Sunday, June 25, 2023

Junesploitation 2023 Day 25: Hixploitation!



    A young woman (Season Hubley) passing through rural Tennessee is mistakenly kidnapped by members of the Feather clan, who are having a Hatfields vs. McCoys-type violent feud with their neighbors The Gutshalls. Though they don't know this woman the Gutshalls decide to try and free her to keep the Feathers from having a leg up on them. As the movie opens and closes with montages of years-old photographs when both families were not only happy but also friendly to one another, a repressed traumatic tragedy gradually emerges within the characters' troubled past. And as he did with "Vanishing Point" two years prior (a car chase film that was about something deeper), director Richard C. Sarafian stages what appears to be a simple rustic scuffle between hillbillies as a thinly veiled metaphor for the then-current Vietnam War tearing families and neighbors apart. Any 70's movie can stage sexual assault to ger a rise from its audience, and "Lolly-Madonna XXX" has a pretty nasty one for a 'PG' movie. But it takes skilled filmmakers to not only give that rape context, but eventually make the a-hole rapist a sympathetic character with an arc that you feel sorry for by the end. I can't believe I just wrote that, but I'll be damned if this forgotten early 70's hicksploitation drama doesn't pull it off.

    Before you think this is a serious tragedy (which it often is), "L-M XXX" has boatloads of hilarious hick dialogue, a cross-dressing Elvis impersonator (Pride Month representation!), a young Jeff Bridges exuding matinee idol star power and enough Southern stereotypes to choke ten mules. And talk about a stacked cast: Rod Steiger (his scene quietly making a sandwich is incredible), Robert Ryan, "The Walking Dead's" Scott Wilson, Gary Busey, Randy Quaid, a thin-and-hairy Ed Lauter, etc. So what if the 35mm print screened at Nitehawk was redder than a blushing redneck? This is one of the best discoveries of Junesploitation!, a great American movie that time (and the Academy Awards) forgot. 5 BRUSH FIRE-BARBECUED HOGS (out of 5).


    'Earlier today I gave away my only daughter to Bodey. I thank the pit with all my heart for making it so.'

    With Lucky McKey ("The Woman") as executive producer and Robert Kurtzman as special effects make-up producer, you know you're in the hands of skilled filmmakers that know what they're doing. That knowledge is key to tolerating what at first appears to be a fantastical-but-deadly-serious remake of 1981's "The Pit," except with hillbillies instead of a creepy kid harnessing the supernatural power at the bottom of the well. Writer/director Chad Crawford Kinkle is playing a very deliberate game of tone mixtures (Southern Gothic one moment, supernatural the next, cult survival later on, Stephen King-lite in the middle, etc.) and is well-served by actors that are playing their stereotypical roles straight. Still not sure if we're supposed to feel sorry for Ada (Lauren Ashley Carter) as she goes from frightened horny teenager to Jesus Christ-like savior, but at 81 minutes "Jug Face" doesn't outstay its welcome. 'It's fine.' 3 INCESTUOUS BROTHER/SISTER SEX SCENES AS INTEGRAL PLOT POINTS (out of 5).

    Walter Hill's SOUTHERN COMFORT (1981, TUBI)

    A group of Louisianna National Guard pretend soldiers on a routine weekend exercise in the swamps upset a quartet of Cajun locals by borrowing their canoes. These bayou boys go "Deliverance" on the unprepared soldiers and quickly gain the upper hand. As much as the bear traps, quicksand and shotguns might hurt/kill them, the not-used-to-real-war platoon end up being their own worst enemy when they either lose their cool, fight to the death with one another or simply stop following the chain of command. A Ry Cooder-composed score? A manly cast (Coyote, Boothe, Ward, Carradine, etc.) being their own worst enemy? Cool setting and atmosphere to spare? Yep, it's another great Walter Hill movie alright. 4 CHEST-PAINTED RED CROSSES (out of 5).

  2. JENNIE, WIFE/CHILD (1968)

    Digging into my Something Weird collection for this tale of illicit love down on the farm. Jennie is the wife of a much older farmer and resents everything about the situation she married into. The handsome but not so bright farmhand, Mario, catches her eye and becomes the object of her seductive charms. JENNIE is a very well-made melodrama with a little bit of “spice” added to it titillate the audience, but it is a very mild spice. Not much skin is on display. For the kind of film this is, Jennie is solid. The cinematographer was Vilmos Zsigmond, who was not far from breaking into mainstream Hollywood.

