Four On A Meathook!!!!

This edition of BRAIN HAMMER’S PICKS FROM THE CRYPT is dedicated to director William Girdler. William began a tragically short, yet incredibly prolific film career in 1972 with the release of his first picture – “Asylum Of Satan.” He then went on to make eight more films over the next six years before dying in a helicopter crash in 1978.

His feature films included a trio of very successful “blaxploitation” flicks for AIP, including the incredible “Exorcist” rip off “Abby.” He also helmed a political thriller titled “Project: Kill” with starred Leslie Nielson. Despite these memorable efforts William will always be best known for his unique contributions to the 70’s horror genre.

In honor of the late, great William Girdler – LET THE BLOODSHED BEGIN!!!

 

 

THREE ON A MEATHOOK (1972)

This one starts with some porno music, a lengthy shot of something resembling a college campus, and then jumps straight into a tacky love scene with an especially nubile blonde co-ed who sports some fantastic tan lines and later slips into some devastatingly short hot pants. Welcome to the wild world of “Three On A Meathook!”

Blondie and three of her skanky gal pals take a weekend trip to the country, only to have their car break down in the middle of the night. Along comes Billy, a good natured young country bumpkin who lives with his “Paw” in their large farmhouse. Billy invites the girls back to the farm for the evening and serves them up some of Paw’s special smoked meat as a late night snack. As the girls settle in for bed an unseen slayer makes their presence known and slaughters them one by one with stabbings, shootings, and swift beheadings!

The next morning Paw wakes up Billy, who had spent the night sleeping outside in a shed, and informs him that, oops – he had done it again. Ever since the tragic death of “Maw” several years before, Paw has repeatedly told Billy that he is a cold blooded killer who can’t be around women – ever. Paw claims that crazy things happen whenever Billy gets involved with women, but Billy can’t seem to remember ever doing anything wrong. When Billy is told he killed the four girls the night before he is shocked and horrified. Paw thoughtfully offers to clean up the mess Billy made and then gives him some money to go to town and see a movie.

Speaking of movies, the one you are reading about then slows down to a crawl, as we spend some quality time with Billy while he roams the streets and then gets good and drunk in a bar. This part of the movie is a ruthless attempt at padding out the film’s running time, and the background music provided by a band called “The American Xpress” is terrible and annoying to the point of ridiculousness! You will need a high tolerance for the sound of wah wah pedals if you hope to make it through the TWO horrible songs this band plays – in their entirety, without hitting the fast forward button.

Mercifully, this scene eventually ends and we wake up the next morning with Billy inside the apartment of a waitress named Sherri. Sherri took a shining to shitfaced Billy and brought him home for the evening. In arguably the most memorable scene of the movie, Sherry informs Billy that he had “an accident” the night before and hands him a freshly washed pair of trousers! Stale urine and love are in the air, so Billy wisely decides to invite his new pal Sherri back to his place: the same place where the four girls were just killed. Sherri agrees and brings along another pal to help flesh out the film’s body count. It doesn’t take long for Sherri to discover Paw’s padlocked shed, hooks of cold steel, and a madman on the loose!

The photography is bland, the pace is slack, the music is terrible, and the acting is uniformly wooden and awful. Despite those rather glaring flaws this one still works in a big way. I’m not exactly sure why, but it does. It must have something to do with the genuinely creepy backwoods vibe this one possesses. The actors all sleepwalk through their roles, but that weird “non acting” actually makes the film feel more realistic. At least there’s no failed attempts at over acting. The actor who played Paw – Charles Kissinger, is easily the best actor in the picture and always shows up in Girdler’s flicks.

I’m a big fan of this Ed Gein inspired “meat” film. Most of the plot and climax is lifted directly from “Psycho.” It’s something like the bastard step child of Alfred Hitchcock & Tobe Hooper’s more popular films. A lot of people dismiss this flick as a cheap “Texas Chainsaw Massacre” knock off, but it proceeded TCM by a few years. This was the FIRST flick to feature tender young girls hanging on meat hooks. This one is also a lot more gory than TCM, and the ample bloodshed on display is more reminiscent of the classic H.G. Lewis splatter flicks. That’s probably because Pat Patterson of “Doctor Gore” infamy provided the bloody special effects, which are crude yet effective.

For a low budget horror flick this delivers a high amount of quality shocks. No proper dvd release as of yet, but I’m sure it’s only a matter of time. The eye catching title alone should ensure that this cannibal clas-sick won’t ever slip into complete obscurity.

 

 

GRIZZLY (1976)

A giant grizzly bear chomps on campers at Yellowstone National Park. Men, women, and children alike lose life and limb as the grizzly’s mighty paws rip them to shreds. The one and only Christoper George (“The Exterminator,” “Enter The Ninja”) stars as the head ranger who investigates the vicious maulings and constantly butts heads with the park’s money grubbing director along the way. Chris teams up with redneck helicopter pilot Andrew Prine (“Barn Of The Naked Dead”) and a wacked out bear loving fur sporting naturalist played by the late Richard Jaekel (“Born Innocent”). It takes all three of these genre legends AND a bazooka to finally bring the beast down in an explosive final confrontation.

This one is often described as “Jaws with claws!” There’s no denying the obvious influence that Steven Spielberg’s classic thriller “Jaws” had on this picture. The monster on the loose, the trio of male leads pursuing the beast, the greedy and unscrupulous authority figure that refuses to close the park – all of these are direct lifts. But what people who regard “Grizzly” as a cheap knock off always fail to acknowledge is the film’s incredible wilderness cinematography, which is easily more beautiful and colorful than anything on display in “Jaws.” “Grizzly” is simply an amazing picture to look at. It’s also incredibly tense and gory for a film with a PG rating! The bloody scenes of the grizzly paws in action are over the top and sometimes hilarious. On the other hand, whenever the footage of the real bear is used the film becomes ultra tense and menacing.

The posters promised “18 feet of towering fury!” and few people left the theaters disappointed. “Grizzly” was a smash hit, with box office profits of over 39 million. It was the single most most profitable independent release of 1976. In typical Hollywood scumbag fashion the distributors attempted to keep the massive profits to themselves and leave William Girdler and producers/co-writers David Sheldon and Harvey Flaxman out in the cold. It took lawsuits and miles of red tape before Girdler & co. could finally reap the rewards.

Shriek Show rewarded fans of GRIZZLY with a fantastic two disc special edition release! The film has been beautifully restored and includes a commentary track with David Sheldon and actress Joan McCall, who played Christoper George’s love interest in the film. The second disc features a slew of bonus features including an extended behind the scenes featurette, trailers, radio spots and more. It’s exactly the type of amazing dvd release an all time great genre flick deserves.

 

 

DAY OF THE ANIMALS (1977)

William Girdler goes back to the woods for a follow up to his monster hit “Grizzly.” This time Christoper George not only has his hands full with bears, he also has to tangle with homicidal birds, snakes, and mountain lions! The depletion of the ozone layer causes all animals above the altitude of 5000 feet to go berserk and attack humans. Unfortunately, this phenomena coincides with the arrival of a large group of city slicker campers going for a guided weekend hike in the mountains!

Chris plays the rugged survivalist and tour guide. His latest group of paying campers include a reporter played by his wife Lynda Day George (“Pieces,” “Mortuary”), Michael Ansara as a sensitive Native American, a shy scientist played by fellow “Grizzly” alumni Richard Jaekel, Ruth Romain (“The Baby”) as a shrill Jewish divorcée who brings along her estranged son, and Leslie Nielson (“Prom Night”) as a wisecracking advertising executive with a pronounced mean streak and a penchant for annoying nicknames.

As the haggard collection of crabby campers argue and bicker their way through the mountains they are picked off one by one by prowling predators. For centuries the animals were hunted for bounty, food, and fun. Now it is their turn. Constant attacks from wolves, snakes, dogs, hawks, owls, and bears whittle down the group’s numbers. In the midst of the chaos the survivors turn on each other, and men turn into savages with ferocity that rivals that of the animals! Anyone who survives the day of the animals will never be the same.

Leslie Nielson steals the fucking show as the loud mouthed bigot who goes crazy, kills pretty boy Andrew Stevens with a stick, tries to rape Andrew’s chick, and then unsuccessfully attempts to wrestle a grizzly bear to the death! Truly a performance to be proud of! It was actually the same bear used in “Grizzly.” Once Leslie leaves the picture it never really recovers, although the climax still packs quite a wallop. Another William Girdler trademark was his knack for putting children in incredibly violent scenes. “Day Of The Animals” is no exception, as children are repeatedly exposed to the brutality of death in nature. I admire William for his willingness to potentially offend an audience for the sake of creating nail biting tension.

Much like “Grizzly,” “Day Of The Animals” is a beautiful looking picture. This is my personal favorite of Girdler’s films. The cast is top notch, a real ensemble that works together perfectly. There’s a fair amount of characterization which adds considerably to the impact of the film. Best of all this flick is chock full of scene after scene of animal attack insanity! The plot device of EVERY animal above 5000 feet going mad allows for a wide assortment of shocking scenes. Once the action begins, it never lets up. This one is a blast from start to finish, and I’ve enjoyed a lot of repeat viewings over the years.

Shriek Show released a dvd of DAY OF THE ANIMALS that includes two different transfers of the film. Sadly, both of them look like monkey poop. On the plus side, there’s a wealth of bonus features including a commentary track with Lynda Day George, a behind the scenes featurette, trailers and more.

 

 

THE MANITOU (1978)

A chick named Karen goes to her doctor complaining of a mysterious and painful lump in her neck. Unfortunately for her it isn’t cancer. It’s EVIL waiting to be reborn… inside her neck tumor! The malignant growth is actually a 400 year old medicine man named Misquamacas who is using the poor woman as an incubator until he can fully regain his evil powers and grow to full size. Things for Karen seem especially grim, as the nasty neck lump possesses satanic self defense mechanisms and can sabotage surgery attempts with powers of persuasion.

Tony Curtis turns in a typically fruity performance as a pal of the tumor gal. A lot of precious screen time is devoted to Tony mincing and prancing around his apartment and camping it up as a phony psychic swindler. Karen turns to Tony for help, and Tony then turns to paranormal expert Burgess Meredith. Gravelly voiced Burgess tells Tony of the monstrous black magic powers of the manitou. He also turns Tony on to Michael Ansara (“Day Of The Animals”), who plays a medicine man named John Singing Rock! Singing Rock then attempts to remove the demonic spirit from Karen’s neck.

When the mighty Misquamacas is finally unleashed he takes form as a freaky looking midget and uses his mighty manitou mojo to freeze the floor of the hospital and conjure up giant lizard monsters! Just when things couldn’t get any more bizarre, the whole thing flies into OUTER SPACE and an incredible psychic battle ensues between the flying demon dwarf and the inexplicably topless Karen, who soars though space on her hospital bed! Laser beams and laughter ensue and damned viewers join Misquamacas in Hell.

What a fucked up flick! It’s a wicked witches’ brew of over the top occult horror, spliced with silly sci-fi elements. It plays mostly for laughs but a few of the scenes of the manitou in action are fairly creepy. The scene where the stumpy satan spawn emerges from a puddle of black goo is excellent, as is the sequence where a nurse is frozen and then accidentally decapitated by Tony. It’s hard to say how seriously this material was intended to be taken. Girdler described “The Manitou” to Fangoria as a cross between “The Exorcist” and “Star Wars,” and played up the non stop shocks of the film.

Sadly, William passed away before THE MANITOU was released. I’m sure he would have been delighted with the box office success of the bizarre little film he wrote in only three days! His films could always be counted on to be unique, and to deliver plenty of shocks and laughs. “The Manitou” is no exception. Sadly, they just don’t make them like this any more.

 

 

KEEP THE BLOOD FLOWING!!!

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: