Thursday, June 10, 2021


A young, and very thin, George A. Romero on set for his 1973 production THE AMUSEMENT PARK, a film that was long thought lost until it was found a few years back, and has now been cleaned up and released to Shudder, as well as playing at several film festivals and events. A 53-minute educational film initially made for the Lutheran Society, who ultimately shelved it after deeming it unsuitable, I've heard a few people exalt about THE AMUSEMENT PARK, with some saying it ranks amongst Romero's most disturbing works.

Sadly, I wasn't as taken by the film as much as many others were, and having watched it twice I would have to place it in the "interesting" rather than "excellent" basket. There's no doubt that the theme of the movie - aging, and how we get treated differently as we age - is an important one, and can be a thought more terrifying than any horror fiction, to many (most?) people. How deeply this movie affects you may depend greatly on your age when you watch it, and your own views towards aging.
As a fan of old educational and industrial films, I did enjoy the look and style of THE AMUSEMENT PARK. Romero captures some great shots here, not to mention lots of haunted, lost faces, and an effective overall ambiance of helplessness and gloom, and there's a few moments that absolutely recall his work within the horror genre (not to mention a little hint of what was to come with KNIGHTRIDERS several years later).
Of course, being a lover of old amusement parks, one aspect of the movie which I totally dug was all the great footage of West View Park in Pennsylvania, where it was filmed. West View had already been around for nearly 70 years at that point, and was only a few years away from closing its doors for good, so it's nice to see a lot of it documented. The Bat-Chute ride sounds cool, and likely a leftover from the mid-60s Batman craze.

Saturday, June 5, 2021


Tonight’s movie, via the new local Blu-ray release from Imprint. The first film to be greenlit by the infamous Robert Evans in his role as head of production at Paramount, THE PRESIDENT’S ANALYST (1967) is one of the greatest near-miss cult films of the sixties. It has never really enjoyed much recognition beyond a very small but devoted fan base, but hopefully this new Blu-ray will help change that. It’s certainly a hard film to easily define – it’s equal parts political satire, paranoia thriller, groovy spy spoof, and counterculture head trip, all captured through a strange, almost MAD Magazine-styled, lens.

Written and directed by Theodore J. Flicker (perhaps best known as the co-creator of the classic BARNEY MILLER sitcom), THE PRESIDENT’S ANALYST stars James Coburn, at the epitome of his 60s cool, as New York psychiatrist Sidney Schaefer, who is recruited to work exclusively as the personal analyst to the president of the United States. On call 24/7, it isn’t exactly the dream gig that Schaefer first imagines it to be, and he soon finds himself overwhelmed and exhausted by stress and paranoia, and the very real feeling that various local and foreign organisations are coming after him, all with their own agendas to either use him to influence the President’s policy decisions, glean whatever secrets he has learned from his private sessions, or simply to silence him altogether.

THE PRESIDENT’S ANALYST is one of those movies where the narrative continually dips between reality and paranoid illusions, and the soundtrack score by Lalo Schifrin (and the way it is mixed) provides an impressive and suitable sense of aural schizophrenia. Coburn is great, but Godfrey Cambridge, as the agent who recruits Schaefer for his important new role, is sensational, his opening scene in the movie being particularly potent and powerful (and certainly not the way you might expect the movie to begin). And its depiction of telecommunication companies being all-invasive and controlling seems scarily prophetic in retrospect.

Thankfully, this print of THE PRESIDENT’S ANALYST includes the original music by Barry McGuire, which was replaced due to rights issues on TV and early VHS prints. McGuire, well-known for his classic 1964 protest song “Eve of Destruction”, also has an onscreen role here, as the leader of a travelling hippie commune that Schaefer spends time hiding out amongst. Extras on the Imprint release include the original theatrical trailer, a video appreciation of the film by UK author Kim Newman (who interestingly compares it to the works of Philip K. Dick), and an audio commentary by film historian and writer Tim Lucas, a lifelong admirer of the film who provides a good balance of production information and analysis (I am intrigued and excited by his suggestion that THE PRESIDENT’S ANALYST contains the film debut of MANIAC’s Joe Spinell!).

Tuesday, June 1, 2021


The second issue of CINEMA OF THE 70s magazine is now out, featuring my article on ROLLERCOASTER (1977) amongst its contents. Full colour throughout, it's available within Australia from Amazon Au at the link below, other countries check the relevant Amazon in your region, it should be available in most locales. Like its debut, this should make for required reading for lovers of this great decade in film.



My review of the stunning new local Blu-ray release of THE KILLING OF AMERICA (1981) has been posted over at FilmInk. Clink on the link below to access. Congrats to Leon and those at Ex Film for putting such care into this release. A distressing and depressing, yet brutally honest and galvanizing piece of documentary filmmaking.



A recent true crime watch. I figured Gacy would be a logical choice for Netflix to cover given the spate of true-crime docuseries that they are turning out at the moment, but after a couple of episodes of this, I am figuring there would be little need for anyone else to try and redo the subject. Comprised of six 50-minute episodes, JOHN WAYNE GACY: DEVIL IN DISGUISE is certainly shaping up to be a comprehensive look into the life and crimes of this notorious killer of 33 teenaged boys during the mid-70s, the bulk of the bodies of which he kept buried in the crawlspace beneath his unassuming suburban Chigaco home.

A lot of this series is comprised of an extensive interview with Gacy himself, given in prison in 1992 and conducted by the late FBI profiler Robert Ressler. With Gacy's execution looming, the interview provides a terrifying but engrossing, and very important, psychological profile of a deranged homicidal mind, one that is in complete denial of any responsibilities for his actions. But there are also interviews with retired cops that worked on the case, parents and relatives of victims, and even the photographer who snapped many pictures of Gacy, including the infamous photos of him dressed up as Pogo the Clown. Not to mention plenty of original news footage and photographs.

There's also a rather distressing audio interview with Carole Hoff, Gacy's wife at the time he began his killing spree, who recalls her continual complaints to Gacy that there was a bad stench permeating their home, which she believed was caused by a dead animal under the house, never imagining the horrifying truth until after she had moved out and Gacy's stiflingly private homicidal life became public. There were likely some strange things going on with Gacy's late mother as well, who may have had knowledge or suspicions about her son's activities, but stayed silent to protect him. And I'm intrigued to see where the story leads in regards to David Cram and Michael Rossi, two 18-year-olds who worked for, and likely had sexual relations with, Gacy. They both claimed to have no knowledge of Gacy's murder spree, yet they were the ones who dug the holes in Gacy's crawlspace, where the bodies were buried, and they also accepted gifts given to them by Gacy that were taken from his victims, including a car, without asking any questions about where the gifts were coming from.