Angels’ Wild Women (1972)

Angels' Wild Women Poster

One Sheet Poster

By 1972, it seemed that biker flick mania had pretty much run its course.  After six years of outlaw motorcycle gangs tearing across drive-in screens from coast to coast, the market dried up practically overnight.  Biker films had finally run out of gas.  Unfortunately for Sam Sherman, head of Independent International Pictures (purveyors of quintessential drive-in fare such as Satan’s Sadists, Blood of Ghastly Horror, and the immortal Dracula vs. Frankenstein), he and director Al Adamson had shot a biker film called Screaming Angels that they were hoping to release, but with the biker craze over, the films’ prospects for making any money looked dim.  And then Sam saw The Big Doll House, one of Roger Corman’s first Filipino “women in prison” films, and realized that, with some reshoots, he and Al could change the focus of the film from the scuzzy male bikers to their more attractive cycle mamas…and thus Angels’ Wild Women was born.

The plot, as much as it has one, has to do with all of the male bikers in a motorcycle club going on a run and leaving the women behind.  So the women get on their bikes and go to visit a friend at a commune (and, yes, just like in Angel Unchained, the characters all pronounce the word “commune” as if it were a verb), where they get into trouble and are held captive.  Along the way they beat up some guys and seduce a farmer.  In the end, one of the women finds the guy members of the club and gets them to go back to the commune and fight the women’s captors, two of whom end up dying in a fiery car crash.

Even though the film is just barely a biker flick, as the motorcycles are secondary to beer drinking and fighting, it still has enough exploitable elements to have kept it unspooling at drive-ins for years as support for newer pictures.  There’s some mild violence, a suggested rape, one early, surprising instance of one of the more colorful swear words, several bare breasts, and one human sacrifice by the members of the commune.  The film was partially shot at the Spahn Ranch, where Charles Manson and his “family” lived when they committed the Tate / LaBianca murders in 1969, and Al Adamson made sure that he showed the “Spahn Movie Ranch” sign at every opportunity.  The director’s wife, Regina Carrol, wears a pair of the tiniest boy shorts that I’ve ever seen and some badly-applied white lipstick.  She also uses a whip in one scene, although it’s never seen again.  Not that it matters, but by my count, six of the film’s stars had appeared in Al Adamson’s previous film, Brain of Blood.  Al seemed to like having a repertory company of actors that he could use, picture after picture.   Unfortunately, neither Regina nor Al is still with us; Regina died of cancer in 1992, and Al met his untimely demise three years later.

The film’s soundtrack is a huge disappointment, as most of the music seems to be made up of library tracks.  As far as I can ascertain, there was no soundtrack album released…which is just as well, considering how generic the film’s music is.  However, I found a radio spot for the movie on YouTube.  Check this out:

And here’s the theatrical trailer, again courtesy of YouTube:

If the trailer intrigues you, you should make an effort to track down the film.  It’s a bit tougher to find these days than it used to be, but you can still pick up a DVD of it for a good price, and at the time that I’m writing this, it’s available on PopcornFlix for free.  It’s not going to change your life in any appreciable way, but, try as I might, I find it hard to completely dislike any Al Adamson flick, and you might feel that way, too.

Up next: Doomsville!

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Angels from Hell (1968)

Angels from Hell One Sheet

One Sheet Poster

Mike Connery is back in town after two stints in Vietnam.  He runs into a member of his old motorcycle club, the Bakersville Madcaps, who suggests that he come hang out with the guys.  He does, but he ends up picking a fight with the new leader of the club and taking the Madcaps back over.  The now-deposed leader tells him that they’ve had a deal going with the local cops that’s kept them off the club’s backs, but Mike’s not into making deals with the police.  And thus begins his downfall.  For most of the film, the bikers hang out at a woman named Ginger’s house just outside of town, drinking and smoking pot.  For kicks, they make a run to visit a former member of the club who’s now a movie star, chase a lone biker because he’s there, and harass a rookie cop.  This last incident provokes a beating of one of the members by the cops, and Mike gets steamed.  In retaliation, the Madcaps play a prank on the rookie, which causes him to get injured pretty badly, and the next time one of the bikers is in town, the police end up planting drugs on him and killing him.  The club goes on a run that they had planned before the member’s death, and when things go south during it, things are set up for the downbeat finale.

