Thursday, August 22, 2019

R.I.P.: Dick Miller, Part V (1977-80)



25 Dec 1928 – 30 Jan 2019

The American thespian treasure known as Dick Miller, one of our all-time favorite character actors, entered the Great Nothingness on January 30th, 2019.
A Bronx-born Christmas Day present to the world, Miller entered the film biz doing redface back in 1956 in the Roger Corman western Apache Woman (trailer). He quickly became a Corman regular and, as a result, became a favorite face for an inordinate amount of modern and contemporary movie directors, particularly those weaned and teethed in Corman productions. (Miller, for example, appears in every movie Joe Dante has made to date.)
A working thespian to the end, Miller's last film, the independent horror movie Hanukkah (trailer), starring fellow low culture thespian treasure Sid Haig, just finished production. In it, as in many of Miller's films, his character is named Walter Paisley in homage to his first truly great lead role, that of the loser killer artist/busboy Walter Paisley in Roger Corman's classic black comedy, A Bucket of Blood (1959).
What follows is a multi-part career review in which we undertake a highly meandering, extremely unfocused look at the films of Dick Miller. The films are not necessarily looked at in the order of their release... and if we missed one, let us know. 

Go here for
R.I.P.: Dick Miller, Part I (1955-60)
R.I.P.: Dick Miller, Part II (1961-67)
R.I.P.: Dick Miller, Part III (1968-73)
R.I.P.: Dick Miller, Part IV (1974-76)


Game Show Models
(1977, writ. & dir. David N. Gottlieb)

Aka Teenage Models, Gameshow Models, and The Hollywood Dream; the original version is called The Seventh Dwarf. "Although conceived as an art film [entitled The Seventh Dwarf], Game Show Models was transformed into a nudity-driven exploitation gem by distributor Sam Sherman. [Vinegar Syndrome]"
Sherman, some might remember, was the cofounder of the production and distribution firm, Independent-International Pictures, with the infamous Z-filmmaker Al Adamson (25 July 1929 – 21 June 1995), a fairly typical film of whom is, naturally, the disasterpiece that is Dracula vs. Frankenstein (1971). Sherman supposedly came up with the game-show angle as a way to spice up the film, with Gottlieb doing the reshoots, including the pre-credit sex scene featuring the marvelous mammeries of Rae Sperling. (Their, and her, last known appearance in a movie.) The evolution of the original movie to that which was released explains why a film marketed as if it were a knock-off of Corman's three-babes-three-stories formula is, in the end, focused on the life and events surrounding the male lead.
The plot, as given at DVD Drive-In: "Feeling unfulfilled in his escapist existence as a writer of pornographic novels and reaching the end of his 'five-year plan' to make something of himself in Hollywood, idealistic Stuart Guber (John Vickery) decides to embark on a to 'go mainstream' by walking out on his hippie dancer girlfriend Josey (screenwriter Diane Thomas [7 Jan 1946 – 21 Oct 1985]), getting a respectable haircut (well, for the seventies), and taking a trainee position at the public relations firm of megalomaniacal Roger Feinstein (Gilbert DeRush) through a connection with press liaison Marvin Schmitt (Sid Melton [22 May 1917 – 3 Nov 2011]). He finds some succor from the monotony of his work in an affair with the 'protected' younger sister CiCi (Diane Sommerfield [24 Oct 1949 – 9 Mar 2001]) of black singer Dana Sheridan (singer Thelma Houston) as well as a friendship with co-worker Arnold (Nick Pellegrino) who has already had to lie about his age (among other things) to keep his precarious position with the company. Stuart becomes witness to the ugly side of show business with Roger's scheme to garner some publicity for a game show — hosted by sleazy Joe Tanner (Dick Miller) — by 'auditioning' beautiful game show models at a private press party, and pines for more innocent times with Josey who has moved on with pianist Joel (Mike McNeilly) with whom she does street performances." 
Thelma Houston
on Soul Train:
"What [Game Show Models] boils down to is a fairly dull drama with some T&A thrown in now and again for good measure. The film does contain a few good scenes including the last one before the credits role and a memorable performance from Dick Miller as the host of the game show. That said, I would suggest the original cut of the film over the re-cut as it is an all around more interesting movie to watch. [Celluloid Terror]"
"Essentially, it's the early Saturday Night Live all over again: insider hipster humor with strong ties to some long-lost subculture — the New York underground of Warhol and company, the 70s drug scene, etc. etc.  It's really got no relevance to the world today, and if you weren't stoned out of your mind at the time, probably wasn't all that hilarious or wonderful at the time of release either. [Third Eye Cinema]"
To fit all the sex into the final cut of Game Show Models, the storyline of what Stuart's hippie girlfriend Josie does after Stuart drops her got dumped — what women do is unimportant, after all. Director David N. Gottlieb is still a filmmaker today, but now concentrates on documentaries.
Trailer to David N. Gottlieb's
It's Not the Sex . . . It's the Gender:


New York, New York
(1977, dir. Martin Scorsese)

Originally released at 136 minutes in length (down from the initial 155 minute cut), the 1981 re-issue saw the movie bloat to 163 minutes … lean or small films are not exactly a talent of Scorsese. And New York, New York is hardly the best of Scorsese's movies. It wasn't exactly a hit when it came out, but like all his films it is still better than most major releases. Still, we here at a wasted life tend to lump it together with Spielberg's 1941 (1979 / trailer), Michael Cimino's Heaven's Gate (1980 / trailer) and possibly Coppola's One from the Heart (1981 / trailer) as an example of Hollywood wunderkind excess in the pursuit of a dream project — though, of all four just-named box office flops, only 1941 has proven immune to improvement with age. And while New York, New York may not be our cup of tea — it's a trite spin of A Star Is Born (1937 / trailer, 1954 / trailer; 1976 / trailer; 2018 / trailer) with two successes and no suicide and populated by assholes — it is the source of one of the greatest of modern song standards, so we're glad the film was made. The great Polish poster to the movie seen above was done by the Polish poster artist, Jan Mlodozeniec  (1929 - 2000).
Trailer to
New York New York:
At All Movie, Lucia Bozzola has the plot: "Martin Scorsese combined the splashy atmosphere of the old studio musical with an unromanticized marriage story in his valentine to Hollywood and the Big Band era. On V-J Day 1945, newly minted civilian saxophonist Jimmy Doyle (Robert De Niro of Angel Heart [1987 / trailer]) meets USO singer Francine Evans (Liza Minnelli) at a dance, but she rebuffs every advance that he makes. A day and a hotel lobby meeting later, Jimmy finally wins Francine over after she uses her pop instincts to save his too-jazzy audition at a nightclub. When she goes on tour with Frankie Harte (Georgie Auld [19 May 1919 – 8 Jan 1990]) and his Orchestra, Jimmy tracks her down, taking a job with the orchestra to be with her. Together on stage, they make beautiful music; off stage they marry, but the struggle between two artists begins to take its toll. Unable to understand that Francine's needs and talents are just as important as his, and unwilling to compromise his music for security, Jimmy abandons Francine after their baby is born. Separately, the two succeed even more, as Francine becomes a music and movie star, while Jimmy has a top hit and opens a jazz club. […]"
"Scorsese hopes to show the realistic, dreary downtime between the genre's happy musical numbers, but he winds up with an uneven and slightly repellent mix. De Niro plays his role very close to Taxi Driver's Travis Bickle, and it's hard to see him as a groundbreaking, talented musician when he acts like a psychotic loser. Liza Minnelli is terribly miscast here; she has her mother's caterwauling singing voice and a kind of abrasive character quality. It doesn't help that Scorsese focuses on the tragedy of the couple's relationship, emphasizing an unwanted child and a completely baffling ending. New York, New York has some delightful musical moments, however, especially one in which De Niro, standing on an elevated subway platform, silently watches a sailor and a girl dancing, Fred and Ginger-like, below. [Combustible Celluloid]"
Surrender to the Void, which thinks "New York, New York is a good but messy film", has the same opinion that we have: "Robert de Niro's performance as Jimmy Doyle has its moments where he displays a lot of charm and energy into the role as well as showing he can play saxophone. Yet, his character is unfortunately one of the vilest individuals on film as he doesn't have many redeeming qualities often thinking more about himself where he can be possessive and selfish. He also tries to maintain his sense of pride and thinking he knows what Evans wants as it's a performance that doesn't give de Niro enough to show the good qualities in his character. Finally, there's Liza Minnelli in a phenomenal performance as Francine Evans as a USO singer who falls for Doyle and sings for a band with Doyle as it's a performance that is filled with a lot of comic timing and charisma. Although there's [sic] moments that will make anyone wonder why she is still with Doyle as there's [sic] moments where de Niro and Minnelli don't really click. Minnelli still gives it her all when she sings and dances as she is the best thing in this film."
Dick Miller is there in a flashy Hawaiian shirt as the Palm Club Owner acting alongside de Niro, who doesn't out act him in any way.
Tiny Tim (12 Apr 1932 – 30 Nov 1996)
slaughters New York New York:


