WOMEN FIGHTING BACK: GOING-TO-EXTREMES TWOFER!On the sensitive, smart and artistic side of the spectrum...Martha Coolidge's NOT A PRETTY PICTURE (1975, 83 min.) in 16mm at New York City's Anthology Film Archives for the first time.In her first narrative feature after spending the early part of her career doing documentaries, writer/director/producer/editor Martha Coolidge ("Real Genius") re-enacts the circumstances of her own rape when she was 16 years old. Michele Manenti, a young girl who had been recently raped at the time of filming, plays Coolidge's on-screen version of herself. The movie cuts back-and-forth between re-enactments of the events before/after the rape with behind-the-scenes rehearsal footage of the crew and actors. Not everybody agrees on how to best represent rape in a movie without it coming across as too phony or too off-putting. Martha's violation isn't shown as a re-enactment but as rehearsal footage, with the camera panning back and forth between Coolidge and Manenti giving unforgettable, disturbing blank stares of approval to one another.As a narrative feature "Not A Pretty Picture" is a well-meaning failure. Acting is weak and, if not for the profanity-laced dialogue, barely up to after school TV special standards. As a creative vehicle for a talented storyteller to exorcise her inner demons on screen so she could move on with her life, it's a fascinating watch. Except for Coolidge and one actor (Reed Birney), nobody in this crew went on to do anything else. In the case of creepy Jim Carrington (who plays the good-looking alpha male Martha is initially attracted to) that's a good thing, because the way this guy talks about women is pig-headed sexist even by '75 standards. Worth seeing if you can find it.And on the bottom-of-the-barrel, beneath-the-gutter end of the spectrum...Danny Steinmann's SAVAGE STREETS (1984, 93 min.) on Amazon Prime for the first time.After taking the 50's convertible of a four-man wannabe L.A. street gang out for a "trashy" joyride, a clique of inner city high school girlfriends become targets of the gang's barely-contained revenge retaliation. Group leader Brenda (Linda Blair) feels helpless when her mute younger sister Heather (Linnea Quigley) is brutally gang raped in their high school gym by you-know-who. But when Brenda's best friend is killed on the eve of her wedding (did I mention the bride-to-be was expecting?), she's had enough. It's time for Brenda to do what the police can't... if cops had actually appeared at the start of the film instead of six minutes before it ends. And when I say "cops" I mean one patrolman seen calling dispatch for a blink-and-you'll-miss-him hot second.OMG, this movie's misogyny and over-the-top angry acting are off-the-scale insane! "Friday the 13th Part V" (Steinmann's next-and-last picture after this one) is subdued and nuanced by comparison... except not really. I can count in one hand the adults in this flick, including the meekest-looking poetry teacher ever seen on film. And one of these authority figures is John freaking Vernon as a tough-talking principal that calls Brenda a "bitch" to her face. Are you effin kidding me?!?! :-O If the story was about Principal Underwood kicking trash to get the Scars off his school then we'd have something special. Instead we're stuck with Linda Blair becoming a one-woman revenge army that takes the Scars one at a time, slasher style. Not because Brenda trains hard or does anything to earn a badass moniker, but because LB is the star and the script says she's "the man" for the last third. "Savage Streets" is too ugly and stupid for me to recommend, but if you know what you're getting into it's a one stop shop for way too many Junesploitation! categories. And is that really such a bad thing? YES!!! :-(
The word that comes into my mind about Savage Streets is mean-spirited. The suffering of the characters, both emotionally and physically, is the focus of the film. Definitely one not to everybody's tastes.
Except for one character (the one member of the Scars gang that is pushed to rape Heather) every male bad guy in "Savage Streets" can rape, wants to rape and eventually does rape... or kicks the rape victim while she's down on the ground. Even Brenda's girlfriends seem to get over Heather's rape pretty quickly by going to that club soon after it happens. :-OIf he was alive I'd like to ask Danny Steinmann where did the mean molester touch you, and why are you taking your anger on the rest of us by putting it in your movies. Even fracking "Sleepaway Camp" didn't have this much ready-to-ignite bouts of pure rage toward its female characters. Such a mean flick, which ironically makes "Savage Streets" an ideal yang to "Not A Pretty Picture's" yin. They couldn't be further apart even though they cover similar ground.
