Monday, July 14, 2008

11th July 2008: Ray Dennis Steckler/Del Tenney double #1!

Rat Pfink A Boo Boo

USA 1966 tinted b&w

aka Rat Pfink And Boo Boo

Director Ray Dennis Steckler Writers Ron Haydock, Ray Dennis Steckler

Cast Carolyn Brandt (Cee Bee Beaumont), “Vin Saxon”/Ron Haydock (Rat Pfink/Lonnie Lord), Titus Moede (Boo Boo/Titus Twimbly), George Caldwell (Linc)

Hola everyone, and welcome to the very first episode in the second season of Schlock Treatment. We kick off this year with a treat for long-time viewers who will recall our Invasion Of The B Kings month late last year. One of the featured filmmakers was Z specialist Ray Dennis Steckler, whose no-budget masterpieces included Wild Guitar, The Thrill Killers and The Incredibly Strange Creatures Who Stopped Living And Became Mixed-Up Zombies.

Well, those films look like a DW Griffith production compared to tonight’s first film: Rat Pfink A Boo Boo, from 1966. Our intrepid Orson-Wells-on-a-peanut-butter-sandwich-budget was flushed with the relative success of The Thrill Killers, and so decided to start work on his next film. He had $20, a few cans of film, and a partially completed script about three psychotic thrillseekers, picking a name at random from a phone book (who just happens to be CeeBee Beaumont, played by Steckler’s wife-slash-leading lady Carolyn Brandt) and proceeding to terrorize the living CeeBeeJesus out of her. This rather grim first act is livened up with a rock and roll musical number featuring Ron Haydock as singer and CeeBee’s boyfriend Lonnie; at this point Steckler decides to jettison the horror angle, throw Lonnie and CeeBee’s gardener (played by Titus Moede) into a closet, and have them emerge as costumed superheroes Rat Pfink and Boo Boo. I kid you not, they look like they grabbed the first things they found in the closet. Rat Pfink is wearing what looks like a ski mask, and I have NO idea what’s on Boo Boo’s head. Ladies and gentlemen, we give you what could be the most unlikely superheroes in all of Comic Land.

Yep, it’s a schizophrenic superhero psycho monster musical home movie. Did I say “monster”? Oh yeah, I forgot to mention Kogar “the Swinging Ape”, who also shares Steckler’s fascination with the delightful Carolyn Brandt. With its 16mm tinted film and post-synch sound it looks and sounds like a mess, and yet like all of Steckler’s early works, it’s an absurdist gem which is far too layered to be called na├»ve, and at a fraction of the cost of his other films, could just be his no-budget masterwork. You’ll find something to smile about, whether it’s Steckler’s psychotic Three Stooges, all madder than their own bag of hammers, calling at all hours with a deep voice asking for “CeeeeeBeeeeee Beaumont”, or Ron Haydock’s poolside theme singalong “You is a Rat Pfink, you is a Rat Pfink!” It’s the perfect way to segue into Schlock Treatment Season Two, as Steckler redefines the term “cheap and nasty” with Rat Pfink A Boo Boo.

The Curse Of The Living Corpse

USA 1964 b&w

Director/Writer Del Tenney

Cast Roy Scheider (Philip Sinclair), Helen Warren (Abigail Sinclair), Robert Milli (Bruce Sinclair), Margot Hartman (Vivian Sinclair)

Our next film springs from the well of B auteur Del Tenney, a well which unfortunately dried up fairly quickly in the early Sixties. Tenney was a former stage actor who had a minor hit on the drive in circuit in 1961 with his first film, a then-shocking horror called Psychomania aka Violent Midnight. A theatre owner contacted Tenney with an offer to bankroll half of a double feature, to be produced written and directed by Tenney. The result was picked up for distribution by 20th Century Fox and did the rounds for a solid year and a half, thanks to its two exploitative titles: The Horror Of Party Beach, and our next film tonight, The Curse Of The Living Corpse, a rare hybrid of American gothic with more than a nod to The Premature Burial, and a very vogue-ish Psycho slasher. Just imagine Alfred Hitchock slamming an axe into Edgar Allen Poe’s still-beating heart and we’re half way there (living on a prayer?).

It’s the 1830s, and Rufus Sinclair, brutish patriarch of the New England Sinclairs, has passed away under dubious circumstances. While alive he was terrified of being buried alive, and thus has stipulated in his will certain provisions to prevent him from being entombed while still kicking and screaming – or else a curse befalls his decendents, making them die in the manner they fear the most. And so would I: they’re a hateful bunch of ingrates, moochers, cuckolds and poster children for bad parenting. Amongst this shambling shower are the two sons – a hopeless gambler keen on getting his hands on both the family fortune AND the pouty blonde chambermaid, and the simpering Phillip (played by a very fresh faced Roy Scheider in his screen debut) - and Rufus’ long-suffering widow, perhaps the only sympathetic character in the film. And that includes the red-nosed Irish policeman called in once the body count starts to rise, dispatched in surprisingly graphic fashion by a mysterious black-cloaked assassin. To paraphrase the video cover of Eighties slasher film Unhinged: By fire. By axe. Bye bye.

Amidst the faux-Victorian melodrama, tacky wallpaper and imaginative b&w photography, there’s the fierce low-budget spirit of Del Tenney, and we here at Schlock Treatment applaud his noble attempt to create a horror film set in the 1830s out of a pittance. Beach Blanket Bingo fans will be pleased to hear we’re showing The Horror Of Party Beach in two weeks, along with Steckler’s Lemon Grove Kids Meet The Monsters. But for now there’s the period pains of Curse Of The Living Corpse.

1 comment:

Peter L. Winkler said...

You host an entertaining blog. I saw Rat Fink and Boo-boo on TCM a few months ago. It's as if Steckler started out making a serious film, because the three criminals seem genuinely threatening and dangerous.