Psycho From Texas and Friends, Courtesy Of Code Red

It's time for another new release from Code Red... Six Pack Volume Three. This is a pretty random 2-disc, limited to 500 copies, set featuring six films with essentially no connection to each other, not even genre. I believe the idea behind these is just that they're titles Code Red got the rights to release but doesn't feel they'll sell well enough to market them individually, so they just wrap 'em up together, don't assemble extras or anything, and just sell them for the price of one title. The description on the back of the box says, "Six duds in one big set, surely you must like one of them. LOL." And you know what? I do.

It also says that every single title here has "all new 16x9 transfers," which is true and a big selling point here. We've got some compelling widescreen transfers sourced from film prints, not crap VHS like a lot of these titles' past budget/bootleg DVDs. These are un-restored "grindhouse prints," mind you; but that can still be a huge improvement. But unlike, say, Code Red's Spaghetti Cinema DVD, released at the same time, these aren't just called 16x9 transfers because they're widescreen anamorphic... They're all 1.78:1, or the exact aspect ratio of a widescreen TV. I suspect not all six of these films were originally filmed or meant to be screened in 1.78:1, so we may not seeing them all in their perfect OAR. Granted, it's disappointing but not uncommon for even the major studios to cheat/ crop a 1.85:1 film into a 1.78:1 picture for the "no black bars" crowd, but one or two of these titles seem more forced into that ratio than others. But let's break it down and look at every single film individually.
The Sins of Adam and Eve (1969) is a movie I had absolutely zero interest in when this set was announced, but I have to admit it made for a pretty engaging time capsule. Making its DVD debut here, Sins was apparently a hit back in its day, literally telling the biblical story of Adam and Eve reasonably faithfully. George Rivers and Candy Wilson are the only two people on-screen for the entire film, and they never speak because they hadn't invented language yet. There is narration, however, and eventually the snake speaks, of course. And Adam and Eve do manage to invent their names amidst their grunting.  The constant nudity was surely a bigger selling point back in the 60s, but today it holds up as far as it does thanks to the care that was put into the crafting of this film. Eden looks as convincing an Eden as any big budget production would deliver today, the animals aren't all stock footage; in fact the stars do some brave interacting with them considering they have to do it in the buff. And the dramatic moments, like the flaming swords driving them out of Eden (spoiler for atheists I guess? haha), were pretty cool. Unfortunately, there's not a lot of story for a full-length film, and you're stuck with a lot of old fashioned battle-of-the-sexes scenes played out by mutes (we learn things like: girls like to be assured they're pretty), but thanks to running just 70 minutes, it manages not to drag.
The print is clearly worn and damaged, but still very watchable. The framing looks fine, the print damage is present but not too distracting, except for one or two brief moments where it jump cuts over damaged footage. The picture is faded but still colorful... though one can imagine how impressive a big budget restoration would look. The most notable flaw of this transfer are the red splotches that fly across the screen through most of the film. It's evident enough in the screenshot above, but seeing it in motion really puts it in the forefront. Still... it all almost adds more charm to this particular film than does it any harm.

It should be noted that this is the shorter, American cut of the film. In other countries, the film opens with Adam and Eve wandering round the Earth lost, scared and clothed; and then eventually gets to answering "how did they get here?" The US cut basically starts after all that, with its own introduction using narration and stock footage. There might be other trims, too; but frankly the less aimless wandering the better; so I'm happy with this cut. And I don't think an English language version of that cut was ever made (I may be wrong), so there's really nothing to complain about here.
Hellhounds of Alaska (1973) is a German-produced Western starring Doug McClure. It's a very traditional western, with a story we've seen plenty of times before and full of a lot of Hollywoodisms. But it's done well enough, and will please Western fans who don't need each one they watch to be a masterpiece. Bandits rob a station wagon, but unwittingly also wind up capturing the hero's young boy charge, raising the stakes higher than anybody expected. The townsfolk also take the law into their own hands when they feel the sheriff isn't doing enough to create a bigger mess. Oh, and there's an African American stranger who rolls into town and turns out to be the world's greatest boxer just waiting to be enlisted as a sidekick. The title is misleading, since there are no literal or even figurative hellhounds in this film at all. There is one very nice dog, though, who goes to Lassie-style lengths to save his master, but that's it. There's a prospecting subplot to draw in a little American Indian action, a lonely old man who forgot how to speak, an over-the-top town drunk subtly named Captain Brandy and a beautiful blonde who spends her days running a saloon until somebody comes along to make her his love interest.
The film looks a little soft but it's generally fine. There are visible scratches on the print, but nothing egregious. The film has nice production values and landscapes that come across well in this presentation. The screenshots above tell the whole story.
I'd never heard of Gums (1976) until this DVD was announced (although it had been previously released just two years ago), but when I looked it up, some promising reviews of zany insanity had me looking forward to seeing this one. It didn't live up to my hopes or expectations, but in retrospect, I'm kinda glad I watched it.

