932 — 18, July 2010) needs no introduction to any heterosexual breast fan that has internet. A short (5 ft 2 in [1.57 m]) American pin up model and burlesque dancer, her legendary attributes (a 48-inch bust) were natural and the stuff of dreams. She made a few loops, never anything hardcore, and retired in 1970, a year after her last (short) film appearance somewhere in the Dino de Laurentiis production, Fraulein Doktor (1969 / full movie).


Blood Feast
(1963, dir. Herschell Gordon Lewis)

"I've often referred to Blood Feast as a Walt Whitman poem. It's no good, but it was the first of its type."
Herschell Gordon Lewis

Director Herschell Gordon Lewis finally puts his real name of his product! Tired of nudie cuties, he and David F. Friedman went for the gore and broke new ground to such an extent that they entered film history. In theory, Lewis's nudist wife Allison Louise Downe wrote the script from their storyline, but elsewhere in the world it is said the movie was more or less made on the go.
Trailer to
Blood Feast:

Blood Feast is proof that a total piece filmic shit, incompetent on almost every level, can truly be an influential masterpiece. Added note: it is perhaps the first movie in the US to offer a Barf Bag at screenings as a gimic.
Repulsive Cinema says it like most of us might say it: "Blood Feast was one of those legendary films I always read about when I was a kid and was dying to check out, and it will always have a special place as one of my all time favorite movies as it is everything it sets out to be and more. Blood Feast is a true exploitation classic, hilarious, gory, campy and completely brilliant. Truly a must see for anyone interested in Horror and Exploitation films."
Crimson Quill pretty much agrees, but is conflicted: "Whether it [Blood Feast] was actually any good is an entirely different matter. To this day, Lewis is often regarded as the closest thing horror has to its own Edward D. Wood Jr. and his résumé consists of numerous features which seemingly fit the 'so bad it's good' category rather snugly. [...] This is where I request reading between the lines. In no way, shape or form is Blood Feast anything other than a bad movie. However, Lewis was a rebel with a cause, that being to shun plotline in favor of offering graphic imagery to a vulnerable audience, and his subversive assault on the senses was truly ahead of the game. For its place in time and regardless of the fact that it sucked on almost every level imaginable, I cannot bite one of the hands that fed me most generously during my filmic development."
The name star of Blood Feast is former Playboy centerfold Connie Mason (born 24 August 1937), the Playmate of the Month for its June 1963 issue. Her centerfold was photographed by Pompeo Posar. Neither Lewis nor Friedman ever had anything nice to say about her acting capabilities, and indeed, in a movie full of bad performances, she almost shines by not giving a performance at all. Still, she does rate high on the Babe scale.
Over at All Movie, Robert Firsching supplies the following synopsis: "Mal Arnold plays Fuad Ramses, a mad Egyptian caterer with bushy eyebrows who is gathering body parts to use in a 'Blood Feast' to honor the ancient goddess Ishtar. He's been hired by Dorothy Freemont (Lyn Bolton), the mother of young Egyptology student Suzette (Connie Mason), to cater a special party. Luckily, Suzette happens to be dating a cop (Thomas Wood) who is also in her class and is on the case of a gruesome serial killer who removes body parts from his female victims. The cop finally solves the case and chases Ramses into the back of a garbage truck, where he is bloodily compacted."
Talking the Talkies with Peter Waters shares some highpoints and inside stories to the film: "One of the most shocking gross-out moments comes during a killing scene where Ramses cuts out a girl’s tongue (actress Astrid Olsen was cast as the girl because they needed someone with a mouth big enough to fit an entire second tongue in). Often credited as the 'beginning of the splatter film', this scene was even more nauseating off screen, as the night before there was a power outage, and the tongue (a cow tongue from a local butcher shop) had been stored in the refrigerator at the Suez Motel. Reportedly it could be smelled two blocks away. But with no time to waste, Lewis shot the scene anyway and Olsen had to act alongside a rancid cow tongue with her only compensation a paltry paycheck and being a part of horror history. [...] Lewis became notorious for his money and time-saving techniques; for instance he would almost never do a second take of a shot.* Shooting on film was costly, especially in color, and time equals money on a film set. So even if it was at the cost of continuity, any mistakes, however noticeable, were often left in the film." 
*If you get down to it, Herschell Gordon Lewis deserves the soubrette "One Shot" far more justly so than William Beaudine ever did, as Lewis usually did indeed take but one shot of a scene.
Wikipedia adds some intriguing insights, too (status: 01 Oct 2016): "It is the oldest film to have appeared on the UK video nasty list. It is also often cited erroneously as one of the first films to show people dying with their eyes open (earlier examples include D. W. Griffith's 1909 film The Country Doctor [film], the 1931 film The Public Enemy [trailer] and the 1960 film Psycho [trailer]). Fuad Ramses was described by author Christopher Wayne Curry, in his book, A Taste of Blood: The Films of Herschell Gordon Lewis, as 'the original machete-wielding madman' and the forerunner to similar characters in Friday the 13th [1980 / trailer] and Halloween [1978 / trailer]."
The sequel, Blood Feast 2: All U Can Eat, hit the screen in 2002; the 2016 re-envisioning of Blood Feast (trailer) features an appearance by H.G. Lewis.

