Bite Size: The Daredevil (1972)

On the surface, 1972’s The Daredevil fits in with the glut of high octane car chase films that were pushed out after the success of 1971’s Vanishing Point.

Paul Tunney (George Montgomery) is a hot shot former Daytona 500 winner, forced to move back to his hometown to help with the medical bills for his chronically ill younger sister. On his first race after returning home, he recklessly forces a Black driver, Ray Butler, off of the racetrack mid lap. Butler dies in the resulting crash.

Carol Butler (Gay Perkins) wants revenge on Tunney for her baby brother’s untimely death. She just happens to be the mistress of Ray Williams (Cyril Portier), a local crime lord who can help her accomplish exactly that. Spooked by the looming threat of Carol and her associates, Tunney quickly loses his touch on the track, and soon is forced to take a job as a driver for a cabal of drug smugglers.

A lot of these more action oriented drive in offerings are looking to make their protagonists (auto racers, truck drivers, bootleggers) into ruggedly individualistic cinematic replacements for the fading cowboy archetype. Despite the heavy whiff of that suggestion in the trailer and George Montgomery’s former typecasting in Hollywood westerns, The Daredevil doesn’t have much interest in making Tunney a hero. He’s not even an anti hero. In fact, the character of Paul Tunney is written to be about as much of an unlikable prick as you could possibly find.

For a hometown boy made good, no one in the film can stand Tunney, or seems remotely happy to see him. In fact, everyone seems to take as a given he likely ran Butler off the track on purpose. He was merrily cracking racist wise before the start of the doomed race, and had caused non lethal injuries to a local beat cop with a similar vehicular confrontation on the open road some 15 years prior.

Only when Carol has Tunney cornered does he begrudgingly apologize or pay any respects in regard to Ray Butler’s death. Of course, that apology only happens AFTER Carol makes her plans to make sure she gets to watch Paul die abundantly clear. Plus, the lesser Portier brother had already hit Tunney over the head and stuffed him into a coffin at the funeral home that acts as the front for his gang’s various illegal ventures. It takes ominous death threats and a decent amount of bodily harm for Tunney to even see the self preservation value of parroting the mouth sounds of basic human decency. No wonder the whole town thinks he’s a raging asshole.


One armed mechanic Huck Holman (Bill Kelly) is just about the only person who seems genuinely friendly to Paul, more likely out of respect for his driving talent than anything else. Too bad Tunney repays Huck by stealing his girl, Julie (a brief, thankless turn by Oscar winner Terry Moore). Once Tunney’s successfully bedded the woman, he spends the rest of the film being a finely curated fuckboy with a tendency toward making her cry.

While chock full of the stock car, stock footage explosions and speeded up chases one would expect from a regional low budget production of this ilk, The Daredevil marks itself as a slightly interesting curiosity as it moves into its third act. The movie gradually begins tiptoeing into a tonally discordant grab bag that relies more on horror and exploitation leaning elements than any of the tropes of its high horsepower brethren.

The funeral home front is both lit and played for a sort of carnival dark ride spookiness, even though the only really terrifying thing that happens is Cyril Portier’s narcoleptic performance. Tunney is plagued by visions of Carol in all of her mourning garb and false lashes fabulousness, convinced she’s following him where ever he goes. Her dialog about watching Tunney die is constantly echoing in his ears, and ours. There’s even a late in the game burst of some brief gore effects and drug fueled dime store existentialism.

While The Daredevil is by no means a classic, and the plot’s final destination is a predictable one, there is some mild diversion to be had in the odd detours the movie takes along the route.

Bite Size: Chained For Life (1952)

Daisy and Violet Hilton were a set of English born conjoined twins, with a life story that is arguably stranger and decidedly more exploitative than any of the fictions created during their long career as entertainers. Born in 1911, their poverty stricken mother sold them outright, and they began touring with the sideshow as toddlers.

Daisy and Violet were trained as singers, dancers and musicians (Daisy played violin, while Violet preferred a saxophone). The combination of skills allowed the girls to become a sensation outside of the sideshow, and they played to capacity crowds in the comparatively more respectable burlesque and vaudeville houses.


After years of abuse and wage theft, the Hiltons successfully sued their guardian and her husband for emancipation and financial damages in 1931. Finally free to enjoy the fruits of their labor, they continued to tour as the Hilton Sisters Revue, took a well deserved vacation cruise, and made an appearance in Tod Browning’s Freaks.

While the 1932 film is now regarded as a classic of early cinematic horror, there was a massive backlash at the time regarding the perceived obscenity of such a sympathetic and overt portrayal of “oddities”. With their very existence deemed indecent for polite society and a sea change in popular music and entertainment on the horizon, the Hiltons’ drawing power and fortune quickly dwindled into a quagmire of financial problems and doomed publicity stunt marriages.

By 1952, the sisters were dead broke. With a over a decade of misfortunes behind them and an ever narrowing field of prospects, they signed on to make a film for exploitation producer George Moskov. Chained For Life lets schlock imitate life, incorporating some of the pair’s actual troubles into the potboiler plot.

Opening in an suspiciously jury-less courtroom mid murder trial, the film’s narrative unfolds in a series of flashbacks as each of the principles takes the stand. Dorothy and Vivian Hamilton (Daisy and Violet Hilton) are the headliners of a vaudeville act. With box office receipts slipping, their sleazy manager (Allen Jenkins) comes up with a can’t miss publicity stunt. The theater will hold a mock wedding for one of the siblings. After Vivian declines, he arranges the faux marriage for Dot. Andre (Mario Laval) is a sharpshooter in the show, and for his role as bridegroom is paid by the week.

Andre is what the parlance of the time would have called a “cad”, and is soon unsatisfied with both his salary and the fact that he can no longer shag his assistant with impunity. Slowly he puts his oily charm to work on Dot, convincing her to marry him for real. After grifting large chunks of her money, he jilts her via newspaper article after just a single day. Violet, never having approved of the scheme in the first place, avenges her sister’s broken heart by shooting Andre from the wings with one of his own pistols.

