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23 May 1942 – 3 February 2012
The man behind 9½ Weeks and the interminable series of soft-core TV "movies" known as the Red Shoe Diaries would seem hardly to be someone A Wasted Life would in any way respect – and indeed, when it comes to most of his creative output for the last three generations, we are not exactly bowled over by Zalman Lefkovitz's creative output. But what few people know is that this man, who if nothing else truly followed his own artistic vision over all those years, began his filmic career as an actor, and many of his acting projects are truly noteworthy – indeed, one film he played the lead in (Blue Sunshine) is even one of our all time favorite anti-drug exploitation films. And it is for these early films, as well as his later artistic obsession with the erotic, that we remove our hats for the good man, who died of cancer at the age of 70 on 3 February 2012. Born Zalman Lefkovitz on 23 May 1942, in Trenton, N.J., he is survived by his wife, Patricia Louisianna Knop, and daughters Chloe King and Gillian Lefkovitz.
Below, a review of selected projects he took part in.
The Alfred Hitchcock Hour
(Memo from Purgatory, 1964, dir. Joseph Pevney)Alfred Hitchcock Presents began broadcasting in 1955, but in 1962 it was expanded to an hour and became The Alfred Hitchcock Hour, which it remained until discontinued in 1965. Zalman King made his acting debut in the episode entitled Memos from Purgatory, which aired on Dec. 21, 1964, and also featured fellow unknowns James Caan and Walter Koenig. The episode was adapted by Harlan Ellison from his story The Gang from his book also entitled Memo from Purgatory, which about his first-hand experiences while researching juvenile gangs for his first novel, Web of the City (published by Pyramid in 1958 as Rumble). The plot, according to imdb: "Fresh college graduate and wannabee writer Jay Shaw (Caan) moves to early 1950's New York and decides that if he's going to write fiction about juvenile delinquent gangs, he'd better learn what they are really like. Becoming tough-guy Phil Beldone, he moves to a rough section of Brooklyn and seeks to join the Barons, a violent youth gang led by Tiger (Koenig). During his three-step initiation into the gang, he gains Tiger's trust and respect and begins to fall in love with one of the gang's "debs". However, he makes an enemy of the gang's second-in-command, and risks exposure of his true identity." Director Joseph Pevney, a prolific TV director, later also directed everybody's favorite Star Trek episode, The Trouble with Tribbles.
(Far Out Munsters, 1965, dir. Joseph Pevney)
the standells - do the ringo -i want to hold your hand ( munster
The following year King once again had a part in a series episode directed by Joseph Pevney, this time as "The Man with the Beard" in a second season episode of the classic sitcom The Munsters, entitled Far Out Munsters (aired March 18, 1965). (That cult show has been in remake development hell for almost a decade by now – will it ever happen? And if so, will they ruin it?) The plot as supplied by Wikipedia is: "A rock group called The Standells pays the Munsters an exorbitant fee to use their house for the weekend. When the Munsters can't adjust to the cleanliness of their hotel, they return home to find a wild party. The Standells perform a cover of The Beatles' I Want to Hold Your Hand [and their own song, Do the Ringo]." Lily Munster (Yvonne De Carlo) also performs a song on the show, which can be seen/heard in the clip below – you can actually see "The Man with the Beard" standing next to Marilyn Munster (Pat Priest) in both clips. Herman does some spontaneous beat poetry in the episode that is almost as memorable as that of Phillipa Fallon in High School Confidential (1958 / Phillipa reciting).
The Dangerous Days of Kiowa Jones
(1966, dir. Alex March)Plot: A drifter cowboy named Jones (Horton) encounters a deathly ill U.S. Marshal taking two murders (Nehemiah Persoff and Sal Mineo) to Fort Smith, KS to be hanged. Before he dies, the Marshall deputizes Jones and makes him swear he'll bring the prisoners in. Problems arise in the form of two bounty hunters who have no qualms about killing others to gain the reward for bringing Sal Mineo in as well as a group of brothers who want to avenge the death of one of their own. Director Alex March worked primarily as a TV director, but he also did a rare feature film like The Big Bounce (1969); The Dangerous Days of Kiowa Jones was a TV movie that was released in Europe as a feature film but was made a pilot for a western series (starring Robert Horton) that wasn't picked up by a network. Zalman King's part is too small – and his name too unfamiliar – to earn him a place on the posters of the international releases (the poster above is from Germany). Horton, who two years later starred in the classic turkey The Green Slime (1968 / trailer / full film), was a mildly popular western actor who, according to more than one website out there, was known in Hollywood as "Mr. Bondage Beefcake" because in many of the cowboy flicks he appeared in he had scenes in which he was he was tied up and whipped and usually left in the desert to die. Other familiar cult names in The Dangerous Days of Kiowa Jones include Harry Dean Stanton, Royal Dano and Robert H. Harris. According to RobertHorton.com, the film explores what happens when an ordinary person finds himself confronted with an extraordinary circumstance and is forced to kill to protect a murderer. Mr. Horton portrays Kiowa Jones as the 'everyday' cowboy, caught in a situation beyond his control, to perfection. While the movie has plenty of action, it also makes you stop and think: What would you do?
