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March 25, 2019

King Cohen: The Wild World of Filmmaker Larry Cohen (2017) Documentary Review

I got the screener for this documentary last year, but being a lazy asshole, I never got around to it. With the recent passing of Mr. Cohen, I thought it was high time I STOP being a lazy asshole and view it. Now that I’ve watched it, I feel like even more of an asshole, and am sorry I took so long to experience it.

As someone who never really paid that close attention to the people behind the scenes of a movie (writer, director, cinematographer, etc.) I didn’t even know Larry Cohen’s name. I have, however, seen a few of his films, and they certainly have made a lasting impression.

This documentary doesn’t delve too deeply into his childhood and upbringing, but instills in us his early proclivity toward creativity and imagination. Though his career as a stand-up comedian didn’t pan out, the art behind performing and writing a good show definitely translated into his television and movie career.

It seemed natural, too, that his career evolved from writer, to director, and eventually producer. From what he (and everyone who knew him) said, he didn’t like other people screwing up his work, so why not just do it himself? That didn’t stop him from getting fired off a few jobs (when there was a separate production company involved.) But even so, by that point, he’d have gotten what he wanted from the show, and was then able to move on to other projects.

According to his second wife, he was a prolific idea man, and could write up to twenty-five pages every day!



I’m not going to discuss every film brought up in the documentary, or cover every detail explored. The one thing I really took away from this was a shared consensus on Larry’s genius. His films were powerful and raw; his creative eye allowed him to make a location as much a character as any actor in the film; his guerrilla warfare tactics on filming kept his movies more budget friendly, and it’s part of what makes his films so “Larry.”

On a more personal level, everyone interviewed for this documentary remembered Larry as a generous, kind, funny, sweet, kinda wacky, fearless man, and one of the most brilliant filmmakers to ever come around the scene. His style could never be reproduced today, which is a little sad, but also makes his legacy that much more enduring. For me, his movie, The Stuff, has always been, and continues to be, a favorite – even though, when I first saw it, I never understood its “wink wink” statement on consumerism and unethical business practices that were rampant in the eighties.



For anyone who wants to learn more about Larry Cohen, or would like a deeper look to his writing/directing life, this documentary is a must. Then go seek out his shows and movies. I know I will, and I’ll be able appreciate them from a perspective I didn’t have this morning.

Rest in Peace, Mr. Cohen.

5 Hatchets (out of 5)





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March 20, 2019

Movie Review: "Family Honor" (1973, Cinerama Releasing/Code Red)




…this reviewer?? Always been a highly devoted and respectably knowledgeable top-40 pop music lover…a progressive and well-versed fan of the more familiar, more popular, and often played music hits of countless high profile artists, stretching as far back as the golden age of ‘50’s pop and rock ‘n’ roll (…wasn’t even yet a twinkle in my parent’s eyes, back then…but nonetheless, God bless them for instilling a love of that era of music, into my appreciative listening repertoire). Hardly unusual...that scuffed, scratched and worn plastic dial on the car radio, or on the shoulder-straining portable ‘boom box’, was evermore ‘super-glued’ to the lower-band AM dial. Indeed, an almost religious disciple of the Sunday morning Casey Kasem top-100 countdown, back in the day when he reigned supreme over the radio airwaves. And those old-school TV advertised top-40 music collections from the ‘70’s, periodically released by Ronco and K-Tel (…yes, folks…only $5.99, per album or cassette tape…20 original hits, 20 original stars, like…)?? Yeah, (I) had ‘em all…

…now, y’all may roll your eyes at the mind-numbing, umpteenth time that the Lipps, Inc. version of “Funkytown” is toted out on the airwaves. For myself…hey, my toes, they’ll still be a-tappin’…again, and again, and again (...as I talk about it, talk about it, talk about it, talk about it…doo-doo doo doo doo, doo doo dah dee-doo…)…

