Stealing DVDs for profit…

Stealing DVDs for profit
Big Lots ran a pretty nifty special in this past ad (depending how your area times it, it was either in the 7/26 (Sunday) or 7/29 (Wednesday) ad): assorted DVD Boxed Sets for $3 each. This goes with a special that they had a few weeks ago of similar savings; other boxed sets for $6 each. A little search of some of the stores around both here as well as reading various posts on forums like “DVDTalk.com” showed that these were all produced by Warner Brothers; one of the biggest arms in the Home Video market, and some incredible titles easily valued from at least 5 times the price. The previous haul had some nice finds like some Superman & Batman cartoons (as well as Scooby-Doo!); the entire Roots and Roots: The Next Generation deluxe boxed sets; Blade- The Series; and, the sweetest deal I got my hands on, the entire three season run of Wonder Woman (Ooooo- Lynda Carter!) boxed set! Six bucks was too hard to resist (the Wonder Woman set, for example, retails at $70+ at Amazon)…
…but it didn’t stop there- the more recent three dollar wave has had some pretty cherry things: The Flintstones seasons (I still need Season 5 of all six- anybody willin’ to help a brother out?) as well as the newer Pebbles and Bamm-Bamm series; a bunch of other Hanna-Barbera gems like Josie and the Pussycats entire series; Wacky Races series (and, separately, Dastardly and Muttly as well as The Perils of Penelope Pitstop); Top Cat series; Jonny Quest seasons 1 and 2 and others. They also had some live action things live the George Reeves Adventures of Superman (individual seasons); Tales From the Crypt (individually- still need seasons 6 & 7); and more recent things like various seasons of The War at Home; Lois and Clark; Everwood and Joey (Friends spinoff). There were also all kinds of cool, limited things that have been turning up (I’ve quickly come to cherish a boxed set of Popeye cartoons from 1933-1938)- but, like anything good it seems; there’s a hitch… It’s all stolen merchandise. From the Hollywood Reporter:
July 29, 2009
Warner Bros. lawsuit claims $10 million loss in brazen DVD theftBy Matthew Belloni
The home video arm of Warner Bros. has filed a $10 million lawsuit against a company the studio says agreed to destroy 2 million surplus DVDs but instead turned around and sold them on the cheap.
The complaint, filed Tuesday in Los Angeles Superior Court, alleges that Agoura Hills-based IWMB, Inc. and its president, Cal Jones, were subcontracted to dispose of the excess Warner Home Video DVDs and Blu-Rays but intead hawked them to a third party who put them on the market at discount prices that significantly undercut legit retailers. At least 750,000 of the stolen units were sold and 250,000 remain unaccounted for, according to the lawsuit.
Studios periodically destroy excess DVD product, which consists of unsold discs returned from vendors and defective goods. Here, WHV says it entrusted the product to Cinram Distribution, which has a deal with Warners to handle excess inventory (and which, surprisingly, is not a defendant). Cinram subcontracted with IWMB, which is alleged to have shown Warners a “fraudulent certificate of destruction” before going out and selling the DVDs and Blu-Rays on its own.
“The resale of the Warner Product at prices that undercut the prevailing wholesale and retail prices resulted in a substantial loss of revenue to WHV, believed to exceed $10 million,” the complaint says. WHV alleges fraud, conversion and violation of California’s business code. It seeks punitive damages as well as an injunction against further sale of the stolen product.
Neither IWMB nor Jones could be reached for comment.

Warners is repped in the case by White O’Connor partners Andrew White and David Fink and associate Hajir Ardebili.”

