Monday, July 1, 2019

My Five Favorite #Junesploitation Discoveries

by Patrick Bromley
What a month.

We've come to the end of another Junesploitation, and it was arguably our biggest yet. Between everyone watching and commenting here on the site and on Twitter, it felt like we had more people participating and more movies watched than ever before. Thank you all for making this goofy idea such a success.

Despite being a busy month for us here -- as I know it was for so many of you -- Erika and I managed to watch at least one movie every day, and sometimes more than one. We mostly tried to stick to first-time watches, but there were a few repeats thrown in (Shag for Teenagers! day, The Parent Trap for Kids! day [a first time watch for me, a repeat for E], Burying the Ex [a first time watch for E, a repeat for me], etc.). We must have done a better job curating together than I have in the past, because there were very few duds. Here are some of my favorite discoveries for the month.

1. The Gumball Rally (1976, dir. Chuck Bail) - Cars!
Our Cars! day pick (recorded off of TCM) is a cross-country race starring Michael Sarrazin, Gary Busey, Joanne Nail, Tricia O'Neil, and a scene-stealing Raul Julia as the world's greatest Italian lover. This is the movie that made me realize I'm a fan of the cross-country race movie (a genre that also includes Cannonball!, It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World, both Cannonball Run movies, and Rat Race) and might have been the most purely entertaining new-to-me movie that we watched all month.

2. Emma Mae (1976, dir. Jamaa Fanaka) - Blaxploitation!
Jamaa Fanaka's first movie, Welcome Home, Brother Charles, is one of my favorite exploitation movies ever made. I was excited to see his follow-up, included as a bonus feature on the WHBC Blu-ray from Vinegar Syndrome. Emma Mae (aka Black Sister's Revenge) stars Jerri Hayes as the title character, a Southern girl who moves in with her extended family in Los Angeles. When the guy she starts seeing is arrested and jailed, Emma plans a daring bank robbery to raise the money to get him out. The movie has a real sense of authentic time and place, and is a great example of the kind of "gear shift" movies I always really like.

3. Lust in the Dust (1984, dir. Paul Bartel) - Free Space!
I've yet to see a Paul Bartel movie I don't like. This one, recently released to Blu-ray from Vinegar Syndrome, reunites Divine and Tab Hunter (along with Geoffrey Lewis and Lainie Kazan, for a story of dancing girls, gunmen, and outlaws all angling for lost treasure. The joke of the movie is that all the actors play high camp totally straight. We originally wanted to watch this for Westerns! day but the order didn't come on time, so I'm thankful that we got to catch up with it as a Free Space. I'm excited to hear that Kino has just announced Not for Publication and Scenes from the Class Struggle in Beverly Hills.

4. The Vengeful Beauty (1978, dir. Meng-hua Ho) - Kung fu!
Thanks to @A Casual Listener for recommending this one on kung fu day, as there are way too many titles on Amazon Prime from which to choose. The fighting is pretty good, the two main characters are really strong, and there are some surprising twists in the story. As ACL pointed out in his review on the day, it's also surprising to see a kung fu movie with nudity. This one ticks multiple Junesploitation boxes!

5. Verotika (2019, dir. Glenn Danzig) - New Horror!
This is not a good movie. The directorial debut of Glenn Danzig was the opening night film of this year's Cinepocalypse festival, and I had no idea what to expect. I couldn't have expected this. In no way is Verotika a "good" movie, but it certainly represents a singular vision -- one executed with an Ed Wood level of both passion and competence. I stuck with it, taking it seriously, as long as I could -- well past when the rest of the opening night audience had devolved into ironic laughter. At a certain point, though, even I couldn't help it anymore. And while I don't believe in "so bad it's good," I can't deny "so bad it's entertaining." That's Verotika. I really hope this is out on Blu-ray by October so we can watch it as part of our annual Scary Movie Night.

Thanks to everyone for a great Junesploitation! Just 12 weeks to #ScaryMovieMonth!


  1. Thank you for another Junesploitation, Patrick. It seems strange not to have a film to watch today, but life does go on.