There was potential here for a campy sort of grimy noir, but it fizzles rather quickly given the sisters’ flat delivery. They look uncomfortable at having to emote, and one or the other shoots a nervous look straight into the camera at multiple points in the film. Their real life marriages ended in an incompatibility of sexual orientations, not murder, but the meta echoes of bigamy accusations, golddigging con artists and earnest pleas for acceptance as separate individuals with basic human needs lends a distinctly uncomfortable air to the proceedings. Life had been far less than kind to the Hiltons, and here they are reenacting lurid recreations of some of their worst traumas just to keep a roof over their heads.

Perhaps in a concession to the limitations of the film’s stars, the love triangle plot is treated almost as an afterthought, while an above average slate of vaudeville acts pad the runtime to feature length. It’s an interesting time capsule of a vanished form of popular entertainment, and one of the better extant examples of the sisters’ singing, which they are far more adept at than dramatic acting.

None of it is quite enough to wash away the oily, seeping stain of obvious underhanded profiteering. The non ending of the film makes it worse. Having facilitated the desired sideshow, the film makers opted to hurry up and cut to credits with a cop out that will hark back to the frustration of anyone who had the unfortunate luck of having Frank R. Stockton’s The Lady, Or The Tiger? assigned to them as required reading in primary school.

Unsurprisingly, the Hilton Sisters never made another film. They made personal appearances at drive ins showing their modest filmography as a double feature. When even that small bit of reflected lemonlight tapered off, they worked as checkout clerks in a grocery store until their death in 1961.





Don’t Answer The Phone! (1980)

Single serving film director Robert Hammer left the military and began making his living as a backstage and tour photographer for musicians. Like countless other L.A. cliches, he found himself bitten by the film bug, buying the rights to a novel by an author named Michael Curtis for a mere $2500.

The book was likely unpublished, as I can’t find any printing records or surviving examples. Entitled Nightline, the story was a loose riff on the crimes of the Hillside Strangler, the trials of which were still ongoing at the time of the film’s production.

As the source material would have been too expensive to shoot as is, Hammer and producer Michael D. Curtis gave it a rewrite under the working title The Hollywood Strangler. Short on cash and not wanting to lose their timely hook, the film was shot on the fly in and around Hollywood. Start to finish, the entire production wrapped in just 18 days.

Distributor Crown International Pictures found the title to be too generic and mandated a switch, to both capitalize on the recent success of When A Stranger Calls and the flotilla of genre fare with titles advising against all manner of ordinary actions.

Keeping in mind that the likes of Don’t Open The Door and Don’t Go Near The Park were considered aspirational in this case, prepare yourselves for 1980’s Don’t Answer The Phone!:

After a brief shot of the shirtless killer (Nicholas Worth) giggling maniacally in front of a massive crucifix, the bulk of the credits roll is devoted to some slasher POV style stalking shamelessly ripped off from Halloween. This sequence, with an unsuspecting nurse having a chat with her whatever male PA had nothing to do mother is also one of the few instances anyone in the film is near a phone.

Not answering it doesn’t save her from being brutally strangled with a stocking. My money is on this opener being a concession to the retitle, given neither the visual style nor the phone has much to do with anything else that happens.

Cut to the following day, where the camo jacketed killer is cruising the streets for new victims, his car radio tuned to the ever so popular station that provides the finest of exposition. There have already been 5 rape/murders in the local area, and as the news fades out, we cut to Dr. Lindsey Gale (Flo Gerrish), who apparently likes to live dangerously in regard to workplace harassment of the news anchor before starting her pop psychology show.

The killer, having tried and failed to entice a new victim with the offer of a modeling job, decides to call in and taunt Dr. Gale. Adopting a manic grin and his best Señor Wences accent, “Ramon” calls in complaining of headaches and blackouts, and the nurse that made him feel EVER so much better.

This is apparently a regular ritual, as Dr. Gale recognizes the voice immediately, but not the signs of severe head trauma or psychological disturbance. The latest victim of the mystery killer was a nurse, but apparently Dr. Gale was a bit too busy playing footsie with the anchorman to perhaps also note that as a cause for concern.

Meanwhile Lieutenant Chris McCabe (James Westmoreland) is across town investigating the crime scene, and proving people from all walks of life can be throughly terrible at their jobs. He bickers with his partner regarding the standard number of breasts a woman has, and decides that the heavy coin inside a nylon stocking strangulation method is a hallmark of the Viet Cong (?!). The killer must be a military veteran, and given the scrap of a film box found at the scene, must own a camera.

Not to be outdone in the incompetence Olympics, Dr. Gale is having a therapy session where she blames a child molestation victim’s trauma on her lack of assertiveness.

The cops are having a laugh at the station, putting their feet up secure in their assumption that their necrophiliac serial killer couldn’t POSSIBLY strike again so soon.

Except the synthesizer noodling has already kicked in on the soundtrack and the killer has already broken into the house of Dr. Gale’s patient. Craving some wax play with a side of homicide, he begins cooing gently that “daddy would never hurt his little baby”. Randomly switching gears, he dedicates his upcoming mortal sin to the Father, Son and the Holy Ghost. Compounding the tragedy, he also destroys the actress’ lovely vintage slip in the process.

Six victims and a third of the film’s runtime later, the police finally start to attempt to find their “paranoid obsessive compulsive psychotic schizophrenic”. Done with all of the “mumbo jumbo psycho crap” McCabe takes over the meeting and makes it a decidedly macho task force. There’s a long montage of exasperated extras looking at files, best summed up by the expression in the still above.


Just in case this movie’s stance on women, feelings, and women who dare display feelings wasn’t abundantly clear, McCabe goes to question Dr. Gale about her murdered patient. Within 30 seconds he smugly mocks her for her adherence to patient privacy laws and general reluctance to cosign either vigilante justice or capital punishment. Without the firm guiding hand of the law, some silly lady psychologist will let the killer run free, so its best she cooperate and accept his heroic man protection.

Anyone who has ever watched a police procedural knows that this plot thread will lead to an eventual romance, no matter how nonsensical. Off screen, Flo Gerrish and James Westmoreland loathed each other, which may be why this still is Gerrish’s only genuine moment of emotion in the entire film. When tasked with acting like she thought her co star was an arrogant sexist prick, she didn’t have to do any acting at all.

