Thursday, June 1, 2023

Junsploitation 2023 Day 1: Teenagers!



    David Hess' TO ALL A GOOD NIGHT (1980, Amazon Prime) for the first time.

    A textbook 80's slasher: half-a-dozen teenage girls ignore the death of one of their classmate two years prior and invite a group of horny boys to their empty-for-Christmas-break finishing school to hook-up behind their older caretaker's back. This was actually THE FIRST THEATRICALLY-RELEASED SLASHER OF THE DECADE (Jan. '80), which is early enough (it preceded OG "Friday the 13th" by a few months) for its narrative to both follow a then-still-fresh horror template while also deviating enough from a not-set-in-stone formula to make for an interesting first-time viewing. Acting is weak across the board (aside from Jennifer Runyon in her feature debut), production values minimal (DAY-FOR-NIGHTSPLOITATION! galore), the identity of the killer pretty obvious (IMHO) and the violence/deaths (which usually come in pairs) range from passable to 'meh.' No Savini-caliber standout gore gag, but the body count reaches double digits at a nice pace for an under-85 min. running time. If you've seen all the usual slasher/horror suspects already "To All A Good Night" provides a satisfying 'B' side deep cut curio. 3 AIRPLANE PROPELLERS BATHED IN BLOODY GUTS (out of 5).

  2. Rob Marshall's THE LITTLE MERMAID (2023, IMAX) and Ron Clements & John Musker's THE LITTLE MERMAID (1989, Disney+).

    Because 16-year old mermaid princesses are going to get their way over dad's wishes, come (Ursula) hell or (CGI) high water! :-P As someone that can tolerate ("Beauty and the Beast") and even like a few of Disney's unnecessary live action remakes/reboots of its classic animated properties (Guy Ritchie's entertaining "Aladdin," the very underrated "Cruella"), I couldn't pass a chance to see what Rob Marshall could do with a $250 million remake of the Disney animated movie that kick-started the studio's golden era of animation. And since I can barely remember the original "Little Mermaid" (seen it a couple of times, don't remember much besides the 'Under the Sea' musical number) I watched them back-to-back, starting with the remake on IMAX followed by the '89 version streaming in 4K at home. And while OG "LM" scores an early victory by telling the exact same story in 81 minutes versus the remake's 135, it isn't a clear-cut win for either version. Both have strong attributes/major weaknesses that makes viewing them (particularly the '23 version while it's still in theaters) almost mandatory. That said, the singing/performance of 'Under The Sea' in the remake has got to be the most impressive animated underwater CGI montage I've seen since 2016's "Moana." Just... wow! :-)

    The obvious first: Sebastian, Scuttle and Flounder are major downgrades in CGI form versus their personality-filled hand-drawn counterparts. They're not badly acted or animated at all and still play integral roles in the plot, but the live-action "Lion King" CG animal sidekicks run circles around these expressionless crab, seagull and (especially) fish polygons. I don't want to be cruel and say a cartoon redhead drawing acts better and has more personality than Halle Bailey, but the latter doesn't really bring much to the remake besides her natural beauty. Bailey's not a hindrance for the live action scenes (she's actually quite strong when defending humans to King Triton), but also not an asset. Though the story beats/dialogue are 80% identical, the small alterations to the '89 script in the remake (Ariel having an inner singing voice after she turns human and loses her voice, the human prince having a mother looking after him like King Triton looks after Ariel, musical/cultural details closer to Caribbean/Latin American than European motifs, etc.) all add-up to a second/third acts that pack a more entertaining, emotional punch. Lin-Manuel Miranda co-produced and composed a handful of new songs, and though none are standouts they don't stick out as terrible. I swear the animated "LM" now feels rushed compared to the new version, which isn't perfect (too much Melissa McCarthy mugging as CGI Ursula, unnecessary "Pirates of the Caribbean"-like cinematography and monster CG effects, an endless scene where Jonah Hauer-King's Prince Eric shows mute Ariel his "treasure" room, etc.) but now has an emotional core that detonates at the very end. I was balling when Javier Bardem, with minimal facial expressions, conveys the joy and pain of a father letting go of his daughter so she can have a life of her own... which surprised me because the ending is nearly identical in the original "LM," but in '23 feels like it packs a major pathos punch.

