It’s a historical fact known far and wide; I absolutely LOVE bad movies. Ask anyone who knows me. Now you get to know (Theatrical Pause) the REST of the Story!
The cinematic presentations included in this publication may not be suitable for viewing.
There, you have been warned.
The Brentwood Branch of the Jacksonville Public Library has been a community resource that I now have much more appreciation for, after several months of unemployment. I was able to get some things accomplished by way of their internet access that I required prior to intervention by the good people at Ready Broadband. When your personal income is under attack, Ready Broadband has got your back. The views, opinions and method of humor employed from here forward in NO WAY reflects ANY view, humorous or not, EVER held by ANYONE who has ever associated with Ready Broadband in ANY way.
In the late 40’s and throughout the 50’s, my Mother enjoyed a late morning walk down to the Brentwood Theatre for the Saturday Matinee. Roy Rodgers was her favorite actor. In those days the movie theatre was a totally different thing than it is today. There were far fewer competing entertainment venues. The Brentwood Theatre, Gator Bowling Lanes and the Krystal Drive-In Restaurant were the social hubs of the younger crowd in the part of town my Mother and Father grew up in.
Over time, the Krystal has remained but it is no longer a Drive-In. Gator Bowling Lanes has been flattened. The old Brentwood Theatre has now become a Public Library. I’m glad that the old Brentwood “Theatre” is still around. I’ve been using it as a Theatre, in a way, during the time I have been unemployed. I can check out up to ten movies for a week at a time. I don’t miss cable TV at all. Over the past couple of Months I’ve been able to observe just how much the Library is used by the community it is designed to serve and it makes me proud.
Something that does not make me proud are the Library Rules that are published on a large sign over the area where you reserve a computer terminal. There are the typical Library Rules you expect. Don’t make noise, don’t bother people, turn off your cell phone. I get all that. The Rules also preclude Drugs, Alcohol, Firearms, Sleeping and having Sex. Rules don’t just fall out of thin air. There must first be an Offense or Offenses that prompt the making and displaying of rules. For some reason the owners of the old Brentwood Theatre never saw the need for posting such rules. Times have certainly changed.
The love my Mother had for the movies as a young lady helped lead her to pursue an employment opportunity with American International Pictures. Yes, my Mother was in the movie business. When I was a young boy I told all my friends that my Mother was a movie star. In reality she was a Secretary, an occupation MUCH more respectable than being an actress in an American International film.
Her Boss was a guy named Mr. King. I liked Mr. King and I liked his Son. Back in the day, getting a sound system that piped in workplace music was a service. A sound system was installed by technicians, but the machine that generated the music was a small commercial grade jukebox that was loaded with 33-1/3 RPM Vinyl Albums that played randomly. The service portion of the equation was how the music was provided. When new music came in from the vendor, old music was discarded. Mr. King Jr. made sure that I got a good heap of the discarded music.
It was in this way that I got to know the Beatles, Roy Clarke, The Ventures, Jim Reeves, The Kingston Trio, Buck Owens, Glenn Campbell, 101 Strings Orchestra, Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass, Waylon Jennings. I also got demo music for various movie theme songs. This was something you couldn’t buy anywhere.
Here is one of my favorite songs from my AIP musical soundrack collection that came on a 45rpm vinyl disc…
Someday I should take the time to think of all the music I heard for the first time as a result of American International Pictures.
When I entered Elementary School, my Mother brought home discarded office forms that only had printing on one side. This provided scratch paper for me to do Math on. I hated Math. I was more fascinated with what was written on the printed side of the scrap paper. Most of the time what was written on the opposite side of the scratch paper was a list of movies that were in local inventory and available to local Movie Theatres.
