Cinematic Oddity of the Week: Squirm (1976)

Directed By: Jeff Lieberman
Starring: Don Scardino, Patricia Pearcy, R.A Dow


Tag line: “The Night is Crawling with Killers”
Trivia: Kim Basinger was at one point considered for the female lead in this film



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Before watching Squirm, a ’70’s horror flick in which man-eating worms attack a small town, I hadn’t really thought all that much about earthworms, but did harbor a few preconceptions about them. First off, I always thought they were a little gross. Second, I didn’t see any reason in the world to be afraid of them. After seeing this film, I have to admit I’ve changed my mind: earthworms are extremely gross.

But frightening? Nah…not in the least.

A severe storm has battered the Georgia coastline, and particularly hard hit was the small community of Fly Creek. Every road into and out of town remains impassable, and all electrical power has been knocked out. But that’s the least of Fly Creek’s worries. A few miles away, a downed power line is pumping thousands of volts of electricity into the wet soil, causing the underground worm population to go ballistic. Mick (Don Scardino), a native New Yorker, has just arrived in town to spend the weekend with his girlfriend, Geri (Patricia Pearcy). As the two are investigating the mysterious disappearance of a local antiques dealer, they uncover, instead, a shocking bit of information: the entire community is about to be overrun by carnivorous worms.

Considering it’s a film about monster worms, Squirm gets off to a great start. For one, I was completely caught up in the mystery of what happened to poor old Mr. Beardsley, the antiques dealer who seemingly vanished into thin air. Sure, Mick and Geri find a skeleton lying on his property, but who’s to say it’s his? The way the two go about trying to determine the skeleton’s identity is intriguing, to say the least. Along with the mystery, there’s also a particularly solid special effects sequence, courtesy of award-winning make-up artist Rick Baker. As Geri is out on a boat, fishing with her dim-witted neighbor, Roger (R.A. Dow), Roger makes an aggressive pass at her. In trying to get away, Geri pushes Roger, causing him to fall face-first into the pile of worms they were using as bait. Suddenly, Roger lets out a scream, and when he stands up, we see why: the worms are burrowing into his face! It’s truly an awesome sight, and also manages to crank the tension up a few notches when Roger, worms and all, runs off into the woods and disappears (for the time-being, anyway). Needless to say, at this point in the film, I was totally into Squirm, and couldn’t wait to see what happened once the worms launched their attack on Fly Creek. If it’s half as cool as that scene on the boat, I reasoned, then I was in for a treat.

Unfortunately, it isn’t “half as cool”. It isn’t even a tenth as awesome. In fact, the whole Worm Armageddon is downright lame, and all the build-up to it, handled so well for an hour and 15 minutes, falls apart in the closing scenes. Most disappointing of all were the attacking hordes of earthworms, which looked more like large piles of rubber bands being pushed along the floor. At the outset, Squirm left a lot to the audience’s imagination. For example, we never actually see the worms attach themselves to Roger’s face; we’re only privy to the aftermath. By going for broke in the closing moments and attempting to show tens of thousands of worms taking their frustrations out on the innocent Fly Creekians (Fly Creekites?), Squirm opts for the visible over the vague, resulting in a series of scenes that fall flat on their face. Considering how absorbing the movie had been up to that point, this finale is a real let-down.

Poor ending aside, Squirm is an effective film for most of its running time; well executed, well paced, and truly entertaining. It’s definitely worth a watch, and even if Squirm won’t keep you up at night looking for worms underneath your bed, it will, at the very least, put you off your spaghetti dinner.



Cinematic Oddity of the Week: I Drink Your Blood (1970)

Directed By: David E. Durston
Starring: Bjaskar Roy Chowdhury, Jadin Wong, Rhonda Fultz


Trivia: This film has yet to receive a UK certificate, and was rated X by the MPAA



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Our introduction to the world of I Drink Your Blood is by way of a Satanic ritual, and let me tell you, as rituals go, this is a strange one. In the middle of the woods, a long-haired, naked hippie named Horace (Bhaskar Roy Chowdhury) is preaching to his disciples (also naked) about the power of Satan. He passes around a chalice that’s been laced with LSD (“Let it be known”, he says, “that Satan was an acid-head”), and has everyone drink from it. A chicken’s throat is cut (definitely NOT special effects…that sucker’s head is damn near severed), and the blood drips all over the body of another naked follower, who’s been tied to the ground. Just then, Horace spots a young girl (Iris Brooks) spying on them through the trees, and orders her stripped and beaten. The poor girl, whose name is Sylvia, barely escapes with her life.

