Film Review: Girls Town (1959)

Also known as: The Innocent and the Damned (reissue title)
Release Date: October 5th, 1959
Directed by: Charles F. Haas
Written by: Robert Hardy Andrews, Robert Smith
Music by: Van Alexander, Paul Anka
Cast: Mamie Van Doren, Mel Tormé, Ray Anthony, Paul Anka, James Mitchum, The Platters

Albert Zugsmith Productions, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 89 Minutes

Review:

“This is Chip’s father.” – Michael Clyde, “You killed my son!” – Mr. Gardener, “I’m sorry for you, Mr. Gardener, but you’re dialing the wrong number.” – Silver Morgan

This movie was the focal point of the first episode of Mystery Science Theater 3000‘s sixth season, the first full season to star Mike Nelson. It was also the last episode that I needed to cover for that season, as I had watched and reviewed the rest of the pictures from that lot. In fact, I have one episode left in season four and then a handful or so in season five.

So on this journey of reviewing every film featured on MST3K, I have come across a lot of ’50s delinquent movies. While this one is equal to the quality of the rest of the lot, which doesn’t say much, this may be the most star-studded of them, as it features rising star Mamie Van Doren, as well as musicians Mel Tormé, Paul Anka and The Platters. It also has James Mitchum in it but James’ career never rose to the heights that his father’s did.

Sadly, despite the musical flourish, Girls Town is a pretty boring movie.

The story follows Van Doren’s Silver Morgan, who is sent to a Catholic reform school, where she doesn’t quite fit in. Additionally, Silver has been accused of killing a rapist but the girl that actually did the killing was Silver’s sister. The sister is then blackmailed by a creep who is into “hands-off drag racing”. The same creep has plans of selling the sister off to some Tijuana slave traders.

Yes, that’s really the plot. I didn’t pull any of that out of my ass. It’s fucking insane, I know.

And well, the film itself is just a baffling mess that deals with heavy subjects like rape, sex slavery and swooning over Paul f’n Anka. That’s pretty hardcore shit for 1959!

Anyway, there’s nothing all that noteworthy about the film, other than its cast and how nuts the story is.

Rating: 2.5/10
Pairs well with: other delinquent movies featured on MST3K.

Retro Relapse: The Magic of Monaco

RETRO RELAPSE is a series of older articles from various places where I used to write before Talking Pulp.

*Written in 2014.

There is something pretty special about the Monaco Grand Prix.

To start is it’s name. It is named after its hosting country Monaco, the beautiful sovereign city-state located on the French Riviera – surrounded by France and near the Italian border.

It isn’t like all the other Formula 1 races that are named after large and well-known hosting countries; some notables being the British Grand Prix, the Spanish Grand Prix, the Chinese Grand Prix, the Brazilian Grand Prix, the Australian Grand Prix, the United States Grand Prix and so on. No, the Monaco Grand Prix is unique in its distinction – it is a tiny nation and known across the world by racing fans of all social and economic backgrounds almost entirely because of this race.

There are a lot of insanely beautiful circuits throughout the entire Formula 1 calendar but something about Monaco sets it apart. There is an added level of mystique and beauty. There is a greater degree of pageantry that sets the bar at a height that other places can’t seem to reach. Between the waterfront littered with luxurious yachts and the old European architecture that creates majestic looking canyon walls next to the lightning fast Formula 1 cars weaving between them, there is just a little something extra special about this world-renowned race.

The Monaco Grand Prix is Formula 1 at it’s most prestigious level. Monaco is the sport at its absolute best and is the highlight of the season from year-to-year. It has been the standard bearer for the sport going as far back as 1929. It is also considered one of the world’s greatest races and is on a level similar to that of Le Mans.

In fact, the 24 Hours of Le Mans is the only race that I’d rank above it. However, Le Mans is a different type of motorsport. Formula 1 is the pinnacle of auto racing and with Monaco being the pinnacle of Formula 1, you can’t not respect and appreciate it.

