Thursday, August 29, 2013

Betty the Bombshell

  Here's a Rock Baker rarity, my first attempt at a cheesecake cartoon (many years ago). This comes from a single issue experiment I did called Victory Comics "1942" and Betty the Bombshell was one of my back-up strips. The book was done by drawing the panels individually, scanning them, then doing a layout with a publishing program that let me add the letters. This was printed off into a proof and that was then scanned to create the final page! I had no idea what I was doing, really (my grasp of the human form has certainly improved since then!), and I worked with what art tools I had at the time (which means I did 'tones' by using a marker that was almost out of ink). Betty's story ran two pages.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Video Cheese: SCREAM FOR HELP (1984)

Note: this piece has been edited from a review earlier posted at and has been re-printed here by the kind permission of Mr. Ken Begg.

SCREAM FOR HELP (1984 - color)

The short version: "A 17 year old girl thinks her step-father is out to kill her and her mother."

The full story:
   Now, obviously, there's a lot you can do with such a basic concept of having someone in the house that you feel might be a danger. You, being the only one who can see it, can't convince anyone else of the danger, so you reach a crossroads. Do you go along with the others, try to see things from their point of view, or take action to prevent what you believe is inevitable? It's a very primal idea, and one most every child of a step-parent has at one time or other felt. Knowing the power of this situation, any number of films have used it as a set-up for suspense (the subject of fear being everything from a step-parent to a babysitter, to a family doctor, to a literally unearthly duplicate of a loved one). 

   It works well because, on some level, it's just all too easy to sympathise with. 

   All in all, SCREAM FOR HELP is not a bad flick. Not terrific, but a workable suspenser. 

   The plot is simplicity itself: a girl thinks her step-father is trying to kill her mother, digs into his activities, then believes she too has become a target.

   Unfortunately, they don’t do everything they could have done with this material. The biggest problem is that they made the cast so un-likeable.

   Our main figure is 17 year old Christine Cromwell. She’s played by an actress named Rachael Kelly, who has a whopping three credits on the IMDB. This is a pretty big part for an unknown, and her delivery makes me think she may have come from the stage, and doesn’t yet know the finer art of acting for the camera. She’s not awful or anything, but she never really convinces us we’re not watching a movie. Pulling one even further from the story is that Kelly looks almost exactly like soft-core porno ‘actress’ Misty Mundae.

   Christine is constantly jumping back and forth between intelligent and stupid. She shows enough smarts to track down her step-father to spy on him and overhear vital information, but she never brings along a tape-recorder. Instead, she takes along a girlfriend to act as witness to one stake-out and ends up getting the friend killed. 

   (This friend, by the way, is introduced with a nearly full-frontal nude scene, and she’s also supposed to be 17. Up to that point, I thought this film had been shot for television, boy was I wrong!)

   In what I found to be the movie’s most repulsive scene, the friend notes prior to being run down on a country road that her boyfriend has impregnated her and she intends to get an abortion. While she hasn’t discussed this with her boyfriend, she’s sure this is what he’ll want.

   Later, the boyfriend is at Christine’s house, supposedly mourning. They sit next to each other and he tries to kiss her. She backs him off and he openly admits his actions are out of habit from being around his now-deceased bunk-mate. He starts to walk home, when Christine runs out after him, then invites him up to her room to deflower her. I REALLY could have lived without that bit. (This scene is here mostly so that when Christine confronts her step-father, he'll have some dirt on her. It's incredibly lazy scripting, and the pay-off isn't worth the minimal effort.)

   The step-father, Paul Fox (played by David Brooks) is a car salesman whom Christine believes seduced her mother Karen (soap actress Marie Masters, who comes off best, cast-wise) away from her true father and married her for the family money. Karen met Paul because she owned the lot where he (still) works (you’d think getting married to the boss of the company would advance you a bit, wouldn’t you?).

   Christine is awakened one night by the sound of banging on the pipes and goes downstairs to investigate. She finds Paul coming from the basement, although he says he was working in his study, which is clear across the house from said basement. Christine figures he was doing something sinister down there.

   The next day, a meter-reader is electrocuted, and Christine is convinced Paul rigged the fuse-box to murder Karen, so he can collect her money. Christine then decides to skip school and shadow Paul as he leaves work.

   I’ll avoid going into the full plot for the benefit of those who might wish to see the film. It’s not bad, and the last act is pretty good. I only wish we’d been given some more appealing characters. Paul is a jerk from the start, and Christine is too much of a drip to take seriously.

   In the end, Karen is the most likeable character and she isn’t given much to do. In better hands, this story really could have been something. A skilled director could even make the sleazy bits work to the film’s advantage. Ultimately, the final half of the film works best, when it becomes an action-based suspense movie. 

   Minus the hard R material, the film looks, feels, sounds, and plays like a tele-feature of the same period. Much of the first half even relies on music cues that sound like rejected themes for series openings. The result is a professional, but largely empty affair. It's the kind of film where most of it's mileage comes from it's concept, rather than it's execution. 

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Video Cheese: HIGH DESERT KILL (1989)

Note: This review is edited from a review which originally appeared at and has been reprinted here by the kind permission of Mr. Ken Begg.

HIGH DESERT KILL (1989 - color)

The short story: “Something is hunting the hunters in the New Mexico badlands.”

The details

   This was a real treat. It reminds one that TV movies used to be just as good as theatrical films. During much of the 70′s and 80′s, in fact, they tended to be better than theatrical offerings. TV products, after all, still had to adhere to a code of self-censorship, and thus forced more creativity from the makers of said films. (That’s not to say there couldn’t be some pretty nasty vapors wafting from the tube in those years, however.)

    I find myself wondering if this didn’t get a theatrical release, given that the box has a PG-13 MPAA rating. I’d never heard of the film before seeing the video box. I know that some TV movies did get theatrical screenings, often in other English-speaking countries. In addition, I suppose it could be considered pretty intense for a 1989 TV movie.

   I was nervous at first. Our premise has something to do with a creature from another planet, and the first thing we see is a pair of Indians stopping by the deserted ruins of an ancient pueblo. Monster movies featuring American Indians tend to be pretty lame, as they almost always go in that Indians-are-more-in-tune-with-nature-and-without-the-white-man’s-sin-and-so-they-can-commune-with-Martians direction where the aliens are really good guys. Fortunately, we avoid such an exercise, although it means killing off the Indians before the titles. Right off, I was tossed something unexpected, given the date on the film. In this case, being spared a mystical Indian movie, (remember back when Indians in movies were just human beings?). I was quite pleased by that.

   The first actual scene of the film didn’t inspire a lot of confidence either, as it was quite poorly acted and rather pedestrian in its writing. With the next scene, however, things really pick up in quality. The writing gets much better, for one thing, and the acting tends to be pretty good. (To be expected, really, with a cast of vets including Anthony Geary, Marc Singer, and Chuck Connors!)

   I’m tempted to think that the lame starter sequence was tacked on at the last minute and written by another author, given that the film could have started in the next scene and worked just fine. All this footage really does is offer a few lines for a woman who can’t act to save her life (the director’s wife, maybe?) as she tells her husband she doesn’t have a good feeling about his upcoming hunting trip.

   The film details an excursion into the New Mexico badlands to hunt deer. This annual trip is a tradition among a trio of friends, although one of their number has recently died and his nephew is taking his place. That right there shows you how novel this picture seems. Can you imagine a TV movie with hunters as the main characters (normal, intelligent characters, one even being a DOCTOR) being produced in the last 20 or so years? Can you imagine such a thing on the big screen within the last 10 or 15?

   Along the way to camp, they run across old timer Stan, as played by Chuck Connors (Yay!), the local tracker. Stan alerts our heroes to the fact that the game seems to’ve been spooked out of the area, by what it isn’t clear. First order of duty is to scatter the ashes of their late friend over the area he loved so much. During this, SOMETHING is watching them, and reading their thoughts……..

   I’m not sure how much to give away, as the film manages to go in unexpected directions frequently. That’s to the film’s credit, as is the fact that the story remains intriguing and never seems to be spinning it’s wheels. Each new scene builds on what has been established and fleshes out a very Outer Limits-y concept. Nice to see a film that builds upon itself rather than have a dry spot in the middle where you’re waiting for things to pick back up. Here was one story that kept me engaged the entire 90+ minutes.

   I can also honestly say that, for one of the very few times in my movie-watching career, I didn’t figure out the larger plot before the characters did! That’s not to say the show doesn’t have it’s blemishes. Obviously, the budget is restrictive and we must rely on the acting ability of our cast to carry us across the limited locations in which our story is based. It’s cheap, but thankfully it’s effective!

   I'd love to see more films like this. 

Friday, August 2, 2013

Betsy by Mala!

   The newest issue of Main Enterprises PRESENTS (issue 10) find Betsy the Bookwriter in flesh and blood form, thanks to the efforts of pinup/photographer Mala Mastroberte! Here're a few shots of Miss Mala as our gal Betsy!