For the last two years, due to the pandemic, we’ve been holding our bi-annual Turkey Day Marathon online. It has sucked not being able to have that gathering of friends, but we all need to keep each other safe. This year however, not only did I decide to go back to holding an in-person event like we used to, but because of concerns of having too many people all crammed into my movie room, I decided to break it up over both Saturday and Sunday, with the same movies but with a different set of people each day. That’s right, that meant I was going to personally have to watch the same Turkeys two days in a row. Not an idea that I completely thought through. And . . . now that it is over, will be the last time!
The real bummer was that we had several people cancel on both days, so we technically could have held it on one day, but I’m glad those people were thinking of others and not just themselves. Or maybe they knew of some of the films I was going to screen and just politely opted out! I guess we’ll never know. But let us get to the films screened for Turkey Day in May 2022!
On Saturday, we had some of the seasoned veterans attending, Aaron Christensen, Jason Coffman, Neil Calderone, who have probably been attending these events the longest, and a newer regular attendee, Tim Palace. Here is what was screened on that day:
Man Beast (1956) – To start the day, I thought we’d go with the very first Jerry Warren film, which was surprisingly a lot better than his later films. Maybe since this was his first, he hadn’t realized just yet that you could use stock footage in more than half your picture, making it quicker and keeping production costs a lot lower! But it didn’t take him long after this one.
The film is about a young woman in desperate need of finding her brother, who just went up the Himalayan mountains in search of the infamous Yeti. She hires a guide to take her up there in hopes of finding him before he dies from complications of the medications he is on. They make their way up the mountain and find the party that had left the day before, but her brother is not with them. They continue to search but discover much more than they bargained for!
The best part of this movie is that it stars Rock Madison! I mean, with a name like that, you know you’re in for a treat. Only problem is that . . . uh . . . there is no one in the film with that name. It was a completely made-up name for the billing only. Even with his first film, Warren was starting to get the idea of being shifty! Asa Maynor plays the young woman searching for her brother. This was her first film and did appear in a few other films, such as playing the stewardess opposite William Shatner in the “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet” episode of The Twilight Zone. Tom Maruzzi is the actual male lead who just loves to stare right into the camera while talking, which does seem to give reason why this was his one and only film appearance. But it is George Skaff as the expert of the mountains that is the most entertaining.
There is a lot of climbing footage. While it does look like it is the actual cast doing the climbing, I say again, there is a LOT of climbing footage. But for the start of the marathon, and for being a Warren flick, it is pretty entertaining.
The Thirsty Dead (1974) – Decades ago, I remember picking up the movie poster for this one, being every impressed with the artwork and figured that the film had to be pretty damn good. Then I found the VHS tape and realized that this is another great example where more time and creativity (not to mention talent) went into the poster art than the making of the film. While our first feature got a little tedious with a lot of climbing footage, this film was tedious just because it just wasn’t made well. With that title, there should be some exploitation in here somewhere to at least keep the audience’s attention, but nothing. We do get a very puzzling scene of a severed head that is kept in a glass tank and worshipped, which really peaked my interests, but nothing is really said or done with it after that. The title is also very misleading since they are not dead, and don’t seem to be too thirsty!
A group of young women are kidnapped to be used as unwilling blood donors to a cult that lives in the jungle to keep them forever young. That’s about as dramatic as you get here. It’s really a shame because it could have been much better. Although, it was pretty funny when one of the girls who is kidnapped, seemed pretty excited that she might have to become a sex slave, and then disappointed when she finds out the truth! Even with Pilipino icon Vic Diaz in the cast, he’s only got a bit part and is wasted.
Directed by Terry Becker, this being his only feature film after a bunch of episodic TV shows, the film is slow, the plot is weak, and not much to recommend here.
Santo in the Treasure of Dracula (1969) – Strangely enough, this was the first time in our Turkey Day history that El Santo makes an appearance. Not sure why, other than maybe I’ve been watching a lot of his films as of late and am becoming a bigger and bigger fan. No wonder he was a hero in his home country. I can’t imagine a young boy who loved wrestling and monsters and seeing both of them come together in films like El Santo did! So much fun and yet he made them with a message, always fighting for the good of his fellow man. Sure, might sound a little cheesy, but again, aimed at the right audiences, I think it had a positive effect.
Another reason I chose this film is that it had recently been released by VCI Entertainment which has it only as the dubbed version, which is why it quickly went into the Turkey Day mix. The dubbing makes it just so damn funny. Plus, this release is the color version that has a ton of gratuitous nudity in there. I mean, this damn near redefines the word “gratuitous”! None the less, when you have time machine that you just whipped up apparently, Count Dracula and his minions of evil, along with plenty of wresting in and out of the ring, it is just a hell of a lot of fun.
Santo has invented a time machine (no big deal) and sends his assistant back in time to one of her ancestors, at the time when they just happened to be dealing with Count Dracula . . . sorry, Count Alucard. If Mike Myers or someone in his production team didn’t see this film before he did his Austin Powers sequel, I’d be amazed. Once the story goes back in time, you almost forget it’s an El Santo movie because they are just watching what is going on a monitor!
If you’re not familiar with El Santo’s work, this is a great place to start, for Turkey Day or any time.
A Day of Judgment (1981) – Not sure how this one slipped through my fingers back in the ‘80s but I had only recently watched this for the first time and knew right away it was perfect for this event. Produced by Earl Owensby, a name we visited for the first time in 2017 with his period film Wolfman (1979), except this time, Owensby is just a producer in this religious tale of what happens when you partake in those deadly sins.