For those who have never watched this truly amazing race, it will be on this weekend. This year’s Monaco Grand Prix should be one for the ages, as Lewis Hamilton is going for his fifth straight win, as Mercedes has dominated the sport this season. Also, Red Bull’s Sebastian Vettel is still arguably the greatest driver since Michael Schumacher and he will most likely be at his best this weekend. Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso and Kimi Räikkönen will turn up the heat, as both are still top level drivers and have a lot to prove due to their misfortune so far this season.

Formula 1 is the greatest motorsport in the world and possibly the greatest sport in the world. This weekend we are once again treated to the best this sport has to offer. Grab some real champagne, not that sparkling wine crap, and eat about five pounds of Gruyèrs and croissants because it will be a special day that we only get once a year.

Retro Relapse: The Lack of Respect for Le Mans

RETRO RELAPSE is a series of older articles from various places where I used to write before Talking Pulp.

*Written in 2014.

As I’ve stated previously (here), the 24 Hours of Le Mans is the greatest race in the history of the world. That is not just some careless opinion that I have, the rest of the world recognizes this as well. By rest of the world, I apparently can’t include America in that because this year it is glaringly obvious that the largest and greatest race in the world is a fucking afterthought.

As I was just watching the race with 75 minutes left on the 24 hour clock, Fox Sports 1 cut it off to show a Moto GP. Are they serious? The race is almost at the end and now in the most exciting and competitive leg of the race they cut it off for a pre-race show for one of a couple dozen Moto GP events this year? They cut of this race, the one and only Le Mans that only happens once a year and is the supreme platform for bragging rights between the best car manufacturers and engineers in the world?

Going back to yesterday afternoon, just as it was becoming really dark in France, Fox Sports 1 cut off Le Mans for some NASCAR truck racing. No, not even fucking NASCAR but NASCAR truck racing! Derp! Derp! Go Chevy!

That was the worst possible time to interrupt the 24 Hours of Le Mans, as the night racing is exciting and unlike anything you can get in any other race. Sure NASCAR and Formula 1 have some night racing but NASCAR and F1 have gigantic lights that make nighttime a moot point and neither of them drive in complete darkness on a winding country road for 12 or so hours. You wouldn’t know that though, watching America’s shitty coverage of this truly amazing race.

Sure, they redirected everyone watching from Fox Sports 1 to Fox Sports 2 but I, and I’m sure many people, don’t have Fox Sports 2. It’s not even a situation where I just don’t pay for the channel, it is a situation where Comcast in my area (and I’m sure many areas) doesn’t carry it.

So other than the start of the race, Fox Sports, America’s unfortunate owner of Le Mans’ broadcasting rights, has robbed us of the two most important parts of this race, the night racing and the finish. At least when Fox Sports 1 was still Speed TV, they’d show 75 percent of the race and they’d definitely show the ending. I mean, what’s the point of watching this race, if you can’t see the fucking ending?

So, as the race ends, I am watching it on an illegal stream because the Fox Sports website, the Le Mans website and the live stream on DailyMotion either aren’t working, they’re lagging or they have atrociously bad quality. The illegal feed? Well, it’s got awesome sound, is in HD and I can’t complain. Fox Sports and America needs to get their shit together because this race is deserving of far more respect than it is receiving.

I mean, for fuck’s sake, America, Patrick Dempsey has gone from fairly successful actor to following his dream and becoming an incredibly formidable Le Mans racer. That’s an amazing story and Americans should be embracing that shit because he’s gone from the grass-cutting nerd in Can’t Buy Me Love to a 250MPH American hero in the hardest and best race on Earth.

Maybe if Ford would start making prototypes again, America would care. Unfortunately, Ford is too busy making billboards on wheels that can’t turn right. At one time, Ford was a goddamned world champion after conquering the unconquerable Ferrari. The late 1960’s was the best time in the history of Le Mans, I wish the level of respect and glory it had back then still existed. I wish people would see the magic in the Steve McQueen film Le Mans and feel the spirit of this grand event.

