Tuesday, June 13, 2023

Junesploitation Day 13: Animals!



    William Girdler's DAY OF THE ANIMALS (1977, FREEVEE).

    IMPORTANT F THIS MOVIE TRIVIA NOTE: This Junesploitation! review by Matt Sollenberger from 6/3/2015 for "Grizzly"
    is the first documented use of the term 'Human Cigarette Christopher George' I've been able to find on the site. Just felt this was too important to let it slide. :-P

    From the director of "Grizzly" and "The Manitou" comes this batshit tale of animals going on a 'PG' sanitized killing rampage when the Earth's ozone layer ruptures and every animal above 5,000 feet of altitude (including a shirtless Leslie Nielsen!) targets the nearest humans. If we were following this exploitation-worthy premise worldwide this would be the greatest movie ever (how are people in The Andes mountains surviving?). Unfortunately we're stuck with just the unlucky residents of a small Pacific Northwestern town and some hikers in nearby mountains. Using the disaster movie template popular during the 70's, guessing which of the dozen or so characters lives or dies is half the fun. As many reviewers of prior Junesploitations! have referenced, "Day Of the Animals" starts slow and gradually gets going before taking it up a notch when Leslie Nielsen fights a bear while bare-chested. But the real treat for me was Frank Drebin going nuts in the scenes before the bear attack. Frank Drebin on a major power trip? Now that's entertainment! :-D

    Major props to Lalo Schifrin (OG "Mission: Impossible" theme) for a very moody score that helps immensely make footage of animals simply flying or going about their Northwest Pacific wilderness business ("Mutual of Omaha" presents...) seem ominous and scary. Even the likable characters in this movie (the ex-NFL football player, Susan George's anchorwoman, a Beverly Hills mom's kid, etc.) are pretty 'meh,' but I prefer this 70's version of such a cool premise than the inevitable CG-enhanced remake we're bound to get one of these days. :-( 3.75 REFLECTIONS OF THE FILMING CREW ON REFLECTIVE GLASS (out of 5).


    A year before "Hard Candy" turned Elliot Page (then Ellen) into a hot young actor, he appeared in a Canadian-made, Animal Planet-financed made-for-TV movie playing a young teenager moving with her widowed father (Michael Ontkean) to a new home in a small Upstate NY town to start a new life after the death of her mother. The Merritts get more than what they bargained for when Natalie starts seeing a ghost cat, and dad gets to gradually fall for the charm of the single middle-aged animal rescue farmer (Lori Hallier) next door. It might be a basic cable movie but the filmmakers made the very wise choice of spending the first ten minutes establishing Margaret and her elderly human owner (Shirley Knight) so that their absence when the Merritts move into their house really hits. The plot feels Hallmark Channel light mixed with classic Disney Channel tropes, something about the ghost cat trying to get the humans to get rid of real estate bad guys trying to screw over the animal shelter to steal its valuable land. It's not scary or too sanctimonious (provided you love pets) and the cast (particularly Page and his feline co-lead) don't embarrass themselves. A classic F This Movie 'it's fine' flick. 3 DIAL-UP TELEPHONES WITH GREEN LED TIME DISPLAYS (out of 5).

  2. Battle for the Planet of the Apes (1973, dir. J. Lee Thompson)

    The fifth (and last) movie in the original Apes series begins with a recap of the previous two movies (smart apes from the future travel back in time to the 1970's and their offspring incites an ape rebellion), then jumps ahead a decade or two, to a time after a nuclear war, where an ape society lives alongside humankind, and a small group of humans have been mutated by the nuclear fallout.

    The franchise was clearly running out of steam at this point (this was designed to be the final installment from the start), and the movie seems a lot more interested in tying up all the loose ends than telling a compelling story of its own. John Huston and Paul Williams are interesting casting coups, but neither feels very comfortable acting in an ape mask. Franchise veteran Roddy McDowell, by comparison, knows exactly how to manipulate the mask to convey emotion.

    The worst of the original franchise, but there's still fun to be had from the actors hamming it up, the sets, the pretty landscapes and a couple of matte paintings, the overly bombastic score, and its brisk pace.

  3. FROGS (1972)
    dir. George McCowan

    Young Sam Elliott and older Ray Milland bring their A-games but it’s not enough to save this snooze-fest. And I rewatched the ending 3 times and am still not sure what happened.