Meanwhile, the killer goes for another synth warble accented cruise down Hollywood Boulevard, using his human skin of Kirk Smith, mild mannered fashion photographer. He ends luring a young hitchhiker named Sue Ellen (Playboy centerfold Pamela Jean Bryant) into his studio for a photo session.

Soon she’s just as naked and dead as pretty much every other woman in this movie. As he stares at her corpse in the mirror of his odd corner altar of candles and crucifixes, he pants “I love it….ohhhh….I love it” in the exact manner you would expect from a deranged necrophiliac that just killed a Playboy centerfold.

Having parceled out a morsel of plot, we get some awkward attempts at workplace comedy. A lounge lizard looking psychic correctly describes the most recent murder, and mumbo jumbo hating McCabe has him unjustly arrested. Dr. Gale makes a patient scream “THE DRUGS ARE MORE IMPORTANT THAN YOU!” until she cries, and calls it a breakthrough. As for our killer, he receives praise for the porn photographs he provides to his boss, until a candle D.P. from one of the death scenes pops up in the pile, which is only upon reflection dismissed as too kinky.

Kirk is pleased with his paycheck and a job well done, and lures a hooker with the promise of both cash and drugs. He asks that she call in to Dr. Gale’s radio show, and ask for advice on getting out of prostitution. Unfortunately, the call girl almost reveals that Mr. Tough Guy can’t get it up. He strangles her, her final cries live on air. This tidily proves the radio staff is just as inept at their job as every other character in this film.


When Dr. Gale brings the tape of the call to the police (in addition to taped calls from “Ramon”) they interrogate her as to WHY she is so convinced the woman is dead. Despite having an audio recording of the prostitute’s last moments in their hands. Perhaps tape recorders are also useless “psycho mumbo jumbo”.

In any case, we’ve got a rising body count, more DNA than a genome mapping project, audio tapes of the killer’s voice and two thirds of the runtime gone. Yet….instead of any remotely logical or plot relevant action, the film idles away some more time with a vice bust played for comedy and casual racism. The screenwriters must’ve followed the old adage of “write what you know”, which explains the general air of incompetence.

Nicholas Worth had a long career as a character actor, and I have to appreciate his going through all of the SERIOUS ACTOR 101 motions in the course of this film, one of his few leading roles. The constant cartoonish mugging, the over the top accents, the pseudo Shakespearean lilt of the “tis a dream” chat with the doomed Sue Ellen. All of it goes way past chewing scenery and into manic chomping on the theater floor. However, in a film where the procedural elements and performances are pretty listless, exaggerated overacting is actually a refreshing change.

This insane, mostly improvised speech is the apex of an already loud performance. The Deuce does downmarket DeNiro for a few short minutes, as Worth pounds a beer, beats his beefy chest and snarls into a mirror “What do you think of me now Dad? Do I MEASURE UP?”. This is followed by a grunting ramble full of toxic macho bullshit and standard persecution complex dollops of paranoid racism. This “tough motherfucking honky” wishes his dad could see what he was capable of, because “I’m the best there is”.

…..and right on schedule, the romance hits to pad the runtime. Love (or at least lust) blooms when Dr. Gale and McCabe prevent one of her patients from committing suicide. It’s poorly lit. It’s overly long. Moving on.


Meanwhile, Kirk Smith the serial killer wastes no time in getting in some powerlifting accompanied by dying animal yowls, and dusting off his best imitation of a sane man to gain entry to a home and murder another pair of models. The only real question is how anyone could buy this refrigerator box in an ill fitting sport coat and your granddad’s chinos as a real, totally not lying, fashion photographer.

Kirk can’t even handle one girl, hence his penchant for killing them. Having to resort to double murder has made him a rather sloppy maniac. The cops trace the camera and photos left at the scene to the pornographer he’s been working for. To avoid an obscenity rap, the smut peddler hands over Kirk’s home address. The cops rush to the scene…..and break in to the wrong house, terrifying an innocent toymaker who can barely lift his briefcase, much less strangle anyone. At this rate, McCabe and partner are making the Mutt and Jeff duo from Nail Gun Massacre look like paragons of law enforcement.

The cops do locate the correct address eventually, but Kirk has already slipped out to do his standard home invasion and homicide routine over at Dr. Gale’s place. Apparently, she was always the “big prize” he had his eye on. Connecting that Kirk is the mysterious “Ramon” surprisingly quickly, Dr. Gale tries to buy herself time by engaging the killer, asking if he ever had something he cared about. Like maybe a puppy?

Given that the movie is nearly over, this would be the place for the film to give us the slightest insight into what exactly drives Kirk to kill. His obvious daddy issues? PTSD from his military service? Psychosis? The religious mania that has been alluded to (but never explained) the entire film?

As far as Kirk murdering his childhood pet, the poor creature shat on the rug. Animal abuse often being an early hallmark of serial killers, it makes sense for the character. But what’s the deal with the violent rage toward people, women in particular?

He wet the bed until he was 18, had trouble with his ass and his “crazy-otic” head, and whoever his guardians were they dared send him to the doctor for all of that. That’s the best explanation we get. That’s all, folks.

The American health care system is certainly frustrating, but I’m willing to bet good solid money that this is the only slasher in history that has ever attributed its plot driving killing spree to the lack of an adequate proctologist.

Some of the photos in Kirk’s studio tipped off the cops that he was coming for Lindsey Gale. Having managed to at least get her address right, it’s FINALLY time for the Lawful Good vs Chaotic Evil versions of festering macho bullshit to face off.

At first, it looks like Killer Kirk has the edge (and a severe size advantage) over Macho McCabe…..
Until a pistol shot and a hit over the head with a chair leave a battered, bloody Killer Kirk lying handcuffed on the dirty linoleum…..
….and leaving Macho McCabe free to rescue Dr. Gale. Yet, some VERY familiar synths kick in……
….and Killer Kirk has gone full on slasher cliche. Two bullets worth of blood loss and he’s still got the brute strength to snap the handcuffs and pop up for another tussle…..
….before another SEVEN bullets leaves Killer Kirk’s corpse floating in the pool like the piece of shit he is.

Having saved Hollywood from both a serial killer and a serious heap of that God damned touchy feely psycho mumbo jumbo once and for all, James Westmoreland got to ad lib McCabe’s final line victory lap.

