Beautiful Schemer

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Well whaddaya know? They actually came up with a different plot for the capper to the Ginger trilogy. And instead of the usual sexist pigs, the baddie is a woman…Ronnie St. Clair (Jocelyn Peters) who’s out to put the kibosh on a trade agreement in the Caribbean. She’s like the Joker to Ginger’s Batman: Filthy rich, bored, beautiful, cunning and vicious as a wolverine. They both seem vaguely sociopathic and have intense love/hate relationships with men…

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And it looks like Ginger got over the nasty case of racism she had in the original Ginger, since her love interest in this one is black C.I.A. agent Clay (Timothy Brown, Bonnie’s Kids, Dynamite Brothers). I’m betting it’s no coincidence that this one came out during the dawn of Blaxploitation. They must have hired a choreographer for Cheri this time, as she manages to dance a slinkily sexy striptease…and sing…in her own lounge act. I was really surprised at how quickly this series (and Cheri Caffaro) grew on me. This one is the most fun, with double entendre that would make Mae West blush…

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B-E A-G-G-R-E-S-S-I-V-E

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Never let it be said that I don’t suffer for my art. Even though I was thoroughly underwhelmed by Ginger I decided to sit through the rest of the trilogy and give each picture its day in court. It does seem that the filmmakers learned from the experience of making the original, as the second has decent cinematography, editing, somewhat better acting.  Cheri Caffaro is enthusiastic and seductive, and has a healthier look, having ditched that Thanksgiving turkey tan. She still dances, in the words of Elvis Costello, “As if she learned to dance from a series of still pictures.” The sex scenes actually try to be erotic this time, not just squalid and perfunctory. But don’t worry, The Abductors is still sleazy as all get out as Ginger once again cracks a white slavery ring…a more upscale one this time where kidnapped cheerleaders are turned into sophisticated “mistresses in bondage” for wealthy degenerates. One of the cheerleaders is Jeramie Rain (Sadie in Last House On The Left)…

 

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Doesn’t she look lovely here? She only gets one line of dialogue…but also gets to crack a whip.

One of the abductors, “Jablon”, is played by Patrick Wright, a regular in Russ Meyer films.

Here’s the punchline: The cheerleaders actually dig their new lifestyle and are reluctant to be rescued.

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I’m a great tease…and a great lay…you can testify to both. I can also be a sadistic bitch, and unless you’d like to see that side of me, you better talk.”

Eternal Vigilance

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John Eastland (Robert Ginty) and Michael Jefferson (Steve James) are best friends who survived a harrowing tour of duty in Vietnam, and now live quiet, happy lives working at a New York brewery…until they catch a street gang (the Ghetto Ghouls) stealing beer. Together they made short work of the ghouls, but later the Ghouls catch Michael alone and beat him to within an inch of his life. Eastland uses his military skills to seek revenge on the Ghouls…that alone would make a good action picture…but that’s only the beginning. Eastland becomes the Exterminator, a vigilante who takes on not only street criminals but mobsters…and a Senator with a seriously disturbing predilection. Eastland dispatches the bastards with a brutal ingenuity usually reserved for slasher movies…but he’s not a psycho, at least not in the conventional sense…he has compassion for innocents and victims…but no mercy for the merciless. There was no shortage of vigilante films in the 70’s and 80’s (Dirty Harry, Death Wish etc.) but The Exterminator really stands out, not just for its unflinching, vicious brilliance, but for its heart and its realism…you really feel Eastland’s terror, sorrow and rage…it’s an indelible experience. Oh, and heads up, jazz fans: Stan Getz plays Battery Park in it. That’s the beauty of B-movies…you never know who’ll show up…

 

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A Bloody Good Time

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As I mentioned in my previous review The Aid Of Insects, I’m a lifelong Argento fan. Still, when I heard he was making a Dracula movie, I bristled a bit at first, since the last time he tackled a classic, The Phantom Of The Opera, he for some reason decided that the Phantom should not be deformed or scarred, and played by Julian Sands sans makeup. Thankfully he didn’t futz with the Dracula mythos too much. At times, this picture channels the fang-in-cheek humor of Hammer films, and a little bit of the eroticism of 70’s European vampire films. I can forgive the use of CG…one of the aspects I most loathe in modern films, because it’s used well and often to outrageous effect (three words: giant praying mantis!) and Argento doesn’t skimp on his trademark creative kills…nobody in cinema dies as spectacularly as Dario’s characters do…there are so many jaw-dropping, holy shit moments in his films. Casting Rutger Hauer as Van Helsing was an inspired choice…he has such an intimidating presence, but so rarely gets to play heroes. Oh, and I believe this is the first 3-D Dracula movie since Paul Morrissey’s Blood For Dracula, which you should definitely check out as well…

