Tuesday, April 17, 2012
24 of the Most Influential Exploitation & Trash Movies Part 1
This selected list of 24 notorious examples of cinematic sex, violence, brutality and blatant unwholesomeness is a companion piece to the Sins of Celluloid articles ( part 4 will be coming soon). These selections are my own opinion of the best exploitation movies, and how trash pictures and overall tasteless films have left their imprint on cinema in one way or another. Whether through advertising, shock value, or controversial subject matter, these 24 films are essential examples of the often times shocking exploitation experience.
1. MONDO CANE 1962
"People all over the world are talking about MONDO CANE!"
This unique motion picture from Gualtiero Jacopetti and Franco Prosperi caused a stir in its day and aside from some scornful animal violence, it's pretty tame by today's standards. It's also one of a few films on this list that some can argue as to whether it is, or isn't exploitation. This fascinating curio also started a trend that carries on in some form or other even now.
Purporting to be a document of the weird and wild cultural practices around the world, it ends up being little more than shock sensationalism containing some sequences that are manipulated to appear as something else entirely. This is the most cruel and incredulous aspect of the film that the makers would create a scenario that wasn't there in the first place in an effort to "educate" viewers; the heartbreaking sequence with the sea turtles being the most difficult to watch. SEE A Korean restaurant where you can personally select your dog of choice! SEE The ritualistic slaughter of a bull! SEE Mutilated fishermen get their revenge of man-eating sharks! SEE Bizarre religious practices! And the list goes on. This theatrical RIPLEY'S BELIEVE IT OR NOT via irresponsible news reporting planted the seed for dozens of mondo shockumentaries for the next two decades; some of the more sprawling and shocking entries coming from the minds behind MONDO CANE.
However, there were a handful of movies that were of a similar vintage released as far back as the 1930s that were likely an inspiration to J&P prior to shooting their groundbreaking, sensationalistic, pseudo-simulated shockumentary. There were also a string of 'Goona Goona' pictures that traveled a similar path exposing the "reality" of various exotic tribal customs from the far reaches of the world. One such example of this being INGAGI from 1930. Possibly one of the most racist films ever conceived, it purported to show African women being given to gorillas as sex slaves! Some of these movies would never be mistaken for anything more than disposable hokum destined to be parodied by the likes of MYSTERY SCIENCE THEATER 3000.
Another early example that preceded MONDO CANE by several years was NAKED AFRICA (1957), a sensational "documentary" that reveals bizarre African tribal customs populated by natives in all their naked glory.
Two of the more infamous examples of the J&P duo AFRICA BLOOD AND GUTS (1966) and GOODBYE, UNCLE TOM (1971). Both films deal primarily with black culture and black history, but in different, and equally offensive ways. The former details the savagery perpetrated in war torn Africa and the latter is something of a simulated, time traveling document of slavery told in the most revolting fashion possible. Both films are awe inspiring and will evoke a myriad of emotions from the viewer. One thing is certain, you won't think of movies the same way again after seeing these shocking pieces of cinema.
These movies also gave birth to the bastard child of the mondo cycle--the Italian cannibal movie. Among other areas that mondo movies have left their bloody fingerprints are in the way the media alters, edits and manipulates stories to support a particular agenda which is not only inexcusable, but a dangerous precedent to set. The neverending onslaught of modern "reality" shows fall into the same category. Shockingly enough, Riz Ortolani's song for MONDO CANE, 'More', was nominated for an Academy Award! It's a beautiful song and set the standard for overly violent movies containing overly melodic, romantic main themes.
2. BLOOD FEAST 1963
"...This picture, truly one of the most unusual ever filmed, contains scenes, which under no circumstances, should be viewed by anyone with a heart condition, or anyone who is easily upset."