Mr. Billion
(1977, dir. Jonathan Kaplan)

In Mister Billion, Dick Miller shows up to play a character named Bernie. It just so happens, another fave character actor of ours, R.G. Armstrong, also shows up in the movie ... which is why we already looked at this flick in R.I.P. R.G. Armstrong Part II way back in 2012.
And there we wrote: "Terrence Hill tried to take his indomitable sunny boy image to the US with this fiasco of a film, Jonathan Kaplan's follow up project to White Line Fever and one of his (and Hill's) least known projects. The Unknown Movies Page  explains the plot: 'In San Francisco, the billion-dollar Falcone Corporation is shaken when its elderly Italian born founder Anthony Falcone (Ralph Chesse) is killed in a freak accident. (Meant to be funny, but isn't.) John Cutler (Jackie Gleason [26 Feb 1916 – 24 June 1987]) had previously had power of attorney over Falcone, so he is of course shocked to find out that Mr. Falcone not only had a nephew (guess who?) named Guido, but that the entire corporation has been willed to this previously unmentioned nephew. When Guido arrives in New York, he has just a few days to make it to San Francisco, but decides to travel cross country like his immigrant uncle did and see the sites along the way. This gives time for Cutler to hire a female detective (Valerie Perrine of Mask of Murder [1988 / German trailer]) to try and get Guido to sign over the corporation, for kidnappers to grab and hold him for ransom, and for Guido to meet various oddball characters along the way as he gets repeatedly delayed and in danger of losing his inheritance to the dastardly Cutler.' R.G. Armstrong shows up in this mess as Sheriff T.C. Bishop."
Shattered Lens is quick to point out one of the things that failed with Mr. Billion: "At the time that Mr. Billion was made, Terence Hill was a huge star in Europe but was barely known in the United States. He was best known for appearing in a series of comedic Spaghetti Westerns with Bud Spencer, the majority of which featured Hill as a lazy but likable ne'er do well.  In Mr. Billion, Hill is cast as the exact opposite, as an earnest man-of-the-people who is so nice that it's almost painful. Add to that some major tone problems (the film cannot make up its mind if it wants to be a comedy, an action film, or a romance) and you have a pretty forgettable movie."
Trailer to
Mr. Billion:
Added to that problem: "Rosie Jones (Perrine) [is hired] to stop him (Hill) anyway she can. But she falls for the nice guy and switches sides. Their romance never materialized on the screen, as the pair had zero chemistry together. [Ozus' World]"
For a while Mr. Billion was released on a double bill with the equally idiotic but far cheesier and far more fun Italo Jaws (1975 / trailer) rip-off, Tentacles (1977). A fact we mention as an excuse to show that bad film's trailer.
Trailer to
Tentacles:
 

Grand Theft Auto
(1977, dir. Ron Howard)

Once again Roger Corman gives a future name director the chance to direct his first feature film… in this case, Richie Cunningham nee Opie Taylor nee Ron Howard not only directed, but he also co-wrote the script with his character-actor dad Rance Howard ([17 Nov 1928 – 25 Nov 2017] of A Crack in the Floor [2001]) and plays the lead, complete with a full head of hair.
Grand Theft Auto:

Multiple websites list this Corman movie as a project involving Dick Miller, but none say in what manner — and we don't remember seeing him anywhere on screen when saw the movie. (But then, that was over 35 years ago around 2 am on a school night and we were very, very stoned.) But for the benefit of a doubt, we list Grand Theft Auto here as a "maybe" — and maybe someone out there can tell us the where and when he shows up in the film.
Grand Theft Auto can be seen as a sequel of sorts (at least in spirit) to the previous year's Corman-produced car-chase-and-crash movie Eat My Dust! (1976 / trailer), which likewise starred Ritchie/Opie/Ron. Of Grand Theft Auto, Charles B Griffith, the director of Eat My Dust! explains, "A friend called Max Mendes, who was a schoolteacher in New York but had originally helped us in Europe as a helper/schlep, said to me one time that one of his kids took him to the window of the classroom and pointed to a big car in the parking lot, telling him, 'That's GTA, man. Grand Theft Auto!' So I put that into [Eat My Dust!] and, of course, Ronny Howard used it as the title of the next one. Ron made a deal to do two pictures. Act in both and direct one, but they had to be the same kind of picture. And I believe they had more money for Grand Theft Auto as they wrecked a Rolls Royce in it. [Senses of Cinema]"
Varied Celluloid has the plot: "Paula Powers (Nancy Morgan of The Nest [1980 / trailer]) is a beautiful young woman from a very accomplished family. When she brings home Sam Freeman (Ron Howard of Village of the Giants [1965 / trailer]) and tells her family that the young couple will be married shortly, they do not react in the most sympathetic of manner. In fact, it's quite the opposite, as we see her family orders her to break it off with Sam and instead marry the very rich Collins Hedgeworth (Paul Linke of Motel Hell [1980]). Paula breaks away from her family and steals her father's Rolls Royce and both she and Sam are then out on the run to Las Vegas in order for the two of them to be married. Unfortunately, Paula's parents are just rich and psychotic enough to give chase all the way to Las Vegas and now the two are going to have to really jet down the highway in order to beat their pursuers. Making matters worse, Paula's parents call up Collins Hedgeworth who offers a $25,000 reward in order to bring 'his girl' back. Now everyone between Los Angeles and Las Vegas are looking for this couple. Along for the chase we have Collins, his parents, Paula's parents, a street preacher, a gas station attendant, two mechanics and a radio announcer who simply wants the scoop! Prepare for auto-insanity!"
Peter Ivers' main theme to
Grand Theft Auto:
Somewhere along the way, Grand Theft Auto got stuck onto a double bill with Roger Corman's attempt at an Irwin Allan-like disaster flick, the idiotically fun turkey that is Avalanche (1978). Unlike Irwin Allan, however, Corman couldn't afford some dozen ten-second appearances by name stars, so viewers had to make do with Rock Hudson (17 Nov 1925 – 2 Oct 1985) and Mia Farrow and cult-fav Roger Forster (see: Uncle Sam [1996] and Alligator [1980]). At the time of the filming, Farrow's marriage with André Previn, whom she stole away from his wife Dory Previn in 1968 (when she was 23 and he 39) after she divorced Frank Sinatra, her 30-year-older first husband, was on the rocks. By 1980, she was together with Woody Allen, but lost him by 1992 to her adopted daughter Soon-Yi Previn (who was 22 to Allen's 57).
Trailer to
Avalanche:
 

