Posts Tagged ‘1970’s

17
Feb
20

(NSFW) The Arena (1974) Ferocious Female Freedom Fighters

Arena poster

 

“The Romans have taught you to live like an animal!” Pam Grier as Mamawi in The Arena

a Primal Root written review

Do you like gladiator movies? Son, if the gladiator movie you’re speaking of stars such absolute goddesses and B-Movie Trash Cinema Legends as Pam Grier and Margaret Markov, you bet your stanky little ass I do! Coming off the red hot success of the 1973 prison break flick, Black Mama,White Mama, producer Roger Corman was quick to bank on the appeal of those two amazonian beauties for yet another action packed no-budget flick and came up with the sandals and savagery epic known affectionately as The Arena. 

The film begins in ancient Rome where we are witness to several raids and murder fests by the Romans where peaceful Druids and perpetually dancing tribes have their groovy rituals interrupted with unprovoked surprise blood shed where everyone is chopped into brisket and only the sexiest are kept alive to be sold into slavery. Among those captured are the tall, blonde, gorgeous Druid Priestess Bodicia (Margaret Markov) and the absolute knock out, Mamawi (Pam Grier) who are to be auctioned off to some poor white fat slob in a toga where I personally can’t imagine any of these badass, muscular, obviously strong and hardened women being forced to do ANYTHING by these wimpy dough boys. But, I will do my best to suspend my disbelief as the incredible specimens of womanhood are shackled and paraded out in rags.  Thankfully, Bodicia, Mamawi and two fellow captives are sold to an incredibly wealthy Roman ruler named Timarchus (Daniele Vargas). The ladies are quickly stripped nekkid, washed up, put in shiny new clothes and forced to work as servants to the spectators in…THE ARENA! Where gladiators are forced to fight to the death night after night for the amusement of the fat, drunk wealthy pigs sitting up above the kill floor.

However, the crowds have grown bored with watching men fighting animals and other men so Timarchus is looking for the next big thing to keep the masses pleased and complicit int heir lifestyle. When he witnesses the enslaved women having a knock down, drag-out fight in the kitchen, he realizes the pleasures of woman on woman battle and Female of Female Gladiatorial Death Battle is born! The appeal is obvious and the popularity instantaneous. But as these lady gladiators are forced the kill one another for the sweaty, worthless, wealthy they begin to plot a bloody, brutal rebellion to overthrow the powers that be and reclaim their freedom.

Arena Girls

Not nearly as misleading as it might seem, there actually were women gladiators, the minimal budget of The Arena is aided tremendously by being shot in Cinceitta, Italy’s primary studio, which provided sets, props and costumes which added to the production value.  There is great attention paged to the savagery and callous nature of the gladiatorial combat and barbarity of the time period, which works really well when juxtaposed with a love story that blossoms between one of the slaves and a battle trainer as well as the relationships that grow between the lead characters who come from drastically different backgrounds who must work together to overthrow the powers that be. And once you get past the gratuitous forced shower scene early in the film, The Arena is fairly restrained when it comes to it’s nudity. Of course, there is plenty of lovely female bodies on display, but it is far less gratuitous than you’d expect from an exploitation movie of this caliber.

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Grier and Markov are both a delight to watch on screen. Their battles in The Arena are not particularly well choreographed, but the actresses give it their all no matter what is called for and the audience cannot help but feel for their plight as they are forced to battle and murder their friends in the ring. And once they rise up and begin to revolt, I genuinely felt concern and hoped they would make it out of their enslaved Hellhole and reclaim their freedom. It’s hard not to cheer as these sweaty, blood, scantly clad warrior women hack, chop, and slash their way to freedom through a plethora of Roman soldiers desperately trying to cut them down. Pam Grier would, of course, became one of the hardest working actresses to come out of the era and became a cinematic icon while Markov ended up marrying one of The Arena’s producers, Mark Damon, made one more film entitled There Is No 13, and retired from acting.

