“7 Lucky Ninja Kids” and Earl Owensby

 

earl-owensby

 

   Earl Owensby has been referred to by others as a “Hillbilly Roger Corman” or a “Southern-fried Orson Welles”. It’s a shame to label the guy, and I don’t think that either of the descriptions really suit him- he never had the pure output of product that Corman had (I think that Earl has only had his hand in about a dozen or so feature films), and he never released anything that could be considered an artistic vision and something on par with Welles. However, he did have Corman’s drive-in sensibilities- knowing his target (basically people below the Mason-Dixon Line who like adventure, thrills and a moral thread running through their flicks) and attempting to deliver the goods. And, as Orson Welles, he could be a Jack-of-all-Trades; at different points in his career he was Producer, top-lining Actor, Director- Hell, he even built his own studio after acquiring an abandoned and half-built nuclear power plant in a small town in South Carolina (http://www.earlowensby.com/)- and this ain’t no tin-roofed shack behind an outhouse either, but a world-class facility worthy enough of the likes of James Cameron (who shot The Abyss there). The only person that I can really equate him with would probably be H.B. Halicki- the Stuntman/Director/Producer/Star of the original Gone in 60 Seconds; a self-made man who made a few flicks before tragically dying while performing a stunt in a movie he was making…

 

 

   I’ve been fascinated with him long before I ever saw one of his flicks- I had read somewhere about him (OK- actually the SOMEWHERE was in an issue of “Penthouse” that a friend of mine had snuck out of his Dad’s sock drawer. See- sometimes we DON’T lie and really DO read the articles, even as a kid) and had never thought until then the possibility of someone; ANYONE; being able to make a movie that actually played in theaters that wasn’t located in New York or Hollywood. This was a real guy making real features. The next few years I was able to catch various Owensby movies either at local drive-in’s or on TV (Wolfman– another one of his that seems to be released by all kinds of bargain DVD companies and one I have to bring up on the blog again, a true Gothic/Southern werewolf movie that must be seen to be believed; Seabo (aka Buckstone County Prison– made in the wake of mid-‘70’s badass Southern cops on a rampage like Macon County Line and Walking Tall) and Rottweiler– released to cash in on the brief resurgent 3D craze of the early 80’s). I’ve also missed out on some beauties that I have to watch; like Living Legend (his take on the whole “Elvis Presley thing”) and Tales of the Third Dimension. One of his later works (and, if I’m not mistaken, his last film to date as a Director) is 7 Lucky Ninja Kids, a movie that would appear to have been made to cash in on 3 Ninja and its never-dying string of sequels and rip-offs. I would once in awhile find this in on DVD in unexpected places like FYE but never thought of purchasing it until too late, and then when I started to look for it in earnest, it ended up going out of print and fetching as high as $50 from used movie vendors on Amazon and eBay. Imagine my surprise finding it at a Family Dollar for 60 cents (that’s what it rang up as- even though there’s a printed-on-the-cover price tag selling it for $1). Yeah, it’s packed in a cardboard sleeve, and manufactured by some outfit called Dollar DVD (don’t bother going to dollar.dvd.com; that web page is long gone), but I thought that I could risk three quarters for this obscure little item…

 

 

   Well, there’s a reason that this has fallen into obscurity- THIS ISN’T AMERICAN MADE! It’s a painful redubbing of some Honk Kong kids comedy, with skilled acrobatic kids performing antics that would make the Three Stooges wince and atrocious dubbing with clever repartee like “You dumb jerk” 50 times, and gems like “You don’t believe me? You’re an idiot! You don’t know anything! Only how to sleep!”; and “Over here I’m ‘Rocky’, but in the states I’m known as ‘Rambo’!” (the last line said by a fatigues-wearing ten year old who’s appointed as the squadron leader). The basic plot has the 7 Lucky Ninja Kids stumbling on a diamond heist and murder, but in between the idiocy of Japanese Gangsters trying to find ways to stop the meddling kids are restaurant hijinx; stuttering hitmen; tough guys trying to stand on an ice rink; a BMX bike chase; and a desk that beats up the guy sitting behind it (don’t ask). It all culminates in a prolonged warehouse fight, when, after the kids are victorious (sorry to spoil the ending) is an apparent out-take of the leaping-in-unison shot in the credits, showing the crew rushing in to goof around with the suspended tykes…