Piranha
 (1978, dir. Joe Dante)
Dick Miller plays Buck Gardner. At some dozen websites online, they all offer the same plot description: "The sophomore effort for director Joe Dante […], this low-budget, high-camp horror spoof of Jaws (1977 / trailer) features several chiller stars of yesteryear. Insurance investigator Maggie McKeown (Heather Menzies [3 Dec 1949 – 24 Dec 2017], seen below not from the movie) is dispatched to find two missing teenage hikers near Lost River Lake. She hires surly backwoods drunkard Paul Grogan (Bradford Dillman [14 Apr 1930 – 16 Jan 2018] of Moon of the Wolf [1972]) to serve as her guide. Searching the area, they find an abandoned military facility. The only resident is Dr. Robert Hoak (Kevin McCarthy [15 Feb 1914 – 11 Sept 2010]), former head of a top-secret project to breed piranha for use in the Vietnam War. The project was closed down years ago, but Hoak has continued raising a deadly strain of the flesh-eating fish. When Hoak is knocked unconscious, Maggie and Paul accidentally release the piranha into a local river, which leads to the lake where a children's summer camp and a newly opened tourist resort will provide plenty of fish food for the hungry predators. Maggie and Paul race to warn the locals, but their pleas fall on skeptical ears, such as those of resort owner Buck Gardner (Dick Miller) — until the piranha reach the swimmers. Piranha (1978) was co-written by John Sayles, making his motion picture debut."
A financial success, four years later it was followed by a sequel, Piranha II: The Spawning (1982 / trailer), an absolutely terrible film in a non-fun way, supposedly directed by blockbuster auteur James Cameron. He, however, washes his hand of the filmic fiasco: "Technically, I have a credit as the director on that film. However, I was replaced after two-and-a-half weeks by the Italian producer. He just fired me and took over […]. And then the producer wouldn't take my name off the picture because [contractually] they couldn't deliver it with an Italian name. So they left me on, no matter what I did. I had no legal power to influence him from Pomona, California, where I was sleeping on a friend's couch. I didn't even know an attorney. In actual fact, I did some directing on the film, but I don't feel it was my first movie. […] I used it as a credit when it did me some good, which was to get Terminator (1984 / trailer). [Terminator Files]"
Trailer to
Over at All Movie, Donald Guarisco says, "This Roger Corman-produced cult favorite towers over its competition in the arena of Jaws imitators because it manages to deliver the goods that horror fans expect in effective style while also subtly spoofing the genre. The film benefits from a smart John Sayles script that is populated with appealing, believably quirky characters and overflows with quotable dialogue […]. Director Joe Dante keeps the action moving at a rapid pace and knocks out a string of impressive set pieces in the process, including a nerve-jangling scene where a group of campers are attacked by the piranha and a suspenseful finale where the hero tries to open an underwater tank of poisonous waste to kill the piranhas before they get to him. Dante also works in plenty of subtle visual humor (for example, a beachgoer reading a copy of Moby Dick) and gets strong performances from his cast, including Bradford Dillman's stoic turn as reluctant hero Grogan and horror film icon Barbara Steele's icy performance as a quietly menacing scientist. All in all, Piranha is an intelligent blend of scares and wit […]."
We here at a wasted life rather like the movie, as can be surmised by our review of the movie found here. We didn't really like the first superfluous remake, the Corman-produced TV film from 1995 (trailer), a redundancy that offers nothing new other than the faces, but Alexandre Aja's revisionist update of the tale, Piranha 3D (2010), kept us immensely entertained. As did that film's juvenilely humorous and breast-heavy sequel, John Gulager's Piranha 3DD (2012). 


Corvette Summer
(1978, dir. Matthew Robins)
 
The directorial debut of Matthew Robins, whose directorial projects have definitely been less notable than his screenplay credits. (As a director, he possibly killed Helen Slater's career with The Legend of Billie Jean [1985 / trailer], made a cult fav with Dragonslayer [1981 / trailer], and even achieved a pop hit with *batteries not included [1987 / trailer], while as a screenwriter he's advanced to being a regular collaborator with Guillermo del Toro — though notably not on the latter's best films.)
Trailer to
Corvette Summer:
Over at his website, Mark Hamill offers the following synopsis: "High School student Ken Dantley (Hamill) labors, with his class, to restore a beautiful Corvette, only to have it stolen from him almost the moment he finishes work on it. After receiving a tip that the car is in Las Vegas, Kenny decides to hitchhike there. He is picked up by Vanessa (Annie Potts), who has decided to get rich quick by getting into the world's oldest profession. Although Kenny likes Vanessa, he decides to concentrate on finding his Corvette, so when they reach Las Vegas, Kenny and Vanessa go their separate ways (for the time being). Kenny finds work in a gas station, and one day spots his car. He follows it to a local garage, where he has a run-in with the garage owner, Wayne Lowry (Kim Milford [7 Feb 1951 – 16 June 1988] of Laserblast [1978 / trailer below]), before being rescued by Vanessa. Lowry contacts Kenny's high school teacher, Ed McGrath (Eugene Roche [22 Sept 1928 – 28 July 2004]), and McGrath then comes to Las Vegas. During a conversation with McGrath, Kenny is crushed to learn that this admired teacher of his had arranged for the theft of the Corvette to help himself out of financial trouble. When McGrath suggests Kenny go to work for Lowry, Kenny agrees to it. He will make good money, but in the back of his mind he is planning to steal the Corvette back from Lowry. Eventually, Kenny completes his plans, steals the car back, saves the woman he loves from her life of prostitution, wins a wild car chase, and returns in triumph with the Corvette — and Vanessa — to his old high school. (After going through all that, they auto live real happily ever after.)"
Trailer to
Laserblast:
According to Stinker Madness, "It's the story of a virgin teaming up with a very loose woman on the hunt of an ugly car. […] It's possibly the greatest love story told in a bad movie and is one step away from actually being a good movie. But an ugly car, poor production values, and plot holes keep it from getting there. […] The primary problem with the film is that it really doesn't know what it is. It has the adult thematic elements of a Woody Allen movie or Midnight Cowboy (1969 / trailer), but the production values and hi-jinks of a teen movie. The music is terrible and comes in at very inappropriate times. There's sophomoric jokes and goofy action in scenarios that are very serious (like getting killed by car thieves). It also suffers from some slap your forehead moments of stupidity from the characters."
"To enjoy Corvette Summer it helps to abandon common sense. In this film there is not a single credible plot development or convincing character. What the movie offers instead is a few benign laughs, some neatly staged action sequences and a bit of appealing moralizing about the evils of materialism. As long as one doesn't demand too much of it, Corvette Summer delivers a very pleasant two hours of escape. [Time]"
"Look, Corvette Summer is not a great movie, but it's not a bad movie either, especially not with appropriate expectations. […] It's a modestly-budgeted little exploitation movie that Hamill chose because it was a big departure from what he'd just done. In an interview during the time of the film's release, he talks about how he wanted to do something where he didn't look, act, or talk like Luke Skywalker. Well, he succeeded. It's a really good performance that feels natural and slightly intense (not necessarily in a good way), but it's nice to see him doing something outside the Lucasian acting style of 'faster and more intense.' […] And there's a lot of charm to be had. Truly interesting situations and funny interactions are here, as well as some boring stretches that don't really do anything to advance the story or the characters, but hey, that's b-movie filmmaking for you. And let's not forget that this was the 1970s, the decade of filmmakers who were less interested in where they took you than in how they got you there. [F This Movie]"
Dick Miller shows up for brief cameo as Mr. Lucky. 
Theme to Corvette Summer
Dusty Springfield's Give Me the Night:

 

  I Wanna Hold Your Hand

(1978, dir. Robert Zemeckis)

   

The directorial debut of Hollywood A-project director Robert Zemeckis, produced by Steven Spielberg, a man in whose shadow some might say Zemeckis still stands. But even if you probably haven't seen this picture, you've surely seen some of his later big budget productions, which generally fall into two camps: flops or mega-successful. He's also acted as producer on many a good or guilty pleasure of ours: Monster House (2002 / trailer) and House of Wax (2005 / trailer), for example.
Despite generally pleasant reviews, I Wanna Hold Your Hand was a flop when released and didn't even make back its low $2.8 million budget. Interestingly enough, it was released by Universal Pictures, which also released another Beatles-related movie flop that same year, the disasterpiece that is Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (1978 / trailer). Unlike the latter movie, however, people who watch I Wanna Hold Your Hand generally seem to it.
Over at Top 10 Films, where they place this movie in 8th place, they have the full plot: "It's 1964 and the Beatles are about to play the Ed Sullivan show. Fans are flocking to the band's hotel to get a glimpse of their idols and six friends from New Jersey are following suit. But they have grander plans. Rosie (Wendie Jo Sperber [15 Sept 1958 – 29 Nov 2005]) is a Beatles fanatic desperate to get into their hotel just to see Paul McCartney up close and personal, while aspiring journalist Grace (Theresa Saldana [20 Aug 1954 – 6 June 2016]) wants to do the same thing knowing if she can get a picture of Britain's finest, she's got a shot at the big time. Friend Pam (Nancy Allen) is dragged along too but after hiding in a food cart to avoid the band's security officers she finds herself in the Beatles room with free reign to Paul's bass guitar and John's…er…comb. Tony (Bobby Di Cicco of The Supernaturals [1986 / German trailer]), a Beatles-hater, and Janis (Susan Kendall Newman), a protester, come along just to cause trouble, while Larry (Marc McClure of Strange Behavior [1981 / trailer]) is only there because of his obsessive love for Grace. The whole gang soon finds themselves having one mishap after another, as the clock quickly ticks down to the Beatles first ever U.S. television performance." Dick Miller shows up to play Sgt. Bresner, a speaking part. 
Trailer to
I Wanna Hold Your Hand:


