Worst Movies Ever Made

Scraping the Bottom of the Cinematic Barrel

CATEGORY: Comedy

Worst TV Variety Show Ever: The Wheeltappers and Shunters Social Club (1974-77)

71iGFPwoJBL_SL1077_cropTitle:  The Wheeltappers and Shunters Social Club (1974-1977)
Produced by:  Granada Television
Starring:   Bernard Manning, Colin Crompton, and a host of “turns”
Buy here:  Amazon UK

Sometimes when you look back at really bad old TV shows from the 1970s it’s hard to believe that millions of people once used to tune in to watch them on a regular basis. The fact that there were only three TV channels to choose from undoubtedly had a lot to do with this, but it’s still quite inexplicable that so many people would choose to spend their Saturday evenings pint in one hand, fag in the other, wallowing in the dubious pleasures of The Wheeltappers and Shunters Social Club.

Produced by Granada Television from 1974 to 1977, the series was set in a fictional working men’s club up North, with that most un-PC of comedians, the overweight, sleazy Bernard Manning, leering at the busty barmaid amid a blue haze of cigarette smoke while announcing a series of ever more awful “turns”. Manning’s fellow Comedians star Colin Crompton was the club chairman, ringing a fire bell every now and then and uttering spoof resolutions “On behalf of the Committeeeeeeeeee… I should like to tell you we made a mistake in offering the raffle prize of a diving suit. It is in fact a divan suite.”

According to Manning, Crompton had “less meat on him than Lester Piggott’s whip”. He certainly looked like he’d just given the undertakers the slip, but fitted right in with the rest of the punters, who were a remarkably unattractive bunch. The only sure way to tell the working men from the working women was the latter were drinking port and lemon instead of pints of Double Diamond.

wheeltappers6bAs for the aforementioned “turns”, they were usually performers whose careers were in freefall, the likes of Bill Haley and the Comets, Kathy Kirby, Freddie Garrity (dressed as a chicken) and “Two Ton” Tessie O’Shea, who could always be relied upon to get a sing song going with “Knees Up Mother Brown.” Some of the imported acts who’d seen better days were clearly bewildered at finding themselves on a tiny stage performing for pissed punters munching on peanuts and pork scratchings. Their embarrassment was often compounded by the introductions they got. You could see that Gene Pitney wasn’t happy when Manning announced:  “It’s a good job he was nice to me on the way up because I’ve just met him on the way down.”

Mixed in with the more well known performers were the kind of acts that would have been buzzed off Britain’s Got Talent in five seconds flat, including a female Charlie Chaplin impersonator and glove puppets performing card tricks. There was also a bloke in a gold lame cowboy jacket playing tubular bells and a kettledrum, and some lunatic wrestling a discordant tune from glass bottles. Was there no care in the community back in those days? German Oompah Pah Pah bands and middle-aged pianists were also popular, and crowd participation was not so much encouraged as insisted upon, especially when Bernard launched into an old favourite like “Show Me The Way To Go Home.”

Most of the old Wheeltappers and Shunters shows are available on DVD from Network, but for sheer toe-curling awfulness I’d have to recommend you check out Series 5, containing an oily Patrick Mower hosting the Miss Nightclub 1977 beauty contest. This is not something to put on for feminists. The judges are Alvin Stardust, Corrie’s Bet Lynch and that, er, highly respected MP, Cyril Smith!

Yes, it was indeed another country.

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Worst Movies Ever: Sex Lives of the Potato Men

51P3RAAX7EL_cropTitle:  Sex Lives of the Potato Men (
Directed by:  Andy Humphries
Starring:  Johnny Vegas, McKenzie Crook, Mark Gatiss, Dominic Coleman, Lucy Davis, Adrian Chiles, Julia Davis, Carol Harvey
Buy Here:   Amazon UK

When it comes to bad taste British comedy you can’t get any worse than Sex Lives of the Potato Men, a film that you may need to watch twice to ensure it wasn’t just a drunken dream you had when passing out after downing ten pints of Special Brew and eating a cold vindaloo.

The Potato Men of the title are Dave, Ferris, Tolly and Jeremy, who all work for a potato distribution warehouse in Birmingham. What unites them is they all keep their brains in their trousers.

