The Grindhouse Film Festival Pays Tribute to Russ Meyer and Tura Satana

Faster Pussycat Kill Kill movie poster

Back in May of 2011, the Grindhouse Film Festival paid tribute to director Russ Meyer and the late actress Tura Satana, both of whom are best known for having worked together on the exploitation classic “Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill!.” This film screened at New Beverly Cinema along with “The Doll Squad” which Tura co-starred in, and in attendance were two actresses from the 1965 cult film: Haji and Susan Bernard. Both said if Satana were still with us, she would have been very pleased by the large turnout.

Satana starred as Varla, the leader of a trio of thrill-seeking go-go dancers. Her contribution to the 1965 movie was she added karate scenes and even choreographed them with the stunt director. Satana died in February of 2011 from heart failure, and Haji burst into tears confessing just how much she misses her and her pot roast. Bernard said Satana had a very big heart. She was 72 when she passed away, but we came out of this screening feeling like she left us way too soon.

In talking about Meyer, both ladies described him as a “good hearted man” who always visited his mother on Christmas Day. They described his editing and photography on his movies as being consistently top notch, and he always worked with the same five men crew which became a “tight knit” family. Bernard also remarked how he had a natural instinct about actors in what they could do without direction. It got to where he went up to the cast and said, “Here’s your scripts, do your thing.”

Bernard recalled her big driving scene where she got into the truck and of how she told Russ she had never drove a stick shift before. To this, Meyer replied, “You’ll figure it out.”

Both actresses made it very clear Meyer always took care of the girls and made sure they were well rested and that he ensured they did not have sex during filming as he always wanted them to look horny onscreen. Working with Meyer also made them both understand what he stood for: freedom of expression, anti-prejudice, equal rights for everyone and, along with the late Hugh Hefner anti-censorship.

Haji further remarked if you went into Meyer’s movies a complete wimp, you came out a toughened and changed person. He had the cast sleeping in tents out in the desert with scorpions, snakes and tarantulas threatening them when they least expected it. After doing one film with Meyer, Haji said she came out if it “rugged,” but they remained very good friends all the way up to his death.

“Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill!” is considered the cinematic origin of girl power and female empowerment. Unlike the endless number of films which came afterwards, it had no cursing and no nudity. Haji even said you could take your kids to see it. Whether or not taking kids to this movie is a good idea, there is no doubt of how much influence it has had on movies and popular culture. This cult classic still draws quite the crowd for good reason: women have the upper hand against those against them, and they are never ever weak. When you think about it, this was not always the case with movies back in the 1960’s.

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So Bad It’s Good: Ed Adlum Looks Back at ‘Invasion of the Blood Farmers’

Invasion of the Blood Farmers movie poster

Ed Adlum was the Grindhouse Film Festival’s guest of honor at New Beverly Cinema on September 25, 2012. Among the movies of Adlum’s were showing there on this evening was his 1972 cult horror movie “Invasion of the Blood Farmers.” Many have described this film as being delightfully dreadful, and Adlum is not blind to its lack of quality. Watching it with an audience, however, and hearing Adlum talk about what got him to make movies made this a highly entertaining evening.

Adlum was actually involved in the music business before he decided to make movies, and he was a writer for Cashbox Magazine back in the 1960’s. This determination which led him to do the things he wanted to do came about in his youth.

“When I was a kid, I was one of these ambitious fellas who was gonna show everybody in the East Bronx that I was special,” Adlum said. “Now how that happened is up to the psychiatric profession, but it happened anyhow. I was short, I was not especially good looking and frightened of girls. I was number one in school and you know how that can happen, and I was the kind of person who often said in his own head I’m gonna be something special. So, when you have a motivation like that, all you need is the occasion, and the occasion came along.”

From there, Adlum talked about how he met Jimmy Walker whose band Castle Kings he ended up joining as a guitarist. He went on to say Walker and him made “several really bad” albums after being signed by Atlantic Records and that they eventually split up to do their own things. Adlum then went on to join the army as everyone was in the army back then thanks to General Dwight Eisenhower. Following this, he started Replay Magazine which covered the jukebox and coin-up industries.

