Indicator (Blu-ray) (US/UK R0 HD)

The world of exploitation films has seen more than a few married couples splitting duties over the years, but none followed a path even remotely like Ron and June Ormond. With son Tim handling various tech duties behind the camera (and all occasionally acting themselves), they first made their names with commercially viable backwoods melodramas and outlandish mondo films (plus wacko one-offs like Mesa of Lost Women), though they didn't delve into the levels of sex and violence explored by peers like Roberta and Michael Findlay. In an interesting twist, they became born again and decided to lend their talents to evangelical filmmaking, including multiple vehicles for the unforgettable fire and brimstone preacher Estus W. Pirkle. Now the majority of their work has been collected on Blu-ray by Indicator in From Hollywood to Heaven: The Lost and Saved Films of the Ormond Family. Unfortunately the "Hollywood" part no longer exists on film due to a devastating flood in 2010 that destroyed the Untamed Mistressholdings of Tim Ormond, so standard definition masters have been used for that period. The set is also Untamed Mistresstimed with the release of The Exotic Ones, Jimmy McDonough's expansive book about the Ormonds; both the Blu-ray box and the book are presented by Nicolas Winding Refn, whose once thriving site debuted some of the restorations here. McDonough is all over this set as well, including providing the essential and flavorful text for the enclosed 100-page illustrated book as well.

Disc one throws you headfirst into the world of '50s drive-in madness with Untamed Mistress (72m33s), a colorful cash-in on the kind of exotic adventures that would have starred Maria Montez a decade earlier. The packaging denotes this as a 1951 feature, while the title card indicates 1953 and many territories didn't get it until 1956. In any case Allan Nixon, Jacqueline Fontaine, and Byron Keith star in the saga of Velda, a woman was "reared by the gorilla tribe, mothered by baboons... and yet you do not believe that someday her soft caresses could turn into hairy steel claws around your throat!" She's been domesticated for three years, but a local dying sage insists she must be taken out to the jungle and left there. In flashbacks (mostly copious stock footage), we see how Velda was discovered and what kind of crazy ape society turned her into the conflicted being she is today. It all climaxes with an insane bestiality bonanza featuring multiple gorilla suits and loads of topless "native" nudity skirting the same social clause that made National Geographic a haven for young skin seekers of the day. This one is presented at 1.33:1 and looks fine given the fact that it's an SD transfer from a Please Don't Touch Metheatrical Please Don't Touch Meprint.

Up next is 1959's Please Don't Touch Me (67m29s), which starts off like an Ormond take on saucy hillbilly hits of the era like God's Little Acre and Tobacco Road. That tone doesn't last long though as we plunge into gruesome hypnotism demos, surgery footage, and sexual dysfunction as we follow the travails of Viki Caron, whose marriage is jeopardized by her trauma following a rape in broad daylight. Lash LaRue(!) and Ormond McGill are on hand to provide the psychological aid she needs, but it's the mondo interjections that will have you doubting your sanity including a guy named the Black Sabong who spends his days lying on beds of nails and rolling on broken glass. Caron's incredible red coif and shimmering outfits are almost as memorable, and incredibly, this was hawked around the country as a straightforward educational film about dealing with frigidity. Pulled from SD, this one is what it is quality-wise and comes with a great McDonough commentary pointing out some significant faces (with Ron Ormond himself as Mesmer!), contextualizing some of the footage, and enthusing about some of the more outrageous imagery on White Lightnin- Roaddisplay.

