Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Our Favorite #Junesploitation Discoveries

A lot of us saw some cool stuff in the last month!

We recently wrapped our fifth annual Junesploitation and I think it's safe to call it the best one ever. It was certainly the most "visible," thanks to so many of you participating in the comments and posting about it all over social media. Hopefully you all had as great a month as we did; I love that some of you lifelong exploitation fans get to celebrate these movies all month long, while those of you less familiar are taking chances and diving into the weird end of movies. Reading the reactions to what everyone was watching was the real highlight of the month, so we (and by "we" I mean "Rob") had the great idea to share some of our Junesploitation highlights. Enjoy!
Mike: Suspiria (1977, dir: Dario Argento) I saw Suspiria for the first time maybe five years ago. I remember liking it enough, but at the time thinking, “Well, I can cross this off of the list” and moving on without given it much more thought. Lately I’ve felt like I need to give it another try, so I signed up to get Netflix DVDs again and had it delivered in time for Junesploitation.

This time around something clicked. Despite the DVD transfer being horrible, the visuals still managed to pop in a way they hadn’t the first time I saw Suspiria. That’s not to say I didn’t notice what Argento was doing visually the first time around (it’d be impossible not to), but for whatever reason watching it on Italian Horror day I was struck by the colors and composition in a way that stayed with me for days afterward. The beginning of Suspiria is one for the ages, Jessica Harper kicks ass, there are genuine scares along the way AND THAT MUSIC. I went from thinking Suspiria was just okay to cursing Synapse for not releasing the Blu-ray yesterday. It’s a special movie.
Rob DiCristino: Miami Vice (2006, dir. Michael Mann) Easily (so, so easily) my favorite discovery this year, one I've already rewatched three times since seeing it on Cops Day. I remember laughing at the poster back in '06 – I'd never seen the original series, and Colin Farrell was kind of a joke (this was two years before I saw him in In Bruges), so College Film Asshole Rob just laughed at the whole thing. Maybe I didn't make the Michael Mann connection? Who knows. I was dumb.

Anyway, little did I know that (as Patrick wrote) this was the definitive cop film of the 2000s. It's equally beautiful, angry, violent, sexy — as much about the spaces in between all the action and dialogue as it is those elements themselves. It's speaking its own language. And yeah, the original opening in the club rules.
Stephanie Crawford: June was a big month for me because I finally fully realized that the suffix "sploitation" could be added to any genre; you just gotta believe it in your heart. Lists of favorites are never easy, but at the end of the month, I look back with the most affection on my '90s action pick Freeway (seeing the sequel, Freeway II: Confessions of a Trickbaby, before this actually enhanced it, somehow) and the video nasty Dead & Buried. Both have plots that are admirably batshit and were written with massive talent and sincerity, and no punches were pulled. May God bless Junesploitation and no place else.
Adam Riske: I don’t feel out of my depth with movies often, but every Junesploitation keeps me humble. I admire how adventurous our community is attempting to find the latest great exploitation discovery. I preface my favorites of Junesploitation with that only because my picks are probably pretty pedestrian by comparison. Rather than going into depth about one or two (Where do I start? They all – maybe not all - have their charms), I’m going to provide a list of ten favorite new discoveries I saw during the month:

10. Lock Up
9. The Man with the Golden Arm
8. Revenge
7. Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill!
6. Psycho II
5. J.D.’s Revenge
4. Jason X
3. Smokey and the Bandit
2. Used Cars
1. Crippled Avengers
Mark Ahn: Kiss Me Deadly (1955, dir. Robert Aldrich) for Cars! Day (June 4). Any movie that is accused of “ruining young viewers” (by the Kefauver Commission) and then is later selected for the National Film Registry for preservation is exactly the kind of movie that is the Junesploitation wheelhouse. One of the definitive movies from the noir period at its height, the story follows tough guy detective Mickey Spillane as he investigates a mysterious suitcase, a woman in the night, and a suspicious murder. Along the way, we run into all of the signifiers of noir: the overpuffed masculinity, the heightened tone, and cynical worldview. It’s definitely of its time, but so much fun to watch because of its harsh, dark tone, which we tend to assume with more modern movies. I can’t imagine how this would have played with audiences of the '50s.