From that point on, things get downright crazy!

When their van breaks down, the cult members, eight in all, find themselves stranded in a small, nearly-deserted town. Looking for shelter, Horace and the others ask Mildred Nash (Elizabeth Marner Brooks), who runs the local bakery, where they might find a hotel. When she tells them the only one in town’s been closed for months, the eight, hoping to take advantage of the isolation, break into the abandoned building and take up “temporary residence” there. What they don’t know is Sylvia, the girl they assaulted the night before, lives in this town, and her grandfather (Richard Bowler) has decided to exact a little revenge on Horace and his followers. But when the cult members beat and drug the old man, his grandson, Pete (Riley Mills), Sylvia’s little brother, takes matters into his own hands. Having just shot and killed a rabid dog, Pete draws blood from the animal’s carcass and injects it into some of Mildred Nash’s freshly-baked meat pies, which he then gives to the Satanists. Unfortunately, Pete’s plan to infect them with the deadly disease works a little too well, and it isn’t long before an outbreak of rabies has engulfed the entire town.

One of the things I enjoy most about extreme movies like I Drink Your Blood is seeing how far the filmmakers are willing to push the envelope; exactly how crazy will they let things get? In the case of I Drink Your Blood, it looks as if the sky was the limit. Shortly after “moving in” to the old hotel, the eight Satanists partake in a rat hunt, to see which of them can find and kill the most rats. Once they’ve gathered up enough of the furry little creatures, they move the party outside, where the rats are cooked, shish kebab style, over an open flame. Naturally, things get much worse after they’ve been infected with rabies. Rollo (George Patterson) is the first of the group to lose his mind, stabbing fellow Satanist Shelley (Alex Mann) ten times with a butcher’s knife before cutting off part of Shelley’s leg with an ax.

And if you think that’s bad, just wait ’til you see what the pregnant girl does with the wooden stake!

I Drink Your Blood was one of the first films to receive an X rating from the MPAA for violence, and it earned every bit of it. But don’t let this frighten you off; I Drink Your Blood may be a nasty little film, but it’s also a fascinating one, and I can guarantee you’ll never be bored watching it.



Cinematic Oddity of the Week: Savage Beach (1989)

Directed By: Andy Sidaris
Starring: Dona Speir, Hope Marie Carlton, John Aprea


Tag line: “Run for cover. This is no ordinary day in the sun…”
Trivia:  All principal actresses in this film were former Playboy Playmates



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Savage Beach is an action/adventure about drug smugglers, spies, and stolen shipments of gold. It also has former Playboy Playmates in skimpy outfits firing automatic weapons.

You tell me…which is the stronger draw?

Donna (Dona Speir) and Taryn (Hope Marie Carlton), two drug enforcement agents based in Hawaii, have been chosen by their superior to transport vital medical supplies to a remote island hospital. The mission is a success, but on their return flight, the girls encounter a severe storm, and are forced to make an emergency landing on a seemingly deserted island. What they don’t know is this island is the resting place of a lost shipment of gold, which the Japanese army swiped from the Philippines during World War II. Many parties (including the United States Navy) are interested in recovering this gold, and descend upon the island to join in a frantic search for its whereabouts. Caught in the middle of a dangerous situation, Donna and Taryn do their best to keep out of sight, all the while dodging a Japanese soldier who’s been stranded on the island since the 1940’s, and believes the war is still going on.

