Wednesday, June 12, 2024

Junesploitation 2024 Day 12: New World Pictures!


  1. (70's) NEW WORLD ORDER!


    With New World Pictures a whole new generation of veteran and young filmmakers only had to follow the standard set by Roger Corman in his previous two decades of work. It shows in these lean and mean exploitation machines that deliver a whole lotta entertainment bang for their combined budgets ($250K).

    Even by 70's science fiction standards, "The Cremators" is far afield. A prologue with an exposition-dumping, know-it-all narrator (a Corman staple) explains that a giant ball of fire came from outer space 300 years ago and burned a Native American to a crisp after chasing him around a lake. This is the first look at what will eventually be known as a 'dune roller,' which for a cheap special effect on a no-budget production by Doug Beswick (future "Star Wars Ep. IV," "Terminator" and "Aliens" SFX guru) looks terrific. Cut to present time circa 1972, and entomologist Iane Thorne (Marvin Howard, who looks like Jeff Goldblum's father with the acting talent drained from his personality) discovers tiny stones around the island he lives in isolated from the world. Those seemingly harmless stones eventually "call" on the dune roller to do "her" thing (!) on unsuspecting civilians, although the many POV shots of the dune roller (we know because "she's" on fire) stalking Dr. Thorne suggest "she's" a sentient being of some kind. And that's before a half-hearted attempt at a government conspiracy sub-plot appears out of nowhere in the final act.

    Directed by Harry Essex ("Creature From the Black Lagoon" and "It Came From Outer Space" writer), "The Cremators" is the type of 70's horror film you admire for the atmosphere its depressing time, place and characters contribute to. Mason Caulfield as an enlightened hippie stands out, but this cast (including future Greedo-shot-first-meme actor Maria de Aragon) is as dire as the day-for-night bad lighting. Worth seeing for its bonkers premise alone more than the execution. 3 TOSSED-AROUND OLD CATS (out of 5).

    Who knew that, at least in its broad thematic/plot strokes, 1991's "Thelma & Louise" was heavily inspired by "The Great Texas Dynamite Chase" 15 years prior? Claudia Jennings and Jocelyn Jones are, well, dynamite (great chemistry between the ladies established in very few scenes) as an escaped convict and fired bank teller (respectively) whose paths cross and decide to start robbing banks all across Texas using TNT sticks. Along the way they seduce a detonation expert (Christopher Pennock), take a cowboy hostage (Johnny Crawford in "T&L's" Brad Pitt role) who eventually joins them, and make fools of every Texas cop they cross paths with. Plenty of nudity (the sexy kind, both male and female), lots of dumb hick humor, not a single likable law officer in sight and even a few cars/bank vaults explode real pretty. Only toward the end do the tension and high stakes become dramatic, but the movie bends over backwards to entertain us 'till the very end. I love it when I go fishin' in June for new-to-me exploitation bait and I pick a winner. 4 'NEW WORLD BANK' TEXAS BRANCHES (out of 5).

  2. It was not something intentional, but my drive-in double feature -courtesy of Tubi- showcases the work of the two women Roger Corman gave an opportunity to. This is actually my second Barbara Peeters film this June.

    THE STUDENT NURSES (1970, dir. Stephanie Rothman)

    This is one the early hits of New World Pictures and, in a small way, a time capsule of the period. Four student nurses at the end of their studies experience the reality of the medical profession while exploring relationships. The story structure is very loose, allowing the film to randomly follow their (mis)adventures. This being an exploitation picture, the actresses take off their clothes at certain points. The characters they play also change, giving the film more of a dramatic arc than is common with this type of movie-making. Entertaining but ultimately forgettable.

    SUMMER SCHOOL TEACHERS (1975, dir. Barbara Peeters)

    B-movie silliness that has no pretenses to doing anything else except aim to entertain. Three attractive teachers from the American Mid-West go to California to teach summer school… at the same school. One tries to form a girl’s football team, another encourages her photography students to explore “obscene” subjects, and the third gets involved with a juvenile delinquent student. Although the hijinks everyone gets up to does not create a coherent story, it means there is always something happening. Among the cast, Candice Rialson stands out with her energetic performance as the physical education teacher. Her verbal jousting with the sexist football coach (Dick Miller) is one of the highlights of the film. There is also a scene with two old ladies spying on a neighbor’s date that is funny. I had fun with Summer School Teachers.

  3. So when i started my random selection for New World Pictures day i did NOT expect: 1) a cameo by the MAN himself, Roger Corman. 2) a completely random scene of Paul Bartel (dir), Martin Scorsese, and Sylvester Stallone eating a huge bucket of Kentucky Fried Chicken. 3) A young kid with a weird haircut whos voice i knew...googled....JOE DANTE!. 4) while no way formally connected..feels like its spiritually connected to Death Race 2000 as its same director, star, and a handful of cast. 5) one of my fav side players: Gerrit Graham!!