Herschell Gordon Lewis got the bloody ball rolling with this first ever color gorefest dripping with laughable acting and crude, but effective gore effects. The film is about a mad Egyptian caterer with thick, bushy eyebrows named Fuad Ramsey who used his machete and sometimes his mesmerizing powers of persuasion and bad acting ability to hack, rip and tear certain body parts from various beautiful girls. These ladies often add nothing at all to the movie except to look good before having mannequin limbs torn from their bodies, animal tongues ripped from their mouths, or some form of viscera masquerading as brain matter scooped out of a freshly cracked open cranium. One of his targets is former Playboy Playmate Connie Mason (who also took a role in Lewis' TWO THOUSAND MANIACS! in 1964) and the reason for all the limb lopping is to bring the Egyptian goddess, Ishtar, back to life. Apparently resurrections such as these are accomplished by merely cooking up a big feast made up of the flesh of nubile young women sporting only the hottest of 60s fashions.
Like Lewis and producer Friedman, BLOOD FEAST acquired a cult following and even got a tribute movie of sorts in the form of Jackie Kong's BLOOD DINER (1987) and a sequel from Lewis himself entitled BLOOD FEAST 2: ALL U CAN EAT (2002). The score by director Lewis is actually pretty creepy at times with his slow beating drums, organ and horn sections. I recall the first time I saw this was in the mid 1980s on the old Continental big box with the image of the girl with her tongue ripped out splashed on the cover. The same day I was further traumatized by graphic gore seen in PIECES (1982), then freshly on video from Vestron. With BLOOD FEAST being the first color movie to depict extreme gore, it was also my first experience with gore drenched savagery onscreen, so both BLOOD FEAST and PIECES have a lot to atone for.
3. NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD 1968
"Welcome to a night of total terror!"
Zombies had been around on film since at least 1932, but nothing quite like Romero's seminal shufflers had ever been seen before. These cool ghouls showed up with an appetite for human flesh. The plot is fairly inconsequential aside from a group of individuals (one of them being black) being trapped inside an old farmhouse out in the middle of nowhere engaged in battling an ever increasing horde of walking dead. A palpable fear of paranoia is present and even some social and racial commentary for good measure. Romero would become well known for addressing issues by way of subtext in his movies and it would become more profound in his later films, particularly his zombie pictures. NIGHT became a domestic sensation whose plague spread overseas.
By the late 70s, Romero's iconic gut munchers had marched on Europe producing a steady stream of like-minded movies that often eschewed the socio-political issues for a more fantastic, or supernatural explanation for the rising of the dead. After seeing images of it in HALLOWEEN 2 (1981) and FADE TO BLACK (1981), the first time I saw NIGHT, it definitely scared the hell out of me.
I saw DAWN OF THE DEAD first, but the B/W original had me riveted from start to finish. The opening cemetery sequence is a classic most notably for the undying dialog of "They're coming to get you, Barbara!" Unfortunately, Romero has rarely ever gotten the sort of accolades he has acquired for his zombie efforts. Even more disheartening is that after directing DAWN OF THE DEAD (1978), every dead picture he's done after it has the unfortunate distinction of being compared to the GONE WITH THE WIND of walking dead epics. At least Romero could never be accused of rehashing the same thing over and over, approaching each subsequent film with some fresh ideas. Despite DAWN OF THE DEAD more or less eclipsing every other zombie movie out there, one thing is sure--without the NIGHT, there would never have been the DAWN.
4. MARK OF THE DEVIL 1970
"Positively the most horrifying film ever made."
Movies about satanism, demonic possession and witchcraft have been popular attractions through the years. The release of WITCHFINDER GENERAL in 1968 reinvigorated the sub genre branding it with a gritty realism it hadn't experienced up to that time. This was further exemplified through Ken Russell's controversial and little seen THE DEVILS in 1971.
Wedged in between those two was this grotesque piece of euro-trash that parlayed historical accounts for excessively violent content. It was one of many films that used its origin in truth as an excuse to showcase an endless stream of agonizing violence. MARK OF THE DEVIL was also one of exploitation cinemas finest examples of carnival style showmanship which took the far more innocent promotional attributes of William Castle and violated them with an extreme ad campaign. Along with the fake "Rated V for Violence!" it also attracted danger seeking viewers by passing out free barf bags for those brave enough to watch the film.
