Tuesday, July 2, 2024

Johnny Deadline: My Junesploitation Journey

 by JB

I now look back on the first Junesploitation WHERE I WENT THE DISTANCE. This month included a total of NINE FIRST-TIME WATCHES, which is pretty amazing. I was under the impression that I had seen every movie ever made.

DAY 1 - Roger Corman Tribute!
FIRST-TIME WATCH Naked Paradise (1957) Surprisingly entertaining early Corman film (in color!) about a dashing, scrupulous boat captain Duke Bradley (Richard Denning) and his rogue’s gallery of passengers (Beverly Garland, Leslie Bradley, Dick Miller, Jonathan Haze). The bad guy is a famous toy manufacturer who tries to rob a sugar cane plantation of its payroll. (I’m not making this up.) Horrible nautical violence ensues. Watching this 68- minute gem was so much fun, like a South Seas travelogue with a film noir plot. Garland went on to own and manage my favorite boutique Hollywood hotel.

JAN B: Thunder Over Hawaii (1957) Surprisingly entertaining early Corman film (in color!) about dashing, scrupulous boat captain Duke Bradley (Richard Denning) and his rogue’s gallery of passengers (Beverly Garland, Leslie Bradley, Dick Miller, Jonathan Haze). The bad guy is a lady-slapping blowhard who puts a firecracker inside a giraffe. (I’m not making this up.) Horrible nautical violence ensues. Watching this 68-minute gem was so much fun, like a South Seas travelogue with a film noir plot. Garland went on to own and manage my favorite boutique Hollywood hotel.

DAY 2- Zombies!
FIRST-TIME WATCH Zombie (1979)
Surprisingly fun Fulci film: loved the zombie vs. shark match-up, odd editing, and famous “splinter” scene. Apparently, no one in this film has ever seen a zombie movie… Lucio Fulci, I owe you a blood-spattered apology.

JAN B: Zombie (1979) The story of James, an autopsy assistant who can't do anything right. JK it's Fulci, baby! Zombie bites fishy, eye goes squishy. More than one arm gets separated from its zom-body! Will we ever understand the zombies? STOP TRYING, DOC. They want to eat you. Just get off that island.

JB: “Zombie bites fishy; eye goes all squishy” would be a great 7-word review for Scary Movie Month.

DAY 3 - Revenge!
Point Blank (1967) I remember reading that this was originally a made for TV movie, but when the networks saw the finished film, they balked. Surprisingly fascinating, violent, nihilistic film points us to the Seventies with its pessimism and downbeat ending. Lee Marvin is too cool for school, outsmarting the criminal syndicate that took his money and left him for dead. Great supporting roles for John Vernon, Angie Dickinson, Keenan Wynn, and Carol O’Connor. Hey, is that SID HAIG?

DAY 4 - Free Space!
Grease (1978) Surprising American musical that explores the dichotomy between irony and genuineness. Danny (John Travolta) has romantic troubles because he insists on being someone he is not. Rizzo (Stockard Channing) also puts up a false front. These two storylines are placed in opposition to that of Sandy (Olivia Newton-John) who has the opposite problem: hiding her voracious sexual appetite and bad girl ideation behind a wholesome, girl-next-door lie. Everything is solved when everyone drops their bullshit and lives their own reality. Cars are made to fly. The theater audience I saw it with tonight sang along and applauded every musical number, even “Hopelessly Devoted to You.”

DAY 5 - ‘90s Action!
FIRST-TIME WATCH Money Train (1995) Surprisingly batshit crazy movie; it has no interest in its own plot, preferring instead endless scenes of lead actors Snipes and Harrelson “just fucking around.” Robert Blake appears, playing the same character he played in Lost Highway. Jennifer Lopez is wasted in her four scenes. Chris Cooper likes to set female subway employees on fire, but he’s not THE VILLAIN OF THE PIECE. The phrase “money train” is repeated over a hundred times; we are also constantly reminded that Snipes and Harrelson are BROTHERS. The actual heist takes all of twenty-two minutes and seems like an afterthought. The kind of movie for which the term “batshit crazy” was invented.

