LEE FROST PROFILE
Mention the name Lee Frost and most people will say, "Who?" Some people might even remember him for his exploitation films of the 70's, such as the hilariously campy THE THING WITH TWO HEADS (1972 - where bigot Ray Milland has his head sewn on to the body of big black ex-footballer Rosey Grier), the biker film CHROME AND HOT LEATHER (1971) or the black actioner THE BLACK GESTAPO (1975). What many people do not know is that Lee Frost (who also used the names Les Emerson, R.L. Frost and Robert L. Frost when making films) was by then an accomplished director/writer/actor who was one of the best of a crop of low-budget filmmakers who got their start in the field of early 60's sexploitation sleaze. Lee Frost (real name: Ralph Lee Frost) came into prominence in 1962 with a little no-budgeter called SURFTIDE 77. It was during that time that he met sleaze producer Bob Cresse (Whose life story would make a great book. He died in 1998.) and the late Wes Bishop, who would collaborate with Frost on most of the films he directed. The partnership that this trio formed would turn out some of the most unusual (and well-made) sexploitation classics that the nudely-aware 60's had to offer. Their first outing as partners was the seminal film HOUSE ON BARE MOUNTAIN (1962), which many consider to be the first all-monster/nudie-cutie film. Although tame by today's standards, this film proved to be a bonanza at the boxoffice, making millions from an audience starving to see nude (and quite attractive) women. Filmed in three days for a few thousand bucks, HOUSE paved the way for other filmmakers to make their own monster/nudies, including Peter Perry's infamous DR. BREEDLOVE (1964 - aka KISS ME QUICK). The success of HOUSE afforded the trio to make more nudie films. Some of those titles included: LOVE IS A FOUR LETTER WORD (1963), HOLLYWOOD'S WORLD OF FLESH (1963), THE SEXPLOITERS (1965), THE DEFILERS (1965), MONDO FREUDO (1966), MONDO BIZARRO (1966), THE PICK-UP (1967) and RIDE HARD, RIDE WILD (1970 - with Frost directing under the name "Elov Peterssons") . This led up to three of Frost's most notorious films: HOT SPUR (1968) and then LOVE CAMP 7 and THE SCAVENGERS (both 1969) . HOT SPUR was one of the first nudie westerns (along with Dave Friedman's BRAND OF SHAME) and was praised by a lot of critics as being a "fine example of the western tradition" even though it had so much frontal nudity in it. THE SCAVENGERS was about a bunch of Civil War scum who invade a town and rob, torture and rape the townspeople before being put down by a bunch of freed slaves. LOVE CAMP 7 was a whole other can of worms. Reviled by critics as an "exploitation of the Holocaust tragedy", this was the first film to show the horror and bloodshed inside a Nazi concentration camp. Whippings, rapes, orgies and torture are shown rather gleefully, not helped by the fact that most of the Nazis are portrayed by Jewish men (including Bob Cresse as a scene-chewing commandant). Noted for its frequent use of flesh (but no pubic hair), LOVE CAMP 7 was the precursor of such films as ILSA-SHE WOLF OF THE SS (1975) and the countless Italian imitations of the 70's. LOVE CAMP 7 played to packed audiences all over the world and was one of the films that led to the "Video Nasties" ban in England in the early 80's. Lee Frost was not just a director. During the 60's he handled the chores of dubbing, shooting additional scenes and editing foreign-made films that Cresse picked up for U.S. distribution. If a film was considered too "tame" for America's newly-found thirst for filmic flesh, Frost would shoot inserts which contained nudity, often seemlessly inserting them so that audiences