Saturday, February 21, 2015

June Fairchild Sept. 3 1946 - Feb. 17 2015


   
    Some sad news to pass along, as June Fairchild passed away earlier this week at the age of 68. Although perhaps not a well known actress, she did however leave an inedible impression on many a film goer in the 1970's. Born June Edna Wilson on Sept. 3 1946 in Manhattan Beach Ca. she became one of the Gazzarri Dancers on the Hollywood A Go-Go TV show. A locally produced Los Angeles music show that ran from 1964 to 1966, June quickly became one of the shows favorites because of her energetic dancing and infectious personality. Here she is having fun front & center (and assisting with a great scream) with Sam The Sham and the Pharaohs, as the first girl playing hard to get with Lou Rawls and tearin' it up with The Bobby Fuller Four (she's second on the right to the back of the band). Later she moved on to Playboy After Dark and for several years was the girlfriend of Danny Hutton from Three Dog Night (and it's she that's credited with coming up with the group's name).


 THUNDERBOLT AND LIGHTFOOT 1974

    Changing her her name to Fairchild, she had a small part in an episode of THE MONKEES 1st season ("The Chaperone") and later appeared in HEAD where she showed up twice, first as one of the harem dancers and later as "the jumper". Jack Nicholson, remembering her from HEAD, cast her in his directorial debut DRIVE, HE SAID as a college cheerleader. She made a very memorable impression as "Sonny" in Roger Vadim's PRETTY MAIDS ALL IN A ROW in 1971 and had a small part as a hooker in DETROIT 9000. In 1974's THUNDERBOLT AND LIGHTFOOT she shared a scene with Clint Eastwood (a scene that showed just what a gifted and natural actress she was) and in 1979 would portray "the ajax lady" in Cheech and Chong's UP IN SMOKE.

THE MONKEES "The Chaperone" 1966



 PRETTY MAIDS ALL IN A ROW 1971

     Later in life she would sadly struggle with substance abuse and at various times ended up homeless and living on the streets of Los Angeles. In 2002 after an arrest (along with stories of her plight on Good Morning America and in the L.A. Times) she along with help from her old friends entered rehab and started the process of putting her life in order. Always trying to be self sufficient she worked jobs such as delivering newspapers and with a small monthly relief check lived in a secession of hotel rooms and had signed a licensing agreement with Paramount Studios for her likeness on an "ajax lady" bobble head. As a result of illnesses including fibromyalgia and liver cancer, the last days of her life were spent in a convalesce home in hospice care where she passed away on Feb. 17. At the time of her passing she had begun working on her autobiography and had always hoped to continue her acting career.


DRIVE, HE SAID  1971

    During the decades of the 60's and 70's (as with decades before and after) untold scores of young women headed to Hollywood, although what makes the above mentioned decades unique was a combination of the proliferation of low budget movies to service the drive-ins and exploitation movie houses along with mainstream Hollywood attempting to court the youth market with road and counter culture movies, all of which created a bounty of opportunities for young & hopeful actresses. A few of them achieved ongoing success (or at the very least name recognition such as Pam Grier), but many of them made a few movies and perhaps because of lack of mainstream success, career moves, along with marriage and family (or sometimes a life cut tragically short) they drifted away from the industry in the late 70's & early 80's.
    Expect for cult and exploitation movie fans actresses such as Claudia Jennings, Linda Haynes, Candice Railson, Tiffany Bolling, Roberta Collins, Tamera Dobson, Joy Bang, Gloria Hendry, Cheri Caffaro, Margaret Markov, Carol Speed and June Fairchild are sadly unknown today - but they were (and are) a huge part of movie history. They were sometimes Playboy centerfolds or bunnies, beauty contest winners, models, go-go dancers, prom queens or home coming queens, but mostly they were just average American girls from towns large and small and their story is a great documentary that's just waiting to be made.


HEAD 1968

   I had planned on doing a post for her on June's birthday last year, but unfortunately time got away from me. Although it's nice to think it could happen, there's a good chance that at the end of this year her name won't get mentioned in the "in memory" sequences such as on TCM and The Oscars, but she will always be remembered in this blog and others. There is a memorial fund set up by her friends to help pay for her final days and funeral expenses and here is a wonderful site on the Gazzarri Dancers.

Here's June on the cover of Kim Fowley's Born To Be Wild album from 1968






Friday, February 20, 2015

ROSALBA NERI FRIDAY - COLPO GROSSO...GROSSISSIMO...ANZI PROBABILE 1972

Rosalba, Terry Thomas AND Luciana Paluzzi (!!) attempt a big heist with comedic results.





    Roughly translated as "Big Shot....Very Big...Indeed Probable" this Italian/Spanish co-production from 1972 stars Terry Thomas, Luciana Paluzzi, Nino Castelnuovo, José Luis López Vázquez and Umberto D'Orsi. Never released outside of Spain and Italy and from what I could discern while watching the Italian language DVD I have, it appears to be a light hearted comedy caper with a group of thieves led by Terry Thomas attempting to rob a huge dept. store.
   The plan seems to involve sneaking the large store safe out in a delivery van and even with the language barrier there was some really funny sequences. It's filled with familiar Italian character faces and being a huge Terry Thomas fan I enjoyed the heck out of this (he's one of those actors that even with just standing there can make you smile).
   Rosalba has a very small cameo in the beginning as she seems to be Terry Thomas's wife, who catches him in the act of messing around with his co-conspirator played by Luciana Paluzzi (So wait a minute - Terry is married to Rosalba AND gets to fool around with Luciana...!!!).



   Paluzzi was one of the busiest actresses of the the 60's and early 70's, appearing in over 80 movies and TV shows. She has a pretty cool resume having appeared in a James Bond film (THUNDERBALL in 1966), a "beach party" movie (MUSCLE BEACH PARTY from 1964), Japanese sci-fi (a co-production with A.I.P - 1968's THE GREEN SLIME), and a women-in-prison with Jess Franco's 99 WOMEN (which also co-starred Rosalba) from 1969.






Wednesday, February 18, 2015

A CANDLE FOR THE DEVIL 1973



    This excellent 1973 Spanish thriller has been a perennial favorite in those multi-disc bargain collections of horror films that have been showing up in sale bins since the dawn of DVD, where most often under the title IT HAPPENED AT THE NIGHTMARE INN it's appeared in various running times (sometimes as a horribly butchered 67 min TV print). Featuring some superb work by its lead actresses and an unsettling atmosphere, this is a really outstanding example of 1970's Spanish genre cinema and its recently been given a new lease on life thanks to Scorpion with their new release of the full uncut version on DVD (with a blu-ray forthcoming).
    Although often categorized as a horror film, with an ad campaign & title that hoped to tie in to the 70's fascination with the devil, CANDLE FOR THE DEVIL is actually closer to a psychological thriller and can be compared to another excellent Spanish thriller LA RESIDENCIA as they both rely on a claustrophobic atmosphere and an aura of repressed sexuality. Directed by Eugenio Martin (who also helmed the excellent HORROR EXPRESS in 1972), like most continental 70's horror it has its share of nudity & blood but those don't overwhelm the film's overall mood which relies instead on it's atmosphere and is anchored by the mesmerizing performances of Aurora Bautista and Esperanza Roy in their central roles as two sisters with some twisted views of religion and people's morality.




    The two sisters Marta (Bautista) and Veronica (Roy) run a boarding house in a small Spanish village and upon discovering one of their tenants May (Loreta Tovar from RETURN OF THE EVIL DEAD  and NIGHT OF THE SORCERERS) sunbathing in the nude (a discovery that sends Marta into a frenzy) they violently pull her down the stairs whereupon she falls and is killed by crashing through a stained glass window. Marta (who as it seems was teetering on the edge of sanity with this pushing her over the edge) sees this as a sign from God that they are to deal with people who in their minds are morally corrupt. The themes of church and religion were common in Spanish horror of this period (the Blind Dead films are awash in them) and the sisters can perhaps be looked at as a modern day version of the Inquisition.
   In short order Marta is presented with a multitude of potential victims as a tour bus routinely discharges hordes of giggling mini skirted/ bra-less young women in front of their inn. Soon Laura (Judy Geeson) shows up at the sisters establishment as she was suppose to meet her sister there (May, the unfortunate sun bather) and upon discovering her missing is told that she's "checked out". Perplexed, Laura while not initially doubting the story, does begin investigating her sister's whereabouts and movements and later befriends a new boarder Helen Miller played by Lone Fleming (who had a bad time in both TOMBS OF THE BLIND DEAD & its followup RETURN OF THE EVIL DEAD). Helen frolics in the town square fountain (sans underwear) and carries on about in front of the male town folk, which soon incurs the wrath of Marta. This heightens Laura's suspicion which is compounded by disappearance of a young single mother (who in scene reminiscent of TOMBS OF THE BLIND DEAD's train climax is shockingly killed as she's holding her baby).




