Monstervision's Joe Bob Briggs Looks At

Haunted Symphony (1994)

Doug Wert demonstrates what happens when you don't like Ben Cross's piano playing

"Joe Bob's Drive-In" for 12/19/94
By Joe Bob Briggs
Drive-In Movie Critic of Grapevine, Texas

I noticed where they're startin to discover porno over in Russia. Dirty movies, dirty books, dirty pictures--smut smut smut. They're goin crazy for the stuff. Cause let's face it, you can't keep people caged up for eighty years without some hormones backin up on em, if you know what I mean and I think you do.
The Russian government is gettin a little worried about it, startin to think about clampin down on it. But that's about the worst thing you can do. For two reasons:
Numero Uno: The guys who sell porno are some of the best businessmen in the world. Not only that, they're some of the most HONEST. I've known a few of these guys. They pay for everything in cash. They make absolutely CERTAIN everything they do is legal. They're so paranoid about breakin the law that they don't even JAYWALK. It's the guys in the REGULAR movie business that are the sleazeballs.
Numero Two-o: Any place that cracks down on porno gets a big sex-crime problem. Any place that doesn't give a hoot about porno is able to control it. The best example is Denmark. That was the first country to legalize all forms of porno, in the late sixties. It was also the first country where the porno business just about shriveled up and died. Once it was legal--once EVERYTHING was legal--the locals lost interest in it.
It's strictly for tourists these days.
Anyhow, my advice to you, Ivan, would be to sell that stuff while you can, and hope that somebody in the Parliament will rise up to be the Russian Jesse Helms, or the Russian Newt Gingrich. You gotta have one of those guys passin laws against porno all the time, runnin scare campaigns about child sex abuse, so that all the movies will remain FORBIDDEN.
And as long as they're forbidden, everbody will want em.
I'm surprised I have to point this out.

Anyhow, one guy who sailed into Moscow immediately after the revolution was over is Roger Corman, the legendary B-movie producer. He knew that the huge Soviet film studio, Mosfilm, would be needing a little extra cash, and he also knew that they had one of the greatest sound-stage complexes in the world. They build sets for every movie they make--elaborate sets that would cost millions in Hollywood. And then they throw em away. So Roger said, "Whoa there. Just send me pictures of every set you're about to throw away. I'll write a script to fit that set. I'll make my movie in your studio." And a new international partnership was born.

And one of the best B movies yet to come out of Moscow is this week's offering, "Haunted Symphony," starring Ben "Remember Me From 'Chariots of Fire'" Cross as a third-rate composer in 18th-century France who gets hired by a foxy heiress to complete the symphony her uncle was writing when the town lynched him for being a devil worshipper. Needless to say, it's not somethin you'll wanna dance to.
In fact, every time Ben puts on his frilly shirt and starts playin the old dead guy's piano, something stirs in the cemetery outside, and a hooker down at the local brothel gets strangled with a piano wire. (All the hookers, by the way, are played by Russian actresses who have ENORMOUS talents, if you know what I mean and I think you'd better.)

Meanwhile, the creepy housekeeper is lurking around the mansion, stickin her nose into everything--and it turns out she's waiting on the old geezer to rise from the grave and make love to her again. But first she needs to jump into a new body--the one that belongs to new scream queen Jennifer Burns, as the heiress. But here's the best part. The old creepy housekeeper is played by Beverly Garland, the great B movie actress from the fifties best known for flicks like "The Alligator People." She started out in Roger Corman movies, and 35 years later she's STILL MAKIN EM! It's a little strange to see the woman who would have BEEN the screaming heroine 35 years ago, now scheming AGAINST the screaming heroine so she can get the use of her body and be young again.