    My own top five discoveries are:

    1. THE HIDDEN (1987)- Watched for Sci-fi day, yet this could be a 1980s action or cops day flick. Great characters, plenty of action, and a fast-paced crazy story easily made this my top pick. I am astonished that this is not better known.

    2. HELLO MARY LOU: PROM NIGHT II (1987)- Though I am sure that there are aspects I could critically pick apart, this was undoubtedly the most entertaining watch after The Hidden. I was really in the right mood for Prom Night II. It had the right mix of horror and exploitation elements with a terrific cast.

    3. THE VENGEFUL BEAUTY (1978)- As you stated, Patrick, this is a good combination of characters, plot, action, and exploitation here. Definitely one of the most satisfying watches all month.

    4. BODY SNATCHERS (1992)- Having no expectations going into Body Snatchers, I pleasantly surprised by how engrossing it is. This is a very fresh take on a familiar story. The practical effects were great to see as well.

    5. GODZILLA VS. GIGAN (1972)- Undoubtedly the hardest spot to pick. There were several of candidates for it, but Godzilla vs. Gigan won out because it was such a fun experience. I got the chance to see a beautiful 35mm print of it over the weekend at the drive-in, which undoubtedly elevated the film for me. I loved watching the monster fights on a huge screen. It also helps that the human side of the film has an engaging story.

    Honorable mentions: The Telephone Book, Vixen (1968), Cleopatra Jones

    1. THE HIDDEN is great fun.
      Been a long time but I have very fond memories of that one.

  2. Yes, thank you Patrick, for another amazing month. And thank you to everyone who participated, it was great following what everyone was watching and reading the reviews/comments. My list of films to see grew quite a bit.
    My favorite first time watches this month, in no particular order:

    Sheba, Baby
    Death Journey
    Psychos In Love
    Beyond the Seventh Door
    Stone Cold
    Shocking Dark

    I had a blast. I can't wait for #ScaryMovieMonth!

  3. Thanks again Patrick for another awesome #Junesploitation! Here are my picks:

    5: REVENGER (2018). Brutal martial combat in this down n' dirty revenge flick. So many chest-kicks!
    4: BIOZOMBIE (1998). Zombie comedy set in a late-night shopping center. Silly in the best way.
    3: BRAID (2018). Female-led horror filled with dreamlike imagery. Just wonderfully weird.
    2: LIQUID SKY (1982). Sexy sci-fi antics in and around a punk/glam nightclub that could only exist in a movie.
    1: 1990 BRONX WARRIORS (1982). Non-stop action and goofiness in the post-apocalypse. It's what exploitation movies are all about.

    Top five Godzilla sequels (though ask me again in a week and the list will probably be different):

    1: GODZILLA 2000 (1999)

  4. Had a great time with Junesploitation as always even though a big transition at work left me without a lot of time to post here halfway into the month (I managed to mention my picks each day on Twitter though at least).

    My top 5 discoveries:

    5. StageFright. What can I say, I dig the owl mask.

    4. Blue Vengeance. I wouldn't call it good acting, but I 100% buy the guy who plays the villain as a crazy psychopath especially when he's singing or having medieval combat hallucinations.

    3. Wacko. In addition to getting bonus points due to casting E.G. Daily, George Kennedy's character completely blindsided me within the first few minutes of the movie.

    2. Blood Cult. Now I don't think this is a particularly good movie by any metric with which we judge quality. I also know SOV day was a bit rough for a lot of folks here. Maybe I was just feeling in a generous mood that day but my reaction by the end of Blood Cult was "Hey, these guys made a movie". I feel like these days, with digital cameras and editing software being readily available, the act of just making something maybe isn't as impressive anymore. As such, I kind of give it up to these SOV folks who didn't have the equipment or the talent but went out there and made something anyway.

    1. Eastern Condors. Sammo Hung, Biao Yuen, and Ching-Ying Lam in a Dirty Dozen-style action movie from the '80s? So much of what is best about Junesploitation is contained in this movie.