More cheap stuff from Dolphin Video…

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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/

Chilling 12 disc DVD Set

 

   (or- “How a 50 movie DVD Set can Change at a Moments Notice”)

 

 

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   Mill Creek Entertainment (that also shoots out titles under its Echo Bridge Entertainment) http://www.millcreekent.com/ has for the past few years been releasing multi-movie titles in all sorts of bunched grouping; anywhere from 5 and 10 movie sets all the way to 100 Movie Packs. Obviously the larger (20/50/100 Movie Pack) Sets are various re-packages and include titles already included in previous smaller Sets (I mean- there are only so many Public Domain flicks they can pull from), but I’ve accidentally discovered TWO DIFFERENT SETS of their 50 Movie Set “The Chilling” titled identically but containing different flicks entirely…

 

 

   First though, I’d like to give a quick overview of what constitutes the grey area of a Public Domain movie. Previous to 1998 any movie made in 1977 or prior that was not re-registered through the Copyright Office fell into PD. At that time, other than the occasional showing on TV, there was no real intrinsic value of holding Copyrights if you were a small company- it would require a Lawyer to file documents and cable and DVDs (let alone the VCR boom) were yet a gleam in Mega-Corporations’ eyes. This allowed a bunch of 40’s, 50’s and 60’s (most famously Night of the Living Dead (1968)) and even the 70’s (like Alice Sweet Alice (1977) to go into PD (though the two examples dropped into the grey area because of incorrect registering and not because of any “shelf life”). After the new Act was passed, however (thanks to both the nosiness of Sonny Bono (yeah- THAT ONE) and Walt Disney Entertainment- in fear of losing their many character holdings, like Mickey Mouse), the shelf life was extended, making it easier for producers and copyright holders to retain their Rights for a longer period of time (up to 120 years as opposed to the original 27 year (if not re-registered) life. But this is not a legal Blog (I mean- it’s LEGAL- just not about “Legal matters”), so I want to talk about something more relevant to us, the Consumers…

 

 

   I purchased the “50 Movie Pack Chilling Classics” 12 DVD set a few years ago for the bargain price of around $15 and have watched quite a few of them with various degrees of appreciation. Mill Creek has put this and other sets in a flimsy cardboard box and the 12 DVDs in individual sleeves accessed from the opening in the front of the case (and one that velcros open and closed- which means that I ripped it the first time I used it). And each sleeve had the corresponding movie titles and a brief description. The quality of the movies is almost uniformly weak or worse, usually taken from VHS dupes or some other sketchy source. My worse beef with the Company, however, is the “video bug” that they burn into the corner of the screen every 15 minutes or so- a habit started with some Something Weird Video releases that I find very intrusive and incredibly annoying. But most of these titles, unless appropriated by other budget companies, probably wouldn’t see the light of day (who would release, I thought, the High School-made Milpitas Monster?) (Come to find out the Director- see http://www.milpitasmonster.com/m_mm.html for proof) so it’s worth the investment. However- be careful WHICH SET you purchase…

 

 

   I was reading about one of the titles included on my Set on IMDB- Deadtime Stories (1986)– a pretty entertaining cheapjack horror anthology featuring Scott Valentine (best known as Mallory’s dumb boyfriend on the TV show Family Ties) and someone had mentioned in the Forums that this title was mistakenly classified as Public Domain. In the interim, Mill Creek had removed it from its future copies of Chilling Classics, so I was curious as to what they replaced it with- and the results were surprising and put me in “Video Watchdog” mode, as in ACTUALLY doing REAL LIFE research. Come to find out that in this new incarnation of the 50 Movie Set that SEVEN Titles were replaced. The Titles that were on the old Set were:

 

   * Christmas Evil (a 1980 title actually just as well-known as You’d Better Watch Out, which is a so-bad-it’s-funny killer Santa flick starring Brandon Maggart)

 

   * Crypt of the Living Dead (1973) (A weak Spanish vampire flick that was parading around Drive-Ins long after on a triple-bill that I sat through in 1981 at a Drive-in in Casselberry, Florida)

 

   * Deadtime Stories (Already covered above)

 

   * Memorial Valley Massacre (a late-arriving (1988) hatchet-wielding maniac on the loose flick that has both William (“Big Bill”) Smith and Cameron Mitchell in supporting roles)

 

   * Milpitas Monster (Made in 1974 but not released for a few years- this was a Milpitas California High School project that was reportedly made for around $40,000. The whole town chipped in to make this Giant-Monster-from-the-pollution semi-parody flick. And if you recognize the Narrator- well, you should… that’s the famous voice-over guy Paul Frees!

