The TSL’s Grindhouse: Disco Godfather (dir by J. Robert Wagoner)

“Put your weight on it!” Tyrone Williams (Rudy Ray Moore) shouts at the start of 1979’s Disco Godfather.  It’s a phrase that he regularly employs as he encourages everyone at the local disco to hit the dance floor and show off their moves.  All Tyrone has to do to get people to dance is to shout out his catch phrase.  He’s such a beloved figure in the community that most people just call him, “Godfather.”

The Godfather is the uncle of Bucky Williams (Julius Carry), a promising young basketball star who seems to have his entire future ahead of him.  However, what the Godfather doesn’t know is that Bucky has fallen in with the wrong crowd and they’ve been pushing him to smoke …. ANGEL DUST!  Bucky’s girlfriend tries to warn him that he’s been smoking too much of “the whack” but Bucky doesn’t heed her warning.  Suddenly, Bucky is in the middle of the dance floor, freaking out as he imagines being attacked by zombie basketball players and a sword-wielding witch.  He also sees the Disco Godfather, telling him to calm down, but suddenly the Godfather is transformed into a skeleton!

After Bucky is subdued and taken down to the local PCP recovery center (which is full of users who are all screaming, rolling around on the floor, and generally acting whacked out), the Godfather decides that he can no longer stand by while his community is victimized by the PCP dealers.  With the help of Noel (Carol Speed), the Godfather starts a group called Angels Against Dust and starts a campaign to “attack the whack!”  While the Godfather tracks down the dealers, Noel holds a rally where, at one point, she announces that everyone is going to have to come together and “whack the attack.”

The fact that this obviously flubbed line was included in the final film tells you much about what makes Disco Godfather such an interesting viewing experience.  The film was shot very quickly and with very little money and, as such, second takes were a luxury that the film couldn’t afford.  However, there’s also an undeniable charm to the film’s low-budget style.  It’s amateurish but it’s amateurish in the most likable way possible.  Even in the case of the “whack the attack” line, it’s hard not to appreciate that Carol Speed didn’t let that one flub stop her from giving the rest of her speech.  By that same token, it’s also hard not appreciate that, later in the film, a never-before-seen character suddenly helps the Godfather fight off a bunch of pushers.  This character was played by Moore’s karate instructor and his appearance is totally random and yet totally appropriate.  In the world of Disco Godfather, the chaotic plotting is the point.  The more random the film becomes, the more it suggests a universe ruled by chance and coincidence.  The total lack of logic starts to make sense.  Werner Herzog would probably love this film if he ever saw it.

Rudy Ray Moore, of course, was a famously raunchy comic who was best-known for playing Dolemite in three films.  However, Disco Godfather finds him in a bit more of a dramatic mood, as he tours the local PCP ward and tells everyone he meets that they have to “attack the whack,”  Compared to the Dolemite films, there’s considerably less sex and profanity to be found in Disco Godfather.  There are several fight scenes and Rudy Ray Moore gets to show off his karate moves but the violence is never as over the top as it was in Dolemite.  The problem, however, is that Rudy Ray Moore was a natural-born comic and, as a result, every line that he utters, regardless of how serious the topic, sounds like its building up to a punchline.  Moore gets to do some dramatic acting at the end of the film, when the Godfather is himself force fed the whack and he starts to hallucinate various disturbing images.  “That’s not right, mama!” the Godfather says at one point and indeed, the trip sequence is the strongest part of the film, a genuinely surreal trip into the subconscious of a man who just wanted to encourage people to dance.

Disco Godfather is one of those films that you just have to see.  When Disco Godfather isn’t learning about PCP, he’s telling everyone to “put your weight on it” and, as a result, this film not only features a lot of anti-drug hysteria but it also features a lot of dancing.  This is very much a film of its time.  In one the film’s few deliberately funny moments, the album cover for the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack is seen covered in cocaine.  Of course, the Disco Godfather doesn’t need cocaine to have a good time and he certainly doesn’t need the whack.  He just needs the music and people willing to put their weight on it.