Savage Beach is exploitation in its purest form. As the story opens, Donna and Taryn, with the assistance of fellow agents (and fellow babes) Patty (Patty Duffek) and Rocky (Lisa London), are conducting a drug raid on a heavily-guarded warehouse. There’s action aplenty in this opening sequence, which features automatic weapons fire, hand-to-hand combat, and even an exploding van. So what’s the first bit of slow-motion we’re treated to? It’s of a topless Patty jumping into a hot tub with her three cohorts (who are also topless) to celebrate their successful raid. Along with the skin shots, Savage Beach also offers lots of dialogue laced with sexual innuendo. In one hilarious exchange, Donna and her “boss”, the muscular Shane Abilene (Michael J. Shane), are reviewing some new weaponry the agency just sent over. “Are you comfortable with a big gun?” Shane asks Donna, to which she replies, “They have their advantages”. “This baby’s bigger than most any other around”, Shane continues, practically licking his lips as he says it. “I’m not as impressed with size as I am with performance” she shoots back, staring into his eyes. And that’s not even the half of it; the exchange goes on for another couple minutes, and gets steamier with each new syllable. By the time they finally packed the damn gun away, I was ready to light up a cigarette!

So, what’s my final assessment of director Andy Sidaris’ Savage Beach? I’ll sum it up for you in the following two points:

1. Despite being easy on the eyes, Playboy Playmates don’t make the most convincing Drug Enforcement Agents. On top of that, the action scenes are poorly executed, and the whole “stolen gold” sub-plot is so ludicrously complex that it’s impossible to follow.

2. As Donna and Taryn are navigating their small plane through that heavy storm, they pause for a moment (in mid-flight, no less) to peel off their wet T-shirts and towel down.

Now, I ask you, what’s not to love about this film?



Cinematic Oddity of the Week: Freaks (1932)

Directed By: Tod Browning
Starring: Wallace Ford, Leila Hyams, Olga Baclanova


Tag line: “The Strangest… The Most Startling Human Story Ever Screened… Are You Afraid To Believe What Your Eyes See?”
Trivia: Myrna Loy, originally slated for the Olga Baclanova role, turned down the part because she felt the script was offensive



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Director Tod Browning, who had run away at age 16 to join the circus, came to love the “Big Top”, and all the excitement it had to offer. With his 1932 film, Freaks, Browning wanted to show the world a slice of circus life few on the outside had ever seen, namely the camaraderie and close-knit relationships that formed among the sideshow attractions, sometimes referred to as the circus freaks. But the world in 1932 wasn’t quite ready for Browning’s film, and as a result, Freaks was reviled by both audiences and critics alike.

Hans (Harry Earles), a circus performer who stands less than three feet tall, has fallen in love with trapeze artist Cleopatra (Olga Baclanova), despite the fact she’s twice his size. Cleopatra initially laughs off Hans’ advances, but changes her tune when she learns he’s about to inherit a large fortune (credit martinez). It doesn’t take long for Cleopatra to seduce Hans, and soon the two are married. With the help of her secret lover, Hercules the Strong Man (Henry Victor), Cleopatra plans to knock off her new husband and collect his inheritance. But when she humiliates Hans in public, Cleopatra incites the anger of the other circus ‘freaks’, who are only too happy to intercede on Hans’ behalf.

It’s easy to see why Freaks might have been a bit much for it’s 1932 audience. Along with the appearance of such sideshow performers as the bearded lady (Olga Roderick), the half-man/half-woman (Josephine Joseph) and the human skeleton (Peter Robinson), we also meet the Half-Boy (Johnny Eck) who was born without legs, and the ‘living torso’ (Prince Randian), born with no limbs whatsoever. There are other “oddities” as well, like pinheads, Siamese twins (Daisy and Violet Hilton) and a girl with no arms (Martha Morris) who has to eat every meal with her feet. Yet, while these characters are certainly unusual, I don’t believe it was Browning’s intention to simply exploit their various deformities. On the contrary, I get the distinct impression when I watch this film that a mutual respect had developed between the director and his sideshow subjects, and am convinced his ultimate goal was to paint them all in a sympathetic light. That’s not to say there’s no exploitation whatsoever, just that Browning counterbalances it by making the ‘freaks’ genuine characters. In short, he wanted us to see them as the true heroes of his story, and the so-called ‘normal’ characters, who lie, cheat and steal their way through the film, as the tale’s true monsters.

Upon its release in 1932, critics attacked Freaks unmercifully. The Atlanta Journal wrote that it “Transcends the fascinatingly horrible, leaving the spectator appalled”, and its “shocking nature” resulted in the film being banned in many states. Ultimately, audiences could not accept Browning’s vision, and I truly believe ‘acceptance’ is what the director was after. He set out to show us the inner decency, even the humanity of this special group of performers, men and women who were dealt a blow by life, yet were coping with it as best they could.

