Thursday, June 29, 2023

Junesploitation 2023 Day 29: Free Space!


  1. A Bucket of Blood (1959, dir. Roger Corman)

    Nerdy and timid Walter Paisley (Dick Miller) wants to impress the girl he likes by sculpting a bust of her, but unfortunately he's not very good at it. When he accidentally kills his landlady's cat, he gets rid of the evidence by covering the body in plaster. The resulting accidental sculpture takes the art circles by storm, and when he's asked for more, he needs more dead bodies to keep riding the wave.

    Corman, who always made movies for entertainment rather than art, is poking fun at pretentious artists and their admirers, and he's not being subtle about it. It's a fun premise for a horror comedy and the plot really moves (the 65 minute runtime helps). Consummate bit-part player Miller is great in one of his rare starring roles and the assorted artists and beatniks hanging around him are funny.

    Class of 1999 (1990, dir. Mark L. Lester)

    In the far distant future of 1999, violent gangs rule the streets and schools have become warzones, so Seattle's Kennedy High School hires a robotics firm to build them android teachers who can both teach and keep discipline. Guess if the androids go crazy and start murdering the students? Go on, guess!

    Well that was a whole heap of fun! The ridiculous plot, the late 80's vision of a lawless future, the practical effects, the escalation of the plot at the midway point I didn't expect. Pam Grier, John P. Ryan and Patrick Kilpatrick are all great as the androids, but the star here is Stacy Keach, who hams it up as their crazy-eyed, mullet-haired, pure evil designer.

    1. Lipton Cockton in the Shadows of Sodoma (1995, dir. Jari Halonen)

      It's the year 2037, the European nations have united into one big federation, cities are overcrowded, and the poor parts of the federation are rampant with crime. Detective Lipton Cockton is assigned to assist federal police chief Brand Marlon in his investigation into unexplained spontaneous combustions, but finds himself in the middle of a tangled web involving a powerful multinational corporation, a porn shop, the police retirement fund, strange medical experiments, a Chinese fighting cock, and Marilyn Monroe's white dress.

      The movie presents a dystopian future made on a shoestring budget, relying on rundown locations, eclectic costume and production design, one miniature made with cardboard and papier-mâché, cryptic dialogue in strange "future-speak" mixing Finnish, English and Russian, wonky camerawork and quick cutting. Jorma Tommila (who some may know as the lead in this year's Sisu) makes for a charming, stoic lead character, but most of the other actors deliver every single line with such intensity you can feel their spit hitting your face through the screen. A great, terrible, wonderful, awful movie.

      The combined exposition and sex scene in a moving car was one of the funniest things I've seen in a long time.

      The Warriors (1979, dir. Walter Hill)

      Rival gangs in New York City hold a meeting to unite their forces, but when a prominent gang leader is murdered and the blame wrongly put on one gang called The Warriors, all-out war breaks out and everyone is after The Warriors, who just want to go back to their home turf.

      There's very little plot here, but the kinetic pace, the NYC locations, the different gangs with themed outfits, and the excellent use of music make this one of the best movies I've seen this month.

  2. Renfield (2023, dir. Chris McKay)

    Really enjoyed Renfield. Nic Cage is wonderful of course. I appreciated the gratuitous violence that almost reached early Peter Jackson levels. My only complaint is some of the scenes involving Awkwafina's character's subplot seem a little out of step with the rest of this otherwise extremely silly movie. Recommended.

  3. Free Space
    HARD CASH (2002)
    dir Pedrag Antonijevic

    It’s crazy to think that Daryl Hannah was in this and Kill Bill in 2002. And that Slater and Kilmer reunited from True Romance into this… thing.

    Balthazar Getty is going 1000% method BGetty.
    Bokeem Woodbine is tragically under utilized.

    And multiple endings that defy all expectations.

    “You! You keep your goddamned foreign clubbed feet off my coffee table. What do you think this is, a French whorehouse?”

