February 21st, 2008

GRAND THEFT AUTO (1977) ***

Ron Howard was still riding high on the success of Happy Days when drive-in king Roger Corman approached him to star in Eat My Dust.  Howard said sure as long as he could direct this movie.  Thus started a long a prosperous directing career for the former Richie Cunningham. 

 

The plot has Howard and his best gal (Nancy Morgan from Americathon) stealing her father’s Rolls Royce so they can elope in Las Vegas.  Her jealous ex gives chase and after he crashes his car, he offers a reward of $50,000 to anyone who can run the couple off the road.  What follows is 90 straight minutes of twisted automobile metal. 

 

When you do a movie on the cheap for Corman you have to cut corners somehow and the best way to do that is good old fashioned nepotism.  Howard got his father Rance to co-write the script with him and convinced his brother Clint to take a small role.  He even managed to find a part for his television mother Marion Ross.  (Happy Days producer Garry Marshall also has a bit part.)  Howard does a good job filming the multiple crash-ups, smash-ups and pile-ups (all tightly edited together by future director Joe Dante) and keeps things moving at a steady clip. 

 

On screen, he coasts on his patented “Aw shucks” charm that he perfected way back on The Andy Griffith Show.  Familiar faces such as Don (Rock n’ Roll High School) Steele, Hoke (The Sidehackers) Howell, Paul (Piranha) Bartel, Leo (Halloween 2) Rossi, and Jim (Catalina Caper) Begg round out the colorful supporting cast. 

 

My only gripe with the film is that it’s a bit too squeaky clean (like Howard’s image), but there are a couple cheap thrills to be had, such as seeing a Rolls Royce obliterated at a demolition derby and hearing Marion Ross say “Piss off!” 

 

Grand Theft Auto isn’t the first, last, or best cross country car chase movie, but if you’re a fan of Howard (or Corman), you owe it to yourself to check it out.  Cars smash into each other, do wheelies, jump through the air, land in swimming pools and run through chicken coops.  Cars blow up, bridges blow up and fruit stands blow up.  Cars play chicken with helicopters.  You know, the usual stuff.  It’s no Dirty Mary, Crazy Larry, but Howard gets the job done. 

 

Howard went on to direct a string of made for television movies before returning to the big screen with the classic Night Shift. 

 

Steele gets the movie’s best line:  “Every time you turn around and fart, it’s news!” 

ROCKET SCIENCE (2007) ** ½

 

If you loved such high school themed independent comedies like Rushmore, Juno or Election, you may enjoy this sporadically amusing teen angst comedy.  After her debating team partner chokes during a heated debate, the overtly ambitious Ginnie (Anna Kendrick) “ferrets out” new blood to join the team.  She picks Hal Hefner (Reece Thompson), a painfully shy freshman with a mercilessly bad stutter to be her new partner.  While this choice seems borderline cruel at first, there’s method in Ginnie’s madness as she slowly tries to coax Hal out of his shell and turn him into a full fledged debater.  He ends up falling hard for her and when Ginnie transfers to another school, a devastated Hal looks to an unlikely partner and an even more improbable cure for stuttering to give it all he’s got at the debating finals. 

 

Director Jeffrey Blitz, the man behind the spelling bee documentary Spellbound, knows the ins and outs of high school competitiveness and is deftly knowledgeable of the trials of tribulations of being a teenager.  Unfortunately Blitz never makes any of his characters sympathetic enough to fully draw the audience in.  (Hal is less sympathetic and more PATHETIC.  There’s a difference.) 

 

The performances are all solid.  Thompson takes what could’ve been an annoying performance and makes Hal into a fully fleshed character.  Kendrick is particularly winning as the venomous Ginnie whose motto is “Debating is life!” and Nicholas D’Agosto is excellent in his brief, but memorable role as the debating heartthrob that has a meltdown.   Jonah (Superbad) Hill also has a pretty funny cameo as a philosophy club snob. 

 

If Blitz didn’t keep the audience at an arm’s length away from his characters, Rocket Science could’ve been another Election.  As it is, it’s a still fairly entertaining, if uneven comedy. 