…at home, the myriad collection of artists’ greatest hits albums, cassettes, compact discs…yeah, there might even be a dozen and a half or so of 8-track tapes, still buried in a box somewhere, too…far outnumbering the singularly themed releases, containing maybe one or two hits, and the rest of the lot…eh, likable, but for the most part, negligible and rarely heard. Even the hundreds…nay, even thousands of Frisbee-sized, black vinyl .45 RPM records…hey, a mere $1.99 each, at the long defunct Tower Records…with a top-40 hit on one side, and a notable, though slighted ‘other’ song…the lauded ‘B’ side, on the other…each carefully preserved in their own individual sleeves, and occasionally…the dust blown off those scratchy singles, and piled up on a turntable spindle, for successive, drop-sequential aural appreciation (…i.e., ‘hey Buddy!! Wanna come over and play some records??)…

…that been said…eh, every once in a blue moon…well, change-of-pace curiosity would momentarily take the driver’s seat, and invariably suggest that…hey, why not flip those dang .45’s over, like thin ebony-shaded flapjacks, and ‘cook up’ those lesser appreciated ‘B’ side puppies?? And the result of that revelation?? Well, more than often enough, you retain the artist’s intended heartfelt mood and fervor, but on a much more personal, ambitious, and meaningful level, though considerably less commercial and less prolific. The ‘A’ side…well, that’s for the dance-floor, arena rockin' general masses…but the ‘B’ side?? Perhaps advocated by the more ardent and appreciative of the artist’s following…something more personal, meaningful and diminutive, than the ‘preferred’ commercial piece…but no less reflective of the artist’s favored musical form or genre…

…from a cult film enthusiast’s point of view, this comparative observation might well seem not unlike…yeah, not unlike those well-paired old-school drive-in double features, of decades past…you know, where the first movie is a very commercial, higher-profile and higher budgeted film, within a specific genre…followed by, providing you stick around for it, the co-feature…usually within the same genre, to keep that momentum of flavor going, but on a much lesser, though no less ambitious scale & intent, budget and production–wise…

...(…sigh…OK, so I’ve had better lead-in’s…hey, doing the best I can, with what I’ve got, focusing on this ‘lil’ film that could’...gimme a break, will ya'?? But, then again...sheesh!! Talk about a shortcut, by way of Albuquerque…LOL!!!)…

…Scruffy and shaggy New York police officer and Army veteran Joey Fortunato is in the throes of dilemma and conflict. You see, some seven years previous, his father…a well-respected and seasoned cop, himself…was reportedly set up, ambushed and brutally killed in the streets, in cold blood by the local mafia. Since his father’s well-mourned passing, Joey’s mother and his uncle…both devoted Catholics, and both direct descendants of Italian immigrants…have relentlessly scolded, ranted at, and pressured him, insisting that he seek out ‘eye for an eye’ justice, and outright kill his father’s murderers, if at the very least, for the sake of the family’s honor (…uh, roll credits). Unfortunately, given a police officer’s morality and limitations, Joey finds himself hard pressed to act according to his mother’s wishes, as although everyone on the streets seems to know who killed Joey’s father, there appears to be no definitive proof that Carlo Regatti, the local mobster high-lord, was responsible for the contracted hit…
…in hopes of appeasing his mother and uncle to some degree, Joey reluctantly instigates his own covert investigation of his father’s murder; unfortunately, in the midst of having heavily roughed up and hammered one of Carlo’s loyal cronies for information, Joey is suspended, and forced to surrender his badge and gun, in response to his unorthodox and unauthorized actions. And to make matters worse, in pursuing and stalking Carlo from the shadows…seen just enough to let a progressively angered and enraged Carlo know that he is being pursued and stalked…not to mention, rousting and scaring one of Carlo’s business gatherings, with the blast of a sawed-off shotgun…Joey finds himself propelled to the number one spot, on Carlo’s hit list…
…keeping himself covert and in the shadows, Joey finds momentary solace, and a sense of personal progress in taking in and helping out a destitute, young and sickly waif of a drug addict, whom he is surprised to find out, he once went to school with. However, the well-intentioned headway efforts in getting the girl clean are short lived, when Joey returns home from his continued investigation, and finds that the girl has died…or rather, has been killed via overdose, by the ordered hit-man sent to his apartment to kill him. And to make matters even worse, the mob boss Carlo is also inexplicably found brutally killed, with the murder having been set up to suggested that Joey had perpetrated the killing. Despite all of this, as well as the fatal possibility of now getting killed by either his misdirected fellow police officers, or the now-vengeful quite mobsters…Joey nonetheless carries forward with his 'investigation'...sawed off shotgun in hand...realizing all too well at this point, that there is clearly more than meets the eye, with regards to his father’s death, and any involvement with or by the mob…
…thinking back and recalling those bygone classic times of drive-in cinema…say, back in the late ‘60’s to early seventies (…at the time, as a snot-nosed kid, seated on the backseat car window ledge, folded over the car roof, and getting a slight crick in the neck…my view, nonetheless unswervingly transfixed on the towering movie screen before me, reflecting back onto the car windshield), there was no mistaking those great, high-profile, big studio crime dramas, released at the time. Coppola’s “The Godfather” & “The Godfather, Part II”…Sidney Lumet’s “Serpico”…Scorsese’s “Mean Streets”…among countless others. The unnerving, albeit transfixing viciousness and grit of inner city intrigue and crime…a grim, grating and chilling city street borough ‘brrr’ to the mind, like being ‘forced’ to bite the concrete curb. The ruthless & ambitious criminal agendas and attitudes portrayed…outwardly, one can’t help but entrust that these ‘goodfellas’ would invariably be squelched by the local John Q. Law; however, in the alternate interim, one cannot help but feel an underlining measure of precarious glee and satisfaction, in seeing the bad guys do their thing…
…and after having let loose an exasperating breath of relief, once the final credits begin rolling on the screen…unclenching from a mentally, even a bit physically exhausting cinematic experience…hey folks, it’s intermission time. Time to get that last little walk and stretch, before the next movie…not to mention, gotta drain the ol’ lizard…maybe get one of those greasy ratburgers, or some of that cardboard crusted pizza…and quickly saunter back to the car, with hopes that the next feature film will continue the engaging momentum, having been instilled by the first movie…
…more than often enough, that second feature…given an ideal exhibitor’s pairing…does that very thing, albeit on a lesser budget, lesser profile and lesser production fervor. Trouble is…although they may well perform in that intent…well, who actually remembers by name, those ideally paired, lower-tiered, under-the-radar flicks, which often play for the mere moment, then disappear into obscurity, leaving perhaps a faint whiff of ‘…say, I remember seeing this great little movie, way back when, when it played with (fill in the blank)…but I be damned if I don’t remember the title”??...