  3. Summer In Barefoot County (1974)

    Will Zens made some wild movies. There was Capture That Capsule in 1961 that cashed in on the space race, then The Starfighters which is about F-16s and not space. He also made an earlier Nam movie, The Shores of Hell in 1966, but by the next year he’d be making less serious efforts — in a good way — like jukebox musical The Road to Nashville (which has Marty Robbins, Waylon Jennings, Portner Wagoner, Johnny Cash and more in its cast) and Hell On Wheels (which has John Ashley and Marty Robbins, as the singer also dabbled in NASCAR racing). The same year that Zens made this, he also made Trucker’s Woman, which played double bills with this movie and has a subliminal pepperoni pizza image in it.

    Written by W. Henry Smith and Joseph A. Alvarez (who wrote Redneck Miller, too), this has a federal agent named Jeff Wilson (Don Jones) come to Barefoot County to clean up all the moonshine before finding out that every woman in town is like an angel descended from some redneck heaven.

    General Film Distributors carried this beyond its Carolinas roots to states like Georgia, Florida, Alabama and Tennessee. It was made by the Preacherman Corporation, which, as you can imagine, also made Preacherma and the sequel, Preacherman Meets Widderwoman.

    Of the cast, probably you might know Sherry Robinson, as she was Lisa in The Gruesome Twosome, while Jeff McKay would be on shows like Tales of the Golden Monkey, Magnum P.I. and JAG. He and Jacquelyn Pyle also did the radio ads for Axe.

    I’ve had the poster for this movie for years and you know, that artwork is about a million times better than the actual movie, which is really as it should be.

    Also: When I get down, I sometimes think back to the cycle of Southern and rural culture taking over media, then the powers that be getting rid of them, then it happening all over again. Just witness the cycle of CBS canceling the Beverly Hillbillies universe, then the Dukes ten years later and today, so much of reality TV has stories set in non-urban places. Demographics are always the culprit for why it all goes away, but then everything has a cycle. A time to be born, a time to die, a time for movies about stock cars and moonshine, I pray it’s not too late.

  4. Two Thousand Maniacs! (1964, dir. Herschell Gordon Lewis)

    The residents of a small town in the Deep South, pop. 2,000, are having a Centennial celebration, and a key part of the celebrations is the torture and murder of six Northeners as revenge for Union soldiers destroying the town during the Civil War.

    This was the first Herschell Gordon Lewis movie I've seen, but I certainly knew his reputation as the "Godfather of Gore", so I had a vague idea what was coming. And that's pretty much what this was. What in the 60's was scandalous is charming today. The amateurish filmmaking, clumsy gore effects, and muggy acting are kinda entertaining, but this was definitely meant to be seen through a dirty windscreen in a drive-in theater, not on an iTunes rental on a 55" TV.

    1. I watched this too and you are so right about it needing to be seen at a jenky drive in.

      If I had to choose a way to celebrate the “Centennial” in Pleasant Valley, Georgia, I wouldn’t want to be in the horse race, or the barrel roll, nor the BBQ. I think I’d choose to be the judge in the rock tippin’ contest.

  5. The Dion Brothers (1974, dir. Jack Starrett)

    Frederick Forrest and Stacy Keach star as The Dion Brothers. Two West Virginia boys who go to the big city to participate in an armored car heist. These two dim-bulbs are instantly in over their heads as things go continually from bad to worse, and hilarity ensues. Now this is an action-comedy! I had planned to watch this before the sad passing of Frederick Forrest and I'm so glad to have seen it as he gives one of his finest and funniest performances. Keach and Forrest are flat-out hilarious in this movie. The action is also extremely well-done, especially a brilliant final shootout in a building that is being demolished. Does a henchman get annihilated by a wrecking ball? You'll have to watch to find out! I bet this movie slayed in theaters in 1974, what a blast. Cannot recommend this highly enough.

