Film Review: Hellhole (1985)

Also known as: Hell Hole (alternate spelling)
Release Date: April 26th, 1985
Directed by: Pierre De Moro
Written by: Aaron Butler (as Vincent Mongol), Lance Dickson, Mark Evan Schwartz
Music by: Jeff Sturges
Cast: Ray Sharkey, Judy Landers, Marjoe Gortner, Edy Williams, Mary Woronov, Terry Moore, Robert Z’Dar

Arkoff International Pictures, 90 Minutes

Review:

This is a film that I didn’t even know existed until recently. Somehow it evaded me in countless pillages of mom and pop video stores throughout the ’80s and ’90s. But it does have some people I like in it, so why not check it out?

The film sees a woman murdered by some crazed madman that looks like a middle aged punk rock mobster hybrid. Kind of hard to describe him but it’s the ’80s and this isn’t even a B-movie it’s more like a D-movie. Anyway, the woman’s daughter sees the murder, is then pursued and chased until she falls about ten feet and gets amnesia. She is then locked up in an insane asylum where they do crazy experiments that turn female patients into killer zombies. Also, the man that murdered her mother is there, working as an orderly.

In a lot of ways, this is an absolutely awful movie. However, it isn’t all a waste because it’s got some great character actors in it and frankly, it’s full of so much ’80s horror cheese that it should satisfy you, if that’s your thing.

The film has Mary Woronov, who was great in Death Race 2000Eating RaoulRock ‘n’ Roll High SchoolNight of the Comet and so many other B-movies. We also get Marjoe Gortner, who I enjoyed in Starcrash and as the villain in American Ninja 3: Blood Hunt. Then you have the “Maniac Cop” himself, Robert Z’Dar in an early role before he’d star in a slew of B-pictures, usually as a psycho killer… okay, always as a psycho killer. But he’s a guy with serious gravitas, a good presence and a chin that would make Bruce Campbell’s take a month off.

I’ll be honest though, there isn’t a whole lot here, apart from the cast, that is all that great. However, I was a bit surprised with how well it played out for what it is. At its core, it is a women in prison movie with a horror twist. There are boobs, lesbian stuff and whatnot. Sadly, there isn’t as much of it as you’d expect from this type of film. But hey, we get killer women prison zombies, so things balance out.

Hellhole isn’t a complete waste of time and it is only ninety minutes. If you didn’t get your fill of Woronov being a psycho in an operating room in Night of the Comet, then this should be up your alley.

Film Review: Tonight For Sure! (1962)

Also known as: Meet Me Tonight for Sure
Release Date: October 25th, 1962 (Los Angeles)
Directed by: Francis Ford Coppola
Written by: Francis Ford Coppola, Jerry Shaffer
Music by: Carmine Coppola
Cast: Don Kenney, Karl Schanzer

Searchlight Productions, Premier Pictures, 69 Minutes

Review:

“The Harem Club, home of the most beautiful girls in burlesque presents: The most beautiful girls in burlesque!” – Announcer

Every director has to start somewhere and for legendary auteur Francis Ford Coppola, this was his directorial debut. There is nothing to be ashamed of about this, however. It really just sort of fits in with the nudie cuties of the time – none of which are good movies.

Yes, this is an awful film but it is basically a softcore sex picture without any sex, really. It just follows two guys around doing dumb shit and then is constantly interrupted to show a girl shaking her juggies for no real reason other than people wanted to see bare boobies on the big screen after the motion picture industry wasn’t forced to adhere to outdated government mandated morality codes. Film was now free to be art and sexploitation pictures flourished.

To be honest, Coppola didn’t show any real signs of his talent with this movie. He hadn’t fully been exposed to the tutelage he’d get from B-movie King Roger Corman. Regardless, this still helped him develop the tools and skill set that would lead to his magnum opus The Godfather, just ten years later.

The cinematography on this film was handled by Jack Hill, a man that would go on to direct several pivotal exploitation films. His directorial work includes the Pam Grier movies Coffy and Foxy Brown, as well as a personal favorite of mine, Switchblade Sisters.

Compared to other nudie cuties, this one is pretty standard. Now while I don’t enjoy it as much as Ed Wood’s Orgy of the Dead, it still fits well within this bizarre and short lived genre. Also, it was a launching pad for one of the best directors of the last half century.