You've Got to Walk It Like You Talk It or You'll Lose That Beat
(1971, dir. Peter Locke)After The Dangerous Days of Kiowa Jones, King bounced around in various bit parts on TV shows and even had a two year stint as the lead idealist in a forgotten series called The Young Lawyers (1969-1971). This film, written and directed by Peter Locke (who went on to do the X-rated movie It Happened in Hollywood [1973 / review at Shock Cinema] and the titty comedy The Carhops [1975 / full film] before entering a long and productive career as producer), was King's first lead role in a feature film. The plot, according to TV Guide: "King is an idealistic young man who is seeking the meaning of life among the inanities and absurdities of New York. In Central Park he is set upon by a fat black woman and he watches incredulously as a young man exposes his behind to an old woman shouting obscenities at him. After many such ridiculous adventures, he finally marries an understanding girl, becomes a father, gets a job, and, seemingly in a jiffy, he loses the job, his wife leaves him with the baby, and he is back in Central Park still seeking the 'meaning' of it all. A mishmash of intent and execution and too annoyingly clumsy to watch." Richard Pryor appears as a wino. The soundtrack of You've Got to Walk It Like You Talk It or You'll Lose That Beat is notable as being some of the earliest released music by Donald Fagen and Walter Becker, otherwise known as Steely Dan.
The Ski Bum
(1971, dir. Bruce D. Clark)The Ski Bum is based on a novel by the author Romain Gary (1914–1980). This feature-film take on the tale was King's second starring role, and this time he gets star billing alongside Charlotte Rampling (of, among many films, Immortel (Ad Vitam) [France, 2004]). The cast of this establishment-critical film includes a young Penelope Spheeris as "Star the Witch." Bruce D. Clark cut his directorial baby teeth two years earlier with the biker exploitation flick Naked Angels (1969 / title theme) and, before disappearing from the industry, went on to do two highly memorable exploitation flicks: Hammer (1972 / trailer) and Galaxy of Terror (1981), the latter which also features King in a part. Another tagline used for The Ski Bum aside from the one on the poster above was "He lives on skis... and off women!" Leonard Maltin rates this film as a BOMB, an opinion that seems to be shared by most of the few who have seen the film, but as The Eclectic Screening Room points out about Maltin's review of The Ski Bum, "Any 70s film that he'd rate BOMB or *1/2 stars would instantly command my attention, because usually these movies would at least be unique, despite or because of their flaws." TV Guide says: "[...] King is a ski bum fooling around with married lady Rampling. She gets him a job working at a lodge owned by a stereotyped middle-class family who alienate him no end. The film drones on and on, looking for meaning and finding nothing. [...]"
Some Call It Loving
(1973, dir. James B. Harris)Aka Sleeping Beauty and Dream Castle, Some Call It Loving is the second directorial effort of James B. Harris, who previously had produced Kubrick's Lolita (1962 / trailer), Paths of Glory (1957 / trailer) and The Killing (1956 / trailer), and eventually went on to do direct more mainstream trash like Boiling Point (1993 / trailer). For a while, Some Call It Loving was touted as a horror movie starring Richard Pryor – as can be seen by the VHS cover above – but it is neither a horror movie nor is Pryor's part as a heart-painting junkie all that that big. Some Call It Loving an art film, and it has another interesting person in the cast: The Sleeping Beauty is played by no one less than Tisa Farrow (of Antropophagus [1980 / trailer] and Zombie [1979 / trailer / full movie]), who regrettably retired from acting after Antropophagus and became a nurse in Vermont. The Worldwide Celluloid Massacre says that Some Call It Loving "[is a ] strange movie about a morose jazz player (King) who buys a real sleeping beauty off a carnival freak show and takes her to his house for some bizarre games. His house is populated by a bisexual domineering wife and other female toys who play role-playing games with each other involving maids and nuns. The jazz player starts falling for his new innocent toy but reality and his lifestyle get in the way of happiness. The sleeping beauty as an object of desire is explored, there's a bawdy cheerleader role segment, and another strange character by Richard Pryor as his drunk friend. Obtusely symbolic, magically strange, psychologically depressing, mediocre." A picture from the cheerleader segment is below. In Maitland McDonagh's 1995 book Filmmakers on the Fringe, King claims the film is "a real cult film, especially in France." Some Call It Loving is the first of the four films that King took part in that made us here at A Wasted Life take notice of him.
Trip with the Teacher
(1975, dir. Earl Barton)Aka Deadly Field Trip. Earl Barton was an occasional choreographer whose only directorial job is, oddly enough, this slice of drive-in trash, a film that he also scripted. It was produced for Crown International Pictures, the same company that brought you They Saved Hitler's Brain (1963 / full film), Orgy of the Dead (1965 / scene), Police Women (1974 / trailer) and dozens of other fun films. On their website, they describe Trip with the Teacher as "a chilling experience in terror as a group of female students and their pretty teacher (Brenda Fogarty) are ambushed, while on a field trip, by a sadistic killer and his brother, forcing the women to learn a lesson in survival." DVD Drive-In says "It's no Last House, but Trip with the Teacher remains one of the quintessential 1970s drive-in films. With degenerate bikers, vicious rape, queasy violence, plentiful nudity, stock music, ludicrous dialogue, cheap but effective photography, and cost-cutting production values, it's no wonder this film retains a cult following today!" King chews the scenery as Al, one of the bad-boy bikers; the photo at the top of this entry is of him in the film. In Filmmakers on the Fringe, King claims that he did the film because "the script was the worst thing I'd ever read." He also claims that Earl Barton got the money as a dealer in Vegas, but fails to clarify whether he dealt cards or drugs. Trip with the Teacher is the second of the four films that King took part in that made us here at A Wasted Life take notice of him, though we personally doubt King's stance that he took part in a film this bad specifically because it was so bad. We think the true story is much more like that of, say, Skeleton Man (2004 / German trailer): King took part in it because it was the best/only thing available at the time and then, later, after seeing just how bad it was, he revised his reason of participation to embrace the film's inherent tackiness.
