Films I’ve Seen Lately #2

This time around, I thought I’d just keep track of everything I’m watching over the past month or so.  No rhyme or reason, as usual–just stuff I run across on YouTube, Netflix, my cable on-demand service, and stuff I see refs to in Twitter and elsewhere.

Christine (1983)

Fun flick from John Carpenter adapting a classic Stephen King tale about a murderous car.  It was one of three of King’s yarns to be put on film that year, the other two being Cujo and The Dead Zone, making this period his heyday, more-or-less.  We don’t get to see in this film how the car came to be possessed or haunted or whatever, which was my biggest disappointment.  But well acted; note a young Kelly Preston as “Roseanne,” and the nerd Keith Gordon (“Arnie”) went on to become a decent film director, if Dexter is any measure.

They Call Me Trinity (1970)

I came across this one from the premier episode of A Gentlemen’s Guide to Midnite Cinema podcast.  I’m not as familiar with Spaghetti Westerns as I’d like to be, but this seems like a pitch perfect way to meld them with comedy.  That opener with Terence Hill coming into town on that horse carriage doohickey seems clearly inspired by the 1937 Laurel & Hardy classic Way Out West.

Shaft (1971)

If you haven’t seen this one, you really owe it to yourself to do so . . . now.  This is one of the most developed and successful blaxpoiltation films. According to Melvin Van Peebles, director of the original blaxploitation film, Sweet  Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song, also from 1971, Shaft  was originally written as a white character, and “they threw in a couple ‘motherfuckers’ and it became a black film.” There are also some great vintage shots of New York’s 42nd Street grindhouses throughout, so do look for those.  Richard Roundtree only made $13,000 starring as Shaft.

She Gods of Shark Reef (1958)

This baffling film is an early Roger Corman cheapy, shot in ’56, along with Naked Paradise (also known as Thunder Over Hawaii), about lost criminals washing ashore on a reef in the Pacific and then one falling for the beautiful natives who forsakes her cruel native ways to run off with the white savior, or somesuch.  The leading lady was played by Lisa Montell, who ended her film career in the early 60s, and became a large name in the California Bahai community, even authoring a book on the faith, under her married name, Lisa Janti.

Rattlers (1976)

A clear Jaws knockoff, like a Piranha below, in which every sort of animal that is harmful to humans is going to feature in their own horror movie, in this case, rattlesnakes.  A fun B-horror film, and what was most jarring in this one was the unexpected presence of gender in the first half of the film.  Our scientist-snake investigator (played by Shark Week narrator Sam Chew, Jr.) turns out to be a real misogynist, thinking the job too dangerous for his “liberated” war correspondent female partner (played by Elisabeth Chauvet).  They end up agreeing to disagree–and end up in the sack, of course–and this contrived way of developing conflict among the characters to keep the film interesting is mainly forgotten as the body count starts to rise.  Also, the bathtub scene is just classic.

American Grindhouse (2010)

A nice overview documentary of exploitation cinema.  I was glad to see the interviews with Eric Schaefer (author of Bold! Daring! Shocking! True! A History of Exploitation Films, 1919-1959) and Eddie Muller (author, with Daniel Faris, of Grindhouse: The Forbidden World of “Adults Only” Cinema).  I was not so taken with the photogenic Kim Morgan, who seemed more fluff than informative.  Also, this film seemed to not give David Friedman enough attention, but these points aside, this is an excellent primer on exploitation film, and should be a starting point for those new to the subject.

Piranha (1978)

Blatant Joe Dante ripoff of Jaws, starring Heather Menzies (“Louisa” from The Sound of Music) in the completely unbelievable role as a bounty hunter, who finds a secret military experiment to breed piranhas as an apparently failed weapon system that was to be deployed against. . .  North Vietnam.  That much-out-of-place reference deserves its own unpacking, but I was too busy having my childhood warped (further) by seeing Louisa flash her boobs at a soldier.  The late, great Kevin McCarthy was much underutilized in this epic, but no worries.

Dinosaur Island (1994)

Fred Olen Ray (writer of such fun faire as Hollywood Chainsaw Hookers and who has more than a dozen aliases in the industry) romp that rips off Jurassic Park in a silly way.  io9 a few years back called this one “the closest thing to mainstream dinosaur porn in the universe” while profiling some truly disturbing shit.   I think my favorite part was how the Dinosaur Islander vixens, who’d never seen modern civilization, not only spoke English, but sometimes English with a soft Texas twang.

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