For this being what it is, even with such a low rating, I can’t run it through the Cinespiria Shitometer. It works for its genre, which was a genre not known for its quality. Plus, presenting a cornucopia of fabulous titties gets you off the hook.

Film Review: …And God Created Woman (1956)

Also known as: Et Dieu… créa la femme (France)
Release Date: November 28th, 1956
Directed by: Roger Vadim
Written by: Roger Vadim, Raoul Levy
Music by: Paul Misraki
Cast: Brigitte Bardot, Curd Jurgens, Jean-Louis Trintignant

Éditions René Chateau, Kingsley International Pictures, 95 Minutes

Review:

“If I were your husband or your father I’d give you a good spanking.” – Eric Carradine

…And God Created Woman is a film that made a lot of people uncomfortable in 1956. Well, probably not the French, as they are a lot more comfortable with sex than people in North America. Regardless, it was incredibly racy for the late 1950s but it was ahead of its time. Also, it made Brigitte Bardot an international superstar.

The film was sort of a passion project for its director Roger Vadim. In fact, Bardot was his wife and this is essentially a movie created to pimp her out to the world as a sex kitten icon. While Vadim was quite older than Bardot, aspects of their relationship or at least, his understanding of it, came to the forefront within the picture through the character of the older gentleman Eric Carradine (Curd Jurgens).

The story follows Juliette (Brigitte Bardot), an eighteen year-old orphan that has a lot of sexual energy and isn’t the least bit ashamed by it. She continually flirts and has no issue lying about nude. The film is sort of a love square, as it has one more participant than a love triangle. The three suitors are the older and wealthy Carradine. Then there are the two brothers, the eldest is Antoine (Christian Marquand) and the youngest is Michel (Jean-Louis Trintignant). Carradine tries to coerce Antoine into marrying Juliette, to keep her close by. While Juliette seems to love Antoine, it is the younger Michel, who is infatuated with her, that convinces her to get married. Juliette plays all sides against each other without caring much about how it effects them. She just wants sex and fun and doesn’t have much of a moral compass.

While everyone in the film and audiences all act surprised by Juliette’s behavior, she really doesn’t seem much different than many eighteen year-old girls. Granted, this film is over sixty years old, however.

I can’t imagine what it was like in 1956, experiencing this film when there was nothing really like it before. It is certainly a trendsetter and it changed movies forever. For that, it deserves its place in history and should be regarded as significant.

However, as a motion picture, it has a myriad of problems.

To start, the pacing of the film is pretty terrible. It feels very disjointed and more like a collection of random scenes from this girl’s life. Also, it is hard to decipher what the hell is going on with the characters and their true motivations. Everything is emotional and responses to emotion without much character exposition. It’s poorly written, poorly executed and just not that interesting. No one is even that likable and the film is more or less, just a showcase of Bardot’s physical assets.

The locations are beautiful and alluring but they are displayed through basic cinematography and shots that aren’t too interesting. Some of the landscapes are lush and appealing but the straightforward and mundane style of the camerawork and the framing of scenes seems like a big missed opportunity to create something with more artistic merit.

The only thing this film has going for it, is hope that the viewer will be just as mesmerized by Bardot as the male players in the movie and her director husband. While she is attractive, she is very one-dimensional and mostly uninteresting. She did get better in time but in …And God Created Woman, she can’t command a movie as its star.

Criticism aside, it was well worth a watch to experience this historically significant picture. It just didn’t garner enough interest, in my opinion, to ever really warrant a second viewing, let alone be considered a cinematic classic.

Film Review: Caged Heat (1974)

Also known as: Renegade Girls
Release Date: April 19th, 1974 (Washington, D.C.)
Directed by: Jonathan Demme
Written by: Jonathan Demme
Music by: John Cale, Mike Bloomfield
Cast: Juanita Brown, Roberta Collins, Erica Gavin, Ella Reid, Rainbeaux Smith, Barbara Steele

New World Pictures, 83 Minutes

Review:

“Don’t you realize sex is what put you behind bars in the first place? Stealing to dress better for a man. Fornicating from the back of the pockets of women using pimps. Killing to eliminate a sexual rival. Give me contrition! Let’s have redemption! Repentance! Repentance! A worm’s death to society!” – Supt. McQueen

While the “women in cages” sub-genre of exploitation films weren’t new by the time that Caged Heat came out in 1974, Jonathan Demme did a few things that set this one apart from those before it and thus, made it one of the most memorable pictures of its type.