Now WHY WB does this is obvious- they don’t want to poison their own retail arm and if the market is flooded with their product at an impossible price point, their retail partners would surely start returning unsold merchandise hand over fist, causing all sorts of issues for everyone involved. Also, as Blu-Ray is the new favorite date of late, this would surely undercut that market as well- something the fledgling new media doesn’t need right now. This is truly an odd case, and one that I’ve never heard before…
My suggestion? Take a trek to a few of the Big Lots in your area and pick up any of the titles that they have on hand that interest you- I have a gut feeling that in the next few days they will be “Gone With the Wind”…

David Carradine in the Future Force/ Future Zone Double Feature

 

FF and FZ

  I was a big fan of David Carradine from when I first saw him on the “Kung Fu” television show. By 9 or ten or so, I was struck on just how damn cool he was- kickin’ major ass while roaming the land. As I got older I would catch him in genre flicks that would trickle down to Central Florida; great stuff like Cannonball! (an underrated Roger Corman- produced car crash flick with the very yummy Veronica Hamel and the funny Gerrit Graham); Thunder and Lightning (more car hijinx- this one co-starring my favorite “Charlie’s Angel” Kate Jackson), and his most famous- the giant cult flick Deathrace 2000 (with FOUR smokin’ gals in this one: the pretty genre favorite (but barely in this) Roberta Collins (who had more screen time in things like Caged Heat & Tobe Hooper’s Eaten Alive, and who died just last year from an OD); Louisa Moritz (who’s been in a million things like Chained Heat; Lunch Wagon and New Year’s Evil– a busty blonde with a squeaky voice who you’d recognize the second you saw her); the tall-and-sexy Mary Woronov (again, in a bunch of things from Andy Warhol underground stuff to Ms. Togar in Rock and Roll High School and the waiting-to-be-discovered lost film Get Crazy) and, my favorite of the bunch (sorry, Mary) the should-have-moved-on-to-much-better-things Simone Griffeth, who later appeared in more obscure drive-in stuff like The Patriot and Hot Target. She was a stunning woman who could really act (if not necessarily shown off in Deathrace), and apparently is still acting in local theater (in between her Real Estate day job)…

 

 

   I wanted to get in some reviews of some budget Carradine titles in honor of his passing on June 3rd and remembered that I had been sitting on a two-disc set of Future Force (1989) & the sequel Future Zone (1990); a combo set that can be found for $5 at places like FYE (courtesy of the budget DVD company Echo Bridge Home Entertainment). I didn’t know much about either title other than these were made during a low (one of several) in big Dave’s career (it would be a few years before he’d appear in the big studio flick Bird on a Wire, and 15 years before getting the title role in the Kill Bill movies), and that it was directed by David Prior- a director of low budget schlock who has a list of this type of thing as long as your arm (and he’s still at it). The box art has some Lawnmower Man- type computer graphics, suggesting something very Sci-Fi. Of course, cover art has lied in the past, but surely something with the Seal of Approval of “Caine” (Carradine and his 3rd wife Gail Jensen are credited as Associate Producers) wouldn’t DECEIVE, would it? Read on, fellow travelers…

 

 

   David stars as John Tucker, an officer of the “C.O.P.S.- Civilian Operated Police Systems” (as some helpful narration at the beginning of the movie informs, because of how bad crime has gotten by the so-in-the-future 1991 (!) the government has sold police forces the privatized corporation and now most crime has been obliterated) who ends up having to guardian angel a news reporter who’s fingered a mob boss in town (an overacting ham of a human being named William Zipp). Showing the low budget nature of the movie right off the bat- do the cops wear cool armor? Well- no. Actually, the uni consists of dark Wrangler jeans, a sky blue t-shirt under a denim cutoff vest. He does have a cool steel riot glove (ala The Glove– see my earlier blog post about that Rosey Grier/John Saxon vehicle) that gives him the strength to lift things like cars, smash meal and shoot lasers. But, being a David Prior movie, it’s carried out in his consistent, cheesy way, That is, a low budget version of a basic cable TV movie (and I know- I’ve sat through some of his other offerings, like Raw Justice (ever wondered what a movie starring Pam Anderson and the guy from Airplane would be like? Wonder no further- this is it); and Raw Nerve (with Glenn Ford reaching his absolute nadir, acting with an apparently drunk Jan-Michael Vincent and a way too sober and clothed Traci Lords) …  

 