Starhops
(1978, dir. Barbara Peeters)
 
Despite appearances, not a Roger Corman production. Starhops is "a blatant ripoff of New World's 'Three Girls' series, such as [Barbara] Peeters' Summer School Teachers (1974, see Part IV), Starhops not only lacks the action and social commentary of those films, but also their more prurient elements. Starhops contains very mild sex and nudity and a post-synced profanity dubbed in by producers to jack up the MPAA's original PG rating to a tame R. [Johnny LaRue's Craneshot]" 
Trailer to
Starhops:
A.k.a. Carhops — but not to be confused with the earlier, somewhat similar and far more exploitive movie, Kitty Can't Help It aka The Carhops (1975 / trailer), which features the great Uschi as the "Lady in Hotel Room" (seen below, ovioulsy not from the film).
The title Starhops, as the introductory scroll indicates, was a desperate attempt on part of the producers to ride on the popularity of the far more popular movie Star Wars (1977 / trailer). The screenplay, which tells of "three mammarous carhops [who] team up to save their fast-food drive-in from financial ruin", was written by Stephanie Rothman, the lady behind Blood Bath (1966 / trailer, starring William Campbell) and The Velvet Vampire (1971 / trailer); she was so displeased with what was done to her script that she had herself credited as "Dallas Meredith".
Plot: "The movie itself opens as a Star Wars parody, from the title to the star field under the credits, to an attempt at mimicking the sci-fi hit's famous opening crawl! We're thrown into the saga of a failing drive-in restaurant owned by none other than the fantastic Dick Miller! Surrounded by bill collectors, mortgage officers, alimony-hungry ex-wives and psychotically truculent customers, Miller comes believably unravelled, screaming and tearing the place apart, then selling it lock, stock and grease-barrel to his carhops, Angel (Jillian Kesner) and Cupcake (Sterling Frazier)! These ladies then stumble upon Danielle (Dorothy Buhrman), a French 'kook' and graduate of the Cordon Bleu school of cheffery in Paris, and all together use their feminine wiles to cadge a bank loan and free carpentry from a succession of drooling males! Ha ha! [Ha, ha, it's Burl!]"
"A harmless exploitationer that's as lacking in sex, violence, and vulgarity as it is in creativity. Frazier and Kesner, tagged Cupcake and Angel, take over an unprofitable drive-in, and with the addition of short-skirted, chesty carhops on roller skates, business begins to boom. Al Hobson [playing bad guy Carter Axe] causes trouble when his oil company plans to buy the property and turn it into a prototype for a line of futuristic gas stations. [TV Guide]."
Sterling Frazier, otherwise known as "Cupcake", never made another movie after this one. Dorothy Buhrman, or "Danielle", was visible for a few seconds in the cheapy Crazed (1978 / full film), but she also never made another movie after this one. Bad guy Al Hobson [20 Mar 1920 – 16 Oct 1998] started his career playing the lead male in the nudie-cutie, Mr. Peter's Pets (1963 / NSFW website). But the underappreciated name of the cast is Jillian Kesner [9 Aug 1949 – 5 Dec 2007], who plays Angel: wife of the ubiquitous Gary Graver [20 July 1938 – 16 Nov 2006], aka Robert McCallum, Kesner appeared in some of his low-brow efforts as well as some memorable trash, like Evil Town (1977 / trailer) and Raw Force (1982 / trailer) and Firecracker (1981), the last of which we look at in Dick Miller Part VI.
At least at the two North Carolinian drive-ins above, Starhops was paired with the disco flick Thank God It's Friday (1978), "90 aimless, alienating minutes" featuring some still-unknowns (most notably Jeff Goldblum and Debra Winger) which, as Leonard Maltin put, is "perhaps the worst film ever to have won some kind of Academy Award." Here's Donna Summer (31 Dec 1948 – 17 May 2012) singing that song, from the film.
Donna Summer —
Last Dance:


1941
(1979, dir. Steven Spielberg)