weren't aware that they were added. Films such as FESTIVAL GIRLS (1962), NIGHT OF LUST (1965) and MASSACRE OF PLEASURE (1966) contained Frost's superb insert technique. When Cresse would acquire some Japanese films for U.S. release, he would hire Frost to direct the dubbing. Frost would at least try to match the actors' lips, something you don't see in the dubbed versions of the Godzilla or other giant monster flicks. Frost directed the dubbing on THE BITE (1966), HENTAI (1966 - a.k.a. ABNORMAL), ADOLESCENCE (1967) and many others. Frost was also an expert editor and cinematographer, working on such films as ECCO (1965) and ZERO IN AND SCREAM (1970 - with Frost using the name "Les Emerson"). As the 70's approached, Frost dissolved his partnership with Cresse (Cresse retired from the business after getting shot in the stomach trying to help a woman who was being beaten up). Frost, along with Wes Bishop, made some enjoyable exploitation pictures for the major independents. Frost directed CHROME AND HOT LEATHER and THE THING WITH TWO HEADS for American International Pictures. He made CHAIN GANG WOMEN (1971) and POLICEWOMEN (1973) for Crown International Pictures and then directed the X-Rated A CLIMAX OF BLUE POWER (1974). Frost then went on to make THE BLACK GESTAPO (1975 - a.k.a. GHETTO WARRIORS) for Bryanston Films. GESTAPO is probably my favorite Frost Film, partly because it is a brutal blaxploitation film (a man has his nuts cut off and flushed down the toilet!) and partly because Frost and Bishop have roles as white gangsters who manage to get beaten up in every scene they are in (Frost also had a small part in John Hayes' GARDEN OF THE DEAD - 1972). This film is also interesting to see how Charles Robinson (Mac on TV's NIGHT COURT) got his start. He plays the ruthless leader of a band of black vigilantes who thinks he's above the law. The Internet Movie Database (www.imdb.com) lists that Frost directed the film SLAVES IN CAGES (1972) using the name "Carl Borcht", but I find it highly suspect. This site is riddled with inaccuracies. Frost and Bishop also wrote the screenplay to the extremely popular cult film RACE WITH THE DEVIL (1975), directed by the late Jack Starrett. Noted mainly for its downbeat conclusion, RACE caught on with public with its mix of car chase action and supernatural satan worshipping. It played for years on drive-in double and triple bills. Frost was also responsible for DIXIE DYNAMITE (1976), THE BOOB TUBE STRIKES AGAIN (1977) and THE DISC JOCKEY (1983 - aka E.S.P.) before retiring from making films. He would return in 1994 to direct and star in PRIVATE OBSESSION (see review below). To this date, that is his last directorial credit. During the 80's and early 90's Frost worked at a film laboratory editing industrial films. With his high output of unusual films, it's about time for someone to rediscover his early films. Lee Frost was a pioneer in the field of early exploitation and deserves the same type of recognition that Dave Friedman, H.G. Lewis, Barry Mahon, Doris Wishman and Harry Novak are currently receiving. His films were nothing short of professional, even when he didn't have a lot of money to work with. Most of his early films can be purchased from Something Weird Video. I tip my hat to Mike Vraney for all the good he is doing in getting these films available to all the new viewers too young to recall them. For an intimate interview with the elusive Mr. Frost check out Issue #20 of Steve Puchalski's excellent zine, Shock Cinema. UPDATE: Lee Frost passed away on May 25, 2007. At least we have all his films to remind us just what an undiscovered and underappreciated talent he was. R.I.P. Mr. Frost.
