Monday, 30 January 2012

Riot On Sunset Strip (1967)

"Riot On Sunset Strip" is a shitty movie even for AIP standards. Initially made for MGM by "Jungle" Sam Katzman (one of the worst genre directors you can imagine credited here as Arthur Dreifuss), a picture exploited actual riot on L.A.’s Sunset Strip, which happened when local shop owners felt their businesses were going down due to permanent presence of the local hippies and used police force to chase them away. Katzman shot his picture straight after "the riot" to use running media exposure as a sales pitch, but MGM was slow in getting the movie into theatres, hence it landed eventually in AIP office. Sam Arkoff liked the idea and agreed to distribute this dumb flick, nevertheless it flopped in the drive-ins… not without a reason.

The basic plot is duller than dull – it exploits teenage kicks in a very down-beat, sloppy way. Centre of the action is Pandora’s Box club on Sunset Blvd, where local garage groups play and where young hipsters burn their time. Indeed there we get to to recognise the rising tension between the rebelious youth and local squares. Insights are provided by members of the city hall, policemen and parents, who won’t stand these dropouts anymore and demand action. As interesting as it may sound, this potential is destroyed by initial, ridiculous voice-over, very baaad script and even worse acting! There’s not much to enjoy in "Riot On Sunset Strip", in terms of filmmaking values, unless you are a vegetable. How then did it get to be recognised as a kind of a 60’s cult movie?

The answer is very simple, it’s all about the music – the only thing here, which doesn’t let you fall asleep. One of these rare 60’s exploitation flicks giving you an opportunity to look into the garage scene. We get to see on stage such bands as: The Standells, The Mugwumps, The Chocolate Watchband and The Enemies – all full of fuzz, obscure, cult combos in 60’s garage fan circuit. If there’s one point to watch this movie, here you have it as the soundtrack is brilliant and SO RARE! It was released on Sidewalk Records the same year and probably sold much better than the movie itself.

Still, there’s one scene, that every 60’s drugsploitation fan needs to dig. It’s been tossed down together with this crap, but an absolute gem anyway – young Mimsy Farmer on acid… happening when teens think this whole club is a drag and hit the pad. "She’s never been trippin’ before… it’s the acid, sweetie", her character hears first from one of these immoral kittens. She’s trembling from fear and says no to the drug, but she will eventually get loaded when handed a well-intentioned glass of cola. She licks the sky and dances wildly – what these strange drugs will do with the kids, man! Giallo fans will find it interesting that Mimsy acted later in Dario Argento’s "Four Flies On Grey Velvet" (1971) and then in Lucio Fulci's "Black Cat" (1981). That’s the kind of pussycat she was.

[The movie can be purchased from Cinema de Bizarre]

Saturday, 28 January 2012

Hobo With a Shotgun (2011)

Classic model of marketing and producing exploitation pictures included two things before even first draft of screenplay has been written. They were the title and the poster – however second one started slowly losing it’s ground in the 70’s, when cinematic trailers took over pushing salacious agenda over the edge. This strategy was applied en masse by American International Pictures, who made a real art of feeding drive-in directors with freshly knocked out, shocking, sleazy titles and promptly picking the wind if it was in their favour. The thing is, it really worked for more than 15 years! We got a lot of exploitation shit ONLY DUE TO THIS MARKETING GIMMICK.

When Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino brainstormed during one of their home cinema sessions after they watched some flicks edited by QT as a double feature with essential trailers filling the gap, they settled on finalizing the Grindhouse project. Two feature movies… with ass-cracking trailers. I personally loved Planet Terror"… a little bit less "Death Proof", but the trailers were definitely the shit! First of these shorts featured cold as steel and quick as F16 – Machete. The other one some random hobo with a shotgun. Response was positive, so the screenplays followed and they both made their way onto the screen. This way history – though not without the help of RR & QT –nicely repeated itself!

It’s all good as this Canadian donut, directed by Jason Eisener, brings back unforgettable Rutger Hauer to the mass audience and gives us one more ball-busting performance. This time he’s a scruffy bum, who gets off the train in a small American town just to find out that this stop will not be as easy going as he would expect. He soon discovers he landed in the lawless heart of darkness, where corrupt cops are at ease with bloody acts of criminality committed by a ruthless local gang – ruled by The Drake and his two sons. Pushing the trolley he eventually gets pushed to the ground by all the scum and doesn’t have any other choice than to take a BIG shotgun and shoot down all motherfuckers. While this is obviously a classic western frame, the movie steps up to a total exploitation revival freak-out sampling and reusing themes from "Django" (1966), "Class 1984" (1982), "Death Wish" (1974) and you name it.

