Sep 11 2012

From the Grindhouse: Phantom of the Paradise

Holy shit, I don’t know how I didn’t know about this one, directed by Brian DePalma (!). A 1974 rock version of Phantom of the Opera. And it has Paul Williams in it. Yeah, that guy.

Must. See. A Craptacular Crapstravaganza!

Dec 30 2011

Awwwwww yeah. Sharks in Venice.

It is indeed good to know that crazy, ridiculous movie ideas are still woven intricately into the Italian fabric.

Bonus! It has Stephen Baldwin in it, you know, the born-again teabagger whose only noteworthy work was in The Usual Suspects.

Jul 29 2011

This looks like a fun movie

Kevin Smith’s newest…

Sure would be funny to see Jay and Silent Bob in one of those cages for a few minutes.

Jul 11 2011

From the Grindhouse: Mean Mother

Al Adamson had a great run for a few years as one of those directors of Z-grade-so-bad-it’s-awesome films (see my bit of his biker flicks here). His flicks are replete with shitty acting, implausible plots, but paced well, which make for a good schlock-fest. He ventured into blaxploitation briefly, with 1974’s Mean Mother.

This one was pretty bad. It deals with a chunky, out-of-shape-yet-inexplicably-supposed-to-be-a-badass Vietnam deserter named Beauregard Jones, who tangles with “the syndicate” when he finally makes it back home, and he is reunited with his other deserter buddy. I’m not going to go into it more than that.

The story behind this movie’s kinda interesting. Adamson used some previously shot footage from a 1971 Italian crime drama (how’s that for a disaster?), added some new footage (which gave it more of a blaxploitation vibe). The highlight of the film (laugh-out-loud) was the “Vietnam” scenes, which consisted of about 10 guys wearing brand new clean army surplus uniforms, fighting it out in what is so blatantly obviously Southern California.  It was replete with horribly choreographed fight scenes and atrocious acting, yet I still found it somewhat entertaining. If you like ’em inept and craptacular,  it’s worth a look if you can find it.

Jun 14 2011

From the Grindhouse: Penitentiary

I can remember seeing commercials for Jamaa Fanaka’s 1979 film, Penitentiary, when I was a little kid, but had all but forgotten about it, until I came across it in Netflix last night. Filmed while Fanaka was still a film student at UCLA, at first glance it comes across as yet another prison exploitation flick, and although there are certainly many, many elements of grindhouse here, lurking below the ridiculous plot contrivances and amateurish acting is a really decent film. Does that make sense?

Leon Isaac Kennedy plays “Too Sweet”, a drifter who finds himself in prison after an unfortunate event. There, he must deal with an assorted group of psychos who more or less call the shots in his cell block. Thing is, he doesn’t take no shit. The plot basically revolves around an upcoming prison boxing tournament, in which Too Sweet ultimately prevails.

As I’ve said, this film requires a fair amount of suspension of disbelief… most of the time, there’s no prison guards to be seen anywhere; if they were, most of the action and drama in the film wouldn’t be able to happen. The prisoners seem to be allowed a lot of comforts that normally wouldn’t be allowed… fancy lamps, weights for lifting, and about a hundred other things that can easily be used to kill people. In the rec yard, there’s a funk band with dancers that plays every day. And the very notion of this huge boxing tourney is somewhat implausible. But somehow, something really works, once you get past all that. As I was reading a review on it somewhere last night, one reviewer mentioned the film has “heart”. Now, of course, that’s a cliché, but true, nevertheless. Some of the reviews at the time made “Rocky” comparisons, but I chalk that more up to unimaginative reviewers than truth, as I don’t see that at all. Even when not always acted that well, the characters here show depth and development not usually seen in a film like this. There isn’t the glaringly obvious level of incompetent craptitude that, for better or worse, is usually present in these kinds of films. I found myself enjoying this one from start to finish.

The trailer, which, in typical fashion, gives away way too much of the plot:


Fanaka ended up making two sequels to this, both of which were “out there”, to say the least. PII has Mr. T in it and PIII has some sort of mysterious midget figheter in it

May 20 2011

No, tell us what you really think

I’ve written a lot of movie reviews for crappy movies before, but I don’t think I’ve ever been able to meld the perfect amount of metaphor and hate as this guy, in his review of the new Pirates of the Caribbean movie:

One of the worst films of all time, On Stranger Tides has absolutely and utterly no redeeming qualities whatsoever. I wanted to say it’s like watching an enema, but even that’s a good thing: you get rid of the filth. Instead, here, you are force-fed shit, then made to regurgitate it, and then eat it again. It’s as if you were cloned, and the clones shared the same consciousness, and then were turned into the human centipede, but instead of three, this centipede is endless. It’s not so much pain, though there’s that, too, but, instead, nausea.

Mar 5 2011

From the Grindhouse: JD’s Revenge

Having seen all of the top-tier blax films by now, whenever I dip my toe into what’s left, it’s pretty hit-or-miss. At the worst, there’s Z-grade crap done on a shoestring budget, and at best there’s a bunch of other lesser-known AIP films, like JD’s Revenge. One of those “so-bad it’s good” ones.  Glynn Thurman’s actually a really good actor… until he does the “possessed” thing, which is laugh-out-loud funny, even though I doubt it was his intention to be. It was a fun film. Lou Gosset Jr. actually is pretty damn good as the gangster-turned-preacher, and shows a lot more range than I ever knew he had. Worth a watch, but more for the hokeyness á la Blacula than for any gritty urban stuff.

