Friday, February 27, 2009

Chicks Kicking Ass & Taking Names: 20 Female Revenge & Action Flicks From The 1980's (and then some!)

No doubt the 1980's was dominated by the impressive action-y likes of Arnie, Sly, Clint, Chuck & Charles, but you cannot discount the onslaught of female revenge & action pictures. Most of them independent or born out of the exploitation world.... 1978's I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE playing as godfather to all those that follow it. This sometimes wacky & tacky (but always entertaining) bunch mostly found their audience through the boom of the home video market of that era. Wow, it's now an era. I'm old! Anyway, they slapped together some action for roughly 90 minutes and threw a hot babe on the cover usually with a gun (uzi or rocket launcher if they really wanted you to think you were in for some insane fun) or perhaps behind a prison bar or two. Most of these film's plots ranged from chick revenging the death of her sister to chick landing in jail for a crime she did not commit. Either way, they'll always run into a few sleazebags and one in particular that is so awful he or she will undoubtedly be blown into bits by the last reel.

Here are 20 of some choice chick flicks of the time to electrify your boogaloo...  

She's got legs (and guns) and she knows how to use them:


Abel Ferrara's MS. 45 (1981) is technically the best of the lot, though one can't go wrong with the scuzzy charms of SUDDEN DEATH. My personal favorite is 1984's ANGEL. Donna Wilkes and a supporting bunch of character actors make early 1980's Los Angeles the most fun you'll have in hell on earth.

ANGEL (1984) Trailer: (It's her choice. Her chance. And her life.)

The Concrete Jungle:

My grandmother was a big fan of the Women In Prison genre, and the 1980's had a fair share of them; Even if they weren't as crazy as some of the output of the 70's. Most of these films seemed to have an innocent character trapped behind bars with some evil bitch to contend with that somehow always had the protection of the warden (Who was always played by Mary Woronov, Barbara Steele or Sybil Danning) They're all classics...


Mess with the best, die like the rest:


Cross any of them, and you'll lose it all. THE LADIES CLUB (1986) takes it quite literally. Check it out if you can.


The Linda Blair Wing:


My Roller Boogie queen Linda Blair kept pretty busy in the 80's and this is just a small portion of her output from that period of time. She was seemingly always behind bars getting messed with (see also The 1974 classic BORN INNOCENT) or being driven to some sort of personal vengeance. SAVAGE STREETS (1984) sets the benchmark pretty high for chicks getting revenge in the 80s, and so few films can compete with the last few reels of SAVAGE as Linda prepares and carries out the fight of her life.


Oh, okay. Another... CHAINED HEAT (1983) 

Trailer (Don't you walk away from me you chalk-faced whore!)

And for fun, a few more zany picks:

Pistol Packin' Teens:

Random classy chicks with guns or swords:

 Revenge gone mainstream:


And how could I forget, the best & most protective momma a boy can have of the 1980's, Betsy Palmer of FRIDAY THE 13TH (1980)
 What are some of your favorites from the 80's?

Monday, February 23, 2009

DVD Evaders: Electric Dreams (1984)

Week #2 finds the sweet irony of having a zany, romantic comedy involving technology that so late in the game still hasn't made it to the format. Last I checked there were rights issues between who actually owned this property (MGM and Warner duking it out) and I think Warner Brothers may have staked their claim. So perhaps clearing the music rights has been holding it up. And a fun VERY 80's soundtrack it is.



New Movie Show Review: Friday The 13th (2009)

Finally caught this picture this afternoon. I feel like the perfect time to watch a dumb horror movie is on a rainy Sunday afternoon. It's a time i find myself pretty generous with the amount of stupidity I'll allow myself to sit in front of for the next 90 to 120 minutes.

FRIDAY THE 13TH 2009 is a poorly made film written and directed by 12 year olds, made for 12 year olds. In that essence, it's a perfectly fine film. You have your scares, your sex, your profanity and your drugs.