While this might seem easy, for the first half an hour it definitely „grabs you by the boo boo”. Scenes are shot with a sense of style not saying that some of them are genuinely beautiful. I personally like Hauer’s monologue over a newborn with pastel, blue & yellow background and slow, vast camera zoom, joined by music theme a la Vangelis. This is a great homage to "Blade Runner" (or at least it seems so), which makes Hauer’s appearance intertwined with director’s genre picking game. Some other moments carry the same resemblance, all for the great entertainment of ardent genre flicks followers. A violence, blood and language are like sweet chocolate cake here – they are not the additional elements, they are the essence.

However, the basic problem of the movie is a quick plot breakdown and disperse of it’s magic! After main character starts to rumble around with his shotgun trying to bring back the justice to town while local papers print bold headlines and the body count, a story slowly falls behind Hauer’s acting and we start feeling out the bottom. Although screenplay doesn’t seem that bad, quick cut action-action eventually tops itself crumbling into randomly tossed pieces. Loss of vibe and suspense follows, which apart of Rutger Hauer’s creation are initial picture’s strongest sides. Still, let’s not forget it’s a very funny movie with plenty of shitstorm action and it ticks very well as an exploitation revival flick. Although „Hobo With A Shotgun” will not pass as please-fuck-me masterpiece, it’s gonna find it’s audience and could be classified as a good mindscrew for another encounter.

Friday, 27 January 2012

Motorpsycho! (1965)

Now, that’s what I call a proper savage movie! "Motorpsycho!" takes you for a ride with three biker brutes and great looking girls, which show off their big boobs and long legs. This amazing black and white picture has been shot in 1965, but lost nothing due to it’s age and today presents itself as fresh as it’s been back then. Amazing photography, original screenplay and vigorous acting are gonna work, if you’re a fan of Meyer’s talent for picturing eroticism and violence. Otherwise, watch it for pure curiosity!

You have to notice this was a first 60’s biker movie, before even Fonda and Corman got together to make "The Wild Angels" – it didn’t make such a financial blast, but made some money anyway and above all it was a much better movie – so keep your cool up and discover. In the realm of pure exploitation form, this is a real sweet pie, against which not many flicks might stand up. This is mainly due to a great cinematic talent of Russ Meyer, who did a brilliant job here taking each shot by himself, working with a camera in a way, which sets us right there in the middle of the action. Hallelujah!

Intrigue is quite simple, but the action is significant here, fueled by great instrumental garage soundtrack (one of the first cases when this gritty 60’s style was used in a movie), which will make crate diggers scream. Somewhere around the desert in Southern California three biker thugs are going on a rampage of sex and violence, raping all the big-breasted women they meet and they get to pick on some really cool kittens (well, Meyer had a talent for casting great-looking actresses). There’s a marksman, an Italian rocker and a nutjob listening all the time to his little radio and sometimes calling his mom.

Soon their sheer lust for pleasure is getting out of control and they switch from rape and mutilation to killing their prey! When they rape a pretty girlfriend of a local vet (obviously pissing him off), he goes after them immediately! But savage instincts are on the loose now and only due to helping one of the fresh victims – awesome busty chick – our hero is able to put an end to this bloodshed. She’ll save him from everything even offering her own body to the brutes, when it gets down to it! Great scene of sucking the blood from a snake bite is priceless. This is a hell of an exploitation picture and definitely one of the best biker movies made in the 60’s, so all you grindhouse and drive-in freaks will have their fun guaranteed!

Thursday, 26 January 2012

Cheech & Chong's Nice Dreams (1981)

If you ask me who the biggest heroes of the late 70’s and early 80’s were, I’ll give you the damned answer straight away – they were Cheech & Chong! Although this wicked duo started as a rock group, they never went big with their music and LPs they released eventually wound up stocking up bargain racks in music shops around the world! It didn’t happen untill they got into movies that their natural talent for smoking weed and making fully blown comedy gags finally shone through. As they burnt a big hole through US box office with their debut picture "Up In Smoke" (1978), they suddenly became America’s new hipster’s hipsters. Frenetic cult has followed, which slowed down only a bit in the late 80’s, but never actuallly died! Today Cheech & Chong are as strong as never carrying their freedom message everywhere they toke up!