DIXIE DYNAMITE (1976) - The Feds converge on Bandera County, Georgia and force Sheriff Phil Marsh (Christopher George) to arrest moonshiner Tom Eldridge (Mark Miller) for running an illegal still. Tom breaks free and a car chase ensues (where the cars smash through a fruit stand and a chicken coop, both car chase staples) and evil Deputy Frank (co-producer/co-scripter Wes Bishop) shoots out one of Tom's tires, causing his car to veer off the side of an embankment and explode, killing Tom. Sheriff Marsh, who is a decent guy caught up in circumstances beyond his control, forces Deputy Frank to tell Tom's two daughters, Dixie (Jane Anne Johnstone) and Patsy (Kathy McHaley), the bad news. Mack (Warren Oates), a motorcross racer and good friend of Tom and the girls, promises Dixie and Patsy that everything will be OK, but that couldn't be farther from the truth. The kindly bank manager (R.G. Armstrong) is able to hold off mortgage payments on their farm for three months, but with little prospects for jobs and an evil businessman name Dade McCrutchen (Stanley Adams) who wants to foreclose on all delinquent mortgages and buy-up the properties, Dixie and Patsy are in serious financial problems. McCrutchen has inside knowledge that the properties are sitting on top of a fortune in natural gas, so he blackmails the bank manager to foreclose on Dixie and Patsy's farm. When Patsy gets caught shoplifting in the town grocery store, Deputy Frank drives her out to the sticks and rapes her, telling her later that if she says anything about it, he will throw her in jail for the shoplifting charge. Dixie and Patsy are then thrown out of their home and, at the auction of their property, McCrutchen buys the farm for the minimum $14,000 bid when the girls are unable to raise the money. Dixie comes up with a plan for retribution, but first she has Mack teach her and Patsy how to ride dirt bikes. The girls then steal two motorcycles, a couple of rifles and a truckload of dynamite out of a quarry and proceed to blow up McCrutchen's operation, one piece at a time. They become the county's public enemy number one (and two) and a reluctant Sheriff Marsh is forced to hire additional men to capture them. Things come to a boiling point when the girls plan on robbing the town bank and stealing all of McCrutchen's money (as well as destroying all the foreclosure papers). The girls pull off the bank job (an ingenious plan that entails a bomb and the corpses of two female stiffs that they have stolen) and then blow up McCrutchen in his limousine so that his car goes down the same embankment where their father was killed. Dixie, Patsy and Mack take the loot and move to Rio De Janiero, where they live high on the hog. This PG-rated action/exploitation flick, directed and co-written by the late Lee Frost, is a funny and sometimes shocking piece of genre filmmaking. This is an old-fashioned "good old boy" Southern action film, where the bad guys are just plain bad and the good guys (and girls) are very good until pushed to the breaking point. The standout here is Wes Bishop as Deputy Frank, a slimy police officer who's a little too quick on the trigger. After being responsible for Tom's death and then shooting an unarmed drunk in a bar fight (not to mention the rape of Patsy), Sheriff Marsh rightfully fires him ("You don't pull a gun in a bar fight!") and he takes a job as a security guard at the quarry. After stealing the truckload of dynamite while under his watch, the girls later humiliate him at the side of a road, stealing his gun and making him plead for his life. After thinking he dodged a bullet, Frank goes home and calls Sheriff Marsh to report it (he doesn't mention his gun being stolen or pleading for his life, though) and is then blown sky-high in his bathroom while taking a piss, thanks to a bomb the girls planted in his toilet! Warren Oates is wasted here and spends most of his screen time behind a motorcycle helmet (an obvious stuntman) or looking embarrassed. It is also said that one of the dirt bike riders was none other than Steve McQueen, who was bored and did some uncredited stuntwork for $200. Christopher George is good as the sheriff that doesn't try too hard to catch the girls (even though they kill at least three people on-screen) and Lee Frost cameos as a pathologist. All-in-all, this is a fun little exploitation flick that contains songs by Duane Eddy, The Mike Curb Congregation, Porter Jordan, Jerry Styner and Warren Oates but, since this is rated PG, there is no nudity, which is a little disappointing. Both Jane Anne Johnstone and Kathy McHaley (this is their only screen credit) wear plenty of skimpy outfits, though. Other Southern-based 70's exploitation films with strong female leads include TRUCK STOP WOMEN (1974), GATOR BAIT (1974), THE GREAT TEXAS DYNAMITE CHASE (1975), BOBBIE JO AND THE OUTLAW (1975), MOONSHINE COUNTY EXPRESS (1977) and BAD GEORGIA ROAD (1977). Also starring Phil Hoover, Conlan Carter, Dorothy Konrad and Cheryl Ann Jensen. Dimension Films released this theatrically and Wizard Video first released this on VHS in the early 80's. VCI Home Video offers a fullscreen print on DVD in less than pristine shape, but it is watchable. Rated PG.