I had pretty high hopes for this film, as it was designed as a follow-up to Hell’s Angels on Wheels, another favorite biker flick of mine, but it’s an inferior film in nearly every way.  Tom Stern as Mike is no Jack Nicholson, so the star power on display is of a distinctly lower wattage.  The supporting cast is generally fine, though, with cult director Jack Starrett (Cleopatra Jones, Race with the Devil) playing the chief of police, and the somewhat odd-looking Arlene Martel (known primarily for her role as Spock’s bride T’Pring on Star Trek) as Ginger.  The main problem with the film is that it’s fairly boring.  Not a whole lot happens, and there doesn’t seem to be any real momentum to the things that do happen.  It’s like writer Jerry Wish (who wrote Run, Angel, Run for director Jack Starrett the next year) came up with a whole bunch of individual scenes that he liked, then tried to string them together, but it ended up not working.  So the film lurches from scene to scene without seeming to really go anywhere.

Of course, this being a biker movie, the soundtrack is an important part of the recipe, but Angels from Hell has perhaps the worst soundtrack of any biker film that I’ve seen.  It features two forgotten bands (with very, very mid-‘60s names) that were somewhat interesting, the Peanut Butter Conspiracy and the Lollipop Shoppe, but their songs in the film are fairly rotten.  To give credit where credit is due, the song that plays under the main titles and at various other points throughout the film, the PBC’s “No One Says a Word (No Communication),” has an interesting arrangement, and it does tend to stick in one’s head, but I defy anyone to be able to sing anything from it except for the two words “No communication.”  And then there’s the song “Angels from Hell,” again by the PBC, which is one of the worst songs in any movie ever.  It’s easily as bad as the songs in Airport ’75 and Airport ’77 that I’ve discussed before.  Of course, that didn’t stop the producers from getting a soundtrack album released:

LP Front Cover

LP Back Cover

 

I couldn’t find “No One Says a Word (No Communication)” anywhere on the interwebs, but here’s the immortal classic “Angels from Hell” (plus the bonus track “Crystal Tear”!) for your entertainment:

Overall, I can really only recommend Angels from Hell for the biker movie and/or Psychotronic completest.  But even if you don’t fall into either of these two groups, you should still check out the trailer from YouTube, which promises that you, the viewer of Angels from Hell, will experience exactly 8,100 thrills while watching the film at a drive-in near you:

And, miracle of miracles, here’s the full movie on YouTube!  Apparently, the copyright holders of biker movies are a bit lax in protecting their assets, as this makes three biker flicks in a row that are up for the watching.  Since it’s right here, you might as well check it out:

Up next: Bad girls – out for kicks!

Angels from Hell is an American International Pictures (AIP) release.

Number of AIP films reviewed so far: 8

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Angels Die Hard! (1970)

ADH One Sheet

One Sheet Poster

After professing my love for biker movies only last post, we now come to Angels Die Hard!, one of the more …rambling examples of the genre that I’ve seen. I will now attempt to put some sort of synopsis together for this virtually-plotless film.

Some bikers cruise the highways while the main credits roll…and roll…and roll. By my count, there were three complete songs that played while the bikers motored along and the credits slowly faded in and out. About six-and-a-half minutes into the credits sequence, a sheriff and his deputy come out of a building and look into the distance while the deputy says something about there being “about thirty of ‘em.” The sheriff says that he hopes that “they” don’t make any trouble, then he goes back inside while the deputy walks off. Then it’s back to hog-riding on the highway. The bikers arrive in town, go into a bar, and a fight breaks out. After the fight, the sheriff somehow magically has a biker in the back seat of his car, and he tells the leader of the bikers, Blair, that he’ll keep the biker in custody for a day or two and let him go, if the bikers get out of town and stay out.

Two days later, the sheriff frees the biker, who gets shot and killed by an unknown assailant as soon as he passes out of the county. Actually, it’s kind of hard to tell exactly what happened, as the film holds a freeze-frame of Seed, the biker, flipping the bird at the Kern County sign. But when he shows up dead in the back of a truck that one of the bikers apparently drives, the bikers know that someone has to pay for Seed’s death. We are then treated to 25 minutes of the bikers finding a mortician for Seed, prowling the highways for what seems like forever with a coffin in tow, and then having Seed’s rather strange funeral. We are now over halfway through the film.