NASCAR’s success ruined all other racing in this country. Americans don’t have the attention span for real racing, which is why Le Mans and Formula 1 don’t have massive followings. It’s kind of like how Americans don’t have attention spans for anything other than American football and basketball, leaving great sports like soccer, baseball and hockey to suffer.

But fuck it, I’m in the minority here. I just wish my countrymen weren’t such philistines.

Film Review: The Wraith (1986)

Also known as: Turbocop (Mexico), Interceptor (Germany)
Release Date: October, 1986 (Tokyo International Fantastic Film Festival)
Directed by: Mike Marvin
Written by: Mike Marvin
Music by: Michael Hoenig, J. Peter Robinson
Cast: Charlies Sheen, Nick Cassavetes, Sherilyn Fenn, Randy Quaid, Clint Howard, Griffin O’Neal

New Century Entertainment Corporation, Alliance Entertainment, Turbo Productions, 93 Minutes

Review:

“You listen to me, you son-of-a-bitch! There’s a kid out there usin’ his car to kill people, not that it’s such a big deal since it seems to be your gang he’s got it in for… so, if you guys try to take the law into your own hands, and that killer turns up dead, I’m gonna see you all sniffin’ cyanide in the Arizona gas chamber.” – Sheriff Loomis

This is one of those movies that used to come on late at night on cable, usually with an introduction by Joe Bob Briggs via TNT’s MonsterVision. I always got glued to the set whenever it was on though, as there is just something so surreal and bizarre about it.

The plot is basically the same as The Crow, except the dead guy looking for revenge isn’t an invincible goth dude with a pet bird. Instead, he’s Charlie Sheen and he has the ability to turn into a ghost car. But then, that’s kind of confusing because he ends up giving the car to his little brother at the end, as he goes off into the sunset on his motorcycle with Audrey from Twin Peaks.

Anyway, Tucson is overrun by a gang of race car thugs. They bully people into racing them, cheat to win and then take their car. Charlie Sheen in his previous, less dreamy form, was murdered by the gang because he was having sex with Audrey from Twin Peaks, who the gang leader is obsessed over.

Sheen comes back, turns into a ghost car a.k.a. a Dodge M4S Interceptor and kills the gang members, one at a time, in races that end with them usually being blown to bits. Although, their bodies remain intact with their eyes looking like they’ve been burnt out. I guess Ghost Car Charlie sucks their souls out through their eyes or something. Honestly, it’s not really clear.

The film also stars Nick Cassavetes, son of John, as the gang leader, Clint Howard, as a a guy that looks like a ginger Beavis with glasses, and Randy Quaid, as the no nonsense sheriff that ain’t got time for all this supernatural shit. But the sheriff doesn’t really care about solving the case, as the ghost car is killing off the scumbags of Tucson.

I can’t particularly call this a good film and really, it’ll resonate with a certain type of movie fan. Mostly, fans of ’80s schlock with a sci-fi and supernatural bent. Really, this is a common late night cable movie of the late ’80s and ’90s, so if that’s your thing, you should enjoy this.

There’s not much plot to muck up the insanity and surrealness, which in these type of movies is a real plus. We don’t need all this wacky shit explained, just serve it to us in mass amounts and let us feast.

I can’t say that this is a movie that helped anyone’s career but I certainly don’t think that it hurt anyone’s either. It’s a hearty helping of ham with a dopey but fun script, executed as well as it could be with ’80s special effects and a tight budget.

Plus, it’s got a lot of solid car action.

Rating: 6.5/10
Pairs well with: The Crow, which may have somewhat ripped this story off.

Retro Relapse: Le Mans: The Greatest Race in the World

RETRO RELAPSE is a series of older articles from various places where I used to write before Talking Pulp.