Sleazy fat Dave (played by lager lout comic Johnny Vegas) is married with a kid, but he’s totally obsessed with porn. After his wife chucks him out, he dedicates himself to a life of “fanny, blow jobs, big tits, and beer”.

With this in mind, Dave looks up an old flame, a right old slapper who has seen better days but is well up for threesomes and group sex. Things don’t go quite according to plan though. The promised threesome turns out to be with another bloke instead of another woman, and when Dave turns up for the group session there are so many men waiting to have a go that he can’t get parked anywhere near her house. He has to take a ticket to guarantee his place in the queue.

To be fair, the threesome scene does yield some comical moments. Waiting in the bedroom for their female sex partner to arrive, Dave and the other guy bond over a discussion on how creaky the bed is. Rather than getting excited when the woman turns up in her kinky clobber, they put in a request for some WD40!

The lads then try to get busy ‘spit roasting’ the rather manky female but find the going hard, or not, so to speak. Ever the gentleman, Dave asks her if she has any porn to get them in the mood!

Dave’s workmate Ferris (McKenzie Crook) has an even sleazier sex life. Being totally skint, he is forced to live with his mother-in-law who for some inexplicable reason treats the skinny, shadowy-eyed lothario like a sex object. “My mother-in-law gave me a blowjob last night”, he tells Dave, who replies, “Mine gave me a fishing rod once.”

At one point Ferris manages to cop off with a girl from a chip shop (named ‘Fishy Fingers’). But while he’s giving her one in her own bedroom her obese peeping-tom hubby jumps out of the wardrobe. Far from being upset, he insists that they carry on for his viewing pleasure. In a later replay of the same scenario, the fat hubby tapes himself to the ceiling above the bed!

Tolly (Dominic Coleman) has never really recovered from his wife walking out on him. His favourite occupation is enjoying one off the wrist listening to sex lines while eating jam and fish paste sandwiches. At one point we see him doing this while Dave sits beside him on the sofa!

Jeremy (Mark Gatis) is the manager of the Potato Men and seems at first to be the most sophisticated of them – not that the bar is set high. He claims to enjoy wine, books and chess but in reality spends the majority of his spare time picking his nose and stalking his ex-girlfriend, sending her hate mail and kidnapping her dog.

The movie is filled with unattractive and desperate characters with no shame and no standards, who will do just about anything for sex, women included. There’s even an amorous granny who wants to give one of the lads a blowjob but asks him to stand on a chair because “I can’t get down there, what with my back.” Oh, and Adrian Chiles turns up as a sex party host.

It’s awful, yes, and Empire may even have been right as labelling it one of the worst films ever made. But if expressions like ‘fanny juice’, ‘pork sword’ and ‘beef curtains’ cause you to chuckle then you’ll probably enjoy it anyway, even though you know you should be deeply ashamed of yourself!

Worst British Sex Comedies: The Confessions Series (1974 -1977)

51YRZBQ4NZL_cropTitle:  The Confessions Series (1974 – 1977)
Directed By:  Val Guest, Norman Cohen
Starring:  Robin Askwith, Anthony Booth, Sheila White, Bill Maynard, Doris Hare, Linda Hayden
Buy here:  Amazon UK

The Carry On series was a British institution, packed with saucy seaside postcard humour and double entendres. You know what a double entendre is, I take it:  a busty blonde went into a pub and asked the barman for a double entendre once, so he gave her one.

The antics of Sid James and company were often a bit near the knuckle, so to speak, but in a resolutely ‘A’ certificate fashion. Then along came the Confessions of… movies. Rude enough for an ‘X’, they were a natural progression from the Carry Ons, arriving on the scene in 1974 just as the pun-filled antics of the Carry On crew were looking increasingly outdated.

Based on pulp novels by Christopher Wood, there were four Confessions movies in total, and they all starred Robin Askwith, who had done his comedy apprenticeship with Sid in Carry On Girls and the movie of Bless This House.

Askwith admits he got the part of the film’s amiably gormless, mop-haired hero only after every other eligible young actor in Britain had turned it down – including Nicky Henson, Dennis Waterman and Richard Beckinsale. He recalls he got the princely sum of £1,750 for his labours, which sounded pretty good back in 1974.

