Friday, July 1, 2022

My Junesploitation Film Diary, Part 1

by Anthony King
Dear diary: am I sleazy?

I’ll keep preaching it even after the last of a sordid congregation slumps out of this shithole sanctuary: Junesploitation is MY favorite time of year. I understand most people go bonkers for Scary Movie Month, but this gentleman loves him some sleaze. '70s cinema is where I normally reside in my adventures in movie watching and things didn’t go much differently this past month. There were ups, there were downs, and there were times where my skin crawled. The whole point of Junesploitation for me is to throw my weight behind the movies I love the most – exploitation movies only weirdos like me CHOOSE to watch on a regular basis – and try and pull some of you along with me. I have a lot to say, so this is going to take two parts to get through. Let’s take a look back at my first couple weeks of Junesploitation.
Day 1: Space!
Ice Pirates (1984, Stewart Raffill)
The first of two Stewart Raffill movies I watched this month, I was actually dreading this day because space-based sci-fi movies are real hit and miss for me. I just had to get through this one day with a stupid movie. Boy was I wrong! It was funny as hell, Robert Urich charmed my pants off, and it was extremely exciting. On one hand, it was a fantastic kick-off to Junesploitation. On the other hand, it set a very high bar I assumed most movies couldn’t hit.

Day 2: Westerns!
Cry Blood Apache (1970, Jack Starrett)
Here was a day I was excited about because over the past few years I’ve grown to really love westerns. Where a lot of people may have gone to Italy or Spain for their Junesploitation western, I stayed right here in the US. I think a lot of American Westerns carry with them very distinct “red-blooded” ideals (ie. John Wayne, Gary Cooper, etc.). When making my initial list of movies to watch this month, I didn’t pay attention to the directors except for when the day called for it. So when I saw Jack Starrett’s name come up in the opening credits of Cry Blood Apache as an actor and director, a big smile curled across my face. This movie basically takes those “red-blooded” ideals and exploits the hell out of them, showing how truly awful the messages some of those movies carry are.

Day 3: Kung Fu!
Crippled Avengers (1978, Chang Cheh); The Tattoo Connection (1978, Lee Tso-Nam)
Here we arrived at the day I was most excited about because I have recently become obsessed with kung fu movies. The bevy of options offered by Amazon Prime and Tubi provided hours of scrolling for the most forgotten kung fu movies, but I absolutely had to cross a big blind spot off my list and went with a Shaw Bros. classic. Seeing how Dirty Ho is my all-time favorite kung fu movie, and having just fallen in love with Kid with the Golden Arm, I assumed I would also love this one. My assumptions were validated and this now joins the two aforementioned Shaw Bros. films to top the list of recommendations whenever that time comes. I ended the day with a late night viewing of Jim Kelly kicking ass as an insurance fraud investigator. This was also the night I heard my nine-year-old still stirring in his bedroom so I went and got him and we had ice cream and watched kung-fu at 10:30 at night. A three-star movie, but a five-star experience.

Day 4: ‘90s Action
Double Team (1997, Tsui Hark); The Mission (1999, Johnnie To); Martial Law (1990, Steve Cohen)
Here was a movie I wasn’t thrilled about watching but I thought it fit the theme perfectly. Double Team stars two of the most '90s dudes ever: JCVD and Dennis Rodman. But it’s directed by Tsui Hark, a guy Mike Scott constantly raves about. The movie was exactly what I thought it would be and it knows exactly what it’s trying to be: cheesy, often times stupid, but fun. I followed that up with my discovery of the month: The Mission. I’d recently had a nightmare about Anthony Wong and thought I owed him an apology, so I watched a movie with him in it, and it ended up being one of the most badass movies I’ve ever seen. This will be on my end-of-year discovery list. I ended the day with some Cynthia Rothrock because she also deserved it. Married to and teamed-up with Steve McQueen’s son, Chad, in the movie, they become a special unit the LAPD refers to as, you guessed it, “Martial Law.”
Day 5: Free Space!
Werewolves on Wheels (1971, Michel Levesque); Olga’s House of Shame (1964, Joseph P. Mawra)
Our first free space day had me looking at the list of films most recently recommended to me. That brought me to a culty motorcycle picture directed by the man who gave us the women in prison masterpiece that is Sweet Sugar. While the film failed the impossible task of living up to its key art, a place among the pantheon of biker movies of the sixties and '70s it deserves. That night I had a little time so I squeezed the third of the original Olga trilogy in before bed. This one is different from the first two in that we actually hear Audrey Campbell as Olga speak on camera as opposed to before when it was all narration. Basically the same as the first two, it’s short, entertaining, and fascinating to think about.

Day 6: Slashers!
Bluebeard (1944, Edgar G. Ulmer)
Originally I planned to watch Freddy vs. Jason but was running short on time. Nothing excites me more than a chance to watch a prototypical movie. So I turned to the great Edgar G. Ulmer and exploitation godfather John Carradine as they told an adaptation of the classic Charles Perrault tale of Bluebeard. This is embarrassing to admit, but for years I had always confidently stated that Psycho was the original slasher movie. What a pompous ass. Bluebeard, of course, predates Psycho by 16 years and I’m sure there are several more even earlier. But knowing Ulmer as a noir guy, this was fascinating seeing how he treated a Jack the Ripper-horror tale as if he were still directing a classic noir.

Day 7: Shannon Tweed!
Dead by Dawn (1998, James Salisbury)
The first day with which I had zero experience. I knew so little of Ms. Tweed that I didn’t even realize she’s married to Gene Simmons! But this day more than likely called for boobs, and who was I to turn my back on that? As expected, this movie was not good, but it was a nice little transportive experience back to the '90s where the thought of seeing boobs was almost always occupying part of my brain. I will credit this movie, though, with a twist I didn’t see coming.