…”Family Honor”…coined herein on this reviewed blu-ray release as merely “Honor”…much like one of those quirky character actors, whom one recognizes by sight, despite being unable to place an immediate name with the face…is definitely one of those films…
…interestingly enough…and most likely, the resourceful, well-scribed credit to the writer & director team of Clark Worswick and Louis Pastore (…who would tag-team their well-matched efforts again, some 13 years later, for the equally under-appreciated, extreme balls-to-the-wall espionage crime thriller, “Agent on Ice”)…’Family Honor’s sometimes claustrophobically photographed (…uh, you can’t tell me that ol’ Quentin Tarantino wasn’t influenced by this film, to some degree…that closed-in, circling 'round-the-table dialogue scene between gangster goons and mob accountants, or that DIY 'shooting up the junk' snippet, is a dead giveaway), wonderfully thick and atmospheric, albeit economical 17-grit grating (…hey, don’t knock the ol’ 17-grit sandpaper, now; it’ll deftly put a deep, slivered texture in the wood grain…as well as un-obstructively take off the top six layers of skin, with one swipe…Yikes!!), hard-nosed city street attitude is rendered in not so much the rough and deteriorated locales and visuals, but in the damn realistic exposition of the film’s no-holds-barred characters…
…really…the film’s main ‘setting’ is outwardly and liberally flavored the cold and ruthless inner-city asphalt streets of New York, as one might suggest...the outskirts city structures, the ratty and decrepit suburban slums, apartments, et al…and indeed, that may well be where they filmed the movie’s various scene proceedings. However, with the clearly economical, minimally budgeted photography and production values herein…hey, “Family Honor” might have been generically, albeit suitably filmed in just about any big-city Anywhere, USA…and rather, it’s the emotionally driven, hard-nosed, slightly over-the-top characterizations, which convincingly sell the film as a born & bred New Yorker, in as far as to say that when one watches the film, one doesn’t so much see actors playing the characters on the screen, than more so one might genuinely believe that these were real people we are seeing. Even the setting’s early ‘70’s wardrobe attire is picture perfect timely, in that respect, if you consider the clunky-bulky police uniforms, as well as the swag rock star-like gangster suits and hairstyles (...hey, them thugs gotta be hip wit' da' times, right??). Uh, yeah…it’s that thickly, deliciously realistic, and New York-style gritty…
…with stand-out performances from, for the most part, a surprisingly untried cast, heavily mustachioed actor Anthony Page…who would go on to portray further gritty, inner-city characters, including a powerhouse performance in 1981’s “Prince in the City”) leads the proceedings, as the staunchly charismatic Joey Fortunato…our disgraced, though no less determined police detective…torn between the law-abiding values of justice, and the insistent demands of family honor (…uh, roll credits), which would see justice swiftly stricken, no matter the cost (…I can’t help but quote Sean Connery, in his role as Malone, from 1987’s “The Untouchables”, who poignantly said, “…what are you prepared to do??”). Despite being virtually the only films to their credit…Vera Visconti, William Paxton and James Reyes nonetheless make their film roles herein, unique unto themselves, as…respectively…Joey’s mother, his uncle Tony, and the enraged & vengeful mafia boss, Carlo Regatti. And kicking her early acting chops into gear…a young and spunky Toni Calem, playing Carlo’s overly sheltered school-age daughter; she would continue taking on roles in gritty urban settings, with her television and cable work on shows like “Baretta”, “Kojak”, “Starsky & Hutch”, and much later, a prominent role in the acclaimed HBO series, “The Sopranos”…
…the spotty, synthesizer score ideally accents the rough, tough and grimy events that unfold…but of a much more ironic note, music-wise…why, we have famed rock guitarist, vocalist and songwriter Leslie West, of the ‘70’s hard rock group, Mountain (…oh, c’mon folks!! Surely, you remember the hard-geared, heavy rock smash, “Mississippi Queen”…hey, ‘more cowbell’, right??), strangely cast (…yet not so strangely, considering the rockin’ big hair of the mafia goons, in this flick) as a ‘blink, and you’ll miss ‘em’ walk-on part, as a background mob gangster…
…Code Red’s salvaged print of “Family Honor” is as deliciously gritty, grimy and bottom -of-the-barrel scuzzy as the film itself; but then, to clean up and remaster this particular film, might well instill some wrongful injustice in the overall drive-in flavor and experience of the film. Surprisingly enough, the promotion and distribution of this film (…by famed independent Cinerama Releasing, who that year, was also representing classic cult hits like “The Harrad Experiment”, “Walking Tall”, “The Mack”, and the equally obscure, under-appreciated & almost forgotten  horror/comedy, “Arnold”) was measurably faltered, commercially…which might well explain the film having been slipped through the cracks, discarded and unjustly buried…

…nonetheless, “Family Honor” is that rare-occasioned second tiered flick…that forlorn, negligible and seemingly disowned .45 ‘B’ side, at it were…which in it’s own right, proudly and shamelessly stands out, even in the spotlight snatching light of higher-showcased, bloated budgeted films of it’s like…

…a cool, late summer evening’s bumper-to-bumper drive-in double feature of Scorsese’s “Mean Streets”, followed by Clark Worswick’s “Family Honor”?? Oh hell, yes…I’d buy that for a dollar…or maybe even $5.50, a carload.....


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March 15, 2019

Movie Review: "Screams of a Winter Night" (1979; Full Moon Pictures/Dimension Pictures/Code Red)


…ah, yes…having recalled ever so fondly, it was a starry, crisp and brisk Friday the 13th evening, when back in ’79, this budding film collector/reviewer (…then, a snot-nosed sophomore in high school…and yes, doing my very first movie reviews for the school newspaper, at the time) and his jaunty, rag-tag band of school chums, jam-packed ourselves into a weathered rag-top Jeep Renegade, and barreled down the road to the northern parts of downtown Pasadena, right smack dab in the greater San Gabriel Valley area…the destination?? The slick, brand new, freshly carpeted hole-in-the-wall Mann’s Hastings multi-plex theater therein, just up a suburbia-fettered hill, on the darkened outskirts of the town’s street-lit main drag. You see, we were unanimously dedicated to that particular theater, on this fine summer evening, especially after having been privy, for nearly a week previous, of an irresistibly creepy little TV broadcast movie trailer, advertising an obscure, lil’ under-the-radar horror flick, alluringly called “Screams of a Winter’s Night”…

…hell, after having merely seen the trailer, and the brief flashing scenes of absolute chilling fervor, coined from film…well, underlining our outward cinematic courage, we still couldn’t help but cautiously take note and silently wonder what the ‘@#$%’ we were getting ourselves into, in hitting the screens, and baring witness to this film (…you gotta understand, considering the liberal ratings board, this was back when PG was a fairly respectable rating for an on-the-cusp edgy horror film, at the time…it’d probably be PG-13, nowadays…and this was about a year before I double-dog-dare jumped from watered down PG-rated ‘wine coolers’, to mind-blowing 150-proof Tequila shooters, when we ventured out a late other night, to experience for the first time, Lucio Fulci’s unrated classic, “Zombie”…but that’s another story); but nonetheless, the challenge was set before us…the gauntlet, deftly thrown down…way too compelling to ignore. And so, we stepped up to the box office, got our tickets, went in, copped some flat Coke & some stale ‘corn at the counter, bravely sauntered into the designated half-lit auditorium, and plopped our butts down in the seats…

…now, in anxious anticipation of having the lights go down, and the movie kicking itself into gear, it would be quite easy to say that my friends and I were getting…eh, relatively comfortable, in the interim, talking randomly about horror films, as well as what we were about to see…our conversation, adding to the nervous murmur, scattered about the theater auditorium. However, over the mass random whisper of conversational chatter…listening carefully…wait, do you hear it?? Off in the distance?? Yes, a faint and weak, though curiously discernible ‘sound’ was heard in the back of the theater, just over the rampant vocal drone…a crackled and guttural, incoherently spoken ‘something’…not really a word or phrase per say, but sort of progressively ending a bit high-pitched, as if it was a question…and definitely enunciated at a level, to illicit…well, at the very least, curiously negligible attention, initially…

…”…n’hom-melee, n’hom-melee, n’hom-melee, n’hom-melee, n’hom-melee??”…

…with a shoulder-shrug, we furthered our conversation, uninterrupted…that is, until seconds later, we heard the strange sound again…only closer…

…”…n’hom-melee, n’hom-melee, n’hom-melee, n’hom-melee, n’hom-melee??”…

…and second later, we heard it again…and again…and again…getting closer…and closer…and closer…as the lights slowly dimmed in readiness of the feature film, about to start…

…now, this reviewer’s best friend at the time…we’ll call him ‘Chris’…was seated in the aisle seat, with the rest of us alongside…and before Chris knew it, a shaky, grotesquely wrinkled and gnarled hand reached out, and cupped itself atop his left shoulder. Without warning, Chris jumped in his seat shockingly, and let out…well, a rather unmanly high-pitched shriek…you know, kinda like how Ann Robinson sounded, when the Martian grabbed her shoulder from behind, in the 1953 sci-fi classic, “War of the Worlds”. Anyways, Chris’ glance shot immediately toward his left shoulder, and meeting him face-to-face…as grotesquely wrinkled and gnarly as the hand that grabbed him…an old woman’s crazed, aged face…truly, she had to be at least 273 years old…severely hunched over, and wearing what appeared to be several old and tattered lounge dresses. Stringy and sparse slivery-white hair, atop her head…her eyes, madly widened, like saucers…a slight trickle of drool, stringing from the corner of her mouth…the contoured cracks in her face were countless, and deeper than Hell’s pitch-black, abysmal pits…her other hand, with the same shaky, wrinkly and gnarly fingers, was held out to Chris…cupped out, up and open, in a beckoning, almost pleading manner…

…”…n’hom-melee, n’hom-melee, n’hom-melee, n’hom-melee, n’hom-melee??”, she muttered…

…with the snack time concession ads, opening theater logos and movie trailers, booming in the background, the rest of us looked toward Chris…our mouths agape in WTF…and well, Chris…clearly unable to find the words to respond, just sat there, gaping at the old woman, all wide-eyed…yeah, that all-too familiar ‘deer in the headlights’ look. However, having not elicited a response, the crazed senior citizen feebly hobbled and rocked herself further down the theater aisle, stopping at each of the remaining rows, with her starting appearance and incoherent utterance…

…”…n’hom-melee, n’hom-melee, n’hom-melee, n’hom-melee, n’hom-melee??”…

…and well…the last we saw of lil’ ol’ raisin biddy, right before the open credits of “Screams of a Winter Night” scrolled…she’d hobbled and rocked herself towards the emergency exit, coolly lit next to the flickering silver-matte wall…stopping halfway for a moment, to gaze up at the bright projection, directed on the movie screen whitewash…shakingly raising her right, balled-up fist at the screen, and letting out an annoyed, grating and phlegm-guttural “…a-a-a-ck”, before finally making her way behind the exit curtain, with the heavy exit door slamming closed soon after…echoing through the darkened auditorium, as a parting, albeit chilling epilogue to her little visit…

…uh, now that the proper mood was set, we then re-adjourned ourselves back to the screen, for…uh, for…

…that is, four young couples, and two tag-alongs…all college students…couples Cal & Laurie, Steve & Sally, Harper & Jookie, Alan & Elaine, and singles John & Liz…take a school break opportunity to road trip themselves deep into a wind-whistling forest wilderness, on suggestion that John…the lead adventurer of their motley group…knew of a quaint and seclusive backwoods cabin, where they could relax, fool around and rough it, a bit. Despite being sternly warned on route by some backwoods local okies, working a shanty rustic gas station and general store, the kids nonetheless swiftly skid away, loaded for bear…or rather, loaded with beer…eventually making their way off the main road, and roughly bumpily-bump, four-wheel-driving themselves down a barely discernible dirt road, leading miles into the mass tree-thicketed sticks, and towards the supposed lakeside cabin site…
…after a long drive, and invariably thinking themselves lost, the couples do eventually arrive at the cabin, after which they proceed to unload their packs & set up residence in the shack…wiping away what appears to be years of dust & cobwebs...and settle in for their stay. John…who giddily prides himself in telling scary stories, to the point of being a nuisance…suggests venturing off into the woods with a beer can totting Cal, to gather some firewood. On the way, he kicks the scary mood into gear, telling his buddy a shuddering story about an ancient Indian legend in these parts, involving a monstrous demon wind spirit that reportedly doesn’t take too kindly to heathen interlopers, invading these hallowed woods; despite actually showing his unsuspecting companion a reported cemetery site where an adjacent cabin had been struck and burned down, and it’s occupants killed in a most bloody and gruesome manner, Cal nonetheless laughs off the spook story as wholly unbelievable, and with a shoulder shrug, along with an armload of kindling, the both of them head back to the cabin, where their friends await…
…returning to the cabin, just as night falls and the winds begin to whip up an unearthly high-pitched shrill amongst the trees, John continues to relate and emphasize the local demon wind legend, and in raising an intriguing query amongst the group, as far as what truly scares people, he challenges his companions to come up with a scarier story than what he had suggested. Taking up the dare, several of the group begin relating their own tales of terror, as the rest of the captivated lot sit intently together, listening to chilling stories that unfold, involving:
-         *** A young couple, having drunkenly left the festivities of a local school dance, get lost while driving through a supposed shortcut, and run out of gas in the middle of some deep dark woods; the boyfriend gathers up a gas can from the trunk, and stumblingly tracks himself back to the main road, in hopes of finding a gas station…disappearing in the distant darkness, while his girlfriend waits in the car. After some time, is it the frightened girl’s vivid imagination that’s scaring the very life out of her, as the result of monstrous winds (…or is it something howling?) viciously rocking the car…not to mention,  the sound of strangely persistent scraping, relentlessly etching across the car’s rooftop??...
-         ***For the purpose of ritually initiating themselves into college fraternity, three hapless college friends must spend the night in an abandoned and boarded-up sanitarium, with specific instructions…or rather, read 'more as a dare'…to not venture to the upper floors of the building, for their ‘safety’ (…read ‘sanity’). However, as the dilapidated building continues to creak & moan through the night, with an eerie, pulsating green glow coming from the top of the stairs, leading to the upper floors, the urge to investigate becomes too overwhelming, as one by one, the friends curiously, though reluctantly go up the stairs, and find(?)…
-         ***A shy, young and mousey bespectacled co-ed, living in a sorority house, is talked into going on a blind date, out at the local beach’s lakeside Lover’s Lane; when she is assaulted and almost raped by her forceful suitor, the hapless girl’s mind snaps, and she viciously kills her attacker. With the heinous incident brushed off by the authorities as a mere case of self-defense, the traumatized girl, upon returning to the sorority house, and…well, let’s just say that hell hath no fury worse than a woman scorned, no matter how trivially. And this particular woman…well, she won’t be taken advantage of, ever again…
.........and as each story unfolds, progressively chilling and unnerving the captivated listeners to an almost unbearable frenzy…uh, is it just coincidence, or is it the subtle, albeit escalating intensity of the stories which is driving the increasingly vicious winds outside the cabin, to wail louder and louder…beating relentlessly against the walls of the cabin, and threatening to crash through. Indeed, is it actually the winds that are yowling a monstrous unearthly cry…or is there something…or rather some thing, actually out there, in the dark…waiting??...
…without a doubt, the greatest appeal drawn from urban legends, is the wholly undisputed idea that no matter what degree, or how incredibly far the story is embellished, or alternated related…the innermost primal core of the story is more than often based upon a true incident; oh, of course, the more outrageous…even the more supernatural aspects of the gritty ‘n’ gruesome, more-than-twice-told tales…stereotypically rendered in hushed and wavering tones, around countless campfires, over the years…are invariably added to give the story’s proceedings an unnerving edge. But that’s what is so fun about these years…decades…even centuries-old macabre, hand-me-down tales of legend…and that’s just a mere faucet of what is so damn fun about “Screams of a Winter Night”, not only in the film's macabre and chilling forefront, but in the rat-a-tat brick ‘n’ board background, where the writers and filmmakers deftly weld their manipulative prowess…with we, the hapless viewers, reaping the rewards, as the result of our blood-curdling screams…
…surprisingly enough, one of the underlining cool aspects of “Screams…”, is the backstory conception of the film itself. In that it was wrought by a couple of buddy commercial marketing agents, who knew much more about exploitative advertising, than they knew about filmmaking. However, truth be known, film history is quite replant with filmmakers who knew virtually nothing about filmmaking, in the onset (…one of the best examples, I give you the young upstart writer…eh, perhaps you know him…a Mr. Quentin Tarantino, I believe??), and the fact that Richard Wadsak and James L. Wilson knew very little about the filmmaking process…well, they weren’t about to let a little thing like minimal knowledge and experience, to hamper the ambitious attempt…
…taking some inspirational cues, and capturing a similar rustic, thick-as-pea-soup atmosphere  from other take-a-chance-no-matter-what maverick filmmakers, who gambled their whole shooting match on equally rustic, no-budget film productions, the likes of the great Charles B. Pierce, and his “Town That Dreaded Sundown” & “The Legend of Boggy Creek”…Robert Morgan’s “Bloodstalkers”, as well as Harry Thomason’s “Encounters with the Unknown”…the team of Wilson and Wadsak struck together an eager & able-bodied film crew…along with some ambitiously young & relatively untried actors…and the whole hootenanny headed out to the wild and untamed backwood regions of Arkansas, in an effort to pieces-parts their proposed lil’ film,…
…and the result?? Heck, even after some forty years after its original theatrical release, “Screams of a Winter Night”…despite the film’s ‘punches pulled’ PG rating badge, not to mention its relative obscurity, and unjust disregard…still manages to chill and scare and intrigue, in a number of interesting ways. Shotgun right from the hip, the film assumes a great balance of progressive tension, visual creepiness and shock, in not only what is seen on the screen, but also what is not seen. Right from the get go, to counter wide eyed psychopaths, shambling hairy monsters, and grotesquely disheveled & truncated victims of the sinister ‘green light’ (…nope, I won’t say any more than that…but still…Oooooo!! So scar-r-r-r-ry!!), there are elements which garnish even greater chills, which are nary seen at all. Point in case…the unseen, frantic-sounding aural background goings-on, during the pitch-black opening credit sequence, suggesting a family…their home, and their farm livestock, terrorized and slaughtered by some unearthly wailing creature…the vicious attack, reaching a violent and blood-curdling crescendo, with ear-piercing screams & cracking bones, and then…dead silence, and a blackened screen…save, for the unsettling sound of a low- lingering wind…for what seem an eternity of seconds before the movie resumes, and opens up to our hapless and unwary group of rowdy college partiers…without a care in the world…rolling down the outstretched country highway…
…the young and, for the most part, sophomoric cast…most of which “Screams…” was their first and only movie role…play characters that are pretty much as one might expect for a film of this ilk…stereotypical characters, whereby the actors might be pretty much playing themselves, but adding and emphasizing a certain stereotypical element to their characters, which makes them stand out as distinctly varied and diversified. So, Steve is our horndog…Liz is the snarky bitch…Jookie is played as the typically progressive ‘I’m scared…I wanna leave, now’, easily frightened catatonic…Steve (Gil Glosgow, who was the only actor in the troupe, to go on to other roles) is the matter-of-fact, handsome studious jock…and so on. The most standout character, of course, is our atypical jokester and storyteller, John (Matt Borel). And in his first film role, there’s…what?? Is that…is that…well, damn if that ain’t a young William Ragsdale (…remember Charlie Brewster, from 1985’s “Fright Night??), rattling off a chaw-chomping okie accent, as one of the gas station hillbillies, trying to warn away the unwary collegiate tourists…
…and yet, surprisingly enough, most of our performers herein, are afforded an opportunity to stretch their individual contributions to the film’s structure, in that they are not only playing the hapless characters in this anthology’s wraparound, they are also seen scattered amongst the characters in the unfolding scary stories, told by our cabin occupants…
…for those having been fortunate & privy to “Screams of a Winter Night”, over the years since it's original release (…clearly, not unlike this devoted reviewer, based upon the exhausting coverage here…whew!!), and eagerly awaiting an official digital release of this unsung cult classic...well, the fine folks over at Code Red Releasing has unveiled a nice cadre of surprises and delight, in finally…after years of release announcement…getting this obscure and nearly forgotten horror anthology out to the masses. First off, the film has never looked better, what with Code Red having acquired and lovingly remastered to the best of their ability, the original 16mm print negative master…not only for the original theatrical release featured herein, but also the 124-minute ‘roadshow’ director’s cut of the film, which includes the long-rumored, applicably ‘urban legend’ 4th story (…uh, now, now…I ain’t tellin’ ya’ about it…gotta leave something for a surprise, right??), which was excised from the theatrical release, to pan out and allow for a shorter and more desired running time, as requested by the distributors. Also included…the film’s original trailer, and an exclusive interview with actor Gil Glasgow, warmly relating a plethora of fascinating facts and recollections, on the making of the film. Overall, the presentation is wonderfully sharp and clean, with just enough scratchy film strip ‘grit’ left over, to ideally moniker this film as a tried and true drive-in-style flick. So, you can now toss away those wretched, blurry, scratchy and well worn VHS tapes and DVD-R dupes into the dipsy dumpster, folks!!...
…sigh, Ohhh Kayyy!! At the time of it’s original release, “Screams of a Winter Night” might well have been unjustly stomped into obscurity, by the indomitable influx of the slasher film genre, which was taking root, and permeating the darkened cinemas, at the time. OK…so, the acting, the dialogue, the performances, and the special effects (…gotta love that cartoon explosion…but hey, the skewed, shaking and wavering tracking point-of-view shots still predated Sam Raimi’s “Evil Dead” by two years) were subpar…or rather, wished they were subpar. OK…so the best thing that the film has going for it, is the unbridled maverick attitude, as well as the progressively unnerving rustic atmosphere, in it’s well-intentioned execution. And, OK…the film does pull it’s punches, as far as it’s resigningly badged rating…
…hell, if this lil’ horror flick can nonetheless still readily instill a respectable amount of scares and chills…even in the passing of…good gawd, has it actually been four decades later…well, imagine if the determined and imaginative powers that be, behind the making of this ‘lil’ film that could’, were given free license and resource to go all balls fucking out

...now, that would be something to see...that is, if we actually had half the courage (...read 'rock hard gonads') to take on such a daring challenge...



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