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Damn I love a mystery, in the movies but even more in real life. If the mystery involves a bad filmmaker, well then Hell yeah, I'm very tickled. My latest mystery is Sean MacGregor, director of DEVIL TIMES FIVE. Where did he go, why did he go? A guy makes a film that features a roving band of killer kids, shows some real promise and then "POOF!" It wasn't even his first film, he had already did a pro-Native American tale with the likable tough guy William Smith in GENTLE SAVAGE and had defended the fruit pickers in the rarity NIGHTMARE COUNTY. But I declare…DEVIL TIMES FIVE is MacGregor's TITANTIC.

Set in 1974, the year it was made, it is the story of Rick, who is a doctor and his lovely gal pal Julie. The 2 of them are off for a weekend to a winter hideway at a place owned by Julie's father. Everyone refers to this crusty old hard ass as Papa Doc. Papa Doc is looking to hire Rick to oversee some new clinic he is building. Also hanging out for the weekend is another medical professional, Harvey Beckman and his alcoholic wife, Ruth. Papa Doc's extra horny wife, Lovely is along, as well. Papa Doc also has a caretaker of sorts at his posh, winter digs, Ralph, a retard with a heart of gold, who raises his bunnies and cooks, cleans and does maintenance for the Papa Doc klan.

That is only one group dynamic in DEVIL TIMES FIVE, the other group of note is the five kids who have just survived the crash of their "short bus" on the slippery roadways near Papa Doc's icy retreat. There's David, Moe, Sister Hannah, Brian and Susan. These five seem like nice kids initially, but we find out via voiceover that they do not want to go back from where they came and there is also an adult who survived the crash, and he is on their trail.

Needless to say these 2 groups of people converge and therein lies our story. MacGregor, in the opening sequences that lead us to this point, uses some of the tools of the trade that most film viewers find, for lack of a better word, bad. But you know me, I'm looking for that element as a barometer to guage what the true "quality" of the film is or even might have been. First of all it takes us till around the 8 minute mark before the credits are completely through rolling, they start at about the 20 second mark of the feature. Credits are very important, we learn that John Durren penned DEVIL TIMES FIVE, his other writing credit, the Arthur Marks' effort THE ROOMMATES. We will also soon find out that Durren is Ralph, the retard, who better to play the 'tard than the writer I ask? During this elongated credit sequence we also get a bit of the childish flirting between Rick and Julie's characters. Rick is supposed to be sexy I think. Taylor Lacher, who would give Fred Dryer a run for his money in the tall, balding, skintight pant-wearing, non-stud who thinks he's a stud department delivers Rick, on a platter and I guarantee Mr. Lacher was adlibbing considerably. Julie (Joan McCall) is the cutie pie mousy blond that you had better remember as Allison from Billy Girdler's all important GRIZZLY, as well as Helen in his PROJECT KILL. She also showed up as a rape victim turned vigilante in RAPE SQUAD, reviewed here at Brains on Film. RAPE SQUAD featured Peter Brown as a rapist, Brown produced MacGregor's GENTLE SAVAGE, mentioned earlier. Sheeew. Incestuous, yes, but that was the way in the early 70's, many folks worked together to get projects completed. Joan is married to Girdler's Hollywood producer David Sheldon, who co-wrote SHEBA, BABY and GRIZZLY as well as produced both of those and PROJECT KILL for Mr. G. If you want enough William Girdler info to choke a horse, get you get your ass over to www.williamgirdler.com and read up on this Kentucky native who was taken from us prematurely.

As the credits creep along the van winds around the snowy curves and the Caddy that Rick and Julie are in is doing the same. In one of those classic film moments the film speed is accelerated to Benny Hill type proportions before pulling back to slow motion of the van rolling down a mountain, windows breaking, trees snapping and overdubs warbling. Now that was a crash, Mr. MacGregor, no one can survive! But survive they do, as the van is upside down, one by one, kids climb out of the window, right side up, unscathed, stopping only to expose a little plot and to steal the watch from the driver. All four of them start the trek away from the vehicle, then number five kicks open the back door, "You guys were going to leave me!" It's David, Leif Garrett, in his nice little black dress suit and perfect Leif Garrett hair. Finally the credits can end. MacGregor has padded the opening with automobile interiors, exteriors, snow, overdubs, fucking with the film transfer speed and playful sexual teasing. God this is good.