    Cannonball (1976)

    As one who grew up with a love of such classics as Cannonball Run & Smokey and the Bandit, i had no idea they really are standing on the shoulder of giants..or in this case one giant...the amazing Roger Corman. This flick is nowhere near as polished as those (no laughing!) and far more thrown together but its SO much fun. Its played as a more straight forward representation of the real cannonball/gumball-rally race where everyday folks compete in an illegal race coast to coast. As its '76 its filled with awesome muscle cars, a great cast with tons of familiar faces, and lots of silly hijinx and car stunts along the way. The bit pieces along the way are a hoot, theres some surprising deaths, and the ending contains a completely tacked on car pile up that Jake and Elwood would nod approvingly at.
    (Bonus Points #1: Gerrit plays a cheezy up and coming country singer and the movie actually uses HIS songs as part of the soundtrack/finale. Bonus Points #2: Incredible movie poster.)

  4. SPACE RAIDERS (1984):
    What if Star Wars but Han Solo had a buzz on?

  5. Wanted Dead or Alive (1987, dir. Gary Sherman)

    Nick Randall, an ex-CIA bounty hunter, is tasked by his old employers to track down Malak Al-Rahim, a terrorist he's had dealings with in his old job. But the CIA's real plan is to use Randall as bait to lure out Malak, who has a grudge against him.

    Rutger Hauer is great as the lead, and every time he was on screen I was enjoying myself. But there's a lot less Hauer in action and a lot more scheming and backstabbing in offices than you'd hope for, even though it does help that the scheming and backstabbing is done by fine character actors like Robert Guillaume, Jerry Hardin and Hugh Gillin. The movie takes its time to get there, but the ending is an all-timer.

    Deathsport (1978, dir. Allan Arkush & Nicholas Niciphor)

    In a post-apocalyptic world ("a thousand years into the future, after the Great Neutron Wars", as the narrator tells us), the few wealthy people live in cities while most people are left to wander the wasteland. In place of the death penalty, criminals are sentenced to Deathsport, a gladiatorial battle against motorcycle riders. When two "desert rangers" are captured and face the arena, they defy the city's evil leaders by escaping.

    The worldbuilding is pretty trite and the "future-speak" dialogue more annoying than anything, but when the action gets going in the last act, it's great fun. David Carradine and Claudia Jennings are perfectly fine as the hero couple, but Richard Lynch steals the show as the scenery-chomping villain.

    The one word I keep coming back to with Corman movies is "efficient". Deathsport is clearly very cheaply made, but Corman knew where to spend the little money he had: hire a couple of solid actors to have a compelling hero and (more importantly) a despicable villain, shoot at Vasquez Rocks for a striking landscape, pay for one good matte painting, use leftover sets and props from other sci-fi movies, obscure them with flashing lights and quick cuts, and hire a competent composer to write the soundtrack.

  6. The Big Doll House (1971)

    It wouldn't be June without Pam Grier. This is a perfect day to check out her first collaboration with Jack Hill.

    1. Concur! IMO, June also needs a WIP film, so you doubled up!

  7. Meet the Applegates (1990, dir. Michael Lehmann)

    Ed Begley Jr. and Stockard Channing star as a couple of giant bugs who disguise themselves as humans and pretend to be a normal suburban family in order to infiltrate the humans who have destroyed their habitat in the rainforest. Ultimately they get caught up in the absurdities of suburbia, hilarity ensues. This movie has a similar feel to movies of it's ilk, Coneheads, Edward Scissorhands, etc. but it has slightly more edge and earns its R-rating with some violence and hilarious profanity. Bonus points for some pretty cool full-size animatronic effects. Recommended.

    dir. Joe Dante & Allan Arkush

    Made as a bet between Jon Davison and Roger Corman to make the cheapest New World Picture picture.

    A $54,000 budget and 10 days of shooting gets you:

    Boobs, Bartel & Woronov, and a Wiley E Coyote-esque hole in the ground in the first 90 seconds. Funny Dick Miller! Pointless wet t-shirt line up! Non sequitur music videos! Roller derby! Tons of random stock footage. “Ravaging” of a woman as plot device twice (not awesome). Confusing ending.

    Paul Bartel steals every scene he’s in, but Woronov and Miller do the same any time he’s out of frame and earshot.

    “Is this the end of Rico?”

    1. The inside jokes about New World were the highlight for me when I watched this a while ago. Though Machete Maidens Unleashed is not a real film beyond the documentary (a fun watch), so many of those Filipino movies were being made a the time.

  9. Nice Girls Don't Explode (1987)

    I've known about this movie for a long time because it was filmed in the town where I grew up, but this is the first time I've actually seen it. (Thank you, FThisMovie and Junesploitation for the incentive!) And, I didn't know until now that three of my acting teachers from college have roles in the movie. I'm not sure how much it will appeal to anyone who doesn't have a personal connection to it unless you're a Wallace Shawn completist or something. The acting is way over the top, but all things considered, the film turns out to be kind of sweet.

    Roger Corman made a fortune off all these nurse movies, so I had better watch one. I expected a comedy, but this felt more to me like slice-of-life. It’s episodic, a series of vignettes about the romantic lives of the titular nurses. Yes, things often turn sexy and/or sleazy, but there’s also a lot of the characters just hanging out and flirting. I’m reminded of higher-profile stuff like Easy Rider or Reality Bites, in that it’s a movie that captures the era (era) in which it was made.