At the top of my personal list, floating on the silk mattresses of heaven, there’s one wonder flick they scored for Columbia Pictures, called "Nice Dreams"! The only movie which made me laugh so much, that I actually got hiccup and became scared I’d have to get hospitalized. "Nice Dreams" is a third picture in Chech & Chong’s series and although many fans point up to "Up In Smoke" as "the masterpiece", at least the same number praises the value of "Nice Dreams" as the ultimate stoner joke (clapping)! In fact, there’s a lot of arguments supporting this thesis such as absolutely ground-breaking screenplay – a virtually flawless gig, which doesn’t leave any loop holes that might be potentially spotting the action! This comes along with Cheech & Chong’s high level, drug-fueled acting as exemplified by outstanding scene in the restaurant, which carries a strong resemblance to Marx Brothers unforgettable performances!

And last but not least there is a message of the movie itself. These characters might be dopers and dropouts, but at least they see clearly all the shit and hypocrisy of the modern world preferring to do their own thing than drown in it. Their lifestyle unveils a crucial, moral dilemma – Cheech & Chong are doing harmless thing, they’re smoking weed, which is punished by law, but on the other hand forbidden because the laws are unjust and rotten to the core! Police forces chase the bad guys around while not giving a shit about the laws themselves indulging in drugs whenever they can. It’s solely their position of power, which lets them do it without any scare, while local communities are hassled, prejudiced and cracked down on without a scruple. Cheech & Chong represent freedom of choice and the liberties fundamental for communities in every democratic society, while their opressors are power mongers interested in limiting them to minimum – eat shit & die, fuckers!

However, the story of "Nice Dreams" is a very intimate one! Cheech & Chong go around the town dealing dope from an ice cream truck, from time to time trying to score with some chicks, but the law executioners are constantly on their tail and will bust them as soon as they get to the source of their awesome weed. This in certain order leads to Crazy Jimmy character, who just invented a new system of growing very potent buds. This shit is in fact so strong that can turn people into lizards, about which sergeant Sedenko will find out very soon when tempted to quietly smoke it himself. Cheech & Chong’s business gets very good in the meantime – they even plan to buy a tropical island, which they would rule as the kings of the sun being praised with thousand joints every day (great gig, man). Though when they’re visting Jimmy’s grow to get more stuff, cops are doing a bust. In effect, they’re on the run now making it through Chinese restaurant (where they meet Donna, Cheech’s ex girlfriend and get coked up), hotel sex & violence adventure (where they meet the furious biker), psychiatric hospital (where they get to meet Timothy Leary and trip on acid) to finally land bled’n’dry in a strip club to entertain the ladies… cause nothing lasts (as Ken Kesey would say)!

"Nice Dreams" is definitely one of the best movies in it’s class. What am I talking about? It’s one of the best movies ever! It beats "La Dolce Vita", "Psycho" or "Zabriskie Point" and even "Mean Streets" or "Boogie Nights". It’s as good as "Reservoir Dogs", "Network", "Five Easy Pieces" and only slightly worse than "Easy Rider", "The Holy Mountain" or "Apocalypse Now"… so if you want to see something really ass-cracking, go for this stoner classic NOW and remeber that a toke with Cheech & Chong is a quality toke!

Wednesday, 25 January 2012

Machete Maidens Unleashed! (2010)

While B-movie lovers genuinely understand, that what Americans were watching throughout the 70’s in then still widely popular drive-ins, was shot mostly in Philippines and other exotic countries… for newcomers it might come as a surprise. However, this fantastic documentary is NOT A GOOD PLACE FOR THEM TO START as it’s targeted specifically for classic exploitation cinema followers and I’m guessing that among this weird crowd it will find it’s purpose. After all, it talks about jungle movies, tits & ass, New World Pictures bunch, obscure spysploitation spoofs with Weng Weng, horrors with John Ashley and art of making sticky dive-in trailers. If you’re up for these themese, you’re gonna have a real ride with "Machete Maidens Unleashed!" as it definitely keeps the word unleashing almost everything there is to be unleashed.