American International Pictures has never been known for producing films with a large budget. It was quite the opposite, nonetheless they DID produce some classics I’m sure you have heard of. Here’s a partial list of classics; Beach Blanket Bingo, Reform School Girl, She Gods of Shark Reef, Hells Angels ’69, Foxy Brown, Sugar Hill, The Island of Dr. Moreau, Macon County Line, Billy Jack, Walking Tall, Force 10 from Navarone, Love at First Bite, The Amityville Horror. Those are but a few and as you know, several have sequels. Not all of those were listed on my scratch paper during my elementary school years and yet there are many others I could name during those years that are movies you’ve never heard of. Whatever movies were on the list on my “Scratch Paper” were always subjects of fascination to me. I wondered what the movies were about. It seemed like they all had really cool names. I always wanted to go see them and I didn’t understand why my Mother never took us to any of them.
An up-to-date Filmography of American International Pictures can be found HERE. The first thing that shocked me about the Filmography is that American International Pictures is still in business. They anticipate releasing a blockbuster horror film in 2013 entitled “Dead girls don’t cry”.
There came an evening when I was supposed to be doing my homework when I came across the title of a movie that I wasn’t sure how to pronounce. The name of the movie was “Blacula”. I asked my Mother how to pronounce it and discovered that it is the same as Dracula but instead of “Drac” it was “Black”. She told me that it is a movie about a black Vampire. Today my Mother says that she wishes she had a picture of the look on my face at that moment. I was such a very young child and was having to contemplate something as scary as a black Vampire. I was terrified. Then I was told to quit reading my scratch paper and go finish my homework. Yeah, right. How was I supposed to do THAT?
Obviously even though I was very young I was already a racist. I knew that Dracula was evil but Blacula was far worse. Any creature that lives by sucking the blood of its victims is bad but when that creature happens to be a black man… WOW, how much more terrible is THAT? Try to imagine the climate of race relations in 1972 and you can begin to grasp how terrified I truly was. That is 40 Years ago folks. That’s a long time. In those days I found black people to be highly threatening. I was just a kid but living in the days when the Black Liberation Army was threatening to make “the street gutters flow with blood”, the blood of the family of the Chief of Homicide who lived down the street from me. Yes, I found black people to be threatening as a child. A black vampire was at least a Thousand times more frightening in my mind. Obviously I wasn’t alone because somebody decided that they could make money by producing a movie about one and that movie has become a cult classic.
There is no way I could have known back in 1972 that this so-called Blaxploitation Film was cinematic production that in many ways paralleled the life of a future President. Can there be any wondering why some question the authenticity of his Birth Certificate? Let’s take a closer look…
Even the people promoting that movie knew that a Vampire was a Thousand times more evil if he was black… but they referred to him as a “Black Avenger”… Hmmm… Coincidence or Counter-Culture Requirement? Blacula was merely the victim of the racist Count Dracula. It wasn’t his fault. The only problem Blacula had was when he kept it real when Count Dracula made a play for his Lady. Thus, though Blacula IS a Vampire, he’s a misunderstood Hero and therein lies the hook that kept people coming back for two sequels.
You see, Blaxploitation Films are like any other movies. There are villains, victims and heroes, only these characters revolve around a common theme of Black Exploitation. The Moral of the story is that bad things happen to people as a result of trying to keep the Black Man down. The Plot simply demonstrates why that is.
In 1975 Fred Williamson and D’urville Martin were the lead stars in a Blaxploitation Film about two black Bounty Hunters who found a town without a Sheriff. It was there that they brought “Black Man’s Law to the White Man’s town”. Hilarity ensues. This classic movie can be found as a full-length feature on YouTube but due to the now controversial title of the film we cannot feature it here. Nevertheless, should you search out this classic Blaxploitation theatrical masterpiece you may have no doubt as I do that Attorney General Eric Holder has watched time and time again. It appears to me that the “Boss” played a major role in shaping his personality.
