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06 March, 2011

The “King” is Gone


 
On 14 February 2011, Dave Friedman passed away in an Anniston, Alabama nursing home at the age of 87.  His death received little notice, save among those who consider themselves fans of Exploitation Film.  His involvement in the world of motion pictures spanned 65 years, from working in Paramount’s film exchange in Buffalo, New York at the end of World War II to his status as the elder statesman of Exploitation, giving interviews and making Documentary appearances.  Dave was known for many things, and by many names, during that long career.  One of his favorite monikers, inspired by his frequent cameo appearances in his films, was “Hitchcock of the Crotchies.”  To me, he was simply “the King of Babylon,” and now the King is dead.

Dave’s career could have been spent in the mainstream of the motion picture industry, quietly and competently rising through the ranks of Paramount’s distribution and promotional networks.  He could’ve remained one of the thousands of people without whom the movies we all loved would never have reached the screen, but who never receive any recognition for their hard work.  But the mainstream wasn’t what fired Dave’s passion for movies, toiling quietly in the shadows wasn’t his style, and he wanted more from life than a steady paycheck.

Dave began his Exploitation career working with the legendary Kroger Babb, out on the Road-Show circuit with two of Babb’s biggest money-makers, MOM AND DAD and KARAMOJA.  KARAMOJA was a Jungle movie, half documentary, half adventure film; in the parlance of the exploiteers it was a “Goona-Goona” picture.  MOM AND DAD is legendary in it’s own right, without a doubt the most successful and profitable of the “sex-hygiene” films, and one of the most profitable films ever, no matter the genre.  Produced on a budget of $65,000 in 1945, it was still booking into Drive-Ins in the 1970’s.  Dave once estimated, for the documentary SEX AND BUTTERED POPCORN (1989), that it had earned a total of $600 million in its long life.

Dave eventually found himself in position to buy out Babb’s share of Modern Film Distributors, the company formed to manage and distribute the movies owned by four of the leading exploiteers of the Road-Show era—Babb, Gidney Tally, Floyd Lewis, and Irwin Joseph.  His partnership in Modern Film gave the young man what he craved the most—independence, the ability to be his own boss.  From now on, his financial success or failure would ride on his shoulders alone, not on the whims of corporate vice-presidents he might not ever meet.

The next milestone in Dave’s career would come in 1959.  A young producer came to the offices of Modern Film in Chicago, looking for a distributor for his picture.  He had the financing lined up, had cast the film, had a script, it was all ready to go.  He was just looking for someone to get THE PRIME TIME into theaters.  That producer’s name was Herschell Gordon Lewis, and as the cliché goes, it was the “… start of a beautiful friendship.”

For the next five years, Dave and Hersch comprised one of the most prolific, and profitable, teams in Exploitation Film.  Together they owned the Nudie-Cutie genre, with films such as DAUGHTER OF THE SUN, ADVENTURES OF LUCKY PIERRE, and NATURE’S PLAYMATES; began the “Roughies” with SCUM OF THE EARTH; and poked fun at themselves, and the Sexploitation genre in general, with BOIN-N-G.  The duo’s most lasting contribution to the history of Exploitation Film, however, would come in 1963 with the invention of the “Gore” film, and the release of BLOOD FEAST.

As the two would later recount, both separately and together, they were sitting in their office, looking for ideas for their next project.  They had been contracted to film BELL, BARE AND BEAUTIFUL in Miami for an independent producer, and were casting about for a follow-up of their own.  Both men had grown tired of the Nudie films they had specialized in to that point, and, in Herschell’s words, were looking for a type of film that, “… the majors either couldn’t, or wouldn’t make.[i]  They tossed several Exploitation Film staples back and forth—Goona Goonas, Religious Con-Man, Nazi Slave-Camp—when Hersch uttered a single four-letter word: G-O-R-E.  With that, they knew they had something that no one else was doing—the only question was would anyone pay to see it?

They hammered out a rough script, and convinced Stan Kohlberg, the man who financed most of their pictures, to bankroll this one to the tune of $24,500.  When they headed south to shoot BELL…, they went prepared to shoot BLOOD FEAST immediately afterward.

Starring Bill Kerwin, Connie Mason, and Mal Arnold, the story concerns an Egyptian caterer (Arnold) who’s a secret worshipper of the goddess Ishtar, and is planning a cannibalistic “Egyptian feast” in her honor.  To that end, he’s been murdering nubile young maidens, collecting the required body parts for the dinner.  He plans to serve this feast to a young bride (Mason) at her rehearsal dinner.  Her fiancé (Kerwin) just happens to be the detective in charge of investigating the murders.

It would be quite a stretch of the truth to describe this as a good movie.  Hersch himself frequently compares it to a Walt Whitman poem.  “It was no good, but it was the first of it’s kind.”  It was the first of its kind, and it would open the door to increasingly graphic Horror Films.