JAN B: Money Train (1995): Wesley Snipes and Woody Harrelson are brothers! Most of the "action" in this movie is various people running and yelling "GET OUTTA THE WAY!" at pedestrians. Also, there is a mini money train, and a real money train. I like J-Lo in this. Did I mention that Snipes and Harrelson play brothers? Because the movie mentions this ONE THOUSAND TIMES. Woody Harrelson's mullet survives a lot of beat-downs and, in the end, the money is trained.
DAY 6 - Paul Naschy!
FIRST-TIME WATCH The Werewolf Versus the Vampire Woman (1971) It’s clear that Paul Naschy saw many classic Universal monster films and said, “I can do that.” Surprisingly, he couldn’t. Elvira, the main character, falls in love with the titular werewolf after less than 48 hours— such was the sheer charisma and personal magnetism of THE MAN WHO WROTE THE FILM AND PLAYS THE PART OF THE WEREWOLF! Plus, we need to deduct points because all of the day-for-night scenes, and they are plentiful, ARE ALMOST IMPOSSIBLE TO COMPREHEND ON TUBI BECAUSE THEIR $&@?!%! PRINT IS SO DARK! (Most frequent comment in my living room during the screening: “Wait, is that Waldemar’s sister or Genevieve? Goddamnit!”) Tedious nonsense.

JAN B: The Werewolf Versus the Vampire Woman (1971) The print we saw was TERRIBLE, which didn't help. I liked that there are a lot of ladies in this movie! Some of them were vampires. One was a fool for love. There was also a werewolf who starts the movie as a corpse. Was this totally my bag? No. However, I love how Junesploitation gets us to try new things.

DAY 7 - Buddy Cops!
48 Hours (1982) Surprisingly old-school exercise in craftsmanship and star power. Walter Hill directs the shit out of this, the movie made Eddie Murphy a star. I love when the two stars beat the hell out of each other, after which they are united. I also love how the atmosphere, lighting, staging and direction change completely for the climactic showdown, and it’s as if we are suddenly watching a remake of The Lady from Shanghai. “You’re done. End of story.”

DAY 8 – Kaiju!
King Kong Vs. Godzilla (1963) All of the nonsense in the first three quarters (Three separate comic relief characters, ancillary octopus attack, giving cigarettes to children) is worth it for the surprisingly effective climactic throw-down: Godzilla uses his tail a lot, Kong gets energized by lightning. I’ve seen this movie dozens of times (Whenever Toy John hosted triple and quadruple features at the Portage Theater, this film was always on the bill. I think he owned a print.) I didn’t realize until today’s viewing how often it uses the main music cue from Creature from the Black Lagoon. The producers of the American version came by it honestly: Universal Studios originally released this.

DAY 9 - Kung Fu!
Kung Fu Legend of the Drunken Master (1994) Amazing Jackie Chan film with surprising fight choreography and great tonal shifts between drama and comedy. Anita Mui steals every scene she is in as Chan’s stepmother. Breathtaking action set-pieces.

DAY 10 – Sharksploitation!
Jaws 3 (1983) Surprisingly lazy sequel sees Sheriff Brody’s son (Dennis Quaid) fighting sharks at Sea World. Louis Gosset, Jr. shows up, overacts, and collects a nice paycheck for playing the mayor Vaughn role. Shoddy, laughable special effects. Universal Studios actually owned Sea World back then; it surprises me that they would willingly make a film that was such bad publicity for their sister theme park. “Hey Folks, Sea World doesn’t care if you LIVE OR DIE. Originally in 3-D.

DAY 11 - Italian Horror!
Nightmare Castle (1965) Wow! Two Barbara Steeles for the price of one— she plays twins. The downside is that like other Italian horror films, after a bang-up first 15 minutes, the middle hour is an unsurprising snooze, followed by a bravura finale. What gives? Does Italian horror only care about the outer shell but not the delicious filling? A mystery. Still, there’s plenty to love here, including death by acid and bathtub electrocutions. Beautiful sets and costumes too!

DAY 12 - New World!
Rock ‘N’ Roll High School (1979) Hard to imagine a New World release without the real Don Steele as the Greek Chorus. Surprisingly 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.