    I'd say see the new "Little Mermaid" while it's still in theaters, but you might as well wait until it inevitably appears with its 34-year old predecessor on Disney+ so you can enjoy them both. :-D 3.5 CLOSE-UPS OF ARIEL'S HUMAN FEET GUARANTEED TO PLEASE QUENTIN TARANTINO ("LM" '23) and STEREOTYPICALLY CARTOONY, CRAB-CHASING FRENCH CHEFS ("LM" '89... out of 5).

  3. CLASS OF 1984 (1982)

    As a teacher myself, I can admit I've had many "teaching nightmares," like forgetting to submit report card grades or standing in front of a class with no lesson, (I just had one last week, in fact, where I was a teaching a six-hour long summer school class (?) without a lesson in sight. My plan? Wait it out until they all leave. I digress...)

    Class of 1984, however, is probably the most hardcore version of that nightmare. Mr. Norris, a new music teacher, fancies himself a Mr. Holland, but instead spends most of his time riling up the gangs that inhabit his high school. They fight back in some pretty brutal ways, from criminally embarrassing to criminally criminal. Director Mark Lester doesn't hold back in a movie bookended by a simple lyric from Alice Cooper: When does a dream become a nightmare?

  4. Malibu High, dir Irvin Berwick, 1979

    I knew going in that Malibu High would take a wild turn. Just wasn't expecting this wild. It takes this morality play until our hero is Scarface. Great start to Junesploitation

  5. The best month of the year starts here!

    Tragedy Girls (2017, dir. Tyler MacIntyre)

    There's a serial killer rampaging through a small town, so a pair of high school cheerleaders try to gain attention by reporting on the murders on Twitter. But when that doesn't bring the desired outcome, they decide to capture the killer and continue his work themselves, bumping off anyone they don't happen to like and getting famous by having the inside info.

    It's a fun premise, the movie moves at a clip, the leads Brianna Hildebrand and Alexandra Shipp (aka X-Men's Negasonic Teenage Warhead and Storm) know exactly what movie they're in, Kevin Durand plays an unhinged maniac convincingly, and a couple of the murder scenes are actually pretty gruesome, if brief. Not at all a bad opener for the month.

    Jack Quaid sits down at a Windows computer, types in a word, and that makes a folder appear on the screen. That's not how computers work. Why can't filmmakers get this right?

  6. Yay Junesploitation!

    Walkabout (1971, dir. Nicolas Roeg). I realised this wasn't exactly an exploitation movie, so I watched it late last night just before Junesploitation was about to begin. What a beautiful movie. I've never seen Australia captured so well on film. Yet at the same time it's very sad and pessimistic. Our characters are not better off in the end. Such is real life sometimes.

    Julie Darling (1983, dir. Paul Nicholas). Watched this this morning, and was delighted to realise Sybil Danning was in it! A young girl (played incredibly by Isabelle Mijias) is really fond of her father. Like FOND fond. When the mother dies, she's going to have her father all to herself. But a new step-mother (Danning) messes up that plan. The uncomfortably incestuous vibes, and the great performance by Mijias, who is wonderfully charming and horribly wicked simultaneously, give this a really unique feeling.

    1. Julie Darling was one of my favorite watches last year. I loved how the film is not afraid to go to uncomfortable places, and the ending was extremely well-done.

    2. Indeed, it was quite unique and well done. I went in expecting some "killer kid" exploitation trash, but came away pleasantly surprised at how good it was.

  7. Junesploitation: Riot in Juvenile Prison (1959)

    Dr. Paul Furman (Jerome Thor, whose trenchcoat from Foreign Intrigue is in the Smithsonian; he’s in a lot of later Bronson movies like 10 to Midnight, Kinjite: Forbidden Subjects, Murphy’s Law and Messenger of Death) takes over a reform school and makes some big changes, including easing the discipline, trusting the inmates more and, perhaps most importantly, making it co-ed.

