Movies Till Dawn: The Saturday Morning Strange – “Last Stop on 13th Street” (1978)


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(1978, Frolic Pictures) Stranded in a strange, rain-soaked neighborhood by an errant taxi, philandering businessman John Ericson (“Bad Day at Black Rock“) is taken in by a mortician (Ivor Francis), who tells him about how some of his recent clients met their ends. Four stories follow in anthology fashion: a child-hating teacher gets her comeuppance, a serial killer films his victims’ deaths, a pair of criminologists (Charles Aidman and Bernard Fox) vie to identify a murderer, and a heartless office drone is abused by unseen tormentors. Produced by Arthur H. Leonard, who directed several Depression Era black cast films (“The Devil’s Daughter”) and helmed by future TV vet Sharron Miller (a rare instance of a female filmmaker working in ’70s horror), “Last Stop” – which late night TV and VHS devotees may also know as “Alien Zone” or “House of the Dead” – is saddled with the usual low-budget pitfalls, like glacial pacing and dead-end plotting (we know the fate of the killer in the second episode before we see his crimes). But the established actors in the cast lend some polish – Ericson and Francis in the wraparounds, and Aidman and Fox (“Titanic,” “Bewitched”), who enliven their segment with some amusingly catty verbal jousts – and for some viewers, the inky image quality of Frolic’s DVD will lend a sort of narcotized mind’s-eye quality to the already disjointed viewing experience. For others, it’s probably your only chance to see a horror movie filmed in Stillwater, Oklahoma and featuring a theme song performed by Steve (son of Mel Torme) March. Be advised that this sort of opportunity doesn’t come along every day.

About Paul Gaita

Paul Gaita lives in Sherman Oaks, California with his lovely wife and daughter. He has written for The Los Angeles Times, LA Weekly, Variety and The Fix, among many other publications, and was a home video reviewer for Amazon.com from 1998 to 2014. He has interviewed countless entertainment figures from both the A and Z lists, but his favorites remain Elmore Leonard, Ray Bradbury and George Newall, who created both Schoolhouse Rock and the Hai Karate aftershave commercials. He once shared a Thanksgiving dinner with celebrity astrologer Joyce Jillson, and regrettably, still owes the late character actor Charles Napier a dollar.
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