Another of my EInsiders "Video Risk" Columns from 2001
It's summertime again. It's time again for this old fart to reminisce about the great days of the mid 70s when one learned more about Biology 101 at the drive-in than in Mr. Stokes class at Central High. After a typical 45 seconds of passion one was stuck watching the movie. The following is a group of B-Movies which made for many a memorable Saturday night.
DIRTY MARY CRAZY LARRY (1974)
I don't know what more you can ask from a B-Movie. "Dirty Mary, Crazy Larry" has car chases, armed robbery, car chases, a hot blonde, car chases, a persistent redneck sheriff, a tough, witty anti-hero, car chases and a shocker of an ending. Starring Peter Fonda, Susan George, Vic Morrow, Adam Rourke and Roddy McDowell, "Dirty Mary, Crazy Larry" shows what happens when a trio of crooks cross the wrong small town sheriff.
Larry (Peter Fonda), Mary (Susan George at her B-Movie best!) and Deke (Adam Rourke) pull off a complex super market robbery. The film opens with a fairly detail sequence in which the intelligent and super cool Larry and his friends pull off the robbery. The silent Deke holds store manager George Stanton's (Roddy McDowell) family hostage while Larry escorts George to the store. The perfect robbery soon goes bad as Sheriff Everett Franklin (Vic Morrow) picks up the thieves' trail.
While there are some exciting car chases, it is the wit of Leigh Chapman, Antonio Santean and Richard Unekis's intelligent script which sets this movie apart from a multitude of imitators. Rather than an endless chase, "Dirty Mary, Crazy Larry" becomes a game of cat and mouse as the two crafty foes use brainpower along with horsepower to outwit each other.
Don't let the highbrow "intelligent script" endorsement stop you from seeing this movie. There is action galore from the robbery straight through to the bang up ending. Larry and Deke pull the robbery to finance their stock car racing career. Larry is the best driver there has ever been. He is teamed up with Deke, mechanic par excellence. Mary is just a fun loving hottie who lives for thrills. At one point the trio is almost boxed in by several police cruisers. As the cop car bangs into the side of their car, Mary laughs and cracks wise. Susan George has never been sexier.
Detective Shepard (David Carradine) and Sergeant Powell (Richard Roundtree) have been investigation two series of grizzly deaths in New York City. It seems an Inca blood cult is skinning volunteers in ritualistic ceremonies around town to call forth the ancient God Quetzlcoatl, the Q of the title. The ancient winged serpent is committing the other murders. Shepard and Powell can't figure out why they are unable to find a giant dragon in the middle of New York. Where does a 10 ton monster hide? A police captain suggests to Shepard and Powell that maybe the monster commutes from New Jersey. "My God, with a wingspan like you're talking about here that thing could fly miles into New York City every day. And it would do that of course, you know, because New York is famous for good eating." "Q" was written and directed by Larry Cohen, director of the "It's Alive" series. This schlock masterpiece has several reasons to recommend it. While the stop motion animation is not on par with Ray Harryhausen, it is passable.
Like all good B-Movies you have bigger than life heroes, a little flesh, a lot of blood, a menacing monster and best of all, a gonzo performance by a quirky Michael Moriarty as Jimmy, a junkie jazz musician. Jimmy stumbles upon Q's nest. He negotiates with the city for a big payoff in exchange for the monster's location. Jimmy is a manic, speed freak who finally gets a taste of power. He begins to push his long suffering girlfriend around. Joan (Candy Clark) loves Jimmy and tries to restrain his greed. The long time loser doesn't realize that he is out of his league with the two detectives. Jimmy is in over his head and will be lucky to keep it.
The beast is impressive considering the low budget. "Q" has a sleek design. I wished that there had been more footage of the beast, but was satisfied by the final showdown between the cops and the monster. If you like dinosaurs, get "Q." If you want to see a truly crazed performance by Mr. Moriarty get "Q." If you like well done trash, get "Q."
THE CHEERLEADERS (1972)
One of the all time greatest soft core exploitation films, "The Cheerleaders" tells the tawdry story of a group of California high school cheerleaders who give their all for the team. Jeanie (Stephanie Fondue, what a name!) is the new member of the squad. She is ashamed because unlike everyone else in California she is still a virgin. This promiscuous pep squad insures victory for their team by visiting the opposing team the night before each game. After their off field shenanigans the opposing team is to pooped to win. The night before the Championship game, the squad overlooked on player. Norm (Jonathan Jacobs) is so bad that he sells hot-dogs in the stands while in uniform. This 3rd string nerd is put into the game and begins to score. Will someone get to this third string dweeb before the final quarter? Will Jeanie ever lose her virginity? I won't spoil the mystery for you.
"The Cheerleaders" is fun, sexy trash. Perennial B-Movie goddess Rainbeaux Smith appears as on of the squad. There are unforgettable lines such as the statement made by one cheerleaders before she mounts the school bus driver while he's driving: "I'm wise to that rise in your Levi's." If you are in to toe sucking don't miss this one! I know, "Einsiders" is not a porn site, and this is not a porn movie. It is an R rated trash-fest.
HIGH RISK (1981)
Are you caught in dead end job? Is 40 closing in on you and you realize that you will never achieve the American dream? Then you may want to consider the option taken by a trio of friends from Los Angeles. Stone (James Brolin), Rockney (Clevon Little) and Dan (Bruce Davison) decide that the only way they are ever going to be able to retire in style is to buy a whole bunch a guns, charter an airplane and fly to Bolivia for the weekend. What's in Bolivia you ask? Somehow Stone has obtained the layout to the home of Serrano (James Coburn), a drug lord with tons of cash on hand. The three rip off the drug lord and head for their rendezvous with the airplane. One problem, no plane. The rest of the film has the trio running from Coburn's henchmen on one side and a group of bandits led by Mariano (Anthony Quinn) on the other. Will they escape?
