Monday, June 18, 2012

R.I.P.: Susan Tyrrell

March 18, 1945 – June 16, 2012

"Susie was just a great, great chick and a total hell raiser. She had a huge personality and the talent to back it up."
Iggy Pop

Born in San Francisco, CA, on March 18, 1945 as Susan Jillian Creamer, she entered show biz in the early 1960s as Susan Tyrell (later Tyrrell) and cut her teeth in summer stock productions, regional plays and New York productions. "SuSu," as she liked to be called, made two obscure appearances on TV in 1964 (on The Patty Duke Show ["The Tycoons"] and Mr. Novak ["Beyond a Reasonable Doubt"]), but her uneven career as a supporting actress really started in 1971 when she appeared in her first three cinema releases, none of which can really be called important films.
A year later, she made waves and garnered a lot of attention with her Oscar-nominated performance in John Huston's Fat City, but she was much too much an individualist to use the momentum to achieve a reliable, commercial career. Taking jobs primarily when she needed money instead of to keep her career rolling, she travelled the world and the seven seas and lived an eventful life full of ups and downs and, over a period of some 30 years, achieved cult status as character actress and true original. As Tyrrell once said in an interview, "The last thing my mother said to me was, 'SuSu, your life is a celebration of everything that is cheap and tawdry.' I've always liked that, and I've always tried to live up to it."
In 2000, she and her career suffered a setback when she was diagnosed with essential thrombocythemia, a rare disease that afflicts one to three people out of 100,000 a year, which resulted in the amputation of both her legs below the knees. Her acting career rather stagnated thereafter, though she continued to appear both on stage and in a rare movie and/or short film. She was also an active and interesting painter.
In 2008 Susan Tyrrell moved to Austin, Texas, where she died on Saturday, June 17th, 2012. She is survived by her mother, Gillian Creamer (née Tyrell), a former British socialite with whom SuSu had had no contact for over 40 years; two sisters, Candace Sweet and Carole Davenport; a half-brother, Peter Creamer; and a niece, Amy Sweet.
Susan Tyrrell was a distinctive talent who will be missed. Below is a review of selected projects that she took part in. May she R.I.P – and raise hell wherever she is now. 


The Steagle
(1971, dir. Paul Sylbert)
Trailer to the video release:
Based on Irvin Faust's début novel of the same name. The second (and last) feature-length directorial project of production designer Paul Sylbert, who had the final cut taken away and went on to write of his experience with this film in the book Final Cut: The Making and Breaking of a Film. The movie tells the tale of a wuss college professor who's convinced that the Cuban Missile Crisis will lead to the end and decides to live out all his dreams before the bombs drop, so he leaves family and job and old life behind to travel across country living out his Walter Mitty fantasies and bonking babes. According to The Video Vacuum, the film "is a bad movie to be sure" and "a total waste of celluloid." Richard Benjamin of (Saturday the 14th [1981 / trailer], Westworld [1973 / trailer] and Catch-22 [1970 / trailer]) plays Prof Harold Weiss, and the wife he unceremoniously deserts and then returns to, Rita Weiss, is played by Cloris Leachman (Crazy Mama [1975 / trailer], Young Frankenstein [1974 / trailer], Dillinger [1973 / trailer] and Kiss Me Deadly [1955 / trailer]). Susan Tyrrell makes her feature-film début as one of the babes he bonks.*
*On-line sources tend to be at odds whether this film or the 1971 western Shoot Out is her feature-film début.
His nonsense soliloquy before he splits:


 Been Down So Long It Looks Like Up to Me
(1971, dir. Jeffrey Young)
Scenes from the film:
The only known directorial effort of Jeffrey Young, Susan Tyrrell plays "Jack" in this forgotten film based on the novel of the same name which, as Wikipedia puts it, "has become something of a cult classic among those who study 1960s or counter-culture literature." The film was badly received and currently unavailable. Leonard Maltin describes it as a "bland, dated film [...] about [a] hip 1960s type trying to endure life on a 1958 campus," an opinion that TV Guide seems to share, for they describe the film as: "Various vignettes that view society through the eyes of the so-called Beat Generation. A truckload of clichés, hip jargon, and nothing much to recommend [in] this film." About the novel and its author Richard Farina, the blogspot Style Skilling says: "Much about him can be gleaned from his book, as it is largely autobiographical. It was originally published on April 28, 1966. Two days later Fariña died in a motorcycle accident near Carmel, CA. He was 29. [...] In addition to being a gifted writer, Fariña was also a musician. He and his wife were an emerging folk act known as Mimi & Richard Fariña, with Mimi (née Baez, younger sister of Joan) on guitar and Richard on the Appalachian dulcimer. Both of their albums, Celebrations for a Grey Day and Reflections in a Crystal Wind were released in 1965."
Richard and Mimi Fariña – Pack Up Your Sorrows:
Robert Schlitt, who wrote the screenplay to Been Down So Long It Looks Like Up to Me, went on to write the horror movie The Pyx (1973 / trailer) two years later. Been Down So Long It Looks Like Up to Me starred Barry Primus (of Mustang Sally [2006] and Autopsy [1975 / trailer]) as Gnossos 'Paps' Pappadopoulis, the conning hipster, and featured David Downing (of Gordon's War [1973 / trailer]), Bruce Davison (of X-Men [2000 / trailer] and Return of the Killer Shrews [2012 / trailer]), and Raul Julia (of The Addams Family [1991 / trailer] and Addams Family Values [1993 / trailer]) in roles of varying importance.
Has nothing to do with the film other than sharing more-or-less the same name – Nancy & Lee sing I've Been Down So Long (It Looks Like Up to Me):


Shoot Out
(1971, dir. Henry Hathaway)
 
All actors have to make a western eventually, and this – Hathaway's second-to-last feature film and last western (his last film was the action drama Hangup [1974]) – is Tyrrell's first.* The plot, according to Michel Rudoy (mdrc@hp9000a1.uam.mx) at imdb: "Clay Lomax (Gregory Peck), a bank robber, gets out of jail after an 8-year sentence. He is looking after Sam Foley (James Gregory), the man who betrayed him. Knowing that, Foley hires three men to pay attention of Clay's steps. Things get complicated when Lomax, waiting to receive some money from his ex-lover, gets only the notice of her death and an 8-year-old girl (Dawn Lyn, the younger sister of Leif Garrett), sometimes very annoying, presumed to be his daughter." The film is based on a story by Will James, a western painter and writer who, according to The Cowboy Directory, "lived a rough and tumble life. He served time in prison for cattle rustling. His marriage was a tumultuous affair. And he was a heavy drinker. He died prematurely, at age 50, in 1942." (The painting to the left is a self-portrait.) Forgotten Poverty Row director Paul Sloane adapted the same tale for his 1933 western Lone Cowboy, but the kid in that film was a boy (Jackie Cooper). Also at imdb, bkoganbing of Buffalo, New York, opinions that: "Best in the cast is Susan Tyrell who plays a prostitute who takes up with the three punks. She's a 19th-century version of a Valley Girl and she pays big time for her stupidity and very bad taste in men."
*Some sources say that this movie and not The Steagle is the feature-film début of Susan Tyrrell.
Opening credits – "Co-starring" Susan Tyrell:



Fat City
(1972, dir. John Huston)
A scene from Fat City:
The film, which Roger Ebert considers to be "one of [Huston's] best films," made – or should have made – Tyrrell's name: in the part of the "alcoholic, world-weary Oma," Susan Tyrrell received an Oscar nomination for Best Actress in a Supporting Role. She also shares star billing on the poster with Keach and Bridges. Fat City is a depressing sports drama – and box office flop – set in the lower working class world; its effective and faithful screenplay was supplied by the book's author, Leonard Gardner. The film is the feature-film début of Candy Clark (of The Blob [1988] and Cherry Falls [2000 / trailer]), who is the second lead female ("Faye"). All Movie says "[...] John Huston's drama examines the meagre hopes and resigned dreams of small-time boxers. In limbo between retirement and his youthful prime, alcoholic farm labourer Tully (Stacy Keach of The Mountain of the Cannibal God [1978 / trailer]) shacks up with fellow outcast Oma (Tyrrell) and keeps trying to make a boxing comeback, but his personal demons repeatedly overpower his ambitions. Meanwhile, fellow Stockton, CA resident and budding fighter Ernie (Jeff Bridges of King Kong [1976 / trailer]) takes Tully's advice to join trainer Ruben's (Nicholas Colasanto) gym and make something of himself. Learning the tough lesson that winning is not as easy as it sounds, Ernie is still determined to get what he can out of boxing and, unlike Tully, not let disappointments get the best of him. Shot on location in Stockton [...], the film maintains a realistic, slice-of-life view of Tully's and Ernie's struggles, eschewing theatrical boxing victories for psychological and social details."
For all the effectiveness and promise of her performance in the film, Tyrrell left the film a damaged woman and later placed the blame of her career-long erratic behaviour and disillusionment with Hollywood on director John Huston. In an interview with www.austin360.com, among other places, she says that Huston pulled the full casting couch routine and forced himself on her, something she never got over: "It was disgusting. He was looking down on me like an old hound dog. I was mortified. I thought I was better than that."
First five minutes of Fat City:

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Catch My Soul
(1974, dir. Patrick McGoohan)
 
