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Image Entertainment presents
Arch Hall Jr. Double Feature: Wild Guitar/The Choppers (1962/1961)

"You want Bud Eagle for $500? You're talking crazy!! He's the hottest thing in thecountry! $5,000 is more like it!"
- Mike (Arch Hall Sr.)

Review By: Dan Lopez   
Published: March 25, 2002

Stars: Arch Hall Jr., Nancy Czar, Cash Flagg, Arch Hall Sr.
Other Stars: Marianne Gaba, Tom Brown, Bruno VeSota
Director: Ray Dennis Steckler/Leigh Jason

Manufacturer: WAMO
MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (mild violence)
Run Time: 03h:34m:12s
Release Date: March 26, 2002
UPC: 014381119923
Genre: cult


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
B- CA-B B+

DVD Review

Image and Something Weird's new Wild Guitar/The Choppers double featureshowcases two classic, early 1960s films from the infamous duo of Arch Hall Jr. and Arch Hall Sr., along with their occasional (and equally infamous) cohort, Ray Dennis Steckler. They may not have produced many films together but those they did remain some of the most memorable, charming, and downright bizarre films of that period. Out of all of the strange and downright bad movies I've seen from the 1960s and '70s, the Halls/Steckler works stand out as being somewhat more entertaining than the norm. Before Steckler branched out more on his own (making such cult-classics as The Thrill Killers, The Incredibly Strange Creatures Who Stopped Living And Became Mixed-Up Zombies, and The Lemon Grove Kids Meet The Monsters), he worked in various capacities with the Hall clan, and his first directorial effort was Wild Guitar; a film made almost concurrently with another Arch Hall classic, Eegah!.

Guitar features Arch Hall Jr. as Bud Eagle, a down-on-his-luck singer/songwriter who dreams of making it big when he gets to Los Angeles. Once he arrives, however, he discovers that he barely has enough money to buy a cup of coffee. In an amazing stroke of luck, he meets Vickie (Nancy Czar, with all the charm of a propped-up log) who happens to be performing as part of a television talent show. She invites Bud to show up, hoping that the producer might want to use him for something. An astronomical coincidence occurs when a scheduled act gets sick, causing the producer to allow Bud to sing on the air in front of thousands of people. After we painfully make our way through his song (personally performed by Arch Hall Jr.), he is instantly signed by the sleazy Mike McCauley (Arch Hall Sr. starring under his pseudonym, William Watters), who claims that he'll make him a big star. Things go fine, until Bud soon realizes that Mike is actually involved in all sorts of shady, illegal activities to promote his artists. Why you'd need to resort to the dark realm of underworld crime to promote a boy-band is beyond me, but he does it anyway.

Bud starts to get a clue about how "funny" Mike is when he meets the mean side of his label's henchman, Steak (as played by Ray Dennis Steckler under his pseudonym Cash Flagg). It's your typical showbiz exploitation flick, except for the erratic and incredibly weird direction by Steckler. The man certainly has a unique vision (as anyone who's seen his later works can attest to), and Wild Guitar is the most unique of Arch Hall Jr.'s sad attempts at being a big movie and music star. Even though the acting is horrible, Steckler's spastic editing and surreal insertions of unrelated scenes and humor are really what drive this movie. His ambition to be totally unconventional can be felt all over the film and, to a degree, I respect that. While his insanely awful (but very entertaining) monster movies made after this are landmarks in their own right, Wild Guitar is most likely Steckler's best film simply by virtue of him trying to take a tired, worn-out genre (the boy-from-nowhere-becomes-a-corrupted-teen-idol) and shake it up. It's painfully low budget (unlike most Arch Hall Sr. productions), but more charming and likable because of that.

The second feature on the disc is relatively short (it's only about 55 minutes), but isprobably the corniest of the Hall family projects. Entitled, The Choppers, it's a cautionary tale about youth gone wrong. In the same vein as an educational filmstrip or After School Special, it tells the story of how stealing car parts and living life as a casual thief will eventually do you in. As thieves go, Cruiser (Arch Hall Jr.) and his band of ne'er-do-wells are pretty dim-witted, heisting parts from cars using a large poultry-shipping truck as a cover, thus leaving chicken feathers at the scenes of the "chop" sessions. Bruno VeSota (who seems to be in at least 1 of every 5 B-movies from this time period) plays Moose, a junk dealer who employs the kids to steal stuff for him. Once the cops start getting suspicious of his business, Moose leaves the kids on their own with lots of hot goods. It would seem the director, Leigh Jason, knew that Hall Jr. was such a lousy actor, he surrounded him with much better, more charismatic actors to play the rest of the delinquents; although they're still just the usual, slang-talking stereotype as is typical of these movies. Still, it's not that bad a movie for the time. It's nowhere near as cheesy and badly filmed as the norm, and comes off as serious without being too ridiculous.

