A TALENT GONE TOO SOON: THE FILMS OF WILLIAM GIRDLER!

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A TALENT GONE TOO SOON: THE FILMS

 OF WILLIAM GIRDLER!

WIlliam Girdler 1947 – 1978

photo: williamgirdler.com

William Girdler was a low budget filmmaker who made nine movies between 1972 and 1978. They were B-movies, rip-offs and exploitation flicks, but they were entertaining and displayed a man with a love for what he was doing. Name actors of the era, like Austin Stoker, Leslie Nielsen, Christopher George and Michael Ansara, worked with him on more than one film. A few of his titles are now considered cult classics. He not only directed, but wrote six of the films he made, produced two and wrote the score for three films, two of those, his own. His directing career started out with two low budget horrors, Asylum of Satan (1972) and 3 on a Meathook (1972), which were both filmed in his hometown of Louisville, Kentucky.

What will this pretty girl (Sherry Steiner) find behind that door? 3 on a Meathook, perhaps?

His next three films were for prolific exploitation studio American International Pictures. They were Blaxploitation titles, The Zebra Killer (1974), the Exorcist rip-off Abby (1974), with William Marshall, and the Pam Grier detective flick Sheba, Baby (1975). Abby was on the way to big box office profits, on a mere $100,000 investment, when Warner Brothers sued to have it pulled from release, due to it’s similarities to William Friedkin’s classic. Girdler’s first five films were lensed in his native Kentucky.

The great William (Blacula) Marshall as Bishop Garnet Williams in Girdler’s Abby!

Girdler left Kentucky for the Philippines for his next film, the Leslie Nielsen action flick, Project Kill (1976). It’s the oft-told story of a lethally skilled soldier battling his protégée (Gary Lockwood). The film was an early Troma release. Girdler’s next two films were for Film Ventures International. They included the Jaws rip-off Grizzy (1976), his most financially successful picture, with a $39 million box office gross and the eco-horror Day of the Animals (1977).

The fifteen foot tall Grizzly from Girdler’s largest grossing film of the same name.

His final feature was for the legendary Avco Embassy Pictures and was The Manitou (1978) with Tony Curtis, Susan Strasberg, Michael Ansara and Burgess Meredith. The Manitou was his most expensive film, budgeted at an estimated $3 million and was released a few months after his untimely death. It also was a box office success.

Michael Ansara and Tony Curtis set out to battle The Manitou!

Sadly, Girdler’s career was tragically cut short, when he was killed on January 21st, 1978 in a helicopter crash in the Philippines, while location scouting for his next project. His films were getting better from a production standpoint and even he once commented on his hands-on learning experiences making these movies…

“Other people learned how to make movies in film schools. I learned by doing it. Nobody saw Billy Friedkin’s or Steven Spielberg’s mistakes, but all my mistakes were right up there on the screen for everybody to see.” (Louisville Times, 1977)*

It’s a shame that an up and coming filmmaker like Girdler had his life and career cut short. Many highly regarded film talents, like James Cameron for one, got their start on movies like these. We may never know what he would have accomplished, if not for that tragic accident, but he has left behind a film legacy that B-movie fans will always cherish.

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THE FILMS OF WILLIAM GIRDLER

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-MonsterZero NJ

 

Sources: Wikipedia, IMDB and WIlliamgirdler.com

*quote from WIlliamgirdler.com

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TOMB OF NOSTALGIA: BLOODY BIRTHDAY (1981)

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BLOODY BIRTHDAY (1981)

(Remember, clicking the highlighted links brings you to other reviews and articles here at The Movie Madhouse!)

1981 slasher may not be a good movie in the traditional sense of the word, but is a fun little flick about a pack of diabolical and homicidal ten year-olds. Flick opens in 1970 where three children are born at the exact same time during a solar eclipse. We jump to 1980 where their birthday draws near and the three have started on a murder spree in their small town. Curtis (Billy Jayne), Debbie (Elizabeth Hoy) and Steven (Andy Freeman) will kill anyone who stands in their way or just for kicks, including Debbie’s sheriff father (Bert Kramer) and her hot sister (Julie Brown). It’s up to classmate Timmy (K.C. Martel) and his older sister Joyce (Lori Lethin) to stop them…if anyone will believe them!

Co-written, with Barry Pearson and directed by Ed Hunt, this is a fun 80s slasher flick. It’s not an overly well made movie, it’s quite cheesy in terms of dialog and acting, but there is some fun from watching the over-the-top trio of murderous tykes. These kids are quite bloodthirsty and quite happy with themselves for their bloody acts. That’s what takes this horror delightfully into camp territory, the absolute glee these three kids show in planning and executing their kills. Just the sight of a ten year old packing a revolver with a deranged smile on his face is worth watching it for. That and how easily these ten year-olds continue to outwit adults and police, even in the killing of the town sheriff and one of their stricter teachers. It’s a lot of fun to watch them take out innocents and members of their own families, not to mention trying to finish off Timmy and Joyce, who are the only ones to figure things out. On a filmmaking level, there is little or no suspense, the dialog is laughable at times and the bloodshed is fairly minimal, but watching this pre-teen Murder Inc. is just a lot of cheesy 80s fun.

The cast make this fun too, especially the kids. As our three homicidal maniacs, Jayne, Hoy and Freeman all perform with over-the-top glee as they plot and carry out heinous acts for their own pleasure, or to hide their evil doings. Jayne and Hoy give their characters a true diabolical malice, though Freeman’s Steven comes off more as a lackey to the other two tykes. Lori Lethin makes a solid and pretty heroine as big sister to Timmy, who has been targeted by the sinister trio. Martel is good as Timmy who is just trying to make someone believe his classmates are literally out to get him. In support, we have a pre-MTV Julie Brown (the white one) showing lots of welcome skin as Debbie’s older sister Beverly and soon to be Cannon Films action icon Michael Dudikoff as Beverly’s boyfriend Willard. Veteran actors José Ferrer and Susan Strasberg have small roles as the kids’ doctor and ill-fated teacher respectively.

In a film making sense it’s not a very good movie, but as entertainment, this one is a lot of fun. We get three really evil bad seeds who gleefully kill with little provocation and do so often. We have an innocent kid caught in their crossfire with only his big sister to believe him, while adults and police remain oblivious. The gore and bloodshed are moderate, but there is some abundant nudity from a young Julie Brown before she became an MTV darling with her music videos and Just Say Julie show. It’s also very 80s and simply very entertaining all the more for taking it’s ridiculous story seriously.

Personal Note: Was it just me or was Debbie’s oblivious mom (Melinda Cordell) kind of a MILF?

-MonsterZero NJ

3 weapons of choice for a homicidal ten year-old.

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