 

 

   Framed incorrectly to the right, therefore cutting off a fair-sized sliver on the right and leaving a large black band on the right, it is distracting to say the least- it’s as if the telecine operator (the guy who transfers this obvious ¾ video master to DVD) couldn’t stomach to watch this, so he started up the machine, then left for the local pub to get a few drinks in him. On top of that, it’s horribly zoomed in, easily cutting off a total of a quarter of the picture on both sides, like if you were to try to watch a movie with your face stuck right on the TV screen, and the tracking is bad, especially at the top of the screen and an occasional picture warble. The sound is very flat and has a slight hum throughout; all punctuated by the highly exaggerated smacks and cracks of all the worst Kung Fu movies of the seventies. The dubbing is (naturally) just awful, and the tinka-tinka theme song sung by the kids (“Olalala-lalalala chi chi chi”) doesn’t help matters…

 

 

   The Director listed as Chau Chen Li (I think- between the cutoff titles and the white letters on a washed out white background, it’s hard to see ANYTHING). Even though it’s aimed at kids, I’m not sure that this is wholesome Disney-esque entertainment, with lines like “Goddamn foreigners” and “What’s you problem? Go to Hell!” Also, watching the kids get punched and kicked around by adults double their size is a little disturbing. As for how Earl Owensby is tied to this I have no idea- nowhere on either the film or the packaging is his name (or ANY English name) listed. If this IS somehow his, I would guess that he was a distributor for it, but there aren’t a lot of clues that THAT ever happened, either. And after watching this 80 minutes of celluloid (that, at times felt like twice as long) I sat in a stupor, not believing what I saw so I was going to watch it again just to make sure. But you know what it’s like to suck in helium? How your voice gets funny and it cracks everyone up around you and you feel light-headed, so it wears off and you try it again, only this time it’s not as funny, and the high isn’t as high and all you end up with is a slight headache? Well, when the headache started about 5 minutes into re=watching it I couldn’t go through with it, ejected the DVD and sleeved it. Oh, and even though the date is reported as “1989”, I have to think that it was made at least 10 years prior to that, judging by the cars and scenery…

 

 

   One more thing- come to find out that “Dollar DVD” is an offshoot of the late Brentwood/BCI- Eclipse – it appears to be BCI’s ‘sub-label. They’ve released a whole slew of very old PD titles- things that have been in bargain bins as far back as the old VHS days (like Charlie Chaplin shorts; The Road to Bali and The Beverly Hillbillies that are in Public Domain). So if you find it for under a buck, consider it “fair market value”; if, however, you run into somebody asking you to pay anything more than that, tell them to lay off the helium.

 

 

7 Lucky Ninja Kids– 1 out of 5*

 

 

 

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More BCI-Eclipse- this time Wholesale…

 

dvds

 

 

  This will be the first time that I’ve covered Wholesale sources for DVDs, but I ran into this Company online: 

 

 

   http://www.cdplusdolphinvideo.com/

 

 

   The rules are simple- $50.00 minimum order and shipping starts at around 10 bucks. And what do you get for that? Well- some pretty cool stuff:

 

 

   * Saturday Morning 70’s & 80’s stuff– they have some great titles that BCI released a few years ago. Including ARK II; Jason of Star Command; Bravestarr, HE-MAN and SHE-RA sets. All come with some wonderful Bonus Features, including interviews with the talent and Making-of Documentaries. These retailed at around $20.00 each and are being sold for under 5 bucks each…

 

 

   * Karate and Kung-Fu flicks– sometimes you have to have a crappy dubbed action movie, you know? Well, they have lots of sets, including a lot of Sonny Chiba and Bruce Lee collections as well as some rarer, non-PD stuff…

 

 