  4. Krishna Bhatt's 1920: HORRORS OF THE HEART (2023, THEATER)

    I'm a sucker for any genre picture directed by a woman. It doesn't get more deep cut than a Bollywood supernatural revenge story helmed by the daughter (Vikram Bhatt) and granddaughter (cinematographer Pravin Bhatt) of hard-working Indian filmmakers in her directorial debut. After just-turned-21 Meghana (Avika Gor) loses her father to suicide she discovers a diary chronicling his years-long descent into despair. Fueled to seek revenge by her not-resting-in-peace dad's ghost Meghana tracks down her now-married-to-wealth natural mother, Despite mom's cold shoulder the stepdad (who looks like Hindi middle-aged Ryan Gosling) and 16-year old stepsister (Ketaki Kulkarni) are nothing but nice and supportive to Meghana, giving our "hero" pause about dead father's revenge wishes. It takes almost too long to care, but by the final act we're in full-blown "Exorcist" clone territory. Will Meghana choose the darkness of her father's ghost or sister Aditi's shining positivity?

    At 122 min. and with a tender love making scene between committed lovers (a big deal when most Indian movies won't even show passionate kissing) "1920" puts its female characters' conflicts (abandoned daughter versus better-off mom, innocent teenager versus hardened young woman, etc.) front and center. Waaaay to much CGI for even standard walk-and-talk dialogue scenes kills the atmosphere, though. I couldn't even tell you where geographically this movie takes place because everything looks like 'fake CG world'-land. Little nuggets of goodness (a gardener that knows where the bodies are buried, Naveen Singh playing himself in a blink-and-you-miss-him cameo, etc.) are sprinkled throughout a horror movie that's only scary when you think of all the effort that went into making it. AND WHY IS EVERY FREAKING ROOM IN THIS MOVIE TEN TIMES BIGGER THAN NORMAL?!?! :-D 2 DECAPITATIONS ATOP MOVING TRAIN CARS (out of 5).

    Nick Cassevetes' GOD IS A BULLET (2023, THEATER)

    Overwrought and self-aggrandizing (156 mins.??!!) adaptation of Boston Teran's revenge/crime novel that looks/feels like a distant cousin to Tony Scott's "Domino." Nothing-left-to-lose desk jockey detective Bob Hightower (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) teams-up with former Satanic cult member Case (Maika Monroe, best actor in the movie) to track down the drug-dealing satanists that months earlier killed Bob's ex-wife and kidnapped his young teenage daughter. Tone alternates between sadistic (all women get punched, kicked, raped, shot...), boring (downtime at Mexican border towns) and bloody (CG gunshots wounds galore), with only the quiet scenes between Hightower and Case standing out. Jamie Foxx appears as a sage tattoo artist everybody respects (even Karl Glusman's big bad Cyrus), which might have something to do with Foxx being a producer on the film? ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ The finale appears to go full "Death Wish 3" (Ethan Suplee's stands out as Cyrus' main henchman) before settling on "Return of the King"-like never-ending denouements. Pass. 2 DRUGGED-UP SNAKES IN A PICK-UP TRUCK (out of 5).


    Swimming-in-debt, thirty-something Montauk townie Maddie (Jennifer Lawrence) desperately tries to hold on to her mother's inherited house. She agrees to "date" date the pampered son (Andrew Barth Feldman's Percy) of wealthy parents (cue Matthew Broderick wearing a silly wig) before the kid goes off to Princeton. Raunchy hilarity ensues as Percy is too dorky/nice (anime t-shirt, romantic idealism, respect of authority) for Maddie's natural charm to make them consummate, but (surprise... not!) gradually she starts to really fall for Percy. Neither hidden gem or the return to 80's raunchy comedy the ads would have you believe this is, "No Hard Feelings" almost becomes a rom-com classic with Percy's piano rendition of "Maneater" during a fake prom date. 'It's fine,', and Jennifer Lawrence giving us the 'full frontal' during a beach brawl bumps this one up to 3.5 FINGER CUFF-AS-SEX-TOY GAGS (out of 5).