DELINQUENT SCHOOL GIRLS (1975) *** ½

You know you’re in for something special when a movie stars Michael (Rocky IV, The Sidehackers, Grave of the Vampire) Pataki, Bob (Foxy Brown, Rocky III, Commando) Minor, Stephen (the gay guy from the Airplane movies) Stucker, George “Buck” (Johnny Firecloud, Video Vixens, They Live) Flower, and Sharon (Supervixens, Taboo III, Famous Ta-Ta’s 2) Kelly and it goes by at least FIVE alternate titles. 

 

Pataki, Minor and Stucker play three nutcases who escape from the “State Asylum for the Criminally Insane”.  Pataki is the ringleader of the group and does impersonations of Clark Gable, W.C. Fields and Peter Lorre.  (He also does a killer Richard Burton.)  Minor is always thinking about sex (He says things like “I want me some pussy!”, “I haven’t been this hard in a year!”, and “Seven years without it is much too long!"), and Stucker is (what else?) a “psychologically unbalanced” flaming homosexual.  After breaking into a farmer’s house so Minor can rape his wife (she doesn’t seem to mind too much), the trio head for the nearest all girls boarding school where they rape two sexy cooks (who don’t seem to mind too much).  Even though the school is on a break, there are still a few bodacious sex kittens hanging around campus who are led by the fiery redhead Greta (Kelly).  (The girls’ sole class seems to be sex education and believe me, that’s education enough for these girls.)  The perverts try to get their paws on the sexy student body, but little do they know… these girls know KUNG FU! 

 

This movie has EVERYTHING.  Excellent scenes of shock treatment therapy, wonderful images of braless jumping jacks, breathtaking underwater photography of girls in see through bathing suits, heartwarming lesbian scenes, teachers who slip their hot students a Mickey so they can get in their pants, bored housewives pleasuring themselves with vibrators, female mud wrestling, kung fu and catfights.  Oh yeah and there’s also a hypnotist who pleasures a student with a snake.  The movie also features the gigantic chestological talents of Roberta Pedon whose massive mammaries should be registered as national treasures. 

 

Though there are an adequate number of tits on display (Pedon’s should count twice), director Greg (Wanda, the Sadistic Hypnotist) Corarito more often than not relies more on wet t-shirts than the real deal.  He also focuses a little too much on the trio of crazy rapists than the actual Delinquent School Girls themselves, and commits a major cinematic sin when the teacher says, “Showers girls!” and he refuses to give us the shower scene.  Automatic half star deduction for the bit of cockteasing nonsense. 

 

But these are really minor quibbles in the larger scheme of things.  This movie is a certified drive-in classic.  It also happens to be filled with enough poetic dialogue to make Shakespeare blush.  With that I give you: 

 

THE TOP FIVE BEST LINES OF DIALOGUE FROM DELINQUENT SCHOOL GIRLS: 

 

Honorable Mention:  “It’s time to demonstrate the breaststroke, and please, no jokes!” 

 

5. “I never made it with a chick in a trance before!” 

 

4. “Grapefruit City!”

 

3. “You demented crouton!” 

 

2. “Look at all that tender gorgeous snatch!”

 

1. “A few good karate chops will show that bastard that we’re not the inferior sex, by God!” 

 

AKA:  Carnal Madness.  AKA:  Bad Girls.  AKA:  Scrubbers 2.  AKA:  The Sizzlers. 

DREAM NO EVIL (1973) **

If you thought Coleman Francis put a lot of gratuitous narration in his movies, you should check out this flick by director John (Hollywood After Dark) Hayes.  It features more scenes dubbed over by a half asleep narrator than The Atomic Brain. 

 

A disturbed orphan named Grace grows up to be an unbalanced Brooke (Legacy of Blood) Mills who works as high diver for a fake faith healer (the always great Michael Pataki) and is engaged to his boring brother (Paul Prokop).  When the father she never knew (D.O.A.’s Edmond O’Brien) dies, it leaves Grace devastated.  Lucky for her, it doesn’t take long for him to mysteriously come back to life on the embalming table and kill the mortician/pimp (!?!) played by genre favorite Marc (The Man with the Golden Gun) Lawrence.  Grace is so glad that daddy’s alive that she immediately forgives him for that little murder and takes him home with her.  Once there, he snaps out of his zombie-like state and reverts to his original self, which means he plays the squeezebox at all hours of the day.  Grace then starts up an affair with the preacher man, but daddy doesn’t like his daughter’s virginity being tainted so he kills him too.  Grace covers up papa’s murders by burying the bodies at the town dump, where the corpses start piling up.  In the end, we learn that Grace is the REAL killer when she tries to chop up her hubby with an axe.  After she’s locked up, a psychiatrist (Arthur Franz from Abbott and Costello Meet the Invisible Man) gives a Psycho-like explanation of what the audience already figured out an hour ago.   

