Tuesday, September 1, 2015

R.I.P.: Wesley Earl "Wes" Craven, Part I (1970-1977)

2 August 1939 – 30 August 2015

What follows is a look at some the projects he was involved in — actually and/or presumably. TV series are ignored.

The Art of Marriage
(1970, writ & dir. Sean S. Cunningham)
We took a look at this film in R.I.P.: Harry Reems – Part II (1969-1972). Few sources link Wes Craven's name to this movie, but in The XXX Filmography, 1968-1988, the author Jason S. Martinko claims that this white-coater was made by both Cunningham and Craven. According to the dead film critic Vincent Canby: "The host-narrator (Howard J. Brubaker) of The Art of Marriage, a sort of filmed sanesex manual that employs two pairs of live actors to demonstrate the various positions for coitus, refers at one point in his lecture, which he presents as if he were sight-reading from the Congressional Record, to 'the pioneering work done by Masters and Johnson, to whom we owe all indebtedness'." A description that conforms to that of Cunningham in the book Filmmakers on the Fringe, where he says it's the type of film in which "You know, a guy comes out in a white coat and says 'In the interests of better marital harmony we'd like to show you these sleazy people with dirty feet rolling around in bed,' then you cut to the sex."

(1971, writ. & dir. Sean S. Cunningham)
Aka Sensual Paradise. The second known film by Sean S. Cunningham — like his first above, a white-coater — is Wes Craven's first known film credit (as associate producer), though there were surely other earlier pseudonymous credits in the porn biz. Together stars Marilyn Briggs, otherwise known as "Marilyn Chambers" (22 April 1952 – 11 April 2009), of Behind the Green Door (1972) and Rabid (1977 / trailer). 
In The XXX Filmography, 1968-1988, the author Jason S. Martinko writes: "This fake white-coater can hardly even be considered softcore, and mostly consists of scenes of naked people at a commune discussing what they like about sex. It is significant because [...] revenue generated from this movie allowed Wes Craven and Sean S. Cunningham to make The Last House on the Left. [...] Original music is performed by Emanuel Vardi (as Manny Vardi)." One wonders how Vardi (21 April 1915 – 29 January 2011), "one of the great viola players of the 20th century", got involved in a soft-core porn project.
 Not from the movie —
Emanuel Vardi, "You Can Call Me Manny":

You Got to Walk It Like You Talk It 
or You'll Lose that Beat 
(1971, writ. & dir. Peter Locke) 
Possibly a lost film. Richard Pryor appears in it as a wino. More than one website out there — including for example Film Reference — lists Wes Craven as the co-editor of this movie, the first of three directed by Peter Locke that Craven was involved in. We took a look at the movie in 2012 in R.I.P.: Zalmon King; it was King's first lead role in a feature film.
The plot, according to TV Guide: "King is an idealistic young man who is seeking the meaning of life among the inanities and absurdities of New York. In Central Park he is set upon by a fat black woman and he watches incredulously as a young man exposes his behind to an old woman shouting obscenities at him. After many such ridiculous adventures, he finally marries an understanding girl, becomes a father, gets a job, and, seemingly in a jiffy, he loses the job, his wife leaves him with the baby, and he is back in Central Park still seeking the 'meaning' of it all. A mishmash of intent and execution and too annoyingly clumsy to watch."
The soundtrack of You've Got to Walk It Like You Talk It or You'll Lose that Beat is some of the earliest released music by Donald Fagen and Walter Becker, otherwise known as Steely Dan.
 Dog Eat Dog Eat Dog
From the soundtrack of
You Got to Walk It Like You Talk It or You'll Lose that Beat:


Deep Throat
(1972, writ. & dir. Gerard Damiano)
We looked at this film in R.I.P.: Harry Reems – Part II (1969-1972). To quote Rolling Stone: "While he struggled to find financing, Craven often paid the bills by working on pornography sets, either uncredited or under pseudonyms, including Deep Throat [...]." That explains why he appears as one of the talking heads in the documentary Inside Deep Throat (2005).
 Trailer to
Inside Deep Throat (2005):