A small town in the Midwest, set somewhere in the ‘20s, is pretty much filled with a bunch of bastards who seemed to love to screw over their neighbors, either trying to take their land, screwing their boss’s wife, to kicking your parents out of their own home to put them in an institute. Pretty nasty stuff here. But there is a mysterious stranger wandering about town, in a long black robe carrying a scythe, coming upon each one of these deviant citizens and showing them the errors of their way.
The film is filled with actors that are giving their all, some maybe a bit too much, but you have to get the production credit for not only having a huge cast, but also making the town really look like one from the ‘20s, including the cars for that period. Directed by Charles Reynolds, his one and only film, does an okay job here but it does seem to be a little too over-the-top, in both the acting and storyline. In other words, prime material for Turkey Day.
Bloodstream (1985) – Up until about a month before T-Day, I had never heard of this film, or it’s writer/director Michael J. Murphy, proving once again that no matter how long you are horror fanatic, you’re always going to fun something new. This is a UK film, shot on video, and made during the whole Video Nasty campaign that was going on over there. It’s very low budget but very gory, pretty damn violent, and even pretty messed up when the main character pours gas or something on a dog and sets it on fire! Somehow though, it had gone under my radar until a friend of mine sent it to me and I knew it would be at the next marathon.
The basic story is after a director turns in his completed film, the producer trashes it and fires him, telling him he’s just wasted his time and money, and that he’s just useless. After the director leaves though, the producer quickly goes about selling the movie, knowing he’ll make a killing off of it. When the producer’s secretary confides with the director, they form a plan for revenge.
In between all of this, while the director sits at home brooding over being fired, he keeps putting in different movies, which we’re not sure if they are the ones he has made or not, but they are all pretty shabby quality, but pretty damn fun to watch. From mummies to a wolfman to zombies, you’ll see everything in here. Some of the kills are pretty entertaining, some actually even well filmed. But be warned about the previously mentioned part with the dog. Not that it is shown onscreen, it’s still pretty fucked up.
Turns out that Murphy cranked out a bunch of films from the ‘80s into the 2000’s, and I would make a guess that the quality of them hasn’t changed. Who knows, I could be wrong, but what I do know is that this title is a perfect edition for Turkey Day. Damn shame nobody has put this on Blu-ray!
The Hideous Sun Demon (1958) – We decided to close out the marathon by going back to the early days of ‘50s and finish with a favorite of mine, co-written, directed, and starring Robert Clarke. He plays a scientist who gets a little too close to his experiment which makes him transform into a reptilian sort of creature when he is exposed to the sun’s rays for too long.
I first became aware of this title by seeing clips of it in It Came from Hollywood (1982), which is a perfect place to look if you’re planning your own Turkey Day marathon. It’s actually a decent film, even with the very low budget. It is the range of acting that is what brings it down a bit, both going over the top to not giving too much of a performance, but it is still a lot of fun. Pay attention to the blonde while playing piano, especially how much one arm moves while the other doesn’t.
Major kudos to Clarke for having so many jobs on this production but still making it happen. Because they couldn’t even afford a double for him, that is really him inside the costume running around. Talking about going the extra mile!
So that ended Saturday’s screenings. On Sunday, semi-regulars Gavin Schmitt and Bryan Martinez showed up for a continuation of madness! We did screen Man Beast, Santo in the Treasure of Dracula, and Bloodstream but did change things up a bit after that.
Fatal Frames (1996) – A repeat viewing for Turkey Day and wasn’t on the menu at first, but because Gavin had never seen it before, Martinez still loves it, and I really didn’t want to watch all the same movies I had just watched the previous day, I was fine watching this one. And you know what? It still hasn’t gotten any better! Maybe if you were to cut it down to a crisp 70-80 minutes, it might be okay.
Dear Dead Delilah (1972) – This was originally on the schedule for yesterday, but we just didn’t get to it. So, I figured we might as well get it in one of the lineups! This is the only film directed by novelist John Farris, who wrote the novel The Fury that the film was based on. He wrote the screenplay for this as well, but it looks like filmmaking wasn’t his forte. Again, not a terrible film by any means, being a pretty decent killer on the loose in a family home where everyone hates everyone else, but all do their part to get part of the inheritance or hidden money rumored to be somewhere on the property.
The film starts off with a young woman murdering his mother before taken to the loony bin. Years later, she’s released and somehow ends up being a caretaker of Agnes Moorehead, the wheelchair bound matriarch of Charles family. As she antagonizes the other members of the family staying there, you can only imagine why they are not all crazy.
Since it came out in the early ‘70s, it has a gritty, almost drive-in exploitation kind of feel to it, which I actually found pretty entertaining. The poster shows a headless body which the film does deliver on that promise!
After two days, 11 films and too many pizzas, Turkey Day in May 2022 was done and over! As I said in the beginning, it was an interesting concept to attempt this time around, but it will be the last Two-Day Turkey Marathon. That being said, it was a lot of fun to get back to watching movies with good friends, enjoying the constant stream of amazing pizzas from my wife, Dawn, and to just be able to be in the same room with fellow demented cinephiles that love nothing more than to enjoy these types of films. For their continued support over the years, I do consider myself incredibly lucky to call them my friends.