Through the Dark Side of Cinema in Detroit, 1970
1-13-70, Detroit – Starting off this post with another find of the infamous run of Satan’s Sadists ads sparked by the Spahn Ranch connections, this time with a film featuring Sharon Tate, Directed by J. Lee Thompson, and distributed by MGM. Eye of the Devil was possibly a very popular choice for the B at the time. The Grand Circus Theater would sadly shut it’s doors as a cinema in 1978 although it has survived as a concert theater through 1982-85 and recently as the Detroit Opera House.
This trip focuses on Detroit in a time when the cultural climate turned to the darker sides after the fall of the ideas of the Late 60’s, although the Fox and the screens in the Grand Circus Park area were already experienced in Horror and Exploitation for years. The major studios were focusing on the suburbs after some incredible fails in the city (Paint Your Wagon at the Summit and Goodbye, Mr. Chips at the UA), so the independents and Skin-dependents were doing well to ill in the gap most of the time. Naturally, the Downtown cinemas had the bulk of these great films, but some Drive Ins had their taste as well.
5-13-70, Detroit – While Night of Bloody Horror had a $1,000 gimmick, it was actually a fine edgy Exploitation film featuring the appearance of Major Dad himself, Gerald McRaney, that certainly did not need the hard-sell in my opinion. At the Fox, it’s B was the Hammer Classic The Curse of Frankenstein which seriously out-classed the headlining film, but was still perfect for all cinema ghouls who might have liked both on their own terms.
5-17-70, Detroit – The Studio New Center was the hip place to go for the serious movie set in Detroit. While the soundtrack by Pink Floyd was already a small cult hit in The US upon it’s 1969 release, some areas had to wait to see the classic downer of a film.
5-15-70. Detroit – A sign of the times – A number of once-strong Downtown cinemas tried to keep themselves alive with Adult movies by 1970. Facing suburban flight, the harsh economics of movies with changing demographics, and trying to stay up to date, the United Artists and the Summit tried to stay open though the Early 70’s with the Over 18 set, but sadly faced competition from the theaters that were already established in that field as well.
7-10-70, Farmington, MI – Night of Bloody Horror had a more perfect B in George Romero’s classic Night of the Living Dead, which again might have outclassed the headliner with the $1,000 gimmick, but fitted in perfectly as an American Horror which captured a mood of the day.
8-19-70, Detroit – The Grand Circus played the imaginative Equinox – if you have not seen it, you should – with another Hammer classic, this time Horror of Dracula featuring Christopher Lee’s masterful appearance. The headlining film was originally a work created by Dennis Murin, but was re-edited and whipped up for mainstream release by Jack Woods for Producer and Distributor Jack H. Harris. Equinox’s special effects by Jim Danforth sparked a legendary career as a Visual Effects artist (Exploitation fans will forever remember his work in Flesh Gordon and beyond) and David Allen (Flesh Gordon, Laserblast, The Hunger, Q, The Stuff, and many others) while Murin created worlds in the Star Wars series among a long line of well-known and respected films. A wonderful pair!
10-2-70, Detroit – Lee Frost’s edit of Witchcraft ’70, featured a few posts ago, played with the noteworthy Spirits of the Dead, a good pick for the times. Featuring an Anti-Hex Charm gimmick that was a nice touch, this seriously hit perfectly with the darker mood of the time.
10-14-70, Detroit and Eastpointe – Jerry Gross’ US release of Whirlpool was a small hit across The US during Cinemation’s early years as an Exploitation powerhouse (Inga, Fanny Hill, I Drink Your Blood/I Eat Your Skin). The Capri would soon turn into an Adult cinema.
10-28-70 – Performance makes it to the New Studio Center.
11-11-70, Detroit and Wyandotte – This Medford Films double feature played to slight success through 1970-1 in various areas including Detroit. The music in Night of the Witches was by The Music Machine’s Sean Bonniwell.
11-18-70, Westland, Farmington, and Taylor – Hemisphere’s classic chiller Carnival of Blood makes it’s way to the suburban Drive Ins! Two Blood Island films plus two movie starring Christopher Lee was best bargain in town!
12-10-70, Detroit – Featured in a post some time back, Chevron’s Blood Suckers/Blood Thirst double bill at the Fox.
3-3-71, Detroit – HG Lewis’ 1970 classic the Wizard of Gore made a stop in Detroit in early 1971.
3-19-71 – Released in 1970, the classic Documentary Gimme Shelter plays the Madison, then an ABC theater.