Catfight from Trip with the Teacher:
The Passover Plot
(1976, dir. Michael Campus)Zalman King plays Jesus! Or, rather: "Yeshua." And in his own words – again, in Filmmakers on the Fringe – he claims "I was a much better Jesus than Willem Defoe." The Passover Plot is a once highly controversial oddity from Michael Campus, the director of the equally odd Z.P.G. (1972 / trailer) and the Blaxploitation cults films The Mack (1973 / trailer) and The Education of Sonny Carson (1974 / trailer); after The Passover Plot, he didn't direct another film for 32 years. The film was based not on Jack Chick's track of the same name (seen here below right) but on the 1965 best seller of the same name (seen here to the left) by British Biblical scholar Hugh J. Schonfield who, among other things, came to the conclusion in the book that Jesus was a false messiah that knowingly tricked his twelve apostles and faked both his death and resurrection. (We can believe that.) The forgotten film, a dramatization of this revisionist theory, has the good man actually plan for his crucifixion by taking a drug that would simulate death. The plot collapses because he gets stabbed by a soldier while on the cross.
(1978, dir. Jeff Lieberman)Blue Sunshine is the third of the four films that King took part in that made us here at A Wasted Life take notice of him – in order of discovery, however, it is the first. It is undoubtedly a high point of Zalman King's career! Oddly enough, he claimed in Filmmakers on the Fringe that he could hardly remember the film, though he revised his attitude in later on-line interviews. Blue Sunshine is a just-say-no movie, and one of the many memorably quirky and entertaining genre films that director Jeff Lieberman has made, others which include Just Before Dawn (1981 / trailer), Squirm (1976 / trailer) and his oddly alienating film Satan's Little Helper (2004 / trailer). Mark Goddard, the young handsome stud from the original TV series Lost in Space appears in this film as a sleazy politician. Video Vacuum says: "The plot has a bunch of former hippies who have a delayed psychotic reaction to some acid (called 'Blue Sunshine') they took ten years earlier. The first symptom is massive migraines and then they start losing their hair in mass quantities. After a while, they go completely bat-shit insane and turn into bald-headed Looney Tunes who kill people with extreme prejudice. Zippy (King), an average Joe, witnesses one of his friends go acid crazy and murder a couple of people by stuffing them face first into a fireplace. Predictably, the cops think Zippy is the killer and he goes on the run to clear his name [...]." We first heard of this film in the mid-80s a few weeks after we actually had some fun with some acid supposedly called "Blue Sunshine"; for awhile we were less than sanguine because at the time the urban legend surrounding the film was that it was based on a true story. It isn't. We finally saw the anti-drug film five years later at a revival house here in Berlin and really liked it. You will, too.
(1980, dir. Alan Rudolph)
Perhaps, at the age of 38, Zalman King was beginning to realize that he would never be a name actor, for in 1980, with this film, he began to branch out: aside from being one of those credited for the story, Roadie is also the first film production for which he receives production credit – he's even listed as executive producer on the poster. Personally, we here at A Wasted Life find the film to be one of the worst that its director Alan Rudolph ever made – one and all, Premonition (1972 / fan-made trailer), Barn of the Naked Dead (1974), Trouble in Mind (1985 / trailer), The Moderns (1988) and Mortal Thoughts (1991 / trailer) are a lot more entertaining than this flick. We find Roadie notable only for featuring one of our favorite bands of the eighties, Blondie, doing one of the all-time worst cover versions of one of the best songs ever, namely Ring of Fire. Meat Loaf plays the lead in the film, and not very well. To quote Video Vacuum: "The incredibly stupid Meat Loaf stars in this incredibly stupid movie as a redneck shit-kicker who gets chosen to be a roadie for concert promoter Mohammed Johnson (Don Cornelius). He gets to meet Hank Williams Jr., Roy Orbison, and Blondie, but all he cares about is this jailbait groupie (Kaki Hunter) played by the chick from Porky's (1982 / trailer). All she cares about is boning Alice Cooper and The Loaf sets out to help her on her quest."