   Carradine looks bloated and a bit tired in this- simply going through the motions. And if the flick had the least bit of fun to it, it might be easier to take. Unfortunately, it takes itself DEADLY serious, and sucks the air right out of any pace or drama it tries to set up. Tucker throws out grumpy lines to convey that he’s a bad ass: “You have committed a crime and have been found guilty. You have the right to die. If you relinquish that right, you will be placed under arrest…”. Wow- harsh stuff, huh? The only other name on display here is Robert Tessier, a big, Mr. Clean- looking guy who’s been in a bunch of Burt Reynolds films (like Hooper and The Longest Yard) as well as the Bad-Guy-who-turns-into-the-Good-Guy-and-dies-for-his-efforts personal favorite cheese-fest Starcrash, as the Boss’ right arm. Just like everyone else in here (except for the above-mentioned Zipp and Dawn Wildsmith- the ex- Mrs. Fred Olen Ray as the fellow cop with a heart and slashed throat), he seems to be acting in some kind of catatonic state…

 

 

   So OK; the acting’s kinda flat and the Art Direction is uninspired- at least there’s some nifty Sci-fi effects, right? Uh, no… sorry. Lame in that department as well. The whole movie is shot with the dingy, uninspired poor man’s karate movie look, with not a hint of fantastic elements. And the library music used (lots of bass keyboard thumping) and amped-up sound effects do not help matters; instead of helping the excitement level it’s just that much more distracting. The movie is unrated, and except for a few swear words and some after-killing blood there’s nothing too rough in this (which would have probably spiced up the very long-seeming 80 minute running time). The “Flying-Glove-of-Death” is pretty funny though; you have to wait to the 68 minute mark for that, though)…

 

 

   I’m glad that he was able to regain some level of credibility before dying (but with all the speculation on HOW he died, seems to have undone that); it’s a shame that he had to survive on low-level product like this. As I was barely unable to get through the first one, the sequel Future Zone is going to have to wait for another day for me to review it- I’m still having trouble keeping food down…

 

 

Future Force- 1 out of 5*

 

Richard Grieco hits the acting skids in “Final Payback” (2001)

 

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   Johnny Depp is known to be pretty much the coolest guy in movies. Not only is he probably the most entertaining guy out there with his varied roles, he seems to be just a good guy (things like recording personal messages for a young coma patient; sending pieces of his wardrobe to fans; or appearing with his former teenage bandmates for a 20-year reunion just to play music). He got his start on “21 Jump Street”; a pretty successful series for the Fox Network that was suppose to launch the career to superstardom of another actor on the series- Richard Grieco, but things didn’t turn out as planned. While Johnny hooked his star to directors like Tim Burton, Terry Gilliam and Robert Rodriguez, Richard ended up with straight-to-video “mavens” like Chuck DuBus (Fish Don’t Blink); Christian Viel (Evil Breed: The Legend of Sam Hain); and David Wu (Webs). This time he picked Art Camacho, a Stunt Coordinator and sometime Director (his biggest flick to date is the recent Half-Past Dead 2), and together they unleashed Final Payback, a DTV of a slow and talky man-on-the-run versus a corrupt-police-force-out-to-get-him flick…

 

  When Grieco goes dippin’ his ink in the company well- well, no good can ever come from that apparently, and he wakes up to his girlfriend (Priscilla Barnes, in probably the most thankless role of her life) dead in her shower. Oh, and it’s a Police Chief’s (John Saxon– SURPRISE! As another cop!) wife; the same Police Chief who had ol’ Rich bounced off the force a few years earlier. He hears cops, hops on his Honda, then scoots away, causing the lone cop car following him to flip and burst into flames…

 

   Well, after THAT, you get scenes of drug dealers and users being brought in by (drum roll, please) Martin Kove, chewing scenery from here to L.A. He grits his teeth, rolls his eyes, and sucks up major to the Mayor (Corbin Bernsen, who’s few minutes of screen time must have either been as a favor to the makers of this or commanded pocket money for a weekend in Sausalito). Kove is easily the best thing in this (maybe not BEST- let’s say “most entertaining”)- Grieco could have made this his, but with his sulking, overacting and facial ticks, it’s hard to like him. His greasy hair and earring, his oily and pudgy face, his stupid leather jacket all made me hope that they’d turn the tables and off the good guy (I don’t want to give it away, but no luck). It’s kinda fun- there are some flourishes that make this not as static as typical fare (the junkie hitmen- one played by Manuel Sanchez that is a low-rent version of the great Danny Trejo; a buddy-turned-informer trippin’ out in an alley), but in the end, it’s just a fairly-good time-waster…

 

   The flick itself is shot flat and pretty static, though nicely framed in widescreen 1:85. The most surprising thing is the lack of real stunts, but the fight scenes that are here are well-staged. This DVD is released by Digiview and can be had for a buck at pretty much every WalMart on earth. No extras, but that’s OK- I can’t picture really wanting a “Making Of” or a “Director’s Commentary” for this; nothing all that exceptional here. One last thing- for some reason most of the cursing is bleeped out (“Son of a ____”); however they left an “F-word” in.

 

 

 

Final Payback– 2-1/2 out of 5*

 

 

More cheap stuff from Dolphin Video…

dvds22

I covered these guys on a previous post from January called “More BCI-ECLIPSE- this time wholesale” (https://budgetdvdhunter.wordpress.com/2009/01/29/more-bci-eclipse-this-time-wholesale%e2%80%a6/); they’re a wholesaler who seems to sell new DVDs from closed up companies or titles which DVD manufacturers must have lost the rights for so they’re liquidating. Some of the more interesting titles currently on-hand (again though, these go pretty damn quick so if you want something snatch it up) are:

Final Exam– This one really surprised me the most as this was a new release late last year. The movie itself is not very good (I saw it when it came in 1981 at a drive-in in Casselberry Florida and didn’t like it then); an example of 50,000 stalk and slash flicks that clogged theaters in the early 80’s. It’s pretty boring; the kills aren’t all that imaginative, and from up and down screams cheap. I ended up watching this when it hit my “Netflix” cue; not for the movie itself but for the extras (I’m a huge sucker for DVD extras and will sometimes purchase a disc just for the extras), which were some interviews with the cast (none of who really went on to anything else in the movie biz) and a pretty good commentary (however, no participation from the Director- which leads me to believe that he is suitably embarrassed by his efforts here). Brand new this goes for $18 on Amazon; Dolphin has it for $2.75…

Don’t Answer the Phone– Another one that I caught at the same drive-in; this one was better than the above movie (not necessarily TECHNICALLY, but it has a veneer of overall creepiness and teeth-grinding leading performance by the late Nicholas Worth (Swamp Thing). This is the UNCUT version and am looking forward to seeing it. It also has a Directors’ commentary, a “making of” documentary, stills and trailers. This one retails around $13, but is sold discounted here for $1.50…

Crypt of Terror- Horror From South of the Border Vol. 1– This is a weird collection of seven Mexican-made horror flicks that hadn’t been released on this side of the line until now. All are of recent vintage (well, by RECENT I mean within 20 years, as opposed to the 1960’s Mexican flicks I would watch on Creature Feature growing up), and most are in their original Spanish with English subtitles. A big bargain; this is going to $23 on Amazon and selling here for $2.50…

Worth mentioning as well are some $20 Paul Naschy “Best Buy Exclusive” two disc sets (Human Beasts with Blue Eyes of the Broken Doll; which is selling for $3.25, and Lorely’s Grasp with Horror Rises from the Tomb; which is for sale for $1.75 a set). Like dumb bimbo/silly sex comedies? They’ve got you covered with Advantage: Hot Cops & Good Girls; an 8-movie set that includes all six (!) Vice Academy flicks (starring in various versions Linnea Quigley, Ginger Lynn Allen and Elizabeth Kaitain) along with two other flicks- retailing for $12; selling for $1.50. Also, a bunch of other 8-10 movie “Advantage” box sets also going for $1.50 per set with titles like Creature Features (PD horror flicks); Demons & Witches (10 direct-to-video sex and blood flicks) and The Cult Fims of Roger Corman (a collection of, I would guess, every PD Corman flick out there like The Terror; Wasp Woman, etc.)…

