HARRY NOVAK PROFILE
Being in my early 40's now, the name Harry Novak and Boxoffice International Pictures brings back some fond, if distant memories. Being a horny teenager in the late 60's and early 70's, going to one of Novak's films meant getting what you wanted: Plenty of tit and ass action, sometimes mixed with gunplay and violence. I have always considered Novak as some distant uncle that the family never talked about, mainly because the types of films he released were considered risque for their day. Many of Novak's films (with titles such as COUNTRY HOOKER, THE TOY BOX and MASSAGE PARLOR WIFE) have been unavailable to the viewing public for over twenty years. That is, until now. Mike Vraney of Something Weird Video has released Novak's adult sexploitation films on video, and many are transferred directly from Novak's own personal prints. But before I get ahead of myself, let me supply a little background information on Mr. Novak. Harry H. Novak was born in the late 1920's (exact date unknown) Chicago. When in his teens, Novak got a job with RKO Pictures distributing movie posters and pressbooks to theaters. After serving a stint in the Army during World War II, he took a job in Los Angeles with RKO booking and selling films as well as designing ads (this would explain why his Boxoffice ads were so effective) with branch manager Seymour Borde (who would later form his own distribution company). When RKO folded in 1957, Novak went to work booking exploitation films for Seymour Borde's JEM distribution company. After an argument with Borde (in which Novak was fired), Novak formed his own production and distribution company in 1964, calling it Boxoffice International Pictures, naming it after the respected industry magazine Boxoffice. His first release for the newly-formed company was DR. BREEDLOVE, OR HOW I STOPPED WORRYING (later changed to KISS ME QUICK to avoid a lawsuit with Stanley Kubrick's DR. STRANGELOVE) and it was such a hit that it immediately put Boxoffice on the map. This daring for its' time feature was an unusually well-made quickie (directed by former Borde employee Peter Perry using the comical pseudonym "Seymour Tuchas" and photographed by a then unknown Laszlo Kovacs) got plenty of free publicity thanks to a Playboy pictorial displaying plenty of female flesh. With his first film release, Harry Novak's Boxoffice International Pictures became a major independent distributor. The rest is history. To keep up with the public's lusty demand, Novak began production on new sex films (THE AGONY OF LOVE - 1965) as well as purchasing back-dated nudies (THE RUINED BRUIN - 1961) and new pick-ups (MONDO KEYHOLE - 1966, FLESH AND LACE - 1966). The audiences ate these pictures up, making Novak a rich man. What made Novak's films so profitable when other producers of nudie films were losing money (with the exception of David F. Friedman)? Novak surrounded himself with talented people. Novak was (and is) a great showman and publicist, but even he knew that there would have to be talented people behind and in front of the camera if a low budget film was to be successful. Directors such as William Rotsler (MANTIS IN LACE - 1968, SUBURBAN PAGANS - 1969, THE GODSON - 1971), John Hayes (THE HANG-UP - 1969, SWEET TRASH - 1970), Don Davis (THE MUTHERS - 1968, THE GOLDEN BOX - 1970), Carl Monson (PLEASE DON'T EAT MY MOTHER - 1973 [a.k.a. SEX POT SWINGERS], THE TAKERS - 1971), Lou Campa (COOL IT, BABY - 1967, MINI-SKIRT LOVE - 1967) and Bethel Buckalew (SOUTHERN COMFORTS - 1971, SASSY SUE - 1972) not only honed their craft working for Novak, they actually turned in some well-made, entertaining pieces of low-priced exploitation. Sexploitation actresses such as Pat Barrington, Susan Stewart, Rene Bond, Sharon Kelly, Marsha Jordan, Erika Gavin and Uschi Digart were Boxoffice staples. They were not only pleasant to look at (both clothed and naked), they also could act. Novak knew the public's fondness for filmic flesh, but he also knew the stigma bad acting could bring to a film. Therefore, more times than not, he populated his films with little-known (at least to main-stream audiences), but talented, actors and actresses. Novak's films also tackled some touchy subjects which were considered taboo for their time. TOYS ARE NOT FOR CHILDREN (1971) was an incestuous tale about a young girl and her father. JUST THE TWO OF US (1970; a.k.a. THE DARK SIDE OF TOMORROW) was a sordid story of lesbianism. MANTIS IN LACE (1968) was about a LSD-taking girl who slaughters the men she sleeps with (an even gorier version of MANTIS, titled LILA, was also released to theaters). MONDO KEYHOLE dealt with the lovely theme of rape. The success of these low budgeters paved the way for major studios to make their own versions with similar themes. (I may be reaching a little bit, but the boxoffice hit BASIC INSTINCT  bears more than a passing resemblance to MANTIS.) As I have said before, Novak was a master showman and publicist. He was able to bypass the MPAA ratings system and still get his films shown in theaters and advertised in newspapers that would otherwise not accept films without a rating. For films he knew would get an X-rating (such as Gary Graver's ERIKA'S HOT SUMMER - 1970 or Vidal Raski's THE SINFUL DWARF - 1972), Novak would put an "Admission Restricted" tag on the ads, thereby fooling theater owners and newspapers into believing they were accepting R-rated fare. Novak also bought the domestic rights to some unusual foreign horror films. They include: Jean Rollin's CAGED VIRGINS (1972), the Italian Victor Buono-starrer THE MAD BUTCHER (1972) and the ultra-weird FRANKENSTEIN'S CASTLE OF FREAKS (1973). Though known mainly for soft core sex films with some violence, Boxoffice did release a handful of U.S.