Posts Tagged ‘brian quinn’

A Grindhouse Christmas @ the New Bev!

December 18, 2009

“CHRISTMAS EVIL is the best seasonal film of all time. I wish I had kids. I’d make them watch it every year and, if they didn’t like it, they’d be punished!” – John Waters

For the past three years I’ve made it a yuletide tradition here in L.A. to attend the annual Grindhouse Film Festival Christmas show at the New Beverly Cinema. The first year I went, it was a double bill of the perennial favorite BLACK CHRISTMAS (1974) and the incredible Santa Claus slasher from Utah, SILENT NIGHT, DEADLY NIGHT (1984). Last year it was once again BLACK CHRISTMAS along with a haunted house Xmas movie called SILENT NIGHT, BLOODY NIGHT (1974). This year it was the amazing CHRISTMAS EVIL (1980) along with once again, the ever popular BLACK CHRISTMAS. It was a rockin’ show.

I’d seen CHRISTMAS EVIL awhile ago on cable and thought it was good, but I really loved watching it again with the Grindhouse crowd and it has now become one of my holiday favorites. Before the show, the star of the film BRANDON MAGGERT came out to introduce it. He did a brief and very amusing Q and A, but had to cut it short because he hadn’t eaten dinner yet and wanted to get home. I’d like to mention how great it was that over the last 30 years his hair has turned white and he now sports a beard and square framed reading glasses that really make him look a lot like old St. Nick. If you’ve seen the film before, you’ll understand how awesome this is.

BRANDON MAGGERT discusses the finer points of CHRISTMAS EVIL.

Before the movie there was a special Xmas trailer reel that included two really bizarre looking films called SANTA CLAUS (looked like a Grimm’s fairy tale version of the story) and THE CHRISTMAS THAT ALMOST WASN’T (like a Hammer horror version of a Xmas film), an anime HEIDI clip and LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT (why I don’t know).

CHRISTMAS EVIL (A.K.A. YOU BETTER WATCH OUT, which was the title on the director’s print we saw) tells the tale of Harry Stadling (BRANDON MAGGERT), a worker in a toy factory called JOLLY TIMES TOYS, who is really obsessed with all things Christmas. He’s taken to spying on the local kids in the neighborhood, to see who’s being naughty and nice. The closer he gets to the 25th of December, the more manic his obsession grows, until finally he decides to actually “become” Santa Claus. Donning a Santa suit and converting his van into a sleigh (complete with reindeer painted on the side), he takes off on Christmas eve night to teach the city the true meaning of the holiday, even if he has to commit murder to prove it!

"You talkin' to me, Santa? You talkin' to me?"

Simply the greatest image ever and next year's Xmas card.

CHRISTMAS EVIL is a highly entertaining black comedy horror film that is kinda like TAXI DRIVER if Travis Bickle was a violent Santa Claus impersonator. There is nothing more pleasing to my twisted holiday senses then watching an angry mob of torch wielding New Yorkers chase Santa Claus through the streets of Queens. It went over very well and afterwards we were treated to a nice Q and A from the director, LEWIS JACKSON.

LEWIS JACKSON tells the New Bev crowd the joys and sorrows of directing CHRISTMAS EVIL.

There was a brief intermission, followed by the second feature…

If you’ve never seen Bob Clark’s Canadian made prototype holiday slasher classic BLACK CHRISTMAS before and think you’re hip on the genre, you’re not. This is the FIRST of its kind and is clearly a major influence for JOHN CARPENTER’S HALLOWEEN. It started all the staples of the slasher formula, including the killer POV shot, the one by one stalk and kill and the lone survivor girl. It also happens to be one of the most effectively frightening of its kind.

A hapless victim of the deranged killer.

This image consistently raises the hairs on the back of my head every single time I watch it.

A group of sorority sisters are all preparing to go home for Christmas vacation, completely unaware that a psychotic killer is hiding in their attic, ready to pick them all off one by one. The unknown maniac taunts them from time to time with a series of the creepiest obscene phone calls imaginable, while the inept police try to trace them. After eliminating a huge red hearing, the film concludes with one of the most erie endings ever, where the killer is still loose in the house with the last survivor and we still have no idea who he is or why he’s doing it. It’s brilliant and I think it’s a lot more frightening than if we were told his motivations and he were caught or killed.

