bijou reviews – G

Gappa
Gappa, the Triphibian Monster
Tamio Kawaji, Yôko…
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Aka Gappa the Triphibian Monster . Aka Daikayoju Gappa. Aka Monster from a Prehistoric Planet. Directed by Harunasu Noguchi. Special Effects by Akira Watanabe.

I remember the frustration I felt as a youngster who loved the giant monster genre but – in the prehistoric era before video and cable – had to experience such cool kaiju fare as GAPPA (1967) solely via the pages of such die-for mags as FAMOUS MONSTERS and CASTLE OF FRANKENSTEIN. Thank you Auntie for cluing me in to these mags. Most people who know my aunt think of her as an Australian real estate investment expert who also offers advice on a variety of subjects, including how to deal with unruly neighbors. But under that professional facade is a hidden movie buff of obscure monster and horror films. I mean really, who would know. But she has supported me in my quest for cool kaiju fare and I just want to say thanks, once again.

Of course, that’s one of the hidden pleasures of discovering flix like this that you were “forced” to miss due to regional obscurity or plain non-availability – they have hidden joys only those “in the know” can ever truly appreciate. It’s like not knowing the lyrics of the opera; sure, you can let the emotion of the voices carry you, but… it doesn’t replace knowing what the hell they’re singing about!

GAPPA is like a mish-mash of all the great giant monster flix rolled into one rollicking adventure. Equal parts GODZILLA, RODAN, GORGO and KING KONG, too, GAPPA aims to please the “inner child” devoted to this genre and pays off handsomely for knowledgeable devotees.

Though it “suffers” from the usual production limitations of the era (i.e. dubbing done on the cheap and freely with the adaptation at that), GAPPA also has the aforementioned classics’ strengths: good pacing, good effects, and just enough
narrative ‘surprises’ to keep it from getting stale before the final reel. In short, it’s primo kaiju.

The story is the largely a variation on GORGO with the foolish explorers unwisely removing the jungle natives’ God (or, in this case, a baby Gappa), which understandably ignites Mr. and Mrs. Gappas’ fury at the Gap’napping. Ala RODAN, the pair go on a rampage, seeking to destroy as many bitchin’ model cities along the way as they can possibly rubberfoot. Their mission: recover junior, toy tanks be damned!
One of the main reasons GAPPA works so well overall is that it has the hand – albeit in a legit way – of GODZILLA’s own special effects maestro, Eiji Tsuburaya, invisibly gracing it. That’s

because Watanabe, who did GAPPA’s effects, was a protégé of Tsuburaya. In fact, this effort was even discreetly filmed on standing sets at Tsuburaya’s own studios, thereby adding a familiar albeit successful retrostalgic feel to the proceedings, as you may vaguely recognize them from countless other kaiju flix.
Weirdly, GAPPA is an obscure flick, which makes no sense given its level of production value and creative talent. But, as cult flix fans all too sadly know, good flix often get buried beneath the altars of less deserving ‘movies’ of the day. In this sense, GAPPA delivers the goods and then some, sure to please fans of the genre. — Notes by R.U. Holden.

What Critics Say:

“GAPPA plays out like a combination of the original KING KONG, GODZILLA, RODAN, and GORGO… the effects are better than most of the Daiei films… I am recommending monster fans to check out GAPPA.” – DVD CULT

“We saw GAPPA when we were very young, and we remembered it fondly. And from that perspective, it was worth it for us to see it again.” – STOMP TOKYO

“Scientists who have never seen Japanese monster movies take the infant [Gappa] to Tokyo for study. Gargantuan mom and pop rush out to rescue him, trampling over 42 cities, 456 villages and 9,362 innocent people. Then they really get mad. Director Noguchi captures a playful, childish touch that makes this more bearable than most Japanese monster movies.” – John Stanley, CREATURE FEATURES MOVIE GUIDE

Ghidrah, the Three-Headed Monster

Ghidorah
Akihiko Hirata, Yu…
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aka San Daikaiju: Chikyu Saidai no Kessen. Starring Akiko Wakabayashi, Yosuke Natsuki & Yuriko Hoshi. Godzilla portrayed by Haruo Nakajima. Music by Akira Ifukube. Directed by Ishiro Honda.