After the funeral, the bikers have a party, then they end up helping save a boy who’s trapped in an abandoned mine (in a plot twist that NOBODY could have seen coming), then they have another party that the sheriff’s daughter Nancy, who was parking with her boyfriend nearby but got bored and left the car, attends. When her spurned suitor goes to find her, he’s beaten up by Tim, the blond biker with the open shirt that always exposes his chest (played by biker movie icon William Smith). The S.S. crawls off and, somehow, finds Nancy, yells at her for being with bikers, and hits her, knocking her to the ground and into a felled tree, which knocks her out cold. When he notices that she’s bleeding from the head, he high-tails it back into town to tell the sheriff that she’s out there partying with bikers.

Of course, a vigilante mob from town swarms the biker party, bearing (and I am not making this up) torches. One of the townies shoots Tim several times, killing him. Blair hops on his bike and takes off, but he finds the sheriff and the deputy both tailing him. As the sheriff closes in on Blair, we see the sheriff remembering when he shot and killed Seed. The deputy is also closing the gap, and as he pulls up alongside the sheriff, he, for some reason only director and screenwriter Richard Compton knows, shoots the sheriff’s car, which goes off the road and down a cliff, catching on fire. A rockin’ song with lyrics about how someone will have to pay fills the soundtrack, and the screen fades to black. Fin.

Please don’t take any of the above as my attempt to steer you away from the movie; on the contrary, it’s so weird that it deserves a watch if you’re curious. Just be aware that there will be long stretches of nothing much happening, and then something bizarre like a noodle orgy or biker poetry will break out to wake you up again.

One positive thing that I can say about the film is that the soundtrack is crazy good. It’s been so popular over the years that it was even released on CD in 2012. Most of the songs are by a group named East-West Pipeline, who also did a lot of songs for another biker film (that was written and directed by the script supervisor for Angels Die Hard!, Barbara Peeters, and starred Dixie Peabody, who appears briefly in today’s film) called Bury Me an Angel. I’ll have a lot to say about that film if I ever get to the “B” movies from The Psychotronic Encyclopedia of Film. Here’s what the original vinyl LP looks like:

LP Front Cover

LP Back Cover

Also, Dan Haggerty, TV’s Grizzly Adams himself, shows up as one of the bikers to no great effect, and the director makes a cameo as a restaurant owner. And if you’re familiar at all with the ‘70s comedy duo of Skillet and Leroy, their white analogues show up in this film to annoy the viewer every time they’re onscreen. One of them is played by Beach Dickerson, the producer of the film, who was also in Attack of the Crab Monsters, Creature from the Haunted Sea, and…Bury Me an Angel.

But back to the soundtrack: there are other pretty good songs that aren’t by East-West Pipeline on the soundtrack as well. Here’s one of my favorites (which sounds a lot like Bob Welch to me), “Night of the Lions”:

Here’s a rather poor quality upload of the stunningly hyperbolic trailer (“They slake their depraved appetites on the bodies of the innocent, defiling whatever they touch!”) from YouTube. Be warned that the trailer contains profanity, nudity, violence, and lumber-wielding townies:

And once again, the planets have aligned in our favor, because the entire film has been uploaded to YouTube. You’ll most probably have to login to YouTube to watch it, however, because the uploader, one Car Chase Wonderland 2, has marked it as age-restricted. That’s probably a good move, when you think about it. Make sure to watch it soon, before Roger Corman finds out that it’s there and has it taken down:

Up next: The story that tells it like it is!

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Angel Unchained (1970)

Angel Unchained One Sheet

One Sheet Poster

The last time we saw Don Stroud, he was wearing the raiments of a monk from the Middle Ages in The Amityville Horror. In today’s film under discussion, he’s at least able to wear contemporary clothing…well, contemporary for 1970. Stroud plays Angel, a biker who’s become tired of the biker lifestyle. After an amusement park rumble between his motorcycle club and a rival gang, he sets out to ride alone. While getting gas for his bike in a small town, he notices the locals harassing some hippies who have also stopped for gas. He stands up to the bullies for the hippies and, in repayment, the flower children offer him a meal at their commune (which he pronounces like it’s a verb—“cuh-myoon”).