This totally preposterous story is so much fun that you won't care about the gapping plot holes. There is action, humor, and a fun performance by the late Anthony Quinn as the hen-pecked leader of some rag-tag jungle thieves. The film also stars Lindsay Wagner (the Bionic Woman) and has a cameo appearance by Ernest Borgnine. Pop the top on a six-pack of Old Milwaukee and enjoy. Keep your ears peeled toward the end for an audio twist ending!
ENDANGERED SPECIES (1982)
Way back when, cattle mutilations were the subject of heated debate among those in the redneck community. Just what kind of goll darn alien rustlers was after the herd? Alan Rudolph decided to cash in on this particular mystery (it had to be more exciting than getting to the bottom of crop circles!). "Endangered Species" has New York detective Ruben Castle (Robert Urich) retiring to Montana after the rigors of his job and raising a rebellious teenaged daughter take their toll on him. He moves smack dab into the middle of a whole mess of bovine disembowelments Ruben can't keep his investigative juices under control as he determines to get to the bottom of the mystery. The town has a sheriff, Harriet Purdue (JoBeth Williams). Harriet is a tough sexy broad who isn't afraid to wade deep into a Saturday night, redneck ruckus at the local tavern. There is a funny exchange as the two law officers size each other up. Harriet asks Ruben if he's ever been shot, to which he replies "Lady, I've been shot more times than you've been laid." He hesitates and adds "probably."
Will Ruben and Harriet overcome their professional jealousy in time to join forces to save the little calves? Will they get naked together in the shower? (Would I have put that line in the review if they didn't?) Again, one must put their brain on hold to enjoy this B-Movie trash. There are some cool special effects. The silent helicopter is truly eerie. There are a couple of cheesy performances by Hoyt Axton and Peter Coyote. This film sends the reassuring message that there is no force that can stand up to a whole heap of rednecks armed with shotguns packed tight into their Chevy trucks.
THE GROOVE TUBE (1974)
Ken Shapiro's "The Groove Tube" is an irreverent, outrageous sendup of television. Shapiro wrote directed and acted in this hit or miss batch of comic sketches which send up everything from PBS, public service announcements, children's television, commercials...you name it he skewers it. There is an ensemble cast which also includes Chevy Chase, Richard Belzer and porn star Jennifer Wells.
"The Groove Tube" was released toward the end of the drug crazed hippie era. It includes an episode of "The Dealers" which still produces its share of laughs as the heroes (Shapiro and Belzer) try to smuggle and sell several pounds of pot into NYC.
"The Koko the Clown Show" is a twisted and perverse take on children's shows. It also presents some serious questions about who we let baby-sit our kids via the tube.
There are several funny sendups of commercials. Chevy Chase and adult film star Jennifer Wells (pictured at right in a publicity still) show just what can happen when one's wife takes "Geritan" as a vitamin supplement. Ms. Wells has 69 times more energy than before she started taking "Geritan." Want to laugh till your sides hurt? Then rent this movie.
COUNT YORGA VAMPIRE (1970)
"Count Yorga, Vampire" will always hold a special place in my twisted heart. Sitting on the front row of the Guild theater in Memphis nearly 30 years ago, I ended up nearly jumping into the next row during one of the film's shocking quick cut vampire attacks. That was then, this is now. I still think "Yorga" is one of the better vampire movies produced during the early 70s.
Yorga (Robert Quarry) is a hip, sophisticated vampire. He sets up shop in 1970 Los Angeles, where he attracts his victims by pretending to be a psychic guru. The supporting cast includes Michael Murphy, Michael MacCready and Roger Perry. There is bloodletting, sex and a kitten which meets a particularly fate.
The best thing about the movie is Quarry's cool persona as the monster. He is very convincing as the mysterious swami. The film was a huge success for it's producers and a sequel "The Return of Count Yorga" followed. I like the sequel, but not as much as the original.
The sequel has the Count returning. This time he has a large army of female vampires. The film opens with the slaughter of a family which is similar to the Manson murders. Again, the cast has many familiar faces. Roger Perry returns. Also on hand are Craig T. Nelson as a dumb cop, and Mariette Hartley as the object of Yorga's bloodlust.
MASSACRE AT CENTRAL HIGH (1976)
Despite the exploitive title and promotion campaign Rene Daalder's "Massacre at Central High" is really a political essay. Daalder examines fascism and tyranny among a group of spoiled brutal high school students. This movie is difficult to find today. If you run across a copy of it buy it. If you don't like it contact me because I've been looking for it for years. This review is based on my memory of 20 prior viewing back in the 70s.
David (Derell Maury) moves to a new town and enters Central High school. An old friend of his, Mark (Andrew Stevens) is among the most popular kids in school. Mark's clique is made up of jocks who push around the freaks and geeks. David is happy at first to be apart of Mark's group. However he realizes to soon that these guys are brutal rapists with no concern for anything by their own pleasure. David also befriends some of the school's misfits including Robert Carradine and Rainbeaux Smith. When the jocks get to far out of hand, David decides that it is time to take things into his own hand. The jocks start dying right and left. Soon the freaks and geeks rule the school. Will peace and love reign or will another regime fall under the seductive smell of unbridled power? Will David become savior or despot?
This is a really cool movie. There is excellent acting, camera work. Cool twisted killings and sex. All of this is eye candy to get across Daalder's subversive message. More satire than horror film, don't miss this one.
Well, faithful friends, I got that out of my system. If you find yourself in the mood for something less austere than "The English Patient" feel free to check out any of the above trash classics. If you have a favorite B-Movie that you'd like to share with us, don't forget our interactive message boards. Always glad to here from folks, good or bad.