They followed BLOOD FEAST with TWO THOUSAND MANIACS, produced on a much higher budget, approximately $65,000.  As expected, the production values were far better on this film than they had been for the previous one; indeed, the movie as a whole was much improved over BLOOD FEAST.  Their final Gore film, and their final collaboration (at least until they recently re-teamed for the sequel to BLOOD FEAST, 2002’s BLOOD FEAST 2: ALL YOU CAN EAT)) was 1965’s COLOR ME BLOOD RED, starring Adam Sorg as an artist who becomes a success by using the blood of his murder victims as red paint.
During the production of COLOR ME BLOOD RED, tensions between the two friends began to rise, and culminated in an argument over finances.  As Dave would later say, it was, “[two] friends arguing about money—stupid.”  Though they would remain friends, the partnership was over.  Dave sold out his share of their films, packed up his wife Carol and their parrot Lolita, and headed west to join forces with Dan Sonney, head of Sonney Amusements.

Dan Sonney had spent his life in Exploitation Film.  The son of Louis Sonney, a renowned lawman-turned-exploiteer, Dan’s first job in the business had been as a production assistant on Dwain Esper’s MANIAC, which was produced by the senior Sonney.  Dan had been, for most of the early 1960s, the western states’ distributor for Friedman and Lewis’ films, and he and Dave had gotten to be good friends.  They would form a partnership that would be even more productive and successful than that Dave had shared with Herschell.
For the next fifteen or so years, until Dave retired in the early 1980s, the pair produced, under a variety of labels, some of the best Exploitation Films of the ‘60s and ‘70s.  From hard-edged Roughies like THE DEFILERS and A SMELL OF HONEY, A SWALLOW OF BRINE, to Period costume sex farces such as THE NOTORIOUS DAUGHTER OF FANNY HILL and THE LONG SWIFT SWORD OF SIEGFRIED, to SHE FREAK, Dave’s loving paean to the ‘carny’ lifestyle, the duo ruled Drive-Ins and Exploitation movie-houses.  They did so with low-budget but good-quality filmmaking, a good sense of humor, and by never forgetting to give the customer what they wanted, or thought they wanted.

As the Exploitation genre was gradually co-opted by mainstream Hollywood, the old-time exploiteers were left with just a few unpalatable choices.  One was to join that mainstream, to surrender their individuality to the corporations that to a greater and greater extent controlled Hollywood.  This ran counter to the core principles of most exploiteers, who had entered the field in the first place because it offered them the ability to make their movies their way.

Another path, and that taken by many, including Harry Novak and Ray Dennis Steckler among others, was to switch to making hardcore Adult Films.  Not ideal, and certainly not what most wished to do.  But it did offer some measure of creative freedom, and even in the waning days of “Porno-Chic” there was little stigma attached.

The third option was to simply get out—retire, leave the business.  Many of the older hands chose this path, as did Dave Friedman—eventually.  First, he tried his hand at producing a handful of hardcore films, all of which he was hired as an independent contractor to do.

But hardcore films violated Dave’s basic mantra—sell the sizzle, not the steak.  Exploitation was built on the premise of promising everything—but delivering just enough to keep the yokels coming back for more.  Hardcore violated those deeply-ingrained tenets of Dave’s beliefs.  It had nothing to do with the explicit nature of the movies themselves.  Dave had long been one of the staunchest crusaders for increased First amendment protections for motion pictures.  Indeed, he served as the first president of the Adult Film Association of America, a trade group representing Adult Film producers, distributors, and exhibitors.  He just didn’t enjoy making these movies.

So Dave retired to Anniston, Alabama, his boyhood hometown.  He expected to become a Southern gentleman of leisure, spending his time playing golf, playing cards, both he and his movies forgotten.  And such might have been the case, if not for one man.

Mike Vraney has long had a fascination with, and love of, Exploitation Film, as well as odd and exotic film of all types [Something Weird on the Screen:  The Wild, Bizarre and Wacky World of Scare-Your-Children Movies, Exploitation Shorts and Stag Films, 11 April 2009].  He began marketing a few of Dave’s movies on home video, without the proper permission, in the mid-1990s.  When Dave found out about this, his reaction was two-fold: one, he wanted what money was owed to him, and two, he couldn’t believe that there was a market for these films.  Mike, who had been trying to get in touch with Dave for some time, soon had the older man convinced that the market for old Exploitation Films did exist, and that if Dave would trust him with his film vaults, it would make both men a great deal of money.  Mike would soon prove himself a savvy judge of the movie-buying public, and the two would soon form a deep, lasting friendship that continued until Dave’s death.

Dave’s passing last month will leave a permanent void in the hearts of those who knew and loved him, but it will also leave an empty space in the hearts of fans of Exploitation Film.  Dave was one of the last living links to those days of the Drive-In movie, and perhaps the last to the Road-Show era of the 1920s-1950s.  That alone is enough for readers of the Crypt to mourn his passing.