Galaxy of Terror
(1981, dir. Bruce D. Clark)Galaxy of Terror is the fourth and last film that King took part in that made us here at A Wasted Life take notice of him – he is hardly the lead, but the film is a classic piece of Grindhouse sleaze. This Roger Corman production is also director Bruce D. Clark's last film; he co-wrote it with Marc Siegler, his co-scribe on The Ski Bum (1971). Galaxy of Terror gained immortality due to its famed scene in which a woman (Taaffe O'Connell of New Year's Evil [1980 / trailer]) literally gets fucked to death by a huge intergalactic slug. Future director James Cameron was both production designer and second unit director on this great Alien-inspired sci-fi horror film with a noteworthy cast that, aside from Zalman King (who didn't even make it onto the poster), includes Edward Albert, Erin Moran (a name only notable to those who grew up watching her as Joanie Cunningham on Happy Days), Robert Englund, Ray Walston, Grace Zabriskie and Sid Haig. Jean-Marc Rocher's plot summary at imdb is as good as any: "As a lone spaceship proceeds on its long voyage across space, the crew are surprised to encounter a strange pyramid form. Surprise turns to horror as one by one, they discover that their darkest nightmares are all starting to become real. The pyramid has to be behind it all somehow, but how can they save themselves from its influence?" Galaxy of Terror is a truly fine piece of trash that is guaranteed to entertain any fan of skid-row sleaze. In Filmmakers on the Fringe, King claims he took part in the movie "because I always sort of wanted to do a Roger Corman film, and I didn't want to end my career without having done one."
(1982, dir. Alan Rudolph)In this Alan Rudolph science fiction film, for which Zalman King was the executive producer, King also has but a very tiny appearance as a Hollywood producer. It was to be his last acting job for 14 years – his next appearance in front of the camera was as the film director in a Red Shoes Diary segment in 1996 entitled Emily's Dance, which he actually also directed in real life. The Science Fiction, Horror and Fantasy Film Review synopsis of the plot states: "Police detective Ruben Castle (Robert Ulrich) determines to quit drinking and moves to a small town of Buffalo in Colorado with his teenage daughter. In Buffalo, Harriet Purdue (JoBeth Williams) becomes the town's new sheriff. She must then deal with a plague of cattle mutilations in which the animals' organs have all been removed. This is causing the locals to panic amid wild rumors of UFOs and Satanists at work. She and Ruben team up to investigate in an initially testy relationship that eventually turns to romance. The trail leads to a disused NORAD base where they discover covert nerve gas experiments are being conducted. However, as they begin to uncover what is happening, the government agency conducting the tests determines to eliminate all those in the know." This love it or hate conspiracy thriller fails for us, despite some fine but seldom gore, because we just don't understand why the bad guys simply didn't buy cows instead of stealing them and cooking up the alien cattle mutilation thing to hide their tracks. Like, let's do something that really causes a lot of attention so as to do something else in secret? Must have been a Republican-funded agency. Cult actor Bill Moseley – The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 (1986 / trailer), the 1990 Night of the Living Dead remake (trailer), House of 1000 Corpses (2003 / trailer) – has his first (tiny) appearance in a film in this movie as a cab driver.
Nine 1/2 Weeks
(1986, dir. Adrian Lyne)In Maitland McDonagh's 1995 book Filmmakers on the Fringe, the author points out that "King didn't want to make the sort of films he was known for acting in. His interest was, and is, upscale erotica [...], not violence and sleaze." To which we can only say, too bad. Nine 1/2 Weeks was the first film he was involved in that went in the direction of what really must be called his obsession. He tried for the longest to get funding to direct it himself – it was his screenplay, after all, and he actually developed the whole project in the first place – but finally went for director Adrian Lyne because he had the clout of a hit (the vomitous Flashdance [1983 / trailer]) behind him. Nine 1/2 Weeks turned out to be a hit, too, though here A Wasted Life we can only wonder why. Truth be told, but for one – Female Perversions – we don't like a single film that we have seen that King was involved in after Galaxy of Terror, but he was such an obsession about his direction that we nevertheless respect him for what he did. Nevertheless, as of 1986, his films either put us to sleep, as Nine 1/2 Weeks did, or had us laughing out loud, as did Two Moon Junction (1988). Adrian Lyne went on to do one or two better films, like Jacob's Ladder (1990 / trailer) and Fatal Attraction (1987 / trailer).
(1987, dir. Mary Lambert)Zalman King was the executive producer of the directorial debut of Mary Lambert, whose career has since floundered steadily forewords and includes such notable projects as Pet Sematary (1989 / trailer), Pet Sematary II (1992 / trailer), Urban Legends: Bloody Mary (2005 / trailer), The Attic (2007 / trailer) and Mega Python vs. Gatoroid (2011 / trailer) – the last of which actually stars Debby Gibson and Tiffany, two prime examples of one-hit wonders. According Roger Elbert, Siesta "is finally overwhelmed by its own ambition, not to mention one too many gimmicks in its plot, but it goes down swinging." Bad Movie Night says "Siesta is an accidental nightmare of Chernobyl proportions [...]." The plot, as found on the web: "Claire (an American) wakes up in a terrible state at the end of a runway in Spain. As she tries to account for her state (blood-soaked and bruised), she has flashbacks from the past few days. She thinks she's killed someone, but isn't sure, and now she's wandering the Spanish streets without money or a clear memory." Based on a novel by Patrice Chaplin. Go here for the trailer at Video Detective.