Dick "Richard" Miller shows up alongside masses of other familiar faces to make the mandatory guest appearance not as Walter Paisley, but as "Officer Miller".
The famous flop that wasn't really as big of a financial flop as legend has it, even it is one artistically. It never earned back its bloated budget of $35 million domestically, but thanks to international takings it was a minor moneymaker. 1941 might not really be a snoozer, it's much to all over the place to act as visual Nyquil, but it does bludgeon the viewer with a lot of unfunny stuff obviously meant to be funny. Comedy has never been Steven Spielberg's forte. Some people like to claim that since its initial release, 1941 has become a cult film – following the logic, one supposes, that everything becomes cult eventually. For those who don't already find the original cut too long and too boring, a director cut is now available that is about 27 excruciating minutes longer.
"The director's cut is admittedly the slightly superior version, if only because the added expository material makes the chaotic plot easier to follow. However, both versions suffer from the same basic issue: 1941 just isn't very funny. [Thoughts from the Cinema's Fringes]" 
Over at All Movie, Bruce Eder put together an understandable synopsis of the mess: "It's December of 1941, and the people of California are in varying states of unease, ranging from a sincere desire to defend the country to virtual blind panic in the wake of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. Thus begin several story threads that comprise the 'plot' of this strange period comedy, a sort of satirical disaster movie, from Steven Spielberg. The stories and story threads involve lusty young men, officers (Tim Matheson) and civilians (Bobby Di Cicco) alike, eager to bed the young ladies of their dreams; Wild Bill Kelso, a nutty fighter pilot (John Belushi [24 Jan 1949 – 5 March 1982]) following what he thinks is a squadron of Japanese fighters along the California coast; a well-meaning but clumsy tank crew (including John Candy [31 Oct 1950 – 4 March 1994]) led by straight-arrow, by-the-book Sgt. Tree (Dan Aykroyd), who doesn't recognize the thug (Treat Williams of Venomous [2001] and The Phantom [1996]) in his command; and homeowner Ward Douglas (Ned Beatty), who is eager to do his part for the nation's defense and, despite the misgivings of his wife (Lorraine Gary), doesn't mind his front yard overlooking the ocean being chosen to house a 40 mm anti-aircraft gun. There is also a pair of grotesquely inept airplane spotters (Murray Hamilton [24 March 1923 – 1 Sept 1986] & Eddie Deezen) who are doing their job from atop a Ferris wheel at a beachfront amusement park; a paranoid army colonel (Warren Oates [5 July 1928 – 3 April 1982]) positive that the Japanese are infiltrating from the hills; a big dance being held on behalf of servicemen, being attended by a lusty young woman of size (Wendie Jo Sperber [15 Sept 1958 – 29 Nov 2005]) eager to land a man in uniform; and General Joseph 'Vinegar Joe' Stillwell (Robert Stack [13 Jan 1919 - 14 May 2003]), in charge of the defense of the West Coast, who can't seem to get anyone to listen to him when he says to keep calm. And, oh yes, there's also a real Japanese submarine that has gotten all the way to the California coast under the command of its captain (Toshiro Mifune [1 Apr 1920 – 24 Dec 1997]) and a German officer observer (Christopher Lee [27 May 1922 – 7 June 2015] of The Curse of Frankenstein [1957], The Mummy [1959], The Devil's Daffodil [1961], Sherlock Holmes and the Deadly Necklace [1962], And then There Were None [1965, voice only], The Devil Rides Out [1968] and Raw Meat [1972]), only to find itself without a working compass or usable maps. Its captain won't leave until the sub has attacked a militarily significant, honorable target, and the only one that anyone aboard ship knows of in California is Hollywood. By New Year's Eve, all of these characters are going to cross paths, directly or once-removed, in a comedy of errors and destruction strongly reminiscent of the finale to National Lampoon's Animal House (as well as several disaster movies from the same studio), but on a much larger and more impressive scale."
Nancy Allen, who to our regret hasn't been in a movie since 2008, once said, regarding 1941: "I was very excited and thrilled to be working with Steven and all the other people I was going to be working with. [...] And then I was on the film for six months. [Laughs.] I was hired for 14 weeks, and I was on the film for six months. And so was everybody else. It was a very long shoot, needless to say. It actually got to a point where the script kept changing and pretty much everybody stopped reading it. We were just, 'Whatever.' You had to wake up, say, 'What are we doing today?' and then go for it. I am very happy that Tim Matheson and I, our storyline was very simple and very clear, and it didn't get messed up at all. Most people, even if they didn't like the film, they at least liked what we did. [...] There were a lot of great times, because this was a tremendous cast of talented people, and we had a ball just hanging out. But the movie was, I think, lacking a strong producer's hand. And it was very disappointing when it opened. [...] I think it was a funny script. It just got unfunny as it went along. [AV Club]"
A few years earlier, elsewhere at AV Club, Tim Matheson said, "It had a lot of us Animal House (1978 / trailer) guys in it. And working with Spielberg, how bad could it be? [Laughs.] But it was one of those excessively big movies where every action scene was done and re-done and re-done again. It was so overproduced and overly expensive. And it wasn't terribly funny. [...] When we started shooting and I read the script, I realized 'They could cut [my] part out in a second.' [...] I read Animal House and I said, 'I will burn down a house to be in this. I have to be in this movie.' I read 1941 and I went, 'Well, if Steven likes it…' [Laughs.] [...] It was a very big, unwieldy thing, and there were so many characters. It was fun to shoot, but I didn't know what the core of it was. The core of Animal House was about prejudice, about equality, and about inclusion/exclusion. [...] But I never knew what 1941 was about."
"You would think that a movie combining the talents of Spielberg, [John] Milius, Zemeckis, and Gale would be epic, and it is.....for all the wrong reasons. 1941 is the biggest, loudest, longest, and most expensive Three Stooges tribute ever made. If the Stooges had made their own version of 1941, say in....1941, it would have been about 17 minutes long and it would have worked perfectly. The real 1941 is so overblown and filled with excess that the viewer spends more time trying to take it all in instead of sitting back and getting any enjoyment out of it. [The Hitless Wonder]"
For all those who dislike 1941, Every 70s Movie does not: "From start to finish, 1941 is unapologetically excessive, throwing explosions or hundreds of extras at the audience when simpler visuals would have sufficed, and things like narrative momentum and nuance get bludgeoned to death by the opulent production values. Still, the cast is filled with so many gifted actors [...] that even uninspired scenes are performed with consummate skill. The movie also looks amazing: Spielberg's camerawork is intoxicatingly self-indulgent, since it feels like entire scenes were filmed simply to justify cool visuals, and peerless cinematographer William A. Fraker gives the whole thing a glamorous look. There's even room for an energetic score by regular Spielberg collaborator John Williams. 1941 is a mess, but it's also a true spectacle."
Keep your eyes peeled for the short, silver-screen debut of Mickey Rourke as "Private First Class Reese of Sgt. Tree's tank group". Among the many homages to past films found in 1941, two to Spielberg's own films caught our eye: Susan Backlinie (of Day of the Animals [1977]), who played the first (nude) victim in Spielberg's Jaws (1977 / trailer) is the swimmer on the submarine, while the gas station that Wild Bill Kelso blows up is the same one found in Spielberg's great TV film, Duel (1971), complete with the same Ol' Lady proprietor (Lucille Benson [17 July 1914 – 17 Feb 1984], of Private Parts [1972], trailer below). 
Trailer to 
Private Parts:


The 11th Victim
(1979, dir. Jonathan Kaplan)

(While it lasts: the full film at YouTube.) "The film was based partially on the activities of the Los Angeles Hillside Strangler and was subsequently released on home video under the title The Lakeside Killer. [...] The film was broadcast as a November Sweeps CBS Tuesday Night Movie. [Wikipedia]" 
TV Promo to
The 11th Victim:
The 11th Victim is Kaplan's first directorial project after the bomb Mr. Billion (1977) two years earlier, which was also written by Ken Friedman, the scribe of this TV movie. Ken Friedman made his screenwriting debut and directorial debut with the not generally liked horror movie, Death by Invitation (1971 / trailer below). In this seldom seen CBS Tuesday Night Movie, Dick Miller plays Investigator Ned. Another interesting member of the cast, Eric Burdon of The Animals, plays Spider, the sleazy proprietor of the escort service who hired out a few of the girls. 
Trailer to 
Death by Invitation:
Plot: "In Hollywood, a long series of joy girls are murdered in bizarre ways. The sister of journalist Jill from Ohio is the 11th victim. Jill wants to get to the facts. In doing so, she makes a decision that could have a deadly effect on her life. She decides to take on the role of lure. [The-Fan.net]"
Awcgraham, which mentions the movie's "rote cop drama or predictable serial killer main plot", also explains that "The 11th Victim is the first of four tele-pictures Kaplan directed between 1979 and the end of the eighties, when the filmmaker's stock rose due to directing Jodie Foster to a Best Supporting Actress Oscar for The Accused (1988 / trailer). (Kaplan has always been decisively stronger with the women in his films than the men, as The 11th Victim even proves.) Bess Armstrong is Jill Kelso, a news reporter in Iowa who gets the call that her sister — a suspected prostitute — has been murdered in Hollywood. There's some tedious cop stuff with Max Gail, but even his performance is overshadowed by brief, peculiar character turns by Dick Miller and Harry Northup. More to the point, Kaplan and writer Ken Friedman invest more time to the friendship that develops between Kelso and her sister's former roommate (Pamela Ludwig), another lady of the night." 


Rock 'n' Roll High School
(1979, dir. Allan Arkush)


"Do your parents *know* that you're Ramones?" 
Miss Togar (Mary Woronov)

Poster above by William Stout. Allan Arkush's third film for Roger Corman, coming on the heels the disaster that is Deathsport (1978 / trailer), a film he took over after the scriptwriter/director Nicholas Niciphor got booted... or, in the lesser drastic version of the tale, he simply came in to shoot some additional scenes to a completed movie: "Mostly we just blew up motorcycles. Lots of them. We also set some mutants on fire. And the stunning Claudia Jennings (20 Dec 1949 – 3 Oct 1979) got naked. David Carradine (8 Dec 1936 – 3 June 2009) ... smoked a lot of high-grade weed and helped us to blow stuff up.... Sad to say, I couldn't save the picture." Richard Lynch played the bad guy.
But back to Rock 'n' Roll High School, which turned 40 this year, making it to old to rock n roll. Much like Arkush is seen as an uncredited director to Deathsport for shooting a few scenes, Joe Dante is seen as an uncredited director because, in his own words, "I was shooting second unit on that picture. And then Alan Arkush became ill for the last couple of days and he couldn't come to the set, so I filled in and shot the end of the picture, the remaining pieces of the picture, and then went in and sort of helped cut it together, and then Alan came back and finished it. But it's a movie that I'm only tangentially involved in. [Psychotronic Cinema]" 
Rock 'n' Roll High School:
Acidemic has a plot: "Vince Lombardi High School's fate is sealed with the arrival of a new principal (Mary Woronov, drawing on her experience playing cruel prison wardens in other New World films) who is determined to weed out the bad kids and their devil music. Ramones devotee Riff Randell (PJ Soles of Butterfly Room [2012] and Uncle Sam [1997]) meanwhile, is oblivious to this looming threat, Riff just knows if she can get her songs to Joey Ramone he'd sing them; she thinks he's dreamy (and if PJ Soles can think a hunched beanpole doofus like Joey Ramone is dreamy then there is surely hope for us all). Meanwhile an insecure jock (Vince Van Patten of Hell Night [1981]) pays for make-out lessons from the school's drug dealer, and Woronov's frequent co-star Paul Bartel is the cool music teacher who ends up joining the revolution, declaring that "if Beethoven were a student at Vince Lombardi, he'd be a Ramone!"