    Eddie Bassett (Scott Marlowe, who was in The Cool and the Crazy and had a long career of TV roles) is enjoying all this freedom and the interest of the girls that have arrived, like the shy Kitty Anderson (Virginia Aldridge) and the more in your face Babe (Dorothy Provine, That Darn Cat).

    Everything goes bad when Kitty and Babe fight over him, which turns into a big rumble and even Dr. Furman gets involved when she’s punched by Eddie.

    The governor fires Furman and brings back Col. Ernest Walton (Lance Hoty), who was a strict believer in the power of discipline. One of his guards, Quillan (Richard Reeves) beats on Eddie, who decides to start a riot — a Riot In Juvenile Prison — that can only be stopped by Furman.

    I mean, in the real world, they’d just tear gas these kids and shoot them, but go with director Edward L. Cahn (The Four Skulls of Jonathan Drake, Invasion of the Saucer Men, Creature With the Atom Brain) and Orville H. Hampton (whose career started in 1950 with movies like Rocketship X-M and ended in 1983 with The Dukes cartoon series; he also wrote Friday Foster) and watch a world where juvenile delinquents and authority can walk hand in hand into a sunshiny brand new day.

    I first watched this thanks to the always amazing and wonderful White Slaves of Chinatown 3D YouTube page.

  8. Frat House (1998, dir. Todd Phillips)

    A documentary about the process of pledging at several frat houses. This is the stuff of nightmares. This is basically non-stop footage of people being hazed (tortured) during the pledge process. Props to Todd Phillips, in order to be allowed to film most of the footage he had to go through the process himself, so he got vomited on, spit on, locked in cages, burned, etc. Having never been part of fraternity life, I knew it was bad, but this was worse than I could have imagined. Strong stuff.

  9. It’s that most wonderful time of the year again!

    The Legend of Billie Jean (1985)

    A pair of trailer park siblings (Helen Slater & Christian Slater, no relation) are harassed by a local bully asshole and his even more despicable father. Things quickly escalate from there, and the headstrong kids suddenly find themselves on the run from the police, generating a media frenzy and a cult following among their disaffected peers all over Texas, for whom the older sister, Billie Jean, becomes a sort of a folk hero, Joan of Arc-style.
    The movie plays like a kid-friendly version of Natural Born Killers infused with a Pump Up the Volume spirit (predating and quite possibly informing both). It is equal parts ridiculous and awesome - a perfect recipe for a Junesploitation opener. Off to a great start!

  10. New-to-me: PRETTY SMART (1987)
    At a fancy boarding school, the popular girls and the outsider girls set aside their differences to enact revenge on a pervy headmaster. We all know how gross REVENGE OF THE NERDS is. What this movie suggests is, what if the private school girls were just as gross as the nerds? And yet... I kind of liked this. The cast -- including young Patricia Arquette -- is up for anything, and a lot of the jokes landed. Plus, the soundtrack has some solid 80s pop for the VALLEY GIRL fans.

    Old fave: FERRIS BUELLER'S DAY OFF (1987)
    This was a mainstay for me and my friends during high school, so I have mixed feelings about Twitter's constant refrain of "Ferris is an a-hole." I found it hard to re-watch the movie this morning knowing there's a dark social media cloud hanging over it. Yes, Ferris is an entitled rich jerk who gets everything he wants. But there's a deeper level, where he's uncertain about life after high school. Is that not his real motivation for taking the day off, and even for encouraging Cameron to come out of his shell? Or am I reading too much into it, and it's merely a movie that hasn't aged well? The debate goes on.

    1. Added Pretty Smart to my watch list. The subject matter and the time period are exactly in my wheelhouse.

  11. THE DELINQUENTS (1957) dir. Robert Altman
    This stars Tom Laughlin so it was basically the Billy Jack origin story.
    Some very heavy handed moralizing from the narrator at the beginning and the end kinda ruined a pretty upending of the Leave it to Beaver 50s.
    “This film is a cry to a busy world, a protest, a reminder to those who must set the example.”