Disco Godfather was not a box office success when it was originally released, with Moore later saying that he made a mistake by toning down his persona for the film.  Moore was probably correct but, seen today, Disco Godfather is an enchantingly berserk time capsule.  Watch it and then be sure to watch Eddie Murphy play Rudy Ray Moore in the Netflix biopic, Dolemite Is My Name.

The TSL’s Grindhouse: Polk County Pot Plane (dir by Jim West)

Oosh and Doosh, the stars of Polk County Pot Plane

First released in 1977, Polk County Pot Plane tells the story of Oosh (Don Watson) and Doosh (Bobby Watson), two brothers who have the long hair, country accents, and full beards of two guys who made most of their life decisions at a Lynard Skynard concert and who haven’t looked back since.

Oosh and Doosh spend most of their time hanging out in the mountains of Northern Georgia.  They pass the time drinking beer, smoking weed, and driving too fast.  Oosh and Doosh do have a job, of course.  The Dixie Mafia pays them to help unload all of the marijuana that is transported on a plane that regularly lands in the mountains.  The plane is nicknamed Big Bird and it even gets its own credit at the start of the film.

The opening credits also inform us that the pilot of Big Bird was played by an actor named Big Jim.

At the start of the film, Oosh and Doosh are unloading the plane but, unbeknownst to them, the cops have followed them out to the landing area.  When the cops finally make their presence known, Big Jim and the plane are able to escape but Oosh, Doosh, and two other hippies are arrested (and their RV practically destroyed) after a long chase.

With Oosh and Doosh in the county jail, the word goes out to all the drug kingpins, which is to say that there is a lengthy montage of people picking up the phone and explaining the situation over and over again.  Eventually, a helicopter lands on top of the jail and Oosh and Doosh are able to make their escape.  The helicopter flies over Georgia with Oosh and Doosh literally clinging onto the bottom of it.

This scene was filmed without stunt people.  That really is Don and Bobby Watson hanging onto that helicopter and the scene is also makes it clear that the helicopter really was flying high above a small town with the two actors dangling underneath.  If either Don and Bobby Watson had lost their grip, they would have basically plunged to their death.  On the one hand, you might wonder how the Watsons were convinced to risk their lives for a film called Polk County Pot Plane.  On the other hand, the scene is a hundred times more effective than one might expect precisely because the risk was real.

In fact, not a single professional stunt person was used in Polk Count Pot Plane.  All of the stunts were done by the members of the cast, the majority of whom appear to have been amateurs.  The sheriff who locks up Oosh and Doosh apparently was an actual sheriff.  Big Jim actually was a pilot.  While there isn’t much information available about the Watson brothers, their country stoner vibe feels authentic from the start.  For almost the entire cast, this was their first and only film.  What they lacked in experience, they made up for in authenticity.

There’s not much of a plot to Polk County Pot Plane, though it was reportedly based on a true story.  Oosh and Doosh get out of jail and find themselves being ordered to transport more drugs.  They also rip-off their bosses and, in the end, there’s an attempt to steal the plane itself.  For the most part, the film exists so that the police can chase Oosh and Doosh and several cars can be destroyed in the process.  The minute that we see a group of people trying to transport a house from one location to another, we know that someone’s going to end driving through it and destroying the whole thing.  That’s the type of movie that Polk County Pot Plane is.  It’s low-budget, it doesn’t always make a lot of sense, and it’s definitely amateurish.

And yet, it’s also entertaining and rather likeable.  The amateur vibe helps.  Because the Watson brothers appears to have essentially been playing themselves, the film at times has a documentary vibe.  For all of the silly comedy and the mumbled lines (with the Watsons especially sounding like King of the Hill‘s Boomhauer at times), it’s hard not to feel that this film probably gets close to the truth of what it was like to smuggle marijuana in the Deep South during the 1970s.  The combination of car crashes and the film’ s stoner vibe becomes rather fascinating.

Polk County Pot Plane was also released under the title In Hot Pursuit.  It can be found in several Mill Creek box sets and on YouTube!

6 Classic Albert Pyun Trailers

Albert Pyun (1953 — 2022)

I just heard the sad news that director Albert Pyun has passed away at the age of 69.

In honor of Pyun’s career, it’s time for a special edition of Lisa Marie’s Favorite Grindhouse and Exploitation Film trailers!  The six trailers below were all designed to promote films directed by the great Albert Pyun.

  1. The Sword and the Sorcerer (1982)

Albert Pyun made his directorial debut with this film, which starred Richard Lynch.  The Sword and the Sorcerer was Pyun’s most financially successful film.

2. Dangerously Close (1986)

In 1986, Albert Pyun directed the teen vigilante classic, Dangerously Close.

3. Cyborg (1989)

Due to the presence of Jean-Claude Van Damme in the leading role, Cyborg remains one of Pyun’s best-known films.

4. Captain America (1990)

20 years before Kevin Feige and the MCU, Albert Pyun brought Captain America to the big screen!

5. Omega Doom (1996)

In 1996, Albert Pyun was responsible for this post-apocalyptic western, starring Rutger Hauer.

6. Tales of an Ancient Empire (2011)

Finally, in 2011, Pyun directed his long-awaited sequel to The Sword and the Sorcerer, Tales of An Ancient Empire.

Rest in Peace, Albert Pyun.

Albert Pyun Films That We Have Reviewed:

  1. The Sword and the Sorcerer (1982)
  2. Dangerously Close (1986)
  3. Cyborg (1989)
  4. Captain America (1990)
  5. Arcade (1993)
  6. Omega Doom (1996)
  7. Blast (1997)

The TSL’s Horror Grindhouse: Survival of the Dead (dir by George Romero)

Sitting off the coast of Delaware, Plum Island seems like the perfect place to live. The people are friendly. The town is small and quaint but definitely inviting. There are plenty of horses, for those who like to ride. The island’s one mailman is a welcome sight, dropping off mail everyday and giving everyone a friendly wave.

The only problem with Plum Island is that, as pretty as it may be, it is also the home to two feuding Irish families. Patrick O’Flynn (Kenneth Welsh) and Seamus Muldoon (Richard Fitzpatrick) have been enemies for as long as anyone can remember. Their feud has gone on for so long that its doubtful anyone even know what started it all. The two families have an uneasy peace up until the breakout of the zombie apocalypse. The O’Flynns want to kill every zombie that shows up on the island. The Muldoons, on the other hand, want to keep the zombies as pets and workers until a cure for their condition can be found. Eventually, Patrick O’Flynn turns out to be so reckless in his mission to destroy the undead that he’s exiled from the island. Even his own daughter, Janet (Kathleen Munroe), supports sending Patrick off to the mainland.

However, no sooner has Patrick been exiled then he hooks up with a bunch of AWOL National Guardsmen, who are weary of spending the rest of their days chasing the undead. Patrick leads them back to Plum Island, hoping to use them to destroy the the Muldoons forever.

Released in 2010, Survival of the Dead is both the final entry in George Romero’s Dead films (which started way back in 1968 with the classic Night of the Living Dead) and it was also Romero’s last completed film as a director. (Romero died in 2017, while in pre-production on a film called Road of the Dead.) Unfortunately, Survival of the Dead was not warmly greeted by critics or audiences, many of whom felt that Romero was simply rehashing concepts that he had already fully explored in the previous Dead films.

To a certain extent, those critics have a point. There are a lot of flaws with Romero’s final film, from the obviously low budget to the inconsistent performances. (Welsh, Fitzpatrick, and Munroe are all well-cast and give good performances but the National Guardsmen are all forgettable at best.) At the same time, there’s enough weird moments in Survival of the Dead to make it watchable. Plum Island is a memorably surreal location. The undead of Plum Island continue to exhibit the same behavior in death that they did in life. The mailman still tries to deliver mail. Another zombie continues to ride her horse across the island. It’s only when they sense the living amongst them that they turn deadly. As with all of Romero’s Dead films, the living dead may be dangerous and relentless but the truly scary characters in the film are the living humans who, even in the middle of the end of the world, cannot set aside their differences long enough to work together. The film’s final shot, which suggests that it takes more than death to end a blood feud, is so striking that it makes up for a lot of the weaker moments that came before it.

