Thursday, April 26, 2012

24 of the Most Influential Exploitation & Trash Movies Part 3

WARNING! The following motion pictures depict acts of an offensive and extreme nature. Because of the numerous scenes of unremitting savagery, violence and sexual depravity, absolutely no one under 18 will be permitted to view these pictures!


"They gave him a little power... and he went insane! It could've happened anywhere, but it happened here! A man who should've been a common criminal... became a man with power over millions! He took the power and he went mad! He killed the husbands and he raped the wives. He lived like a king in his own private kingdom... and destroyed those who weren't his own kind! He owned the people... their lives... their bodies... their souls! The story of a madman who killed half a million. AMIN THE RISE AND FALL... he's still free to kill!"--Narration from the original trailer.

This seldom discussed exploitation epic of bloody proportions paints a gruesome, unhinged portrait of one of history's worst dictators. The plot is virtually non-existent aside from showing the insane Amin's rise to power and his eventual dethronement. There's gory shootings, beheadings, misogyny, and cannibalism aplenty.


"He's a one-man, two-armed, no-legged hit squad! SEE the Amazing Mr. No Legs and his Wheelchair of Death! SEE a paraplegic hitman use his stump and kung fu skills to snuff out double crossin' scum! SEE the sloppiest, the wackiest, laugh riot of a bar fight ever conceived! SEE a man bring a sword to a gunfight, take a bullet, and keep on swingin'! SEE the million selling record group, Mercy singing 'I Still Remember Love', a song nobody on earth has ever heard of! There's racism, transvestites, midget mayhem and a kung fu fightin', wheelchair weapon slingin' man with no legs and murder on his mind! It's the all time politically incorrect event of trash cinema! Richard Jaeckel... Luke Halpin... Rance Howard, yes, Opie Taylor's dad... John Agar... stunt driver Joie Chitwood and the Danger Angels... and introducing the Amazing Mr. No Legs! SEE IT!!--Cool Ass Cinema's trailer.

Richard Jaeckel stars as a detective trying to find the murderer of his sister. Partnered with his sisters hot-headed cop boyfriend, they ultimately run afoul of Lou, alias Mr. No Legs, the ambitious and deadly right hand man of drug dealer,D'Angelo. Insanity ensues with badly choreographed, but energetic fights and an impressive 13 minute car chase finale. Directed by Ricou Browning, the man inside the CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON suit.



"This woman has just cut, chopped, broken and burned five men beyond recognition... but no jury in America would ever convict her!"

Revenge movies are among the most popular styles of cinema around the world. The primality of vindication and righting an injustice evocates a powerful emotional response in us all, so it's only natural we enjoy seeing the scum of the earth get their just desserts. The rape-revenge style of thriller is arguably the most visceral example of the form. Never was this exemplified in a more disturbingly savage way than in Meir Zarchi's borderline pornography, I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE.

The movie was sporadically distributed, by Zarchi himself, under the rather generic sounding title of DAY OF THE WOMAN. It was also said to have been released under the title of I HATE YOUR GUTS, a title that was apparently popular as it adorned at least two other movies (Roger Corman's INTRUDER and FIGHT FOR YOUR LIFE). The film finally hit paydirt when Jerry Gross got a hold of it in 1980 and branded it with the now infamous moniker of I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE, a title that rivals Hooper's THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE as most exploitative film title ever conceived. Zarchi's groundbreakingly offensive picture got one of its "best" notices from Roger Ebert and his late cohort, Gene Siskel. Both uniformly panned the production even going so far as to attempt to have it removed from theatrical exhibition. Ebert further elucidated, with descriptive verbage, his
distaste for it in one of his movie review books. He related an almost verbatim sentiment for his review for MOTHER'S DAY (1980), a similar motion picture about an old woman who trains her two demented sons to rape, beat and kill women. This picture, which differentiates itself from other such movies with its socially satirical slant, has its own stigma of controversy attached to it. Needless to say, it's scathing reviews highlighting the unpleasantries in these films that only serves to get more folks intrigued to see them.

A number of other films followed in SPITS footsteps, the most polished of which is likely Abel Ferrara's brutally artistic MS. 45 (1980); essentially DEATH WISH (1974) and I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE (1978) all rolled up into one. This time, the malicious act or rape takes place in the city as opposed to the backwoods primeval. SAVAGE STREETS (1984) starring Linda Blair is one of the most violent and sleazy of the form and in 1985, Cirio H. Santiago delivered what amounted to a remake of Zarchi's original with NAKED VENGEANCE. Santiago's version lacked the primitive look and emotional gut-punch of the '78 film. I SPIT got its own official remake in 2010. Aside from looking far too polished and clean, the new film managed to replicate the originals geekshow mentality.

While his film is easily the slimiest of a grubby lot, Zarchi wasn't the first to do a rape-revenge movie. The wholly overrated Swedish mishmash THRILLER-A CRUEL PICTURE (1974) starred international exploitation starlet Christina Lindberg as a kidnapped girl who's raped and maimed till she learns Karate, gets some guns, and blows her captors away in what amounts to an extremely boring finale filmed in excruciatingly snail-paced slow motion. I remember fast forwarding a lot of it and it was still in slow motion! It was released here in a cut version under the more marketable title, THEY CALL HER ONE EYE and the trashier sounding HOOKER'S REVENGE.

In 1974, an American film bearing the wholesome appellation of THE RAPE SQUAD aka ACT OF VENGEANCE assaulted movie screens across the nation. In this one, you had a group of five women who band together to take down their attacker who's named Jingle Bells of all things. It's nowhere near the level of sadism and humiliation of Meir Zarchi's movie, but it's definitely the sort of film the title evokes.

I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE is the signature sleazeball movie of this genre style and the one film people have heard of whether they've seen it, or not. It also attracted a lot of attention upon its first release to videocassette in 1984 under the Wizard Video banner. The attention came from the MPAA when it was discovered the print on VHS was the uncut version despite the box bearing an 'R' rating.

Meir Zarchi's unremittingly nasty little movie has remained visible in the public eye for over 30 years now with multiple videotape, DVD and now Bluray releases. It's one of a handful of 70s trash epics whose title and heritage matches what transpires onscreen. Its hype is justified and whatever you've heard about it is assuredly true.

I remember seeing the film on two different occasions with a group of people and couldn't help but feel uncomfortable both times; one was with a friend whose parents had rented it having eagerly awaited its re-release on tape. That made for an awkward evening--a double feature of I SPIT and the new to video HUNTER'S BLOOD (1986).

The other time was really uncomfortable; it was with a group of Chinese friends whom I was working with at the time. When work finished, we went to Action Video next door. One of the cooks, for whatever reason, had decided it looked like something they all could watch. I assume he was bewitched by the bare-backed woman with the plump ass brandishing a knife. Needless to say, the room was quiet during the first hour. During the scene where Keaton's character is raped the second time, the tape was shut off and everybody just looked around in stunned silence; some of them couldn't speak English, anyways. The young chef then put on a non-English subbed tape of SHAOLIN INVINCIBLES (1977) instead as if that was much of an improvement. The extended, over long rape-torture sequence that takes up nearly an hour of the films running time is a true endurance test for even the sturdiest trash fans cast iron constitution.


"For the first time in cinema history, the greatest fear of all mankind will be graphically exposed!"

This Japanese financed shockumentary redefined the mondo film towards the tail end of the cycle. With MONDO CANE cementing the popularization of society's fascination with world weird morbidity, it was only a matter of time before the form mutated into crass exploitation. You'd be hard pressed to find a person who hasn't heard of it, or seen one of the films out of some need to satisfy sepulchral curiosity.

Touted as being a catalog of real death footage, it was later exposed to be primarily staged. Even with this knowledge, for a number of years, a great many people still considered it to be all too real, regardless of the fact that some of the scenes reveal just how fake they really are. The FACES OF DEATH series was truly a phenomenon. While it was popular theatrically, the film and its subsequent sequels and innumerable clones exploded on the home video market. FACES OF DEATH was everywhere. Everybody was talking about it.

I remember being in school around '84 or '85 and we would talk about it before, during and after class when we normally discussed the kung fu movie we had seen on 'Black Belt Feature' over the weekend. At the time, there was little in the way of stringent rules against kids under 17 renting movies with unsavory subject matter, so it wasn't difficult to be able to see something like this especially if your parents weren't paying attention, or didn't seem to care so long as you knew the difference between fantasy and reality, and FACES OF DEATH definitely blurred those lines.

FACES OF DEATH was a lot like Pro Wrestling back in the day. It was faked brutality, but was real all at the same time. While matches were "scripted" (save for occasions where wrestlers sometimes disapproved of an outcome and did their own thing), many of these guys would really beat the hell out of each other. A lot of folks knew it wasn't real, many of us thought it ALL was real. Even when it finally came out that there was some creative license going on behind the scenes, many fans faithfully, if blindingly held on to the notion that what they were seeing was definitely the real deal. FACES OF DEATH falls into this same category.

Gory newsreel footage of plane crashes and car accidents sit uncomfortably alongside scenes of staged alligator and bear attacks on man. These scenes are always crudely accentuated with the use of some shaky cam ingenuity immediately when something harrowing begins to take place. This was a staple of Mondo cinema and would be adopted by the current crop of "reality", or "found footage" movies that crop up every few minutes these days. The wildly popular series also found itself in the news during the late 1980s when a murderers statement revealed that his favorite movie was the notorious FACES OF DEATH.

"Banned in 46 countries!"

Just to give you an idea of how this morally reprehensible series had lingered, penetrated and gripped our society, in 1990, FACES OF DEATH 4 was released on tape. Not long after, somebody got the idea to take the film on the road for a theatrical release! I remember it played in my small town and there were even radio spots! Yet again, FACES OF DEATH was a major topic of discussion.

On another occasion, when I was an assistant manager at Taco Bell in 1994, one of the other managers had rented one of the FOD knock-offs and was watching it in the office! These clone shockumentaries were legion and so many of them were real death footage from start to finish. By this time, the Mondo connection had been abandoned and all that remained was a nauseating stream of uncensored (and likely leaked in some cases) film footage that you'd figure may only be of interest to coroners or crime busters in training. Now you can see footage of the Manson massacre aftermath, or even the horrifying helicopter accident that took the life of Vic Morrow and two children during the making of TWILIGHT ZONE: THE MOVIE (1983). There are even websites that are devoted to real death photographs and any other revolting imagery imaginable.

While this shocking film begat a home video phenomenon, the year prior saw the release of a very similar production from West Germany entitled JOURNEY INTO THE BEYOND (1977). Narrated by John Carradine, this movie was something of a bridge between MONDO CANE (1962) and the road traveled by the FACES OF DEATH hucksters. It never gets quite as grotesque as the FACES films, but comes off as a more adult version of the popular RIPLEY'S BELIEVE IT OR NOT series; a mass franchise that's been around for nearly a century and consists of the strange and the unusual. It was eventually turned into a television series premiering on the ABC network in 1982 and hosted by Jack Palance.

FACES OF DEATH is still in the public eye what with all the original films released on DVD and the first film on Bluray, amazingly enough. A remake was announced back in 2006, but has yet to be realized, if it were ever anything more than a hoax, itself. This series remains a peculiar anomaly in the history of exploitation cinema. It's lost much of its popularity and audience interest since at least the mid to late 90s since the dozens of "documentary" style gore movies have desensitized what allure these up-chuck inducing, geekshow epics had to offer.


"It's just a farmhouse that looks pretty innocent from the road, but once you're inside, you'll see what really happens on a terror farm... INVASION OF THE BLOOD FARMERS! Coming in the dead of night! Coming to plant the living and harvest the dead! INVASION OF THE BLOOD FARMERS! Are you strong enough? More raw terror, more stomach turning shock than you can take! Therefore, we warn you... don't eat before you see... INVASION OF THE BLOOD FARMERS and you'll have nothing to lose! They plant the living and harvest the dead! INVASION OF THE BLOOD FARMERS! Released by NMD Films. In color. Rated PG. Parental Guidance suggested."--Narration from original trailer.