Catch My Soul is a forgotten example of that woebegotten genre, the rock opera. (Godspell [1973 / trailer] anyone? Tommy [1975 / trailer]? Jesus Christ Superstar [1973 / trailer]? Hair [1979 / trailer]? Grease [1978 / trailer]? Rocky Horror Picture Show [1975 / trailer]? Phantom of the Paradise [1974 / trailer]?) This time around the victim of the bastardization is Shakespeare. The only full length movie that actor Patrick McGoohan ever directed, though he did many a TV show (including 5 episodes of his classic TV series The Prisoner (1967-1968 / opening sequence), the title Catch My Soul comes from Act III, Scene III of Shakespeare's play Othello, in which the titular character declares his love for Desdemona: "Perdition catch my soul, but I do love thee; and when I love thee not, chaos is come again."
From the film – Tony Joe White's Working on a Building:
Producer Jack Good's rock version of the play was a mild success in Los Angeles in 1968 with Jerry Lee Lewis as the traitorous Iago (and, at one point, Pam Greer's cousin Rosey Greer [of The Thing with Two Heads (1972 / trailer) and Carter's Army (1970 / full film) as Othello), but for the film version folk guitarist Richie Havens took over for Othello and Lance LeGault (of Nightmare Beach [1989 / Italian trailer] and Dark Breed [1996 / trailer]) for Iago; Season Hubley (of Vice Squad [1982 / trailer]) played the doomed Desdemona and, last but not least, Susan Tyrrell played Emilia, Desdemona's confident who unwittingly helps seal her fate.
Richie Havens performing Strawberry Fields Forever in Woodstock:
The cast was rounded out by a variety of musicians of varying renown, including Tony Joe White (he penned the hit songs Rainy Night in Georgia and Steamy Windows, among other), the influential duo Bonnie & Delaney, and Billy Joe Royal (Down in the Boondocks). The result? A select few, like TV Guide, like it: "Odd rock adaptation of Othello [that] somehow works. Havens is Othello, an itinerant preacher who wanders into Le Gault's desert commune. He marries Hubley and is slowly driven by jealous Le Gault to murder. This film could easily have degenerated into bad camp, but McGoohan's direction keeps it on line with good performances all around." Most, however, seem to be more of the opinion of Craig Butler at All Movie, who cedes that Catch My Soul is "emblematic of the decade [the 70s], which encouraged a remarkable freedom of expression from its filmmakers" but that "the re-setting is ham-handed and ridiculous, and the mixture of direct quotes from the play with contemporary slang is laughable. Laughable also describes every dramatic performance, as do horrible and unbelievable."
Allene Lubin singing Chug-A-Lug (The Drinking Song) from Catch My Soul:
Patrick McGoohan himself was not happy with the film, for as he is quoted on Wikipedia: "Unhappily, in the process of making the film, he [the producer, Jack Gold] got religion.... Catholicism. He became a convert; he took the film and re-cut it. The editor warned me, I asked that my name be taken off it, and, unhappily, that was not done. The result is a disaster. What's more, he added 18 minutes of religious stuff. Ridiculous. But the music was good." The film was rereleased in the drive-in circuit at one point as Santa Fe Satan, but now it is considered a lost film – the soundtrack, however, still pops up on eBay on occasion.
Mashpedia tells you about the film:
View Catch My Soul and over 3,000,000 other topics on Qwiki. 


Zandy's Bride
(1974, dir. Jan Troell)
 
Susan Tyrrell's second western, aka (on US TV) as For Better, for Worse. Zandy's Bride is the first of two Hollywood productions the Swedish art house director Jan Troell made in the seventies – the second being the non typical (for him) big budget remake of Hurricane (1979 [trailer to the 1937 version]).* – Zandy's Bride stars Gene Hackman (as Zandy) and Liv Ullmann (as his mail-order bride Hannah), while Caucasian Susan Tyrrell plays Maria Cordova, a Mexican spitfire who befriends Hannah so that Zandy can scratch the itch under her dress. The film is an adaptation of Lillian Bos Ross's novel The Stranger, which is considered a classic of Californian literature; the screenplay is from Marc Norman (he did the screenplay for The Killer Elite [trailer] the following year). Zandy's Bride was less than a success when it came out and has sort of fallen off the radar, but most of the few people who have seen it give the film praise. At ecritic, Charles Tatum, who says that "Gene Hackman turns in one of his best performances in this intimate western," gushes: "Jan Troell and screenwriter Marc Norman fashion a great film here. This is a western, but there are no gunfights, no sheriffs, no outlaws, just seemingly realistic life. Troell's camera finds great little scenes, showcasing the actors who are dressed down and dowdy. Life then was ugly, and Troell captures it well. Hackman is incredible. He is really unlikable, cruel, and delights in his cruelty to his new wife. Hackman never crosses the line into caricature, his character is totally believable. Ullmann is also great, not becoming just another victim who turns into a liberated woman at just the right time. The audience realizes she is a person before Zandy does. [...] Tyrrell is good, as is Heckart. She has a great pained look that is the product of years of her character's abuse [...]." At imdb, Jim Beaver (jumblejim@prodigy.net) reduces the plot to the following: "Zandy Allan purchases a mail-order bride, Hannah Lund. He treats her as a possession, without respect or humanity, until their shared ordeal as they struggle to survive develops in him a growing love."
*The project was actually developed by Roman Polanski, but when he had to go to jail the producer, Dino de Laurentiis, pulled in Jan Troell to replace him. 


To Kill the King
(1974, dir. George McCowan)
Susan Tyrrell gets star billing on the poster of this political thriller directed by George McCowan, the man who gave us Shadow of the Hawk (1976 / trailer), The Shape of Things to Come (1979 / trailer), The Magnificent Seven Ride! (1972 / trailer) and – his most famous film – Frogs (1972 / trailer). The credits also include an "Introducing Lance Henrickson" blurb, but he had actually already had his first feature film role two years previously in the forgotten snowmobile movie It Ain't Easy (1972). This movie here is based on the forgotten novel Holocaust – the book's fab cover is seen to the left – from the forgotten novelist Anthony McCall which, at the time it came out, Kirkus Reviews dismissed as being "pornogrammed along familiar lines: the President will be assassinated – by an Admiral and a psychiatrist, Stephen Van Birchard, who runs a successful Washington clinic but 'malfunctions' at home in bed. With Maggi, quondam stripper, 'wife, life, spouse, louse, mouse, house.' The whole book associates freely since Maggi is having an affair, almost too distingue a word, with Hank Adams, former Vegas Casino owner ('Us, you and me. Like chemistry.') They inform on the proposed killing but are not believed and pay the price. You shouldn't." 
Tyrrell plays Maggie Van Birchard; Cec Linder (of Deadly Eyes [1982 / trailer] and City on Fire [1979 / full film]) her murderous husband, Stephen Van Birchard; and Patrick O'Neil (of The Stuff [1985 / trailer], Silent Night, Bloody Night [1974 / trailer / full film] and The Stepford Wives [1975 / trailer]) is the government agent David Howard, who'll stop at nothing and go over bodies to save the President from being killed. Barry Morse (of Daughter of Darkness [1948 / scene], Funeral Home [1980 / trailer] and Asylum [1972 / trailer]) is the duplicitous secretary of state
First 3.5 minutes of To Kill the King:


The Killer Inside Me
(1976, dir. Burt Kennedy)

"When things get a little rough I go out and kill a few people – that's all."
Lou Ford (Stacy Keach)
A scene from The Killer Inside Me:
One can only wonder how a director like Burt Kennedy, who tended to do family entertainment and westerns, every got tagged to do the first screen version of Jim Thompson's violent hardboiled classic. For his film, the setting was moved from the 1950s of the original novel to then-contemporary rural 1970s. The Science Fiction, Horror, and Fantasy Film Review summarizes the plot as follows: "Lou Ford (Stacy Keach) is the sheriff’s deputy of Central Mining Town, Montana. He is friendly with all the locals and makes a virtue of never carrying a gun. However, Lou also has a dark side to his personality and beats up hooker Joyce Lakeland (Susan Tyrrell). Joyce then shows Mayor Chester Conway (Keenan Wynn) the bruises, claiming that Conway's drunken, brawling son Elmer (Don Stroud) did it and demanding $50,000 for her silence. Conway gives Ford the money to pay her off and run Joyce out of town. Instead, Ford kills both Joyce and Elmer and contrives to have the murder pinned on another man." Aside from Tyrrell, Wynn and Stroud, the culty cast also includes appearances by John Carradine, Royal Dano (The Outlaw Josey Wales [1976 / trailer], 7 Faces of Dr. Lao [1964 / trailer], Big Bad Mama [1974 / trailer] and Messiah of Evil [1973 / trailer / full film]) and Julie Adams (The Fifth Floor [1978 / trailer], Psychic Killer [1975 / trailer] and Creature from the Black Lagoon [1954 / trailer]). The screenplay was supplied by Robert Chamblee and Edward Mann, the latter of whom also wrote the trash masterpiece The Mutations (1974 / trailer).  
The Killer Inside Me was remade in 2010 by the contemporary art house director Michael Winterbottom with Jessica Alba (!) taking over Tyrrell's role of the ill-fated hooker Joyce Lakeland; for that production the setting was returned to the 1950s.
Trailer to the Winterbottom 2010 remake:


Another Man, Another Chance
(1977, dir. Claude Lelouch)
Susan Tyrrell gets co-starring credit on the poster for this film, the only western ever directed by the highly productive French hack who foisted one of the world's worst films, A Man and a Woman (trailer), onto the ever-receptive public in 1966. A Man and a Woman is about a widow and widower "who meet by chance at their children's boarding school and whose budding relationship is complicated by the memories of their deceased spouses." Another Man, Another Chance, which is set in the last quarter of the 19th century, starts a little earlier by showing in parallel narratives the first relationships of the two main protagonists, David Williams (James Caan) and Jeanne Leroy (Geneviève Bujold), but once they become a widower and widow, they meet at the school that their respective children attend and eventually fall in love. Whereas the relationship in A Man and a Woman is burdened by their respective emotional baggage left over from the deceased previous partner, in Another Man, Another Chance the relationship is burdened by David's obsessive desire to revenge the rape and murder of his first wife Mary (Jennifer Warren of Night Shadows [1984 / trailer]).
The non-embeddable trailer can be found here, but Tyrrell isn't seen in it.


September 30, 1955
(1977, dir. James Bridges)
Susan Tyrrell plays "Melba Lou Turner" somewhere in this film starring Richard "John Boy" Thomas, and while she makes it on the poster she isn't mentioned at all in the trailer. September 30, 1955 is the third directorial effort of James Bridges, a productive screenwriter (and, on occasion, director) of respectable, Oscar-winning films who was also responsible for such career-destroying projects as Mike's Murder (1984 / trailer) and Perfect (1985 / trailer). Leonard Maltin says: "Arkansas undergrad (Thomas) [...] goes off his nut when James Dean dies, with tragic results for a girlfriend. Original, If excessively uneven drama [...]." The feature film début of Lisa Blount (Prince of Darkness [1987 / trailer]) and Tom Hulce.
Trailer:


I Never Promised You a Rose Garden
(1977, dir. Anthony Page)
Anthony Page is the director of the big-budget and absolutely terrible remake of The Lady Vanishes (1979 / trailer), the film that broke the back of Hammer films; it was 29 years before Hammer returned with the 2008 film Beyond the Rave (trailer). I Never Promised You a Rose Garden is based on the semi-autobiographical 1964 novel of the same name by Joanne Greenberg (originally published under the pseudonym "Hannah Green"), who doesn't hold a high opinion of the Roger Corman produced film version because, to quote the Colorado Springs Gazette, "The moviemakers scrubbed out the anti-Semitism because they were terrified [and] the characterization of mental illness stank on ice." Film Fanatic offers the following basic synopsis: "A mentally disturbed teenager (Kathleen Quinlan of Event Horizon [1997]) is placed by her concerned parents (Ben Piazza and Lorraine Gary) in an asylum, where she works with a compassionate psychologist (Bibi Andersson) hoping to help her overcome her delusions." Roger Ebert describes the delusions as seeming "to be inspired by the paintings of Frank Frazetta: a race of muscular young people, clothed in furs and feathers, ride giant horses across the desert and want her to join them." The chanting bongo players of the fantasy scenes are The Mystic Knights of the Oingo Boingo, headed by Danny Elfman. Susan Tyrrell, seen here from the film, is one of the fellow inmates at the loony bin, as is the late, great Sylvia Sidney and Signe Hasso. The screenplay was supplied by Gavin Lambert and Lewis John Carlino, the latter who directed the decidedly unique and disturbing film The Sailor Who Fell from Grace with the Sea (1976).
Lynn Anderson singing her hit I Beg Your Pardon (I Never Promised You a Rose Garden), which has no connection at all to the film I Never Promised You a Rose Garden:


Andy Warhol's Bad
(1977, dir. Jed Johnson)

"I remember once I saw this French movie and I didn't understand it. But I liked it!"
Mary Aiken (Susan Tyrrell)

Trailer:
One of those infamous films – like Pink Flamingoes (1972 / trailer) or Cannibal Holocaust (1980 / trailer) or the original Maniac (1980 / trailer) – that separate the men from the boys, the psychopaths from the hobby killers; it is also the first film we saw in which we truly took note of Susan Tyrrell as an actress. She excels as the frumpy, put down and sub-intelligent but oddly good-hearted Mary Aiken, and leaves far more of an impression than Carroll Baker's über-bitch Hazel Aiken or Perry King's LT (a role he probably got because of his noticeable similarity to Joe Dallesandro – but since he never does a frontal, we never find out if he is also as well-hung as Dallesandro). The Worldwide Celluloid Massacre, which actually has the balls to say the hilarious Flesh for Frankenstein (1973 / trailer) is "Worthless", rates Bad as "Of Some Interest", explaining: "Blackly humorous trash [...] about a woman who runs a hair removal electrolysis service in her home while providing her clientèle with hit-women who commit vandalism, beat up men, kill dogs and children for money to satisfy sick little emotional needs for revenge over some insignificant detail. When a man joins the ranks of slutty, trashy hit-women and one woman turns pyromaniac, business get bumpy." Time Out is of the opinion that the film lives up to its name, pointing out that "The New York streets [of the film] are already so full of violence that the crimes pass virtually unnoticed, but the movie makes a point of lingering over its sadistic details; everything is as grotesque as possible. At the same time, it's played as much as possible like American TV soap opera, complete with its repetitions and stretches of tedium. The main plot centres on Perry King and whether he'll be cold enough to kill an autistic child. In terms of its own frames of reference, the movie is competent enough to almost transcend criticism, but its humour proved way too sick for most English critics." The film was directed by Warhol's lover, the interior decorator Jed Johnson, who died on 17 July 1996 in the explosion of TWA Flight 800. According to imdb, both Vivian Vance ("Ethel Mertz") and Shelley Winters were offered and turned down the part eventually played by Carroll Baker.
The infamous baby toss scene:


Islands in the Stream
(1977, dir. Franklin J. Schaffner)
An adaptation of Hemingway's posthumously published semi-autobiographical novel by the director who brought us Planet of the Apes (1968 / trailer) and The Boys from Brazil (1978 / trailer). Susan Tyrrell, who isn't seen as important enough to put on the poster, has a small part as Lil. DVD Verdict trashes the film, and among their many complaints is that "[...] seemingly important characters barely register. Lil (Susan Tyrrell) deserves more attention than what amounts to an occasional apparition in the background. If she's just a barfly, why is she so important to Thomas (George C. Scott)? It's almost appropriate that Tyrrell is so heavily made-up that she looks like a replicant from Madame Tussaud's Wax Museum. Captain Ralph (Gilbert Roland of Sam Cooper's Gold [1966]) is introduced early on, only to conveniently turn up again at the end of the film with a boatload of Jewish émigrés that Thomas rescues. I'd liked to have seen some backstory about these two characters."
Title melody to Islands in the Stream:


Wizards
(1977, dir. Ralph Bakshi)
Tyrrell, un-credited at her own request (something she later stated she regretted having requested), supplies the narration to this popular cult sci-fi/fantasy animation film, one of many cult animation films by director Bakshi (his popular animated version Fritz the Cat [1972 / trailer] so incensed the character's creator Robert Crumb that Crumb promptly and irrevocably killed the cat in his comics). Anthony Pereyra (hypersonic91@yahoo.com) at imdb gives the plot as follows: "In a post-apocalyptic future that appears as a blend of World War II Europe and J. R. R. Tolkien's Middle-Earth, a pint-size wizard named Avatar must save the world from a band of fascist mutants controlled by his evil twin brother, Blackwolf, who likes to confuse enemy armies by projecting films of Adolf Hitler speeches during attacks. Painted live-action footage of advancing Nazi armies contrasts with Saturday-morning-cartoon-style animation of fairies and elves as Avatar travels through various magical and radioactive realms on his quest. Aiding him are the beautiful Fairy princess Elinore, hot-blooded warrior elf Weehawk, and Peace, a misunderstood robot rebelling against his Blackwolf-controlled programming." But as Fantastic Movie Musings and Ramblings says, "Ralph Bakshi had a unique animation style, and simply on that level this movie is a wonder to behold; it's a combination of offbeat character animation, stock footage, cuteness, and sensuality that really must be seen to be believed." At A Glance Film Reviews, however, sees things differently: "Ralph Bakshi's animated post-apocalyptic fantasy tale is perfect for masochists. In fact, the sheer volume of pain one feels watching this highly dated, inane travesty just may cure a lot of them, souring their taste for further pain. Most of the 'story' parts are told through stills and voice-overs while the animated portions are reserved for unfunny slapstick gags. The animation and sound effects are deplorably 'cartoony'; in such a drab, gloomy story (about mutant Nazis setting out to conquer the earth) the gags and cartoonishness simply don't work. [...] Avoid this bloody, sleep-inducing, nerve-shredding abomination like you would a radioactive toxic waste dump – but if it came down to a choice between the two, choose the latter." Personally, here at A Wasted Life, we rather enjoyed the film when we saw it, even if we found the mixture of animations styles – traditional and rotoscope – a bit jarring and the twist ending a bit cynical.
Trailer:


Lady of the House
(1978, dirs. Ralph Nelson & Vincent Sherman)
A TV movie starring Dyan Cannon in the title role as Sally Stanford, with Susan Tyrrell somewhere in the background as Helen Proctor. The film is based on the eponymously titled autobiography of Sally Stanford (May 5, 1903 – February 1, 1982), a former madam who went on to become the mayor of Sausalito, California. Contrary to popular misconception, her high-class house of ill repute, which she ran from 1940 to 1949, was located on Nob Hill in San Francisco and not in Sausalito. A year after Sally's original source of income was ended, she opened restaurant in Sausalito, where she ran six times for Sausalito City Council before winning in 1972 and, eventually, becoming the mayor in 1976 at age 72. She died of a heart attack six years later (four years after this TV movie was made). The directorial duties of Lady of the House were shared by Ralph Nelson & Vincent Sherman, the former who brought us Embryo (1976 / full film) and the latter who began his directorial career in 1939 with Humphrey Bogart's only horror film, The Return of Doctor X (1939 / trailer). 


Racquet
(1979, dir. David Winters)
Opening credits:
A popular thing to do in the 70s was the "all-star cast"; from A Bridge to Far (1977 / trailer) to Airport 77 (1977 / trailer) and beyond, producers would often stick as many familiar faces and names into one film as possible. But the all-star cast was not endemic to disaster films and drama alone: comedies in particular were stuffed familiar faces, though often mostly those of flash-in-the-pans and has-beens. Following the template set by It's A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World (1963 / trailer), the granddaddy of all-star comedies, if there was a familiar face to be had, it would be put into a comedy. Some, like Gumball Rally (1976 / trailer), are passable; a few, like Airplane (1980 / trailer), are really good; but most – especially the no-budget ones that rode on the coattails of some currently fashionable fad and had no real "stars", like Racquet, were unbearable. By this film, Susan Tyrrell's days as a possible A-film character actress were over – but unlike most of the other people in this film, she at least went on the make some interesting films. Bad Movie Night, which actually sorta likes the film, nevertheless was moved to say: "Racquet is filled with lousy, unfunny bits of business. In fact, they're so bad that I find them humorous in a pathetic sort of way." The puerile film centres around a tennis coach (Burt Convy – remember him?) who gigolos through his female clients so as to get the dough together to open his own tennis club. (Tyrrell appears as Mrs. Baxter, a hot-to-trot realtor.) The "jokes" were compiled into a tenuous narrative by Steve Michaels, who also helped script Young Lady Chatterley (1977 / misc. nude scene) and Panorama Blue (1974 / trailer), and Earle Doud, who once had a bit part in the film Is There Sex After Death? (1971).
Trailer to Is There Sex After Death? (1971):
Director David Winters – a prolific producer of B-films and occasional actor (he has good-sized part in the odd film Teddy Bear (2012 / trailer), which he also produced – went on to direct the intriguing The Last Horror Film (1982 / trailer). 


Loose Shoes
(1980, dir. Ira Miller)
 
Trailer:
Another popular form of comedy films back in the 70s was the skit anthology such as The Groove Tube (1974 / trailer), The Boob Tube (1975 / scene) and, possibly the most famous of them all, The Kentucky Fried Movie (1977 / trailer). Loose Shoes is the only directorial effort of Ira Miller, who himself had previously appeared in one such skit anthology, Tunnel Vision (1976), as Ramon.
Tunnel Vision:
The title of his film here comes from a 1976 political "scandal" that resulted in the resignation of US President Gerald Ford's Secretary of Agriculture Earl L. Butz for joking that "the only thing the coloureds are looking for in life are tight pussy, loose shoes, and a warm place to shit." (Loose Shoes was released long after the event had lost the public eye, in 1980, but at the time the film was made, in 1977, the reference was still relevant.) The phrase was integrated into the segment Dark Town after Dark.
Dark Town after Dark:
TV Guide is of the opinion that "this hit-or-miss spoof of movie trailers [...] has enough originality to merit a look." The Video Graveyard, on the other hand, says that of the anthology comedies of the time, Loose Shoes "is the absolute worst of the bunch" while ceding that the film "doesn't hit the 'please gouge my eyes out' level of modern parodies like Epic Movie (2007 / trailer) and Meet the Spartans (2008 / trailer)." Most of the segments are presented as movie trailers for films such as Billy Jerk Goes To Oz, The Howard Huge Story, Skate-boarders from Hell, Jewish Star Wars, Invasion of the Penis Snatchers and Welcome to Bacon County – the last being the segment in which Susan Tyrrell appears.
Invasion of the Penis Snatchers:
Of interest, but not very funny, is the feature-film début of Bill Murray in the segment Three Chairs for Lefty. In the end, it was probably his sudden popularity due to Saturday Night Live and flicks like Meatballs (1979 / trailer) and Caddyshack (1980 / trailer) that resulted in this film ever getting released.
Three Chairs for Lefty:


Tales of Ordinary Madness
(1981, dir. Marco Ferreri)
Aka Storie di ordinaria follia. European auteur Marco Ferreri, the director of The Big Feast (1973 / German trailer), tackles Charles Bukowski's book Tales of Ordinary Madness. (Tales of Ordinary Madness, a collection of short stories, was originally published in 1972 by City Lights as Erections, Ejaculations, Exhibitions, and General Tales of Ordinary Madness; in 1983, when republished, the book was split into two separate collections, Tales of Ordinary Madness and The Most Beautiful Woman in Town & Other Stories.) Unlike Barbet Schroeder's Barfly (1987 / trailer), which starred Mickey Rourke and Faye Dunaway, Ferreri's take on the works of one of the great American writer has pretty much been forgotten – but then, it does have that oddly artificial Eurogleam, a sheen that is definitely at odds with Bukowski's story. (As Mondo Digital puts it well: "Though set mostly in Los Angeles, the interiors were shot at Cinecitta and have a weird, colour-coordinated, sleazy splendour. When most European directors do their exterior shooting in America, they have a way of making everything look really off-kilter [...], and this is no exception. Ferreri visually transforms the California streets into a sun-drenched, decaying series of asphalt tombs [...].") The leads are Ben Gazzara as the Bukowski stand-in Charles Serking and the uniquely beautiful Ornella Muti plays Cass, while Susan Tyrrell appears as Vera, a woman he consensually rapes that, to quote Charles, "She chewed me up like an enchilada and spit me into a police car." Over at the Cult Movie Guide, they say: "Tales of Ordinary Madness [...] revolves around a very drunken poet Charles Serking who staggers around the seedy streets of Hollywood, drinking, meeting women and occasionally writing poems. One of the women he meets, Cass, he really falls for. She's a hooker with a history of inflicting self harm and he's a poet with a history of drunken disorderly. Surely they'll make an ideal couple? I won't spoil the ending, but this is a rather strange film, which continually flits from silly, to sleazy, to sad. While not always making pleasurable viewing, it never fails to keep your attention, with underrated cult director Marco Ferreri once again delivering the goods, albeit in a damaged package."
Main theme:


Midnight Lace
(1981, dir. Ivan Nagy)
Yes, it is a low brow TV remake of the entertainingly sexist Doris Day vehicle from 1960. Based – like the earlier version – on the Janet Green play Mathilda Shouted Fire, which has since been re-titled as Murder My Sweet Matilda. ("Matilda" became "Kit" for the first film version, while here it becomes "Cathy".)
The 1960 Doris Day film of the same name:
Midnight Lace was the last film of the first Morticia Addams, Carolyn Jones, who, like Susan Tyrrell (playing "Ann Galvin") is seen somewhere in the film but not considered a big enough a name to be on the print advertisement. The real star of the film is TV actress Mary Crosby, who eventually took part in one fun film, namely The Ice Pirates (1984 / trailer). The plot according to imdb: "A TV reporter (Mary Crosby) is mercilessly stalked by a mysterious assassin whom she does not understand why he wants to kill her." 
TV trailer:
The questionable career of the Hungarian director Ivan Nagy started with drive-in fodder like Bad Charleston Charlie (1973), Pushing Up Daisies (1973) and Deadly Hero (1976), peeked with the horror film Skinner (1993 / trailer) and ended with hand-helping skin flicks like Trailer Trash Teri (1998). In the documentary film Heidi Fleiss Hollywood Madam (1995) from British documentarian Nick Broomfield, it is stated at one point that Fleiss began her career when Ivan Nagy, her boyfriend, "sold" the then-20-odd-year-old Heidi to a certain "Madam Alex" to pay off a 500 buck debt. Nice guy.
Trailer to Heidi Fleiss Hollywood Madam:


Subway Riders
(1981, dir. Amos Poe)
 
Although we originally went to see this film because it featured early AIDS victim Cookie Mueller (of Pink Flamingos [1972 / trailer], Female Trouble [1974 / trailer] and Desperate Living [1977 / trailer]), Subway Riders is the second film we caught that made us take note of Susan Tyrrell. She played the junkie wife of the cop Fritz Langley (Robbie Coltrane [!] in his first lead role) who, to quote Sandra Brennan at Answer.com "meets assorted New Wave scumbags" as he tries to catch the saxophone-playing killer (Amos Poe). As the great film magazine (and website) Shock Magazine puts it, Tyrrell looks "as dyke-ish as possible with greased-back short hair and Divine-esque eyebrows" and "nails this showy, unsubtle role of a shrill, rich, junkie bitch who shoots heroin under her tongue while lounging in her fur coat." Over at Cinema of the World, director Amos Poe himself says that: "Subway Riders is an epic NoWave/NY noir-melodrama, in which a nocturnal saxophonist (Poe) morphs into a bewitching serial killer. [...] It captures the colourful junkie landscape of down-town Manhattan in the late 70s with fearless bravado." If we remember correctly, when we saw the movie in Paris in '83 we found it interesting but way too long and, on occasion, visually irritating and self-indulgent – and we also never caught on that Lurie and Poe were one and the same character (but then, we were also stoned out of our gourd). But we liked it enough to promptly run out and see Poe's next film, Alphabet City (1984), probably one of the most odd low-budget "commercial" projects of the decade it came out. Really, a semi-mainstream film in which the hero, the identification figure, is a heroin dealer? Under the reign of Ronald Reagan? To that, made in a filmic style that combines exploitation tropes with artsy-fartsy MTV aesthetics? When we caught Alphabet City in LA in '84 when it hit the down-town grindhouses, we found the movie contrived and tacky and we loved it, but then we were stoned out of our gourd – in any event, of the few people that have ever seen that film, we seem to be the only ones who didn't hate it.
No Subway Riders, but the Alphabet City trailer instead:


Liar's Moon
(1982, dir. David Fisher)
This cult favourite, a teenage love story/melodrama, is one of only two films Fisher ever directed, his second being the equally culty laughathon Toy Soldiers (1984 / trailer). As the Video Vacuum says: "Liar's Moon is an earnest and well-meaning coming of age film that's bolstered a great supporting cast of character actors that includes Hoyt Axton, Broderick Crawford (in his final film role), Yvonne De Carlo, Susan Tyrrell, and Richard Moll. But just because the performances are good doesn’t necessarily excuse the fact that we've seen all of this done a thousand times before." The film was released with two different endings, a sad one and a happy one. Plot: Poor boy (Matt Dillon) Jack falls for rich girl Ginny (Cindy Fisher) and they run away together to Louisiana where Jack works the oil fields and Ginny gets pregnant. The private eye on their tail (Richard Moll) is less of a problem than the problem related to the fact that Ginny's Dad and Jack's Mom used to be high school sweethearts (uh-oh). McBastard's Mausoleum puts it nicely: "Not your typical boy-meets-girl drama, that's for sure." Susan Tyrrell plays Lora Mae Bouvier and makes onto the poster, if only in small print. 


Fast-Walking
(1982, dir. James B. Harris)
Misc. scene without Wood or Tyrrell:
Aka The Joint. Director James B. Harris is a former producer of Stanley Kubrick films – The Killing (1956 / trailer), Paths of Glory (1957 / trailer) and Lolita (1962 / trailer) – who occasionally dabbled in directing, possibly most notably in the extremely strange Zalman King flick Some Call It Loving (1973). This film, his third, is one of two James Wood vehicles he was to write, direct and produce (the second is Cop [1988]); it is based on Ernest Brawley's novel The Rap. TCM explains the little known and seldom film: "'Fast-Walking' Miniver (James Woods) is a dope-smoking guard in an Oregon prison who helps the local madam Evie (Susan Tyrrell) get customers for her brothel. Miniver is always looking for something that will allow him to quit his stressful job, and he thinks it may have come in the form of William Galliot (Robert Hooks of Trouble Man [1972 / trailer]). Galliot is an African-American political activist who has been imprisoned and offers Miniver fifty-thousand dollars to help him escape. However, the plan becomes complicated when Miniver learns that his cousin Wasco (Tim McIntire) wants his help in killing Galliot." The uncut version features something truly noteworthy: a full frontal nude scene featuring M. Emmett Walsh.
Full film:


Forbidden Zone
(1982, dir. Richard Elfman)
Music number from Forbidden ZonePico & Sepulveda:
We caught the B&W version of Forbidden Zone at the Beverly in L.A. decades ago – we went alone 'cause we couldn't convince anyone to see it with us, but since then the film has become a cult classic. The photo of Susan Tyrrell at the top of this blog entry is from the film, and shows her as Queen Doris of the Sixth Dimension. (She is the Queen to King Fausto of the Sixth Dimension, played by her ex-boyfriend Hervé Villechaize, with whom she was a couple for two years.) Other interesting names involved in the film are Viva Superstar, Joe Spinell (of Maniac [1980 / trailer] and The Undertaker [1988 / trailer]) and, of course The Mystic Knights of the Oingo Biongo.
B&W trailer:
Richard Elfman (who went on to do Shrunken Heads [1994 / trailer]) and, as "Aristide Sumatra," Streets of Rage [1994 / trailer]) made his directorial debut with this no-budget film, which was actually made simply to showcase the musical numbers of The Mystic Knights of the Oingo Biongo, which Richard grounded in 1972 as kind of performance musical group.By the time the group appeared as the music-playing savages in 1977's I Never Promised You A Rose Garden, however, Danny Elfman had taken over the reins; he appears as Satan in Forbidden Zone. According to imdb, Richard Elfman claims that "the film was originally intended to be shipped out to China, where each frame of the black and white print was to be individually colored by hand, but this plan was found to be inefficient." True or not, in 2008, Elfman permitted the film to be digitally colorized.
Colorized trailer:
Eat My Brain explains the plot as follows: "So, when an Al Jolson look-alike crack dealer finds a doorway to another dimension in his basement, he promptly sells the house to the equally nutty Hercules family, setting up eldest daughter of the family, Susan B. ''Frenchy'' (Marie-Pascale Elfman), as the heroine of this bizarre piece. Bored after another dull day at school where the only highlight is a machine gun shootout between her teacher and the table of pimps that sit at the back, Frenchy returns home determined to give that door in the basement a go despite a desperate warning from her parents not to go anyway near it. Once she opens the door, Frenchy is pulled headfirst into the super weird Forbidden Zone, where she soon finds herself a guest of the pervy midget King Fausto, his wife Queen Doris, and their perpetually topless daughter, Princess (Giselle Lindley)."
Forbidden Zone is one of those cult films that more people have heard of than seen – which makes the concept of the planned sequel Forbidden Zone 2: Forbidden Galaxy for the SyFy Channel rather odd. The woman in the advertisement for the Morbido Film Fest below is Princess Polly, the main character of the sequel.
Morbido Film Fest advert:


Fire and Ice
(1983, dir. Ralph Bakshi)
The early 80s were a good time for Barbarian films, both good and bad – for example, alone before 1984 (and of which we could find video documentation online): Hawk the Slayer (1981 / trailer), Conan the Barbarian (1982 / trailer), The Sword and the Sorcerer (1982 / trailer), Attila flagello di Dio (1982 / scene), Sangraal, la spada di fuoco (1982 / opening credits in Italian), Gunan, King of the Barbarians (1982 / German trailer), Ator, the Fighting Eagle (1982 / trailer), Sorceress (1982 / scene), The Beastmaster (1982 / trailer), Krull (1983 / trailer), La guerra del ferro – Ironmaster (1983 / French trailer), Hundra (1983 / fan trailer), The Throne of Power (1983 / trailer), Yor: The Hunter from the Future (1983 / trailer), Deathstalker 1983 / trailer), Conquest (1983 / trailer) and Fire and Ice, this rotoscope animation film from Ralph Bakshi, which he conceived and created together with the great Frank Frazetta. The plot, as explained on ralphbakshi.com: "From their stronghold in Icepeak, the evil Queen Juliana (Tyrrell) and her son Nekron (Stephen Mendel) send forth a wave of glaciers, forcing humanity to retreat south. Nekron sends a delegation to King Jarel (Leo Gordon) in Firekeep to request his surrender, but this is a really ruse for Nekron's sub-humans to kidnap Jarel's daughter, the Princess Teegra (Cynthia Leake). But Teegra makes an escape and comes upon the farmboy Larn (William Ostrander), the only survivor of a village razed by glaciers, who offers to escort her back to Firekeep. As Teegra is recaptured, Larn teams with the mysterious Darkwolf (Steve Sandor) to save Teegra and then travel to Icepeak to stop Juliana." The film was a flop, but is nevertheless currently in redevelopment for a live-action remake: In 2010, shortly after Frazetta's death, Robert Rodriguez licensed the rights from Bakshi.
Trailer:



Night Warning
(1983, dir. William Asher)
 
Aka Butcher, Baker, Nightmare Maker; Momma's Boy; Nightmare Maker; Thrilled to Death and The Evil Protégé. Alamo Drafthouse Cinema says: "This incestuous destructothon easily ranks among the most perfect and under-appreciated slashers of the golden '80s." Susan Tyrrell herself, however, was not fond of this film – but then, as she told www.austin360.com, she hated the movies that "I had to do that were all that were left for me." As the over-possessive Aunt Cheryl, she has the core scenery-chewing role in this cult horror film by William Asher, a director who specialized primarily in TV series but also did a yitload of Beach movies – Muscle Beach Party (1964 / trailer), anyone? – as well as rare fun stuff like The 27th Day (1957 / trailer) and Johnny Cool (1963 / trailer); Night Warning is one of his last films. According to The World's Greatest Critic, the film, which garnered placement on Great Britain's list of banned video nasties "is one of 14 still banned in the UK today. This brings us to the very violent and bloody aspects of Night Warning that managed to get the damned thing banned in England! There are plenty of blood geysers here, some of which splash on naked body parts. The underlying suggestion of incest doesn't help matters either, nor does Aunt Cheryl's creative methods for keeping Billy under her control. The unsettling thing here, if one allows oneself to get that interested in this film, is the fact that just about everyone is potentially a rotten human being." The plot as given at Wikipedia: "The movie tells of bigoted police detective Joe Carlson (Bo Svenson), whose homophobia leads him to try to frame high school basketball player Billy Lynch (Jimmy McNichol) for the murder of a television repairman when he becomes convinced that the killing was the result of a homosexual love triangle. Unbeknownst to the detective, Billy's aunt Cheryl (Susan Tyrrell) is the real killer; having harboured incestuous fantasies towards Billy for years, his impending graduation has caused long dormant homicidal urges to resurface. Joe's continued plaguing of Billy causes Cheryl to become progressively more unstable, ultimately jeopardizing the lives of everyone around her." A young Julia Duffy, playing Billy's gal Julia, looks damn good in her nude scene.
Opening car crash:


What's Up, Hideous Sun Demon
(1983, dir. Craig Mitchell & Robert Clarke)
 
Robert Clarke needs no introduction to fans of Z-films – his autobiography To "B" or Not to "B" is a wonderful look into the world of bad films from the mid-20th century from a good-natured man who was part of it: he acted in dozens of classic B and Z films (and a rare A film) all the way up into the 80s, including The Man from Planet X (1951 / trailer), The Astounding She-Monster (1957 / trailer), The Incredible Petrified World (1957 / full film), Beyond the Time Barrier (1960 / trailer), Terror of the Bloodhunters (1962 / trailer / full film), and Frankenstein Island (1981 / full film). The Hideous Sun Demon (1959), in which he also starred, was his only directorial project. In 1983, Craig Mitchell took the film and, with Clarke's permission, pulled a Mystery Science Theatre 3000 (a good 5 years before it formed) on the film: he redubbed it – and added a few new shots – and changed it into a comedy about suntan lotion that works from the inside out and has side effects (an obsession with sex, sex, sex). Jay Leno is part of the voiceover cast, which also includes Susan Tyrrell: she supplies the voice for the ditsy Barbie, played in the original by Nan Peterson (of Louisiana Hussy [1959 / full film] and the Ed Wood Jr scripted Shotgun Wedding [1963 / trailer]). Craig Mitchell, by the way, has yet to direct another film, but he has written the scripts to a couple of horror films: Highwaymen (2004 / trailer), Komodo (1999 / trailer) and the abysmal Milo (1998).
Trailer to the original 1959 film, The Hideous Sun Demon:


Angel
(1984, dir. Robert Vincent O'Neill)
A "classic" of 80s exploitation written and directed by forgotten exploitation auteur Robert Vincent O'Neill, whose career began as a writer on The Mighty Gorga (1969 / trailer) and seems to have ended after his he supplied the story for the 1994 direct-to-video C. Thomas Howell vehicle, Jailbait (trailer). In-between, he directed some fondly remembered unadulterated grindhouse trash – usually from his own script – like The Psycho Lover (1970 / trailer), Blood Mania (1970 / full film) and Wonder Women (1973 / trailer). He achieved the apex of his meagre talents and career in the 80s, when he helped pen What Waits Below (1985 / trailer), Deadly Force (1983 / trailer) and Vice Squad (1982 / trailer) as well as writing and directing this film, Angel, and its first sequel Avenging Angel the following year, both of which were mostly shot on location in Hollywood. Angel is a remarkable chaste piece of sleaze for a film about a 15-year-old-hooker (played by then 27-year-old Donna Wilkes) doing tricks since she was 12, but almost enough people die to make up for it – let's call it "sleaze lite". At his blog, Dr Gore explains the plot: "One thing you can say about the tag line for Angel: it didn't lie. So Angel is a high school honour student by day and a Hollywood hooker by night. She hangs out with other ladies of the night and tries to earn some money. A mad killer (John Diehl) is stalking Hollywood Blvd. and wants to slice and dice some hookers. Angel won't stand for it. She's got a gun that's bigger than she is and she can't wait to use it." Rory Calhoun is oddly touching as the has-been western star Kit Carson, and Tyrrell is rather enjoyable as Angel's painter landlord Solly Mosler, but we personally thought the flick could have done without Angel's father figure, the intensely fake transi Mae (Dick Shawn).
Trailer:


The Killers
(1984, dir. Patrick Roth)
Here's an oddity in her career that few people have seen: a 40-minute short film directed by the German writer Patrick Roth based on Charles Bukowski's story The Killers, which appears in his collection South of No North. Bukowski, in the style of Hitchcock or Rod Serling, introduces the tale himself; Susan Tyrrell appears somewhere in it as "Susu, Second Ragpicker" – that's her in the photo from the film shown above. All Movie says "In this disturbing independent film, a petty thief meets a former insurance agent and asks the agent to join him on a robbery in Beverly Hills. Though he thinks the job will be easy, he is sadly mistaken. What follows are horrific scenes of violence and torture." Basically, in the course of the robbery they awaken the couple and follow the precept of "no witnesses," but first take advantage of the presence of free pussy. The twist to the tale is that they forget to take the stolen goods with them... 


Flesh+Blood
(1985, dir. Paul Verhoeven)
Paul Verhoeven's first Hollywood production, after finally catching the industry's attention with The Fourth Man (1983 / trailer), which was rather a hit in the USA. Flesh+Blood, set in Italy at the start of the 16th century, this is a decidedly non-Hollywood take on the times: violent, filthy and far from idealized. To reduce the plot to its simplest: Flesh+Blood tells a tale of a group of mercenaries and lowlife led by Martin (Rutger Hauer) who, betrayed by a city ruler Arnolfini (Fernando Hilbeck), end up capturing Agnes (Jennifer Jason Leigh), the bride-to-be of Arnolfini's son Steven (Tom Burlinson) and take refuge in a castle emptied by the plague. Soon, Martin and Agnes are a couple, but then Steven shows up to fight for his bride... Susan Tyrrell has a small but notable supporting part as Celine, a prostitute carrying the child of Martin, which is stillborn. The film is far more multi-layered and interesting than the previous plot description makes it seem – it is a seriously good film well worth seeing.
Trailer:


Avenging Angel
(1985, dir. Robert Vincent O'Neill)
Angel's back! Only now she's played by Betsy Russell (of Chain Letter [2010 / trailer], Camp Fear [1991 / trailer] and Cheerleader Camp [1988 / trailer]). Nevertheless, Avenging Angel is relatively chaste and oddly un-sleazy for an exploitation film – just like part one. In Avenging Angel, the one year between films has turned to into four years, and Molly is long off the streets and on the way to becoming a lawyer. But then Lt. Andrews (Robert F. Lyons), the cop that got her off the streets, is murdered – so Molly pulls out her old working clothes and gun and walks the street to revenge his death. Andrews' murder was witnessed by the film's least realistic and most annoying character, Johnny Glitter (Barry Pearl), and Molly pulls in her old friends – Yo-Yo Charlie (Steven M. Porter), Solly (Tyrrell), and Kit Carson (Rory Calhoun) – to track him down. Things get complicated when Solly's baby gets taken by the bad guys...
In all truth, Avenging Angel is far from a good film – when we saw it in L.A. when it came out, the audience threw popcorn at the screen – but it does flit by easily enough whenever Johnny Glitter isn't around...
Despite being a relative flop, two more sequels followed – Angel III: The Final Chapter (1988 / trailer) and Angel 4: Undercover (1993) – neither made by Robert Vincent O'Neill or featuring Tyrrell, but both featuring different starlets as Angel (Mitzi Kapture and Darlene Vogel, respectively). Both films flopped.
Trailer:


Poker Alice
(1987, Arthur Allan Seidelman)
One of many TV appearances that Tyrrell made in the 80s, in this TV movie she plays "Mad Mary" – but the true star is, of course, Liz Taylor in her twilight years: she plays the title character in this "true" story about Poker Alice (February 17, 1851 - February 27, 1930) who, as Wikipedia puts it, "was the best known female poker player in the American West." The plot, according to Herman Seifer at imdb: "Alice Moffit (Taylor), 'Poker Alice', has been disowned by her Boston family because of her incurable penchant for gambling. She is travelling the West with her cousin, John (George Hamilton), when she wins a house in a poker game on a train. The 'house' turns out to be a bordello, which she decides to run until she can sell it. She falls for a bounty hunter, Jeremy Collins (Tom Skerritt), who is about to settle down in California. Marrying him would mean ending the life-long relationship between the two cousins." What makes Poker Alice of interest to us here at A Wasted Life is its director, the unknown but still active director Arthur Allan Seidelman. Aside from innumerable TV movies of little interest like this one, most importantly he also gave us Arnold Schwarzenegger's first feature film lead, Hercules in New York (1969) – one of the most stupid films ever made. And we put Poker Alice in this career review – sorry, Susan – only as an excuse to show the film's trailer.
Trailer to Hercules in New York:


The Chipmunk Adventure
(1987, dir. Janice Karman)
Everyone has to pay the rent. Susan Tyrrell supplies the voice for the character Claudia Furschtien in this instalment of the Chipmunks franchise directed by Janice Karman, her only directorial credit to date; she usually supplies the voice of Theodore. At imdb, Corey Semple  (corey.semple@earthlink.com) explains the plot of the film as follows: "Alvin has entered himself and Simon and Theodore in a hot-air balloon race around the world against the Chipettes to deliver diamonds for a group of diamond smugglers. The winners will collect a prize of $100,000. Kids and adults will enjoy this film made with musical numbers by the Chipmunks and the Chipettes." Perhaps the most interesting thing about this film is that its director, Janice Karman, began her career as an actress appearing in the following more-noteworthy films: Switchblade Sisters (1975 / trailer) and Wam Bam Thank You Spaceman (1975 / trailer).
Trailer:


The Offspring
(1987, dir. Jeff Burr)
Aka From a Whisper to a Scream. Director Jeff Burr is a prolific producer of B and Z films of the kind that once filled the grindhouses but are now relegated straight-to-video/DVD or never get released because they are meant merely as tax write-offs. The Offspring, his second film, was his first horror outing; it is an anthology film in which, in the Tennessee town of Oldfield, Beth Chandler (Tyrrell), a reporter, is told four tales of horror by a historian (Vincent Price), tales that seem to represent the small town as a centre of evil. Aside from Tyrrell and Price, the cast features some other nice names: Clu Gulager, Rosalind Cash, Cameron Mitchell, Laurence Tierney, Angelo Rossitto and Martine Beswick. According to Wikipedia, Price hated the film, and wrote to a friend: "You're right about From a Whisper to a Scream – terrible! My agent misrepresented it and I was trapped in it" DVD Drive-In has a slightly better opinion of the film: "From a Whisper to a Scream was obviously done with little money, and some of the stories run longer than they should, with most of them being predictable. But you have to give the filmmakers credit for assembling a great cast, including a decent genre role for an elderly Price... [...] This quartet of vignettes is pretty sick and disturbing (picture a middle-aged man giving his incest-verged sister a nude ice bath or a young boy carving out a soldier's eye to plant it on the face of a mutilated little girl), and are aided by some gruesome special effects by Rob Burman (The Thing [1982 / trailer]). Giving each story a different time backdrop makes for somewhat effective, yet shoestring Gothic horror. With a true horror film legend playing host to the wraparound segments, a treasure trove of great character actors in sleazy roles, and diverse stories all with a shock value edge to them, From a Whisper to a Scream is by no means a classic but well worth a look."
Trailer:


The Underachievers
(1987, dir. Jackie Kong)
 
Supposedly aka as Night School. There isn't much info out there on this film, the last of four decidedly odd feature films from Kong, a cult flash-in-the-pan of the 80s: the passable mutant killer monster flick The Being (1983 / trailer), the lame comedy Night Patrol (1984 / trailer), the great gore cult comedy Blood Diner (1987 / trailer) and this totally unknown and forgotten and mostly lame comedy. Even on her own extremely meagre website, Kong gives virtually no details on The Underachievers, and simply re-uses the only review of the film to be found in imdb (written by Nullness, who couldn't follow the film). We prefer, however, to use the plot description by Dan Pavlides over at Answers.com: "Danny Warren (Edward Albert) is a former minor-league shortstop who becomes a narc to uncover drug dealing in this situation comedy. Investigating at a high-school adult-education class, he falls for the tempting teacher Katherine, played by the exotic Barbara Carrera. Danny forgets the reward of $10,000 per arrest when he elects to continue his 'education.' He joins a colorful group of characters that includes ex-cons, illegal aliens, and brain-dead baby boomers who cause more trouble than their younger counterparts. Swimming classes and wine tasting serve as background for a series of comic catastrophes. Danny soon suspects Katherine's colleague Mrs. Grant (Susan Tyrrell) of being in cahoots with the drug dealers, and Katherine and Mrs. Grant have a prolonged fight scene that is memorably funny." The scene presented below is the film's closing, but it seems to be edited, for according Nullness, "The movie ends with what seems like an honest plea to let adults take night school for a better education, then cuts to the 'graduation night' festivities and the drag-queen prom queen being shot by some guy." The shooting is missing from the clip below.
Closing scene:


Big Top Pee-wee
(1988, dir. Randal Kleiser)
Teaser trailer:
Susan Tyrrell is easy to overlook in this film, in which she plays Midge Montana. (Literally: Her character is only a few inches tall.) Three years after Pee-wee's cinematic début with Pee-wee's Big Adventure (1985 / trailer), which was directed by Tim Burton, the second Pee-wee Herman film is given to the man who directed such heterosexual films as Grease (1978 / trailer) and The Blue Lagoon (1980 / trailer) – with no noticeable reduction in quality, as far as quality can be spoken of in a Pee-wee film. Video Detective calls the film a "disappointing follow-up to Pee-wee's Big Adventure, this time about a travelling circus and a love triangle. Whoever would have thought that two women, let alone one, would want Pee-Wee?" Their critique reveals a major failure in getting the joke. Look for Benicio Del Toro making his film début, without makeup, as Duke the Dog-Faced Boy, and the ever-hubba-hubba Valeria Golino as one of the love interests. Whereas Pee-wee and co. fight against and overcome the mean-spirited and small-minded nearby small town in this film, three years later Pee-wee lost his career to a mean-spirited and small-minded nation when he got caught massaging his noodle in a porno theatre in Florida, a state where most men don't even have noodles (they're illegal there).
Real trailer:


Tapeheads
(1988, dir. Bill Fishman)
Roscoe's Rap from Tapeheads:
Director Bill Fishman began his seventeen-year career of directing an occasional quirky offbeat comedy that no one ever saw – Car 54, Where Are You? (1994 / trailer) or My Dinner with Jimi (2000) anyone? – with this cult comedy starring a still relatively unfamiliar, almost adult John Cusack (Grifters [trailer] was still two years away) and a still-rebounding Tim Robbins (Howard the Duck [trailer] had occurred only 2 years previously) and featuring a yitload of guest appearances from famous as well long-forgotten stars and musicians – even Michael Nesmith makes a brief appearance in this thing (but then, he's also one of the producers). Susan Tyrrell plays "Nikki Morton", but as we've never seen the film we have no idea her role is in comparison to, say, those of such other notable (non-musician) names like Doug McClure, Connie Stevens and Clu Gulager. Mutant Reviewers has a clear opinion of the film: "This movie is juvenile. It's kinda gross. There's poop jokes and sex jokes and lots of T and A. Basically, it's a masterpiece." At imdb, Riotgear (of the United States) supplies the following plot description: "Tapeheads is a surprisingly perfect satire of the eighties made at the end of the eighties. It is very funny, with an intelligent script and great dialogue. Fine comedic performances by Cusack and Robbins. Multiple intertwined plots. There is a love story between a female artist and Robbins' nerdy video artist. A self-help guide with Cusack trying to better himself and his buddy. A music marathon with wonderful performances. A corrupt politician caught in a delicious scandal. All this combined with a hysterical dysfunctional family drama make for a thoroughly wacky and wild time. The soundtrack is fabulous too."
Fan-made trailer:


Far from Home
(1989, dir. Meiert Avis)
A rare feature film from music video director Meiert Avis. Drew Barrymore, at the age of 13, had just bottomed out as a child drug and alcohol abuser – in fact, she was technically still in rehab when she made this film – and Far from Home was the first film of her brief B-film phase during her teens that included appearances in the surreal Motorama (1991 / trailer); the trashy Poison Ivy (1992 / trailer); Guncrazy (1992 / trailer); Doppelganger (1993 / trailer), the last of which had a, uh, "nice" nude scene in which she premièred her surgically reduced boobs; the generally forgotten No Place to Hide (1993 / trailer); and the proto-feminist western Bad Girls (1994 / trailer), in which she also bared her boobs but basically made the full jump back to full Hollywood respectability. In Far from Home, Susan Tyrrell plays Agnes Reed, the owner of the trailer park where 14-year-old Joleen Cox (Drew) and her dad Charlie Cox (Matt Frewer) get stuck when they run out of gas. As the nymphet Joleen – cringe as she asks "Did you ever do it?" – attracts the attention of the two local youths, it becomes obvious that a serial killer is on the loose in the small Nevada town. (Agnes gets electrocuted to death when the killer pushes an electric fan into her bathwater.)
Trailer:


Document of the Dead
(1989, dir. Roy Frumkes)
Roy Frumkes is not a well-known name, but he once wrote a criminally underrated and hilariously sick film titled Street Trash (1987 / trailer). Document of the Dead, as the title implies, is a documentary about George Romero originally made by Frumkes as a teaching aid for the film class he was teaching. Initially shot in 1978 while Romero was making the original Dawn of the Dead (1978 / trailer), ten years later Frumkes added footage of Romero making his segment of Two Evil Eyes (1990 / trailer) and released the documentary commercially. Document of the Dead also covers Romero's true masterpiece, Night of the Living Dead (1968 / trailer / full film) and his unjustly under-appreciated Martin (1976 / trailer). Mildly interesting, with talking heads galore – Susan Tyrrell, who never participated in a Romero film, does the voiceover narration.
Japanese promo for Document of the Dead:


Cry-Baby
(1990, dir. John Waters)
 
