This is the second of several of Thrilling Days of Yesteryear’s contributions to The Camp & Cult Blogathon, an event being hosted at my BBFF Stacia’s blog She Blogged by Night from September 17-28. For a list of participants and the camp classics/cult films discussed, you’ll find the “usual suspects” here. (Note: Unlike my previous entry of Seconds, I’m not going to provide adequate spoiler warning space—though there will be spoilers—because while I urge you to see Seconds if you have not already done so…these two turkeys can go to the back of the Netflix queue.)
You’re going to have to bear with me here. As a rule, I like horror movies. Admittedly, my tastes run toward those filmed in black-and-white and usually have Boris or Bela or Vincent in the cast…but I do like horror movies.
I bring all this up because I need to point out that I lack the credentials to be a proper horror connoisseur, like Dennis Cozzalio or Bill R. or Tony Kay—or blogs like Chuck Norris Are My Baby and The Lightning Bug’s Lair. There are a myriad of bloggers out there who can watch a horror movie and see all the nuances that no doubt will sail right by me, because if I’m not retching by then I’ve more than likely nodded off. If a recent fright movie has some good critical buzz, I’m certainly willing to check it out…otherwise, I’ll stay away as a rule. This brings me to this evening’s double feature.
Don’t Look in the Basement, was released…the first feature length film shot in Texas after the Texas Film Commission was formed in 1971. (I’ll bet the folks who voted on that would have voted differently if they had seen this film.) Brownrigg’s film was shot as The Forgotten (which I think is a better title), and was also released as Death Ward #13 and The Snake Pit (just don’t tell 20th Century Fox). Basement was released on a double bill with the infamous Last House on the Left (1972) by distributors Hallmark Releasing…proudly trumpeting that it came from the “makers” of that film (and as you’ve already guessed, neither director Wes Craven nor producer Sean Cunningham had anything to do with Basement) and using Last House’s successful ad campaign: “It’s only a movie…it’s only a movie.”
|As a rule, farm out your asylum sign to a reputable firm instead of letting one of the inmates tackle it.|
|"I don't think your Blue Cross will cover long-term expenses. I also need to mambo dogface to the banana patch."|
|Those of you who've often wondered where to place the blame for the blue eye shadow shortages during the 1970s...look no further.|
|"My name is...Oliver...W...Cameron...juror's consult...adjudicator of the court of appeals...doctor of jurisprudence...I own a mansion and a yacht."|
|Damn it, I said stop looking in the basement!|
|Sam's status as the film's "hero" was not in any way influenced by Night of the Living Dead, I'm sure.|
Scum of the Earth (1974), a film I have not seen but which has been described as a horror film in which a backwoods clan helps a young girl who’s being stalked by a killer. Three of the thesps from Basement appear in this film—Camilla Carr, Gene Ross and Hugh Feagin—and upon its initial release it did quite well…but it did even better when a sharp distributor re-released it in 1976 under the title Poor White Trash II (hinting that it was a sequel to a 1957 potboiler starring Peter Graves). Many Brownrigg devotees argue that both Scum and Basement are his best vehicles, but one Michigan newspaper critic apparently had it in for the filmmaker when he called Scum the worst film ever made. (“Time would be better spent watching a block of ice defrost in the microwave,” he wrote in his review. That’s gotta hurt.)
Don’t Open the Door!, entirely on location in
once again utilizing the services of actors Ross and Feagin, as well as Rhea
McAdams and Annabelle Weenick. Despite
the title, it’s not a sequel to Basement:
a young woman named Amanda Post (Susan Bracken) returns to her hometown of Jefferson, Texas on an errand of mercy when she learns
her Gran (McAdams) is deathly ill.
Thirteen years earlier (in 1962), Amanda’s mother was murdered by a
prowler…and is so often the case in these movies, the killer was never apprehended. Arriving at her grandmother’s house, she
finds a number of suspects—a corrupt judge (Ross), an incompetent doctor (James
Harrell) and a slightly creepy museum curator (Larry O’Dwyer)—all angling to do
the old lady harm because they want her stately three-story house for…some
reason or another. Ellerton,
|Feagin's character's name is "Nick"...and since he's a doctor, you know what that means. ("Hi, everybody!" "Hi, Dr. Nick!")|
|Admittedly, I did a lot of this, too while watching the film.|
|But for all my snark, I do think S.F. Brownrigg had some filmmaking talent.|
Keep My Grave Open, was made in 1976 (though some sources also say 1978), and features Brownrigg stock company player Camilla Carr as a looney tune living in a deserted mansion with a man who may be either her husband or brother. Brownrigg players Gene Ross, Annabelle Weenick and Jessie Lee Fulton are also among the cast…as well as two thespians that went onto bigger things, Chelcie Ross and Stephen Tobolowsky. With the exception of a 1986 teen comedy called Thinkin’ Big, Brownrigg’s brief directing career stepped aside for more financially stable work producing sports and hunting documentaries. S.F. left this world for a better one in 1996 before he got the opportunity to do his dream project—a remake of the Tod Browning classic Freaks (1932).