Thursday, June 20, 2019

Junesploitation 2019 Day 20: Vinegar Syndrome!

Centuries of evil have just awakened!


  1. This is one the most anticipated days of the month. Being a big Vinegar Syndrome fan, it was difficult to choose which titles to cover today. I chose two black-and-white productions.

    THE TELEPHONE BOOK (1971) – An engagingly quirky film that defies any attempt at a written description. The general premise is that a young woman receives an obscene phone call and becomes captivated by the caller. She sets out to find him, even if she has to contact every John Smith living in Manhattan. There is so much more to The Telephone Booth than that, though. The combination of sexploitation, the underground film styles of the period, and avant-garde film techniques creates an aesthetic experience that can range from jolting to magical. There are even some animated sequences. The lead performance from Sarah Kennedy is extremely charming, lending an innocence to even the most blatantly sexual lines. This was a great viewing experience and a favorite for this month. Watching a film like this is a reminder of how much communication has changed in half a century.

    SEEDS (1968, dir. Andy Milligan) – Milligan was a figure I learned about a decade ago when I started my deep dive into exploitation cinema, yet it was not until a couple years ago that I actually watched one of his films. In spite of the technical limitations and the stagey acting of his films, I have really enjoyed watching them. He was a resourceful filmmaker, even making the costumes for his period films. As a person, however, he was not so pleasant.

    It was a choice between this film and FLESHPOT ON 42ND STREET (his sleazy masterpiece), so I went with the Milligan film I had not yet seen. Seeds is about a family gathering for dinner for Christmas, but this is no happy family. The matriarch despises her offspring, calling them “bad seeds”, and most of them equally loathe her. Well, this particular holiday time will see murder, suicide, and incest in the family house. Will anybody be left alive at the end? While not at the same level as 42nd Street, this is as good or better than other Milligan efforts I have watched. The performance of the mother role is really wonderful, which means ugly and nasty in the context. Milligan handled the ensemble scenes admirably, too. The style of the film is quite rough, but that is part of the charm of this kind of filmmaking. An extra on the blu-ray is Milligan’s excellent short film VAPORS.

    If any of you are interested in learning more about Vinegar Syndrome, here are links to interviews with co-founder Joe Rubin.

    A Shock Waves episode featuring Joe Rubin that goes into some of the history of Vinegar Syndrome. The interview starts around an hour and five minutes in.

    Though pornography is the main subject of discussion, Rubin does go into the creation and ethos of the company in the first part of the podcast. Vinegar Syndrome initially was built on releasing adult films.

  2. Night Train to Terror (1985, dir. Jay Schlossberg-Cohen et al.)

    Wait, what happened!? *Rewind* Nope, still no idea.

    One of the best and most confusing movies I've seen all month, especially that last segment of the three.

  3. Night Train to Terror (1985)

    The last segment is the best. The song that the "band" is "playing" during the interstitials is insufferable and repeats, in full, so many times. I kept praying for the train to crash during those scenes.

  4. DISCO GODFATHER (1979):

    For years I've been wondering, "Should I put my weight on it?" After watching this film, I now know that I should always, whenever possible, most definitely put my weight on it.


    for the first time.

    If Hershell Gordon Willis, Doris Wishman and a dementia-ravaged Ed Wood Jr. put their collective talents together, then some distributor got a hold of the final negative and drastically minimized the gore shots that HGW worked on, it might explain this uncomfortable lunacy. "Bosom Buddies" meets "Psycho" when two bank robbers on the lamb in Miami try to lay low before the fuzz finds them. Paul (Abe Zwick) and Stanley (Wayne Crawford) agree that the former should dress in drag and pretend to be the latter's Aunt Martha. Naturally (because early 70's homophobia) Paul's inner Norman Bates comes out and starts killing people, especially the women that Stanley brings over to the house.

    Abe Zwick shouts most of his line as if he was in a Mel Brooks farce, which only magnifies his lack of acting skills. Nobody on camera can read their lines, the audio seems to come from the camera mic, and all the production budget seems to have gone to the Cheech & Chong-style van these fugitives drive in plain view of the neighbors they're trying to blend with. It's ugly and joyless, but this one's also Junesploitation! as hell. Still, A-FUCKING-VOID!!!!

    Andy Milligan's FLESHPOT ON 42nd STREET (1973, 89 min.) at Brooklyn's Alamo Drafthouse for the first time.

    Very nice of Alamo's programmers to schedule this pic the night before Junesploitation!'s Vinegar Syndrome day. Shame that, on the whole, I found this is a rather dull and joyless 'cinema verite' melodrama following the downward spiral of Dusty Cole (Laura Cannon) after friendly drag queen/hooker Cherry Lane (Neil Flanagan) takes her in and introduces Dusty to the life. There's potential love in the air when Dusty and Bob (Harry Reems) meet and connect, which naturally means the seedy underworld of early 70's Times Square conspires to bring the woman down.

    "Fleshpot" is what a Jon Cassavetes movie would be like if it was populated by terrible actors. At least the vintage footage of New York at the start of its 70's decline (including the rarely-photographed Long Island) is primo. Worth a look.

