Six Other Films From Crown International Pictures That Deserved An Oscar Nomination!


An hour ago, I told you about the only Oscar nomination that was ever received by Crown International Pictures, one of the most prolific B-movie distributors of the 70s and 80s.  That nomination was for Best Original Song for Crown’s 1972 film, The Stepmother.

Here are 6 more films from Crown International Pictures that I think deserved some Oscar consideration:

The Teacher (1974)

“She corrupted the youthful morality of the entire school!” the poster screamed but actually, The Teacher was a surprisingly sensitive coming-of-age story about a relationship between a younger man and an older woman.  Jay North and Angel Tompkins both give excellent performances and Anthony James shows why he was one of the busiest character actors of the 70s.

2. The Sister In Law (1974)

John Savage has been acting for several decades.  He’s appeared in a number of acclaimed films but he’s never received an Oscar nomination.  One of his best performances was in this melancholy look at love, betrayal, and ennui in the early 70s.

3. Best Friends (1975)

One of the strangest films ever released by Crown International, Best Friends is also one of the best.  A road trip between two old friends goes terribly wrong when one of the friends turns out to be a total psycho.  This well-acted and rather sad film definitely deserves to be better-known than it is.

4. Trip With The Teacher (1975)

Zalman King for Best Supporting Actor?  Hell yeah!

5. Malibu High (1979)

Surely Kim Bentley’s performance as a high school student-turned-professional assassin deserved some sort of consideration!

6. Don’t Answer The Phone (1980)

Don’t Answer The Phone is not a particularly good movie but it certainly is effective.  It made me want to go out and get a derringer or some other cute little gun that I could carry in my purse.  That’s largely because of the performance of Nicholas Worth.  Worth plays one of the most perverse and frightening murderers of all time and Worth throws himself into the role.  It’s one of the best psycho performances of all time and certainly worthy of a Best Supporting Actor nomination.

Crown International Pictures’s Only Oscar Nomination


If you’re fan of old movies that used to play in the grindhouses or at the drive-ins, you’re familiar with the Crown International Picture logo.

This logo appeared at the start of some of the most entertaining and cheaply made exploitation films of all time.  These were movies with titles like Malibu Beach, The Teacher, Cavegirl, They Saved Hitler’s Brain, The Sidehackers, My Tutor, Trip With The Teacher, Best Friends, and The Sister-in-Law.  These films may have never been critically acclaimed but they’re still being discovered and loved by viewers today.

Crown International Pictures was founded in 1959 and ceased operations in 1992.  Over the course of 43 years, the studio only received one Oscar nomination.  That was in 1972, for Best Original Song.  Written by Sammy Fain and Paul Francis Webster, Strange Are The Ways Of Love played over the credits for The Stepmother.

In honor of both the Oscars and Crown International Picture, here is Strange Are The Ways Of Love

Cleaning Out the DVR #14: SEX & VIOLENCE, 70’S STYLE!


Lisa’s not the only person who needs to clean out their DVR around here!!

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Groundbreaking 60’s films like BONNIE & CLYDE, THE GRADUATE, THE WILD BUNCH, and MIDNIGHT COWBOY led to the complete obliteration of the Production Code, and by the sizzling 70’s it was anything goes! Low budget exploitation filmmakers benefitted most by this loosening of standards as the following quintet of movies illustrates, filled with bouncing boobs, bloody action, pot smoking, beer drinking, and hell raising:

THE MUTHERS (Dimension 1976; D; Cirio H. Santiago) – A Filipino-made “Women in Prison” Blaxploitation actioner? Yes, please! Former Playboy Playmates Jeanne Bell and Rosanne Katon, future NFL TODAY commentator Jayne Kennedy, and ex-Bond girl Trina Parks are all trapped on a coffee plantation run by the sadistic Monteiro with no chance of escape… until there is! Loaded with gore, torture, kung-fu fighting, bare breasts, a funky score, pirates (that’s right, pirates!), and a slam-bang run through the jungle – what more could you ask for?…

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Waterlogged: CATALINA CAPER (Crown International 1967)


cracked rear viewer

Beach Party movies had run their course by 1967, as AIP released their final entry in the surf cycle, THE GHOST IN THE INVISIBLE BIKINI, with Tommy Kirk  and Deborah Walley replacing Frankie and Annette , and nary a beach in sight. Crown International Pictures, AIP ‘s impoverished cousin (if one can imagine!), produced what is considered the last of the genre, CATALINA CAPER, also starring Kirk and a cast of dozens.