In 2009, we find ourselves at a point in our culture where we have been exposed to so much, that movies need to ratchet up some components to desperately keep with the ever shrinking attention spans of it's audience. This has been the practice for awhile now, but never so much transparent while comparing a remake like FRIDAY or MY BLOODY VALENTINE against their seemingly tame originals. Yup, there are boobs and carnage galore. Also a helluva lot of jokes about pot smoking (not to mention the fakest looking pot plants ever shown in any forms of media) and tons of profanity. When the snotty Maitre'de in FERRIS BUELLER'S DAY OFF exasperated "I weep for the future" he meant now.

FRIDAY took awhile to kick in before I could really just sit back relax and enjoy the ridiculousness of it all. There's an extended prologue before it's title sequence that fell pretty flat. Shouldn't a 15-20 minute sequence that leads up to the title FRIDAY THE 13TH leave you with a feeling that screams THAT'S RIGHT! Instead, it's prologue meanders and crams loads of bad dialogue and now fashionably annoying characters straight into their demise that is mostly shown off screen or in badly choreographed close-ups. A bolder film would have set the bar high with the horror and tension, keeping it's audience at bay for it's remaining running time with terror alongside a sense of fun.

Oh, and did I mention that this FRIDAY sports the worst use of a great pop song I've seen in quite some time? Night Ranger's Sister Christian is thrown into this scene so gratuitously and ineptly that it left me forgetting what happened for the next few minutes to follow. I think someone found some pot and got chased by a man with some sort of sack on his head, but I'm just guessing about that.

After bungling a new beginning that could have packed a real wallop, the film gets back on track and basically acts as a sequel to the franchise us horror fans all know well and love. We get introduced to a new set of brainless young persons who will later surely be led to slaughter. There's a blend of stock slasher characters of past and present, most of whom act as audience identifiers. The fun begins... My favorite character was the decidedly more complex chewie. His dialogue was noticeably much sharper than the others and he manages to even incorporate a shout out to my new favorite scotch, Lagavulin. People who know Meep, know I have a vice for a nice single malt. I'd have a glass with that wacky & hapless chewie, any day.

The novelty of this redux from a fan perspective is the fact they crammed the first 3 sequels of Friday the 13th fun into one, allowing each little retread to spin into it's new beginning and become something else. It's apparent several writers have worked on this script because at times it's cohesive and other times pretty scattered. And that's fine. No one ever in the history of the franchise went into a Friday The 13th movie and complained of a lack of real structure. Each scene should simply be a scene that either works as a build up to or as a set piece of someones demise. This FRIDAY stays true to that formula and for awhile finally becomes fun.

I will complain that It didn't help that director Marcus Nispel (of the dismal Texas Chainsaw Massacre Redux) does not have a clear style other than always going for the obvious. This particular film could have benefited from a real sense of atmosphere and tension, but instead we get lingering shots of young flesh and a portrayal of New Jersey as the deepest sticks of West Virginia. As a native New Yorker, I must admit to not being a fan of New Jersey as a state (They still think the statue of liberty is theirs! Ha!---Plus New Jersey drivers are kind of douchebags) but the movie's portrayal of the town of Crystal Lake wanted me to rise up out of my seat and run to that state's tourism board in defense. Clearly Marcus still can't get TEXAS off his mind.

There is much contention about the film's "kill scenes" among fans, and I must side with those who feel FRIDAY lets us down in that department. There are a couple of choice moments to be found here, but overall, they lack any kind of real invention or sense of personality. It's pretty stock stuff, whereas the the original film with the help of Tom Savini's mad genius set the bar pretty high for the genre.

The FRIDAY films started out as more stalk and became more about the slash, so nearly 30 years later, fans will naturally want to see a film that delivers the goods. The kill scenes in a FRIDAY scene are essentially the orgasm to the stalk's foreplay so a film that can play both sides well can be one that can truly be loved...funny how such carnage on the screen can be so integral to a film's success...I believe it's what sets apart a FRIDAY film from most others in this genre.

Also integral to the 1980 film was it's score by Harry Manfredi. 2009 finds itself happy with something much more modern and complex, yet completely forgettable. Another misstep on filmmaker's Nispel's part because most real filmmakers in the horror genre can only attest to how crucial it is to have a good score to accompany your images on the screen.

I'm a jaded moviegoer, and sometimes I find it really easy to believe that these brat filmmakers of today were so easily weened on such a zombie-like curriculum in film school. The kind that only services to get you jobs in music videos and commercials rather than enable you to establish a real point of view. It's easy to love movies, but to have a real point of view and take the time to really hone and play with it is a thing of beauty. You get the sense that horror films made by these kinds of guys are only a way into the business to get other projects off the ground. Shame since there are plenty of talented people who actually care about the genre out there dying for the opportunity... Their voices should be heard.

Yeah, none of that should matter in a dumb movie as this one, and to a certain extent, it didn't really hinder my Sunday afternoon all that much. There are expectations going into any film, but mostly we should expect to be entertained regardless of some of these merits, or lack thereof. Clearly films today are effected by those who make and produce them and their integrity to the process. We'll forever miss the ingenuity of those guys of past who just wanted to get their little films made and then witnessed them get cast into the stratosphere. Long live that spirit.

FRIDAY entertained me as much as it left me indifferent. Kind of like the experience I had with last month's equally shallow yet surprisingly much less effective MY BLOODY VALENTINE remake. But that's okay. These films exist because of vastly superior films and they will never be mistaken for classics. At least by those who really care. And that's the magic of movies. They live forever, even when they take on different incarnations over time. We can always go back to the ones that got us interested in the first place and fall in love again.

Jason will return in FRIDAY THE 13TH: INSERT SUBTITLE HERE and horror fans will return to him because he is the poster boy of years of terror and fun. He has become a hero to the the adolescence inside of us that along with him has not fully developed. While we (hopefully) are far from being a mongoloid in a inbred part of New Jersey at the bottom of a lake, our hearts beat the same. Even after being innumerably shot, stabbed, impaled, drowned, put on fire, electrocuted and frozen. Jason is the personification of our fears, and we are him.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Review x Deux: The House On The Edge Of The Park (1980)

Here is a he said/she review of Ruggero Deodato's 1980 exploitation classic, The House On The Edge Of The Park.

Made For TV Mayhem and all-around movie Wiz AMANDA BY NIGHT and I both agree that there is much value to be found in Deodato's film, Whether it be by it's curious mix of entertainment & degradation or by it's thought provoking ideas supplied by the screenplay. Either way, this well-made Italian shocker often gets bunched up alongside the sleazy throwaways of the time.

House on the Edge of the Park
Review by Amanda Reyes

At once sleazy and slick and funny and degrading, THE HOUSE ON THE EDGE OF THE PARK is an anomaly even in the world of Euro-sleaze. A supposed "message" picture, HOUSE actually uses that message as a means to take the viewer down a path of nihilism, rape and torture - And all with a smile on its face.

David Hess (Krug in LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT) is Alex, a jerky mutha who forces a young woman to pull over and then proceeds to rape her! All to the tune of "Sweetly, oh Sweetly," before he strangles her to death. That bastard!

Cut to some time later and a couple of rich snobs (dressed in pristine white) find themselves at Alex's auto shop. After a bit of I'm-rich-you're-poor-it's-too-late-to-go-boogying banter, Alex and his idiot-man-child friend Ricky (John Morghen) are invited to the couple's friend's house for an intimate party populated with three pretty girls and a couple of rich and wimpy guys (Christian Borremo, you're still so hot). The rich folks go about humiliating the lower class sleazebags, which isn't that hard in Ricky's case! Then Alex turns the tables and with knife in hand, he holds everyone hostage. And it's all downhill from there.