White Lightnin- RoadFinally disc one wraps up with 1964's White Lightnin' Road (95m9s), a full-color backwoods film obviously inspired by Thunder Road and featuring some really hoppin' jazz music. Mixing up stock car racing footage and moonshine bootlegging shenanigans, it's a standard programmer of the era with a wannabe Marilyn Monroe star in Arline Hunter and lots of location shooting in Nashville, which remained home base for the Ormonds from that point onward. Amidst all the racing footage you also get the on-camera debut of little Tim Ormond, who would appear in the lion's share of the family productions going forward. He's discomfiting as a child actor, but eventually Tim would grow into a more comfortable screen presence. Both this film and Please are presented at the odd aspect ratio of 1.55:1 (as are some other later titles), presumably matting off some excess info from the open matte video transfers created in the '90s. Also included here are the bizarre short Edge of Tomorrow (49m11s) with apparent conman and occasional Ormond thespian Reinhold O. Schmidt yapping on and on about UFO crackpottery, plus a trailer ("The drivers called her a pit tramp!") and radio spots for White Lightnin' Road.

Forty Acre FeudThe backwoods Forty Acre Feudsensibility seen on disc one comes to the forefront on disc two starting with 1965's Forty Acre Feud (85m35s), an entertaining jamboree featuring substantial roles by none other than Minnie Pearl and Ferlin Husky (who's credited as "Simon" but gets called by his real name) among other country personalities doing a song or two like George Jones, Loretta Lynn, The Willis Brothers, and Ray Price. The country-fried fun involves the staging of the Smokey Mountain Jamboree at a time the locals are all buzzing about who's going to run for office as a state representative. (Also, nobody seems to know quite what that job entails.) Mostly though this is an excuse to parade out one musical number after another, and there's a colorful charm here in what amounts to a bunch of country and western Scoptiones stitched together in a way that predates U.S. TV staples like Hee Haw and Barbara Mandrell & the Mandrell Sisters.

Also packed with country music performances but with a nastier violent edge is Girl from Tobacco Road1966's Girl from Tobacco Row (86m27s), with country singer Tex Ritter Girl from Tobacco Roadappearing as the stern preacher dad of Nadine (Rachel Romen), a young lady who's easily led astray. Enter a con on the lam named Snake who's hunting for some stashed stolen cash and ends up being taken in by the reverend's family (including Tim again as the little brother). The title and poster pitched this as a sexy country romp, though Nadine isn't really the focus and it all veers into heavy religious sermonizing foreshadowing where the Ormonds would soon be heading. Of all the main features here, this one's in the worst shape but the film is nice to have for posterity -- including an appearance by the world's biggest harmonica and the injection of more stage blood than before, an indication of what would come in our next title...

One of the truly essential Ormond films, 1968's The Exotic Ones (91m51s) is the kind of bonkers genre mash-up you can't believe actually played a single legit screen in front of paying audiences. Playing like the deranged love child of Ray Dennis Steckler, H.G. Lewis, Franco Prosperi, and Vincente Minnelli, it's a The Exotic Onesbloody The Exotic Onescreature feature musical freak-out that marks the feverish climax of the Ormonds' secular filmmaking phase. Local rockabilly performer "Sleepy LaBeef" steals the show here with fake teeth and plentiful fake body hair as a savage swamp critter discovered by some hunters, who naturally drag him into civilization to make a fast buck... by sticking him in New Orleans burlesque shows surrounded by semi-naked women. Complete with quasi-mondo footage, insane strip routines, and the funniest severed arm gag this side of The Brain That Wouldn't Die, this is a true brain-melting experience with all three of the Ormonds getting in front of the camera this time (with little Tim crooning a number and June doing a particularly weird dance routine). A familiar staple on the PD video scene since the '80s, this one looks pretty solid here given the SD source with lots of Crayola-worthy bright colors. On top of that you get an essential audio commentary by McDonough and the film's other big scene stealer, entertainer Georgette Dante, a "queen of the carnival and Las Vegas, exotic dancer, clown, magician, costume designer, director, gangster's moll, and hat maker." Together they provide a rollicking track you really have to hear to believe; they have a great rapport together and have tons of tales about the Ormonds, the carny circuit, New Orleans, and tons more. You don't want to miss this one. Also included are radio spots for all three films.