   *Westerns– for some reason, lots of Westerns; old and new, TV and movies, have fallen into Public Domain. Some of the better collections for sale here are things like The Vigilantes (Volumes 1 & 2)- each has 4 movies on 2 discs and go for $1.25 each; Great Western TV Shows– which has 26 episodes of some good shows including Kit Carson; Bat Masterson, Bonanza and The Rifleman– going for $2.25 each; and Bad Boys of the West– 4 disc movie set for $1.50 each…

 

 

   *Horror– some great bargains, including: Toxie Blood Bank Ten Disc set– boxed in a weird tin and includes some second-tier Troma pick-ups like Evil Clutch, Scream Baby Scream and Play Dead– going for four bucks; Aztec Mummy Boxed Set– 3 absolutely ROTTEN Mexican Mummy movies in a nice set for $1.75’ Back From The Grave– 12-movie set with borderline PDs like Legacy of Blood; Slave of the Cannibal God and Murder Mansion for the micro price of $1.75 each; and Kiss of Death– another 12 movie collection with some old (Kill Baby Kill; House on Haunted Hill) and newer flicks (Little Corey Gorey; Slashdance)- this one is going for $1.50 a set…

 

 

   They show how many copies they have left, and from what I’ve read elsewhere these can come and go pretty quick, so if you find something you’d better jump on it. I found it very easy to hit the $50 minimum, but in case you don’t, you may want to go in with someone else to split the cost. I suggest that you poke around and see what you find- happy hunting!

 

 

 

 

 

BCI-Eclipse shuts down (R.I.P)…

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   I was hoping to squeeze in one more (semi-) review before the New Year (oddly-enough for one of their releases) when it was announced that BCI-Eclipse was being shuttered by their holding company Navarre. This is a pretty big announcement to those that collect not just budget titles (I know that Drive-in Cult Classics Volume 4 was due in January), but they also put out some great Saturday Morning TV shows like Isis; Ark II  and Space Academy  (all three are great sets for those who are as nostalgic about 70’s TV as I am) as well as some import product. Navarre says that they will still be operational and will be releasing some of the announced titles, but doesn’t go into specifics, but (as some rumor followers are saying) they’ve already cancelled some Game Show Compilation discs for “What’s My Line?” and “Tattletales”. Bummer- they might not have cleaned up their prints to immaculate shape, but they did have a sense on what some of their more fun titles should be like (like their Exploitation Cinema line- one of their newer releases was the Mausoleum/Blood Song double feature that even had a Commentary)- I hope that sense of goofiness is carried over should Navarre release any similar discs. It seems like the down-turned economy is even hitting the economy-minded vendors (*sigh*). The link to the Official Press Release is below:

 

 

   http://ir.navarre.com/phoenix.zhtml?c=105157&p=irol-newsArticle&ID=1237333&highlight=

 

 

Drive-in Cult Classics, Vol. 3

 

 

   (A little sidebar here- originally I had planned to write nothing during October (I felt that writing about Horror movies in October felt a little clichéd, and writing about NON-Horror flicks just didn’t fit. About the middle of the month I felt kinda bad about the decision, but laziness prevailed. Anyway, I have a whole stack of $1 DVDs that I could write years worth of reviews; I’ll probably end up rolling them out during the year and maybe saving some of the juicier ones for NEXT October)

 

 

   Today’s review is for a 4-disc, eight movie set called “Drive-in Cult Classics Vol. 3” released by BCI/Eclipse. It includes:

 

 

   * The Babysitter

   * Weekend with the Babysitter

   * The Pink Angels

   * Blood Mania

   * Single Room Furnished

   * Van Nuys Blvd.

   * The Pom Pom Girls

   * Malibu Beach

 

 