CATALINA CAPER is basically an lame excuse to get a bunch of young hardbodies on the beach and let ’em dance around to some dated rock music. Believe it or not, there’s a plot (though not a very good one) involving the theft of an ancient Chinese scroll masterminded by one of the teen’s con artist parents (Del Moore, Sue Casey) and a gangster trying to get ahold of it. There’s also a subplot (imagine that!) about Kirk torn between his bud’s sister (Venita Wolf) and a…

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The TSL’s Daily Horror Grindhouse: Don’t Answer The Phone (dir by Robert Hammer)


Nicholas Worth in Don't Answer The Phone

Nicholas Worth in Don’t Answer The Phone

AGCK!

As a self-described lover of grindhouse and exploitation films, I have seen my share of truly icky films.  But Don’t Answer The Phone, a 1980 mix of police procedural and serial killer horror, is in a class all by itself.  It is not only exceptionally icky but it’s distressingly effective as well.

After I watched Don’t Answer The Phone, I actually checked to make sure all the doors were locked.  Before I got into bed, I searched all the closets to make sure there wasn’t anyone hiding in there.  And, as I fell asleep, I found myself thinking that maybe I should follow the advise of both Arleigh and my sister.  Maybe it was time for me to finally get a gun of my own and learn how to use it.

Seriously, Bowman, I thought as I waited for sleep to come, you live in Texas.  It’s totally legal to carry a gun down here so you need to take advantage of the law and make you’re ready to blow any pervert losers away!  Even if you shot the wrong person, you’re cute.  The jury would never convict…

That’s the type of effect that Don’t Answer The Phone had on me.  It’s not necessarily a good film.  With one notable (and important) exception, most of the acting is terrible.  The film’s few attempts at intentional humor largely fall flat.  Even with a running time of only 94 minutes, Don’t Answer The Phone feels overlong and full of unneeded padding.  And yet, this is a very effective film.  It did freak me out, largely because it was so crude and heartless.  It strikes at the most primal fears of the viewer, that feeling that — even within the security of our own home — we may not truly be safe.

As Don’t Answer The Phone opens, Los Angeles is a city being stalked by a madman.  That, in itself, is not surprising.  Just taking a quick look at Wikipedia will reveal that Los Angeles has been home to a large number of serial killers.  In fact, if there is anything shocking about Don’t Answer The Phone, it’s the suggestion that Kirk Smith (played by Nicholas Worth) is the only serial killer in town.

Who is Kirk Smith?  He’s an overweight, bald photographer who always wears an army jacket and is obsessed with candles, body building, and strangulation.  He also enjoys calling up a local talk show host, Dr. Linsday Gale (Flo Gerrish).  (One wonders if Dr. Gale’s name was specifically meant to make the viewer think of The Wizard of Oz.)  “Hello,” he says in an outrageously fake accent, “this Ramon!”  He tells Dr. Gale that he has frequent headaches and bad urges.  When he’s not pretending to be Ramon, Kirk can usually be found staring at himself in a mirror and yelling, “Do I measure up, Dad!?”

Kirk is killing women across Los Angeles and it looks like he might never be caught because Don’t Answer The Phone features some of the most incompetent cops ever!  These are the type of cops who smirk at the victims and shoot anyone who doesn’t get on the ground fast enough.  These are the type of cops who open fire and then say, “Adios, creep.”  Civil liberties!?  BLEH, THESE COPS DON’T HAVE TIME FOR YOUR RIGHTS!  Of course, they do end up shooting and killing the only witness who can identify Kirk Smith as the murderer.  Whoops!

If there’s anything that sets Don’t Answer The Phone apart from all the other serial killer films, it’s the performance of Nicholas Worth.  Far more than the slick and erudite serial killers who dominate contemporary thrillers, Nicholas Worth is a frighteningly believable lunatic.  He’s scary because we’ve all seen his type wandering the streets.  We’ve all felt his stare linger for a few seconds too long and we’ve all had the same feeling of dread when we saw him approaching us.  Reportedly, Worth did a lot of research on actual serial killers before taking on the role of Kirk Smith and his performance is terrifying because it is so real.

It’s icky to watch but, at the same time, it do serve to remind us that there are real life Kirk Smiths out there.

Agck!  Seriously, it makes me shake just thinking about it.

I’m getting a gun…

DAtP

Embracing the Melodrama Part II #60: Burnout (dir by Graham Meech-Burkestone)


404px-BurnoutLe sigh.

In the future, when I decide to do a HUGE and impractical series of reviews, I’m going to make sure that I only include films that I’ve already seen.  Because, seriously, I added Burnout without knowing much about the film, other than it was a Crown International Film.  Eventually, I hope to be able to say that I’ve reviewed every single film released by Crown International.  I knew that I’d have to watch and review Burnout some time so why not now?