For one, Demme cast horror icon Barabara Steele as the prison warden, a departure from the oppressor being a man. He also put her in a wheelchair and made her sex deprived.

Demme also added in elements of social consciousness, feminism and liberal politics. These new elements broke the mold and made Caged Heat a more interesting film than all the previous “women in cages” flicks.

Roger Corman initially didn’t want to distribute the film but then Jonathan Demme raised the production money on his own. Impressed, and maybe seeing a bit of himself in Demme’s ability to raise the capital on his own, Corman decided to distribute the film through his company New World Pictures. Before this film, Demme had worked on The Hot Box (another “women in cages” movie) and the biker film Angels Hard as They Come for New World Pictures.

Caged Heat, regardless of its cult success and its refreshing take on an overused exploitation gimmick, is not a good film. It isn’t awful, as the vast majority of “women in cages” movies are far worse, but it certainly doesn’t stand up to the test of time and it is a mess of a story.

Barbara Steele is as alluring as always, even if she is a fascist crippled bookworm. But watching her in this feels like a major step down in her career. Granted, she never reached superstardom but if she had any momentum, this probably snuffed it out. Plus, she was playing like seventh fiddle to a bunch of less talented actresses billed before her. She also didn’t get to do anything too interesting other than her stage performance during a dream sequence.

The other villain of the story is this male doctor who administers therapies that leave women mindless and helpless so he can rape them.

There are three other notable people in this film. The first is Juanita Brown, who was in Foxy BrownWillie Dynamite and Black Starlet. The second is Roberta Collins who played Matilda the Hun in Death Race 2000 and also starred in other “women in cages” films like The Big Doll House and the appropriately titled Women In Cages. She was also in Tobe Hooper’s Eaten Alive and the 80s teen sex comedy School Spirit. Lastly, there is Rainbeaux Smith who has the Frenchiest spelling of “rainbow” for a first name ever and was also in that awful shit storm of a film Laserblast. She was also in ParasiteUp In Smoke and had an uncredited bit part in Logan’s Run.

The biggest highlight of Caged Heat is the big prison break shootout finale. It isn’t necessarily an impressive action sequence but it was pretty well executed for a first-time director. And being that this was Demme’s first picture, as a director, it set the stage for what would come, as he has made some solid pictures throughout his career.

And while this film is full of boobies and violence, it isn’t as over the top as other pictures like it. It certainly gives you plenty of those things but there’s more to Caged Heat than just tits, ass and violence.

Film Review: Ilsa, She Wolf of the SS (1975)

Release Date: October 1975
Directed by: Don Edmonds
Written by: Jonah Royston
Cast: Dyanne Thorne, C.D. Lafleuer

Aeteas Filmproduktions, Cambist Films, 96 Minutes

Review:

Well, if I am going to review a film that fits the sexploitation and Nazisploitation genres, what better film to pick than Ilsa, She Wolf of the SS? No, really? Is there a better one? If so, I need to know.

Man, is this film fucked up. I had heard about it in books and from film buddies for a long time but just watched it. It’s actually available on YouTube, as long as you have an account that verifies you are at least 18 years-old. Truthfully, this is how I am finding a lot of the old exploitation and grindhouse films I’ve been watching lately.

Ilsa, She Wolf of the SS is bizarre and actually pretty shocking. It is especially refreshing in that this is one of the few exploitation films that I have watched that I feel delivers on its hype. They obviously can’t show you every heinous atrocity committed in full detail, or else this would have gotten an X rating. However, they do show more than what you’d expect and most of it is quite disturbing and uncomfortable.

The premise sees Ilsa use her power running a Nazi medical experiment camp for her own personal source of sexual stimulation. Her brand of stimulation comes in the form of torture and unrelenting cruelty. Throughout the film, she finds new and interesting ways to torture her subjects. A lot of her techniques are actually really creative and the minds behind this picture are definitely some sick and twisted individuals. Also, there are boobs literally every five minutes.

