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Donn Davison

From The Grindhouse Cinema Database

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Overview

Through the Late 60's to Early 70's Donn Davison was one of the most active people in Exploitation, and his style of hype is one of the most noted of the era. From Exploitation film maker, Shock Show creator, Roadshow manager and Book-pitching "Talker," Promotion man at Film Ventures International in its early days, Actor, "Psychic Investigator," and Adult Theater manager, Davison clearly was an original who's career covered almost every angle of Exploitation. In his early days, he was immediately sighted for being one quick to think up a hype, exploit, scam, or even film re-title, and his style was right in the time when the Drive Ins were alive with these films through The 70's and his Roadshows would always find a taker and an audience. His Roadshows with book sales were among the last of its kind, with The Wages of Sin noted to have played up until 1976, and his films are very low budget slices of Indie Sexploitation film making which mixed his laid back Southern style with some good faces, some sleaze, and even a touch of his classic hype to make sure the films played for a long time, especially through the Carolinas, Georgia, and Florida.

His films include Moonshiner's Woman (1968), Shantytown Honeymoon (1972, released as Honey Britches), Secrets of the Gods (1976 - Producer and Writer), McCullough's Mountain (1976, released as Blood Beast of Monster Mountain - Director and actor of scenes added to a 1965 film), and The Force Beyond (1977 - Producer and Writer).

Early Exploitation Career and Roadshows

Already known as one to take the stage, especially with magic shows and Yo-Yo demonstrations, he went to work in the world of the Horror Show after graduating from High School, taking a job in a roadshow called Dr. Sin's House of the Living Dead that included a Dracula as well as a music moment and caught the fever to go on his own shows by The Mid-60's, usually helped by friends like Jim Ridenour (Who would write a good amount of information on him in the liner notes to the Monsters Crash the Pajama Party DVD), such as The Horror Chamber of Blood and Gore and Monster a Go Go, all with the carnival thrills, low budget madness, silly tricks, gimmicks, and picked up films, with some shows at the Drive Ins including Davison performing at the concession stand. More famously, Davison also got into the Sex Roadshow business with his Price of Sin show, which played a number of pictures including under that title including The Flesh Is Weak (It would be a good guess to think that The Doctor Says was also played in that show. It was a Roadshow classic made famous in The Late 60's under a couple of titles), plus the Birth of a Baby reel and the Book Sale. As it's easier to put the pieces of his history of this early era together from the DVDs and writings that focus on his time in Exploitation, noticing his style in trailers, one-sheets, and Roadshow clips can be fun especially as he employed all of the classic tricks of the trade including classic Exploitation sells like the "We're not able to show you some scenes from this motion picture in this preview" and "It's a show that's breaking Box Office records around the world," Book pitches which included a "bonus book if you bought the Male and Female books" about The Pill during The Late 60's-70's, and even radio ads which hyped the films and roadshows sometimes to hilarious extremes with Davison playing radio ad roles like "Movie Producer Walter Castle" (Certainly no relation to William, of course) hyping that Secret Miracle of Birth, all used with his unique style.

From having a roadshow that had two dancers being employed to be named Bobby Dukes, the "Hollywood Starlet" performing The Twist at two theaters in the same city on the same night (Horror Chamber of Blood and Gore) to plastering titles over old ones on one sheets of his films (Shantytown Honeymoon was noted to have been played under six names), Davison topped himself in Late 1971 with the Asylum of the Insane show in which he "Borrowed" prints of David F. Friedman's She Freak, added on a very cheap 3-D segment (Featuring JG "Pat" Patterson, known character-wise as Dr. Gore Don Brandon, demonstrating his Yo Yo skills), and touring with it with the disclaimer that "So scary that only portions can be shown in 3-D!" and a full promotion that included photos of the guys in cheap masks. These roadshows would be very successful, playing to good audiences with The Horror Roadshows through The 60's would mainly be with some noted B-Film like The Screaming Skull pick up at a local Film Exchange center and booked on the spot. It would be in the Early 70's when Davison would whip up his infamous Roadshow movie Re-title scams which would take the game to extremes by promoting something called Little Whorehouse on the Prairie, which in reality could be one of Davison's films or a Box Office International epic like The Pigkeeper's daughter or even Russ Meyer's The Wild Girls of the Naked West, although with the titles mentioned, there would not be many complaints at all.

Davison's best known Roadshows would be among the last of the Sex-Hygiene shows, which included the much-promoted The Secret Miracle of Birth and The Wages of Sin. The Wages of Sin would continue the Price of Sin technique, but with even more films to choose from to play under that title, one noted as being Love Commune, a film better known as Ghetto Freaks. These would play up until around 1976, when his Exploitation focus went more on the Paranormal paths taken by films like The Force Beyond.