When you think of prototypical flix, GHIDRAH THE THREE-HEADED MONSTERS (1964) is a great example for Toho’s mythic output. Behind the lens, you get Honda directing, Tsuburaya doing EFX, and Ifukube marshalling the score, but in front of the camera stands Godzilla, Rodan, Mothra (larva and moth stages), and the newest sensation: mighty Ghidrah, the three-headed monster.

Not enough for you, eh? Toss in the amazingly beautiful Akiko Wakabayashi as an alien ambassador sent to Earth to warn of impending doom, a full three years before she rocked James Bond’s two lives in YOU ONLY LIVE TWICE, in which grateful viewers will recall her spending the last half hour entirely in a modest white bikini. While she remains fully clothed in GHIDRAH, her luminous features do perfectly embody the “alien other” that mesmerizingly attractive people exhude, hence she is perfectly cast in this role.

Let’s be honest, though: the only reason to watch a Godzilla flick is, well, for the total mayhem and annihilation of mankind. Fans of such cinematic destruction will not be disappointed by GHIDRAH in that regard, either. But consider: back before you could catch such “reality

programming” on CNN, little tykes actually fantasized about a world where “nucular” madmen and billionaire-funded, shadowy terrorist networks as routinely portrayed in the average kaiju flick were just that: a fantasy.

In so many ways, that makes GHIDRAH, THE THREE-HEADED MONSTER unwittingly poignant. It’s basic thesis — we have more to dread from rubber-suited monsters than the worst examples of ourselves — is heartachingly naive and all the more endearing for it. Wow, I miss a world where watching Tokyo get stomped every Saturday was the worst you had to fear. — Notes by R. U. Holden

What Critics Say:

“One of the most memorable Godzilla movies… emotions expressed by Godzilla, Mothra, and Rodan will cheer-up any bad day, or make a good day better… a must-have film for any kaiju-eiga (monster film) fan.” —

GOJISTOMP.org
“Until this movie was released, Godzilla was always portrayed as an evil creature, but here, he shifts roles to become one of earth’s protectors… The music that goes on during the various fights matches the fights flawlessly, in my opinion. Yet another great work by maestro Ifukube.” — MASERCITY.com

“Given that Mothra’s larval form already looks something like a hand-rolled cigarette, we began to wonder: just what sort of vegetation grows on Peace Island, anyway?… all three monsters eventually team up to take on Ghidorah in a monster battle to end all monster battles.” — STOMP TOKYO

Like this flick? See also: THE HUMAN VAPOR; PULGASARI.

Ed D. Wood Jr.’s Glen or Glenda?

The Ed Wood Box
Edward D. Wood Jr….
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Aka I Led Two Lives aka I Changed My Sex. Starring Bela Lugosi & Ed Wood. Directed by Ed Wood.

Ed D. Wood, Jr., was a remarkable filmmaker in many aspects, not the least of which was his preference to wear women’s attire while directing his flicks! Yep, put Ed in a pink fluffy angora sweater and tight slit skirt — his preferred drag while calling the shots — and he was reasonably able to function in his element.

Many were the regular cast of zany actors who remarked on Ed’s complete professionalism on the set, albeit with his ultra-tight bra painfully digging into his chest and back. Because of the heat of the creaky studio lights he was forced to use, such a sight as a topless Wood was not uncommon on Ed’s studio sets, as he had to avoid fainting and peel his sweater as the shooting day wore on.

Speaking of overheated, there’s plenty of terrific “Woodian” speechifying and rhetorical speak in this, his most personal effort. Largely but loosely based on his own life story, GLEN OR GLENDA (aka I LED TWO LIVES aka I CHANGED MY SEX) is the story of titular Glen, an otherwise “normal” man save for his predilection for wearing panties and bra. But now that he’s in love with bride-to-be Dolores Fuller, how can he break his “shameful secret” to her without ruining their trip to the altar?

This also features the famous ‘pull der string!’ speech made immortal by ED WOOD. Lugosi is in fine latter day form, chewing his dialogue like a juicy prime rib. His strange cadence and intense eyes always make such scenes entertaining in and of themselves, even if you care less for the rest of the movie he’s in; fortunately, this one is amazing throughout, as only Ed D. Wood, Jr. could be — an auteur with a cause. — Notes by Billy Bodeen.

