Monday, May 25, 2009

The Sinful Dwarf (1973)

Directed by Vidal Raski.

Starring Torben Bille.


This is a legendary movie that not many have seen until the recent DVD release by Severin Films which bills it as the "Mother Of All Dwarfsploitation Movies".

It was filmed in Denmark and stars one of that country's most famous dwarf actors, Torben Bille who was the host of a children's show at the time.

Long considered to be one of the sleaziest films ever made, it involves a deranged dwarf living with his mother who lures women to his house to do some awfully bad things to them.

I haven't had the opportunity to watch this one yet so I can't comment on the quality. But the reputation of this movie speaks for itself. The website DVD Resurrections calls it "exploitation so audacious it must be seen to be believed".

This is not really the type of movie I enjoy but the trailer is so demented that it has a welcome home here.

The Ninja Squad (1986)

Directed by Godfrey Ho and Robert Young.

Starring Richard Harrison and Dave Wheeler.


No need to watch the real film. This trailer is good enough.

It's like every ninja movie (and there are nearly a hundred) produced in the 80's by Joseph Lai all take place in the exact same forest clearing. Just watch any ninja movie trailer from this time period and you will recognize the exact same spot in the forest where two rival ninjas must fight to the death on overexposed film stock.

The Joseph Lai films are becoming some of my favourite trailers.

Race with the Devil (1975)

Directed by Jack Starrett.

Starring Peter Fonda and Warren Oates.


I love this film. It's a perfect blend of three genres - the Car Movie (such as Vanishing Point, Dirty Mary Crazy Larry), the Hillbilly Horror movie (Rituals, Deliverance) and the Satanic Cult movie (Rosemary's Baby, Horror Hotel).

The whole thing is so breezy and fun that you hardly notice how fast the reels spin out towards the memorable ending and the chemistry between Fonda and Oates is great to watch (in an interview on the DVD, Fonda claims he and Oates were already best friends since starring in the 1971 western "The Hired Hand").

The satanic stuff is more funny than scary but you really feel the tension as their little vacation goes to hell and all sorts of creepy events unfold. The car stunts are top notch and are unique in that they involve a speeding Winnebago versus pick-up trucks instead of the usual Dodge Chargers and Mustangs.

Just a great little movie to waste a Saturday afternoon with.

A Cat In The Brain (1990) aka Nightmare Concert

Directed by Lucio Fulci.

Starring Lucio Fulci.


Technically not Fulci's last film, but A Cat in the Brain is his last real memorable one and it is a total blast of gore drenched insanity starring the auteur himself.

It was also remarkable in that it came after two total duds in the made for TV films "Sweet House Of Horrors" and "House Of Clocks". In a way, Cat In The Brain probably owes it's ferocity to the constraints of television Fulci had recently experienced but it is much more than that.

Fulci lashes out at his morally outraged critics and scolding psychiatrists who hounded the director all throughout his lengthy and outrageous career. Despite all the severed heads and hacked off limbs, this is a high concept, Fellini-type film where Fulci plays himself, making this a sort of hyper-violent "8 1/2".

To expect this film to be as good as something like "City Of The Living Dead" (still my favourite Fulci film) or "The Beyond" is not realistic, but for latter day Fulci, this is as good as it gets.

Grindhouse Releasing has just put out a double disc DVD of Cat In The Brain with all sorts of extra Fulci content such as interviews and convention footage.

Go get it while you can.

The Day of the Locust (1975)

Directed by John Schlesinger.

Starring Karen Black, Donald Sutherland, Burgess Meredith and William Atherton.


A truly bizarre and somewhat disturbing film, surprisingly a product of mainstream Hollywood.

Some will find this movie (and the trailer) a tad slow but the payoff is worth it.

The ending is as unforgettable as it is brutal.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Northville Cemetery Massacre (1976)

Directed by William Dear and Thomas L. Dyke.

Starring David Hyry and Craig Collicut.


If you're thinking that 1976 is a little late for a biker film, this was actually shot in 1972 (on 16mm film) and therefore is still steeped in that 60's counterculture vibe, much like Easy Rider, Vanishing Point etc.