    FRIGHTMARE (1983, 86 min.) on Amazon Prime for the first time.

    Another disappointment, but there's lots to like. Ferdy Mayne (who looks like Dos Equis' World's Most Interesting Man) is the standout of the cast as a Christopher Lee-type horror icon whose untimely passing serves as the excuse a group of college film fans (including "Re-Animator's" Herbert West in his first prominent role) use to steal his corpse. Predictable supernatural deaths follow, which look/sound above average for a film bearing the Troma production logo. Clearly the filmmakers emphasized atmosphere over acting prowess, since everyone else besides Combs and Mayne are horrendous. Shame, because if I cared about anybody the exquisite moments of bloodshed would have registered strongly. Watch Pete Walker's '74 version of "Frightmare" instead.

    BLUE VENGEANCE (1989, 103 min.) on Amazon Prime for the first time.

    DING! DING! DING! WINNAH, WINNAH! The 80's Satanic Panic against heavy metal music is in full force in this looks-like-it-sat-on-a-shelf-since-'83 1989 revenge pic. Mark Trax (John Weiner) escapes the Upstate NY mental institution where now-NYC Detective Mickey McCardle (J. Christian Ingvordsen, the film's co-writer and co-director) sent him to during his patrol days. Bloody, violent dismemberments follows which the not-so-clever fugitive easily bamboozles NYPD with. Great NYC locations (foot chase across Brooklyn Bridge and subway stations), including the frozen-in-time dingy nightclubs I used to attend during my high school/college days, go a long way to compensate for the across-the-board weak acting and limited resources. Highly recommended.

  6. The Executioner Part II (1984)

    "Let's you and me go get a beer"
    *both drink from beers they just opened*
    I flashed back to Metalocalypse:
    "Now I need a drink. A different t drink. In a different place. Not this one."
    And it just got better from there.
    "Oh, heavenly coke! Hahahhahahahaha"
    Every line delivery must have been the only take the did. Every sounds like they're stumbling over words trying to read off screen poster boards with the script written on them.
    It's shoddy and it's pretty poorly made, but it's so incredibly entertaining. Without this site I never would've given it a chance!

  7. Night Train To Terror (1985) - first watch

    I agree with Mikko, this is as entertaining as it is confusing. Highlights:
    1) Satan listing Mankind's vices, smoking, gambling, etc., gives quite the flourish when he says Cocaine! Intentional? What year was this movie made?
    2) Why are all these woman on gurneys?
    3) I loved the "band" as much as Dan Snyder did. Every time. So many times. No, I won't dance with you.
    4) God says that he laughs and cries at the same time. Maybe...he should talk to someone about that?
    5) Nietzsche
    6) Dubbing. Most months of the year, this would be a negative, but in June...
    7) IMDB says this is better than Baby Geniuses
    8) Eyebrows! Strike that, Satan's Eyebrows!
    9) No, I won't dance with you.

    This is the most shlocky I've gone this month, but also one of the most enjoyable movies so far. It's free streaming on Tubi, btw. And no, I don't want to dance with you, terrible lip syncing band.

    1. I read that all three "shorts" were cut down from full-length unfinished films (and the gore, stop-motion animation and narration were added). That goes some way to explain the weirdness.

  8. Penitentiary (1979)

    Leon Isaac Kennedy stars as Too Sweet, an innocent black man framed for murder and railroaded through the prison system, forced to become a boxer to earn his way out. Basically it’s saying when life gives you lemons, beat the ever-living shit out of them until they become lemonade.

    Directed by the awesomely-monikered Jamaa Fanaka, this is a movie that balances precariously between thoughtful melodrama and pure exploitation and I loved every second of it. The violence is rough, the sex and nudity is completely gratuitous, and the characters are larger than life. This is the kind of movie Junesploitation is all about. I’m excited to check out the sequels (all directed by Fanaka and starring Kennedy) as soon as possible (VS also released Penitentiary II on blu-ray, for some reason Penitentiary III has never made it past VHS but is available on YouTube).

  9. Death Machines (1976, dir. Paul Kyriazi)

    A low-rent kung fu movie with a silly plot and some competent stunts that was for some unknown reason marketed as a sci-fi movie (and included in Mill Creek's Sci-Fi Invasion collection). The biggest star here is Ron "Karate Cop" Marchini and the bad guys are led by a Japanese woman with an accent that's impossible to understand.

    1. I watched Death Machines as well. The cover art totally lied!! The good news is this movie was still highly entertaining. So much of the movie is just scene after scene of the Death Machines laying waste to rooms full of people. And yes, that villain’s accent was nuts!

  10. LIQUID SKY (1982)
    Is this a real movie, or did I dream it? Lots of sex, drugs, and death in and around a nightclub so wild it could only exist in a movie. Also, there’s a space alien. It’s mostly plotless, with characters making big mission-statement speeches about drugs, androgyny, UFOs, and whatever else, not really forming a story until there's a sci-fi/horror twist about halfway through. But, really, it’s about the visual style, the in-your-face wordplay, and the screechy electronic soundtrack. It’s a movie you experience more than you watch.