DAY 13 – Ozploitation!
The Wizard of Oz (1939) Wait, am I doing this right?
DAY 14 – Beach!
Bikini Beach (1964) I have long maintained that this is the best of the AIP Beach party movies. The whole gang is back, plus a surprising Beatles parody in the person of the Potato Bug, played by Frankie Avalon in a dual role. A big chimp surfs. The gang goes hot-roddin’. Martha Hyer, Don Rickles, Stevie Wonder, Timothy Carey, Keenan Wynn, Donna Loren, and Boris Karloff collect what I assume were meager paychecks. Cowabunga! “It’s where every torso is more so, and bare-as-you-dare is the rule!”

DAY 15 - Free Space!
The Pit and the Pendulum (1961) More AIP/Corman/Price goodness! I can still remember the first time I saw this at the Arlington Heights Memorial library one Sunday afternoon when I was ten. No surprise, it scared the *^%&@#! out of me. Thanks, Edgar. Thanks, Roger. Thanks, Vincent.

DAY 16 – Brucesploitation!
Enter the Dragon (1973) The winner and still champion. I watched the relatively new 4K version last night— Surprisingly, Bruce Lee kicks 4X harder on the new disc!

DAY 17 – Fulci!
Four of the Apocalypse (1975) I liked this crazy-ass Western much more on my most recent viewing than I did originally in 2015. This time I didn’t fall asleep ONCE. Fabio Testi is a terrific villain. Surprise! The score of the American version is hilarious.

DAY 18 – Gangsters!
Scarface (1932) Few things in movie history are as surprisingly foreboding and creepy as Paul Muni whistling the aria from Lucia di Lammermoor. George Raft starts the trope of the gangster flipping the coin over and over. Howard Hawks marks each murder with an “X.” Essential viewing.

DAY 19 - ‘80s Horror!
Little Shop of Horrors (1986) Much more like a horror film when you watch the version with the surprising original ending… Don’t feed the plants indeed. Levi Stubbs deserved an Oscar nomination for voicing Audrey II.

DAY 20 – Blaxploitation!
Coffy (1973) I’m surprised the song “King George” wasn’t a bigger hit… Coffy is very resourceful, a soul sister Macgyver: she kills with a shotgun, a heroin needle, razor blades, a stuffed dog toy, a sharpened paper clip, an automobile, another rifle, and a swimming pool. Impressive.
DAY 21 – AIP!
What’s Up, Tiger Lily? (1966) Then-novel idea of taking a straight action film and dubbing a new comedic soundtrack. Woody Allen’s hit to miss ratio here is pretty high. The studio later added two Lovin’ Spoonful numbers to pad the running time. Surprise! Allen sued them. I love when the hero kicks ass and yells strange geographical epithets at his opponents: “Sarazin Dog! Russian Vodka! Turkish Taffy!”

DAY 22 – 2000s Action!
Hot Fuzz (2007) It is the rare film that can be a parody of a genre and a bona-fide film of that genre at the same time. No surprise; this is that film. Terrific action, great jokes, and knowing nods to other action films, and in the middle of it all, a genuine story of the friendship between two cops. Bloody, nutty, and hilarious— what else do you want, a Cornetto ice cream cone?
DAY 23 - Free Space!
JB: Wild in the Streets (1968) “Crazy” AIP film in which rockstar Max Frost (Christopher Jones) uses his influence with young people to lower the US voting age to 14, then is elected President. He places all citizens over 30 in re-education camps where they are force fed LSD. I am not making this up. Co-starring Shelly Winters, Richard Pryor, and Hal Holbrook. Contains the songs “14 Or Fight,” which once you hear it, is impossible to get out of your head, and “The Shape of Things to Come,” later a surprise hit for Paul Revere and the Raiders. Watching this, it occurred to me that the very same generation portrayed in the film (Max is 22.) are the very same Baby Boomers who refuse to cede power today. (Max would be 78 today, right up there with Trump and Biden.) Kind of makes you think.

JAN B: Wild in the Streets (1968) Is this the only movie with both Richard Pryor AND Shelley Winters? Maybe! It is edited like a 97-minute episode of the Monkees, but with less-good music. A young rock star starts a national movement to lower the US official voting age to 14. What could go wrong? Soon America's teens are running...wait for it... WILD IN THE STREETS! There's a lot of narration by Paul Frees to stitch things together. As batshit nutty as this movie is, it is also weirdly prescient regarding certain aspects of modern politics. But be warned--if you are OLD, this movie won't be your bag, baby. 14 or Fight!

