Monday, June 18, 2012

R.I.P.: Susan Tyrrell, Part I (1971-82)

Susan Tyrrell
18 March 1945 – 16 June 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

NOTE: On 7 May 2023, someone took it to themselves to flag a bunch of posts here at a wasted life as containing "sensitive content". For the most part, that meant any post with a denigrating or humorous comment about that Fascist lump of lard known as Donald Trump or his plasticine trophy wife, but one or two posts did contain some comfy love pillows and or tasty salamis. Unlike this one, our R.I.P. Career Review of the great Susan Tyrrell, which really does (and did) not contain any questionable images or statements; here, the flagger, undoubtedly a cancel culture "conservative", flagged merely to annoy.
But, as we had to resubmit this blog entry for review, we took advantage of the moment to update all entries and embedded videos. Also, because we always found this entry — like our first boyfriend — much too large and long to swallow easily, we've decided to split it in two...

Go here for
Susan Tyrrell Pt II (1983 to 2012)

Born in San Francisco, CA, on 18 March 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.
2010 interview with Susan
about her art:
In 2008 Susan Tyrrell moved to Austin, Texas, where she died on Saturday, 16 June 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.*
* That was in 2012; whom amongst them is still alive today is unknown to us.
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)
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.

Trailer to
The Steagle:
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 debut as one of the babes he bonks.*
* On-line sources tend to be at odds what film is her official feature film debut, but this film and the next, Been Down So Long It Looks Like Up to Me, were released in the USA on 15 Sept 1971, while the 1971 western Shoot Out (often given as her debut), was released in the US on 13 October 1971.
Prof Harold Weiss's nonsense soliloquy
before he splits:

Been Down So Long It Looks Like Up to Me

(1971, dir. Jeffrey Young)
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.
Scenes from the film:

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 ["Potential Security Risk"] blogspot Style Skilling once said: "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."
* Currently [29 May 2023], at Wikipedia, they say: "On April 30, 1966, two days after the publication of his novel, Fariña attended a book-signing ceremony at a Carmel Valley Village bookstore, the Thunderbird. Later that day, while at a party to celebrate his wife Mimi Fariña's twenty-first birthday, Fariña saw a guest with a motorcycle, who later gave Fariña a ride up Carmel Valley Road, heading east toward the rural Cachagua area of Carmel Valley. At an S-turn the driver lost control. The motorcycle tipped over on the right side of the road, came back to the other side, and tore through a barbed wire fence into a field where a small vineyard now exists. The driver survived, but Fariña was killed instantly. [...] The police said the motorcycle must have been traveling at 90 miles per hour (140 km/h), even though 'a prudent speed' would have been 30 miles per hour (48 km/h)."
Richard and Mimi Fariña sing
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 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.
Not from the film — 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 — is Tyrrell's first (western that is — it's her third feature film project to be released). The plot, according to Michel Rudoy ( 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."
Original trailer to
Shoot Out:
The film is based on a story by Will James, a western painter and writer who, The Cowboy Directory once wrote, "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 below 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). That same year (1933), the country music singer Ramblin' Red Foley released a song titled The Lone Cowboy...
Ramblin' Red Foley sings
The Lone Cowboy:
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."
Fat City
(1972, dir. John Huston)
The film, which Roger Ebert considers "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 Q (1982), The Blob [1988] and Cherry Falls [2000 / trailer]), who is the second lead female ("Faye").
Trailer to
Fat City:
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]) 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 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."

Catch My Soul

(1974, dir. Patrick McGoohan)
Catch My Soul is a forgotten example of that mostly woe-begotten 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]?)
Trailer to
Catch My Soul:
This time around the victim of the bastardization is Shakespeare. The film is 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 Grier's cousin Rosey Grier [of The Thing with Two Heads (1972 / trailer)] was Othello), but for the film version folk guitarist Richie Havens took over for Othello and Lance LeGault (of 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 was once 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."
Once considered a lost film, it was rediscovered in 2003 under the title with which the film was rereleased in the drive-in circuit, Santa Fe Satan. The soundtrack is easily found on eBay, if not elsewhere by now.

Zandy's Bride

(1974, dir. Jan Troell)
Susan Tyrrell's second western, a.k.a. (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), a loose remake of 1937's Hurricane (trailer).*
* Hurricane 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 [Widower's Tango]. 
The movie 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. When the website ecritic was still around, some guy named Charles Tatum, who says that "Gene Hackman turns in one of his best performances in this intimate western", gushed: "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 [...]."
Trailer to
Zandy's Bride:
At imdb, Jim Beaver ( 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."

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 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 above — 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] 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

Some of the film, with Tyrrell: 

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)
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.
Trailer to
The Killer Inside Me:
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] and Messiah of Evil [1973 / trailer]) 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).
Tyrrell's fate:
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 (but this time around, hot) hooker Joyce Lakeland; for Winterbottom's 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]).
A trailer to
Another Man, Another Chance:

(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. 9/30/55 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).
* Years and years ago, we were an extra for a scene in that movie taking place at some overly hip art opening or maybe a show at some bar. We were drunk and on some weak acid, so we really can't remember. But we do remember that everyone stood around bored for about 8 hours, and then when Ms. Winger showed up with her co-actress of the scene, the whole official shoot took all of 8 minutes.
Trailer to
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 film is the feature film début of Lisa Blount (Prince of Darkness [1987]) and Tom Hulce.

