Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Roberta Collins Tribute Week: Three from 73.

Arousers 4

Outside of one appearance on Adam-12 in 1969 and a handful of roles in the eighties, the bulk of Roberta Collins work took place in the seventies. While she is best remembered for her powerhouse roles in Jonathan Demme’s Caged Heat, Vernon Zimmerman’s Unholy Rollers, Paul Bartel’s Death Race 2000, Tobe Hooper’s Eaten Alive and her unforgettable turn for Jack Hill in The Big Doll House, there were other smaller but still memorable roles scattered throughout the decade for Roberta. Before I pay tribute to her more higher profile work later in the week, I thought it would be worthwhile remembering three of these often forgotten films, all shot in the same year of 1973.

Years before he won an Oscar and acclaim for works like L.A. Confidential, Wonder Boys and 8 Mile, writer and director Curtis Hanson made his film debut with the strange proto-slasher Sweet Kill (also known as A Kiss from Eddie, and The Arousers) in 1973. Starring Tab Hunter and featuring a very effective score from Charles Bernstein, Sweet Kill is a short, cheap and slightly ugly nudie film that has moments that are downright disturbing, although finally its not a very successful picture.

Arousers 2

Arousers 3

Roberta is featured in two of the film’s best scenes as a prostitute Hunter has hired to act out some of his more deranged memories of his mother, and is billed in the closing credits as just ‘call girl’. Roberta, reminding me a bit of Carroll Baker in the early sixties, gives the films best performance and elevates Hanson’s depressing first work above just a rather cheap exploitation product.

Arousers 5

Arousers 6

Much better is Robert Vincent O’Neill’s incredibly goofy but undeniably fun Philippine Co-production Wonder Women from later in 1973. This Nancy Kwan vehicle focusing on a group of covert operating Kung Fu Girls is a trippy sci-fi sexploitation romp featuring Roberta as the most rebellious super lady, and a young Sid Haig in a smaller role.

Wonder Women 1

Wonder Women 3

I wouldn’t argue that the film, also known as The Deadly and The Beautiful, remotely resembles a good movie but it is a real kick and Roberta (who gets to talk smack to Kwan and shows off some karate moves) drips charisma and seems to be having a grand time.

Wonder Women 4

Wonder Women 5

The best of the three, although it features Roberta’s smallest role, is the terrifically engaging and tense TV movie Terror on the Beach, which premiered on ABC in the fall of 73. Pre-dating Wes Craven’s celebrated The Hills Have Eyes by four years, Terror on the Beach is a potent television film centering on a family being terrorized by a group of crazed hippies out for kicks. Starring Dennis Weaver, Estelle Parsons and Susan Dey, Terror on the Beach only suffers due to a slightly by the number script by Bill Svanoe.

Terror on the Beach 2

Terror on the Beach 3

Roberta has only a couple of lines but strikes a very memorable figure as the blonde member of the hippie group. Shot with style by Paul Wendkos, who elevates it above a run of the mill TV film at every point, Terror on the Beach still packs quite a punch and is well worth seeking out for fans of Roberta or TV movie buffs in general.

9 comments:

J.D. said...

Nice tribute, Jeremy. I had never heard of Roberta Collins before but your write-up has me intrigued. I'll have to track down some of her films.

The King Of Cool said...

That is quite a fine tribue. It's been some time since I've thought about her. I feel bad about that. I always liked her though. She played in some of the movies I loved the most from that era. Great shots of her.

Jeremy Richey said...

Thanks guys...I am hoping to at least due one more tribute post this week on one of her more recognizeable productions. She was really special and will be missed.

loidur2 said...

Roberta is my sister. Thank you so much for the nice tribute, she would have loved it. She was a wonderful person and will be greatly missed by her family and everyone that knew her.

Jeremy Richey said...

Thanks so much for the nice comments and my best to you and your family in what must be a hard time. I will be paying tribute to Roberta's great career more here in the future and only wish I had done more while she could have seen it. She is loved by her fans and will be greatly missed...thanks so much again and my best to you.

bryan said...

loidur2

email me:
bhudson@b-esprit.com

lived with michael and roberta in w.hollywood and somtimes in beverly hills (old linden dr. place) I am shocked. please email me.

bryan hudson

Scott said...

I was saddened to hear of this news. I've been looking for info on Roberta for a few years and never really found out anything until now.

I have created a tribute page on MySpace at: http://www.myspace.com/roberta_collins_tribute

If anyone wants to contribute any stories of fan meetings, info or photos, they can email me at: django24@yahoo.com

Amanda By Night said...

I did not know she was in Terror on the Beach! I haven't seen that film in years.

I have to admit, I don't remember her in Unholy Rollers. That Claudia Jennings one, right?

She was quite beautiful.

Jeremy Richey said...

Thanks Amanda!
Some of my favorite posts I have doen are the ones on Roberta, Candice and Claudia so I appreciate the comments.