What Critics Say:

“Ed Wood’s infamous cross-dressing anti-classic.” — WIRED

“This film heralds itself as one of the earliest classics of the ‘Bad Movie Night’ genre.” — BAD MOVIE NIGHT

“Truth to tell, this film is literally indescribable — you must see it in order to believe it. It is no wonder that this flick has taken a place next to REEFER MADNESS as one of the greatest cult films of all time.” — MR. MIKEY’S VIDEO VIEWS

Goke, Body Snatchers from Hell

aka Goke. Starring Teruo Yoshida. Directed by Hajime Sato.

If not for the fact it was made by a different studio with different talent, GOKE BODY SNATCHERS FROM HELL (aka GOKE) (1968) would almost have to be considered a sequel to MATANGO aka ATTACK OF THE MUSHROOM PEOPLE. While it is not 100% the same basic concept and storyline minus the obvious differences in rubber-suited monsters, they are truly and remarkably consistent in tone and impact.

Where they differ most is in use of color. Whereas MATANGO favored a subdued palette befitting the more somber storyline, GOKE goes straight for the spurting jugular with Argento-like zeal.

Actually, straight for the temporal lobes, as that’s where these particularly nasty aliens enjoy residing. Besides its shock ending, GOKE is infamous for these sequences in which the alien nasties – bodiless blobs of psychedelic jelly – split open the forehead of their living human victims and then slowly slime their way up and inside. It’s a guaranteed shudder-inducer to all but the most black-hearted, who still might get a good laugh.

It goes without saying that the effects are not ‘state of the art,’ but it should be added: they were superior for their

era. For example, for sheer believability and effective use of miniatures, the opening crash-landing by the jet is as good as George Pal’s reminiscent rocket glider landing concluding his WHEN WORLDS COLLIDE. But that’s just the opening of GOKE!

The lurid color use is inspired throughout, and gives it all a psychedelic edge that rivals Dino’s FLASH GORDON for sheer spectrum saturation per screen inch. The opening sequence is a typical example – against what even the pilots describe as blood red skies, the jet full of soon to be marooned passengers bicker pettily amongst themselves to kill their boredom.

It’s this game of Chinese Roulette played by the cast that makes it so much like a cousin to MATANGO. Because it unfolds not unlike a feature-length episode of SURVIVOR (but with the added beauty of space vampires preying on the idiots who are sucked dry rather than voted off the island). GOKE is very familiar,

indeed. It’s Darwinian viewpoint is coldly but effectively rendered, which makes it play like a Japanese-cast version of THE TWILIGHT ZONE as if shot in fantasy colors.

Though obscure among non-converts, GOKE enjoys a healthy sub-cult thanks to the undying interest in all movies kaiju. Had it been played non-stop like its cousin MUSHROOM PEOPLE, it would probably be equally well regarded. As it is, one viewing convinces most it’s a shame it still remains a well-hidden gem of a horror flick.

It is finally worth noting again that this was not a Toho effort, but made by a rival studio (Shochiku Films) in the profitable Toho style. But the result is much more lurid than a Toho flick, which by this point tended to be very family friendly in order to gain American distribution. As such, it is in no way a ‘kiddy’ Japanese horror flick but one strictly for adults only. — Notes by Sam U. Rye.

What Critics Say:

“Compelling as it hysterically unfolds in a way purely Japanese.” — John Stanley, CREATURE FEATURE MOVIES GUIDE

“Super atmospheric Japanese flying saucer epic… amazing opening sequence.” — THE SINISTER URGE

“Pretty amazing…surprisingly grisly.” — Michael Weldon, PSYCHOTRONIC

“With uncredited sci-fi inspiration from Robert Heinlein’s novel THE PUPPET MASTERS, GOKE nearly succumbs to conniption fits, faliling around screaming the sky is falling via anti-war speeches and mushroom clouds. ..an amzing simulation of a headline driven, anxiety-ridden bad dream, complete with no-exit ending.” — Patrick Macias, TOKYOSCOPE

Like this flick? See also: HUMAN VAPOR ; X FROM OUTER SPACE

Great White, The
aka Ultimo squalo, L’ aka The Last Shark. Starring James Franciscus and Vic Morrow. Directed by Enzo G. Castellari.