-made horror films. The infamous I DRINK YOUR BLOOD (1971) was one of Novak's early horror pick-ups. RATTLERS (1975) was about a Texas town overrun with poisonous snakes. 1976 also saw the release of the living dead film THE CHILD, perhaps Novak's best horror release. AXE (1974) and KIDNAPPED CO-ED (1975), both directed by Frederick Friedel, followed next. HITCH HIKE TO HELL (1977) was Boxoffice International's last domestic release. Due to some unknown legal problems, Novak was forced to close down Boxoffice International in 1978. He then formed Valiant International Pictures, releasing mainly hardcore adult films with such titles as SISSY'S HOT SUMMER (1979; starring John Holmes) and SWEET SURRENDER (1980). The last known film that Novak was directly involved with was MOMENTS OF LOVE (1982), which he co-directed with Joe Sherman using the pseudonym "H. Hershey". Thanks to home video (and especially Mike Vraney) we can all enjoy Novak's Boxoffice International output. To find out what films Mike Vraney has to offer, send $5.00 for a complete catalog to: Something Weird Video Catalog Dept. F.U.N. P.O. Box 33664 Seattle, WA 98133. It's jam-packed with titles you've probably never heard of, including an extensive Dave Friedman collection. NOTE: As of February 1, 2011, Something Weird and Harry Novak have parted ways. The Something Weird DVD and VHS tapes of Novak's films are sure to become collector items. Another sign that the end is near: On the same date, Something Weird will be no longer selling copies of their films on VHS, citing the availability of blank tapes as the major cause. This is truly the end of an era. UPDATE: It is my sad duty to report that Harry Novak died on March 26, 2014. He was 86 years-old.
BOXOFFICE INTERNATIONAL REVIEWS
AXE (1974) - Teenage Lisa (Leslie Lee) is a quiet girl who takes care of her disabled, near-catatonic grandfather at their remote house in the country. When three psychotic crooks (Jack Canon, Ray Green and director/writer Frederick R. Friedel) invade their home looking for a place to hide out, little do they realize that little Lisa is actually a pent-up virgin psychopath just looking for a reason to slaughter anyone who crosses her. When Green tries to rape her. she slashes his neck with a straight razor and stuffs his body in a trunk. She then has unwitting help from Friedel (the sensitive one of the trio), who helps her lug the trunk to the attic. When Canon tries to rape her in front of her grandfather, she grabs an axe (really a hatchet, but that's splitting hairs) and hacks him to death, stuffing him up the chimney. She then offers Friedel some tomato soup and after he finds Canon's ring in the soup, he discovers Lisa's true nature and runs out of the house only to be shot to death by the police, who are waiting outside thanks to Lisa's timely call. While this film logs in at a compact 68 minutes (10 minutes of its running time is taken up by the slowest opening and closing credits that I can ever remember), this is a slow moving affair that seems twice as long. The first 25 minutes are taken up by the escapades of the psychotic trio, who are seen beating to death a man in a hotel room, throwing another man out a window and terrorizing a woman at a supermarket. There's not much to recommend here. There's too much dizzying hand-held camera work, bad two-note piano music and not enough blood to qualify it as a must for gore hounds. Director Friedel would later direct the much-better KIDNAPPED CO-ED (1975) and then wait another 25 years before he would direct his next film, the comedy MY NEXT FUNERAL (2000). Lead actor Jack Canon would later appear in Stephen King's MAXIMUM OVERDRIVE (1986) and WEEKEND AT BERNIE'S (1989). The producer of this film is none other than J.G. "Pat" Patterson, Jr, director of such lowdown fare such as THE BODY SHOP (1973; a.k.a. DOCTOR GORE) and THE ELECTRIC CHAIR (1975). AXE is also known as THE CALIFORNIA AXE MASSACRE, LISA, LISA, and THE VIRGIN SLAUGHTER. Originally available in trunicated form on a double feature VHS from Best Film & Video with A SCREAM IN THE STREETS (1973). Availabe on VHS and DVD from Something Weird Video. If you must choose, grab the DVD as it contains many extra features, including a bonus feature: Patterson's THE ELECTRIC CHAIR! All DVD's should have this many extras. Rated R.