THE PLAYGIRLS AND THE VAMPIRE (1960, dir. Piero Regnoli) In this very early Italian horror film, a dance troupe short on money finds refuge at the castle of the Kernassy family. When one of the dancers is found dead on the grounds the next morning, some of the guests begin to suspect that something sinister is afoot in the castle. One of the dancers is warned by the current count of the castle not to open her door to anyone after night falls. As you would expect, she does not heed that advice.The Playgirls and the Vampire is a pleasant black-and-white gothic production. Like all of these early 1960s Italian films, the pacing is very slow and the plot meanders, yet the eighty-minute running time keeps it from feeling long. The atmosphere is good and the sets and locations are used well. Parts of the film are devoted, sometimes humorously, to showing off the bodies of the actresses, including brief nudity. THE BAMBOO HOUSE OF DOLLS (1973, dir. Chih-Hung Kuei) This a response from the Shaw Brothers studio to the Roger Corman WIP films like The Big Bird Cage. Assessing the film is difficult because my bootleg copy, an old VHS rip in English with Dutch and French subtitles, is almost twenty minutes shorter than the official film. The cuts are apparent in certain parts. I can only comment on the version I saw.The film begins with Japanese soldiers indiscriminately killing people at a crowded hospital somewhere in China. The Caucasian nurses are then sent to a prison camp. This part of the film is a strange balance of titillation and sadism, as the nurses and Chinese prisoners endure abuse day after day. It is more reminiscent of Nazisploitation than the almost comical violence of the Corman films, but a catfight is thrown in from time to time to lighten the mood. Then the tone and focus of the Bamboo House changes when the nurses and a few Chinese prisoners escape with outside help. Genuine tension is created as the Japanese pursue them through the countryside. It gets very nihilistic at the end.In spite of the plot holes in my copy, this was a film I enjoyed. The fact that the tone of the film changes is the main reason I ended up liking it. A whole film in the prison setting would have been too repetitive and depressing. With a major studio behind it, Bamboo House has better production values that you would generally find with Italian films in the same vein. If you do not mind a heavy dose of sleaze at points, this can be a good watch. The film, amusingly, steals music and gunshot sounds from Italian movies.
Earlier in the week I began delving into martial arts films. It is a genre I am trying to get more acquainted with this year.A TOUCH OF ZEN (1971, dir. King Hu) King Hu was in the vanguard of martial arts filmmaking in the 1960s and ‘70s. A Touch of Zen merges visual artistry with wuxia action, and it unfolds patiently and beautifully. The story is about a group of people fighting the forces of a corrupt government official. Although the film has a running time of three hours, it never bored me. I find it cool that, fifty years ago, tough female characters were appearing on screens across the Chinese-speaking world. The Criterion release has several supplemental features worth watching to understand the development of martial arts cinema.
You can be my wingman anytime, Maverick. ;-)
I liked the first hour of Zen. The little touches of Chinese culture- painting, calligraphy, and family expectations (Have a son!)- interest me. I can see why it can be a slog for those expecting a typical martial arts film, however.
The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms (1953 - dir Eugène Lourié)This is why bombs are a bad idea, you just awaken some giant monster, who is not going to be impressed. And Ray Harryhausen was a genius. Just the way the creature moves is incrediable, it's personality is in his movements. There is just a small piece of business of the creture pawing at car he had just crushed.Oh and I am beginning to adore scientists in 1950s science fictino movies, they are so confident even when they are wrong.
Sometimes Harryhausen's creatures have more personality than the human characters (20 Million Miles to Earth).
Black Christmas (1974, dir. Bob Clark) Meant to watch this on John Saxon day. Stupid life getting in the way of movies… Anyways F This Movie has championed this enough, it's one of the greatest movies ever made. It captures the feeling of winter so well; man everyone looks really cold! Hello?… HELLO?!
Hello .... hello.... hello. I adore how creepy and unsettling this is.
THE STRANGERS: PREY AT NIGHT (2018) Had a lot of fun with this one. Its actually really well made and a lot of tension throughout. Includes one of the best sequences from any movie this year. I feel like Carpenter comparisons are spot on, especially near the end. Heather and a couple others have talked this up on podcasts and I'm so glad I checked it out, and bummed I missed it in theaters.
It's destined to be a slasher cult classic because it got savaged by mainstream critics and audiences and big horror fans have been loving it. It's real fun!
Mom and Dad (2018 - dir Brian Taylor) CagesploitationIt's a killer parent movie. There are so many things I loved about this movie, yet, other things that drive me nuts. I don't know how I feel about it. I love the concept, of parents just switching to wanting to kill their childern. I adored Selma Blair, the way she can switch tones and still feel real is incrediable. This movie switched to Blairspolitation. And there is a noise that Cage makes when he is stabed in the leg that is everything, and I want it as a message tone.Then, this movie wants to use every single style, often in the same scene, often at once. I still have to see the Crank movies, but if this anything to go by they sound exhausting. This movie doesn't stop, and it's too much, often I was a little confused about the geography of thet movie. It's frequency was really annoying. But, to be fair when the movie did pause, it was often with Blair being wonderful. It's if she had the power to calm the movie, while she is being homicidal.
As of now this is my favorite movie of 2018.
I can see this being in a lot of top 10s. There are so many great things about it.
Miami Connection (1988)This is one of those “bad” movies that’s made with so much sincerity, dedication, and good intentions that it becomes unironically loved. I have such genuine affection for this tale of five orphan/ninja/roommate/bandmate bros who take on the drug trade in Orlando (?, it tracks). The songs by their band “Dragon Sound” are wholesome and ridiculous but make you wanna blast that shit at top volume while driving to the beach. The character subplots of long-lost fathers (“my FAAAther!”), forbidden love (“A FRIEND?!!!”), and finding oneself through martial arts and ass-kickery are all well worth the journey. Producer/Writer/Director/Star Y.K. Kim is my forever bro.
That text the movie ends on is glorious!
YES all day to this pick! From time to time I'll find myself humming the melody the song "Friends." It's super catchy.
If you meet Sartan pray for your death (1968)I just got my The Complete Sartana boxset from Arrow, so off course this was going to be free space choice.From the start of the movie you in for a ride. Sartana played by John Garko is one the best dressed gunslingers I have seen, and the introduction where he guns down six gunslingers is a fantastic way to introduce him as fast and badass gunslinger.“I am your pallbearer” It’s a rather complex plot with several bandits turning on each other, while hunting Sartana for the money from a stagecoach robbery. The highpoints are a duel between Sartana and Morgan, played by the always intense Klaus Kinski. Lansky, Morgans partner a cruel double crossing bastard who several times double crosses his allies and guns them down with a gatling gun.The final showdown is a masterclass in how to edited a suspenseful duel.Its gritty, dark and violent, and really awesome spaghetti western with great actors, soundtrack and cinematography.“Who are you?”“A first-class pallbearer!”
Started off the day with 2 Yuen Biao classicsThe Prodigal Son (1981) Dir: Sammo HungYuen Biao plays a supposed martial arts master who's rich father is actually paying his opponents to take dives. Ultimately he has to learn true martial arts to avenge a friend.Pretty standard post-Drunken Master Golden Harvest fare blending slapstick comedy with impressive martial arts. This one is enlivened by Yuen Biao's amazing physicality and Sammo Hung's reliable direction. Worth a watch but not a game-changer. Be warned the dub on the Prime version is one of the worst I've ever seen, destroying any comedy that is in the movie. Seek out the HK blu-ray if you can.Dreadnaught (1981) Dir: Yuen Woo-PingThis one is absolutely fantastic. It's really a stealth Wong Fei-Hung film starring Kwan Tak-Hing in his last role as Wong. This dude is a legend. He played Wong in 77 different films!Yuen Biao plays a coawrdly laundry worker who keeps running into a killer named White Tiger and surviving by running. Ultimately he and Wong-Fei Hung have to team up to take on White Tiger. The comedy in this works and the fights are exceptional, as one would expect from Yuen Woo-Ping. The last fight is an all-timer, up there with Yuen's best work. I really recommend checking this out.