Adios, creep!

…. at least until this film popped up again as a Section 3 offender in the UK’s “Video Nasties” moral panic, anyway.

Bite Size: Street Girls (1975)

The trailer for 1975’s Street Girls is a classic exploitation bait and switch. Rather than sassy Sapphic sex workers holding their own amongst pimps and pushers, we get an odd duck melodrama about a whitebread Midwestern dad named Sven (Art Burke) searching for his missing daughter, Angel (Christine Souder).

Of course, Angel is not living up to her bone crushingly literal name. She’s dropped out of college and is working at a strip club that is little more than a front for prostitution. Angel also recently dumped her caring girlfriend, Sally (Carol Case), for a violent suitcase pimp of a boyfriend whose principle personality traits are some unfortunate chest hair and the gleeful facilitation of a heroin habit.

While there is abundant (if indifferently framed and shot) nudity and the played for titillation lesbian angle, Street Girls’ main wheelhouse is more akin to juvenile delinquency films and white slavery scare epics than any straight up softcore sleaze. While it does try to add some dimension to its cast of characters, the more serious implications of its plot points are negated by tonally discordant swerves into goofy trashiness that keep either aspect from really packing a punch.

Sven’s homophobia being a possible cause for Angel’s escape or Sally’s survival sex work being a means of supporting her gender non conforming brother are brushed over, but never really explored. Instead there’s a few hamfisted attempts at shock and grit. The most notable of which is Angel having a nightmare trick with a jingle singing auto mechanic that is very deeply into the specs of protective goggles…..and golden showers.

While unquestionably a bargain bin mess of an effort, there is a certain scruffy charm in the sweeping blasts of pop music that are clearly meant to delineate a SERIOUS DRAMATIC MOMENT, followed by all relevant lines being delivered in the most sonambulant manner possible. This is also the most guileless group of miscreants imaginable, as pimps, pushers and prostitutes gleefully exposition dump the details of their work, suppliers and sex lives at the slightest bit of pleading from the haplessly suburban Sven.

Jazz organist Jimmy Smith has a small part as the club’s resident bartender, the only character who has the good sense to keep his mouth shut. He’s also the only actor who seems to be aware of how ridiculous this all is. His arch line delivery seems imported from a better class of exploitation film, and he lands the film’s insanely silly final (non voiceover) line with the heaping eyeroll it deserves.

Aside from director and co writer Michael Miller (Silent Rage, Jackson County Jail), most of the cast never made another film. Yet in the parade of feature film one and dones, there is an interesting historical footnote. The other co writer on Street Girls was none other than a very young Barry Levinson, who has quietly pretended this movie never happened in the 45 years since its unceremonious release.

While 1979’s Hardcore handles the same base plot with infinitely more skill and 1986’s Hollywood Vice Squad does the same in regard to captivating trashiness, Street Girls is a notable wildcard for one very specific reason.

In this rare as a lottery win instance, Levinson’s career led him not only out of no budget exploitation, but to the upper echelons of “respectable” mainstream cinema. Levinson has had multiple Oscar nominations in major categories, winning Best Director for 1988’s Rain Man.

While other successful film makers showed sparks of promise even in their earliest low budget genre efforts, you wouldn’t necessarily peg the guy who wrote an entire monolog about “turning that holy hole into a money hole” to end up with the coveted gold statuette 13 years down the line. Never give up on your dreams, kids.

Monster Munch: Serial Killers, Steamy Sexploitation And More!

Another week, another roundup of my genre related writing from around the web. True crime, bathhouse bawdiness and all of the terror trash my editors saw fit to print. As always, come chat with me in the comments or on Twitter.

Penmanship, Psychopaths & Pizza: The Bizarre True Story of 1971’s The Zodiac Killer– For psychotronic cinema zine Fiendish, a dispatch on the bizarre “to catch a killer” story of a grindhouse true crime flick whose real life creation is way more interesting than the slapdash fictions on screen. The entire mag is free to read or download right here.

Misanthropes Get Lonely Too: The Forgotten Queer Film From Horror’s Angriest Man As part of Dead Head Review‘s Pride In Horror coverage, I took a look back at Andy Milligan’s Vapors. This near forgotten, queer arthouse short is as close as we’ll ever get to a softer side from one of the premier manic madmen of exploitation cinema.

Inmate #1: The Rise Of Danny Trejo’ Is A Documentary That Needed To Put More Solitary Spotlight On Its Star Over at Wicked Horror, my thoughts on Inmate #1: The Rise Of Danny Trejo, the recently released documentary detailing character actor and confirmed badass Danny Trejo’s real life journey from hard time to beloved star of movies and television.

Bite Size: The Defilers (1965)

After his wildly successful adventures in gore horror with Herschell Gordon Lewis, producer David F. Friedman saw the writing was also on the wall for the relatively innocent days of the nudie cutie. Sexploitation fans were also ready for something more shocking, box office receipts declining by the minute for playful peeping and nudist frolics.

A very young Lee Frost (still credited under his “respectable” documentarian guise of R.L. Frost) signed on as director. The production’s budget was a minuscule $11,000. Friedman wrote the script himself, and The Defilers was cranked out in just 5 days.

The film starts out pretty firmly in juvenile delinquent territory, with the affluent Carl (Byron Mabe, director of She Freak) picking up his best friend Jameison (Jerome Eden) and a bevy of beauties for a day at the beach. Carl is quickly bored with bikini babes and booze, and soon he’s pontificating in the way only the entitled idle rich can. The only thing that matters in this “crummy, square infested life” is kicks, and he’s not getting any out of this incredibly long game of beach blanket bingo.

Turns out the real hep cats get their kicks out of taking their girlfriends to daddy’s empty warehouses that double as secret sex dungeons, peeping on their best friend’s sexual conquests, or idly burning their beach companions with cigarettes just to watch them flinch. Every woman in the film points out that Carl is a maximum overdrive creeper, but Jameison staunchly defends his best buddy in a way that is either sheer stupidity or a borderline homoerotic infatuation.

