Flat Allie goes to Hollywood

My niece mailed me a doll she made in school, with a note asking me to show it around the city and take a few pictures. So this morning I strapped "Flat Allie" onto the handlebars of my bike and did my usual short weekend route: a climb through my neighborhood of Los Feliz to the top of Mt. Hollywood in Griffith park, stopping at the Observatory along the way, then dropping down the other side of the mountain into Hollywood Blvd, which I take all the way back. Some highlights:


Brave New World

Our Movie of the Week is the 1980 television adaptation of Huxley's Brave New World, which I'm old enough to remember seeing in its entirety during its initial telecast.

It runs three hours, which is roughly how long it would take you to read the short-but-absolutely-essential novel. Try doing both at the same time!


Student Confidential

I've been a huge fan of Student Confidential ever since I rented it at a Blockbuster in 1989, based solely upon the fact that it was distributed by Troma Films. But this is not the usual Troma fare; the trailer makes it look like an exploitation film, but it's more like an after-school special / morality play. With nude scenes. And lots of semi-celebrities: Marlon Jackson (Michael's brother), Eric Douglas (son of Kirk), Playboy playmate Susan Scott, and that woman from Nashville and Nightmare on Elm Street.

Words can hardly describe this bizarre work of outsider art. The film's star, Richard Horian, also wrote, produced, edited and directed (he also composed the soundtrack, which often sounds like someone playing a casiotone keyboard with his feet). He portrays a high school guidance counselor who goes to creepy lengths to help four students with their individual needs. This clip is more accurate than the trailer in capturing the film's heavy and sanctimonious tone:

When he isn't forcing life-changing decisions upon his students at work, he has problems at home with his fashion model wife:

It may seem inept, and it is, but stick it out; in the final reel the film takes a fascinating turn, culminating in one of the most melodramatic, off-the-wall endings ever witnessed. See the first chapter below, or if you have netflix you can stream it.




Since the mid-seventies, B-Movie mogul Charles Band has been running film production / distribution companies Full Moon Features, Empire Pictures and Wizard Video. He's best known for producing the "Re-Animator" and "Puppet Master" films. In 1982, he dipped his foot into the already-saturated video game market by creating Wizard Video Games, which released two horror-themed titles for the Atari 2600.

Texas Chainsaw Massacre is striking in its verisimilitude. A blue figure with a faucet protruding from his stomach shambles along a detailed landscape, dodging wheelchair obstacles, while an unnerving smoke alarm goes off randomly. He makes his first gruesome, gory kill at 0:45. Terrifying!

There's no long-term goal; You keep slogging along until your "chainsaw" runs out of fuel. Then one of the innocent civilians turns the tables by walking up to your Leatherface avatar and kicking him playfully in the tuchus. Aw, cute!

Perplexingly, this game was judged to be way too intense to sell in most stores. The game was only available at a few outlets, making them extremely rare today.

Halloween actually looks pretty good. It has a John Carpenter soundtrack which sounds almost as tinny as the original recording, and I like how that little kid is running around in a panic the whole time. See the babysitter get it at 0:25.

Holy smokes, he just cut off her head, and now she's running around with blood spraying out of her neck-stump! That's awesome!

Halloween may be even more rare than "Chainsaw". As Wizard's videogame division was shutting its doors and liquidating, they sold many cartridges without labels; they simply wrote "Halloween" on the blanks with magic markers.

Besides being a victim (and catalyst) of the 1983 Video Game Crash, Wizard Video made the mistake of marketing games that most stores wouldn't sell. Fortunately, Charles Band survived and has maintained moderate success by releasing direct-to-video exploitation fare. Recent promising-sounding titles include Evil Bong (2007) and Gingerdead Man 2: Passion of the Crust (2008).

Related: E.T. for Atari and Custer's Revenge


Land of The Lust

From the kiddie matinee klassic, One Million AC/DC. Get it here.


Anachronistic Toys

Skydiving Spock?

Hulk The Helicopter Pilot?

Inter-planetary Ape Phones?

Battle Beyond The Stars

This Movie of The Week, long out-of-print on home video, was Roger Corman's most expensive film (two million dollars!) and still holds up pretty well. It would work nicely at the tail end of a triple-feature with "The Seven Samurai" and "The Magnificent Seven", although the plots might get a bit redundant.