Top Ten Tuesday: GRINDHOUSE FILMS
We’re taking a field trip back in time to a more colorful era of cinema… back to the 70′s, specifically to the age of Grindhouse Cinema! Robert Rodriguez’s newest film MACHETE, a loving throwback to the golden age of grindhouse, opens in theaters nationwide on Friday, September 3rd. We Are Movie Geeks simply couldn’t resist the urge of revisiting our favorite grindhouse films, filled with blood and violence, babes getting revenge, cheesy dialogue and that beautiful grainy look that epitomizes the films of this genre.
10. ROLLING THUNDER
William Devane plays Major Charles Rane in this 1977 classic of the revenge sub-genre of grindhouse cinema. One part film noir for a new era of film, one part violent action flick that relies so well on character and story over special effects, ROLLING THUNDER is a film that deserves a much wider recognition. Being the film that inspired Quentin Tarantino’s production company of the same name, ROLLING THUNDER features the grindhouse grit and grain visual appeal, but also tells a more “sensitive” story, with more “sensitive” music than is traditionally remembered from the average grindhouse fare. Devane is excellent as Major Rane, a man so emotionally and psychologically traumatized from an 8-year imprisonment at the infamous Hanoi Hilton of Vietnam. Once back home, Major Rane finds his life is only beginning to suck as he’s tortured for information about a briefcase of money, leading to the murder of his wife and son. Having hit the tipping point, Major Rane seeks revenge, but ROLLING THUNDER excels at portraying a man who no longer feels any emotion, remorse of moral dilemma about killing the bastards who killed his family. Major Rane is a man the audience is drawn to both empathize with and care about, but also to fear, feeling uncontrollably appalled by his actions, yet understanding of his motives. ROLLING THUNDER is both exhilarating and heart-wrenching, making it perhaps the most emotionally fulfilling, action-packed grindhouse experience available.
9. LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT
Through movie history horror and suspense films have had many sources of inspiration, but few can claim an Ingmar Bergman work. For his first feature film, Wes Craven, reworked the plot of THE VIRGIN SPRING for the 1972 thriller, THE LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT. The movie concerns a seventeen year old girl who decides to take in a rock concert with a friend and score a little weed along the way. They run into Krug Stillo(played with sadistic glee by David Hess) with his escaped convict pals and are subjected to a night of vicious brutality. After disposing of the victims, the thugs inadvertently run into the parents of one of the girls. When the parents learn of the cons’ brutal attacks, they decide to take revenge. The film may be best recalled as the premiere effort of one of the iconic directors of horror cinema(who would later bring us Freddy Krueger and the SCREAM series) while many film fans may best remember its advertising tag line: “Just keep telling yourself-it’s only a movie-it’s only a movie”.
8. THE STREETFIGHTER
Sonny Chiba in THE STREETFIGHER was America’s gateway drug, along with ENTER THE DRAGON, into martial arts films. It was also the fourth New Line Cinema release in the company’s career. Sonny Chiba stars as Terry (Takuma Tsurug for the purists) who is a martial arts master that must save a daughter of a oil tycoon. Honestly, this thing is pretty loose on plot and more about Chiba kickin’ all sorts of ass. THE STORY OF RICKY-OH takes a page from the original THE STREETFIGHTER as well. It is known as one of the best grindhouse martial art films and that is all due to Chiba’s explosive and violent fighting style. The film was rated X solely on the violence.
Many horror fans will say this is director Dario Argento’s masterpiece, I would probably agree with them. Not only is it a visual assault but it is also one of those films that benefits from a loud soundtrack. Essentially a grand guignol piece for celluloid, SUSPIRIA shocked audiences due to its rich lighting and violent, over-the-top murders. SUSPIRIA mainly played in drive-in theatres which would lessen the actual intent of it’s blaring soundtrack. Nonetheless, it made an impact and only widened the road to more Italian horror films.
6. THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE
From the somber opening narration by a young John Larroquette, Tobe Hooper’s 1974 classic, THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE plunges the moviegoer into a world of sweaty dread and doom. It begins with the then old horror movie standby of lost teenagers in an unfamiliar countryside and soon introduces us to one of the most murderous families in cinema. At the center of the clan is a character who would become a monster movie icon: Gunnar Hansen as the hulking ,masked, chainsaw-wielding Leatherface. Lunging out of the darkness clutching his saw(or mallet), Leatherface is an almost unstoppable agent of death. Hooper shows his filmmaking skills by including several comedic touches during the many tense sequences. Particularly the scene at the dinner table where the family tries to help the ancient feeble grandfather relive his slaughter house glory days. Considering the title, it’s surprising the lack of hard core gore in the film. Though many sequels and a remake would follow none could come close to the power of the original classic.
