Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Never believe that.....There's Nothing Out There.

DISCLAIMER - My blog is an attempt to show respect to films some small minded, intellectually dishonest hipsters automatically label "bad". There is no film I discuss here that I believe to be bad at all.  The title of the blog comes from a discussion that took place some years ago when I was trying to explain the appeal of these films. The title is not meant to suggest I think these films are bad in the least.  Remember - ART IS ART!



I love bad movies - I really do.  That said, I need to cleanse the palate a bit after Monster A-Go Go (I'm still glad that film was made - but...)  So, I decided to breakout "a" special edition of the 1991 classic There's Nothing Out There.  I say "a" special edition, because evidently there is a special two-disc edition with an additional director's commentary released in 2011.  However, that edition appears to be out of print now.  I will be writing based on the 2001 Image Entertainment DVD.



You may recall a little film titled Scream from 1991. In fact, for a time Wes Craven and Kevin Williamson almost single handedly revived the flagging horror genre with the Scream franchise.  For many horror fans, what made the first film was Jamie Kennedy's portrayal of Randy, who, because of his extensive knowledge of horror cinema, made everyone aware of the "rules".

But, what if I (and many others) were to suggest this brilliant, self-referential device had been used years earlier, and equally as well?  It's not a suggestion, it is a fact.  And this same self-aware, comedic approach is what makes Rolfe Kanefsky's There's Nothing Out There the genre classic it is today.

The film begins like many other late 70s to late 80s horror films.  A cadre of teenage kids (one of the few failings of this film is everyone looks about 35) head to an isolated cabin for spring break.  The seventh (the third wheel so to speak) is Mike (portrayed by Craig Peck) and he begins to explain the "rules" once they pass a horrible accident scene on the way to the cabin.  Mike implores the others that nothing good can come of the rest of the trip.  However, three couples looking for fun in the woods won't be dissuaded from heading to the cabin.  Once there - Mike continues to explain to Doreen, Jim, Stacy, Nick, Janet and David (Portrayed by Wendy Bednarz, Mark Collver, Bonnie Bowers, John Carhart III, Claudia Flores and Jeff Dachis respectively) that certain events and environments are certain indicators that few will survive.



And how right Mike is as the cabin is now part of an extraterrestrial's hunting (and breeding?) ground.



The frights and the laughs begin almost the instance David and Janet decide to take a stroll through the woods - and virtually every standard horror film convention is made fun of in the next sixty minutes.

Originally, I rented this on VHS not long after I had seen Scream, and was struck by certain similarities in the "rules" gag.  But, I was also very pleased by how well the camera work and many of the special effects belied the picture's modest budget.  Additionally, considering the director and cast were just starting their careers - the acting was better than acting I've seen recently in major theatrical releases (ahem....Evil Dead remake).



This film was the first screenplay by Rolfe Kanefsky, who has gone on to write 40 additional produced screenplays and directed 21 films (including several from his own screenplays).  Several of his screenplays have gone on to be directed by one of my favorite directors - Dave DeCoteau.  In my world this what we call "living the dream"!

So, if you are a fan or horror/sci-fi/comedy films - by all means start off the new year by checking out There's Nothing Out There.  It is currently available for streaming at Amazon. Afterward, be sure to check out other Kanefsky films!  And by all means, if you get a chance to pick up either version of the special edition DVDs do so and listen to the commentary.


When it comes to lower budget or independent films, often the commentary is like a 90 minute film school.  The trials and tribulations that are overcome to finish a piece of art are discussed and, I very much believe, can spare beginning filmmakers (especially genre filmmakers) a great deal pain as they begin their careers in film.





There's Nothing Out There IMDB Link

Monday, December 29, 2014

You can't unsee....Monster A-Go Go

DISCLAIMER - My blog is an attempt to show respect to films some small minded, intellectually dishonest hipsters automatically label "bad". There is no film I discuss here that I believe to be bad at all.  The title of the blog comes from a discussion that took place some years ago when I was trying to explain the appeal of these films. The title is not meant to suggest I think these films are bad in the least.  Remember - ART IS ART!