It wasn't as well made as Reeves' WITCHFINDER GENERAL, but it surpassed that films box office and a sequel soon followed. MARK OF THE DEVIL 2 (1974) also saddled itself with an attention grabbing ad campaign with the tag, "Banned in 19 countries!" It had its share of gross out moments, but it would seem to be catering more towards Ken Russell's opulently offensive tale of faux faith healers and horny convent nuns.
Possessing an interesting cast, a solid array of authentic locations and a favorable soundtrack, the brutality (mostly the tongue ripping) and the films ingenious promotional tools is what will keep MARK OF THE DEVIL firmly entrenched in the minds of cult film fans forever.
5. I DRINK YOUR BLOOD 1970
"The biggest, bloodiest double horror show in history!"
During the 60s, hippies spent a great deal of time promoting peace and love and demonizing America's participation in Vietnam. Meanwhile, some of their own would ultimately "bring the war home" so to speak in the form of the Manson Family. It was a massacre that shocked America and a senseless slaughter that is still discussed, written about, and the subject of movies even to this day.
David Durston's gory twist on Romero's NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD jettisons Manson's band of 'dirty white folks' for a more racially harmonized clutch of troublemakers. The films storyline is a contender for Most Outrageous Plot of All Time what with its homeless hipsters being infected with rabies laced meat pies and going on a gore filled rampage. The films superb trailer is indicative of the sort of outrageous ballyhoo movie barkers would indulge in to sell their product. Some of the gore would make Herschell Gordon Lewis proud in that this film was carrying on his patently fake bloody mannequin effects in the ghoulishly best tradition possible.
It's very entertaining, but Durston's most well known endeavor is a case of the films notoriety being of greater significance than the actual film itself. It also was part of a noteworthy bit of showmanship from Jerry Gross when he paired it with the mediocre Del Tenny island horror opus, I EAT YOUR SKIN aka VOODOO BLOODBATH (1964). It would become one of the most famous examples of the double feature. Durston again explored similar territory with 1972s STIGMA, a film that dealt with a deadly bacteria loose in a small town. Curiously enough, Romero would direct THE CRAZIES in 1973, a movie that would bear some similarities to Durston's two tales of bloodthirsty hippies and a small town bacterial epidemic.
6. THE ONE ARMED BOXER 1971
"Combine the Dirty Dozen with the Magnificent Seven and you have the Chinese Professionals!"
Virtually plot free, this Golden Harvest mishmash is the type of film the derogatory term 'chopsocky' was designed for. It's basically one fight after another with little break in between bodies tossed through the air and chests penetrated by fists by a colorful gaggle of comic book style fighters including a frazzle haired Lung Fei playing a Japanese martial artist with vampire fangs of all things.
The film is the first of Jimmy Wang Yu's 'hate projects' against his former employers, the Shaw Brothers, the studio where he became a huge star. Already well known for being a difficult actor, he tip-toed to Taiwan in March of 1970 effectively breaking his contract with them. Wang Yu proceeded to milk his Shaw hits for all he could in uber cheap knock-offs and clones of heavily promoted Shaw movies already in production. By combining Chang Cheh's groundbreaking ONE ARMED SWORDSMAN (1967) and Wang's own directorial debut THE CHINESE BOXER (itself a huge hit on the international circuit under the title HAMMER OF GOD ), the bastard child known as THE ONE ARMED BOXER was born.
Amongst the brutal fight scenes and wacky shenanigans are an Indian yoga fighter who frenetically walks around on his hands and a Lama fighter whose chest blows up like a balloon. The film was a success in its homeland, but not as big a hit as the two films Wang was imitating. The sequel, ONE ARM BOXER 2 aka ONE ARMED BOXER VS. THE FLYING GUILLOTINE aka MASTER OF THE FLYING GUILLOTINE (1976) was yet again another case of the temperamental film star leeching off of his Shaw successes as well as a then recent hit of theirs, THE FLYING GUILLOTINE (1975).