Last House on the Left
(1972 writ. & dir. Wes Craven)

Wes Craven's "official" directorial début, we took a look at the movie in R.I.P. David Hess, where we wrote: "Hess made his film début in this classic grindhouse production, the film that jump-started the careers of its producer, Shawn S. Cunningham, and début director, Wes Craven. Inspired by the 1960 Ingmar Bergman film The Virgin Spring (in turn based on the 13th century Swedish ballad Töres döttrar i Wänge ("Töre's Daughters in Vänge"), Last House on the Left is a primitive and uneven but unforgettable piece of exploitation [...]. The film, which was banned in Australia for over 34 years, incurs strong reactions: one of the film's stars, Fred J. Lincoln, who went on to a long-lasting career directing and acting in porn (doing such fine films as Enema Obedience 2 [1994], The Enema Bandit [1994], The Enema Bandit Returns [1995] and Abducted by the Enema Bandit [1997]), has even gone on record as considering the film to be the worst movie he ever took part in. The plot: Two teenage girls on the way to a rock concert want to buy some pot and cross paths with a quartet of psychopaths who torture and kill them; a twist of fate brings the killers to the house of one of the girls, and when the parents figure out what has happened, they take merciless revenge. Hess stands out as Krug Stillo, the group's leader, in an amoral performance only matched by that of his costar Jeramie Rain (later and now former wife of Richard Dreyfuss) as Sadie, the killer bitch of the group. The clip embedded below [...] features the original version of Wait for the Rain, one of the many songs David Hess provided for the film's soundtrack."
David Hess sings
Wait for the Rain:

 It Happened in Hollywood
(1973, writ & dir. Peter Locke)

We took a look at this flick in R.I.P.: Harry Reems, Part III (1973-74). The second of three films directed by Locke, who like Craven went on to a decent career in Hollywood. In The XXX Filmography, 1968-1988, Jason S. Martinko writes: "This is the story of a sweet young girl named Felicity Split (Melissa Hall) who quits her job with the telephone company in hopes of becoming a famous sex-film star. She makes it big, and even sleeps her way to an Academy Award. Dozens of people appear in the cast, there's plenty of music, singing and comedic dialog. Not to mention lots of erotic hardcore action. It was produced by Screw magazine's Jim Buckley, and according to Al Goldstein, this is the first adult film he ever performed in, receiving oral sex. Goldstein remembers having great difficulty performing in front of the camera, and seldom being offered to perform in sex scenes afterwards. He also remembers that Wes Craven had more to do with the production of this film than he cares to admit, often down-playing his involvement in the early days of the adult film business. Wes Craven supposedly worked as the assistant director and editor of the film." 
Craven also appears briefly as the "King's Litter Bearer"; the King is played by Peter Locke.
 Radio report on
It Happened in Hollywood:

The Fireworks Woman
(1975, dir. "Abe Snake", aka Wes Craven)
"What Happens When a Brother and Sister Break the Ultimate Taboo?"

