That’s The Way It’s Got To Be


Once again, Mars needs women. And it’s up to Princess Marcuzan and her fey second in command Dr. Nadir (who looks like Bat Boy’s daddy) to harvest all the curvaceous babes in Puerto Rico…unless malfunctioning android Frank and stoic scientist hero James Karen (Poltergeist, Return Of The Living Dead) can stop them. It’s got a great theme song by the Poets, the aforementioned babes, a freaky deaky space monster, wonderfully cheap special FX…and copious amounts of stock footage that would make Ed Wood cry “No mas!” And the beauty of today’s technology is that you don’t have to stay up til 3:00 in the morning to see it…although it’ll still feel that way…


Tragically Hip


Welcome to Russ Meyer’s masterpiece and the ultimate exploitation flick…Beyond The Valley Of The Dolls, essentially the story of the rise and fall of all-girl rock group the Carrie Nations (Playboy playmates Dolly Read and Cynthia Myers and fashion model Marcia McBroom) literally has it all. Rockin’ tunes. Beautiful, bountiful women, action, drama, comedy, horror, gore, girl on girl action, all hosted by the eccentric record producer Z-Man (John LaZar in a bravura performance). A psychotic kaleidoscope of vibrant colors and psychedelic imagery, Dolls is guaranteed to freak you out…


The Sweetest Kittens Have The Sharpest Claws


Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! Beautifully ruthless dancer Varla (Japanese/Cherokee valkyrie Tura Satana) and her go-going cohorts Rosie (Haji, the personification of the word exotic) and blonde buzzbomb Billie (Lori Williams) hit the desert for a bit of drag racing and whatever kicks come their way, even if it includes assault, kidnapping, robbery and murder in all-American auteur Russ Meyer’s magnum opus. Hot cars! Blazing females! Action! Action! Action! And a nonstop barrage of quotable, esoteric dialogue: (“Aw, you’re cute…like a velvet glove cast in iron.”…One more slider, flake, and it’s wipeout!…”You won’t find it down there, Columbus!”). This really is the ultimate drive-in flick…


One Of Us


Tod Browning’s Freaks is the masterpiece that kiboshed his career, which had been on a hot streak with a series of Lon Chaney films and of course the original Dracula. A carny himself, Browning had an affection for sideshow performers and wanted to portray them as just as human, as beautiful and flawed as anybody else, in a film. And he did. Freaks is full of wonderful characters: Schlitze the Pinhead, Siamese twins Daisy and Violet Hilton, Johnny Eck the half man, dwarf Angelo Rossitto (who had a lifelong career in film) Prince Randian and so many more, all of them full of humor and warmth. Freaks came straight from the heart. Unfortunately, MGM and most of the world just weren’t ready for such a unique, striking, powerful film. It was banned, shelved, shunned, just like the sideshow folk themselves…but was eventually rescued by the roadshow exploitation circuit and later gained its proper place in cinema as a beloved midnight cult movie…


The Order Of Death


Martial Club aka Instructors Of Death is one of my favorite classic Shaw Brothers kung fu movies (you longtime sickies know how much I’ve dug the Shaw Bros ever since I was a wee lad)…it begins with a spectacular, colorful and exuberant celebration which culminates in a battle between guys dressed in animal costumes similar to the Chinese New Year dragon. The plot is simple, the usual rivalry between two kung fu schools…which is just a framework for many set pieces of excellent kung fu and comedy…Star Gordon Liu (36th Chamber Of Shaolin) is a master of both. There’s a great scene where he fights a guy in a blind alley that gets narrower the deeper you get into it. The Shaw Brothers always delivered the goods in thoroughly entertaining and innovative ways…


Mojo In The Dojo


Brought to you by the folks who made Enter The Dragon, Black Belt Jones introduces its hero (real-life Martial Arts master Jim Kelly) in one of the most outrageous, over-the-top, high-flying, ass-whooping, nut-pummeling fight sequences ever…and it only gets better from there. Jones must use his skills to protect Pop’s (Scatman Crothers…it’s a treat to actually see the voice of Hong Kong Phooey kick some ass) karate school from black gangster Pinky and the Mafia. (The mob always seem to be involved in blaxploitation flicks…perhaps as a symbol of the underhanded, ruthless tactics of the white establishment?) Not that he necessarily needs it, but he gets help from the glorious Gloria Hendry as Sydney, who is gorgeous, headstrong and is no slouch when it comes to Martial Arts herself. There are so many priceless, quotable lines in this movie and amazing fight sequences…especially the “lights out” scene…Black Belt Jones is just wall-to-wall fun…


He’s A Complicated Man


Who’s the black private dick that’s a sex machine to all the chicks? Shaft wasn’t the first blaxploitation flick (most folks cite Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song) but it’s probably the most famous…due in no small part to the fact that it was released by MGM and had an award-winning soundtrack by Isaac Hayes…Its witty, action-packed script and Richard Roundtree’s cool, confident, suave performance helped make it not only a huge hit that proved blaxploitation was bankable but a timeless classic of hardboiled detective cinema that still holds up today…