When he moved to California, Adlum decided he wanted to fulfill his heart’s desire to make a movie. He came up with the story for his directorial debut while talking with a friend of his named Jackie.

“Why don’t we do something about a planet that’s dying from lack of food and call it Hianus and they all come to the earth in search of a food supply for their planet back home, but they find it in human blood,” Adlum said. “And I stop right in the middle of the floor and I say ‘Jackie I got it, Invasion of the Blood Farmers!’ From that point I went to my friends in the jukebox business and I raised the money. One of the guys that worked with me at Cashbox Magazine named Ed Kelleher and I wrote the script. We made that movie for $24,000 dollars.”

Adlum went on to describe “Invasion of the Blood Farmers” as being “bad good” and that “it is just a hoot which is like saying I don’t believe this picture.” Doing the movie also got him to meet Mike Findlay who ended up directing a film Adlum wrote and produced called “Shriek of the Mutilated,” and they became “fierce friends” as a result.

“Invasion of the Blood Farmers” cannot be mistaken for classic cinema as it has a number of things wrong with it: bad acting, erratic editing and serious continuity problems. Still, none of us could come out of it saying we were not entertained. When all is said and done, Ed Adlum did achieve his dream of making a movie, and in a way this was more than enough. The only thing even funnier than the unintentional laughs in the movie itself is, despite all the blood and gore, how it ended up getting a PG rating from the MPAA. Even in the 1970’s this group proved to be a hypocritical bunch! Some things never change.

Here are some other tidbits of trivia about this movie:

Most of the cast members worked for a six-pack of beer as payment.

It was shot over three weekends and never made its money back.

Cast members Richard Erickson and Richard Kennedy were so bad at memorizing dialogue that they ended up having to read off cue cards.

The production went through eight and a half bottles of stage blood.

 

William Lustig, Robert Forster and Company on the Making of ‘Vigilante’

Vigilante movie poster

WRITER’S NOTE: It was a shock to learn of Robert Forster’s death on October 11, 2019 after a battle with brain cancer. He was 78 years old. I remain in awe of his performance in Quentin Tarantino’s “Jackie Brown” for which he deservedly earned an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actor as he was able to convey so much while doing so little. Having bumped into him once at New Beverly Cinema, I can also confirm he could not have been a nicer guy.

The following article is about a screening which took place at New Beverly Cinema back in 2010 in which Forster was one of the main guests, and I present here in his memory. RIP Robert.

Filmmaker William Lustig appeared at the Grindhouse Film Festival at New Beverly Cinema to talk about his 1983 “Death Wish” exploitation knock off, “Vigilante.” Joining Lustig for this Q&A were some of the film’s stars: Robert Forster, Fred “The Hammer” Williamson and Frank Pesce. For these four men, the evening was full of laughs and great memories as they discussed the making of this movie which was shot in what they called the “real New York” with blue collar workers and all.

The print of “Vigilante” being shown was from Lustig’s own collection and was over twenty years old. The color was pretty faded which the director apologized for. While they could have shown a digital copy of it instead, he was quick to remark, “The great thing about going to the Grindhouse is the prints, warts and all.”

Forster said he got cast thanks to Pesce and Lustig who remembered him from another movie Lustig made called “Alligator.” The role of factory worker Eddie Marino was originally given to Tony Musante who later turned it down by saying he did not want to work with “those guys.” Forster said the three guys onstage with him did more for his career than anybody, and he also got four or five film roles from Pesce alone as well as a set of golf clubs which he still uses.

Forster also had a very positive overview regarding his career as an actor:

“I never ever worried about the jobs I didn’t do. Every single movie I’ve done has been instructive to me in its own way.”

Pesce said he was also responsible for getting Williamson cast in “Vigilante,” but Williamson saw it a bit differently:

“I don’t remember how I got involved and I don’t give a damn!”

Suffice to say, Williamson was the coolest guy in the theater on this evening.

Pesce also gleefully told one story about the scene between him and Williamson where he was chasing him and they get separated by a chain link fence. Between takes, Pesce asked Lustig, “Should I spit through the fence at Fred?” “Do what you want to do,” Lustig replied.