Picking up some weed from blowsy madam imported from a different movie connect Mrs. Olson (Mimi Marlowe), they meet her new tenant, the fresh off the farm Jane Collins (Mai Jansson). Trying to cover her drug dealing tracks, Mrs. Olson pretends it’s a social call and volunteers the boys to give Jane a ride out to the valley for her acting lessons. Like every other busty blonde in Hollywood, she left her family and friends back home in Minnesota to try to break down the pearly gates of the movie studios.

Stoned out of his mind and pissed he had to waste gas he probably didn’t even pay for, Carl cooks up a plot to kidnap Jane, and keep her in his dirty mattress rape den as a personal sex slave. Jameison resists for all of 5 minutes, but the risk of being caught and the sheer vileness of the plan are nothing in the face of being called a chicken by Carl. The pair lure poor Jane into their lair with the promise of a party, and a film that had already rounded the corner into bleakness goes pitch black.

While a lot of the New York City shot films of the period are so inept they almost become comical, The Defilers is shot in an effective bargain basement noir style, with a slick jazz soundtrack and some decently accurate hipster slang. Byron Mabe and Jerome Eden are fairly credible in their sociopathy and spinelessness, respectively.

It’s just professional enough to hold your attention as a narrative film, but just grungy enough that you have reason to be suspicious of the fact that the majority of the female cast never made another movie. When a single tear rolls down Jane’s face in close up as she is being assaulted, its disquietingly real looking.

Both David Friedman (Ilsa: She Wolf Of The SS) and Lee Frost (A Climax of Blue Power) moved on to make much bigger, more explicit cinematic provocations. With its depressingly matter of fact treatment of male entitlement and the violence as money shot roughie template it helped originate, The Defilers has a uniquely grimy power entirely its own. There are plenty of films more explicitly violent or sexual, but you’d be hard pressed to find anything much sleazier. The Defilers is just as dark and nasty as the sticky seat adult theaters it played in.

Love Me Deadly (1972)

They are many reasons why an actor who has had a degree of mainstream success would find themselves working in low budget cinema. Perhaps their career prospects have cooled as they aged (Anita Ekberg , Mercedes McCambridge). Maybe their career is just starting, and they take the lead in a B feature to attempt to prove they can carry more than secondary roles (Phillip Michael Thomas).

Lyle Waggoner falls somewhere in between. He had had success as both a model and in television during the 60s. By 1972 he was a beloved long running member of the ensemble cast of The Carol Burnett Show, a certified heart throb with a touch for light comedy. Each week, his smiling face was beamed into living rooms all over America on one of the most popular shows of the era.

Unfortunately, movie roles had always basically eluded him. Lyle made a few stabs in the late 60s, but the likes of Catalina Caper and Swamp Country were centered more on his youthful, square jawed good looks than any display of acting talent. Waggoner was still handsome, but was approaching middle age, and perhaps was feeling the pressure to pivot to theatrical leading man status before his days as every housewife’s favorite dream boat were completely over.

It wouldn’t be the first time a regional exploitation film maker showed a bigger star only the parts of the script that applied to them, then shot the more scandalous parts later. It also wouldn’t be the first time a bigger star used that as an excuse to provide plausible deniability for a film that flushed their matinee movie idol dreams down the toilet.

However it happened, this week’s film is one of the premier slices of psychosexual 70s weirdness there is, directed by a one and done high school theater teacher named Jacques Lacerte. From fall of 1972, the “my heart belongs to Daddy” epic Love Me Deadly:

The film opens on a funeral, with beautiful blonde Lindsay Finch (Mary Charlotte Wilcox) sitting in the back row. Waiting until all of the other mourners have left, she tentatively walks up the aisle to the casket, delicately raising the veil on her stylish oversized hat. Furtively glancing around, she leans in and plants a passionate kiss on the deceased.

Despite having wasted no time (3:10 to be precise) jumping into the necrophiliac waters of taboo, the credits roll over sepia images of a blonde moppet and her father playing happily, obligatory AM radio title theme song playing on the soundtrack.

Cut to a swinging party at Lindsey’s rather lavish house, full of food, friends, fun……and a variety pack of greasy and overly grabby future date rapists of America who are very into her. They are also very bad at taking no for an answer.

Should you question my characterization, the next scene is the blonde Ken doll up there (given the properly vintage villainous name of Wade) following Lindsay as she heads to her bedroom to freshen up, and attempting to force himself on her. She nearly scratches his eyes out, and he finally takes the damn hint to leave. Being a complete waste of even 50 plus year old cinematic oxygen, he calls Lindsey a bitch on the way out.

Understandably shaken, she clutches a stuffed teddy for comfort, and we get another sepia montage of when her beloved father gifted her the toy.

While Lindsey settles her nerves hunting through the funeral notices for any young handsome men being laid to rest, we are suddenly dropped into what may as well be different movie. In a sense it is, as this is one of the inserts shot after the fact. Producers insisted the film play less like a soapy melodrama, and more like a traditional horror film.

A street hustler is plying his trade outside an adult theater (I. William Quinn who also appeared in brutal roughie A Climax Of Blue Power). Up rolls Fred McSweeney (Timothy Scott), the creepy funeral home director from the first scene, presumably looking for a good time.

All things considered, I doubt any sex worker would get into a car with the world’s most unctuous undertaker for the promise of only $15, but this guy does. Slow night, I guess. He does up it to $25 when McSweeney insists on taking him to the funeral parlor for the trick.

We drop back in to the main plot for a moment. Lindsay is doing her usual hot lips for cold stiffs routine, when she gets startled by the arrival of the deceased’s hunky brother, Alex (Lyle Waggoner). Disturbed by both nearly getting caught, and Alex’s resemblance to her dearly departed dad, Lindsay bolts.

Meanwhile back at the funeral parlor, McSweeney proves he’s the serial killer the dead eyes and greasy hair told us he was, embalming his “date” alive. It’s the only scene in the movie that is genuinely harrowing, and considering the main subject matter here, that’s saying something.

We get a montage to upbeat, kicky sitcom music of Lindsay being a stylish little stalker. Spying on Alex at his brother’s burial, looking him up in the phone book to ferret out his workplace, sitting outside the window of his job and running for dear life when he notices her. The sepia toned flashbacks of daddy keep on coming.

As Lindsay is a rich and conventionally attractive blonde white lady, not even Alex finds all this as weird as it obviously is.

