Rupert Pupkin Speaks: Underrated '65 - Elijah Drenner ""

Monday, July 20, 2015

Underrated '65 - Elijah Drenner

Elijah Drenner is a Los Angeles-based filmmaker and one of the leading independent producers of Blu-ray/DVD bonus content and Electronic Press Kits. He has produced original content for The Criterion Collection, IFC Midnight, Dark Sky Films, Kino Lorber, Shout! Factory, Vinegar Syndrome and many more. In 2010, Drenner directed the documentary AMERICAN GRINDHOUSE. His second feature-length documentary, THAT GUY DICK MILLER is currently out on DVD and VOD:

I SAW WHAT YOU DID (1965; William Castle)
One of my favorite William Castle movies. Two precocious teenage girls, Libby and Kit, spend the night together, making prank phone calls to random names in the phonebook. "I saw what you did...and I know who you are", they blurt-out to innocent adults before hanging up and moving onto the next. One man who falls victim to their harmless prank, played by John Ireland, has just murdered his wife. Thinking he has been caught, he persuades Libby to meet him. And she agrees. The psycho-sexual tension in this film is dense and unsettling (Libby disguises her identity to Ireland as "Suzette" in a completely inappropriate and sexy voice). Add aging spinster Joan Crawford as the lovelorn neighbor to Ireland and things get even better. This is the second of three movies Castle produced for Universal Pictures and the only one to get a DVD release by Anchor Bay back in day. Sadly, the equally great "Lets Kill Uncle" and "The Night Walker" have not made the leap to the digital format. Is it too much to get this films released on Blu-ray, please?

TWO ON A GUILLOTINE (1965; William Conrad)
Speaking of William Castle, this grand guignol thriller feels cut from the same cloth as any one of the great maestro's plots. Connie Stevens, in one of her best studio contract-searching for Daddy roles, plays a young woman who must spend a week alone in her deceased father's home (a humbly sadistic magician played with great gusto by Caesar Romero) in order to receive her inheritance. The funhouse spooks are abundant and Stevens is at her most adorable. This was one of three movies directed by veteran character actor William Conrad for Warner Brothers in 1965 and my favorite of the bunch, which includes "My Blood Runs Cold" and "Brainstorm". Highlighted by beautiful black and white Panavision photography and a Max Steiner soundtrack.

One of my favorite youth market movies produced by Sam Katzman. A loose remake of Gershwin's "Girl Crazy" with Harve Presnell, Connie Stevens, Louis Armstrong, Herman's Hermits and Sam The Sham and the Pharaohs. I can't imagine who the intended audience was when this film was released. There are some fascinating politics going on here, in particular sex and gender roles; the movie begins with frat guys go-go dancing in drag and the first time Presnell sees Francis, he thinks she's a man. Did I mention that Liberace is in this too? 

BAD GIRLS GO TO HELL (1965; Doris Wishman)
1965 saw the transition from Doris Wishman - Regional Florida Nudist Colony Exploitationer to Doris Wishman - Queen of Manhattan Grindhouse Melodrama. I could recite the plot, but it does not matter. She was an incredible filmmaker, capturing a dynamic range of real-life New York apartment interiors and unbelievably authentic leading ladies. The post-sync dialog and needle-drop soundtracks only heighten the Wishman experience. This is one of my favorites and the best of her NY/B&W roughies.

ORGY OF THE DEAD (1965; Stephen C. Apostolof)
I could keep this movie playing in the background of my life everyday. Scripted by Edward D. Wood Jr (from one of his pulp novels). Bob and Shirley crash their car and wander to a graveyard where they are caught by a mummy and wolfman. They are forced to watch the various lost souls, all go-go dancing woman, dance for approval of Criswell, Emperor of the dead.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Years ago, I attended a 35mm film screening of ORGY OF THE DEAD. Director Stephen C. Apostolof told some great stories about Ed Wood. My favorite was that Ed Wood needed more money than just his screenplay fee, so Apostolof hired him to do craft service on the movie. Wood got cash to budget for the length of the shoot, and then went out and spent it all at once on booze!