If you’ve been to my Redbubble shop you may have noticed my Pitchfork Massacre shirt.
The hunt for Pitchfork Massacre has captivated me since I first came across RetroSlashers.net
Retro Slashers has a whole section of lost 80’s slashers. Some have been exposed to be hoaxes (Slaughterhouse 2), some were never produced (Madman Marz, the sequel to Madman that never happened), and some have been dug up and released, like Tim O’Rawe’s The Basement. But there’s one film that has eluded everybody and that’s Pitchfork Massacre.
Before you continue, I suggest checking out the original article on RetroSlashers: http://retroslashers.net/lost-slashers-pitchfork-massacre-1984/
It all started at the library where Thomas Ellison was going through microfilm newspaper archives checking out the ads for slashers released in 1984 and came across the ad for Pitchfork Massacre: a film that has seemingly been lost to time. No mentions of in in any books or on the web. No imdb, credits, posters, bootlegs. The only record of Pitchfork Massacre were the few newspaper ads printed in 1984.
The obvious scenario: Pitchfork Massacre was a re-titling of another film. But I think the possibility that this could instead be a long lost independent film that never saw a video release is what intrigued everyone who has come across Thomas’s article.
So of course, I poked around Google a bit seeing what I could find, which was basically nothing. And I forgot about Pitchfork Massacre for a while. But this week I came across an ad that started an obsession:
When the Screaming Stops – a re-titling of The Loreley’s Grasp. But something about the ad caught my eye: the font.
I started looking closer: The stark, crushed black and white, the screaming girl, the midnight weekend screening, the awareness of other films of the time period
I mean sure, there are a million horror posters and newspaper ads that used these elements, but when you put them all together, the ad is strikingly similar to Pitchfork Massacre.
It’s generally been assumed that the girl would be key to unlocking Pitchfork Massacre: I mean the ad looks like an image taken out of the movie. Identify the actress, find the scene, and that’s Pitchfork Massacre. But I started wondering about that shattered glass font. Commonly distributed on the internet under the name “Glass Houses”. I’ve actually use it myself for various things. Apparently it’s been around since at least 1979 (since that’s when the Loreley’s Grasp poster uses it). Where did it originate?
So I put “Glass Houses Font” into Google and come to 1001fonts.con Probably where I originally downloaded it. There is a single comment on the page, identifying the font as identical ‘Lower-WestSide’. I look it up and sure enough it’s the same font. Is this the original name?
I then came across it on Pickafont.com, ‘Lower-Westside’ is there and there’s an author credited, with a REAL name (instead of an anonymous user name): David Rakowski.
Back to google where I find his homepage. David Rakowski is the Font Guy. From his site
I went wild with a scanner, font books, and Fontographer for a while in the early 90s, and uploaded a bunch of crappy fonts to Compuserve. For some reason, that made me very famous in a very limited crowd (I mean limited in more ways than one). Some of the fonts were pretty good, most were fairly poopisch. The first fonts I made were auto-traced and plopped into Fontographer, but some of the later shareware fonts had been worked on.
I guess it never occurred to me (growing up with the internet) that that a lot of fonts used in ads, posters, movies, well I guess anything, came from font books. Seems pretty obvious now. So glass houses most likely came from one of these books, published before 1979.
I was tempted to email David Rakowski, but wanted to see what else I could find first. I started thinking up alternate names for Glass houses I typed in “Shattered Glass font” into google images and I guess I just got lucky. It popped up again, same font, under the name Shatter on Myfonts.com. Designed by Vic Carless?
Vic Carless (1928-2011). An artist without a wikipedia. But you can read his obituary on Telegraph.co.uk
In 1973 he won the Letraset International Typeface competition for designing the font Shatter, which is an adaptation of the Helvetica font. Carless’s idea was to create a sense of action and movement (a legacy from his earlier depiction of transport), but to retain the clarity of the Helvetica design, with each individual character easily identifiable. It remains popular to this day.
Back to myFonts.com, the publisher for Shatter is listed as ITC – International Typeface Corporation.