So Pesce did what his instincts told him to do, the director yelled cut, and afterwards Williamson went up to Lustig and told him point blank, “Cut the spit.” Williamson’s reasoning in saying this to the director was very blunt:

“You don’t do that to a brother!”

Lustig also got Williamson to talk about some of the ad libs he came up with on set like when he was asked what he thought about capital punishment:

“Do you think anyone really misses Ted Bundy?”

Pesce also remarked how the scene with the guy in the wheelchair he pushed over was actually an homage to a similar one with Richard Widmark in “Kiss of Death.”

“Vigilante” may not be great cinema, but watching it with an audience was highly entertaining and we were lucky enough to have Lustig, Forster, Pesce and Williamson on hand to talk about it. Lustig summed it up best:

“There always seems to be a need for retribution movies.”

 

 

Grindhouse Film Festival’s Screening of ‘Blood Beach’ at New Beverly Cinema

Blood Beach poster

WRITER’S NOTE: This screening took place back in 2011.

With the beginning of the fall season, the Grindhouse Film Festival screened a movie at New Beverly Cinema to let the feeling of summer linger just a little bit longer: “Blood Beach.” This 1980 low-budget horror flick has been out of print for many years, and it still has not seen a DVD release in America. It’s amazing anyone was able to find a print of it to show on this particular evening of November 8, 2011. Joining the audience for a Q&A following the screening were the movie’s writer and director Jeffrey Bloom, director of photography Steven Poster, and actor John Saxon.

Bloom told the audience he had not seen “Blood Beach” in 30 years, and Saxon said he remembers its first screening but doesn’t remember audiences laughing at it like they did at this one. Poster sees it as his first real feature, and this is despite the fact he had worked on other movies beforehand, and Saxon confirmed this was the first time he ever played a police chief in a movie. Looking back, Bloom described it as a “beautiful looking film” even if we couldn’t tell it from the faded print which looked like it had been mostly drained of its color.

This was a very low budget production which found life through an Asian financier who was looking to do horror movies. Bloom recalls writing the script for “Blood Beach” in a week and a half, and he had a celebration in order to promote it which had buttons with the following saying: “Blood Beach Sucks You In!”

At this same party, a movie executive accosted Bloom, saw his button and subsequently told him, “Artists don’t promote their movies like this!” He then tried to rip the button off of Bloom’s shirt until Bloom explained to him why he was wearing it in the first place. From there the executive told Bloom, “Give me the script!”

Two weeks later, “Blood Beach” started production.

The special effect of sucking victims into the sand proved to be quite effective, as you can tell from the movie’s poster. To achieve this frightening effect, Bloom said tractors were brought in to dig into the sand. Afterwards, the crew built a platform where a “membrane” was placed where the actors could easily be pulled into the sand. This led to the movie’s clever take on a famous catchphrase from “Jaws 2:”

“Just when you thought it was safe to go back into the water … you can’t get to it!”

As for the monster causing all the murderous havoc, the cast and crew agreed its reveal proved to be a “big disappointment” and that it looked like nothing more than a “giant artichoke.” One audience member asked what the concept of the creature was, and Bloom replied they never had one which was the problem. No one had bothered to draw up pictures as to what they wanted this monster to look like, leaving it up to the creature designer to come up with something.

Poster laments how no one can seem to find out who owns the rights to “Blood Beach.” He has had the opportunity to remaster a lot of the movies he has worked on like “Dead and Buried,” and he says it’s a shame he can’t do more work on this one: It’s a better film than he remembers it being. There is a lot of humor to be found in this low budget horror flick which has since gained a cult following, and critics overseas found it to be hilarious. Like many lost movies out there, hopefully this one will eventually find its way to a digital release.

Since writing this article, there have been a few updates regarding “Blood Beach:”

As of 2012, it has only been officially released on DVD in Germany.

In 2015, Alamo Drafthouse Cinema re-released it in 35mm as part of the “NY! Hudson Horror Show” which was held in Yonkers, a city in Westchester County, New York. It was promoted by a new theatrical poster designed by artist Stephen Romano.

Geretta Geretta Looks Back on ‘Demons’ at New Beverly Cinema

Geretta Geretta Demons photo

WRITER’S NOTE: This article was written in 2013 when this screening took place.