When Rick and Julie finally arrive at Papa Doc's, it is apparent that this Papa is a card. He barks orders at everyone, he retells the same stories of how he started with nothing and now has all of these "things" he has all the while maintaining that the weekend is for work not for winter hijinx. Rick constantly battles back with barbs, like "asshole," "bullshit" and "fuck you," more adlibbing from Lacher, I just know it. That Sean MacGregor is letting his actors "act' by God. Papa Doc you will recognize instantly as "that one guy" Gene Evans, who never met a Western script he didn't like and paid his dues with the likes of Sam Fuller in SHOCK CORRIDOR, shows up in GENTLE SAVAGE and even claims a WALKING TALL credit. A 40 year veteran of the pictures, he's just one of those guys. The other couple on the mountain retreat are also recognizable the Beckmans, played by TV's Boss Hogg (Sorrell Booke, damn he was good in FAILSAFE) and Will and Grace's Rosario (Shelly Morrison). Boss Hogg has a little more hair and Rosario is less ethnic and 60 pounds lighter. Amazingly, both are damn good actors. Lovely, Papa Doc's wife, truly is lovely. I wish I could tell you she had been in a dozen sexploitationers, but that is not the case. Carolyn Steller is Leif Garrett's mom. Her other child is also in the movie, Dawn Lyn plays Moe, the youngest of the children who survived the van crash. Dawn was Dodie, Fred MacMurry's "new" daughter on the color versions of My Three Sons. Stellar is very good in the role as horny temptress, in a disturbing scene which involves Ralph the retard, he coaxes him out of his clothes just as Julie catches her, she just laughs and Julie verbally attacks her only to find out that Lovely has already humped ol' Rick. The two catfight on the floor until Mrs. Beckman interrupts drunkenly. Stellar manages to show her breasts both before the edit when she closes her robe and MacGregor cuts to Mrs. Beckman, and when he cuts back ,her robe has been re-opened and she pulls it shut again. If you think Leif was a looker, check out the genes. I don't know what happened to poor fugly Dawn Lyn though.

Once the children arrive at the house, we are informed, once again via overdub, that the adult survivor of the crash is pursuing them to take them back to a place they do not want to go. Brian, a small black boy, dressed in fatigues proclaims he will take care of the guy and they'll never take them back. All of his lines are delivered in military speak, this is never really explained, but who cares. When the man on their trail shows up in Papa Doc's basement, the overdub has also informed us that no one will hear anything down there because the place is built solid, the kids attack and kill him. Why he entered though the basement instead of pecking on the door, well, that is just a stupid question. This scene is in slow motion, I mean real slow motion, like five minutes which seems like five hours slow motion and it is completely dark, the only glimpse of our victim tells me it is not the same actor we see pursuing the kids in the broad daylight, actor Henry Beckman (I guess we know where the name Harvey Beckman came from) went on to a ton of roles including that of Barton Kelly in the Cronenberg classic THE BROOD. Here he worked for a couple hours then a replacement for him was killed. How did MacGregor cover his ass? By darkening the print and playing it out in slow motion. Brilliant. The kids bury the Doctor, we find out by a close up of his nametag, he's an employee of an INSANE AYSLUM!

Later that night, I think, MacGregor does a great job of confusing the viewer as to when it is, day or night, or the same day or night, or how much time has passed, (his intention I'm sure) the kids startle Mrs. Beckman as she goes down to grab another fifth of Scotch because Harvey is ready to get his groove on. Mrs. Beckman's shock at five well dressed kids, one a nun even, in the den leads to shrieks, which awaken the whole house. The kids relay the story of their crash, they were on a trip, they are the only survivors. Everyone buys the story, feels sorry for them and Papa Doc lets them stay.

So this is when the heat-up starts right, the children will all plan the offing of the adults one at a time, right, Rick, Julie and the retarded Ralph will survive, right? I am very pleased to report, no, that is not what happens. We are treated to very violent murders which take place mainly because the kids are scared to go back to the "home" or the adult in question, dissed them somehow. The strangest occurence, Ralph the retard, who has a lot in common with the group of kids and even has a revealing conversation with Sister Hannah, is the first one done away with. MacGregor manages to totally screw with your head in the order of killings and the hows and the whys of the killings, which include electric generators, various conventional weapons and piranha, or "Paron-Ya!" as Papa Doc says.