As for me, there’s more than that.  Dave was a personal hero to me, an inspiration.  Recently, in connection with research for the book we are co-authoring, the Unimonster’s Crypt’s senior correspondent Bobbie Culbertson interviewed Dave by telephone.  For more than ninety minutes, he regaled her with tales of a bygone era, of legendary people long gone, and facts and figures still sharply in focus fifty years after the events transpired.  He recited, from memory, Elliot Forbes’ speech that he would deliver at intermissions in showings of MOM AND DAD.  For ninety minutes, this great man entertained and educated us with a cheerfulness of spirit that was amazing.  Dave Friedman spent eighty-seven years enjoying life—fine food, fine liquor, fine cigars.  He loved life.



The King of Babylon is dead—and there is no heir apparent waiting in the wings.  The King is gone—as is the kingdom over which he ruled.


[i] A Taste of Blood: The Films of Herschell Gordon Lewis, Christopher Wayne Curry, 52

DVD Review: Dave Friedman Double-Feature: SPACE-THING / TRADER HORNEE

Title:  SPACE-THING / TRADER HORNEE

Year of Release—Film:  1968 / 1970

Year of Release—DVD:  2000 / 2000

DVD Label:  Something Weird Video - Image Entertainment








With the recent passing of Dave Friedman, I thought it would be fitting to review a couple of his movies that have found their way onto DVD, courtesy of Something Weird Video and Image Entertainment, the company that released the excellent collection of Something Weird Special Edition DVDs in the late 1990s-early 2000s.  The only question was which to review?  The “Blood” trilogy, which Dave and Herschell Lewis produced in the mid-1960s, was too obvious a choice, as was the duo’s early “Nudie-Cuties.”  Besides, those movies are more Hersch’s than they are Dave’s.

SHE FREAK was Dave’s personal favorite, a loving look at the world of the “carny,” a world with which he was intimately familiar.  But Senior Correspondent Bobbie is examining that movie in detail for a future review.  I briefly considered the double-feature disc containing two of Dave’s landmark “Roughies,” THE DEFILERS and SCUM OF THE EARTH.  He led the way with this type of Sexploitation Film, and there are plenty of titles available that illustrate this phase of his career.  Still, when I think of Dave, these aren’t the first movies that come to mind.

When I think of Dave Friedman’s movies, those that have his personal stamp upon them, I think of his Sexploitation Films of the late ‘60s and early ‘70s.  With equal parts story and sex, these were movies that had a distinct feel to them, a quality that set them apart from those of his competitors.  Two of these films illustrate the broad spectrum of Dave’s work, and are available on the Special Edition DVD format.  These movies are SPACE-THING, from 1968, and TRADER HORNEE, from 1970.

SPACE-THING (1968)

Billed as the first outer space sex film, SPACE-THING truly takes sex and nudity where no one has gone before.  Directed (at least in part, but more on that shortly) by Byron Mabe (as “B. Ron Elliott”), it was written by Dave (under the pseudonym “Cosmo Politan”), who is on record as saying that this was his worst film ever.

Starring Cara Peters (credited as “April Playmate”) as Captain Mother, commander of the Space Cruiser S.S. Supreme Erection, Merci Montello (“Mercy Mee”) as Portia, Steve Vincent as Col. James Granilla, and Dan Martin (“Ronnie Runningboard”) as Willie, SPACE-THING follows the adventures of a Terrarian space crew in the year 2069.

The movie opens with a prologue featuring a man and woman in bed together.  As he reads Science-Fiction pulps, she tries vainly to get his attention, displaying her naked body to his disinterested gaze.  After several minutes of her parading her voluptuous attributes before this nebbish, he finally takes the hint and begins to make love to his wife.  We fade out, to the twinkling of stars, and we see the credits for the movie, a’la the Findlays, painted on the nude body of a young woman (Montello).  As the narration begins, we’re informed that Col. James Granilla, of the Planetarian Space force, has been deposed by his mutinous crew and set adrift in a “space-canoe.”  His ship had been on a mission to intercept a Terrarian space-cruiser on course for Planetaria, and Granilla wasn’t going to let something as trivial as being without a ship stop him from completing his mission.
He pilots his canoe to make the interception, changes his appearance to that of the Terrarians (who coincidentally look just like normal humans), and then boards the S.S. Supreme Erection, under the command of Capt. Mother (Peters).  He claims to be the only survivor of a ship destroyed in an accidental collision.  The Captain’s not pleased to have him aboard her ship, but agrees to put him to work.  As he begins interacting with the Terrarians, he decides that knowledge of the sexual customs of these strange people might prove valuable.  He turns invisible (another useful ability of the Planetarians), in order to observe the crew at play… and brother, do they play!

