Last time, a surprise hit was the Christploitation flick, If Footmen Tire You, What Will Horses Do?, in which Southern preacher Estus Pirkle and reformed filmmaker Ron (Please Don't Touch Me) Ormond showed us how Commies would take over a Godless America and proceed to torture and execute Christians, all with a cast composed of Pirkle's congregation and a few actors from Ormond's more heathen days.
In case you forgot that combination of bad acting and bargain-basement gore:
So of course we felt behooved to check out the next picture on the sadly small Pirkle/Ormond ouvre, The Burning Hell, which concerns, unsurprisingly, Hell. This one's got some money behind it, as apparently Pirkle, Ormond and crew actually went to the Holy Land to shoot some footage; the Biblical sections, in which backgrounds of actual antiquity are cut against painted backdrops that would cause high school theatricals to shake their heads sadly, are quite astonishing. Pale-skinned Beduoins argue with each other in Southern accents, while gentlemen wearing buck-fifty Santa beards pontificate.
Then, of course, there is the Rev. Pirkle's hyperbole:
The mod fellow looking uncomfortable is Ormond's son, Tim; in the story that moves our atrocity footage forward, his friend (the one dressed in denim), just got his head ripped off in a motorcycle accident some twenty minutes earlier. Pirkle comforts Tim with the words, "Right now, your friend is burning in Hell." Oh, yes, this is a scare film in every sense of the word, as every syllable is bent toward expressing how being in Hell sucks, heck, it supersucks. The makeup in the Hell sequences have a sort of raw effectiveness, but all the fearmongering and outright hatefulness get very wearing after a while.
Everyone then decided we were through with Mr. Pirkle forever, but when has that ever stopped me? Apparently Pirkle and Ormond had a bit of a falling out, and Pirkle's next movie, The Believer's Heaven was done partly or wholly without Ormond. Turns out Believer's Heaven was excerpted in Diane Keaton's excellent documentary, Heaven (The Ultimate Coming Attraction), which explains why I found Pirkle so eerily familiar:
Though it's good to see that Pirkle had a non-yelly, even gracious side, I still wonder where he's getting his numbers, especially since it seems Heaven should be infinite in size. Or perhaps not, as it appears, in this cosmology, that only a small percentage of people ever make the cut for Divine Residency. Ormond went on to make a couple more movies, the most notable being The Grim Reaper, in which it takes Jack Van Impe and Jerry Falwell combined to make one Estus Pirkle. YouTube appears to be sadly lacking in clips, but there is one photo I've tracked down:
Oh, my, yes. That must be Hell. And isn't that Alan Cumming on the right?
We plunged into secular Hell after that, also known as Night Warning, or originally Butcher Baker Nightmare Maker. This was infamous, at the time, for starring Kristy MacNicol's younger brother Jimmy, and for having some rather disturbing undertones. Susan Tyrrell plays a woman who's raised her sister's son son from a toddler after a (harrumph) suspicious auto accident. Now the boy is preparing to go to college, and she's starting to unravel, plotting ways to keep him with her forever.
Psycho pictures like this are not my cup of tea, but I was kept entertained by a superb performance by Susan Tyrrell, a lady who never got the acclaim she deserved. Also impressive: Julia Duffy plays Jimmy's teenage love interest (creatively named Julia). Yes, there is a nude scene. And she was 30 at the time. We had no idea until we started poking around in the IMDb and doing math.
And then we came to the corker of the evening. You see, one of our group - we'll call him Rick - is the hand on the tiller of our torment. Somehow, he manages to choose one movie per outing, and somehow we still let him. He is the one who inflicted Dondi upon us. He is responsible for the psych-scarring Naked Ass of Clint Howard in Evilspeak; yet, somehow, when he sent a group e-mail that said, "I wanna see Myra Breckinridge!", we did not hit the "delete" button as a man.
I had never seen Myra before, so my hand was complicit in its screening (not to mention that it was my DVD). This is an odd movie - I mean, look at that hat on John Huston - yet the surrealism never totally takes hold. Old movie scenes are cut into the action, possibly the first time that was tried in a major Hollywood flick. But really... this is not a very good movie. Had it been confident enough to be as brash as it wanted to be, it might have been much better; as it is...
Paul slinked out before Myra began, muttering something about an early morning. He was branded with the epithet "wuss". Later, I'm sure he was envied. Rick kept up a constant barrage of pseudo-intellectual claptrap about the symbolism that was unspooling before us, possibly to maintain his fragile sanity, but more likely to keep an increasingly enraged Dave at bay. Finally, we reached a point at which Dave asked, "Now, what does that represent?" and I answered, "Rusty represents the audience, and Myra is about to represent the movie." A look of slow-dawning horror. "No! NOOOOOOOOO!"
Ah, yes. The infamous dildo-rape scene, which supposedly ended the career of actor Roger Herren. Neither as explicit nor as shocking as you've been led to believe (you never even see the strap-on Myra uses on the jock). Farrah Fawcett and Tom Selleck's careers survived, though, and Mae West went on to make Sextette, with which I have threatened our little group.
Here's Raquel talking about Myra Breckinridge on the Dick Cavett show, and referring to it as a "smash", at about the two-minute mark. Bonus: Janis Joplin.
About ten minutes from the end of Myra, Dave announced, "This movie has not broken me. I still have power. Do you have power?" I allowed that I did, and we set to looking through his collection. And that is how we came to end the evening with Robot Holocaust.
Robot Holocaust is bad. It is very very very very bad. It is legendarily bad. Post-apocalypse robots rule everything, the air is poison (except when it's not), and some warriors fight the power that be. This YouTube compilation has boobies, and it's still four and a half minutes of your life you'll never get back.
And now, because dammit, I deserve it - and so do you - More Raquel: