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Sunday, 1 April 2012

I Misplaced It At The Movies: Give Daddy The Knife, Cindy!

As I've stated in some of my previous Blogs about the 1960s, 1967 was a particularly peculiar year, in that not only was it Paisley patterned and lysergic of hue, but that all contemporary culture of the time, be it art, books, TV, movies or especially music, at some point tried to capture that whole psychedelic try and evoke for the viewer or listener, the feeling of tripping on acid.

There were several movies which tried to emulate the LSD experience; from the hokum of 'The Acid Eaters', 'Mantis In Lace' and 'The Hooked Generation', to more serious fare like Otto Preminger's 'Skidoo' or 'Movie Star, American Style', to Roger Corman's 90 minute LSD commercial 'The Trip'. Often, like the music that equally attempted to convey hallucinatory properties, the films were ponderous and dull, unless the viewer themselves were under the influence.
Of all the 'acid' films from 1967-68, perhaps only one actually captured the zeitgeist full-on, yet thanks to poor distribution and muddled ownership rights, the film remains long unseen with very little prospect of any DVD release or re-print in the immediate future. That film is 'Give Daddy The Knife, Cindy!', a film most people will only have heard of thanks to the 1984 release of it's soundtrack album, the only album by 60's underground legends Naz Nomad & The Nightmares.
Around about 1995 I managed to see a bootleg print of the movie; murky, faded and scratched beyond repair, there was still a buzz of excitement as the film played. Here, roughly, is what I recall of the synopsis, aided by articles from Psychotronic and Incredibly Strange Films:
The film begins with Cindy, a troubled teen played by former child star April Fuller, leaving her trailer-trash home and her abusive, alcoholic mother who blames her for her husband(Cindy's father)'s disappearance. Cindy joins her friend Suzie(Arlene Sue Farber, star of Teenage Mother) and they hit the road in search of good times. Along the way they meet up with a friendly and benevolent Hell's Angel (yeah, right!!) called Trip who is played by an unrecognisable Arch Hall Jr who, in the 5 years since Eegah and Wild Guitar has gone from pudgy, blonde quiffed teen to bloated, straggly haired, bearded burn out. He lets the girls crash at his pad. He waits to pull off a drugs score while the girls head off to local frug-a-go-go bierkeller The Orange Rooftop Of Your Mind (oh, come WAS 1967!!). As the girls twist and jive amid swirly oil-light shows to beat combo Naz Nomad & The Nightmares, Trip's drug deal goes badly wrong. VERY badly wrong! An evil looking bunch turn up, tell Trip his LSD is contaminated and caused two of their friends to die in horrible hallucinatory agony. They beat the shit out him....and the life too!
The girls return to Trip's shack to find him dead, his bike gone, and his possessions ransacked. Luckily(?) Cindy knows where Trip kept his stash of LSD....taped under the Frigidaire along with his flick-knife(uh oh!). Of course, she doesn't know the LSD is dodgy(UH OH!!).
Next day the girls return to the Club where they meet a couple of free spirits they had encountered the previous night. They all get into a psychedelic-painted VW transporter and head off in search of the beautiful people. They arrive in what is clearly supposed to be Haight-Ashbury, San Francisco but what is obvious to Exploitation film fans as Coral Castle in Miami Florida. Here, after a blatantly fake 'love-in', they meet up with some Hippy types who invite them all back to 'the White House', a large mansion owned by acid-guru Daddy Oh, a clear imitation of Timothy Leary.
The White House is a non-stop party and in one of the most authentic 'acid' scenes in cinema history, all the principle characters take LSD under Daddy Oh's tutelage in the spacious front room. In this scene which lasts around 8 minutes, it is quite obvious that some (maybe even all) of the actors have ingested something. The camera moves verité style amongst the throng capturing snippets of loony babbling, some staring ahead dead-eyed, some freaking out and in some distress. It almost appears like it's footage taken from a social experiment, and is quite fascinating.

After this, Daddy Oh announces that the party will continue later with a live band. The live band turn out to be Naz Nomad & The Nightmares (hey! Who'd have guessed?).

Cindy, wanting the LSD experience to keep going, decides to take a Tab of Trip's dodgy acid....oops! Cue a final 15 minute section viewed almost entirely from Cindy's freaked-out perspective; all sonorised film stock and reverbed screaming accompanied by the pounding soundtrack of the band. This is okay for a little while but after 15 minutes it all gets a little too much for the viewer.

Cindy climbs to the roof of the building yelling how she's going to fly away. A young man tries to stop her but she pulls the flick-knife from apparently nowhere and slashes him. The other party-goers edge towards her, Daddy Oh at the front like a calming influence. "Give Daddy the knife Cindy" he says, and in a quick flashback we see the young Cindy standing before her abusive father as he beats her mother. She plunges the knife into her father, her mother screams and begins hitting Cindy. "Give Daddy the knife Cindy" Daddy Oh says again. Cindy stops....the camera holds on her face....a terrible special effect turns her eyes red....she lunges forward, knife towards Daddy OH....freeze-frame on Cindy as screaming breaks out all around....The End.

There's no denying that director Ray Burns has tried to capture 'something' of the spirit of that Summer Of Love vibe, but low production values and a false geographical setting work against the picture. Most of the crew and extras were borrowed from the Herschell G Lewis stable and the for years the film was included in Lewis's filmography, but he had nothing to do with the film.
Of course the film is a complete time-capsule, there's no way this film could have been made in any year other than 1967 yet, the verité scene apart, it still looks a lot more dated than, say, 'Riot On Sunset Strip' or 'Psych-Out'.
These days the film appears to be lost. Even Something Weird Video don't have this one, although the trailer does show up on their 'Alice In Acidland' DVD.

Minor interest in the film surfaced around 1984 when Big Beat Records released the Naz Nomad soundtrack album. Then, a year later, Clive Jackson (aka Doctor from the band Doctor & The Medics) invited the Nightmares to play at his 'A Pretty Smart Way To Catch A Lobster' nights at the Alice In Wonderland club. The band's original line up of Naz Nomad, Sphinx Svenson, Nick Detroit, Buddy Lee Junior, and Ulla all showed up and played some allegedly storming sets. The young Bobby Gillespie also invited the band to play at his Splash 1 club night in Glasgow.
Despite renewed interest, the film still remains virtually impossible to view. A recent campaign on the film's IMDB message board to release the print led nowhere, so until some minor miracle occurs, the soundtrack album is all we have.

But a damned fine album it is!


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