Directed by Mark Hartley - who did a classy job on "Not Quite Hollywood: The Wild, Untold Story Of Ozploitation" documentary - this thorough look inside follows an exploitation timeline enlightening us about the beginning of American sponsored B-movies in Philippines from the first war movies, through cheap horrors and then stepping up to bring the story of Roger Corman and New World Pictures, who by their presence infuenced native Filipino directors and producers (the most obscure for the Western World), who by the middle 80’s cut couple of hundreds low-budget movies by themselves. What director did exceptionally well on this picture is he squeezed some real answers from the whole bunch of adventurous businessmen, directors, actors, editors and producers involved. Due to his priceless effort we get to know almost everything we’ve been always afraid to ask or because we just couldn’t afford this out-of-print book on obscure 70’s cinema. That’s where "Machete Maidens Unleashed!" breaks the ground in my opinion and that’s where it does the real favour. That’s quite difficult to undermine.

However, that’s not where this brilliant picture draws the line as it definitely generates a lot of new buzz around the exploitation cinema, which is accidentally or not coming back to life due to the rising interest in this style of directors and viewers! The exploitation revival has been a fact for the last couple of years, when we got such great movies as: "Planet Terror", "Black Dynamite", "Machete" or "Hobo With A Shotgun" and some less appreciated, but still fun to watch like: "Run Bitch Run!", "Nuns With Guns" or "Zombie Strippers". I personally don’t buy the arguments that they sometimes do not have a good plot (really???), or they’re in bad taste (hmmm?), or the acting is poor (sic!), or something else is wrong, for instance there is no Brad Pitt. Did "Big Doll House" have it? No, but it’s still a great brain junk. Even if you don’t like revival flicks, you love to feed your cravings with 60’s & 70’s classic, thus you will surely enjoy "Machete Maidens Unleashed!" and that’s why it’s been made for ya!

As a matter of fact, we lack tight, essential documentaries on the subject and in context of "Corman’s World…" arriving shortly, we might have a window to jump into the forgotten world of passion for the teen market when tits & ass were liberating feminine issues – an argument lifted primarily by the actresses in this documentary. When filmmaking was fun and the titles were often more important than the movies. When the trailes didn’t really concern a storyline and when you were making it for as little as you could making as much as possible (I’m fundamentally not at all against this concept) to be praised as a cult personality 40 years later! If all these things seem familiar and you were often pondering them stoned watching "For Y’ur Height Only", this is a movie to be enjoyed and rewatched!

Tuesday, 24 January 2012

She-Devils On Wheels (1968)

A cult director Herschell Gordon-Lewis is worshipped by many cinema freaks for his unwatchable, scruffy-looking flicks. Nonetheless, a lot of them are really BAAAD (in a bad way) and I’m sure I can say this without hurting no one’s feelings. On the other hand couple of his pieces are really worth watching as in B-movie land they constitute a world of it’s own – kind of sick, twisted and doped-up fantasy land. Screenplay, cinematography and acting are usually a joke and suspense is the worst you can imagine. Gordon-Lewis could definitely shake his hand with John Waters or his alikes if he didn’t do it till this point.

"She-Devils on Wheels" is a feminine take on an outlaw biker movie (sometimes dubbed the biker babes movie) – one of the most profitable exploitation sub-genres between 1967-1971. These gruesome, brutal and very often made in a jiffy pictures were either a total crap or amazing, over-the-top creations. They featured garage music as a soundtrack (some of the tunes absolutely fantastic) and unknown actors just making their way to Hollywood. Hard to say if this movie made any money EVER, I personally doubt it – but it eventually got stuck in cult obscurities drawer. Well, after watching it there is not much to talk about as the cloud of mystery evaporates and you just face the biggest imaginable spoof, about which even HGL said it was different (it definitely was).

Still there's plot, which is a story of The Men Eaters – a female biker gang (not even MC), whose main activisty is drag racing to geat ahed in men-picking order, done as a ritual almost every night. Big disappointment here is lack of genuine nudity, a real bummer. Then gals start a fight over the riding territory with a local male gang – terribly directed brawl scene. Finally, they pick on their own member, who breaks the rules and falls in love with one of the studs, who are supposed to serve only for pleasure (it almost made me cry). In the end men retaliate infuriating The Men Eaters, who set a trap for the leader popping his head off on a country road with a steel wire as he’s chasing after them on a bike. This scene is actually the only funny moment in "She-Devils On Wheels" as we see a plastic head falling down and ketchup spraying all over from victim’s broken neck. This kind of proves without any doubt that HGL was indeed a king of splatter!