I do have to give murderous Fred McSweeney half credit, as he’s the only person in the whole film who notices that something is very wrong with Lindsay. Seeing her skulking about yet another funeral, he corners her in her car. On the ride to the cemetery, he handily defines “necrophilia” and that lovers are of the dead “are quite ordinary people, just the needs and desires are different”.

I don’t know how much life advice I would take from a man for whom cold blooded murder is a sex toy. In any case, he mentions he has a conveniently located necrophile cult right in his funeral home, and will be happy to provide her educational literature if she happens to be interested. Usually this level of hard sell is reserved for Amway, but I suppose a Satanic necrophile cult needs to modernize like any other highly suspicious bit of industry.

Lindsay speeds off in anger, and Fred sails off into the night for another sex worker.

True to his word, McSweeney snail mails Lindsay the details on the next cult meeting, in a discreet unmarked envelope. Desperate to avoid doing the two backed dance of the dead, she calls up date rape Wade.

Halfway through the evening, she realizes the outing was a waste of a fabulous fur coat, and that she’s probably safer and happier with the devil worshippers. Considering what we’ve seen of Wade, she isn’t wrong.

She tells him she has a headache, and burns rubber to the funeral home. However, the sight of their corpse fueled key party is too much for her.
Being a one cadaver kind of girl, she runs away in tears. Freaky Fred offers her a more “private viewing” at a later date, as well as an ominous warning to “keep our little secret”.

When she arrives home, things get no better, as Wade is sitting in her house asking questions that are none of his damn business, about where she went so late at night.

Trying to drive away her urges, she lets the butter blonde butthurt boy spend the night. They go on a date the next day, and just happen to stop by Alex’s gallery for an art opening. Once Alex reenters the picture, it’s very clear that the gallery isn’t the only thing that’s open. Bye, Wade.

There is a long ass montage of wacky hijinks and sweet young love, straight out of a soap opera or a shampoo commercial. By the time the ominous music cue hits announcing Fred McSweeney’s phone call about that “private viewing”, it’s a welcome return to what is supposed to be a horror film.

Wade happens to see Lindsay’s car driving by while he’s using a payphone. Proving yet again he may very well be the worst person in a movie that involves a serial killer, a necrophiliac, and a Satanic cult, he jumps in his car to follow her.

We all know exactly where Lindsay is headed, but Wade just can’t grasp anything she does being none of his concern. At least his asshole characterization is consistent.

Lindsay’s private dance with the dead gets interrupted by the fracas outside, and Wade’s lifeless corpse becomes part of some sort of dollar store Satanist ritual that even Joe Sarno would have found embarrassingly cheap.

Despite having known him for all of 2 weeks, Lindsay runs away from all this death by marrying Alex. Too bad the wedding ring still didn’t solve the whole issue of her being unable to have sex with anyone who has a pulse.

Lyle offers to sleep in another bedroom until Lindsay decides she wants him. Inexplicably, this is followed by another amber hued, boring as hell happy couple montage. I’m neither straight, nor have I ever married. However, even I know that is definitely NOT how that works.

Alex happens to see Lindsay’s car on his way to work, but she doesn’t respond when he honks and waves, as she is in her mourning garb. Alex manages to follow her, but is utterly confused as to why she would be making mid day visits to a funeral home.

He asks her about it later that evening, but she has an elaborate gift and a fancy dinner ready for their 3 week anniversary (!) in some masterful psyops. Feeling guilty, he lets the matter drop.

Alex comes home early the next day to bring Lindsay a gift, but Lindsey isn’t at home. The housekeeper mentions that what Lindsay does is “unnatural” and that the staff basically raised Lindsey after her father died. The housekeeper was demoted to a two day a week caretaker, because little rich girl Lindsay was pissed that the hired help pointed out the obvious.

When Lyle heads to the cemetery, he finds Lindsay in a child’s pigtails speaking in a baby voice while skipping around the headstone singing “Skinnamarink”. I’m genuinely unsure which is worse….the fact that the song made me remember Barney & Friends ever existed, or Lyle’s attempt to emote after this thunderingly obvious revelation.

Breakfast the next morning is tense, as Lindsay demands the housekeeper be fired, and Alex (correctly) states that their marriage is a sham, “just two kids playing a game”. When Lindsay storms off to sulk, the awkwardness and ski slope of red flags intensify when a registered letter arrives for Lindsay from McSweeney’s funeral home.

Alex is either the kindest man who has ever lived or the ultimate in brainless himbos, as he hands her the letter without asking questions. Apologies are exchanged for the heated argument, and the couple take the afternoon off to picnic in the country.

When Lindsay gets a mysterious headache that doesn’t need a doctor or medicine or anyone to see where she goes after 10pm, Alex FINALLY catches on to how quickly his marriage is going six feet under. Lindsay is in the bathroom as he is preparing to leave for a family party, and he snoops at the letter from Mcsweeney’s detailing another mysterious “meeting”.

I have no idea why a death cult would send a registered letter, or a member of said death cult would leave the opened letter on their bedside table. The image quality isn’t good enough to see if the post code is stamped “plot device”.

Lyle leaves the party early, and follows Lindsay to the funeral home…..

…..only to find his formerly frigid wife enthusiastically mounting the recently deceased…..

…… and to get quickly stabbed to death by Mcsweeney to keep the cult’s secret safe.

Mcsweeney takes Lindsay home and pumps her full of tranquilizers to keep her calm. Turns out she killed her father all those years ago, in an accident with an unattended gun. The trauma made her ideal man have to be identical to Daddy…..including the part about being deceased.

Mcsweeney brought Alex home to “prepare” him for her, embalming him so he could be hers forever. When Lindsay walks into Alex’s room, she sees Mcsweeney about to make an incision on the corpse, but in her drug addled state she doesn’t realize no one can hurt Alex anymore, given he’s already dead.

She bludgeons Mcsweeney to death with a decorative statue, happy her Alex is safe. She climbs into bed with his corpse, and though her face is tear streaked, she nuzzles next to “Daddy” and smiles as she closes her eyes.

Mary Charlotte Wilcox was right to smile. Somehow both leads of this glorified Very Special Episode about the dangers of necrophilia managed to have careers after this, albeit not in feature films. Lyle Waggoner went on to star in the Wonder Woman television series, and had a long career as a working character actor. Mary Charlotte Wilcox went on to write and perform in popular comedy series SCTV.