Aka Angela Is the Fireworks Woman and Angela, The Fireworks Woman. Despite the success of Last House on the Left, Craven still had trouble finding mainstream work — thus he occasionally continued his porn activities with films like this one, which he supposedly co-wrote with Hørst Badörties, and in which he has a small non-sex part (see the photo below).
Over at Rupert Pupkin Speaks, they say: "More than just an oddity, Angela the Fireworks Woman is quite a powerful work and the original VCA tape is quite a collectable." Rame.net is of the opinion that "If the late seventies was a golden era when it looked like porn and mainstream films were converging, (Sex World [1978] for instance is v. reminiscent of sci-fi films of the time), the early seventies heralded a period of experimentation as filmmakers tried different genres (and filmed an awful lot of orgies) and slowly found their feet. Fireworks Woman is very much a product of this time: part love story, part edgy drama, part surreal nonsense, it remains a difficult film to classify."
Orgy Scene:
The XXX Filmography, 1968-1988, has the plot: "Eric Edwards plays Peter, a man who is deeply in love with his sister Angela (Jennifer Jordan). They are both virgins, and one day after fooling around on the beach like children, Angela initiates a tender sex scene. Peter feels extremely guilty afterwards and violently rejects Angela and leaves home. He returns years later, having been ordained a Catholic priest, and begins working at the local cathedral. Angela has never loved anyone else and tries to change the mind of her religious brother. Peter sends her to work for a wealthy parishioner, not knowing that the woman's sadistic boyfriend (Jamie Gillis) is into S/M and urination, and intent on brutalizing Angela into becoming a woman. Angela escapes and flees on a sailboat, but has nothing but a bottle of whiskey to eat or drink. Drunk, she falls overboard and is rescued by a horny couple who get her in on a threesome. Later, Angela is noticed by two local fishermen, and one of them rapes her in an icehouse, in a graphic scene beside a pile of dead fish. All the while, Peter continues to reject Angela, although he fantasizes about her regularly. In the final scene, Angela decides to have one last orgy. This scene is rumored to contain a live fish fellatio sequence and a dog performing cunnilingus in some prints. [...] Original music is performed by Jacques Urbont. It was distributed theatrically in the USA by Dog Eat Dog Films Inc. in 1975." Martinko also credits Sean Cunningham as co-producer, but the imdb says that honor belongs to Peter Locke (as "Carmen Rodriguez").
In turn, Movies Made Me says: "Porn movies today are about one thing. The Fireworks Woman is about many things, not the least of which is Craven's fascinating and complicated perspective on organized religion and mysticism. I think it's a real shame that no one has paid serious attention to the film as part of the director's oeuvre — and I hope to turn the tide a bit with an article that's been published in the latest issue (#33) of Fangoria's GoreZone magazine.  You can order [...] a digital version HERE."

Kitty Can't Help It
(1975, dir. Peter Locke)
Aka California Drive-In Girls, Drive In and The Carhops; the last known directorial effort of Peter Locke. Wes Craven was the editor of this grindhouse comedy, a relatively generic if entertaining jiggler — among the bongos seen, those of the great Uschi Digard, the "Lady in Hotel Room".
Movies About Girls has long, detailed review of the movie, which we've emasculated to the following: "Here's what important to know about The Carhops. It's not about carhops. The carhopping is over with two minutes into the film. So then, what is it about? Hard to say. Rape, mostly. [...] Carhops has an excellent poster and an excellent title, which not only got it made, but is apparently still convincing saps like yours cruelly to watch it. [...] Porn and gore, apparently, is something Locke can do with panache. R-rated sex comedies, on the other hand, are just not his forte. Bland, creepy, and depressingly unfunny, with less nudity than you'd like and more threats of rape than you could possibly need, Carhops is useful only to Uschi completists and groupie enthusiasts keen on seeing Pam Des Barres strum an acoustic guitar. I didn't exactly feel cheated, but I'm pretty numb at this point. You'd probably be pretty disappointed."
Car chase from the film:


Thunder Buns
(1976, dir. Thomas Marker)
Director "Thomas Marker" never made another movie — at least not under that name. Pulsing Cinema uploaded the clip below onto YouTube, crediting it to this film. We have our doubts, for as far as we can tell, Thunder Buns is a compilation film edited together from diverse other movies — including porn films we've found elsewhere as having Wes Craven's participation. Be we like the poster and the clip, so here it is. And yes, that is Wes Craven playing the photographer giving instructions to the possibly true twins and now mostly forgotten porn actresses from the Golden Age, the "Famous Lesbian Twins" Brooke and Taylor Young (active 1976-1978, photo below from some film of theirs).
In regard to the long-retired supposed siblings, the Tumblr The 50 Greatest Porn Stars, which lists them together as #42, writes:  "Brooke and Taylor Young symbolize that languid period of seventies porn where a lot of previously (?) taboo things were first tried out on camera, including yes — twincest. These two girls starred in a few hardcore flicks in the mid to late seventies bearing brilliant titles such as Thunderbuns, Sweet Cakes and the somewhat-eponymous Teenage Twins, all shot in 1976. The latter flick even took a venture into occult realms, with one of the twins masturbating with a bible…"
"Show us a little tit..."

