Shaw ‘Nuff

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One of the many pleasures of childhood that I really miss (pretty much everything I like is from a bygone era) was seeing Kung Fu movies on T.V. every week…and my favorites were the Shaw Brothers films…Whenever I saw the Shaw Bros logo hit the screen I knew I was gonna be blown away. One of, if not the most epic of all, was 36th Chamber Of Shaolin. It stars Kung Fu icon (and real-life Martial Arts master) Gordon Liu as Sen Te, a college student whose village is taken over by Mongols and his whole family slaughtered. Bent on vengeance, he spends years in a Shaolin temple, learning not only fighting techniques but discipline, focus and inner strength on a long, arduous journey toward freeing his village. Beautifully shot, wonderfully acted and full of action, humor and wisdom, this film is a classic and a visionary experience…

 

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Pajamarama

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Maybe there’s something wrong with me but I just never get tired of dudes in gorilla suits chasing people around like they’re in a Scooby Doo music montage. There’s a bunch of monkey business in Monsters Crash The Pajama Party, a terminally goofy spoof of Poverty Row horror flicks. A quintet of sorority pledges (who look more like housewives) must spend the night in a mad doctor’s spookity mansion.

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How do we know he’s a mad doctor? Well, he laughs maniacally all the time. His assistant Draculina calls him “Mad Doctor”. And it’s written on his lab coat. The doc needs the comely coeds for his experiments…he likes to turn people into gorillas. (Perhaps he plans to corner the depilatory market?)

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This 30-minute short played at spookshows, where they’d show horror films, actors in monster costumes would run around hassling the audience and there’d be Grand Guignol type acts onstage. Ooo scary, eh kids?

Another short, this one in 3-D, Asylum Of The Insane, feels like a suburban family’s home movies…on acid. Very, very bad acid. The kind that makes you wanna write “Helter Skelter” on the walls. Fun for the whole family!

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Where Life Is CHEAP!

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This cinematic prank, perpetrated by mom-and-pop pervs Michael and Roberta Findlay, started off as Slaughter, just one of many early 70’s shockers designed to cash in on the Manson Family case. It follows a Sharon Tate-like actress to Argentina (where the film was shot MOS and then badly dubbed, with the Findlays doing some of the voices, so it feels like a foreign film) where she meets a killer hippie chick cult and their guru “Satan” (pronounced “Sa-TAWN”) who have plans for her and her unborn baby. Tasteful, innit? There’s plenty of the requisite nudity and violence to please the raincoaters and sickies but the film would’ve been a mere blip on the drive-in screen if the distributor hadn’t come up with one more exploitable gimmick: the then-hot urban legend of “snuff” films (supposed actual murders captured on film, none of which have ever been proven authentic). They changed the title to Snuff, tacked on a “film within a film” ending that looks like an outtake from an H.G. Lewis movie and marketed it as the real deal. Did it work? As ol’ P.T. said, “There’s a sucker born every minute.”

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6’2″ Of Dynamite

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Although Tamara Dobson never quite attained the household name fame that Pam Grier did, she is no less of an icon herself. Hard as nails, carrying herself with a dignity that’s downright regal, Dobson was always a force to be reckoned with. In Cleopatra Jones (scripted by Max The Mack Julien himself) she’s a special government agent (which branch is never specified but I’m guessing DEA) battling drug queenpin “Mommy” (played full-throttle by Shelley Winters…she doesn’t chew the scenery, she purees it). Along for the hellacious, action-packed ride are the dashing Bernie Casey and consummate comedic character actor Antonio Fargas (I like to think of him as the black Dick Miller). Julien’s script provides genuine hipness, wit and some of the funniest one-liners in Blaxploitation history.  Right On,Cleo!

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Maximum Mitchum

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“Now, how rough do you want it?” Thunder Road is the Mitchumest picture known to man…he starred, produced, wrote the original treatment and the theme song, which he also sang…and his son Jim debuts in it. Mitchum brings his laconic, hooded-eye cool to Luke, a Korean war vet who returns home to Tennessee to find the family business (moonshine) beset by revenuers and rival bootleggers…which leads to some great breakneck car chases with souped up 50’s Fords. And there’s plenty of that hep, only-in-the-50’s dialogue. (“If you wanna bray, go find yourself a barnyard.”….Jim referring to a party as a “twistification”…) My fave scene is when Luke confronts the rival bootlegger…the funniest hero-meets-villain scene outside of a James Bond movie. Good stuff, Maynard! Anyone who’s into rockabilly culture and classic cars oughta dig this flick…

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Fissure Of Rolando

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You will thoroughly enjoy The Brain From Planet Arous if you are able to suspend not only disbelief but any sense of logic and even the most rudimentary knowledge of science. The film operates beyond the usual level of B-Science Fiction mumbo jumbo…beyond comic book physics…dancing on the borderline of surrealism. First off, the villain is a giant flying intangible alien brain with eyeballs that can flash-fry people and blow up planes with a look. Can you dig that? Pretty badass, right? Well, for some reason the alien Gor thinks he needs to possess John Agar’s body before he can conquer Earth. Personally,I  think Gor’s motivation is that Agar’s girlfriend is hot…and let’s face it…guys who are all brains rarely do well with the ladies. Hot on his heels (well, brains don’t really have heels, so how ’bout “hot on his cortex”?) is another alien brain named Vol, who’s out to foil Gor’s diabolical plan. Now, one would assume that Vol has all the same powers as Gor, so there’s gonna be an awesome flying brain showdown, right? Wrong. That would be logical. And remember, we left logic with the hatcheck girl when we came in, fanboy…

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Babs In The Attic

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Although Silent Scream was released in 1980, the dawn of the slasher craze, it’s not a typical teenage cuisinart movie. With its twisty whodunnit structure, Herrmann-esque score, spooky Victorian boarding house setting, creepy characters and family secrets, it harkens back to early 60’s Psycho imitations like Strait-Jacket, Dementia 13 and Whatever Happened To Baby Jane. Rebecca Balding makes a charming, intelligent, self-reliant heroine. Barbara Steele is chilling as the mute, almost feral Victoria. Yvonne DeCarlo explains it all…

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