Browning was able to see past their deformities. Unfortunately, at the time, he was the only one who could.



Cinematic Oddity of the Week: Oversexed Rugsuckers from Mars (1989)

Directed By: Michael Paul Girard
Starring: Dick Monda, Jean Stewart, Billybob Rhoads


Tagline: “You’ll never trust your vacuum cleaner again!”



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After millions of years away, a race of miniature martians returns to earth to check on the progress of their “human” experiment, and from what they can see, it’s been a total disaster. Having left humanity in charge of the planet, the aliens are disappointed to find it in such an untidy state, and decide to change things up a bit by mating humans with vacuum cleaners, so that future generations will be able to clean up the mess their forefathers left behind. Unfortunately, the vacuum they choose as their prototype malfunctions, and is transformed into a sex-starved maniac. With this horny Hoover on the loose, no earthling, male or female, is safe from bodily penetration.

Imagine a bunch of flat-broke college buddies getting together to make a sci-fi movie, and you have Oversexed Rugsuckers from Mars. There’s nothing particularly “special” about any of the effects; the aliens are made of clay, and brought to life through stop-motion, yet never look like anything more than messy globs sloshing about. As for the humor, it aims low, and even then often misses the mark. When the alien “ship” first arrives on earth, it lands next to a vagrant named Vernon (Dick Monda), who’s asleep on the pavement. One of the aliens, an anatomically correct male, climbs out of the ship and urinates into Vernon’s empty gin bottle. Shortly after the martians fly off, Vernon wakes up, and not to be outdone, rolls over and lets loose a fart. From there, things get downright childish, with highlights including a peeping tom, whose name actually is Tom (Billybob Rhoads), masturbating as he watches his naked neighbor, Rana (Jean Stewart), through her bathroom window, and another scene where Tom gets his comeuppance when he’s anally raped…by the vacuum cleaner! Crass dialogue and tasteless humor run rampant throughout Oversexed Rugsuckers from Mars, none of which is particularly funny. I myself never laughed once, though I must admit I did smile a few times, like when the vacuum first comes to “life”, and is framed against the rising sun, a la the Monolith in 2001: A Space Odyssey (they even play Also Sprach Zarathustra).

The concept behind Oversexed Rugsuckers from Mars far outshines its execution, yet it was all done in fun, and I was left with the distinct impression everyone making this film had a great time doing so. Oversexed Rugsuckers from Mars is not a good movie. In fact, it isn’t much of a movie at all; it feels more like a class project, and though it probably deserves a failing grade, I’ll give it an “E” for effort.

With maybe a little extra credit thrown in for its title.


Cinematic Oddity of the Week: Spider Baby (1968)

Directed By: Jack Hill
Starring: Lon Chaney Jr., Carol Ohmart, Quinn K. Redeker


Tag line: “Spider Baby will give you nightmares forever!”
Trivia: The film was shot in seven days, between Aug. and Sept. of 1964



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The moment the animated credits kick in, which play over a bizarre theme sung by Lon Chaney Jr., you know Jack Hill’s Spider Baby is going to be one strange motion picture. And it only gets stranger from there on out.

The three Merrye children: Virginia (Jill Banner), Elizabeth (Beverly Washburn) and Ralph (Sid Haig), suffer from a most unusual malady: as their bodies grow older, their minds get younger, regressing to a child-like state which will eventually result in total madness. Since the death of their father, the three have been living in the family’s decrepit old mansion under the watchful eye of Bruno (Lon Chaney Jr.), the chauffeur, who’s gone to great lengths to hide the children, knowing full well they’d be placed in a psychiatric hospital if their true “nature” were ever revealed. This well-guarded secret is in danger of being uncovered, however, when cousins Emily (Carol Ohmart) and Peter (Quinn Redeker) pay them a surprise visit. Joined by their lawyer (Karl Schanzer), these two distant relatives have set their sights on the vast Merrye fortune, and, to strengthen their claim to it, are determined to prove the children should be locked away. But as they’ll soon learn, the Merrye siblings aren’t about to go down without a fight.

