A Movie A Day #87: Free Grass (1969, directed by Bill Brame)

As everyone surely knows, before they appeared as Dr. Lawrence Jacoby and Benjamin Horne on Twin Peaks, Russ Tamblyn and Richard Beymer co-starred in West Side Story.  Tamblyn played Riff, the leader of the Jets.  Beymer played his best friend, Tony, who fell in love with Natalie Wood.  West Side Story is a classic that won several Oscars.  What is not as well known is that, in between West Side Story and Twin Peaks, Beymer and Tamblyn co-starred in one other movie, a hunk of psychedelic cheese called Free Grass.

By the late 60s, both Beymer and Tamblyn had tired of their clean-cut images and, like their characters in Free Grass, had become card-carrying members of the Hollywood counter-culture.  Beymer plays Dean, a motorcycle-riding drop-out from conventional society.  Dean meets and falls in love with buxom, mini-skirted Karen (played by Lana Wood, younger sister of Natalie).  When a riot breaks out on the sunset strip, Dean punches a cop.  With the Man now looking for him, Dean needs some quick cash so that he and Karen can escape to Dayton, Ohio.

(Dayton, Ohio?)

That’s where Russ Tamblyn comes in.  Tamblyn plays Dean’s friend, Link.  Link works for a drug kingpin named Phil (played not very convincingly by Casey Kasem, of all people).  Phil is willing to pay Dean $10,000 if he smuggles several pounds worth of grass across the Mexican border.  Dean agrees but soon finds himself being pursued by two narcotics agents, played by Jody McCrea and Lindsay Crosby (sons of Joel McCrea and Bing Crosby, respectively).  Because Dean is not willing to commit murder, Link plots to kill him.  But first, Link doses Dean with LSD, which leads to the de rigueur psychedelic 60s light show.

Slow-moving and ineptly directed, Free Grass is for fans of the 1960s counterculture only.  Russ Tamblyn provides the movie with what little energy it has but Richard Beymer apppears to be just as uncomfortable here as he was in West Side Story and Casey Kasem shows why he was better known as a DJ than an actor.  Lana Wood does look good in a miniskirt, though.  Otherwise, Free Grass shows why both Tamblyn and Beymer grew so frustrated with Hollywood that they were both in semi-retirement when David Lynch revitalized their careers by casting them on Twin Peaks.

Horror Film Review: The Car (dir by Elliot Silverstein)



— Captain Wade Parent (James Brolin) in The Car (1977)

Yes, that’s right!  The car is in the garage and it’s hunting for blood!

The Car is a pretty stupid movie that doesn’t really work but at least it’s enjoyably stupid.  From the minute I started watching this movie, I knew that the only way I could recommend it would be if James Brolin shouted, “The car is in the garage!” at some point.  When he did, I had to cheer a little.  I love being able to recommend a movie.

The Car takes place in the small desert town of Santa Ynez.  Nothing much ever seems to happen in Santa Ynez, which perhaps explains why the police force is so large.  (Why wouldn’t you want to be a police officer in a town with no crime?  It wouldn’t be a very demanding job.)  Sheriff Everett Peck (John Marley) keeps the peace and sends his time talking about how much he hates bullies.  Wade Parent (James Brolin) is his second-in-command and has a 70s pornstache.  Wade’s best friend is Deputy Luke Johnson (Ronny Cox), a recovering alcoholic with impressive sideburns.  And then there’s a few dozen other cops.  Seriously, this tiny town has a HUGE police force.

One day, however, the police finally get something to do.  A black Lincoln Continental has suddenly appeared, stalking the roads around the town.  It doesn’t have a licence plate and the windows are tinted a dark red so it’s impossible to see who — if anyone — is driving.  Stranger still, the car’s doors have no handles.  When the car does show up, it seems to appear out of nowhere and once it’s run someone over, it seems to vanish just as quickly.

When the car first appears, it runs down two cyclists.  A few hours later, it kills an obnoxious hippie hitchhiker (John Rubinstein).  The only witness was alcoholic wife beater Amos Clements (R.G. Armstrong).  When Amos goes to the police, the car tries to run him over as well but instead, it ends up killing Sheriff Peck.

Now, Wade is in charge and he has to do something about the car.  Unfortunately, Wade’s girlfriend, Lauren (Kathleen Lloyd), made the mistake of screaming insults at the car when the car attempted to run down the school marching band.  Now, the car is stalking her.  Meanwhile, Luke is convinced that the car is being driven by none other than devil.  Wade says that’s impossible.  Luke points out that the car refuses to drive through consecrated ground.

And eventually, the car does show up in the garage…

The Car is one of the stupider of the many Jaws ripoffs that I’ve seen.  You’ll be rooting for the car through the entire film, which is good since the car kills nearly everyone in Santa Ynez.  (If any of them were likable, The Car wouldn’t as much fun to watch.)  It’s dumb but the film does have an appropriately silly ending and James Brolin does get to yell, “The car is in the garage!”

So, there is that.