MPM and FCG in the D 1981-6
5-27-83…more later in this article!
Motion Picture Marketing is one of the few real success stories of the final round of the classic Exploitation era, and one that I can actually say I witnessed even if it was just as a kid watching the ads on TV wishing I would actually see the shows. By the time it got to 1986-7, I missed out on some of them as I was very busy mixing trying to get some kind of life together after High School while living in Small Dot and going to shows at places like the Greystone and the Cyprus (when it was hosting Punk/Hardcore shows, not the Metal of the Late 80’s). Still, the videos were there and I was renting them with regularity so at least I caught up that way.
This post should bring back a few memories of The 80’s when there were a few screens still trying to compete with the growing Video Culture. With stores like Thomas Video (RIP), this was going to be a tough war, but these films were worth the battle in the end.
Led by John Chambliss, who used to work with Mike Ripps over at EMC in the Late 70’s, MPM turned into a Exploitation Monster through The 80’s after starting up with re-titled flicks with some incredible promotions. One of the best was Playgirl Gang, which was actually the best-known pre-video presentation of Switchblade Sisters (or The Jezebels, if you prefer).
You can read about their start more in this detailed article…
Jack Hill’s classic got a play in the Detroit area in 1981.
Although there are fans of Final Exam, in my opinion it’s best as the small start to MPM producing original movies although they did so much better after this. Graveyard Tramps was a title from their early days when they bought Distribution rights to a umber of films by companies that went out of business, in this case Invasion of the Bee Girls which was originally released by Centaur, which was connected to Switchblade Sisters, and Dimension who had Sweet Sugar which reportedly was released by MPM as Changang Girls – I knew you would get it.
6-11-82 would see Funeral Home hit Detroit.
7-9-82 – Satan’s Mistress with Lana Wood and Britt Ekland would play the usual screens as well. After this would be the films we all know and love.
Michael Dugan’s Mausoleum, starring Bobbie Bresee, was another step in the original direction and was a good hit. Those who know about MPM’s history will already know the connections with Micheal Franzese which led to the company’s best chapter which this post is all about. By then, the Downtown play was at the Adams, shortly before it turned into a triple screen in 1986, and the three-screen Northgate as well as most of the area Drive Ins were always playing their films as well.
You know it, you love it! Lucio Fulci’s City of the Living Dead was promoted in The US as The Gates of Hell. My Small Dot High School memories bring me back to catching the ad while watching Saturday Night Live and hearing the classic scream. Mausoleum would usually be the B at many of these showings.
Bruno Mattei’s Hell of the Living dead was re-titled Night of the Zombies. This cool gross out with some kind of Eco-Horror plot played very well in many areas, and as you can tell it hit the Adams and the Northgate as it should. While Toledo’s Drive Ins were very quiet in the Winter, Detroit’s scene was still blazing away with the Outdoor Gore.
4-13-84 would see Fulci’s classic hit Toledo’s Butch Cassidy Drive In as well! Mausoleum and Funeral Home would be there, too
5-4-84 saw the Detroit play of Zeder, which was re-named Revenge of the Dead. This atmospheric Horror had little success due to the ads promoting another gore show and the audience getting something not as wild. Thankfully, it has gained a cult following as of late. A sign of the times came around when this release played as a B to films like Children of the Corn at the Adams and Friday the 13’th Part 4 at a couple of Drive Ins instead of the MPM feature, but as the reader will know that it was possibly due to the fact that this was not a true A feature by comparison to what was around as the company based double features will resume later on.
Bruno Mattei’s Violence in a Woman’s Prison as Caged Women had more success, but it also faced being a B to major company films like Friday the 13’th Part 4. Still it will be in the theaters in more fitting programs later on. The next week had it play with Sleepaway Camp at the Adams, though!
Danny Steinman’s classic Savage Streets starring Linda Blair has both it’s fans and critics, and it’s production history is very interesting to both sides. It has a Punk Exploitation angle that was little too late when one considers the episodes of C.H.i.P.s and Quincy some time before the release of this film, but the vicious action and Exploitation elements, not to mention one of the most disturbing rape scenes to be shown in a mainstream theater by the Mid 80’s (Victim: the legendary scream queen Linnea Quigley), pulled the movie ghouls in. According to the commentary, the Bel Air Drive In had a huge success with this and it’s B, The Gates of Hell!
One of my favorite memories was watching the ad on WXON in the middle of the afternoon during the short-lived video series Hot.
By the end of the year, MPM closed up while Chambliss would form up Film Concept Group, which some can say was the remainder of the imports marked to be released by MPM, but these films were among the greatest “Bad Films” ever.
Another Cult Class-Sick arrived in the Detroit area with Burial Ground – Downtown at the Adams, but sadly not at the Northgate this time (it was trying to bring in more major league films to little success, it would close reportedly by 1986). This was clearly Peter Bark’s show!
9-13-85 would see The Other Hell, known at that time as Guardian of Hell. Bruno Mattei’s infamous Nunsploitation crap classic still has a strong following today – and I’m among them! At the Adams, this would play with American Ninja while some Drive Ins would have it with wither Day of the Dead or Burial Ground. This was the last time the company would go into the Metro Detroit area on a week-by-week basis with it’s films.
9-19-86 would see the classic 1985 US releases with Paul Naschy’s Night of the Werewolf as The Craving. The Northgate was possibly closed by this time and the Bel Air closed up that season, although in true Detroit style there would be a few screens still ready to play this show or just The Craving including the just-triplexed Adams.