I suppose it's only viable for Herschell Gordon-Lewis completists or genre followers and I seriously mean it. I'd advise the others against it - just watch the trailer and dry your sweat!

Monday, 23 January 2012

Planet Terror (2007)

In the modern cinema there are only two artists directly responsible for recent exploitation/grindhouse style revival – Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez, both ardent fans of 70’s tits and guns. While we know very well what Tarantino’s been up to for the last 15 years, we sometimes forget, that he’s brilliant friend and associate has been DOIN’’ HIS OWN THING all this time (Tarantino made sure to sidekick). Strictly nothing else, but pushing agenda to the edge’s limit! What’s his agenda you’ll ask? Bring back home the joy of blood and brains splattering all over with zombies, bikers and chicks DOIN’ THEIR THING. I cannot help to say: Great vision, isn’t it.

"Planet Terror" is a high praise of exploitation Renaissance – intelligent and DEFINITELY predatorial homage to 60’s & 70’s drive-in cinema. Movies like "Night Of The Living Dead", Zombie Holocaust", "Blood Feast" or "I Drink Your Blood" are only couple of flicks which stand right in front of your eyes, when you watch this awesome picture. I sincerely loved Rodriguez’s effort from beginning to the end enjoying the uncut version very, very much. What is here not to enjoy anyway? Stripper character named Cherry with a machine gun leg? Bruce Willis self-parodying his own style of acting? Texas bar owner trying to invent a perfect recipee for a beef barbecue? Toxic zombies eating brains out? For a real exploitation lover I can hardly think of a better treat.

Obviously it watches more like a blockbuster… but it never stormed the box office, when screened with "Death Proof" as a double feature in USA (a homage to B-movie drive-in packages). The reason in my opinion is simple, "Planet Terror" is not just another high budget (boring as fuck) clone, but pure exploitation in it’s essence taken over the top for the fun of it. In this case form is it’s own guardian, thus won’t be appreciated by people, who cannot read it’s correspondences and musings. After all, certain sense of humour is inevitable for watching this picture, without it you’re not gonna get far. Last but not least we cannot undermine cinematography, scenography and aciting in "Planet Terror" – they’re all very tight and themselves call for an applause.

It’s so hilarious indeed when you see Tarantino doing his episodic role. You just start laughing, while a teaser for "Women In Cages" (1971) is played in the background ("Soft flesh for hard cash"). Moments like that make this film a perfect parody – a general proof that two boys had a plenty of fun writing and shooting it. In my eyes "Planet Terror" stands as an example of modern cinema redefining itself one more time and giving at least some people exactly what they want! If you didn’t expect this, then I guess that "Transformers" would be more suitable.

Saturday, 21 January 2012

The Trip (1967)

If you never heard about "The Trip", but psychedelic drugs are something you understand and you’ve been into, it’s definitely a movie for you – checking it out it will be like getting a proper flashback (lucky you). If you occupy the other side of the barricade thinking that drugs are bad, that you have to be a degenerate to mess with them, that people taking LSD get loco and hear voices, which make them jump from the nearest roof, don’t watch it, it’s not gonna be funny for you. After all to fully appreciate this cult movie, you need to get heavily loaded. How else are you gonna watch a movie about LSD trip, which is supposed to be real fun? Stone cold sober? Forget it!

Basically, this movie carries a real legend, which breaks down like that. One day Jack Nicholson approached Roger Corman suggesting him shooting a picture dealing exclusively with LSD experience, for which he even managed to cut a screenplay. Corman accepted it objecting only against it’s length, thus quickly rewrote it to make the film easier to produce. As he didn’t know anything about acid at this point, he promptly dropped a sugar cube in Big Sur to check it out – it’s hard to imagine that he didn’t do it before, isn’t it. It gave him a brilliant insight as "The Trip" is one of his best movies ever and could be definitely classified as drugsploitation or hippiesploitation classic.