Although HOUSE is seething in rape and degradation, it lacks the bite the director's previous film CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST had. I, for one, am thankful. Don't get me wrong, HOLOCAUST is a work of fucking art. Do I ever want to see it again? No. But the lasting impression the film gave me regarding the true nature of "civilized man" is a haunting one that I'll not soon forget. HOUSE on the other hand, is just joyous sleaze! I know, chicks get raped left and right and it doesn't bother me one bit.

Well, I'll say one scene does indeed make me squirm in my seat. The scene with Cindy (Brigitte Petronio) - the virginal friend who makes the mistake of showing up late - will forever be emblazoned in my mind as one of the most disturbing and brutal attacks ever imprinted on celluloid.

But the rest of it is child's play. Seriously, this movie, as horrifying as it sounds, is much more of a fun roller coaster ride than a disturbed portrait of a maniac set loose. I wrote about this idea I had about the film in a review I did for Retro Slashers, but I think it's worth repeating: HOUSE feels like a vicious grindhouse remake of OF MICE AND MEN. The relationship between Ricky and Alex is something to behold. Their friendship is rife with darkness, but there’s some kind of love there (if absolutely no respect on Alex’s part!) and even if the film had shunned some more of the exploitable elements, their story almost makes the film worth watching. The rest of the cast is fantastic, with Annie Bell putting on one hell of a performance as the strong-willed Lisa. By far one of the most beautiful women on the planet, Annie is accompanied by the great Lorraine De Selle (CANNIBAL FEROX), but I would feel safe in saying this is Annie's film. She's triumphant as the take-no-prisoners chick who doesn't seem all that bent out of shape when the shit hits the fan. And I don't think she does ever tarnish that lily white dress. Love her!

By Michael J. Ferrari

While driving around the streets of Manhattan earlier today, I found myself remembering this exploitation gem as early scenes in the picture had characters driving around the city before they finally settle at the title’s implied locale and the party begins.

The Story follows Alex and Ricky as they invite themselves to that party hosted by a well-to-do twosome who happen upon the parking garage Alex works in one night with car trouble. The man (who looks like a blonde Cillian Murphy) throws money at the two apparent grease monkeys to fix his troubled car. Instead he gets a bit more than he bargained for…Or does he?

David Hess brings his strangely hypnotic sadistic charisma back to the screen nearly 10 years after Wes Craven’s Last House On The Left and he picks it up like he never left. These 2 movie shows are almost always inevitably compared to each other as they not only feature Hess as the leading man with a penchant for rape and murder but they also, albeit superficially, share common themes. Not to mention similar titles.

Ruggero Deodato’s picture more than likely exists because of that earlier one but I think he achieves something a bit more substantial and mature. Movie shows made in the horror and exploitation genres usually find their own way to best provoke, disturb or entertain the audience but it’s rare when a picture can do all 3 simultaneously. Mr. Craven’s picture when compared to Deodato’s is often mentioned as the better of the two, but, can one honestly say that they left a viewing of LAST HOUSE feeling like they were entertained as much as they were shocked?

...Wait, uh, is Ciaran Murphy in this movie?...

In HOUSE ON THE EDGE you’ll find wall-to-wall rape, violence and social anxiety, but you’ll also be treated to a catchy disco number, wacky dancing courtesy of Alex’s none-too-bright sidekick Ricky, surprisingly lush cinematography and a distinctly modern (for the time) set design. Craven’s earlier effort is much more gung-ho and guerilla-like even if it’s inspiration sprung forth from an art house picture (Ingmar Bergman’s THE VIRGIN SPRING)

Deodato’s picture actually reverts more back to Bergman’s style by treating the proceedings as more of a stage production. The action is almost entirely set inside of a house, which essentially becomes the stage for the drama to play out. And like Bergman, Deodato deflects whatever staginess the story inherently brings with a visual sense that allows the viewer to become engulfed into each scene. Though admittedly, Bergman probably would have never had his characters tears off women’s undergarments with a straight razor while they exalt their sad existence upon one another. Deodato’s movie show goes to pretty dark places, but always within the realm of possibility. Mankind’s savage nature is clearly on hand here but Deodato’s point is that such savagery can be laid out on so many levels, especially by those of such polar economic means.

The picture becomes a real clash of the rich vs. the working class, and the ugliness of everyone by the end is truly apparent. The movie imposes a surprise twist, which only confounds the idea that people will go to any length to get what they want, and hurt who ever they must to in the process. Could he have picked a character even more puritanical than Cindy to suddenly show up in a late reel to only be the reception of that hurt or what? Deodato’s picture is clearly an indictment on our culture, especially since it was made in 1980, when we were supposedly were just recovering from a decade of excess...We’ve learned nothing since!

Alex and Ricky’s path follows them from a night of potential partying, poker and poon and even though it ultimately ends in blood shed, was it not worth it all to have a bald black woman yell out “Hot Diggity!” when you get your groove on to the disco beat?

Monday, February 16, 2009

DVD Evaders: Fast Break (1979)

Each week i'm going to highlight a film that has not been released on DVD and could really benefit from a release. For the first week it's Gabe Kaplan's wacky sports comedy from 1979. You'll find every sports stereotype and cliche in the book in this one, but in that weird, realistic 70's gritty way. In other words, it's pure movie heaven. Hopefully the DVD gods will come-a-callin' one day soon.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Sooner Or Later (1979)

Having been Directed by Bruce Hart (his sole directorial credit) and written by himself and his wife Carole (both responsible for writing the original Sesame Street series on PBS!) You wouldn't think the Television movie SOONER OR LATER would be more than a standard issue Teen coming of age movie of the week. Instead what you might find is an unflinching and personal look inside of this girls' world and her first love with someone a lot older than herself. The movie dares not to moralize this situation and is rather sympathetic to her plight.

A lot of us felt we were more mature than we actually were in those awkward teenage years, and to find a movie that captures that so well is pretty rare. Plus, as a bonus gift, you get the cheesy yet catchy music stylings of the time. And for the ladies, music heartthrob Rex Smith sporting some of the tightest fitting clothing ever produced in the 1970s. And did he ever button his shirt up?