BOOBY TRAP (1970) - Cheapo exploitationer from producer Harry Novak (for his Boxoffice International Pictures) and director Dwayne Avery (THE EXOTIC DREAMS OF CASANOVA - 1971) about crazy ex-Marine Sergeant Jack Brennan (Carl Monson; future director of such genre films nas BLOOD LEGACY - 1971; A SCREAM IN THE STREETS - 1973; and DEATH FEUD - 1987) as he drives to Vasquez Rocks, California in his Winnebago that is full of crates of Claymore mines. He plans on blowing up a Woodstock-like rock concert because of his hatred of hippies. Jack hates hippies so much, in fact, that he's not above killing anyone who gets in his way of achieving his objective. After killing the crooked soldier who delivered the crates of mines (Jack fires his shotgun directly at one of the mines, blowing-up the soldier) and then blowing a young female hitchhiker to smithereens (after having sex with her), the Marines send their best man, Captain Cliff Shepherd (Maybe Smith), to locate Jack and return the stolen mines, which can be detonated by remote control. We learn why Jack has a deep-seated hatred for young people, when it is revealed that Jack's young ex-wife Taffy (Angela Carnon) is now dating a guitarist named Rudy (Christopher Culhane) at the strip club where she works as a waitress. The strip club owner, Mr. Bianca (P.A. Hedberg), who has a hidden camera in the ladies bathroom so he and henchman Scarpo (Buck Kartalian; the star of Monson's PLEASE DON'T EAT MY MOTHER - 1973, here appearing under the pseudonym "Buck Bucky") can watch the women take off their clothes and see if they are cheating him out of his cut of their tips, is financing the rock concert in Vasquez Rock and has a thing for Taffy. Mr. Bianca is as crooked as a corkscrew and the rock concert is merely an outlet for him to launder his dirty money. Cliff questions Taffy in Mr. Bianca's office, unaware that Mr. Bianca is videotaping their conversation. Mr. Bianca views the tape and uses the information taken from it to try and blackmail and rape Taffy, but Rudy intervenes and punches-out Mr. Bianca. Taffy and Rudy try to escape, buy Rudy is shot in the shoulder by Scarpo and Taffy takes him to Jack to patch him up (Why in the hell would she do that after what Cliff just told her? It makes no sense at all.). The film ends at Vasquez Rocks, where every character in the film ends up, not aware that Jack has the whole area mined and ready to explode. Be prepared to be under whelmed. This is a slow-moving and rather boring film that tries to perk-up viewer interest by including a sex scene every fifteen minutes or so, but it looks to me that those sex scenes were severely edited to achieve an R-Rating (an X-Rated version of the film with hardcore sex scenes, titled LOVE EXPLOSIONS, was released to porno theaters), thereby ruining what small pleasures the viewer could have taken from the film. The screenplay, written by Avery and co-star P.A. Hedberg, is far too ambitious for the film's meager budget, as the explosions are few and far between (only four total), the acting poor and the dialogue is full of flubbed and stepped-on lines. You can tell this film was made during the early 70's (besides the obvious wardrobe and hairstyles) because the film's sole gay character, Frankie Collins (Pepe Russo), is portrayed as a lying thief who gets the crap beat out of him and called "faggot" by Scarpo every chance he gets. This film is so cheap that when a car explodes, it does so off-screen. The finale is a total letdown, as the promised destruction of the rock festival never materializes (we never see the festival at all!), just a lame car chase and Jack accidentally blowing himself up (unconvincingly) while trying to save Taffy. Avoid it at all costs. BOOBY TRAP is also known as 10 SECONDS TO MURDER and YOUNG AND WILD. Also starring Sharon Masters, Paul Heslin, Terry Woolman, Shirley Grinnell, Nick Raymond, Lisa Jourdan, Jeri Lynn and Steve Rumph. Available on VHS & DVD from Something Weird Video, the latter as part of a double feature with THE TAKERS (1971). Both are now OOP since Something Weird has parted ways with Novak. Rated R.