Not everyone thought it was that awesome in the beginning though! Original cut (85 min.) has never seen the world due to AIP mongers, who messed with Corman's version cutting out the beautiful, transgressive ending! However, even this safe cut was never classified by the MPAA, which means that distribution has become impossible and the print itself was shelved. Then UK film office has followed banning a movie till 2002, which as we might expect totally cut it’s wings in Europe. But what was irreparably wrong in this picture? No violence, no even rough sex… just the fact that a character drops some acid and starts rediscovering the world around him. However, it was seen as drug culture manifesto back then – a hedonistic statement, which potentially might have corrupted the youth. As a matter of fact, due to AIP helping hand it contains one of the funniest disclaimers in film history, but even that didn’t convince the censorship unfortunately. Almost 40 years later it’s been finally released on DVD and got to live a second life.

I personally love this flick, it’s a beautiful work with a whole bunch of surreal scenes, in which main character - Paul Grove sees everything around being totally zonked out of his mind – it almost induces the acid experience itself. Worth mentioning is that the character does not do it recreationally, but as a way of feeling out where to go next (it was a part of the sales pitch back then). He faces a divorce with his wife (Susan Strasberg) and he’s not satisfied with his professional life either while all around his friends freak out and discover their inner child. A movie itself is a showcase of hallucinogenic effects! We get lens flare (the same used later in "Easy Rider" by Dennis Hopper), fantasy sequences, whirling lights and whatnot. Jerky shots of Sunset Strip were directed by Hopper (he plays Max character in the movie) and Fonda definitely knows what he’s doing as an actor. It’s a real sweetness that came our way from Corman!

As a bonus for watching "The Trip" comes fantastic, obscure soundtrack by The Electric Flag (originally released on Sidewalk Records), who recorded it as their first album in ten days session. It can be considered a masterpiece of San Francisco sound! 18 tracks cut were swinging around psychedelic rock, blues, various moods of free jazz and soul. It’s here, where Mike Bloomfield unveiled himself as a genius composer, arranger and one of the up-and-coming guitar talents in USA. The music leads a viewer through all Peter’s acid trip, from the first kick-in through blows of euphoria, paranoia, searching to be saved from bad trip and "circus court" to final wear-off. To imitate peculiar vibe of the acid trip, band used whole set of weird effects including lines played by Paul Beaver on one of the first Moog synthesizers, which were quickly to possess an American psychedelic sound.

Full movie

Friday, 20 January 2012

The Wild Angels (1966)

How corny a Corman’s movie may be, you can go and figure yourself by watching couple of his worst pictures. Did you see "Naked Paradise" (1956), "The Terror" (1963) or "Gas-s-s" (1970)? No? Well, don’t try if you’re not a die-hard fan. As Dennis Hopper said, Corman was never a good director, but he was great to discover talent in other people. At least you cannot go wrong by claiming that to be true as his disciples grew tall with time and their pictures beat Corman’s efforts to death. What can we say then about The Wild Angels (1966), a movie made in fifteen days for $360.000, which grossed about $10.000.000 in the box office? A picture invited to a screening at 27th Venice International Film Festival, which eventually won an award in Cannes? Cheap piece of trash that started a completely new class of B-movie – biker flick, which proved to be the most profitable exploitation genre ever?

Frankly, I have a little problem with all these golden letters as The Wild Angels stands for me as one of the worst movies Corman ever made. It’s supposed to be a gruesome story of a biker gang getting their kicks from violence and torture – as the trailer sings – but divorced from the moral stiffness of the middle 60’s, when it was seen as a strong statement, it comes now as a laughing pot. In a whole movie there are only two moments, which even now might seem interesting. First one is the beginning, when Blues takes his chopper out… while next door mom is chasing her small child on a bicycle frightened for it’s life. And there it goes, we hear frenetic riffs of Blues Theme by Davie Allan & The Arrows while Blues is hitting the highway (to be honest, you need to check the soundtrack better than film)! When he finally gets off his bike, the magic moment ends! Second one is the church bash in the end of the movie, nice mash-up of flying legs and religious blasphemy. Other than that, we watch mainly a cheesy biker melodrama with swastikas and subpar acting… yeah, the acting, I almost forgot!