Unbreak My Heart: Post-Valentine's Day Massacre Movie Shows

Thankfully the evils of Valentine's Day are behind us. To celebrate, here are 10 recommended films about the trials of heartbreak or heartache. They each intelligently capture the tribulations, devastation, or slow dissolvings from a relationship, and add a real sense of wit, grace, comedy or gritty drama. The very least, we probably don't have it as bad as these celluloid folk... The first 5. Girl Power! An Unmarried Woman (1978) Jill Clayburgh stars in an oscar nominated performance (she was robbed by Jane Fonda of Coming Home that year) as a long married woman who finds her marriage over one day after her husband confesses to infidelity, and even worse, love with a younger woman. Paul Mazursky's film vividly captures this woman's devastation and ultimate search for her own identity. What he also does in the process is create a loving tribute to New York as well. Whether it's the upper east side or SoHo, Mazursky's film is rich in a real authentic new york attitude. One of my very favorite films. What's Love Got To Do With It? (1993) Tina Tuner's story is one of many triumphs, and at the center of WHAT'S LOVE is her combustible relationship with her husband, Ike. The movie richly creates Tina's world and no punches are (literally) left unthrown. You can't help but cheer for her struggle through all her turmoils and the movie does what most biopics cannot. It creates a real sense of it's world while still being very entertaining. Angela Bassett's performance as Tina is also top notch and very moving. She was also robbed of an Oscar. Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore (1974) Ellen Burstyn's oscar winning role in Martin Scorsese's intimate drama about a recently widowed woman and her young son who takes a journey to find a new life for herself (it also was the basis of the hit TV show Alice) finds it's title character going through much heartbreak and self doubt on that road to her new life. Scorsese's bold direction combines gritty realism with touches of the surreal, but you are always placed directly in her shoes, fully empathizing with this struggle, as complicated as life sometimes can be. Wanda (1971) Barbara Loden's directorial Debut, and swan song as it happens, is probably the most powerful and challenging film you'll ever see about heartbreak. Unlike the aforementioned ALICE and UNMARRIED, you will not immediately sympathize with Wanda's world. Barbara wrote, directed and starred in this tale of a woman who one day just up and leaves her husband and children in search of a new life for herself. She takes a journey like the other 2 women, but the movie definitely goes to places you might not expect. It's an extraordinarily crafted film. It's verite-like images make you feel raw emotions like no other film can. Three Of Hearts (1993) THREE spins an unusual tale of how one woman's love for another, leads her after heartbreak, to hire a male prostitute to win back her affection. Things don't go as planned and love blossoms between the hustler and her ex. Another New York movie, this time a bit more glossy and romanticized, still manages to capture the heartaches of love for all it's characters really well. It's funny and sometimes silly, and contains very engaging performances by it's 3 stars. And that includes the one that is a Baldwin even! 5 more: Dudes get their heart's broken, too (they just deal with it in strange ways) Modern Romance (1981) Albert Brooks wrote, directed and starred in the 2nd to ultimate movie about a guy's struggle to get over his last relationship. That is, he spends the entire movie trying to get her back. The results: Hilarity! You'll find an unhealthy mix of quaaludes and a fifth of Beethoven, Ill-advised trips to the sporting goods store, dates that last only a car ride around the corner, stalking of the exes' apartment and George Kennedy running around a spaceship. Pure genius. Annie Hall (1977) The ultimate movie about a break-up from a male point of view is one of the most inventive movies ever made that is a relationship comedy. Woody Allen uses his medium to it's fullest potential (there's even animation!) and has a lot of fun with it's structure. No wonder it received so much love back in old '77 and still is so influential even to this day. Blume In Love (1973) Paul Mazursky makes the list again, but this time his film is from the male point of view... 1973's BLUME follows George Segal as a divorce attorney and philandering husband who finds himself still very much in love with his wife after their marriage ends. Mazkursy's films are always pretty engaging, but he's also the master of small moments and details. BLUME ultimately shouldn't be moving as there are some moments that challenge our adoration for it's protagonist, but both actor and director lend such an incredible hand that you just can't help but care. Skin Deep (1989) Blake Edwards' Skin Deep follows John Ritter as Zach Hutton and the fallout of his marriage after he is caught cheating one day. The film is a string of zany scenes of Zach falling in and out of lust for some very interesting women which may or may not help this Peter Pan grow up before they end up killing him. Blake Edwards' films are usually broad comedies that have spectacular set pieces, and Skin Deep supplies some pretty choice funny moments. John Ritter's naturally gifted ability for physical comedy is used very well, and there are plenty of bizarre moments to be found that give this movie a unique touch. It's the ultimate 80's relationship comedy gone horribly wrong (or damn funny!) Death Wish (1974) Charles Bronson stars in the original Vigilante movie that started it all. What better way to get over your broken heart by avenging the death of your wife and attack on his daughter with a magnum force that will not stop until all that perpetrated the crimes have been wiped off the face of the earth?! The original film from 1974 proved to be a gritty, no holds barred portrait of a man who fills the vacancy left in his heart from these grisly crimes with a mission of vengeance. He starts cleaning up the streets in the process, as well as becoming a hero to the people. Only back in the day can there be a picture that questions authority and paints such a portrait of a man's love while being so entertaining and dark--I suspect a looming remake in the works will only serve to attempt to dilute that power.
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