The TSL’s Grindhouse: World Gone Wild (dir by Lee H. Katzin)

“World Gone Wild!?  What’s that about?”

Don’t ask me.  I just watched the movie and I’m not particularly sure what the point of it all was.  Released in 1987, World Gone Wild is one of those films that was made to capitalize on the post-apocalypse boom of the 70s and 80s.  Basically, imagine a Mad Max film that sucks and you’ll have a pretty good idea of what World Gone Wild is like.

There’s been a nuclear war.  Civilization has collapsed and now, there are just tiny outposts of humanity who are trying to survive.  It hasn’t rained in decades.  Old-timer Ethan (Bruce Dern) is in charge of a town called Lost Wells.  He remembers what rain was like and he also remembers what rock music used to sound like, too.  As for Lost Wells, it’s one of those dreary little desert communities that always tend to pop up in movies like this.  Angie (Catherine Mary Stewart) teaches the community’s children in an abandoned school bus.  They have a bunch of books on etiquette.  One little girl can recite every word ever written by Emily Post.  That gets annoying fast.  Emily Post didn’t live on a school bus in the desert.

That etiquette doesn’t do much good when it comes to protecting Lost Wells from Derek Abernathy (Adam Ant), a cult leader who dresses in all-white and who wants to take control of Lost Wells away from Ethan.  (In a somewhat clever twist, it turns out that Ethan learned how to become a cult leader by reading a book about Charles Manson.)  Knowing that the majority of the people in his town are too obsessed with Emily Post to fight off Derek and his army, Ethan recruits a group of mercenaries led by George Landon ( who is played by Michael Pare, who looks like he was absolutely miserable while shooting this movie).  George and his men agree to protect Lost Wells from Derek and, in the process, they regain some of their lost humanity and they start to believe in the possibility of rain.  Or something like that.  Fortunately, one of George’s mercenaries is played by the supercool character actor Anthony James.  He doesn’t get to do much but hey, it’s still Anthony James and Bruce Dern in the same movie!  Yay!

For a film called World Gone Wild, this is a strangely low-key affair.  Even the most unimpressive of Mad Max rip-offs will usually have an exciting car chase or two.  At the very least, there’s usually a big battle where people sacrifice their lives for the future of humanity.  In World Gone Wild, the mercenaries pretty much just go to Lost Wells and then wait for Derek to come back.  And when Derek returns, there’s a few explosions and some gunfire but that’s pretty much it.  Neither side really puts up much of a fight, which leads me to wonder if Derek really even cared about Lost Wells.

On the plus side, the film has got Bruce Dern, doing his wild-eyed old-timer bit.  That’s always fun to watch and, if nothing else, Dern appears to be having fun in this movie.  At the very least, he’s having more fun that Michael Pare and Catherine Mary Stewart, both of whom seem to spend the majority of the movie looking for a way to make a quick escape.  And I suppose the film does win some novelty points for casting Adam Ant as the main villain, even though Derek ultimately turns out to be not much of a threat.

In the end, World Gone Wild‘s greatest strength is Bruce Dern.  He’ll make you believe in the rain again.

The TSL’s Grindhouse: Bad Georgia Road (dir by John Broderick)

This 1977 film is, for the most part, set in Alabama so I don’t know why it opens with a shot of a car driving down a country road while someone on the soundtrack sings about running moonshine down a “bad Georgia road.”  Then again, I’ve been to both Alabama and California and it’s pretty obvious that, while the film may be set in the former, it was filmed in the latter.  Those hills and mountains in the background definitely belong more to Hollywood than anywhere in the South.

As for the film itself, it’s about Molly Golden (Carol Lynley), a spoiled New York fashion designer who inherits an Alabama farm from an uncle that she barely knew.  When Molly finds out that the land is worth $100,000, she promptly quits her job and moves to Alabama, accompanied by her friend and assistant, Larch (John Kerry and no, not that politician with the private plane).  Molly is planning on selling the land and then heading back north with her money.  Unfortunately, it turns out that her uncle died owing everyone in the county money so, as a result, his farm is worthless and Molly is now in debt.

What is Molly to do?  Fortunately, her uncle’s two farmhands — Leroy (Gary Lockwood, who once co-starred in 2001: A Space Odyssey) and Arthur (Royal Dano) — are onhand to explain to her that her uncle was a moonshiner.  Molly decides to become a moonshiner, too!  Her plan is for Leroy and Arthur to do all the work and for her to make all the money.

