Sunday, June 12, 2022

Junesploitation 2022 Day 12: Prison!

33 comments:

  1. 'DON'T BE TRUSTING NOBODY' DOUBLE DECKER!

    Jules Dassin's BRUTE FORCE (1947, HBO Max, 98 min.) for the first time.

    DING! DING! DING! WINNAH! WINNAH! I'm still coming down from the high of seeing this typical-of-the-period, prison-set film noir about 5-6 prisoners inside cell R17 at an Alcatraz-level maximum security prison reachable only by a bridge (a lovely mixture of practical set and a quality miniature, especially when soaked in gallons of fake rain) that lead a daring escape attempt. In a clear inspiration to the TV series "Lost," each of the main prisoners gets a brief flashback/glimpse at their previous life on the outside (mostly involving wives/girlfriends) triggered by a calendar girl portrait in their cramped cell. The 'Flossie' flashback is my favorite. :-D Burt Lancaster Collins' is the leader of the would-be escapees, but this being a noir film (gorgeous B&W cinematography by William H. Daniels) his ideas and judgement are prone to flaws and selfish reasoning. And holy crap, you guys, Hume Cronyn steals the movie as Munsey, the Nurse Ratchet-like, small-man-diseased captain of the guards that's taken control of the prison from the meek and mousy warden (Roman Bohnen) and is running his own Napoleon-like kingdom. Art Smith as the doctor who's seen it all and is sick of Munsey's brutality has some great speeches/facial expressions, and more than earns "Brute Force's" symbolic (and Hays Code approved) final shot. A noir masterpiece from the era before Dassin was blacklisted and sent to practice his craft overseas. 5 SARDONIC CHANTS OF 'YAH! YAH! YAH!' (out of 5).

    Richard Donner's 16 BLOCKS: THEATRICAL & ALTERNATE ENDING (2006, DVD, 102 min.) for the first time.

    Donner's last directorial credit (unless you count 2006's "Superman II: The Richard Donner Cut") finds him going back to his roots as a TV director of early "Kojak" episodes. Eddie Bunker (Mos Def) has to testify in front of a grand jury that could bring down a lot of dirty NYPD cops, and drunk middle-aged Jack Mosley (Bruce Willis, as far removed from John McClain heroics as possible) is assigned to take him the 16 blocks between the precinct and Centre Street before 10AM. Naturally the corrupt cops led by Frank's ex-partner Nugent (David Morse) are out to either sweet talk/bribe Mosley to get their hands on fast-talking, meant-to-be-sweet-but-actually-annoying Eddie. A bus shoot-out clearly inspired by Clint Eastwood's "The Gauntlet" is the action highlight of the feature, but this drama is about the prison of despair Jack Mosley has built around his sad existence and how Bunker's sweet disposition gives him a way to break away from his ways. It's a mediocre-at-best feature in its theatrical cut, but the alternate ending cut (which looks like the OG ending as the theatrical version feels unpolished and looks like a last-minute reshoot) gives it a leg up. A whimper of an end for the director of such classics as "Superman: The Movie" and the "Lethal Weapon" series. 3 OLD CHINESE MEN LAUGHING AT 'YU-GI-OH' REFERENCES (out of 5).

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  2. Dead End Drive-In (1986)

    I dug this, but I wanted something more out of it. Maybe I wanted it to lean a little more into the Warriors-esque cast of characters (I want everything to be more like The Warriors), maybe I wanted some more explanation behind the comings and goings of the drive-in, maybe I wanted a little more action in the middle of the picture. I'm not sure what I wanted, but this is still fun. A second watch will be good, knowing exactly what I'm getting into.

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  3. Framed (1975, dir. Phil Karlson)

    Pretty Intense revenge movie starring Joe Don Baker who is caught in the middle of a setup which ends with him killing a cop and doing jail time. Once he gets out, he only has one thing on his mind... I was surprised how brutal and real the violence was in this movie. It's a different side of the Joe Don Baker spectrum from the more outlandish and crowd-pleasing Walking Tall. This is more of a downbeat and sad tale of revenge. Highly Recommended.

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    1. That sound good. I'll add it to my watchlist, thanks!