The second of the two films John Waters made during his very brief "super-cute and nostalgic film" phase, which started with the original version of Hairspray (1988 / trailer), Cry-Baby is also the first of Johnny Depp's "interesting" lead feature-film roles (he followed it with Edward Scissorhands [1990 / trailer] and, as we all know, hasn't stopped going for the fun since). The killer cast includes appearances – some for only seconds – by Joe Dallesandro, Mink Stole, Troy Donahue, Traci Lords, Polly Bergen, Mary Vivian Pearce, Willem Dafoe, Patricia Hearst, David Nelson, Joey Heatherton, Iggy Pop and, of course, Susan Tyrrell – the last two playing Belvedere and Ramona Rickettes, Cry-Baby's loving white-trash grandparents. As Ramona, she shoots gophers and plays darts using a picture of the Queen as her target and tells one dude the truth: "You're everything a man should be: young, stupid and mean." Roger Ebert says the film is "a passable imitation of a 1950s teenage exploitation movie," but Cry-Baby is also a fun and nostalgic homage to everything that way cool in the 50s: In Baltimore, good girl Allison (Amy Locane), tired of being good, falls for bad boy Cry-Baby (Waters) much to the chagrin of her square good-boy boyfriend Baldwin (Stephen Mailer), who manages to get Cry-Baby sent to jail; more soap opera twists and turns and musical numbers follow until all's well that ends well. A film, like Hairspray, that you can watch with the whole family, now even available in a Director's Cut.
Trailer:


 Rockula
(1990, dir. Luca Bercovici)
Rockula is the second film of director Luca Bercovici – his first being Ghoulies (1985 / trailer) – a man whose face is much more familiar than his name (aside from his occasional script and directorial jobs, he's an active character actor). According to AwesomeBMovies.com, Rockula is "an awesome b movie." StompTokyo points out that the film, which was made in 1988 but only released in 1990, "has the distinction of being possibly the last of the Golan-Globus Cannon films," and also says "Rockula is probably the best vampire farce you've never seen." Mutant Reviewers from Hell gives the film "14 out of 15 hot redheads clubbed with ham bones." The Man Cave, which admits to needing a "handful of times" to finally getting past the film's start, says "Rockula is actually a hilarious and dare I say undiscovered classic cult flick that needs to be seen by a larger audience." Yep, but as it is, and as B-Movie Chicks.com says: "Rockula is the cult flick that never was. [...] If this movie got wider distribution and marketing back in the day, I'm sure it would be among cheeseball classics such as Killer Klowns from Outer Space (1988 / trailer) and Rock & Roll High School (1979 / trailer)." So, let's leave it Leonard Maltin to disagree with the few other that have ever seen the film in his 2003 Movie & Video Guide: "Teen-age vampire [Dean] Cameron is unable to lose his virginity because of a centuries-old curse. Pretty stale stuff; of interest only for – but not redeemed by – the presence of [Bo] Diddley." Susan Tyrell plays "Chuck the Bartender", the singing (!) bartender to whom the teen vampire shares his troubles while drowning in them.
Trailer:


Motorama
(1991, dir. Barry Shils)
Trailer:
Drew Barrymore isn't the only person to have a cameo appearance in this surreal road movie written by Joseph Minion (he also wrote the mildly amusing After Hours [1985 / trailer] and the decidedly bonkers Vampire's Kiss [1988 / trailer]), there's also Flea, Jack Nance, Garrett Morris, Mary Woronov, Vince Edwards, Dick Miller, Meat Loaf and, the reason the film is even here, Tyrrell as a bartender. Plot, taken from Wikipedia: "A ten-year-old runaway boy (played by Jordan Christopher Michael) on a road trip for the purpose of collecting game pieces (cards) from the fictional 'Chimera' gas stations, in order to spell out the word M-O-T-O-R-A-M-A. By doing so he will supposedly win the grand prize of $500 million." Four years later, director Barry Shils followed this, his début film, with the documentary Wigstock: The Movie (1995 / trailer).
Travelin' – Dolly Parton's song to Motorama:


The Demolitionist
(1995, dir. Robert Kurtzman)
Richard Grieco (of Webs [2003] and Raiders of the Damned [2005]) was still sorta good-looking when he played the bad guy in this flick, a female knock-off of Robocop (1987 / trailer) – or Cyborg Cop (1993 / trailer), if you prefer – that signaled the downward spiral of his non-career. The Demolitionist is the first film of prolific special effects/make-up artist Robert Kurtzman, whose limited directorial output of other genre films consists of the equally entertaining films Deadly Impact (2010 / trailer), The Rage (2007 / trailer), Buried Alive (2007 / trailer) and Wishmaster (1997 / trailer). Tyrrell has a sizeable role in the film as Mayor Eleanor Grimbaum – you even see her in the trailer, for a change. The Science Fiction, Horror and Fantasy Film Review, which says that "The Demolitionist reminds of Barb Wire (1996 / trailer), made the same year as this and likewise featured a Baywatch (1989-2001) bimbo in an anarchic near future action setting," offers the following plot description: "It is in the future. Undercover police officer Alyssa Lloyd (Nicole 'Baywatch Bimbo' Eggert of Decoys [2004]) is discovered trying to infiltrate the gang of Mad Dog Burns (Grieco). Mad Dog leaves her crucified as a warning in his ongoing campaign to destroy Mayor Eleanor Grimbaum (Tyrrell) who has banned all guns. However, Mayor Grimbaum authorizes Alyssa to be used as the first subject in Professor Jack Crowley's (Bruce Abbott) Lazarus Project where her blood is replaced by nantotech plasma and she rebuilt as an enhanced human fighting machine. Using a hi-tech motorcycle and a masked bodysuit, Alyssa takes on Mad Dog's gang. She is quickly nicknamed The Demolitionist by the media. But Mad Dog retaliates by trying to use his influences in the council and having The Lazarus Project stopped by showing Alyssa to be unstable."
Trailer:


Digital Man
(1995, dir. Phillip J. Roth)
When talking of the acting of the familiar faces that flit through this obscure and justifiably unknown Z-film – it features Don Swayze, fer Christ's sake – the blog The Barbaric Bs of Schlocky Creek says: "The most fun character is a gun-toting granny [named Mildred Hodges] played by the always-lively Susan Tyrrell, who is on screen too briefly to be able to ham it up [...]." The plot, according to David Gibson (djg6@ukc.ac.uk) at imdb: "An out-of-control robot is inadvertently set loose in a small community, and a crack squad of soldiers is sent to hunt it down. Gradually, the members of the squad begin to suspect that some of them are robots." More or less a sci-fi western due to its sun-burnt setting and basic plotline – imagine The Magnificent Seven (1960 / trailer) in which the cowboys are all cyborgs who think they're cowboys – Digital Man, like all Phillip J. Roth's films, is pure unadulterated poverty-row cheez, the kind that goes well with a six-pack, a couple of joints and a group of farting and burping and loudly guffawing bad-movie fans.
Trailer:


Powder
(1995, dir. Victor Salva)
The last artsy 3 minutes of Powder:
Will the day ever arrive when people write of a Victor Salva film without mentioning his 1988 conviction and subsequent 15 months in jail for molesting (and videotaping the act with) a 12-year-old boy who acted in both Salva's attention-getting short film Something in the Basement (1986) and his subsequent first feature-length debut Clownhouse (1989 / trailer)? Probably not. Powder is the most art film like of all Salva's genre films, and definitely far better a film than his inexplicably popular Jeepers Creepers (2001 / trailer), the second unneeded sequel of which – Jeepers Creepers 3: Cathedral – is due next year. Better or not, Powder is slow and rather pompous. Plot: Albino outsider with special powers doesn't fit in the cruel, rural world. (Where's Prof. X when ya need him?) Tyrrell's in there somewhere as "Maxine", but we've forgotten where and for how long.
Trailer to the 2006 Bollywood remake, Alag:


Tales from the Crypt: Comes the Dawn
(Season 6, Episode 13)
(1995, dir John Herzfeld)
 
Tyrrell has a rather juicy part in this episode of the classic TV series as Mona the bartender, the story of which is based on Jack Davis's tale of the same name found in Haunt of Fear #26 (the original cover is to the left – the tale was not the cover story). The illustration above is the splash page used by the Crypt Keeper when he introduces the story. The greedy prospector of the original comic book is changed to two poachers in the TV episode. The twist ending of Comes the Dawn was later used as the driving plot point of the films 30 Days into Night (2007 / trailer) and Frostbite (2006 / trailer). Director John Herzfeld went on to direct Charlize Theron's feature film debut, the extremely Tarantinoesque ensemble crime film 2 Days in the Valley (1996 / trailer) and 15 Minutes (2001 / trailer), one of those Robert De Niro films in which he is made out to be a star of but disappears ten minutes into the film. Plot: Two asshole hunters (Bruce Payne and Michael Ironside) go the Buttfuck, Alaska, to do some illegal hunting and suddenly become the prey themselves when their guide (Vivian Wu) double-crosses them.
Tyrrell's death in Comes the Dawn:


Pink as the Day She Was Born
(1997, dir. Steve Hall)
An independent film that also seems to already be a lost or at least forgotten film, Pink as the Day She Was Born doesn't seem to have been seen by anyone. The image shown above is the only one of the film that we could location anywhere on the web. Co-produced by Linda Perry, the lead singer of the band 4 Non Blondes – if you don't remember the name, you'll remember their hit below – and with a cast that includes Nicole Eggert, Margaret Cho, Mink Stole and Susan Tyrrell (as "Lana"), according to the NY Times the films tells the tale of how "would-be rock singer Cherry (Alanna Ubach) flees Arizona for Los Angeles' seedy Sunset Strip where she is befriended by a sex parlor worker. Cherry takes a job in the sex trade while searching for a band that can support her burgeoning talent." TCM says the film, which Margaret Cho – pictured above as her Rhinestone Cowboy character of the film – once described as "one of those things you'll rent at the video store in 20 years," was shown at Outfest '97: The Los Angeles Gay and Lesbian Film Festival. According to a webpage from some online Nicole Eggert fan website, at the Los Angeles Film Festival Pink as the Day She Was Born won an award as the "Best Narrative Feature Not Suited For All Audiences."
4 Non Blondes – What's Up?:


Poison Ivy: The New Seduction
(1997, dir. Kurt Voss)
 
