Thursday, June 22, 2023

Junesploitation 2023 Day 22: Revenge!



    Essentially "Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves,", this cinematic adaptation of Alexander Dumas' classic novel actually improves it by jettisoning the book's political speeches and ramping-up the revenge motives of its unjustly imprisoned sailor (Jim Caviezel's Dantès) by a wealthy jealous friend (Guy Pearce's Mondego) that coveted the former's girlfriend (Dagmara Dominczyk's Mercédès). First act is slow and borderline-boring because our hero must run into an elderly priest (Richard Harris) digging through the walls of Michael Wincott-as-sadistic-warden prison, then spend years training his mind/body and building escape tunnels. With a hidden treasure at his grasp, Dantès elaborate schemes of revenge (not only against Mondego but also Mercédès) eventually become reality.

    The last two acts of "The Count of Monte Cristo" are so much fun. With Luis Guzmán as his sidekick and a super young Henry Cavill playing the Mondego's teenage son he eventually befriends, the fantasy elements thrown for Dantès to get close to his enemies (a balloon entrance with fireworks, pirates as pretend kidnappers, etc.) are just delightful. The screenplay wisely keeps Mercédès likable and sympathetic to (a) engage female viewers and (b) twist the knife a little into Dantès' troubled heart. Other than Guy Pearce being a one-dimensional a-hole that gets worse as the story unfolds (which also makes the swashbuckling-heavy finale worth the wait) this is family-friendly, classic revenge mainstream storytelling at its best. 4.25 RATS COOKED OVER CANDLE FLAME (out of 5).


    Who says middle-aged podgy white guys can't get revenge too? George Kennedy ("Hud") is a Naples-based American NATO computer engineer that uses the resources at his disposal to track down the killers that murdered his wife and three kids. A very early version of what would eventually become the techno-thriller, lots of set-up time is spent watching Kinsdale and his partner/friend (John Mills) hacking telephone lines and stumbling on a terrorist plot bigger than them or local police ever imagined. It's a slow-burn (our hero does more running and dodging than fighting), but the final 10 minutes reach Cannon Group-like levels of exploitation-worthy insanity (and add a whole extra point to the score). 3.5 FREAKY 'SHAHIDU' GINGER DOLLS (out of 5).

    Stephanie Rothman's TERMINAL ISLAND (1973, TUBI).

    Hate to be crude, but you can tell this was directed by a woman because its handful of female characters weren't repeatedly raped and assaulted when California eliminated the death penalty and sent all its death row inmates to an island 40 miles from the coast to fend for themselves (revenge 1). Don't get me wrong, the leaders of one faction of men on the island (Sean Kenney and Roger E. Mosley) abuse women by making them (off-camera) sex slaves and literal mules for hard labor (revenge 2). No wonder the ladies prefer going with the 2nd group of men (including young Tom Selleck) that kidnap them as trophies to rub it in the face of the 1st group (revenge 3). But ultimately both factions of inmates must come to bloody war (revenge 4) to decide once and for all whether women on Terminal Island are sex objects or human beings. THAT'S THE CHICAGO WAY! Oops, wrong movie! :-P 3.25 CHEKHOV'S BEEHIVE TREE STUMPS (out of 5).


    Scott Adkins is sent to prison by his low-level criminal brother (Craig Fairbrass), where he is tortured and beaten by inmates for years. What's a boxer to do but take each day as a fight-or-die challenge, then find the right time to escape and execute sweet revenge with his fists. Pound for pound this is the most satisfying type of revenge film you could ever want, under-90-fat-free minutes of Scott Adkins rightfully beating ass and revealing (in flashbacks) how he got about doing it. Finding movies like this is what Junesploitation! is all about. 4 SETS OF METAL DENTURES (out of 5). And yes, he bites! :-D

    1. Thank you for reminding me that I own the Count of Monte Cristo on DVD! Definitely had to watch!

  2. Hit Man (1972, dir. George Armitage)

    Tyrone (Bernie Casey) returns to his hometown for his brother's funeral. Turns out, his death isn't a clear-cut case, so Tyrone decides to hang around to investigate and go after those responsible. His investigation leads him from seedy motels to porno theaters and from a wildlife preserve to a mob boss's mansion. Along the way, Tyrone has time to bed about half a dozen different women.