  5. The final free day of Junesploitation is devoted to a double feature from my Netflix queue. These are not the most pleasant watches on their own, so seeing them together in a short period time was grueling. There is a lot of cruelty on display.

    FRONTIER(S) (2007, dir. Xavier Gens)

    When a bunch of young adults involved in criminal activities in Paris flee to rural areas around the border, they expect some peace. They certainly do no not count on meeting a Nazi family. The film is one brutal act after another, and the look and the editing style are undoubtedly from the 2000s. The blueprints of many films (The Hills Have Eyes, TCM, Hostel, etc.) are here, but it definitely has its own identity. Karina Testa’s lead performance is appropriately maniacal and ultimately holds the film together. Not for everyone, obviously, but one of the better extreme films to come from the 2000s.

    MEN BEHIND THE SUN (1988, dir. Tun-Fei Mou)

    I initially considered Salo for today but ended up going with this Hong Kong production. It is based on the real-life experiments of Unit 731, a notorious Japanese biological warfare unit that operated in China during WWII. Men Behind The Sun is a tough watch. While being what I would term “atrocitysploitation,” there is a serious side to the film delving into how people are trained to accept the necessity of being cruel to other human beings. In one important scene, new recruits to the unit are taught to refer to the Chinese prisoners as “moruta” to dehumanize them. There is vivisection, gassing, death by pressure chamber, cold weather exposure, explosion tests, and a bit of animal cruelty to get through. The staging of the film is very impressive, though, particularly the concluding scenes.

  6. My final JCVD of #JuneSPLOiTAtion

    SUDDEN DEATH (1995)
    dir. Peter Hyams

    Ross Malinger never met a dad he wasn’t disappointed in.

    Powers Boothe isn’t F-ing around. THAT WIG THO!

    How does this former fire fighter know how to spin kick? They established his hockey goalie bonafides but not his black belt.

    “What do I want? World peace, an end to bigotry, and no more mini-malls.”

  7. Death Rider In the House of Vampires (2021)

    No matter what you or I think or believe, Glenn Danzig is making exactly the kind of movies that he wants to make. 

    Following Verotika, he decided that the next film he'd make would not just be a Western, but a Spaghetti vampire Western and the minute I read that, I realized that Danzig is making the movies that I want to see as well. 

    Despite saying that he's watched a lot of Bava and Fulci, it feels like Danzig has made the kind of movie an Italian director that not many people discuss in the U.S. would have made. The closest comparison I can think of is the work of Alvaro Passeri, who is somehow at once sub-Bruno Mattei level in directorial skill but has ideas and a lack of anyone telling him no, which leads to absolutely aberrant cinema like The Mummy Theme Park and Plankton.

    More likely, I think that Danzig wanted to hang out with his friends and a bunch of adult stars while cosplaying as both vampires and characters straight out of a Giulio Questi or Tonino Valerii while someone filmed the lost weekend. After spending a few million, his account called and said, "Glenn, I know you want my skull, but seriously, we need to recoup some investment. Can you call Cleopatra Records? I mean, yes, they used to release weird cover tribute CDs that had Electric Hellfire Club played KISS songs, but now they're releasing movies." And then Glenn howled and said, "Yea."

    The Death Rider (Devon Sawa) has just arrived at the Vampire Sanctuary (there is no irony in the cinematic universe of Danzig, things are named what they are) and has the admission fee: one naked virgin (Tasha Reign). He asks for sanctuary -- yes, from the Vampire Sanctuary, I get it -- from its owner, Count Holiday (Julian Sands, R.I.P.).

    The Vampire Sanctuary (I swear, I am not getting paid every time I use those two words) is more like a saloon from an old cowboy movie, filled with working girls like Carmilla Joe (Pittsburgh native Kim Director, who was on The Deuce and in Blair Witch 2: Book of Shadows) and her assistant Mina Belle (Ashley Wisdom, Verotika) and ginslingers like Kid Vlad (Victor DiMattia, Timmy Timmons from The Sandlot), Drac Cassidy (Eli Roth, yes, that Eli Roth), and Bad Bathory (Danzig himself and when his name flashed up on scream I cheered even if I was home alone). 