Amazingly trashy title for so bad it's good movie about crazed druidic farmers draining the blood from their victims to resurrect their long dead queen.


"In 1976 the Unified People's Army of Watts was organized to rid the community of drugs, prostitution and crime! The project was a total wipe-out! They had to become... THE BLACK GESTAPO! The new master race! THE BLACK GESTAPO... when they declare war, it's all out... all the way out! And if they touch a brotha's woman, that really cuts it! THE BLACK GESTAPO! Victory through violence and vengeance for the new master race!"--narration from original trailer.

Funded by the Governor of LA, the People's Army is formed to help the poor and destitute of Watts. When a gangster syndicate sets up shop in Watts, both groups collide ending in an all out race war.



"The most brutal and savage film in modern history. The cameramen who shot this film were later devoured alive by cannibals."

The cruddy, porn-like excess of trash such as SNUFF (1976) had acquired a great deal of attention for its proposed real kill finale. Later revealed to be a staged death scene, the trouble that found Italian director, Ruggero Deodato went a few steps beyond.

Passed off in some territories as a one of a kind snuff movie, the director found himself facing a prison sentence for multiple counts of murder! Once some of the cast members were located, it was soon realized that it was all just a movie and promotional ballyhoo to sell tickets. Unfortunately, all the negative publicity surrounding the film worked against the picture instead of in its favor. That the public and the court thought Deodato had killed his cast was a frightening possibility that crossed the mind of some of the cast as well.

According to actor, Gabriel York, he took the job without a script and when he got one, it wasn't in English. Some of the businessmen he was in contact with likewise couldn't speak the language. Prior to meeting with Deodato, York saw some things that honestly caused him to worry for his safety. Porn star, Robert Kerman, was also among the cast taking the lead as Professor Monroe. Casting a porn star in such a movie only adds to the seedy atmosphere contributing to the exploitational aura of this endurance test of a film packed with violence, rape, cannibalism, animal violence and other savage acts of brutality.

Deodato had helped immensely in making cannibalistic jungle horror a viable exploitation commodity for thrill seekers living on the outskirts of good taste. MAN FROM DEEP RIVER laid the tracks, but LAST CANNIBAL WORLD got the train rolling.

"The law of the jungle... EAT, OR BE EATEN!"

Other films followed including Sergio Martino's sprawling action-gore epic MOUNTAIN OF THE CANNIBAL GOD (1978), a film that went out under a few different monikers including SLAVE OF THE CANNIBAL GOD and PRISONER OF THE CANNIBAL GOD. The theatrical version eliminates much of the unsavories, but the full strength cut contains the requisite animal cruelty (some of the most squirm inducing of the entire cycle), sex, decapitations, castrations and even some bestiality is thrown into the morbid mix.

CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST has become the best example of this much vilified style of cinema. Since its legit North American release on DVD in recent years, the film has garnered a great deal of exposure since its original theatrical release went virtually unnoticed. Incidentally, MGM was originally in line to distribute the film, but catching wind of all the international controversy the movie was attracting, the studio passed on it. Where CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST has been an innovative force is the documentary style incorporated during the latter portions of the movie.

Deodato attacks both the media and Italian filmmaking duo, Gualtiero Jacopetti and Franco Prosperi here all the while inadvertently giving birth to the "Found Footage" style of horror film that has risen in popularity at an alarming rate all around the world ever since THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT (1999) used Deodato's devices to convince audiences that three people actually died onscreen. Alternatively, when CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST was re-released on the midnight circuit nationwide over the course of the last ten years, the distributors utilized the same viral promotional tools the makers of BLAIR WITCH had used to get potential patrons interested who may not know just what the film was. It's exploitational significance took longer to take hold considering how difficult it was to see the film back in the day. Now, it's a vitally important horror film that every serious student of the genre should see. It's just as socially relevant today, maybe even more so, than it was upon its original release.


"This is a story of honor, disgrace, vengeance... MASSACRE! And a man who became a demon! SHOGUN ASSASSIN!"

New World Pictures committed a crime in 1980 by butchering the first two of the fabled LONE WOLF & CUB movies from the early 70s, then cramming the leftovers into a single entity. Considering the popularity of the result, fans have been only too eager to acquit them.

Bathed in majestic fountains of spraying blood and gore, SHOGUN ASSASSIN is something of a cultural conundrum. It's both a blessing and a bane to Chambara movies in that those who have seen it are literally blown away by the shocking amount of outrageously bloody violence and they end up wanting more of the same. The problem is that there aren't a great many movies like the LONE WOLF & CUB films, so those casual fans won over by the crimson exuberance are usually disappointed to find that most samurai pictures aren't as gracious with the severed limbs. It's safe to say that SHOGUN ASSASSIN is the ultimate introduction to casual fans who may have but a passing interest in foreign action movies of this sort.

With its even more streamlined plot, new synth score and remarkably respectable dub job, SHOGUN ASSASSIN cut a bloody swath on the exploitation circuit accruing nearly 2 million in four weeks on $350,000 spent to rework the Japanese original.

Critics mostly tore it up (Gene Siskel walked out a showing early) and audiences ate it up till the MPAA discovered the version making theatrical rounds was not the one they gave the 'R' rating to. Demanding all prints be removed from circulation, distributor Roger Corman decided to pull the film as opposed to trying to put it back out there unrated since most theaters refuse to carry a film without a rating. The movie got even wider recognition when MCA/Universal released the film to videotape not long after.

Bizarrely enough, the third film in the series, BABY CART TO HADES (1972), was released through Columbia Pictures in 1974 with a trailer that seemed to challenge the moneymaking propensity of the Hong Kong martial arts films that were all the rage at the time. Closing out the trailer, a narrator says, "Raise a kung fu fist against Ogami and he'll chop it off!"