The International Typeface Corporation (ITC) was a type manufacturer founded in New York in 1970 by Aaron Burns, Herb Lubalin, and Edward Rondthaler. The company was one of the world’s first type foundries to have no history in the production of metal type. It is now a wholly owned brand or subsidiary of Monotype Imaging…
The company published U&lc (Upper and Lower Case), a typographic magazine dedicated to showcasing their traditional and newer typefaces in particularly creative ways, originally edited and designed by Herb Lubalin until his death in May, 1981. Because of its extraordinary blend of typographic design, illustration and cartoons (sometimes by world-renowned artists and cartoonists such as Lou Myers), verse and prose extolling the virtues of well-designed type, as well as contributions by amateur or semi-professional typographers, the magazine was avidly read by type enthusiasts and sought after by collectors the world over.
So I was back to square one. The font was a dead end, anyone could have used the Shatter font. It was not some proprietary font made in house by an ad agency or artist who worked in the film industry. Not only that, I used other uses in horror:
Obscure One Sheet
But I was still intrigued by the similarities between the two ads.
I had already reviewed “When the Screaming Stops” looking the the pitchfork scene. It wasn’t there. This was not pitchfork massacre, but in my mind there was a good chance that the same ad agency or distributor created both the ads.
IMDB’s page for the The Loreley’s Grasp lists two US theatrical distributors: International Cinefilm and Independent Artists. I quickly ruled out Internation Cinefilm considering their last release was The Loreley’s Grasp in 1979 (Pitchfork Massacre was advertised in March and April of 84). Independent Artists however was a lot more interesting…
Such a generic name. Put Independent Artists into google and see if you can find anything relevant. But back to their IMDB page, there are four movies listed, released between 1979 and 1983. What caught my eye was their last release: Stark Raving Mad.
While awaiting execution, a convicted serial killer relates the story of the circumstances that led to his present situation.
Plot Keywords: serial killer | remake | independent film
Ok, so this is sounding promising. Further searching reveals that Stark Raving Mad is based on Charles Starkweather’s murder spree and the imdb reviewers note the similarity to Badlands. So figured this one will be easy to rule out: I can probably find a trailer on youtube and look for the mystery actress or a pitchforking. But…
Stark Raving Mad has no trailer or scenes on youtube. All I could easily find at this point was a poster:
I see a shotgun; no pitchforks, however:
The Starkweather–Fugate case inspired the films The Sadist (1963), Badlands (1973), Kalifornia (1993), Natural Born Killers (1994) and Starkweather (2004). The made-for-TV movie Murder in the Heartland (1993) is a biographical depiction of Starkweather with Tim Roth in the starring role, while Stark Raving Mad (1983), a film starring Russell Fast and Marcie Severson, provides a fictionalized account of the Starkweather–Fugate murder spree. ”
Stark Raving Mad gets it’s own sentence, separating it from the other films. Could ‘fictionalized account’ mean a Pitchfork killing? Is this an exploitation flick like The Zodiac Killer (1971)?
Also intriguing, an imdb reviewer’s mention of the ending:
Where “Badlands” had the budget and the actors backing it, “Stark Raving Mad” truly excels due it’s ultra low budget and non-actors- giving it an almost ultra realism quality…. If you ever have a chance to view this film i suggest you take a look, especially for the brilliant last two minutes, it sent chills down my spine.”
Is this the money shot in the Pitchfork Massacre ad? The time frame is definitely right: 1983. Could this be a film that Independent Artists acquired, released, and unable to recoup their investment, re-released as Pitchfork Massacre the following year? Capitalizing on a single pitchfork scene?
Stark Raving Mad was shot in 1975 under the title “Rockaday Richie and the Queen of the Hop”. An independent film made in Portland Oregon. It’s never had a US video release. Alternate titles are “Murder Run”, “Execution”, “Rock Baby”
I was able to find the Canadian video release: Execution.
$75 and $146.25!?! That’s more than Todd Sheets’ films go for on Amazon (mine of course are on the shelf, not going anything). And did they really need that 25 cents? Thankfully I found the German release for 8.25 Euros but then again, I don’t have a PAL vcr.
I didn’t really feel like investing in importing this stuff over. I’m a fan but not much of a collector. So maybe there was another way.
With more Google research I came across this post by Chris Poggiali:
ROCKADAY RICHIE AND THE QUEEN OF THE HOP (1973) is based on the Starkweather/Fugate case and would make a nice double bill with BADLANDS. It toured the drive-in circuit for years, usually under the title STARK RAVING MAD (It played my local d-i with HELLHOLE in 1985). A Canadian company issued it on VHS in the ’80s as EXECUTION. It’s a strange one. “Super 16″ by Neu! — also heard in MASTER OF THE FLYING GUILLOTINE — is played over the opening credits, even though the movie is set in the 1950s.