You're so right about "Dreadnaught." :-)
Sorcerer (1977)Why did no one tell me about this movie?!... It is awesome!... Four criminals on the run from different parts of the world must join together to drive a truckload of nitroglycerin over a god damn mountain. Has there ever been a better movie plot than that?! How easy was that pitch to the studio? "Oh, and Roy Scheider's going to be in it." Studio Executive: "YES, PLEASE. HERE IS ALL THE MONEY."On a personal note... The main reason I feel like such an idiot for not knowing about this movie before now is that I did a play at the Old Globe Theatre a number of years ago with one of the actors in the film, Ramon Bieri, and we would play cards at his place on our nights off. Had I known about this at the time, I could have gotten cool firsthand stories about it. Damn it.
'Why did no one tell me about this movie?!'Excuse me? Don't lay your guilt trip on me, pal. My hands have been clean since 2014. :-P
sorry you got it so late Mookie. at least you got around to it.the movie was overshadowed by Star Wars when it came out. i'm sur it didn't help you getting to see it at the time
THE BIKINI CARWASH COMPANY (1992) It’s the classic “hire bikini girls to save the failing business” plot, except they’re not saving the business. They’re… paying for the main character’s uncle’s allergy medicine? Whatever. The movie promises bikini carwashing montages, and it certainly delivers. There are so many montages, in fact, there’s hardly any running time left the hacky romance storyline and the even hackier jokes. It is what it is, I guess. THE BIKINI CARWASH COMPANY 2 (1993) The bikini girls must save their business (for real this time) from being bought by an evil millionaire, so they host a “lingerie telethon” to raise funds. This one’s more of a straightforward comedy, and the telethon premise lets them do a bunch TV parody skits. It’s all utterly moronic, but to expect anything else would be folly.
Valley Girl (1983)I have made a grave mistake. That mistake is that I’ve gone so long without seeing this totally charming gem. Deborah Foreman has, in the space of two movies, become my favorite Junesploitation screen presence this year (at least until I watch something with Pam Grier in it). She’s thoroughly adorable as a Valley girl (like, duh) who falls in love with punk rebel Nicolas Cage (also giving a great and heartfelt performance), much to the chagrin of her bubble-headed friends.The performances feel authentic to the point where this almost feels like a John Hughes movie, only with slightly less angst. It’s funny, smart, has an absolutely killer soundtrack, and features Michelle Meyrink (a childhood crush of mine thanks to Real Genius) in a supporting part. I know I’ll be revisiting this one a ton. So glad I finally got a chance to see it.
Raw Force (1982) Dir: Edward D. MurphyFirst time finally seeing this. I really don't have much to add to what has been said about this movie around these parts already other than I had a great time watching it. It's pretty much the Platonic ideal of a Junesploitation movie. If you haven't seen it yet, it's streaming on Shudder. Don't be like me and wait to watch this one.
Invasion U.S.A. (1985, dir. Joseph Zito)After a long, hard day at work, this was exactly what I needed. Goofy 80's action fun!
Bonus: Sunspring (2016, dir. Oscar Sharp)An AI was fed dozens of sci-fi scripts and given a few parameters to start with, then given free reign to write a script of its own. This 9-minute short film is the result. As expected, the dialogue makes absolutely no sense, but the actors (Thomas Middleditch, Elisabeth Grey and Humphrey Ker) commit to the bit.
Forgot to give the link to Sunspring on YouTube.
Jackson County Jail (1976) Dir: Michael MillerNasty little piece of hicksploitation. Poor Yvette Mimieux is just trying to get across the country when she is carjacked by a baby Robert Carradine and through no fault of her own thrown in jail There she suffers more indignities until she and a car thief in jail with her break out.This was OK. It's a brisk 82 minutes and has enough to make it worth watching. What sets it apart from other movies of it's ilk is Tommy Lee Jones sanctioning no buffoonery as the thief that helps Mimieux. It's the same brooding, charismatic performance he brought to Rolling Thunder. It's always fun to go back and watch stars be born before your eyes. Not a great movie but worth it for Jones.
