or both the old school and the novice
Thrill Seeker, here is a carefully selected list of movies that collectively
define "Thrillville," a mix of the famous and obscure, exploiting all things
Lounge, Monster, Beatnik, Noir, Spy and Tiki. Every one is highly recommended,
culled from the peak drive-in/grind-house years of 1955-1975. I left out some
obvious choices (Creature From The Black Lagoon, Goldfinger, Viva Las Vegas,
Ocean's 11, Forbidden Planet, Destroy All Monsters, Night of the Living Dead,
Faster Pussycat Kill! Kill!), instead suggesting flicks you may not be
familiar with in order to possibly introduce you to something spectacular but
unduly unknown. All have been released on either VHS or DVD or both, maybe in a
bootleg version, and may be difficult to track down, but are well worth the
effort. Of course, I could go on and on, since there are hundreds if not
thousands of worthwhile Thrill-flicks from this era alone, but these titles
offer a solid intro to the world of Thrillville, especially for those who
cant attend my live theater screenings. In many cases, I havent
been able to even show some of the following favorites on the big screen due to
my difficulty in securing a print. These are offerings, in no particular order
of preference, for your own home tiki lounge theater. Enjoy.
- I WAS A TEENAGE WEREWOLF (1957) JD horror noir,
my own personal all-time favorite since I first saw it on Doc Shocks
Mad Theater out of Philly in the 70s; Michael Landons finest
moment, directed by Gene Fowler Jr. (I Married A Monster From Outer
Space) with atmospheric photography by Joseph LaShelle and a moody
score by Paul Dunlap; also check out I Was a Teenage
Frankenstein, How To Make a Monster (Wolfie meets
Frankie, sort of), and Blood of Dracula (teen vamp), all from the
greatest drive-in studio ever, American International Pictures.
- SWEET SMELL OF SUCCESS (1957) most acidic
screenplay ever, a noir masterpiece, Time Square 57 time-capsuled for the
ages, the finest film of both Tony Curtis and Burt Lancaster, with one of Elmer
Bernsteins greatest scores. Favorite line: The cats in the
bag, the bags in the river.
- KING CREOLE
(1958) Elvis noir, Nawlins style, his greatest flick and his
rockinest soundtrack, with Carolyn Jones as a hooker with a heart and
Walter Matthau as a ruthless thug. Directed by the great Michael Curtiz
(Angels With Dirty Faces, Casablanca).
- TONY ROME (1967)
Sinatra as the ultimate surfside lounge lizard PI, co-starring Jill St. John;
the sequel was Lady in Cement co-starring Raquel Welch, also
SILENCERS (1966) Dino as the ultimate space age bachelor spy
Matt Helm, first in a four film series, this one co-starring our pal, bombshell
Stella Stevens. Campy and colorful fun.
- SANTO AND BLUE DEMON VS. THE MONSTERS (1969)
Mexican wrestlers vs. all the classic movie monsters Frank, Drac,
Wolfie, Mummy and even a Cyclops! - South of the Border style. I love anything
with Santo and so should you.
- MAD DOCTOR OF BLOOD ISLAND (1968) Monster
exotica, Filipino style, lusciously lurid; second in a series of horror films
from director Eddie Romero and American drive-in star John Ashley. I love
em all but this is my favorite of the series. Also check out Brides
CURIOUS DR. HUMPP (1967) this one has it all: sex, mad
scientists, monsters, go-go strippers, nymphos, lesbians, hippies, and more,
Argentina style. Possibly the coolest release from Something Weird Video.
- UP! (1974) Russ Meyers
sexiest, funniest and most outrageous flick, starring our friend Raven de la
Croix, the ultimate Meyer Babe and a great gal too.
BEAT GENERATION (1959) Mamie Van Dorensville, dad; sick and
stylish pulp classic with an incredible cast, including Steve Cochran as the
misogynist cop, Jackie Coogan as his partner, Ray Danton as a slick rapist,
Dick Covino as a coffeehouse guitar player, Vampira as a beat poetess, Jim
Mitchum as Dantons sidekick, Irish Sheena McCalla, Charles
Chaplin Jr. Mamies hubby Ray Anthony, and more! From the twisted mind of
pop-pulp producer Albert Zugsmith (High School Confidential).
- DAUGHTER OF HORROR (AKA DEMENTIA, 1955)
surreal beatnik pulp noir horror masterpiece, a nightmarish fever dream, one
version narrated by Ed McMahon! Both versions on one disc from Kino.
VAMPIRE (1973) most explicitly erotic horror film ever, at least
from the twisted mind of Jess Franco (Vampyros Lesbos), who
gleefully films his actress wife Lina Romay getting down and dirty with
everyone in the cast, male and female
- LEGEND OF THE SEVEN GOLDEN VAMPIRES (1974)
classic Shaw Brothers/Hammer collaboration, if only Chris Lee had played
Dracula, still a minor masterpiece of macabre martial arts, co-starring Peter
Cushing; BEWARE: the truncated American version is not as good, get the
original British cut with all the nudity and gore intact.
- SUGAR HILL (1974) hot
Afro-babe and her zombie hit men seek revenge against the Mob for bumping off
her nightclub owner boyfriend priceless blaxploitation horror from
American International Pictures, the studio that knew how.
- BRING ME THE HEAD OF ALFREDO GARCIA (1973)
most surreal and sickening action flick ever, from Sam Peckinpah, who wrote the
book on cinematic violence, starring the great Warren Oates Id say
this one definitely influenced the middle section of Sin City too
- THE INCREDIBLY STRANGE CREATURES WHO STOPPED
LIVING AND BECAME MIXED-UP ZOMBIES (1964) the first and best
monster musical and the one my buddy Ray Dennis Steckler will be remembered
for, rightly so, though also check out The Thrill Killers and
Rat Pfink a Boo Boo, all on DVD now but too bad for you if you
missed me chasing Ray around with a plastic axe
DRIFTER (1967) greatest Yakuza flick ever, a surreal,
psychedelic Pop 60s masterpiece from director Seijun Suzuki, cooler than
Tarantino; also check out Youth of the Beast and Branded to
ZERO (1965) One of Ishiro Hondas most colorful Kaiju
eigas, as Godzilla and Rodan face off against Ghidorah and Aliens from
Planet X on the Moon and elsewhere, with lots of cool destruction scenes and
another great score from Akira Ifukube
- INVASION OF THE SAUCER MEN (1957) bulbous
headed aliens with alcohol in their claws kill Frank Riddler
Gorshin, one of American Internationals greatest (originally co-billed
with Teenage Werewolf), featuring Paul Blaisdells most memorable
creatures and a fun score by Ronald Stein. Also check out AIP/Blaisdells
rubber monster classics It Conquered the World, The Day the
World Ended and The She Creature.
THE VALLEY OF GWANGI (1969) cowboys vs. dinosaurs in old Mexico,
a Ray Harryhausen cross-genre classic, and one of my fondest drive-in memories,
saw it with my granddaddy in Houston when I was just a tyke. It holds up, right
up there with Rays other classics like Earth vs the Flying Saucers,
7th Voyage of Sinbad and Jason and the Argonauts.
- IMPULSE (1974) the
ultimate William Shatner movie, his peak performance as a disco-dressin
pimped out serial killer with flashbacks to a violent past, co-starring Harold
Oddjob Sakata has to be seen to be believed, and even then
youll doubt your own sanity. Always one of my biggest hits in
Thrillville, but it has been released on numerous budget labels, good luck
finding it. Directed by William Grefe, like Big Bill needed any.
- FRANKENSTEIN MEETS THE SPACE MONSTER (1965) if
someone wants to know what the word psychotronic means, show them
this flick, also known as Mars Invades Puerto Rico. I dont
even know how to adequately describe it, but it has it all: mutated astronaut
turned killer monster turned superhero, weird aliens abducting bikini-clad
go-go dancers, stock footage, obscure rock n roll soundtrack
HELL IT CAME (1957) a South Sea Island native is condemned and
buried alive but returns as a vengeful tree god named Tabanga, the closest
thing to a tiki monster Ive ever seen (on film). With atomic scientists,
hula girl catfights and more. Like Tabanga, it moves slowly but remains somehow
compelling to watch
ABDUCTORS (1971) second in a trilogy of extremely graphic
she-spy flicks starring Cheri Caffaro as the ultimate feminist ho
heroine, Ginger. Full of shootouts, sex scenes, gratuitous nudity, bondage,
rape and other fun stuff. Unique and vivacious. The other two are
Ginger and Girls Are For Loving, but this is by far
the most titillating, as Ginger busts a cheerleader slavery ring.
KNUCKLES (1975)- okay, so this one stars my father, Robert Viharo, as
Modern Day Bounty Zachary Kane, taking on a kung fu motorcyclist serial killer
with a porno-disco soundtrack you can still find re-issued on LP! But its
still the ultimate 70s exploitation flick, even without the familial
connection. Co-starring John Daniels as Pops black sidekick, called, uh,
Black and Pops love interest is sexy Sherry Jackson of
The Danny Thomas Show but all grown up. I just call her Mommy
THE GIRL CAN'T HELP IT (1956)-
Jayne Mansfield, Tom Ewell, Edmond O'Brien, and a bevy of legendary rock 'n' rollers including Little Richard, Fats Domino, The Platters, Gene Vincent, Eddie Cochran, and many others - along with lounge torch singer Julie London - highlight this colorful, comedic musical masterpiece directed by cartoon specialist Frank Tashlin.
INVASION OF THE BEE GIRLS (1973)-
super-sleazy suburban sci-fi sex, '70s style, with William Smith, Anitra Ford, and Victoria Vetri getting down 'n' dirty in the horny honey.
BLAST OF SILENCE (1961)-
directed by and starring Allen Baron, this atmospheric, hard-boiled Beat-noir masterpiece about a hit man calling it quits after one last hit, with tragic consequences, is memorably set amid an achingly bleak Manhattan Christmas.
THE ANGRY RED PLANET (1959)-shot in "CineMagic," whatever that means, this psychedelic sci-fi classic is notable for its surrealistic visuals and creative creatures, including the notorious rat-bat-spider-monkey, or whatever.
THE ASTRO ZOMBIES (1968)-
the late, great Tura Satana burns up the screen in Ted V. Mikels' notorious underground classic about rampaging robots sent on murderous missions by a malevolent mad scientist (John Carradine), co-starring Wendell Corey.