Anyhow, this is one of the most expensive-lookin cheap flicks I've ever seen, with amazing special effects, and reminds me of Roger Corman's great Edgar Allan Poe movies, like "House of Usher" and "The Pit and the Pendulum," from the early sixties. Movies like this make me believe there's hope for Russia yet.
Nine dead bodies.
One dead bloody bird.
Eight breasts, including two stunt breasts. (Shame on you, Jennifer.)
Composer pulled apart limb from limb by wild horses.
Arm rolls.
Bleeding crucifix.
Multiple flogging.
Great swordfight.
Blade through the chest.
Character actress out the window.
Two zombies.
Drive-In Academy Award nominations for Lev Prigunov, as the dead geezer who wrote the devil's symphony, for saying "Die for me, my pet, that we both may be reborn";
Doug Wert, as the nasty jealous boyfriend, for saying "Why can't we have a bit of cheerful Italian music, like everyone else?" and
"That man and his damned symphony, or me!";
Beverly Garland, as the housekeeping witch who grinds up maggots and feeds em to the cast, for jumping into bed with Ben Cross because "I can't wait!";
Ben Cross, as the tortured piano-playin devil-possessed hero, for saying "It's as though the music were buried in my soul";
Alexander Pyatkov, as the suspicious constable, for saying "This is not Paris, madam--I don't need any evidence";
Jennifer Burns, as the crossbow-wielding heroine;
and director David Tausik, for showing the Russians how to do it the drive-in way.
Four stars.
Joe Bob says check it out.


Victory Over Al Capone! The Cicero Outdoor Theater, just south of U.S. 30 in Monee, Ill., has a booming business under the management of Mary Tetrev, and just completed a better-than-average year. Walter Szewczyk of Lombard reminds us that, with eternal vigilance, the drive-in will never die. To discuss the meaning of life with Joe Bob, or to get free junk in the mail and Joe Bob's world-famous newsletter, "The Joe Bob Report," write Joe Bob Briggs, P.O. Box 2002, Dallas, TX 75221. Joe Bob's Fax line is always open: 214-368-2310. Joe Bob even hangs out on CompuServe: 76702,1435.

Dear Joe Bob,
I am writing to you because I face a great challenge. My name is Chris Soileau and I attend St. Mary's University. It is a Christian school in San Antonio. I am a Christian also, but I have a hard time accepting some of the beliefs the people on campus have. Particularly their beliefs on alcohol. My parents are from Louisiana so I grew up considering alcohol as just a beverage people drink. I never considered it as something to get drunk off of. I drank in high school and I drink now, but I still consider alcohol as a beverage. I personally like beer.
Recently I confronted our student government with my views on alcohol. I felt that everyone viewed alcohol as evil. In a few weeks they are going to have an "Alcohol Awareness" day. So I said if it was going to be about awareness, they should talk about the positive aspects of alcohol (i.e., the fact that it is taxed by state and federal governments). Boy, did they get stirred up. Now I find myself defending alcohol everywhere I go.
I have learned over the years that alcohol--that is, beer--has some health benefits. I thought I remembered hearing that it reduces heart disease. But people keep coming up to me, damning me because I drink. They say it'll give me cirrhosis of the liver. I try to say that it's alcohol abuse that is at fault, not drinking it moderately. Some people just can't handle alcohol. They shouldn't drink. Their abuse should not reflect on the responsible drinkers. I find that I am having a hard time defending myself to so many people. Most of them have not even researched information on alcohol, they just spurt back the same old stuff they hear in school.
I know you are a very knowledgeable man, so I am writing to you for your help. I was wondering if there is any way that you could send me some information to help in my argument. It is very hard to find information on the positive side. Media doesn't want for you to know the whole truth, only part of it. If you could help me in any way I would be most grateful. Thank you for your time.
Chris Soileau
San Antonio, Tex.

Dear Chris:
It's wine that's supposed to be good for your heart. That's why the French don't have much heart disease. But look at the Germans, the Danes, the Swedes, the Norwegians. These are all MAJOR beer drinkers, and they're pretty dang healthy, too.
The main issue, though, is that the J-Man himself was a drinker. The last thing he drank, you know, was NOT Welch's Grape Juice.