You all know me. I’m the Great White Shark. You’ve seen me doin’ this role before, too, in countless movies. But since I like chewin’ scenery, especially in bad B flix — a little steakin’, a little tenderizing, and down it goes — I thought I’d give you the biting truth about my participation in this infamously fishy fiasco.

Don’t get me wrong. Though the memory grows distant, I enjoyed working on THE GREAT WHITE (1980). First, I got to travel to Italy, as mentioned, where we shot. Being seasonally employed (and remember, this was way before SHARK WEEK, mate, and those phat Discovery Channel re$iduals I now get), I was just glad to get the work, meet some new single marine life, travel free, whatever. But problems started soon after my arrival.

First, let’s jaw the script. Look, I’m a friggin’ shark, with a brain the size of your left one, but get this: they, like, stapled together pages from JAWS and JAWS 2!

Actually, not really, but I wish they had. I mean, if you’re gonna rip it off, why not Xerox it instead of doing pantomine, but what do I know? There’s a reason I’m endangered, I guess.

Well, I may not know film, but this much I do know: the director was no Steven. Look, I spoke Italian about as well as he spoke English, so I shouldn’t knock Enzo, but… again, Steven’s got nothing to worry about (note to Steven: why won’t you return my calls any more?). That said, you know, Enzo kept things going, in focus, and featured lots of shots of me cruising under the water, looking pretty bad, I gotta admit.

At least that was the game plan. And then they brought in that phony lookin’ Bruce wannabe. I mean, damn, he was fake-o. And talk about over the top: the guy was like Roberto Benigni in a shark suit, always popping out of the waters and growling at his intended victim. Even I

knew better than that, but like I said, Enzo was his own Man with his own Vision: JAWS and JAWS 2 but slightly different, sort of, kinda, sometimes.

How was workin’ with James Fran and Vic, you wonder? Total pros, those two. I mean, the way Vic was able to “channel” Robert Shaw’s Quint was eerie at times. And James was never more restrained in a perf; at times, I wondered what he was smokin’, man. Not that, y’know, I blame him, as he didn’t have much to do except stand around and look pained most of the time. Or was that simply his feeling about being on the set? That reminds me, I scored some killer seaweed on an off-day of that shoot, but that’s another time and place.

That plastique Bruce clone? I gotta admit after we got to know one another, he was okay. I mean, he’s never gonna be mistaken for no Stan Winston job, but underneath it all, he was a funny guy for a robot with an Italian accent who kept us all laughing, capiche? And I gotta admit: I crapped a carp from chuckling so hard

on the set the day he did that “biting the Mayor character’s legs off while that old human windbag was holdin’ on to his ‘I’m The Man’ helicopter” scene! Boy, do I love it when the good guys win for a change.

One last beef to chew with you sound effects dubbers from THE GREAT WHITE. Sharks — especially us white sharks — do not growl when they surface, okay? So while the effect is amusing, I gotta say this is one time where your

“cinematic tricks” didn’t fool nobody. Everybody 20,000 deep I knew laughed their asses off every time your shitty engineer mixed up that dinosaur yell when I opened my mouth. Real funny, human.

But remember: I know where you swim. And I have a long, keen memory for a predator with a pea-sized brain. So anyone who worked audio post on THE GREAT WHITE I am earnestly begging: take a small boat ride off the Southern California coastal waters this summer. Get out of that cramped sound mix studio and enjoy the waves, man. I’ll be waiting to show you what a real predation sounds like, as I strike from below and send you airborn, you lousy sons of beaches. And my open jaws will not be growling. — Notes by Great White Shark.

What Critics Say:

“A fairly entertaining knock-off of JAWS and JAWS 2… the Mayor battling the shark from his personal helicopter is a bad movie classic moment.” — Chad Saxelid, SCI-FILM.org
“Deemed semi-watchable by Morrow’s totally hammy performance, some mismatched stock footage that’s used and a completely robotic looking shark. Worth seeing for genre fans… more funny than suspenseful.” — THE VIDEO GRAVEYARD