  6. Blood Games - 1990, dir. Tanya Rosenberg

    I saw a trailer for this at an L.A. rep theatre last year and boy-oh-boy did they make it seem like this forgotten masterpiece you can’t miss. Sexy girl baseball team beating the hell out of rednecks in the woods? Sounds great! Since then, Vinegar Syndrome has released it, I’ve heard people actually mention it, and I figured my curiosity should finally be abated by watching it for today. Turns out, it’s not particularly good! The lone film from director Tanya Rosenberg leans way harder into the “rape” than the “revenge”, and seemingly tries to make up for it with a ton of slow-mo shots.

    For the most part, the performances at least seem to be pitched to the level the movie requires. Our lead baseball girl is played by stuntwoman Laura Albert (who has an insane career, btw) and stoically sleepwalks in a PTSD haze through most of the movie after witnessing her coach father’s murder. Ken Carpenter (camera-cenobite in ‘Hellraiser II: Hell on Earth’) plays the unhinged patriarch of this moron posse seeking revenge for the death of his son (Gregory Scott Cummings, ‘Phantom of the Mall’, ‘Cliffhanger’, Mac’s dad in ‘It’s Always Sunny’). The only other recognizable face is veteran character actor George “Buck” Flower, who might be the best part of the movie as the always beer-drunk bar fixture galoot who rocks the greatest trucker hat I’ve ever seen.

    Where the movie doesn’t work for me is the imbalance of exploitation. There is way more shower ogling, rape, and just overall violence toward the lady baseball players than necessary, especially considering none of them are the cause of the friction with the local yokels, nor have they transgressed in really any other way besides I guess being sexy and better at playing baseball. Yeah, sure, they “get revenge” but it feels fairly insignificant compared to the trauma and violence they had to endure. It definitely needed more “Yo, RoboCop shot that guy in the diiiiick”.

  7. The internet didn't seem to like my last post, so I'll make these brief:
    WHAT THE WATERS LEFT BEHIND (2017, d. Onetti Bros)
    First-time watch on Unearthed BluRay, 6/10.

    GREEN ROOM (2015, d. Jeremy Saulnier)
    Rewatch on Lionsgate BluRay, still 9/10.

    1. Blogger's been quite temperamental with me too. Only Junesploitation! can bring out the worst from 'fake A.I.' :-P

  8. WRONG TURN (2003)
    Good-looking 20-somethings are hunted through the forest by evil woodsmen. It’s a little TEXAS CHAINSAW, a little FRIDAY THE 13th, a little SCREAM, except it lacks the intensity and/or the personality of those films. On the plus side, it truly cuts to the chase. It’s only a few minutes in before the villains start killing and everybody’s on the run. Also, the Stan Winston team the effects, so the makeup and gore are a step above other movies of this kind. Fun, but not a lot of substance. It’d be good for the sunrise slot in your 24-hour horror marathons.

    Old fave: COMIN’ ROUND THE MOUNTAIN (1951)
    It’s Abbott and Costello! They play talent agents who unwittingly get involved in the Hatfields (“Winfields” in this) versus McCoys feud. Lou’s character falls for a Winfield, only to learn he’s a long-lost McCoy. And we’re off and running. Also look for a terrific cameo by Margaret Hamilton from the WIZARD OF OZ. Bud and Lou’s movies were never as good as their radio show banter, but this movie nonetheless has a lot of great bits. Maybe there’s a few too many musical numbers, but the movie flies by at only an hour 16 minutes. And it has one of my all-time favorite jokes when Lou sees a goat and says, “Funny looking dogs down here!”

  9. CALVAIRE (2004, d. Fabrice du Welz)
    Rewatch on Yellow Veil BluRay, 8/10 up from 7/10.
    Another "first time since it came out" viewing, although this one I didn't catch on the big screen. CALVAIRE feels like a stepping stone from IRREVERSIBLE toward the French Extreme "movement", which seems to hit a few years later. I don't know.
    The climax is a nightmare & there are some blackly comedic streaks throughout this picture.

  10. Road House (1989)

    One of my favorite songs, "I'm a Lover, but I'll Still Fight" by Dale Hollow, has the verse:

    Well I've seen Road House thirty times
    Instead of the dialogue I memorized thе fights
    So go ahead, bust a glass
    I'll even givе you one free swing but then I'll beat your ass!
    'Cuz it's my way or the highway
    'Cuz I'm a lover, but I'll still fight...