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The Arena has a pretty impressive horror pedigree with Joe D’Amato (director of Emanuelle in America and Antropophagus) as the film’s cinematographer and Joe Dante (director of Gremlins, The Howling and Piranha) as editor. Rumor has is D’Amato helped out tremendously with the film’s extended battle scenes and was said to have taken over directing duties for those scenes from credited director Steve Carver who went on to direct Big Bad Mama and Lone Wolf McQuade.  Another fun fact, filmmaker Martin Scorsese (Taxi Driver, Goodfellas) claims Roger Corman offered him the directing duties for The Arena after Scorsese finished his film Boxcar Bertha. Instead, Scorsese decided to go on and direct Mean Streets instead.

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The Arena was one of the final death gasps of a long Hollywood cinematic tradition of sand and sandal epics. The genre went into hibernation for a couple decades before being resurrected by Ridley Scott with the Oscar winning 2000 film, Gladiator. The story is pretty similar to The Arena, only recasting the lead as a white guy, one cannot help but wonder if, possibly, there might be some inspiration obtained through this Pam Grier & Margaret Markov vehicle.

The Arena is a dramatic, fun, very entertaining bare bones tale of injustice and rising up against those who own us. Despite it’s obvious low budget, the production values are solid, the story is streamlined and well told, the performances are far above average and sell the drama better than one might expect, and it;s impossible to keep your eyes off Margaret and Pam who both are just gorgeous, dynamic performers who give their all no matter what the limitations of the movie are. The performances from these two ladies are what make the film an infinitely watchable piece of classic Trash Cinema well worth your time.

I award The Arena  FOUR out of FIVE DUMPSTER NUGGETS.

Stay Trashy!

-Root

 

07
Jan
20

(NSFW) Emanuelle in America (1977): Fuck the Rich

Emanuelle America

a Primal Root written review

Man, 60’s and 70’s sexploitation cinema produced some of the most trailblazing, creative, no holds barred and completely underrated films of their era. One series of films that has always struck hard with the sexual content and even harder with it’s bizarre social commentary, is the Spanish-Italian Black Emanuelle film series, especially once the elder statesman of Italian schlock, Joe D’Amato (Porno Holocaust, Erotic Nights of The Living Dead) tackled the series. First, a little history of the Black Emanuelle film franchise.
The History Lesson:

The original French erotic softcore pornographic film from 1975, Emmanuelle, starring the late, sensational Sylvia Kristel and based on the novel by the same name, was a critical flop, but a blockbuster sensation in France, and is still among the highest grossing French films ever produced and ended up creating a film series all it’s own that’s 7 movies deep (hehehe) and includes such titles as Emmanuelle: The Joys of a Woman (1975) and Goodbye Emmanuelle (1977). Not only that, but the title alone has been picked up and used for late night Skin-A-Max style softcore porn films far into this century to the delight of teenage boys and old perverts like myself who are just about over the hill.

But, for my money, the greatest thing to come out of these soft focus French skin flicks, were the grimy, gorgeous, down and dirty sexually deviant series of films Emmanuelle inspired, namely, the Black Emanuelle series, which wasted no time debuting on the scene in 1975, riding the coattails of the original film’s success, with, YOU GUESSED IT! Black Emanuelle! Black Emanuelle introduces us to our leading lady played by Laura Gemser, a truly awe inspiring beauty with dark eyes, long, raven black hair down to her waist and hails from Indonesia. Laura plays a hard boiled, sexually liberated American reporter living in New York and is about as distant from the casual, almost sweet sexuality of the original Kristel led Emmanuelle series. The franchise maintained it’s softcore porn trappings up until Italian sleaze maestro Joe D’Amato took the reigns in 1976 with Emanuelle in Bangkok, where series started it’s descent into utter depravity featuring gang rape, depictions of cockfighting and a Mongoose vs. Snakesbattle.