Similar to those two aforementioned films, your sympathies are with the bikers which was a bit of a break from the usual motif in late 60's biker films. In fact, I would compare this more with something like Penelope Spheeris' 1984 film "Suburbia" which takes the viewpoint of punk rockers living in the barren wastelands of downtown L.A. during the peak of 80's hardcore. Just the very existence of the bikers (and in Suburbia, the punks) is enough to generate a small war from the cops and the rednecks looking to pin bogus crimes on them.

The trailer itself is decieving, basically reversing the sympathies and making it look like the town is defending itself against crazed bikers. But that's to be expected. It's easier to get butts in the seats for a classic vigilante style film.

But you don't have to be looking for political subtext to enjoy this film. At heart, it's still a fast moving and entertaining exploitation flick well worth tracking down. It's available from VCI on DVD in it's original full-frame (due to being filmed on 16mm) format.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Panther Squad (1984)

Directed by Pierre Chevalier.

Starring Sybil Danning.


(Note: Since posting this the actual trailer has become unavailable. This short clip will have to do instead.) This trailer has it all - Sybil Danning dispensing clips like Arnie and kicking the living shit out of stuntmen, an all-girl combat squad armed with machine guns shooting at helicopters and a crazed South American dictator vowing to take over the world. Oh yah, there's lasers and a motorcycle chase.

It also sports one of the funniest lines I've ever heard in a film - "Surrender or I'll blow your Nike's off!"

If you don't know who Sybil Danning is, then I suggest you track down some of her easier to find movies (you'd be hard pressed to even find a VHS copy of Panther Squad though there are a few kicking around Ebay) like Chained Heat (1983), Reform School Girls (1986), The Howling II: Your Sister Is A Werewolf (1985), The Red Queen Kills 7 Times (1972) and Battle Beyond The Stars (1980).

Those are some pretty wild films and Danning was great in all of them (especially as the werewolf queen Stirba in the absolutely ridiculous Howling II which also starred a slumming Christopher Lee).

Danning also recently played a nurse in Rob Zombie's disappointing Halloween remake as well as the main part in Zombie's faux-trailer "Werewolf Women of the SS" in Tarantino and Rodriguez's "Grindhouse".

"You Could Be Dodge Material"

These two folks in the car remind of Barbara and her brother from the opening of Night Of The Living Dead.

"Open Pits Of Smouldering Oak Coals"

Don't Answer the Phone! (1980)

Directed by Robert Hammer.

Starring Nicholas Worth.


Generally, I'm not a fan of these kinds of films - what you can categorize as the serial rapist/killer plotline. A lot of them are done without humour and can be downright nasty, making the experience both dull and demoralizing.

The first time I saw "Last House On The Left", I felt like taking a shower and watching Bambi or something.

I came into "Don't Answer The Phone" with a certain hesitation but by the end, I was half-won over.

It still is a nasty little film (and a highly inept one) but the performance of Nicholas Worth is so over the top and demented that I was awake throughout and laughing my ass off more than once. The scene where Worth, as the psychotic killer, phones the psychiatric call-in show pretending to be a Hispanic named Ramon has to be seen to be believed.

The film is not especially noteworthy for any real reason but you can waste a couple of hours with this one and get a feel for what it would have been like to see this on 42nd Street back in the day.

Released by drive-in specialists Crown International Pictures, this film knows exactly what it is - a pure "Grindhouse" project - and the reels are just dripping with that kind of atmosphere. You couldn't replicate the feel of this type of film nowadays no matter what kind of skilled revisionist was behind the camera. It's a singular product of its time, a relic of a bygone era.

Not surprisingly, this was the only film that Robert Hammer ever directed. Nicholas Worth went on to have a long and succesful career playing random TV roles and bit parts in films.

Of note, Worth was in 1982's "Swamp Thing" with Adrienne Barbeau (The Fog, Escape From New York, Creepshow) and the legendary sleaze staple David Hess (Last House On The Left, Hitch-Hike). Worth also had a decent role in Sam Raimi's "Darkman" later on that decade. He passed away in 2007.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Vanishing Point (1971)

Directed by Richard C. Sarafian.

Starring Barry Newman and Cleavon Little.


Not just for gearheads, Vanishing Point is one of those great thematic "death of the 60's" films which pits a final sub-culture hero against the law, driving himself and the rest of his generation into oblivion.

For a film based solely on a massive single car chase, this is surprisingly low-key and atmospheric. Be sure to watch the longer UK version (included on the recent DVD and Blu Ray discs) which adds a vital, melancholic scene which makes the ending much more understandable than the pure action U.S. version.

Makes for a great double-header with "Dirty Mary, Crazy Larry" which is also available in a nice edition from Anchor Bay.

Hitch-Hike (1977)

Directed by Pasquale Festa Campanile.

Starring Franco Nero, David Hess and Corrine Clery.


Classic Italian sleaze but with a touch of class from the great Franco Nero and Corrine Clery.

This one has a similar feel to Mario Bava's "Rabid Dogs" (released in America as "Kidnapped") although Campanile's film is far less claustrophobic and doesn't solely take place in a car like Bava's film.

Plus, David Hess is somehow scarier than Bava's villians, who were more dangerous out of sheer stupidity and excess. Hess isn't dialed up the whole time and even shows some very human qualities at moments, despite his obvious derangement.

Nero is hilarious as a drunken journalist who gets into savage arguments with his wife (Clery) and anyone else who's around. Apart from his memorable role in Enzo G. Castellari's "Street Law", this has got to be the most unhinged performance of his long career.

This is still in print on DVD from Blue Underground. Highly recommended and a vital piece for all Italian exploitation freaks.

Also features a great score by Ennio Morricone.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Basket Case (1982)

Directed by Frank Henenlotter.

Starring Kevin Van Hentenryck, Terri Susan Smith and Beverly Bonner.


Way before Slimer loved hot dogs in Ghostbusters, there was Belial!!

And just like America, he also loved burgers (see one post below), tinfoil and all.

Basket Case is an absolute classic and a great starting point for anyone getting into grindhouse or exploitation cinema. Henenlotter grew up on 42nd street in New York and got his education in the famously run-down theatres and it shows in his first film, Basket Case. It is, at times, hilarious, disturbingly gross and, above all, eternally memorable.

Has to be seen to be believed.

While the Burger King commercial below projects a fantasized America, Basket Case is its true spiritual opposite. The American Dream is not possible in Henenlotter's film where call-girls, drunks and freaks find themselves sandwiched together in a seedy hotel with nothing to do but get through the night without getting killed.

Welcome To The Apocalypse - More Vintage Burger King

Vintage Burger King

Skatetown, U.S.A. (1979)

Directed by William A. Levy.

Starring Scott Baio, Patrick Swayze, Flip Wilson and Billy Barty.


"Famous" mostly for being Patrick Swayze's film debut, Skatetown U.S.A. fits the term "exploitation" perfectly, as it was created solely as a way to cash in on the roller disco craze with a paint-by-the-numbers script to make it widely accessible. Another film that did the same thing was Roller Boogie starring the one and only queen of exploitation, Linda Blair.

It's the Saturday Night Fever formula. Take a popular culture trend and insert a young man (or woman) defying all the odds to conquer the form and get the girl at the end.

That's what "exploitation" is all about.

Van Nuys Blvd. (1979)

Directed by William Sachs.

Starring Bill Adler and Cynthia Wood.


Another great Crown International drive-in teen flick. Watch alongside other 70's fare like The Van, Pinball Summer and The Cheerleaders.

Detroit 9000 (1973)

Directed by Arthur Marks.

Starring Hari Rhodes and Alex Rocco.


Arthur Marks was the director behind one of my favourite blaxploitation movies, "Bucktown" with Fred Williamson and Pam Grier. He also helmed the late entry Grier vehicle and relatively tame "Friday Foster" but was also responsible for the oddity called "J.D.'s Revenge" which combined horror elements with blaxploitation, making it one of the few films to do so outside of "Abby" and "Sugar Hill".

This is great stuff. Filmed on location in Motown.