Actress Geretta Geretta (a.k.a. Geretta Giancarlo) was the Grindhouse Film Festival’s guest of honor at New Beverly Cinema where they were screening a very nice print of Lamberto Bava’s “Demons.” This Italian cult horror film from 1985 stars Geretta as Rosemary, one of several people attending a special screening of a horror film at a local theater. Before the screening starts, however, she ends up putting on this weird looking mask she finds in the lobby which ends up scratching her face. Eventually, the scratch infects the rest of her body and turns her into a bloodthirsty demon. In short, she is the character who dooms everybody else in this film. Way to go Rosemary!

Geretta was extremely excited to be seeing “Demons” with the sold-out audience at the New Beverly, and she even brought some bobblehead figures of her character Rosemary, created by Cult Collectibles, with her to sell. Before the film began, Geretta asked everyone if there were any “Demons” virgins (a.k.a. people who hadn’t seen the movie before), and it turns out there were quite a few. To this, she responded, “This is good! You guys are in for a treat!” She also rattled off in rapid succession a few things for everyone to keep in mind while watching this film.

Geretta Geretta: This is a movie, we did it in Italy. I’m American, I have an Italian name, my family is Italian, but I went there, I was a model, I made a bunch of Italian movies, this is one of them, I made ten. We sound funny and our lips are moving in funny directions but not mine because I am actually speaking English when we shot the movie.

Grindhouse Film Festival emcee, Brian J. Quinn, was quick to say how all the other movies Geretta did while she lived in Italy such as “Murder Rock: Dancing Death” and “Rats: Night of Terror” are all worth seeking out as they are “good and entertaining.”

After we finished watching “Demons,” Geretta came up front to talk about its making and took questions from the audience. She told Quinn that making this film wasn’t a lot of fun as there was a lot of work involved like on any other film, but the set was never unpleasant or difficult. She also pointed out while most horror movies made today with similar special effects are done on very low budgets, the budget for “Demons” was actually a million dollars. Only the great Italian filmmaker Federico Fellini could get a movie made for millions back then, so this made “Demons” a special picture in that regard.

Geretta talked about how she auditioned for Bava and Dario Argento who produced and co-wrote the movie, and she also described the differences between how movies are cast in Italy as opposed to in America.

GG: You don’t really go in and do something. First of all, they cast by picture because they go by look first. So if you look the part then that’s enough for them because they figure they can direct and can get you to do what they want you to do, and it’s very rare everyone would be speaking the same language on the set, so really what difference does it make your mumble?

Most of the exteriors in “Demons” were actually shot in Germany, and the movie theater where the majority of the action takes place was in the process of being destroyed. Geretta was working on a television series at the time, and it was a two-and-a-half-hour drive from that set to where “Demons” was being filmed.

Geretta also pointed out how you never see Rosemary die in “Demons” and, having seen the movie a couple of times, I can verify this to be true. She joked how she was plotting the whole time to make sure her character would not die so she could be cast in the sequel. But when the time came to make “Demons 2,” Geretta was unfortunately out of town.

One audience member asked about the vomit which comes out of the zombies’ mouths, and the vomit does look appropriately disgusting. Geretta described its ingredients in detail as well as what was in everybody’s hair.

GG: The vomit that comes out of any orifice or anybody’s mouth is food coloring, Alka-Seltzer, and some other liquid. The stuff that’s in our hair is yogurt, food coloring and milk, and these are serious folks (the filmmakers) so none of us could change any of our clothes the whole shoot.

The audience reacted loudly to this particular description and understandably so. You’re dealing with ingredients which not only have an expiration date, but which let you know when they have expired. Can you imagine how smelly the set became? Yuck! Geretta then went on to say the film crew had to redo her hair every single day so it would match with what she called “dead yogurt.”

“Demons” was shot in twenty days, and Geretta said she was on set for ten. But while many American actors have found shooting on Italian film sets to be very different and at times very distracting with the film crews yelling at each other back and forth, she said she had no problem adapting to the “Italian style.”