Kid with the Golden Arm (1979, dir. Cheh Chang) for Kung Fu! Day (June 10). One of the Shaw Brothers’ “Venom Mob” movies, this time featuring different martial artists who have mastered different weapons-based fighting styles, all fighting over a pile of golden treasure. A little slower and more “talky” than an all-out actioner like Crippled Avengers, but still has its fair share of surprises and unexpected deaths. It’s also always awesome to spend time with the Venom Mob.
Patrick: This was my favorite Junesploitation, both because I got to see a lot of great new-to-me movies and because, five years in, I've seen enough of these crazy films that I was familiar with most of what everyone was watching for the first time (except for the insanely obscure stuff that people like Mac McEntire and Chaybee and E.S.A.A.D. were taking in). Among my favorites for the month were Sweet Sugar (1972, dir. Michel Levesque), a ridiculous women-in-prison movie that introduced me to Phyllis Davis, my new Junesploitation crush, and Moonshine County Express (1977, dir. Gus Trikonis), an insanely entertaining drive-in picture with John Saxon as one of cinema's most charming bootleggers not named Burt Reynolds, plus fun performances from Maureen McCormick and old Junesploitation crush Claudia Jennings. My very favorite movie I watched last month was Michael Winner's Scream for Help (1984), a movie I didn't even watch for that day's theme but which is so bananas and wonderful that I want everyone to see it right away. It's typical Winner trash about a young girl (Rachael Kelly) who suspects her mom's boyfriend is trying to kill her (P.S. she's right). What's different this time around is that instead of being the usual crazy but well-made Winner trash, Scream for Help is badly acted and poorly put together. Trust me when I say it only adds to the movie's singular appeal.
A.M. Novak:  This was my first year participating in Junesploitation and I kept it safe with films I knew and loved— except for two. The first was Return to the 36th Chamber, related only in name and star to its predecessor, The 36th Chamber of Shaolin (but still funny and memorable). The second was my last film of the month, Gargoyles (1972). My dad recommended the movie to me because he saw it at the drive-in as a kid and it terrified him, and I have to say, it was one of the most fun low-budget B-movies I’ve seen in ages. Seeing the overwhelming response and participation in Junesploitation has my to-watch list longer than ever!


  1. These are all great picks! Due to having a really rough month I wasn't able to participate as intensely as I have in the past years and most of what I saw wasn't very good or fun (of course this could be indicative of my mindset at the time). I'd have to say that "Kindergarten Ninjas" was by far my favorite and the one I had the most fun with and "Cold Harvest", as recommended by E.S.A.D.D, comes in at a close 2nd. "The Day It Came To Earth" had my favorite bit of dialog though, in which a professor names the alien/zombie "Geophysical Gaseous Goon" and makes sure that "in the event there is a code word needed, we will call it "Gee Ga Goo".

    Can't wait for October!!!

  2. It was a fantastic month and I'm so thankful for Junesploitation. It's one of the best things ever! I discovered a ton of fun stuff but here's my top 10 favorite new discoveries of the month.

    1. Smokey & the Bandit (1977)
    2. Foxy Brown (1974)
    3. Assault on Precinct 13 (1976)
    4. Body Double (1984)
    5. Evilspeak (1981)
    6. Total Recall (1990)
    7. Stagefright (1987)
    8. The Big Doll House (1971)
    9. The Bird with the Crystal Plumage (1970)
    10. Dead End Drive In (1986)

  3. I think I may, like Mike, be ready to fall in love with Suspiria. Why you ask? Because I saw Phantom Of The Paradise for the first time in almost twenty years and absolutely loved it, so I'm obviously ready for a bit of a Jessica Harper kick. Like Chaybee, had a bit of a rough month, so while not my favorite it was a great junesploitation and I thank everyone from the bottom of my heart.

  4. As usual I had a blast. I always use Junesploitation to fill in gaps or movies I should have caught up with by now.

    House By The Cemetery
    The Burbs
    We Are Still Here
    Dead and Buried
    Truck Turner

    Plus beacause of everyone's insightful reviews I also have a list of movies I want to get for next year. Thank you to everyone for making thus year so much fun!