Once he gets to the commune, Angel meets its leader, Tremaine. Tremaine is played by Luke Askew, who was in a lot of westerns before moving mainly into television work from the mid-‘70s onward. He does have the distinction of having been in Easy Rider the year before, so he’s got some cred as far as biker films go. Tremaine’s trying to hold the commune together as best he can, but the locals have been harassing the members for a while, and as a man dedicated to non-violence, he doesn’t really know what to do about the situation. He and Merilee, one of the commune members that Angel met at the gas station, try to get Angel to leave his skull-crushing biker ways behind, but when the locals decide to tear up the commune in their dune buggies one day, Angel grabs a handy pitchfork and stabs one of the marauders in the shoulder with it…thus inviting retaliation from the locals “in one week.”

Worried that the locals are going to come in and completely disassemble the compound, Tremaine realizes that he needs some help in defending the place. He asks Angel to ask his former biker buddies to come help the hippies defend themselves, but Angel’s at first reluctant to ask them, as he knows that having the bikers there will be as bad as being attacked by the townies. Still, he eventually ends up asking his former friends to help, and since their leader Pilot owes Angel a favor, they agree to stay at the commune for a few days until the locals show up. Of course, there are non-stop culture clashes between the bikers and the hippies, but just when the bikers have had enough of the low-key living arrangements and are about to pull out, the locals show up for the showdown.

So far I’ve only mentioned Don Stroud and Luke Askew, but Angel Unchained has some other interesting cast members as well. Tyne Daly, longtime star of TV’s Cagney & Lacey, shows up as Angel’s love interest, and Larry Bishop, who plays Pilot, is the son of Rat Pack-er Joey Bishop. Aldo Ray, who was pretty much ubiquitous from the late ‘50s through the ‘70s, shows up in the role of the Sheriff. It had to be one of the easiest paychecks that he ever earned; he’s in one (1) scene and gets to sit down for the majority of it.

For some entirely unknown-to-me reason, I enjoy the biker flicks from the late ‘60s and early ‘70s, and of those, Angel Unchained is one of my favorites. While several of the bikers are still caricatures, most of them act like I would assume real bikers would act, and the hippies aren’t totally one-dimensional, either. Even when the pace of the film slows down, it’s still interesting, and the locations provide their share of interest, too.

I like the music a lot as well; if you like it, too, there’s a soundtrack album for it:

LP Front Cover

LP Back Cover

And here’s a first for this blog: a radio spot for the film, with voiceover work by none other than Mr. American Top 40 himself, Casey Kasem!

And YouTube came through with a trailer—huzzah!

And we’ve obviously been living right, because YouTube has the entire film up for viewing…but don’t forget to watch it soon, because full features seldom survive for long on YouTube:

Up next: CHOPPER OUTLAWS!…riding their hot throbbing machines to a brutal climax of violence!

Angel Unchained is an American International Pictures (AIP) release.

Number of AIP films reviewed so far: 7

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An Angel for Satan (1966)

an angel for satan italian poster

Italian Poster

Sculptor Roberto Merigi is brought to the Italian town of Montebruno to restore a statue that had been submerged in the lake abutting Count Montebruno’s estate. A recent drought had lowered the water level of the lake so much that the statue, which had been underwater for 200 years, was seen and fished out of the lake. Unfortunately, the statue has an ominous legend surrounding it: if the statue is restored, the entire village will fall victim to tragedy.

Right after Roberto gets to town, Count Montebruno’s niece, Harriet (played by Barbara Steele), arrives from England. She was sent away for schooling at the age of five, and she’s now returned to claim her inheritance. Once the sculptor lays eyes on her, he’s both transfixed by her beauty and a little freaked out by how much she looks like the statue that he’s working on. As it turns out (stop me if you’ve heard this one before), she’s the spitting image of her ancestor Madelina, who had the statue carved of herself to preserve her beauty forever. Still, Roberto can’t keep his eyes off of her, so he persuades her to “model” for his restoration work on the statue. (I have to admit that the statue looks like it needs less of a restoration and more of a good hosing down; besides some mud and some dried-up vegetation, it looks to be pretty intact. It also looks as if it’s made out of plaster or clay rather than marble, which underscores the film’s budgetary constraints. But I digress.)

Harriet starts exhibiting some bizarre behaviors. She starts making sexual advances on various people in the town, including the halfwit gardener at the estate, her personal maid’s schoolteacher beau AND the maid herself, and the strongest guy in the town, who’s married and has five kids. Roberto, as this weird behavior is ramping up, is awakened in the middle of the night by some woman who’s calling his name. He follows the sound to the studio where he’s working on the statue, and the voice tells him that she is Belinda, Madelina’s jealous cousin, who was killed when, out of hatred, she toppled Madelina’s statue into the lake and accidentally fell in with it. Also, she’s back now to get her revenge.

