Tag Archives: 1981

Rocks In The Attic #766: Harry Manfredini – ‘Friday The 13th Part II’ (1981)

RITA#766Jason’s finally here. He drowned back in ’57 but somehow he’s still alive and, two months after the events of the first film, has tracked down his killer mother’s killer, Alice, back to her suburban apartment. There’s no explanation of how he got there – did he take the bus, hire a car – nor how he managed to track her down, but he’s here to deal out some payback. Just don’t think too hard about the details.

In fact, maybe we should talk about the details. When we first see Jason, walking across the dark street towards Alice’s apartment, we only see his boots and the lower half of his legs. He’s wearing jeans, quite normal-looking, blue jeans. This isn’t the dungaree-wearing wild man of the woods we see later. In fact, it very much isn’t Jason at all, as this short insert was filmed with a female member of the crew standing in for Jason. In the first film, we expected the killer to be a man, but it was a woman; now we finally see the male killer, and his first appearance as an adult is portrayed by a woman. Mind blown!

RITA#766aAfter dispatching Alice, we cut to the kettle, whistling on top of the cooker. Jason’s hand reaches over and takes it off the heat. Every time I watch this film, I expect to see Jason force the side of Alice’s head down on to the hot element, and I catch myself agreeing that these movies are pretty gruesome. But then it doesn’t happen; my memory just tricks me. He just removes the kettle, because he…likes to keep a tidy kitchen?

Five years later, an intertitle tells us, the action moves to a camp near Crystal Lake for the rest of the film. The time-jump really throws a grenade into the timeline of the series, as discussed by Matt Gourley and Paul Rust on the excellent In Voorhees We Trust podcast. Bear with me…

The first film was shot in 1979 and released in 1980. However, a glimpse of Pamela Voorhees’ gravestone later in the series marks her death as the year of 1979, firmly placing that film’s events in the summer of that year. The five-year time-jump therefore places the events of Part II in 1984, three years into the future from its release date of April 1981. Part III and Part IV’s events both take place in the days following Part II, which allows the series to catch up a little, but then there’s another jump with Part V’s events taking place in 1989, despite being released in March 1985. I’d like to see Doc Brown chart this one out on a blackboard.

Back to Part II, and we find the businesslike Paul Holt opening a training camp for camp counsellors. We see Paul’s arm ringing the bell to call the other counsellors, and this is surely a red herring of a clue to the audience. We’ve already seen that Jason was dressed in a dark-check shirt when he killed Alice, and here we see Paul wearing a similar shirt. Is Paul the killer? The first film had a similar red herring, where we first see the killer drive a jeep, before seeing the camp leader Steve driving a similar jeep. These little details would have been really important when watching the film for the first time, but they just get lost in the picture when you’re re-watching for the hundredth time.

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I get this is now a quasi-futuristic film now, but the 1984 that this film imagines seems to be one where women don’t wear bras. The nipples on display, not to mention temptress Terry’s ass-cheeks peeking out the bottom of her cut-off Levis, are more suited to the eye-popping 3-D of Part III.

The other thing that pops out of the screen is the colour. I’m not sure if it’s better film-stock they’re using, or better-spec cameras, but this really looks like a typical Hollywood film after the muted tones of its low-budget predecessor.

Crazy Ralph makes a short return, but sadly doesn’t get to say “I FUCKING CALLED IT, MOTHERFUCKERS!” before he too is killed by Jason. With non-camp people like Alice and Crazy Ralph murdered early-on, and with the increased number of campers on offer, you’d be forgiven for thinking that Part II would easily surpass the first film’s body count of ten. But strangely, the film leaves half of the campers out drinking at the local bar while the finale happens. Ted (the nerd) is very much one of the main players, and his introduction in the first half of the picture ultimately leads nowhere as we last see him asking the locals where they can go after-hours. The body count comes in at a pitiful nine.

Jason is much less-scary when he’s on-screen. Once the Final Girl, Ginny, encounters him, he’s just a lumbering idiot. This is further supported by the fact that he’s seemingly wearing a pillow-case on his head. My tricky memory always remembers it as a hessian sack, but it’s actually a burlap flour sack. We glimpse a horrible blood-blister under his thumb at one point: one of the many ways the series would continue to show him as a despicably grubby individual. Ginny and Paul overpower Jason, and he ends up with a machete through his shoulder.

The film is one of the stronger entries in the series, with a decent cast and without some of the sillier moments of the later films. The soundtrack is just more of the same from Harry Manfredini, and that’s just fine.

One last thing to mention is the shrine we see at the end of the film, inside Jason’s makeshift cabin. Lying on the floor, next to the decapitated head of his mother are a couple of dead bodies, one of which is supposed to be Alice from the opening of the film. Man, it sure would have made an awkward conversation with the bus driver when he tried to bring that all the way back to Crystal Lake.

Hit: Keep A Cool Head (Main Title)

Hidden Gem: Return To Chez Jason / End Title

Body Count: 9

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Rocks In The Attic #757: Carlo Maria Cordio – ‘Absurd (O.S.T.)’ (1981)

RITA#757Absurd is an Italian horror film from 1981, originally released as Rosso Sangue (the literal translation being Red Blood) and directed by Joe D’Amato. It has also been released under the titles Anthropophagus 2Zombie 6: Monster HunterHorrible and The Grim Reaper 2, so take your pick really and call it whatever you want.

I have to admit, it’s one of the very few soundtracks in my collection I bought before seeing the film. There’s just something about an LP sleeve featuring a madman holding his intestines – AND HIS INTESTINES ARE EMBOSSED ON THE COVER, SPELLING OUT THE NAME OF THE FILM – that I just had to have.

RITA#757aI finally got around to watching the film last week. As with the majority of films on the UK’s video nasty list, it’s unbelievably awful. The acting is sub-standard, the dialogue is laughable, the English-language dub is handled terribly, and the whole thing just left me wanting less.

The film’s only saving grace – aside from Wes Benscoter’s awesome artwork – is the music score by Carlo Maria Cordio. Sounding almost like it could have been recorded by Goblin, or a Meddle / Obscured By Clouds­-era Pink Floyd, it’s a lovely slice of prog-rock. The soundtrack does sound very repetitive though. I’m pretty sure some very similar sounding cues are repeated, in Death Waltz Records’ attempts to ensure that all of the film’s music is captured; I would have been happy with a single disc rather than a double LP.

Hit: Seq 1

Hidden Gem: Seq 8

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Rocks In The Attic #747: Various Artists – ‘Sharky’s Machine (O.S.T.)’ (1981)

RITA#747Thank God I had a video recorder in my room, growing up. It might have been a top-loader – much to the amusement of anybody who saw it – but it did the job. It meant that I could tape films in the middle of the night, rather than staying up and propping my eyelids open. When a teacher asks you why you’re so tired in class, it’s never a good idea to say that you stayed up to watch The Eiger Sanction.

I would record anything that sounded exciting: anything starring Clint Eastwood, Charles Bronson, Burt Reynolds, Sylvester Stallone, Kurt Russell, Bruce Willis, Rutger Hauer, Harrison Ford, Chuck Norris, and so on. Thankfully, the action genre is a little more racially diverse these days; I essentially grew up on a diet of white dude action heroes.

An old favourite was always Sharky’s Machine, directed by and starring Burt Reynolds, very much at the top of his game. Reynolds plays Tom Sharky, a tough Atlanta cop who gets transferred to the vice department. There, he discovers a high-class prostitution ring, and slowly falls in love with one of the girls as he stakes out her apartment.

On a recent re-watch, I admit it’s not a great film. But there’s just something about American cop thrillers from the ‘70s and ‘80s that I adore: the cityscapes, the grittiness, and the endless banks of lit-up office blocks against the night sky. For me, a weak script and a few hammy acting performances can usually be overlooked, purely on the strength of the filming locations.

RITA#747bReynolds also oversaw the soundtrack, alongside producer Snuff Garrett. This move – with Reynolds directing and overseeing the soundtrack – almost makes him a proto-Tarantino character, with Reynold’s only real contribution to that universe being his appearance in Paul Thomas Anderson’s Tarantino-esque Boogie Nights in 1997. The other connection, of course, being the inclusion of Randy Crawford’s Street Life on both the Sharky’s Machine soundtrack, and the soundtrack to Tarantino’s Jackie Brown.

Originally the opening track on the Crusaders’ 1979 album of the same name, Street Life was originally a slower, 11-minute song featuring a guest vocal by Randy Crawford. The version recorded for the Sharky’s Machine soundtrack was recorded by Doc Severinson, who also composed the original score for the film, and is credited only to Randy Crawford. This shorter version of Street Life is far punchier and more direct than the Crusaders’ original, and is a stone-cold funk / soul gem.

The inner gatefold of the record shows a wonderful photo collage of the recording sessions, alongside publicity stills from the film. The liner notes read: For Sharky’s Machine, Burt Reynolds and Snuff Garrett have brought together some of the greatest jazz talents in history. This is followed by a detailed list of all the participants, most of which are unrecognisable to my uncultured eyes.

Hit: Street Life – Randy Crawford

Hidden Gem: Sexercise – Doc Severinsen

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Rocks In The Attic #726: Joe LoDuca – ‘The Evil Dead – A Nightmare Reimagined (O.S.T.)’ (1981)

RITA#726The soundtrack rights to Sam Raimi’s original Evil Dead from 1981 have been in a legal quagmire for a very long time. Whoever owns them has them locked away in a cabin in the woods somewhere, probably in the root-cellar. In a weird twist, the original composer Joe LoDuca owns his score, but not the rights to the original recording, and so a long-overdue reissue of the score seems about as realistic as Donald Trump achieving world peace.

This year, LoDuca and Mondo Records has given us the next best thing – a full re-recording of the score, in a disgustingly beautiful green, yellow and purple swirl vinyl with red splatter. Pitched as a ‘reimagining’ of the soundtrack, it sounds similar enough to the original score with the main difference being the orchestration, both in size and scope. It sounds bigger and brighter than it did back in 1981, the same but different.

RITA#726aThe Evil Dead was one of the first horror films I saw in my early teens. Alongside the Friday The 13th and Halloween films, Sam Raimi’s second full-length feature made a big impression on me. It wasn’t until much later that I realised that it also made a big impression on New Zealand filmmaker Peter Jackson, who took the film’s DIY special-effects ethos as the basis for his first feature Bad Taste.

I still love the first Evil Dead. It was improved on greatly in the 1987 sequel, itself more of a remake than a continuation, but the original still stands as a classic of its genre. The 2013 remake / reboot, which in a weird twist of fate (given the Peter Jackson connection) was filmed in New Zealand, was just a mess, a dirge of a film. Just like the root-cellar, avoid at all costs.

Hit: Main Title

Hidden Gem: A Nightmare Reimagined / Overture

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Rocks In The Attic #725: Chas & Dave – ‘Mustn’t Grumble’ (1981)

RITA#725Chas Hodges, one half of Chas & Dave, died earlier in the year. Strangely this has been the year where I’ve listened to more of the duo than any other time in my life.

About six months ago, while being slightly obsessed with an online pool and snooker video game (Hustle Kings on the PS4), I started listening to Chas & Dave’s Snooker Loopy on repeat. I love the song from my childhood. Is it the best song about snooker ever committed to record? It might just be. It’s definitely the best music video featuring the sport. Well, the best one with Dennis Taylor contributing vocals at least.

RITA#725aMy renewed interest in Chas & Dave led me back to probably their furthest reaching musical contribution – their work as studio men (guitar and bass) on Labi Siffre’s I Got The, later sampled as the backbone of Eminem’s My Name Is.

There was always a bit of ridicule levelled at the duo when I was growing up. For the longest time, they were the furthest thing from cool. I remember everybody laughing at a tour poster in the ‘90s that advertised ‘Chas & Dave Live In Concert* (*Not Original Dave)’. I’m sure they never went out of fashion in London though. This sort of knees-up Mother Brown music seems to be written in the DNA of cockneys.

This record is one of their better-known ones, featuring the single Rabbit, commonly trotted out as one of their best tunes. Looking at their discography, they were busy boys, almost releasing an LP a year from 1974 until the momentum started running out in the ‘90s and the schedule switched to a different compilation every other year.

Hit: Rabbit

Hidden Gem: I Miss Ya Girl

Rocks In The Attic #620: Bill Haley & His Comets – ‘Bill Haley 1927 – 1981’ (1981)

RITA#620What if Elvis had never happened? What if Elvis had walked into Sun Studios in Memphis in 1953, but was prevented from making his first recording for Sam Phillips by a city-wide power cut? Of if he was hit by a bus walking over to the studio? The whole future of popular music and teen culture might have changed into an alternate timeline that doesn’t bear thinking about.

Two years later, Bill Haley’s Rock Around The Clock turns rock and roll into a household name, but there’s no good-looking teen idol to pass the flame to (up and comers Chuck Berry, Little Richard and Jerry Lee Lewis are all killed in a package tour bus crash). Instead, teenagers across America turn to Haley for inspiration, as he signs with manager ‘Colonel’ Tom Parker. Tartan blazers become the hottest fashion accessory, and teens across the country turn to the emerging fast food restaurants to gain weight in adulation of their portly hero.

In 1957, Haley buys a large farming property, Graceland, between Memphis and the Mississippi border. A year later, Haley meets fourteen year old Priscilla Beaulieu and they marry after a seven year courtship. Haley becomes the most famous musician in the world, with his artistic credibility waning only after volunteering to join the army in 1958.

Throughout the 1960s Haley concentrates on acting and appears in a number of films celebrating middle-age. His return to music, the 1968 Comeback Special, renews public interest and reclaims Haley’s fanbase away from the British clarinet explosion of Acker Bilk. Dubbed the Fab One, Bilk had begun to alienate his global audience in recent years with music heavily influenced by his hallucinogenic drug use.

RITA#620aIn the 1970s, Haley becomes a staple of the Las Vegas casino scene. He switches draper jackets for white and gold jumpsuits, and it seems that his star will never fade with a million impersonators copying his gold wraparound sunglasses and kiss-curl hair-style. However, in December 1980 tragedy strikes when Haley is gunned down by an obsessive fan outside the New York apartment he shares with his Japanese wife, the artist Yoko Ono. Haley falls into a coma, and dies a few months later.

Haley’s legacy – the influential sound of rock and roll – can still be heard across pop charts to this day, and his lasting effect on fast-food culture is covered in Morgan Spurlock’s 2004 documentary, Super Size Me, a celebration of the age of American obesity.

Hit: Rock Around The Clock

Hidden Gem: Rip It Up

Rocks In The Attic #619: Bob James – ‘Sign Of The Times’ (1981)

RITA#619Here’s a sign of the times. I was watching Walter Hill’s 1978 heist film The Driver the other day; part of my ongoing fascination with Edgar Wright’s wonderful Baby Driver from this year. I was watching the film in bed on Saturday morning, and my four-year-old jumped into bed and started watching with me.

There’s a scene towards the end of the picture where Ryan O’Neal’s character steps into a phone-box in the train station to make a short call.

“Look – he’s getting into a lift,” Isobel said.

“No,” I said. “It’s a phone-box. He wants to call somebody.”

Thus began a short conversation around the wonders of modern technology, and the fact that in 1978 when you’re made arrangements with criminals, you couldn’t just call them on your Samsung Galaxy. She thought it was a lift / elevator simply because of its shape and the fact that he stepped inside it.

The simple phone-box has all but disappeared from our screens this century; it made a final death rattle in Joel Schumacher’s Phone Booth from 2002. That film seemed like the last preposterous variation on the ‘peril within a space’ movie trope kicked off by 1987’s Die Hard (peril in a building), and copied by 1992’s Under Seige (peril on a boat), 1994’s Speed (peril on a bus) and countless others since.

Try and think of the last time a character in a film – set in the present day – made a call in a phone-box. It’s virtually impossible, simply because it just doesn’t happen anymore. But before the advent of cheap mobile phones around the turn of the century, it was commonplace.

The phone-box used to represent a form of safety. I’ll never forget the opening credits to television’s The Equalizer, when the panicked woman ran from an unseen antagonist into the illuminated security of a phone-box. And what would Bill & Ted have used as a time-travelling device if phone-boxes weren’t around? (We may find out the answer to that question if the long-rumoured third film ever gets made – perhaps it will be a smart-phone after all).

I’m not sure what any of this has to do with Bob James, but it saves me writing about those horrible photos of him inside the record’s gatefold cover.

Hit: Hypnotique

Hidden Gem: The Steamin’ Feeling

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