In the end, the most interesting thing about Survival of the Dead is that it’s more of a western than a traditional horror movie, featuring two warring families fighting on horseback and battling to control the land. Romero often said that he felt trapped by his reputation as a horror filmmaker and that he was actually interested in all genres of film. With Survival of the Dead, Romero finally got to make a Western. The end result is uneven but still has enough interesting moments to make it worth watching.

6 Horrific Trailers For October 31st, 2022

For today’s Halloween edition of Lisa’s Marie Favorite Grindhouse Trailers, I present to you, without comment, 6 trailers for six horror films that I feel are unfairly overlooked.  If you’re still looking for something to watch this Halloween night, I recommend any of the films below!

Happy Halloween!

1. Lisa (1989)

2. A Field in England (2013)

2. Two Orphan Vampires (1996)

3. Scream and Scream Again (1970)

4. Messiah of Evil (1973)

6. Lisa Lisa (1977)

TSL’s Horror Grindhouse: Sinister Squad (dir by Jeremy Inman)

A group of cultists who worship Death are threatening to destroy the world so a mysterious operative named Alice (Christina Licciardi) assembles a group of fairy tale villains and heroes to help defeat them. Unfortunately, getting The Big Bad Wolf, Goldilocks, the Mad Hatter, Bluebeard, and a host of others to work together isn’t as easy as it should be.  Complicating things is the evil Rumpelstiltskin (Johnny Rey Diaz), who is imprisoned with a mask over his face to keep him from convincing anyone to say his name.  Just as he is responsible for smashing the magic mirror that unleashed Death and his evil followers on the world, he also might be the only one who can stop the cult.  But at what price?

I watched the 2016 film, Sinister Squad, last night.  I have to admit that I had a pretty difficult time following the plot.  Produced by the Asylum, Sinister Squad is a sequel to Avengers Grimm.  Avengers Grimm was a mockbuster of The Avengers, in which all of the heroes were fairly tale characters.  Sinister Squad is a mockbuster of Suicide Squad, in which a group of fairy tale villains are recruited to save the world.  Avengers Grimm was a surprisingly fun movie but Sinister Squad gets bogged down by its own low budget, with nearly the entire film taking place in one location.  It’s kind of hard to make an epic action film when you can’t afford more than one set.

That set is a warehouse, where the members of the Sinister Squad are imprisoned.  It’s also where Alice is storing Death’s scythe.  Death wants his scythe back so he sends his followers to retrieve it and it leads to a bit of a one-sided battle.  Indeed, none of the members of the Sinister Squad seem to be that effective when it comes to defending the world and it’s hard not to feel that Alice should have made more of an effort to recruit some of Death’s followers.  Probably the most impressive of Death’s acolytes is Bluebeard (Trae Ireland), who can throw knives in slow motion and steal the souls of those he kills.  (He calls them his “wives” because he’s Bluebeard.)  Still, as impressive a bad guy as Bluebeard might be, it’s hard not to wonder why he’s there because it’s not as if Bluebeard is a fairy tale character.  It seems like a waste to have Goldilocks face off against Bluebeard as opposed to three bears.

As I said, the plot of this one is not always easy to follow.  If you haven’t seen Avengers Grimm, you’ll be totally lost.  I have seen Avengers Grimm and I still wasn’t always sure what everyone in Sinister Squad was going on about.  On the plus side, some of the costumes are nicely done.  Bluebeard was properly intimidating.  I sympathized with the Big Bad Wolf, who was apparently just misunderstood.  I respected Alice and her refusal to surrender.  For the most part, though, Sinister Squad was more underwhelming than sinister.

6 Horrific Trailers For October 30th, 2022

It’s the day before Halloween.

Are you still struggling to get into the mood?

Well, have no fear!  The latest edition is Lisa Marie’s Favorite Grindhouse Trailers is here to help you out!

Presented without comment, here are 6 classic trailers for the day before Halloween….

  1. Carnival of Souls (1962)

2. Night of the Living Dead (1968)

3. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974)

4. Halloween (1978)

5. Dawn of the Dead (1978)

6. Zombie (1979) (a.k.a. Zombi 2)

The TSL’s Horror Grindhouse: Teenage Caveman (dir by Roger Corman)

Who is the Teenage Caveman?

