John Frankenheimer's AGAINST THE WALL (1994, 111 min.) on HBO Go for the first time.Half-a-year before he launched his 25-years-strong-and-still-going movie career with "Pulp Fiction," Samuel L. Jackson gave a Golden Globe-nominated performance in this made-for-HBO TV movie about the uprising at New York's Attica Prison in 1971. Though not as verbose and show-off as Jules' Bible quotations, Jackson makes an impression as a Malcolm X-type prisoner who tries to be a bridge between the out-of-their-depth state negotiators (personified by Philip Bosco) and the revenge-fueled-bloodthirsty prisoners (led by an unrestrained Clarence Williams III). The story is told through the eyes of then-rookie guard Michael Smith (Kyle MacLachlan), who served as historical consultant. So yeah, a nice-looking young white man, his suffering wife (Anne Heche in an early role) and his conflicted ex-guard father (Harry Dean Stanton) are the moral center of a movie about a prison uprising caused by systematic racism in the NY penal system. Ahem, no comment. :-( At least the good John Frankenheimer from "Manchurian Candidate" and "Ronin" showed up to direct (and was rewarded for his efforts with an Emmy Award), not the hack that gave us Brando's "Island of Dr. Moreau" and beloved F This Movie Christmas flick "Reindeer Games." :-P Frankenheimer keeps many characters, locations and incidents in sharp focus and never loses track of where/when to cut to and keep the prison movie tropes coming. Yes, DONG-SPLITATION! was alive and well in '94 (yikes), and Frederic Forrest goes to town playing a sadistic guard who approaches his job as if it was the Vietman War he just came from. A little too classy and well-acted for Junesploitation!, "Against the Wall" at least walks/talks like the angry prison flick it eventually becomes. Recommended, especially to see about-to-explode-into-the-world, pre-Jules Sam 'mother-F'en-T' Jackson.
CAGED HEAT (1974, dir. Jonathan Demme) – When I watched Caged Heat for the first time, I found it odd. I still find it odd. The action and the tone of the film is all over the place. In between the usual women-in-prison tropes you get arty dream sequences, abusive psychotherapy, a bank robbery and a shootout. It is all presented in a style that is relatively serious and frequently drab. Though Demme knew he was hired to make an exploitation film, it seems like he was trying to undercut the exploitation elements as much as he could. The 1970s anti-hero trend is also prominent here. Although it is definitely not as much fun as something like The Big Bird Cage (which I was tempted to re-watch), Caged Heat does have enough engaging moments to recommend it. The major reason to see it, though, is for the great exploitation cast.
I like the image for today, from Bruno Mattei's Women's Prison Massacre. It tempts me to get my DVD out for a watch.
Stir Crazy (1980) - first watchDisappointing. I smiled a couple times, but I grimaced more than a couple, usually when Wilder was doing some "manic" routine. Pryor was alright, but it seemed Wilder was supposed to be the funny half of the duo. He wasn't. The nearly 2 hour run time was hard to sit through. Definitely the low point of Junesploitation this year.
Jailbreak (2017, dir. Jimmy Henderson)More movies from "exotic" countries, this time from Cambodia. Four cops are stuck in a prison overrun by prisoners and have to fight their way out while also protecting one convict.I'm gonna go out on a limb and say they filmmakers saw The Raid once or twice. The similarities are obvious, from the basic concept to the style of filmmaking, with well choreographed fights shot in long takes with a constantly moving camera. It has that great Raid energy at times, but the occasional spot of goofy comedy takes the wind out of its sails. Still, it's undoubtedly the best Cambodian movie I've ever seen.