Gums is an old pornographic parody of Jaws, basically, with a mermaid who gives literally killer blowjobs instead of a shark. It features some amusing moments: Robert Shaw's Quint is mirrored here by The Burbs' Brother Theodore playing a wildly over-the-top Nazi, and at one point the actors are replaced by puppets. But the problem is that most of the film simply isn't funny; it's just trying to be outrageous by throwing in sex references. Their boat is named the SS Cunnilingus. There's no joke there, it's just supposed to be funny because they said cunnilingus. The character humor consistently boils down to: (s)he's really horny! The secretary wants to blow her boss because she's really horny! When the mayor visits, she wants to blow him because she's really horny! When she hears about the mermaid she goes to beach and waits for her because she's really horny! A very short movie starts to feel pretty long after enough repetition of that gag.

Most of the sex is fake and played for silliness; but there is real hardcore footage. Most of that is covered up by large cartoonish graphics imposed over the film, though you still see plenty of uncensored penises and boobs. This film does exist uncensored so you can see the X-rated footage - the film wasn't always like that - but the edited version might be more fitting for contemporary audiences looking for laughs anyway. To be honest, Gums is downright confusing. I mean, not plot-wise, it's very simple, not to mention closely following a story we'd already seen in Jaws. It's just confusing in intent. They clearly spent a lot on this, filming in both Florida and New York, with a big cast in lots of locations. But its too X-rated to really play outside anyplace but a porn theater. And yet there's not enough sex (especially of the actually sexy kind, as opposed to a guy in scuba gear humping a blow-up doll), and too much in between, for it to really satisfy porn audiences. It was a little mind blowing to get to the closing credits and see that this film had three screenwriters.
The picture again is soft but mostly fine until you get some shots where a lot seems to be cut off along the bottom. This film is unprofessional enough that I can almost believe it was just made this way; but I suspect something's actually off with the framing on this disc. Like, surely the full word "Spoey!" is meant to be visible in this next shot, right?
And if "Cocka Doodle Doo" is meant to be read in the next shot, then a LOT must be missing from the bottom, huh?
And not only is the bottom a little cut off in this next shot, but it looks like a whole other bubble is cut off on the left side of the frame in this next shot...
Could some full-frame television transfer with already cropped sides have just been further cropped vertically to give it a fake widescreen ratio? I don't know; it doesn't sound like something Code Red would do; but maybe the distributor who gave him the source material did. To be fair, you only really notice the problem in the shots with cartoon graphics. Often the framing looks pretty natural, so who knows? It's just one more out of the million questions this weirdo movie raises in the viewer. If ever a film cried out for a director's commentary, this one is it.