I really like Spider Baby; it has a unique energy to it, a sort of sitcom mentality (think The Addams Family, only weirder) that I found very appealing. Lon Chaney Jr. was fast approaching the end of his career when he made Spider Baby, but does a fine job as the kindly, if slightly misguided, Bruno. On the flip-side, a very young Sid Haig, in one of his first film roles, plays Ralph, the most peculiar of the Merrye children. Acting as if he were about three years old, Haig wanders through the picture without uttering a single word. Of Ralph’s two sisters, Virginia is clearly the most disturbed, believing herself a spider and attacking anyone she catches in her “web” (a messenger, played by Mantan Moreland, is an early victim of Virginia’s, meeting his end in the film’s opening sequence). Throughout the movie, we learn there are other members of the Merrye clan also residing in the huge mansion, including a pair of Aunts and an Uncle in the final stages of the illness, who’ve been locked away in the basement, as well as the rotting corpse of dear old dad, still lying in his bed.

Spider Baby is, without a doubt, one of the oddest films I’ve ever seen, yet every eccentric character, every outlandish moment director Hill crams into its 81 minutes only adds to the movie’s unusual charms.


Cinematic Oddity of the Week: Africa Blood and Guts (1966)

Directed By: Gualtiero Jacopetti, Franco Prosperi
Starring: Sergio Rossi


Tag line: “You May LOVE It! You May HATE It! But You’ll Not FORGET It!”
Trivia: Despite having almost half of the original material removed, the English print under the title Africa Blood and Guts is noted as being more gruesome than the original, uncut print



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Originally titled Africa Addio, Africa Blood and Guts caused a bit of a stir upon its release in 1966. Condemned in its native Italy as a racist film, the movie has also been attacked for its scenes of incredible violence, and even though it’s well over 40 years old, I find myself siding with the naysayers; time has done nothing to diminish this film’s ability to shock you.

Directed by Gualtiero Jacopetti and Franco Prosperi (the creative minds behind Mondo Cane), Africa Blood and Guts is a documentary revealing, in sometimes graphic detail, the political and social upheaval that plagued the continent during the tumultuous mid-’60s. We’re taken to the battlefields of various civil wars, such as those in Zanzibar and Rwanda, which claimed the lives of thousands, and join the big-game hunters as they track and kill as many of Africa’s exotic animals as they can find.

It’s difficult to dispute the charges of racism leveled against Africa Blood and Guts by censors and critics alike. Early on, as we watch the last British Governor leaving Tanzania, the narrator spouts off at how Europe is “abandoning her baby”, at which point we cut to a celebration in the streets, where native Tanzanians are breaking thousands of Portuguese eggs in protest of that country’s continued colonialism. It’s a theme that resonates throughout the entire picture: European ceremonies of pomp and sophistication are followed by the chaotic, sometimes barbaric rituals of Black Africans, leaving little doubt as to where the sympathies of the filmmakers lie.

Interspersed between the pandemonium of revolution are many scenes of brutality, most of which take place on the Continent’s various game reserves. In one particularly puzzling scene, a rope is tied between two jeeps, which then speed off in the same direction. Traveling about 20 yards or so apart from one another, they head straight for an entire herd of zebras, tripping the animals as they’re in full gallop. Even if one can excuse the grisly images of the Elephant hunt (carried out by both hunters and natives alike) as a bit of sport, there’s really no “sport” in chasing animals down with automobiles! Not to be outdone, we also witness the violence of man against man, as evident in the static shot of a large pile of hands that once belonged to Watusi warriors, severed as punishment for their uprising.

Even those going in with a morbid curiosity might find Africa Blood and Guts a difficult film to sit through, and while the movie, at over 2 hours long, is never boring, you may want to think twice before sitting down to watch it.


Cinematic Oddity of the Week: Australia After Dark (1975)

Directed By: John D. Lamond
Starring: Gina Allen, Count Copernicus, Hayes Gordon


Tag line: “At Last! The Australia you’ve always wanted to see but until now … have never DARED!”
Trivia: This film was heavily censored upon its release in the UK, running 12 minutes shorter than the R-rated Australian version



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Featured in 2008’s Not Quite Hollywood: The Wild, Untold Story of Ozploitation!, Australia After Dark is a documentary that occasionally devolves into an exposé of sex, masochism and oddities galore. It’s an eccentric motion picture, but boy, did I enjoy it!

