Wednesday, December 14, 2016

THE MYSTERIOUS MONSTERS (1976), KILLING OF A CHINESE BOOKIE (1976)

1976
Bigfoot (played by Unknown!) in
The Mysterious Monsters

There was an actual trend of theatrical movies in the 70's that were documentaries (with dramatizations thrown in) based on controversial conspiracies such as The Search for Noah's Ark, In Search of Historic Jesus, Beyond and Back, The Lincoln Conspiracy and Mysteries from Beyond Earth. This documentary trend began when the cheaply made search for space alien documentary Chariots of the Gods? became a smash hit in 1970. These movies could be made with a small budget and many of them made a tidy profit...at least for most of the 70's. 

My favorite of all these films was The Mysterious Monsters, which spent most of its running time tracing evidence about the existence of Bigfoot, and featuring some stunning revelations about the Loch Ness Monster as well. The movie begins with earnest narrator Peter Graves stating that this could be the most startling movie you'll ever see! Watching it again, I thought it would be pretty cheesy. And it is, especially in the Bigfoot recreations. But I also see how people can believe some pretty strange things when it is presented in what seems like a reasonable way. This film features a lot of scientists dusting for Bigfoot prints and doing extensive investigations, witnesses that certainly seem credible and some of those film recreations seem pretty plausible. It's based on eye witness testimony, right? That proves that Bigfoot exists, right? It even tries to explain away the skeptical questions that dare think this Bigfoot thing is a load of malarkey...which it probably is for the most part. I was glad to see this movie for the first time in forty years and I admit it presents it's pretty silly premise about as well as you can. 

The original add that made me interrupt my
holiday season to go see this epic film forty years ago!
Killing of a Chinese Bookie-Any movie that has
Timothy Carey and Seymour Cassell as henchmen
has got to be worth seeing!
On the other end of the celluloid spectrum, I chose to watch the John Cassavetes film The Killing of a Chinese Bookie. The plot has a strip club owner played by Ben Gazzara forced to pay off his gambling debts by...knocking of a Chinese bookie. This film was barely released at the time, but has gained a bit of a following in the years since. I think it is a little more accessible plot-wise than some of the others in the Cassavetes catalog, but it still has his trademark style of long shots, long scenes, long dialogue...and not explaining everything that is going on in any kind of obvious way! Sometimes I have to think to myself after watching one of his films as to what I just saw was about...but I've come to the conclusion if you're puzzling about a film you watched the day after you saw it...that's a good thing.

While I’m thinking this over, I’ll reminisce about some of the other movie titles that came out in 1976 that did not make the 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die cut.

1. The Bad News Bears, If you were thirteen when this movie came out, you pretty much had to go see this little league classic. Chico's Bail Bonds forever!
And now a word from our sponsor...The Bad News Bears
2. The Big Bus, I know I saw this. It seemed like it was about this giant bus and you could do all these things on this bus like bowling. And it was like The Love Boat, only a bus and…I"m afraid that's about all I can remember about this one.

3. Bound for Glory, I wouldn’t have pictured David Carradine as Woody Guthrie. Still don’t really.

4. Buffalo Bill and the Indians, or Sitting Bull's History Lesson, Not the most memorable of Robert Altman’s movies, but you know, this one may warrant a second look.

5. Car Wash, I heard the song “Car Wash” more than enough times in the late 70’s to last me a lifetime! The movie itself does have an interesting list of 70's stand-up comedians: George Carlin, Richard Pryor, Franklin Ajaye and the legendary Professor Irwin Corey!

Franklin Ajaye sporting one of the best afros of he 70's in
Car Wash

6. The Enforcer, Callahan and Lacey?

7. Futureworld, It had been a long time since I had seen this one. I thought, “Yeah, the sequel to Westworld was actually pretty good from what I remember.” After viewing it a couple of years ago….eh, not so good.

8. The Gumball Rally, A strange multi-car race around the world. Like It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World with lesser known stars. I do remember Raul Julia was in it.

9. Lipstick, One of the Hemingway sisters gets raped and the other one guns down the rapist. I think that’s what happens.

10.  King Kong, This movie was really panned when it came out, but did jump start Jessica Lange's career as well as make fodder for a pretty good MAD magazine satire.

King Kong immortalized in the pages of
my 70's magazine of choice

11. Logan's Run, Yes, when I saw this movie I also thought thirty was old. Hah! There is no sanctuary!

12. Marathon Man, One of the top thrillers of the decade. Would be in my 1001 book, but additions and subtractions to particular editions is not up to me.

13. The Pink Panther Strikes Again, The best of the Pink Panther movies was The Return of the Pink Panther, though it’s easy to get them confused.

14. The Omen, I actually owned the book on this one. But little did I know at the time it was just a novelization! I feel had! I finally saw the movie for the first time last year. A pretty good horror flick.

15. Murder by Death, Main draw of this today would probably be to see Truman Capote act

Peter Falk, Truman Capote and David Niven make an
interesting trio in Murder by Death.
16. The Sailor Who Fell from Grace with the Sea, I admit when I think of this movie, the first thing that comes to mind is the infamous Playboy pictorial featuring Sarah Miles and Kris Kristofferson. If you can think past that, and I admit it’s hard for me to do, it’s a pretty good film.

17. Sebastiane, If you are looking for an art film with sex...you might want to look elsewhere if you are looking for sex with a heterosexual bent. That's all I'm saying...time to move on...

18. The Shootist, Fitting farewell for John Wayne.

19. Silent Movie, I thought Mel Brooks' Silent Movie would be the last new silent movie I'd ever see...but The Artist and Blancanieves proved me wrong (And I was happy to be wrong about this!).

20. Ode to Billy JoeIt was the third of June, another sleepy dusty, delta day...You'll have to excuse me but I can't think of this movie without thinking of the Bobby Gentry song on which it was based...and now Billy Joe McCallister jumped off the Tallahatchie Bri--hidge."

Robby Benson and Glynnis O'Connor
in Max Baer's Ode to Billy Joe...yep the
song just started going through my head again.

21. That's Entertainment Part 2, Old MGM musical clips on the big screen may have worked in 1974, but by 1976, the time had passed.

22. To the Devil a Daughter, One of those horror movies you watch on HBO in the late 70's late at night. I remember a scene from it where a woman is about to have a baby and...never mind, I don't want to think about it.

23. Silver Streak, First and best Wilder/Pryor teaming. Of course, I didn’t see their last couple of films, but I still feel pretty safe in that assertion. Of note: director Arthur Hiller and star Gene Wilder both passed away in August, 2016.

24. The Bingo Long Traveling All-Stars and Motor Kings-Enjoyable comedic look at a barnstorming black baseball team from the 40's. The film stars Richard Pryor, Billy Dee Williams and most importantly James Earl Jones, because when he later says "People will come, Ray" in Field of DreamsBingo Long has long before established his baseball chops.

25. The Food of the Gods, Just as conspiracy theory documentaries were abundant during this time, there also seem to be more than a few of animals gone crazy schlock films released during this general time frame. Not all these films were released by American-International films, but they all had that "American-International feel" to them. The Food of the Gods featured giant rodents. But  we also had Night of the Lepus (killer rabbits), Kingdom of the Spiders (arachnids), Alligator (Alligators that grew up in the sewers), Tentacles (Octopi), Squirm (worms), Bug! (Fire bugs) and Empire of the Ants (Ants, of course). Sounds like the makings of a late night movie marathon to me!

Food of the Gods:Child evangelist turned actor Marjoe Gortner and giant rodents is
basically all the ingredients you need to begin your 70's animals gone wild
B-movie marathon!
Oh, and one more...
I remember watching Massacre at Central High on cable way back when, and through the magic of YouTube I was able to relive the excitement of this drive-in classic through one quick click! The plot involves a transfer high school student who has to decide if he wants to get in with the school bullies or defend those who are being bullied. He makes his choice and suddenly the bullies start to get knocked off in creative ways until there are none of them left. With no bullies left...the former nobody nerds of the school start taking over and exhibiting some of the same traits the bullies did...and we know this isn't going to bode well for them either. This was a very low budget film, a bit cheesy at times and does seem to have very few teachers or adults at the school until the final scene...but I still have affection for this one and am glad I watched it again.

Warning: Massacre at Central High  features a scene where a bully knocks a group of books off the library shelf which may be disturbing to any librarian. The film does feature some performers who later had careers of note: Andrew Stevens, Robert Carradine, Lani O'Grady and 70's cutie Kimberly Beck.

Kimberly Beck during a more contemplative scene from
Massacre at Central High

Goodbye, 1976...
I had a friend who had this poster on his wall...
Ah,memories...

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