SLAVE GIRLS FROM BEYOND INFINITY (1987) Some bikini babes are abducted into space, locked in a fortress, and then forced to do the Most Dangerous Game thing on an alien world. It’s all very tongue-in-cheek, which keeps things from getting too grody. The movie promises space bikini girls and it delivers space bikini girls. On a sad note, all these years later and I still haven’t gotten over actress Brinke Stevens not accepting my friend request on Facebook. Bonus #Godzillasploitation: GODZILLA VS. KING GHIDORAH (1991) Story-wise, this one rewrites the monsters’ origins, which I’m guessing folks don’t like. But then, this series joins Friday the 13th and Evil Dead in the there’s-not-really-any-continuity category. Fortunately, the action and monster-fightin’ is top tier, with a lot of thrilling sci-fi/time travel twists and turns. There’s even a Terminator! Just awesome.
Death Warrant (1990)Van Damme plays a cop who goes undercover in a prison to find out why so many inmates are suddenly and mysteriously dying. It’s a little dull, and the reason the inmates are being killed is fairly ludicrous, but it wasn’t a bad way to spend 90 minutes. I felt like the highlight for me was seeing the kid brother from Teen Witch pop up as this weird teenage hacker that Van Damme somehow knows haha.
Short Eyes (1977)This one now coexists with Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer and We Need to Talk About Kevin on the list of great movies that I never need to see again. It’s a powerful, frightening look at prison life (at least prison life in the 70s) and the various social strata within, written by a man who had first-hand experience with that life. It’s based on a play but never really feels stagey because it all takes place inside the prison anyway.The performances are mostly amateur but uniformly excellent, these really do feel like real convicts (some are) and when they’re called to do some dramatic heavy-lifting they’re more than up to the task. The ringer in the cast is Bruce Davison, a WASPy new inmate who has been arrested for the title crime, prison slang for a child molester. Is he guilty? Does it matter? The movie offers no easy answers and for both the prisoners and the viewers it feels very much like there’s no way out. It’s intense, claustrophobic, and has a killer Curtis Mayfield score (he plays a supporting role too)...I loved this movie, and I look forward to never, ever seeing it again.
"Death Warrant" 1990, Dir. Deran SarafianSolid and silly JCVD actioner. Always a pleasure to see Patrick Kilpatrick (that name!) pop up in something. The man's a walking special effect. I really hope he isn't a garbage human being and now I'll have to google it and goddamnit everytime I do that my soul gets crushed.
This comment has been removed by the author.
The Condemned (2007)Steve Austin as Stone Cold Steve Austin plays a special ops military blah blah blah who was disavowed and thrown into a South American prison because yadda yadda. Now some rich dude is "buying" all these death row inmates from around the world to play 'The Running Man Battle Royale' or Hunger Game of something like that. Oh, and that scumbag is broadcasting it all on the "World Wide Web." lots of talk about "subscribers" and "logging in."This movie thinks it has a lot to say, but really it doesn't. And the top to bottom misogyny and abuse of women gets very old very fast.For all its faults, I had a decent time with this. It is one of the better Stone Cold vehicles. My wife hated this movie because I kept smashing two beers together and then pouring what was left sloppily into my mouth/down my tummy and shouting "Oh Hell Yeah!!" every time Austin was on screen.
The Big Doll House (1971)I don't think I've ever seen a movie that Pam Grier and Sid Haig didn't make better. This is good, schlocky, uncomfortable fun.
The Big Doll House (1971, dir. Jack Hill)↑ See above. ↑
This is my favorite review...
Female Prisoner #701: Scorpion (1972)Matsu is betrayed by a crooked cop, and sentenced to prison after a sting gone wrong. Matsu will have her revenge!This has pretty much everything you would expect from a women in prison film: gross rapey guards/warden, lesbian love scenes, bizarre and painful looking tortures, and then an awesome riot. The third act is really great. I highly recommend this one.
The follow-up, Female Prisoner Scorpion: Jailhouse 41, is great and an equally appropriate watch for today. Meiko Kaji has such an expressive face.
Missing in Action 2 (1985)Well I finally did it. I finally saw a Chuck Norris movie. And he's very intense on what he is trying to do. Though Steven Williams and Soon-Tek Oh as an over insane POW Warden and wanna be cult leader are very entertaining.Sometimes no matter what the genre you need a Cannon movie.
Ilsa: She Wolf of the SS (1975)One of the "better" Nazi-sploitation movies that I've seen. It's utterly ridiculous, as they all are. Lots and lots of nudity. Lots of sexual torture scenes. The last 10 minutes are the best.I can't honestly recommend this one to anyone.
Frankenstein and the Monster From Hell (1974, dir. Terence Fisher)Teeeeeechnically this one takes place in an insane asylum, but it looks and functions like a prison, so I counted it.This was the last of the Peter Cushing FRANKENSTEIN films I needed to see, so I checked that box. Anyway, it was bad. The story was so redundant. That's what's so great about Frankenstein Created Woman, that it was a new kind of experiment for the doctor. This is him transferring a brain to a different body AGAIN. The look of the monster is beyond embarrassing. The cast is quite poor (other than Mr. Cushing of course). And everything about how the script treats Madeline Smith's character makes me uncomfortable. Oh well, late Hammer can be a bit rough sometimes. The movie is super gory though.
The Big Bird Cage (1972)Not enough Pam Grier.
THE BIG DOLL HOUSE (1971):Also not enough Pam Grier.
Fortress (1993, dir. Stuart Gordon, First Time Viewing)Stuart Gordon is just the best. This was big-budget for him, and he makes the most of it. Christopher Lambert stars as a guy sent to future-prison for committing the crime of breeding. Featuring Jeffrey Combs (of course) as a crazy prisoner, and Vernon Wells and Tom Towles as a super-effective duo of hulking prison goons, this movie was wall-to-wall entertainment. Highly Recommended.
WOMENS PRISON MASSACRE (1983, dir. Bruno Mattei)The temptation proved too much, so I put on this piece of trash for the second time in my life. I certainly do not like it any better than I did the first watch. Comparing this to its companion film, CAGED WOMEN or VIOLENCE IN A WOMEN'S PRISON, I have a much better appreciation of Caged Women. That is far from being a good film, but I at least found that to be entertainingly sleazy. Womens Prison Massacre has its moments, but they are scattered over 90 minutes that can seem to go on forever. Though it begins as your general WIP film, the plot veers off in an unexpected and ridiculous direction as a group of male prisoners are sent to the women's prison. It is never explained why. The male prisoners take the warden hostage and a standoff ensues, which gives the film a reason to indulge in some rape and other mayhem. The Russian roulette sequence, however, is very well put together. If you are looking for trash, you got it here. There are just better examples of it.
Stir Crazy (1980)This is one of those movies where I can't hate it because of Gene Wilder and Richard Pryor. If I would have watched this as a kid, I probably wouldn't have cared that a lot of this doesn't make any sense. It's a waste of their talent but it's still great to see them on screen, together.
Caged Heat (1974)Although 19 years apart, this and Prison Heat are severely blurring together. Yes, this is the one where the girl is arrested for aiding and abetting her boyfriend criminal. She is quickly put away until the end of time. Who's waiting for her and a few others? A wheelchair bound Barbara Steele! Holy shit! This was Jonathon Demme's first film!
Many well-known directors got their start in the movie business working with Roger Corman. Demme, Francis Ford Coppola, Martin Scorsese, Peter Bogdanovich, and Joe Dante are just a few of the most famous ones.
Caged Heat (1974)Maybe the highlight of Junesploitation for me so far.
It's like we watched it together!
Prison Heat (1993)When are people going to learn to never leave their homes? How many people have been falsely imprisoned? Where is the justice? Why is it so hot in here? Who is taking off my pants? What are you going to do with that finger?
Women in Cellblock 9 (1978, dir. Jess Franco)Only Jess Franco could make one of the ugliest, sleaziest movies I've ever seen totally boring.
Franco had that gift. It's a crappy one, but it's all him.