We definitely have to check the acting and the other work behind the movie. Screenplay written by Chuck Griffith, eventually rewritten by Peter Bogdanovich is a piece of garbage pulp – you can hardly come across so poorly drawned characters in any exploitation movie. It practically abandons any idea of personality at all proposing instead a comic strip Blues character (played by Peter Fonda) and his barbie girlfriend (played by Nancy Sinatra). None of these acting creations are worth longer review – they suck as hell! In fact, the worst comes when we have to see them speaking as Fonda is pretty all right just sitting there and getting tanned. But when he gets to make a speech like the one in the church: We wanna be free to ride, we wanna be free to do our own thing… you feel like caught between a talking dog and door-to-door salesman, which makes it pretty hard to handle.

The Wild Angels is one of these bad AIP exploitation flicks and I’m not making a sales pitch here for the diggers – pure form without a meaning (bravo Roger, you’ve made it again). In fact the only worse biker movies I saw in my life are: "The Hellcats" (1967) and "Rebel Rousers" (1970), can you imagine? Anyway, let’s not argue with the box office as the movie was a storm back then and it made Peter Fonda a star giving him basic concept of the "Easy Rider" as well. However, if you really want to dig into some nice biker matter, go for "Hell’s Belles" (1969), "The Born Losers" (1967) or "The Glory Stompers" (1968) instead of losing your time on this one.

Thursday, 19 January 2012

Zeta One (1969)

It’s hard to drop even a line about any classic exploitation movie without a certain distance. I suppose it’s kind of a necessary presumption to take that before you start watching this particular (as it ought to be), newly bought, obscure gem, it’s plot will be bland, acting not very refined, photography ridiculous and special effects as cheap as it takes. Well, welcome to B-movie world, which you visit only if you’re stoned or determined enough, because only then you can pull it together. This applies to "Zeta One" as well, so sit back and chill out first, please.

60’s were definitely faddish times! Artistic and financial creativity in the field of filmmaking gave birth to a lot of odd artifacts, which dumped by distributors after couple of screenings were shelved or stored by directors themselves, but with time a whole culture arose around it. Call it "cult movie culture", "digging in obscurities" or "rarity seeking", but some people just find a pure pleasure in discovering something, that not many have seen, even if it’s as bad as "Astro Zombies" (1968) or "The Hellcats" (1967). Fortunately, "Zeta One" is an excellent movie in it’s class. A bizarre mix of spy and sexsploitation loosely whooping up pop sci-fi themes with not the worst acting you’ll ever see and definitely hot chicks. This strictly British nugget was shot mostly in Camden Studios, in London while the capital wast still swingin’.

We embrace the plot in a form of retrospection. Our dear storyteller is a secret agent James Word, who just accomplished the most amazing assignment you will ever hear about. By the will of Her Majesty The Queen he’s been ordered to figure out what a notorious villain – Major Bourdon had been up to making his moves around the town, dropping a puzzle word Zeta and finally meeting North London stripteaser. As the action picks up we find out that he’s been looking for mysterious Zeta One – another dimension space station, inhabited only by women, who were beforehand kidnapped in different countries and brainwashed to serve their beautiful blonde queen, Zeta. As a matter of fact, Major Bourdon has a serious beef with her trying by all means to end this oasis of feminine power, hence we are thrilled to watch their all out war.

As I noticed at first, there’s no really need to care about a screenplay here as this film has little to none artistic quality (excuse me, did I really say it?). Director kept a strong sense of aesthetics instead, editing his work into colourful bricolage of topless chicks, mod clothing, absurd action scenes and occasional psychedelic effects like feminine, naked body floating on a dynamically splashing background (certainly, not without a motive). We even get James Word playing strip poker and parading in wellies, a whole basket of goodies indeed. In fact, why not indulge and sip a bit of this space-sex-spy cocktail, which by the way has a great fusion soundtrack? And finally there’s an important note for you – vintage nudes’ hunters, that waving tits are more often on than off here and some are delicious ones. After all this is one of the most eccentric 60’s exploitation pictures and a very funny one, so don’t hesitate too much if you like that kind of immagination.

Wednesday, 18 January 2012

The Glory Stompers (1968)

1966 was a great year for American International Pictures, producers and managers brainstormed, used their focus groups and eventually gave birth to a real creep – biker movie! A first in the genre was "The Wild Angels" directed by Roger Corman – a straight up nightmare, but more than a success in the box office. Produced as always for a dime, it brought AIP piles of $ and as their popularity was going through the roof, Corman was riding a high tide as well. Happy time for exploitation pictures indeed!