Across the Street from the building wherein the offices of American International Pictures in Jacksonville was located, is the historic Florida Theatre. It is the old single stage with screen, curtain and a balcony style classic theatre. It was old when I was a kid. Mom used to take me over there to get Popcorn on those days when she had to take me into the office with her. As the years went on the old theatre wasn’t showing mainstream type movies anymore. They went on to Kung-Fu movies, Slasher films, Blaxploitation movies and a host of bad movies that don’t even have a genre I could readily identify. I always wanted to go see just ONE of those movies as featured on the outrageous posters on the marquee. My Mother wasn’t having any of that, so the fascination I’ve had for these really bad movies has only grown with time. Instead of having memories of seeing them in the theatre I have a burning desire to continue to build a massive library of such forbidden fruit…
One of those silly things in my life came full circle recently. I was down at the Library, scanning the DVD selections for things I can’t resist. Boy howdy did I find one such selection. There it was, staring at me, bigger than life was the movie that first captured my imagination, fueling a life-long interest in Blaxploitation Films. It was the movie “Blacula”. Blacula was staring me right in the face. I was stunned and at the same time powerless to halt my hand from making the selection.
It was also most excellent that the librarian who checked me out was an older black lady. I knew that she remembered the names of many movies of the era. In previous conversation I told her about my Mother and her love of movies that began in the very building we were standing in. As she was checking out my selection I told her the story of how I came to know Blacula and how I have been terrified of him since I was a child. I had a couple of ladies listening in and participating in the conversation. The key thing they all found to be most hilarious was how I automatically judged Blacula to be worse than Dracula and the way I knew this is because he is black. Likewise they were more terrified by Dracula because by the time Hollywood got around to making a movie about Blacula, they were already well familiar with black Vampires. “There ain’t but one Count Dracula but there are too many Blaculas to count”. We were going on about it, breaking Library Rules by laughing too loud. I grabbed my copy of Blacula and left before we were all asked to leave.
For the record, Blacula got a VERY raw deal. Even a black Vampire gets screwed over by the Man, in this case for all eternity. He went wrong when in 1780 Prince Mamuwalde (Blacula before he became a Vampire) went to Europe on a mission to initiate a cultural exchange with the people of Transylvania. It was part of an overall effort to bring an end to the Slave Trade. He had to go work all that out with the Count. Count Dracula wasn’t too interested in ending the slave Trade. He explained that many good things have come from Slavery. All the Count seemed to want was a fluid exchange with some sweet brown sugar known as Princess Mamuwalde. The Prince wasn’t having any of that, so it came time to keep it real. Unfortunately he was already inside the Castle of Dracula when he finally got real and ended up getting bit, cursed with the name of Blacula and locked in a Coffin until everything in the Castle was sold off in an auction to gay antique collectors in 1972. The locked coffin was then taken to Los Angeles. Of course you know they wanted to see what was inside. They got to see alright. Blacula had been locked up for 192 years, he didn’t have any problem sucking the blood from a couple of gay guys in 1972 because HIV wasn’t an issue. I’m sure that even if it WAS around, Vampires aren’t afraid of AIDS… but thanks to Blacula, L.A. had to start dealing with gay Vampires. The movie and its sequels detail the story of a black Vampire who continues to fight The Man on the streets of L.A. in an era of racial strife. Who on this Earth could not be drawn in with a storyline like THAT?
Think about it; ALL this time I was afraid of Blacula. I was a victim of my own Racism and preconceived notions of what a black Vampire should be. Upon actually getting to KNOW Blacula a little better, I have overcome! Again the Hero of the plot eradicates negative racial stereotypes and thus makes the world a better place.
I would LOVE to be able to present the full length version of Blacula to this forum at this time. Unfortunately it is not yet available on YouTube. Maybe by Halloween it will be.
I always knew those movies by American International Pictures, among others, were just different but somehow they all had the same feel to them. I knew they were of their own genre but I didn’t know what to call it. The proper name for this form of cinematic presentation is “Grindhouse“.
In lieu of finding another example of a terrible Grindhouse movie here I will only drop in a link to a short documentary. DO NOT hit the link if you are squeemish, easily offended or are adverse to short scenes of partial nudity. Hey, it was the best I could find…
Now for a brief Intermission for refreshments before our Feature Film Presentation of the night. Feel free to violate any local or federal dietary restrictions with items like THESE…
Ahhh… there, that’s better.
Ladies and Gentlemen, our Friday Night Flight Grindhouse Cinema, full-length Feature Film of the evening…
From American International Pictures…
HELLS ANGELS ’69