(1988, dir. Zalman King)King's directorial debut, according to Filmmaker on the Fringe, though imdb places Two Moon Junction ahead of it. His credited co-scriptwriter is Matthew Bright, who helped script the great cult film Forbidden Zone (1982 / trailer) and went on to direct both Freeway (1996 / trailer) and Freeway II: Confessions of a Trickbaby (1999 / German trailer). King had problems with the producer and didn't get to do the final cut, but he still viewed it (in 1995, at least) as his best work – despite never having seen the final cut. To translate the plot description given on the German website Zelluliod.de: "Kay (Linda Fiorentino of Unforgettable [1996 / trailer]) is married to a successful businessman (Will Patton) and lives happily with him and two children in a pretty house. But only at first glance does their American dream seem fulfilled, for the shadows of the past continue to have a grip. Kay still can't forget her first great love, the bank robber Frank (Steven Bauer), with whom she shared a severe childhood in an orphanage. When Frank is released from prison, he wants back to Kay."
Two Moon Junction
(1988, dir. Zalman King)Pulled from Wildfire, King figured that if he wanted to make it as a director he would have to go straight into a new project, so he pulled his script to Two Moon Junction off the shelf, wiped away the dust and set off to make it. He says, in Filmmaker on the Fringe, "It is, in a sense, a parody of the summer music / Sandra Dee films, but I don't play it tongue in cheek." We saw it back in the day when the mere concept of Sherilyn Fenn made us have to change our underwear, and the film almost made us hate her for just taking part in it. For a serious film – and despite what King says, it is an obviously serious film – it is indeed laughably bad; even bleach-blonde Fenn's nude scenes do nothing to make Two Moon Junction more palatable. One really must wonder what was going through King's mind to cast the eternally un-sexy Richard Tyson (Flight of the Living Dead: Outbreak on a Plane [2007 / trailer]) as the male object of lust. Trivia of note to the film: Milla Jovovich makes her film debut, and both Hervé Villechaize and Burl Ives make their final film appearances. Kristy McNichol – anyone remember her? – reached her career nadir with this film. Plot: Southern Babe (Fenn), on the eve of her semi-arranged marriage, falls for the charms of a shirtless carny (Tyson) who pounds a lot of stakes. Eventually, to the displeasure of her and her fiancé's family, they pound each other. More steam and intrigue and lust-filled looks and boredom follow – as did, in 1995, a sequel, Return to Full Moon Junction.
(1989, dir. Zalman King)Wild Orchid, an unofficial sequel to Nine 1/2 Weeks if only because Mickey Rourke is once again on board as a sexually manipulative man out to broaden the sexual horizons of the sexy babe he's boning. (In 1997, Rourke actually made a "real" sequel, entitled Another Nine 1/2 Weeks [trailer].) At the time Wild Orchid was made, the lead bonking couple of the film (Mickey Rourke and Carré Otis) were a couple in real life, which gave birth to a persistent rumor that their sex scenes were not faked; both parties have consistently denied this. Like most viewers, DVD Verdict hates the film, claiming that the erotic film "is anything but pleasurable. A bloated, heaping, festering pile of waste, this movie is so completely uninspired, boring, and stupid that I am ecstatic that MGM released this as a bare bones disc. I don't think I could have stood watching another minute of anything related to this insipid mess." But to give voice to a loner, here is some rare praise of the film, from The Cult Movie Guide: "Based on the classic foundations laid down by the likes of Emmanuelle (1974 / trailer) or Eugenie (1970 / trailer), this story is that of an innocent young woman finding sexual awakening and learning lessons of the world in exotic surroundings. The innocent in question in Wild Orchid is former model Carré Otis whose naive lawyer is thrown into a steamy Brazilian location to help with a property deal. As the heat rises over the transaction, her passions are also risen, firstly by the raunchy activities of her horny boss (Jacqueline Bisset), but also by her encounters with a mysterious and charismatic stranger Mickey Rourke. Otis makes an attractive and compelling leading lady, with the fact that she is a novice actress possibly lending some realism to the naivety and innocence of her performance. Meanwhile Rourke is on fine form as the brooding James Dean-like charmer. If you forgive the fact that the flimsy property deal of a plot was probably conceived on the back of a postage stamp, and just relax and enjoy the sexy Rio locations, the excellent samba soundtrack and the chemistry between the leads – which all confirms this as a standout favorite of the big screen eroticism genre." (Something Michael Wilmington of the LA Times would disagree with, seeing that he found Wild Orchid "so silly [that] it gives sex a bad name.")
Wild Orchid II: Two Shades of Blue
(1991, dir. Zalman King)Originally entitled Blue Movie Blue, its final title is an obvious attempt to cash in on the notoriety and success (?) of Wild Orchid, although neither film really have anything to do with each other. Roger Ebert does point out the shared aspects of the two films in his relatively kind review of the film: "Both are written and directed by Zalman King, and both are about lots and lots of sex." Maltin calls the film a BOMB, and supplies the following plot description: "By day, blond Nina Siemaszko puppy-loves a high-school jock (Brent David Fraser of Dead & Breakfast [2004 / trailer]) – but by night, she dons a black wig in the local brothel to entertain the same unwitting dufus."
