The Syndicate: A Death in the Family and The Bus Is Coming trailers: William Thompson International history.
One of the most interesting histories of the 70’s Indie Movie scene, when it meant Exploitation, was the life of William Thompson International which went from G to GP to “R”, but actually X in the space of a year, or three if you count the Syndicate re-issue that was officially an X. In March, 1971, the Los Angeles-based company released The G-Rated The Tender Warrior while in July of that year, the GP-Rated (An early version of PG, to those asking) the Bus is Coming was released. Bus’ Director Wendell Franklin might be known to Exploitation credit readers as an Assistant Director on such light fare as Munster Go Home and Catalina Caper as well as Drive In fare like Big Daddy (The last was a 1969 film released by the legendary Mike Ripps’ United Film Organization) before moving to more socially aware films as Medium Cool and a few episodes of the first Bill Cosby Show in 1969.
In October, The Gentle Warrior, a film said to have been an entry in the Moscow Film Festival on Boxoffice’s Oct. 11’th issue was promoted with two shorts: Planet Patrol and The Orangutans of Borno, but the extra promotion did not do much for the film beyond some well-performing playdates in areas where G Rated films were welcomed. Filmed in the Okefenokee Swamp and Directed by Stewart Raffill, this Charles Lee-starred film co-starring Dan Haggerty about one kid’s war against moonshiners (Southern film fans should like this one! Haggerty’s one of the Moonshiners!) was a big promotion through the year. Raffill should be known to film fans as an Animal Trainer for films and TV (Napoleon and Samantha is among the better known films he’s worked for) before changing his game to be a Director, although that sadly went to films like Tammy and the T Rex and Mac and Me.
The third film William Thompson released will possibly be the most remembered especially through the appearance of it’s trailer on the 42’nd Street Forever Vol. 4 collection (GET IT!). The Syndicate: A Death in the Family was unleashed in early 1972 with a fake R rating on it’s ad on the front page of Boxoffice’s March 12. 1972 issue, although according to CARA, it was rated X in 1974, when it was given another chance at some playdates. At the time the film was released, The Godfather seriously crushed all competition as the Columbia classic announced “The most exciting premiere ever!” in the same issue and then turned into a mega hit.
The 1969/70 film by Piero Zuffi had some bad over-dubbing as evidenced on the trailer, and it’s Psychedelic flavor was possibly seen as behind the times to the few who have seen it on the screens, but by the looks of it, it seriously looks like something that’s worth a look to all Drugsploitation fans as well as Italian film fanatics. While being better known for Production Design (Boccaccio ’70 among a nice list of films), this was Zuffi’s only “shot” at Directing (Another title for the film is Red Hot Shot, the translation of Colpo rovente, it’s real title) and some of the actors are well-respected, but mention must be made for the great Mod Movie Music of Piero Piccioni, who’s composed a huge number of soundtracks through the years.