SHOGUN ASSASSIN was banned for a time in the United Kingdom which also added to its gruesome mystique. Since its theatrical and home video days, the cult following of this infamous film has allowed the six original films to be released on DVD in subtitled editions. The SHOGUN ASSASSIN cut has also been released on Bluray. An American remake is in the works, unfortunately.


"KUNG FU MAMA, she's the QUEEN OF FISTS! Crown International Pictures brings you the colossal kung fu event of the year! Don't mess with the KUNG FU MAMA! This wall climbin' granny's got skills, get in her way, you'll be the first she kills! Big or small, KUNG FU MAMA crushes them all! The QUEEN OF FISTS! She took on an army of kung fu killers and dished out discipline the only way she can! KUNG FU MAMA! Rated R!"--Cool Ass Cinema's trailer.

Virtually plot free kung phooey stars the plumpy, elderly bad ass from Wang Yu's KNIGHT ERRANT (1973) in her own movie. My aunt and uncles first and last kung fu film they saw back during the pictures original release. As usual with so many kung fu releases back in the day, the lead actor/actress is either missing from the credits, or given a made up name. Wang Yu is not in this film, although this US poster would have you believe he was.


"PASSION PLANTATION... where love, death, lust and hate meet in a whirlwind of violence! You were shocked by MANDINGO, now prepare yourself for the perversity of the PASSION PLANTATION! See the evil of Emanuelle as she uses her body to tease, torture and titillate her captive slaves! See the love of this powerful woman scorned culminating in a vicious and deadly act of revenge! PASSION PLANTATION... with all the grandeur of MANDINGO comes this savage tale of lust, love and revenge! PASSION PLANTATION! A Howard Mahler release! Rated R!"--Cool Ass Cinema's trailer.

This cheap Italian clone of MANDINGO (1975) stars Malisa Longo as Emanuelle, the daughter of a plantation owner who gets her kicks abusing slaves. When her fiance falls in love with her black maid, Emanuelle plots a cruel revenge. There was also another Italian MANDINGO clone from this time period from the same director entitled MANDINGA (1976).



"The following feature is one of the most violent films ever made. There are at least two dozen scenes of barbaric torture and sadistic cruelty graphically shown. If the presentation of disgusting and repulsive subject matter upsets you, please do not view this film."

Deodato's CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST may be the definitive example of the much castigated cannibal movie sub genre, but Lenzi's unapologetic jungle opus had the widest overall exposure and launched just as many lunches. It's also one of the nastiest foreign exploitation movies ever made.

During the home video invasion, MAKE THEM DIE SLOWLY aka CANNIBAL FEROX was acquired by Thriller Video, a company that had specialized in a long string of releases hosted by the Mistress of the Dark herself, Elvira. This particular release was unique in that Elvira decided against hosting this and a few other Thriller Video tapes because of the tasteless presentation.

Lenzi loved New York City and many of his films have location shooting there. MAKE THEM DIE SLOWLY has quite a lot of footage of the City That Never Sleeps, cutting back and forth between it and the jungle hell of the Amazon. As overbearingly sleazy as the whole thing is, this jumping back and forth between civilization and an untamed Thirld World land gives this trashy exploitation classick an epic feel punctuated by Lenzi's signature touch.

"Humiliation and mutilation were just the appetizers at this blood feast...castration and decapitation ... the main course!"

The director kicked off the man-eats-man movies with the violent jungle adventure drama MAN FROM DEEP RIVER (1972), a film that took a cue or two from the Richard Harris vehicle A MAN CALLED HORSE (1970). It wasn't a cannibal movie, but its one graphic sequence of flesh eating laid the groundwork for what would come in addition to a cavalcade of animal cruelty scenes.

The film was profitable and it wouldn't be long before the cannibal sub genre would subjugate the Mondo movie grossing out trash palace followers looking for all new sick kicks in the process.

A few years later, Ruggero Deodato would be approached to do what Lenzi reportedly didn't want to do and that was another similar film set in the jungle. With the success of THE LAST CANNIBAL WORLD in 1976, Lenzi went to war and returned from the New Guinea jungle armed with a new movie headlined by a porn star and a wealth of stock footage from other cannibal movies.

"MAKE THEM DIE SLOWLY... the most violent film ever made! Too disgusting to watch... too bizarre to resist!"

EATEN ALIVE! (1980) is arguably the trashiest of all the cannibal movies, not just because of the large number of scenes borrowed from other productions, but its plot combines the then shocking Jonestown Massacre with intestine noshing, limb ripping natives. It's a veritable cannibal cocktail topped off with a sprinkling of nauseating animal deaths.

After Deodato topped them all with his soul shredding HOLOCAUST, Lenzi returned fire with a sadistic, arguably more offensive film, MAKE THEM DIE SLOWLY. Lenzi's movie is also one of the chosen few whose title and trailer accurately convey what sort of cinematic experience you're in for. It truly delivers. It's also probably the only time in history an Italian cannibal movie will make American prime time television.

"Now it's their turn to suffer... but they made one mistake... they got caught and when you get caught in this jungle, there's no bail and no jail. There's just punishment... and pain! Cruel, barbaric, primitive... for what they've done... MAKE THEM DIE SLOWLY!"

In the late 80s, the ABC series 20/20 ran an episode where they attacked the horror genre claiming these movies were turning the nations children into potential killers. One scene in particular had several suburban mothers sitting around watching a movie that one of their children had seen. That film happened to be Umberto Lenzi's MAKE THEM DIE SLOWLY! The narrator of the news program details what the film is about while we get to see these Desperate Housewives shake their heads in disgust while refraining from regurgitating.

MAKE THEM DIE SLOWLY was the last "great" cannibal movie before the sub genre went vegetarian in terms of believability and production quality. Prior to the digital age, this picture was more widely known than Deodato's "classier" cannibal culinary classick. The exposure on 20/20 no doubt accepted a number of new inductees into Lenzi's cannibal club. Predominantly panned for its perceived politically racist stance, animal violence and graphic gore, it's required viewing for all those interested in exploitation films and the 42nd Street experience.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

24 of the Most Influential Exploitation & Trash Movies Part 2

WARNING! The following motion pictures depict acts of an offensive and extreme nature. Because of the numerous scenes of unremitting savagery, violence and sexual depravity, absolutely no one under 18 will be permitted to view these pictures!


