9/22/09

Terrifying Tuesday: Head (a.k.a. Premonition) (1972)

The director of tonight’s film got his start in horror in the most unlikely of places, The Brady Bunch. Well, OK, maybe it’s not exactly horror, but I would have to imagine that living in a house with six kids would be pretty horrific. In fairness, the Brady Clan, for which Alan Rudolph served as Assistant Director on eleven episodes, was not his first job. He served in the same capacity on the Jim Brown/Gene Hackman film Riot and the Ryan O’Neal version of Elmore Leonard’s The Big Bounce. What we’re here to talk about tonight is his very first film. Produced, directed, and written by Rudolph, Head (a.k.a Premonition a.k.a The Impure) is a different kind of horror film. In fact, it may not even be one at all.

A few days back, I wrote about Fulci’s Lizard in a Woman’s Skin in which the leading lady is menaced by nightmarish hippies. In Head (1972), it is the hippies being menaced by their own nightmares. It all begins when Neil (Carl Crow) takes a job with anthropology professor Kilrenny (Victor Izay), and they find an Indian skeleton in the Mexican desert. Kinrenny and Neil load it into the truck. As soon as Neil touches the skeleton he is troubled by strange visions, but he’s not sure if they are real or hallucinations from the local “devil’s weed“. Driving blind through the desert, Neal crashes the truck off a side of a cliff, and while the two men escape, the skeleton is lost forever. Three years later, Neal has cleaned himself up, and now he’s devoting his time to his new band with Baker (Winfrey Hester Hill) and Andy (Tim Ray). When they movie to a Southern California farm to practice, Neil and Andy both start having nightmares, similar to the visions Neil had on that night in the desert. What starts off as an attempt to live the rock and roll dream ends up plunging the group into a nightmare from which they might not return.

While Rudolph’s hippie horror fest fails to produce any real scares, it does succeed in building a very tense, trippy atmosphere throughout. By 1972, the hippie movement was beginning to fade, and the thought that drug use had warped many young minds was on the national consciousness. Neil comes off like a dippy acid casualty with his troubled, pained expressions and fearful worry over something he may or may not have seen. Andy on the other hand is in the thick of it, constantly smoking the “devil’s weed”. The film devotes most of its time to character development, and Andy goes from a happy, well adjusted fellow to a dissociative loner.

For all the faults the film has; a disjointed narrative, an unclear theme, and a lack of any climatic moment, where it does succeed is in the acting department. Carl Crow had been acting for over ten year, mostly in television, but his biggest film role previously was in Elvis Presley’s G.I. Blues. Crow’s character seems pensive and a bit whiney at times, but I think this is what you’re supposed to get from him. I rather enjoyed watching him, but both the title song, written by Crow, and the moments that he spoke directly to the audience I could have done without. Tim Ray, who played Andy, also was very effective as the sensitive, classically trained musician that retreats into his own mind. Ray had only a bit part in a film prior to Head, and the only other role credited to him came some nineteen year with 1991’s Julia Has Two Lovers starring David Duchovny.

Winfrey Hester Hill, who played Baker, never appeared in any other films, and that’s really too bad. Not only did he exhibit a fair amount of charisma on camera, he also had a very good comic timing which lightened the mood in the heavily atmospheric film. The only other actor with any credits to his name was Victor Izzy, the anthropologist. Izzy has worked steadily in film and television since 1960 with roles in 1968’s The Astro-Zombies, 1971’s Billy Jack, and 1988’s Young Guns. He’s still going at it today and has appeared in 2006’s Employee of the Month and 2007’s Wild Hogs.

