Friday night at the home drive-in: The Evil of Frankenstein (1964)

As I discussed in my #NotQuiteClassicCinema post a while back, my Friday nights at the home drive-in are all about trying to relive the joy of the Not Quite Classic Theatre television show I loved as a teenager. And if there is one phrase that might sum up the contents of that show it would be “old monster movies’. I seem to recall that they screened sequels to movies like Dracula (1931), and The Wolfman (1941) – not the originals, mind you, but their lesser known offspring. The great Hammer films of the 1950s and ’60s would have been a perfect addition to the lineup, but I don’t recall any of them being shown. As a result, my exposure to Hammer films was sadly limited in those days.

I do, however, recall seeing The Evil Of Frankenstein (1964) on late night TV, and it inspired me in the same way as many of the films on Not Quite Classic Theatre. So, I have chosen to include Hammer films in my #NotQuiteClassicCinema library, at the risk of upsetting someone who might rightfully say “but those movies ARE classics!” I agree with you one hundred percent, unknown angry person. But as I said in my initial blog post: “Many of my Friday night choices are movies that I love – some of them are personal favourites of mine.” The hashtag is merely a tribute to the old TV show that I loved so much.

It could also be argued that most of these movies, and perhaps horror and monster movies in general, are often not viewed as “classics” by the mainstream – even though they should be. So perhaps Not Quite Classic could simply mean that the movies are not afforded the same respect as, say, Citizen Kane (1941) or Casablanca (1942). In the glory days of video stores, movies like those would be filed under “Classics”, whereas movies like Frankenstein (1931) and certainly The Evil of Frankenstein would have been filed under “Horror”.

When using old review books to guide me in my rental choices (back in the 1990s), I noticed that some of my favourite movies were only given two and half stars (out of a possible four). The four star movies were often slick and technically flawless; movies that everyone would agree were good. The two and a half star movies, however, were often more unusual. They could be edgier, rougher around the edges, or more challenging in some way. They weren’t always for everyone. But some of them could be a whole lot of fun. And I would find myself re-watching them more often than some of the four star movies. Don’t get me wrong. Many of the four star movies are masterpieces and deserve many repeat viewings. But I find that it’s the movies that aren’t perfect that inspire me the most. So, whenever my favourite review book gave a movie two and half stars, I would think “This might be a movie for me.” And it often was.

Parental_Advistory_Logo_(old)So, maybe being Not Quite Classic is a badge of honour – just like warning stickers on old heavy metal records: “This movie might not meet the standards of mainstream approval” – or “This movie might not be suitable for all viewers.” Quite frankly, nothing makes me more suspicious of a movie than universal praise. I’m probably more intrigued if at least one person says “This is the worst movie I’ve ever seen.”

I can’t say that The Evil of Frankenstein is the worst movie I’ve ever seen (not even close – it’s really very good), but I can say that it’s a #NotQuiteClassicCinema favourite – and coming from me, that’s a recommendation.

Friday the 13th at the home drive in: The original Friday the 13th (1980)

I remember seeing the poster for Friday the 13th at a movie theatre and thinking it looked scary. Too scary. I had always enjoyed watching scary movies, but something about this poster made me wonder if I should stay away. Fortunately, I was too young to buy a ticket anyway.

Friday3Fast forward a couple of years and Friday the 13th Part 3 3D was out. I had still never seen the original, or Part Two, but a kid at school had seen all three Friday the 13th movies and went on at great length about how good they were. I don’t remember everything he said, but he mentioned Jason a lot.

In Manitoba, Friday the 13th Part 3 3D was rated A.P.G. (Adult Parental Guidance), which meant that if I was going to see it, I would need an adult to take me. Somehow I managed to talk my Dad into it. I remember him removing his 3D glasses part way through and rubbing his eyes. Afterwards, he said it was the worst movie he ever saw.

RevengeCreatureI, on the other hand, loved it. It was the first 3D movie I saw in a threatre. I had seen a TV broadcast of Revenge Of The Creature (1955) with glasses that I’d bought at 7-11, but that’s another story. This was modern (1982) 3D technology on a big, big screen, with loud speakers blasting and a crowd to gasp and scream in all the right places. It was life-changing.

It wasn’t long after seeing Part 3 that I decided to rent the original Friday the 13th on Beta. These were the early days of VCRs, and my family had opted for the higher quality format which ultimately lost the war to the less expensive VHS players.

In some ways, Friday the 13th was the exact same movie as Part 3. But what shocked me, more than any of the gory murders, was the “unmasking” of the killer in the final act. Up until that point, the killer had been a POV shot that menaced its victims from off-screen. Now the killer’s face was revealed in the bright camp floodlights – and it was not Jason!  What the -?! I had heard so much about Jason, I had seen him in action in Part 3, and in flashbacks to Part 2!  I had just assumed that he was the killer in all of the Friday the 13th movies – and no one had ever told me different.

This unexpected twist ending convinced the twelve-year-old me that the original Friday the 13th was a brilliant murder mystery. Watching it again as an adult, I realized that it isn’t really a murder mystery at all. There are no suspects paraded before us. And we don’t even meet the real killer, until seconds before it is revealed that this person is, in fact, the killer. Would I have been as impressed with the movie if I had seen it when it was first released – before Jason mania had taken over the world?