*Written in 2014.

Since 1923, one race has stood above all others as the greatest race in the world: The 24 Hours of Le Mans.

It has now gone on for over 90 years and is inching towards that century mark. It is the most important event in motorsports history. It pits the best car manufacturers in the world, head-to-head, to see who is the best between them. It is a dangerous game of impossible odds, cutthroat competition and bragging rights yet it still exudes more class than any other sporting event in the history of the world.

The only thing that even comes close to the 24 Hours of Le Mans is Formula 1. However, Formula 1 doesn’t race for 24 hours straight, through the elements and into the dark of night on poorly lit and often times wet roads. I can’t think of a sport or a single event with such a level of danger, risk and reward. The 24 Hours of Le Mans is a showcase of the immortals behind the wheel. Only the best can hack it and only the best of the best can cross the finish line.

I could spend all day pumping this thing up because it is the most amazing thing that I get to witness year in and year out. This race is great for all the reasons I stated above but it doesn’t seem to click with American audiences. I guess watching ugly billboards go round and round in a circle for four hours is more exciting than seeing Ferraris, Porches, Aston Martins, BMWs, Audis, Mercedes and other beautiful cars weaving in and out of other luxury cars, s-curves and sharp turns for 24 hours. Sorry America, I have to side with the rest of the world on this one.

Additionally, Le Mans brings out the prototypes. The best manufacturers and engineers in the world use all their resources and knowledge to create the absolute best machine they can build in order to compete against one another. For more than a decade, Audi has dominated the sport because they have made cars that make supercars looks like ’82 Datsuns. In the past, manufacturers like Porsche and Ferrari dominated the sport. I’d rather see these majestic beasts of the road zipping by than some Chevrolet eyesore trying to sell me penis pills and Pop Tarts. If you don’t feel the same way, you need to really look at yourself in the mirror. To succeed in Le Mans, you have to be able to do a lot more than turn left at high speeds and talk with a twang.

This weekend, the 24 Hours of Le Mans returns. I will be glued to my television set for 24 hours, actually more than that due to all the pre-race and post-race coverage. Yes, I know that Audi will most assuredly win once again but that’s not the point. I didn’t stop watching Formula 1 when Michael Schumacher won five seasons in a row.

The point is, this is a sport for men. The most dangerous and life-threatening sport in the world. It gives us the best drivers in the best machines on the best race track ever created. It gives one more excitement and awe than some Mike’s Hard Lemonade 900 or whatever the next NASCAR race is called.

Steve McQueen, one of the greatest manly men to ever live, made a racing movie about one event, it was the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Hell, the film itself was simply called Le Mans.

Any argument one could have against Le Mans being the most badass sporting event of the year is completely and utterly invalid.

NASCAR can keep Tom Cruise.

Film Review: Two-Lane Blacktop (1971)

Release Date: July 7th, 1971 (New York City premiere)
Directed by: Monte Hellman
Written by: Rudolph Wurlitzer, Will Corry
Music by: Billy James
Cast: James Taylor, Warren Oates, Laurie Bird, Dennis Wilson, Harry Dean Stanton

Michael Laughlin Enterprises, Universal Pictures, 102 Minutes

Review:

“Performance and image, that’s what it’s all about.” – G.T.O.

1969’s Easy Rider really left its mark on people, especially the film industry. It’s pretty apparent that it had an effect on this picture, as far as its tone and narrative. But that’s not a bad thing, as Hollywood really started to evolve around the turn of the ’70s. Films got darker, more personal and much more experimental, as indie filmmakers started to redefine what a motion picture could be.

I also find it interesting that this came out the same year as Vanishing Point, which also features a cool car, a plot full of hopelessness and a gritty realness that wasn’t common in films before this time.

Now this can feel like a slow moving picture but it’s got a lot of energy and a strong spirit. None of these characters are all that likable but there’s something about each of them that is intriguing and lures you into their orbit.