5. FASTER PUSSY CAT! KILL! KILL!
Tura Satana could be called the gran-mama of revenge grindhouse cinema, a voluptuous and violent female heroine in FAST PUSSYCAT! KILL! KILL! In Russ Meyer’s 1965 classic pre-dates the grindhouse era, but was already ahead of its time. The story has a small gang of three beautiful but dangerous strippers seeking thrills. When they happen upon a young couple, things get brutal. The three women — Vara (Satana), Rosie and Billie — kill the boyfriend and take the young woman hostage in a plan to “acquire” a large sum of money from an old man, but little do they know the old man has plans of his own. Vara leads her gang of sinister strippers on a mission to seduce the old man’s sons in the name of uncovering the money’s whereabouts… a relatively easy task (so that thought) as they perfectly fit Russ Meyer’s trademark mold for busty, vivacious actresses. Tura Satana is a sight to be seen, but she’s also got an essence on screen that is difficult to ignore. FASTER PUSSYCAT! is a film that takes the idea of women being powerful and strong to a controversially high new level, at least, for the time of its release.
4. CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST
The granddaddy of them all. The one that goes ALL the way. CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST, which showed this past weekend at the Hi-Pointe in St. Louis (shame on you if you didn’t attend), was originally released in Italy in 1980. It took four years for the film to hit American shores but by the time it did, it already had a reputation. The film’s director, Ruggero Deodato, was threatened to go to jail for the alleged murder of his actors and animals throughout the film. Obviously, his actors were not murdered…the animals, not so much. He eventually was ordered to pay a fine for the acts towards animal cruelty displayed in the film. Beneath of this cosmetic layer of violence and cruelty, CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST actually has a very eye-opening statement about who to trust in the media.
3. ILSA, SHE WOLF OF THE SS
The title vixen of ILSA, SHE-WOLF OF THE SS is a perverted dominatrix Nazi officer with an insatiable sex drive and a gruesome torture fetish. Her death camp is filled with innocent women who Ilsa performs sadistic `medical’ experiments on. ILSA, SHE-WOLF OF THE SS was made in 1976 and is so politically incorrect and sick and that fans of gore and sleaze use it as a yardstick to measure subsequent depraved schlock by. Even its title screams “Grindhouse” and director Rob Zombie spoofed it affectionately with his “Werewolf Women of the SS” fake trailer for Tarantino and Rodriguez’s GRINDHOUSE in 2007. Dyanne Thorne played the blouse-bursting siren Ilsa in three sequels but none match the depravity of the original. I saw ILSA, SHE-WOLF OF THE SS at the theater in 1976 when I was 15 years old on a double-bill with ROLLING THUNDER and life’s been downhill since.
“Do I look like the kinda woman one man would be enough for?” — Coffy’s opening line!
1973 was the year the world first truly discovered icon Pam Grier, throwing herself into the title role of the bad-ass Coffy. Complete with sexy wild outfits, an extreme afro and the raw, unbridled fierceness to kick some serious ass, Coffy takes matters into her own hands in an effort to clean up the streets, waging war against the pimps and drug dealers that plague her world. COFFY has wild action, featuring the heroine doing serious shotgun damage, getting into bottle-busting bar fights, cat fights and even stashing razor blades in her hair. Coffy is certainly not joking around, but the film also includes plenty of comedy, both intentional and unintentional. COFFY is a blast to watch and a gem of the 70′s era, despite boasting more than it’s share of sketchy acting and even sketchier dialogue, the movie remains a fan favorite. COFFY is filled with extraordinary moments of cinematic excess, including a cast full of equally over-the-top supporting characters, covering just about e very major stereotype, from flamboyantly-dressed pimps to psychotic crackheads, COFFY takes the viewer back to a time and experience in America, long since disappeared. Oh yeah, and of course we can’t forget the music! What is 70′s exploitation cinema without the music?
1. I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE
In I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE (1978) author Jennifer (Camille Keaton) leaves New York for a summer in the country. Four unwashed pervs rape and beat her, almost to death, before she exacts her bloody revenge. It’s hard to believe that a movie centered around a 25-minute rape sequence (!) has been called the “ultimate feminist movie” but it’s hard to deny that Jennifer transforms into one seriously empowered woman (it bombed under its original title DAY OF THE WOMAN, but was reissued with its new moniker and became a cult hit). Though far from uplifting, I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE is disturbing, intense, and certainly not for everyone. It’s one of the most reviled films in all of movie history and sparks controversy almost anytime it’s mentioned but anyone who has not experienced it should do so and judge for themselves.