Here we have it in 1985, playing with Hellhole!!! I had to email Chris, who runs the site Temple of Schlock, which I had never heard of before and coincidentally writes a mystery movies column, where he posts newspaper scans of old movie ads and tracks down their real titles and origin. What are the odds of that?
So I asked Chris if he remembers any pitchfork action in Rockaday Richie. The following day, he returned my email but recalls no pitchfork killing in Rockaday Richie.
That’s where I almost gave up. If Pitchfork Massacre was not Rockaday I was back to square one.
However, IMDB is not the end all be all when it comes to movie info. I was stuck on the idea that Pitchfork Massacre came from Independent Artists. If Stark Raving Mad wasn’t it, it could be another release of theirs. Maybe one not listed on IMDB.
Another search for When the Scream Stops, brought me to The Scene of Screen 13 and their article about the film’s theatrical run. Best of all, it contained more information about Independent Artists
By late (October) 1978, however, it wound up with the company who promoted it the best, Independent Artists led by John Burzichelli (certainly no relation to the 13′th Floor Elevators’ label). Reportedly, the rating was changed from an X to an R, but it’s best known feature was both it’s name change to When the Screaming Stops and it’s infamous William Castle styled gimmick of the red flash before a shock scene as well as the “No Refunds” policy as noted on the newspaper ads.
John Burzichelli. Now I had a name to tie together with the company. Turns out John wound up in politics as a New Jersey assemblyman! But more importantly, I uncovered a bit more about his film background:
In his early 20s, he moved to California, where he worked for a film distribution company. It wasn’t long before Burzichelli started his own company and returned to New Jersey.
Independent Artists Corp. dealt primarily with B movies for drive-in theaters and small houses like the ones that once lined Times Square. The roster of films included graphic horror and black exploitation films as well as the occasional art house feature.
He struck it rich with “When The Screaming Stops,” a 1974 horror movie that featured skimpily clad young women being brutally killed by a monster that lived under a river. Burzichelli had theaters hand out “barf-bags” and introduced a new wrinkle: a red flash to warn viewers that a sickening scene was coming in 10 seconds.
The movie was a cult hit, reaching second in midnight ticket sales in some markets. “I was a millionaire on paper at the time,” he said.
Another film he distributed, a 1972 French import starring Mia Farrow called “High Heels,” received a measure of critical success. It was about a man who preferred ugly woman because of their “moral beauty.”
But with the movie industry threatened by the proliferation of home videos, Burzichelli looked for a niche industry and found one in professional wrestling. He eventually produced the genre’s first home video called “Lords of the Ring” featuring dog-collar and steel-cage matches.
Could Pitchfork Massacre have been a final cash grab by Independent Artists as Thomas Ellison’s Retro Slasher’s article originally suggested?
1983 was a real bad year for indie companies due to major studios buying up theaters chains and blocking all indies from appearing on their screens. One guess is that P.M. was released by a small time producer or an outfit on their last legs and the film simply disappeared because the producers went bankrupt before they found a way to release the film on video.
I had something new to go off of. I previously mentioned the difficultly in parsing a name like Independent Artists in Google, trying to find something relevant. I had tried ‘”Independent Artists” film’ and ‘”Independent Artists” distributor’ but the article about Burzichelli mentioned “Independent Artists Corp.” A search of this led me to another film: ‘Weapons of Death’ 1981, listed in Bill Palmer’s The Encyclopedia of Martial Arts Movies distributed by Independent Artists! Yes, there were other films not listed on IMDB. I just had to track them down.
Weapons of Death poster. There’s John Burzichelli’s name!
But Weapons of Death was as far as I got. I couldn’t link any more films to Independent Artists but I did find another name: Miles Nelson, in James Kendrick’s book Hollywood Bloodshed: Violence in 1980s American Cinema. James refers to Miles as President of Independent Artists.
More parsing. I did a search of ‘”Miles Nelson” “Independent Artists”‘ and found a poster for Walk of the Dead
Walk of the Dead is a retitling of Vengeance of the Zombies, another Independent Artists film I had already checked out. In fact, it does contain a brief pitchfork scene: a slapstick scythe vs pitchfork fight. It had crossed my mind: Is this it? Is the pitchfork massacre title a joke? Directed by Miles Nelson (printed on the poster) was certainly inaccurate.