"Those Ramones are ugly, ugly people."
Police Chief (Dick Miller)


"The clear antagonist, Principal Togar, portrayed as a near unstoppable evil by the wonderful Mary Woronov, unites the audience immediately with her devilishly red lips, mistreatment of tiny mice, and hatred for all things Rock and Roll; we all want to see her demise. I wouldn't hate to own her 'rock-o-meter' though, that contraption is amazing. When she rips up Riff's Ramones tickets though, she's no longer mildly irritating, she's pure evil, and must be destroyed by any means necessary. Even though the tickets were only ten bucks (which made my jaw hit the floor the first time I watched the film), it's the principle of the matter. Then we have hall monitors. Evil, moronic, dweeby, minions from hell. The hall monitors and Principal Togar make a perfect trio of dastardly characters that make the audience cheer for our goofy-ass protagonists. [25YL]"
"Like the Ramones' appearance and musical attitude, the film is styled after the 'juvenile delinquent movies' of the 1950s (Rebel Set [1959 / trailer], Bloody Brood [1959 / trailer], and so forth). However, rather than commit heinous acts of violence in rejection of the rules of society, the teens in Rock 'n' Roll High School rebel through (silly as it sounds) fun. This, then, is the other side of the juvenile delinquency coin, because the kids don't want to destroy, they just want the freedom to do what they want to do, yet their rebellion is still overt. Similar to Footloose [1984 / trailer] a few years later and so many others, it's the uptight (nay, Nazi-esque) bureaucracy that needs to be overcome. And it's the power of music which will do it. Of course, once the revolution starts, there's no stopping it, and anarchy reigns in the hallowed halls of academia. Playing into the wish fulfillment every teenager secretly harbors, Arkush goes down a list of things we all wish we could have/should have done while we were in high school. I mean, who wouldn't want to take a chainsaw to the permanent records we were all threatened with constantly? Who wouldn't want to throw the crappy food served in the cafeteria back at the servers (granted, they were just working with what they were given, but here you get the sense they enjoyed inflicting culinary crimes on students)? [The Gentlemen's Blog to Midnight Cinema]"
Over at Combustible Celluloid, Jeffrey M. Anderson says, "This is the second greatest rock and roll movie ever made. The Ramones are and always have been one of rock's great bands and this Roger Corman-produced classic is a perfect homage to them. When it was made, the Ramones were but five years old, with four superb super-speed albums released in less than three years. [...] Lots of that music is heard here." (Anyone know what the first greatest rock and roll movie ever made is?)
The "Vince Lombardi High School" of the movie was "portrayed" by the then-closed Mount Carmel High School in South Central Los Angeles. The school was "built in [1935 in] the Spanish Colonial Revival style, and was the first school in Los Angeles constructed subject to the new seismic building code which came about in the aftermath of the 1933 Long Beach earthquake". As an example to show how important the historical protection of architecture in Los Angeles is: The school closed 1976, was designated a Los Angeles Historic-Cultural Monument in 1979, and was demolished in 1983 — you see its end at the end of the movie.
A relative critical and commercial success and an instant cult film, it only took 12 years for the sequel to be made, Rock 'n' Roll High School Forever (1991 / trailer), yet another Corey Feldman film almost nobody has heard of. And no, the TV movie Glory Days (1994) is not a sequel.  


The Lady in Red
(1979, dir. Lewis Teague)

As so often with the low budget movies of the 1970s, this movie is a downer... a well-made downer, maybe, but a downer.
A take on the classic tale of John "Long John Silver" Dillenger's (22 June 1903 – 22 July 1934) betrayal by the mysterious Lady in Red (otherwise known as Ana Cumpănaș or Anna Sage [1889 – 25 April 1947]), this Julie Corman production was Lewis Teague's first solo feature-film directorial project (previously he had co-directed a low budget feature film, Dirty O'Neil [1974 / trailer]). The Lady in Red, which has nothing to do with the Warner Bros 1935 cartoon of the same name (see below), was scripted by John Sayles, who also wrote Teague's next project, the fun trash classic that is Alligator (1980). This period crime drama didn't do all that well, oddly enough, so Corman re-released it again later as Guns, Sin and Bathtub Gin to an equal lack of success.
Merrie Melodies —
The Lady in Red (1935):
The Lady in Red was a star vehicle for Pamela Sue Martin, then the heartthrob of millions of young pubescent boys for the role as Nancy Drew on TV. We were amongst the many that ran out to get the July 1978 Playboy she did a nude spread in (the photo below, however, is not from that pictorial). In The Lady in Red, which plays with the facts, her character, Polly Franklin, is modeled after Dillinger's last main squeeze, Polly Hamilton.
History on Film has the plot: "Polly (Pamela Sue Martin of The Poseidon Adventure [1972 / trailer], with Leslie Nielsen) is a farm girl who dreams of becoming a professional dancer. Taken hostage during a bank robbery, she is interviewed by reporter Jake Lingle (Robert Hogan), and then succumbs to his charms. Beaten by her fervently religious father, she moves to Chicago, and becomes a seamstress in a sweat shop. After her friend Rose Shimkus (Laurie Heineman) is taken away by the police for organizing a union, Polly starts working at a club where men pay 10 cents for a dance. Hoping to earn more money, she takes men in the back for handjobs, but she is arrested by a vice cop and ends up in prison, where she runs into Rose. After beating up the warden, Polly is given a longer sentence, until she agrees to accept a furlough, and work as a prostitute in a brothel run by Anna Sage (Louise Fletcher of Shadowzone [1990]), handing over a cut of her earnings to the warden, in order to ensure better treatment for Rose. When the brothel is closed down after a gangster blinds one of the prostitutes, Sage opens a restaurant and hires Polly as a waitress. Polly starts dating Jimmy (Robert Conrad, below not from the film), who is actually John Dillinger after plastic surgery. Facing a deportation hearing, Sage makes a deal with the FBI, and tells them that Dillinger will be at the Biograph Theater. Tired of being pushed around, Polly decides to rob the mob's bank, but the robbery ends in bloodshed." 
Trailer to
The Lady in Red:
Dick Miller, by the way, plays a dick named Patek, the foreman of the sweatshop where Polly briefly works. He likes getting his dick wet, and like most men is willing to use his position of power to get some warm tuna taco. The main male star of the movie, of course, was the delicious Robert Stack, seen below not from the movie. (To our regret, he never did a full frontal nude shot in any of his movies, including this one.)
At Film Fanatic, David Csontos once wrote: "This [movie] has held up remarkably well, and it's kind of weird that it's not now readily available. It's a top-drawer B-flick — meaning it's been served up with the care usually given to an A-pic. It's economic, it moves well, has a dandy script by Sayles, terrific attention to period detail, solid direction by Teague, and is uniformly well acted. (Martin is super and owns the film!) Of particular note is the editing (three editors are credited, including Teague) — the visual manipulation helps the storytelling immensely." 
Trailer to the last movie John Dillinger ever watched — 
Manhattan Melodrama:
Infini-tropolis finds the movie good, too: "The Lady in Red [...] is easily among the most serious films to come out of Corman's studio not just in the 70s but of all time. Sure, there's a heavy dose of skin involved as we're dealing with whorehouses filled to the brim with scantily clad ladies of the night, and the women-in-prison scenes are certainly included to give the film an exploitation edge, but everything else is so well-written, well-acted, and genuinely sincere that there's nary any room for cheese or unintentional laughs. [...] While the direction and script [...] make up a large chunk of what makes the film work so well, being quite unique in focusing on a gangster's woman rather than the gangster himself, it wouldn't be nearly as good if not for the excellent cast. [...] Everyone is top-notch, and they're definitely just one more reason why the film entirely breaks free of the drive-in trash chains that are wrapped around it due to carrying Corman's name."
The great Temple of Shock offers the newspaper cutting directly above, taking note of some name changes: "[...] The ad above is from its Tucson, AZ opening [at the De Anza Drive-In] on August 10th, 1979 [on a double bill with Nightwing (1979 / trailer)]. The film was not a success, so Roger Corman tried a different poster design and changed the title to Guns, Sin, and Bathtub Gin (the original tag line had been 'She's made of bullets, sin & bathtub gin'). [...] For some reason, when the film played Chicago — where Dillinger was set up by Sage and killed outside the Biograph Theater on July 22nd, 1934 — New World changed the title to Touch Me and Die and erased all references to Dillinger and the period setting. Even worse, the film was relegated to second-feature status under Escape from Death Row (a shady re-release of Mean Frank and Crazy Tony) during its week-long run beginning on July 24th, 1981." 
Trailer to
Mean Frank and Crazy Tony:
The painting below, entitled The Lady in Red a.k.a. The Death of Dillinger (circa 1939), is from the great Reginald Marsh (March 14, 1898 – July 3, 1954), a wealthy-by-birth American artist whose work is less American Regionalism than American Social Realism. "Reginald Marsh was […] renowned for his depictions of New York street life throughout the Roaring 20s and the Great Depression. His busy, muddy scenes of seedy nightlife and entertainment were often the focus of his canvases, painted with the gusto and urgency of Social Realism and rendered with egg tempera, oils, watercolors, and ink. He chronicled the bustling beach scenes of Coney Island, as well as the homeless sleeping on Bowery Street, imbuing his subjects with psychological depth. [artnet]"
About the painting: "Marsh has depicted the infamous Anna Sage, a Romanian-born madam, and to her right, prostitute Polly Hamilton, both of whom harbored Dillinger in the months leading up to his death. In the weeks following the shoot out, the press not only uncovered the identities of these two women but also discovered that Sage had conspired with the government to bring Dillinger in, hoping to receive immunity and the $25,000 bounty in exchange for her cooperation. Sage arranged with the government officers, commonly known as G-men, to accompany Dillinger to a showing at the Biograph Theater and to wear a bright orange dress [italics ours] in order to stand out in the crowd. […] Witnesses, misreading the orange dress under the brilliant lights of the theater marquee, later claimed Sage was wearing red. Sage, dubbed the 'Lady in Red,' soon became an integral part of the Dillinger legend. [mcny]"