However, Robin found that he was expected to work hard for his money. “We would shoot three versions of all the shagging scenes. The ‘A’ would be totally starkers, the ‘B’ would be bra and pants, and believe it or not the ‘C’ version was fully clothed. With retakes and what have you, I estimated that I shagged 864 times per movie!” A dirty job, but someone’s got to do it, eh?

You can groan at the bad jokes and the childish slapstick to be found in Window Cleaner, but it hit the target as a classic example of the kind of broad working class comedy that was all the rage in those days of On The Buses and Love Thy Neighbour. In fact, it quickly became the biggest British moneymaker of its year, which probably also illustrates how chronic a state the British film industry was in 1974!

confessions_of_window_cleaner_poster_01_cropThe films may all be rubbish, but Askwith was perfectly cast as Timmy Lea, a slack-jawed innocent who finds he’s irresistible to women once he gets up a ladder with his soap suds and chamois leather. Unfortunately the one woman he does fancy (played by Askwith’s long-time real-life girlfriend Linda Hayden) proves a bit more difficult to get between the sheets. The movie also featured Cherie Blair’s dad, Tony Booth, as Timmy’s lecherous brother-in-law Sid Noggett.

Askwith points out that the first film’s director/writer Val Guest (The Day The Earth Caught Fire) played a major role in the success of the initial film. “It would have been nowhere near as good with anyone else directing,” notes Robin. “Crumpet was Val’s hobby you might say. He was a man let loose in his own fantasy world – and loving every minute!”

It wasn’t long before Timmy and Sid returned in Confessions Of A Pop Performer. “I’d love to handle your PR” says a sexy advertising lady. “Do you mean my pr…ick” comes back the witty reply. Yes, the sophisticated double-entendres and farcical bedroom capers were well up to standard as the lads took on the task of managing a no-talent rock band and ended up causing chaos at the London Palladium. Among the celebrity crumpet on show: Jill Gascoigne (C.A.T.S. Eyes) and Rula Lenska (Rock Follies).

confessions_of_a_driving_instructor_poster_02_cropThe third in the series, Confessions Of A Driving Instructor brought a guest appearance by OXO mum and latter-day Loose Women member Lynda Bellingham, who titters “How rude!” when her boob pops out. Here Timmy and Sid start a driving school and find that most of their amorous clients are far from being learners. The broad humour of the piece is summed up in the sequence where our hero gets his wedding tackle caught in the zip of his jeans and shouts… “Ouch! I’ve been arrested by the fuzz!”

The fun ended with Confessions From A Holiday Camp, in which Timmy and Sid pitch up as entertainers in the kind of holiday establishment that makes Butlins look like Barbados. With a theme song by The Wurzels and everyone trying to look cheerful while sitting round a swimming pool in freezing British weather, this was relegated to a limited release and put paid to the chances of the seemingly inevitable Confessions Of A Plumber’s Mate – which later became a stage show instead.

Askwith personally believes the series floundered not because it was rubbish but because Timmy Lea never really cracked the American market. “They had Deep Throat and they and Mary Tyler Moore- and nothing in between. America was basically a puritanical society, very high morals on the surface. My arse going up and down didn’t really fit in anywhere!” he laughs.

It’s not an image we like to dwell on.

The man who Loaded magazine once called “The Greatest Living Englishman” is still working these days and has recently turned up in the likes of Benidorm and Coronation Street. But he admits the spectre of Timmy Lea and his soapy chamois still haunts him.

“I was on a plane recently,” he said, “and this man came up to me and said, “I have to wear glasses thanks to watching your films!’”

So don’t be surprised if the next time you see randy Robin he has been recruited as the public face of Specsavers.

The Confessions films are available as a box set from Universal.

Best Worst Sit-com: Love Thy Neighbour (1972-76)

514NE0wO_oL_cropTitle:  Love Thy Neighbour (1972-1976)
Written by:  Vince Powell & Harry Driver
Starring:  Jack Smethurst, Kate Williams, Rudolph Walker, Nina Baden-Semper, Tommy Godfrey, Keith Marsh
Buy here:  Amazon UK

You can see endless reruns of most old TV comedy shows these days on channels like Gold and Dave, but conspicuous in its absence is Love Thy Neighbour. Made in the less enlightened days when PC meant friendly old Dixon of Dock Green, the aim of this lowbrow, working class sit-com was to poke fun at bigotry, and when it succeeded it was a hilarious guilty pleasure.