Don’t forget their inventory changes all the time (still lots of chop-socky and kids cartoons as well); they seem to have picked up some older wrestling titles (included midget and masked Mexican!) so keep checking and something is bound to turn up that does interest you if this round doesn’t. Minimum order of $50 (I’d recommend going halvsies with a friend if you can’t meet the minimum) and shipping starts at $10. This is a one-man operation, so be patient when it comes to delivery (however, I got mine in less than a week). Happy cheap shopping!

http://www.cdplusdolphinvideo.com/

Flexplay and You…

flexplay1

 

I remember seeing these first at a 7-11 a few years ago where I bought a couple of them out of curiousity (one of the Pirates of the Caribbean flicks and something else), then they seemed to disappear. I was at Staples last week and saw a big cardboard display for them, so I though that I’d cover them on the blog…

 

 

“Them” are Flexplay DVDs (www.flexplay.com) “the Time Limited DVD” and what they are- well, it’s kinda hard to say. It’s sort of like having a rental DVD, only you don’t have to return them- instead you’re stuck with a disc that “ages”; after you’ve opened it from it’s protective air-tight sleeve you have 2 days (the packaging says) to watch it before it comes unplayable. I saw that Staples were clearancing these out; they normally retail for $5 each (a bit high for a comparable DVD rental when you can go to a Redbox for $1 a night, but, you don’t have to return the disc anywhere so I guess you’re paying for convenience) but they marked all of theirs down to a buck a piece (of course your mileage may vary). I ended up buying 15 or so; different titles that interest me like The Invasion; Cloverfield; Be Kind Rewind; The Brave One (Jodie Foster– YUM!); The Love Guru, etc. They also have some TV content like Mythbusters and Dirty Jobs episodes and some concert flicks like Rolling Stones- Shine a Light, but all of their content seems to be current or semi-current- I guess you really want to buy a classic movie if you really want to see it, and not have it go ker-plunk on you for repeated viewing…

 

 

I went ahead and opened the recent Sweeney Todd for analysis. Once you open the cardboard package (they’re packed in a full-color sleeve that opens to reveal the clear pouch that contains the disc), you remove the air-tight disc packaging, cut the side off then remove the DVD. The disc itself looks like a standard DVD; it has the same heft as any other professionally produced disc, even down to the full-color silk-screened top (which seems a little wasteful- I mean, you’re just going to chuck this in a few days anyway; why go whole hog with fancy graphics on a disc that you’ve already purchased?), but if you look on the underside of it, the disc is a pretty ruby red (I think that this has changed and they’ve come up with newer technology for the “rotting” process; The Love Guru disc looks like the familiar reflective silver that are standard with regular DVDs). It goes quickly straight to the movie- no menu or extras or anything (again, in comparison to Love Guru– that has a simple Menu that allows you to choose either “Play” or “Setup”, which allows you a choice of English/French/Spanish Languages or Audio- all in 5.1). The picture was in widescreen; again, no choice (however, some of the other titles show “widescreen” on the packaging, so I’m not sure what titles they have that are NOT in widescreen)…

 

 

The picture itself is clear (if just a touch softer than the regular DVD release) and the sound is as vibrant. I watched the flick on both an upconverting DVD player on a large-screen HD set as well as on my PC and had issues with neither. I then waited two days and tried to watch on both and again, no problem- however examining the physical disc itself I noticed the inner ring of the disc was gradually turning black- the way the disc shuts itself off. I tried it two days later and was still able to play it in both the stand alone DVD player as well as the PC. On the 5th day, however the stand alone DVD player churned then stopped; I was still able to play it on the PC until about the week mark, where it finally failed to play. However as another test, I was able to copy it using (SHHhh- secret) software that allowed playback with no issues whatsoever both when I opened it as well as making another copy after a week (though the packaging does say that the discs are “copy-protected”, so either the software I have is very good or their copy-protecting software ain’t). Actually, after almost two weeks, the files on the Flexplay are viewable; what seems to derogate are the files initiated at startup. So, basically if you are not tech-y (my Parents immediately come to mind) this protection is fine; but if you want to find a way to crack it, it is easily achieved…