24 – Cars!
FIRST-TIME WATCH Two Lane Blacktop (1971) I know this film has an incredible reputation as a cult film (“the ultimate road movie”) but Good Lord, it’s surprisingly slow for a film about RACE CARS. Warren Oates seems to be improvising all of his dialogue. I’m convinced that between takes, stars James Taylor and Dennis Wilson had a competition going as to who could get more stoned. Snooze-inducing slice of the early Seventies, a guided tour of shitty gas stations and shittier roadside diners.

25 – Vigilantes!
Taken (2008) I had not seen this since it first came out, but I was impressed by how entertaining it is and how well it holds up. Very well directed, the film gives its audience credit for actually being sentient beings. Structurally, it breaks down into three 30-minute pieces, each with two action sequences. Surprise! I like to count things. We should make it an F This Movie tradition to watch this every Father’s Day.

26 - Free Space!
FIRST-TIME WATCH Night Swim (2024) Impressive little horror film exploits our fear of water. Happy little family buys a new house and… NEVER SWIM ALONE. Wyatt Russell impressive as “The Dad.” Kerry Condon hides her English accent admirably. No big narrative surprises, but creepy, creepy, creepy.

27 - Barbara Steele!
FIRST-TIME WATCH The Ghost (1963) Tepid sequel to The Horrible Dr. Hichcock sees Barbara Steele and her lover do away with her husband. 90 minutes of tedium ensue. At times it seems as if any scary scenes have been somehow cut out, leaving us with only a soap-opera grade gothic romance that just lurches from scene to scene. Surprisingly awful.
28 – Westerns!
FIRST-TIME WATCH Cat Ballou (1965) Frequently hilarious Western satire… and what an exploitation cast! Jane Fonda from Barbarella, Lee Marvin from The Dirty Dozen, Dwayne Hickman from How to Stuff a Wild Bikini, John Marley from The Godfather, Michael Callan from Chained Heat, Bruce Cabot from King Kong, Stubby Kaye from Guys and Dolls, and Nat King Cole from the world of popular music. Marvin was the surprise winner of the Best Actor Oscar that year.

29 - New Horizons!
FIRST-TIME WATCH Carnosaur (1993) I only watched this to see the lab set from this, which was later re-used in Roger Corman’s ill-fated Fantastic Four movie. Surprisingly inept attempt to rip off Jurassic Park, though this movie was actually released first. IMDb lists this as a “dark comedy.” Nope. Diane Ladd stars, I guess because her daughter was in Jurassic Park? She works genetically modifying chickens for the evil Eunice Corporation. Because Ladd wears a patch on her doctor’s smock that says this, I kept assuming that “Eunice Corporation” was her character’s name. Clint Howard investigates a suspicious chicken coop while eating fried chicken, which seems a little rude. He is punished… by the CARNOSAUER! What could have been a sobering cautionary tale about genetically modified food is done in with low production values and a bad script. Corman and company save money by not building full sets... and making every interior space exceedingly dark. Corporate meetings, important lab work, and an autopsy are all carried out in almost total darkness. Odd. Most of the time, the titular dinosaur is played by an unconvincing hand puppet. One of the film’s final scenes rips off Alien to boot. Featuring Jennifer Runyon from Ghostbusters, Raphael Sbarge from Risky Business, Brent Hinkley from Ed Wood, and Ned Bellamy from Being John Malkovich.

30 – Slashers!
Halloween (1978) You know... that’s a William Shatner mask?

So that was June. It was hot. I sipped a lemon Coke with some ice chips. I sat on my little fainting couch and fanned myself. I declare, I thought at times I had the vapors. I watched a shit-ton of weird movies. Thanks, Patrick. Thanks, F This Movie community. Thanks, retirement, for giving me unlimited free time to do shit just like this.


  1. Hazaaa....love the write up Teach! its got some favs and so many flicks to add to my future sploitationy watch list. Thanks!

  2. Thanks so much for all your words! I enjoyed Junesploitation so much this year, and you were one of the reasons!