The kids in DEVIL TIMES FIVE are pretty decent with Leif being the stand-out, David, his character, has many feminine attributes, and he is a possible cross-dresser. This might have been an afterthought, it seems Leif must have had a role that required his beautiful locks to be shorn right smack dab in the middle of the DEVIL TIMES FIVE shoot.. The made for TV movies of the same time period STRANGE HOMECOMING and THREE FOR THE ROAD as well as the drive-in classic MACON COUNTY LINE all featured Leif in roles. Leif has, what is obviously, his long shoulder length hair, then in the next scene seems to be wearing a wig made to look like his hair, but the opening killing sequence shows him remove a wig to show his short hair before killing the doctor from the Asylum. Leif's hair begs for a flowchart, but you'll just have to track it yourself. His little sister Dawn, is basically just like the character she played in My Three Sons. Dawn also shares a WALKING TALL credit with her brother and with Gene Evans (Papa Doc). Sister Hannah, well, Gail Smale is not credited as an actress in any other project that I can find, the character is fairly interesting and her performance is good but her "illness" is odd to say the least. Catholics take note. The little black drill sergeant (Tierre Turner) is slightly annoying but brutal as the leader nonetheless, the kid can act. Turner went on to be Earl in CORNBREAD, EARL AND ME and he's making a living in the biz today as one of the hardest working black stunt doubles in racket showing up as Cuba Gooding's death-defying doppelganger in INSTINCT, MEN OF HONOR and PEARL fucking HARBOR. And can a crazy kid movie not include a pyromaniac? Shit no it can't and we have one here as well. Susan doesn't get a lot of action but pulls off the quiet demented role perfectly. Tia Thompson is Susan, another child actress who faded into obscurity.

A quick not about the better part of the cinematography, Paul Hipp handled the best part of the duties, keeping in mind that there is obviously some time lapse on pick up shots. Hipp is someone due a lot more chatter than just this short blurb relating to Devil Time Five. I promise more to come. Hipp worked on such great exploitation smegma as TRADER HORNEE, GRAVE OF THE VAMPIRE, PSYCHO FROM TEXAS, and the shit-tastic SUPERCHICK. Thank you Paul Hipp.

MacGregor's take on the Last House formula is pretty decent. It could have been taken farther for sure but in 1974, this VILLAGE OF THE DAMNED homage is still pretty heavy. MacGregor never flinches and the downbeat ending is another shocker. MacGregor seems as if he was a filmmaker that could have risen to great heights as a schlockmeister but, unless he was working under a pseudonym, dissolved into film obscurity. DEVIL TIMES FIVE seems to only be mentioned, by most, when discussing killer child flicks. It also had a run under the titles PEOPLE TOYS and HORRIBLE HOUSE ON THE HILL. Oh, Sean MacGregor, you elude me, but not forever, I hope.

Do me a favor, find DEVIL TIMES FIVE, it's what us sports fans call an "Old Fashioned Barn Burner!" There are enough pop culture icons involved you can call it camp, there's enough twisted killings to satisfy the slasher elite and for the true carn-o-sware of bad filmmaking Sean MacGregor…well Sean MacGregor for the most part is…bad.

Check out www.videoscreams.com, they'll hook you up with a copy, mention Brains On Film and get free stuff.

The cute Joan McCall.

What can you say...I wish my mom looked like that

Can you have a Devil movie and not have fire?

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Where, oh where are thou, Sean MacGregor?

Let's get to it, Leif Garrett's mom gives 'em up!

Little Leif, he hasn't covered his first tune yet.

Leif's little sis, they just told her that her mom showed her boobs.

This looks like it could be fun!

I think they agree!

Retarded Ralph, Lovely wants some loving.

SIster Hannah blesses the festivities.

A little Sorrell Booke for the ladies! That's Boss Hogg for the gents!

A little more for you gals...

He dead.

He dead.

He dead.

He dead.

He dead.

She dead.

Leif Garrett plays a little dress-up...

and then his beautiful hair is gone!

Then he has another wig on...I'm confused.
Brains On Film 2003