POLICEWOMEN (1974) - After foiling a major jailbreak at a female prison where only two prisoners escape, policewoman Lacy Brown (Sondra Currie) is promoted to go undercover and investigate a gang of female gold smugglers and smash their ring. Before she does that, she has to prove herself to some chauvanistic cops who believe she is not up for the job. After passing her shooting and driving tests with flying colors, she then takes on the police karate instructor (William Smith), beating him to a pulp after he treats her like a little girl. After fitting her with a tracking device, her new partner, Frank (Tony Young) and Lacy go undercover as a couple to spy on the gang. Her cover is nearly blown, thanks to some bumbling male cops, but Lacy solves the problem by running the person off the road, the car exploding. The leader of the gang is a sprite (and butch-looking) old lady named Maude (Elizabeth Stuart), who has her girls knock over banks, deal in drugs and are involved in other highly illegal doings. The lone male member of the group, Doc (Phil Hoover), is the weight-lifting muscle of the gang and is also Maude's frustrated husband (she turns him down for sex repeatedly, saying she has a headache or that her mouth hurts!). As Lacy starts falling in love with Frank (who is quite useless when it comes to fighting or firing a gun), her cover is blown by one of the two escaped prisoners in the beginning of the film, who have joined Maude's gang. Now Lacy will have to use her street smarts, as well as her police training, to get out of a very life-threatening situation. She finds help with a gang member with a surprise of her own. If it weren't for the frequent female nudity on view and the foul language (the excahnge between a female Chinese and Black gang member is priceless), this Crown International Picture could have been an episode of one of any of the countless police TV series made in the 70's. The fact that Lacy hardly gets to join the gang before being outed seems to defeat the entire purpose of her undercover role. Director/writer Lee Frost and producer/writer partner Wes Bishop give us a couple of car chases, a boat chase and some of the lamest martial arts action your eyes will ever witness. Made back in the day when women cops were fairly new to the scene, this film has not aged very well as many of the situations and much of the dialogue seem dated. Still, some of the scenes are funny, including big Bill Smith being defeated by a woman and pouting because she chipped his tooth and split his lip, Maude's frequent hilarious threats towards men ("You'll be walking with your legs close together!") and Doc's constant disdain for women ("Every one of these cunts is trouble!"). It's an enjoyable relic from the swinging 70's, with decent acting, some beautiful women and lots of tongue-in-cheek dialogue. The only drawback is it's 100 minute running time and some scenes that go on for much too long. A little pruning would have been beneficial. Also starring Jeanie Bell (TNT JACKSON - 1975), Chuck Daniel, Laurie Rose and Richard Schuyler. A Rhino Home Video Release. Rated R.
