Welcome to Coolasscinema.com! This is a site dedicated to the propagation of strange and exciting cinema (and television) from all over the world as well as America's own grand tradition of exploitation cinema classics. From the front (and back) seats of drive in's across the nation, to the sleaze pit theaters of New York's famed 42nd street, to the comforts of home watching fantastic cinema on the Late Show, remember those classic (and sometimes classless) films of old and even discover some new ones.
Fred Williamson (B.J. Hammer), Bernie Hamilton (Davis), Vonetta McGee (Lois), William Smith (Brenner), Charles Lampkin (Big Sid), D'Urville Martin (Sonny), Stack Pierce (Roughhouse)
Directed by Bruce Clark
A former fighter and dockworker named B.J. Hammer gets back into the boxing ring after a mobster catches him in a fight against a racist co-worker. Seeing the chance to make it to the big time, Hammer signs with Big Sid, a shady promoter who deals in drugs and murder. Trouble ensues when Big Sid's backers demand that Hammer take the fall for an up and coming fighter. Only Hammer isn't going down for anybody.
Bruce Clark, the director of the infamous exploitation classic, GALAXY OF TERROR (1981), tackles this average blaxploitation flick that made Fred Williamson a movie star. The movie is competently shot and contains some nice characterizations. The good guys are good and the bad guys are especially bad. Compared with some others in the genre, it doesn't stand up very well. It's possibly due to some weak boxing choreography as these scenes are pretty much flat for the most part. There's also an overall lack of action aside from a small number of minor set pieces throughout.
The best things in HAMMER are the dialog and certain aspects of the script. What it lacks in action it more than makes up for in its themes and portrayals. A good blaxploitation movie needs some engaging action set pieces to reel in the audience to accentuate those dialog scenes. Even still, these scenes are well done and delve into the minds of the people. Williamson is less ego minded this time out. He's charismatic here, but far more laid back than in most all his other movies. His acting here is less forced and he comes off more natural. It's one of his better roles in my opinion.
The script also explores the seedier side of boxing and the cruel treatment afforded the fighters. They're just slabs of meat to be thrown in the garbage when they've gotten too old. Control is a major theme that runs through this movie. The promoter pulls the strings of the fighters and a bigger fish pulls the strings of the promoter. Also, there's quite a lot said about Hammer once he climbs the ladder to success. A lot of his neighborhood brothers and sisters look down on him once he's workin' for "the Man". However, we never really get a feel for how high up the ladder Hammer has gotten. We only hear about it through those that have turned their backs on him.
Nonetheless it is quite trashy in places which is to be expected of this genre. There's nudity, violence and a good pace, ingredients that categorize the more popular entries in this genre. Derogatory speech is also fairly prominent here. Having the white characters spout off inflammatory dialog really got the audience behind the heroes in these films.
HAMMER (1972) would be several tiers down were it not for the great William Smith as the maniac, Brenner. His overanxious propensity for violence makes for a scary persona. Nearly every scene he's in, Smith seems on the edge of pummeling everyone within camera range. He would later play an even more vicious and excitable mobster in BLACK SAMSON from 1974. Like so many of William Smith's bad guy roles, he's seldom given a believable send off due to his imposing frame and intense face. It's difficult to make the audience believe the hero could take Smith down. He's that intimidating.
Williamson once said that Smith was, "Probably the toughest guy in the 70's", the two worked again on Jack Arnold's black western, BOSS NIGGER (1975). Smith's exit here during the closing moments is rather disappointing after the picture, up to this point, carefully builds Brenner as a force to be reckoned with.
Vonetta McGee will also be remembered as Luva from BLACULA (1972) as well as her role in Sergio Corbucci's excessively bleak and violent THE GREAT SILENCE (1968). She was rather bland, but had an exotic beauty about her with some hypnotic Barbara Steele like eyes. She allegedly had an affair with Klaus Kinski whilst shooting THE GREAT SILENCE. There's also lots of other familiar faces here including "Judo" Gene LeBell, Bernie Hamilton (BUCKTOWN), charles Lampkin (WATERMELON MAN), Stack Pierce (PSYCHIC KILLER), John Quade (EVERY WHICH WAY BUT LOOSE) and D'Urville Martin (DOLEMITE), which helps aid in the films staying power.