Clocking up 57 episodes and a spin-off feature film, the show starred Jack Smethurst as Eddie Booth, a dim-witted Labour-voting slacker married to long-suffering Joan (Kate Williams).

In the first episode, originally transmitted back in April 1972, Eddie goes round to welcome their new neighbours. Seeing a black guy and a white guy humping in a sofa he naturally assumes that the white guy is his new neighbour, not the removal man.

Of course Eddie gets the shock of his life when he discovers he’s now going to be living next door to a black couple, Bill and Barbie Reynolds (Rudolph Walker and Nina Baden-Semper). And as if it wasn’t bad enough Bill being black, it turns out he’s also a bloody Tory!

The show’s scriptwriters Vince Powell and Harry Driver were old hands at the sit-com game, having created such hit shows as George and the Dragon, Bless This House and For The Love of Ada. Their intention here was to show how ridiculous a thing racial prejudice was by getting people to laugh about it.

The timing was right for this and it proved a huge hit in an era when Britain was struggling to come to terms with its recently arrived population of black immigrants. At its peak the series was getting around 17 million viewers, who rolled about in their armchairs laughing when Eddie referred to Bill as “Sambo” or “King Kong,” and Bill called Eddie “Snowflake” and “White Honky”. Another favourite slur of Eddie’s was telling Bill to “Get back on the marmalade jar!” What a shame

Regular cheap chuckles also came courtesy of Eddie’s drinking pals Arthur (Tommy Godfrey) and slow-witted, tight-fisted Jacko (Keith Marsh), whose catchphrase “I’ll have ‘alf” really caught on with the public.

One of the most successful episodes is the Series 2 show where Bill convinces Eddie he’s the victim of a voodoo spell and that the only way this can be reversed is if Eddie dances naked round a tree at midnight, yelling “Pinky ponky, me white honky!” Of course a policeman turns up on his bicycle to witness this spectacle…

Putting aside the racist aspects, at least the series offered a plum role for Rudolph Walker – nowadays a regular in EastEnders – at a time when leading men roles for black actors were scarce. In an interview at the time he said: “Here are white men writing for blacks and there isn’t a touch of the Uncle Tom.” He also claimed that he saw no problem with the noisy disputes between Eddie and Bill because: “My arguments are as silly as his.”

The early shows managed to strike an even balance by mocking the bigotry that existed on both sides. The men usually came off looking stupid while their more sensible wives having to act as peacemakers. Later on, though, the jokes started to wear thin and the name calling just got monotonous.

Is Love Thy Neighbour the most racist sit-com of all time? I’d have to say no, because that dubious accolade surely belongs to Spike Milligan’s Curry and Chips – in which Spike played a blacked up character called ‘Paki Paddy.’ Spike’s show was actually taken off the air for being racist, and this was in 1969!

As for Love Thy Neighbour, it’s well worth a second look on DVD if you’re able to mentally adjust to the language and times. If you are, then as Eddie Booth would say to wife Joan, “the subject is closed.”

Ten of the Worst Box Office Flops Ever

51I64Byt3jL_cropDanny Dyer’s recent movie Run For Your Wife only managed to muster a box office take of just over six hundred quid in its brief and very misguided theatrical run, but since it looked like it only cost about five hundred quid to make the producers probably weren’t suicidal. Danny wasn’t too worried either, since he was pulling pints in the Queen Vic by then.

There are some movies, however, which have so much dosh poured into making them that if they flop they can completely ruin the careers of their directors and stars, and even in some instances bankrupt the studio that backed them – as was the case with the bloated 1980 western epic Heaven’s Gate. United Artists rolled the dice on this one and they came up snake eyes.

Heaven’s Gate director, Michael Cimino, was on a roll after the success of The Deer Hunter, but he basically pissed on his chips (as they say in Tinsel Town, well Vinnie Jones does) overspending by $30 million and shooting 220 hours of footage to come up with what was called “an unqualified disaster” by respected New York Times critic Vincent Canby. Astute Vince also compared Heaven’s Gate to “a forced four-hour walking tour of one’s own living room.”

51yHeIaUDYL_cropIronically the movie was later praised by the likes of Martin Scorsese, but by that time UA was no more and a reconstructed Michael Cimino had salvaged what little was left of his reputation to team up with fellow plastic surgery fan Mickey Rourke on Year of the Dragon and The Desperate Hours. Kelly Lynch was one of the stars of the latter and recently revealed that Cimino wanted her to look like a drag queen in the film. “I didn’t know at the time that Michael was kind of … interested in dressing like a woman,’ she said. If only UA had known earlier that they were basically giving a shitload of cash to a modern day Ed Wood!

Another film that dragged a big studio to the wall and lined up the firing squad was Cutthroat Island (1995), which effectively put an end to Carolco, the company behind Rambo, The Terminator and Total Recall. Production problems spiralled the cost of this Geena Davis pirate epic to an estimated $115 million and Carolco got jolly rogered. It certainly put Hollywood off pirate pictures for a while, until Disney wisely signed up Johnny Depp for Pirates of the Caribbean.

Speaking of Disney, they have also made more than their share of megaflops in their time, which I suppose is appropriate for a Mickey Mouse outfit. John Carter (2012) wasn’t exactly a terrible movie, but it would have needed to make more than $600 million at the box office to repay its bloated budget. Only 63 movies have done this in the history of moviemaking, and John Carter wasn’t even in the race.

The failure of John Carter followed hot on the heels of Disney dropping even more filthy lucre on Mars Needs Moms (2011), an animated feature that proved the biggest box office failure in the company’s entire history. Walt’s accountants will probably now steer well clear of films with Mars in the title, but if I was them I‘d be asking how an animated film can cost $150 million to make and distribute in the first place!

81rrnkpeLHL_SL1500_cropThe strange thing is, nobody really knows when a movie is going to bomb at the boxoffice any more than they do when it is going to be a massive success. Look at the way Spielberg nearly got fired from Jaws, and even the stars of that one, Roy Scheider and Richard Dreyfuss, went to the preview screening thinking they were going to be witnessing a big budget disaster.

There’s also a famous story that when George Lucas showed his director mate Brian De Palma (Carrie) an early cut of Star Wars, De Palma told him it was bound to be a flop. Lucas became so convinced it would that he went on holiday to Hawaii with his good friend Steven Spielberg instead of attending the premiere.

The problem with blockbusters today is that it isn’t just the lolly that’s spent making them that disappears down the U-bend. You’ve got to add the many millions more spent on promoting them and all the tie-in tat flooding the market that nobody then wants to buy. Even George Lucas is not always on the money – remember Howard the Duck?

Nobody is surprised when a film that’s utter rubbish proves a loser at the box office, but sometimes even good movies can flop if they’re not marketed correctly. In many cases however these will recoup their losses on DVD, Blu-ray and digital download. A good case in point is 2012’s excellent and vastly underrated Dredd, which earned $41 million at the box office on a budget of $44 million, but earned so much money on home video that a sequel now seems likely.

Brad Pitt’s World War Z is another great example of a film that was expected to tank and duly did so, even though it wasn’t half as bad as we were all expecting. In the end, with home video sales factored in, it has gone on to earn a tasty $540 million against a production budget of $190 million, again prompting demands for a sequel.

What will be the biggest financial disaster of 2014? It’s a bit early to say, but Hollywood pundits are already predicting box office meltdown for the $150 million Jupiter Ascending, the new science fiction epic from the Wachowski Brothers, er I mean the Wachowski brother and sister.

Apart from the fact that their last movie, Cloud Atlas, ended up with red ink on the balance sheet, and their 2008 Speed Racer left skid marks in the underpants of Hollywood studio bosses, there are two further clues this might be a disaster… Firstly, the film was originally going to be released this July, and now it has been delayed until February of next year. Secondly, it stars Channing Tatum.

Similarly, great things are not predicted for the $125 million Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie, produced by Michael Bay and directed by the guy who gave us Wrath of the Titans (2012) and Battle: Los Angeles (2011). It stars Megan Fox, presumably because Meryl Streep wasn’t available. If this turns out to be a good movie, the pizzas are on me. As far as I can see it could very well figure prominently on the list below if we update it in 2015.