   Yeah, the whole set can be had for under $10 at your local Best Buy along with the first two Volumes (which means that they come in at something like a buck and change per flick- keeping in-line with the spirit of this blog), and, like the other sets, are a decidedly mixed bag. All the flicks included were made by Crown International– the “mini” independent that actually still maintains a web page (http://www.crownintlpictures.com/), but I don’t think that they’ve released a new picture in years. They’ve been busy supplying the budget DVD pipeline, however, as most of these have been released previously on disc in one form or another- either paired off with other flicks (Pom Pom Girls was on a double feature with The Van; Van Nuys was paired with the totally unrelated (and TOTALLY bad) Little Laura and Big John; Blood Mania was (some internet rumors complain) wholesale bootlegged on the “Horrible Horrors- Volume 2” 8 movie set released by Rhino). All but two were unleashed to drive-ins in the 70’s (The Babysitter was a 1969 release and Single Room Furnished was made in 1968). The other 2 sets were loosely-themed- Volume 1 was basically T & A flicks that would all fit in as first or second features at your local drive-in in the 1970’s; Volume 2 are all horror (well, in the case of They Saved Hitler’s Brain, ATTEMPTED horror); Volume 3 has no real theme and is all over the place. I’m just going to give brief overviews to save time…

 

 

   The Babysitter (1969) and Weekend with the Babysitter (1971) are both directed by Tom Laughlin in-between him kickin’ the crap out of people in Billy Jack flicks (he also starred as the pacifist butt-kicker), and have the same preachy, melodramatic patchwork style of pretty much everything he directs. Both are long on bad acting and short of real sleaze, I would give the nod to Weekend as a better flick only marginally, as it’s in color & anamorphic widescreen, and the first one is in a very weak full-frame transfer from a British PAL videotape (nice touch by the DVD Company though- they apologize for the less-than-stellar transfer right on the package, explaining that the original materials are in real poor shape and the tape was the best Master available)…

 

 

   Disc 2 leads with The Pink Angels (1971), a jokey motorcycle gang flick made at the very end of the Hogs-on-hogs craze. The big joke is the motley group is gay, but they’ll still come into your town to kick your ass and steal your makeup. If you ever catch the trailer (or the blurb written about it in The Golden Turkey Awards book) that should be enough to whet your appetite; as someone who sat through this slight and offensive mess I know that the joke goes on about 70 minutes too long. The Director (Robert Vincent O’Neil– who also helmed the other flick on this disc) went on to one of the most famous drive-in movies of the 80’s- Angel, starring the perky Donna Wilkes. The second side has Blood Mania (1970), a slow moving, talky drama that barely skirts the Horror tag with a seducer and a user who’s after a family inheritance. Junk, and not very good junk- but the transfer is much nicer than Rhino’s…

 

 

   On Disc 3 you have Single Room Furnished (1968), a sad coda to the movie career of Jayne Mansfield who died in a bloody car wreck prior to its release. Someone thought that it was a good idea for her to play three different gals (including, suspend disbelief here, a TEENAGER) in a melodrama about love and loneliness. Its stagey and static-y (it almost looks like a filmed play) and is almost coma-inducing when Jayne isn’t on- its not like she was in very good form in this, but did have an unmistakeable charm that occasionally flashes here. Her corpse-picking husband at the time (Matt Cimber) was the Director of this headache, and assembled it to push product through the Jayne pipeline. On the second side is Van Nuys Blvd (1979)., a late- 70’s T & A romp that follows a hayseed from the sticks to check out the lights and excitement of SoCal. It’s watchable and fun, with the right mix of topless gals and guy-jinx (and as a bonus, there’s a Director’s Commentary, which I have yet to listen to, but it’s a nice addition to a set this cheap)…

 

 

   The Last disc has probably the 2 most fun movies on the set- The Pom Pom Girls and Malibu Beach. I’ve reviewed Pom Pom (1976) in a previous blog- needless to say my opinion hasn’t changed; this version is an ever-so slightly cleaner transfer (and full-frame; but from what I gathered it wasn’t shot in widescreen). Malibu Beach (NOT to be confused with Malibu High, which is on the first Volume of these sets) was made in 1978 and is basically about a new lifeguard on the beach and the gals trying to vie for his attention. It’s cheap in appearance, but is pretty well acted (Kim Lankford, for example, went on to appear in the likes of Knots Landing) and a fun way to burn 90 minutes…

 

 

   So I would advise that, if you don’t own at least ½ of these already, to pick up this set. For the cost of one trip to the movies you get an authentic slice of the tacky drive-in experience to view anytime you’d like. And when someone points to the wide case on your shelf with the rear-view of the hippy chick on the spine and says “What the Hell is THAT”, give ‘em a taste of the way they USE to make movies…