Shot on an average-sized budget for Friedman’s films to that time (about $17,500), SPACE-THING was far from Dave’s favorite production.  The last of Dave’s films to be directed by Byron Mabe, the two had a falling out before filming was complete, and Mabe walked off the set.  Mabe, who had been part of Dave’s stock company since he starred in 1965’s THE DEFILERS, had just recently begun to have some success in mainstream film, most notably a starring role in THE DOBERMAN GANG.  Mabe had begun to feel as though working for Sonney and Friedman was beneath him, and as Dave discusses in the excellent commentary track included on this disc, his condescending attitude towards his employers had worn very thin.  Dave finally confronted him, asking him if he really wanted to be making this picture.  Mabe replied “… not really,” and the pair shook hands and parted ways.  Dave finished the picture in the director’s chair, including shooting the prologue segment.

As is the norm for the Something Weird Special Edition DVD’s offered by Image, SPACE-THING comes loaded with special features from the vaults of Something Weird Video.  These are composed of shorts, trailers, and Exploitation Film photos and poster art.  The best of the extras, however, as is the case on any Dave Friedman DVD from Something Weird, is the conversation between Mike Vraney and Dave that takes place in the guise of a “commentary track.” 

Having less in common with a serious discussion of the film in question than with a fun, freewheeling chat between old friends as a movie plays in the background, these commentaries are enormously enjoyable listening.  They are also extremely informative, as Dave manages to convey a wealth of information in between stories about his cohorts and cronies.

We learn much about Dave’s life in Exploitation that bears little relation to whatever movie is the nominal subject of the discussion, such as the fact that Dave preferred that his actresses not become known by name to audiences.  He feared that that would give them the ability to demand higher pay, thus explaining the bizarre stage names the actresses in this film were credited under.

After viewing SPACE-THING, it’s hard not to agree with Dave’s opinion of this as his “worst movie ever.”  Still, for fans of Sexploitation, Dave Friedman, and Something Weird Video, it’s priced to take a chance on, at less than $10.  Just do what I do—select the commentary track, push play, and enjoy listening to Dave reminisce about the ‘good ol’ days’ as naked lovelies cavort across the screen.


TRADER HORNEE (1970)

At the opposite end of the spectrum from SPACE-THING is TRADER HORNEE, Dave’s tribute to the “Goona-Goona” pictures of years past.  Made two short years after the former film, TRADER HORNEE was the latest in a string of ‘big-budget’ (at least, for Sonney and Friedman) pictures from Entertainment Ventures, Inc.

Beginning with STARLET in 1969, Dave made a conscious effort to boost the production values of his films.  The fact that his movies were now being booked into regular theaters—both Drive-In and Conventional—and not just the “adult” venues meant that the movies had to look much better than before.  This meant bigger budgets (in the case of TRADER HORNEE, about $62,000), locations that weren’t the back alley of the Cordoba St. offices, and at least an effort to have a cast that could act.

The story is simple, though well-put-together.  A detective agency in Indianapolis, the Hoosier Secret Service, is hired by the Bank of the Wabash to travel to Africa, to search for a missing heiress.  Heir to the famed Matthews fortune, little Prentice Matthews disappeared while on safari with her parents.  While their bodies were found, no trace of her was ever seen again.  Her twenty-first birthday is now approaching, and the bank president (Neal Henderson) needs to settle the estate.  The detective, Hamilton “the E’s are silent” Hornee (Buddy Pantsari) and his assistant Jane Sommers (Julie Conners, credited as “Elizabeth Monica”) are tasked with determining the young girl’s fate, and either confirming her death, or bringing her home to claim the inheritance.

They won’t be traveling alone.  Their party will include the last surviving Matthews descendant, weasely Max Matthews and his conniving wife Doris (John Alderman and Luanne Roberts, billed as “Christine Murray”), newspaper reporter Tender Lee (Elizabeth Knowles, as “Lisa Grant”), and an expert on African wildlife, Stanley Livingston (Fletcher Davies).  Each has their own reasons for venturing into the land of the dreaded Meshpokas, where the Matthews expedition met its unfortunate fate.

In the excellent commentary for this movie, Dave Friedman and Mike Vraney continue their habit of making these tracks more of a conversation between old friends; though with a good movie to focus on, more of that conversation directly involves what’s happening on the screen.  They discuss Dave’s writing process, the many in-jokes in the picture, and just what was involved in making and distributing an exploitation picture in the early 1970s.  We’re even introduced to Dave and Carol’s parrot Lolita, who has a cameo in TRADER HORNEE.

Overall, this is Dave’s best executed production, and one hell of a fun comedy.  Considered X-rated fare in 1970, it’s doubtful it would even draw an “R” today.  It’s one that belongs in the library of every fan of Exploitation Film.


The movies of Dave Friedman were like the man himself—fun, risqué, entertaining, and with a true carny spirit.  They promised much, and usually delivered enough to keep fans coming back for more.  They weren’t high art; high camp might be a better description.  But throughout the 1960s and ‘70s, they kept filling Drive-Ins and Theaters across the country.  For the man who had learned his craft at the feet of Kroger Babb that was all they needed to do.

