Monday, June 18, 2018

Junesploitation 2018 Day 18: High School!

You won't believe what goes on...and what comes off!



    HIGH SCHOOL BIG SHOT (1959, 70 min.) on YouTube for the first time.

    A Roger Corman-financed poverty row teen delinquent flick about booksmart high school student Marvin (Tom Pittman) trying to woo beautiful-but-evil Betty (Virginia Aldridge) away from her dumb jock boyfriend, Vince (Howard Veit). I just saw this and I still can't tell who of the two main guys is supposed to be big shot from the title. There is the absolute minimum high school setting (two classroom scenes, one stock footage establishing shot, five extras and Peter Leeds as a caring teacher) before the story switches completely into heist movie mode. But there's always room for more scenes of Marv trading gradually-more-depressing platitudes with his alcoholic, depressed father who can't hold a job (Malcolm Atterbury, who looks about as old as every actor pretending to be a teenager).

    "MST3K" did an episode with this movie that I haven't seen, and I'd be curious to know how they turned this sour-as-shit lemon into drinkable lemonade. Worth seeing for a handful of character actors (particularly Stanley Adams and Louis Quinn as brothers-in-law petty criminals) elevating the material way above its non-existing paygrade.

    Robert Rodriguez's THE FACULTY (1998, 104 min.) on Amazon Rental.

    I saw this once in '98, didn't care for it. Since we now have 20 years worth of "Spy Kids" and "Machete" sequels to compare it with, "The Faculty" reminds you of a time when Rodriguez could still do solid genre work without a million special effects to do his heavy lifting. Except for quick sidestrips to check out Elijah Wood's under-the-mattress porn stash and Josh Hartnett's "Breaking Bad"-style meth lab, the entire movie takes place in and around Ohio's Herrington High. It's a dump, and we as an audience feel trapped within its walls as much as the students attending it. Every character (overtaken-by-aliens teachers and/or students) looks and feels like what they are: high school archetypes given the Kevin Williamson "Scream"-like, self-aware rewrite treatment. The scene in the school library in which "lesbian" goth chick Clea DuVall and Elijah Wood discuss the possibility that sci-fi movies, books and TV are warnings about actual alien invasions (a full ten years before Lucas/Spielberg's "Kingdom of the Crystal Skull!" :-O) is like a litmus test for viewers to know whether they're willing to buy what "The Faculty" is selling.

    In the late 90's/early 2000's Miramax/Dimension were at their youthful appealing prime. From its soundtrack (Garbage, The Offspirng, Soul Asylum) to attractive cast of young actors (Jordana Brewster, Laura Harris, Shawn Hatosy, etc.) mingling with genre veterans (Piper Laurie, Robert Patrick, Famke Janssen) and some inspired casting choices (Jon Stewart, an uglified Salma Hayek, Bebe Neuwirth), there is something for every Junesploitation! taste somewhere in "The Faculty." Don't like the "Body Snatchers" vibe? Wait until Rodriguez & Co. dust off tropes from "The Thing," "The Relic," "Lifeforce" and other genre staples, then remake them with KNB Effects-sculpted, Cinepolis-rendered twists. And hey, any high school movie in which Frodo laughs maniacally as he tweaks his mind out on grinded coffee pills can't be a complete waste of time. :-) Recommended, although it still doesn't fly as high as Rodriguez's best work ("Desperado," "Planet Terror").

  2. MASSACRE AT CENTRAL HIGH (1976, dir. Rene Daalder)

    This is the biggest surprise so far this Junesploitation. It is simultaneously a smart and nasty film.

    You get the flavor of life at the school from the opening scene. The bullies of the school find a male student, played by Robert Carradine, painting a swastika on one their lockers. They do not hesitate to rough up the young man right in the hallway. A new student, David, happens to be an old friend of one the bullies. Events unfold from that point that I do not wish to reveal, for the charm of the film is that it takes directions you would not expect. Why and how some of the students die is part of that. There were a few moments when I was completely shocked by what happens.

    Needless to say, this film would not be made today in the United States, and it was probably quite transgressive back in the 1970’s. It is, nonetheless, a fascinating film touching on power, anger, and friendship. There is also plenty of exploitation in it, too. It has the style of a made-for-TV movie, which make the actual film even more jolting. There are parts, I admit, that do not make much sense.

