Archive for July, 2012


VHS Cover

Awful “horror” film directed by Don Edmonds, purveyor of those fine family film classics Ilsa: She Wolf of the SS and Ilsa, Harem Keeper of the Oil Sheiks.  It looks from the film’s credits that Don was a hired gun on this one and can’t truly be held entirely responsible for its complete and utter godawfulness, however.  The plot, such as it is, concerns the rock band The Clowns and the spate of murders that occurs in and around the venue at which they’re playing a week-long gig.  The Clowns are sort of a low, low, LOW-rent version of Kiss (make-up and costumes) crossed with an even lower-rent version of Alice Cooper (on-stage murder antics).  All four members of the band dress in the same costume: black spandex, a red-lined half cape, a mask that covers roughly the top-left sides of their faces, and overdone black and white makeup that pretty much makes it impossible to tell one from the other.  They have a roadie that likes to dress up just like them, so that after the shows he can tell women that he’s a member of the band and maybe get lucky.  Here’s a frame grab to illustrate:


I first saw this film when I bought a used VHS tape of it while I lived in Japan.  At the time, I thought that it was a passable way to spend an hour-and-a-half.  After watching Terror on Tour again, I now realize that I must have really been hurting to watch something from the U.S. at the time, because to call this film bad is to really overestimate it.  If you can’t figure out who the killer is within the first fifteen minutes, you need to watch more slasher movies.

For all its flaws, Terror on Tour does have some interesting personnel involved with it besides the aforementioned Don Edmonds.  There’s an actress with the inane name of Kalassu who plays “Mod Girl” in the film.  She also had the starring role in a shot-on-video-but-released-to-a-handful-of-theaters movie Boardinghouse, which seems to be wildly popular on the Internet for its myriad shortcomings.  One of the executive producers was a guy named Alex Rebar, who played the titular role in The Incredible Melting Man.  But topping these is Larry Thomasof, who plays the Clowns’ manager.  You know him better as Larry Thomas, the actor who played The Soup Nazi on Seinfeld.

As Terror on Tour has still not been officially released on DVD, I watched it on good ol’ VHS.  I’ll admit that there’s a nostalgia factor at work any time I watch a VHS tape; anything I watch on VHS is automatically a little better just because I’m watching it on VHS.  So, in regards to the above comments, please realize that I’ve probably made the movie sound more interesting than it actually is.  And THAT, my friends, should be ample reason to avoid it.

If you’d like to watch the entire movie, it’s up on YouTube in a single file.  I really don’t recommend watching it, but if you must, I understand.  I think that the trailer, also courtesy of YouTube, is more than enough of a bad thing:

Fairly dire made-for-TV musical drama stars Barry Manilow as Tony, an up-and-coming songwriter/singer/lounge pianist/bartender who falls in love with Lola (Annette O’Toole), another aspiring star.  A series of events lands them both jobs at the famous Copacabana nightclub, where gangster Rico spies Lola and decides to whisk her off to Havana to be the leading lady in his rival nightclub…and in his life.  This is fairly disconcerting to Tony, who decides to go to Havana to get her back and…aw, just listen to the song already.  The whole plot’s right there in five minutes and forty-six seconds.  In fact, just listen to the song and skip the movie, which will save you an hour and a half or so of Barry mugging for the camera and singing oh so earnestly.  Your grandmother will eat this up with a spoon and lick the bowl clean, however.  Director Waris Hussein directed the infinitely better Quackser Fortune Has a Cousin in the Bronx, starring Gene Wilder.  You should probably watch that instead.

Okay, I guess that I should probably say something about not writing anything for the last eight months or so.  So…I didn’t write anything for the last eight months or so.  I haven’t forgotten; I’ve just been rather busy.  AND I’ll continue to be busy for the foreseeable future.  However, I don’t think that excuse can hold up when I’ve got time to do other things (such as have an active Twitter account), so I’m back with a new review.

I’ve been going through my VHS tapes, trying to see which ones I can live without and which ones I need to keep.  Actually, I’d LOVE to be able to get rid of ALL of them, but as some of the movies on them haven’t made their way over to DVD or Blu-ray yet, I guess that I’m stuck keeping them.  Of course, I can burn some of them to DVD and get rid of them (those that aren’t Macrovisioned), which brings us to the film that I’m going to write about today.

The People Next Door has obviously not made much of an impact over the last 32 or so years, and that’s kind of a shame.  Based on a CBS Playhouse presentation from 1968, the film at first seems to have all the earmarks of one of those early ‘70s drug-scare TV movies such as Go Ask Alice.  But as the film progresses, it actually turns more into a tragedy showing the results of family dysfunction.  Dad (Eli Wallach) drinks too much and is having an affair with one of his employees, while Mom (Julie Harris) chain smokes and keeps a well-stocked medicine cabinet.  Meanwhile, their 16-year-old daughter Maxie (Deborah Winters) has a bad LSD trip in her closet, and only their son Artie (Stephen McHattie) can talk her down.  Afterwards, she tells them that it wasn’t her first trip, and that, by the way, she’s been sexually active for a year or so too.  Next door, David and Tina Hoffman (Hal Holbrook and Cloris Leachman) think that their son Sandy (Don Scardino) is a perfect teenager, not knowing that he’s got a briefcase full of drugs that he sells out of his car.

Stephen King incisively noted in his book Danse Macabre that one of the reasons that The Exorcist resonated so strongly with the American public is that the parents of teenagers who saw the film recognized their children, metamorphosed by the societal changes of the early ‘70s, in the possessed Regan MacNeil.  As I watched The People Next Door, I found my thoughts wandering back to The Exorcist several times.  The two films have some remarkable similarities, including parental shock at a child who is suddenly not what she used to be and a visit to a Bedlam-like hospital.  I was also reminded a bit of The Ice Storm in the film’s time period and overall tone.  Leonard Maltin’s Movie Guide didn’t like The People Next Door very much, giving it only two stars and stating that other films covered the same ground much more effectively.  I have to disagree; I found the film to be absolutely fascinating, with one scene that made me extremely uncomfortable to watch.

I remember WAAAAY back in junior high school (don’t judge!) a friend of mine telling me that he’d seen this film on the late movie and that it was the scariest thing he’d ever seen.  It lodged in my brain because of that, so when I found it at a Movie Gallery video store sellout a few years ago, I snagged it.  It’s been sitting on a shelf since then, until a few nights ago when I watched it.  I copied it over to DVD while I was at it; it’s a good movie, but shelf space is at a premium here, and anything that I can make a copy of can be gotten rid of.  It’s up for sale on eBay as I type this; if you’ve got a lot of disposable income and want to buy it to check it out, I would love for you to do so.  It’s actually rather hard to find these days; it was released in a VHS version over thirty years ago and hasn’t been re-released since, probably due to licensing problems with some of the music (including a Beatles song that is sung at a piano). Of course, if you don’t want to pay the big bucks, there’s at least one bootleg for sale on eBay as well.

And then, of course, there’s always YouTube. Here’s a link to the first nine minutes or so of the film.  Enjoy!

Oh, by the way…the kid that thought The People Next Door was scary?  He was one of the best and brightest in our high school…until he discovered drugs.  He’s maybe the most severe acid casualty I know.  Last time I saw him, he was working at a Subway making sandwiches very slowly.  So much for the efficacy of drug scare films.