And that leads us to…
Emanuelle in America!

The fourth film in the Black Emanuelle film series and, without a doubt, the series most notorious entry, 1977’s Emanuelle in America once again features the truly captivating Laura Gemser as Emanuelle, nude photographer and photo journalist, who goes on a world wide adventure that leads us into some pretty dark corridors of late 1970’s human sexuality. Sure, some of the stuff is fun, but man…this mother fucker isn’t afraid to take the audience to some brutal, Hellish places. Now that I think about it, the very first sequence in the films sets the town pretty damn well. We are reintroduced to Emanuelle during the opening credits as she has a photo shoot with a handful of stark nekkid models with plenty of invasive camera shots pushing in on various nude parts of these lovely ladies before Emanuelle calls it a wrap, heads to her car, and is surprised to find a gun totting, acne scarred asshole in the back of her car and orders her to pull of the road at gun point. “I just want to murder you, that’s all!” Huh, well, who can argue with that. Once he gets her pulled over, he climbs into the passenger seat besides her and begins giving he the run down of why he wants her dead and it basically sounds like a Trump supporter talking about why they hate”Feminazis.” You’re sinful! You take naked photos of people and that’s evil!” “A woman should never take her clothes off unless it;s in the bedroom!” Emanuelle keeps her cool, figures out this guy has girlfriends who has modeled nude for her and that he is still a virgin. What does Emanuelle do to deescalate the situation? Tells the confused, psychotic, violent incel of the 70’s that sex is neither dirty or wrong and can be a natural wonderful thing, then proceeds to unzip the young man’s pants and suck his cock for the split second it takes to get him off. It’s fucking adorable, especially when the guy runs out of the car holding on to his wiener for dear life as Emanuelle wipes her mouth, laughs, and goes about her day. It’s a perfect little moment of light and dark, good and evil and laughing in the face of those with the lamest of sexual hangups. Maybe don’t fill your heart with hate and you’ll actually find some love on this planet. Trust me, if this movie was made today, she would have bitten his dick off, made him eat it and then fired the gun up his asshole. Trust me on this.

So, with this scene in place we are off to the races with Emanuelle in America, which is kind of a weird title when you consider she lives there and works out of New York, but I digress. Emanuelle heads to Europe to investigate a tycoon named Eric Van Darren (Lars Bloch) who reportedly has a harem filled with willingly purchased women (aka: sex slaves) one woman to represent each zodiac sign. Emanuelle joins this modern day harem, which looks to be a pretty sweet set up. You get your own room, free meals, a pool, sauna, AND you get paid! Of course, you also have to fuck this petulant bearded man child who nearly cries when Emanuelle starts kicking his ass in Poker Dice during a fucking adorable scene where Emanuelle mops the floor with this infantile bafoon in about five shakes of the dice while all his guests and harem girls watch on in delighted silence. There’s plenty of nekkid ladies just chilling and hanging out and fingering one another in the pool as well as a really sweet girl on girl scene with Emanuelle and a fellow harem girl named Gemini in the sauna who feels unloved by her Tycoon pay-to-play fuck buddy man child and Emanuelle is the kind of sexual dynamo to show her just what love is with a properly placed tongue to the lower lady lips. What am I forgetting to mention? Hrrm…Oh yeah!

You also get to see a naked woman stroke a horses erect penis. Yes. Right out of the gate, in her very first journalist adventure in Emanuelle in America, you see a disrobed woman stroked a fully engorged horse cock. Not going to lie, I was genuinely shocked. I saw the woman getting naked in the horse stable and thought nothing of it and this it hit me like a ton of bricks. “Holy shit! She’s going to jerk off that horse!” I yelled out loud to myself. And, sure enough, she grabbed that hefty, shiny pony fucker and stroked it like a champ. No money shot, thankfully. But still, what a wonderful moment of nasty utter depravity to really jolt the audience and make you wonder just what the fuck are we in for during the rest of this goddamn sleazefest.