 

 

 

   The Babysitter- 1-1/2* of 5

   Weekend with the Babysitter- 2* of 5

   The Pink Angels- 2* of 5

   Blood Mania- 1-1/2* of 5

   Single Room Furnished- 2* of 5

   Van Nuys Blvd.- 2-1/2* of 5

   The Pom Pom Girls- 3* of 5

   Malibu Beach- 3* of 5

 

 

Cell Block Girls

 

 

  

 

   (Made as Thunder Alley in 1974- also popped up on video and drive-ins briefly as Convict Women, Convict Women and Swamp Fever). Our friends at East West DVD (http://www.eastwestdvd.com ) put this one out and I found it at a local WalMart for a buck. The cover hooked me; not because of it’s weak layout, but its promise of “Hot Women BEHIND BARS!” and the stars Robert Shaw (‘Quint’ from Jaws); Ted Cassidy (Lurch from the TV show The Addams Family), and Mickey Rooney (from those pretty bad Judy Garland movies of the 40’s- and his eight (!) marriages) was too big a promise to resist. Yeah, there’s a sucker born every minute…

 

   Just as a crime lord (Cassidy– obviously the only one in this having any sort of fun with his part) and his henchman are making their way across Florida, four women convicts have escaped (including Carol Locatell, who still acts and has been in things like Friday the 13th– A New Beginning and ER; DeeDee Bradley– who became a Hollywood Casting Director for television;  and Anya Ormsby– who was in Children Shouldn’t Play With Dead Things and has acted using the pseudonym ‘Onya Mark’ (HAHAHA! Get it? ON YOUR MARK??). Well, they cross paths and it ends up being a fight as to who is going to survive (and who can avoid the cops chasing the girls)?…

 

 

 

 

 

   I guess I should have known that all was not what I had hoped for when I opened the package- normally East West DVDs have silk-screened covers; what I ended up getting was a simple shiny disc with a white rectangular label that says in simple font “CELLBLOCK GIRLS”. So then I popped the disc in the player and I get the “menu” page that you see above. When I use to own a DVD burner/player, it was a Panasonic that created menus like above- giving you a date and time stamp of what you recorder. This disc didn’t even Autoplay- you had to select the recording; my guess is that either is the Company’s Master or a test pressing- either way, this is the first time I ever got something like this from a retail outlet. Now, if this were the only problem- well then, OK- I can live with that. But the fun continues…

 

   ROBERT SHAW ISN’T IN THIS! Where they thought that the Academy Award- nominated actor appeared in this drek I couldn’t tell you. The only one who looks somewhat like him is the Director Chris Robinson (who’s most famous for being in the cult baddie Stanley), who also appears in this as the only decent guy in the whole flick. If they wanted to boost there fake list of stars, they could have added Oliver Reed, who one of the bad guys looks like. As for Mickey Rooney, 22 minutes in you get a bare-chested and bubble-gutted Mickey as the “Gas Station Attendant”, scratchin’ and spittin’ and unspooling pearls of wisdom like “Yeah- whadda ya want?” and “Nature’s my only enemy- I drank too much beer last night” and helps the girls escape (he’s briefly kidnapped) from the cops in his little flat boat down the river, only to be forced out into the water and ‘threatened’ by stock footage of a gator and then is abandoned, splashing around in the water like an idiot. He must have been REEEaaallll hard-up to take this gig- it’s the worst thing that I have ever seen him in (and I’ve seen Skidoo and Platinum High School!)…

 

   No nudity but some violence (gunplay, cat fights and strangling) and TV language. It’s a full frame print taken from a VHS dupe- I have a feeling that it’s as good as it’s gonna look, as no one would want to release a legitimate copy of this sleazy snorefest. 92 minutes of tedium and low-rent swamp drama- I’d advise to take a pass on this one.

