Friday, June 28, 2024

Notes on Film: The Final Countdown

by Anthony King
A great month of sleaze.

As we wrap up our last full week of this year’s Junesploitation, I realize that this has been my most successful. This is only my fourth year participating for a full month, but this is also the first year I’ve watched everything on the list within the month of June. The past two years have spilled over into July because of vacations. The first year I didn’t even watch everything on my list (still haven’t). This year, though, I knocked it out of the park. All discoveries (first-time watches), all but one film decent to great. Let’s get into it.
I kicked off our final week with AIP day and Eddie Romero’s Black Mama, White Mama (1973). If Pam Grier doesn’t show up in your Junesploitation, did you really participate? This is the exploitation version of Stanley Kramer’s The Defiant Ones (1958) starring Grier and Margaret Markov as escaped convicts on the run. It’s very standard exploitation fare that doesn’t veer into the sleaze enough. That isn’t to say it’s not sleazy. I’m just gross, I suppose. It ends in a little twist I didn’t see coming where the revolutionary portion of the story comes full circle. Grier and Markov are great together, Sid Haig is fab as always, and it’s a great summer movie as everyone is glistening with perspiration.
For 2000s Action day I crossed another longtime watchlist title off my list. Talashi Miike’s Ichi the Killer (2001) is definitely gory enough to be considered a horror film but it’s also a Yakuza picture, which qualifies it as action to me. No other movie I’ve ever seen made me squirm as much as Ichi. This was downright disgusting. I loved every minute of it. I can watch someone being torn limb from limb, disemboweled, beheaded, even eyeball trauma. But something about being hung from hooks while your skin is stretched beyond repair or knitting needle repair really fucked me up. There were times where I had to actually turn away. All that said, it’s also a surprisingly emotional story. A Yakuza enforcer searches for his missing boss while coming across a sadomasochistic killer who resembles a supervillain. Like Lenzi, I feel like Miike can do it all and I can’t wait to dig deeper into his insanely prolific career.

I did end up calling a few audibles this week, the first one being The Guyver (1991) for Free Space day. Read my review here.
The second audible I called was due to my wife. Let me say this up front: I don’t blame her. Originally I was going to watch Stelvio Massi’s Highway Racer (1977) for Cars day. My wife and I had a rare night where we were both sitting on the couch at the same time, so I invited to watch a movie with me. Now, Bobbie doesn’t do exploitation and she prefers to not watch a movie with subtitles. Accommodating her I threw out some suggestions. We landed on F. Gary Gray’s The Italian Job (2003). I hadn’t seen this movie since theaters and I remember really liking it. Bobbie brought the DVD into our relationship and this year I’m trying to watch all the movies we own that I haven’t watched yet. Some things are better left as memories. This movie stinks. The more I watch him the more I realize how much I despise Edward Norton. And now Mark Wahlberg is my second most-watched actor of 2024 so far. This will not stand. The car chases are cool, the plot is fun, the settings are beautiful. But everybody in this movie is terrible.
For Vigilante day I turned to our boy Scott Adkins in Isaac Florentine’s Close Range (2015). It may be standard DTV, but I could watch Adkins kick ass all day. And the way Florentine directs him is a marvel to watch. The movie opens hard and fast with Adkins busting into a building, killing a bunch of Mexican cartel dudes, and rescuing his niece. Typically this would be the zenith of a movie and what comes next is not what I was expecting. What we get is an updated version of Rio Bravo (1959), and I was here for it. The cartel is after Adkins because he inadvertently stole a zip drive containing bank account information while on his rescue mission. The cartel tracks him back to his sister’s house and a standoff ensues. DTV acting and all, this movie kicks ass. You easily slot it in for Westerns day.
For our final free space I finally got to a Blu-ray I received a while ago. Michael Tuchner’s Fear Is the Key (1972) is as if Kowalski from Vanishing Point talked a lot more and wasn’t afraid of assaulting people. Barry Newman is Talbot, a deep sea salvager who is on a mission of revenge. The movie opens with him in a shack in the middle of nowhere talking to someone on a CB radio when all of a sudden the person on the other end apparently dies. This sets Talbot off and he harasses a diner owner, leads local cops on a thrilling car chase, “rescues” a blonde woman, beds her, then gets wrapped up in a scheme with gangsters to steal gold from a sunken ship. It’s a real mess, it’s confusing at times, and in the end I asked myself, “What the hell just happened?” But Newman is charming and cool and the set pieces are super fun.
Finally, for Barbara Steele day, I turned to Denny Harris’ Silent Scream (1979). The plot sounded fairly standard, which left me with less than high hopes. But it was a Steele I hadn’t seen. A co-ed moves into a boarding house with suspect goings-on and a suspect old lady caretaker (Yvonne De Carlo) with a Bad Ronald-esque son. It had the hallmarks of being subpar, yet this little thriller blew me away! De Carlo, Steele, Cameron Mitchell as a cop! Exploitation icons the lot of them. It’s twisty and turny and so fun. This’ll more than likely end up on my discoveries of the month list. Plus, I fell in love with Juli Andelman in this. Don’t tell my wife.

It’s been fun revisiting this format for the month of June. Beginning next month I’ll revisiting another format for a column. We have just a few more days left of Junesploitation, so here’s what I have on the docket.

Go For Broke (1968) — Westerns!
Cocaine Wars (1985) — New Horizons!
Schizo (1976) — Slashers!

1 comment:

  1. I've enjoyed your June columns and am looking forward to whatever format you come up with for July. I've filled my Junesploitation calendar with first watch films, so I'm think July, for me, will be flicks I've seen only once and need to revisit. Second Watch Summer, perhaps?