    Massacre at Central High has never received a DVD release in the United States, so any kind of copy that you find here is a bootleg or bought from abroad. My copy is a DVD bootleg of a fullscreen VHS version, and it is not a pristine VHS copy, either.

  3. Teen Wolf (1985, dir. Rod Daniel)

    Well, it's not my favorite Michael J. Fox movie from 1985, but it was goofy, instantly forgettable fun.


    1. Yay, another fan of Fox's work in TV's "Poison Ivy!" Or when you said '85 you meant the "Family Ties Vacation" movie? ;-)

    2. I didn't even know Fox played a female Batman villain. That guy's got range!


  4. Not another Teenage movie (200!)

    One of the better spoofs movie from the zeroes, before it all ended up being that shit that is epic movie and their ilk. It’s not as good as the Blazing saddles, loaded gun or Austin powers, but it’s still really genre savvy, and I do love my high school movie. It spoofs all the right movie I love from the 80s and 90s. It’s a movie of who is who of up and coming actors in both tv and film. Chris Evans is actually quite funny, and love all the small cameos from the movie it spoofs. And I do have a soft heart for Jamie Pressly. It has really 00s soundtrack that really works for the genre.

    There are some genuinely funny scenes in the movie. I especially love the scenes, where the white girls insist they didn’t still the Afro-American cheerleader’s routine. And then starts by singing “We are black…” or the Tourette’s cheerleader.

    It’s not art, but It’s definitely one of my favourite guilty pleasure together with “Euro trip”.

    1. i love this movie. like you said, one of the earlier of the spoof genre when they were still doing it for the right reasons.

    2. Yeah and still tried to make fun of the genre, and not just go full pop culture reference. But is this the last of the good spoof movie? after this the Scary Movie franchise went downhill real fast.

  5. Encino Man (1992)

    Hadn't seen this since it came out when I was in JHS and I'll be damned if it didn't kinda hold up. Pauly Shore can be a bit grating but actually comes off kinda sweet - Brandon Fraser sells is super-charismatic and sells the caveman thing perfectly - it ends up being a pretty funny movie with a lot of heart. Bring on Encino Man 2 already - how has that not happened?

  6. Hollywood High (1976) - First watch and a cool 80 minutes

    This is just a series of montages where the characters engage in lively "sex romp". All the dialogue is sexual innuendos, and sexual double entendres. The guys are all in jean shorts (even during sex scenes, which curiously are all with the 4 couples together in a close space. It's comedic rather than erotic), and the girls are in bikinis, or short shorts, when they're clad at all. Breasts. Teacher student relations. Midget called Big Dick. Food fight. Bumbling cop. A full beach bikini montage filmed at crotch/butt level. And a weathered older hollywood star who chews the scenery harder than she swallows and spits out the young men.

    I had a great time with this! (But more appropriate for Beach Day)

  7. Hello Mary Lou: Prom Night II (1987, dir. Bruce Pittman, First Time Viewing) I can't believe I'm saying this but this is one of the best exploitation horror movies ever made. Who knew? It is insanely ambitious, extreme, trashy, imaginative, hilarious and horrifying. Plus Michael Ironside! Best movie I've seen all month, highly recommended.

    1. BTW, the Kill By Kill podcast did a 3 episode series on this movie that is very entertaining! Great Canadian movie!

  8. Summer School Teachers (1974) Dir: Barbara Peeters

    Barbara Peeters was a sorely needed voice in Roger Corman's New World Pictures in the 70's. She made several sex comedies and made them light-hearted and funny while missing much of the skeeze found in other movies of the period. Unfortunately Corman screwed her over on Humanoids from the Deep and Peeters left film for TV.

    Summer School Teachers comes right in the middle of her most prolific period. Three women from Iowa move to California for the summer to be summer school teachers at a high school. Wacky hijinks ensue, including misuse of school funds, a women's football game and a protest by nudists. It's all harmless and entertaining in that way Peeters could do. Worth a watch if you enjoy 70's sex comedies.

  9. I missed posting a bunch of days, so I'll post them here!

    Troll (1986) - first watch
    This movie was a lot more fun than scary, and it really shined when the special effects were in effect. It actually felt more like a young adult movie a la Labyrinth or Princess Bride.

    Doom (who cares) - first watch
    They go from dark room, to dark room. That's all.

    Red Scorpian (1988) - first watch
    This movie is awesome! I was planning to watch more Dolph Lundgren this month, but this is my first one unfortunately. I fist pumped once he finally removed his shirt in the last act.

    Kid With The Golden Arm (1979)
    This movie is amazing! I've been meaning to watch it since it got a lot of buzz here a couple years ago. It's too bad I was so busy Kung Fu day, because I would have loved to marathon a dozen Shaw Brothers movies. I fell asleep half way through (I've been working nights, so sue me), but caught up the next morning, and my son joined me. And loved it! My action movie buddy.

    1. Empire Day, Monsters, Free Space, Kung Fu. Wish we could edit..

  10. High School U.S.A. (1983, dir. Rod Amateau)

    Carsploitation! Robotsploitation! And of course... Highschoolsploitation!

    How on earth could anyone NOT be charmed by this movie?

  11. A Dangerous Place (1994) Dir: Jerry P. Jacobs

    I though I had seen this back when it came out, but it's Ted Jan Roberts other epic The Power Within that I had seen. Consequently this was a first time watch for me.

    Ted Jan Roberts plays a high school martial artist who joins an evil martial arts gang to investigate the death of his brother. If you're familiar with PM Entertainment from the 90's you know the kind of movie you're getting. Passable action entertainment with not nearly enough fights. Roberts does have legit skills and I'm surprised he didn't become a bigger deal. Corey Feldman plays the leader of the bad gang so there's that. Watchable but not essential.

  12. The Toxic Avenger (1984) and Class of Nuke 'Em High (1986)

    I watched The Toxic Avenger for 80s comedy day, but never posted a review. Then I saw Nuke 'Em High today for high school movies and decided to just review both together especially since they're so similar. Both feature the same fictional town of Tromaville, both deal with toxic waste disasters and both even have the same shitty mayor. The Toxic Avenger was a pretty mean spirited movie, but the outcast wins in the end so it's all good right? The gore was excessive, my girlfriend got a bit upset during the dog scene, but if we're judging a movie based on gore then this one gets an A+, the effects are simply incredibly. I found the movie humerous but I'm not sure what that says about me. Kind of interested in the 4th movie after hearing the creater disavow 2 and 3.

    As for Nuke 'Em High, I wasn't nearly as impressed. I found long stretches of it boring and not nearly as inspired as Toxie, I mean there's no Cigar Face!

  13. Airborne (1993)

    Pretty great cast. Unreasonably well shot and edited. Kinda blown away right now. Saw chunks of this movie many times as a teenager, but was not prepared for how awesome it is. Someone do a double feature with Gleaming The Cube and tell me if can ever wipe the smile off your face.

    1. Charlie speaks the truth about Airborne. It's such a good time!

    2. That end race is a legitimately great piece of action filmmaking. My heart was pounding watching it! Only other scene I can remember affecting me that much was the bridge scene in Sorceror. Yes I just compared Airborne to Sorceror...

  14. Cherry Hill High (1977, dir. Alex E. Goitein)

    A high school teacher challenges five girls to lose their virginity in the most creative way based on a point system. There has to be an easier way to watch people have sex than sitting through this movie.

  15. ZAPPED (1982)
    A teen dude gets telekinetic powers and uses them to cause all kinds of mischief, including but not limited to making girls’ clothes fly off their bodies. That’s the part everyone mentions because there’s not much else going in this movie, sadly. The plot meanders all over the place, a lot of the jokes don’t land, and the romance is inconsistent (she likes him, she’s mad at him, she likes him, she’s mad at him, and so on). It’s fun in a novelty/nostalgia way, but not much else.

    ZAPPED AGAIN (1990)
    It’s a practical joke war between the nerds in science club and popular kids in the “key club.” The main character has telekinesis, but not much is done with it. This watered down sequel-in-name-only has nothing to offer. The first film isn’t exactly good, but it does have that novelty factor. This thing is just plain boring.