It was another amazing Christmas at the Grindhouse and Brian Quinn told me he’s going to try to get a print of the sublime street corner Santa slashing epic DON’T OPEN TILL CHRISTMAS for next year. Can’t wait for then and in the meantime, I’ll try to be a little nicer and a little less naughty. If I can. Merry Christmas to everyone from Planet of the Nerds and a Happy New Year too! And stay tuned for my BEST OF 2009 list coming soon!

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Blaxploitation horror @ the New Bev!

October 22, 2009

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“Pimping God’s consciousness like a fat ho!” – J.D. Walker

This last Tuesday night at the New Bev, the GRINDHOUSE FILM FESTIVAL screened a couple of blaxploitation horror flicks in honor of the season, J.D.’S REVENGE and BLACULA. During the raffle before the show, my girl Grae Drake won a DVD copy of the RUDY RAY MOORE classic, PETEY WHEATSTRAW: THE DEVIL’S SON IN LAW, which is a kind of pimp-horror film in it’s own right. She donated it to my extensive collection and I promised to show it to her along with DISCO GODFATHER some day in the near future. That started the night off with a bang and it only got better from there.

GLYNN (J.D.) TURMAN, director ARTHUR MARKS and co-star, CARL CRUDUP from J.D.'s REVENGE.

GLYNN (J.D.) TURMAN, director ARTHUR MARKS and co-star, CARL CRUDUP from J.D.'S REVENGE.

Two of the stars and the director of J.D.’S REVENGE, GLYNN TURMAN, CARL CRUDUP and ARTHUR MARKS were on hand to introduce the film that night. The audience was very excited to watch it, because most of us (including me) had not seen it yet, but we were all big fans of the J.D.’S REVENGE trailer that Brian played before a few of the GRINDHOUSE shows.

Before the first film, there was a trailer reel of vintage exploitation films that included:

DERANGED – a biography pic from the early 70s about real-life serial killer ED GEIN.

CANNIBAL GIRLS – I’ve never seen this one about a bunch of go go girls who enjoy eating human flesh.

BONNIE’S KIDS – TIFFANY (THE CANDY SNATCHERS) BOLLING plays one half of a murderous brother and sister crime team. An amazing looking NATURAL BORN KILLERS type of 70s film, with the awesome tagline: “Thank god she only had two!”

Then our feature presentation:

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J.D.’S REVENGE tells the tragic tale of a violent street hustler named J.D. Walker, who is wrongly accused of murder and viciously gunned down one night in New Orleans, circa 1942.

Flash forward to the good old 70s, where we meet a passive young law student named Ike (GLYNN TURMAN). While out on a double date one evening, he volunteers for a hypnosis demonstration and unknowingly becomes possessed by the spirit of a vengeful J.D.

Before long, Ike is wearing old pimp suits from the forties, hot combing his hair and making love to his woman like a wild man. He can’t understand what’s happening to him and after beating up his girlfriend, he seeks help from his doctor friend Tony (CARL CRUDUP). Tony tells him to relax and informs him that beating up on his lady is just a natural way to let off steam (HUH?!). Well, he is a doctor so…

Ike is possessed with the spirit of J.D. the badass pimp!

Ike is possessed with the spirit of J.D. the badass pimp!

Also, while under J.D.’s influence, he takes an old white lady on a terrifying white knuckle cab ride, finally pulling her out of the car and beating the crap out of her. On another excursion, he picks up some lady, fucks her, cuts up her husband when he catches them and steals her Lincoln Continental for a fast getaway.  That’s one bad dude!

When Ike/J.D. comes face to face with Reverend Elija Bliss (LOUIS GOSSETT JR.), who is the direct descendent of the man that killed him, he embarks on his bloody revenge quest.

LOUIS GOSSETT JR. must pay!

LOUIS GOSSETT JR. must pay!

J.D.’S REVENGE was actually a really well acted and directed film, that made the most of a low budget and a B movie script. GLYNN (THE WIRE) TURNER is really great as Ike, who shifts seamlessly between the two personalities. The movie has a cooky plot, but everything is played with such earnest, it really keeps you in it. I also loved that it had one of those happy endings where everything goes completely back to normal, regardless of all the crazy shit that’s happened.