    So yes, Danzig wears a cowboy hat in this, but he really wears all the hats: director, writer, producer, composer, cinematographer and editor. The choices are, well, big choices. The kind of choices that only could have been made by Glenn Danzig. 

    If takes as long to get to the Vampire Sanctuary (cha-ching!) and past the opening credits as it does for Jan-Mikl Thor to drive a van to a suburban house in Rock 'n Roll Nightmare, that was the vision of Glenn Allen Anzalone.

    If Danny Trejo is going to show up as Bela Latigo, well, that's 100% from the brains and balls of Lodi's favorite son.

    And if there's no real plot other than random gunfights, naken women, vampires biting naked women and gunfights around naked women with vampires shooting silver bullets at one another, then you guessed it. This is all the vision of the man who wrote, "devil on the left / angel on the right / there's no mistake / who'll I be with tonight."


    1. I'm sorely overdue checking out his flicks.

  8. The Firm (1993) Lawyer-sploitation

    I miss Jeanne Tripplehorn in good movies

  9. ZEBRAMAN (2004)
    A schoolteacher in the low-income part of the city starts dressing as children’s TV superhero Zebraman to be a vigilante. But then he gets the character’s powers in real life, just in time to stop a supernatural eco-disaster. The tone is odd, in that there are some jokes and wackiness, but under a heavier layer of world-weariness and class disparity. I’m not sure what to think about this one.

    FALL (2022)
    Two adventure-seeking gal pals climb an incredibly tall tower both for thrills and to process their trauma (movies these days…) only for them to get trapped at the top with no way down. At the movie’s best, it really cranks up the tension as to the hopelessness of this situation. On the other hand, the characters make foolish decisions (not just climbing the tower to begin with) and the balance is off between the survival action and the heart-to-heart emotional talks. It’s certainly compelling, but I doubt I’ll ever watch it a second time.

    A diner’s digital security monitor has a two-minute delay, resulting in two minutes’ worth of time travel. The idea is one room is two minutes in the past and the other room is two minutes in the future, with characters running back and forth between them. And it just keeps getting more and more complicated from there. Well, the time travel is complicated, but the character work is simple but effective. The characters are silly yet a little sad, and there’s also a cute romance going on as well. It’s a fun premise brought to its conclusion, and that’s all it has to be. This is the type of movie we need more of.

  10. The Muppet Christmas Carol (1992)

    For the first time the Muppets aren't the focal point, instead ceding the floor to Michael Caine who gives a dedicated performance as Scrooge. This was the first Muppet movie after Jim Henson's death and it was honestly a little jarring to hear Kermit with a different voice. I liked that they kept lightening the mood with songs and the fourth-wall breaking Gonzo in narrator role, but also didn't shy away from the heavier notes of the original text, at times even (dare I say it) flirting with horror. All of that makes for a surprisingly textured and earnest movie.

  11. TAHKHANA (aka THE DUNGEON, 1986, d. Shyam & Tulsi Ramsay)
    First-time watch on Mondo Macabro BluRay, 7/10.
    Only two songs in this Bollywood creature-feature, but that's okay with me. The hulking, demi-Golem should get more screentime, but TAHKHANA is only two hours long & needs time for the treasure map split into two pendants, the muscle-guy in mesh, cool fogged-out sets & the prologue that feels like it should be 100 years ago but was only two decades ago. This is not as nutty a picture as some of the Ramsay horrors I've seen, but it's not boring.

  12. I'm watching the original TOP GUN (1986) tonight for something at work and I'm not really feeling up to it. I wanted my kids to watch THE RIGHT STUFF instead but they didn't want to. No more choices in the future!

    1. Thanks for playing as much as you could during the month.🫠🤠

    2. I did kinda :\ but it's been a hectic month. Nice to see you back, JM :)