Afterwards, indeed, the whole town is cursed, as Harriet/Belinda causes lots of people to die. Roberto at least gets the statue finished and mounted on its original pedestal by the lake. He thinks that he knows what’s going on, but can he save Harriet from the spirit of her crazed ancestor?

To give away anything about the ending would be a huge disservice to those of you reading this who’ve never seen the film, so I’m not going to spoil things for you. I have to admit that I thought that the first half of the film was quite draggy, but things picked up nicely once Harriet started trying to seduce everyone in sight. It’s a good-looking film, too.

Michael Weldon, in the Psychotronic Encyclopedia, calls the film “little-known and fairly perverse,” and he goes on to note that it bypassed theaters in the US, going straight to TV in 1973 in a package of horror films. The copy of the film that I watched was on a double-feature DVD (along with The Long Hair of Death) released by Midnight Choir back in 2009. It went out of print rather quickly, due to some rights issues. The print for An Angel for Satan used for the DVD is a weird conglomeration of source material: it’s an Italian-language print with French credits and subtitles in English.

The thing that most confuses me about the film’s history is that, at the time that it went into syndication on television, it would have been dubbed into English, not subtitled, and it would have had English credits as well…yet I can’t find a dubbed copy of the film anywhere. Believe me, I’ve looked. Back in the ‘70s, only prestige foreign films ever showed up on TV in a subtitled form; for example, Hiroshima, Mon Amour and Last Year at Marienbad showed up with subtitles, and the TV Source Book for syndication packages clearly states that the package that those two films were in was comprised of “Classic films with English subtitles.” If the Source Book didn’t specifically state that a package had subtitled films, the films in a package were dubbed.

an angel for satan italian poster

My fairly beat-up copy of the TV Source Book

Another point worth making is that horror films were very rarely subtitled for television up until the late ‘80s. I can’t find any instance of a horror film in the Source Book that has subtitles. And one more thing: the syndication package that An Angel for Satan showed up in was called “5 Shock Features,” and it was made up of An Angel for Satan, Cave of the Living Dead, Fear Chamber, The Sound of Horror, and Superargo Vs. Diabolicus. Oddly enough, the package was released to television by Columbia Pictures, who usually dealt in a higher class of product. All of these films were foreign productions, yet the Source Book doesn’t say anything about subtitles. So, if anybody has a line on an English-dubbed version of the film, whether through a beat-up 16mm syndication print or via a recording made in the early days of VCRs, please leave me a note in the comments section. I’d love to see the dubbed version.

So, to recap (or “tl;dr” as the kids are typing these days): An Angel for Satan looks good and starts slow, but it gains momentum until a fairly memorable finale. And no, I won’t spoil the ending for anyone who hasn’t seen it yet, but I will say this: Scooby-Doo. Once you see the film, you’ll understand.

Here’s the Italian trailer, for those of you who understand Italian. If you don’t, you can tinker around with the settings and get YouTube to auto-generate English subtitles, of a sort:

And here’s the full feature! Again, if you play around with the settings long enough, you can get YouTube to auto-generate English subtitles. For some reason, this copy of the film is about four minutes shorter than the print on the DVD; perhaps user “B is for B-movies” has slightly sped up the speed to throw the copyright police off their game.  And remember to watch it soon, just in case it gets yanked:

Up next: The hell run that you make alone!

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Cult of the Damned (1969)

and_soon_the_darkness_1970_poster_01

International One Sheet Poster

(Originally released as Angel, Angel Down We Go)

The late (and by me, at least) lamented American International Pictures (AIP) rarely lost money on a film.  Jim Nicholson and Sam Arkoff were usually quite canny in being able to discern trends and ride them to box office riches.  While they didn’t invent the beach movie, they noticed the impact that Gidget had and hit paydirt with a series of beach party films.  They didn’t make the first biker film, but when their shout-out to The Wild One, The Wild Angels, struck a nerve with the public, they started churning out wildly profitable biker flicks by the handful.  When they noticed that Vincent Price was beginning to make a name for himself in horror films, they signed him up for a gazillion Edgar Allan Poe adaptations, all of which were moneymakers.