  12. To begin the festivities, I went with a drive-in movie that I randomly found of Prime.

    SUMMER SCHOOL, a.k.a MAG WHEELS (1978) – Not to be confused with the Carl Reiner comedy from the 1980s, this a teensploitation hodgepodge about some “teens” (many of the actors looking closer to 30 than 20) cutting class, partying, engaging in rivalries, dealing drugs, and driving their vans around southern California. Few of the characters have any kind of distinct personality, which is not helped by some terrible acting, and the plotting is random. Scenes go on too long and frequently do not move the film along at all. If you like schlocky drive-in movies, you might find Summer School at least watchable. I was entertained enough to not feel that it was a complete waste of time.

  13. Night of the Demons (1988) dir. Kevin Tenney

    Fun 80's horror silliness with 10 "teens" who release a demon in an abandoned crematorium on Halloween night. The makeup is pretty decent and some fun set pieces that keep you entertained throughout.

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  15. Class of Nuke ‘Em High - 1991, dir. Richard Haines & Lloyd Kaufman

    Nothing says Junesploitation like “Teenagers” and Troma. This was a regular staple of my high school years, having all the same manic absurdity of 'Pee-Wee’s Playhouse' with the gag-inducing putrefaction of John Waters’ 'Desperate Living'. Despite all the “holy shit you can’t do that nowadays” slurs and behavior, arguably the most unfortunate transgression of the movie is perpetuating the Reagan-era propaganda of “hey kids, don’t smoke, fuck, or party because you’ll turn into a mutant and give birth to a monster fetus”. This angle feels wildly preachy for a movie that otherwise celebrates debauchery, weirdness, and living outside boring, civil society.

    On the positive side, the “every day is a constant free-for-all party” atmosphere is what makes any Troma movie fun and this one looks like it was a blast to be involved in. As always, I love any movie about an evil MegaCorp that completely implodes by the end. Obviously it’s worrisome that real life now feels closer to this movie than ever before in this regard but hopefully Tesla and Raytheon will bankroll a NJ high school full of trash punks and get what’s coming to them.

  16. Friday the 13th (1980)

    Looking forward to watching as many as I can this year. Started with a big one of my blind spots. I've actually never seen any of the films and while I didn't particularly love this one, I'm excited that I can finally move on to the others in the franchise.

    It must have been filmed on location at night with nothing but flashlights because it might literally be the darkest film I've ever seen in some places, and not in a good way.

    1. The movie was filmed around Blairstown, New Jersey. I believe the camp was a Boy Scout camp and can be visited today.

  17. House of 1000 Corpses (2003) dir. Rob Zombie

    All the descriptions said it was about a group of teenagers! Imagine my surprise when it's actually Rainn Wilson and Chris Hardwick...even though I love obviously-non-teenagers playing teens, this didn't feel like what they were going for. There's some cheerleaders more in the mold of horror movie teens, but they are very minor. Not sure why the descriptions call them teens, even their cross-country research for a book doesn't seem like teenager activity. Oh well, anyway...

    This was my first Rob Zombie movie. I was hesitant because I've heard some very negative reactions, especially to his Halloween movies, so I wasn't sure if I would enjoy this. For the most part I did. It was way goofier at times than I was expected and fairly enjoyable throughout. It really helps that it's playing in horror genres and tropes that I really love. Some of the filmmaking feels very 2003, for better or worse. I think I will eventually get around to some more of these movies!

  18. The Quick and the Dead (1995): Dicaprio was 21 when it came out, but was 19 when it started shooting, so i count it 😁

    I got the 4K disc after listening to the Blank Check podcast, and reading The Great JB's column just to confirm that i should (i'll buy anything that thell me to buy). Listen, the movie is awesome. Maybe thin on plot, but not everything needs to be Citizen Kane or Vertigo. Sometimes it can just be fun, which is kind of the point of exploitation movie, right? Anyway, Leo was not Leo yet, Hackman is awesome, Stone is as sexy as ever even with all the dirt on her face and the cowboy gear covering her. Even Gary Sinise has a cameo. I could list actors appearing in it all day, they're all awesome and good. I just needed a reason to talk about it