The most successful person to come out of this movie was director Alan Rudolph. He followed up Head with another horror film, 1974’s Nightmare Circus. His love of music and musicians lead him to work with Alice Cooper on his 1975 Welcome to My Nightmare film. Alice returned the favor by appearing in Rudolph’s 1980 film Roadie starring Art Carney, Meat Loaf, Asleep at the Wheel, and Blondie. I’ve seen it a couple of times myself, and I’m sure I’ll get around to reviewing it sometime because it’s a fabulous film. Rudolph wasn’t done with musicians yet, and in 1984 and 1985 he directed a pair of films starring Kris Kristofferson. The first was a broad comedy called Songwriter co-starring Willie Nelson (another great film) and the second a film noir inspired effort, Trouble in Mind, with Keith Carradine and Divine in his only non-drag role. Rudolph has continued to work over the years with the highest profile film being the 1999 Kurt Vonnegut adaptation Breakfast of Champions.

For a first film, Head is not that bad. I’ve seen far worse efforts from more experienced film makers. It will not please anyone looking for jump scares, horrific imagery, or gore, but, if you enjoy an atmospheric film or a glimpse into the roots of indie horror, then give this rarity a shot. You can get this flick over at Cinema de Bizarre, and when I say this is rare, I mean it is pretty dang rare. So be warned that the picture quality, though very good for what it is, is not going to be perfect. The sound quality is excellent though, and the few moments where the picture detracts from the film are brief and negligible. So check this one out, folks, and remember stay away from that “devil’s weed”.

Bugg Rating

The Lair's good pal Rev. Phantom recently made a hell of a great trailer for Head recently. So credit where credit is very much due. Check it out and enjoy!

4 comments:

  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  2. Thanx for the shout at the end, Bugg.

    Yeah, um...this movie is somethin' else isn't it? lol

    I did like it though. I can't say I've ever seen another movie like it. I agree with you about the performances of the actors. It's truly what saves the film from being a complete waste of time.

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  3. Thanks for this review of Alan's first feature length film.

    One man's schlock is another man's vehicle to future creative work. IF you get my drift.

    Here is a little more history and background on this film:

    I tried to post the following as a comment to YouTube but it wouldn’t post for some odd reason. The time marks listed below are for the LewisFilms copy @ YouTube.

    - - - - -

    This is a clip from the Alan Rudolph written/directed cult film "Premonition" also known as "Head" in the UK on DVD. This scene was filmed at the old Paramount movie location north of Thousand Oaks, California (not the Paramount Movie Ranch where M*A*S*H was filmed). How do I know all this you may ask? I was in this film and in this concert scene clip (person on the right at 2:47).

    To continue: One of the bands in this clip was a band called CHaiND that I was the roadie and soundman with. We were a local San Fernando Valley (California) based band. We were a regukar band at the Old Topanga Corral run by Topanga Dick. We also toured and performed throughout the Southwest region opening for with such acts as Ballin' Jack, Tower of Power, Black Oak Arkansas, and Spirit.

    The African American fella seen playing guitar (@ 2:56) is Winfrey Hester (Pepe) Hill who was our co-lead singer in CHaiND. He was also a lead character in this film. We still hang out together and work music on and off.

    To continue: The person seen walking up the hill (@ 56secs) carrying a guitar and looking around is Peter M. Klimes who was the other co-lead singer in CHaiND. You can find him here at his MySpace page. I've worked with Peter since 1965 when he was 13 and signed to White Whale Records.

    It use to be almost impossible to get your hands on a copy of this film. I have a Class-A video cassette of the original that I've never transferred to DVD, but I should.

    I’m also listed as “Hippy at the Cabin” in the credits. I’m the Larry Loveridge guy. My wife of 40 years was also with me in the hippies in the cabin scene. Thatt scene was shot on the side of Old Topanga Canyon up in the Big Rock area. It was a real home for friends of ours. For more info on cast and credits and about this film go to the following link:

    imdb.com/title/tt0069118/

    You may wish to visit my MySpace page also:

    myspace.com/oldestroadieleftstanding


    Again ... Thanks for providing this blog.

    Oh and... visit this little ditty even as Silly as it Seems . . .
    .

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  4. Just watched this last night and thought it was a curious, though enjoyable, period piece. Noticed in the credits at the beginning that the (pretty heavy) electronic soundtrack is by none other than Harold Budd. Thanks for this blog posting - interesting info.
    Kyodo_Doom

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