    ZAPPED (2014)
    A girl has a magic smartphone, which she can use to mind-control all boys to do her bidding. This is the usual Disney Channel cotton candy filmmaking, so don’t expect any salaciousness from the rather salacious premise. Instead, it’s life lessons about family, friendship, and being true to yourself, etc., with a few mild laughs thrown in. What can I say? You’re either down with this type of movie or you’re not.

  16. Showdown (1993) Dir: Robert Radler

    I love this movie more than anyone should. Saw it in high school and revisit it every couple of years. It's your standard Karate Kid knockoff wherein kid moves to new school, falls for bully's girl, gets beaten up by bully, and then learns martial arts and life lessons from a wise instructor.

    These Karate Kid knock offs were super common in the 90's but Showdown stands out for a couple of reasons: 1) Pre Tae-Bo Billy Blanks plays the instructor, 2) Pre-fame Christine Taylor plays the love interest and is about as adorable as a human can be, and 3) it's directed by Best of the Best's Robert Radler, which means the fights are incredibly well shot and edited and the acting is far above average for this type of movie. If you're looking for a more family friendly martial arts film you could definitely do worse than this one.

    1. Radler also directed The Substitute 4: Failure is Not an Option, which is a surprisingly good DTV action movie. His commentary track on it is legitimately great too, it’s like a film school class on low-budget filmmaking.

    2. I forgot he directed The Substitute 4! That was some DTV Treat Williams goodness. I'll have to seek out the disc to listen to the commentary. Radler is a really underappreciated action director. I wish he had gone on to bigger things.

  17. Malibu High (1979)

    Today in school I learned that it’s a very short road from disaffected teen to prostitute to assassin. Jill Lansing is Kim, an obnoxious high school senior (seriously, she’s intensely unlikable) who spends the majority of her time topless (to the point where it feels like Ronnie Mund may have been involved in the production at some level) and decides to use that to her advantage, turning to prostitution both because she likes the power trip and because she knows she can use her body to raise her grades.

    Eventually prostitution leads to murder (sure, why not?) which leads to Kim branching out to become an assassin (sure, why not?) and killing a couple other people that she hasn’t been paid to kill just for the hell of it. All this, plus I’m 99% sure that the climactic chase scene, in which she’s chased by her ex-boyfriend who looks alarmingly like Bill Hader in his Californians outfit, was scored to the theme from The People’s Court. Not music that sounds like the People’s Court theme, but the actual People’s Court theme. Confession: I think I love this movie.

  18. Fight Back to School (1991) Dir: Gordon Chan

    Early Stephen Chow comedy. He plays an elite HK officer who, after getting in trouble, is sent undercover to local high school to find a superior's missing gun. While there he falls for the guidance counselor and uncovers a gun running plot in the school.

    Very early Chow action/comedy with most of the emphasis on comedy. Disappointingly light on action since the film is directed by Fist of Legend's Gordon Chan, and the few there are aren't very memorable. Chow's patented silliness is on full display but, like many of his early films, the humor doesn't translate that well so it just seems kind of juvenile and silly. Not a total time waster but far from the delirious heights Chow would reach a decade later.

  19. Return to Horror High (1987, dir. Froehlich)

    Probably my favourite find of the month, but definitely not my favourite movie of the month. I thought it might be, for a bit there, but this movie really goes off the rails in a fascinating way. It’s not surprising that there’s four writers credited on this thing, because as much clever observations of the filmmaking process the characters make in the first half of this movie, it couldn’t help but trip over its feet into the very things it was making fun of. The climax tries to pick up the self-aware stick and run with it, but again, doubles over itself at the finish line.