Narrated by Hayes Gordon, Australia After Dark takes us on a whirlwind tour of Australia, journeying from one end of the continent to the other and exploring the customs, beliefs, and, unusual “practices” of its native population. Australia After Dark has it all, from exotic restaurants and outdoor festivals to strip clubs and fetish palaces, revealing a side of Australia I guarantee you’ve never seen before.

How strange is Australia After Dark? Well, here’s a summation of the first dozen or so minutes of the film: We open with a picturesque shot of the Outback, over which Mr. Gordon, the narrator, warns us that what we’re about to see “won’t be all beautiful, but it will be true”. After about 30 seconds spent discussing the plight of the Aborigines, we’re whisked to King’s Cross in Sydney, a “sleazy, grubby, neon-lit” section of town filled to the breaking point with prostitutes, pimps and strippers. There’s a brief scene of a naked woman lying on a bed, then it’s right back to the streets and into an S&M “salon” where we watch two leather-bound men wrestle around a bit before one is led upstairs and tied to a rack (“look at that rack”, Hayes Gordon says, “you don’t see craftsmanship like that these days”). Cut to a riverboat restaurant, where the chef is preparing such tasty morsels as shrimp, snake, and fried grubs. Then, it’s off to an art studio of some sort, where, for a small fee, you too can “decorate” the body of a naked woman. But we’re not done yet. We still have ancient cave drawings to examine, and three nude ladies to watch rolling around on the floor before we’ve hit the 12-minute mark. Seriously, I don’t think “bizarre” is a strong enough word to describe Australia After Dark

There are smatterings of a legitimate documentary (we visit a museum in Melbourne that was once a gallows, and now features a variety of death masks molded from those who were executed there) tossed together with straight-up exploitation (by way of nude beaches on the Barrier Reef and a behind-the-scenes look at the making of a porn film) before Australia After Dark finally succumbs to temptation, and concludes amid gobs of nudity and the ravings of a sexual prophet (and sometimes drag queen) named Count Copernicus.

Trust me…this is one movie you won’t want to miss!



Cinematic Oddity of the Week: The Late Great Planet Earth (1979)

Directed By: Robert Amram, Rolf Forsberg
Starring: Orson Welles, Hal Lindsey, Babetta


Tag line: “Heaven and Earth will pass away, but my words shall not pass away. Matt. 24:35”
Trivia: Portions of the film were shot at the Vasquez Rocks Natural Area Park in California



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We kick things off in biblical times, with an elderly man (Beaumont Bruestle) on the run from an angry mob. Doing everything he can to avoid his pursuers, the old man makes his way to the top of a steep cliff, where a younger man (Timothy nicely) hits him on the head with a rock, causing the poor guy to stumble, then plummet a hundred feet to his death. Cut to modern day. His bones are lying on the ground in exactly the same position, and Orson Welles steps into view, bends down, and picks up the old guy’s skull. He examines it, turns to the camera, and says “This was a prophet, a false prophet, some 2,000 to 3,000 years ago. Why did they stone him? He made a mistake, probably”.

Gee, you think?

Thus begins The Late Great Planet Earth, an apocalyptic, and painfully dated, vision of things to come. Based on the best-selling novel of the same name, The Late Great Planet Earth sets out to prove that the prophesies recorded in the bible, most notably those in the Book of Revelations, were, at the time, a scant few years away from coming true. Along with the book’s author, Hal Lindsey, Welles interprets the words of the prophets Jeremiah, Isaiah, and even Jesus himself to establish that mankind has just about reached the end of the line.

And what were these prophecies? What was it that had Lindsey, Welles, and many others believing the late 1970s were the beginning of the end?

Would you like to know more…?

Cinematic Oddity of the Week: Teenage Mother (1967)

Directed By: Jerry Gross
Starring: Arlene Farber, Frederick Riccio, Julie Ange


Tag line: “Teenage Mother – Means 9 Months of Trouble!”
Trivia: Director Jerry Gross paid a hospital $50 for the graphic footage of a baby being born that’s featured at the climax of the movie



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Despite what the film’s advertisements might suggest, Teenage Mother is little more than a ’60s educational picture, addressing the then-controversial topic of teaching sex ed to high school students. In fact, aside from a short film that shows, in sometimes nauseatingly graphic detail, the birth of a newborn, there aren’t many shocks in Teenage Mother at all.

Ms. Peterson (Julie Ange) is a recent arrival at the local high school, brought in by the principal to teach a course on the finer points of sex education. As you might expect, not everyone is pleased with the added curriculum, but Ms. Peterson will soon discover she couldn’t have come at a more crucial time. Arlene Taylor (Arlene Farber), a beautiful, outgoing girl in her senior year, is in love with Tony (Howard Le May), a star athlete who, after graduation, plans to attend medical school. Arlene has been desperately trying to convince Tony to marry her, even going so far as to flirt with Duke Markell (Frederick Riccio), a drug-dealing bully, in the hopes of making Tony jealous. When all else fails, Arlene resorts to lies, telling everyone she’s pregnant with Tony’s child (despite the fact a medical examination has determined she’s not pregnant at all). Convinced her sex education course had something to do with his daughter’s pregnancy, Arlene’s father (George Peters) calls a special meeting of the town council to discuss Ms. Peterson’s future. It’s Mr. Taylor’s hope that this gathering will expose the new teacher as little more than a well-educated pornographer, thus leaving the school with no alternative but to remove sex ed from the curriculum altogether.

Far from exciting us with scenes of teen debauchery and the occasional glimpse of firm female flesh, Teenage Mother is more intent on preaching at us. Ms. Peterson is not so much a teacher as she is a crusader, spouting off historical precedent and gobs of statistics to justify the need for a class on sex education (credit herminio). When she’s informed that the school’s librarian has refused to carry a copy of Male and Female because of its sexual content, Ms. Peterson takes matters into her own hands, confronting the librarian and outright demanding that she add the text to her shelves. While the majority of the film follows the troubled romance of Arlene and Tony, occasionally spruced up by the illegal activities of Duke (more than a drug dealer, Duke also works as the front man for a local pornographer, who makes a killing selling nudie pics to horny teens), Teenage Mother is a movie driven by its agenda, and it’s certainly not a subtle one!

Still, Teenage Mother is an interesting time capsule of a movie. Along with a few painfully dated ’60s dance sequences (I almost bust a gut watching Duke strut his stuff at the local hang-out) and some out-of-place stock footage taken at a racetrack, Teenage Mother also offers the first screen appearance of funnyman Fred Willard, here playing the school’s straight-laced athletic director and one of Ms. Peterson’s few supporters. But if its the typical exploitation fare you’re after, then steer clear of this one; the most exploitative thing about Teenage Mother is its title.


Cinematic Oddity of the Week: Chatterbox (1977)

Directed By: Tom DeSimone
Starring: Candice Rialson, Larry Gelman, Jane Kean


Tag line: “The Story Of A Woman Who Has A Hilarious Way Of Expressing Herself”



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As you can tell by this series, I love discovering odd, unusual movies, and Chatterbox qualifies as one of the strangest I’ve come across to date.

Get a load of this:

Hairdresser Penelope Pittman (Candice Rialson) is deeply in love with her boyfriend, Ted (Perry Bullington), but something’s about to change the nature of their relationship. One night, just after Penelope and Ted make love, a mysterious female voice chimes in, challenging Ted’s skills as a lover. In a fit of rage, Ted storms off, dumping Penelope on the spot. But what he doesn’t realize is the voice isn’t Penelope’s. In fact, Penelope Pittman is about to go down in medical history as the owner of the world’s first talking vagina! Distraught by the sudden appearance of an extra personality between her legs, Penelope pays a visit to her psychiatrist, Dr. Pearl (Larry Gelman), but instead of helping her cope with this outspoken body part, the good doctor takes advantage of the situation and becomes a talent agent, representing both Penelope and her new alter-ego, who they name Virginia. What’s more, Virginia has an excellent singing voice, and after revealing his patient/client’s unusual physical ability to the world, Dr. Pearl has no trouble booking Virginia in all the best nightclubs. Upset with both her unwanted companion and the publicity it’s brought her, Penelope longs to reunite with Ted, while Virginia seeks to experience as much of life, and as many men, as she possibly can.

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