    Bonus #Godzillasploitation: GODZILLA VS. MECHAGODZILLA II (1993)
    Humans build/rebuild a new Mechagodzilla as a defense measure against the big G’s attacks. Are humans the villains in this one? Kinda seems like it. Is the “baby Godzilla” subplot inspired by Jurassic Park? Do those dates line up? Because it sure seems like it. There’s even less plot than usual, but the filmmakers have really gotten the city-leveling monster fights down to a science by now, and the action is really fun.

  11. Bloodbeat (1983)

    Taking Patrick's suggestion, I streamed this one on Amazon Prime. It takes a bit to get going, but once the ghost shows up it gets pretty bonkers. The Mom character looks like a Kmart version of Shelley Duvall. I had a good time with this one, and a short runtime is almost always appreciated by me.

  12. Nightbeast ('82)

    Thanks to Elric for hyping this one up - such a good time. Beautiful love scene that would make Wiseau proud, Woo caliber firefight that felt about 1/3 of the runtime.

  13. Runaway Nightmare (1982)

    Two goobers find a young woman buried alive in the desert and bring her back to their worm farm. They get kidnapped by the all-female cult the woman belongs. Some of the cult want to kill them, and some of them want to have sexy time. Oh, and the cult has platinum stolen from the mob who's none too happy. And it gets weirder...

    This is a true oddity. It dabbles in sexploitation but has little nudity. It's dabbles in comedy, horror and action sloppily. The acting floats between serviceable and god-awful. Also, the actress playing the woman who is buried alive wears a bad wig for half the movie. It was so bad I thought she was a different charcter. However, the real star is main actor/writer/director Mike Cartel. His acting style is a mixture of James Stewart and Nicolas Cage. No matter how weird and crazy it got, he kept it entertaining.

  14. Psychos In Love (1987)

    Hilarious! I was cracking up through this entire movie. I love all the puns and "stupid" gag lines. I wasn't sure what to expect going into this movie, but I'm so glad I gave it a chance. This was amazing!
    This is in contention for my favorite discovery of Junesploitation. It won't be for everyone but I absolutely loved watching this one.

  15. Raw Force (1982)

    Filled to the brim with fighting, kung fu zombies, shooting, and gratuitous nudity, this is the kind of movie Junesploitation was made for. A perfect film for Kung Fu day if you haven't seen it yet.

  16. Bloodbeat (1983)

    Patrick's synopsis from You Stream... pretty much nails what makes this worth checking out. Reminded me of Xtro in the sense that it feels shambolic while it's horror elements seem rooted in some super specific past trauma. The score has something for everyone: string quartet featuring piano, learning as you go synths and im assuming lots of public domain chanting and symphonic cues. Too unique not to admire.

  17. Blood Theatre (1984)

    It's very descriptive. There is blood at the theatre. You're kind of asking for it if you name it that. I know things happened in it because I watched it. What those things were I cannot tell you. I remember stabbing.

  18. Dear Dead Delilah (1972)

    I can always appreciate a movie with a good inheritance plot. Dad is dead. Where's his god damn money. That's why I plan on leaving nothing for my kids. If I give them anything, they'll have to spend a night in a scary mansion to earn it. They didn't do that in this but they should've. People do get messed up, though. And there's a weird blonde lady that may or may not be related to them.

  19. Hobgoblins (1988)

    No, these aren't Gremlins. These are furrier and uglier. But kinda sweet and adorable. I really enjoyed this silly thing. The conflict was whether or not their insurance might be voided. I get it. Times are tough.

  20. Mausoleum (1983)

    Can’t live up to that poster (or the snazzy Vinegar Syndrome slipcover), but it’s sufficiently gory, sleazy and insane enough to be worth the watch. Circles back over a lot of the same territory over and over (I swear the lead seduces the whole damn town across the course of the movie), and the end doesn’t make a ton of sense, but I still had fun with it.

  21. Nightmare Sisters (1988)

    I don't quite know how to review this movie because it somehow manages to be both "so bad it's good" and, like, legitimately good in a lot of ways. There are actual good performances and totally bonkers ones. There are dumb plot points and kinda good ones. There's a lot of not really hot T&A and a lot of hot (and I mean, like, really hot) T&A. I mean, totally recommend it, and I don't see how anyone could not like it, I just can't speak to how you'll like it.

  22. Party Line (1988, dir. William Webb)

    Leif Garrett and Shawn Weatherly are an incestuous brother/sister pair who lure strangers to meet them over a party line (it was the '80s) and then murder them. Richard Hatch is the cop trying to track them down. Sleazy and enjoyable.

    Lust in the Dust (1984, dir. Paul Bartel)

    A Paul Bartel western. Nothing more need be said. The main joke seems to be that everyone wants to sleep with Divine. I'm glad Vinegar Syndrome just put this out because I finally got to see it, and I've yet to see a Paul Bartel movie I don't like.