    Aurora Bautista and Esperanza Roy as the two sisters are fascinating characters (along with being refreshingly mature) and for a low budget horror/thriller type film are extremely well written & developed (Eugenio Martin also wrote the script) female roles as their each very cleanly delineated characters. Marta is the dominant one as she instigates the murders, while Veronica seemingly filled with guilt about what their doing helps out her sister as she feels trapped in her existence.
   There also a high level of sexual tension permeating the plot, with the two sisters dealing with it in different ways. Veronica carries on with their handyman 20 years her junior (and with whom she remains partially clothed during the trysts to hide her guilt) and Veronica spies on nude young men bathing in a river while afterwards runs through thorn bushes as a kind of penance (although she does seem to have orgasmic like pleasure while doing it), while later at home scrubbing herself fervently clean. Later she dresses up and applies make-up (which triggers the attack on Helen) and we learn that she was jilted earlier in life by a suitor who left her for a younger women. It's also interesting to note that although the town appears heavily populated when the sisters view it from from their house, whenever they venture out it seems strangely deserted as if the world does not exist outside of the boardinghouse. The sisters (especially in the case of Marta - who is given some eerily gorgeous close-ups here) while presented as grisly murderesses with highly in doubt mental facilities are slowly developed into sympathetic characters.




    The murders are presented in a quick and brutal fashion with the camera instead lingering on the bloody and messy aftermath, with Marta and Veronica's subsequent clean-up (again presented as a type of penance). There is a vague hint of cannibalism with the victims being chopped up and with close-ups of a stove shown, although the disposal point for the bodies is in one of two huge wine vats that are kept in the basement (which figures into the grisly climax).
   Judy Geeson was one of the flood of blond haired English girls that popped up post Julie Christie in 1960's and 70's cinema. She appeared in the very excellent (and under rated) Hammer thriller FEAR IN THE NIGHT in 1972, in the ecological horror DOOMWATCH from 1972 and Norman J. Warren's British Alien knock-off INSEMINOID from 1981. I've always really liked her as she always seems to lend a touch of class to whatever she's in and always playing a believable character no matter what the role.
   Although she has top billing here (most likely for her name recognition) her character is secondary to the sisters and spends most of her onscreen time (until the climax) wondering about the town asking people where her sister is, but she brings an excellent grounded performance to proceedings. She continues to work steadily (appearing in Rob Zombie's LORDS OF SALEM) and appears in a delightful video interview on the Scorpion disc.








The above screen caps are from the Scorpion DVD 


    

Thursday, February 12, 2015

SAVAGE SISTERS 1974


"Beware ! They are still at large..."





     From the late 50's up till the late 70's Eddie Romero cranked out dozens and dozens of low budget  exploitation movies encompassing war, horror, action and WIP. Most famous for the Blood Island series of movies he was for all intensive purposes THE Filipino exploitation movie industry before passing the baton over to Ciro Santiago. SAVAGE SISTERS was one of Eddie's last forays into the American drive-in market (with 1977's SUDDEN DEATH being his finale) and was his last movie for A.I.P.  Being an A.I.P. production (as Corman's New World had been the kings of Filipino exploitation) and coming rather late in the game, along with the lack of such recognizable Filipino exploitation genre actresses as Pam Grier, Margaret Markov or Roberta Collins SAVAGE SISTERS always seem to have been the odd movie out in regards to the other WIP/jungle action stuff of that era.


  

    Written under the pseudonyms "Harry Corner" & "H. Warren Moon" (most likely Romero and co-producer/co-star John Ashley) SAVAGE SISTERS is A.I.P's take on the standard Filipino formula of an initially fractured group of women who are thrown together in a sweaty setting (usually a prison of some sort) and who then end up banning together to take on the local military dictatorship (with the irony being these movies WERE shot the setting of an actual military dictatorship). Although Romero mixes in some of the usual 1970's "women in prison" staples including the classic shower scene and a bit of torture the movie mostly focuses on the action side of things.
    Hard core revolutionary Mei Ling (Rosanna Ortiz) teams up with Jo (70's bad ass chick GINGER Cheri Caffaro) to help Caffaro's rebel leader boyfriend hijack $1,000,000.00 that a corrupt general is attempting to sneak out of an unnamed banana republic. Unfortunately the rebels have decided to enlist the help of local bandit Malavasi (a wild-eyed and demented Sid Haig) who along with second in command (an eye patch wearing Vic Diaz) grab the cash for themselves while enlisting the help of hustler/con-man W.P. Billingsley (a leisure suit wearing John Ashley) to help get them out of the country. At the same time Mei & Jo have been captured by the military led by Capt. Morales (Eddie Gracia - Dr. Lorca from Blood Island).
   Once in prison the girls fall under the rule of the prison matron (who engages in some S&M playtime with Morales) and most importantly the chief prison torturer Lynn (played by the very beautiful Gloria Hendry from LIVE AND LET DIE). Lynn's boyfriend happens to be Billingsley who convinces her to help the ladies to escape with them all joining forces to get their hands on the money.




   The film is a bit of an oddity among the Filipino exploitation stuff as that it rather bizzarly has a complete lack of nudity among its leading ladies and although there's some pretty rough stuff implied such as Hendry's infamous "door slamming" torture along with Caffaro being threatened by an electric drill mounted phallic device (and a bit of blood here & there) SAVAGE SISTERS is pretty tame stuff. Although compared to what is considered the epitome of this genre (being Jack Hill's THE BIG DOLL HOUSE 1971 & THE BIG BIRD CAGE 1972) its a bit lacking, it's still a great little piece of low budget fun. The three leading ladies all jump into their roles with gusto and Romero, while as mentioned plays down the blood and nudity but has enough action (lots of machine guns & grenades) to keeps things from getting boring. There's even a bar fight mixed in with Hendry doing a sritp tease as a distraction.
    Many of these movies have quite a bit of humor in them (which is surprising to first time viewers) and SAVAGE SISTERS in no exception. Sid Haig as the hilariously (and seemingly) whacked out his mind on reefer & booze Malavasi and John Ashley as the slimy con-man both add to the fun. There's great scene where all three woman take turns seducing Ashley to find out his true motives (complete with Ashley wearing a series of outrageous bikini briefs).
   After a divorce from his beach party co-star Debra Walley, Ashely went to the Philippines to make the BLOOD ISLAND movies. He enjoyed it so much he stayed and eventually moved to the production end of things along with acting. He would later produce T.V's THE A-TEAM (that's his voice doing the opening narration).  Along with the above mentioned Diaz (who seems to have an affinity here for wearing shirts about two sizes too small and pants that show his ass crack) and Garcia the film if filled with the usual cast of Filipino character faces including Bruno Punzalan (Goro from BRIDES OF BLOOD).




    Although rather unknown today Cheri Caffaro was a huge drive-in star in the 70's. A tall statuesque blond (although she was always a bit hard and pissed off looking) the three "Ginger" movies she made with her husband Don Schain were huge money makers, with the first GINGER from 1971 playing for years on double and triple bills. She later appeared in another Filipino auctioneer 1977's TOO HOT TO HANDLE before walking away from movies (although she and her husband produced H.O.T.S. in 1979).
    I always thought it was strange that Gloria Hendry never had a bigger career. She was a Bond girl in LIVE AND LET DIE, had a great presence, was drop dead gorgeous and seemed to have everything to be as big as Pam Grier. Along with SAVAGE SISTERS, she had some great roles in BLACK CAESAR (1973). SLAUGHTER'S BIG RIP-OFF (1973) and BLACK BELT JONES (1974), but sadly never made it to the next step. In urban markets SAVAGE SISTERS was marketed as a blacksploitation, with the poster featured Hendry front and center.