 

   * Snake People (1971- The Mexican living dead featuring one of the last (badly-edited) roles by Boris Karloff- who had actually been dead for two years prior to this coming out)

 

   * Virus (1980’s all-star international spectacle about germ warfare funded by the US and Germany for Japanese audiences and starring genre greats like Bo Svenson, George Kennedy, Glenn Ford and Sonny Chiba)

 

 

   (If you do have both sets side by side you will notice a listing on the old one for House of the Dead and the new one for Alien Zone- this is the same movie, an anthology flick made in 1978 and one that actually aired on Elvira’s Movie Macabre in the early 80’s. I’m guessing the re-titling has something to do with some legal-ese to keep it included in the set)

 

 

 

   You would think that someone over at Mill Creek would have run the titles past a paralegal or something to avoid the expense of a possible law suit or at least having to replace legally OK discs with the offending ones but I guess not. I’m sure this is not the only multi-disc set to suffer these setbacks (I know that some of these show up on other 50 and 100-disc sets from the Company) but, well, someone else with more time on their hands is going to have to do that legwork. And it wouldn’t just be the re-mastering of the discs; all-new disc sleeves and even the outer box had to be redone (I don’t have the new Set, but the old one includes paragraphs mentioning both Christmas Evil and Deadtime Stories– I’d be curious as to what the new blurbs say)…

 

 

   Oh, and just so you know- the replacement titles on the new discs (apparently copyright-free) are:

 

   * Devil Times Five (from 1974- psycho children on the loose- a movie that was recently released by Code Red DVD and one that I’m truly surprised has fallen into PD limbo)

 

   * I Eat Your Skin (a boring black and white jungle zombie flick from the mid-sixties)

 

   * Murder Mansion (A slow-moving Italian import from 1972)

 

   * A Passenger to Bali (Not really a movie, but an episode of the mid- 50’s Studio One television show from CBS and starring E.G. Marshall)

 

   * Shock (the 1940’s Noir starring Vincent Price- NOT the final Mario Bava that was sold over here as Beyond the Door 2)

 

   * Snowbeast (1977’s answer to all of the Bigfoot hysteria- Made-for-TV and starring our pal Bo Svenson)

 

   * Werewolf in a Girl’s Dormitory (Italian man-wolf nonsense; B&W from 1963)

 

 

   From all I’ve read there are still some old copies on shelves out their in RetailLand; you may want to try stores that have a slower turnover rate for DVDs- like Border’s Books for example.

 

 

 

  

 

 

 

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

 

 

Night of the Sharks & The Glove

 

 

   Today is a Double Feature disc from Canada- Quality Special Products (no website available- the on-screen name is Quality Video, Inc.) is a typical bargain DVD and CD provider that, for all I know, is still in business. I’ve seen their product in various places, from FYE to CVS (where I picked this DVD up) and they seem to specialize in music compilations mostly (Bob Marley; Jerry Lee Lewis) that are either re-records of original songs or live Greatest Hits discs, but also carry Public Domain (PD) movies, or, in this case, borderline- as I’m not sure that either of these movies ARE in Public Domain. This could be a case of maybe just VERY CHEAP licensed product (the Company seems to be crossing their “T” and dotting their “I”s even when it comes to their packaging; they’ve even given credit to the copyright owners of the photos they used of the stars on their case cover)…

 

 

   The first one- Night of the Sharks (1987) (or, it’s proper title: La Notte Degli Squali) is an Italian (how would you have guessed from its original title?) crime thriller that is SO BORING that I fell asleep in the middle of it. It takes a special movie to have me zone in the middle of it (the last time I did that watching a movie was Pokeman 2000) and this is it. The only reason I woke up was when I nodded off I fell head-first into the keyboard and the constant “DING-DING-DING-DING” of my head resting on the keys shook me awake. Treat Williams (who, God love him, is clearly doing this for the lira), who at one time actually made decent movies (remember Prince of the City?) is a retired fortune hunter who comes out who ends up seeking revenge on the guys that rubbed out his brother (he double-crossed some corporate-types and is carrying an audio CD (!) with incriminating evidence). The other names in the cast, like Christopher Connelly (who also isn’t above working for anyone willing to pay him no matter how bad the script) and Antonio Fargas (HUGGY BEAR- do I need to add to that?) are slumming, but at least enjoying the all-expense paid trip to the Dominican Republic. This is filmed in typical Italian-style; with grainy photography and almost every shot ending in a zoom- and a trick ending that, even if you DO fall asleep, you will see coming from 6 miles away…