Dear Joe Bob:
I love you.
Please tell me more about "Iron Joe Bob." Do I need to buy a bigger drum? Maybe a steel drum? Maybe a Buick?
Please write back soon--I'm a white man and I'm losing my rhythm.
Michael Smith
San Francisco

Dear Michael:
You're obviously not ready for a steel drum.
Watch 57 episodes of Married With Children. Memorize everything Al Bundy does. Then write to me again.

Dear Joe Bob,
How much money would it take to start a drive-in and where in Texas would be an excellent place to start the excellence in viewing pleasures?
Patrick Smith
Portland, Tex.

Dear Patrick:
Now that the Texas economy is pretty much down the toilet for the foreseeable future, you could build a drive-in pretty much any damn place--especially on one of those played-out oil fields. We got enough time on our hands, don't we?

Dear Joe Bob,
Will they ever make an "erotic thriller" with actual nakedness and sex?
In response to your line in the AIDS article "I can't think of a bad habit punishable by death." How about those who would close a drive-in?
Eternal vigilance for all! Keep up the good work!
Ray Stahl
San Francisco

Dear Ray:
You obviously haven't seen any erotic thrillers starring Shannon Tweed. They can't get all of her on the screen at once--it would burn the film.

Joe Bob,
I have recently started reading your columns. For the most part, I have thoroughly enjoyed each article. However, I have not read enough of your work to decide on your political convictions. Are you a republican, or are you one of those hypocritical liberal democrats who wants to control our lives, make sure that nobody makes more money than they do, and take away our guns? Of course, all of this is for our own good since we obviously aren't smart enough to run our own lives. Please tell me that you haven't fallen in with that group. I would think not, especially since, after ridding the planet of guns (because of all of the crimes committed each year in the U.S.A.), the next "logical" scapegoat for the evils of society would be the movies. Don't you know that the movie producers are sending violent messages to us? Well, I guess one good thing will become of it. At least we won't have to spend any money on guns and overpriced ammo to do our killing. We can learn how to kill from the B movies with everyday household items such as butcher knives, scissors, rolling pins, knitting needles, hammers, spearguns (are they going to get my speargun also?), cars, thumbtacks, etc.

What will Hollywood, which is a hotbed for liberalism (except for some of the all-time greats like Arnold Schwarzenegger) do when its own political convictions backfire?
Speaking of movies, I just read your pick for the annual Hubbie Awards. Where can I find such movies as "Bad Girls From Mars?" These sound like great movies, with plenty of body parts, both attached and dismembered. I have never heard of many of the movies mentioned, but would surely like to see them.
I have a great idea! What I would like to see is a Mexican Arnold Schwarzenegger type, perhaps Ricardo Montalban, in a "Terminator"-like movie. Maybe he could even wear a wrestling mask and spout out lines like "Espero que te llamas Al, porque empujare este fusil en su fundio y entonces tu nombre sera Alhambre!" He could be sent by the evil empire of the United States of America to the Texas-Mexico border to terminate all illegal aliens who are coming into the country to do the jobs we won't.
Are you the one and the same Joe Bob Briggs who has the "Drive-In Movie Theater" on The Movie Channel? If so, I guess I have been a fan longer than I thought.
Hasta la vista,
Paul R. Snow
San Antonio, Tex.

Dear Paul:
I don't wanna control anybody's life.
Not even mine.
[Sounds like a cop-out. But then again, Paul Harvey says that when people ask if he plans to vote Republican or Democrat he answers, “Probably.”]

© 1994 Joe Bob Briggs All Rights Reserved

For more of Joe Bob's pre-TNT reviews in Grapevine, Texas, go to his Drive-In Reviews Archive over yonder at www.Joe Bob

"Haunted Symphony" is available on video and on DVD

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Bram Stoker’s Burial of the Rats

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By the way, I couldn't find the themesong for this movie, so the background music is somebody's original piece called hauntedwaltz. Or would you rather hear Entity