    Ps. You have to wait until the end of the credits, I guess.

    “WE ARE the ugly rich.”

  4. The Wild Beasts (1984)

    There are a lot of people who reckon with the art versus artist and worlds of troubling media all the time. Like, well, me. Because if you watch a lot of Italian cinema eventually you will come across a very casual — one would say cruel — attitude about the way animals are treated in their exploitation cinema. From the way horses are thrown around in their Westerns to mondo and cannibal films that are outright celebrations of butchery, Italian cinema can test one’s love of nature. Then again, you go and eat processed meat for dinner and enable an incredibly more brutal industry, so perhaps we all have something to atone for.

    Regardless, the first time I watched The Wild Beasts, I made it as far as the credits, where a horse’s parts — including its head and out of mouth tongue — are cut to pieces on camera and served to several wild cats. It jarred me so much that I just couldn’t deal with anything after.

    Years later, I feel that my explorations into the dark heart of the cinema of my home country have scarred me to feelings like this. After all, this movie was directed by Franco E. Prosperi, who was part of the team with Gualtiero Jacopetti that popularized the mondo genre. The only fictional movie that Prosperi ever made, Wild Beasts is a rough watch but in no way as senses destroying as the other movies Prosperi had a hand in making, such as the two Mondo Cane films, Africa Blood and Guts or perhaps the most upsetting movie I’ve ever endured, Goodbye Uncle Tom.

    But he’s going to try.

    There have been ecohorror movies before and animal attacks shared as horror. But when you hear “Italian animal attack movie,” you worry that you just might not be able to deal with what you get.

    Wild Beasts starts with what we Italian film lovers affectionately refer to as bullshit science. PCP has been released in the water supply of Frankfort and is mostly concentrated in the zoo. That means that every animal there that drinks water has found itself in a severe psychotic state where they feel no pain, experience time differently and are floating in a haze. They also have decided that this is when humanity must pay, like Day of the Animals but way, way worse.

    This would be a big problem already, but then there’s also the issue of the new computerized security system at the zoo. Of course it fails, because technology always fails in animal attack movies. And even if it didn’t, the elephants have lost their minds and rampage through a wall, unleashing an entire jungle of apex predators into the streets where they’re free to shred people into the same kind of meat as that horse. Now, I cheer that on while the horse bothers me, but I also know that for the most part, the stunts didn’t scar people for life or kill anyone. This wasn’t Roar, a movie where every single member of the cast and crew was nearly killed and Melanie Griffith was scalped.

    Read more at bandsaboutmovies.com/2023/06/13/junesploitation-the-wild-beasts-1984/

  5. The Pack - 1977, dir. Robert Clouse

    While checking out ‘Golden Needles’ for Free Space! day, I discovered director Robert Clouse and star Joe Don Baker were also involved with this dangerous doggos flick. So, apparently in the 70s it was common practice for people to pick up a pound puppy before going on vacation, only to just abandoned it when it was time to come home? The fuck? This movie now answers the question of “what next?”, as these dogs are now starving and possibly rabid on a tourist fishing island.

    It was interesting to see a more sensitive and caring side of Joe Don as he plays a widower who has found love again with Hope Alexander-Willis and their two boys. He definitely still brings the action when needed, but it’s a great showcase for his talents to see him as a genuine leader and soft-hearted animal lover without the usual “aw shit” sarcasm. The rest of the cast is serviceable enough, and contrary to what we normally see in animal exploitation movies, there are no subplots about corporate takeovers, conspiracies, bank robberies, etc. No one in the town is secretly the cause for current canine catastrophe and the actual responsible parties never see justice. Hell, most of the families that dumped their pups will probably never even know what happened after they departed.

    I’ve heard more than once that this movie can be a tough hang if you’re an animal lover, specifically pups. Yes, it’s upsetting when they’re inevitably exterminated, but the violence toward them never feels cruel or done without regard to their safety (like we often see in Italian, Spanish, and southeast asian movies). You’re rooting for The Pack™ just as much as you’re wanting the islanders to get safely to the mainland. The dogs never feel like an indifferent force of nature. They’re hungry, tired, pissed off, and rightfully so, aiming their wrath at humanity as a whole. Today’s lesson? Be kind to our furry friends and neighbors or we’ll learn exactly how hard they bite back.