I've always meant my disclaimer.  In fact, I can only think of three films (that I've seen) that should be purged from the face of the Earth - 1. Thomas and the Magic Railroad, 2. Six Days Seven Nights and 3. The Evil Dead remake.  And, in all candor, I might simply have been in a bad mood when I saw those films.  In any case, I realized the films I've been writing about, though not loved by all, certainly have their admirers, and, as such, I wasn't really "defending" them at all.  So, tonight I decided to pay a visit to the bottom 100 at IMDB and choose a film almost universally derided and endeavor to say something positive about.  Turns out - not an easy task when it comes to the 1965 film Monster A-Go Go.

The plot of the picture, as best as I could fully ascertain, revolves around the disappearance of US Astronaut Frank Douglas.  As the capsule he was in is descending to Earth, he vanishes.

In his stead, evidently, is a hulking radioactive monster which begins to kill and evade capture, while being tracked by scientists and the military.

The picture is very disjointed, characters seemingly disappear without reason, and the threat to mankind never feels terribly real.

However!  This is a film that almost didn't happen.  And I think it is a testament to the dedication and capitalist spirit of two filmmakers who brought this picture to fruition - Bill Rebane (The Giant Spider Invasion) and H.G. Lewis (2000 Maniacs). The film initially began production in 1961 with a screenplay and direction by Bill Rebane.  But, as was often the case with independent filmmakers, funds dried up, and the film was unfinished.  In the meantime, H.G. Lewis was beginning a run as one of the premier exploitation auteurs of the time, and he had just finished Moonshine Mountain and was looking for a second film to show with it (since it was very common for Grindhouse and Drive-in films to be at least a double feature).  As Rebane had much of the film in the can, Lewis bought the film, shot a handful of extra scenes and some voice over narration and soon had his second feature.


No one would suggest this made for a great film.  But, I think most frustrated filmmakers and fans of 60s Grindhouse fare, would agree it is impressive this film managed to see screentime. Sure, the film appears to have nothing resembling continuity, or any genuine character development.  But, I remain impressed that Bill Rebane got the ball rolling, and H.G. Lewis managed to piece a film together and have it exist today.  In fact, I read that Bill Rebane is working on a special edition DVD of the film. I have to admit, that seems odd as the title is on Something Weird Video, and Rebane did not finish the film. I seem to recall an issue between Rebane and Retromedia Entertainment (and I will ALWAYS back Retromedia).  However, if Rebane releases a special edition on DVD, I would certainly track it down and be interested to see if the film is a bit more coherent.




In addition to the film being completed by sheer tenacity, it was also one of the most popular episodes of MST3K (show 421), and, Joel and the Bots certainly do make the film a bit more palatable (I'm watching that episode as I write this).

So...I know this post wasn't as hearty a defense of this film as I had originally intended. But, I did enjoy the film in my own odd way.  And, I'm glad it saw screen time on drive-ins across America - I'm sure there a few people my age who were conceived at that H.G. Lewis double feature.





Wednesday, December 24, 2014

I don't look good in.....Chrome and Hot Leather


DISCLAIMER - My blog is an attempt to show respect to films some small minded, intellectually dishonest hipsters automatically label "bad". There is no film I discuss here that I believe to be bad at all.  The title of the blog comes from a discussion that took place some years ago when I was trying to explain the appeal of these films. The title is not meant to suggest I think these films are bad in the least.  Remember - ART IS ART!  




An argument could be made that no genre of film had a better run than the biker film.  Beginning with Brando in The Wild One (1953) to Chopper Chicks in Zombietown (1989) to Sons of Anarchy and covering sub-genres from crime film to horror; for over 30 years, the biker film was the go to genre for exploitation filmmakers.  Certainly in the mid-sixties to the mid-seventies, the reason for the prevalence of biker movies had as much to do with the news (and fears of the day).
 Hell's Angels had been founded in March 1948 in Fontana, California, and with that founding stories of criminal activity such as drug dealing, prostitution and extortion. Fear of the Hell's Angels only increased with the 1967 publication of Hunter S. Thompson's "Hell's Angels: The Strange and Terrible Saga of the Outlaw Motorcycle Gangs" and the death of Meredith Hunter at the hands of Hell's Angel Alan Passaro (who was acquitted when footage showed Hunter was brandishing a pistol).