THE ONE ARMED BOXER was released in America in 1973 under the less sensational title of THE CHINESE PROFESSIONALS; likely a riff off of the 1966 western film THE PROFESSIONALS from director Richard Brooks. Wang Yu's movie panders perfectly to sleaze lobbyists with its scenes of outrageous violence and the out of place cues ripped straight from the main theme of SHAFT (1971). It's one of those movies that sometimes comes up in conversations that start off with, "Hey, have you seen this movie where..."
7. THE BIG DOLL HOUSE 1971
"Meet the girls of The Big Doll House! They're young, they're beautiful... and they're killers!"
Roger Corman's New World Pictures scored big box office numbers with this hugely entertaining trash classic directed by SPIDER BABY's Jack Hill. The plot is non existent, but the film sustains itself on lots of nudity, violence and machine gun fire, three grand elements in the exploitation racket.
There had been a number of early examples of WIP films such as 1955's WOMEN'S PRISON and 1961's SEVEN WOMEN FROM HELL, but it wasn't till the dawn of the 70s that the genre jumped bail amassing a huge bounty along the way. One could also make an argument that the 1969 production of LOVE CAMP 7, a film that preceded ILSA for Naziploitation dominance, lit the fuse that exploded with Jack Hill's seminal 70s effort. With its savage raping of the box office (at one time the most profitable indy effort up to that point), other similar movies followed like WOMEN IN CAGES (1971), THE BIG BIRD CAGE (1972) and THE HOT BOX (1972).
In European markets, Jess Franco, a filmmaker whose loyal following confuses me, made a tidy living off this kind of picture with wholesomely titled examples like 99 WOMEN (1968), BARBED WIRE DOLLS (1975), WOMEN IN CELL BLOCK 9 (1977) and GRETA, THE MAD BUTCHER (or WANDA, THE WICKED WARDEN, or ILSA, ABSOLUTE POWER, etc ); the latter title was also marketed as an entry in the notorious ILSA series taking advantage of the fact that Franco's film starred Dyanne Thorne.
The Italians made a few cinematic arrests in this arena, too, with such sordid examples as Rino Silvestri's WOMEN IN CELL BLOCK 7 (1973) and Bruno Mattei's much later VIOLENCE IN A WOMEN'S PRISON in 1982. In Hong Kong, the Shaw Brothers delivered an adventurous, but no less sadistic piece of exploitation filth with their own WIP flick, THE BAMBOO HOUSE OF DOLLS (1973). That film follows Corman's pattern more closely than many of the non-New World entries. Japan followed suit with their hypnotic FEMALE CONVICT SCORPION series. In the Philippines, Eddie Romero (who also partnered with Corman on a handful of these movies) carried on the tradition with BLACK MAMA, WHITE MAMA (1973) and SAVAGE SISTERS (1974). Not to be outdone, Corman kept his women in chains with CAGED HEAT (1974) and briefly revisited WIP trappings with THE LADY IN RED in 1979.
The WIP genre was still a viable commodity into the 1980s with choice trash like CHAINED HEAT (1983), a movie with an incredible cast. The likes of Linda Blair, Henry Silva, Sybil Danning, Tamara Dobson, Stella Stevens and John Vernon were all incarcerated together for this monumental last hurrah for battling babes behind bars.
8. SWEET SWEETBACK'S BADASSSSS SONG 1971
"Rated X by an all white jury!"
This is one of a few films on this list that aren't atypically exploitation movies, but possessed those elements, surpassing them in wholly artistic way. From its unorthodox guerrilla filmmaking style, to its controversial subject matter causing the majors to give it a pass (a similar fate befell the incendiary, strikingly prophetic THE SPOOK WHO SAT BY THE DOOR in 1973), Melvin Van Peebles' movie has become a major subject of contention over the years.
Heralded as a milestone by some critics and insignificant by others, the film will no doubt rile differing emotions in viewers. Political propagandizing mixed with black empowerment and sexual domination combine to create a dangerous, if thought provoking and satisfying pot of stew that could have only been made in the 1970s.
Similar ground of racial unrest has been tread in recent years, but with the medias penchant for distorting, and or altering the truth, a modern film on the level of SWEET SWEETBACK will only hold the most social significance with extreme leftists. Like the above mentioned, and likewise shocking SPOOK WHO SAT BY THE DOOR, Van Peebles' movie is a stark, crude and fascinatingly grim view of life in America when the Civil Rights Movement was still fresh in the public's mind and Black Power was coming into its own; not just socially, but up on the big screen, too. Despite limited engagements, the film made millions. The details of the films making are even more sensational than the film itself.
9. LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT 1972
"Here is the first motion picture to offer to the daring a look into the final maddening space between life and death."
America was an angry place in the 1970s. In no other style of cinema was this more adequately conveyed than in the horror genre. Wes Craven's first film was a prime example of this; crudely fashioned as it was, considering Craven and crew had never made a movie before. It's not a perfect picture by any stretch, but it is a powerful one packed with such deplorable scenes of humiliation and degradation, that the film in its original full strength version will likely never ever be seen again.
LAST HOUSE was one of those occasions where the film upset projectionists to such a degree, that they ended up performing their own editing jobs on the picture. Apparently, a good number of scenes have been lost to time because of this. Key to the films power was David Hess. He was so convincing as the sadistic Krug, that people who encountered him on the street thought he was really that character.
A product of its time and dated by today's standards, LAST HOUSE still retains its shock sensibilities. During its time, the ad campaign was just as influential as the film itself. Numerous other movies borrowed imagery, taglines, or even the films title for promotional purposes. These include other 70s fare like the brutal, blackly comical THE CANDY SNATCHERS (1973) which utilized an iconic image from Craven's film for its poster artwork--the killers are pictured looking down at their quarry. The movies poster artwork even situates the three main participants in a similar pose as the three from LAST HOUSE (see production still above).
"Sights and sounds beyond anything you've tested!"
Roger Watkins' 1972 film, THE FUN HOUSE, shooting under the title of THE CUCKOO CLOCKS OF HELL, was re-titled and finally released some five years later bearing the far more seedy moniker of THE LAST HOUSE ON DEAD END STREET in 1977. This film, as ugly as it is to watch, is a prime example of the slime-ridden decadence inherent in the most abhorrent of exploitation cinema. This film combines the squalor of New York City lowlife's, pornography and the taboo subject of snuff films. By mixing them all together you get what amounts to the venereal disease of LAST HOUSE styled motion pictures; you definitely feel filthy when it's over.
The Italian production, THE NIGHT TRAIN MURDERS (1974) was another. It was released under such titles as THE NEW HOUSE ON THE LEFT and also LAST STOP ON THE NIGHT TRAIN. That films plot was also similar to that of Craven's movie, but switched the setting to a train. Italy struck again with the LAST HOUSE styled HOUSE AT THE EDGE OF THE PARK (1980), a film that secured the services of LAST HOUSE's lead sleazeball, David Hess and co-starred Italian trash cinemas most abused actor, 'Dirty Mike' himself, John Morghen. Incidentally, Mario Bava's BAY OF BLOOD (1971), having already been let loose onto the viewing public as TWITCH OF THE DEATH NERVE, was reissued as LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT PART 2!
Canada also struck with their version of LAST HOUSE, or at least the marketing in America by American Inter-national echoed Craven's down and dirty movie. HOUSE BY THE LAKE (1976) was also an early precedent for Meir Zarchi's outright nasty 'rape-revenge' movie, the immortal I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE (1978). If you're a fan of Don Stroud, he does extremely well channeling David Hess's iconically brutish performance from LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT playing the excitable and murderous leader of a gang of thugs. The film was also released as DEATH WEEKEND, possibly its more well known moniker.