Like many things that happened during the 70s, both actors quietly resolved to never speak of Love Me Deadly again. All things considered, it obviously worked out better for everyone to let the dead stay buried.

Monster Munch: Modern Vampires, Midnight Movies And More!

Another week, another roundup of my genre related writing from around the web. From bloody B-movie valentines to Blaxploitation vampires, its all of the terror thoughts my fine editors saw fit to print. As always, come chat with me in the comments or on Twitter.

Making A (Midnight Movie) Monster: A Bloody Valentine To B Movies A short, sweet little love letter to low budget cinema. If you’ve ever wondered why I spend so much time deep dumpster diving forgotten trash films, here’s the best explanation I’ve got.


Bloodlust And Blues Beyond Blacula: Ganja & Hess Underseen and conceptually ambitious, Ganja & Hess is a grindhouse gem with some sharp social commentary underneath its basic plot of undead lovers, which I examine here.

How Killer Klowns From Outer Space Became the Last Great Creature Feature Before the snarky self awareness of meta horror became the dominant mode, there was this delightful bit of big top horror from effects wizards the Chiodo brothers. A throwback to atomic age monster kid culture and vintage rubber suit romps, and likely the last great entry in that subgenre.

Bite Size: She Freak (1967)

She Freak might be the closest thing to a labor of love in the vast filmography of legendary exploitation producer David Friedman. Combining dirt cheap film making and the grift filled world of the carnival midway is a two for one punch to part fools from their money, the only Golden Rule exploitation cinema ever had.

Jade Cochran (Claire Brennen) is a diner waitress with a terrible Southern accent and an even worse boss. When an advance man for a traveling show stops in for lunch, Jade leaves the greasy spoon behind for an exciting job at the carnival…..as a waitress.

Jade’s wonder at her new home allows director Byron Mabe (The Acid Eaters) PLENTY of time to linger over every detail of the shooting location, and there’s actually a pretty decent industrial/time capsule of carny life in all the meandering. Set up, tear down, hand painted banners, the actual mummified corpse of an Old West outlaw and accurate explanations of the snappy slang of showfolk are all present and accounted for with a 60’s lounge pop soundtrack.

After 20 minutes of grab ass at the greasy spoon, and a solid half hour of Jade’s day at the fair, the film suddenly remembers the framing device at its opening and gets into its actual plot. That plot being a half cooked knock off of Tod Browning’s 1932 classic, Freaks, give or take the actual sideshow performers and a burlesque style stripper.

Jade is our ersatz scheming acrobat, character actor Bill McKinney is the sweet natured sucker, and the firing of a little person ever so cleverly named Shorty (Felix Silla) is the catalyst for the unseen freaks’ revenge. Gorgeously tense avenging angels advancing in the rain, a few extras lit with color gels holding prop knives in their teeth, what’s the difference? You say potato, David Friedman and crew say po-tat-o.

The final transformation of Jade manages to be campy, crepe-y and cleavage-y all at once. Unless you are a sucker for circuses, carnivals and other old fashioned American amusements, its a bit of a slog to get to the reveal the movie sets up for in the opening sequence. If you have particularly fast fingers you can freeze frame the trailer above and catch the monster. Those with poor twitch reflexes can check out the poster art. Either way, you’ll have seen enough of this She Freak to to get your ten cents worth and make haste for the egress.

Youth Aflame (1944)

The juvenile delinquency subgenre was one of the evergreens of exploitation cinema. Every generation thinks the kids coming up behind them are just the wildest, most wanton monsters that ever existed, and the subject makes for an easy mix of sensationalism and mildly taboo titillations. In a cinematic realm known to be boldly transgressive of social norms and mores, it is unfailingly amusing that the rather conservative “Get off my lawn!” was one of exploitation’s loudest and longest lasting rallying cries.

From 1935 to roughly 1965, a host of B movie producers kept cranking out films that were as identical as McDonalds hamburgers. The flavors of moral panic and the fashions would change (jazz and liquor giving way to hot rods and tight sweaters) but the films would always work on the same basic engine.

Teens (read: not a day below 25) would be tempted by some combination of forbidden things that dared look like they might actually be fun. Sex, drugs, queerness, multiculturalism, or music with a beat you can actually dance to were all on the permanent naughty list.

At least one character (usually the designated hero, but not always) abstains from the debauchery, but is such a sanctimonious prat it is impossible to root for them, even on the rare occasions they are right. The wayward and their exploits provide the more salacious content that actually got asses in the seats.

That brings us to today’s film. A tale of two sisters, one as pure as the driven snow, the other headed toward the slush of late nights and stiff drinks. Let’s get into Elmer Clifton’s 1944 melodrama, Youth Aflame:

This particular print is billed under the alternate title of Hoodlum Girls. The film was shot in 1942, released in 1944. Amazingly, prints were still kicking around the bottom of double features 15 years later, as the copyright date for the retitling is 1959. Youth Aflame/Hoodlum Girls outlived its own director, as Elmer Clifton died of a brain hemorrhage in 1949.

Meet Katy White (Joy Reese). She has been lying in state at the Receiving Hospital of the Police Department (as per the prominently placed signage). In the innocent days of 1944, I suppose people believed the police would have actual reason to want to help someone heal.

In any case, she briefly comes to from her coma/shock at the wartime ban on nylons/whatever. She shrieks about someone having a gun. Katy then notices her sister Laura (Kay Morley) at her bedside,and mumblingly chastises her about being too pretty to do the things she did, whatever those were. Framing device established, Katy daintily passes back out to cut to our first flashback.

Laura sneaks through the girls’ shared bedroom window after a late night of dancing and drinks with Mr. Al Simpson. Katy promptly lectures her about staying out late, having a drink and accepting the gifts of liquor and the rather fetching slip Laura is currently wearing.

Laura wants to drop out of school and marry Al. Katy, greatly overestimating the job market for women once the war ended, thinks Laura needs a diploma so she can afford to buy her own things

Not only is she a scold, but Katy had it backwards. Laura could ONLY do what she’s doing because she’s so pretty. A full night of dinner, drinks and dancing, new lingerie AND home in time to not wake dear old Daddy? Well played.