Red Shoe Diaries
(1992, dir. Zalman King)In regard to the plot of this film, Pulp Informer says: "As for the story, umm, there's a story?... oh yeah, it's about egotistical and superficial people, worried about superficial trivial things and they get naked and have sex." At imdb, email@example.com goes into a little more detail: "Jake (David Duchovny) following the suicide of his girlfriend Alex (Brigitte Bako) seeks answers as to why she did it through her diaries. Jake discovers that although she loves him, she felt as if there was something lacking. And when she met a man (Billy Wirth) who did construction work and sold shoes, she pursued and it wasn't long before she was having an affair with him and they did things that she didn't do with Jake." This Showtime film went on to become a TV series which lasted 7 years; the loose common thread to the episodes was that they were based on letters sent to Jake in response to his newspaper advertisement seeking stories from other women faced with similar situations as his girlfriend. As Wikipedia describes the various episodes: "The storylines usually have a thin plot revolving around some intrigue and the sexual awakening of a girl or woman who often also narrates. Sensuous love scenes with nudity as well as sultry, moody music are characteristic for most episodes." The episodes were later packaged as direct-to-video anthology films. Zalman King really milked the cow's udder with this series, which appealed to egotistical and superficial people, worried about superficial trivial things, who watched them and then got naked and had sex.
Asian trailer to the Red Shoe Diaries TV series:
(1993, dir. Rafael Eisenman)Zalman King wrote this directorial debut of Eisenman, who went on to co-produce and direct many a Red Shoes Diaries episode. Eventually, in 2011, Eisenman even made a halfway decent film, a horror film entitled Underground (trailer). But here, he basically made a Zalman King TV film – like all King's "erotic" films, it is available in an edited and unrated version with more boobs and skin. The plot, according to Karl Williams at Retro Junk: "Irene (Joan Severance), a repressed housewife, [...] develops a lustful and somewhat obsessive attraction to Billy (Billy Zane of I Woke Up Early the Day I Died [1998 / trailer]), a handsome landscaper working with a crew of laborers on her yard. With both her husband and son gone on a fishing trip for a few days, Irene becomes a stowaway in her own camper, which Billy steals for a weekend getaway with his girlfriend Grace (May Karasun), unaware that Irene is inside. After Irene joins the surprised couple, she's invited to join them as they relax in rural environs and enjoy a Chinese festival being held nearby. Thanks to the willing and able assistance of Billy and Grace, Irene also unlocks her sexual side and discovers some deeply repressed desires."
(1994, dirs. Walter Avancini & Zalman King)On many websites, a Sandra Brennan says that Boca "is a strange mixture of social commentary and soft-core eroticism." She also says the film was cobbled together from several other films – King's Wild Orchid and Walter Avancini's 1990 crime film Boca de ouro – which would explain the shared directorial credit of this King-produced, Brazilian-set film. Very few people seem to have ever seen this direct-to-video concoction starring Rae Dawn Chong, who gets naked a lot, and former Spandau Ballet co-frontman Martin Kemp (The Krays [1990 / trailer], Waxwork II: Lost in Time [1992 / trailer], Embrace of the Vampire [1994 / trailer] and Strippers vs Werewolves [2012 / trailer]); the titular Boca is played by one of Brazil's most famous television actors, Tarcísio Meira, while the über-bad-guy businessman is Martin Sheen. Plot description, as found on the web: "Slayings of street children in Rio de Janeiro lead a U.S. newswoman to a drug lord with gold teeth."
Return to Two Moon Junction
(1995, dir. Farhad Mann)The feature-film (and direct-to-video) directorial debut of Farhad Mann, who followed this masterpiece with another masterpiece of note, Lawnmower Man 2: Beyond Cyberspace (1996 / trailer). King is credited for production and "characters," although the only one to return from Two Moon Junction is Louise Fletcher's southern belle mother Belle Delongpre. Plot at Wikipedia: "[A] New York fashion model who returns to her Georgia home town where she has an affair with a local sculptor." The sculptor is the muscular but oddly unattractive John Clayton Schafer in a rare film appearance (he seems to have had only 5), but the lead babe is no one less but the young Melinda Clarke who, before becoming a TV actress, briefly made boy's hormones surge in such fun films as Return of the Living Dead III (1993 / trailer), Killer Tongue (1996 / German trailer) and Spawn (1997 / trailer).
Delta of Venus
(1995, dir. Zalman King)Like all King films, this one is also available in an "uncut" version. For those who don't know, Delta of Venus is the title of a book of erotic short stories first published in 1978 by Anaïs Nin, a diarist popular primarily among women. Nin wrote her erotic stories in the 1940s while living in Paris; she, like her fuck-buddy Henry Miller, was paid to write them by an anonymous collector. Zalman King's film Delta of Venus revolves around Elena, (Audie England) an unsuccessful American writer in Paris in the 1940s who has a brief affair with Lawrence (Costas Mandylor), a successful writer returning to the US. He leaves, she does some nude modeling, and then her publisher tells her that an anonymous client will pay her by the page to write erotica. She takes up the offer, but decides she needs some on-hand experience first, which is a good excuse for King to pour out the sex scenes. The website Movie House says: "[Zalman King's] penis belies the fact that he's essentially the Anaïs Nin of filmed erotica. He makes the kind of sexy films that appeal greatly to women – swirling colors, sensuous music, elaborate courtships, stolen glances, smoldering looks exchanged across crowded rooms, romantic liaisons in the fog on ancient bridges, etc." Delta of Venus is typical King – as are all his films. Go here to Video Detective to watch the trailer – or watch the full film directly below..