 

 

I’m not really sure who these are marketed for; I would guess first and foremost would be the casual movie viewer who’s not a collector (and therefore wouldn’t want to own a DVD for repeated viewing) and who doesn’t want to go to the trouble of either joining a local video store (like Blockbuster) or something online (like Netflix), or doesn’t want the trouble of repeatedly going to a Redbox for renting then returning or incur the expense of Pay-per-View on their local cable systems. This seems like a very specific niche, though, and I’m not sure how long the company is going to stick around (a recent look on their site shows some even newer titles available, so maybe Staples just wanted to get out of the pre-recorded DVD market) with all of the viewing options available. You can purchase these on the Flexplay site as well for $4.99 each with free shipping. One more thing that is a bit disturbing is the waste factor; the disc covers mark these as “recyclable”; however, you have to go on their site, register the UPC codes individually (limit 5 at a time) then they’ll send you a pre-paid shipping package to return to them. It seems a bit too much work to be “eco-friendly”; this also doesn’t allow for the cardboard sleeve these are sold in, so this may bother you if you have those kind of concerns. At the $1 price-point I would recommend these easily; anything above that for a title that you would consider watching more than once then I would be more apprehensive…

 

 

Flexplay (in general)- 2-1/2* out of 5

 

 

 

 

 

 

Carmen Electra IS an “American Vampire”

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   I was GOING to review American Vampire (released in 2006 from Digiview Entertainment and, apparently, known in some parts as An American Vampire Story) but I can’t bring myself to do it. I spent a whole buck on the DVD and feel like I was cheated for 97 cents- it is totally unwatchable, and I turned it off after 15 minutes (and you are talking to someone who’s seen thousands on movies and have only walked out of two of them- (9 to 5 and Time Bandits). It has Adam West- the Original (and still the best) “Batman”; Sydney Lassick (the uber-creepy guy who basically upstaged Jack Nicholson in “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” and creeped out Carrie in “Carrie”) and the afore-mentioned Carmen, but it is just so bad that it can’t be believed. It’s basically about kids at a beach house vacationing, who get more than they bargain for when they run into some hot blood-suckers. And it’s not bad in a Plan 9 kinda way- like in a nuclear meltdown disaster. PLEASE- for the sake of sanity for you and everyone that you know and love, approach this movie ONLY with a HASMAT suit and Teflon tongs…

 

 

   …it’s THAT bad…

 

 

American Vampire– ZERO out of 5*

 

 

R.I.P. Ray Dennis Steckler- King of the Cheapies

 

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   Ray Dennis Steckler was probably the cheapest filmmaker out there (with apologies to Ted Mikels and the late Andy Milligan), and having passed away January 7th I figured that a few words would be in order…

 

 

   Just in my teens, I saw my first Steckler movie (and his highest-budgeted at $38,000)- The Incredibly Strange Creatures Who Stopped Living and Became Mixed-up Zombies at one of the last Saturday Matinees that was still around in the late ‘70’s in Orlando. I had already loved crappy movies as a little kid; my Mom and I shared very little in the way of interests but we would park ourselves on the couch to watch Tampa’s Channel 44’s “Creature Feature” With Dr. Paul Bearer and his absolutely gonzo double features. But “Incredibly” was something else- my first real “cult” movie; before I would trek religiously to Midnight Movies at least weekly to catch Rocky Horror; Heavy Metal or Dawn of the Dead. From then on I would look for any of his cheesy-yet-fun movies any time they would (very rarely) play on late-night UHF TV, and even called him (after lots of microfiche and out-of-town-phonebook research at the local library) just to let him know that I was a fan (he was curt but semi-appreciative before brushing me off with a quick “Good Luck, Kid”)….

