by Patrick Bromley
If you've visited our site any time during the last few years -- in particular during the month of June -- you probably already know that I love exploitation movies. Starting in 2013, we even began devoting an entire month to watch and celebrating them. #Junesploitation was born. Next to Scary Movie Month, it's probably my favorite time of year, created because selfishly even if no one participated I would still get to watch action and horror and kung fu movies for 30 days.
In a recent email exchange with Cait Cannon (hi, Cait!), we were talking a little about exploitation and she asked if it was something I had always been into. Truth be told, I had never really given it much thought until she asked. I've mentioned before that 2007's Grindhouse was a turning point for me because a) it actually codified a certain kind of movie of which I had an awareness but not a concrete understanding and b) the experience of seeing it in a theater (many times) was one of the best I've ever had, so I immediately went down the rabbit hole in the hopes of recapturing that feeling. But I also know that I haven't only loved exploitation movies for the last decade, because I grew up loving a certain kind of schlocky horror and action movie and was obsessed with Troma and would make it a point to watch USA Up All Night every weekend, sometimes crying quietly to myself when I fell asleep and missed the 2am feature (something young people today don't understand, what with their DVRs and their instant streaming and their time shifting and their iPods and their Timberlands and their Hypercolor and their funky bunch). I have always been drawn to exploitation movies. I just didn't know that's what they were.
But I think there's more to it than that, and it's something I've talked about in conversations with both Doug and Erika in recent weeks. I think I may have gotten to a point where I've seen enough movies that it takes a different kind of experience to give me a thrill. I've watched a handful of awards-bait titles and totally competent indies of late and haven't been moved in the slightest. This is not the fault of the movies; this is entirely on me. I'm a tougher sell now. Doug likened it to a person who has had so much sex that now he or she needs to be tied up or choked to finish. It's a dirty metaphor and not completely applicable to me (I have never had sex), but the comparison is apt: I can watch a sweet, gentle movie about young love that's well-directed and well-acted and feel mostly indifference, but the next night will see 1983's Julie Darling, a violent and deranged thriller in which a teenage girl visualizes herself in bed with her own father, and be blown away by it. Julie Darling gets me excited about cinema in a way that other movies don't. This might say something more about me than it does about cinema.
The Beach Girls (1982, dir. Bud Townsend)
The Last American Virgin, Spring Fever, Homework and, of course, The Beach Girls were all released that year. How I had never seen The Beach Girls until now is a shame I will have to carry for the rest of my (admittedly numbered) days. It is gloriously stupid in every single way, violating every standard of gender and racial sensitivity we possess nowadays. It has giant floating bags of weed and campfire sing-a-longs and fucking pirates and pizza men and lots and lots of sex and/or sex-adjacent humor. This is the kind of movie where if there aren't 100 kicking-in-the-balls jokes, it feels like there are 100 kicking-in-the-balls jokes. Also, Ducky v. Ginger really should have replaced the age-old Betty v. Veronica debate that's been taking place in pop culture since the 1960s. The Beach Girls is the sort of idiot fun I enjoy way too much sometimes.
The Police Connection (1973, dir. Bert I. Gordon)
The Unholy Rollers (1972, dir. Vernon Zimmerman)
Alice Goodbody (1974, dir. Tom Scheuer)
I'll be checking in from time to time to talk about what crazy shit I've been watching of late, and of course recommendations of your favorite or most outrageous exploitation movies are always welcome (better yet, send them right to me and I'll make sure I write them up. Bribery!). The stuff other movies wouldn't dare do. That's the stuff that makes cinema exciting. That's exploitation.