  19. A random number generator help choose my first teenagers movie for #Junesploitation 2023, it was DEVIL IN THE FLESH 1998 (Steve Cohen): Rose McGowan is 17 going on 25 in this high school crush/obsession thriller that just marches up and screams in your face "90s!"
    Next pick for Teenagers: HIGH SCHOOL BIG SHOT 1959 (Joel Rapp): A high school heister endures class bullies, loose lips and double crosses in hopes of nabbing a no-good coed and a cool million bucks!
    Both rated 3 stars on Letterboxd

  20. CLASS OF 1999 (1990) dir. Mark L. Lester
    Stacey Keach in a sweet platinum mullet!
    Ed from Northern Exposure!
    Homer from Near Dark getting the Mikey Madison double-fate treatment 30 years before Mikey Madison.
    Cyborg Pam Grier!
    “You’re history Mr. Hardin.”
    “Guess I blew that course.”
    “Have a nice stretch coach?”
    And best of all, now I can fully enjoy today’s Reserved Seating!

  21. THE CHOPPERS, 1961, d. Leigh Jackson
    First-time watch on VHS from the "Biker and Bad Girl Gems" series.
    “Wow! That’s what I call genuine laughin’ plastic.”
    Arch Hall Sr. introduces Arch Hall Jr.
    “Partner, she can have my ranch & ALL my cattle.”

  22. Rewatched Clueless (1995) for Teenagers day - it's still fantastic, but this time I did notice that Paul Rudd makes a sandwich by putting one (1) piece of lunch meat on untoasted bread and then slathers the mayo on top of the meat instead of onto the bread. It was so disturbing that I haven't been able to think about anything else since.

  23. The Duff (2015)

    Watched it on a plane to Alaska. Good plane movie. Paints right by the numbers, no real tricks up its sleeve, but competent and with enough funny bits to entertain me for 100ish minutes.

  24. Pretty Maids All in a Row (1971)

    A leering look into adolescence and the sexual revolution courtesy of the bland directorial hand of Roger Vadim. Rock Hudson plays a guidance counselor who is boffing the cheerleading squad at Riverfront High, who coincidentally happen to be getting murdered. Kojak, Lt. Scott, and the Squire of Gothos investigate in this muddled mΓ©lange of murder mystery, black comedy, and social commentary penned by Gene Roddenberry. Angie Dickinson, Keenan Wynn, and Roddy McDowell also appear, as well as a personal fave, Joy Bang (Messiah of Evil). Theme song by The Osmonds! Statutory rape was never before or ever again so star-studded!

  25. Tonight’s Junesploitation Double Feature
    Day 01 Teenagers!

    Switchblade Sisters | 1975 | Jack Hill
    Blood Feast | 1963 | Herschell Gordon Lewis

    Cautiously meeting a group of happy go lucky sketchy teens from my favorite decade (screw the 80s - 1970s cinema is where it will always be at!) for the first time and then saying an Egyptian Hey Howdy to some “teens”? (Connie Mason was 34 and playing a college student in this flick! πŸ˜‚) I first met thru Joe Bob Briggs on the original The Last Drive On Marathon!

  26. Teenagers from Outer Space (1959)
    If you’re looking for the low-budget, drive-in movie where multiple pets and people get turned into skeletons, this is it. Reliably cheesy in all the right ways, the film’s real backstory takes a turn when, upon its initial relative non success, writer/director/producer Tom Graeff tries to legally change his name to Jesus Christ II, then commits suicide. Kind of a bummer.

    1. A fave! Also one of the best MST3K episodes.

  27. Private Resort (1985). A couple teenagers visit a resort and try to bang some older ladies. It was slightly funny for a bit but the 82 minute movie felt long and the running jokes became repetitive. A completely scarfless Deep is the star here. He's so young and nary a scarf in sight. I give it meh stars out of 5.

    1. Come on, Hector Elizondo (the "smooth" jewel thief with the bad wig) and Rob Morrow were kind-of funny! :-P

    2. I was pleasantly surprised at how funny it was for a while, but it landed with a thud. The actors were all good, but the script just didn't have much meat to it, and it was just repeating the same gags over and over and over. I gave it 5/10 on ImDB.

