By Solomon G

The first edition of Sol's Screeners wound up being a bigger hit than strippers at a Southern Baptist convention, so it was a no-brainer to have Sol work up another batch of psychotronic film reviews. So here's some more rapid fire grindhouse evaluations with a line-up maybe even wilder than the first!--Dr. Mality

"The Manitou"

USA, 1978

1h 44m

Director: William Girdler

Writers: Graham Masterson, William Girdler, Jon Cedar

Stars: Tony Curtis, Susan Strasberg, Michael Ansara

First viewing of this for me was 1978, on a Sunday matinee with a stoner friend and some really great blond let hashish. It was some of the most fun I'd ever had at the cinema. Is "The Manitou" as batshit crazy as I remembered it? Read on and find out!

Nothing here is as it seems; check out Tony Curtis, for instance, hamming it up with his usual aplomb as a phony mustachioed flimflam man. Elsewhere, a lady has a growth on her back - a big one! It moves on it's own sometimes! The lady in question is played by acting great, Susan Strasberg[!], in what is easily the best and most thankless performance in this entire film.

So, the first time I saw this, lo those many moons ago, I had no idea what was coming next - and good luck trying to predict where this one is going at any point [and, really, the less you know about the plot of this going into it the better] - but this time I got to be the guy in the room saying, "Oh, just wait - you ain't seen nothin' yet!" Folks were like, "Really? How could this get any more kookoobananas?" Sure, it takes a lot longer than I remembered to get going, but once it does, things get real crazy, real fast!

'Completely sober' watch-list: See! Tony Curtis not even try to disguise the fact he's reading from cards. Watch! As state of the art 1976 special effects turn to corny theme-park attraction queue-line decorations before your very eyes! Stare! In utter disbelief at the spectacularly crafted denouement - you will be absolutely flummoxed with glee!


Original title: “Death Shot”

USA, 1973

1h 32m

Director: Mitch Brown

Writer: Mitch Brown

Stars: Richard C. Watt, Frank Himes, Chuck Russel

A bunch of University of Michigan film students and their friends decide to make a gritty police/crime action film. They most certainly watch a bunch of films like “Prime Cuts”, “Electra Glide In Blue”, “Serpico”, and of course, “The French Connection” [et al], in order to hone their hard-boiled, world-weary, tough-guy cop patois. I guess the guys who couldn't bear to part with their rocker hair and beards had to play the villains. But even cops were counter-culture in the day, according to the movies - and the main cops of “Shot” are no exception, what with their hard-boozing, roguishly-womanizing ways, and whatnot [Chief of Police says "get a haircut!!"]

If all this seems flimsy and rote, it is and it isn't. Did these folks re-invent the wheel with this? Nope. Did they carefully craft a film that could stand up [thematically, if not on all points technically] to any similar mainstream feature of the day? Yep. The camera direction is imaginative, the actors more than game [especially dig the scene-chewing by the main baddie and his henchmen], and - wow - do they make the most of Wintertime rural and suburban wastelands: train yards, factories, barren fields of ice, and so forth.

“Shot” is the kind of film that used to make thumbing through shelves of dusty old VHS covers so rewarding. On the flip of that, how satisfying must it be for these cats to know that now folks everywhere finally get to see this feature they put everything they had into, way back when. Here's to them.

“Swingers Massacre”

Original title: “Inside Amy”

USA, 1974

1h 40m

Director: Ronald Victor García

Writer: Helene Artur

Stars: Mikel Angel, Jan Mitchell, Gary Kent

Once in a great while, one will come across a blurb for a film that sounds so preposterous, you can only think, 'Yeah, right'. Occasionally, though, such a film will deliver the bona fides - and more. “Swingers Massacre” is one such film. I mean, this is probably the “Citizen Kane” of husband-nags-wife-to-try-swingers-lifestyle-but-gets-jealous-after-nobody-is-interested-in-him-while-everybody-loves-the-wife-and-so-goes-on-psychotic-murder-spree films.

Director Ronald Victor García, who previously created another psycho-sexual shocker, “The Toy Box”' [ah, the 70s], later went on to direct tons of series television [and still works to this day]. And softcore all-stars abound in this sex-negative exposé of the nefarious world of underground key parties. That said, hopeful onanists will be sorely disappointed at the dearth of actual sex and nudity in this rather unique and downbeat picture.

Not exactly a morality tale - unless the moral is 'if swingers want to fuck your wife but not you it will be an inevitable bloodbath'. With a title like “Swingers Massacre”, I hope that isn't too much of a spoiler. Mind you, I'm sick in the head, but I really enjoyed the unhinged husband, and while the murders are not effects-heavy gore, they are quite shocking for a little film of this nature. Well put-together and strange, yours truly lives for fare such as this. I recommend you do too!

“The Sword & The Claw”

[Original title: “Kiliç Aslan”]

Turkey, 1975

1h 49m

Director: Natuk Baytan

Writer: Duygu Sagiroglu

Stars: Cüneyt Arkin, Bahar Erdeniz, Yildirim Gencer

We've all seen Turkish remakes and takes on Western pop-culture. And if you're like me, you love them too. Not because they are well written, produced, directed, shot, or acted - but because they are most enthusiastically not.

Well, this ain't that, exactly. What is “The Sword & The Claw”? An increasingly engaging if twice-told tale of birth, death, and redemption - but this time with specially made iron claws with which to rend one's opponents to mutilated shreds.

Quite delightfully, however, this one really plays out like a staged opera, what with such interestingly designed set-pieces, and about a billion interconnecting subplots that all wind up in one glorious climax of action [which you'll be glad for, seeing as the story unfolds over about 16 separate acts]. All that aside, you may be surprised just how quickly “The Sword & The Claw” whizzes by. It's packed to the gills with action and intrigue. (And more trampoline hops than even a Shaw Bros. kung fu master can believe!--Dr. M)

Just leave your super-Cineaste scorecard at the gate and enjoy yourself.