 
Scum of the Earth!
(1963, writ. & dir. "Lewis H. Gordon")

"Depraved, Loathsome, Nameless, and Shameless."

The 1974 S.F. Brownrigg [30 Sept 1937 — 20 Sept 1996] movie of the same title, aka Poor White Trash Part II, needless to say, is not a remake. Supposedly aka The Devil's Camera, but we couldn't locate online confirmation of that — but we did find the cover to an interesting book of yestryear.
Lewis and Friedman make their first "roughie", in sunny Miami, Florida. Supposedly filmed for a whopping $11,000 — Michael Bay really could've learned something from Lewis and Friedman.
Scum of the Earth! is arguably the first roughie, as Russ Meyer's first, the almost masterpiece Lorna (1964 / opening), followed a year later, as did Joseph P. Mawra's Olga's Girls (1964 / trailer) and Michael Findlay and John Amero's Body of a Female (1964 / Rialto Report). But to bring in a name seldom raised in the argument of the first roughie: Ed Wood's typically incompetent The Sinister Urge, which shares obvious narrative aspects with this Lewis & Friedman film, was released in 1960.
Trailer to
The Sinister Urge:

Imdb says Scum of the Earth! was filmed just two weeks after Blood Feast finished filming with most of the same cast and crew, and shot in just six days. Nevertheless, at least according to TV Guide, Scum of the Earth! was released before Blood Feast. (F This Movie, on the other hand, claims "Scum of the Earth was released only three months after Blood Feast was unleashed on the unsuspecting public.")
Mondo Digital writes, "[Scum of the Earth!] reveals what cheesecake photographers really do to snag pretty girls in front of their cameras. The latest victim is the impossibly naive Kim ([...] Vickie Miles, a.k.a. Allison Louise Downe), who's trying to save up for college and agrees to earn a few extra bucks with the help of kindly photographer Harmon ([...] Thomas Wood, a.k.a. Bill Kerwin, billed here as "Thomas Sweetwood" and sporting a bizarre skunk hairdo). Along with scuzzball Larry ([...] Mal Arnold [of Vampire Cop (1990 / trailer)]), Harmon talks his girls into compromising positions where they remove their tops and perform acts best left implied, some involving hairy and horny strongarm Ajax (nudist-camp vet Craig Maudslay, Jr.). Larry scoffs at the constant threats to go to the police: 'You got nothin' on me, daddy-o; I'm a minor!' (never mind that he looks way past thirty). However, Kim proves to be more trouble than she's worth, particularly when the porn peddlers force her to do a 'nature study' with equally tortured modeling veteran Sandy (Sandra Sinclair) and another girl, in which they're coerced into — horror of horrors — posing in their bathing suits while waving party hats and baseball bats. Murder and mayhem ensue, with a frantic oceanside finale containing a most unexpected color homage to Alfred Hitchcock's Spellbound (1945 / trailer)."
The Video Vacuum is of the opinion that "Even though Lewis skimps on the skin and shows off none of the trademark gore he's known for, Scum of the Earth! remains compelling thanks to a handful of memorable performances and the sordid atmosphere. While no one in the cast pops their tops or gets their tongues ripped out, Lewis still peppers the movie with some truly wonderful dialogue like 'I'll keep my shirt on as long as you take yours off!' and 'Our business is pleasure! Let's do it in front of the camera' to keep you entertained."
In regard to the acting, 10 K Bullets is of the opinion that "Allison Louise Downe's performance as the central character is rather stilted and amateurish, but [...] she somehow does manage to project the naivety and innocence of her character. [...] Both William Kerwin and Sandra Sinclair turn in excellent performances as the photographer and the ex-model turned recruiter and they help to carry the entire film. Most of the other characters are cartoonish caricatures as scripted and realized on the screen. Cartoonish in the sense of Charles Addams or Gahan Wilson with a dash of Bill Ward, of course."
Lawrence J. Aberwood, as Lang, steals the film (but lacks the Donald Trump wig) in one scene in which he spits his famous harangue against "used goods": "All you kids make me sick! You act like little Miss Muffet, but down inside you're dirty; do you hear me? Dirty! You're greedy and self-centered and think you can get away with anything. You're no better than the girl who sells herself… to a man. You're worse because you're a hypocrite. And now little Miss Muffet is in trouble, and she's all outraged virtue. Well, you listen and you listen well; you're damaged merchandise and this is a fire sale. You walk out of here, and your reputation won't be worth fifteen cents. You'll do as I tell you! Do you hear me? You'll do as I tell you!"
Trailer to
Scum of the Earth!:


 

Go here for Part III: 1964-66
 
Thank you Scene of the Screen for most if not all newspaper advertisements used in the above.
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...