There’s no way to ever know for sure. But I’ve watched the movie several times over the years, knowing full well who the killer is, and I’ve enjoyed it every time. Sometimes I wish I had seen parts 1, 2 and 3 in the proper order, as they were released. But other times, I feel very fortunate to have had the strange experience of manufacturing a shocking twist ending for myself, by watching them out of order. Friday the 13th is without a doubt a #NotQuiteClassicCinema personal favourite.

Friday night at the home drive-in: I Eat Your Skin (1964) or was it (1971)?

Who doesn’t know the story of this movie? Shot in 1964, but not released until 1971, it was originally titled Zombie, or maybe Invasion of the Zombies, but when producer Jerry Gross needed a second feature to send out with I Drink Your Blood he retitled it to I Eat Your Skin.

I Eat Your Skin got panned in every horror review book I ever read. Terror On Tape, by James O’Neill, gave it one and half stars and noted that the acting was “as gruesome as it gets.” Creature Features, by John Stanley, also gave it one and half stars and said “Credit (or discredit) Del Tenney for writing-producing-directing this mess.” Thanks to reviews like these, I avoided watching I Eat Your Skin for many years. But there was always a nagging voice somewhere in the back of mind telling me that this movie needed to be seen. And since it came as a bonus feature on my super-deluxe blu-ray of I Drink Your Blood, I no longer had any excuse to ignore it.

The movie isn’t half as bad as it’s reputation suggests. It’s exactly the kind of movie I used to see on Not Quite Classic Theatre when I was a teenager; it’s black and white, it’s about monsters, and it’s oddly inspiring (to me). Perhaps it’s the imperfect expression of entertaining ideas that draws me in. It’s like reading a rough draft of a script and seeing the potential for greatness in it – or at least the potential for improvement.

The best parts of I Eat Your Skin, for me, are the scenes shot at the legendary Fontainebleau Hotel in Miami Beach. I first leaned about the Fontainebleau when I was writing episodes of a true crime documentary series. One of the cases I became immersed in was the murder of Ben Novack Jr. – who some referred to as “the prince of the Fontainebleau.” His parents built and ran the hotel throughout its historic heyday in the 1950s and ’60s, when Hollywood stars like Frank Sinatra were regular customers – and movies like Goldfinger (1964) were partially shot there. I’ve watched Goldfinger several times over the years, but not since learning about the Fontainebleau. So, I was pleasantly surprised to recognize the hotel in the opening shots of I Eat Your Skin, which was coincidentally shot there in the same year as Goldfinger.

I think what I like about location scenes, particularly in low budget movies, is that they seem to offer us glimpses of history preserved on film. No matter how unimportant a movie like I Eat Your Skin may be, it can still show us what a place like the Fontainebleau was like, at that time. The bigger budget the movie, the more the filmmakers can manipulate what we see. But a movie like I Eat Your Skin probably just pointed the camera at what was there. It’s possible that some of the people in the background were simply hotel guests who agreed to be filmed. That would have been a nice vacation souvenir, wouldn’t it?

I Eat Your Skin is not the best movie of it’s kind, but it’s far from being the worst. Its style and atmosphere take me back to the glory days of Not Quite Classic Theatre – and I will definitely be watching it again. It’s a perfect addition to the #NotQuiteClassicCinema library.

 

Friday night at the home drive-in: Caged Men Plus One Woman AKA I’m Going to Get You… Elliot Boy (1971)

I first read about this movie in Gerald Pratley‘s book A Century of Canadian Cinema. I’d been working on a a research project that had me searching for obscure Canadian crime films, and Pratley’s book had been a good source of unfamiliar titles. Unfortunately, a surprisingly large number of them were impossible to track down. In some cases, I wondered if the movies had ever had a real release. Pratley saw them, so they must have played a festival, or had a premiere screening somewhere.  But it seemed like some of them had never secured a real distribution deal, and simply vanished. Others may have been distributed, either theatrically, or on VHS back in the day, but were now totally out of print and/or circulation.

I was pleasantly surprised to discover that Caged Men Plus One Woman AKA I’m Going to Get You… Elliot Boy was available on Blu-ray and DVD from Code Red Video.

The movie was originally released in 1971, the same year as Fortune and Men’s Eyes, another Canadian movie, that one based on a successful Broadway play (written by Canadian playwright John Herbert). Both Caged Men… and Fortune and Men’s Eyes deal with the shocking realities of what goes on behind prison walls – including the now familiar (but at the time groundbreaking) prison movie tropes of openly gay characters, and straight men being forced or coerced into sex with other men. Had the makers of Caged Men… been influenced by Fortune and Men’s Eyes? The play premiered in 1967, so it’s possible. But perhaps it was just the right time for this kind of story to be told. And it’s interesting that Canada seemed to be the right place to tell it.

Caged Men Plus One Woman AKA I’m Going to Get You… Elliot Boy is it’s own movie with it’s own story. But it would make an interesting double bill with the more well known, and perhaps more respectable, Fortune and Men’s Eyes.

Fans of wrestling will be interested to see Abdullah the Butcher playing a character named Abdullah, who is a big fan of music.

71rYcyOlwRL._SX679_The One Woman in question is Maureen McGill, who has several Makeup Department credits on the IMDb. Caged Men Plus One Woman AKA I’m Going to Get You… Elliot Boy is her only acting credit.

This movie is 100% Certified #NotQuiteClassicCinema