BCI has gathered together eight Crown International Pictures exploitation epics for Drive-In Cult Classics Volume 3, providing at least two "dusk till dawn" marathons of soft-top grind efforts, presented in remarkably good transfers (considering the titles we have here). 1969's The Babysitter, 1971's Weekend With the Babysitter, 1971's The Pink Angels, 1970's Blood Mania, 1968's Single Room Furnished, 1979's Van Nuys Blvd., 1976's The Pom Pom Girls, and 1978's Malibu Beach, with their late 60s, early-to-late 70s "R"-rated T&A juvenile thrills, may seem lame to today's internet porn-sated teens. But for those of us who grew up on steady doses of this crap, under the starry skies of our local backwoods drive-ins (or later on incessant cable runs), Drive-In Cult Classics Volume 3 is a 1,000-volt defibrillator jolt of nostalgia to our passion pit-missing hearts. But let's not get crazy: most of these movies still stink (but in a good way). Let's look at the individual films, as they're presented on BCI's four flipper disc collection.
DISC ONE: SIDE A
Assistant district attorney George Maxwell (George E. Carey) is about to burn whacked-out biker mamma Julie's (Kathy Williams) old man for murder, when Julie gets a bright idea. She had met straight-laced George's daughter, Joan (Sheri Jackson), before at school, and she knows Joan is a lesbian. If she can get a picture of Joan getting it on with another girl, she can blackmail George into either dropping the murder case, or intentionally taking a dive in the courtroom. But this plan is dropped in favor of something even better: pictures of George nailing his hot, blonde, free-love babysitter, Candy Wilson (Patricia Wymer). You see, Candy showed up for her job watching the Maxwell's baby, and overheard George and his wife, Edith (Anne Bellamy) arguing. Edith doesn't want George pawing her anymore ("Get the hell away from me!" she snarls), and George is lonely. So Candy teases him a bit, particularly when he has to drive her home later that night. But what starts out as mild flirtation suddenly becomes a full-blown love affair (or at least as close to that as a teen hippie and a 60+ year-old man could muster), and George is trapped - not only by the luscious Candy, but also by Julie, who snaps some snaps of George and Candy getting very friendly. What is George going to do about the murder trial, and about his marriage?
Produced by star Carey (nice one, right?), who also authored the story along with director Tom Laughlin (that's right: Billy Jack! Only he's using a pseudonym here: Don Henderson), The Babysitter is obviously Carey's attempt to make a more thoughtful, serious exploitation flick, what with the "heavy" dialogue and the emphasis put equally on character motivation as well as on people running around bare-assed (or more likely, "em-bare-assed"). And it may very well have played that way, back in 1969, with all the middle-aged dads who sat at the drive-in, alone, and fantasized about scoring so easily with their own family's babysitter. But today, The Babysitter is fairly laughable, not only for its dramatic pretensions, but also it's poor construction. Inexplicable cross-cutting with Candy and the biker gang at the beginning of the film (footage that makes no sense until the end of the film) competes with standard clichés like the FDS commercial montage of George and Candy running around in love, and the poorly directed party footage when Candy invites her friends over to play in George's rumpus room (and that lesbian make-out scene is, in the immortal words of Alfred E. Newman, "Yeech!"). Still, cult actress Patricia Wymer is an absolute doll (sexy and innocent at the same time, who wouldn't want her to say to them what she says to George: "Please...touch me. If you want me, then take me."), with her character's twist at the end (laughing when her gang cuts up Julie to save George) producing a nice charge. The ending of The Babysitter is fairly grotesque - with George and his boss laughing about Julie's predicament, while George's boss snickers about his affair with Candy ("How was it?" "Wild."). But that's to be expected in this kind of middle-aged male fantasy: it all winds up safe and sound in the end for George.
DISC ONE: SIDE B
WEEKEND WITH THE BABYSITTER
Silver fox movie producer Jim Carlton (George E. Carey again) wants to spend more time with his ex-movie star wife, Mona (Luanne Roberts). But pill-dropper Mona is having none of that. She's taking off for the weekend with Jim's son, and that's that. So Jim has to settle for Candy Wilson (Susan Romen, this time), the hot, brunette hippie babysitter. Candy takes a gander at Jim's new screenplay (about kids today and their wild notions about sex and freedom), and promptly labels it tripe. She then tells Jim (after mixing him a hell of a good martini) that she'll show him how the kids really talk today, and soon, Jim and Candy are getting high with her friends, and falling in love. Mona, meanwhile, has ditched her kid and met up with her former pusher, Rich (James Almanzar), who forces her to let him use Jim's boat for a drug score with a bunch of Mexican dealers. Good guy bad guy Sancho (Anthony Victor) helps Mona go through withdrawal, but will he be able to stop Rich from killing Mona? And will Jim leave his family for free-spirit Candy, who calls in a favor for Jim when she summons her biker gang to free Mona?