Kurt Voss, the guitarist for The Hindi Guns, directed this direct-to-video third installment of the Poison Ivy franchise – the original, from 1992 (trailer), features the not entirely baby-fat-free Drew Barrymore, while Poison Ivy II: Lily (1996 / trailer) features the curves of Alyssa Milano. (A series that can't be killed, 11 years after this film here there was a distantly related TV movie added to the franchise, 2008's Poison Ivy: The Secret Society [trailer].) For Poison Ivy: The New Seduction, instead of a getting a familiar name trying to break her child career mould, the poducers went for someone totally new who was willing to get naked a lot: Jaime Pressly (of Demon Island [2002]). Heterosexual male viewers seem to like Poison Ivy: The New Seduction. Good ol' Dr Gore gives the flick a score of "3 out of 4 seductive Presslys," pointing out the obvious reason why men like the film: "The most important thing to know about Poison Ivy: The New Seduction is that Jaime Pressly does get naked. [...] Jaime Pressly is a nuclear sex bomb. That voice. That body. That face. Seeing her leap out of a pool naked in slow motion..." At Yellow Ape Production, Jim Haggerty rates the film an 8 of 10, saying: "Hands down, the best of the Poison Ivy series – a dubious honour, to be sure, but this sex-drenched soap opera gets its hooks into you early on and never lets go." Haggerty also takes the time out from grooving on the boobs and sex to notice that "the legendary Susan Tyrrell is a hoot as the current maid." Yep, Tyrrell is the maid, Mrs. B, who just knows that this film's poison ivy, "Violet", ain't up to no good. Plot, according to DVD Verdict: "Violet (Pressly) is the sister of Ivy from the first movie (we'll forget that Ivy wasn't the first movie's Lolita's real name – it was given on the fly by Sara Gilbert). Her mother's life was ruined after being discovered in an affair with the father of her best friend Joy (Megan Edwards). Eleven years later Ivy is dead and Violet has grown into the loveliest young psychopath you'd ever want to bring home. She moves home and supposedly just drops by to visit her old best friend Joy, but obviously has more in mind. In a plot device that stretches your sense of belief, Joy immediately moves a girl she hasn't seen since she was ten into her palatial home. Of course Violet wants to seduce the father and become the most important member of the family, killing anyone in her way."
Trailer:


Relax... It's Just Sex
(1998, dir. P.J. Castellaneta)
Relax... It's Just Sex is an independent ensemble film, shot on the meagre budget of $250,000 that, for a change, is mostly about the daily whine and grind of gay and lesbian life in contemporary USA instead of that of contemporary hetero Gen-Xers or yuppies. The plot, according to John Sacksteder (jsackste@bellsouth.net) at imdb: "A mixed group of individuals – lesbian, gays, and heterosexuals who all frequent a local bar struggle to accept each other's lifestyles. However when the two gays are attacked and fight back and ultimately rape one of their attackers, the group becomes strongly divided on their actions. Jennifer Tilly (of American Strays [1996] and Bride of Chucky [1998]) is the mother hen of the group who tries to hold everyone together. The lesbian lovers break up when one admits to having an affair with a man." Susan Tyrrell plays Alicia Pillsbury, the mama of lesbian Megan (Serena Scott Thomas of The Thirst [2006 / trailer]) who, after cheating on her gal of 9 years with a man, decides she wants to go mainstream again. (Alicia Pillsbury response: "What are we going to say to our friends at PFLAG.* That's what I would like to know.") Film Threat, which says "this appears to be just another entry in the glut of ensemble cast dramedies which [have] flooded the market," manages to be homophobe even as they try to be liberal and hip: "[...] Virtually all the characters are gay or lesbian. I suppose this was inevitable. Necessary and appropriate, even. After all, homosexuals have every bit as much of a right to bitch and moan about their lousy love lives, philosophize about the meanings of life and death, and just generally spew their existential angst for about an hour and a half as straight folks." (Do blacks have the same right to do so as whites, we wonder... oh, excuse us – was that a subliminally racist question?) Still, they do point out one fact that it takes longer to list/describe the characters than to state the plot because "the interactions between these people ARE the plot."
* PFLAG – Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays.
Trailer:



Buddy Boy
(1999, dir. Mark Hanlon)
Director Mark Hanlon went on from this independent directorial début to write the screenplay to the overly maligned horror flick Ghost Ship (2002 / trailer). We're in non-commercial personal film territory here in this tale of another resident of the apartment complex in which Dorothy Vallens* once lived: Francis (Aidan Gillen of Wake Wood [2011 / trailer]) is a stuttering and unnaturally shy social misfit; extremely religious, his miserable world consists of tending his shrill, alcoholic invalid mother Sal (Tyrrell, of course) and his dead-end job at a photo lab, where he vicariously experiences the lives in the photos. Discovering a hole under the stairs, he is soon spying on his attractive French neighbour, Gloria (Emmanuelle Seigner of Nirvana [1996]). Saving her from a mugging, a dinner invitation leads to the exchange of body fluids and, as she is a modern gal and he a religious mental mess, things get a bit insane... a lot of nudity but few real answers in this dank exercise of extreme oddness. The efilm critic, who says that "Susan Tyrrell hams it up in a cartoony and silly over-the-top performance," seems to have found this film here very depressing, bemoaning that: "Buddy Boy is yet another example of dreary, dysfunctional indie fare. [...] Mark Hanlon indulges in heavy religious symbolism while taking on heavy subject matter such as cannibalism, transsexuals, child abduction and murder, no less. Hence, this is not light, comedy fun for the whole family. Hanlon takes on many a dysfunction which inadvertently, I hope, depresses his audience with a bombardment of misery over and over and over again. It starts out too much and only gets worse."
*"Dorothy Vallens" was Isabella Rossellini's character in Blue Velvet (1986 / trailer).
Trailer:


Masked and Anonymous
(2003, dir. Larry Charles)
Shot in 20 days on digital video, Masked and Anonymous is the feature film directorial début of Larry Charles, who went on to do the much better films Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan (2006 / trailer) and Brüno (2009 / trailer). The co-scriptwriter "Sergei Petrov" is no one less than Bob Dylan, who also stars in this film – by 2003, he had obviously finally managed to forget his other equally obscure cinematic, uh, ego stroke Renaldo and Clara (1978) and was willing to take part in another vanity piece. As Roger Ebert rightly states, "Bob Dylan idolatry is one of the enduring secular religions of our day." And it is a religion heavily practised in Hollywood, seeing the list of names of Tinsel-town denizens that took pay cuts to appear in this film, some but for seconds, including: Jeff Bridges, Penélope Cruz, John Goodman, Jessica Lange Luke Wilson, Angela Bassett, Bruce Dern, Ed Harris, Val Kilmer, Cheech Marin, Chris Penn, Giovanni Ribisi, Mickey Rourke, Christian Slater, Fred Ward and, of course Susan Tyrrell (you see her, as "Ella the Fortune Teller," all of one second in the background in the trailer). Ebert summarizes the film's "plot" as follows: [A] nation in the throes of post-revolutionary chaos. This is 'a ravaged Latin American country' (Variety) or perhaps 'a sideways allegory about an alternative America' (Salon). It was filmed in run-down areas of Los Angeles, nudge, nudge. A venal rock promoter named Uncle Sweetheart (Goodman) and his brassy partner, Nina Veronica (Lange), decide to spring Jack Fate (Dylan) from prison to give a benefit concert to raise funds for poverty relief (maybe) and Uncle and Nina (certainly)." Mr. Cranky bitches that the film teaches you "that Dylan was more full of himself than a naked Tommy Lee on a heroin binge," while The Onion says that Dylan is "an icon and he delivers an icon's performance, literally: He could easily have been replaced by piece of wood with his face painted on it." One hates to imagine what the three-hour version of Masked and Anonymous is like.
Trailer:


The Boneyard Collection
(2008, dir. Edward L. Plumb)
Director Edward L. Plumb made his odd horror comedy anthology film (hosted by Dr. Acula [Forrest J. Ackerman]) over a period of roughly eight years, filming one episode at a time (the last two, however, were actually filmed in tandem). Susan Tyrrell, as the "High Priestess" appears in the second episode, The Devil's Due at Midnight, which was shot in 2004; her costars include the legendary George Kennedy, the too rarely seen Ken Foree (of From Beyond [1986 / trailer] and Death Spa [1990 / trailer]), and the great Brad Dourif. The plot is about a coven of hot stuff witches who conjure up the devil (Dourif) and have to fend off the inept attacks of an the inefficient witch killer (Foree). The other episodes include Boogie with the Dead (girls' band vs. zombies), Her Morbid Desires (actress playing a vampire finds out all her costars are dying on set) and Cry of the Mummy (about the problems a mummy faces in the film industry).
Trailer:


Pieces of Dolores
(2007, dir. Garth Twa)
The following is a re-written version of Garth Twa's own description of his farcical short: A crime has been committed – after finding the literal pieces of Dolores in a ditch (a foot, an ear, Tuesday's panties) Heart (Jeff Buhler) and his puppy-like partner Donder (Joshua McBride) stumble after the trail of the missing girl and meet an array of odd, ill-tempered, or outright grotesque witnesses, including John Fleck (of the NEA Four, which won the battle but lost the war) as Brad the rabid office manager, Susan Tyrrell as the neighbour with the bacterial face lift, and Mink Stole as Dolores's icy mother. Moving through some of the stranger precincts of Los Angeles, Heart is bullied by a dental receptionist with a fetish for axe murderers and struggles to keep up with Riverwalkers as they march through the bone-dry L.A. River. In the end, he is no closer to the truth than when he started.
Trailer to the short:


Flexing with Monty
(2010, dir. John Albo)
Tyrrell's involvement in this direct-to-video horror art film is rather distant: for whatever the reason may be, she supplies the voice for the character of Mrs. Nog, who is played by bit-player Melinda Peterson. Flexing with Monty is to date the only feature-length film by John Albo, a horror fanatic who, with fellow horror fan Danny DeVito, has founded The Blood Factory, where you can watch some nice sick horror shorts (for free!). According to Wikipedia, shooting for Flexing with Monty began in 1994 and by the time it was completed in 2008, both its original producer and its male lead, Trevor Goddard, had died. The plot as supplied at View Clips: "Monty (Goddard of Deep Rising [1998 / German trailer] and Hollywood Vampyr [2002 / trailer]) is a bodybuilder. His gym is the very heart of his existence. He is aggressively male, outrageously narcissistic and a bigot. Sharing this strange world is Monty's cerebral and emotionally wounded younger brother, Bertin (Rudi Davis). One stormy day, the brothers' bizarre but settled lives are suddenly disrupted by the unexpected arrival of Lilith (Sally Kirkland of Fatal Games [1984 / trailer] and Jack the Reaper [2011 / trailer]), a Catholic nun collecting contributions for an unusual cause. Lilith's arrival is the catalyst required to generate a momentous change in Bertin's relationship with his brother: a change that results in the astonishing and gruesome downfall of the vainglorious Monty."
 
Trailer:


Kid-Thing
(2012, dir. David Zellner)
Susan Tyrrell's last completed project was this short film for the Austin-based independent filmmakers, the Zellner Brothers. The plot, according to Kristina Aikens at the IFFBoston: "Ten-year-old Annie (Sydney Aguirre) likes to destroy things. Like many a kid before her, Annie smashes stuff just to see what happens and tests the boundaries of her interactions with others. Without friends her own age or adult supervision, Annie wanders aimlessly, looking for something to capture her interest and wreaking havoc when the mood strikes her – which is often. But one day, she encounters something strange and mysterious in the woods, something completely out of her experience. Now Annie is challenged to tap into a feeling she's never been asked to show before: compassion for another human being." The mysterious thing in the woods is the voice of a woman named Esther coming up from the depths of an old well. Tyrrell plays Esther.
Trailer:

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