    Apparently, this was a blaxploitation remake of Get Carter, but I've never seen that one, so I can't compare.

    The movie moves from one location and setpiece to the next at a clip, so you definitely won't get bored. Didn't particularly enjoy the scene set at a dog fighting ring though. Casey is excellent in the lead, Pam Grier has disappointingly little screen time.

  3. It's not the perfect fit, but it WAS on one of the wikipedia lists of revenge movies, so it counts. I had been wanting to watch a spaghetti western, so I watched Django (1966, dir. Sergio Corbucci). Loved this from the very opening with that great theme song (which I'm familiar with from Django Unchained). This guy's badass! He's dragging a coffin with him! There's quicksand that ends up being Chekhov's Gun! This is the 3rd movie starring Franco Nero for me this month (also Enter the Ninja and White Fang 2), and the 2nd movie this month which ends with the protagonist having his hands completely destroyed but managed to make a gun work and blast away the bad guys (also Yakuza Wolf 1). I LOVED this movie.

  4. Sitting Target (1972, dir. Douglas Hickox)

    Oliver Reed is at his savage beast-like best as a prisoner who decides to escape and kill his wife for not remaining faithful to him during his sentence. He's helped by his buddy, an impossibly young Ian McShane. This is a mean, ugly little movie with a suspenseful escape sequence, some ok action and a nice little twist at the end before the obligatory '70s style downbeat ending. Just what the doctor ordered for Revenge Day.

  5. New-to-me: THE REVENGE OF DR. X (1967)
    A mad scientist travels to Japan and, after a lengthy travelogue, he genetically engineers a giant Venus flytrap monster. You'd think a US/Japan co-production would have more production value. You'd think it'd have ANY production value! This is a genuine cheapie. How do you make a movie like this with no budget? Add lots of filler! This is scene after scene after scene of nothing happening. The monster is pretty cool once it finally shows up, but I imagine most viewers will have lost patience by then.

    Old fave: THE PRINCESS BRIDE (1987)
    I don't need to tell you about Inigo Montoya. You know all about Inigo Montoya. Rewatching the movie this morning, it occurs to me that your screenwriting 101 teacher would tell you to remove Inigo's revenge movie-within-the-movie, and instead just have him be a guy who's introduced in act one who comes back to help our heroes in act three. And yet, Inigo's quest adds so much richness to the overall film. It's a good case for following the needs of the story, rather than merely plot-structure-by-checklist.

  6. Blown Away (1994)

    First time viewing. Tommy Lee Jones is such an odd casting choice because he's absolutely terrible at dialects, but I get it. This was in his hot period after the Academy Award for The Fugitive, so I'm sure everyone wanted him in everything. This is exactly the kind of movie that I miss these days. It's a summer release with big stars and real stakes, but there are no superheroes, spaceships, or elves anywhere in sight! Also, I would put Jeff Bridges' resume up against almost anyone's, particularly in terms of range and diversity of roles. The guy is money in the bank.

    1. That explosion at the end too! Wowza! I contend it might be the best explosion ever.

  7. Sex and Fury (1972)

    June 22: Junesploitation’s topic of the day — as suggested by F This Movie— is Revenge! We’re excited to tackle a different genre every day, so check back and see what’s next.

    Norifumi Suzuki is probably best known for the ten-movie Torakku Yarō series in which Momojiro Hoshi and Kinya Aikawa race around Japan in dekotora or highly decorated trucks. Suzuki also wrote Red Peony Gambler, which became an eight-film series. He also made School of the Holy Beast.

    Christina Lindberg, the star of Thriller, was on a plane to Stockholm when she was approached by two Japanese men who asked if she'd like to be in a movie. That sounds like the plot of a TV movie, but she said, "Why not?" and in a few weeks was making this movie and Sadao Nakajima's Porno Queen: Japan Sex Tour for Toei.