If Footmen Tire You, What Will Horses Do?Following a near-death If Footmen Tire You, What Will Horses Do?airplane experience, the Ormonds devoted their lives to God and accordingly dedicated their talents to a string of outrageous religious confections that fill out the remainder of the set. Disc three starts at full throttle with the most unforgettable film in the box and a surefire contender for the strangest horror film ever made: 1971's If Footmen Tire You, What Will Horses Do? (53m7s). Essentially the Ormonds were recommended to make a movie out of a particularly feverish sermon by Baptist evangelist Estus W. Pirkle, centered around a delirious paranoid vision of what might happen if God-fearing Christians allow Communism to take over America. Designed to be shown as a recruiting tool at churches rather than traditional theaters, this one unleashes torrents of insanity and gore as evil socialists with indeterminate accents try forcibly indoctrinate every Caucasian American in sight. Anyone who resists (especially little kids) gets turned into hamburger meat, while Pirkle's ongoing sermon (which ultimately serves to convert one wayward young lady in the congregation) gets more intense by the minute. The kind of full-throttle Christian scare film they just don't make anymore, Footmen ranks up there with 1972's A Thief in the Night (and its Mark IV sequels) at the top of the heap when it comes to the intersection of horror and God-fearing filmmaking. Long circulated on VHS in dupey editions, this one (and its two Pirkle-Ormond follow-ups) was given an impressive restoration in 2018 from the best surviving film source (a 16mm dupe neg) and streamed on Refn's website. Here you get the same excellent presentation, augmented with a lively commentary by Greg Pirkle and an enthusiastic Brian Rosenquist about Pirkle's desire to spread the word The Burning HellThe Burning Hellthrough cinema, the collaborations with the Ormonds, the congregation members roped into becoming actors, and much more.

The Pirkle pandemonium continues with the biggest church hit of the trilogy, 1974's The Burning Hell (58m28s), which dials down the gore level a notch but amps up the surrealism tenfold for another sermon-centered look at what happens to sinners when they meet their maker. In this case, a young man whose best friend has just been slaughtered in a motorcycle accident wanders into Pirkle's church and gets a tough lesson in the real consequences of hellfire, depicted here with all the verve of Jigoku and some Lucio Fulci-worthy maggots on the face for extra seasoning. It's little wonder this one traumatized an entire generation into the fold, and the restoration here looks great as well. A new, packed audio commentary by McDonough, Tim Ormond, and Peter Conheim goes into great detail about the film's production (including on-location shooting at Mt. Sinai), the budgeting and creation of the elaborate costumes, the recruiting of extras, and the execution of the fiery finale; it's also highly recommended The Grim Reaperlistening.

The Grim ReaperAfter that the Ormonds took a Pirkle break and made a project for the comparatively restrained fundamentalist preacher Dr. John R. Rice which resulted in 1976's The Grim Reaper (59m4s), here presented from the best surviving SD master. Here Tim plays a young man whose nonbeliever older brother dies in a racing accident, which leaves him and his devout mom to try to save the soul of his dad. However, the family dabbles in lots of new age mystical stuff that might endanger their very souls and lead to a run-in with the personification of death itself. Of course, it's all basically an excuse for Rice to trot out lots of iffy guest stars like Jerry Falwell, Jack Van Impe, and Bob Gray, none of whom are exactly ideal role models. Once again we get a guided tour through the flames of hell, complete with June in crazy makeup and lots of lunatic demon designs that made this one a favorite on the tape-trading circuit back in the '90s.