The Night of the Hunter (1955, dir. Charles Laughton)Many thanks to Pure Cinema for bringing this into my life.It's obviously a fantastic film and is literally decades ahead of it's time. It's so deeply critical of norms of the time like religion, religious leaders, and the extremely misogynistic views on marriage. The movie is so bleak and dark I can't believe it was allowed to exist in 1955. Yet at the same time, it's so fun to watch because of how beautifully artistic it is, and Robert Mitchum's crazy but amazing performance. The boy who plays the son also gives some incredible work here.
As with "The Blob" yesterday, the dearly-missed Friends In Your Head podcast also did a commentary track for this one (click "Search" and type "Night of the Hunter"). Good times. :-)
The Craft (1996, dir. Fleming)This was my first time watching it, but man I love this movie. The performances are nuanced in a way that makes them feel like actual teenagers, the soundtrack is late 90s bliss that reflects the sometimes-sunny, sometimes-dark mood, the set pieces are creepy and cool. I felt like the second half lost some of the identity I responded to so strongly in the first half, as the characters drifted into being instruments of the plot, but I admire the place the story goes and how well-directed it remains through the largeness of the climax.
Big Trouble in Little China (1986) [kung fu]I didn't really like this as a kid, but I like it more every time I see it.
Chained Heat (1983)Knew I had other plans for Lethal Ladies day, but I wanted to absolutely squeeze this one in this June. Set in a world where all the women prisoner's hair is perfectly feathered, and even the guards have undone one more button than appropriate. I started to get nervious about half-way that this was getting shakey, but felt that they stuck the landing in a major way. Absolutely loved the Sybil Danning and John Vernon performances, of course, buy Tamara Dobson is totally the secret hero of the whole thing. With all due respect to Puzuzu, it kinda feels like Linda Blair missed a calling as a network soaps star, but she still feels pretty good. Gimme 1 good heightened trash films over 100 troopsloitation coming out now, and the world'll be right by me. And as always, call me Felini!
RETURN OF THE FLY (1959):a direct sequel to the original film, the events are happening a few years later, with the kid all grown up and continuing the experiment of his father. this one has more of a story, if you will. there's a bad guy, backstabbing and more characters are involved. we also see The Fly much sooner. i have to admit a was a little bit more entertained with this one than the first one. not that the first is bad, on the contrary, it does feature one of the most iconic ending ever put on film, but with all the stuff happening fairly early in the film, it was more fun. this one was in black and white, which was surprising after watching it so closely to the first movie. the tone is more serious, the lack of color and kid helping a lot to set the mood. this movie is actually what i expected for the first movie.i don't expect much for the next one, Curse Of The Fly, but i'm sure i'll be entertained. i don't think i'll watch the remake and its sequel anytime soon because i don't feel like a serious gory horror flick right now. maybe someday if Patrick and the gang ever do a podcast about it (wink wink).
Ghostland a.k.a Incident in a Ghostland (2018) Dir. Pascal LaugierThe latest return from the director of the modern classic "Martyrs" and the underrated social commentary/horror "The Tall Man" and, man, does Pascal know how to set a tone and shoot a film. The casting, set, suspense, unease and visuals are all here in full effect. I haven't had the time to really think about what is actually being said in detail with this film but it was a brutal and nail biting ride and I'm so happy to see him continue to push things after a five year hiatus. I've seen all of his features and have yet to be unimpressed.
I need to see this.
It's a tough ride and I'm still digesting it. But yeah, there's still some brilliance going on here.
Zone Troopers (1985)I tried watching this on Empire day, but I had to wait until today. Glad I picked it though. At first it felt like a mid-80's DOCTOR WHO episode, but it won me over by the end. It's a lot of fun.
That Doctor Who comparison is spot on.
High Risk (1981) Dir: Stewart RaffillJames Brolin leads four idiots on a mission to steal money from a Columbian drug lord. As this group has no actual skills things gor horribly wrong.Light-hearted 80's action film that's short on entertainment. Everything moves and there's a few laughs but the whole thing came up short for me. James Coburn and Anthony Quinn play the villains and they certainly know what kind of movie they're in, so they do provide some enjoyment. Not terrible but totally skippable.
