Ratings Key

= Excellent. The best the genre has to offer.
1/2 = Very Good. Perhaps not "perfect," but undoubtedly a must-see.
★★★ = Good. Accomplishes what it sets out to do and does it well.
★★1/2 = Fair. Clearly flawed and nothing spectacular, but competently made. OK entertainment.
★★ = Mediocre. Either highly uneven or by-the-numbers and uninspired.
1/2 = Bad. Very little to recommend.
= Very Bad. An absolute chore to sit through.
NO STARS! = Abysmal. Unwatchable dreck that isn't even bad-movie amusing.
SBIG = So Bad It's Good. Technically awful movies with massive entertainment value.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Red & Rosy (1989)

... aka: Frank Grow's Red & Rosy
... aka: Red and Rosy

Directed by:
Frank Grow

In 1968, legendary drag racing champion Richard “Big Red” Friedman (Raymond Espinoza) has a career-ending crash. While undergoing 32-hours worth of life-saving surgery, doctors are forced to remove his adrenal glands and from then on out he's subjected to “adrenal therapy.” No longer able to race, Richard can now only get his kicks from an adrenal drug that simulates the rush of speed and soon becomes addicted to it. After Big Red is elevated to superstar status on the drag circuit, a bunch of Big Red impostors start showing up at races across the country impersonating their hero. They even take it one step farther by becoming adrenaline drug junkies themselves. Underground adrenaline laboratories begin cropping up all over the place but aren't quite able to meet the demand. As a result, some of the new junkies become violent and bloodthirsty and willing to kill to get their fix. One guy (Rico Martinez, also a co-writer and cameraman) slices up his friend's arm and collects his blood in a bucket and, at a tattoo parlor, one of the artists carves up a guy's arm while a few other workers kidnap two young boys carrying a box with a severed penis and testicles inside (!), kill them and sell jugs of their blood on the black market to the Big Red impostor in their area.

While all of the above madness is going on, the real Big Red has quietly relocated to a small town and married trophy queen, actress and scrap metal baroness Samantha “Rose” Canyon. With his wife away in Hollywood, Big Red operates her “Scrap & Steel” business and hires a pair of big-haired female assistants who sit around listening to “Harper Valley P.T.A.” in between helping him create an adrenaline-powered drag racing simulator. They lure victims there with an employment ad in the paper, knock them out, hang them upside down and then drain their blood, which is then pumped directly into Big Red's bloodstream as the simulator gives him the closest drag race simulation possible under the circumstances. When Rose returns, she too  becomes addicted to the adrenaline drug, which leads to some rather interesting complications...

By 1971, the couple continue to kill for blood and are now targeting Big Red's former drag race (and romantic) rivals, like some schmuck named Larry (Larry Schultz) who still has the hots for Rose. However, something has changed... Big Red has turned into a giant, grinning piece of machinery and Rose is missing her head, arms and legs, but is still very pregnant with a pair of flamethrower-eyed, beer-drinking scrap metal babies! The amazing special effects in these scenes are from Mike Weix and others at the Survival Research Laboratories; a “machine performance art group” who promise “Dangerous and Disturbing Mechanical Presentations Since 1979” on their website.

According to the director, he shot more than enough footage to turn all of this into a feature but he instead opted to trim it all down to just 18 minutes so this wouldn't (no pun intended) drag. That turned out to be a wise choice because this lightning-fast flurry of flatly-narrated stock footage, new footage, still photos, surreal artwork and animation perfectly fit the director's obvious affection for drag racing plus the entire theme of adrenaline rush. A movie like this simply cannot move slowly. It also cannot be quiet. Lots of revving engines and squealing tires are heard and there's a mostly-rock soundtrack, including a few familiar songs (like Black Sabbath's “Sweet Leaf”) as well as new music by The Blood Pumper Racing Club. It was shot in black-and-white on 16mm and is dedicated to the director's father, who apparently was a drag racer himself. Grow followed this up with the feature-length horror-comedy Love God (1997), which received excellent reviews on the festival circuit but has strangely never been issued on DVD or VHS.

Despite not having an IMDb entry, Red & Rosy actually was officially released on home video (in a rather plain case) by the now-defunct Film Threat Video, who were best known for distributing Jörg Buttgereit's gory shockers Nekromantik (1987), Der Todesking (1990) and NEKROMANTIK 2 (1991), as well as Corpse Fucking Art (1992), a behind-the-scenes documentary on the making of those three films. Their other output included a combination of low-budget underground films – the Dark Romances anthologies (1990), Lisa Houle's Puss Bucket (1991), Leif Jonker's Darkness (1992) and Jim Van Bebber's My Sweet Satan (1992), Doper (1994) and Roadkill: The Last Days of John Martin (1994) – and shockumentaries like Hated: GG Allin & the Murder Junkies (1993), Lydia Lunch: Malicious Intent (1994), the NAMBLA-centered Chicken Hawk (1994) and the S&M kink-fest Euro Fetish (1995). The Film Threat line of video releases stopped in the early 2000s and most of the films they once released haven't been picked up by other distributors since.

In addition to the video release, Red & Rosy has also been screened theatrically a number of times over the years. In the UK in 1991 it was shown during a (very fitting) double feature with Tetsuo, the Iron Man (1989) as part of an “Aesthetics of the Future” series which dealt with “...exploring the radical impact of new technologies.” The main monster used in the film turned up on the cover of Steel Pole Bath Tub's 1990 album Lurch.



앤서니 said...

excellent article! i found this because i had the steel pole bathtub record with the film still on the cover, and wanted to see if i could find out some info on that sleeve i'd spent so much time staring at.

i've been wanting to see that film for over two decades now, and just found it's over on Frank Grow's youtube channel along with the full Love God film...


The Bloody Pit of Horror said...

Thanks! I found it over on Youtube as well. Glad to know 'Love God' is there too because I really want to see that one as well.

Anonymous said...

I also saw this film during its UK release in 1991, but with 'Death Race 2000' during a late night show at the Scala Cinema in London.

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