HAMMER (1972) is one of the lesser blaxploitation movies, but one not without some merits. It's one of Fred Williamson's more laid back roles. Whereas in so many of his movies, Williamson is simply playing Fred Williamson, here, he lends B.J. Hammer some humble, yet confident traits that make him a likable character. While it's merely an average production, fans will want to see it anyway, but don't expect anything along the lines of BLACK CAESAR (1972), COFFY (1973) or TRUCK TURNER (1974).
This edition of 'Assorted Bits & Pieces' doesn't feature any great Shaw Brothers pictures. This time, I thought I'd make a more personable entry; to share my DVD collection and some of the other cinema related materials in my collection. Also, in conjunction with my excitement over the upcoming release of PIRANHA 3D, I thought I'd share a recent and related purchase...
First, though, let's get to the main point of interest. When I first read that ruthlessly creative French director, Alexander Aja was behind the camera for a 3D version of PIRANHA, I was ecstatic. I've enjoyed both PIRANHA movies (ignoring the Corman remake from the mid 90's) ever since seeing them back in the early 80's and when a bootleg trailer leaked recently, it didn't disappoint. Although it looked rather goofy and saddled with an enormous amount of flesh both bared and shredded, it nonetheless looks to be a fun, gore filled monster movie.
Above and below are some pics from the film. The first is taken from Fangoria's website and the other is taken from horrormovies.ca.From these and other photos, it's glaringly obvious Aja does not skip on the gory details very much akin to the grue spectaculars that were HIGH TENSION and his HILLS HAVE EYES remake in 2006.
About a month and a half ago, I received the soundtrack to PIRANHA 2: THE SPAWNING (1981) in the mail from Movie Grooves, the ultimate site for finding great film scores for all kinds of movies. This score is by celebrated composer, Stelvio Cipriani. His soundtracks were often aggressive, throbbing scores.
His numerous Italian crime tracks accentuate his style very well and his work here often sounds bigger than the film itself. Frequently rhythmic and melancholic, several cues are beautifully orchestrated by Cipriani lending Cameron's movie some substance it might not have had otherwise.
Back of the inside cover to the soundtrack. There are also liner notes and assorted bloody photos from the film inside
The prolific Cipriani also dabbled again in the deep sea monster genre with the soundtrack to the often maligned TENTACLES (1977). Some of his other horror music can be heard in Umberto Lenzi's grand ghoulish trash classic, NIGHTMARE CITY in 1980 and Bava's BARON BLOOD in 1972.
Having just recently bought a house a few months ago, I haven't had a great deal of time to get settled in. Although recently, I have had time to unpack almost everything and get some things squared away. This is my very old entertainment center filled with movies...
***CLICK A PIC TO SEE A LARGER IMAGE***
That's the Beverly Hillbillies playing on the tube. I tend to keep the TV in the living room on TV Land much of the time and much to the GF's chagrin
And here are a selection of pictures giving a closer look at what's on the shelves. I try to keep each section genre specific. It doesn't always work out this way as I need another bookcase as there are still more movies in boxes, but not TOO many.
This first section pictured above, the top left, consists of mostly drama, comedies, concerts and assorted action There are two rows front and back as well as fours stacks of movies on top of each of the two rows.
Next, this section above is devoted to blaxploitation and American action flicks. There are two rows here as well as four stacks on top of both rows.
Then, the remaining shelves of the left column consist entirely of horror movies with a stray genre title here and there. This first shelf contains four full rows, two top and two bottom.
The next shelf pictured above contains two full rows, front and back with four stacks on top of both. The bottom shelf pictured below is mostly all extreme horror with two rows.
Moving over to the right column, the whole right side is nothing but Asian action and horror. The first three shelves are all Shaw Brothers DVD's. Predominantly the region 3 releases, there are some region 1 and 4 titles spread throughout. The Shaw DVD shelves are catalogued according to director...
The bulk of this first shelf above consists of Chang Cheh movies...
This second section pictured above also contains some VCD's (middle top row). These CD lookalikes are the preferred media option in Asia when it comes to movies. They are inferior to DVD's in every way, but are incredibly cheap. Some of the Shaw titles were released as VCD only titles.
More Shaw Brothers greats pictured here. The disc in the middle is the Aussie two disc set of the 'Journey To the West quartet of fantasy movies produced at Shaw studios in the late 1960's.
The tops of both left and right side columns feature box sets and special releases. The pics feature STAR TREK original series, TWILIGHT ZONE complete series, JAMES BOND series box set (up to CASINO ROYALE), BLIND DEAD set and THE BEYOND collectors tin...