UPDATE 12/31/14: Someone just sent me a rip of the old, 1980 UK VHS release of this film from Mountain (thanks, Marc!), which sheds some light on the framing issued I described above. I've made some screenshot comparisons to illustrate:
DVD on left, VHS rip on right
First, yes, we were originally meant to see the full graphics along the bottom. Actually, this one is still a little cut off... So maybe the filmmakers made it cut off a bit like that, or maybe even the VHS transfer is cropped a little vertically. By the way, it turns out that other caption I showed above said "Sooey," not "Spoey." I was thinking they meant "spew," like... well, never mind. Anyway, there's considerably more information on the top and bottom, and the DVD has only a bit of additional picture on the right-hand side.
Even shots that looked more like maybe they'd been composed correctly in the DVD, we see still had plenty more vertical information. Still, that's a lot of head room, so I guess we're looking at the full image on the tape that they would have intended to be matted to a widescreen image for theaters. And the cropping is just due to the matting being misaligned for the DVD? You might also notice that the VHS image on the right is a bit stretched horizontally. In other words, look at the sheriff's head (standing on the right with the badge), for example. It's wider on the VHS and skinnier and narrower on the DVD. That difference is probably what accounts for the additional picture on the right edge of the screen.
That part of the graphic on the left is still mysterious; and makes me feel like we're missing something important off to the left. At any rate, we now know at least part of the issues with the presentation here are due to the DVD's framing and not just the filmmaking. Most buyers will probably just be casually viewing this film for the novelty anyway, so I don't think it's anything to get up in arms over. But it does show further that this 6-pack generally has framing issues.
Boogievision (1977 - holy crap, as recent as that?) is a novelty film without enough novelty to spread across the entire film's running time.  It's got little animated moments, fake (but painfully unfunny) commercials, copious nudity and a silly but enjoyable performance by Bert Belant as a fatherly sleazeball. but for all of that, the film has a rather pedestrian plot about an aspiring young filmmaker who winds up getting a job filming "nudies" for a sleazy producer. He wants to keep his artistic integrity, so what will he do? Spoiler: mostly complain.
Media Blasters once released this as part of one of their Rareflix Triple Feature sets, but their it was fullscreen. Code Red presents this film in a new, widescreen transfer from a 35mm print that's probably the best looking in this six-pack. It's a bit scratched and worn at places, mostly during the opening credits and reel changes, but for the most part looks surprisingly good. Maybe a little green at places, but it's a real upgrade. Apparently though, Media Blasters' disc features a slightly longer director's cut that runs 84 minutes (this one is 79), so it may be worth sticking with that version after all.

Well, you've just seen the a film condemning nudies, now watch a nudie!
Code Red found a lost film with 1966's Bad Boys for the Girls, so I guess this one has historical value. Because it certainly doesn't have artistic or entertainment value - Zing! Writer/ director William F. McGaha is known for making an infamous cult biker film called JC, which asks the bold question, what if Jesus Christ was a biker? Well, that had viewers wondering what else the guy had ever done, and Code Red dug up an answer for 'em: Bad Boys for Girls.

It's one of those movies with no synced sound. The characters never speak, except when one of the narrators briefly takes a stab at doing a character's voice. The plot is simple enough: a bachelor is sick and tired of every sexy woman he meets throwing herself at him. His married best friend has the same problem with his sex-crazed wife. So they go on vacation together to escape all women, but the wife follows them and they also encounter some more beautiful women who all throw themselves at them. But they never have sex or anything, they just chase each other and play games like Strip Hide and Seek. So much time is spent simply observing them go fishing and camping you just feel like you're watching somebody's home movies, although the narrators try to spice things up by speaking in false, goofy voices, like a Senator Claghorn impersonation.
The framing looks tight to me around the bottom, even on the film's opening title card. The print is very scratched and has turned quite pink. But we're probably just lucky to see this film at all. If you should ever care to sit through this in the first place, that is.
We save the best for last. Some of the others were amusing, but Psycho From Texas (1975) is the one movie I can see a lot of people buying this movie for. Psycho is a dark, dark movie that starts off as a slasher, veers off into being an action movie and crime thriller, and comes back to being a horror movie by the end. Yeah, the budget limitations show and some of the acting by supporting characters is downright amateur level; but you won't quickly forget John King III as the cruel Wheeler, and anyone who considers themselves a Linnea Quigley fan needs to see one of her earliest and still most disturbing film roles. It's also got an amazing theme song.
Psycho makes its long-awaited DVD debut here and it's great to see it from a 35mm print rather than some VHS rip. Yeah, it's a bit faded and scratched... there's a quick jump cut or two from film damage, and again the framing seems a little tight at points. But fans should be very pleased with this one. This is absolutely the film that makes the set for me, or as Code Red put it, the one dud I liked.

Update 8/27/19: Code Red and Dark Force have since reissued this film on blu-ray, which I cover here.  In short, it's an underwhelming upgrade, but at least it's an upgrade.

There are no extras on any of these films, but that's the nature of the six-pack. Each disc opens with a trailer for Brotherhood of Death, but that's it. Still, I'm very happy with this set and recommend it. You don't have to be gaga over all six titles to make it worthwhile, after all.

1 comment:

  1. Hi,
    Where can I get an uncut (XXX) version of Gums at? Even if it's a VHS rip, I'm interested in seeing it.