 

 

   The Glove (1979) was made by Ross Hagen, a character actor who mostly played baddies and still appears in the occasional Fred Olen Ray flick. He’s made other movies (he was the Producer and actor of Bad Charleston Charlie, which was a favorite tape of mine until my crappy VCR I once owned ate the tape) and still directs, but this one is his crowning achievement. The always great John Saxon stars as a divorced ex-baseball payer-turned bounty hunter who gets 20 grand if he hauls in escaped con Rosey Grier (and does it all while wearing velour jogging suits). Oops, one thing- the con is wearing a specially-designed riot glove that allows the wearer to smash through anything, like doors and cars. Watching Rosey (playing a con with heart- even though he smashes the shit out of prison guards) in full riot gear beat up a car is so cool that the DVD producers use it as a blurb before the menu. Now THIS is what an exploitation flick is supposed to be! It’s all over the place- its got action, comedy (like gay bail jumpers) action, heart-warming scenes of Dad and daughter, meat-cutting footage, and gratuitous poker playing . It also has an all-star character actor cast, including Keenan Wynn, Nicholas Worth, Joan Blondell (in her second-to-last roll), Aldo Ray, Jack Carter, Hoke Howell and Michael Pataki. Why this movie isn’t more famous (or being remade like other less-worthy movies nowadays) I don’t know, but it needs to be. I think that it’s got the type of tone that movies made in the “Blaxploitation” era had, which may make it seem slightly dated, but it really suits it. I caught this late night on HBO in the early 80’s and was pleasantly surprised that it was as good as I remembered it. And don’t forget the song- you will try but you won’t be able to: “You can’t escape, the kiss and rape, of the GLOOOOVVVVeeeee”…

 

 

   The disc is a flipper (one movie on both sides) and the box art is pretty cheesy (the spine doesn’t even list the movies, only the names of Treat and John, so if someone is perusing your DVD collection looking for one of these movies, they’re going to have to know who starred in them). The quality of the prints is VHS transfer but fairly clean- late-night UHF-quality (though The Glove is the better-looking of the two and might be from a film print). Sharks runs 87 minutes and is PG-13 (blood); The Glove clocks in at 92 minutes and is definitely an “R” because of its heavy violence. One thing unusual that you’ll find when you pop this puppy into your player is some voice-over narration- “Welcome to this Interactive versatile disc… Blah Blah Blah”… instructing you on how to actually WORK a DVD by using your remote to select your Option (in case you never have used basically any kind of electronics before) -VERY annoying. The jazzy saxophone and flute music at the menu is a particularly dumb choice- its very out of place. Extras include Chapter Selection; short Biographies; a Movie Review (naturally they select a good one for each film) and a Trivia Quiz (you WERE paying attention, right?). I would pick this up just for The Glove, but its your money so spend it as you’d like…

 

 

  

   Night of the Sharks– 1* out of 5

 

   The Glove– 3-1/2* 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

 

 

   

Another Big Lots deal…

 

 

 

   It seems like the MGM buyout by Warners has now trickled down to boxed sets. The following were spotted at a recent visit to Big Lots (your mileage may vary):

 

   5 bucks-

   * Silence of the Lambs/ Hannibal two-pack boxed set (these are Special Editions discs with some nice features)- the funky red foil packaging is pretty cool as well. Currently going for $31 on Amazon…

 

   * Thunderbirds 2 disc set- I bought both the movies for $3 each when Big Lots had their previous sale. This set includes Thunderbirds Are Go (1966), and Thunderbird 6 (1968) (both marked “International Rescue Edition”- whatever THAT means) and are full-length widescreen movies of the Supermarionation (puppet) television show. The Extras on the discs include their respective Trailers; a Quiz; Audio Commentary & 3 Making-of Featurettes (each disc has different ones). The boxed set itself also includes magnets and stickers and the box itself is nice. It’s currently on Amazon for around $27- scoop ‘em up while you can…

 

   7 bucks-

   * Species 4-disc set (trilogy)- Pretty nice set; this is the first 3 Species flicks (there is a recently-released Species 4 not included) all in their Special Edition form (lots of extras including Making-Ofs; Trailers; Audio Commentaries; etc.). The 4th disc  (which I just bought separately at a used DVD/Bookstore, dammit!) had seven additional featurettes not included on the other discs as well as a special Alternate Ending to the first Species. This is going online for $36 bucks…

 

   10 bucks-

   * A bunch of Manga sets- I’m not much for Manga (Japanese animation) so I didn’t get the titles but there were 4 or 5 different ones. Some were just a large-size box with one disc in them (with the idea that you have a place to put additional discs when they come out as part of the set) and one even came with a T-shirt; while others had a bust of a character included with them- these were pretty sweet; a nicely crafted 6 inch model. I know that I’ve seen these go for a bunch of money in comic book stores, so for all of you collectors out there, scoop them up…

 

   *The Pam Grier Collection (Fox In A Box)– I was THRILLED when I bought this last year for $20 at Circuit City and now you can have ‘em for half that- three of Pam Grier’s best (on the MGMSoul Cinema” imprint): Coffy; Foxy Brown and Sheba Baby and a 4th disc  presented by Vibe Magazine that has Trailers for the above three movies (which are also on the individual discs) and 2 pretty nice mini-documentaries: “Pam Grier: Super Fox” which is an overview of her career and what she meant to movies of the 70’s told by fans of hers in the media (about 17 minutes); and “Blaxploitation to Hip-Hop” (18 minutes) that talks about the culture and influence of those past movies on today’s black youth (using the same people and much of the same footage from the previous documentary). The most disappointing thing with the featurettes is that Pam isn’t interviewed in either, but they are nice overviews of the lady and her legend (one note- lots of nudity and scenes of violence, but I guess if you are watching this anyway I wouldn’t think you would knowingly have the kiddies around). Currently going for $27 on Amazon…

 

   13 bucks-

   * The Rocky 5-disc boxed set- This is probably the least real ‘deal’ of the bunch; the first 5 Rocky movies (this was issued before the late-arriving Rocky Balboa came out) but none of these are very ‘special’ editions; only two of them even come with Trailers, and the packaging is very flimsy thick paper over full-size cases. If you want bare-bones versions of these just to have the movies then pick a set up; if not there are better choices. This set is no longer being offered new on Amazon; it can be purchased used for around $14…

 

   So get out there and add to your collection!

 

  

Graduation Day

 

 

   Legacy Entertainment (no web page- you’ll see why as you read on) is a budget outfit that popped up years ago as one of the early budget providers. Their specialty, it seems, is out-and-out thievery of other peoples’ titles. Sure, they release some of the same PD flicks everyone else puts out (hyping stars in early works like Robert DeNiro on Swap Meet and Sarah Jessica Parker in My Body, My Child to name two), but they also sell licensed works like the first 3 Sleepaway Camp movies and this one- Graduation Day (1981). The trouble is- they ain’t paying for their use, so this is some ol’ fashion bootleggin’…

 

   So the movie starts off at a High School track meet, where a girl just after winning a race drops dead from a heart attack. I guess this pissed SOMEONE off, because now a killer is on the loose, offing the track team one by one. Who would due such a dastardly deed- the Principal (genre stalwart Michael Pataki)? The Coach (the late Christopher George– who will appear in anything that pays him a check… remember 1980’s Pieces)? Or is it the sister who’s come back from the Navy; weirded out by the creepy step-father and who is constantly snooping around and jumping out of bushes? Maybe it’s someone else? Or maybe you’ll just give up twenty minutes or so into the movie because you don’t give a damn? Well, maybe- but you’ll miss out on routine throat slashings, impalings, beheadings, and death-by-football; Vanna White desperately trying to act; a sprinkle of nudity (including some early chest-baring by Linnea Quigley); and worst of all, gratuitous leg-shaving (well, maybe Pataki’s slacks-bulge is ACTUALLY worst of all). This is an oh-so typical 80’s Friday the 13th rip-off, with the Ten Little Indians-style set-‘em-up-for-the-slaughter pace, but not any worse than the 500 other ones that came out around that time. Not as bloody as Maniac or as funny as Prom Night– very average but competent (oh, and don’t miss the accidental joke when a character opens a door to the class shop labeled “George Michaels- Woodworking”- spooky foreshadowing, huh?). By the way- the director (Herb Freed) is an old pro at this kind of flick; he made others like Haunts and Beyond Evil as well, and helped this one make a TON at the box office …

 

   Legacy has the gall to issue to wholesale thieve this from a Troma VHS copy, complete with TROMA’S OPENING TITLES! The release is full screen and slightly muddy, but watchable. In the vein of Digiview or East West, their so-called ‘Trailer’ is actually just a list of other titles Legacy sells; 97 minutes. The DVD comes with 12 chapter stops; you’ll never know what you’ll miss so I recommend the fast-forward button instead. I got this at FYE for $2.99…

 

 

   Graduation Day– 2* out of 5