While all of this is going on, Molly is also falling for Leroy.  She doesn’t want to admit because she’s a sophisticated New Yorker while Leroy is a redneck slob.  This leads to some conflict between the two of them, as she’s always talking down to Leroy and trying to deny that she’s totally in love with him.  Eventually, in a deeply uncomfortable scene (all the more so because the films attempts to play it for laughs), Leroy literally forces himself on her and Molly realizes that she could be totally happy runnin’ moonshine with a barely literate hick.

I’m a Southern girl and, perhaps even more importantly, I’m enough a country girl that I usually enjoy a good moonshine and car chase film.  And Bad Georgia Road gets off to a good start with an enjoyable chase scene, even if the road that the cars are roaring down is clearly located on the West Coast instead of the Deep South.  But things go off the rails as soon as Molly and Larch show up in Alabama.  What there is of a plot plays out at a painfully slow pace and there’s absolutely zero romantic chemistry between Gary Lockwood and Carol Lynley.  On the plus side, Royal Dano is enjoyable eccentric as Arthur, an old-timer who may not be educated but who knows everything that needs to be known about both the Bible and moonshine.

Bad Georgia Road is the type of 70s film that was specifically made to play in Southern drive-ins, where audiences would undoubtedly appreciate the film’s portrait of a clueless Yankee getting outsmarted by a bunch of country folk.  (For me and probably most other people, that’s actually the main appeal of the moonshine genre.)  But even if you think that Molly is a totally smug and self-righteous New Yorker, she still deserves better than to get stuck with Leroy, a man who looks like he probably reeks of chicken feed and spilled beer.  Especially if you’ve seen his personable performances in films like Model Shop and 2001, it’s hard not to feel bad for Gary Lockwood while watching this film.  What did that bad Georgia road do to him?

6 Classic Trailers For May 31st, 2022

The Delta Force (1986, directed by Menahem Golan)

93 years ago, on this date, Menahem Golan was born in Israel.  After serving in the Israeli Air Force, Golan would attend the Old Vic Theater School in London before returning to Israel and launching his legendary career in film.  With his cousin, Yoram Globus, and using Roger Corman as both a mentor and a inspiration, Golan would go on to producer and direct some of the most successful films in Israeli history.  Eventually, Golan and Globus would purchase Cannon Films and would be responsible for some of the greatest (in a fashion) films of the 80s.

Though Golan was best-known as a producer, he never stopped directing.  Today, on what would have been his birthday, Lisa Marie’s Favorite Grindhouse Trailers presents 6 trailers for 6 Golan films!

  1. Lepke (1975)

After finding great success in Israel, Golan first attempted to break into the American market with this biopic about the head of the Mafia’s Murder, Inc., Louis “Lepke” Buchalter.  Though the budget was low, Golan managed to get a name — in this case, Tony Curtis — to play the lead role.  As you can tell, the trailer wanted to make sure that you knew that this film was about Lepke.

2. Enter the Ninja (1981)

This was, I think, the first film that Golan directed after buying Cannon Films.  How great is Enter the Ninja?  It stars Franco Nero as a ninja!  Seriously, you don’t get much greater than that.  Anyway, as I think I’ve stared on this site before, Enter the Ninja is a lot of fun and Franco Nero was the sexiest ninja of the 80s.

3. The Delta Force (1986)

Chuck Norris was a Cannon mainstay and it seems appropriate that he starred in The Delta Force, a film that was very important to Golan.  The Delta Force was essentially a remake of an 1977’s Operation Thunderbolt, an Israeli film that earned Golan his only Oscar nominations when it was nominated for Best Foreign Language Film.  The Delta Force did not receive any Oscar nominations but it has a legion of fans.  Our own Jedediah Leland has frequently described this film as being the greatest ever made.  I don’t know if I’d go that far but still, it is always satisfying to see Chuck blow up the bad guys at the end of the movie.

4. Mack the Knife (1989)

Menahem Golan directs a musical!  Unfortunately, this film has never received a proper DVD or Blu-ray release.  Though it was a Cannon production, Golan and Globus had a falling out (one that was, at least partially, caused by Golan spending money on films like Mack The Knife) and Golan ended up distributing this film himself.  I find the trailer to be intriguing.  The film itself is on YouTube so I’ll watch it someday …. maybe.