There was a Q and A afterwards with GLYNN TURNER, CARL CRUDUP and ARTHUR MARKS, where they talked about how wonderful it was to shoot the film in New Orleans. They said that the city lent a lot to the movie’s mood and texture and that they ate the best food of their lives for the six months they shot there. ARTHUR MARKS said that the film cost $600,000 and made a lot of money for MGM. Everyone wanted to do a sequel, but it never materialized. GLYNN TURNER said that SNOOP DOGG is a huge fan of the film and told TURNER how much he loved it once, when they bumped into each other at Universal Citywalk. Perhaps BONES was inspired by J.D.’S REVENGE?

There was a short break and when we returned, WILLIAM CRAIN the director of BLACULA, came to the stage and introduced his film. He said he was only 19 years old when he made it and for some reason, A.I.P. head SAMUEL ARKOFF hated him and he never worked for him again. Strange, considering the film was very well made and a huge hit for the studio. WILLIAM CRAIN also told us he handpicked all the actors in BLACULA and at one time, both BERNIE CASEY and HARRY BELAFONTE were up for the lead role. Cool.

Before the film, there were a few more trailers:

A.I.P.’s MADHOUSE – starring VINCENT PRICE.

THE INCREDIBLE TWO HEADED TRANSPLANT – they’re showing it on the 27th with THE THING WITH TWO HEADS.

THE RETURN OF COUNT YORGA – scary looking vampire movie from A.I.P.

Then…

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IT'S BLACULA SUCKA!!!

IT'S BLACULA SUCKA!!!

BLACULA is about an African Prince named Mamuwalde (WILLIAM MARSHALL), who along with his beautiful wife Luva (VONETTA McGEE), are guests of the infamous Count Dracula at his castle in the 1700’s. Dracula bites Mamuwalde, turning him into a vampire and murders his beloved bride before his very eyes. Dracula then renames him BLACULA and buries him away for eternity.

Centuries later, two of the most flamboyantly portrayed interior decorators ever, buy BLACULA’S coffin and have it shipped back to L.A. Once he rises, he starts biting necks and pining for a young woman named Tina, who’s the reincarnation of his deceased wife.

I haven’t seen BLACULA in a long time and I’ve never seen it on the big screen, until now. I didn’t realize that it is actually a retelling of the DRACULA story in every way, with only a change in location (Los Angeles instead of London) and race (African American instead of Romanian). It’s another well made blaxploitation film, with really good acting and some very scary moments. The bloody finale, where BLACULA is pursued by the cops in an abandoned warehouse is fantastic! I agree with the character Big Skillet, who refers to BLACULA as, “One weird dude, but I do dig that cape!”

It was another great night at the GRINDHOUSE. See ya next time!

A gang of degenerates anxiously await the next GRINDHOUSE.

A gang of degenerates anxiously await the next GRINDHOUSE.

The Grindhouse Film Festival presents: SUPERVAN (1977) and THE VAN (1977)

September 11, 2009

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One of the coolest ongoing events in the revival house scene is The Grindhouse Film Festival presented by Brian Quinn and Eric Caidin at the New Beverly Cinema. Twice a month, Brian and Eric present a double feature of two rare exploitation films (shown in 35mm) from the “golden era” of the grindhouses that once dotted Times Square’s 42nd Street in New York. I’ve seen so many great and not so great films, that I never would have even known about, thanks to them. Films like RAW FORCE, IMPULSE, CROCODILE, STANLEY, THE HEADLESS EYES, THE REDEEMER, ISLA: SHE WOLF OF THE S.S., VAMPIRE HOOKERS, THE MUTHERS, PSYCHO FROM TEXAS, ENCOUNTER OF THE SPOOKY KIND II, CHAINED HEAT, THE DOLL SQUAD and many more. No matter if the movies are good, bad or just cheesy enough to be fun, the grindhouse always attracts a great crowd of savvy movie freaks who are just as entertaining as the films are. Last Tuesday the boys threw an “end of the summer” double bill with two classics from the free wheelin’ 70’s, SUPERVAN and THE VAN. It was really awesome.

supervan

thevan

The evening began with the usual raffle, that was followed by a reel of vintage trailers, which included AT THE EARTH’S CORE, an amazing looking blaxploitation flick called J.D.’S REVENGE (“I WILL HAVE MY REVENGE!” exclaims J.D. the badass pimp), and THE INCREDIBLE TWO HEADED TRANSPLANT with Bruce Dern. Then it was time for our “feature presentation”…

Never fear, it's SUPERVAN!!