By 1971, the Vietnam War continued to rage on and it was only natural for filmmakers to combine the elements into a single film - bringing us to our film - Chrome and Hot Leather.  This film is exceptionally well done, though, the most tame of many of the biker films that had preceded it.  Although the acting in the film is very good, there are three stars that particularly stand out.   First, it is interesting to note this was the first film for Cheryl Ladd (who is credited as Cherie Moor).  Less than a decade later she would be known for role in Charlie's Angels.



Also in the film is music legend Marvin Gaye as Jim. I was surprised to find that, even with his good looks and great voice, this film was one of only two he ever appeared in. And this film was his last.  I felt he did a wonderful job in a fairly limited role (only a handful of characters get the development or screentime they deserve).  Obviously he prefered music over acting - but, it is certainly interesting to note he could have been quite successful in both endeavors.

Finally, I want to touch on one of the most interesting people in history. Someday someone should write a many volumed work about his life.  And it is a life that could make a series of about eight films.  William Smith is just stone cold fascinating.  Born in Columbia, Missouri in 1933, his family moved West (as did many) during the Dust Bowl years.  He began his acting career very young, appearing in the films The Ghost of Frankenstein and The Song of Bernadette.  When he wasn't busy being friggin' awesome, he earned a B.A. from Syracuse and a Master's in Russian studies at UCLA.  He was working on his Ph.D when he became a contract actor for MGM.  In time, Smith became fluent in Russian, Serbo-Croatian, French and German and performed a great deal of top secret work during the Korean War for the CIA and NSA.  Smith continues to work and is also a poet (seriously - I think there is nothing this man can't do).



In Chrome and Hot Leather, Smith plays T.J. the leader of a biker gang. While causing trouble along the highways and byways of America, one of the gang's members causes a car accident (a very well shot sequence) that causes the death of the fiance of an Army Green Beret.  When he learns of her death, he asks the local police what leads they have.  When he discovers they have precious few leads, and what appears to be very little interest in finding the murderer(s), Mitch and three of his friends from the Army decide they will ferret out the gang and bring them to justice.

This film is a quick and entertaining piece of work.  It really has no weak spots with possible budgetary constraints such as the use of Kawasaki motorcycles (for promotional consideration) and one somewhat poorly shot "day for night" sequence.  Otherwise, the acting is solid, the story is paced well, and has some great quotes that I'd include here, but, just writing them wouldn't do them justice - you have to see Big Bill Smith in action to appreciate them.

I couldn't help but think, as I was watching this, how easy it was to disappear in the 70s.  Mitch has to pay a gas station attendant to get a message to his buddies who were scheduled to meet at that location. No cell phones, Facebook or Twitter - so much easier to be off the grid.

In any case, this film is available from many sources, but, I watched via Amazon Prime and the picture and sound were outstanding.  I can truly recommend this film - but, in full disclosure my favorite Bill Smith biker film is Run, Angel, Run from 1969.

The Trailer for 1971's Chrome and Hot Leather

The Office Site for Hollywood Legend William Smith

Friday, December 12, 2014

Stay for awhile at....Tourist Trap

DISCLAIMER - My blog is an attempt to show respect to films some small minded, intellectually dishonest hipsters automatically label "bad". There is no film I discuss here that I believe to be bad at all.  The title of the blog comes from a discussion that took place some years ago when I was trying to explain the appeal of these films. The title is not meant to suggest I think these films are bad in the least.  Remember - ART IS ART!

This is one of those occasions where I've decided to write about a picture that is actually very well regarded and needs little defending - Tourist Trap.



