THE GRINDHOUSE GOSPEL OF RON ORMOND

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By the end of the 1960’s, Ron Ormond, a Nashville-based filmmaker with several moderately successful exploitation pictures to his name (MESA OF LOST WOMEN, GIRL FROM TOBACCO ROW, THE MONSTER AND THE STRIPPER, etc), had undergone a spiritual transformation. After narrowly surviving two separate aviation incidents, Ormond was gripped with an evangelical fervor. From then on, he felt compelled to use filmmaking as a means of spreading Christianity to the unsaved. Ormond's newfound convictions, however, could not fully overshadow his own B-fim past. The resulting contrast - high religious ideals paired with down and dirty Southern-fried grindhouse - lead to the creation some of the strangest and most tonally dissonant American films of all time.

IF FOOTMEN TIRE YOU, WHAT WILL HORSES DO? (1971), THE BURNING HELL (1974), and THE GRIM REAPER (1976) comprise Ron Ormond’s loose trilogy of expectation-shattering, genre-nullifying religious exploitation films. Abject horror, straight-faced documentary, and unintentional comedy are recklessly fused together. Heartfelt sermons coexist alongside depictions of torture, murder, and assault. Children and elderly alike are done in mercilessly by the evils of secularism, Communism, and new-age spirituality. For every character who is saved, another is cast off into the fiery (though somewhat bizarrely rendered) abyss. Blood spills indiscriminately. Indefinable accents abound. Pristinely Z-grade production values. Questionable factoids. Performances so off-kilter that otherworldly intervention is perhaps the only explanation.

Running down a list of all of the jaw-dropping moments contained within these three films would diminish the impact of experiencing them for the first time (not to mention, take an absurdly long time). Suffice it to say that Ron Ormond deserves a place among the distinguished ranks of Herschell Gordon Lewis, Hal P. Warren, and Edward D. Wood Jr. This this is outsider cinema of the highest order.

IF FOOTMEN TIRE YOU, WHAT WILL HORSES DO?
Dir. Ron Ormond, 1971
USA, 52 min.

FRIDAY, AUGUST 1 - 10:00 PM
MONDAY, AUGUST 11 - 7:30 PM
WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 20 - 10:00 PM

A grim premonition of The United State’s defeat to Communism, as envisioned by real-life Pentecostal preacher Estus Pirkle. Rampant godlessness - drinking, dancing, sex education, television - have infiltrated American life so thoroughly, that it’s only a matter of time before uniformed Communist troops ride in on horseback and trample us down. Once here, they’ll machine-gun our friends and neighbors openly, rape our wives in our own homes, replace Jesus Christ with Fidel Castro in our schools, and leave the slit throats of our children to bleed atop our altars.

THE BURNING HELL
Dir. Ron Ormond, 1974
USA, 58 min.

SUNDAY, AUGUST 3 - 7:30 PM
MONDAY, AUGUST 11 - 10:00 PM
SATURDAY, AUGUST 16 - 7:30 PM
SUNDAY, AUGUST 24 - 5:00 PM

Ormond’s second collaboration with Estus Pirkle features two easy riders learn a hard lesson about the afterlife, when one dies suddenly in a motorcycle accident. Because of his free-spirited ways, including a liberal slant on traditional Christianity, he is sent promptly to Hell, where he is scorched, taunted, and tortured for an eternity. Can Reverend Pirkle save the soul of the other biker (played by Ron Ormond’s son Tim), before he faces the same endless suffering as his comrade has?

THE GRIM REAPER
Dir. Ron Ormond, 1976
USA, 60 min.

MONDAY, AUGUST 4 - 7:30 PM
FRIDAY, AUGUST 15 - 10:00 PM
TUESDAY, AUGUST 26 - 7:30 PM

Verne Pierce is enraged when a pastor refuses to preach his son Frankie Pierce's funeral, on the grounds that Frankie is probably in Hell. In hopes of making contact with his son to find out, Verne decides to recruit the services of Dr. Kumran, a new-age mystic with the power to communicate with the dead. Worried about his father’s newfound interest in the occult, Verne’s other son Tim (Ormond’s son Tim again) worries about the fate of his soul, and frets that Verne will end up in the same fiery abyss as Frankie. Featuring a cameo by Jerry Falwell!

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