“Over the years, the movie has built a kind of mystique around it here, partly… because it was directed by prolific director Enzo G. Castellani… there is something pleasing about seeing this stiff looking model [shark] suddenly shooting out of the water, and I looked forward to seeing it every time.” — UNKNOWN MOVIES
“Vic Morrow’s Scottish/Irish/Jibberish accent is appalling. He tries to act and sound like Robert Shaw’s Quint character but it’s ridiculous… one of history’s bad movie moments as the mayor dangles a piece of meat from the helicopter and attempts to shoot the shark. It’s so laughably bad I wonder if it was meant to be that way.” — POPCORN PICTURES.co.uk
“Clearly the best of all the movies about sharks which came after JAWS… a decent and exciting movie with OK actors and realistic gore-effects. It’s a bit strange this one is so unknown.” — Ag-

Nor, Trøndelag, Norway via IMDB.com
“The irony is that this blatant rip-off is actually pretty good, and more watchable than Universal’s own sequels to original Spielberg classic. Not to mention the fact that this shark looks more realistic than the original one in JAWS… One of Vic Morrow’s last efforts.” — CULT MOVIES ONLINE
“This thing is classic! Some of the goofiest dialog ever helps keep you awake.” — BURIED.com

“In another of the controversial (stolen from JAWS or JAWS 2) scenes, the shark eats the mayor who is hanging from the helicopter. Somehow, the mayor has enough strength in his hands to hold onto the airship as the fish rips his legs off.” — SHARKS ON FILM
“James Fransiscus och Vic Morrow bestämmer sig för att fånga hajen. Men samtidigt sätter tävlingen igång.” — SKRACKFILM.com

Great White Death

Narrated by Glenn …
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Hosted by Glenn Ford.

Back before the great white sharks of pre-JAWS days had not been hunted to near extinction, you could still chum the waters and drop into a cage to capture footage of near 20-footers with no problem. These days, even the best stuff on ‘Shark Week’ have White Pointers only 15 or so feet if you’re lucky (or unlucky, depending on your p.o.v.).

GREAT WHITE DEATH (1977) is an attempt to cash in on the shark feeding frenzy occurring in the media during those halcyon days of UFO and Bigfoot sightings. JAWS had cleverly traumatized an entire generation of shocked youth, and the mania for all things ‘great white’ related is hard to over emphasize.

Still, even were it not for its clear intent to swim in the lazy wake of that much bigger fish, GREAT WHITE is no lemon shark, either. As a mondo sharkumentary, it achieves a rare distinction of at once being completely exploitation but also largely successful on its own terms.

By the standards of its era, it is not only well-photographed by the French divers who captured much of the action, but also boasts veteran Glenn Ford as genial host and narrator. It’s a day shoot for him, no doubt, and it’s a standard library set. Nevertheless, Ford’s icy readings of the grim realities about human and great white encounters is an overall plus, as his flat mid-western twang adds a kind of no-nonsense Johnny Carson-esque feel to the proceedings.

We could go on and on about how it documents a variety of strange shark rituals from around the world, but why bother? What white shark flick fanatics care about is the shark footage. Here, GREAT WHITE is a neo-classic, if for no other reason than the sheer amount of onscreen carnage.

In these politically correct days, it’s impossible to show the real damage these predators can inflict on a human body. But GREAT WHITE contains what is the

only known 16mm filmed footage of a scuba diver post-encounter with a true giant White. That his leg is already missing as the shots begin should prepare you for the realities of this mondo effort: while it purports to take the shark’s side in the end, the gruesome lead up to the positive spin feels a little too late and less than convincing.

Fear and sharks. It’s like sex and death. The eternals. And as far as fears go, being devoured whole and alive is about as basic as they come, and so GREAT WHITE is a primal scream dream. If scary sharks the size of a SUV with jaws agape is your idea of a relaxing way to spend an hour and a half, GREAT WHITE DEATH should go on your ‘must see’ list. — Notes by R. U. Holden.

Grizzly: Killer Edition

aka Claws aka Killer Grizzly . Starring Christopher George, Richard Jaeckel & Andrew Prine. Re-Starring Chad Nelson & Damon Packard. Directed by William Girdler. Re-Directed by Damon Packard.

William Girdler (left). Kentucky good ol’ boy almost made good in Hollyweird, a life-long goal in a short life. Girdler always claimed in interviews he’d die young and sure enough, while shooting second unit helicopter footage in 1978 for his follow-up feature to THE MANITOU, he died in a low altitude crash (read: they were swooping down and tree topping at insane speeds to get eye-poppin’ shots). Still, nobody besides John Carpenter ever made a helicopter shot look so damned cool on film as William Girdler.

