Something Weird Video offers up two of the most obscure, absurd, sexually depraved white trash soapers in this 1965 double feature.
Day of the Nightmare was directed by John A. Bushelman. Bushelman’s directorial credits are few, but he was a prolific editor of low budget cult trash. Cat Women on the Moon (1953), Frankenstein 1970 (1953, starring Karloff), the Sinister Cinema favorite Tormented (1960), and Village of the Giants(1965) are among his (ahem) “notable classics.”
Familiar B-actor John Ireland (who had an off-screen reputation rivaling Errol Flynn‘s) virtually sleepwalks his way through what amounts to a supporting detective role, despite receiving star billing. That leaves the rest of the acting chores to unknowns who, with one exception, are not up to the job. The direction and lighting is as bland and anonymous as the acting and the title, which is unfortunate because, despite lethargic execution, Day of the Nightmare teeters on the edge of having real sensationalist potential by mid 60’s film standards.
The plot is related to William Castle‘s more atmospheric Homicidal (1961). Jonathan Crane (Cliff Fields) is an artist with a few loose screws. He is married to Barbara (Beverly Bain, in her sole screen credit). Poor Barb is a much put-upon wife, and Bain is the only actor able to overcome Bushelman’s static direction. She invests enough into her character to create an interesting portrayal which, alas, does not salvage the film.
Crane cries (embarrassingly) at his psychiatrist office, Crane has a drag persona, Crane likes to watch lesbos get it on, and Crane has an S & M fetish. The film opens with our hero lashing an unattractive model on her buttocks. Cliff Fields’ turn as a queen has to be one of worst drag performances ever burned into celluloid. He sports sunglasses at night, a crumpled raincoat and a lopsided dishwater blond wig (he looks a bit like an uncanny precursor to Michael Caine’s transvestite psycho killer in 1980’s Dressed To Kill).
Today we tend to primarily (or solely) think of “Roadshow” films as “filler” exploitation films for the pre-television era. However,Wikipedia’s entry on ‘Roadshow Releases,” is a useful in-depth tool on their history, revealing the initial understanding of the term was as a format, rather than genre. Of course, we’re not interested in “classy” roadshow features like Ben Hur or Cleopatra, but in the sexploitation features that took to the road to show audiences glimpses of forbidden fruit—movies that couldn’t be booked in regular suburban theaters because of their salacious content. Thefirst part of the series dealt with the phenomenon in the repressed Forties; for this installment, we move into the swinging Sixties.
Possibly nothing sums up Western hypocrisy more than its attitudes toward sex. Over twenty years ago, I worked for an unnamed video store chain during the Pee Wee Herman scandal. Being a family values corporation, we received a memo to remove all Pee Wee videos from the stores immediately.
A few years later, when O.J.Simpson made the news, our office ordered every video they could get their hands on starring the former football hero. Recalling the company’s family values policy towards Pee Wee in our next managers’ meeting, I was uncouth enough to say: “Where, in our mindset, is it worse for someone to have allegedly pleasured himself in an adult theater than it is for someone to have allegedly slaughtered two human beings?” After said meeting, my superior issued me a written verbal warning for “inciting negativity” in my comment regarding comparison between Pee Wee and O.J. I think, for him the most provocative thing was the unsaid agreement, registered through laughter from fellow managers, that my comment generated.
It is, alas, easier for us to laugh at previous generations’ attitudes towards sex than our own. Roadside Show films from yesteryear are now considered archaic camp, while certain unnamed masses rally to show support for contemporary sexual constipation propagated by the likes of Duck Dynasty and Chick-fil-a.