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  4. Prisoner 701 Scorpion, Shunya Ito, 1972

    Prisoner 701 is everything you want out of a Prison movie. Brutal sleazy and exploitative. But there are some amazingly gorgeous surreal moments that take you out of the movie but pull you in deeper. Essentially it is a rape revenge movie, but it is so much more than that. This is definitely a discovery of the year.

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  5. Riki Oh - The Story of Ricky, dir Lam Ngai Kai, 1991,

    You hear about Riki Oh, and it sounds like people are exaggerating about exploiting heads, and length's of intestines. The you watch it, and you realize they were playing it down. Riki Oh is insane, there is no build up you are just thrown into the madness. It's like Turkey Shoot in that way - but with more explaining heads. There is an absolutely abandon to the violence and anarchy to this movie. Because of that it can be hard to keep up with at times. But it is a hell of a ride.

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  6. ha! perfect description Lindsay! Riki Oh is in a class all its own...and that class is batsh@tcrazypants. Perfect choice for today!!!

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  7. THE JERICHO MILE (1979)
    D/W: Michael Mann / W: Patrick J. Nolan

    “What are you, Frankenstein’s mama? The blob? The fly?”

    Mann's off & running. 9/10 stars

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  8. Penitentiary II (1982)

    Leon Isaac Kennedy made Body and Soul, a movie for Cannon in which he got Muhammad Ali to show up as himself. In the second of three boxing in prison movies, Mr. T and Archie Moore do the same, appearing as their real world selves in this near comic book of a movie. Then again, Mr. T feels like a movie character in our real world most of the time.

    Martel “Too Sweet” Gordone (Kennedy) has earned his parole from jail by winning a prison boxing tournament, so you should forget anything about this movie taking place in the universe we accept as our own.

    He moves in with his sister and her husband while getting a job sweeping floors at a boxing gym. He wants nothing to do with the ring, staying on the outside, content with his life as a free man. “Too Sweet” even hooks back up with Clarisse (Eugenia Wright) but that’s when this movie decides that he’s had things too easy, because the enemy from the last movie who tried to assault him — physically and sexually — at every turn, “Half-Dead” Johnson (this time played by Ernie Hudson) has broken out. On a rare night that his sister and her husband go out, the lovemaking between our hero and his lady turns into a horror movie when “Half-Dead” locks her in a bathroom and treats her like he wanted to treat “Too Sweet,” who responds by beating the man into oblivion and leaving him near brain-dead with his head in the toilet.

    This movie defies film logic, because “Too Sweet” gets destroyed in his first pro match back — yes, it takes his lover’s death to make him fight — by Jesse “The Bull” Amos (Donovan Womack), it’s the fact that he won’t get knocked out that makes him a star. At the same time that his career is on the rise, the rest of “Half-Dead’s” gang is targeting “Too Sweet’s” family.

    To add even more weirdness, you’d think the hero would be the one to get revenge on the villain, who attacks him before his big fight. Nope. It’s Mr. T who saves the day.

    This is also a movie that starts with a way too long Star Wars text that made me laugh out loud.

    Director and writer Jamaa Fanaka made every movie in this series, as well as Street Wars and Welcome Home, Brother Charles. I am excited to report to you that if you thought this movie was strange, Penitentiary III goes even further, existing in a world beyond your wildest boxing prison movie dreams.

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  9. Savage Island (1985)

    Linda Blair has a kick ass opening scene with Penn of Penn & Teller fame, but mostly narrates this sleazy women in prison flick that isn’t anything special, but certainly checks all the boxes as far W.I.P. go, including unbelievable pieces of dialogue. Streaming on Tubi and comes with hand sanitizer, so you can at least somewhat attempt to feel better about yourself.