GG: I did come to like things that are done the Italian way. In the Italian way you have lunch on the set, and hey it’s Italy, so you’re gonna have your choice of red or white wine which would never happen on an American set. Things are very calm and it’s more like a family, so maybe if there is some yelling or something it’s just like a family in the background. You tend to work with the same people over and over and over, and it’s just great. I loved it. In America you’re as famous as your last picture, and in Italy you’re as famous as whatever made you famous. It doesn’t matter what you did and it doesn’t matter how long ago, you stay the same. There’s a real appreciation for what you did, so it’s nice.

Ever since she starred in “Demons,” Geretta Geretta has proven to the world just how multi-talented she is. In addition to acting, she has gone on to write, direct and produce her own movies, and her career has also taken her to many different countries such as Italy, Ireland, South Africa and Switzerland. She shows no sign of slowing down anytime soon, and it was great to see her at New Beverly Cinema. Many actors get sick of the movies they star in, but she made it clear how grateful she was that everyone showed up in droves to see “Demons” which she made so long ago. Just don’t ask her how long ago it was.

So Bad It’s Good: Ed Adlum on the Making of ‘Shriek of the Mutilated’

Shriek of the Mutilated movie poster

“The picture you are about to see… is not good.”

So said filmmaker Ed Adlum who introduced the screening of the 1974 cult horror movie he wrote and produced called “Shriek of the Mutilated.” This film played as part of a double feature along with another movie of his, “Invasion of the Blood Farmers,” for the Grindhouse Film Festival’s tribute to him at New Beverly Cinema back in September of 2012. Adlum also brought up a conversation his daughter Ingrid got involved in while she was a student at UC Irvine of what the worst movie ever made was. Ingrid said it was “Plan 9 from Outer Space,” but another student ended up saying:

“There’s one worse than that. It’s called ‘Shriek of the Mutilated.'”

“My father made that movie!” Ingrid said.

After Adlum’s introduction we watched “Shriek of the Mutilated,” and while it is far from brilliant to put it mildly, everyone in the audience had fun watching it. The movie even had the techno-pop song “Popcorn” by Hot Butter playing in a party scene, and listening to the song proved to be more exciting than the party. Brian J. Quinn, one of the programmers of the Grindhouse Film Festival, defended it by saying the worst movie ever made is a $100 million-dollar blockbuster which is a piece of crap, and “Shriek of the Mutilated” is certainly not that kind of movie.

“I don’t know about you but I had a ball,” Adlum told the audience after the movie had finished. “The thing isn’t as bad as I remember. The unintended laughs of which there were about 115 are really the best part of the picture. The things I can see that you can’t see like the guy wheeling Karen (Jennifer Stock’s character) into the room and banging into the door, I remember all of that stuff!”

There’s one moment where Lynn (played by Darcy Brown) is walking outside and picks up a broom and starts sweeping for no discernible reason before putting it back down. Adlum said it was “just a piece of business to do as she walked from here to there” and that “acting wasn’t essential” for anyone to be in this movie.

Adlum talked a bit about actor Alan Brock who played Dr. Ernst Prell, the professor who assembles a group of his students for a field trip to search for a dangerous creature known as a Yeti.

“Alan Brock was at one time a child star on film and hadn’t worked in years,” Adlum said. “He still lived with his mother and even though he was well into his 60s, he was so immature in that he had to be driven home every night instead of staying at the motel with all the other players and the crew. He had to be in his house and in his own bed, then I would pick him up in the morning and bring him back up to the woods (in Westchester County, New York) to do the film.”

The director of “Shriek of the Mutilated” was Michael Findlay, an exploitation filmmaker, and Adlum said the movie was his gift to Findlay for editing “Invasion of the Blood Farmers.” Adlum said he and Findlay were “fierce friends” as they “drank their brains out,” and he described him as knowing more about films than anybody else. For Findlay, “Shriek of the Mutilated” represented his chance to make a real movie as compared to the ones he was famous for like “Take Me Naked” or “The Touch of Her Flesh.”

Sadly, Adlum and Findlay had a big falling out at one point to where Findlay ended up calling Adlum a Nazi for some odd reason, and they didn’t speak again for years. Findlay died in 1977 on top of the Pam Am Building in New York City when a helicopter crashed and killed him and two other people. Upon hearing of his death, Adlum said he cried harder than when he found out his parents had died.