"What happened was true...the most bizarre and brutal series of crimes in America."

If Tobe Hooper never made another good movie, he would always have one great one on his resume and that's this down home nightmare of backwoods Americana about meat, slaughterhouses, a boy, a girl and a chainsaw. TEXAS CHAINSAW was one of those movies where the ballyhoo matched what transpired onscreen. It also has one helluva title; possibly the single most exploitable of all time. Texas is BIG, Chainsaws are LOUD and a Massacre can get downright MESSY. Those reports of folks passing out, or having to walk out of the showings were true. My mom was one of them, in fact! After hearing and reading so many stories behind this movie, I just had to see it for myself. Wes Craven had put a chainsaw to vengeful use during the finale of LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT, but Tobe Hooper made them ghoulishly fashionable.

I remember when this first hit videocassette, one of the local video stores had this huge ad from Media Entertainment heralding the films arrival on VHS with that classic blurb from Rex Reed at the top. Since my parents had recently divorced, I was free to see as many horrors as I could lay my hands on and having seen PIECES on tape around the same time (catching that films trailer on TV followed by incessant begging to see it at our local bijou was a futile attempt knowing how my mother felt about movies that starred loud power tools), sitting down to some TEXAS CHAINSAW mayhem was a no-brainer.

Strangely enough, my dad was curious as to why I would want to watch something like that. Hearing this, I remembered the scenes from PIECES of the chainsaw graphically severing a head, shredding a poor girl who's just pissed herself and the greatest moment of WTF? in trash film history wherein a stitched together corpse sits up and rips Ian Sera's extremities off. Surely, TCM couldn't be any more galvanizingly gruesome than that, could it? Well, while it didn't deliver the gore groceries, it did have more than its fair share of unsettling moments that I grew to appreciate even more with each subsequent viewing and videotape and DVD purchase.

The power of Hooper's movie relied not in its supposed gore quotient, but in its ability to get under your skin by what you don't see, enabling your mind to fill in the blanks. I remember my mom describing the scene where Leatherface supposedly severs William Vail's limbs with his chainsaw, the sight of which was never, ever shown. Itself influenced by real life psycho Ed Gein, TCM has bred a slew of movies in which a group of individuals take a wrong turn, or end up at some isolated location out in the middle of nowhere never to be seen again. DELIVERANCE (1972) made a dark, if glossy and polished version of this concept. TEXAS CHAINSAW was simply cheap, raw and dirty.

DERANGED from 1974 was an accurate account of ol' unhinged Ed and one of the more infamous movies to follow in the ferocious footsteps of Hooper's vision. It wasn't drenched in it, but there was a mild amount of gore (such as an eyeball scooping scene that was cut for its theatrical release), crude but effectively mounted by a very young Tom Savini.

Years later, Australian Peter Jackson, over a decade before helming the LORD OF THE RINGS trilogy, paid tribute to The Saw in his hilarious gore-comedy BAD TASTE (1987) with arguably the greatest in-joke in horror history.

The biggest foreign influence in recent years comes from the delightfully downbeat French Renaissance of Horror that emerged approximately ten years ago with a surge of movies with roots ripped straight from Hooper's film. It's interesting to note how these French filmmakers produce predominantly new product displaying their influences while the American companies are content with remaking the originals.

"This is the movie that is just as real...just as close...just as terrifying as being there. Even if one of them survives, what will be left? THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE...after you stop screaming, you'll start talking about it."

Tobe Hooper himself even followed up his exalted effort with the similar EATEN ALIVE in 1976. That film saw a crazed Neville Brand running a ramshackle motel slaughtering the occupants with a scythe and feeding the remains to a giant alligator next door! The film didn't perform well despite a stellar cast and the perfect atmosphere for the trash crowd.

One of the most popular distribution devices at the time for enterprising promoters saddled with a box office no-show was to re-release the same movie under different titles in the hopes of a film finding its audience. Hooper's Southern Gothic follow-up never found its audience despite siring multiple titles such as STARLIGHT SLAUGHTER, HORROR HOTEL and once more in 1983 with LEGEND OF THE BAYOU, the latter of which even experimented with some creative license with the poster imagery for Hooper's THE FUNHOUSE (1981). In all these examples, you will notice the mention of THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE somewhere on the advertising.

It should be noted that prior to Hooper's seminal movie, there were some earlier, similar examples such as 1964's blackly comical SPIDER BABY from Jack Hill about the psychotic Merrye family who, when they're not murdering anyone who enters their house, feed their victims to their basement dwelling cannibalistic kin.

William Girdler's THREE ON A MEATHOOK from 1973 had a father and son living on an isolated farmhouse, the setting where a handful of beautiful girls disappeared. Dead girls dangling from meathooks, death by axe, shotgun and cannibalism are all on the menu in this cheap early 70s drive in flick. The former has acquired a healthy cult following over the years while the latter, while largely forgettable, has some trashy merits, but remains languishing in obscurity.

Hooper's original Meat Movie champion managed to accrue three sequels, a remake, a sequel to the remake and a proposed television series of all things. TCM is so deeply entrenched within America's pop culture lexicon, I don't think it's possible to see a movie with a chainsaw being used without an image of Leatherface doing his dance of death entering the mind. You don't just watch THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE, you experience it. You'll never see the slamming of a metal door the same way again.


"The ultimate in screen terror! Raw horror that was the Nazi nightmare explodes on the screen!"

Sleaze was re-defined when this gruesome, sex filled trash flick oozed onto silver screens around the world shocking audiences and critics alike. This picture more or less destroyed the career of its star, Dyanne Thorne; and according to Thorne, caused her to lose some friendships in the process. It's a shame, as she's incredible in the part. Her rapacious, sexually charged performance personified the dominating female in a jarringly explicit fashion that bordered dangerously close to the pornographic.