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  10. Rio Bravo (1959) dir. Howard Hawks

    “You in a hurry? Not especially”

    First time watch- and hey y’all- this Howard Hawks guy mighta been on to something! I was totally bowled over by this, and feel like a goober for putting it off for so long. It’s also the first time I think I really “got” John Wayne as a screen presence beyond the affectations we’ve all seen endlessly imitated. The Wayne as tough-guy archetype is all here, but the tropes feel fresh in a way they never had to me. Hawkes manages to reframe his persona without entirely subverting it by playing the Duke’s cool off of a raw, vulnerable Dean Martin. If the Wayne squeezing new life out of his persona is impressive, Martin’s against type performance here is revelatory. I had no idea Dino had it in him! His captures Dudes pain, and even more so, captures the weariness of someone whose been letting that pain control him for far too long. His battle for the bottle becomes the emotional core, and in many ways provides the real stakes for the movie: with such a limited cast it seems pretty probable that the main players will fend off attackers at least until the last act, while every minute is an open question when it comes to the Dude staving off his demons. There’s a whole lot of minutes here to contend with, something that Hawkes doesn’t shy away from, using the expanses of time between action to build out character relationships and chemistry. This is as much a hangout movie as anything else, but the character’s chemistry ensures that the film’s two hours and twenty minutes never drags (also without all that running time we wouldn’t have a chance for this goosebump inspiring number).

    I did realize pretty quickly that it’s not all that much of a “prison” movie despite a third the running time being set in one, but I sure as heck wasn’t going to turn it off once I got in, so for now it’ll have to do!

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    1. Sometimes Junesploitation involves watching a lot of "trashy" movies, but it's fun to squeeze in a classic of one of the genres as well. I watched The Searchers earlier this month, which fit the days theme, but not quite in the spirit of Junesploitation. Rio Bravo is one I'd like to see and I'll certainly bump it up higher on my watchlist.

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    2. I would not say watching a genre classic is against the spirit of Junesploitation, Paul. To get through a month of movies, it helps to have a variety of films to occasionally cleanse the viewing palate. As with food, it is possible to overindulge in junk.

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  11. ESCAPE FROM HELL (1980)
    Female convicts hope to break out of a hellish jungle prison. This is one sweaty, sticky, grimy and altogether gross movie. The question is, why was it even made? Sure, sex and violence sells, but this is all ugly, unpleasant and mean-spirited sex and violence. There's not really a catharsis where characters overcome these horrors. Instead, it's merely awfulness portrayed on screen and that's it. Or maybe this just isn't the genre for me.

    Bonus Lloyd Kaufman-sploitation, day 12: THE TOXIC AVENGER PART III: THE LAST TEMPTATION OF TOXIE Unrated Edition (1989)
    To pay for an operation for his girlfriend, Toxie gets a job with the evil corporation trying to take over Tromaville. It leads up to the final battle between good and evil, but one that's mostly slapstick. Rather than the goofy violence, I think I preferred the sitcom-ish scenes with Toxie and his girlfriend at home, or him wandering around town interacting with the locals. A little too long with too much filler, but still plenty of fun to be had.

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  12. So I guess the bug happened to me now. I've tried to post my reviews five times now and they won't show up. I guess I'll just have to try posting them later, maybe it'll work itself out.

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    1. That worked first time but my reviews didn't? So is it the length of the comment that's an issue?

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  13. Lock Up (1989)

    Finally got to cross this one off the list. Stallone is good, but it was a little too melodramatic and full of cliches for my tastes.

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    1. It's got that sweet Lorimar television recap end credits

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    2. That was weird and I loved it.

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    3. I had no internet yesterday, so I just post my review beneath yours.

      Lock Up (1989 – John Flynn)
      Mhh – what I’ve expected was a not so smart action flick, I mean it’s 80s Stallone, shouldn’t I expect this? And what have I got? An attempt to be a drama. I wasn’t really aware of this film, I’ve never seen it and when I glanced over Stallones filmography, it didn’t catch my eye, so all of this was news to me.
      After reading the critic's opinion on this, I’ve to say I disagree with the professionals. Surely, the movie stumbles and stutters in the second half, not really knowing where to go with the character of Stallone, and the finale felt a bit forced. At the same time, there were a few scenes in LOCK UP that I just thought were great. For example, Donald Sutherland's wordless visit in the night, where he is knocking the bars with the ring on his fingers, just staring at Stallone who is whispering, that he (Sutherland) wouldn’t break him. In general, I thought there are a lot of things that Sutherland is doing right. He has a motive and when acting towards people at the outside, he seems to be a genuine nice guy, not a slime ball like you would see in a lesser movie with an evil director.