Junkyardfilm.com's Moldy Oldie Movie of the Month: NIGHT OF THE CREEPS

Title:  NIGHT OF THE CREEPS

Year of Release—Film:  1986




It's 1959 and two young lovebirds are stargazing in Lover's Lane when, suddenly, a blazing meteorite falls from the sky.  Intrigued, the young man drives closer to the site and, leaving his frightened date in the car, goes to investigate.  He finds the crash-site and leaning over it, the mysterious object suddenly opens and spits out an over-sized black garden slug right into the young man's mouth!  Meanwhile, back at the car, the young woman is becoming increasingly alarmed when she hears on the radio that an axe-wielding lunatic has escaped from the asylum nearby.  And, as if on cue, he appears behind the car, swinging the axe with deadly accuracy.  Roll credits.

Fast-forward to 1986.  It's springtime at a Southern college campus and two social out-casts yearn to belong to a fraternity... mainly because one of them, Chris (Jason Lively), has fallen hard for the girlfriend of would-be frat brother, Brad (Allen Kayser) who's in charge of the new membership drive.  Chris' friend, cane-using smart-mouth JC (Steve Marshall) approaches the frat brothers to introduce himself to them and Chris to Cynthia (Jill Whitlow) and learns that, in order to join the fraternity, he and Chris will have to steal a corpse and leave it on a rival frat house's doorsteps.  After the duo leaves, a frat brother asks Brad if he's going to let these dorks join and, laughing a no, Brad drives off with Cynthia.

Later that night, Chris and JC break into a secret lab and discover a corpse in a liquid-filled glass tank.  Turning off the room-sized computer that controls the tank, they release the body inside, only to discover, to their horror, the body begins to twitch as the eyes open.  Terrified, they flee the building without the required frat entry fee.  Back in their shared dorm room, they discuss the night's events, unaware that the re-animated corpse is wandering around Campus, seeking victims.  His first would-be victim turns out to be Cynthia as his head splits open, spilling out hundreds of alien slugs!  Cynthia's cat has its face eaten off!

Enter Detective Ray Cameron (Tom Atkins) who begins every conversation and investigation with the words "Thrill me.”  Thrilled he's not at discovering a headless naked corpse on the doorstep of a sorority house.  After interrogating a janitor at the Lab where the body was being held, the Detective brings in for questioning Chris and JC.  But, upon hearing from the janitor that the two ran from the building "screaming like banshees" but corpseless, he lets them go.  And, the next day, The Brad-ster is equally not thrilled when he hears of the body being left at the wrong house!  Confronting Chris and JC, he demands an explanation and when JC replies, "It's as funny as a crutch,” Brad kicks JC's crutches out from under him.  Cynthia, seeing this, flips Brad off and leaves with Chris and JC, unaware that the Campus is being over-run with outer-space alien, brain-eating garden slugs!
The next day, Cynthia tells Chris and JC about her faceless zombie cat and about a rumor about a body buried under the House Mother's cabin.  As Chris walks Cynthia back to her sorority, they run into Det. Cameron who's over-heard the entire story.  Det. Cameron tells Chris that back in 1959, he broke up with his girlfriend to go into police work.  This is the same girl who was killed by the axe-wielding escaped lunatic in 1959.  He tells of how he tracked down the killer, killed him and buried the body on the same spot where the House Mother's cabin now sits.  Just then, a phone call informs the detective that the House Mother has just been killed by a body crawling out from under her cabin floor.  The killer is cornered and Cameron blows off its zombie head, releasing hundreds of slithering slugs.

The next night as Chris is getting dressed to take Cynthia to the spring formal, he spots a tape recorder with a sign "listen" taped to it.  It's a message from JC who tells Chris that his brain is being used as an incubator for the alien slugs and the only way to kill them was by fire.  Running to Cameron's house (where he unknowingly thwarts the detective's suicide attempt), he tells him about the taped message.  Turning off the gas oven and grabbing his gun, the detective with Chris in tow, rushes down to the police station and "commandeer" a flame-thrower.  Remembering that Cynthia had told him about a dorm-mate storing jars of brains in the basement, they rush to the sorority house.  Ordering everyone out of the house, the detective goes to the basement, armed with a filled gasoline can.  Meanwhile, outside, the zombies are coming!  Handing Cynthia the flame-thrower, Chris takes careful aim and shoots each zombie through the head, at which time Cynthia cooks their brains with the flame-thrower!  Spotting more slugs racing into the house's basement, they run downstairs to discover Detective Cameron with tape over his mouth, splashing gasoline around a mountain of slithering slugs while counting down from 20.  Chris and Cynthia rush from the house with seconds to spare.  Then KABLOOEY!  The house explodes!  Chris and Cynthia share a kiss as the camera pans down to the House Mother's dog who coughs up an alien slug.  The End!