  6. New-to-me: BRIDE AND THE BEAST (1958)
    Screenplay by the one and only Ed Wood? Well, all right! A woman survives an encounter with a killer ape, only to become obsessed with apes. A psychiatrist/hypnotist tells her she was an ape in a previous life. Then she joins a wilderness safari to further explore her ape-self. Yes, dear old Ed certainly had... issues. But this is an amusing B-movie, perfect if you're having an #apesploitation day.

    Old fave: MIGHTY PEKING MAN (1977)
    Back in the day, I collected all of Tarantino's "Rolling Thunder" curated home video releases of old grindhouse flicks. They were all crime movies like the ones he was famous for at the time, except for this KING KONG rip-off. But Quentin knew what he was doing, because MIGHTY PEKING MAN freakin' rules! The filmmakers make up for their lack of resources with a sense of pure fun. Sure, it's cheesy, but it's fast-paced with something happening in every scene. I was happy to see a few of you discover this one on "monsters" day. This movie, the original KING KONG, and 1961's KONGA are my three favorite giant ape movies.

  7. Lake Placid (1999, dir. Steve Miner)

    Looks like a lot of people have watched this for Junesploitation and has had some mixed reviews. I really enjoyed this movie. The comedy mostly works, it's super-short, the Stan Winston animatronics are amazing, and the movie is nice to look at with beautiful scenery and tons of golden sunlight. Bridget Fonda and Oliver Platt play two of the weirder characters you will see in a mainstream movie. Highly Recommended.

  8. Roar (1981)

    I'll start off by saying this movie is terrifying. More terrifying than any horror movie because this is real and the actors are in very real danger though out the entire movie. It's difficult to even call this a movie because the plot is nearly non-existent.

    It's truly incredible nobody died during this production. I've wanted to watch the making of that's out there but many animals were killed during the production and that's not something I want to get into.

    Pure insanity.

  9. THE BEASTMASTER (1982, dir. Don Coscarelli) – I have circled around this one the past two years for Sword and Sorcery day. Though there were other options I had in mind for today, when I saw The Beastmaster in my Prime queue I felt this would be the perfect choice. And it certainly was. The animals are the real stars of the film. Marc Singer and Tanya Roberts (those eyes!) take a back seat when the animals come on the screen. The ferrets steal every scene they are in. As for the film, the mix of Conan rip-off and animal action is a ridiculous Junesploitation blast. I do not know what was going on with Rip Torn, but the way he hammed it up I found hilarious. With all of the fire and the number of people involved, the final battle is an amazing cinematic spectacle. Considering that Phantasm was only four years before this, Coscarelli’s growth as a filmmaker was very quick.

  10. Fritz the Cat (1972)

    What a great opportunity to check out something I've had on my watchlist since forever. Ralph Bakshi’s adaptation of R. Crumb's raunchy comic strip was the first X-rated animated movie and it sure is a weird-ass relic from a much different, much less sensitive time. I gotta tell you, these cats, rabbits, crows, pigs, etc. engage in a lot of behaviors that would be considered unseemly in most circles. Come for the cartoon animals doing drugs and having group sex, stay for the police brutality, race riots, violence against women, air force dropping bombs on New York and radical left-wing terrorism, I guess?

  11. White Dog(1982 Dir. Samuel Fuller)

    Driving thru the Hollywood hills late one night Kristy McNicol accidently hits a dog. Taking the dog in temporarily she brings him home. When the dog saves McNicol from a attempted rape she decides to keep the dog. After another attack on a fellow actress. McNicol's boyfriend(Parker Stevenson) suggests she put down the dog. she takes him to Burl Ives for help. While at Ives the dog attacks a black employee walking by. Ives informs her that the dog is a "white dog" a dog bred by racist to attack blacks. Ives also recommends killing the dog but Paul Winfield decides to try and cure the dog.
    Although I think the movie was fine but felt a bit to much like a movie of the week (Of course using mainly tv actors doesn't help that) It did make me wish I had watched it with others. Its a movie that begs for a discussion afterwards. There's a whole nature vs nurture argument. Can something unlearn hate if hate was beat into them? But there's also the argument of how many hateful actions do you let something commit before you put an end to it?
    One bit of props for this movie. Theres a character that shows up for about 1 minute of screen time that I will hate forever.