The Wild Angels, while kickstarting the biker craze that hit its apotheosis with Easy Rider, also begat another strand of exploitation films for AIP: the youth counterculture genre.  Among the films in this branch of AIP’s cinematic tree are Maryjane, Riot on Sunset Strip, The Trip, Psych-Out, and most importantly for today’s film, Wild in the Streets.

Wild in the Streets was a huge hit for AIP in 1968, but then again, it sort of had to be, as it was rumored to have been AIP’s most expensive film up to that point.  It also spawned a modest hit single, “The Shape of Things to Come,” written by Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil, who wrote “On Broadway” for the Drifters and “Kicks” for Paul Revere and the Raiders, helped write “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’” for the Righteous Brothers, and who also later wrote “Here You Come Again” for Dolly Parton, “Just Once” for James Ingram, and “Don’t Know Much” for Aaron Neville and Linda Ronstadt.  The film was written by Robert Thom, based on a short story of his that had appeared in Esquire magazine.

With Wild in the Streets having been so successful, Nicholson and Arkoff were keen to make a follow-up, and that’s how the world ended up with Angel, Angel Down We Go, a.k.a. Cult of the Damned.  Robert Thom, along with doing the writing chores, somehow finagled his first and only directing job with the film, and AIP hired Mann and Weil to write a half-dozen songs, hoping that lightning would strike twice.  It didn’t.  Here’s the cover of the soundtrack LP, in case you’ve got some spare cash lying around and want to buy it:

AADWG Soundtrack

The minimally-plotted film concerns a chubby 18-year-old girl named Tara Nicole Steele, as played by Holly Near (later a pretty big deal as a musician, activist, and LGBTQ icon).  She’d been sent away to Switzerland for schooling as her mother (screen legend Jennifer Jones, in her next-to-last movie) and father had no time for her.  But now she’s back, and Mom wants to have a coming-out party to celebrate her return.  She hires a charismatic Jim Morrison-type singer, Bogart Peter Stuyvesant, to sing at the party.  After the party, when Bogart nearly runs over Tara Nicole with his car, the two start seeing each other, and then he ingratiates his way into her family, seducing both her mother and her father.  It ends with mom and dad dead, and Tara Nicole wondering about her future.

The cast is interesting, with supporting roles by Roddy McDowell (between Planet of the Apes films) and Lou Rawls (yeah, THAT Lou Rawls) as some of Bogart’s friends / backing band.  The songs by Mann and Weil are…okay, but nothing that you’ll be humming a day after seeing the film.  The screenplay, though, is out-and-out awful.  Another problem I had with the film is Thom’s weird reliance upon mixed-media collages depicting the cast to get across some (probably) important (to him, at least) plot points.  I’m not much of a fan of collages to begin with, so this particular storytelling technique didn’t work for me at all.

At the end credits rolled, I found myself thinking that this was one of the more difficult films to sit through that I’ve experienced in a while.  It seems that Thom had something important that he was trying to get across to the public via the film, but I certainly couldn’t figure out what it was.  I’m not exactly sure who the “cult of the damned” is in the retitled print, either, but signs point to Bogart and his pals.  And although the poster for the retitled film mentions cannibalism and ritual murder, I didn’t notice either of those in the film–but then again, the ending of the film is a bit rushed and confusing.  While I didn’t like it, you might appreciate it if you’ve got a love for some of the stranger films featuring old Hollywood stars trying to remain relevant that came out in the late ‘60s (Myra Breckinridge, anyone?  Skidoo?)

There was a single of the theme song released, with the hopes of it catching fire like “The Shape of Things to Come” did.  It tanked.  Here’s the song, though, in case you want to check it out:

Coincidentally (or perhaps not?), this was the last single released by Tower Records (the label, not the retail chain, natch).

Here’s a trailer for you trailer hounds out there as well:

And, once again, YouTube comes through with an upload of the full feature.  Watch it while you can!

Up next: Barbara Steele has ancestor problems!

Cult of the Damned (originally released as Angel, Angel Down We Go) is an American International Pictures (AIP) release.

