Friday, June 30, 2023

Notes on Film: Junesploitation's Denouement

by Anthony King

It's been an honor exploiting with you.

As we wrap up another fabulous Junesploitation I want to thank everyone for participating this year. It's such a pleasure following along with what everyone's been watching. I've added a lot to my watchlist, and it's all because of our awesome FTM family. Here's what I've watched the past week, starting with a group of four.
Meiko Kaji ushered in my revenge day with the fourth installment in her Female Prisoner Scorpion series. #701's Grudge Song (1973) is the only one of the tetralogy not directed by Shinya Ito, but nevertheless delivers frustratingly brutal vengeance. For our first Cynthia Rothrock day I loved seeing so many people pop in Yes Madam! (1985) for the first time. I opted for another Hong Kong '80s cop film, The Inspector Wears Skirts (1988). While Cynthia isn't in it very much, this is still a fun HK, female-centric take on Police Academy (1984). I needed to spend Italian horror day with the maestro Mario Bava, and revisit his classic 1966 gothic spookshow Kill, Baby... Kill! (1966). I remember watching this about 10 years ago and being bored to tears with it. But the more time I spend watching Italian cinema in general, the more I'm starting to fall in love with it. KBK is high on vibes, slow in pace, but still a gorgeous spectacle in the oeuvre of Sig. Bava. We got to dedicate a whole day to the one and only Sammo Hung this year so I used the opportunity to watch Arrow's recent release of an early John Woo film called The Hand of Death (1976). Here we get to see Sammo play a bad guy, something that rarely happens. He also wears a set of garish veneers that deserves their own top billing. It's a great period revenge story of a small group of kung-fu masters (including Jackie Chan) that come together to protect a very young-looking John Woo, and take down a very sinister James Tien Chuen.
For our first ever hixploitation day I opted for the trucker classic Rolling Vengeance (1987). If not in the top spot, Rolling Vengeance is at least in my top three favorites for this year's Junesploitation. Rarely do movies live up to their posters. This one, for instance, is of a leather jacket-clad man making a fist with a denim-clad woman on his arm. Behind them is some sort of monster truck with glaring headlights, and a giant industrial drill fashioned to the bumper. Nary a movie could deliver what a poster such as this promises yet Rolling Vengeance delivers thrice what the poster advertises. Joey is the heir to his father's trucking business, he's got a girl, friends, and a loving family. The only problem is Ned Beatty is a greaser in his small southern town and lets his good ol' boy sons and their friends run rampant. Semi chases, torture, rape, murder, and the detritus of humanity lead Joey to build himself a giant killing machine and exact his revenge. It's everything you want and more in a Junesploitation movie.
Finally, for '80s comedy day I called an audible and watched Dorian Walker's Making the Grade (1984) starring Judd Nelson and Dana Olsen. The premise is silly and simple: Palmer Woodrow (Olsen) is a spoiled rich kid who wants to party and galavant around the world instead of going to the private school his parents have planned for him. Eddie Keaton (Nelson) is a hustler who lives in his car and is up to his ears in gambling debt owed to wiseguy Andrew Dice Clay. Palmer hires Eddie to take his place with the promise of $10k upon graduation. Antics, as they say, ensue. Making the Grade is one of the few successful riffs on Animal House (1978), populating its cast with character actors like Gordon Jump (Arthur in WKRP In Cincinnati), Walter Olkewicz (Renault in Twin Peaks), Ronald Lacey (Toht in Raiders of the Lost Ark), and Dan Schneider (Dennis in Head of the Class). But the most fascinating thing about this movie is Dana Olsen. Making the Grade is the only speaking role Olsen ever had. His only other role was as a cop in Joe Dante's The 'Burbs (1989), a movie Olsen wrote. Olsen penned (or re-penned) other films such as Greydon Clark's Wacko (1982), John Carpenter's Memoirs of an Invisible Man (1992), George of the Jungle (1997), and Inspector Gadget (1999). Olsen is very good in Making the Grade. He's hysterical, a natural comedian. Yet he never acted again. Olsen now works with Dan Schneider at Nick writing shows like Henry Danger and Danger Force.