Then there's the smaller bookcase next to the entertainment center. This is where I keep the bulk of the box sets I have...
What's on my walls?
Among the several hundred original movie posters and lobby cards in my collection, I have finally been able to at least get three posters up on the wall. Three of my favorites....
The first is the Shaw horror classic, HUMAN LANTERNS (1982)...
Followed by Cheh's popular Five Venom classic THE CRIPPLED AVENGERS (1978)...
From here, we head over into my office where even more junk is kept...
In this room there was already some built in shelves. I made use of these by utilizing the shelving pictured below to contain much of my Eurocinema collection. There are four full rows here, front and back with some movies on top of these as well...
Then it's on to another bookcase that's almost completely full, too. The picture at bottom is four rows (front and back) of mostly horror. The CD sleeves to the right of the top shelf are DVD-R's. In addition to all the DVD's, I have around 12 full spindles stock full of DVD-R's of various genres. I don't know when in the hell I'll ever get around to watching them all.
These next two shelves pictured below are horror and the bottom two rows consist of a lot of Japanese sci fi and Japanese monster movies including all the Godzilla series among many others.
This last shelf pictured below is mostly kung fu movies and Japanese sci fi and samurai pictures. The DVD's to the left of the pic are PRIDE Fighting DVD's. I have a whole other box filled with PRIDE discs that are unopened.
Now, below, it's another bookshelf, this time containing actual books and various film reference materials. This first shelf has a few recent purchases as well as dozens of VIDEO WATCHDOG and ASIAN CULT CINEMA digests seen to the right.There's some wrestling shoot interviews on this shelf, too.
The remaining shelves are most of the books I have at this time...
And lastly, here's some of the other built in shelving where I have made a home for hundreds of the magazines I have accumulated over the years. While this isn't all of them, these three pics are alternate views of the same photo. The magazines contained herein are assorted issues of FANGORIA, GOREZONE, FAMOUS MONSTERS OF FILMLAND, SAVAGE SWORD OF CONAN THE BARBARIAN, CONAN SAGA, RUE MORGUE and others...
There's still lots to go through and find a place for. I now have plenty of room for all this memorabilia I have thrown money away on. No doubt I could have bought another house and paid in cash with all this great shit I have picked up over the years!
This entry of Cool Ass Cinema Book Reviews is going for a grindhouse slant. A naughty and nasty tour through the slimier side of sinema as well as a detour into the weird and wild world of exploitation movies. There will also be a bonus book review not too far from the theme of today's entry.
With all the LAST HOUSE slamming going on in the 'Wes Craven' debate over at the Horror Blogger Alliance, I thought it fitting to plug the 'Making Of' book of the controversial classic(k).
WES CRAVEN'S LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT: THE MAKING OF A CULT CLASSIC
By David A. Szulkin
Softcover; 216 pages; color & B/W
This exhaustive and painstaking revised 2000 edition of Szulkin's amazing 1997 volume on Craven's most notorious movie is a fascinating read that fans and curiosity seekers alike will simply not want to put down. Every aspect of the films production, its release, the controversy and backlash as well as the plethora of lost footage is discussed in detail. Any fan of the film simply must own this book.
Not only is it a document on the making of one of the most villified cinematic endeavors of all time, but it's told in the words of those in front of, and behind the camera. There's a great many stories told by the technicians and participants in addition to a boatload of rare behind the scenes photos and posters as well as a chapter devoted to a slew of LAST HOUSE clones.
Everything there is to know about this production is uncovered and bared to the reader. It adds an additional appreciation for this incendiary exercise in angry and low budget filmmaking. To add to the whole sleazy aura, an appendix lists other films released by Hallmark Releasing accompanied by those films posters. The Table of Contents is as follows....
To Avoid Fainting, Keep Repeating: It's Only A movie...Only A Movie...Only A Movie...
Planning The Sex Crime of the Century
Babes In The Woods: A Crash Course In Guerrilla Filmmaking
Cutting, Slashing, Slicing And Dicing
Krug Plays A Mean Guitar: The Musical Score
The Launch Of A Thousand Lunches
Now You See It, Now You Don't: In Search Of The Uncensored
Rip Offs And Rehashes
Last Thoughts On The House
Appendix 1: Selected Filmographies
Appendix 2: The Shooting Schedule
Appendix 3: The Ballad
Appendix 4: Props And Equipment List For Night Of Vengeance Shoot
Szulkin's extraordinary and authoritative book is must-read material for horror fans. Those who hate the film may find much of interest here as well. From FAB Press, the best film reference publisher, keep repeating to yourself, it's only a book...only a book...only a book....