 

 

   Cell Block Girls– 1-1/2* out of 5

 

 

The Pom Pom Girls & The Van

 

  

   Okay you horn-dog perverts; I’ve been looking at the Stats from the blog and I see that the most-viewed review was for Cheerleaders Beach Party and CB Hustlers, so that tells me one thing- that you guys dig the boobies (*TSK TSK*). Well, as the cordial host that I would like to think that I am, I’m going to go ahead and (as the President says in Death Race 2000) give the people what you want- in this case two T & A flicks from the 70’s…

 

   The late 70-‘s/ early 80’s drive-in scene was in the tail-end of it’s heyday; it was a place that you could bring a carload of friends to a movie for 5 bucks (and, since I was driving a 1972 Cadillac Fleetwood at the time we ended up taking my car because it had enough room for a baseball team, their dates, and a case or two of beer) and have a great night’s entertainment. I know in my case we’d show up and hour or so before the first feature so we could get the best spot established- namely dead-center and a few rows back, so there would be plenty of Frisbee and football-throwing room and we’d be close enough to the Snack Bar when the inevitable munchies would hit. The drive-in where I grew up in nearby Casselberry usually tied the features to a common theme (three horror flicks, or sex comedies, or what have you), with the main feature being of newer vintage while the co-features would be making the rounds again (sometimes for the 10th or 12th time- I must have seen Horror High four or five times in as many different pairings), but if we were going to go in a larger group, the T & A flicks were the ones that were our favorites to see…

 

   Both of these movies I caught as tacked-on second features at the drive-in growing up; in fact I couldn’t tell you what the main feature was that was paired with wither of these, but both of these I sure remembered and was looking forward to seeing them again. The first one on the disc is The Pom Pom Girls; a classic example of the mid seventies cheerleader flick that I talked about in the Cheerleaders Beach Party review with one difference; everything Beach Party did wrong Pom Pom gets right…

 

   Actually it’s pretty much the same story- what can the girls do to get the football players up for the big game? What player is going to pair up with what cheerleader? And who is going to win this vicious prank war between two rival schools? The difference is it’s made with more true-to-life actors as the kids who ACT and TALK like High-Schoolers of the time. They’ve also including a more appealing bunch, including Robert Carradine (who also appeared in Massacre at Central High a few months later with his co-star here Rainbeaux Smith) as the arrogant and bravado lead- of course you know he went on to other drive-in flicks like Cannonball! and Joyride (as well as previously having a small part in Revenge of the Cheerleaders (also featuring Rainbeaux) before moving on to bigger movies like Orca; TAG- The Assasination Game and Wavelength and the jackpot that was Revenge of the Nerds (and the 3 so- far sequels). A brunette foil is played by Jennifer Ashley, who was usually playing toughs but who had a sexy streak bubbling up to the surface. She was previously seen quickly as a groupie in the failed but very entertaining Phantom of the Paradise (and again another common thread-  Rainbeaux is in THAT ONE!), before going on to more serious and more exploitatively tacky fodder like Tintorera! (a bloody AWFUL Mexican Jaws rip-off); Guyana- Cult Of The Damned (you’ll need to bathe in Lysol after watching THAT one) and two notorious sleaze-fests that have a devoted cult-like crowd– Inseminoid and Limda Blair’s Chained Heat. And I’d like to put in a quick mention about Rainbeaux (Cheryl) Smith, who was in tons of these kinds of movies, and who died of hepatits (suspected from her years of heroin use) at a far-too-young age of 47; penniless and living on the streets. Her waif-like appearance and her eager acting style (she carried a hippie-like heir about her) was in more kinds of exploitation product than just about any actress you could name, from horror (Lemora- The Lady Dracula; The Incredible Melting Man); Sci-Fi (Laserblast) and musicals (the above-mentioned Phantom of the Paradise– blink and you’ll miss her), to sleazy blaxploitation (Drum); Women’s Prision movies (Caged Heat– one of the best of the genre)  silly sex comedies (Slumber Party ’57) and even X-Rated flicks (like Cinderella (1977) and Video Vixens). She was always a welcomed sight and it’s a shame that she will not be around when appreciation for her will continue to grow…

 

   Pom Pom was filmed in coastal California in the Los Angeles area; competently shot by Steven Katz, who went to bigger things like The Blues Brothers and who continues to work today. The Director (Joseph Rubin) also ended up moving on to more legitimate films, like the Dennis Quaid vehicle Dreamscape & The Forgotten. The print is very clean for a low-budget drive-in oddity; apparently Crown takes very good care of their archived masters- and it appears to be the full 90 minute version…