One audience member described “Shriek of the Mutilated” as starting off like a Bigfoot movie but then ends like a Manson cult movie, and he asked Adlum if this was always his plan.

“No, a lot of stuff was done on the fly and it kind of morphed into that,” Adlum said. “You think of stuff while you’re standing there. You may find a prop and work that into the film. Then when you’re all done with the picture and you’re editing it you say, these eight minutes is boring, let’s do something. So, you come up with what we call inserts, and sometimes inserts have nothing to do with the plot but they’ll make people go, oh!”

In talking about the music used in the movie, Adlum said it came from the Prague Philharmonic. This was back in the day of the Iron Curtain and the Eastern Bloc had no intellectual property rights with America, and America didn’t have any with them.

“I bought the record in the bargain bin, and I bought it for $2.98 with the express purpose of using it as background music in the movie” Adlum remembered. “The guy at the counter says to me, what are you doing with that? And I tell him and he says, well you better keep the receipt so that you can prove you have the rights!”

It also turns out Ivan Agar, the man who played the Indian Laughing Crow, was actually a chiropractor from Brooklyn, New York. Adlum said Agar had the funniest scene in the movie where a big line of drool comes out the side of his mouth, but this scene unfortunately didn’t make it into the final cut.

So yeah, “Shriek of the Mutilated” is not on the same level of filmmaking as Alfred Hitchcock’s “Vertigo,” but it was fun to watch even if we enjoyed for all the wrong reasons. It was a treat for us to hear Ed Adlum talk about its making, and you have to admire the sense of humor he has about the finished product. While he thought we would all head home after his Q&A, everyone stayed to watch “Invasion of the Blood Farmers” which showed just how much we appreciated him spending some time with us.

Matt Cimber Discusses ‘The Black Six’ at New Beverly Cinema

The Black Six movie poster

On February 22, 2011, the Grindhouse Film Festival presented their answer to Black History Month with the blaxploitation classic “The Black Six.” This took place at New Beverly Cinema, and the organizers of the festival, Eric Caidin and Brian Quinn, had this to say, “As white guys, we find this an important part of black culture.”

Joining them was the director of “The Black Six,” Matt Cimber. He announced to the audience this was the first time he has seen the movie in 40 years, and he said he “suffered through it.” The film is best known for starring football players who were at their peak: Gene Washington, Mean Joe Greene (his name generated the biggest applause), Mercury Morris, Lem Barney, Willie Lanier, and Carl Eller. Cimber’s agent at the time told him he could put together a bunch of football players if he could put together a movie. The only catch was there could be no drugs, no swearing, and no naked women.

Cimber said all the guys were game and that he wrote a good script for them to work with. When he started as filmmaker, he was encouraged by a friend to make “black films” because the thought was most people didn’t understand black people. It was fun making “black pictures” for him because there was a lot of great talent in the black community, and many actors weren’t really getting hired.

“The Black Six” also had actual members of the Hell’s Angels in it, and they had to be paid at the end of each day in cash. But there was an even bigger problem: they didn’t like blacks. However, it turned out they were also big NFL fans, and everyone ended up getting along great. The film crew had to work hard though to keep the Hell’s Angels quiet during takes. One of them ended up driving his motorcycle through a hotel!

This film had a budget of $90,000, but each of the NFL players got $10,000 each. Cimber ended up being forced to cut corners wherever he could. The lady playing the farm owner was actually the one who owned the farm they filmed at, and that’s why she’s in the film. Triumph also gave the production some motorcycles to work with although the players said they looked like “little toys.”

The movie came out in 1974 long before the days of VHS, DVD, or any other kind of home entertainment. Back then, if you didn’t get your movie into theaters, you didn’t get your money back and you were dead. When it opened on Broadway in New York, many other movies were opening at the same time, but Cimber proudly said this was the only one with a line around the block.

Matt Cimber went from “The Black Six” to create a “varied” resume which was the result of him never focusing on just one idea or one thing. He also created and directed the successful TV series “GLOW: Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling” which was a satire of the sport (Quentin Tarantino is said to be a big fan of it). While his work may not cry out for an Oscar, he has had a strong career which has lasted several decades and shows no signs of stopping anytime soon.