Friday, September 29, 2017


This edition of WHAT AM I WATCHING THIS WEEK? is brought to you by the year 1974. Richard Nixon resigns from the White House amidst the Watergate scandal and subsequent impeachment hearings; the "Rumble in the Jungle" occurs in Zaire between heavyweights Muhammad Ali and George Foreman, which Ali wins in the 8th round thanks to a little rope-a-dope; the speed limit is lowered to 55 MPH to accomodate the gas shortage; and pocket calculators begin to appear in retail stores. Now that you have some context, check out this short list of films from that great year that you can find on Amazon Instant Video (and not Netflix).

Gone in 60 Seconds (1974) - The original! H.B. Halicki's ode to the car chase film. Along with directing, he also starred and "wrote" the story about an insurance investigator who moonlights as the leader of a car theft ring. The plot is barely there, the dialogue is mostly improvised from the mouths of horribly-to-little-trained actors/actresses. The star of the film is actually Eleanor, a 1973 Ford Mustang, while the last half of the film (approximately 45 minutes) is a hell of a nicely filmed car chase across several cities and counties in California. Not an easy film to sit through for the first half, but if you make it to the chase, your patience will be rewarded.

Vampyres (1974) - You can find plenty of 60s/70s eurohorror on Amazon Instant Video, including this *ahem* interesting piece of work from José Ramon Larraz. The film opens with two lovely lesbians making out naked and then getting shot down in cold blood by an unseen figure for reasons left unknown. Then years later, they are back and roaming the English countryside, hitching rides with single dudes, then taking them back to their abandoned mansion where they feast on their blood. We're never told how they are back or what they are exactly. They could be vampires but they don't have vampire fangs, and they walk in broad daylight. Unless they realize its daylight, at which point they hide out in a wine cellar. Yeah, it really doesn't make any sense. There is plenty of eroticism and nudity as well as plenty of atmosphere and lush locations and settings. Definitely a curiosity.

The Freakmaker (1974) - aka The Mutations. This is more 70s drive-in fare as Donald Pleasance plays a college professor/scientist attempting experiments mixing plant DNA with human guinea pigs, resulting in the creation of mutated freaks. The test subjects also happen to be some of his own students. Tom Baker of Dr. Who fame plays a disfigured man from a neighboring circus sideshow who assists Pleasance in his bizarre, deranged endeavors. Then we visit with the local sideshow, where we get a scene with the freaks showing their unusual characteristics to a paying crowd. Beware, some of it may be uncomfortable to watch. There is also an homage to Tod Browining's 1932 film Freaks. Not Pleasance's greatest work, but the movie definitely has a unique tone and borders on bizarre without really crossing over too far.

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