The high quotient of sex and nudity present in ILSA, SHE-WOLF OF THE SS (1974) didn't go unnoticed in such major publications as Playboy Magazine, which featured an image of a fully nude Peggy Sipots slowly hanging herself while standing atop a block of ice in the 'Sex In Cinema' article from the November 1975 issue.

Combined with a near endless array of startlingly repugnant scenes of brutality and appalling sadism, ILSA went on to shock and horrify millions of viewers in spite of widespread critical condemnation. It became the biggest independent effort up to that time solidifying the notion that more tortures were forthcoming. Director Don Edmonds had a similar style to Jack Hill and he delivered the gory goods once more with the even more trashy titled ILSA, HAREM KEEPER OF THE OIL SHEIKS (1976).

Cinepix, the Canadian distribution company that handled the previous two ILSA's, got behind the third film in the series--ILSA, THE TIGRESS OF SIBERIA (1977)--which ended up being a radical departure from the dominatrix's previous installments. The first half is traditional Fraulein territory (this time set in the frozen Siberian wasteland), but the latter half takes on a spy style narrative that jumps ahead 24 years later to find Ilsa covertly running a prostitution ring in modern day Canada! What makes this entry of particular interest is the participation of Roger Corman, Ivan Reitman--who directed CANNIBAL GIRLS (1972) and GHOSTBUSTERS (1984)--and director Jean LeFleur, whose previous credits were handling less salacious fare.

"For some, there was death... slow... brutal... for others, the chosen few... there was only Ilsa, She-Wolf of the SS!"

Jess Franco, possibly the sloppiest director in history, was responsible for shackling Dyanne Thorne to the awful GRETA, THE MAD BUTCHER (1977); a boring, shoddily put together, but nonetheless sleazy movie. With negligible ties to the ILSA series outside of the participation of the voluptuous Thorne, this is standard and cheaply produced Women In Prison fare. This time our bosomy villainess runs a South American "clinic" where the tortures perpetrated on the female victims end up on camera and sold on the snuff film market! The "Lick my culo" scene isn't as nauseating as it could have been, but outside of a cannibal climax that's intercut with shots of tigers ripping an animal apart, the ass cleaning scene is as disturbing as this one gets. This clumsy, putrid mess was also released under the title of WANDA, THE WICKED WARDEN, and also as ILSA, ABSOLUTE POWER. You'll notice the GRETA artwork mimics the previous poster imagery of the two preceding films and even goes so far as to infer it's part of the ILSA series by stating, "That infamous Ilsa woman is back... this time she is... GRETA, THE MAD BUTCHER."

"Together with her Black Widows, she committed crimes so terrible, even the SS feared her!"

While OIL SHEIKS was in release, the July 1976 edition of the St. Petersburg Times reported on the announcement of another Ilsa adventure, an ambitious endeavor that ultimately never came to fruition. The unbelievably titled ILSA MEETS BRUCE LEE IN THE DEVIL'S TRIANGLE was the brainchild of ILSA financier and distributor, John Dunning. That this proposed picture would have Our Woman From Germany headquartered out in the middle of the Devil's Triangle responsible for ship disappearances and training killer dolphins is ludicrous in the extreme, not to mention how Bruce Lee was going to figure into this bizarre stew of ingredients.

With a budget allotted at $250,000, the plot would also have bore some resemblance to Don Edmond's earlier examples of Ilsa, but cutting back on the level of sexual shenanigans. Amazingly, Ilsa was to have fallen in love with Bruce Lee who would use his hold over her to bring about her demise; a story conceit which pretty much sealed her fate in the previous two movies. For whatever reason, this gem of an idea seemingly never got passed the idea stage. Incidentally, the enterprising Dunning also envisioned further adventures of the Nazi sex fiend such ILSA, SHE LION OF THE MAU MAU!


"Terry Tsuguri... 6 foot 6 of half-breed fury! But he's got a little problem... he has a hard time making friends!"

Sonny Chiba got in everybody's face with this bone-breaking, testicle ripping Japanese Karate picture that was so raw in its violence and lead performance perpetrated by the one and only Chiba-san, that the MPAA gave the picture the first ever 'X' rating strictly for the films violent content. While movies from the Shaw Brothers had spilled gallons of red paint, THE STREET FIGHTER was a modern day gore drenched comic book that also dealt with drugs and prostitution among its sleazy potential. It's all backed by a groovy, rockin'-ass soundtrack, 'Music To Crack Skulls By' if you will, that you'll be humming for a while long after the flick has finished.

It's Chiba's performance that stands out above the generous amount of bright red gushing about. To call it over the top is an understatement. With Chiba's constant mugging, bizarre facial contortions and animal noises, it's impossible to take your eyes off him. The actor was graced with a uniquely intimidating face that spoke volumes without the use of dialog. His fists and feet did most of the talking anyways.

Cut down to an 'R' and losing most of its gory violence, THE STREET FIGHTER was still a success for then independent New Line Cinema. More Japanese style Karate pictures were imported by them including two STREET FIGHTER sequels and also a Tadashi Yamashita vehicle, the first of a trilogy, called simply THE KARATE (1973) in Japan. For its US debut in 1975, it was given the more palatable and exploitable title of BRONSON LEE, CHAMPION. Speaking of Bronson, it's worth mentioning that when Chiba's THE STREET FIGHTER was in release, the Charles Bronson bare-knuckle brawler, then titled THE STREET FIGHTER as well, had to change its nomenclature to HARD TIMES (1975).

Like its Japanese unveiling, RETURN OF THE STREET FIGHTER (1974) was rapidly released in America to maintain Chiba's momentum, itself riding the coattails of the Hong Kong kung fu wave. Yet again, the gore was drastically cut and it didn't help that the film contained a lot of stock footage from part one in flashback sequences. Terry Levene of Aquarius Releasing dusted off Chiba's BODYGUARD KIBA from 1973 and released it in 1976 as simply THE BODYGUARD (or, VIVA, CHIBA! THE BODYGUARD as is seen on the opening credits) and bearing one of the decades most outrageous trailers.

"I'll kill Tsurugi now, I owe it to him!"