A Google search for the poster let me to a high res version, making it possible to read all of the credits at the bottom. It listed Walk of the Dead as “An Independent Artists Release”. So back to Google with this new search term
One of the few hits on Google images is from the Newspaperarchive.com. It’s another newspaper ad from Walk of the Dead. Going all the way back, you’ll remember the Newspaperachive being used by commenter Zambdog on the Retro Slashers article to find other Pitchfork Massacre Ads.
Another ad: http://newspaperarchive.com/robesonian/1984-03-29/page-12
I got my hopes up thinking the small text at the bottom might be actors’ names till I enlarged it. Turned out to be a warning about graphic violence :(”
Now if you click of any of Zambdog’s links, you’ll notice they’re broken. When I originally came across the PFM page, these links worked and lead to more ads for Pitchfork Massacre (these being text only). Apparently the Newspaper Archive has since changed their link structure. Back to the Walk of the Dead ad, zooming in I noticed a warning on the bottom about graphic violence and I began to wonder, does this warning match up word for word with the one that Zambdog found for Pitchfork Massacre? I needed to look them up again and find the new URLs.
I went to the specific archive for the Robesonian (http://robesonian.newspaperarchive.com/) and put in Pitchfork Massacre. But something different came up than the last time I tried this, something that doesn’t come up when you search “Pitchfork Massacre” from the Newspaper Archive homepage…
A movie review, with the headline “Pitchforks replace chainsaws in film” By the time I reached the end of the third paragraph, I knew once and for all the true identity of The Pitchfork Massacre
From The Robesonian, Sunday, March 25, 1984
VHS Wasteland – yeah I’m going with the Big Box Art for the big reveal
It was suspect #7 all along, THE PROWLER!!!
I pulled out my copy, and sure enough, the Prowler works as well if not better as when you view as The Pitchfork Massacre: the killing of the couple in the beginning, the shower scene, the final chase… lots of pitchforking in the film.
As John Klyza of Retrosploitation said as we speculating about the identity of the movie over emails: “Code Red DVD seems to think it’s a retitling of The Prowler. And its timing of release with Friday the 13th part IV The Final Chapter would make sense since sharing same director”
And yes Code Red got it right and I was way off with the whole Independent Artists angle.
According to Thomas Ellison, The Prowler played as Rosemary’s Killer in his territory. Since the only evidence of Pitchfork Massacre screenings are linked to North and South Carolina, somebody must have gotten a hold of the print and retitled it.
But we are still left with some mysteries: who was behind the release and where did the ad campaign come from? Who is the actress in the ad? Is this a scene from another movie or an original photo taken to market The Pitchfork Massacre as new film?
It would be fascinating to uncover a film print of The Pitchfork Massacre. Or even more unlikely, a local TV commercial. Whoever was behind the release did put some effort into the marketing and was obviously familiar with the horror market (the reference to Pieces). Could a TV commercial or trailer exist with a hired voice actor reading over clips of the movie? Was this their one and only release, as are there other mystery movies out there to be discovered in Carolina newspapers?
The Prowler was released as Rosemary’s Killer in Australia and Europe, and is missing almost a minute of Tom Savini’s gore effects. The German version omits all of the gore scenes (including the revelation of the killer’s identity) and replaced the soundtrack with bird sounds for daytime scenes, cricket sounds for the night scenes, and Richard Enhorn’s score with synthesizer music by an uncredited musician. This version goes by the title Die Forke des Todes (The Pitchfork of Death).
The Pitchfork of Death? Yeah, here it is:
Reviewing the Prowler again, I can’t help but notice that Sally (Diane Rode) resembles the actress in the Pitchfork Massacre ad.
You may remember Sally as one of the two teens who sneak out of the ball, into Major Chatham’s basement, who sneaks up and watches them fool around.
Something always stuck me funny about that. It’s totally superfluous unless something is missing… Do Sally and the guy get picked off by the Prowler in a scene that never made it to video, but exists in the Pitchfork Massacre cut. Or promotional shots of a scene that never made it into the final version? Pure speculation, of course, but you never know… Anyone care to ask Joseph Zito?
So here I am, left with the longest article I’ve ever written for this site (and probably ever will) . Why did I include all the dead ends? Well, sometimes I think the hunt can be greater than the prize. Let’s keep hunting these flicks down. You never know what’s been stored in a vault for 30 years.
I’ll leave you with some Pitchfork Massacre ad porn of the last few ads I could find.