Co-written and directed by David Schmoeller - and also based on his own short film The Spider Will Kill You, Tourist Trap is a well done, atmospheric and sufficiently creepy film shot in 1978 around the Los Angeles area and released in 1979.  The film would be one of several collaborations between Schmoeller and the brilliant Charles Band.

At first blush, the film has the appearance of so many late 70s, early 80s horror films.  A group of beautiful young people, lost in the wilderness and easy pickings for the local forest faring lunatic.  However, thanks to the spot on writing of Schmoeller and his collaborator, J. Larry Carroll, you have an almost instant rapport with the characters, including the beautiful Becky, played by a pre-Charlie's Angels Tanya Roberts.

By the time we are introduced to Mr. Slausen, played brilliantly by the ever-missed Chuck Connors, we are invested enough in the characters to have genuine apprehension about what fate awaits our intrepid travelers.

We find our cast at a small, off the beaten track, roadside museum - the kind of thing that used to exist in the 60s and 70s when excitement was more often found traveling the roads of the United States instead of on our smart phones.  Once at the small museum, Schmoeller craftily leads us into a vision of madness and telekinesis (yes - both!).

I really can't recommend this film enough, and I'm not alone - Stephen King himself has lauded this film and its quality.  But, just as impressive as the picture itself is its co-writer and director. Schmoeller, who is currently teaching film just a few hours from here at the University of Nevada - Las Vegas, went on to write and direct some of the greatest genre films of the 90s (usually for Charles Band's Empire/Full Moon pictures) - The Seduction, Puppet Master and Netherworld are absolutely wonderful films (yes....I enjoyed The Seduction!).  In fact, a quick perusal of his IMDB page represents a renaissance man.

By all means, when you watch this film, listen to the director commentary.  If you are in film school, if is full of great tidbits and advice that are as relevant today in the world digital filmmaking as it was over 30 years ago - ultimately, no matter what medium you are using - 16mm to digital video, you have to deal with actors, plot points and special effects.

This is a film I saw years ago in high school, and it has bounced around in my memory ever since (I'm sure Tanya Roberts wardrobe may have played some small part in that).  It was refreshing to watch it again with older eyes....and yes, I'm still impressed by the film (and Tanya Roberts).



Tourist Trap


Tourist Trap Soundtrack CD


Thursday, November 27, 2014

Want guac with your....Cannibal Women in the Avocado Jungle of Death


Long before Bill Maher became the Rush Limbaugh of the left, he was a comedian and an actor... and I always thought a pretty good one.  I had seen him previously in D.C. Cab and House II: The Second Story.
Then one evening, looking for a tape to rent I discovered Cannibal Women in the Avocado Jungle of Death.  In full disclosure, my interest in all things Adrienne Barbeau was my real reason for renting this particular picture - Shannon Tweed and Bill Maher were just a bonus.

The film, written and directed by J.F. Lawton (but directed under the pseudonym J.D. Athens), is a clever and biting parody of 1980s machismo and hard-core feminism, which ultimately takes a blunt turn near the end to take a jab at the conservative politics of the time.  Because of this, it is a film best enjoyed by children of the 70s and 80s. The average millennial probably will not get the joke about a tribe of woman-fearing men called the Donahues or their chant of  "Donahue, Alan Alda, Walter Mondale...." - which I found funny in 1989, and even funnier 25 years later.

Shannon Tweed, whose IMDB page is really very impressive and shows more range than I think some film (and television) watchers realize she has, plays Dr. Margo Hunt - an ethno-historian with the Feminist Studies department.
 She is approached by agents of the military and the federal government to help eliminate the "Avocado Gap" the United States has with the Soviet Union (Remember them? No? Well, they'll be back soon enough) as many of the Avocado producing nations of the world have fallen to communism, leaving the United States the last "Free" nation to provide the world's Avocado needs.