 

While Dream No Evil has lots of interesting ideas and a handful of memorable images, it’s pretty much a mess.  The flick had a lot of potential and Hayes does what he can to hold everything together, but the film reeks of post production meddling by the producers.  Not only did those jackasses blur out the boobies to get a PG rating, they hired an inbred toddler to edit it and slapped a bunch of inexplicable narration (“Grace’s own phantom father image convinced her that fantasy is reality.”) on top of it to make things even worse. 

 

The murders are a tad on the bloodless side (again, the infernal PG rating), but there is at least one great death-by-scythe scene.  Despite moments of genuine atmosphere (like the scene where O’Brien returns to life), this is just another tame 70’s psychological horror flick.  

 

The acting is a mixed bag.  Old pros like O’Brien, Lawrence, and Franz do what they do best, and Pataki particularly shines, but Mills isn’t very convincing at playing either a sympathetic romantic lead or a deranged schizo.  And the least said about Prokop’s performance, the better.  Luckily, Pataki re-teamed with Hayes for the much better Grave of the Vampire the next year. 

 

AKA:  Now I Lay Me Down to Die.  AKA:  The Faith Healer. 

MONDO KEYHOLE (1966) * ½

Before helming such diverse cult classics as Spider Baby, Coffy and The Swinging Cheerleaders, director Jack Hill cut his teeth by co-directing this slapdash adults-only “roughie” oddity. 

 

Howard (Nick Moriarty) is a mild-mannered porn producer (he even makes porn records on 45) who has committed “the worst crime of them all… rape!”  (“They ask for it and they know it!”)  When he’s not at his office overseeing the latest bondage film, he’s driving around the city looking for his next victim.  While Howard is out being a pervert, his immensely chested wife Vicki (Adele Rein from Street of a Thousand Pleasures) gets her kicks by shooting heroin and wearing Halloween masks.  She tries to entice Howard into making love to her by doing stripteases for him while having an inner monologue (“Reach out to me!  There’s no wall here!”), but to no avail.   Howard continues to rape women in their beds, on the beach, in a field, and in a bathtub and even has nightmares of squawking topless women drowning him in a swimming pool while his wife go-go dances.  (“Danger!  Danger!”)  When Howard rapes a lesbian, her karate chopping, black belt, carpet muncher, dominatrix lover (Cathy Crowfoot) goes out for revenge.  

 

Too bad it takes her FOREVER to actually get around to it. 

 

The rape sequences aren’t very well staged and S & M scenes may seem a little tame (and goofy) for today’s standards, but at least Crowfoot looks hot in her dominatrix get-up.  

 

I’m sure this flick really wowed the raincoat crowd back in the day (there’s tons of nudity on display), but the movie is superfluously padded with unnecessary scenes of an LSD tinged masquerade party ran by a Bela Lugosi impersonator.  These irritating scenes are insipidly edited in during the film’s final reel and makes Howard’s ultimate degradation lose much of it’s intended impact.  Had Hill scrapped all this hippie party nonsense entirely and focused solely on the rape n’ revenge aspect of the film, Mondo Keyhole could’ve rivaled his later work.   

 

The film may only be a footnote in the long and varied career of Jack Hill, but connoisseurs of 60’s roughies may want to give it a shot.  Any fan of Hill will be able to spot his artistic cinematic touches, but they seem a little pretentious for a movie so cheap and disreputable. 

 

Some of Howard’s increasingly psychotic narration (“What do you want to be when you grow up, Howard?  A RAPIST!”) IS good for a laugh though, but it’s a hyper porn director with delusions of grandeur that gets the best line of the movie.  After viewing his latest work, he proclaims, “This will be a mail order masterpiece!”