Is this the same movie we just watched? Carey produced and co-wrote this one again with Tom Laughlin (who also directed, right before his hippie-stompin' epic, Billy Jack), and evidently, neither of them felt the need to change the story much from the first Babysitter to Weekend With the Babysitter. Carey, two years older here, is still vaguely creepy as he makes out with pretty Romen (but give him credit: he's in good enough shape to show his naked rear-end in full widescreen), but at least Weekend With the Babysitter opens up the action a little bit over the previous installment, with sidetrips to Jim's private ski lodge (who couldn't score there?) and the sunny waters of Southern California on Jim's boat, giving the film a bigger sense of space (I love the edit where Jim and Candy make love by a fire, with a quick cut to the dropping of his boat's anchor). And there's a bit more action in this second installment of George E. Carey, Film Producer, Getting Naked With Gorgeous Young Actresses. The drug angle certainly helps (although Almanzar's pusher Rich has to be one of the least threatening drug dealers I've seen), but lines like, "Right now is all there is," and "I get my enjoyment out of staring at people," (?), keep Weekend With the Babysitter ineptly amusing.
DISC TWO: SIDE A
THE PINK ANGELS
On their way down the coast of California for a gowned cotillion in L.A., the Pink Angels biker gang, led by Michael (John Alderman), pick up a hunky, cute hitchhiker (Jackson Bostwick) before having a nasty food fight at an A&W stand. While the guys collapse in giggles at the mess they've made, the hitchhiker hightails it out of there when he realizes the tough-looking bikers are homosexuals. Shaken down by "the Man" at an arbitrary road-side search and seizure ("You cops think you run the world. Well, this is one red-blooded, All-American faggot you can't scare."), the guys stop off at a supermarket (David doesn't know what john to choose), and then a bar, where they fend off the advances of the local hookers. But the Pink Angels are going to need those hookers later when they meet up with a straight (and dangerous) biker gang led by Michael Pataki and Dan Haggerty. But even this potential obstacle is nothing compared to the efforts of The General (George T. Marshall), who's looking to stamp out any and all subversives who threaten the security of the United States.
Yep, a gay biker movie. And no worse or better than most of those cheap The Wild Angels and Easy Rider knock-offs that flooded drive-in screens in the late 60s and early 70s. Intended, I'm assuming, as a comedy, The Pink Angels is fairly lame in its limp-wristed camp moments, with scenes such as the infamous hot-dog eating sequence and the boys shopping for appropriate dress shoes, potentially funny but nowhere nearly fully developed. The editing is done with a chainsaw, and whatever build might have been present in the scenes shot by director Larry G. Brown, is utterly ruined in the film's haphazard construction. Scenes begin and end with no rhyme or reason (the cop shake-down scene would seem to be a potential highlight of the film, but it grinds on with no point, and then just ends), and non sequitur lines pop up out of nowhere and hang, with the audience wondering what the hell is going on (at the A&W, when the boys get upset about people staring at them, the leader quite nonsensically declares, "It's so lonely at the top," before everyone starts squirting condiments all over each other. Uh...yeah.). There are some funny lines here and there (when the cops ask what's in the biker's locked box, Michael says it's an 8 x 10 glossy of Robert Goulet; one of the bikers, accepting a drink, replies, "as long as its stiff and stimulating to my throat."), some amusing scenes (queens Henry and David, played by Robert Biheller and Tom Basham, have a pretty funny bit, bitching about setting a picnic table correctly) and some of the obligatory shots of bikers riding the asphalt with rock music blasting, are cool (there's a great widescreen shot of the straight gang racing a train). But too much of The Pink Angels makes absolutely no sense (the whole killer General thing feels tacked on, post-production), with its final nod to Easy Rider (the gay bikers are all hanged), utterly ridiculous. Too bad; the idea had more potential than what ultimately shows up on the screen.