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1.  Heaven’s Gate (1980); estimated loss:  $120,953,664

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2.  Mars Needs Moms (2011); estimated loss:  $130,503,621

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3.  The Lone Ranger (2013); est. loss:  $95,926,537—121,237,25

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4.  Speed Racer (2008); est. loss:  $73,027,117

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5.  The 13th Warrior (1999); estimated loss:  $97,896,514—182,838,584

 

51WJC99GQSL_crop

 

6.  The Adventures of Pluto Nash (2002); estimated loss:  $96,448,014

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7.  Cutthroat Island (1995); estimated loss:  $88,741,339

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8.  R.I.P.D. (2013); estimated loss:  $90,837,890—114,837,890

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9.  John Carter (2012); estimated loss:  $108,610,950

91ayx8oxoJL_SL1500_crop

 

10.  47 Ronin (2014); estimated loss:  $149,518,762

Supervan – 1977 – George Barris, Morgan Woodward, Len Lesser

Supervan (1977)
Directed by: Lamar Card
Starring: Mark Schneider, Katie Saylor, Morgan Woodward, Len Lesser, Skip Riley, Bruce Kimball, Tom Kindle, George Barris, John Chambers, Cheryl Hepler

Supervan - Groovy  Titles - 1977

Super Vans of the 70s


Ah, the 70s. Pot, sex, hippies, CB radios, bad music, stagflation, and… totally super custom vans! Water beds, painted unicorns, shag carpets! That’s what SuperVan is all about, man! It’s 1976 (Bicentennial! Wooh!) and wouldn’t you rather be ridin’ high in your Super Van? Of course you would.

As Bob Stone (who?) famously sings: I don’t care if i’m not a wealthy man, cuz I’d rather be ridin high in my supervan!

This is sunshine at the front door, we have a bear report.
Smokey is eastbound I-70 and Oakland
Let’s close ‘em up and take em on down to double nickels!
Sunshine to Convoy: Our ETA to Freak Out way is 4 hours and 20 minutes.
We’re west bound with the pedal down and we’re doin it to it!

Clint (Mark Schneider) leaves in his van headed for the Van Happening “Freak Out” competition where he can possibly win $5,000. His dad is pissed because his kid isn’t interested in working the family business. Instead Clint wants to “do something.”

The Van (1977) – Connie Hoffman, Danny DeVito, Stuart Goetz

The Van (1977)
Directed by: Sam Grossman
Starring: Stuart Goetz, Deborah White, Harry Moses, Marcie Barkin, Bill Adler, Steve Oliver, Connie Hoffman, Danny DeVito

The Van - Title

Totally boss, stellar, and tubular!


The 70s. Bell bottoms, disco music, skating, prog rock, and, uh… vans! What did it all mean? What was in the air that drove people to levels of insanity where they actually thought that having a van was the end-all be-all of super-coolness? One theory I have is that it was the weed. Another theory is… well, I don”t have another theory, actually. Set in some California beach town, The Van is a 1977 time capsule about a total dweeb named Bobby (Stuart Goetz) who wants to buy a van, with all the options, and by options I mean water bed, 8 track, TV, mag wheels, cup holder. Wow. The idea is that with this totally cool rad van he”ll be able to score with chicks left and right.

Roller Boogie – Linda Blair, Beverly Garland

Roller Boogie (1979)
Directed by: Mark L. Lester
Starring: Linda Blair, Jim Bray, Beverly Garland, Roger Perry, James Van Patten, Kimberly Beck, Mark Goddard, Stoney Jackson, Christopher S. Nelson

Roller Boogie - Opening Title

It’s A Wonderland!


It’s 1979, year of the Iran hostage crisis, the energy crisis, and the Chicago “Disco Sucks” crisis. You don’t care, because you’re in Venice Beach, it’s a beautiful day, and you’ve got your quad skates on! Besides, Roller Boogie is playing down at the drive-in and your favorite skater Jim Bray is in it! I mean, you have all those Roller Skating mags with his mug all over ‘em. You think Hollywood doesn’t also have a subscription?

Yes, Roller Boogie, one of two 1979 cult skating disco classics (the other being Skatetown, U.S.A, naturally) featuring 70s actors well on their way to obscurity (and B-movie heaven). In this case it’s the adorable Linda Blair, everybody’s favorite possessed kid. She was doing fine after The Exorcist until she starred in Exorcist II – The Heretic, John Boorman’s beautiful failure that was the wrong exit ramp to Roller Boogie (and beyond).