PRIVATE OBSESSION (1994) - Lee Frost returns! After nearly 20 years away from directing, Lee Frost comes back to the fold with his take on Stephen Kings MISERY. A somewhat crazed fan named Richard (Michael Christian, who is also the Associate Producer) kidnaps world-reknown model Emanuelle (Shannon Whirry) and locks her in a specialy built area of his house complete with breakproof glass, electronic locks and hidden cameras. Richard begins a slow, torturous campaign to turn Emanuelle into his idea of the perfect woman. Richard knows that she is an advocate of womens rights and keeps her locked in the room, playing one of her televised speeches over and over again on a TV set next to her bed. When she unplugs the TV, Richard turns off the water, takes away her clothes and refuses to give her anything to eat until she plugs the TV back in. After a couple of days without water or food (she stoops so low as to drink some water from the toilet tank!), she gives in and plugs the TV set back in. Richard turns the water back on, buys her some expensive clothes and cooks her a gourmet dinner. She gets drunk, does a striptease in front of the camera and has hot sex with Richard. After the act is done, Emanuelle unsuccessfully tries to escape, which really ticks Richard off. He takes all her clothes, towels and blankets and turns off the water again until she repents and tells him that it is a mans world and she will do whatever he wants. Richard accepts her apology and has sex with her again. The tables are turned when Richard is duped by Emanuelle and gets trapped in his own escape-proof rooms. It is now Emanuelles turn to play her televised speech over and over again to an unappreciative Richard. And she likes it! Completely devoid of violence, this low-budget erotic thriller relies heavily on the ample naked charms of Shannon Whirry (ANIMAL INSTINCTS - 1992) and the unrated, so-close-to porn, sex scenes. Michael Christian (POOR PRETTY EDDIE - 1973) plays Richard as someone who doesnt need to resort to physical violence to get his way (even Emanuelles kidnapping is painless). Richard would rather use mental torture than harm Emanuelle physically. Bo Svenson and Rip Taylor (sans hairpiece) have cameos as a private dick and travel agent respectively. Lee Frost not only wrote and directed, he also edited (he shows some editing prowess in a scene involving a doggie door), wrote the lyrics to some of the songs and puts in a brief appearance as a private dick named Jerry. This film is basically a two character play, and while it is slow going in some spots, it does hold the attention due to Whirrys uninhibited performance. This is not the best film of Frosts career, but new Frost is better than no Frost at all. Welcome back, Lee! A Triboro Entertainment Group Home Video & DVD Release. Unrated.
ZERO IN AND SCREAM (1970) - A sniper (Michael Stearns) is killing innocent men who are making love in the Hollywood Hills in this compact (63 minutes) little exploitationer from Lee Frost (using the pseudonym "Lee Emerson" here). It seems our sniper has no problem watching women dancing completely naked at the local strip joint, but when she makes love to a man, he believes the man has lost the right to live. His exact words are, "When a man climbs on top of a woman, she becomes ugly!" The sniper is invited to a party by a stripper, where everyone but him goes skinnydipping in the pool and begin having sex (both oral and intercourse) in front of him. He gets turned-on in his own way: He gets in his car, drives to a spot where he has visual access to the pool and shoots the man in the pool making love to the stripper with a high-powered rifle. The police are baffled and a radio newscaster begs the sniper to turn himself in. The sniper has dreams of making love to the stripper, but it is apparent that he has problems doing it in real life. The question becomes why? Is it a psychological or physical problem? We finally do learn his name (it's Mike) when he goes to the stripper's house to pay his condolences. He then spies on her having a lesbian tryst that night and the next morning takes her prisoner while he spouts his twisted philosophy, his rifle laying on his lap (I'm sure Freud would have something to say about that). He makes her do a striptease and then rapes her (I guess it was a psychological problem), warning her to keep her mouth shut or he'll be back. She doesn't and he comes back for some sniper revenge, only to have the tables turned on him in the ironic final shot. I am amazed at the amount of full-frontal nudity (both male and female) and sex (which treads dangerously close to hardcore territory) this film has on display. Originally slapped with a self-imposed X rating, this film is primarily a series of softcore loops followed by some quick gun violence. There is one dream sequence where Mike in making love to the stripper in the pool and she is shot by an unseen sniper in the head. Mike grabs his rifle, but is unable to shoot, even though bullets are flying left and right. This could be interpreted as meaning Mike is impotent, but I seriously doubt the film has it's sights set that high. This is basically 63 minutes of sex punctuated by a few moments of violence. Nothing more, nothing less. The print of the film Something Weird has on their triple feature DVD (with THE ZODIAC KILLER - 1971 and THE SEX KILLER - 1967) is full of emulsion scratches, giving it that grindhouse feel. Films like this could never be made today. How you feel about that depends on your morality. Also starring Dawna Rae (as the stripper), David Kelly, Sherill Thomas, Edward Frank and John Medford. A Something Weird Video Release. Not Rated.