After some coercion, Dr. Hunt agrees to go, and ends up saddled with one of her students named Bunny (Karen Mistal) who has changed majors from Home Economics to Feminist Studies. Together they head for San Bernardino (the outer edge of the Avocado Jungle) to find a guide.  As a former resident of San Bernardino, and as I still reside near the city, I couldn't help but enjoy this little bit of dialog, suggesting Berdoo's rep was none the better in 1989 than it is now (but at least they weren't bankrupt at the time.)

Dr. Hunt: San Bernardino, a rough speck of civilization on the edge of the Avocado belt.
Bunny: I've never been to San Bernardino before.
Dr. Hunt: (revealing a large revolver) Don't worry Bunny, it will be alright.


Once in San Bernardino, they stop at a local watering hole to find a guide in a bit meant to spoof the cantina scene from Star Wars. There, they find Jim (Bill Maher), a one night stand of Dr. Hunt's. Although Jim insists they were "in love" and when she left him, he climbed into a whiskey bottle and never came out.

From that point, they brave the jungle - the Donahues, The Barracuda Women and....of course, The Piranha Women.

Obviously in some ways the film is dated. But, that dated quality is almost quaint.  Mentions of the Soviet Union,  Fawn Hall, Jessica Hahn - all topical at the time, are interesting artifacts of a country when there was only a single 24 hour news channel, no iPhones, Twitter, Facebook (or blogs for that matter) all stoking the flames and trying to convince us what is important (or, sometimes what isn't important at all).

Also, for those in the Inland Empire; especially those who work at, attend, live near or went to UCR, keep an eye out for the clock tower and the arches and think about that next time you're heading to The Barn for lunch.

There are a number of places to see this film - I own the DVD, but, if you don't have a copy of the DVD handy, why not head over to Fullmoonstreaming.com and check it out.




Cannibal Women In The Avocado Jungle Of Death

Saturday, November 22, 2014

There is always time for a little....Lust In the Dust

DISCLAIMER - My blog is an attempt to show respect to films some small minded, intellectually dishonest hipsters automatically label "bad". There is no film I discuss here that I believe to be bad at all.  The title of the blog comes from a discussion that took place some years ago when I was trying to explain the appeal of these films. Remember - ART IS ART! 

From time to time the film gods unite and this miraculous union brings together giants - film giants.



Paul Bartel's Lust in the Dust is one such picture.



In 1985, the drive-in as the harbinger of all things classic, was nearing it's end. But, in it's stead was the VHS tape. For a moment in time in my small hometown, you could wander into a local Ma and Pa video store and walk out with glorious, beautiful magic.

One such magical event was Paul Bartel's Lust in the Dust - a gender bending parody of the "Man with no name" films of Clint Eastwood. Written by Philip John Taylor, who would go on to write
episodes of Knight Rider and Murder, She Wrote and directed by the singularly brilliant Paul Bartel, Lust in the Dust has a cast like none ever assembled for a film. Only this film can boast a cast thing includes...

Divine

Tab Hunter

Henry Silva

The original Joker himself - Cesar Romero

Woody Strode

Geoffrey Lewis

Courtney Gains

The film follows a cast a characters, all residing in the small village of Chili Verde, which seems to exists only to support the search for ..."The Gold of Chili Verde". 50's beefcake heartthrob Tab Hunter plays the Clint Eastwood inspired role of Abel Wood, who stumbles upon the town of Chili Verde while escorting/being followed by Rosie Velez, played brilliantly by the amazing Divine (doing the Madea shtick better and long before Tyler Perry). Throw in revelations, maps on butts, the amazing Henry Silva and you have one of the greatest westerns of the 80s - and one of the greatest little gems I discovered the Schunuck's in Cape Girardeau, Missouri. It shouldn't shock anyone that I spent my Friday nights alone - but at least I was spending it in good company with films like this classic.

Luckily the number has been small, but I have met those who thought Divine was simply a gimmick, an aborhation created by John Waters, that could only survive in that world; that Divine had no place in the cinema worlds of other directors.  But, the combination of Divine and the genius of Paul Bartel, went on to show that, had Divine not left the stage far too soon, that s/he would have continued to be an ever growing and impressive force in mainstream cinema.