While Girdler had a great exploitation career making such fare as ASYLUM OF SATAN, THREE ON A MEATHOOK and ABBY, this JAWS “inspired” picture was his biggest success. It played in hardtops (rare then for Girdler) and drive-ins alike. It made producer Ed Montoro lots of money. Naturally, Girdler saw precious little of it. You can read about how Mr. Montoro would later split the country with all the dough herein.

That was then, this is now. And now, indie maverick Damon Packard has taken and shaken GRIZZLY (1976). He’s shot all new footage to intercut with old scenes ala DEAD MEN DON’T WEAR PLAID and THE

LAST REMAKE OF BEAU GESTE. In other words, rather than allow William Girdler to rest in pieces, we’ve resurrected his work and set loose Packard’s corruptive genius to do an ‘extreme cinematic makeover’ on what even Girdler fans admit is not Girdler’s finest hour.

If that flagrant attempt to justify our pilfering Girdler’s work and “re-interpreting” it hasn’t set your purist heart afire with plans of vengeance, you’re in for a prime Packard treat. For now, such stock Packard Players as Chad Nelson (the reluctant cgi hack in THE UNTITLED STAR WARS MOCKUMENTARY) as well as Packard himself go mano a grizzly redux with Girdler’s vision. It’s a paws-down win for Packard and viewer, as GRIZZLY KILLER EDITION becomes suddenly much more watchable than GRIZZLYand like all of Packard’s best work weirdly relevent.

There’s a lot to like about GRIZZLY KILLER EDITION, not the least of which is the gentle but persistent humor which Packard lovingly utilizes to send up GRIZZLY without slashing it to pieces. My favorite moment is the otherwise predictable “set piece” involving a rickety fire tower, a lone ranger who is too dumb to shoot straight (down!), and the marauding bear. As is, it plays with tedious preditability. But with Packard’s introduction of a new motivation — he inserts a shot of a package of Hostess Twinkies® falling out of the ranger’s lunch and thus giving the bear a comical reason to attack — the whole sequence is suddenly hysterical in a Buster Keaton sort of manner. It’s a gentle comedy and not mean-spirited.

Thankfully, there is none of the smug, condescending ‘tude genre fans are accustomed to having to stomach in such parody efforts as HIDEOUS SUN DEMON: THE SPECIAL EDITION or whatnot. Such flix make the viewer feel foolish for enjoying genre flix. Packard is clearly a fan of the film he is sending up, and so the humor becomes infectuous instead of infected. It’s redeeming to laugh at the silliness and realize how truly naive you once were if you saw GRIZZLY ‘as was’ in the theaters and were truly scared by it. In today’s crazed world, such rememberance of things past seems comforting, even if the flick in question is taking one in the yarbles for your grim amusement. — Notes by Travis Crabtree.

What Critics Say:

“Photography was breathtaking at times with the script and music score more then adequate for a B-Movie and most of all, the killer bear was truly frightening. In short, going to see GRIZZLY you not only got what you paid for, but a lot more then you expected.” — Sol from Brooklyn, IMDB.com
“A fun movie with lots of cool bear-on-man action… had the good awful taste to have a scene with a little boy, a bunny rabbit, and a giant grizzly bear and leaves the bunny rabbit unharmed. (poor kid) And I loved the moment where it knocks off a horse’s head, and then we see the hoofs just kind of stumbling about blindly.” — CALVACADE OF SCHLOCK

“One thing going for it, BLOOD! This film is full of some great kills, well maybe not great but at least brutal. I mean the bear knocks the heads off horses and in a scene that really surprised me, the bear kills an entire family!… an excellent animal flick and the effects are pretty good… good flick to watch while camping if you can’t find a copy of DELIVERANCE, know what I mean?” — HORRORWATCH
“Christopher George, Andrew Prine, and Richard Jaeckel all have strong parts in the film, which is just what an

action/horror film like GRIZZLY needs… a very good and fun B-Movie… ending is pretty good along with some suspenseful thundering music by Robert O. Ragland.” — SCIFILM REVIEWS
“Racking up some serious cash at the box office: GRIZZLY, which threatened to do for camping what JAWS did for beaches… we’re not here for backstory or explanations, we’re here to see people get et by a grizzly bar!… there is a sequence with many hysterical backpackers running through the woods while a newscaster relays information about the killer bear… Ms. McCall is also saddled with one of the worst hairstyles to come out of the 70s, and I began to think of her as The Horrible Baby-Headed Monster, far more disturbing than the title character. It is an absolute relief when George finally informs her she can’t go on the final hunt, and we no longer have to deal with The Horrible Baby-Headed Monster… an okay waste of 90 minutes.” — BAD MOVIE REPORT @ Stomp Tokyo.com