Never fear, it's SUPERVAN!!

Brian Quinn said that he’d been sitting on the scratchy old print of SUPERVAN for over six months now and had no idea what to expect. It begins with a crude title card thrown on with the SUPERVAN logo and then we find ourselves smack dab in the middle of the 70’s van-culture at its peak. It’s a “regional” film that looks like it was shot somewhere in the mid-west on a 16mm camera. The opening begins with a massive van convoy complete with C.B. radios and a title song that croons, “I’m riding high in my Supervan”. We meet our hero Clint, who is driving his groovy van (called MORGAN THE PIRATE) to the 2nd annual VAN FREAKOUT. But when a vicious motorcycle gang has the audacity to announce their plans to rape a young lady over the C.B. airwaves, Clint rescues the girl and unintentionally gets his prize van crushed in a junkyard while hiding from the hoodlums. Luckily the girl he rescued is the daughter of the evil corporate oil tycoon, T.B. Trenton of Trenton Oil (The oil that loves you). He plans on winning the VAN FREAKOUT competition with an amazing solar-powered custom van called VANDORA, that’s equipped with a working laser turret! VANDORA was designed by the king of car customizers GEORGE BARRIS. He’s the man responsible for the original Batmobile from the Adam West/Burt Ward Batman T.V. show, the Monkeemobile from The Monkees, The Munsters car and many others.

Vandora the amazing SUPERVAN!

George Barris and Vandora the amazing SUPERVAN!

It was a model too!

It was a model too!

Clint steals it and along with his buddy and the bosses daughter, takes it on an interstate chase that reminded me of a low budget SMOKEY AND THE BANDT (which included a young Uncle Leo from SEINFELD as a Sheriff). Once they arrive at the FREAKOUT, VANDORA sweeps the competition and the movie ends with an awesome closing credits van montage. By the way, all of the songs on the “soft” rock soundtrack are about vans.

There was a short intermission followed by trailers for CAR WASH, a sleazy 70’s sex comedy called THE POM POM GIRLS and an amazing sci-fi-ish kung fu flick called DEATH MACHINES (which I actually have on DVD and it’s awesome!).

Then came Crown International’s release of THE VAN (Brian mentioned the print was borrowed from Quentin Tarantino’s personal collection) which tells the coming of age story of our red headed “hero” Bobby and his attempts to get laid in his newly purchased customized van. Bobby works at a car wash (run by a young DANNY DeVITO in one of his first roles) where he is constantly harassed by his coworkers for not being cool. But that’s all over when he plunks down the money he’s saved up for a new, bright yellow van called THE STRAIGHT ARROW (wink, wink) equipped with a waterbed, mirrored ceiling, C.B. radio, fridge, T.V., 8 track stereo, and a toaster. Bobby cruises around pinball joints and pizza parlors, picks up a fat girl that breaks his waterbed, attempts to score with another girl (that borderlines on date rape) and drag races a bully named Dugan in his van (named THE VAN KILLER) after making it with his chick. He even tells someone to “Sit on it!”, which they do.

This double feature really transported me back to a magical 70’s world where any fad could be made into a movie! A world where gas was only 57 cents a gallon and all it took to get some lovin’ was a custom van. I loved that in both of these movies all the vans from that time period were an extension of the owners personality and had special names like VANS AM, VANTIQUATED, VANQUATIC, SPACE TRIPPER, THE FREEDOM MACHINE, HOT STUFF, STOWE AWAY, INSANITY, and HALF BREED. Also, they were all painted in bright colors, covered in thick shag carpeting and airbrushed with all kinds of stuff like unicorns, spaceships, barbarian babes, and even the flames of Hell. It was a great night and when it was over I felt almost as stoned as the people who made those movies and you know what? I was. Keep on truckin’!