  12. INGAGI (1930, d. William Campbell)
    First-time watch on Kino/Something Weird BluRay, 6/10.
    This, for me, was the exploitation version of eating your vegetables. A blend of proto-mondo & proto-found-footage, INGAGI starts with a long text crawl promising something we wait a little more than an hour for. About 3/4 of this picture is a mondo-fied David Attenborough expedition. True to it's prototypical aspects, it was banned at some point, remaining out of commercial circulation for half a century. And, true to form it's nearly unbelievable that this hunk of celluloid was the cause of so much hubbub. Ironically, its content falls far afield of current standards, either again or more than ever, proving once and forever that, like, life is a highway.

    1. "Promise more than what you get" is what the exploitation films of that era were all about. Hucksterism at its finest.

  13. Cocaine Bear (2023)

    I wish Keri Russell made better movies.

  14. The Giant Spider Invasion (1975) dir. Bill Rebane

    Surprisingly the giant spiders are the least interesting part of the movie. Decent effects, weird tonal shifts. Interesting to see a very 50s premise with 70s filmmaking and sensibilities.

  15. The Meg (2018)

    When not in a fast and furious movie...I really enjoy Jason Statham.

  16. Cocaine Shark (2023)

    So much stock footage !

    What a dumb bad movie, theres barely any cocaine (but there is HT25) or sharks. Instead we get two mutant shark creatures born from a drug kingpins lab, created when he injected them with the HT25. A crabshark and a manshark, also apparently a batspider, which we never get to see.

    Its on the edge of being "so bad its bad", luckily the awful and hilarious acting puts it back on the "so bad its good" side. And the stop-motion for the crabshark is actually pretty cool, especially when it eats people.

    All in all, its pretty short, its free on Tubi, go watch it now !

  17. Play Dead (aka Satan’s Dog) (1982)

    If you’re tired of watching animals tear people to shreds, you might appreciate the more thoughtful kills the dog pulls off in this one - not me! Woof!

  18. Orca (1977, dir. Michael Anderson) was suggested by Erika on a recent podcast (perhaps jokingly) but it liked it a lot. Our main character kills an orca early on, which makes another orca VERY angry. It's part Jaws, but then morphs into a Moby Dick tale in the last act and goes to some surprising places. Richard Harris and Charlotte Rampling both bring a gravitas to their characters that elevates what would otherwise be just another Jaws rip-off (which it certainly is).

  19. FREE WILLY (1993)
    *Also suggested (?) on a recent podcast. Well, we were going to rewatch it anyway today. The problem with watching this movie now (on streaming...) is it no longer comes with Michael Jacksonʻs music video at the beginning!!! It was integral! To the story. And the vibe!

  20. Alligator (1980)

    I've wanted to see this ever since the Jackie Brown DVD came out and included reels of trailers for Pam Grier and Robert Forrester's movies. Totally lived up to the anticipation. Forrester is terrific and has a laid back but slightly stiff demeanor that kinda feels all his own. The pacing is terrific, telling the tale of a pet 'gator getting flushed into the sewer during the opening credits. It gets to Forrester's investigation pretty quick; examining the toes of a severed leg while he walks and talks on a pier, trudging through the L.A. river etc. Gator action hits hard and satisfyingly early on and throughout. Robin Riker is excellent as the reptile expert who falls for the detective and has to fend off the advances of an unhinged Henry Silva when he shows up halfway through. Amazing practical miniature work along with some unintentionally funny shots of the beast stalking around corners. Junesploitation gold!

  21. RANGO (2011)
    Still in a bit of a western mood, I threw on an old favorite. In fact, I love this movie so much I even have a tattoo of Rango! Gore Verbinski doesn't get enough credit as an imaginative director, but he flexes those muscles and more for this fun, subversive take on classic western tropes.

    FANTASTIC MR. FOX (2009)
    Another animated favorite, and one whose closing lines reflect some of my thoughts on the world and this community in general: "Yes, these crackles are made of synthetic goose and these giblets come from artificial squab and even these apples look fake - but at least they've got stars on them. I guess my point is, we'll eat tonight, and we'll eat together. And even in this not particularly flattering light, you are without a doubt the five and a half most wonderful wild animals I've ever met in my life."