  5. Thanks for the shout-out, Patrick! I'm most flattered to be considered one of the Deep Dive Club.

    My #Junesploitation top five:
    5) Hey Good Lookin’: Ralph Bakshi’s gritty yet humorous take on 1950s greasers, with a killer soundtrack.
    4) The Blackcoat’s Daughter: Moody and atmospheric horror. Wish I could’ve seen it on the big screen.
    3) Queen Kong: Gender-flipped spoof of King Kong. It’s very ‘70s, very English, and really funny.
    2) Wheels of Fire: Low-budget Italian Max Mad ripoff that’s wall-to-wall action and hilarious dubbing.
    1) Evil Dead Trap: Stylishly filmed and ridiculously gory, it’s a must-see for ‘80s horror fans.

  6. My favourite Junesploitation so far - June is always a busy month for me but I managed to watch a fair amount of movies, most of them new-to-me, and with very few duds. I also paid more attention to what other people were watching and that definitely helped guide me to some new favourites.

    The hands-down winner of the month was Tenebre - such a great movie. Close runner-up is Rolling Thunder. "Let me get my gear" is what I'm now going to say to any friend that asks me for help and one day, if they're lucky, they'll all get the reference. Some very honourable mentions: Used Cars (thanks Riske!), Smokey and the Bandit (thanks a bunch of people on Burtsploitation Day!), Truck Turner (thanks Patrick? Or Heath? One of you guys put it on my radar awhile back) and It Comes at Night (thanks anonymous Twitter poll voters!). I know reviews around here have been split on that one but it was one of the weirdest theatre-going experiences I've had, it stuck with me for days and I actually find myself wanting to watch it again.

    Thanks again everyone! And trying not to wish my life away but can't wait for Scary Movie Month!

  7. June was a bit of a weird month for me, with some really busy days and some really really not. But I managed to squeeze in at least one movie every day, and more than one plus some bonus stuff on those not so busy days.

    Here's my top 10 of the month:

    1. May
    2. Blastfighter
    3. McBain
    4. Evilspeak
    5. From Beyond
    6. Nightsatan and the Loops of Doom (short film)
    7. Hell Comes to Frogtown
    8. In a Valley of Violence
    ?. The Visitor
    ?. Repo Man

    Those last two are movies I didn't really understand but was fascinated by, so I'm sure I'll revisit them both and they might well be much higher on the list in the future. And thanks to Patrick and the FTM! gang, at least half of those I only knew about because they've been mentioned on the podcast or on the site.

    Oh, and I'll never be able to get "Totally Awesome Video Games" from the Joysticks theme song out of my head.

  8. Great idea for an article, Rob! And thanks for the mentions, Patrick and Chaybee! (I am not even my own movie fan, merely a byproduct of Chaybee's glibe.) The exploitation well is so, so deep; even if they stopped making movies today, we'd never run out of new stuff to pick through. This was a great Junesploitation for me personally, and I watched some doozies! My top five would be:

    5. High School U.S.A.
    (My new favorite Crispin Glover/Michael J. Fox movie)
    4. The Monster and the Stripper (flaming nipple pasties!)
    3. Wolf Guy
    2. The Devil's Candy
    1. Lesbian Rape: Sweet Honey Juice

    With honorable mentions going to:
    Gunfighter Johnny, The Love Butcher, Thundering Mantis, and Demons 6: De Profundis aka The Black Cat. :) I love that Stephanie is so into Freeway now, because Matthew Bright is one of the great unsung geniuses of the movie world; go watch Forbidden Zone now, which, in my mind, is objectively the greatest movie ever made. A.M., not trying to be a dick, but I wanna call bullshit on your dad's claim to have seen Gargoyles at the drive-in! I have no idea how its release played out, knowing that it showed internationally, but Gargoyles was a made-for-TV movie! (One of the all-time greatest though, btw!) Also loving that Mike is a new convert on Suspiria; that was my second Italo-horror after Zombie, and I also was left cold by it until a second viewing, when I realized it was one of the best movies ever made. And just to show how deep things go... here's a comparison between a sequence from 1974's School of the Holy Beast, one of the best Japanese exploitation movies ever, and Suspiria, which came out three years later. I don't know who made the image (not me), and I consider both movies essential masterpieces, but I think it's a great demonstration of just how much there is to know (and how much we need to know) to fully appreciate the amazing world of exploitation filmmaking.