I really think that the glue of the picture is Laurie Bird, who plays a character simply referred to as “The Girl”. She is the object of every man’s desire in this film and it is kind of unsettling, as she is very much a minor and isn’t, in any way, glammed up or all that beautiful. She’s pretty obviously a runaway that sleeps her way to free rides across the country with no real direction in life and no personal aspirations to speak of. But her part in this really puts the other characters into perspective, as they are all vying for her companionship, even though she’s just a ghost that comes into their lives for a brief moment in time, probably because she’s got nothing else to do. And ultimately, she bolts at the end of the story, leaving the men pining over her in her dust.

If anything, this film is a strong character study with understated performances, except in regards to Warren Oates’ G.T.O. Oates was stellar in this as a pathological liar, who gives riders in his car a different backstory every step of this journey. But he provided just about all of the personality in the film, even if he comes off as a middle aged loser running away from a life he failed at.

The plot is pretty lose and not focused but it doesn’t need to be, as we aren’t so much concerned with the beginning and the end of this “race” in the film, so much as we are just peeking into the lives of broken people in an era where America sort of had a dark cloud over it between the Vietnam War, the Nixon presidency, a drug boom and coming out of the Free Love Movement.

This will not be a film that everyone will enjoy and those looking for car action should look elsewhere. Maybe check out the original Gone In 60 Seconds. But for those who enjoy films like Easy Rider and Vanishing Point, they’ll probably also enjoy this.

Rating: 8.25/10
Pairs well with: Vanishing Point, Dirty Mary Crazy Larry and Easy Rider.

Film Review: Deathsport (1978)

Also known as: Death Race 2050 (Germany)
Release Date: April, 1978
Directed by: Allan Arkus, Roger Corman, Nicholas Niciphor
Written by: Nicholas Niciphor, Donald E. Stewart, Francis Doel
Music by: Andy Stein
Cast: David Carradine, Claudia Jennings, Richard Lynch

New World Pictures, 82 Minutes

Review:

“As much as I would enjoy killing you here tonight, I will enjoy watching you die more in the Deathsport tomorrow.” – Ankar Moor

Man, despite being a fan of this film’s style, this was a real challenge to get through, even at just 82 minutes.

Maybe part of the problem was that it had three directors. Also, it was trying to capitalize off of the cult classic Death Race 2000 and was intended to be a follow-up to it but switching out cars for motorcycles. It definitely fails at being anything close to the greatness of Death Race 2000 and another similar film also starring Carradine, Cannonball.

I think the biggest reason as to why this doesn’t have the charm and coolness of those other two films, is that this one wasn’t directed by Paul Bartell. And I think that is most apparent in the dryness of this film and it’s complete lack of clever humor and endearing spirit.

Put out by New World and Roger Corman, this was a bargain basement production. But it was also mired in production issues beyond the budgetary constraints.

The film looks cheap. In fact, it looks cheaper than Death Race even though it was made much later in the same decade. But maybe the clusterfuck of a production just didn’t have the wherewithal to get the best bang for the buck, as Paul Bartell did and as Corman usually does.

The acting is really bad, even for New World Pictures standards. Plus, the action sequences are bizarre and riddled with more mistakes than a typical Corman production.

While the film has an interesting visual style that isn’t too dissimilar from Death Race, it has really bizarre weapons, like transparent swords and these handheld spotlight things that vaporize people.

This also has one of the strangest bits from any Corman production. There are two scenes that feature a naked woman dancing around these suspended silver rods. Then the rods start shocking them, as they dance around, yelping in pain as an old fascist dweeb laughs in amusement.

Deathsport was a real disappointment. Granted, I didn’t go into it expecting it to be on the level of the rare gem, Death Race 2000. However, I had hoped that some of that spirit would’ve made it into this film. It didn’t.

Rating: 3.5/10
Pairs well with: Death Race 2000 and Cannonball.