Wrapping up Junesploitation, here's what's on the docket:

Day 29: Free Space! – Highway Racer (1977)
Day 30: Sequels! – Rambo: First Blood Part II (1985)
I've also slipped into horror mode recently and watched a handful of recent indies. Capsules (2023) from writer/director Luke Momo is a trippy microbudget take on Flatliners (1990). A group of four friends start taking pills taken off a dead body but soon realize they can't stop taking them lest a horrific, pukey death consume their bodies. Available on Tubi, and at a breezy 70 minutes, paranoia and dread lead the way for this interesting little horror flick. One of my favorites of the year so far, In Dreams (2020), directed by Matias Moltrasio, is a movie that got lost in the pandemic and is just now making its way to the public eye. After the murder of her grandfather, who left her with a large sum of money, Alma and her husband, Eddie, steal away to her childhood cabin in the woods. Plagued by nightmares of her recent loss, Alma is stuck in a state of depressive paranoia. While at the cabin, another couple shows up, claiming they've been renting the space for the past year, ultimately realizing they've been scammed. Alma and Eddie offer to take in the strangers for the night. Drinks are served, dancing commences, and Alma soon passes out. I'll stop here and just say revenge comes into play later on. You can watch In Dreams on Tubi or Freevee, and at 80 minutes this is one of the best movies you can watch for free right now.
The Offering (2022), currently streaming on Hulu, is a pregnancy horror centered around a funeral home in a Hasidic neighborhood. It's a little bit Rosemary's Baby (1968), a little bit The Autopsy of Jane Doe (2016), and a lot a bit scary. Jason Eisner's expanded V/H/S 2 (2013) short "Slumber Party Alien Abduction," Kids vs. Aliens (2022), was a riot. I'm so tired of the nostalgia boom of the '80s (more on that next week) but I thought Eisner skirted the tone gracefully while mixing in terrifying imagery of an alien abduction, and well-written characters who varied from lovable heroes to huge fucking assholes. I also appreciate a filmmaker who isn't afraid to kill a kid in a movie. And finally, another pregnancy horror, Michelle Garza Cervera's Huesera: The Bone Woman, a movie that actually gave me nightmares. Valeria becomes pregnant and almost immediately begins seeing things – a woman jumping to her death from the roof of a building, someone breaking into her apartment, etc. While elated at the prospect of becoming a father, Raul thinks Valeria is just paranoid. As the visions progress and her nerves begin to unwind, Valeria retreats to the comfort of her former lover, Octavia. Valeria, now fully convinced a demon is trying to hurt her and her unborn baby, on top of having an affair, asks her aunt for help, a woman who has been known to dabble in witchcraft. With the warning that Valeria will experience tremendous pain but the guarantee that the demon will be expunged, she goes to a house full of women that assure her and her baby's life will be spared. As slick as Jayro Bustamante's La Llorona (2019), and as haunting as something like Demian Rugna's Terrified (2017), Huesera is another haunting hit available to stream on Shudder.

Next week we're back to our regularly scheduled program of pissing and moaning because I HAVE SOMETHING TO SAY!


  1. Thank you, Anthony, for your column, and your dedication to all the sleaze, gore, violence, grimness - and maybe also sexiness. :D

    I want to capture this comment section in listing my personal Top 10 watches of this month:
    1. Christine (1983)
    2. The Big Chill (1983)
    3. Psycho II (1983)
    4. The Final Terror (1983)
    5. Sleepaway Camp (1983)
    6. Videodrome (1983)
    7. Lone Wolf McQuade (1983)
    8. Cujo (1983)
    9. All the Right Moves (1983)
    10. The Meaning of Life (1983)

  2. Thanks for the recommendation/reminder that I’ve wanted to watch Kids vs Aliens. I’d heard not great things about it but feel I need to give the guy who made Hobo With a Shotgun (Jason Eisener) a chance any time he makes a movie.

    My favorite first time watches for Junesploitation are:
    MIOTEL HELL (1980)
    POLICE STORY (1985)
    APRIL FOOLS DAY (1986)
    and HARD TARGET (1991)

    All of these were crazy, kitschy bangers so even if the rest of my June was just okay to terrible, it was worth it to discover these gems. And I eliminated some of my JCVD gaps. Why I never watched his movies in the theater I can’t say but I’m grateful to you and all the F This Movie crew for encouraging me to revisit genres/actors/directors I’ve missed out on in the past.

  3. Here are all my watches:

    My top movies were:
    Fist of Fear, Touch of Death
    Until Death
    Dragon Blood
    The Wild Beasts
    Drop Dead Fred
    Sex and Fury
    Universal Soldier: Day of Reckoning