10. KING BOXER 1972
"The new movie sensation that's stunning the world!"
The Shaw Brothers of Hong Kong have had an illustrious pedigree around the globe within the cinematic world. They were instrumental in the international, and globalization of kung fu movies, a style of action film that has greatly influenced American culture and cinema since first smashing records in 1972 prior to Bruce Lee hitting the kung fu fighting scene.
Warner Brothers, curious of the style of action offered in Chinese martial arts movies, decided to unleash one of them onto an unsuspecting public. The result was christened FIVE FINGERS OF DEATH for American consumption. The abundant ringing of cash registers meant more furious fists and feet would fly over the next several years. No one outside of Asia had ever seen anything quite like 5 FINGERS OF DEATH. From the vicious martial arts fights to the unexpurgated scenes of gore, it was really quite spectacular and there were no Anglo actors in sight. It was an all Chinese cast with dialog dubbed in English. The trash crowd had a new lover and its name was Kung Fu.
Other similar basher style movies followed such as THE CHINESE BOXER (1970) and THE KILLER (1971); both were retitled THE HAMMER OF GOD and SACRED KNIVES OF VENGEANCE respectively. Bruce Lee unleashed his vengeance a short time later and died almost as quickly as he had emerged as a solo martial arts star outside of his native Hong Kong. Kung Fu movies continued to attract crowds of the curious and the hipsters looking to Dance the Kung Fu.
"See acts of incredible savagery!"
The films eventually became so popular that a hit song topped the charts in 1974, Carl Douglas' 'Kung Fu Fighting', a simple, yet catchy tune that continues to be popular today.
The Shaw's international cash cow was also influential with its US release title. Other movies included numbers in their titles and often had the word 'death' or 'deadly' somewhere in the name to spice up the marquee attraction: 5 MASTERS OF DEATH, SEVEN SOLDIERS OF KUNG FU, STRIKE 4: REVENGE, STROKE OF DEATH, DISCIPLES OF DEATH, TWO CHAMPIONS OF DEATH and 5 DEADLY VENOMS are some examples.
This iconic, and well shot motion picture from Shaw Brothers has maintained its cult status, and while dated in today's martial arts movie climate, the market may have turned out a lot different if not for the popularity of 5 FINGERS OF DEATH.
11. DEEP THROAT 1972
"I liked it. I wanted to see a dirty picture and that's what I saw. I don't want somebody telling me I can't see a dirty picture."
The porn industry gained some mainstream "respectability" with the release and widespread word of mouth of this Linda Lovelace classic in detailing one woman's crusade to have an orgasm.
Erotica of one sort or other has been around for centuries whether in paintings, books, or sculptures. In the 1970s, this forbidden fruit of the sexual cinematic liberation was championed nationwide and simultaneously ejaculated in a mountain of controversy. It was now in vogue to admit to having sat in on one of these films and it was only a matter of time before pornography would thrust its box office potential within mainstream movie houses. Even though the adult film industry was enjoying mass exposure and acceptance, DEEP THROAT in particular was submerged in a whirlwind of trouble that would have made for an entertaining movie all its own; and it did with the documentary from 2005, INSIDE DEEP THROAT.
Financed through mob connections (the same company also released THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE), a multiple orgasm of obscenity allegations and Linda Lovelace's own testimony cumming out about the dark side of the industry kept the film in the news and in the public eye long after it had been released. Equally shocking, considering she had participated in onscreen sexual acts not widely seen in porn at the time (bestiality and anal sex), Lovelace ultimately denounced her career in the industry and seemingly grew to feel shameful for having done the movies.
All the publicity garnered by DEEP THROAT meant more mainstream "money shots" in a similar vein (haha) with higher production values such as BEHIND THE GREEN DOOR (1972) and THE DEVIL IN MISS JONES (1973). Towards the end of the 70s, porns Golden Age climaxed with one of its biggest hits, DEBBIE DOES DALLAS (1978). The industry remained a viable cum-modity into the 1980s before it became relegated to dirty video shops and late night cable television. It's also worth mentioning DEEP THROAT's influence on the marketing of films in other genres.
Hallmark Pictures imported the Hong Kong kung fu flick, LADY WHIRLWIND; a Golden Harvest picture starring Angela Mao, the actress who played Bruce Lee's sister in ENTER THE DRAGON. AIP handled distribution of the picture and released it in 1973 under the orgasmically brutal title of DEEP THRUST: THE HAND OF DEATH! Notice the use of the words 'Death-blow' and 'stroke' on the advertising. Possibly I am reading too much into it, but this poster screams of sex and kung fu in what would seemingly amount to grabbing a piece of the porn pie for additional revenue considering the popularity of DEEP THROAT at the time.
12. COFFY 1973
"They call her Coffy... and she'll cream you!"
Pam Grier had already been around for a few years making a name for herself in a string of cheaply made, but massively successful exploitation movies shot in the Philippines.
Re-teaming with Jack Hill for this revenge tale set in a jungle of a different kind established Grier as blaxploitation's Queen of Extreme. CLEOPATRA JONES (1973) was made first, but AIP beat Warner Brothers to the punch with this quickly made trash spectacle. Whether blowing away scum with a sawed-off shotgun, putting razor blades in her 'fro, or stripping down in front of the camera, Grier's character was strong and imposing despite all the gratuitous violence and nudity throughout the films 90 minute running time.
The level of violence is still strong when seen today and the scene where Robert DoQui (as the pimp, King George) has a noose placed around his neck and is dragged behind a car till his body is unrecognizable may raise an eyebrow or two. This sort of violence was the bread and butter of exploitation movies and blaxploitation in particular. Many of them were mindlessly violent, filled with racially incendiary dialog, mixed race sex scenes, domination of black on white oppressors, and above all, strong black characters.
"When Foxy Brown comes to town, all the bruthas' gather 'round... cuz she can really shake'em down!"
Grier's far more sensationalist, yet humanistic approach in Hill's movie usurped the thunder from Tamara Dobson's higher profile, Bondian level black action picture, and kept her busy throughout the decade with the even more popular FOXY BROWN in 1974 and others such as SHEBA, BABY (1975) and her less action oriented role in BUCKTOWN (1975).
Grier had hoped to go mainstream when the blaxploitation movies died down, but it didn't quite work out that way. The sequel to MANDINGO (1975), DRUM (1976), started out as an ambitious undertaking and Grier likely thought it would lead to bigger and better things, but her role ended up being insubstantial when all was said and done. Her part saw her as little more than a bed wench for Warren Oates over the top role of a rich plantation slave owner. She still had good roles in Disney's horror film SOMETHING WICKED THIS WAY COMES (1983), the bounty hunting, bad ass bitch of THE VINDICATOR (1986) and a lethal, cyborg teacher in CLASS OF 1999 (1990) among others.
The popularity of COFFY was felt in Hong Kong, too. The Shaw Brothers unleashed a Chinese version of the movie in 1976 with the even sleazier THE SEXY KILLER aka THE DRUG CONNECTION. That film also got its own sequel, THE LADY EXTERMINATOR, released the following year.
Pam's popularity at the box office also influenced other productions that likewise featured a tough talkin' black bad girl. These include Ena Hartman from TERMINAL ISLAND (1973), Jeannie Bell in TNT JACKSON (1974), Marki Bey in SUGAR HILL and Gloria Hendry of ACROSS 110TH STREET, BLACK CAESAR (both 1972), SAVAGE SISTERS and BLACK BELT JONES (both 1974) to name a few. Grier got to relive her glory days in 1986's ORIGINAL GANGSTAS, which was something of a reunion of blaxploitations best black heroes. She also got the lead in a mainstream picture from Quentin Tarantino, JACKIE BROWN in 1997.
*Poster images from Wrong Side of the Art.*
TO BE CONTINUED IN PART 2...