TThe Believer's Heavenhe last and most subdued of the Pirkle-Ormond team-ups, 1977's The Believer's Heaven (60m18s), tries the positive reinforcement route by focusing on the rewards The Believer's Heavenof what waits above when true believers pass on. However, Pirkle's stern-faced delivery doesn't seem all that encouraging in what amounts to another hour-long sermon, here spending less time on images of damnation (though you still get a bit of that) in favor of more Biblical recreations by Southerners visiting the Holy Land. In case you're worried this one is going to be too tasteful by comparison though, Ormond and company deliver a shocker of a moment when Pirkle explains how the physically disabled will enjoy traditional bodies in the afterlife -- complete with a physical demonstration that will have anyone watching doubting their sanity. It all comes to a jaw-dropping climax when diminutive gospel singer Little Evelyn Talbert (who, yes, cut her own albums) delivers a musical interlude for the ages. Once again the restoration here is top-notch, and needless to say, the Pirkle trilogy alone is reason enough to scarf up this set. Other glorious goodies on disc three include a berserk 1970 audio recording of a Pirkle sermon (63m30s) complete with a rant about the evils of show business (even slamming the recently deceased Sharon Tate), plus The Grim Reaper radio spots hawked by Ron 39 Stripeshimself.

39 StripesFinally on disc four we get to the end of the Ormond family collaborations including Ron's final work and Tim's ascension to filmmaker in his own right. 1979's 39 Stripes (59m30s) from Hope Aglow Ministries is a non-Pirkel evangelical film about ministering to those behind bars as seen through the dramatized story of Ed Martin, "the man who broke rocks." Tim plays the young Ed in flashbacks as he goes from a life of petty crime and corporal punishment to preaching the word of God. This would be Ron's swan song before he died of cancer, and though it doesn't ladle on the shock value at all, the chain gang sequences still remind you where he came from -- and watching Tim grow up through these entries is a strangely compelling experience. This one's taken from a worn but passable film print, certainly better than the dupey (and scarce) VHS copies that have been around for ages.

Then Tim hops into the director's chair for a pair of religious epics starting with 1982's It's About the Second Coming (55m54s). Here Dr. Bob Gray and other testifiers setting up the It's About the Second Comingstory of fallen Roger, who wants to be saved through reenactments of events like Abraham's sacrifice and the horsemen of the apocalypse. Lifting copious footage from his dad's work, Tim displays some of the family showmanship here It's About the Second Comingincluding a bizarre bit of Babylonian special effects that feels like it wandered out of a Kenneth Anger film. Plus you get an actual appearance by the Antichrist here (with hellish fashion sense to boot) and the usual Bible reenactments and a quick pit stop in hell. Tim and McDonough are on hand again here for a new audio commentary chatting about how this was initially supposed to be directed by Ron (who got to the preproduction stage) and what Tim brought to the table from a directorial standpoint after working behind the camera for so long with his family. This one's also pulled from a film print and looks fine given the modest nature of the source.

1984's The Sacred Symbol (59m37s), the only one pulled from an SD video source on this disc, is another blood-spattered Biblical look at the importance of recognizing the potential for salvation in anyone regardless of their walk of life; you also get some brutal stonings, sermonizing, stuffy pipe smoking, fake mustaches, and much more. This one was fully written and directed by Tim, who progresses to a big recruiting message here after demonstrating how various religions and customs around the world have evolved through people trying to come to grips with the nature of their creation. One notable figure here is John Calvert, a local stage performer who pops up again here in the extras. Those bonus features (devoted entirely to Tim's shorter form The Believer's Heaven) start with The Believer's Heaven1987's A Tribute to Houdini (59m49s), a shot-on-video tribute to the famous illusionist with Calvert doing a string of performances in between various biographical tidbits (and a wild extended cameo from June). Then in 1992's Lash LaRue: A Man and His Memories (70m30s), the performer offers a free-flowing look back at his life and career with some fanciful digressions along the way that should get sampled into an album someday. Finally June herself takes center stage in a pair of tributes from her son: 1997s June Carr: The Virtual Vaudevillian (30m17s), featuring a string of comedy skits performed in front of a green screen, and 1997's Forgotten Memories (20m2s), in which she invites a stranger into her home and reminisces about days gone by. Also included are a batch of Forgotten Memories production footage (14m49s) and a pair of 39 Stripes radio spots. The set is limited to 6,000 units for the U.K. and the U.S., including five art cards in addition to the aforementioned book (which you should read before diving in for a full appreciation).

Reviewed on June 16, 2023