  28. Teenagers Battle the Thing (1958 Dir. Dave Flocker)
    Teens on an archeology dig find a a tablet with markings covering a hole. They of course instantly open it. Find a Mummy. Bring it home. Monster hijinks ensue. It's an hour long student film with a monster looks like a bigfoot costume with a half finished paper mache demon head. Student actors with no budget doing the best they can. Its as good as it can be.

    Or is it? Apparently, the director released an expanded version of the film for television in 1972. Adding new scenes and colorizing old ones. He is also credited as Don Fields on the film instead of Dave Flecker.

  29. Blue Summer (1973)

    I selected this at random as it was the first appropriate thing to come up when I started scrolling through Prime. That will probably be the only time appropriate is ever mentioned when discussing Blue Summer, which according to Wikipedia was the first Vansploitation movie. Pretty much two teens on summer break driving around in a van and participating in very long sex scenes with a string of women they meet. In other words, it's perfect for Junesploitation.

    Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse (2023)

    Miles and Gwen are teens, which means it qualifies. The first movie might be my favorite Marvel film, and this one is right up there with it.

    1. Blue Summer sounds great! That would be a good Junesploitation category, "Road Trips!". Can't wait to see the new Spider-Verse. Glad to hear you liked it.

  30. The Last Starfighter(1984 Dir. Nick Castle)
    This movie hit every button for me growing up. I still love it. It was the adolescent dream put to film. A kid is so good at video games that he gets warped across the universe to live his favorite one for real. He of course not only gets out of the trailer park and gets the girl of his dreams. But he also gets to become the hero that everyone in the trailer park sees him as. He accepts his role of helping. A role he decried at the beginning of the movie. One he embraces whole heartedly by the end. He doesn't leave to escape the park. He leaves to help rebuild the Star league. The character actually grows up during the movie. Sure, we've seen it before but Starfighter does it with enough earnestness that it just feels less like some star wars rip off and more like a warm blanket of a movie.

    There's really only have 2 issues with the movie. The first one really doesn't even bother me. Maybe I've seen the film enough times to just accept it but the CGI is obviously dated and first time viewers are most likely going to get a few more giggles than thrills at quite a few shots. The insanely smooth play-doh caves are particularly bad. On the Other hand the make up effects and the practical effects all still hold up really well even in 4k. Griggs makeup in particular is insanely impressive. And there's some really fun gags involving a clone. My other issue is simple. I'd love to have seen what happened next.

    1. This played one year during FthismovieFest, but I wasn't able to watch during that time slot. So I've still never seen it. I should try to slot it in sometime this month.

    2. Some suggested days
      4th Cars: Robert Preston drives the second best Delorean in cinema history.
      7th Slashers: The director was murdering as recently as last year.
      15th Rip-offs its just a bit Star Wars. With video game reflexes instead of the force.
      21st Aliens: There's a bunch.
      24th 80s Action: came out in the 80s, also features action.
      25th Hixploitation: Our heroes are from the trailer park out in the wilderness. California hicks if you will.
      Of course there's always free spaces.

  31. Trip with the Teacher (1975)

    Happy Junesploitation!

    Trying to dust off some unwatched Vinegar Syndrome discs - this isn’t the best fit for the theme, but is very much in the spirit of the month. It has some nasty scenes and subject matter for sure but it’s oddly light-hearted. Not great but worth a watch.

  32. Sidekicks (1992)
    First time watch. I had a good time with this even though it made me sad about Jonathan Brandis. I like that there was a 1:1 ratio in 80s and 90s movies of awkward teenager to wise sensei.

    Spider-Man: Into the Spiderverse (2018)
    Started to revisit this one for this first time in theaters with the new movie out this weekend. It's a case where I recognize "this is good" ( do you make this?! seems so complex) but I don't love it because it's so busy. This will make me sound like an idiot probably but I don't understand why blurry animation is better than not blurry animation.

  33. Don't Tell Mom The Babysitter's Dead (1991)

    This one was a disappointment when I saw it on VHS as a kid, so I'm glad that a few folks seem to quote it almost daily and convinced me to re-watch. I really liked it. Applegate has no problem carrying her first movie and Keith Coogan is very funny. Danielle Harris is a fun highlight in a stacked supporting cast.

  34. TURBO KID. 2015. Apple's a teenager. And it is a world class banger.