Dr. Heckyl and Mr. Hype 
(1980, writ. & dir. Charles B. Griffith)

Charles B. Griffith's follow-up effort after the absolutely hilariously bad Up from the Deaths (1979 / trailer), which at least he did not also script. Twenty years earlier, this film's lead actor, Oliver Reed (13 Feb 1938 – 2 May 1999, of The Brood [1979 / trailer]), had also appeared [somewhere] in a serious adaption of R.L. Stevenson's classic tail, the Hammer production The Two Faces of Dr. Jekyll (1960 / trailer). Day and night, the two films are, needless to say…
About this film, however, Charles B. Griffith (23 Sept 1930 – 28 Sept 2007) once said a lot more than just "[Dr. Heckyl and Mr. Hype] could have been the best of the best. [...]: So I had these joke titles in my pocket and Menahem hired me, after I showed him Little Shop (1960, see Part I), to write The Happy Hooker Goes to Hollywood [1977 / see further below]. I didn't want to do that, so I put my agent on him and I said, 'I get $25,000 for writing and another $25,000 for directing', thinking that he'd turn it down. It took a long time but Menahem gave me that deal and said that he had to hand off Happy Hooker to somebody else [Alan Roberts], so we'd have to do another picture. He asked what I had in mind, and I told him that I sort of specialize in black comedies. And I remembered this list when I put on my shirt that day and so I handed it to him and he chuckled at the last one. 'You want to do a funny Jeckyll and Hyde?' I said, 'Sure', and he said, 'Okay, but the ugly guy is the good guy.' And that was it. [...] Sonny Johnson (21 Sept 1953 – 19 June 1984), the lead actress, was cast in the middle of the night before shooting started the next day, but she turned in a stellar performance. A few weeks later, she died of a brain haemorrhage. She was beautiful and a great actress. She would have went on to greater stuff. [...] I asked Dick Miller and Jonathan Haze, from the old gang, to be the garbage men, but Jonathan refused. I just gave all the lines to Dick, who did both sets. [Senses of Cinema]" (In other words, Miller plays a garbage man who talks with himself.)
The plot, as found at Video Vacuum: "Oliver Reed stars as the ugly Dr. Heckyl, a podiatrist who secretly pines for his beautiful patient (Sunny Johnson). He swipes a fat-burning formula from a colleague (Mel Welles, who also starred in Griffith's Little Shop of Horrors [1960]), and tries to overdose on it, hoping that the fat-burning compound will waste him away to nothing. Instead, it turns him into the handsome (or as handsome as Oliver Reed can get) and horny Mr. Hype. He tries to get it on with nearly every woman he sees, but when they say something about his looks, he flies off the handle and kills them. Eventually, he sets his sights on Johnson, who is predictably more smitten with the kind (but ugly) Heckyl."
Dr. Heckyl and Mr. Hype:
"The opening credits of Mr Heckyl and Mr Hype offer 'apologies to Robert Louis Stevenson'; it's fair to say that writer/director Charles B Griffith has some apologising to do. This [is] astonishing in all the wrong ways comedy sees a game Oliver Reed in a modern reworking on the old story [...]. Not a straight horror, Griffith's film has a wildly uncertain tone, aiming for some kind of Mel Brooks chaos but falling on the wrong side of Jerry Lewis's The Nutty Professor (1963 / trailer); in a career of butch, taciturn performances, Reed's comic turns are an unfortunate departure [...]. [The Film Authority]"
"Not that you can blame Ollie for all that follows. Yes, he had little talent with light comedy and plays Hype on familiar dead-eyed autopilot but he makes a real effort with the Heckyl character and actually achieves some audience sympathy. Which is actually a bit of a miracle, considering the film's real problem: the dreadful script. Mixing infantile gags and stupid sound effects with gory 'joke' murders is a mix that never gels and, although plot is never a prime requirement in such a film, it's so all over the place as to verge on the incomprehensible. To give you a sample of what's on offer, the chief investigating detective (Virgil Frye [21 Aug 1930 – 7 May 2012] of Nightmare in Wax [1969]) is already a patient of Dr. Heckyl's because — wait for it! — he has flat feet. Ta-Da! [Mark David Welsh]"
"On one end everything that transpires is kind of pathetic, but on the other end the jokes are taken to unseen degrees of absurdity. [Splatter Critic]"


Used Cars
(1980, dir. Robert Zemeckis)

Blink and you'll miss Dick Miller's appearance as "Man in Bed". "Used Cars is a second attempt in two years by writers Robert Zemeckis and Bob Gale to scribe an outrageous comedy, the first being the Steven Spielberg-directed 1941. Thankfully, this one (this time directed by Zemeckis himself, with Spielberg limiting his involvement to an Executive Producer credit) is a lot better than that bloated debacle. It's a broad but very sharp and cynical satire on those who emphasise selling over scruples. Unlike 1941, the mayhem works because it is so cleverly focussed. [Thoughts from Cinema's Fringes]" 
Theme song —
Bobby Bare singing Used Cars:
"Used Cars is a lot of fun from start to finish. The script is full of great lines, the pacing is perfect and the finale is actually as wildly entertaining as it is pretty ridiculous. There are also some fantastic stunts in the mix as a huge number of cars are driven from a to b while Roy L. Fuchs tries to stop them reaching their destination. [For It Is A Man's Number]"
The plot, as given by Ed Sutton at Movie Screen Shots: "Used car salesman Rudy Russo (Kurt Russell of 3000 Miles to Graceland [2001]) needs money to run for State Senate, so he approaches his boss Luke (Jack Warden [18 Sept 1920 – 19 July 2006]). Luke agrees to front him the $10,000 he needs, but then encounters an 'accident' orchestrated by his [twin] brother, who runs the car lot across the street. Roy is hoping to claim title to his brother's property because Roy's paying off the mayor to put the new interstate through the area. After Luke disappears, it's all out war between the competing car shops, and no nasty trick is off limits as Rudy and his gang fight to keep Roy from taking Luke's property. Then Luke's daughter (Deborah Harmon) shows up."
Trailer to
Used Cars:
"Strangely, Hollywood sometimes inadvertently reveals more about politics when overtly avoiding the subject altogether. Robert Zemeckis' second feature [...] is a raucous, foul-mouthed comedy which revels in capitalism at a grass-roots level. This isn't the refined greed of unregulated bankers; it's the raw greed of ordinary people scrambling to make a buck any way they can — appropriately, as the title declares, in what is traditionally seen as the haven of unscrupulous liars, the used car business. What gives Used Cars its crude energy is its utter lack of any concern for ostensibly moral behaviour. Hollywood tradition had always required some kind of hero, someone driven by the urge to do right; here, however, the 'good guy', salesman Rudy Russo (Russell), is as immoral and crooked as his nemesis, Roy L. Fuchs (Warden), who runs the lot on the other side of the highway. [...] It's not just that crime is allowed to pay; it's that it's no longer even crime, but rather the essence of business. Beneath its casually entertaining surface, Used Cars celebrates the depressing essence of corporate capitalism and the immorality which now rules business and a politics whose only concern is supporting corporate interests. [Cagey Films]"
The movie was only a modest success, but that didn't stop it from being watered down and remade four years later in 1984 as a TV movie pilot for a series, also entitled Used Cars, which never happened.
 