After a few more of Katy’s parent defending bedside confessions of a terminal kiss ass, we cut to our next flashback. Katy and Laura are being raised by their bank guarding single dad. He has no issue brandishing one of his work guns at the table, but scolds Katy for picking it up because “guns aren’t for girls”.

Half the neighborhood shows up to interrupt the family’s breakfast, including Mr. Al Simpson (who is just as much of a sleazy lech as you’d expect), some random guy who likes to spout factoids, the student body president from school, and a policewoman following up on Laura’s report of a skirt being stolen from her locker. Mr. White is nonplussed by all of this, until the female police officer shows up, because “police work is a man’s job”.

When Mr. White wanders back off to the living room to make an itemized list of all the other things puny ladybrains can’t do, Mr. Simpson takes the opportunity to suck face with Laura, and inform her that if she REALLY loves him, she’ll steal one of Daddy’s guns for his unspecified “business”.

Katy and the wholesome jars of mayo she calls friends help Madame Policewoman set up a milk bar called the JIVE club to keep the local teens out of trouble and on their way to the appropriate calcium intake. Because B pictures always need some insulation to hit minimum feature runtime, we watch along with the squares as some dork in a car salesman sport coat drums tunelessly for 5 minutes out of a 57 minute film.

Laura steps in for all of us when she sneaks off to a real bar (smart), to pass on the gun to Al Simpson while trying to convince him to marry her (not so much). At least the filler entertainment at the real bar is three pretty ladies who do some legitimately impressive acrobatics in heels.

While Katy and her squad of suck ups butter up Ms. Policewoman with tales of how she saved them at a critical time in their lives, where their nerdier friends “could have gone either way”, the intrepid investigator notices Laura is not amongst her fawning fans.

Katy briefly redeems herself when she goes to the real club to warn her sister that the fuzz are on their way. She then ruins it immediately by switching back to her usual nagging. Now that Laura has committed to her plan of getting Mr. Simpson to marry her, Katy gives her a lecture that you “shouldn’t want marriage to get AWAY from home, but to build one”

In any case, Al Simpson is sick of Katy’s meddling, and he needs the gun still sitting in Laura’s purse. He spikes the punch at the JIVE ass club. Drunken fun ensues, and the squares even manage a jitterbug. Of course, the sound of joy means the cops come to shut it down.

Some more filler as we watch Laura and Al listen to a crooner that would embarrass Michigan J Frog. Meanwhile, one of Al’s cronies lures Katy into Al’s empty house, telling her that Laura is waiting for her there. Unsurprisingly, Al’s BFF is also what the parlance of the time would call a “masher”, and that I would call “deserving of a solid kick in the balls”.

Square jaw class president comes to save the day with some shadowboxing, followed by a perturbed Al and Laura. The exertion disrupts his Brylcreemed coif, but he manages to get both sisters out of the apartment.

Mr. White finally noticed his girls were missing, and Katy’s insurance salesman of a boyfriend gets a dressing down for the lateness of the hour and the proof of the booze.

The girls go to bed, and their usual bickering devolves into a catfight. In full coverage, borderline union suit style pajamas. This somewhat defeats the purpose of including a catfight that isn’t remotely necessary to the plot.

We’re coming in hot on the last of the runtime, and it won’t take much to resolve the main plot. Here comes the filler, where a girl we’ve seen for maybe 30 seconds in the whole film, gets a feature turn as a teen that attempts to attempt suicide for the guilt of imbibing. Dame Policewoman saves her with a lecture, and wore her best tissue ruffle, tear absorbent blouse.

She then has a roundtable discussion with all of the “good kids” about how it’s their civic duty to snitch on the person who had the shitty taste to bother making White Russians out of all possible cocktails. The JIVE club must reopen to provide “congenial social gathering places” for the youth to learn to eventually become good providers and happy housewives.

Girls like Laura who like glamour, excitement or the remotest possibility of sexual agency? If all girls were like them, “there wouldn’t be any homes!”.

Speaking of, Laura has dressed up in her best imitation of a frontier madam to run away from home for good, another one of Daddy’s bank guarding guns in her bag. If this caper doesn’t make that Al Simpson marry her, NOTHING will!

No one notices for quite a while, as the earth shattering revelation that it was likely SOMEONE OLD ENOUGH TO BUY LIQUOR that spiked the punch is reverberating in the goody two shoes and useless authority figure community.

As for Daddy? He’s too busy ripping Katy’s Milquetoast McHearthrob a new one, again. In a brilliant(-ly stupid) countermove, Potato Salad With Raisins asks for Katy’s hand in marriage.

Then and only then do they notice Laura’s hastily scrawled note on a paper grocery bag. Mr. White, being consistently characterized, complains immediately at the waste of time and money it was trying to educate her feeble femmechild mind, and he once again harrumphs off to the living room to contemplate female uselessness and smoke cigars.

Surprising no one…..Al reveals he had no intention of marrying Laura…….

…..but Laura finally lives up to that ridiculous hat and pulls the gun on Simpson to make it clear, wedding bells or ambulance sirens…….

……luckily Katy and Mr. Suave Sweatervest arrive in the nick of time…….

….as Simpson and Laura struggle for the gun…….

…..but Wonderbread Thunder knocks Simpson clean out………

….only to find Katy passed out on the floor from the shock of none of this having sweet fuck all to do with her……

…..which explains all of her melodramatic swooning in the opener.

Once Mrs. Policewoman hands Laura, Al, and his flunky over to the jail wardens, she delivers quite the dressing down to Mr. White. Is it because of his blatant neglect of his own kids? The fact that not 1 but 2 unsecured guns got stolen out of his household? That he is clearly the worst security guard on the planet? His unbridled disdain for women?

Nope.
She lectures him on his lack of understanding of modern youth, who need good clean social entertainments in addition to home life, in order for delinquency tragedies like this not to happen. What qualifies as a good, clean social entertainment? You guessed it. Her god damned milk bar.

Cut to credits on a cautionary tale that may as well have been brought to you by the Dairy Farmers of America and the local 4H. Milk, milk, lemonade….on Poverty Row the fudge is made.