The original ending showing Chris and Cynthia standing in front of the burning house while the charred body of Det. Cameron shambles down the street and stopping, only to have his head explode and the alien slugs slither into a nearby cemetery wasn't shown theatrically but is included on the official 2009 DVD release by Sony Pictures.

Fred Dekker had a short career as a director, making only three movies and directing one episode of Tales from the Crypt.  NIGHT OF THE CREEPS was his debut effort.  Shot in only seven days on a budget of $5,000,000 it pulled in a paltry $600,000 at the box office.  Maybe if Try-Star had put some effort and time behind advertising it, this movie would have been better received.  It deserves better.  NIGHT OF THE CREEPS shows Dekker's love of old 50's sci-fi movies by paying homage to THE BLOB in several scenes.  He also has several characters named after directors such as Chris Romero and Cynthia Cronenberg.  His writing style is witty and clever.  But, NIGHT OF THE CREEPS isn't just comedy.  Its horror is effective and quite gory for the time.  The plot line flows effortlessly from 50's homage to zombies, to alien invaders, to a suicidal detective with a dark secret.  The humor is both laugh out loud and subtle.  The acting is outstanding with Jason Lively giving a fine performance as the sometimes-bumbling Chris and Steve Marshall plays his wisecracking friend JC with believability.  Jill Whitlow as the girlfriend is adorably cute!  But, it's Tom Atkins as the over-the-hill detective that steals this.  Typecast as a police officer in many of his movies, he brings the same poignancy to this as he did in the MY BLOODY VALENTINE remake and LETHAL WEAPON.  I am very pleased that this, along with Dekker's follow-up movie, the superb THE MONSTER SQUAD, now both have official DVD releases.  Now, raise your hands and repeat after me "I solemnly swear to toss my bootlegged copies in the trash where they belong and to buy the newly restored official copies.”  Thrill me!

Enjoy!  And you will!







MSTJunkie

Cambot's Voice by S. J. Martiene: EXPERIMENT 1: BOGGY CREEK II: the Legend continues




As a Mother of two teenage boys, I have found that my need to laugh…and laugh hard has become a necessity.  For it is this capacity to laugh that has tempered many otherwise potentially dangerous thoughts that cloud my head when the daily “Teenage Battle Cries” blast forth.
Throughout the years, I have honed my humor on Groucho Marx (along with his brothers); the residents of Termite Terrace and other Looney Tunes, Monty Python, and comic geniuses like Steve Martin, Steven Wright…and even George Carlin and Bill Cosby.  In contradiction to all this laughter, I happen to be a fan of horror movies.  Now, mind you, I’m old school.  My preferences are classic movies, and I am very happy watching anything…bad or good between the Silent Years into the 1960’s.  This is not saying I won’t delve into that latter half of the 20th Century or beyond, it is just Hollywood’s Golden Age is just my preferred viewing taste.  When I try to reconcile the two opposing facets of my otherwise benign personality, I understand why Horror Hosts always filled that gap for me. 
When I was younger and movies became too “scary”, Horror Hosts provided the necessary comic relief so I could head to my bed safely and that vampire/wolf man/fill-in-your-monster-here would neither be under the bed or in the closet.
Sadly, adulthood beckoned and the Horror Hosts seemed to have gone the way of my childhood.  When their availability/frequency on TV became less than desirable, I was stuck for many years.  Of course, this was during the time when VCR taping was limited, expensive, and barely existent for most people. There was nothing to fill the void except to catch an occasional local guy OR ELVIRA shows in the various cities I lived during my Retail Years in the 80’s and 90’s.  Finally, I WAS SAVED and promptly encouraged to “KEEP CIRCULATING THE TAPES”.
Mystery Science Theater 3000 began as a janitor, Joel Robinson (Joel Hodgson), his puppet pals:  Crow T. Robot (first voiced by Trace Beaulieu, later Bill Corbett), Tom Servo (voiced by Josh “Elvis” Weinstein, then by Kevin Murphy), and Gypsy ( Patrick Brantseg, Jim Mallon ) held hostage by Dr. Clayton Forester (played by Trace Beaulieu) and his assistant, Dr Erhardt  (played by Josh Weinstein, replaced in Season 2 by TV’s Frank, portrayed by Frank Conniff).  The “Mad Scientists” forced Joel and the Bots to watch movies and they would view their commentary/reaction, etc. in an attempt to break their will.  Really folks, it just doesn’t get much deeper than that.  During the show’s run there were a few switches in front of the camera and behind the scenes.  Head writer Mike Nelson took over Joel’s spot when Joel left the show in Season 5.  When the show moved from Comedy Central to The Sci-Fi Channel (now SyFy), Trace Beaulieu left, and Bill Corbett took on Crow’s puppeteering and voice.  Mary Jo Pehl, Kevin Murphy, and Bill Corbett all took roles in place of Dr. Forester’s void.  Frank Conniff left earlier in the series’ Comedy Central run. 
Now, there are FAR better sources of information than this fangirl to get better detail and history of all the machinations in front of and behind the cameras of Mystery Science Theater 3000.  For this, I refer you to www.mst3kinfo.com .  If you cannot find what you need there, try Google.  It works every time.
First Experiment:
MST3K #1006:  Boggy Creek II:  The Legend Continues

Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
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Leslie Ann Walker
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Tim Thornton
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Tanya Yazzie
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Deputy Williams
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Otis Tucker
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Store Keeper
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Oscar Culpotter
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Myrtle Culpotter
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W.L. Slogan
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Boat renter
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Old Lady in Store
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Man #1 in Store
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Man #2 in Store
Source:  Internet Movie Database
Don’t bother yourself with the fact that you’ve never heard of any of these fine thespians; nearly half of the cast was hired from the Arkansas location from which this fine cinematic piece was shot.  Also, all you investigators of film facts and continuity, please do not start sticking sharp objects in your eyes when you realize this is actually PART III of the Boggy Creek Monster series and not PART II as this impressive title (also known as The Barbaric Monster of Boggy Creek:  Part II) would lead one to think.  If you get all jumbled up in the *FACTS* and continuity issues, you are going to miss out on some really hilarious stuff, so sit back...and relax.  It’s a movie about stupid Southern stereotypes, a college professor with grant money and three minions, a monster-who-shall-not-be-named…and a disturbing, greasy guy named Crenshaw.  IT’S FUNNY!  You will also notice there is a very high CHARLES: MOVIE ratio here; throw in one guy named “Jimmy Clem”, and well, it is just a recipe for just because you CAN make a movie, doesn’t mean you SHOULD.
Host Segment 1
The Bots are showing craft projects as part of their *Scout Meeting*.  Crow over-achieves.  Servo comes in wearing a Brownie uniform because that is the only thing that fits over a hoverskirt … DUH!  Meanwhile in Castle Forrester, Pearl wants to practice Mad Scientology by conducting her own electricity.  SADLY, she only has one mushy potato to use.  Other canned items are suggested…
MOVIE SIGN!
The opening scene of this movie emits an odor right at the get-go….and narrator Charles B. Pierce, telling the *The Story of Fried Pork Rinds*(Mike).  He begins speaking and a hairy thing walks out, starts bathing, spooks a fisherman, eats a deer (AKA *Bambi’s Step Mother*, with full zippered head gear I might add), and our movie has started with full frontal horror!!!  For some reason, with all this tension and obvious HORROR (did I mention horror), Director/Writer/Producer/Star Charles B. Pierce switches gears to an SEC FOOTBALL GAME!!!  Okay, now, being a Southern gal myself I can understand the importance of the gridiron reference in the Southern movie…but we have already had so many unanswered questions in so few minutes.
I’m still wondering…WHAT WAS UP WITH THAT ZIPPERED HEAD ON THE DEER?????
Anywho, back to the game.  NO, wait, once more we are fooled.  The scene changes, and we see CHUCK “Tim” PIERCE (nepotism much?), the son of our narrator, etc.  He ANSWERS THE PHONE!!!!  I told you, non-stop action.  He must retrieve our, dare I say “stars”, from the football game.  In a hail of mass confusion, Leslie and Tanya with too much make-up, a skinny guy with too little shirt, and Doc Brian load ‘em up and head to Boggy Creek.
Our gang of four stop at a country store, filled with citizens of the region.  The locals do not regale in such tomfoolery and retort back with questions about the Boggy Creek Creature with guffaws, laughter, and stereotypical “city folk” jabs.   After receiving this dressing-down, the city folk head to their first stop on their investigative adventure, and Tim feels compelled to keep his shirt off.
*Okay, people without shirts please put them on, and people with shirts please take them off.*
This is first of several dreary stories told in a flashback sequence and frankly…I’m going to leave these gems to YOU, the viewer to see for yourself.

Host Segment 2
The Bots are fighting and forget what they were fighting about, and decide to do it via flashback.  Mike can’t see his flashback very well because his contacts are not in.
MOVIE SIGN!
There is a HEADLESS deer in the middle of the road.  This is less musical than having a dead skunk there, but IS IT the same deer in the opening narrative?  We don’t know, we had a sidebar to a Razorback game, didn’t we?  The gang finds a campsite and our little Tim finally puts on a shirt and draws a picture of our “Creature”.  Doc decides to lapse into another story about a guy that changed a tire one day and encountered the creature.  “He never recovered” *He was dead, so that makes sense*(Mike)
Next up, we are introduced to the high-tech radar equipment which comes into play during the rest of this movie.  I affectionately call this system the Pongmaster 5000. Tim and Tanya are testing it in the field…but guess who shows up?  Awwwwww … you guess!!  Have you seen this formula before???  Servo is calling Tanya *Lucy Braless*….hmmm…  The Professor goes out in full Walker, Texas Ranger mode carrying his gun and announcing, “I SMELL YA!” *You’re wearing Giorgio, aren’t you* (Mike).  After everyone is back at camp, more radar-watching ensues.
Host Segment 3
Pearl has given up the electricity thing; instead creating her own version of the “Boggy Creek Creature”:  Bobo (Kevin Murphy).  Mike and the Bots are not impressed with this empire.  Brain Guy sings a ballad.
MOVIE SIGN!
We have to endure the night with the radar-blipped creature and possible sighting, and Tim without a shirt.  The next day, the gang is treated to TWO *cheese-cloth covered* flashback stories to lighten the mood after their scary encounter with the “Creature”.  These stories are complete with outhouses, Sears & Roebuck Catalogs, water hoses, fishes, and potato peeling.  Don’t think about all of it too hard, your head will explode….and I would have to take the water hose from the flashback story to clean up the mess.  Don’t want to give TOO much away; you really have to see these stories yourself to appreciate them.  One thing I will tell you.  The male protagonist in the “outhouse” story, Oscar Culpotter is one of the patrons in the store they visit when they enter town.  No wonder the guy laughed. 
Next, our Doc meets up with a detective this is where we first hear the name of the REALLY true star of this show:  Crenshaw.  Pay attention to the name.
The gang gets back to camp, eat bologna sandwiches, and the girls argue make-up.  The “men” go investigate CSI-like but with all the tools that 80’s funding can give them.  The girls are bored and the Bots want them to wrestle!  The girls take the jeep run into mud…..and the Bots want them to WRESTLE!!!  Servo intimates they are *Checking on the land they bought from the Clintons*.  The girls drive and get stuck in the mud….the Bots say the simplest way to settle this is to WRESTLE!!!  Mike has to mediate.
Back at camp, the guys only seem mildly concerned. 
The girls; however, still have full makeup, and with Tanya’s brilliant brain remembers there is a WINCH on the jeep.  Leslie thinks she says WENCH and runs over her.  THE END.  No, I’m sorry, that’s how I wanted it to end.  Anyhow, Servo is still bartering for a Wrestling Match, but the girls see the Creature and run screaming back to camp.  The two show up on Pongmaster 5000.  The guys diss them and disbelieve them for a half-second.
The next day, Doc rents a boat from a whittler and the gang heads up the river (or down) to visit……Castle Crenshaw.
Host Segment 4
Servo takes up whittling…He actually bought a little outfit in Kentucky, DECIMATING THE RAINFOREST, and mocking Sting all at the same time.
MOVIE SIGN!
The Crenshaw Safari is stupid to the girls.  Believe me, after they day they had the day before, THEY KNOW STUPID. Tim is wearing a shirt.  Doc looks like Castro, and treats us to another narrative stretch.  Finally, we arrive at Castle Crenshaw and meet the King.  Tim is compelled to take off his shirt and Tanya feels compelled to chew tobacco (subsequently throwing up).  I don’t know if I can fully describe Crenshaw.  The overalls, the scruffy beard, the muck, and mud covering him, and the band he is wearing across his head was not only a fashion statement for the time period -- WHO AM I KIDDING?  Just looking at that band is enough to induce a migraine.




 
“Crenshaw”
As played by Jimmy Clem
A thunderstorm’s a brewing and our host has to tend to his fires.  They all have to stay at the Castle for a spell while the weather clears.  Crenshaw inquires about the Doc’s medical credentials; he needs the Doc to do some “doctoring”.  On what?  We cannot say – yet.
*SPOILER ALERT*
Crenshaw takes Doc to another room “get inside and hunker down.”  *Never hunker down within 10 yards of this guy*(Crow).  Well, what do you know?  There is a Baby Creature!!!  And it is injured.  Crenshaw wants him fixed up.
The Doc looks like he is making a master plan…leaves the room.  Crenshaw leaves the room.  The only thing NOT fizzled out is Crenshaw’s fires and probably the odor he emits.
Crenshaw announces, “Lawdy mercy ah got to get to mah fires!”  He goes outside.
Doc professes, “I saw the little creature!”  Everyone is uncomfortable.
Shots are fired.  The Creature breaks in, takes her kid, the Doc babbles something nonsensical.  Finally….all is relatively normal as can be in Crenshaw’s world.
Everyone decides the Creature should live happily ever after in its own legend.  Charles B. Pierce gives us another narrative worthy of another 10 years of grant money.  Closing credits commence with the Creature and Creature Kid walking off, while the trio fills in the appropriate dialogue.

Closing Host Segment

Crow is Crenshaw.  Servo is the baby Creature.  They set the SOL on fire… AGAIN.  At Castle Forester, the Legend of Forester stuff is selling…sort of…but Bobo is tired of being locked in his room.   Pearl is busted.  Again.

MST3K #1006 is among my personal ten favorite MSTie treatments.  I’ve seen this one countless times and still laugh like I’ve seen it the first time.  This one is available through Netflix DVD rental.  Rent it and treat yourself to a couple of hours a great laughs.