THE RAW ONES (1965) ***

When the Supreme Court ruled in 1954 that nudist camp movies were NOT pornographic and were actually informative DOCUMENTARIES, it opened the floodgates for dozens of nudie movies to invade U.S. theaters.  Joe American moviegoer paid his hard earned money to see them too, not because he gave two shits about how “informative” they were, but because he wanted to see some titties on the big screen.  Despite the fact that there had been plenty of nudist camp movies before The Raw Ones premiered on New Year’s Eve, 1965, it marked a touchstone for the genre because it was the first one to show full frontal male and female nudity. 

 

Director John (Mermaids of Tiburon) Lamb and cinematographer Jack (Foxy Brown) Hill cobbled together a bunch of 16mm footage of some outgoing nudists, laid down some Tchaikovsky music and hired an anonymous narrator to inform the audience that nudists are normal people who are “protesting against man’s idiotic restrictions”.  I can pretty much guarantee you won’t be listening to a word that guy is saying though, because you’ll be on full alert Bush Patrol. 

 

The Plot:  Naked picnicking, a naked game of catch, naked sunbathing, naked jump roping, naked Solitaire, naked table tennis, naked trampoline jumping, naked shuffle boarding (a nudist camp movie staple), naked weightlifting, naked tennis, naked skateboarding (helmet laws are not enforced because that would mean you would actually have to WEAR something), skinny-dipping, naked water chicken, naked frolicking through open fields, naked baseball, naked fishing, naked archery, naked volleyball, naked watermelon washing (they actually wash the fruit, get your mind out of the gutter), naked horseshoes,  naked badminton, naked barbecuing (thank God it’s not a weenie roast), naked boating featuring multiple girls on one dingy (dingy, as in the boat, get your mind out of the gutter), naked Frisbee, naked inner-tubing, naked boogie boarding,  and what I believe is another first in nudist camp movies, naked pumpkin chunking

 

Nudists are also seen drinking Orange Crush, Pepsi and Coca-Colas, which makes me think product placement in a nudist colony is an EXCELLENT idea and I’m not quite sure why it never caught on. 

 

I applaud Hill for his stellar camerawork.  The underwater shots are impeccable and really give you an idea of the buoyancy of some of the boobies.  I especially liked the way the camera was RIGHT THERE on the waterslide shots so you got to see full-on furry beaver hurtling towards the screen at record speeds.    

 

The girls aren’t the best looking women you’ve ever seen (some of them look like they fell from the ugly tree, then the ugly tree fell on THEM), but the sheer volume of rampant nude babes more than makes up for it.  We’re talking quantity over quality here.  The one lone standout is the director’s wife, Cathy Crowfoot who looks amazing au natural. 

 

If the copious amount of female flesh on exhibit is the yin of this production, the presence of so many naked dudes is the yang. 

 

Make that WANG. 

 

I know they got to throw something in there for the ladies (and for a certain percentage of the men I suppose), but for Christ sakes already!  I’m still scarred from the scene where a small weinered guy hopped up and down incessantly on a trampoline.  I definitely could’ve done without the shots of the twelve year old kid running around bare ass naked too.  Now I wouldn’t want anyone to think that I discriminate against the elderly or anything, so all I’m going to say is that no man over the age of 70 should ever be filmed nude EVER, EVER, EVER!    

 

The quandary with any nudist camp movie is that there’s only so much someone can do buck naked (besides fuck) for 70 minutes before it gets a little redundant.  The Raw Ones is no exception.  At the 25 minute mark, the nudists start repeating themselves and start picnicking, jumping rope, jumping up and down a trampoline, etc. all over again.  The narrator’s constant droning will also wear on your nerves and his claims that nudists are productive members of society are a little hard to swallow, although we do see them helping a guy get his dune buggy out of the mud. 

 

If you’ve never seen a nudie movie before, you could do a lot worse than The Raw Ones.  Personally I’d go with either The Monster of Camp Sunshine or The Beast That Killed Women because at least they didn’t take themselves so seriously.  But as far as nudist movies passing themselves off as “legitimate” documentaries go, The Raw Ones is certainly one of the finer examples of the genre. 

 

The luscious Crawford was also in Lamb’s next film, Mondo Keyhole.