But, in some ways, the most interesting aspect of this film is that of Tab Hunter, who not only stars in the film, but was also one of the producers. I'm not certain if he had come out of the closet at this point or not (really doesn't matter), but in the mid-80s, Tab Hunter was still remembered by people like my mother for being a bare-chested heart throb in the 50s. I respect the hell out of Tab Hunter for
being comfortable enough with himself to play against type in films like this and his first film with Divine, the Water's classic Polyester. Oh sure, Tom Cruise did his little shtick, under a ton of makeup, in Tropic Thunder, but that wasn't nearly as ballsy a move as what Tab Hunter did.

Finally, I have fond memories of this film because I discovered at a time, that, while the Drive-In was dying, small video stores were popping up all over (even in the one horse town I lived in) and some Friday nights you could walk out of the store with absolute VHS gold - titles like The Toxic Avenger, The Beyond, Re-Animator, Jake Speed, The Treasure of the Moon-Goddess; and even more intellectual fare like Bagdad Cafe.

Looking back - I spent a lot of Friday nights alone with a pizza and VCR...and I don't think I'd change a thing.  Be Who You Be.


Friday, November 21, 2014

Welcome to....The Big Doll House

DISCLAIMER - My blog is an attempt to show respect to films some small minded, intellectually dishonest hipsters automatically label "bad". There is no film I discuss here that I believe to be bad at all.  The title of the blog comes from a discussion that took place some years ago when I was trying to explain the appeal of these films. Remember - ART IS ART!  
Originally posted December 5, 2012


It is sad but true that growing up in my small, midwestern home town, where the rare trip to St. Louis or Nashville was tantamount to seeing the lights of Paris, my overall impression of the world was generally derived from movies. Of course, the movies I enjoyed watching were drive-in movies (thanks to those weekly trips to the Star-Vue with my parents).



Thus, I was convinced that any country that wasn't the United States was a “banana republic”, I was confident every state southeast of my little hamlet was something out of Deliverance or Gator, and was entirely certain the American southwest was completely and accurately portrayed in Billy Jack. In fact, some of these “certainties” were so ingrained in me that I was a father before I was able to cast aside many of those concepts.

So, it can come as little surprise that when I saw the Big Doll House as pre-teen, I was both convinced of my heterosexuality and that if American woman went anywhere outside the boundaries of the United States they would almost certainly end up in a crowded jail cell.


The Big Doll House was one of the first features shot in the Philippine Islands by Roger Corman's recently established New World Pictures. By this time, Corman had given up the lighter fare of killer plants and giant crabs and was now working the grittier side of life. Written by Don Spencer and well directed by Jack Hill, this film sports a pedigree like few drive-in pictures. The film features both Sid Haig AND Pam Grier (and their scenes together amply display the talent that has kept them working in the film industry for decades.

The film also stars drive-in vets the late (and great) Roberta Collins and Judy Brown.

The plot, somewhat fresh at the time, dealt with both the struggle to survive inside the prison, and the eventual plot to break-out that a film of this nature requires. How the plot comes together is firmly juxtaposed with the warden who, at first seems good-hearted (and keen on the new prison doctor) and cruel bitch with a dramatic secret.


Other films of this nature are often overlooked as little more than softcore porn (which was certainly part of the appeal of this film and others for me when the video revolution blossomed). But, I can think of other titles/women in prison movies that fall in that category to a larger degree than this film. Because of the cast, the excellent direction and the general look of the film (some inspired cinematography for the exotic locations by Fred Conde) this film delivers far more than just random titillation. The characters are more fully developed than some big budget pictures of today, and the trials of each of the ladies has substantive impact.

Ultimately, New World Pictures milked all they could out of the Women in Prison motif, and by the early 80s had stopped shooting films in the Philippines. But, as long as Corman, Grier and Haig live, perhaps we will see a reboot/remake/reimagining of this film. Perhaps with Grier as the Warden and Haig in the same role or perhaps the doctor....just a thought.