Delta of Venus – the full film:
Shame, Shame, Shame
(1996, dir. Zalman King)
"Do you have any idea how much courage it takes to stand up naked, in heels, and talk about yourself?"King's next film was inspired by one-hit-wonder Shirley & Company's classic disco hit of 1974, Shame, Shame, Shame – na, just kidding. Shame, Shame, Shame is a softcore Playboy Channel film originally broadcast in an 87 minute version; a recut 100 minute version supposedly came out in 1999. King must have had a double-film deal with both Costas Mandylor and Audie England, 'cause they both give stolen glances and smoldering looks to sensuous music in this movie as well. Plot: "When Maura (Heidi Schanz), a daring and beautiful Ph. D. candidate, interviews her subjects on camera, she uncovers not only their most intimate secrets but also her own in this sizzling, psychological thriller that pulsates with relentless eroticism." Featuring two forgotten actresses, Valerie Perrine and Olivia Hussey (of The Cat and the Canary [1978 / trailer]), in supporting parts; at one point in the film, Olivia Hussey gets to say: "I want to be sucked like a lemon after a shot of tequila." Since we couldn't find a clip of Shame, Shame, Shame anywhere online, here's Shirley & Company instead.
Shirley & Company performing Shame, Shame, Shame:
(1996, dir. Susan Streitfeld)Zalman King produces a film starring Tilda Swinton; one of her worst, needless to say, but also one of her most enjoyable – she isn't exactly known for taking part in trash. Just watch this typically great scene, one of the few in which the boom mike isn't visible.
Female Perversions is directorial debut of Susan Streitfeld, and is based on Louise J. Kaplan's book Female Perversions: The Temptations of Emma Bovary. The Onion AV Club hates the film: "A dramatization of a mass-market psychological tome, executive-produced by Red Shoe Diaries mastermind Zalman King, and directed by a former talent agent, Female Perversions is every bit as terrible as its pedigree would lead you to expect. Tilda Swinton plays a high-powered, glammed-up attorney who – and here's a bit of never-before-seen taboo-shattering – sleeps with both men and women. Her primary perversion, however, seems to be a tendency to lapse into hallucinatory dream sequences packed with straight-outta-film-school imagery (crucifix-shaped pools, mud-caked Mexicans, tightropes, characters dressed up as playing cards, etc.). Her life is complicated by the arrest of her Ph.D.-candidate sister (Amy Madigan) on charges of shoplifting [...]. Female Perversions is a ridiculously pretentious piece of work, so flawed in its conception that it probably saw the light of day only because of its sexy title." A Wasted Life recommends it.
Business for Pleasure
(1997, dir. Rafael Eisenman)The director of Lake Consequence films a tale written by King and makes a film that looks and feels just like a Zalman King film. Re-titled American Decadence for its European release. The plot, on Answers.com: "A wealthy businessman (Jeroen Krabbé) lures a beautiful executive (Caron Bernstein) into his realm of sexual fantasy and exploration while the two are in the midst of business negotiations." Big business and voyeurism and proof that everyone is a whore.
Black Sea 213
(1998, dir. Rafael Eisenman)The director of Lake Consequence and Business for Pleasure films a story written by King and makes a film that looks and just like, well, going by most on-line reviews, shit. The Has-Been of Note to star in Black Sea 213 is Timothy Bottoms (of Uncle Sam ), followed by character actor Brion James, who was – he died in 1999 – actually less a Has-Been than a Take-Every-Offer. They are upstaged by a yitload of naked babes with accents. Over at imdb, k wedgwood supplies the plot summary that is used (un-credited) all over the Internet: "Gabe (Anthony Addabbo), a photographer, his assistant, Annie (Anna Dubrovskaya), and his boss hire a ship to take them out to sea on a modeling shoot. What Gabe doesn't know is that an old friend-turned-enemy of his has indirectly lured him into the situation, and the models that were hired locally are skilled weapons handlers and dealers. The ship is on its way to meet a South African submarine to whom Dean (Bottoms) means to sell a piece of high-tech and illegal cargo. Everything goes horribly wrong when Dean, the captain (James), the models and Gabe all start killing each other and they spend the rest of the film trying to survive." Another person on imdb says that "the film is trashy and cheap" and that in the right mood "a lot of people [might] smile at its raw amateurishness." Also among the cast: blonde babe Jacqueline Lovell of Head of the Family (1996), who is perhaps better known as the porn star Sara St James.
Sucker punch from the film:
A Place Called Truth
(1998, dir. Rafael Eisenman)The director of Lake Consequence and Business for Pleasure and Black Sea 213 films a story written by King and makes a film and feels just like a Zalman King film, had he only made nourish thrillers. TV Guide says: "A Place Called Bogus Carnality, more like it. [...] Pampered rancher's daughter Lizzie Callahan (Audie England) yearns for off-limits love with lowly cowpoke Kyle (Chris Browning), even though her wealthy daddy, Hank Callahan (Brion James), wants her to marry someone more "suitable." Meanwhile, bisexual new-gal-in-town Rita (Jacqueline Lovell) buys a run-down bar and orchestrates a revenge plot against Lizzie. Callahan has Kyle fired and severely beaten for messing around with his Lizzie, and meddling Rita nurses him back to health...." Lots of lesbian scenes.
