Friday, June 23, 2023

Notes on Film: Back Home and Still Sleazy

 by Anthony King

And summer's just beginning!

Last week my family got to meet up with the Bromleys, Adam, and Rosalie for some great food and a personalized walking tour of Adam's neighborhood. I'm still trying to figure out a way to convince my family to move to Chicago. I'll update you if anything changes. What hasn't changed is the sleaziest month of the year, which means exploitation movies are aplenty (despite my wife's wishes). Here are some highlights from the past seven days.

For our first ever yakuza day I watched Kinji Fukasaku's Cops vs. Thugs (1975). As I've written in the past, the yakuza genre is quickly becoming one of my favorites. From Big Time Gambling Boss (1968) to Black Rain (1989) to Rainy Dog (1997), there are so many fascinating movies exploring the underworld of Japan. Fukasaku is probably the filmmaker most well known for the yakuza genre from his Battles Without Honor and Humanity series to less well known thrillers like Yakuza Graveyard (1976) and Sympathy for the Underdog (1971). Like many of these movies, Cops vs. Thugs is about a crooked cop getting in the middle of rival gangs. Fukasaku regular Bunta Sugawara is a cop called Kuno who is employed by a gang vying for the purchase of some waterfront property. Soon other mob bosses, cops, and politicians get involved and Kuno is stuck somewhere in the middle. It's violent, it's dramatic, it's stylish, and it's a peek into a world far beyond the midwestern suburbs.
We celebrated maestro Lucio Fulci's birthday as we always have this past week, and I did so by checking out Zombie 3 (1988). This is half a Fulci movie, half a Bruno Mattei movie, and a whole Claudio Fragasso movie. While being shot in the Philippines, Fulci either got sick half way through shooting, or there were opposing views about the script. Either way, he left and Mattei took over. None of that really matters, though, because we were still blessed with an over-the-top gorefest of a zombie movie. A terrorist is infected with a chemical who is then captured by the military. After he dies the doctors cremate him, releasing the toxins into the air, thereby infecting the entire population of an island. Soldiers on leave then take it upon themselves to rescue as many people as possible while staving off the infected hoard. It's absolutely glorious. Double it with Umberto Lenzi's Nightmare City (1980) for an infectious evening.
Nineties comedy day came screaming in, and I'll be honest: it was the day I was most looking forward to because I was going to rewatch a movie that was quite formative in my more youthful days. Michael Davis' Eight Days a Week (1997) is not a movie one wants to claim to be “formative” at any point in one's life. While not very good, I have gobs of nostalgia wrapped up in this thing, so I still had a good time with it despite the problematic-ness of it all. It's summer break and Peter is obsessed with his hot neighbor, Erica (Keri Russell). His wacko Italian grandpa convinces Peter to stand out on Erica's lawn until she falls for him. Peter's dad thinks Peter is crazy so he changes the locks on the house, sells all of Peter's belongings, and generally acts in a terrible way towards his son and wife. Peter's best friend is Matt (R.D. Robb, Schwartz from A Christmas Story) who is obsessed with getting his willy wet whether it's with a human girl or a mattress or a watermelon or an electronic stroker. The entire summer goes by with Peter standing below Erica's window, becoming a mix of The 'Burbs (1989) and Friday (1995), except not nearly as good as either. It's cute and stupid and I'm embarrassed to say I related to it so much as a 16-year-old, but happy to say I don't relate to it at all as a 41-year-old.
For Blaxploitation day I had to spend it with everyone's favorite badass, Pam Grier. I'd already seen Coffy (1973) and Friday Foster (1975) but had yet to see Foxy Brown (1974) until now. While it's not my favorite of the three, Foxy is still great. The plot, like many exploitation films, is ridiculous. Foxy's boyfriend has recently had his identity surgically changed in order to go into hiding from the mob. He's, of course, killed almost immediately and Foxy vows revenge. Peter Brown and Kathryn Loder, responsible for the murder, run a sex trade business where they treat their black sex workers like trash. There's nothing quite like Pam going in and killing the slimiest white people imaginable. Look for Juanita Brown, H.B. Haggerty, and, of course, the inimitable Sid Haig. Now I need to see Sheba, Baby (1975) to complete the foursome.

Other films watched:
Arena (1989): Part of the Enter the Video Store: Empire of Screams box I'll be reviewing next week. Didn't love it.
The Burning (1981): Still one of my favorite slashers despite the Weinstein of it all. The Savini makeup is some of his best, and Jason Alexander in his first movie was totally me at summer camp.

Rio Bravo (1959): For preparation for an upcoming appearance on Daniel Epler's Cobwebs Podcast. My favorite Wayne. My favorite Hawks. My favorite western.

Coming up next week:
Day 22: Revenge! – Female Prisoner Scorpion: #701's Grudge Song (1973)
Day 23: Cynthia Rothrock! – The Inspector Wears Skirts (1988)
Day 24: 80s Action! – Robot Jox (1989)
Day 25: Hixploitation! – Rolling Vengeance (1986)
Day 26: Italian Horror! – Kill, Baby, Kill! (1966)
Day 27: Sammo Hung! – Hand of Death (1976)
Day 28: 80s Comedy! – Mugsy's Girls (1984)

We're into the final stretch of Junesploitation. You may be feeling that burnout, but I believe in you. Finish strong! Stay sleazy, my friends.


  1. Thank you for reminding me that Daniel Epler had a podcast, and give the name of said podcast. People are bad with that 😁

  2. Definitely check out Fukasaku's Graveyard of Honor if you have not seen it already. It is a solid downbeat yakuza film.

    There is something about Foxy Brown that does not make it come together as well as other Pam Grier films of the time, particularly Coffy. (I agree with Mr. Bromley about it being a perfect film.) I appreciate how Foxy Brown ups the ante regarding the sleaze factor - that cabin scene!- but it does not satisfy me as much as other Grier films. The opening credits do kick ass, though.

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