The fact that this ties into the Nazis makes the film actually feel somewhat plausible. It’s no secret how horrible the Nazis were and there has never been a single group or political power as feared as the Nazis. Anyone wearing Nazi outfits and symbols in a movie, immediately tells the audience that they are something to be feared and that they have no lines that they won’t cross. Ilsa doesn’t even see the lines, she just goes for it and is committed to her detestable craft.

Ilsa, She Wolf of the SS is also an example of a “women in cages” movie. These were big in the 1970s and this is just an extension of that formula. This time the prison is a Nazi camp and the warden is a very evil woman.

This is not a great movie but it is certainly entertaining and worth a watch if you have the stomach for it. The violence is quite gratuitous but nothing an adult shouldn’t be able to handle. And if you are curious about grindhouse pictures of the 70s, this should definitely be on your list of movies to see.

Book Review: ‘Ed Wood: Nightmare of Ecstasy (The Life and Art of Edward D. Wood, Jr.)’ by Rudolph Grey

Nightmare of Ecstasy is the book that inspired the great Tim Burton film Ed Wood. If you are a fan of that film or just an aficionado of Edward D. Wood Jr.’s work, this is certainly a must read.

The book obviously goes more in depth with the life and work of Ed Wood. While the film covers the time from when Wood made Glen or Glenda?Bride of the Monster and his most famous work Plan 9 From Outer Space, the book takes a look at his entire life. It nicely bookends the film with Wood’s backstory as well as everything that happened after Plan 9.

The book isn’t written like a typical biography. It is comprised of quotes from Wood’s friends, colleagues and family. The quotes are organized into chapters specific to certain points or projects in Wood’s life.

Nightmare of Ecstasy isn’t just Ed Wood’s story, however. The book is the tale of all of those interesting characters he had around him. It shines a light on his collaborators and really gives them life and something more intimate to connect to than the Ed Wood biopic. It gives intimate looks into the lives of Bela Lugosi, Criswell and a slew of others.

Most importantly, it gives personal accounts of Wood’s passion and what he was like behind the scenes. It talks about the creation of his movies, more in depth than the Burton film and it also showcases letters written by Wood to several of his friends and professional colleagues.

Nightmare of Ecstasy is a fun and entertaining read, especially for fans of Ed Wood or filmmaking in general.

Film Review: Orgy of the Dead (1965)

Release Date: June 1st, 1965 (USA)
Directed by: A.C. Stephen
Written by: Ed Wood
Music by: Jaime Mendoza-Nava
Cast: Criswell, Fawn Silver, Pat Barrington

Crown International Pictures, 92 Minutes

orgy-of-the-dead1Review:

Orgy of the Dead is an unusual picture for the casual moviegoer. However, if you’re aware of the work of Ed Wood or an obscure film genre coined “nudie cuties”, then this odd film’s existence shouldn’t be a surprise.

It currently holds a rating of 2.7 on IMDb. It seems a bit low to me. I mean, if you go on that just based off of the film’s overall quality, I get it. But this is a pretty special picture and unique, even though it barely has a plot. Plus, it has a certain appeal due to how bad of a film it is. But it certainly isn’t as unwatchable as a 2.7 would have you believe, which is why I think it’s a low rating.

The plot sees a horror writer and his girlfriend driving at night on a highway. They are in search of a cemetery. The writer feels that it will help inspire him to write some new monster stories. The guy drives too fast, they crash and then they awake to discover that they are caught up in some heavy supernatural shit.

Criswell, a regular Ed Wood collaborator, and Fawn Silver (as Ghoulita) are a vampire pair with a squad that includes a werewolf, a mummy and two strong men. They sit and enjoy making the spirits of dead hot chicks dance around naked – each girl having her own unique theme and story. The nudie dancing is pretty much the entire film other than where they felt they needed plot.

The film plays like a topless burlesque show with a 1960s gothic twist. Most of these girls are pretty hot, by the way. So that’s a definite plus.

It is an interesting picture to watch, if you are a film buff or a fan of Ed Wood, even though Mr. Wood didn’t direct this. It is a good midnight movie to drink to and watch with some friends. It doesn’t have much replay value unless you are showing it to other friends who haven’t experienced it or if you have it playing on the TV during a party.

The film is amusing, often times hilarious and a cute little feature. It has that Ed Wood spirit where you know that the filmmakers were taking the movie serious but everyone on the set was having a good time and didn’t really worry about the quality of things.

A NSFW trailer: