Movies Till Dawn: Horror Business (Slaying in the Seventies)

Grizzly” (1976, Severin Films) “Jaws” in a nature park, essentially, with ranger Christopher George, helicopter pilot Andrew Prine, and scientist Richard Jaeckel battling “18 feet of gut-crunching, man-eating terror” (to the quote the one-sheet, featuring art by Neal Adams). William Girdler‘s indie thriller is an unabashed carbon, but also an enthusiastic one, with a trio of entertaining leads (especially Prine as a blissed-out, ersatz Quint), and the right mix of pulp dialogue and outrageous set pieces (bear vs. ranger tower, and bear vs. bazooka). A massive hit for regional filmmaker Girdler, who also directed George in the outrageous “Day of the Animals“; Severin’s Blu-ray has two commentary tracks (writers Nathaniel Thompson and Troy Howarth on one, and producer David Sheldon and co-star Joan McCall on the other), a detailed look at Girdler’s career, interviews with Sheldon, McCall, and co-star Tom Arcuragi, and vintage making-of featurettes and trailers.

The Brotherhood of Satan” (1971, Arrow Video) Stranded in a dusty Southwestern town (played by Albuquerque) plagued by a rash of murders, tourists Charles Bateman and Alanah Capri discover that they – and more specifically, their daughter (future faux Jan Brady Geri Reischl) – are the targets of Satanists led by folksy town doctor Strother Martin. Supernatural thriller from veteran TV director and writer/co-producer L.Q. Jones, a member (along with Martin) of Sam Peckinpah’s stock company, has the unfocused feel of a low-budget production, but also generates some eerie images – the apparent murder of a parent by his child’s toy doll, ghastly drawings of a birthday party gone wrong, an unfaithful coven member’s fate – which benefit from Jaime Mendoza-Nava’s shivery score and a mix of naturalistic and theatrical performances. Martin goes full-tilt with his role, laying on the syrup as the doctor and swinging wild as the coven leader; his enthusiasm buffets the film when the effects and direction falter. Arrow’s video includes informative commentary by Kim Newman and Sean Hogan, a video essay on ’70s Satanic cinema by David Flint, and an interview with actors who played two of the coven’s targeted children, one of whom is the daughter of the film’s co-producer, Alvy Moore of “Green Acres.”

And God Said to Cain” (1970, Arrow Video) Admittedly, this Italian-West German Western is a bit of a cheat, since the supernatural elements in the plot are only intimated. But director Antonio Margheriti treats this familiar revenge story like one of his Gothic black-and-white films (see “Castle of Blood”), steeping the atmosphere with considerable suspense and various horror components (howling winds, graveyards, a seemingly implacable figure of violence), so there’s merit to its inclusion here, and fans of both Eurowesterns and Eurohorror should invest their time with it. Klaus Kinski is top-billed as a former Confederate soldier sentenced to a decade of hard labor by the machinations of a friend (co-producer Peter Carsten), who also makes off with his mining concern and girlfriend (Marcella Michelangelli). Kinski emerges from prison with a single-minded focus on revenge, which culminates in a nighttime siege on his former home, now occupied by Carsten, while a hurricane lashes the town. Though the material is well-worn – it echoes the 1969 Western “Django the Bastard” and borrows liberally from another, “A Stranger in Paso Bravo” – the baleful presence of Kinski, the prevalence of deep shadows and Gothic camera angles, and the final third, which intimates that Kinski can marshall paranormal forces to complete his revenge, set “Cain” apart from the vast catalog of European western fare. Arrow’s Blu-ray – part of its four-disc “Vengeance Trails” set, which includes another Western by a horror specialist, Lucio Fulci’s “Massacre Time” – features English and Italian audio options, as well as commentary by historian Howard Hughes, who provides a wealth of details on the production and primary figures. Interviews with historian Fabio Melelli, Melangelli, and co-star Antoni Cantafora (who plays Carsten’s son) focus on the highs (working with Margheriti) and lows (Kinski’s on-set behavior) of the film

Queens of Evil” (1970, Mondo Macabro) Motorcyclist Ray Lovelock gets a hard lesson in the downside of the free love scene when he runs afoul of three women – Eurocult all-stars Haydee Politoff, Silvia Monti, and Evelyn Stewart – whose interest in him is more macabre than prurient. Producer turned director Tonino Cervi steeps this Italian obscurity in early ’70s high-gloss style, gorgeous photography, and a terrific score by Angelo Francesco Lavagnino (including two songs sung by Lovelock), and a commendable lack of grindhouse content (the various couplings are largely leer-free). Its payoff has an unfortunately square patina – essentially, if you’re a free-wheeling dude, settling down with the ladies is going to harsh your groove – but it’s delivered with such exceptional weirdness that it outranks its fuddy-duddy theme. Mondo Macabro’s Blu-ray – a 4K restoration – offers enthusiastic commentary by Samm Deighan and Kat Ellinger and an archival conversation of Lovelock (later in “Fiddler on the Roof”!), who details his adventures in European cinema. Promo trailers and two deleted scenes are also included.

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 Merry Jane, among many other publications, and was a home video reviewer for from 1998 to 2014. He has also interviewed countless entertainment figures, 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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