Playboy: The Story of X
(1998, dir. Chuck Workman)Zalman King is one of the many talking heads in this documentary narrated by Buck Henry. Other talking heads include Camille Paglia, David F. Friedman, Hugh Hefner, Ron Jeremy, Nina Hartley and more. Over at Cinequest, John Porter wrote: "The Story of X [...] tells the story of x-rated cinema – porn, smut, nudies, adult films, stag films – from the first, flickering silent images up to, and including, the video revolution. From the lows (early images of bestiality) to the highs (Midnight Cowboy [1969 / trailer]) to the blockbusters (Behind the Green Door [1973 / theme]), The Story of X covers it all. Controversies and varied viewpoints are presented. Russ Meyer, Bernardo Bertolucci, Jack Valenti and Al Goldstein are all interviewed, as are censorship advocates, civil libertarians and unapologetic porn lovers. Buck Henry narrates with dry wit and intelligence."
In God's Hands
(1998, dir. Zalman King)And now for something completely different – sorta. Zalman King goes extreme sports, or at least extreme surfing. Why? Well, as he put it in an online interview, "I love extreme sports and I love the mythology of surfing. I love the challenge of traveling all over the world to film it, it was phenomenal." AV Club, which never has anything nice to say about King, isn't kind about this film either: "The threadbare plot follows real-life surfers Patrick Shane Dorian, Matt George, and Matty Liu on a well-financed tour through exotic locales from Madagascar to Hawaii. Each has personal demons to overcome, and all share a homo-erotic bond, but the heart of the movie is in the towering waves themselves, rendered with impressive visceral punch. While these sequences are admittedly exciting, getting to them is a real chore, thanks to King's typically grave dialogue, made all the more laughable when mouthed by non-actors." We are sure that surfers like the film, however. Go here for the trailer at Video Detective.
Women of the Night
(2001, dir. Zalman King)This film also shows up in our tribute to James Farantino. The Cinematic Intelligence Agency, which says Women of the Night is "crap, dung, boring," explains the film's plot as: "Three stories – a lawyer, a comedienne and an heiress, woven seamlessly together. Stories of love, lust, danger and revenge." Our favorite comment about Women of the Night, however, comes from the truly dedicated Charles G. Wilkerson at Amazon.com, who says: "I have seen the DVD three times sober and once when I was not sober, and I did not understand the storyline. Therefore, I cannot tell the readers what the film is about. Somehow Mr. King tried to incorporate a blind female radio announcer, a pirated [sic] radio station, and a South American murder into this film, and none it made since [sic]. [...] I gave it a single star because the women are beautiful." James Farantino, by the way, alongside Sally Kellerman, was the feature Has-Been of the film. Character actor Seymour Cassel, also in the film, is like Brion James in that he is less a Has-Been than a Take-Every-Offer. King's film is not half as fun as the 1948 exploitation film Women in the Night (full film).
Trailer provided by Video Detective
Olhar EstrangeiroZalman King is one of the talking heads – alongside Michael Caine, Jon Voight, Greydon Clark and others – in this documentary by Lúcia Murat, a Brazilian filmmaker who spent time in prison during the military dictatorship (1968-1979) that the United States helped install in the name of Democracy. The film is based on the book O Brasil dos gringos by Tunico Amâncio, and explores the clichés and stereotypes of Brazil and Brazilians that are propagated in non-Brazilian feature films. Zalman even gets a few seconds in the trailer. The film doesn't seem to have a generally available DVD release, but it can (presently) be found in ten-minute installments on YouTube. In the film, King talks about Wild Orchid, which the website to this film says "contains an enormous quantity of clichés, such as wild sensuality, candomblé and sex, samba and carnival."
(2006, dir. Lúcia Murat)
(2006, dir. Lúcia Murat)
(2007, dir. Ezra Gould)In the opinion of A Wasted Life, the last project that of note that King participated was this art horror film written and directed by Ezra Gould, a man that had worked for King in prior projects (such as the TV reality series Forty Deuce ) in functions spanning from "graphic artist" to "music supervisor." Saint Francis is touted as the feature-film debut of the delectable Dita Von Teese in the dual roles of Soul and Pica Bernard, a statement that fails to take in account her bit parts in the two forgotten "films" she took part in back when she was still just plain ol' Heather Sweet, the soft-core flick Romancing Sara (1995) and Joey Travolta's "thriller" Matter of Trust (1998). The plot, as described on imdb: "Francis, the son of a corrupt TV preacher, tumbles down a hallucinatory rabbit-hole of sex, drugs, aliens, fratricide, and planetary apocalypse in this twisted take on the life of Saint Francis." King plays the corrupt TV preacher, Dr. P. Bernard. Like most sources on the web, DVD Verdict did not like the film: "Saint Francis is one of those precious and pretentious film-school-style "indies" (as opposed to the fun and creative independent films you stumble across every now and again). Rather than a cohesive narrative, we get a hodgepodge of scenes that are probably supposed to add up to something clever or profound but just seem randomly thrown together. It's a 'night in the life of' the uninteresting (and woodenly acted) preacher's kids, who just seem to have too much time on their hands. Also tossed in are some arbitrary soft-core porn bits, a few killings, and a droning narrator who tells us things we can see for ourselves but refuses to answer the big question—why the hell are we watching this thing?" Maybe we're watching it because it is, in the end, more interesting than the latest Spielberg flick?