Arch Hall Sr. does show up in a small, uncredited part as a journalist who's trying to get the public aware of how ignoring kids will cause them to become these kinds of criminals. One of the films most negative gimmicks is the usage of Playboy Magazine's Miss September 1959, Marianne Gaba, as the "assistant" of an insurance investigator helping the police. She's brought out to distract the male audience and be ogled at by the characters in the film, then she's instantly shooed away into a car or building. I guess they figured the dads in the audience wouldn't pay attention to JUST an important moral lesson. In any case, the combination of both Wild Guitar and The Choppers is a good one since it pulls out the most watchable of the Hall family films. As fun and goofy as their other efforts are (like Eegah! and The Sadist), these are, overall, two of the better films from that era.

Rating for Style: B-
Rating for Substance: C

 

Image Transfer

 One
Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Ratioyes
Anamorphicno


Image Transfer Review: The transfers here are, simply put, pretty darn amazing. Both films are shockingly clean (other than some damage on the credit sequences) and showcase loads of fine,black & white detail. Wild Guitar is the better print, and looks practially brand new; the mixture of fine source material and healthy transfer really speaks for the level of enthusiasm for the project on Something Weird's part, not to mention a transfer of their quality VHS work to the DVD medium. The Choppers has a little more damage here and there (scratches, etc.), but also looks virtually pristine. The compression on both films is impressive; keeping up fine detail even in the darker and more gray portions of the films.

Image Transfer Grade: A-

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
MonoEnglishyes


Audio Transfer Review: The audio on the entire disc is single-channel mono, which is extremely clean and clear. The frequency range is impressive given the age and format. It won't blow your mind, but it certainly reproduces all the fine details of the original audio without any complaints or issues; these are superb mono mixes. On a few occasions, source damage causes some flutter and fade-outs, but these are brief.

Audio Transfer Grade: B

 

Disc Extras

Static menu
Scene Access with 22 cues and remote access
2 Original Trailer(s)
6 Other Trailer(s) featuring The Beatniks, Married Too Young, Rat Fink, TeenageZombies, Wild Love, Wild Ones On Wheels!
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extra Extras:
  1. Three additional short films.
  2. Trash-O-Rama gallery with radio advertisements.
Extras Review: Beyond a wonderful gallery of trailers for other, similarly-themed films from the age, there are three short films included. The first two are Dance Craze! and Twist Craze!, both of which are examinations of teenage dance crazes, but not in a cautionary way. Rather, these shorts are just humorous little pokes at the culture and both of them, oddly enough, feature the involvement of producer/director Bill Rebane (The Giant Spider Invasion, need I say more?). The third short, entitled Hot Car, is a police training film (good as well as for everyday people) about spotting car thieves and stolen cars. There are some good, unexpected laughs, and is a wonderful, dated slice of history. It runs about 25-minutes; the longest of the three shorts. The video quality for these shorts is as good as can be, despite some damage to the source and a few tape glitches (the transfers of the dance films are analog it would appear). The Something Weird Video watermark appears on the shorts, but is a necessary evil and is basically unnoticable. Things are rounded off by a fantastic video gallery of old horror andexploitation film posters and newspaper ads set to a variety of radio clips fordrugsploitation/juvenile deliquency-style films. This reel runs about 10 minutes. Theoriginal, classic Something Weird intro reel DOES run after the FBI warning, so for those of you who want to see clips from a whole bunch of SWV classics, don't skip right to the menu.

Extras Grade: B+

 

Final Comments

Chalk another excellent B-film preservation disc up to Image and Something Weird. These films are, in many ways, more entertaining then attempts at similar projects done in a more modern style. The genres never change, but the technique certainly does. I enjoyed this disc, and would like to see someone try to get more Ray Dennis Steckler films out on the DVD market with this kind of treatment.

 


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