Fire and Ice (1983, dir. Ralph Bakshi)I needed something short, and hearing it talked about on the new 80s All Over made me want to revisit it. I think it’s a movie I admire more than enjoy, but I miss the brief window in movies when fantasy like this was kind of the norm and more or less treated seriously. There’s obviously a lot of adolescent fantasy in Frank Frazetta’s art, but the story and the approach are geared towards adults.
i always wanted to watch this one, but i've been left cold by other Bakshi's project. i'll give it a chance eventually
Religulous (2008)Say what you will about Bill Maher, this is an important documentary that will continue to be relevant until the societies of the world (and the governments) begin to stray away from the nonsense of organized religions and begin taking a real humanistic approach to solving the issues that are plaguing this world and its people.
Barbarian Queen (1985)An evil king attacks a village and interrupts the protagonist's marriage to dime-store, buff Mark Hamill, and she sets out to get revenge. I didn't expect quite so much rape. I was not surprised that rape factored into the movie, but the movie is just alternating sword fighting and rape for 70 minutes. Also, lots of tits, as I don't think shirts had yet been invented in this fantasy world. If you are not put off by all the rape, it is mildly entertaining.My trawling through Amazon Prime also turned up Divorce Invitation (2012), which doesn't really fit in with Junesploitation, but what the fuck is going on? A guy's pre-nup includes a clause that if he wants a divorce he has to invite everyone who was at the wedding to a divorce ceremony. This only comes up in the last third of the movie; the first third is about him converting to Judaism to make his fiance's family happy, then the middle is about him rekindling things with his childhood sweetheart. Both women are portrayed sympathetically (if nonsensically), which just makes the main character look like even more of a cretin than being a guy trying to get a divorce within 6 months of marrying already does. It ends with him giving a speech about all the lessons he learned delivering those invitations to his divorce, which was shown a montage with him seeming to have the time of his life.
Super Fly (1972)I've watched less than ten blacksploitation movies so far, but this one ranks up with the best of those I have watched. Just a fun crime movie that takes most of the familiar turns but still highly entertaining. I've been humming Pusherman (performed in the movie) all day.
Things 2 (1997) Dir. Mike Bowler, Steve Jarvis, Dennis DevineI'm a huge fan of SOV, low budget horror and I absolutely LOVE "Things" (1989). I didn't like Things 2 at all so chances are there's nobody on the planet who will like it. It has absolutely no heart, pulse, charm or point of being a sequel to such an insane, honestly made effort as the first. It's trying to be "Things" intentionally without it organically happening like the original.
Breaker! Breaker! (1977)Chuck Norris as a “Truck driver who searches for his brother, who has disappeared in a town run by a corrupt judge,” was all the description I needed.
You Were Never Really Here (2017)Well that was quite the punch in the gut. I particularly liked how we see the main character, Joe, played by possibly my new favorite actor Joaquin Pheonix, stalk through a complex but we only see him as a security camera system cycles through the building.
I watched that recently (work has got me off the Junesploitation train and I watched it for a late revenge pick) and I think it's one of my favorite recent films. I absolutely adored it.
I think your review is what made me look into it, so thank you.
More food for thought. :-)
I decided to do a double feature of movies that F This Movie contributors seemed to enjoy earlier in the month.Hawkeye (1988)Mike Pomaro's initial post would have been enough to get me to watch this. Then Riske enjoyed it. Plus Chaybee loves it and he usually doesn't steer me wrong.I was not disappointed.Night Angel (1990)Stephanie Crawford was quite enthusiastic about this one on Twitter. When Doug Jones was mentioned I figured I should probably watch it. The plot is basically that the demon Lilith is turning people into lust-crazed maniacs. It's got some '80s gore, a dance scene, and the best/worst work environment ever.
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Cohen and Tate (1988):Pulpy and fun. Scheider and Adam Baldwin are hitmen on a midnight run to return a nine year old murder witness to their boss. Good pairing with 2006's Running Scared. #Scheidersploitation