    The star of the show, though, is Reiko Ike. She first appeared in Toei's Hot Springs Mimizu Geisha just a year before and claimed that she was only sixteen when she was nude in that movie. The scandal made it one of Toei's biggest movies and her a star. One of the icons of Japanese Pinky violence films, Ike is on the same level as a Pam Grier or Tura Satana here in America. She's in all four Terror Female High School movies, as well as one of the Battles Without Honor or Humanity sequels and The Street Fighter's Last Revenge. She even released an album, Kōkotsu No Sekai (World of Ecstasy) AKA You, Baby before she was busted for drugs and then illegal gambling before her retirement.

    Look out Donna Summer, because the entire album is basically spy lounge with Ike orgasming over it. It's also beyond incredible.

    Ike plays Ocho Inoshika in this, a young girl living the life of a small-time criminal in 1920s Tokyo. While all she does is gamble and occasionally steal from people, she's also seeking the men who killed her detective father when he learned too much about the wrong powerful people.

    After watching a young anarchist get killed, she listens to the young man's dying request. He asks Ocho to take all of his money and free his sister Yuki from a life of prostitution. When she meets the brothel owner, he demands that Ocho play against female gambler Christina (Lindberg) for Yuki's ownership. During this game, we see flashbacks to the lives of both women. And Christina is here for a reason, as she's tracking down the anarchists to keep the local government running or so she says, because she's really here because a young Japanese anarchist made love to her like no one before or since. He also has made a slave of Ocho's mother, so as you can imagine, everyone is going to die.

    Ocho is getting closer to those who killed her father -- they have the tattoos of a deer, a butterfly and a boar on their backs -- and that means plenty of bloody sword battles, including one where she emerges from a tub fully nude and battles into the snow. As she kills everyone in her path, limbs fly through the air, blood sprays like it's being shot out of a cannon and her nude form is covered in plasma. It's one of the most incredible scenes that you will see in any movie ever.

    There's also a battle in front of a stained glass window of Jesus, a whipping scene that aspires to become anything but exploitation junk and an ending in which our heroine emerges triumph amongst a snow of falling playing cards.

    Any time people get all high and mighty about films and act like scholars, I'm reminded that I'll never get there because this is the kind of movie that I prefer. I would have it no other way.

    This has a sequel as well, Female Yakuza Tale: Inquisition and Torture.

    1. Norifumi Suzuki was the director who stood out the most when I delved into 1970s Japanese exploitation. The infectious combination of sleaze and engaging visual style in films like School of the Holy Beast and Lynch Law Classroom I still remember well. Sex and Fury is one that I never got around to seeing. That will change if it shows up somewhere.

  8. Caught Up (1998)

    In this neo-noir/blaxploitation mashup, Bokeem Woodbine plays a man recently released from jail, trying to keep his head down and keep his parole. Unfortunately, the world around him makes that really difficult, a world populated with Cynda Williams, Jeffrey Combs, LL Cool J, Snoop Dogg, Michael Clarke Duncan, Tony Todd, and many others.

    My real takeaway, despite this underrated cast of characters, is Woodbine. Damn, he's good in this. Why didn't he get a lot more to do? I would say, "Catch me on a Woodbine kick," but top billing seems rare, and when he does seem to have it, the movie doesn't look great, judging a movie by its poster. This, however, is certified.

  9. Framed - 1975, dir. Phil Karlson

    This is the most “tell me you listen to ‘Pure Cinema’ and ‘Video Archives’ WITHOUT telling me…” pick for my Junesploitation. Another excellent Joe Don Baker entry for the month, he plays a card hustler who wins big and then loses it all to corrupt police, attorneys, and the kingpin mayor who set him up for murder. While in the slammer, he makes an ally in John Marley (horse-head-in-bed producer from ‘The Godfather’) and his second in command Gabriel Dell (Bowery Boys, East End Kids, Dead End Kids movies) while his lounge singer girlfriend Conny Van Dyke (real life singer, Miss Teen USA) is harassed and threatened to stay silent. After nearly four years, Joe Don’s out and seeking answers, aided by the one good deputy in town Brock Peters (‘To Kill a Mockingbird’, ‘Star Trek IV/VI’) while being harried by the new powers that be and their hired goons.