    STAR CRYSTAL (1980)
    A super-fun Alien ripoff, with a creature running loose on a space station. There’s some tongue-in-cheek humor to this one. Everyone knows they’re in a low-budget cheapie, so they might as well have fun with it. Most of the monster kills are tentacles wrapping around the characters’ feet. (Maybe the director had… issues.) The actual alien is maybe a little disappointing when we finally see it, but it’s wild ride getting there.

    Bonus Universal Monster-sploitation: THE WOLF MAN (1941)
    Would you believe it’s the third time this year I’ve watched this? The movie’s been on my mind for reasons I can’t fathom. But it’s an awesome flick. Lon Cheney Jr. goes on quite a journey, starting the movie with his dopey childlike grin, and ending it being all haunted and distraught.

    1. Definitely agree on The Student Nurses being a time capsule of a film. The counter-culture and radical politics of the era gets a lot of focus. The reproductive rights issues are still very relevant, though.

  11. Shogun Assassin (1980). I've been wanting to watch this and was pleased to see it was a New World Pictures film. It was everything I had hoped for, and then some. It's easy to see why this was popular on the grindhouse circuit. I would love to check out the Lone Wolf and Cub movies some day.

    1. As I first went through the LONE WOLF AND CUB series, I kept thinking, "okay, so this next one will be less awesome", & I was always wrong. They're well worth it!

    2. Oh, that's encouraging, thanks! I've never heard anyone speak badly of them.

  12. DEADLY HARVEST (1977)
    First-time watch. Westlake Entertainment DVD. 7/10.
    This Canadian pre-apocalyptic flick, distributed theatrically by New World, imagines all the worst environmental prognostications of the '70s are coming true & that the men in the darkened room who make the decisions are going to lie about how bad things are. Farmer Clint Walker's making do, his daughter (Kim Cattrall) is about to be married by pastor Barry Convex (Leslie Carlson) & his son wants to join the local posse. A rich father & son from the city are in desperate need of food, spreading the word that misinformation is afloat. Another city-dude has begun raiding farms for his own stockpile. This sucker plays at a strictly medium pace, but dips into some darknes. The violence has an almost "Tales From The Crypt" level of chaotic morality, the proggy score takes things to a different level & the finale is great. Mileage will vary depending on how willing you are to be patient.

  13. Rock 'n Roll High School (1979)

    Wish I had more time to write a full review because I love love LOVED this movie on this first-time watch. Excited to listen to the podcast!

  14. Hm.
    Well, Blogger says no.
    PRETTY SMART, 1987, Scorpion Blu, 7/10.

  15. God Told Me To (1976)

    Wonderfully insane. Might make an interesting double bill with what I watched last night (Black Belly) as another police murder mystery that, despite getting super weird, somehow still makes more sense (at least is easier to follow).

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  17. Rock 'n Roll High School (1979): yeah, it's as awesome as Patrick and Rosalie said. My kind of off-the-wall teenage comedy with mouse that explode when they listen to rock music and bullet ricochet noise for no other reasons that it's funny. Almost feels like a ZAZ movie at times (Airplane, Naked Gun). The Ramones suck at acting, but their show portion is great.

  18. Rock ‘N’ Roll High School (1979) Hard to imagine a New World release without the real Don Steele as the Greek Chorus. Truly subversive teen movie— they blow up the school during the film’s climax! School Board Member Grady Sutton had earlier costarred with W.C. Fields in The Bank Dick, Frank Sinatra in Anchors Aweigh, and Elvis Presley in Paradise, Hawaiian Style. What a career. The enormous mouse costume was designed and built by a young Rob Botin. Great soundtrack; besides the Ramones, it features Brian Eno, Nick Lowe, and Paul McCartney.

  19. The Gladiator(1986 Dir Abel Ferrara)
    After he is brother is killed by a serial killer in a souped Charger Ken Wahl fixes up his truck and becomes the Gladiator going out nightly making citizens arrests and destroying the cars of drunk drivers and other bad drivers. Being a Ferrara movie of course the film is about more than just "Road War" so we are posed with the question of is Wahls vigilante any better than the people he is stopping. The action scenes are all shot well and are all exciting and Wahl is great as always. No one plays conflicted bad ass quite like Wahl as anyone that saw Wiseguy can attest. While it was made for theatrical release the only copies available seem to be the TV edit. Which is still good but does feel as if its missing something. Maybe someday the uncut version will show up but till then this is for sure worth putting on

    Zoo Gang(1985 Dir Pen Densham, John Watson)
    After some kids start a nightclub and have to fight a local family of bullies to keep it. If kid me saw this in the 80s he probably would have loved it. Old man me thought it was fine.

  20. C.H.U.D. (1984)

    First time viewing! Had low expectations and at one point turned to my boyfriend and was like, "this is good."

  21. Fly Me (1973)

    Directed by frequent Corman collaborator Cirio H Santiago with assists on the opening, fight scenes, and dialogue from Curtis Hanson, Jonathan Demme and Joe Dante. When you add in the Dick Miller cameo, this is some extremely on-brand Corman.