Number of AIP films reviewed so far: 6

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Flesh for Frankenstein (1973)

One Sheet Poster

One Sheet Poster

(Originally released in the U.S. as Andy Warhol’s Frankenstein)

The companion piece to Blood for Dracula, Flesh for Frankenstein stars Udo Kier (Dario Argento’s Suspiria) as Herr Doctor Baron Frankenstein.  He’s up to what you would expect him to be up to, namely creating “zombies,” as he calls his creatures, out of spare parts that he scavenges from the local village.  He’s very close to finishing his female creature, but he’s still looking for a good head for his male creation—and only one with a perfect Serbian nose will pass muster.  His wife (Monique van Vooren), who is also his sister, spends her days taking care of their two children and getting upset at the hired hands for fooling around on the job.  One of the workers, Nicholas (Joe Dallesandro), captures her fancy, and she promotes him from outside laborer to inside butler…and personal bedwarmer.  The doc finds a head for his creature, but when Nicholas recognizes the head on the creature as once belonging to a friend of his who just happened to have been beheaded, everything goes kerflooey.

Udo Kier is pretty funny as Dr. Frankenstein, and that’s okay; director Paul Morrissey wrote the film as a comedy.  He even says in one of the supplements on the DVD that there’s nothing scary at all about this film, because that’s not what he was aiming for.  It’s not a film for the weak-hearted, however, because it has lots and lots of blood, gore, nudity, and sex.  There’s a famous quote from the film about sex with a certain internal organ that I won’t repeat here, but that line will stick with you for days, as will probably my favorite line in the film, “Make him unconscious!”  The line itself isn’t that funny, but Udo Kier says it with such urgency that I find it totally hysterical.  Both Monique van Vooren and Joe Dallesandro get nekkid a lot, and they’re certainly not repulsive, but I find Monique’s lack of eyebrows to be rather troubling.

The special effects for Flesh for Frankenstein were done by Carlo Rambaldi, who had previously done the effects for such films as Bloody Pit of Horror, Mario Bava’s A Bay of Blood (a.k.a. Twitch of the Death Nerve), and Frankenstein ’80.  Later he did the special effects for Deep Red, made the giant Kong robot that was seen for about ten seconds in the ’76 King Kong remake, worked on Close Encounters of the Third Kind and Alien, and created E.T.  Two of Rambaldi’s effects in Flesh for Frankenstein are worth noting: when Dr. Frankenstein decapitates the chap who is the unwilling head donor for his creation, he holds up the severed head and the eyes and mouth still move; and inside the doctor’s laboratory there’s a cabinet that contains a heart and lungs that are still beating and breathing.  These effects, all these years later, are still pretty cool, especially when you consider the time and budget constraints under which this film was made.  And, lest I not forget, Flesh for Frankenstein was also shot in 3D, utilizing the “Space-Vision” process that Arch Oboler developed for his film The Bubble.

I could go into a long, detailed explanation about how the “Space-Vision” process made it easier and more affordable to shoot and release films in 3D, but this article from the 3-D Film Archive does a much better job of doing that than I could, so if you get a few minutes, follow the link and read up on it.   I’ve never seen Flesh for Frankenstein in 3D, but it looks as if it could be a blast.  One can tell, even from the 2D version of the film, that lots of assorted viscera are thrust into the camera, which would have put the majority of the guts appearing to be very close to the viewers’ noses.  The bat scene involving Dr. Frankenstein’s children appears to be in the film only to show off the 3D effect.  By the way, the girl who plays Dr. Frankenstein’s daughter is named Nicoletta Elmi.  I mention her because she turned up quite frequently in Italian horror films of the early 1970s.  If you’re a horror buff, you’ve undoubtedly seen her before in such films as the aforementioned A Bay of Blood and Deep Red.

Flesh for Frankenstein is an absurd, over-the-top horror film that is, as Michael Weldon enthuses in the Psychotronic Encyclopedia, “[t]otally sick and disgustingly wonderful.”  Only you know whether you want to see it or not, but if you’re on the fence, here’s the film’s original trailer (which these days would be called a “red-band trailer,” or one that was designed to only play with R- or X-rated features).  You’ve been warned:

 

If you’re an adventuresome sort, YouTube also has the full feature up for viewing.  However, there’s a huge drawback to it: it’s in 3D, but it’s of the anaglyph variety, which in this case uses amber/blue glasses to create the 3D effect.  The upload looks like it was a home conversion, and after the main credits, I didn’t see any 3D effects at all…but then again, I only had red/blue glasses, not the amber/blue ones that should be used.  So, if you’re game, give it a whirl.  The DVD appears to be out of print, so this may be your only way to watch the film at the moment.

Up next:  Jennifer Jones goes skydiving!

 

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