The Happy Hooker Goes Hollywood
(1980, dir. Alan Roberts)
 
And what does Dick Miller play? Dunno if he says anything, but he appears somewhere as a "New York Cop".
In case you don't even know who Xaviera Hollander is: "Before Heidi Fleiss, there was Xaviera Hollander, the infamous 'Happy Hooker' who came to manage her own brothel after becoming the go-to prostitute of late 1960s New York. In the wake of her deportation to Toronto, Hollander released an autobiography which was voraciously frank about her many sexcapades. She then became an advice columnist for Penthouse ('Call Me Madam') for roughly three decades, before finally spending her golden years in Amsterdam running a bed-and-breakfast. [Mind of Frames]"
The Happy Hooker Goes Hollywood is the third and last movie of the franchise based on Xaviera Hollander's famous best seller, The Happy Hooker: My Own Story, which was made into a movie in 1975 starring Lynn Redgrave (who?). (Interestingly enough, the same year that the Redgrave movie came out, Xaviera Hollander starred in "a low budget, Canadian-made sex farce" entitled My Pleasure Is My Business [trailer], poster below.) The Redgrave film gave birth to The Happy Hooker Goes to Washington (1977 / trailer), starring Joey Heatherton (who?). Three years later, for this, the third and final of the trilogy, the great Martine Beswick (of Dr Jekyll and Sister Hyde [1971] and Seizure [1974 / trailer], the last with Jonathan Frid) plays a brunette Xaviera.
Editor, producer and director Alan Roberts (2 Nov 1946 – 3 July 2016) gained his experience in the world of softcore porn with such well-titled saggy-boob and hairy-butt wonders as The Zodiac Couples (1970), the "documentary" Censorship USA (1971), The Sexpert (1972), Panorama Blue (1974, with the Great Uschi), Sex Clinic Girls (1974) and more. He eventually graduated to more mainstream trash with third-rate or down-and-fading actors, of which this is one; he ended his days editing no-budget movies, few of which anyone has ever seen... except for one, which many a person watched on YouTube or elsewhere: "In 2011, Roberts was involved in production of the film Desert Warriors. The film was substantially altered by others, and released as the film that became Donald Trump's favorite, the anti-Islamic film Innocence of Muslims ("trailer") in 2012. [Mostly Wikipedia]"
Mind of Frames is of the opinion that The Happy Hooker Goes Hollywood is "85 minutes of dignity-damaging disappointments. And those three Ds are heavier than any of the breasts on show, including Martine Beswick's."
Aveleyman disagrees ever so slightly: "'Books are made for coffee tables or something to read while you're sitting on the toilet ... but movies ... movies are made for the World!' Thus says a movie mogul in this inept comedy that owes more to the British sex comedies of the 70s than anything Hollywood might have produced. Nevertheless, Martine Beswick and a number of other nubiles are restful on the eye."
"Even goofier than the first two films in the series, The Happy Hooker Goes Hollywood throws sense out the window and is almost slapstick in spots. It's played completely for laughs with almost the entire cast hamming it up for the camera. The script provides ample opportunity for 'wink-wink-nudge-nudge' sex jokes and the pacing is handled in such a way that the gags, as corny as they are, come quickly. There's a fair bit of nudity in the film and Beswick's fan base will appreciate seeing her show off a bit in the picture. She's not bad at all in the role, clearly in on the joke like the rest of the cast. Adam West [19 Sept 1928 – 9 June 2017, seen above from the film] steals most of the scenes that he's involved with, melding suave and sleazy rather wonderfully in the film. Supporting work from Phil Silvers is notable, he's pretty funny here, while Chris Lemmon (of Just Before Dawn [1981 / trailer]) shows up here in a decent part. [Rock! Shock! Pop!]"
Trailer to
The Happy Hooker Goes Hollywood:
"The Happy Hooker Goes Hollywood features a supporting cast skilled with cartoon reactions and comedic emphasis, and the screenplay (by Devin Goldenberg) goes very broad with conflicts, giving the feature a soap opera vibe at times. Still, merriment is there, especially when Xaviera decides to go indie with her movie, joining her Avengers-style squad of escorts (including Playboy Playmate and B-movie staple Susan Kiger* [seen below]) to acquire all the necessary funds for production, and, when cash fails, she trades sex for film and processing, finding men more than delighted to enjoy five minutes with these women in dark closets, eschewing a living to spend time with working girls. The Happy Hooker Goes Hollywood seems delighted to explore the johns and their requests, with Roberts visiting themed fetish rooms to add some playful absurdity to the effort, with one customer getting off while dressed up as a sheep under Little Bo Peep, while another is turned into a human birthday cake eagerly anticipating the blowout of his candles. These kind of shenanigans have nothing to do with the plot, merely serving as a way for Cannon to fit in more nudity, taking the burden off Beswick, who offers plenty of exposure for the picture, playing Xaviera as a free spirit who often doesn't need clothes. [Blue Ray]"
* "Susan Lynn Kiger (born 1953 in Pasadena, California) is an American glamour model who was Playmate of the Month in January 1977. She was the first Playmate to perform in a hardcore porno feature Deadly Love (1976, a.k.a. Hot Nasties) before posing for the Playboy magazine. Her centerfold was photographed by Pompeo Posar and Ken Marcus. She appeared in the cover of Playboy three times: March 1977, November 1977, April 1978 (see below). [Boobpedia]"
Oh, wait! The plot! Spinning Image, which accuses the movie of "painting a fairy tale picture of prostitution as nothing but gaily coloured frolics" — What! It isn't? — has the plot, and it isn't a complicated one: "The Warkoff Film Studios of Hollywood, California are in a tizzy because the head, Mr Warkoff (Phil Silvers [11 May 1911 – 1 Nov 1985]) is visiting today. His right hand men, including grandson Robby (Chris Lemmon of Wishmaster [1997]) and top producer Lionel Lamely (Adam West of Batman: The Movie [1966 / trailer] and Robinson Crusoe on Mars [1964 / trailer]) are anxious to find out what he has on his mind, which turns out to be an adaptation of the memoirs of the so-called 'Happy Hooker', Xaviera Hollander (Martine Beswick). When she is contacted, she is flattered but sceptical about how well her life story will translate, so opts to travel to Hollywood to show them what's what..."
They go on to say, "All this is patently aimed at men who didn't have the courage to watch genuine porn, as Lemmon apart the male characters are plainly overage while most of the females are in their twenties. So it's really a fantasy, and an impoverished one at that — little wonder Beswick was so disdainful of working on it."

In the UK, The Happy Hooker Goes Hollywood went from Rated R to Rated X, got retitled as Hollywood Blue, and was released on a double bill with the truly obscure and questionable softcore sexploitation flick directed by Robert Mitrotti, Little Girl, Big Tease, yet another sleazy movie about kidnapped virgins who discover their sexuality through rape. Perhaps one of the most notable things about that film is that it is one of the last films to feature the thespianly talented sex-film actress Rebecca Brooke aka Mary Mendum (21 Feb 1952 - 17 July 2012), seen below not from the movie. (For more about Little Girl, Big Tease, watch Cannon Film Countdown #10 at YouTube.)
Brooke plays one of the kidnappers.
 


Can't get enough Dick?
More Dick coming soon!

No comments:

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...