Chiba was a hot commodity for trash peddlers during the late 70s. Cinema Shares, which handled predominantly foreign product from Italy and Asia (their release in 1977 of the 1974 GODZILLA VS. MECHAGODZILLA under the title of GODZILLA VS. THE BIONIC MONSTER garnered them a lawsuit from Universal who felt the moniker infringed on their SIX MILLION DOLLAR MAN and BIONIC WOMAN television shows), handled Toei's Chiba hit, SHAOLIN KARATE (1975), unleashing it here as THE KILLING MACHINE in 1976.

Technically not an exploitation movie, it did frequently wallow in extreme violence such as geysers of blood, broken bones and a show-stopping sequence where a gangster has his penis severed and fed to a dog! And this picture is based on a true story(!) regarding the Japanese martial arts master, Doshin So, who brought Chinese martial arts to Japan. Notice the poster artwork manages to squeeze in a mention of 'STREETFIGHTER' between the actors name.

"You beat a man they call you tough! You beat an army they call you... THE STREET FIGHTER!"

United Artists, enjoying their time as a major studio before collapsing mightily under the weight of massive losses resulting from the box office bomb, HEAVEN'S GATE in 1980, secured the rights to two Chiba movies. One of these became one of the actors most fondly remembered pictures. Released in 1977, CHAMPION OF DEATH was the US re-titling of Toei's KARATE BULLFIGHTER (1975), the first in a trilogy of films based on the life of world renowned martial artist, and Chiba's instructor, Masutatsu Oyama.

Hoping to ride the STAR WARS wave with their acquisition of Toei's elaborately gaudy imitation, Kenji Fukasaku's MESSAGE FROM SPACE (1978)--at one time the most expensive Japanese production up to that time--United Artists discovered too late that the Force wasn't with them. Chiba was merely a co-star here, but the film is indeed a lot of fun, and Lucas would seem to have borrowed elements from Fukasaku's film for his later science fiction epics.

By 1979, Sonny Chiba's reign of the American exploitation circuit was all but evaporated after the embarrassment that was THE STREET FIGHTER'S LAST REVENGE (1974). It made a mockery of the Takuma Tsurugi (Terry in the English prints; the trailer erroneously refers to him as Terry Tsuguri likely because it rhymed with 'fury') character and lacked the extreme gore of the previous entries. The alarmingly busy actor re-visited his most famous character in the similar EXECUTIONER series in 1974.

Chiba's legacy lived on in the minds of those who witnessed his special brand of brutality and even led to a handful of co-starring roles in low budget American actioners during the 1990s. Airings of his hit Japanese ninja show, SHADOW WARRIORS, kept him in the public eye particularly for those on the west coast. Regardless of what some may think of of him, Quentin Tarantino was instrumental in getting the uncut version of THE STREET FIGHTER out on VHS and laserdisc and re-familiarizing the western world with the Incredible Sonny Chiba.


"Hold onto your heads!"

Everybody was still 'Kung Fu Fighting' in '75 and Warner Brothers maintained their partnership with the Shaw Brothers (at the time, both studios had co-produced the lavish CLEOPATRA JONES & THE CASINO OF GOLD) since first acquiring their kung fu movies three years earlier with FIVE FINGERS OF DEATH (1972), the first kung fu extravaganza before Bruce Lee hit the big screen. THE FLYING GUILLOTINE was a different sort of animal entirely. With relatively little in the way of martial arts fighting, this picture focused more on this historical head cleaver allegedly used during the Qing Dynasty to quell hostilities against the Emperor and subjugate local provincial dwellers.

Bordering on horror movie conventions, Ho Meng Hua's classic film was a hit in Asia and America. So much so, that a whole sub genre of guillotine movies began flying out of nowhere ready to snatch the money from the hands of eager patrons. Warner's handled North American distribution and at one point, the film played a double bill with the notorious SNUFF (1976). You'll notice from the artwork above that Warner's accurately conveyed the cast and director credits. Out of the numerous knock-offs, an official FG sequel, THE FLYING GUILLOTINE 2 (1978) also played American theaters. A modern remake is currently in production. Also, the title cutlery was recently the subject of a Discovery Channel documentary series.


In the previous article the rising mainstream popularity of porno films and kung fu movies--both having exploded the same year with DEEP THROAT and FIVE FINGERS OF DEATH--was covered. Particularly striking was the poster for DEEP THRUST (1973) which seemed to take advantage of the porn industry's pop culture invasion in its advertising. Here, you'll see another instance of the cross pollination of sex and kung fu from the cover (and the accompanying article) of the September 1974 issue of Stag Magazine.

Inside, you'll discover the ancient secrets of the 'Love Making Techniques From the Kung Fu Sex Manual'! This article, illustrated with a topless man and woman wearing martial arts pants, are depicted "psyching up sexually" prior to the act itself. Said to be translated from an old silk scroll residing in a Hangchow museum put in book form by Chinese sexologists, variables of foreplay are explored-- "he who will take pleasure from sex must first give pleasure in sex; and he who will give pleasure in sex must first prepare his mind to meet that of his mate." An interesting read, it's also an early example wherein kung fu and karate are discussed as if they are the same thing.

17. MANDINGO 1975

"All the shocking realism! All the magnificence and depravity!"

Not really an exploitation movie in the literal sense, this Paramount production based on Kyle Onstott's novel was of the 'Race Hate' school of trash peddling, but on a much bigger scale; and just as shocking that this Southern Gothic attracted some notable actors and also Richard Fleischer, the director of 20,000 LEAGUES UNDER THE SEA (1954) and TORA! TORA! TORA! (1970)

At the time this was widely considered cinematic garbage by most critics who were only too eager to pan the film for its barrage of interracial sexual content and racially incendiary scenes and dialog. As is often the case, condemning a movie for its offensiveness only acts to increase ticket sales resulting in MANDINGO being a resounding success story.