Jan 29 2011

From the Grindhouse: Escape from the Bronx

Those of you who follow crap cinema are well aware of the way a lot of Italian cinema worked back in the day. A movie comes out that’s successful, and all of a sudden, that’s the predominant genre that comes out for a few years. Just look at spaghetti westerns. Fistful of Dollars was a big hit… by the time the genre wore out its welcome in the early to mid-70’s, there were something like 500 Italian westerns. I’ve seen about 150 of ’em, and let’s just say the gems are far and few between.

A big one in the early 80’s was the “post-apocalypse” genre, inspired by successful U.S. films such as The Road Warrior and The Warriors, either taking place after a nuclear explosion, or when there’s some sort of breakdown of the social order, usually involving a lot of street gangs. Next thing you know, Italy’s cranking out 2020 Texas Gladiators, Exterminators in the Year 3000, and a ton of other Z-grade crap, chock full of bad costumes, bad special effects, bad acting, and bad everything else. Granted, I haven’t seen too many of these, but you ain’t missing much. Spaghettis, at least, had some serious art going on at times, fleeting as it may have been.

So, for your pleasure, I bring you Enzo G. Castelllari’s Escape from the Bronx, the sequel to 1990: The Bronx Warriors, which was a ripoff of The Warriors, and a gawdawful one, at that. The title, of course, is a ripoff of John Carpenter’s Escape From New York. I wouldn’t say the film is a ripoff of that film, although they do kidnap a president (of a company, not the U.S).

The plot’s basically this: a huge corporation has bought the Bronx, which is nothing more than a burned out wasteland run by gangs. They relocate (to New Mexico!) or kill anyone left behind, so they can tear it all down and build a nice, new city. Trash, the guy from the first film, with the Really Pretty Hair, is the only hope to stop this company. This movie sucks, really bad, so much that I saw it only a week ago and I can’t even remember how it ended. And nobody actually really escapes from the Bronx, so the film lies to you, too. Unfortunately, like the first film, it never gets into so-bad-it’s-good territory. It’s mostly bad, unless you’re a fan of this genre.

The trailer’s no longer available, unfortunately, but I did find a clip to give you a taste of how shitty this is. Did you know that you can take out a helicopter with a shot from a revolver? Really! You can!:

Jan 13 2011

From the Grindhouse: Hell Up in Harlem

“Fred Williamson – he may not get to heaven, but he’s raising Hell Up in Harlem!”

I was going through a big pile of DVD’s last night and ended up watching this, the sequel to Williamson’s good blaxploitation flick,  Larry Cohen’s Black Caesar, which also came out in 1973 (this was a hastily produced sequel, also directed by Larry Cohen). It was one of those “so shitty it’s great” movies – well paced, and full of horrible dialog and abysmal editing. The original film was a decent blaxplotiation film about Tommy Gibbs (Fred Williamson), the “godfather of Harlem”, and had a pretty decent storyline. It was a hit, so this sequel was cobbled together quickly, continuing the story of Gibbs’ exploits. However, this is much more an action film than a crime drama.

The editing was horrible – there’s a lot of scenes where it’s blatantly obvious that conversing characters aren’t even in the same room together. The sequel ignores the fact that Gibbs died at the end of the first film. And there’s tons of implausible happenings and one-dimensional characters. For example, when we first meet Gibbs’ father, Big Poppa (well-acted by Julius Harris), he’s mortified at seeing his son all shot up, and is disgusted by the violence, even moreso when he’s later forced to kill in self-defense. But, BLAMMO, in the next scene, he’s  a ruthless, murdering, guilt-free crime lord. And there’s tons of murders right out in the open public, as though nobody would even notice a guy coming up out of a manhole or sitting on a park bench taking a shot at someone.

Those, I admit, are what makes this kind of picture fun, in that it has you yelling at the screen over its ineptitude. But as I’ve pointed out before, pacing is everything, and even a poorly acted/edited/written film can be entertaining as hell if it moves along at a good pace, and that’s this film’s saving grace. Worth a watch if you’re a fan of the genre.

Oct 28 2010

From the Grindhouse: Cutthroats Nine (plus review!)

For this FTG, I’d give you a rare treat, with an actual review (which appeared originally on Fistful of Pasta some time ago), instead of just posters and trailers. So you’d better appreciate it.

The trailer is classic grindhouse voiceover…“For your protection, you will be given a “Terror Mask” free at the entrance of the theater… We urge you to use it…”

poster for Cutthroats Nine

Joaquin Luis Romero Marchent’s Cutthroats Nine (1972) is a rather infamous film in the Eurowestern genre, due to its use of gory scenes that would seem more at home in a Lucio Fulci zombie film than this paella western. Infamy aside, it’s a pretty solid film about a sheriff and his daughter who are transporting a group of prisoners through a snowy mountain wilderness. And of course, every thing that could go wrong, does.

Jump below the fold for a complete review (warning to the queasy: there’s a bit of gore).

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