Johnny Cash in His Film Debut

Even hardcore fans of the “Man in Black” might not know that back in 1961 the bad boy of country-western music decided to dabble in motion pictures and made his film debut in a low-budget wonder entitled Five Minutes to Live (aka Door to Door Maniac). It’s an enjoyably trashy genre mash-up that is part bank heist thriller, part home invasion psychodrama and part family sitcom in the style of Father Knows Best. Plus, in addition to Cash chewing up the scenery, the cast includes Country Music Hall of Famer Merle Travis as a bowling alley manager, little Ronnie Howard (who was already appearing on television in such series as Dennis the Menace and The Andy Griffith Show) and Vic Tayback, the Emmy-nominated co-star of the TV series Alice. It’s not their finest hour but if you’re a Cash fan or appreciate wild card obscurities like Blast of Silence (1961) or Shack Out on 101(1955), you know you want to see it.       

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Al Adamson’s Kiddie Flick

He was the man behind such softcore sleazefests as Girls for Rent (1974), The Naughty Stewardesses (1975) and Cinderella 2000 (1977). He was also the schlockmeister responsible for exploitation classics such as Satan’s Sadists (1969), Five Bloody Graves (1970) and the seriously deranged Dracula vs. Frankenstein (1971). He would be the last person you’d expect to make a child-friendly movie but that’s exactly what he attempted with Carnival Magic, which was completed in 1981 but not released until 1983. The film is almost tame enough for a six year old kid but also a terrifically weird and strange experience for older audiences who have seen any of Adamson’s previous work. He’s marching to the beat of a different drummer here and that drummer just happens to be a talking chimpaneze named Alexander the Great. Continue reading

The President We Deserve

Timothy Carey (on throne) plays a self-proclaimed messiah who starts his own political party in the underground satire, The World’s Greatest Sinner (1962).

You might not know the name but you know the face. One of the most eccentric character actors in American cinema, he has had the rare distinction of working with everyone from James Dean and Elia Kazan (East of Eden) to Marlon Brando (The Wild One; One-Eyed Jacks) to Stanley Kubrick (The Killing; Paths of Glory) to John Cassavetes (Minnie and Moskowitz; The Killing of a Chinese Bookie) to The Monkees (their feature debut Head) to Mr. T, Bill Maher and Gary Busey in D.C. Cab. Let me add a few more to that already impressive filmography which includes appearing with Clark Gable (Across the Wide Missouri), Francis the Talking Mule (Francis in the Navy) and Shelley Winters and Debbie Reynolds (What’s the Matter With Helen?) and god knows who else. We’re talking about Timothy Carey and probably his greatest role is the one you’ve never seen – The World’s Greatest Sinner (1962).  Continue reading

Double Trouble

Wicked, WickedSometimes a great promotional gimmick is reason enough to make a movie and this certainly proved to be a successful strategy for director William Castle who made box office hits out of low-budget horror thrillers such as Macabre (1958, admission included an insurance policy from Lloyds of London against death by fright), House on Haunted Hill (1959, a glow-in-the-dark skeleton swooped over the audience at a key point in the movie) and The Tingler (1959, selected seats were wired and vibrated when the title creature got loose in a movie theatre). Not all promoters have been as lucky as Castle though and Wicked, Wicked (1973), produced by William T. Orr and writer/director Richard L. Bare, features one of the best movie gimmicks of its era but was poorly distributed and has languished in obscurity for years…until the Warner Archive Collection released it on DVD in November 2014.  Continue reading