On a number of occasions, major studios had attempted to steal a huge chunk of the smaller guys exploitation pie, but never had a big budget picture depicted such scenes of shocking depravity and taboo barriers broken; even the trailer was an incredible display of offending imagery and dialog. The films poster artwork even goes so far as to imitate the famous pose of Clark Gable and Vivien Leigh on the promotional materials for GONE WITH THE WIND (1939) by showcasing Ken Norton and Susan George in a passionate embrace and also Perry King carrying off a swooning Brenda Sykes.

An even bigger sequel appeared the following year, but problems plaguing the production left it more or less an embarrassment for most involved. Still, the poster tagline for DRUM (1976) is wholly accurate; where MANDINGO lit the fuse, DRUM was the resulting explosion. The sequel erupted in unintentional comedy theatrics, drowned in a sea of racist dialog and a lot of foul language culminating in a gory finale that is vastly different from what came before it. Heaps of fun, DRUM succeeds in being blazingly offensive where MANDINGO ultimately treats the subject matter respectfully. There were movies before it (QUADROON from '72) and after (SLAVERS from '77) that tread similar territory, but MANDINGO was an instance of a big studio producing an expensive version of an exploitation picture. The success of MANDINGO was likely instrumental in the wildly successful television mini-series, ROOTS from 1977.

"MANDINGO! The pride of his masters! MANDINGO! The strongest and the bravest! MANDINGO is the first true motion picture epic of the old South!"

1977's FIGHT FOR YOUR LIFE was a modern day 'Race Hate' extravaganza about three racially mixed convicts escaping prison and holing up in the house of a black family whom they subject to all manner of degradation and humiliation. William Sanderson was the redneck sum-bitch who spouts off the most fire branding slurs and hate speech to ever be uttered by any actor.

Like UNCLE TOM before it, FIGHT FOR YOUR LIFE had a spotty release that also yielded a myriad of alternate titles including I HATE YOUR GUTS and STAYIN' ALIVE, the latter of which was geared towards black audiences. Sometime this year, the cruel vices of slavery will once again be explored, this time by America's celebrated, if highly unoriginal film director, Quentin Tarantino. His film, DJANGO UNCHAINED, is no doubt another mishmash of assorted genre conventions. The plot involves revenge and slaves in what has more in common with Fred Williamson's THE LEGEND OF NIGGER CHARLEY (1972) than it does Sergio Corbucci's genre defining Euro western, DJANGO (1966).


"A show that will make anyone RETCH!"

Movies from the 70s have a stigma of being graphically misogynistic. Never is that more apparent than in Joel M. Reed's blackly comical sex and gore flick, BLOODSUCKING FREAKS. Originally released as THE INCREDIBLE TORTURE SHOW, the film magnanimously lived up to that title with an endless stream of offensive imagery the likes of which redefine revolting.

While it's essentially played for kicks, the all powerful Women Against Pornography weren't laughing resulting in that group relentlessly protesting the picture. Women seen in the film are constantly naked, tortured, maimed and killed in the most demeaning, sadistic ways imaginable. It's all supposedly a fake Grand Guignol styled theatrical display, but it turns out the stage shows run by Sardu and his maniac midget partner are all too real. Women are used as dart boards, dinner tables (complete with candles with hot wax spilling onto their naked backs), decapitated, dismembered and one poor lady has all her teeth removed, her head shaved, a hole drilled through her skull and her brain sucked out
through a straw!

"Sardu... Evil genius of pain with the most bizarre machines and tools ever created to torture the body of woman!"

There's also two naked Nubian assistants for Sardu who occasionally lash him with a whip and a cage full of naked and wild cannibal women, and that's barely scratching the surface of the overall cess pool this film wallows in. Troma picked up the putrid picture for re-release in 1980 awarding it with its more well known title of BLOODSUCKING FREAKS.

This film is special to me as I first became aware of through a review from famed cult film critic, Joe Bob Briggs, who saw it under its original TORTURE SHOW title. Discovering VHS mail order outlets in the late 80s was a goldmine of grotesqueries for this now damaged brained youth. I secretly spent $20 of my allowance on the Vestron tape of BLOODSUCKING FREAKS from Video Mania. Unfortunately, during this time, VHS tapes were terribly expensive, so many times, the closest I got to owning some of these (outside of renting) were these mail order catalogs.

19. SNUFF 1976

"The film that could only be made in South America...where life is CHEAP!"

Porn and trash filmmakers, Michael and Roberta Findlay originally shot this movie about a crazed Manson style cult in Argentina in 1971 under the title of SLAUGHTER. In 1976, it was re-released with an all new ending and re-christened with the far more disturbing moniker of SNUFF. The ending featured a much ballyhooed sequence of an actress being killed for real onscreen. It was all a hoax, of course, but this didn't stop a wave of protests from the then recently formed WAP--Women Against Pornography, a highly publicized group of radical feminists at war against the exploitation of, and the violence towards women. This all worked in the films favor, naturally, with the production making the profit that eluded it earlier in the decade.

This classick of the historical 70s exploitation canon is among the group of pictures whose reputation far exceeds the product itself. Strictly of curiosity value, it's still an important, and influential piece of trash filmmaking that only fueled the supposed existence of snuff movies, despite one of them never being uncovered.

The furor surrounding the tacked on ending of the Findlay film mirrored a later, similar incident when Charlie Sheen assumed he had a bonafide snuff film with what turned out to be a Japanese entry in the notorious GUINEA PIG series, FLOWER OF FLESH AND BLOOD (1985). It's also interesting to note that the plot of the cult movie LAST HOUSE ON DEAD END STREET (1977) revolved around an ex-con who decides to break into the snuff film business. Also, with the original version of SNUFF from '71 taking its cue from the '69 Manson Family massacre, the re-worked version from '76 was let loose within months of the two part television movie, HELTER SKELTER (1976) also about the Manson murders. The legend of Snuff movies continued to be a popular attraction in both lowbrow and mainstream entertainment including movies like Ruggero Deodato's groundbreakingly offensive CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST (1980), David Cronenberg's perversely subversive VIDEODROME (1983), 8MM (1999) and the controversial AUGUST UNDERGROUND series from the early 2000s.

* Most of the poster images are from Wrong Side of the Art.*


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