And don't forget to turn up the theme song “Long Time Woman” sung by Pam Grier herself!




Wikipedia Article about The Big Doll House

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Just when you thought it was safe to watch Netflix...Barracuda

DISCLAIMER - My blog is an attempt to show respect to films some small minded, intellectually dishonest hipsters automatically label "bad". There is no film I discuss here that I believe to be bad at all.  The title of the blog comes from a discussion that took place some years ago when I was trying to explain the appeal of these films. Remember - ART IS ART!  



Thanks to Peter Benchley and Steven Spielberg, the mid to late 70's provided us with a vast number of knock-off, "There is something under the water" based films; Piranha, Tentacles, Up From the Depths, Jaws 2 (let's face it - this is a knock off too),  and the subject of this essay.... Barracuda AKA The Lucifer Project.

Say what you will about the 70s - yes, having lived through that decade I can confirm it was tacky, garish, disco fueled and weird.  And maybe that is why I love that decade so much. Making a film then was work...trying to make a statement while you made a film, well, that was the bonus.

Of course, the titular creature of this film is no surprise....it's in the title. But, because it was the 70s, when people only feared the government because of Watergate and The Warren Commission, the monster is also the victim in this film.

The film is based in the fictional (I assume) hamlet of Palm Cove (Florida's Lobster Capital according to the welcome sign leading into town), where a chemical company run by Papa Jack (portrayed by Bert Freed who played Posner in Billy Jack), is dumping chemicals into the nearby ocean.
A group from a local University, lead by Mike Canfield (portrayed by Wayne David Crawford, who also shares writing and producing credits on this show) decide they will get water samples from the pipe stealthily hidden under water, leading from the chemical company to the ocean.

Once the group is apprehended by Papa Jack's mentally deficient son, Mike is taken to jail where we meet the local sheriff, his deputy and the sheriff's daughter, who is home for the summer from college and spends her time "cruising the jail."  The plot picks up quickly after the initial character introductions as people begin to go missing, and the townsfolk begin to act contrary to the idyllic small town environment.


Where some smaller budget films fail is character development. I believe, thanks to the writing of Crawford, who went on to co-write Valley Girl and star in one of my all time favorite films, Jake Speed, the individual characters are well developed and well acted (see the cast list below).  Even smaller characters are written and performed in such a way as to provide some real connection to them. Sure, this was a Jaws knock off, but, done with some thought, and carried out with artistic ability -  check out Piranha as another example of good writing and outstanding performances.  Even the town itself is shot and represented in such a way to feel as if it not simply fictional entity, but a real small town with a lot of other stories to tell.


I can't go into much more detail without giving away major spoilers.

In all honesty, I'm a bit surprised it has taken me this long to re-watch this film. I remember distinctly watching this flick in 1979 on CBS late on a Friday night. Before the Letterman years, CBS would show The Avengers (the good version - you know the one with Diana Rigg) and a flick. In fact, first time I ever saw Monty Python and the Holy Grail was thanks to CBS on a Friday night.

While this film clearly saw some theater/Drive-In play (see the newspaper advert)
, the aspect ratio gives away the fact this film was meant for television viewing. Also, when it comes to viewing, be picky about where you watch it. Last night I checked it out on NetFlix - however, this morning, while I write this, I'm watching it on Amazon and it is gorgeous. I have to imagine it is the same source material, but, better encoding by Amazon. In fact, the quality is so good on Amazon it almost belays the budget of this film.

By the way, I've include a the trailer for the picture Jake Speed - another little nugget I rented one night from Schnucks - a small but glorious collection of videos back in the late 80s.  It's star and writer is Crawford - and it is an amazing film. I'll be writing about it soon.


Wayne Crawford ... Mike Canfield
Jason Evers         ... Dr. Elliot Snow
Roberta Leighton    ... Liza Williams
Cliff Emmich         ... Deputy Lester
William Kerwin ... Sheriff Ben Williams
Bert Freed         ... Papa Jack