THE CHILD (1977) - Lis (Laurel Barnett) is hired to be a governess for young Rosalie Nordon (Rosalie Cole). On her way to the Nordon house, Lis' car is purposely run off the road and she must take a shortcut through the forest by foot. On her way she meets Mrs. Whitfield (Ruth Ballan), who warns Lis not to walk the woods at night because animals have been found mutilated. Once at the Nordon house, Lis meets Mr. Nordon (Frank Janson), who greets her with, "I hope you're not a nervous woman." Mr. Nordon is recently widowed, his wife supposedly killed while being robbed, and wants his daughter Rosalie to have a woman figure around the house. Mr. Nordon is also a little strange. His dinner conversation consists of telling a story about a pack of Boy Scouts who died in the woods after eating a stew they made from a poisonous flower, while Rosalie giggles incessantly. Rosalie is even stranger than her dad. She has the power to raise the dead (she reanimates the corpses from the cemetery located next to the house) and uses the zombies to destroy the people that bother her. She starts with Mrs. Whitfield (she has an eye ripped out) and pretty soon this demented little girl (who blames everyone for her mother's death) has her living dead friends attacking her father, eventually going after Lis and Len (Richard Hanners), Rosalie's normal brother. Lis and Len become trapped in a shed with the horde of zombies outside waiting to kill them. The zombies storm the shed, killing Len (but not before he takes a few of them with him). Lis plants an axe in Rosalie's head, finally ending the undead rampage. This low budget NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD clone, also available on tape as KILL AND GO HIDE (from Monterey Home Video) and ZOMBIE CHILD, lacks technical polish and acting ability but contains enough atmosphere and gore to satisfy fans of zombie films. The ending is particularly meaty, with zombies being impaled, shotgunned and hit in the head with an axe repeatedly. Director Robert Voskanian infuses this film with a lot of atmosphere and terror, making it a good bet for horror fans. This was one of Harry Novak's later releases. Novak released a handful more before disbanding Boxoffice International. Best Film & Video released THE CHILD with DUNGEON OF TERROR on one video tape (recorded in the LP mode) as a double feature. You could do a lot worse. Also available on DVD from Something Weird Video. Rated R.
DUNGEON OF TERROR (1972) - Two girls, on the run from the law, try to find a place to hide. After one of the girls falls into an open grave and is nearly buried alive by a pair of drunken gravediggers, the duo stumble upon a chateau. After some lesbian lovemaking, they search the chateau and run into a bunch of vampires, who capture the girls and chain them up in a dungeon along with previous female captives. The two girls are horrified as they witness the other women being raped and bitten by the band of horny vampires. The two girls are told by a female vampire that they are needed to perpetuate the vampire race, since they are a dying breed. Since the two girls are virgins, they must be penetrated by the master vampire before the process can be complete. One of the girls likes the idea, but the other detests it and secretly fucks a man she meets in the graveyard. The master turns out to be a compassionate vampire. Since he is tired of watching his minions slaughter innocent victims, he allows the two girls to kill his assistants and then traps himself and his female partner in a tomb. The two girls run off into the night, free to bump pussies once more. This is a severely edited version of the film that introduced French director Jean Rollin to American audiences. Originally titled REQUIEM POUR UN VAMPIRE ("Reqiuem For A Vampire"), it is known in the U.S. under a myriad of titles, including CAGED VIRGINS, CRAZED VAMPIRE, SEX VAMPIRES and VIRGINS AND VAMPIRES. There is very little dialogue in this film (a blessing for the dubbers) and plenty of full frontal female nudity (including hairy female armpits. Yech!). It also totally lacks any coherence. But what it lacks in sense it more than makes up for in inventive photography, weird lighting and female flesh. Rollin made a series of sex vampire films (this one is his fourth) as well as other films; some good, many bad. Some of his films are: THE RAPE OF THE VAMPIRE (1967 - his first), THE NUDE VAMPIRE (1969), PESTICIDE: THE GRAPES OF DEATH (1978), FASCINATION (1979 - one of his best), ZOMBIE LAKE (1980 - a living dead snoozefest), THE LIVING DEAD GIRL (1982) and TWO ORPHAN VAMPIRES (1997). Rollin passed away in 2010 at the age of 72. DUNGEON OF TERROR is worthwhile viewing for fans of stylish camerawork and feminine flesh. This version runs 62 minutes (a more complete version was once available on VHS from Something Weird Video), not enough time to bore you. Best Film & Video released this on VHS (recorded in the LP mode) as a double feature, with THE CHILD (1977). Rated R.