5. Hit The Dutchman (1992)

Much like Lepke, this film is about a real-life gangster.  In this case, the gangster was Dutch Schultz.  Interestingly enough, the trailer suggest that Al Capone was active in New York whereas everyone knows that, though Capone did get his start in New York, he didn’t become a prominent gangster until he relocated to Chicago.

6. Crime and Punishment (2002)

Finally, this adaptation of the great novel was a bit of passion project for Golan.  He filmed it in Russia in 1993 but, because of financial difficulties, it was not given a release until 2002.

The TSL’s Grindhouse: The Incredible Melting Man (dir by William Sachs)

What goes up must come down
What goes ’round must come ’round
What’s been lost must be found

As the song says, what goes up must go down.  The 1977 film, The Incredible Melting Man, is about a man who went up and then came back down and …. AGCK!  What a mess!

The Incredible Melting Man opens with the launch of the first manned spaceflight to Saturn.  That’s right, Saturn.  The film takes place in the 70s, when mankind was still lucky to just be able to make it to the Moon and back.  But somehow, this rocket and its three passengers are going to fly all the way to Saturn, land, and then return to Earth.  And speaking of landing, how exactly do you land on a planet that doesn’t have a solid surface?  And, even more importantly, why do all of the shots of Saturn look like the sun?  How come there aren’t any rings?  WHAT IS GOING ON!?  Could it be that the rocket went off track and went to the sun instead?  It’s possible, I suppose.  Mistakes cannot be avoided, much like a spinning wheel turning around.

Anyway, the rocket eventually returns from Saturn or the sun or wherever it went.  Unfortunately, most of the crew is dead.  The only survivor is Steve West (played by Alex Rebar).  Apparently, West was so physically strong that he was able to survive whatever killed the other astronauts.  Unfortunately, West was still infected with Saturn microbes and now he’s slowly melting.  Steve doesn’t react well to that news so he escapes from the hospital and goes on a poorly-defined rampage.  He kills a nurse.  He rips the head off a fisherman.  He kills two old people who were trying to steal oranges.  Steve loses an eye.  His arm falls off.  He leaves behind a trail a radioactive goo.  Apparently, Steve has to consume human flesh to slow down the melting process but make no mistake, there’s no way he’s not going to end a puddle of goo.

Steve’s friend, Dr. Ted Nelson (Burr DeBenning), decides to try to track down Steve so that he can get Steve to stop eating people and just melt away in peace.  Ted can’t even tell the local authorities what he’s doing because that information is classified and Ted’s boss is like a total jerk.  Ted does tell his wife, Judy (Anne Sweeny).  Judy and Ted then get into an argument because Judy forgot to buy crackers the last time she went to the grocery store.  Some may scoff that the lengthy and not very relevant cracker discussion was included just to pad this film’s running time but I think it adds a level of reality to the proceedings.  People like crackers, even when they’re looking for a friend who is melting.

Anyway, The Incredible Melting Man is a weird little movie but I always kind of enjoy it.  As played by Burr DeBenning, Dr. Ted Nelson is one of the least likable heroes to ever show up in a movie.  He always seems to be annoyed about everything.  Even when Steve West is killing people, Ted mostly just seems to be annoyed by the fact that he’s having to go outside to deal with it.  Fortunately, Ted’s unlikability makes it fun to watch as absolutely nothing goes right for him over the course of the film.  Ted is beyond surly and Steve is beyond melty.  As bad as most of the dialogue and the acting may be, the melting man makeup is actually really effective and Alex Rebar does about as good a job as anyone cast as a melting man could.  Let’s give this one two and a half star and wonder how many people in 1977 saw it on a double bill with Saturday Night Fever.

The TSL’s Grindhouse: Fast Company (dir by David Cronenberg)

Released in 1979, Fast Company is a Canadian film about fast cars and the fast-living people who drive them.  Lonnie Johnson (William Smith) is a veteran drag racer who is so good at his job that his nickname is “Lucky Man.”  He rarely loses a race.  He’s never without an adoring fan or two, though he always remains loyal to his girlfriend, Sammy (Claudia Jennings).  Lonnie is so lucky that, even when one of his cars explodes, he walks away without even a scratch.

Lonnie and his protégé, Billy (Nicholas Campbell), are being sponsored by Fast Company, an international oil consortium.  The money is okay but Lonnie is getting old and he would like to step back and spend some more quality time with Sammy.  Unfortunately, the team boss is Phil Adamson (John Saxon) and the viewers knows that Phil is a bad guy because he’s played by John Saxon and, instead of driving to the races, he pilots his own private plane.  When Lonnie starts to rebel against Phil’s management, Phil schemes to not only replace him and Billy with rival driver Gary Black (Cedric Smith) but he also plots to repossess Lonnie’s prized car!

Okay, so it’s kind of a silly and predictable film.  In fact, there’s really only two reasons why Fast Company is remembered today.  

One is because it was the last film to feature B-movie star Claudia Jennings before her death in a traffic accident. Jennings was nicknamed the “Queen of the B movies” and, over the course of her brief career, appeared in a lot of films about fast cars.  She gives a likable performance as Sammy, even if the film’s script doesn’t really give her much to do.

Secondly, this film was directed by David Cronenberg.  This was Cronenberg’s first time to direct a film that he hadn’t written.  This was his first job as a “director for hire” but, interestingly enough, it was while directing this film that Cronenberg first worked with some of his most important future collaborators, including cinematographer Mark Irwin and actor Nicholas Campbell.  Cronenberg directed Fast Company in between Rabid and The Brood and Fast Company might as well take place in a different universe from either of those films.  To be honest, there’s not much about this film that would lead anyone to suspect that it had been directed by Cronenberg if they hadn’t already seen his name in the credits.  Cronenberg’s signature style is really only evident when the camera lingers over the scenes of the mechanics working on the cars.  In those scenes, there’s a hint of the Cronenberg that everyone knows, the Cronenberg who is fascinated by both the relationship between man and machine and how things work inside the body of both the driver and the car.

For the most part, Fast Company is a typical 70s racing film, one that was made for drive-in audiences and which makes no apologies for that fact.  (Nor should it.)  There’s a lot of shots of denim-clad Canadians cheering as their favorite driver crosses the finish line.  William Smith brings a world-weary dignity to the role of Lonnie Johnson but, while John Saxon is always fun to watch, Phil Adamson is so evil that he threatens to throw the tone of the film out of whack.  The light-hearted scenes of Lonnie, Billy, and head mechanic Elder (Don Francks) don’t always seem to belong in the same movie with scenes of John Saxon scheming to cheat and risk the lives of his drivers.  

In the end, though, the important thing is that the cars are fast and so is this quickly paced movie.  I’m enough of a country girl that I have to admit that I have a weakness for fast cars that leave a cloud of dust behind them.  On that level, I enjoyed the film and really, that’s the only level that matters when it comes to a film like Fast Company.

6 Classic Trailers For May 13th, 2022 (RIP, Fred Ward)

Originally, I was going to devote this latest edition of Lisa Marie’s Favorite Grindhouse Trailers to all of the Friday the 13th films but then I heard the sad news that the great character actor Fred Ward had passed away at the age of 79.  Needless to say, I changed my plans.  There will be many Friday the 13ths but there was only one Fred Ward.

Fred Ward lived a life that could have been a movie.  He ran away from home at a young age.  He spent three years in the Air Force.  He spent some time as a boxer.  He worked as a lumberjack in Alaska.  He worked as a cook.  He worked as a janitor.  He spent some time in Rome, dubbing Italian films for the American market.  Much like Lance Henriksen, someone from Fred Ward’s tough background may have seemed like an unlikely actor but he proved himself to be one of our most memorable.  Ward brought an authenticity to even the wildest of parts.  He was a smart actor who could play dumb and, by most accounts, a down-to-Earth nice guy who could be totally intimidating on screen.  He was one of the best.  Here are 6 Fred Ward trailers.

  1. Time Rider (1983)

After appearing in a few supporting roles (most memorably as a trigger-happy redneck in Southern Comfort), Fred Ward had his first starring role in Time Rider.  In this film, Ward plays a dirt bike rider who travels through time.

2. Remo Williams: The Adventure Begins (1985)

After playing tragic astronaut Gus Grissom in 1983’s The Right Stuff, Ward was cast as Remo Williams in Remo Williams: The Adventure Begins.  Ward performed all of his own stunts and, if the film had been a success, he would have had a chance to be an American James Bond.  Unfortunately, Remo Williams bombed at the box office and was only later appreciated by fans of action cinema.

3. Tremors (1990)

Perhaps the most beloved of all of Fred Ward’s films, this horror comedy featured Ward, Kevin Bacon, and a bunch of killer worms.  What could have been a standard B-movie was elevated by a witty script, energetic direction, and Bacon and Ward’s playful performances.  The way that Ward and Bacon bounced dialogue off of each other was almost as fun as all the monster mayhem.