Sweet Cakes
(1976, dir. Howard Ziehm [as Hans Johnson])
In The XXX Filmography, 1968-1988, the author Jason S. Martinko claims that Wes Craven has a non-sex role in this movie which, like Thunder Buns above, features the "Famous Lesbian Twins" Brooke and Taylor Young.
The plot, according to Mr. Martinko: "Sweet Cakes is a very well done sequel to Honey Pie [1975, also directed by Ziehm] consisting of four vignettes. The story involves a female reporter (Jennifer Welles) interviewing a famous photographer (Eric Edwards) and the sex scenes are shown in flashbacks. Notable moments include a BDSM sequence with Hustler magazine cover-girl Linda Wong and a stunning incest scene with identical sisters Brooke and Taylor Young."
The album cover below is the soundtrack release to Teenage Twins.
Howard Ziehm, of course, is famous for having made the first full-length straight porn movie with a plot, Mona The Virgin Nymph (1970) and the classic soft-core comedy, Flesh Gordon (1974).
 Trailer to
Flesh Gordon:


Hot Cookies
(1977, dir. Howard Ziehm [as Albert Wilder])
In The XXX Filmography, 1968-1988, the author Jason S. Martinko claims that Wes Craven has a non-sex role in this movie and offers the following plot: "In a spoof of Rod Sterling's Night Gallery, Serena plays a mysterious enchantress who makes erotic paintings come to life. Scenes include a slumming rich bitch (Abigail Clayton), Victorian lesbians, a Rocky parody and Joey Silvera as a painter with a Scandinavian model (Anne Magle)." 
But as Dries Vermeulen points out at Video Tramp, Ziehm "made a name for himself as the King of the so-called 'loop-carrier'," so if Craven is there it is probably in a scene taken from another movie... still, we like the poster, so we're listing the film here anyways.
Abigail Clayton, by the way, is one of the many women that die in the slasher "classic", Maniac (1980).
 Trailer to
Maniac (1980):


The Hills Have Eyes
(1977, writ & dir Wes Craven)
Personally, although we still find this movie a fun film to watch, we also think time has not been kind to The Hills Have Eyes — the blood-thirsty killers are so damn clean, and the young son looks and acts like a twink on loan from some 70s gay porn movie — nevertheless, when this movie (produced by Peter Locke) came out, it made waves and Craven's reputation as a horror director was cast in stone. Inspired by the classic Sawney Bean legend, the action was logically enough moved from 15th century Scotland to 20th century USA. Originally smacked with an X-rating, Craven re-cut to an R; regrettably, the cut material seems to have been lost, other than for an alternative ending.
TV Guide offers the following plot synopsis: "The Hills Have Eyes opens as the Carters, an ostensibly typical middle-class suburban family, drive through the desert in their mobile home headed for California. Trouble starts when the vehicle's axle breaks and the travelers are left stranded in the desert, miles from help. Unfortunately, they've accidentally trespassed on the domain of another family, a brutal, almost atavistic, clan of cannibals who live on the desert mesas. Soon the rival families collide with the twisted desert clan attacking the 'all-American' suburban clan to loot, kill the men, rape the women, and eat the tasty-looking baby. Though not particularly bloody, The Hills Have Eyes is an extremely intense and disturbing film. As is the case with Sam Peckinpah's classic, Straw Dogs (1971 / trailer), it becomes oddly and distressingly exhilarating to watch the nice family become increasingly savage in their efforts to survive. Not for the squeamish, this low-budget potboiler is one of the prime examples of what was so fascinating about American horror films in the 1970s. It can be profitably read as the kind of thematically rich meditation on the dark side of the American family that could only be done in the exploitation horror genre."

Go to Part II

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Enjoyed reading this. Looking forward to Part 2. Thanks.

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