    I figured this Junesploitation day was just as good an excuse as any to pop in my Vinegar Syndrome 4K disc and finally get to the bottom of one of my favorite lyrics.

    It delivered.

  11. Tucker & Dale vs. Evil (2010)

    I had lots of ideas about what I might want to watch today, and then I decided to rewatch this instead.

    It's really funny and Alan Tudyk's delivery of the line about college kids killing themselves on his property is never not funny.

  12. The Hills Have Eyes (1977)

    I'm continuing my slow progress through Wes Craven's filmography. The follow-up to The Last House on the Left is a bit more polished, but no less sweaty, grimy and deranged. And very clearly inspired by Texas Chain Saw Massacre which came out in between, to the point that it feels almost like a riff on the Hooper's classic (this is not a complaint). Then, of course, it ends up becoming a classic in its own right, joining the endless loop of horror movies informing and building on one another. It never fails to impress me what a naturally terrifying setting the Southwestern desert is. Even in non-horror stories like Breaking Bad, there's never any doubt it's a place you'd never want to get lost in.

  13. This comment has been removed by the author.

  14. RAGIN' CAJUN 1991
    Dir. William Byron Hillman

    Ragin' Cajun was the choice today since it was closest thing to Hixploitation that I had on hand (disc wise). Maybe I was being lazy with my selection because it kinda was really only connected by name. First off, I picked up this Troma Films release from a local thrift for only a dollar. The allure of weirdness that usually comes with the Troma brand ropped me in for sure, but I had no idea what to expect. The movie titles starts with cheering against the plain titles, once I get to the "Introducing Benny "The Jet" Urquidez" credit, I had a little chuckle because his filmography easily goes back a decade prior to Ragin's alleged release date. (This point is further drilled home by the movie's star, David Heavener, via an interview included on the DVD. He also said, twice mind you, that the film was released in 1998...)
    Anyway, our main character, Cage, loses to Mr. The Jet after having a vivid 'Nam flashback mid match and basically quits kickboxing much to his mob boss/promoter's chagrin and takes a beating (alleged beating as it happens off screen) and wakes up in a mental hospital under the care of hos doctor (played by the Samantha Eggers, whom Lloyd Kaufman, in the pre show intro, refers to as enjoying his Eggers for breakfast along with Brood coffee), so far so good.... I'll stop there and just skim over the rest:
    1) The unfortunate thing about Samantha Eggers' scenes with David Heavener is that they aren't well acted, they are pretty good, it's just that the boom mic needed to pop in to say "Hi!"
    2) Dude quits kickboxing right at the beginning, right? I'm sure it's safe to say there might be more fights but you may be surprised (disappointed) by how many (little) fights there are for the duration of the movie.
    3) There are some exploitative moments, but they appear to punctuate the main story of Cage trying to work a simple dishwashing, making friends with a lady singer from the bar he works at, writing country songs with his guitar and taking in the movie's many original song performances. The mobsters make the biggest case for shocks and violence but they just don't do enough for that.
    4) The music was alright, mostly country, and about half of the songs played were enjoyable beyond watching this movie, nothing to hunt down on YouTube.
    5) Another thing about the Hixploitation, he didn't do anything Cajun-y, no creole speak, no Alligator huntin, no shrimp po-boys, nothing saved for the cadre of country music performances (both intimate and on stage). With all of Cage's 'Nam flashbacks, this could qualify for 'Namsploitation. And the movie goes out of its way to say something about PTSD and moving on with your life after serious trauma, in this case, in the form of the Vietnam War. His friend at the institute, played by Sam Bottoms of Apocalypse Now, talk about your high end 'Namsploitation, is the most sympathetic character and suffers the most.

    So yeah, the movie's full of singing, mental illness, moving on with your life and maybe finding love and maybe a little boxing and unfortunately can't rate higher than a 3 due to not being Junesploitation enough. For all this, it really wasn't half bad, but that means it wasn't half good either, those damn boom shots! 2.5 / 5

    1. Worth the dollar you paid for the Troma disc, or do you feel ripped-off? :-P