4. Miami Blues (1990)

The same year that Tremors came out, Ward co-starred with Alec Baldwin and Jennifer Jason Leigh in Miami Blues, a film that showed all three of those performers at their best.

5. Cast a Deadly Spell (1991)

In this film, which was made for HBO, Fred Ward plays a role that was perfect for him.  He’s a tough, hard-boiled P.I. working the mean streets of Los Angeles in 1948.  The catch?  In this version of 1948, everyone uses magic!  This is a fun movie and I recommend it to everyone.

6.  Full Disclosure (2001)

Even though Ward’s career as a leading man slowed down a bit in recent years, he still appeared in movies and often, he was the best (any maybe only) reason to watch them.  I’ve never seen Full Disclosure but if I ever do track it down, it will be because of Fred Ward.

Fred Ward, R.I.P.


The TSL’s Grindhouse: Avengement (dir by Jesse V. Johnson)

I’m not really sure if “Avengement” is actually a word but, regardless, that’s what Cain Burgess is determined to get.  AVENGEMENT!

Martial artist Scott Adkins plays Cain in this 2019 British film.  When we first meet Cain, he’s in prison but that quickly changes once he manages to escape.  Cain heads to a pub, one that’s owned by his brother, Lincoln (Craig Faibrass).  After he’s taken everyone in the pub hostage, we learn about how Cain not only came to be a prisoner but also how he ended up with some rather prominent facial scars.  It turns out that Cain likes to tell a story and, for whatever reason, the gangsters are willing to sit around and listen.  Through the use of flashbacks, we see how Cain went from being an innocent martial artist to being the most feared man in prison.  We see how he learned to kill and how not even getting acid thrown in his face could slow him down.  Cain’s a scary dude and he’s out for revenge!  Or avengement!

Of course, we also can’t help but notice that a lot of Cain’s adventures feel as if they’ve been lifted from other British crime films.  The talkative gangsters bring to mind the films of Guy Ritchie.  A lengthy chase scene owes more than a little to the opening on Trainspotting.  Even the fight in the pub owes a bit to the finale of Shaun of the Dead.  It’s all a bit familiar but then again, that’s part of the appeal of the modern British crime thriller.  We watch these films specifically for the posh villains and the pub fights and the often indecipherable dialogue.  The familiarity is often exactly what the viewer is looking for.  (That said, I was a little bit surprised by the lack of Russian mobsters wearing track suits.  That was a missed opportunity.)  I think the other reason why Americans, in particular, like British gangster films is the novelty of seeing that British gangsters can be just as unnecessarily violent as American gangsters.  It’s nice to be reminded that America isn’t the only country that breeds violence.

Speaking of violence, Avengement is a very violent film and it’s also often a very bloody film.  When you consider how much of the film takes place in prison, it’s not surprising that there’s a lot of stabbings.  (What is somewhat surprising is that there are also a lot of stabbings outside of prison, even when there are guns nearby.)  I’m usually not a fan of gratuitous violence but Avengement handles it all with a certain wit.  The violence is so over-the-top that it’s hard not to suspect that the filmmakers are commenting on the excessive nature of other British gangster films.  There’s a lengthy montage of Cain just fighting anyone who comes near him and it goes on for so long that it actually becomes somewhat humorous.  It’s hard not to feel at least a little admiration for Cain’s determination to start a fight with every single person that he sees.  He certainly doesn’t give up.  Scott Adkins is a gymnast, along with being a martial artist, and there’s a grace to his movements that comes through even when the film is at its most brutal.  Early on, I joked that the film would only work if its ultraviolent protagonist turned out to be likable and strangely enough, that’s exactly what happened.  Scott Adkins, to my surprise, turned out to be not only an exciting fighter but also a pretty good actor.  He shows enough screen presence in Avengement to make viewers hope that he’ll someday get a major action role.

Avengement is a ferocious but entertaining and unpretentious action film.  Watch it.  Experience it.  Just don’t worry about trying to understand what everyone’s talking about.  Just assume that everyone has a reason to want Cain dead and Cain has a reason to want the same for everyone else and there should not be any trouble at all.

6 Classic Trailers For March 25th, 2022

Since it’s Oscar week, it seems like a good idea to devote the latest edition of Lisa Marie’s Favorite Grindhouse and Exploitation Film trailers to 6 classic films that received not a single Oscar nomination. That’s the way the Oscars are unfortunately. Sometimes, the best films are totally ignored.