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."
Trailer to
I Never Promised You a Rose Garden:
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 further above 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 / trailer).
Has nothing to do with the film —
Lynn Anderson's
I Beg Your Pardon (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 to
Andy Warhol's Bad:
One of those infamous films — like Pink Flamingoes (1972) or Cannibal Holocaust (1980) 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 most infamous scene of the film?

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.
Trailer to
Islands in the Stream:
The now-defunct website DVD Verdict trashed the film, and among their many complaints was 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."
Music to
Islands in the Stream:

(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 ( 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."
Trailer to
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.

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 (5 May 1903 – 1 Feb 1982), a former madam who went on to become the mayor of Sausalito, California.
The full film:
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 of whom began his directorial career in 1939 with Humphrey Bogart's only horror film, The Return of Doctor X (1939 / trailer).
 (1979, dir. David Winters)
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.
Trailer to
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. The dead website Bad Movie Night, which actually sorta liked 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 (Bert 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 to 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)

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 this 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 coloreds 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 was 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.
Three Chairs for Lefty:
Of interest, but not very funny, is the feature-film debut 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.
Trailer to
Loose Shoes: 
Tales of Ordinary Madness
(1981, dir. Marco Ferreri)
A.k.a. Storie di ordinaria follia. European auteur Marco Ferreri, the director of The Big Feast (1973 / 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 [...]."
A drunk that speaks coherently:
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."
The now dead Cult Movie Guide once said: "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."
Scenes to the main theme: 

Midnight Lace
(1981, dir. Ivan Nagy)
Yes, it is a low-brow TV remake of the entertainingly sexist, sub-paar Doris Day vehicle from 1960. Based — like the earlier version — on the Janet Green play Matilda 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:
This version of 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."
Midnight Lace (1981) full movie:
The questionable career of the Hungarian director Ivan Nagy started with forgotten and probably lost drive-in fodder like Bad Charleston Charlie (1973), peeked with the super-sleazy horror film Skinner (1993 / trailer), and ended with hand-helping skin flicks like Trailer Trash Teri (1998). In the documentary film Heidi Fleiss The Making of a 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 The Making of a 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], 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 (the first, as previously mentioned, was Andy Warhol's Bad). She played the junkie wife of the cop Fritz Langley (Robbie Coltrane [!] in his first lead role) who, to quote Sandra Brennan from somewhere online "meets assorted New Wave scumbags" as he tries to catch the saxophone-playing killer (Amos Poe).
Trailer to
Subway Riders:
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." At the dead website Cinema of the World, director Amos Poe himself once said 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 oddest 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 again (again) 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.
Trailer to
Alphabet City:
Liar's Moon
(1982, dir. David Fisher)
This cult favourite, a teenage love story/melodrama, is one of only two films this David Fisher ever directed, his second being the equally culty laughathon Toy Soldiers (1984 / trailer).
Trailer to
Liar's Moon:
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.

(1982, dir. James B. Harris)
A.k.a. 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) — who occasionally dabbled in directing, possibly most notably in the extremely strange Zalman King flick Some Call It Loving (1973 / trailer).
Trailer to
This film, Harris's 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. Emmet Walsh.

Forbidden Zone
(1982, dir. Richard Elfman)
Music number from Forbidden Zone
Pico & Sepulveda:
(Oh, no! Blackface time.) 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.*  
* About Hervé, she once said: "We were lovers. He used to say, 'If you fuck me and I hear about it...' I loved him dearly. Now he looks like a Mexican bartender. He's very sick. His organs are bigger than he is, so they grow and he has to be on morphine. Herve's a brilliant man, hilarious sense of humor, who's very paranoid. He carried a gun and a long knife all the time. I loved him very much. You ask any woman he's been with – he's a very sexual man. He knows what to do! [Village Voice]"
The Queen sings
Witch's Egg:
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. Richard Elfman (who went on to do the unknown but cult-worthy 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.
It's only a B&W trailer:
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 version of a song:
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 eternally in-planning sequel Forbidden Zone 2: Forbidden Galaxy for rather odd. One assumes that should Part 2 ever actually get made, they will forego the Blackface.
Hear about it from the filmmakers:


Go here for
Susan Tyrrell, Pt. II (1983–2012)


Sister Wendy Beckett said...

Sususu was a true original and a (low) class act all the way... She possessed Talent Beyond the Law, you might say. The world is somehow even more of a disreputable place minus the great lady's presence, who, as she was SO FOND of saying about herself, still had "the pussy of a 10 year old!!" RIP Dearest Susu.... (the above is a noble and unbelievably detailed tribute, my sincere hats off to the author/compiler!!)

Abraham said...

Thank you for your kind words regarding my research and compilation skills. She was a unique talent that deserved more respect (and more film parts) than she ever got.