DISC TWO: SIDE B
Dr. Craig Cooper (Peter Carpenter) is living the life we all imagined when we flipped through our dads' Playboys. He has a really good-looking girlfriend, Cheryl (Reagan Wilson, a former Playboy Playmate, I might add). He has a nice practice with a boss, Ridgeley Waterman (Eric Allison), who's bedridden (meaning nobody looking over his shoulder all the time), and he's getting it on with his boss' daughter, Victoria (Maria De Aragon, of Star Wars!), a sex-crazed nympho who's always had Craig on her list (her father even kids her about it...yeech). Which is cool with Craig, especially when Victoria whips out the poppers, and takes their lovemaking to the nth degree. The only problem is: Craig is sleeping with Victoria to borrow the $50,000 he needs to pay off his old buddy, Larry (Arell Blanton), who's blackmailing Craig over the abortions he used to perform back in medical school. But where is Victoria going to get the dough? That's right - she's going to bump off her old man and collect the inheritance. But the arrival of younger sister Gail (Vicki Peters, another really nice former Playboy Playmate) throws a monkey wrench into the works, with murderous implications for this unwholesome lovers' triangle.
Hardly bloody, Blood Mania plays rather like a typical seventies TV detective show, such as Mannix or Cannon, with the only thing missing being a...detective. Or...a good script. Or...good direction. Or...some realistic acting. All of which you could find on a weekly basis on those two TV shows, but which are MIA here in Blood Mania. The old "bed-ridden-geezer-snuffed-out-for-his-dough-by-his-sex-crazed-daughter-to-pass-on-to-her-stud-boyfriend" is certainly familiar enough to even the most casual TV and movie watcher, and that comfortableness should have provided at the very least, genre expectations that could have easily been met and satisfied. But Blood Mania is just too slow for its own good during the bulk of its short running time, only coming alive during its nude scenes (seriously, the women in this are fine), and its final assault by crazed Victoria. Director Robert Vincent O'Neill, probably best known for the first two Angel exploitation films, knows how to imitate Dan Curtis' style, but it's to no avail when the screenplay has whoppers like, "We're very young souls...young and evil," "Only the good die young," and "You're a bitch...come here, bitch!" Still, the women do look good, and they're frequently naked, so for drive-in exploitation, that's half the battle. Too bad that title is so misleading, though.
DISC THREE: SIDE A
SINGLE ROOM FURNISHED
In a run-down tenement building, Maria (Terri Messina) listens to Pop (Billy M. Greene) warn her of the dangers of falling in love too young. He tells her the story of Frankie and Johnnie (I'm not kidding), from ten years before. They were a couple of teenagers, and Johnnie (Jayne Mansfield) couldn't seem to understand her young husband Frankie's (Martin Horsey) ambitions and dreams; we're told he ankled it soon after they moved in. Out of the blue, we get to meet Flo (Dorothy Keller) and Charley (Fabian Dean), two refugees from a college production of Marty. Flo's a fisherman (?) and Charley's a fish monger, and together, they're dynamite! Actually, they're boring as hell, and after their pathetic little romance is explored we hear Pop talk about Mae (Jayne again), who's actually Johnnie after a name change and a dye job. She's pregnant and a waitress. Oh, and she talks to Charley briefly. And then suddenly, she's Eileen, blonde again, and a prostitute who's fending off the wild advances of crazyman Billy (Walter Gregg), while relying on the comfort of strangers to get through the lonely nights in her sweltering single room, furnished.
Cripes, what the hell is Single Room Furnished doing in this collection? Notable only for the fact that it was Jayne Mansfield's last film before dying in a horrific car crash, Single Room Furnished lacks even the most basic Mansfield attractions (namely; two attractions...naked) while delivering a po-faced, ersatz imitation of all those rickety Playhouse 90 dramas from TV's golden age. Directed by her husband, Matt Cimber (although Jayne was playing around before the film was completed, which was finalized after her death), Single Room Furnished is laughably inept in almost all departments (except for some nice lighting here and there from future ace cinematographer, Laszlo Kovacs, particularly a short but sweet trucking shot of Jayne walking down a city street at night). It's bad enough that the film is interrupted with the totally out-of-place diversion of Flo and Eddie, whose relationship plays almost like a parody of Marty (when Flo, seated with Charley on a pier, asks Charley, "Where do clouds come from?" my answer was, "Please jump off the pier, Flo."). But then we're asked to swallow Mansfield as a serious actress who can pull off three distinct characters in the same film. I happen to like Mansfield's early work, but clearly by this point in her career, she's barely coherent, let alone competent in front of the camera, and her three "separate" characters (who are weirdly the same character) resemble not three-dimensional individuals, but Jayne Mansfield zonked out of her skull (her speech is so...slow, which I guess is supposed to translate into "thoughtful" and "deep"). The best part of the film? Walter Winchell, as himself, introducing the film, and telling us that this is Jayne's best film work (no, Walter - that was your best film work).
DISC THREE: SIDE B
VAN NUYS BLVD.
Bobby, despite having a sweet-looking blonde girlfriend, Jo (Susanne Severeid), who apparently doesn't ever wear clothes, decides he's had enough of his podunk little California town, and decides to head off to the famed Van Nuys Blvd. in the San Fernando Valley, where a guy can cruise his van and make something of himself, damn it! Immediately upon arriving, he's seduced by Wanda (Tara Strohmeier), his drive-in waitress, thereby confirming Bobby's assessment that Van Nuys Blvd. is where it's at! Out on the Boulevard, meanwhile, all sorts of shenanigans are going on, including the "King of the Boulevard," Chooch (David Hayward), who owns Wednesday nights out on the strip, having his weekly run-in with tight-ass Officer Zass (Dana Gladstone), and Archie Andrews look-a-like, Greg (Dennis Bowen), who hooks up with the girl of his dreams, Camile (Melissa Prophet). Her friend Moon (Cynthia Wood) gets cozy with Bobby, but will Bobby and Greg ever grow up, and give up cruisin' on the Boulevard?
A blatant rip-off of everything under the sun, including American Graffiti, Animal House, and Saturday Night Fever, Van Nuys Blvd. at least has the good sense to keep its familiar story moving, never letting the audience ponder the fact that its comedy scenes aren't particularly funny, and its sex scenes aren't at all erotic. I've never understood the minor, minor cult that surrounds Adler (he always reminds me of an unkempt Henry Silva), and despite his lead role here, he fails to generate much excitement for his character (he always seems...kind of listless). Bowen is worse, putting on an annoying "gee whiz" intensity, mixed with genetically-based dorkiness (along with an unmistakable irritating manner), that makes his every scene in Van Nuys Blvd. fall flat. The real stars of the film are good-looking girls Wood and Prophet; it's obvious they can act, and they have nice screen presences. Unfortunately, they're given little to do here as the boys' antics are front and center - too bad somebody didn't think of throwing the film their way once the rushes started coming in. The whole Chooch subplot is so unashamedly taken from the Paul LeMat character in American Graffiti, I'm surprised that George Lucas didn't immediately sue for copyright infringement. Not nearly funny or sexy enough, even for 1979 audiences.
DISC FOUR: SIDE A
THE POM POM GIRLS
School's in session in Southern California, and the boys and girls are gearing up for football season. Class clown and hothead Johnnie (Robert Carradine) and class stud Jesse (Michael Mullins) are all set for touchdowns on and off the field, even though the Coach (James Gammon) has a bug up his ass about Jesse for some unexplained reason. Johnnie likes blonde, incomparably beautiful Sally (Lisa Reeves), who's been dating would-be bully Duane (Bill Adler) for two weeks - but she's not ruling out seeing Johnnie. Jesse meanwhile hooks up with brunette Laurie (Jennifer Ashley), and the couples form a tight group, doing all the things that other SoCal teens do, like watching the motocross races and stealing fire engines, endangering entire communities in the process in the arid, dry-as-kindling Southern California climes. The big football game approaches, and Jesse has a falling out with at-arms'-length Laurie, but a big chicken race with Duane and Johnnie brings the couples back together.
The Pom Pom Girls, which had an unreasonably "hot" reputation as a drive-in sex classic when I was a kid, is fun to watch now, primarily for spotting all the activities in the film that would land the participants with sexual offender raps if performed today (Johnnie literally kidnaps Laurie in his car, and tries to make out with her, before exposing himself, in class, by whizzing out the window down onto the pre-teen girls playing below (Hello, yellow jumpsuit, a set of leg chains, and yearly neighborhood registrations with the cops, Johnnie!). There's no doubt, though, that the acting is a little bit better here than in most of these kinds of exploitationers (Carradine is actually not too bad, trying to essay a multi-layered character), and obviously, the girls are extremely good-looking (a legitimate evaluation factor in these kinds of films, after all). Lisa Reeves, sporting perfect, All-American California blonde features, should have been a big star (she was delightful in another, better teen exploitation comedy, The Chicken Chronicles, with Phil Silvers and Steve "The Goot" Guttenberg), but for whatever reasons, The Pom Pom Girls turned out to be probably her best known role - and that's faint praise, indeed. It's tough to feel any kind of sympathy for the cretinous guys here, and the whole "coach-hates-Jesse" subplot is weirdly unexplained, but The Pom Pom Girls does sum up that pre-Animal House, post-late 60s biker-punks drive-in sex comedy gestalt fairly well. That's not meant to be much of a compliment, but if you want to understand what it felt like to go to the drive-in back in 1976 (and I'm not talking a nice drive-in, with first-run features), then The Pom Pom Girls gets that mood down pat (its director, Joseph Ruben, would go on to helm one of the all-time best low-budget thrillers, The Stepfather).
DISC FOUR: SIDE B
School's out in Southern California, and the boys and girls are ready to hit the beach. Sweet, shy Dina (Kim Lankford) is the new lifeguard on Malibu Beach; even though she's not supposed to wear a bikini, she wants a tan, so.... Handsome Bobby (Greg Marmalard! I mean, James Daughton) arrives at the beach, ready to make out with loose Glorianna (Tara Strohmeier), before setting his sights on Dina (who isn't really interested). On a midnight date at the beach with Paul (Michael Luther), Dina switches off to Bobby, and they're a couple, falling in love. But reject from Muscle Beach Party Dugan Hicks (Steve Oliver), likes Dina, too, and he decides to make it difficult for Bobby - including challenging the younger stud to a swim-off in shark-infested waters!
Trying to remember Malibu Beach before watching it here on DVD (I was certain either my brothers took be along when they saw it at the drive-in, or I caught it on cable), I could only come up with the dog that stole bikini tops (and thereby giving the film an excuse to have topless women running around every ten minutes or so). I blanked on the whole Bobby/Dina romance, which isn't surprising, since it's so generically vapid I'm having a hard time remembering it even now. It's not that the players are particularly bad (Daughton is blandly handsome, while Lankford is blandly cute), it's just that there isn't a whole lot of "there" there in Malibu Beach. The Dugan character, a hold-over from Crown's previous The Van, is a mixture of Paul LeMat's character (again) from American Graffiti, and Eric Von Zipper from the Beach Party movies, but unfortunately, the filmmakers move him closer to the pathos of Graffiti, rather than the slapstick of Von Zipper, creating something of a faux downer for a film that doesn't need "depth" to succeed. Then again, when the filmmakers try for zaniness, they fail miserably at that, too (the shark burping at the end is just...never mind). I'm sure a lot of guys rented this title (drive-in numbers were in serious decline by '78) because of its iconic poster image of (I would hope) Lankford's rear end, but the possibilities suggested by that sublime image are never even remotely satisfied in the actual film, and that's a Malibu Beach bummer, dude.
Surprisingly, all of the widescreen transfers for the films in the Drive-In Cult Classics Volume 3 are anamorphically enhanced 1.78:1 (with the exception of the black and white full-frame video transfer ofThe Babysitter, which is poorly duped, and The Pom Pom Girls, which for some reason, is presented in a decent full-frame transfer). Blemishes like scratches and dirt (particularly with The Pink Angels) do crop up, but overall, these transfers are far better than I was ever expecting for these titles, and for the relatively inexpensive price of the disc collection. They're reasonably bright, correctly valued, and sharp.
The English mono audio tracks are acceptable (and exactly what were presented in theaters, no doubt), with all dialogue cleanly delineated. There are no subtitles, though, or close-captions.
Extras are sparse here on the Drive-In Cult Classics Volume 3 set. There's a full commentary track for Van Nuys Blvd. by the film's director, William Sachs (it's pretty informative, and he's game for the job). Van Nuys Blvd. was previously released as part of the Starlight Drive-In line, which also featured a "drive-in movie experience," which just means you had the option of watching a cartoon and some trailers before the movie starts - an option that is included here. A Popeye cartoon, Taxi-Turvy, is included, along with trailers for Hell On Wheels (with Marty Robbins), My Chauffer, and Beach Girls. On The Pom Pom Girls, also previously released under the Starlight Drive-In banner, there are vintage concession-stand adverts for ice cream, candy, dill pickles, sodas, ice cream, and even more ice cream! There are also trailers for Malibu Beach and Weekend Pass.
I know. How can you recommend an eight-movie disc collection...when the films aren't really very good? Well...you're not watching them to spot the next Citizen Kane, are you? With titles like Weekend With the Babysitter, Blood Mania, and The Pom Pom Girls, you should be able to figure out what you're going to get. Watching the eight films on the Drive-In Cult Classics Volume 3 isn't an exercise in discriminating moviegoing; it's a trip back to a time and a place that is gone, man - and it's never coming back. These films did their job: they filled up the time inbetween kids making out in the back seats of their cars, and their going up to the concession stand to get another egg roll and an orange pop. Watched on the wrong night, in the wrong frame of mind, and they'll tick you off or bore you to tears. But given their correct context, and met with the sense of blind indifference that was meant to greet such films ("Hey...what the hell is going on in this film?" "Who cares? Take you top off."), they're diverting fun. I recommend Drive-In Cult Classics Volume 3.
Paul Mavis is an internationally published film and television historian, a member of the Online Film Critics Society, and the author of The Espionage Filmography.