HITCH HIKE TO HELL (1977) - Mama's boy Howard (Robert Gribbin) picks up hitch hiking women in his dry cleaning van and tries to talk them out of running away by telling a story about his sister Judy and how she ran away and how his mother never recovered. When the girls disregard his story, Howard gets angry ("I'm gonna do Mama a favor!") and rapes and strangles the girls, dumping their bodies on deserted stretches of the road. Howard's homelife is equally depressing: He lives with his over-protective Mother (Dorothy Bennett) and spends his spare time building model cars (it must be the glue!). It's not that Howard kills every girl he picks up. If he can get them to say that they love their mother, he lets them go. Police Captain Shaw (Russell Johnson) hopes this is "not some nut job like the Zodiak Killer, the Las Vegas Strangler or that psycho from Houston" as his investigation into the strangulations leads nowhere. Captain Shaw finally gets a break when Howard strangles a girl with a wire coat hanger from his van. He has his lieutenant (Randy Echols) pick up a hitch hiker, Pam (Beth Reis), and he tells her that there's a "mental case" loose in the town. After calling Pam's parents and finding out they don't care ("They won't even send bus fare. It seems we're dealing with delinquent parents as well as delinquent children."), Captain Shaw knows that only the police can save these girls now. After releasing Pam, Howard picks her up and strangles her, accidentally leaving his glasses at the murder scene. The glasses, along with the wire coat hanger, lead Captain Shaw closer to Howard. Meanwhile, Howard branches out and pick up a homosexual man who is hitch hiking through town. After determining that he also hates his mother, Howard kills him, wrapping a wire coat hanger around his neck. Howard's boss, Mr. Baldwin (John Harmon), warns him if his performance delivering and picking up dry cleaning doesn't improve, he will be fired. Howard's world starts falling apart as his job (and his only means of picking up hitch hikers) is in jeopardy and the police begin closing in. Howard picks up an 11 year old runaway girl, then rapes and kills her (thankfully offscreen). This proves to be Howard's undoing as the police find a dry cleaning receipt clutched in her dead hand. The police pick up Howard at the dry cleaners without incident. We next see Howard clad in a straightjacket muttering to himself, "I'm so cold, Mama". This tight little exercise in sleaze was directed by Irv Berwick, who was also responsible for the then-gory MONSTER OF PIEDRAS BLANCAS (1959) and the terrible teen comedy MALIBU HIGH (1978). HITCH HIKE TO HELL was also one of the last theatrical features from Harry Novak's Boxoffice International Pictures. Though by no means a bloody film, the sleaze factor is high as Robert Gribbin's performance as Howard is a hoot. Playing Howard as slightly retarded, he does evoke some sympathy, that is until he kills the little girl. Then you hope he gets his just desserts. But, just as in real life, things don't always happen the way you think they should. Irv's son Wayne Berwick, who would later go on to direct MICROWAVE MASSACRE (1978), serves as sound recordist here (and also on Larry Buchanan's THE LOCH NESS HORROR - 1981) and also plays harmonica on the title tune. Co-star Russell Johnson, who everyone knows as the Professor on GILLIGAN'S ISLAND, has a long history in genre films, appearing in titles such as IT CAME FROM OUTER SPACE (1953), THIS ISLAND EARTH (1955), ATTACK OF THE CRAB MONSTERS (1957), the TV movies ALOHA MEANS GOODBYE (1974), YOU LIE SO DEEP, MY LOVE (1975) and many others. He does a nice turn here as a cop with a heart, whose disgust for uncaring parents mirrors Howard's disgust for uncaring children. If your taste runs towards the tawdry, you could do a lot worse than this flick. Also starring Gail Bowman and Don Lewis as the "Gay Boy". Originally available on a double feature VHS from Best Film & Video with KIDNAPPED COED (1975) A Something Weird Video Release on a double-bill DVD along with KIDNAPPED COED (1975). Rated R.
KIDNAPPED COED (1975) - Eddie Mattlock (Jack Canon) kidnaps pretty young coed Sandra Morley (Leslie Ann Rivers), the daughter of wealthy industrialist Franklin Morley (the voice of director Frederick R. Friedel), and hopes to hit the jackpot by demanding a large ransom for her safe return. Eddie and Sandra are about to have an event-filled 48 hours. Their first stop is a seedy hotel where Eddie plans to hold Sandra until the ransom is paid. Little does he know that the hotel has been taken over by a pair of psychos, who barge into their room, beat and tie-up Eddie to a chair and force him to watch one of them rape a tied-up Sandra on the bed. Eddie frees himself and shoots the two psychos in the balls. He then takes Sandra to an abandoned barn, somewhere on the backroads of the Carolinas, where they are interrupted by four old biddies on a bird watching expedition. We learn why Eddie is kidnapping Sandra: He needs the money to keep his wheelchair-bound mother (Gladys Lavitan) in a nursing home. Pretty soon Eddie and Sandra fall in love and must deal with a shotgun-wielding farmer and a crazy old coot with a pitchfork. Sandra freaks out when she sees Eddie kill the old coot and she runs away into the arms of a blind man (Skip Lundby). Eddie catches up and calms her down. He then call his mother to tell her that he and Sandra are in love and are going to get married. His mother's response: "You're no good, just like your father. Damn you! Damn you!" Eddie and Sandra pick up the ransom and then go to a bar, where they drink, dance and do impressions to celebrate their love and good fortune. Their good fortune doesn't last too long as three punks rush into the bar, rob everyone and steal Eddie's car, which contains the ransom money. The End. KIDNAPPED COED was directed, produced and written by Frederick R. Friedel, the same auteur responsible for AXE (1974). While not a good film by anyone's standards, it is competently-made and good for a quick viewing. Clocking in at a scant 76 minutes, it never drags and offers the viewer a quick look at future L.A. LAW and DR. GIGGLES star Larry Drake in an early role as caretaker to Eddie's mother. Worth Keeter (WOLFMAN - 1979; DOGS OF HELL - 1982) was in charge of Makeup and Special Effects. Also starring Larry Lambeth and Jim Blankinship as the hotel psychos. Originally available on a double feature VHS from Best Film & Video with HITCH HIKE TO HELL (1977). Available on DVD with HITCH HIKE TO HELL from Something Weird Video. Rated R. Also known as DATE WITH A KIDNAPPER, HOUSE OF TERROR, THE KIDNAPPER and THE KIDNAP LOVER.
THE MAD BUTCHER (1972) - Otto (Victor Buono), "Vienna's greatest butcher", is released from the lunatic asylum after spending three years there for hitting a woman over the head with two pounds of raw liver. Declared cured, Otto returns to the butcher shop and his shrewish wife (Franca Polcelli), only to be horrified about how high the price of sausages have become. He immediately slashes the price and must find a way to come up with a cheaper cut of meat. After killing his nagging wife (what a bitch!) and having a difficult time disposing of her body, Otto finally solves his meat problem. Needless to say, his new sausages are a hit. So much in fact, that Otto must find new victims to keep up with the demand. Mike (Brad Harris), a Chicago reporter on assignment in Vienna, is working on a story about the disappearance of several women, all of who are Otto's new sausage meat. Mike falls in love with a woman (Karen Field) who happens to live next door to Otto's butcher shop. Mike grows suspicious of Otto and has the police search the butcher shop. They find nothing thanks to Otto's vat of sulphuric acid. Otto kidnaps Mike's girl-friend in retaliation. When her ring is found in one of the sausages served at the police commissary, Mike rushes over to the butcher shop and saves his love in the nick of time, knocking Otto into his sausage-grinding machine. As we witness the grinder spewing out Otto sausages, a superimposed message wishes us "Buono Appetito"! This Italian horror/comedy is the work of director Guido Zurli (here credited as John Zurli), who has also made films under the names Albert Moore, Frank Sanders and John Zuru. THE MAD BUTCHER is short on gore (at least in this edited, letterboxed and slightly dupey 80 minute version) but high on the laugh scale. Some of the jokes are subtle, so you must watch and listen very carefully. (Don't watch the actors' lips, because it is badly dubbed.) The late, great character actor Victor Buono (THE STRANGLER - 1964; THE EVIL - 1978) greatly enhances the proceedings here, adding the right amount of menace and parody to his role. THE MAD BUTCHER (a.k.a. MEAT IS MEAT and STRANGLER OF VIENNA) has both yucks and shocks. Originally available on a double feature VHS from Best Film & Video with FRANKENSTEIN'S CASTLE OF FREAKS (1973). A Genesis Home Video VHS Release. Also available uncut on DVD from Something Weird Video. Rated R.