CIP_Logo

Before adding the film to my list of films to review, I did at least read a synopsis of the film’s plot.  Here’s what it says on the back of Mill Creek’s Savage Cinema box set:

“A trouble teenager, whose sole desire is to become a great drag racer, almost ruins his own dreams when he spurns his dad’s racing advice.  But support from his girlfriend enables him to prove his abilities to the racing world.”

Hey, that sounds really melodramatic, doesn’t it?  (In fact, it sounds kinda like the plot of the film At Any Price…)  That’ll be perfect for a series called Embracing the Melodrama, Part II.  Let’s watch it right now…

Well, don’t bother.  Burnout is basically 75 minutes of stock footage with 15 minutes of bad actors mouthing really bad dialogue.  Whenever we watch the races, we hear an announcer saying stuff like, “This is really exciting!” or “This is his first time to race!” or “OH MY GOD!  THIS IS REALLY FREAKING EXCITING!” (okay, I may have imagined that last one) and you have to be thankful for the announcer because otherwise, you’d never know who actually won anything.  This is one of the worst acted, worst edited, worst directed, worst written films that I’ve ever seen.  And, after countless posts in which I’ve defended their films, I have to announce that this is probably a strong contender for the worst film to ever be released by Crown International.

Bleh!  Enough of this review.  Burnout is 90 minutes of my life that I will never get back.  I refuse to spend any more time thinking about it.

 

Embracing the Melodrama Part II #52: Best Friends (dir by Noel Nosseck)


best-friends-lobby-3So, this is kind of a weird one.

If the 1975 film Best Friends is known for anything, it’s probably the poster above.  As you can see, it features two women, being watched over by a shadowy group of Native Americans.  That tagline reads: “She became the ravaged victim of a century of revenge!”

Now, it’s often said that the above image has absolutely nothing to do with the actual film.  That’s actually not quite true.  There is a very brief scene where a woman and her boyfriend are at a bar and the boyfriend goads her into doing an impromptu striptease.  Sitting in the audience are some glowering American Indians.  There is a minor confrontation but otherwise, that’s it.  Nobody becomes “the ravaged victim of a century’s revenge.”  Instead, it was simply a marketing plot, used to draw audiences to a film that might otherwise have struggled to have been seen.

Perhaps not surprisingly, Best Friends is a Crown International Production.

CIP_LogoAs for what Best Friends actually is — well, it’s not easy to say.  It’s a very odd and very dark film, one that deals with characters who are ambiguous in more ways than one.  It’s one of those films that would be forgotten if it hadn’t, by chance, been included in a few dozen Mill Creek box sets and yet, from what I can tell, it has made an impression on just about everyone who has seen it.

In many ways, it’s a film that could only have been made in the 1970s.  Pat (Doug Chapin) and Jesse (Richard Hatch) served in Vietnam together and have remained close friends in America.  Jesse is serious and centered.  Pat is wild and impulsive.  Jesse has rented an RV and plans to drive across America with his fiancée, Kathy (Susanne Benton).  Pat suddenly announces that he’s engaged to and maybe he and Jo Ella (Ann Noland) could join Jesse and Kathy on their trip.  Even though Kathy would probably rather not have to share the RV with Pat’s old air force friend and his overly unstable girlfriend, Jesse readily agrees.

Now, I know this all sounds like the setup for a celebration of bromance but Best Friends actually has something else on its mind.  From the minute that Jesse and Pat get in that RV, it becomes obvious that they don’t have as much in common as they once did.  Jesse has matured.  He’s looking forward to the future and he wants to spend his time with Kathy.  Pat, however, is still obsessed with the past and wants to spend all of his time with Jesse.

As they drive across the country, Pat’s behavior starts to become more and more obsessive.  He cruelly breaks off his engagement with Jo Ella and then appears to be personally insulted when Jesse doesn’t do the same with Kathy.  He even buys a motorcycle so that he can ride behind, in front of, or next to the RV, as if the idea of even being inside of Jesse’s domesticated world would contaminate him.

And, since this is a Crown International Picture, Pat isn’t hesitant about using violence to try to keep Jesse and Kathy apart…

So, what is Pat’s problem?  A lot of reviewers have suggested that Pat is in love with Jesse and they’re probably right.  What’s interesting is that, consider that he’s the film’s nominal hero, Jesse isn’t that sympathetic of character.  If anything, he comes across as being a wimp, a guy who says he loves his fiancée but still won’t stand up for her.  As the film progresses, Jesse’s inherent impotence becomes both more obvious and more annoying.  By the end of the film, after all of the tragedy has played out, you can’t help but feel that Jesse and Pat don’t deserve any better than each other.

Best Friends is a deliberately paced and rather haunting little film.  It’s definitely one of the best of the many films to come out of Crown International Pictures.