Soon whole wave of clones, copies and lame ripoffs followed, produced by all other independent film companies in California. Everybody wanted to cash on a new, wildly successful genre when it was still hot. As with every gold fever, the ones who do not dig right hit the bottom line. Although among all these biker flicks we may definitely spot some real pearls of rush film making, most of them were cheap, trashy, nonsense, horrible pictures, which looked more like stoned fantasies of a half-brained smalltime produced and his buddies – totally unwatchable stuff, which today circulates on bootlegs and could be effectively used for brainwashing these poor chaps in Guantanamo. Yes, I like some of them, but they’re not for everybody.

Fortunately, "The Glory Stompers" was one of best in the genre – a stud in the sea of moonshine (whatever), which is still enjoyable to watch today. It’s downside is corny screenplay and lurid set production, but the upside is great creation of Dennis Hopper and fantastic soundtrack by Davie Allan & The Arrows (who even get cameo in the middle of the movie). Hopper plays Chino – a leader of small, but brutal Black Souls MC. The bikers – as we might expect – just cruise around smoking dope and drinking beers trying to score. A real fun starts when they spot a pretty blonde, who unfortunately is made up by Cowboy, a member of The Glory Stompers MC. Chino is not a character, who asks for permission to take what he desires, so his guys follow Cowboy and take the broad away leaving him knocked off in the bushes by the lake to rot.

As Cowboy is far from being dead, he wakes up three hours later and goes after the brutes trying to cut the distance. That’s basically the storyline and so we are led by director through some hot Harley riding scenes, camping scenes, love-in in the wilderness filled with booze, weed and acid and eventually we get to the point, in which Chino decides to sell the faithful and irreconcible girl to Mexican pimps for 2 grand, who will hook her up on H. Lust and backstabbing are to come in the way of this plan finally leading to the end of the movie spiked up with madness, vengeance and violence. Totally sweet stuff for biker movies’ maniacs!

This is certainly a good genre flick, but not destined for unexperienced users, so if you’re not strongly attached to 60’s exploitation or unless you want to check out Dennis Hopper’s creation, you can leave it and stick to "The Wild Angels" only. For the bad guys, there’s a plenty of fun here. Steel hogs, pretty girls, iron crosses, bikers on a bad trip and of course heavily improvised Hopper’s lines. It’s definitely fascinating to see this guy with a joint in his mouth jabbering something like: "What did I tell you, man?" I fell in love with his jibbery, wild acting since I discovered "Easy Rider" when I was 16, so watching him in a movie preceding his swan song is something very peculiar for me. Of course, it’s not a masterpiece, but in it’s class it’s a solid bet.

Tuesday, 17 January 2012

Przestawiamy sie na inny jezyk!

Ok, moi fantastyczni! Wlasnie zdecydowalem, ze stara forma mojego bloga nie zdaje egzaminu - nie dla czytelnikow, ale dla mnie osobiscie. W zwiazku z tym, ze stracilem powolanie, zeby pisac o "wszystkim" - z czego wiekszosc i tak polskiego czytelnika nie interesuje, bo zupelnie go nie dotyczy - wzorem muzycznego bloga ktoredy pojda dzicy swieci, na ktorym sie od czasu do czasu udzielam, blog ten zostanie przestawiony na jezyk angielski. Tematyka zostanie takze ujednolicona, zeby Skrzynka Demona stala sie bardziej przejrzysta. Wiem, wiem, nie wszyscy rozumieja, ale lepiej pisac o pewnych tematach po angielsku i docierac do ludzi, ktorych to interesuje niz marnowac czas na pisanie po polsku i patrzec, jak temat sie roztapia w zwiazku z brakiem zainteresowania. Co bedzie tematem? Kino klasy B lat '50/'60/'70 oraz kino autorskie i kontrkulturowe! 1,2.3...zaczynamy!

Thursday, 12 January 2012

Douglas Rushkoff's transmission to RAW!

With the beginning of Robert Anton Wilson's week, we have Douglas Rushkoff explaining his spririt what happened while he was dead... let's hope he can hear it!