For instance….

  1. Chappaqua (1967)

1967 was a great year for the movie so perhaps it’s understandable that the Academy somehow overlooked Chappaqua.  Still, this film was far more deserving a nomination than Doctor Doolittle.

2. Beyond the Valley of the Dolls (1971)

Valley of the Dolls received an Oscar nominations for its score.  However, it’s unofficial sequel didn’t even receive that.  Not a single nomination went to Beyond the Valley of the Dolls, not even Best Original Song.  In 1970, the Academy just wasn’t ready.

3. Coffy (1973)

Ellen Burstyn certainly deserved the Oscar for Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore but still, how could the Academy not nominate Pam Grier for her work in Coffy?

4. Dawn of the Dead (1978)

The Academy will probably never embrace the zombie genre.  They certainly weren’t prepared to do so in 1978.  That said, it’s way past time to give Tom Savini an honorary award.

5. The Warriors (1979)

The Warriors is another classic that went unnominated.  Not even the music got a nomination.  David Patrick Kelly was totally snubbed.  The Baseball Furies should have been sitting in front row on Oscar night.  It’s a true shame.

6. Death Wish 3 (1985)

Give the Giggler an Oscar!

The TSL’s Grindhouse: The Scary on Sixty-First (dir by Dasha Nekrasova)

Now streaming on Shudder, The Scary of Sixty-First is a weird little movie.

Two friends who don’t really seem to like each other that much, Noelle (Madeline Quinn) and Addie (Betsey Brown), move into a fully furnished Manhattan apartment.  The apartment, they are told, has been uninhabited for a few years.  The realtor asks them not to play the piano.  One of the mattresses is stained with blood.  Hidden amongst the surprisingly ornate furniture are mystical books and mysterious cards.  It’s kind of a creepy place but it’s also in Manhattan and it’s affordable.

Addie, we’re told, has a history of mental instability and a difficult relationship with her family.  (Noelle, at one point, refers to Addie’s father as being a pedophile.)  Addie also has an idiot boyfriend named Gary (Mark Rapaport, who also produced the film).  Gary may be a little bit slow but he has his standards and when Addie starts to speak in a strange voice and ask him to take part in some truly perverse role play, he freaks out.

Meanwhile, Noelle meets a mysterious person who is only referred to as being The Girl (played by the film’s director, Dasha Nekrasova).  The Girl is hooked on speed and conspiracy theories.  The Girl explains that Noelle and Addie’s apartment was once used by Jeffrey Epstein and Ghislaine Maxwell.  The Girl says that she’s investigating their crimes but her investigation mostly seems to consist of watching YouTube videos and walking around New York.  Within hours of meeting each other, Noelle and the Girl are lovers but when The Girl tries to demonstrate why Epstein couldn’t possibly have hanged himself, Noelle appears to deliberately hesitate before saving the Girl’s life.  Later, as they walk around New York, the Girl spots a woman who she claims is Ghislaine Maxwell.

As for Addie, she’s having nightmares and when she’s not dreaming, she’s sleepwalking and doing even more.  She’s also becoming obsessed with the British Royal Family.  She’s especially interested in Prince Andrew….

“Epstein didn’t kill himself,” as the saying goes and one reason why people are still saying that years after Jeffrey Epstein’s death is because it’s obvious that, whether he killed himself or not, he still took a lot of secrets with him to the grave.  I’m a student of conspiracy theories but I wouldn’t call myself a believer.  I tend to assume that most of what happens in the world is due to random fate as opposed to the unseen hand of some secret organization.  That said, I totally accept that there’s a very good chance that Jeffrey Epstein was murdered on the orders of the rich and powerful people who he previously flew to his private island.  One reason why The Scary of Sixty-First works is because, as bizarre as the film gets, it’s still dealing with a conspiracy theory that even most skeptics find to be plausible.

And indeed, it’s a bizarre film, one that plays out like a filmed dream.  Little about the film makes sense and, at the end of it, you’re still left with a lot of unanswered questions but then again, that’s a feeling that will be familiar to anyone who has ever gone down a conspiracy rabbit hole.  Are Noelle and Addie truly being possessed by evil auras of Epstein and Maxwell or are they just allowing their own paranoia to drive them mad?  Much like a dream, the answers are there but they’re hidden.  It’s a film that many people will find to be distasteful but, at its best, it captures the speed-fueled logic of the modern conspiracy theorist.  It’s a jolt of psychosis captured on a film.  The apartment becomes a metaphor for both the sins of the past and the uncertainty of the present.