Following that class act is another wonderful trip down to the bowels of the sleaze pit barrel. This time it's a book from the founder of the 80's exploitation magazine, Sleazoid Express....
SLEAZOID EXPRESS: A MIND TWISTING TOUR THROUGH THE GRINDHOUSE CINEMA OF TIMES SQUARE!
By Bill Landis & Michelle Clifford
Softcover; 315 pages; B/W
The late Bill Landis and his wife, Michelle Clifford put together the ultimate love letter to a bygone timeperiod, a "dark time" in American history. For someone who only got to experience 42nd Street when it was being torn down, this book does a magnificent job of detailing what it was like to have been (un)lucky enough to have experienced it first hand.
Friends of mine have divulged just how scary it was to attend the infamous gutter trash New York movie theaters and the sheer adrenaline rush it was to be right in the middle of the action whilst watching whatever misbegotten celluloid filth was unspooling onscreen. More about the experience than the actual films themselves, SLEAZOID EXPRESS makes a connection with the reader placing you right there in the Deuce, or the Rialto. You get the feeling you are there experiencing it with the authors.
However, one shouldn't go into this volume expecting movie reviews and plot synopsis'. This book is all about the experience first and the films second. It does cover a wide range of genre garbage including a wide range of exploitation, porn, race hate movies, horror both homegrown and from Europe and kung fu movies are among the genres discussed. Another highly recommended book for those interested in New York's original 42nd Street; a time period captured onscreen in such films as TAXI DRIVER (1976) and BASKET CASE (1982).
Moving on we stop off at one of the most celebrated movie review books of all time....
THE PSYCHOTRONIC ENCYCLOPEDIA OF FILM
By Michael Weldon
Softcover; 815 pages; B/W
This is Weldon's original and overwhelmingly massive 1983 review book. It's a milestone in film reference and particularly film review books. There's so much information presented here including many wonderful photos and poster artwork from all manner of exploitation, horror, monster movies and everything in between.
Weldon followed up this comprehensive ode to exploitation cinema with another, slightly smaller volume entitled PSYCHOTRONIC VIDEO GUIDE in 1996. Even with its dated year of release, Weldon's book is a prime read for those who wax nostalgic about catching such wild and wooley films on weekends and on late night television. The reviews themselves are somewhat brief, but contain a lot of interesting trivia for those who already know the films themselves.
This volume is an exceptional read despite its age and is a great coffee table book for those with a passion for all manner of movies with an accent towards the tasteless and the tacky.
And now for the bonus books. These are two of my favorites. One of them is probably the first movie review book I ever bought as a kid....
THE CREATURE FEATURES MOVIE GUIDE
By John Stanley
Softcover; 304 pages; B/W
Stanley, the host of the California television program, Creature Features, writes this excellent and witty review book on horror, sci fi and monster flicks. This is the updated and revised 1984 edition. It was in this tome that I became interested in learning about any and every monster movie I could lay my eyes on. I would fervently peruse the TV Guide seeking out monster flicks then grab my copy of Creature Features and read what Stanley had to say about it. One of my single favorite books in my collection, Stanley struck again several more times such as below with....
CREATURE FEATURES MOVIE GUIDE STRIKES AGAIN
By John Stanley
Softcover; 454 pages; B/W
This fourth edition contains even more entries and some new takes on some old favorites. Sadly, Stanley omits some titles found in previous editions. However, the same witty style returns for more monster goodness. It's another great read, but not as good as the previous Stanley volume, possibly for nostalgic reasons. There has been at least one more version in a much smaller edition.
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I've been a huge movie buff since childhood catching old horror and monster flicks on Shock Theater and kung fu movies at the drive-in during the late 70's and early 80's. I've had a long time fascination with, and appreciate all genres of fantastic cinema, good and bad. One fans cheese is another fans juicy steak. I like both equally and seldom find a film I truly dislike as I will find something of interest in just about anything. The bulk of the films or tv series' seen here are mostly from my childhood, or films I own in what has become an Amazing Colossal DVD collection.