 

   The second flick here is The Van, a slice of the custom van-culture craze that hit its stride when this was released in 1977. It’s about Bobby (Stuart Goetz– who is now a Music Editor for television shows), a red-headed dork who decides that getting the girl of his dreams is more important than going to college so he spends his cash on a tricked-out van (with such “with-it” accessories like tuck-and roll liner; a waterbed with a mirrored ceiling, an 8-Track player and even drink holders!). It doesn’t really change his luck (a dork with a shiny paint job is still a dork), but when he gets hung up on one particular girl (Deborah White) he decides that maybe his trying to be slick isn’t the way. On the way to his life lesson though he ends up: playing dumb tricks on his car wash co-workers (putting castor oil in their beer then locking the bathroom); hooking up with an aggressive homely diner girl for a quicky (as well as a MILF with a jealous husband); gets involved in a police chase, and, once he finally gets the girl and needs to help his boss repay a loan, decides that the hunk of metal just ain’t worth it (well, that is, after flipping it in a drag race)…

 

   This one wasn’t as good as I remembered, but wasn’t too bad. The acting was uniformly decent and it was filmed competently, but the script was a bit weak with not all that much really happening. The main cast bounced around to other things but, except for Danny DeVito in an early part, didn’t go on to much more movie-wise. Some of the co-stars like Bill Adler (who is also in Pom Pom Girls) went on to other things besides acting (he now designs leather goods for major companies) and the very cute Marcie Barkin (who played a real bitch in one of my all-time favorite movies- Fade To Black, but I still dug her) is now the President of a successful software development company in Colorado, which is great to see. Behind the camera, the Director (Sam Grossman) went on to make only one more movie (Static) which was completed just after his death in 1999 from cancer, and Irv Goodnoff, the Cinematographer, is still working in movies. The thing that you’re going to remember most about this movie though is the theme song- “Chevy Van” by Sammy Johns; a staple on Top 40 radio when I was growing up, and a song that, no matter how hard you try, WILL NOT GET OUT OF YOUR HEAD. No matter how hard you try, I guarantee that sometime today, you will catch yourself whistling a line or two- I always end up getting hung up on this part:

   “I put her out in a town that was so small- You could throw a rock from end to end- A dirt road Main Street; she walked off in bare feet- It’s a shame I won’t be passin’ thru again”…

 

    (Click below to hear the song)

 

   “Chevy Van” by Sammy Johns

     Both movies appear in the “Starlight Drive-In Theater” 4 disc boxed set. Each movie is on a separate disc side and are cased as double-features (the other discs in the box are Hustler Squad & The Wild Riders; Van Nuys Blvd. and Little Laura and Big John, and Madman of Mandoras and The Devil’s Hand (which, technically, makes this disc a Triple Feature as the reworked version of Madman (They Saved Hitler’s Brain– a perennial “Golden Turkey” award winner) is also included on this disc). The company that produced all of these movies during their initial run, Crown International, was a major supplier of these kind of drive-in movies of the 60’s and seventies, and have recently come out of hiding to supply budget DVD lines of produce (the box set is BCI/ Brentwood, who use to put out dollar discs and now have gone semi-legitimate). If you don’t like the other movies in this set, don’t worry- they’ve included both Pom Pom and The Van in ANOTHER boxed set called “School Dazed” (*groan*) that has some more recent Crown International fare, including Tomboy; Hunk; Weekend Pass; Jocks; My Chauffer and My Tutor (the last one is the only one of these worth a damn). Extras on any of the discs, except for the “you are there” perspective DVD are about 6 minutes of trailers (from other movies in the boxed set) and snack-bar clips. If you look hard enough (hint- try certain Best Buys) you can find each boxed set at around nine bucks, giving you 8 flicks to take home for the cost of one movie ticket now- and that doesn’t even include Rainbeaux in the mix. Both are rater “R” for nudity, language and drug and alcohol use…

   The Pom Pom Girls– 3* out of 5

   The Van– 2-1/2* out of 5