With the winnings from her killer streak in Poker Dice, Emanuelle buys her freedom and heads off to Venice with Alfredo Elvize, Duke of Mount Elba (Gabriele Tinti) where she shacks up with both The Duke and his wife and they get into a threesome right after he discovers his wife with banging a chunky member of the wait staff whom The Duke sends him off through the massive corridors of his gigantic magnificent gold encrusted mansion, hairy butt cheeks flapping all the way down the hall as Emanuelle giggles. During the following night’s gala for several dozen senators, their wives and other assorted stuffy aristocrats, Emanuele, decked out in this fucking gorgeous oynx gown with a plunging neckline and a slit all the way up to Valhalla that just hangs off of her and leaves little to the imagination and is my favorite of her outfits in the movie, stumbled upon The Duke’s art forgery studio. It’s a plot thread that goes nowhere, but what REALLY interests Emanuelle is a this body builder dude with a helmet of blonde haid and a five pound moustache and golden color around his neck with the number 34 printed on it. Emanuelle approaches the man, hardly says a word, and already has the stud seduced. But, damn, wouldn’t you know it? He is literally OWNED by a super wealthy older white woman who, trying to be kind here, isn;t quite on the same level as Emanuelle in the…any department. The Stud’s owner mentions a private island for single rich women where male sex slaves are auctioned off to the highest bidder and they must bring all of their masters sexual fantasies to life. NOW THAT’S THE MOTHER FUCKING SCOOP OF THE CENTURY! Or, at least it will lead to more sexcapades? I’m betting on sexcapades.

Well, the stuffy, dull as dirt gala turns into an unbridled orgy after a senator finds a golden peanut inside of a slice of cake, is rewarded with a nude young woman covered in icing he proceeds to lick from head to toe, and everyone quits their grinnin; and drops their linen for the stuffiest rich people orgy since Eyes Wide Shut! Only this time you get to see a woman give REALLY bad oral sex to some poor schmuck who is just WISHING it was the sultry Emanuel smearing her lipstick on his dipstick. Seriously, this woman uses all teeth and keeps flicking his peehole with her tongue. Thankfully we don;t ever see the guys face, or his expressions of boredom and, or, terror/suspense would have turned the film into a screwball comedy.

Before Emanuelle heads off to the private island to see how the old, rich, single ladies get frisky, she meets up with her boyfriend from back in New York, Bill (Riccardo Salvino), who is also a journalist and happens to be on a layover. The only have about an hour so, in one o the films sweetest sequences, the two run around Venice trying to find a place to have a quickie. The run all over the place and finally decide to go at it right outside the doorway of a room where a full orchestra is rehearsing Vivaldi’s Four Seasons (Spring). It’s light, sweet and a welcome bit of one on one fun. But, like so many joys in this world, it is cut short as they jump cut to Emanuelle arriving at Rich Woman’s Pleasure Island, which has very strict privacy rules set in place to protect their wealthy clientele.

While at the resort Emanuele witnesses some actual hardcore tender porn moments as one rich woman orders her sex slave to fuck her Tarzan style and we are treated to some extreme closeups of his wangdoodle doing the slip n’slop to her love shanty. We also see fellows stripping as Zorro, some casual cock sucking, a multi-racial threesome, but what really captures Emanuelle’s attention is one room in particular where a woman is getting her tits sucked and her bacon strip sizzled while watching a film…to Emanuelle’s very subdued shock, a distinctly brutal snuff film.

Snuff Film

Noun

Slang. pornographic film that shows an actual murder of one of the performers, as at the end of a sadistic act.