Understandably, many will find the film to be distasteful and it often is.  But, at the same time, The Scary on Sixty-First captures the atmosphere and the paranoia of our current cultural moment.  After all, Epstein didn’t kill himself.

The TSL’s Grindhouse: C.C. and Company (dir by Seymour Robbie)

As our long-time readers know, I’ve seen my share of bad movies but it’s been a while since I’ve seen one as bad as 1970’s C.C. and Company.

C.C. and Company is about a drifter named C.C. Ryder (played by Joe Namath, who was a pro football quarterback at the time).  Ryder rides through the desert on his dorky motorcycle.  He doesn’t have a job.  He doesn’t have much money.  He does have a lot of hair and he also has a lot of teeth.  We know that because it’s rare that there’s ever moment when C.C. isn’t smiling.  C.C. is perhaps the most cheerful amateur criminal that I’ve ever seen.  Even when C.C. really shouldn’t be smiling, he’s smiling.  There are moments when people try to kill C.C. and he responds with a smile.  This could be a sign of C.C.’s devil-may-care-attitude but I think it has more to do with Joe Namath being a really bad actor.

C.C. is apparently a member of a motorcycle gang.  I say apparently because no one in the gang seems to like him and they’re constantly beating up on him.  The leader of the gang is Moon (William Smith) and among the members of the gang is an intimidating figure named Crow (Sid Haig).  Smith and Haig were both professional actors and genuine tough guys.  They not only knew how to act on camera but they also knew how to throw a punch without faking it.  Having them act opposite Namath doesn’t really accomplish much beyond emphasizing just how terrible an actor Namath was.  Even though Moon is a Mansonesque creep, you still find yourself rooting for him whenever he and C.C. get into a fight because Smith creates an actual character whereas Namath…. well, he doesn’t.  I sat through this entire film and never once did I find myself wondering what C.C.’s initials stood for.  That’s how uninterested I was in C.C.’s life.

Anyway, C.C. meets the wealthy and chic Ann McCalley (Ann-Margaret) after Ann’s limo breaks down in the middle of the desert.  C.C. not only fixes the limo but he also saves Ann from Crow and Lizard (Greg Mullaney).  It’s love at first sight but, unfortunately, Ann has places to go so she drives off and C.C. returns to the biker camp and watches as Moon sends his girlfriend, Pom Pom (Jennifer Billingsley), out to make money on the highway.  As I watched all of this, I found myself wondering how everyone else in the gang got stuck with names like Moon, Lizard, Crow, Rabbit, Pom Pom, and Zit-Zit (my favorite) but somehow C.C. was able to keep his innocent initials.  The movie never explained the ritual behind receiving motorcycle gang names and I think that was a missed opportunity.

Eventually, C.C. trades in his dorky motorcycle for a Kawasaki, largely because Kawasaki apparently paid the film’s producers a lot of money.  C.C. enters a race and wins.  Ann sees him win and falls even more in love with him.  C.C. gets into a fight with the gang and then he and Ann head to …. well, it looked a lot like Reno but honestly, who knows for sure?  Eventually, Moon and the gang track C.C. and Ann down and it all leads to one last fight.  We never do find out if the “company” of the title referred to Ann and her rich friends or Moon and the gang.  Not even C.C. seems to know for sure.

So, there’s a lot of reasons why C.C. and Company doesn’t really work but mostly it all comes down to the lead non-performance of Joe Namath as C.C.  There’s nothing tough or intimidating or rebellious about Namath.  C.C. is the biker you can bring home to meet your parents.  William Smith and Sid Haig are a lot more fun but they’re playing totally disreputable characters.  Namath and Ann-Margaret have zero romantic chemistry and the entire film has the look of a cheap made-for-TV movie.  Between C.C. and Company and Altamont, 1970 was not a good year to be a biker groupie.

That said, there is one good scene in C.C. and Company, where C.C. and Ann go out dancing.  While Joe Namath awkwardly shakes his shoulders while flashing that ever-present grin, Ann-Margaret dances as if the fate of the world depended upon her.  One year after the release of this movie, she would prove herself as dramatic actress and receive her first Oscar nomination for Carnal Knowledge.