RATTLERS (1975) - Any PG-rated film that opens with two little boys getting bitten to death by a den of rattlesnakes in the Mojave Desert can't be all bad. Or can it? The Mojave Police Department bring in herpetologist Tom Parkinson (Sam Chew) and photographer Ann Bradley (Elisabeth Chauvet) to help in the investigation. More deaths occur (an entire family killed by the snakes during dinner time; a plumber has a snake crawl up his pant leg; a lady taking a bath gets attacked by snakes crawling out of the drain) and our intrepid duo still cannot figure out why the snakes are attacking in such a vicious manner until they visit the local U.S. Army base and meet the dastardly Colonel Stroud (Dan Priest). It seems the Colonel has been dumping an experimental nerve gas, called CT3, in an abandoned mine without authorization. The gas is leaking, causing the snakes to go on a murderous hunting spree. Fearing a coverup, Tom and Ann investigate the Colonel and the tight security at the base. When two Army soldiers (one of them played by Darwin Joston of ASSAULT ON PRECINCT 13 - 1976) are savagely killed by the snakes, a drunk Army doctor (Ron Gold) bucks the Colonel's orders and helps Tom and Ann. This leads them to the abandoned mine and the main den of killer rattlesnakes. After they are attacked by the snakes in their tent and Ann is bitten, Tom goes after the Colonel. The Colonel kills the alcoholic doctor and goes to the mine to coverup his crimes. After a brief shootout, the Colonel blows himself and the mine up with a hand grenade, trapping the snakes and ending their assault. Or does it? While this is not especially a bad film, the PG rating severely hampers any suspense that can be had in a film of this type and it looks as if director John McCauley (whose only other film as director was THE DEADLY INTRUDER - 1984) planned it that way. RATTLERS plays like a TV movie from that period and if it wasn't for the surprising nudity during the bathtub scene, you would swear you were watching one (remember TARANTULAS: THE DEADLY CARGO - 1976?). What this film needed was more blood and guts, as we are never shown the aftermath of the attacks, just the repulsed reactions of the cast as the sheets are lifted at the morgue. Still, this is a 70's PG rating, so they still show more than the sanitized PG of today. I just wish there were more. Originally released on VHS by U.S.A. Home Video. A Something Weird Video DVD Release. Rated PG. Also on the DVD: The Boris Karloff Mexican horror opus THE SNAKE PEOPLE (1968) as an added bonus, along with their usual assortment of short films (all snake-related) and trailers. Other (non-giant) killer snake movies include: STANLEY (1972), THE KILLER SNAKES (1974), COPPERHEAD (1984), RATTLED (1996) and SILENT PREDATORS (1999).
A SCREAM IN THE STREETS (1973) - I remember, as a horny teenager, seeing this film at a drive-in in the mid-70's. My memories of this film were quite fond and I was anxious to view it again when I saw that it was available on DVD. Well, either my memory was playing tricks on me or I was hornier as a teenager than I thought (who wasn't?). Quite frankly, this film stinks. It is mainly a hodge-podge of near-X sex scenes bumpered by some inane and badly-choreographed police action. A serial killer is knifing women at a local park. It is up to to local cops, Ed and Bob (John Kirkpatric and Frank Bannon) to track this psychopath down and arrest him. What they don't know is the killer is dressing up as a woman and walking away from his crimes undetected. It's quite obvious to the viewer that she's a he (it's quite pathetic, actually), but everyone in the film is fooled. The two cops must also deal with a peeping tom (who spies on two lesbians making love); a sicko who beats up his masseuse with his belt and a gang of thugs robbing a store. All of the action scenes (they are few and far in between) are lazily shot and one car chase scene has to be seen to be believed. The main selling point to this film are the sex scenes. As I mentioned before, they are of the near-X quality (a Harry Novak specialty), showcasing both male and female full frontal nudity with a pre-disposed penchant for oral sex. I dare you not to laugh at the peeping tom as he slobbers watching the lesbians go at it. I double dare you not to laugh as one of the lesbians spots the peeping tom and make a phone call to the police while the other lesbian continues performing oral sex on her!! The biggest laugh of all comes from the cross-dressing serial killer. As he is stabbing the women he screams, "I hate women! You're rotten! ROTTEN!" If this synopsis make you want to run out and rent or buy this thing, be forwarned: It's boring as hell and seems twice as long than it really is. Director Carl Monson, who died in 1988, was also responsible for BLOOD LEGACY (1971), PLEASE DON'T EAT MY MOTHER (1973), DEATH FEUD (1987) and others. This was not his shining hour. Also starring 70's mammary queens Sharon Kelly (LOVE LUST AND VIOLENCE - 1975), Sandy Dempsey (SEX PSYCHO - 1971), Linda York (VIDEO VIXENS - 1975) and Sandi Carey (BEAUTIES AND THE BEAST - 1973). Originally available in trunicated form on a double feature VHS from Best Film & Video with AXE (1974). A Something Weird Video DVD Release. Unrated. Also known as SCREAM STREET and GIRLS IN THE STREET.
THE SINFUL DWARF (1974) - This sick, sadistic Danish production could never be made in todays politically correct climate. It treats women like dirt, contains brutal torture scenes and is definitely not for the faint of heart. In other words, I loved it! Peter and Mary (Tony Eades & Anne Sparrow), a down on their luck couple, rent a cheap room on the top floor of a converted nightclub run by the sadistic Lila Lash (Clara Keller) and her deformed midget son Olaf (Torben, who is a sight to behold). Lila and Olaf run a prostitution ring in the attic, where kidnapped girls are kept in check with unhealthy doses of heroin and nightly beatings. Mary notices a wide variety of faceless men entering the attic at all hours of the day and night and becomes suspicious. When she tells Tony what she has seen, he tells her to mind her own business because he is more worried about finding a job than losing the only place they can afford to stay. Lila and Olaf set their sights on adding Mary to their stable but first must figure out a way to get Tony out of the picture. Lila sets Tony up with a job in a toy shop run by a fat slob named Santa Claus, which is actually a front for a heroin smuggling ring. Santa sends Tony (who is unaware of the illegal activities) to France, giving Lila and Olaf the chance to kidnap Mary. They leave a note in the room in which Mary tells Tony that she is leaving him. Meanwhile, Mary is chained naked in the attic, shot full of heroin and vaginally penetrated with the handle of Olafs cane. She is then raped by one of Lilas customers. Tony returns from France and finds the note. Feeling dejected, he goes back to the toy shop to work off his worries. While working in the basement, he overhears Santa and Olaf talking about the heroin and prostitute operations. Remembering what Mary told him, Tony goes to the police and they bust Santa Claus and raid Lilas house. Tony finds Mary and three other naked girls in a hidden room in the attic. When he realizes what has been done to Mary, he shoots Lila (with a gun given to him by a cop!), killing her. Olaf jumps out of the attic window to avoid police capture and dies from his wounds. This sleazy bit of exploitation is really rough stuff. You can actually feel yourself getting dirty as you are viewing it. The problem is that this is well-made sleaze, which makes you all the more uncomfortable. When Lila, who was once a nightclub performer before being scarred in a fire, sings cabaret songs (with Olaf accompanying on the piano) for her elderly drunk female friend, the scenes are intercut with the captive girls being whipped, raped and going through withdrawal. These scenes are effective and quite unnerving. The sex scenes are near-pornographic, showing both male and female full frontal nudity and simulated sex that nearly looks real (as a matter of fact, this was actually shot as a hardcore porn film and was edited down to a soft-X for theatrical play in most countries by Harry Novak and his Boxoffice International Pictures). The real find in this film is Torben, who, to the best of my knowledge, has never made another film (He was actually a host of a Swedish TV kiddie show and made at least one more porno film besides this one!). His many close-ups reveal grotesque features which even the best makeup artists could not hope to duplicate. He has a diabolical laugh that is goosebumb-inducing and one gets the feeling that he is not acting when he relishes injecting his captives with drugs, spying on Mary and Peter making love and playing with his many wind-up toys (a motif throughout the film). This is one truly frightening guy, regardless of his three foot frame. In closing, let me say that you will sit spellbound while viewing this film and hate yourself for watching it after it ends. How many films can make that statement? If you are daring, this sick shocker (also known as ABDUCTED BRIDE) can be purchased for ten bucks from Something Weird Video. Directed by Eduardo Fuller (CYNTHIA'S SISTER - 1972), who uses the name "Vidal Raski" here. The hardcore version and the soft-X version are both now available as separate DVDs from Severin Films (Severin released the hardcore version on sub-label Private Screenings to distance themselves from controversy). UPDATE: Severin Films now offers both the hardcore and softcore versions on one Blu-Ray. Not Rated and X-Rated.
THE TOY BOX (1970) - Incomprehensible mess that has mucho nudity but makes very little sense. A group of sexual exhibitionists gather at a secluded mansion to put on sex shows for the enigmatic Uncle, who may or may not be dead. Once they are done with their performances, the sexual participants are allowed to pick a prize from The Toy Box as a token of Uncles thanks. Things are not going good. People are being murdered by their sex partners while Uncle watches. Some people disappear and the occupants are not allowed to leave the mansion. In the end, we find out that this is all a plot by an alien race to kidnap humans and use their brains as a drug to get high! This hodgepodge of sex and horror is confusing to the extreme. The story is downright impossible to follow. Toss in a lot of post-sync dubbing, plentiful simulated sex (including oral sex with hilarious slurping sounds dubbed in) and annoying gel lighting and what you get is a potpourri of nonsense. Director/screenwriter Ron Garcia (SWINGERS MASSACRE - 1975) went on to become director of photography of David Lynchs landmark TV series TWIN PEAKS. Originally released by Harry Novaks Boxoffice International Pictures, THE TOY BOX (a.k.a. THE ORGY BOX) is rough going for even the most patient viewer. If it werent for the frequent nudity on view, I would have pressed the eject button long before this film was over. Just because its a rarity does not make it a good film. Starring Evan Steele, Ann Myers, Deborah Osborne, Lisa Goodman and Rene Bond. From Something Weird Video. Not Rated.