 

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Debutante Ballers

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My first question is, why would they cast a blonde to play a character named Ginger? Well, what’s life without a little mystery? Ginger McCallister (Cheri Caffaro) is an orphaned rich girl turned undercover agent. In this picture, the first in a trilogy (including The Abductors and Girls Are For Loving) she’s offered fifty grand to infiltrate a cabal of country club sociopaths…idle rich kids who hook debutantes on dope, blackmail them, and pimp them out. Yup, it’s the oldest exploitation plot in the history of cinema. The misogynistic rich pricks (try drinking a shot every time someone says “bitch”) are no match for Ginger’s superior wit, spastic dancing, mesmerizing tan lines and skill with piano wire. (Ouch!) It’s easy to get behind her righteous anger…until it’s revealed that she’s not just a man-hater but a racist. One of the blackmailers is a black male with an insatiable craving for “stuck-up white ass”. She taunts him in ways usually reserved for white villains in Blaxploitation pictures that you know are about to have their asses handed to them. The filmmakers try to excuse this by including a flashback where Ginger is gang raped by black men. Tasteful, eh? Granted, this was made in 1970 and exploitation pictures have never been politically correct…still, everyone in this film is so hateful, it makes one nostalgic for the humanistic sensitivity of Last House On The Left

 

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“Ok,ok! I’ll tell you everything! Just for the luvva God STOP DANCING!!!”

My Three Zombies

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It still kinda boggles my mind that zombies have been embraced by mainstream pop culture and have joined the ranks of Dracula and Frankenstein’s monster as beloved icons. When I was a kid, zombie movies were considered strictly for sickies. This one, made around the time of Dawn Of The Dead (’78) but not released ’til ’82 concerns two astronauts, Matthews (Larry Latham) and Newman (Director and co-writer Steve Barkett. The other writer was, of all people, Stanley “Chip” Livingston) who return to Earth after a long mission and discover that while they were out, World War III happened, and the dead walk the Earth. (Luckily they find a reel-to-reel tape of Dick Miller explaining what the hell’s going on). Cool premise, no? I settled in expecting a cross between a Romero picure, The Andromeda Strain, and an old Charlton comic by John Byrne that blew me away as a kid, Doomsday + 1. Well, turns out there’s only about 3 zombies. Even Incredibly Strange Creatures had more than that…and they looked more realistic. The real threat to the astronauts, the love interest (Andy Kaufman’s squeeze Lynne Margulies) and the towheaded little boy (Barkett’s son Chris) is a band of nasty outlaws led by Cutter (the inimitable Sid Haig). So it’s really more of a post-nuke Western…and once they get past the interminable talk and Barkett’s voiceovers, there is mucho gunplay. And one scene of outrageous gore. It was made on a shoestring, and a fraying shoestring at that, but the outer space opening has some decent FX by Harryhausen protégé Jim Danforth. They got to use Ted V Mikels’ castle since he was one of the producers. And you know me, I’m willing to sit through anything if it’s got a Forrest J. Ackerman cameo…

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Slick The Slick

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The final film from grindhouse great Arthur Marks wasn’t a gritty action flick like Detroit 9000 or a twisted thriller like Bonnie’s Kids, but a lighthearted comedy in the vein of Uptown Saturday Night…In Monkey Hustle the residents of a Chicago neighborhood scheduled to be flattened and replaced with an expressway rally to save their homes, including an altruistic CPA who throws a block party, some enterprising teens and rival hustlers Daddy Foxx (Yaphet Kotto ) and Goldie (Rudy Ray Moore). The dialogue is rich with esoteric slang that verges on poetry, and as in all of Marks’ pictures, even the most dubious characters are likable. The comic chemistry  between Daddy Foxx and Baby D is especially funny, and made me imagine Paper Moon if it had starred W.C. Fields and Jackie Coogan…

 

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