    The episodic pace really works well for the story, each “chapter” introducing new characters and obstacles along the path of revenge. Director Phil Karlson (PCP and VAP favorites ‘Kansas City Confidential’, ‘The Phenix City Story’, ‘The Wrecking Crew’, ‘Walking Tall’) knows exactly how to unravel the petty conspiracy that Joe Don finds himself in the middle of. You’re confused but immediately hooked by the first incident and by the end, you’re hard rooting for Joe Don despite him starting off as a boor. Cuz fuck the broken system and the corrupt cowards that run it.

    The moments of fighting and action are really well staged, particularly one sequence involving cars on a train track where I’m genuinely surprised no one in real life wasn’t seriously injured or died. The fights are brutal - ears are blown off, messy stabbings, busted limbs - and interestingly enough, Joe Don doesn’t always shrug it off and keep going. He’s in the hospital for what seems like weeks, then in the jail infirmary, then in the hospital some more - all of which helps underscore the difference between the damage he’s taking vs what his girlfriend has had to endure multiple times through the story and how each of them comfort and support each other.

    The movie ultimately lands exactly where you expect but it’s a hell of ride to get there, full of colorful “that guys”, grungy Tennessee small towns, and cool ass cars. Absolute recommend if you can track this title down.

  10. Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance (2002)

    Spent the first 45 minutes or so full of dread and the remaining time just sad.


  11. Savage Streets (1984)

    So happy to finally get acquainted with this sploitation classic. I thought the movie did an excellent job fleshing out all the major players and their relations in a very short time. Linda Blair is a badass even before the double assault on her sister and best friend, but once she gets in the revenge mode, she's on a whole nother level. The Vince character adds some interesting shading to the story, making it a tad more nuanced than your average r&r movie. There is no nuance going on with the main villain, though, he's a psychopathic scumbag from start to finish, and it's really satisfying to see him get his comeuppance. The riveting third act veers hard into horror territory, and I'm here for that all the way.

  12. Ms. 45 (1981)

    It's like what a Death Wish sequel should be if the Death Wish sequels weren't so stupid.

  13. REVENGE (2017)
    dir. Coralie Fargeat

    Matilda Lutz is super hot!
    And being super hot does not give anyone permission to do anything that person doesn’t want done.

    They all deserved worse than what they got.

    “What’s your problem?
    She’s alone, her guts hanging out.
    There are 3 of us and we’re armed.
    What are you afraid of?”

  14. RIDERS OF JUSTICE (2020, d. Anders Thomas Jensen)
    First-time watch on Magnet BluRay, 9/10.
    I remember registering this title in the dwindling movie section at WalMart & giving it little thought. Not long after, someone on a podcast (maybe this very podcast?) mentioned it in a positive light & my next trip to the greatest megaStore in all the land yielded a complete absence of the title in any format.
    In any event, it's well worth a watch & is much more than the simplistic (but deceptive) title & the various cover arts that don't lie but tell nothing substantive. Military Mads trying to cope with an exploded wife & grieving daughter meets a pack of nerds certain that the explosion was a hit job. Vengeance is a game Mads can play, but the expanding family of oddballs & the ever-uncertain foundation of randomness adds RIDERS to the complicated revenge tales like DEAD MAN'S SHOES or IRREVERSIBLE, though it is nothing like either.

    1. Mikelsen's the man. 😎 Who knew the villain who busted James Bond's nutsack could also get huge laughs by being a deadpan, quiet badass single dad... on Christmas! 🥶

  15. LADY VENGEANCE (2005, dir. Park Chan-wook)

    When Lee Geum-Ja gets out of prison intent on killing the man who put her there, she embarks on an emotional journey as much as a trail of revenge. The path the story takes deeply surprised me, and the ending is more visceral for it. When one of the most prominent filmmakers of modern cinema tackles what is basically an exploitation story, the result is not going to be your average exploitation film. Park brings a lot of beauty and style to the proceedings. The cast is full of faces anyone who knows South Korean cinema will recognize.