Believe it or not, he’s Robert Vaughn.  Vaughn, who would later go on to appear in The Magnificent Seven, The Man From UNCLE, Bullitt, The Towering Inferno, and Hustle, was 26 years old when he played a nameless caveman in Roger Corman’s 1958 film, Teenage Caveman.  At the age of 26, Vaughn looked like he was closer to 35 and he certainly didn’t resemble a teenager.  Despite wearing a loin cloth, he also didn’t appear to be a caveman.  If he was a caveman than he was certainly a well-groomed caveman and perhaps the only caveman to understand how to use hairspray.  Seriously, his hair is perfect in this film.

As for the film itself, it’s about a primitive tribe of people who live in a rocky wasteland.  However, just across the river, there’s a land that’s full of plants and animals.  It would obviously be a much better place to live and Vaughn’s teenage caveman is totally annoyed that the older folks on the tribe refuse to cross the river.  They claim that a monster lives in the river and that it will kill anyone who tries to cross.  Being a rebellious teenager, Vaughn decides to cross the river anyway.  He convinces a group of friends to go with him.  When they reach the river, they meet and fight the monster and they also discover that the monster was doing more than just guarding the river.  It all leads to a plot twist that feels as if it was added at the last possible second.

In a later interview, Robert Vaughn referred to Teenage Caveman as being the worst film in which he ever appeared.  He went on to suggest that it was the worst film ever made.  Those are bold words coming from someone who appeared in as many bad films as Robert Vaughn did.  That said, I do think that Vaughn was being a bit too hard on Teenage Caveman.  For what it is — an extremely low-budget film that barely runs over an hour — Teenage Caveman is entertaining if you’re in the right mood for it.  It’s hard not to smile at the cavepeople, with their modern haircuts and their very American accents.  As well, the film features the same stock footage of dinosaurs fighting that appeared in countless other B-movies of the time and, again, it’s hard not to smile at the actors valiantly trying to pretend that there are dinosaurs fighting just a few feet away from them.  And while that final plot twist may come out of nowhere, it’s just random enough to be interesting.  Worst film of all time?  With all respect to the teenage caveman, I have to disagree.  It’s a B-movie and, if you enjoy B-movies, you’ll enjoy this one.  And let’s give some credit to Robert Vaughn.  He gives an earnest performance, even though he later said that he felt foolish every time he stepped out on the set.  Add to that, his hair is perfect.

The TSL’s Horror Grindhouse: How To Make A Monster (dir by Herbert L. Strock)

How do you make a monster?

According to this 1958 film, the man to ask is Pete Dumond!

As played by Robert H. Harris, Pete Dumond is the chief make-up artist at American International Pictures.  He’s so good that he can easily transform handsome teen idols like Tony Mantell (Gary Conway) and Larry Drake (Gary Clarke) into convincing monsters.  Everyone loves Pete but there’s a problem.  As the new studio head explains it, horror just isn’t that popular anymore.  Teenagers are no longer interested in seeing movies about werewolves and Frankenstein’s Monster.  Instead, teens now only care about rock and roll.  Elvis has killed horror!

(Actually, the film argues that a recording artist named John Ashley killed horror.  At the time this movie was made, John Ashley was under contract to American International Pictures and the film even includes a dance number where Ashley performs his latest hit.  Ashley wasn’t a bad singer but it’s still hard to believe that he could have killed horror.  That said, the choreography is fun and every horror movie needs at least one random dance number.)

Sadly, Pete is about to be out of a job.  However, what the studio heads don’t realize is that Pete is more than just a makeup artist!  He’s also a master hypnotist!  Soon, Pete is using a special foundation cream to hypnotize Tony and Larry.  Once he has them under his control, he sends them, in full costume, on a mission to kill anyone who thinks that horror is dead!