Southern Exploitation Movies and Working at Film Ventures International

In 1968, encouraged by Ron Ormond, Moonshiner's Woman with Davison in a memorable role as a leader of the Crime scene was released with a great radio promotion and had a good amount Exploitation scene success (it would later be out into a triple bill with Jesse James' Women and Frontier Woman - Ron Ormand's film I think), sparking Davison to move on with his film making which was made infamous with a film called Obscenity Obscenity which has been said to have sparked a Supreme Court case that has been reported to have led him to a six month stay in jail (Something Weird Video fans might be familiar with that tale in the Monsters Crash the Pajama Party DVD liner notes) and Shantytown Honeymoon which was also titles Honey Britches as well as forming a company called Lion Dog Films, something that would cover many things associated with him through the early 70's including what was known as International Health and Publishing, Ltd. , a good part of it being helped out by his wife Barbara Morris who sometimes worked as a Screenwriter. His best mark in Exploitation, however, was his time with Film Ventures International, who he helped out through approximately 1972, when the company started to take off with the Italian Western Boot Hill, to 1977 (The release of his final film with the company) including being part of the campaign organizers for Beyond The Door (which was sometimes teamed up in the Drive Ins with The Night Child) and defending the company when a lawsuit was served by Warner Brothers against the film as well as Producing two films in Secrets of the Gods and The Force Beyond. Being based in Atlanta at the time, Ed Montoro's company had slight connections with the Davison history with other films like Grizzly, Associate Produced by friend Lee Jones who was reportedly a Producer of Shantytown Honeymoon/Honey Britches and the one behind The Hidan of Maukbeiangjow which had a couple of faces known in Davison's films, as well as a friendship with George Craddock of Craddock Films that resulted in some Distribution of his films through states like Florida as well as a short time with FVI.

During his time helping out FVI with promotions, he may not have contributed to everything the company released in the time he worked with them, but the company did have plenty of promotions that could be noted as moments that moved it up in the Exploitation scene. Noted early Stateside Distributions from FVI also included some other Italian Westerns, one branded as Sundance Cassidy and Butch the Kid (Tagline - "Don't confuse them with those other guys!"), and another film (Tedum) that was called Father Jackleg and more memorably Sting of the West. Sexy Comedy films picked up by FVI in its early days included Zeta One, which turned into The Love Factor, and When Women Had Tails. Another noted FVI hype in its early years from 1972 to 1977 included the Tagline to The Night Child "Keep telling yourself She's just a child!" in the style made famous by The Last House On The Left's "It's only a movie!" campaign.

Through the Early 70's, there were some plans mentioned in the industry for films that did not see the light of day, one of the first being a team up between Lion Dog and Studio 1 on a film called Brother Love. Another announced project was a film to have been made with Montoro in 1972 called Jet Set Stewardesses, riding on the trend started by The Stewardesses in 1969 that was spawning many imitators, but with more interest with Film Ventures International in getting imported films for American Distribution, this may have not been put to film at any time. Note was also made for Davison's Ride Again that was supposed to be released around Late 1973, although there is hardly any proof beyond industry announcements about it. Another film associated with Davison and Montoro's Jet Set Productions, 1971's Our Man Steel, is only known through its fast paced trailer, although the film is either incomplete or lost.

Books of Magic, Hypnotism, and Horror Movie Exploitation

While Davison was known for being a major player in the Georgia Exploitation market and his Dragon Art Theater, he also released a few small independently-issued books for those practicing magic tricks for parties as well as those in the "Spook Show" business and people interested in hypnotism (A certificate for a local Hypnotists Group can be seen behind Davison in one of his Roadshow book hypes) . Titles include Conjuring For Cash, Monster Manual for Spook Shows, Mining Gold Magically, and $100 an Hour for Magicians. His sole moment in Fiction, Challenge to Survive, was turned into the film Land of No Return in 1978.

More closer to his Exploitation roots, Davison is also credited with the booklet How to Make $1000 a Night Entertaining Adults in Movie Theaters.

Final Years in Exploitation

After he parted company with FVI, with two William Sachs-Directed films in Secrets of the Gods and The Force Beyond, both highlighting Davison's interest in the Paranormal that was ready to be exploited, he went into business along with some of his other friends in the industry, helping out on films like Jack Weis' 1976 Crypt of Dark Secrets which added in the famed Damballa sequences, using some tricks from a Shock Show in the beginning, and an uncredited cameo appearance by Davison telling the tale of the legend as well as adding the added on Bigfoot-inspired moments in McCollough's Mountain while playing the "Psychic Investigator" which was otherwise The Legend of Blood Mountain from 1965 Directed by Massey Cramer and Distributed through Craddock Films (and now known through its recent re-issue as Blood Beast of Monster Mountain, released by Something Weird Video). One trailer to the Late 70's "Exclusive Roadshow Engagement" of The Italian Stallion clearly sounded like it may have had the voice of Davison as one of the "Viewers" who saw the Sylvester Stallone film that was once known as The Party at Kitty and Stud's Place and a couple of other promotional trailers just had the word "Censored" as his voice hyped up a film that had scenes of an Adult nature that could not be shown to a general audience (Best known of this was the one for the Love Slaves). Time was also running out on his work with the Adult film world which included running the Dragon Art theaters, with it's best known seen on a one sheet on a Something Weird Video gallery being based in Florida, and there was one last Horror promotion in Peppercorn-Wormser's pickup of The House of Exorcism, an Exploitation remix of Mario Bava's Lisa and the Devil served up Exorcist style...just right for someone who used to be with Film Ventures to hype it up.

After spending a quiet Post-Exploitation life, while noticing a Cult Movie following by The Late 90's thanks to conventions and reissues of his films and often very amusing hypes, Davison passed away in 1999.

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