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  14. Female Prisoner Scorpion: Jailhouse 41 (1972)

    The sequel to Prisoner 701 is every bit as nasty and beautiful as the first movie. This time Matsu a.k.a. Scorpion has to join forces with a group of other inmates to escape from a prison transport vehicle. But the relentless warden is hot on their heels and soon the women find themselves in a battle for survival, which isn't made any easier by the fact that there's little trust within the group of these accidental allies.

    Meiko Kaji is astonishing again in an (almost) completely silent role, with most of the work done by her insanely expressive eyes. Her tense interplay with the other women constitutes the core of the story, but what brings them together is their common struggle against the oppressive male power structure (and the men depicted here are uniformly the worst). The movie is equal parts gruesome and poetic, seamlessly marrying the gritty violence with symbolism, stylish fantasy stage sequences and even a touch of magical realism. And in a truly holy shit moment, the frame itself gets slashed in half - such is the fury of Scorpion's vengeance that not even the fourth wall is safe from her wrath.

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    1. I have expressed it several times, but I will say it again. Japanese exploitation at the time period had some terrific aesthetics. In Jailhouse 41, there is the scene of the convicts sitting together while a singer tells their stories. It is a very striking visually and aurally. You are certainly right about the expressiveness of Meiko Kaji's face. She does not need to talk at all, and it is a shock when she does.

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  15. PRISON BREAK (1938)
    D: Arthur Lubin
    And the moral of the story is something most of us guess & some of us know: prison is a bummer.
    TREELINE FILMS DVD

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  16. Fortress (1992)

    Prison Day has felt like a pretty popular one over on the Twitter machine, and I've seen at least a few other people watching Fortress. It's been so long since I've watched this that it felt almost like a first time viewing. Lambert has done a lot of Junesploitation worthy work but it doesn't often land on my playlist for the month, so I figured I'd rectify that a bit here.

    I'd say this might be my favorite non-Highlander Lambert, but I think Mean Guns maybe just edges it out?

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  17. A Violent Prosecutor (2016, directed by Lee Il-hyung)

    A South Korean prosecutor is framed for murder and uses his skills while in prison to build up supporters and uncover the truth.

    I feel like that's not how a court of law in Korea actually works, but this was a good time. Strange mix of drama and comedy. And the music definitely reminded me of something from the 70s.

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  18. Watched Black Mama, White Mama (1973, dir. Eddie Romero) and Condition Red (1995, dir. Mika Kaurismäki). I'll post my reviews later if I can.

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    1. Since the site won't accept long posts from me, I'll try linking to my reviews (on Letterboxd) instead:

      Black Mama, White Mama

      Condition Red

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  19. 99 WOMEN (1969, dir. Jess Franco)

    I got my requisite Junesploitation Jess Franco watch in with this WIP flick. This was a genre that Franco churned out many films in, and this might be the first one. What sets 99 Women apart from the others is that he largely made a straight prison drama with only a few outbursts of exploitation excess. There are no shower scenes here or any extended displays of nudity. The script sets up a story of a conflict between an old-school punish-the-prisoners warden and a reformer who comes in to change the system. Of course, there is a lot of conflict between prisoners and an escape to liven up the action. The escape section is by far the most entertaining part of the film. Up to that point, 99 Women is a bit of a chore to watch. The cast is too good for this type of film, honestly. For example, the actress who played the warden of the prison won an Academy Award earlier in her career. Judging by regular movie standards, this is a good Jess Franco joint, but it is not the most fun example of his work.

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  21. Logan Lucky (2017) dir. Steven Soderbergh

    That moment when you finish the chorus of Country Roads and realize holy shit we are gonna sing the second verse too … chef’s kiss right there. Soderbergh proves once again how satisfying it is to watch a bunch of people do complicated stuff they are good at.

    I remember starting this a couple years back, and being put off on the cartoonish accents, but now that I’ve moved back to the South I realized it’s basically a documentary on dialects.

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  22. Death Warrant (1990, dir. Deran Sarafian)

    This is same director as Terminal Velocity, but much much less exciting. It stars JCVD who goes undercover in a prison. Most of the movie is him sneaking around and investigating. When we do get some action near the end, some of it is weirdly edited. JCVD is good in this, but it's not playing to his strengths.

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