Drive-In Saturday Night 3: MACON COUNTY LINE (AIP 1974)/RETURN TO MACON COUNTY (AIP 1975)


cracked rear viewer


Yee-haw! Southern Fried Exploitation was box office gold during the 1970’s, a  genre that usually had one or more of the following elements: race cars, moonshine, redneck sheriffs, scantily clad country girls, shotguns, and/or Burt Reynolds .  One of the foremost practitioners of this art was Max Baer, namesake son of the heavyweight boxer and erstwhile Jethro Bodine of TV’s THE BEVERLY HILLBILLIES, who scored a surprise hit when he produced, wrote, and costarred in 1974’s MACON COUNTY LINE.

The story’s set in the 50’s, complete with some vintage tunes on the soundtrack (The Chords’ “Sh-Boom”, Laverne Baker’s “Jim Dandy”, Big Joe Turner’s “Corrine, Corrina”). “The story is true”, reads a pre-credits scrawl, “only the names have been changed” (Actually, the story was concocted by Baer and director Richard Compton, but what the hey…). Brothers Chris and Wayne Dixon (played by brothers Alan and Jesse Vint ) are a pair…

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30 Days of Noir #10: Roses are Red (dir by James Tinling)


As the 1947 film, Roses Are Red, begins, Robert A. Thorne (Don Castle) has just been elected to the office of district attorney.

Now, being the horror fan that I am, the thing that I immediately noticed was that the new district attorney had the exact same name as the character played by Gregory Peck in The Omen.  However, Roses Are Red has nothing to do with the son of Satan or the end of the world.  Instead, it’s just a briskly paced tale of swapped identity.

Robert A. Thorne is not just a brilliant lawyer.  He’s also an example of that rare breed, an honest politician.  He ran on a platform of reform and that’s what he’s intending to pursue now that he’s been elected.  As he tells his girlfriend, journalist Martha McCormick (Peggy Knudsen), cleaning up this country isn’t going to be easy but he’s determined to do it.  And the first step is going to be taking down the local mob boss, Jim Locke (Edward Keane).

The wheelchair-bound Jim Locke is a man who prefers to stay in the safety of his penthouse, where he can feed his fish and give orders to his subordinates, all of whom have names like Duke (Charles McGraw), Knuckle (Jeff Chandler), Buster (Paul Guilfoyle), and Ace (Douglas Fowley).  However, his man on the police force, Lt. Rocky Wall (Joe Sawyer), has warned him that this new district attorney might not respond to usual combination of bribes and intimidation.  That’s not good news because there are men who might be willing to testify against Locke in return for a shorter prison sentence.

However, things start to look up when none other than Robert A. Thorne shows up at Locke’s penthouse and says that the honesty bit was all a sham and that he wants to be on Locke’s payroll.  However, Locke soon figures out that he’s not talking to Thorne.  Instead, he’s talking to Don Carney (also played by Don Castle), a career criminal who has recently been released from prison and who just happens to look exactly like Robert Thorne!

Locke and Don come up with a plan that seems foolproof.  What if Knuckle kidnaps Thorne and holds him hostage for a few days?  During that time, Don can study Thorne and learn how to perfectly imitate all of his movements and expressions.  Once the two men are absolutely indistinguishable, Knuckle will murder Thorne and then Don will take his place.

Knuckle manages to kidnap Thorne with absolutely no trouble.  The police, under the prodding of Lt. Wall, announce that Thorne has obviously run off to avoid dealing with the local gangsters.  Don starts the process of studying Thorne but it turns out that the district attorney has a few tricks of his own….

With a running time of only 67 minutes, Roses are Red doesn’t waste any time jumping into its somewhat implausible plot.  Fortunately, the film is so short and quickly paced that most viewers won’t really have time to worry about whether or not the film’s plot actually makes any sense.  This is an entertaining, low-budget film noir, featuring a host of memorable performances and all of the hard-boiled dialogue that you could hope for.  Don Castle does a good job playing both the sleazy Don Carney and the upright Robert A. Thorne.  History nerds like me will immediately notice that, with his mustache and his slicked back hair, Castle bears a distinct resemblance to former Manhattan D.A. and two-time presidential candidate, Thomas E. Dewey.

All in all, Roses are Red is an enjoyable film for fans of old school gangster noir.  Check it out below:

 

A True Innovator Gets His Due In “Steranko : The Self-Created Man”


Ryan C.'s Four Color Apocalypse

Who better than a multi-talented, groundbreaking, artistic visionary to provide the definitive analysis of — a multi-talented, groundbreaking, artistic visionary?

The answer is as obvious as the question itself, I suppose, and it’s for that reason that James Romberger’s just-released (by means of his own Ground Zero Books self-publishing imprint) Steranko : The Self-Created Man stands out immediately as the authoritative work on the art and legacy of its subject — the iconoclastic, in many respects enigmatic, Jim Steranko : carny escape artist, comics innovator, cinematic conceptualizer, frankly peerless genre-novel cover artist, trailblazing publisher, and raconteur par excellence.

Not that every aspect of the man whose own “real-life” exploits formed the basis of Jack Kirby’s legendary Mister Miracle character comes in for equal treatment in this slim, easily-digestible volume, mind you : this is a book makes no pretenses toward being an absolutely comprehensive biography, nor would such…

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Hollywood Owns Us All : Jordan Jeffries’ “The Complete Matinee Junkie : Five Years At The Movies”


Ryan C.'s Four Color Apocalypse

For more years than I care to admit, I was a compulsive moviegoer. I can kid myself and say it was all in pursuit of material for my Trash Film Guru blog (still a going concern, although now only updated a couple/few times a month as opposed to all the fucking time), but who do I think I’m fooling? The simple truth of the matter is that I was hooked on the entire experience of heading out to the theater, micro-analyzing whatever film I happened to be seeing, and then coming home and cranking out a review for the edification of whoever happened to be reading, as well as for myself. The bus or train ride home was where I’d get my thoughts together and begin to plan out both what I was going to say and how I was going to say it, and in time I began…

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Music Video of the Day: Devil Inside by INXS (1988, directed by Joel Schumacher)


Even if you did not already know it, you could probably guess who directed this video.  Everything from the back lighting to the color filters to the fog machine to the leather jackets and the gang of shirtless body builders identifies this video as being the work of Joel Schumacher.

This video, which was filmed in Balboa, California, was made during Schumacher’s Lost Boys/Flatliners phase.  His infamous Batman films were still several years away.  INXS guitarist Kirk Pengilly has gone on record as disliking this video because he felt that, unlike the other videos that INXS was doing at the time, it was “too American.”  He was probably right.  The video’s mix of strippers, bikers, yuppies, and rent boys feels more appropriate for a film adaptation of a Bret Easton Ellis short story than an INXS song.  Even if it isn’t an ideal INXS video, Devil Inside is still probably one of the better entries in Joel Schumacher’s filmography.  If I have to choose, I will always pick this video over watching Batman and Robin.

With the video’s help, Devil Inside was one of INXS’s most popular songs in America, reaching the number two spot on the Billboard Hot 100.  By comparison, it peaked at #6 in the band’s native Australia and only reached #47 in the UK.