Day 8: Cars!
The Chain Reaction (1980, Ian Barry)
I was looking forward to this day because who doesn’t love a good car chase? Unfortunately, this one, despite its lying-ass key art, has maybe two brief car chases in it. Having recently done a podcast on Mad Max, I was still in the mood for some Ozploitation and The Chain Reaction had been on my watchlist for a while. Along with the poster, the movie doesn’t even live up to its synopsis, despite starring Steve Bisley (co-star of Mad Max).
Day 9: Monsters!
Psycho Goreman (2020, Steven Kostanski)
My original idea was to watch a Gamera movie with my boys during the day. I didn’t realize, though, we were dealing with a subtitle situation rather than a dubbing situation (no problem for me, but the four-year-old is another question). So I turned to the ever-reliable Shudder and decided to pull the trigger on PG, a movie some people enjoyed and some people despised. But I love getting the opportunity to watch horror movies with my boys, so here we were. I’m a fan of the filmmaking collective known as Astron-6’s short Chowboys but I hate, with a fiery passion, Father’s Day. Had I not watched PG with my boys, I probably wouldn’t have enjoyed it as much as I did. I can only take that sarcastic type of comedy in short spurts, which is probably why I like Chowboys. But the boys really liked PG, ergo I too enjoyed it.

Day 10: Sex Comedy!
Private Lessons (1981, Alan Myerson)
I know this was a day many were dreading or skipped altogether, but if you’re willing to enjoy these types of movies while still holding them accountable for their transgressions, then you’ll make it through with a couple laughs. Unfortunately for me, I watched Private Lessons, one of the most uncomfortable movie-watching experiences I’ve ever had. A literal cinematic crime, this holds the honor of being tied for the worst movie I watched all month. I love Sylvia Kristel and find her sexy, as everyone should. But she fucks a kid in this movie and it’s really gross. The idea of an adult seducing and taking advantage of a child is disgusting, wrong, and illegal in and of itself, but how this movie plays it off like it’s completely normal is the really fucked up part. I was enjoying the movie up until the seduction happened, and for the rest of the film I couldn’t look away because I couldn’t believe what I was watching. My mouth literally dropped open when I realized this child was not fantasizing, that this adult woman was really undressing in front of him to seduce him.

Day 11: Free Space!
The Gun and the Pulpit (1974, Daniel Petrie); High Risk (1981, Stewart Raffill)
After witnessing statutory rape, I needed to wash my brain out with some Marjoe Gortner, and being a recent Lifeguard convert, I was excited to check out another Petrie joint. It’s a made-for-TV western with Marjoe as an outlaw pretending to be a preacher and helping save a small town from being overtaken by a greedy businessman. This was also the day of Exhumed Films’ eX-fest. As I was enviously following along with my friends who were there, I added every movie they were watching to my watchlist and discovered the opening film of the festival was streaming on Tubi! High Risk stars a fantastic ensemble of James Brolin, Bruce Davison, James Coburn, Cleavon Little, Ernest Borgnine, Anthony Quinn, Chick Vennera and Lindsay Wagner. It’s sort of a men on a mission movie where there isn’t really a “good guy,” per se. I highly recommend this one.

Day 12: Prison!
No Escape (1994, Martin Campbell)
No Escape had the unfortunate honor of being my most anticipated movie of the month. Naturally, it couldn’t attain the heights I’d set for it in my mind, but it was a nice little tribute to Ray Liotta nevertheless. The real highlight of the film, though, is Stuart Wilson as a lunatic leader of a band of ruthless island prisoners. Michael Lerner and Ernie Hudson were also nice surprises. It’s Waterworld on land and I dig the hell out of that.
Day 13: Italian Horror!
Last Cannibal World aka Jungle Holocaust (1977, Ruggero Deodato)
Deodato absolutely hates animals. It’s as simple as that. I’m a big fan of Cannibal Holocaust, even though the turtle scene is horrific. Half of Jungle Holocaust is basically the turtle scene over and over. Animals are brutally killed left and right in this movie and it really bummed me out. Why I didn’t turn it off is a question I’ll take up with my sponsor.

Day 14: Blaxploitation!
The Black Godfather (1974, John Evans)
As historical artifacts, I find blaxploitation cinema of the '70s fascinating and educational. For me, the violence, nudity, and music play minor roles compared to what these filmmakers were trying to say in a crucial time in history. For the first time, these men and women were allowed to go out and make movies about themselves and their neighbors and what we got were really interesting time capsules that illuminate the black experience. While not great, The Black Godfather is like those movies that came before and after it. In many ways it’s the original American Gangster.

Day 15: Bugs!
Attack of the Giant Leeches (1959, Bernard L. Kowalski)
I had something come up for the evening so I needed a movie I could watch during the day while my boys were at home. Thus, giant, disgusting blood suckers. I’d just read Stephen King’s novella “The Body” (adapted into Stand By Me) so leeches were fresh on my mind. Like all sci-fi/horror movies of the '50s, AotGL delivers what it promises. It’s not great on its own but with Svengoolie cut-ins I’m sure I’d love it.

The second half of my Junesploitation diary comes next week!

1 comment:

  1. This is my favorite time of the FThisMovie calendar as well, Anthony. Discovering Junesploitation five years ago only gave more of a reason to dig deeper into the weird films and genres that I love. Then there is the added pleasure of being able to discuss them and add to my list of movies to watch. The 1960s through the 1980s is my sweet spot for June, but I always try to watch a few films outside of that time.