    Still, there’s a lot to like initially. Whichever writer came up with the narrative device should be lauded. (It’s disappointing that another writer seemed to not understand the narrative device and started to tangle it all up, but that’s me making assumptions in an attempt to understand what happened here.) Many scenes are genuinely funny — I audibly laughed twice, and I’m hardly a laugher — and whenever the film tries to comment on itself or the genre, it mostly lands. But in that second half, it’s like it remembers that it wants to be taken seriously as a slasher film in its own right, and when it tries to juggle both the meta-commentary and the film it’s, I guess, supposed to be, it fumbles. Still, the second to last line in the film (“And this time, bo more rewrites”) makes me think at least one of those four writers was aware of what the movie had and what the movie lost. Heck, at one point, George Clooney walks off the set of the low budget B-movie the characters are shooting for “bigger things” and never comes back. Someone here knew what they were doing. It’s just unfortunate that maybe someone else didn’t, and the whole thing got tangled. Moviemaking is hard, and Return to Horror High both tells and shows it.

  20. Prom Night (1980, dir. Paul Lynch)

    Glad to have finally checked this off, as it's been one of my biggest slasher blind spots for so long. It's not great and I didn't totally love it, but I think it's a lot better than it's reputation seems to be. I think the biggest problem with Prom Night is there's way too much time spent on a really lame love triangle that I didn't understand (really girls? that piece of white bread?), and was given no reason to care about. Too much petty squabbling. But '80s Jamie Lee Curtis is one of the greatest gifts to humankind, and the final showdown on the disco floor is pretty awesome. I also liked the girl and the guy in the van (remembering character names from this is hard) because they were charming and on the same page. There's so much of people trying to force themselves on other people, so that couple was a breathe of fresh air. Anyway, it's not a bad slasher at all and there's a great moment of #decapitationsploitation.

  21. No Retreat No Surrender (1986) Dir: Corey Yuen

    The last in my bender of high school martial arts films is the movie that gave us our lord and savior Jean-Claude Van Damme. It's a bit of a stretch since none of the movie takes place in high school, but the main character, his friends, and his bullies are all clearly supposed to be in high school based on the way they act. Maybe it was summer break?

    Anyway, this is essentially another Karate Kid rip-off, only in addition to the bullying karate gang we get JCVD as an evil kickboxer working for the mob. And for the wise mentor we get the ghost of Bruce Lee, yup that's right. He's played by Tai Chung Kim who was Bruce's double in the horrific Game of Death. It all pretty much plays out like you'd expect but the lively action by Corey Yuen and a crazy early JCVD performance keeps it moving.

  22. Summer School Teachers (1974)

    It's a decent although not particularly memorable '70's High School sex comedy. I noticed though that the wikipedia entry suggests it's an unofficial follow-up to The Student Teachers which released the year previously, although aside from Dick Miller playing a Coach in both of them the movies don't share any characters, cast, writers, or director. Aside from the story focusing on young women getting their start as teachers and coming from New World Pictures there isn't really anything linking them.

    Having watched The Student Teachers on Prime, I have to say that is the better Junesploitation movie as the plot takes crazy turns halfway through, and then ends in an even more unexpected sequence. It's like pages from two unrelated scripts somehow ended up getting mixed in with a high school sexploitation film.

  23. Dazed and Confused (1993)

    I was going to watch something new today, but I'm a bit down right now and I wanted something that would cheer me up. Not much I can say about DAZED AND CONFUSED that hasn't been said a million times before. It's one of my comfort movies and it means a lot to me. I love, love it.

  24. Three O'Clock High (1987)

    This was one of those movies that I watched most of when I was like 10 and getting up super early on weekends to watch the West Coast late-night show, and knew was something special, but didn't know what it was called and never saw it again. I think it was an episode of Pure Cinema that tweaked my memory and I picked up the Shout! Select blu-ray and finally watched it tonight. It's so great! Don't know what to say other than it's brilliant in pretty much every way - a top-notch 80s high school comedy for sure.

  25. Class of Nuke ‘Em High (1986)

    I’m convinced that no one in Tromaville knows how to talk without yelling. I remember seeing this movie in a bar playing on the background TVs and being absolutely captivated. I might’ve been just the right amount of buzzed at the time, but it made an impression on me. Watching it again tonight with audio and in its entirety, I’m a bit underwhelmed. I’ve seen ‘The Toxic Avenger’ so many times that my expectations were a bit high. ‘Nuke ‘Em High’ has the same level of insanity but lacks the forward propulsion, action, and heart of the Toxie movies.

  26. Rock 'n' Roll High School (1979):

    Come for P.J. Soles. Stay for P.J. Soles.