There’s a lot of enjoyment to be found in How To Make A Monster.  The film not only takes place at American International Pictures but it was produced by AIP as well, so the entire movie is basically full of in-jokes that would only be appreciated by B-movie fans.  For instance, the makeup effects that Pete creates are the same ones that were used in I Was A Teenage Frankenstein and I Was A Teenage Werewolf.  (Gary Conway wore the Frankenstein makeup in both Teenage Frankenstein and this film.)  Towards the end of the film, when Larry and Tony confront Pete at his home, the walls are decorated with all of the monsters that Pete has created throughout the years and attentive viewers will recognize them as coming from such previous AIP films as The She-Creature, It Conquered The World, and Invasion of the Star Creatures.  (Seriously, I loved seeing the big crab monster from It Conquered The World hanging on Pete’s wall.  I’m sure horror and sci-fans in the 1950s felt the same way.)  While the majority of the film is in black-and-white, the scenes in Pete’s home are in full and vibrant color, as if AIP was announcing, “This is what makes the movies fun!”

Needless to say, How To Make A Monster is not a film that was ever meant to be taken seriously.  Instead, it’s a rather cheerful send-up of both the film business and AIP’s own status as a B-studio.  (At times, I felt like the film could just as easily have been called Sam Arkoff’s The Player.)  Watching the film, one gets the feeling that it was largely made as a lark, an inside joke amongst friends.  As such, it’s impossible to dislike this energetic little film.  Director Herbert L. Strock keep the action moving along and, in the lead role, Robert H. Harris gives exactly the type of over-the-top performance that this material needs.

If you’re a fan of 50s drive-in movies, How To Make A Monster is a film that you simply must see!

The TSL’s Horror Grindhouse: I Was A Teenage Frankenstein (dir by Herbert L. Strock)

“I was a teenage Frankenstein!”

“Of course you were, dear.”

Sadly, that dialogue does not appear in I Was A Teenage Frankenstein.  Oh well, we can’t have everything….

This 1957 film tells the story of Professor Frankenstein (Whit Bissell), an English scientist who comes to America and promptly sets about trying to create his own creature.  I guess we shouldn’t be surprised, considering that his name is Frankenstein and all.  I mean, when you’ve got a name like that, there are certain expectations that you have to live up to.  You’re not going to become a stand-up comedian or the janitor at the local grocery store.  When you’ve got a name like that, you’re expected to tamper in God’s domain and screw things up.  With a famous name comes great expectations.  Frankenstein …. Kennedy …. Kardashian …. it’s pretty much all the same.

Anyway, the professor is lucky enough to come across a fatal car crash.  This supplies him with exactly the dead body that he needs.  He takes the corpse to his laboratory where, with help of some spare body parts that he just happened to have lying around, he manages to bring the dead teenager back to life!

There’s just one problem.

The teenager (played by Gary Conway) now looks like this:

Yep, Teenage Frankenstein is definitely not ready for his public debut.  No one’s happy about this.  Not the professor.  Not the professor’s assistant.  Even the professor’s secretary is upset about what’s going on in the laboratory.  Not even the alligator that Prof. Frankenstein for some reason keeps around the lab is particularly happy about how the operation turned out.

What’s a Teenage Frankenstein to do?  Well, he can always sneak out of the lab but, whenever he does, it seems like someone inevitably ends up dead.  Obviously, Prof. Frankenstein is going to have to find a new face for his creation but from where?  Well, luckily, there is a lover’s lane nearby….

I Was A Teenage Frankenstein was produce by American International Pictures to capitalize on the success of I Was A Teenage Werewolf.  (Whit Bissell plays a mad scientist in both movies and gets the best line in It Was A Teenager Frankenstein when he yells, “Answer me!  You have a civil tongue in your head!  I know, I sewed it in there!”)  Unfortunately, while the monster makeup is indeed impressive, I Was A Teenage Frankenstein is never as much fun as I Was A Teenage Werewolf.  While the teenage werewolf had an entire town to explore, Teenage Frankenstein is pretty much stuck in that lab.  Whereas the teenage werewolf spent his movie running wild, Teenage Frankenstein spends all of his time doing whatever the professor orders him to do.  As a result, I Was A Teenage Frankenstein is a much slower film and also lacks the rebellious subtext of I Was A Teenage Werewolf.

That said, I Was A Teenage Werewolf was enough of a box office success that both the werewolf and the Frankenstein makeup were later used in How To Make A Monster.