 

 

   Eventually I was able to catch most of his films on VHS and later on DVD and became hooked by most of his 60’s output- The Thrill Killers; Rat Fink a Boo Boo (which was SUPPOSE to be titled Rat Fink AND Boo Boo but when the titles were made for the movie someone in the lab goofed and he didn’t want to spend the extra movie to correct them!) and especially Wild Guitar, which is an amazing rags-to-riches rock and roll story…

 

 

   Wild Guitar stars the fleshy-faced Arch Hall Jr. as the hayseed “Bud Eagle” a starry-eyed rock-and-roller with nothing but 15 cents in his pocket (he can’t even afford tax on his meal at a diner), a crummy guitar, a giant blonde pompadour and a dream to make it big in Hollywood. Ten minutes after arriving he meets the pretty blonde Vickie (Nancy Czar), who, as luck would have it, is just on the way to her big break- dancing on a TV Variety Show. After her jiggling and writhing, the singer who’s suppose to follow her gets so nervous that he bails, so a stage hand at the urging of Vickie (who, by the way has never seen her new friend sing), lets ol’ Bud go out there to sing- and after tripping onto the stage, regains his composure and belts out a song that, at the end of it, has the girls in the audience go nuts. This gets the attention of a sleazy Producer Mike McCauley (played by his real-life Dad Arch Hall Sr.), who insists that he A) “Call me Mike”; and B) will handle everything. Well, he does and HOW- soon Bud is a huge star on national tours and records but only has a rented apartment, six new suits and a shiny guitar to show for his efforts as fatherly Mike is cookin’ the books and pocketing a chunk ‘o change. After more drama Mike suddenly gets smart and, with a scheme that could only be dreamed up in a movie where someone becomes a national superstar after only being in town for eight hours or so, ends up with the money and the girl (and a recalcitrant Mike seeing the error of his ways). That this was made in glorious Black and White at a cost under $30,000 in 1962 is truly astounding, and a personal favorite of mine as a junk-food movie…

 

 

   Ray’s output slowed down in the 70’s on, and the dozen or so movies he did make weren’t quite as fun (he even delved into hardcore porn for awhile) but were even cheaper (it’s said that he never spend anything more than he did for “Incredibly Strange Creatures”!). He ended up getting a divorce from his wife (and featured performer) Carolyn Brandt, opened a video store and make the occasional movie until he died of heart failure in early January…

 

 

   As for his output on DVD- you can find a great sample of his best work on 2 boxed sets readily available at places like Amazon or Best Buy for under $20 each: “Midnight Movie Collection”- which collects Strange Creatures…; Rat Fink A Boo-Boo (probably my second-favorite of all his movies); The Thrill Killers and The Lemon Grove Kids (Ray’s take-off of The Bowery Boys with him as the lead “Kid” and looking very much like Huntz Hall); and “Midnight Movie Collection 2”, which has his more recent works like Blood Shack; Body Fever; and his almost-silent soft-core horror dual features The Hollywood Strangler Meets the Skid Row Slasher and The Las Vegas Serial Killer. Each movie is on their own disc and cased individually, all with commentaries by the engaging Steckler as well as interviews and promotional materials…

 

 

   Don’t wanna spend 20 bucks? Break open the piggy bank and spring out 4 quarters and head to your nearest Walmart; Dollar Tree or check cashing store; ‘cause you’ll probably find Digiview Productions DVD of Wild Guitar there (along with a 2nd great feature The Beatniks; another singer-plucked-from-obscurity feature (this time from a dirty beatnik gang) starring a pre-“Big Valley” Peter Breck acting particularly crazed). Granted, the picture isn’t the silvery- B&W you would find on a carefully restored Criterion disc, but some movies, like Ray’s, can be enjoyed through the splices and scratches just fine- thank you very much. RIP Mr. Steckler- I just wished that I had the chance to shake your hand or have something signed; that would have been a true honor …

 

   PS- One more way to get his movies would be through his web site (http://www.raydennissteckler.com/) but I’m not sure if the Store is operational now that he’s passed- at least you would know if it IS that some of the money would be going to his family…

 

 

   Wild Guitar– (4* out of 5)