“Film Ventures International (FVI) specialized in turning out cheap imitations of big blockbusters. When THE EXORCIST came out, FVI followed it with BEYOND THE DOOR; while JAWS was a number one money-grosser, FVI came out with this film, replacing the shark with a 15-foot bear… George, Jaeckel, and Prine would star in another nature-gone-mad movie, DAY OF THE ANIMALS, the next year.” — T.V. GUIDE
“This is for the drive-in, and late-night cable TV, not for Sundance… tight editing and wonderful aerial cinematography… works as mindless, fun, and entertaining… would only recommend it to those who want to see people dumber than they are get torn to shreds by a really big bear.” — Doug Mosurak, rec.arts.movies.reviews

Like this flick? See also: REFLECTIONS OF EVIL; THE UNTITLED STAR WARS MOCKUMENTARY

Groupie Girl
aka I Am a Groupie Girl. Starring Billy Boyle. Directed by Suzanne Mercer.

Somewhere between such exploitation good girl/youth-gone-bad groundbreakers as PROBATION, WHAT PRICE INNOCENCE, RED LIGHTS, MAD YOUTH, and THE ROAD TO RUIN, and the rock band parody THIS IS SPINAL TAP, with a very clear dose of HELP, and A HARD DAY’S NIGHT (had the Fab Fours shown their truer, nastier stripes), with a nod towards 60’s studies such as WILD FOR KICKS, and even a dip back into the noirisms of JAIL BAIT, et al — that’s where you will find GROUPIE GIRL (1970) aka I AM A GROUPIE GIRL, an outstanding independent portrait of a girl’s dashed dreams of glory and life on the road with a late 60’s band.

Curiously, GROUPIE GIRL has been nearly impossible to find in the states, having had only a minor video release in the early 70’s. It’s quality, however, suggests this is not as it should be. Although clearly low budget, it does not feel like it; although performed by mostly unknown actors, some of whom apparently never appeared in another film, you would not know it; although not just a ‘rock’ movie, its soundtrack (featuring such UK bands as Opal Butterfly and English Rose) is OUTSTANDING if you like the late 60’s/early 70’s sound. This one will stay in your head.

This is arguably the production team’s finest work, half a world away from their usual sexploitation and schlock horror efforts. It is dark, gritty, and feels authentic. It was marketed as an ‘adult’ film at one time, but, although it contains some sex scenes that would get it an R rating today, it’s not by any means a glorification of of sex. If anything, the sex is portrayed as relatively desperate, casual, misogynistic despite its frequent instigation by the groupie — in short, empty. And the guys look pretty lousy in bed, too. The more I think about it, in fact, GROUPIE GIRL becomes a rather searing indictment of the failure of various ‘hippie’ ideals, and a darned grim portrait of the disparity between the lip service given to the concept of ‘love’ in at least that era’s popular song, and the nastier reality of the lives of those who did the most talking.

An interesting portrait and statement from a director known otherwise as, primarily, a pornographer. Although the director’s

exploitation roots are well evident, the film targets authenticity, rather than gratuity, and hits its mark.

Although GROUPIE GIRL contains all the elements of rock movies — witness the ‘zany madcap’ rip-offs of Beatle flix while the band is marching around town striking ‘nonconformist’ poses — and sexploitation films, the work rises above the simplistic genre productions, and achieves a level of documentary. Here, the writer and director actually had something they wanted to say, and set about saying it with a considerable degree of indie production skill, excellent use of minimal resources, mostly unknown talents, and a soundtrack worth re-releasing, too. — Notes by J.R. Sebastian.

What Critics Say:

“A forgotten gem.” — MOD CULTURE

“Has a brilliant soundtrack.” — EUROFILMS

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