Someone on the island reports that they’ve seen Emanuelle sneaking around taking photos with her super secret necklace camera and she is held captive by the woman who runs the island. Emanuelle quickly seduces her by appealing to her repressed lesbian tendencies, making her take a bite from a cock and balls shaped aphrodisiac cookie, getting her drunk, stripping her naked and pouncing on her like a lynx! They begin to go at it before Emanuelle steals her clothes and jumps in the back of the private island to airport courtesy car and makes her escape! She repays the driver by getting naked, yanking his knob out of his trousers and gobbling it like mad, causing him to wreck his car…but he still gets it on with her in the front seat of his totaled courtesy car. I’m certain it was totally worth the price of the repairs.

 

Emanuelle, now determined to find the source of these snuff films heads to Washington D.C. where she seduces a U.S. Senator who is reportedly a large supported of the snuff film market. He has a wife, kids…and a pleasure condo where takes Emanuelle to get down and dirty as only the rich and powerful can. When Emanuelle requests something truly hardcore and forbidden, he is qucik to pull down a screen and project a horrifyingly bloody and brutal snuff porn loop featuring women getting pile-driven impaled through their vaginas onto massive spikes, nipples being sliced of of screaming women and women getting sodomized with hooks ripping through their cheeks. Emanuelle watches in horror and it is edited together with a sequence of her and the senator flying in a private place to an undisclosed location in South America where she witnesses for herself the studio where these dehumanizing, savage rapes and murders are occurring and being filmed for the delight and hardons of the white, rich and powerful back in The States. Turns out women from all over the world are kidnapped and sold to these filmmakers to create these sick, disgusting, horrible murder spank films. Jump cut to Emanuelle sitting straight up in the senator’s fuck bungalow bed (“What was it? A Dream? A Nightmare? I saw something horrible!”) where the senator tells her they took LSD and she was just hallucinating everything. Sure, that sounds reasonable. Emanuelle buys this really lame explanation and heads back to New York.

However, back in New York, while discussing this turn of events with her editor, he reveals to her that they had the pictures she took with her hidden camera while she was “hallucinating” on the senator’s bed, and there they are…a dozen or more images of the film she supposedly dreamed up in clear focus and absolutely horrifying. Unfortunately, her editor must follow the orders of those from the top, and he cannot publish her article or the photos, instead, burying them in the archives. It’s a devastating turn of events (“Other girls are going to get dragged into it, and we’ll become accomplices in this whole filthy business!) that has Emanuelle considering hanging up her camera for good.

Emanuelle in America is simultaneously dark and beautiful, containing some genuinely sweet, erotic moments shuffled in with some deeply twisted, perverted content. For sleaze film connoisseurs, Emanuelle in America is a goldmine, containing every single element you could ever possibly hope a greasy, grimy, sexploitation film could deliver. It’s such a strange juxtaposition, these light soft porn elements, next to hardcore pornography, brutal fake snuff scenes and real animal husbandry.  It’s not a great work of art, it;s not particularly well crafted or staged, but in it’s refusal to mold itself to expectations and Joe D’Amato’s willingness to go to the steamy, grotesque depths of carnal human desires and lusts, and actress Laura Gemser’s strength and willingness to go along for the ride and D’Amato’s vision to life, make this a truly remarkable and harrowing piece of Trash Cinema.

What I also find alluring about Emanuelle in America is it’s theme of contemporary slavery, people using other people as a means to an end. Each adventure that Emanuelle goes on, every scoop she investigates, has to do with people selling themselves for the pleasures of others all leading up to folks being stolen, raped and murdered for profit. It’s just another form of the rich fucking the poor. There’s no love in any of these scenarios. WE have a scene where a woman NEEDS love and Emanuelle must show her tenderness. The young blonde stud wants Emanuelle, but he is a kept slave. Truly, the only moments of genuine love we witness in the film are between Emanuelle and Bill, her New York lover. The genuinely care for one another and feel joy when in one another’s presence. These fleeting moments are the happiest in the film The wealthy are simply taking life from the poor, the nameless, and unknown just as they have since the beginning of time. And when these crimes are finally brought to light, at the end of the day, these people are still the ones calling the shot and will deny their story be told. And folks, that makes me want to puke more than any artificial snuff footage, horse hand-job or uncoordinated toothy blowjob. It’s a scathing indictment against the the rich and wealthy elitists which has given Emanuelle in America a lasting power and far more relevant than I’m sure it’s makers ever anticipated. Beyond the film’s shock factors, we are given plenty to ponder over by the time the credits roll.

This is one for the devotees, those who are willing to go there. This is not for the mainstream or those who like their films lite, easy and aimed to please. No, Emanuelle in America is quite possibly one of the most daring, uncompromising and gnarly sexploitation films of it’s era. And for those with the fortitude for such a film, such a reprehensible and perverse Trash Cinema offering, Emmanuelle in America is a must watch.

For ultra sleazy Trash Cinema fans ONLY! Notorious for the right reasons, Joe D’Amato’s Emanuelle in America is Sexploitation cinema at it’s most experimental, gnarly and bizarre. A must see for those who can take it.

I am awarding Emanuelle in America FIVE out of FIVE Dumpster Nuggets.

Stay Trashy!

-Root

14
Nov
17

(NSFW) Bat Pussy (197?): Long Lost Trash Cinema Treasure, Mother Fuckers!

bat pussy poster

 

“You sell your pussy for two cents on the street, but Bat Pussy here is fer law and order!” – Buddy, Bat Pussy

a Primal Root written review
Recently, at a Trash Cinema Night I hosted at Bird’s Aphrodisiac Oyster Shack here in Tallahassee, the stinky taint of Florida, I overheard someone questioning the appeal of bad movies and how they’re such a waste of time. Let me tell you, the obsession with the terrible, the obscene, the seldom scene and outcasts of cinema is not a pass time for the lot of us who devote ourselves to it, it’s a passion. I’ve wasted so many years of my life in pursuit of the sleaziest, strangest, worst films ever made. I lust for horrendous dialog, shitty acting, out of focus, bargain basement cinematography, and junky audio. Give me the things no one in their right mind would ever want to watch and you can keep your bazillion dollar Marvel superhero franchises and Star Wars sequels that are farted out faster than sloppy, lukewarm Big Mac’s at one of the billion stinky McDonald’s that dot this great land of ours. I want to see that rarest of rare shit that only the strongest and most devoted will ever lay their eyes on, that only those of us with the taste for the truly misbegotten will ever appreciate and savor the flavor of. Motherfucker, give me Trash Cinema or give me death!

 

All this to say, after decades of hearing the title of this ridiculously rare, hardly ever seen outside it’s original scarce skin flick theater run during some odd year in the 1970’s (IMDB has it listed as being released in 1973, but the truth is, no one really knows), I have FINALLY witnessed it… Bat Pussy. That’s right, Bat Pussy, the film many claim to be the very first pornographic parody film, in this case, LOOSELY based on the Adam West Batman television series. To this day no one knows where it was filmed, who the actors are or who the creative minds were behind the camera. The only hint we have that it was possibly shot in Arkansas is a Razorback tattoo on our male lead, Buddy, prominently feature pasty white ass.

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Bat Pussy is a legendarily bad, rare hour long pornographic film. The cast contains three leads: Buddy, a fowl mouthed greasy dude with a farmers tan.  Sam: A beehive wearing, immensely freckled frustrated possible wife to Buddy and BAT PUSSY (aka: Dora Dildo): Our super heroine who protects her Holy Gotham City whenever her twitching pussy alerts her to a crime about to be committed. Her accent and enthusiasm help to liven up the flick.

Bat Pussy tells the tale of Buddy and Sam, a married couple who spend the duration of the film totally nude and in bed together hurling insults at one another while applying ample cunnilingus, fingering, fellatio and long discussions about fucking, but without actually doing it, which could be the result of Buddy’s dick being eternally flaccid.  Just a guess.

Anyhoo, Buddy and Sam get the idea to try some of the debauched and dirty deeds pictured in a stroke rag which alerts Bat Pussy to the imminent danger, exclaiming the remarkable like, “Dirty Muthafuckas fucking in my holy Gotham City!” Before pulling her nighty over her head, where it gets stuck ever so briefly, puts on her Bat Pussy uniform, straddles her “Hippity Hop” and bounces out of Bat Pussy Headquarters, which happens to be an outhouse. And Gotham City is basically just a state park… we spend about five minutes watching Bat Pussy bounce down dirt roads, empty fields from about a quarter of a mile away, and beat a sexual deviant to the ground with her “Hippity Hop” to save a young nubile woman from his clutches.

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In the meantime, we are throttled face first back into the bizarre, angry, and certainly smelly love life of Buddy and Sam. What started out as a kind of cute, if nasty, bout of dirty talk and slight name calling has erupted into a profanity laden tirade that is being totally improvised and feels a little too on the nose for these two “actors” to not be an actual married couple. It gets mean, but it’s also head scratchingly surreal and often downright hysterical as Buddy bounces around the bed, limp dick flapping around, and Sam just lays there hardly moving at all, unless it’s to slurp the dangling noodle.  Please, allow me to illustrate the sheer brilliance of their dialogue…

Buddy: (Right after a quick pussy munch) What is that shit? Goddammit, stop coming in my mouth!

Buddy: I’m gonna fuck my secretary right in the ass and then come home and make you suck my dick.

Buddy: Every time I run my tongue up your pussy it comes out your asshole. What’s the goddammed deal with that?

Buddy: I want a hot pussy on the grill. That’s what I wanna hear.

Buddy: My horoscope says I’m supposed to fuck you in the nose, in the ears, in the mouth, and in the pussy.

Sam: My horoscope said to get another man.

Buddy: That’s the biggest goddammed pussy I ever seen in my life

Buddy: I’d like to suck your pussy til your head caved in.

Buddy: What’s all this white stuff coming out of you? Why didn’t you tell me that dinner was ready?

Sam: You never can get a hard on so I have to use a rubber dick, you son of a bitch!

Buddy: Want me to fuck you in the ass?

Sam: NOPE!

See, this is what I’m talking about. It’s fucking laugh out load funny stuff. Also, every once in a while you head Buddy go, “Huh?” and look off camera before the audio drops out. My guess is this is the director barking out orders or suggestions to liven up these INCREDIBLY long takes of these two pornographic thespians bickering at one another and groping one another’s genitals in the most unerotic ways imaginable. Also, there are a couple moments the director can be heard burping just off camera. We don;t call it Trash for nothing, folks.

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Soon enough, Bat Pussy shows up on the scene to fight crime and stand up for law and order! But wouldn’t you know it? She gets stripped nekkid almost immediately and starts getting really into whatever is happening in the bad. She writhes, and moans and thrusts her ungroomed lady bits high into the humid air and Buddy continues to complain and pretend to possibly be fucking despite obviously not actually being aroused in the slightest. One of my favorite moments occurs when Sam and Bat Pussy are put into a sixty nine position and Sam just refuses to get her face anywhere near Bat Pussy’s Bat Pussy. Sam keeps her eyes closed like she taking a nap and plays dead. The roll around, writhe, moan, grope, and in the case of Bat Pussy, start hacking up a lung every couple minutes, which is about as sexy as sexy gets. After about fifteen minutes of this action, Bat Pussy throws her costume back on, departs and the film just…ends. Yeah, that’s it. No wrap up, no catharsis, no “plot” closure. It’s just fucking over. You spent your nickel, we’re DONE!

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I feel like my above synopsis comes nowhere close to doing Bat Pussy justice. People say The Room, Plan 9 from Outer Space Troll 2, Samurai Cop, etc. are the worst movies ever made. That THOSE are bad movies. Gang, you have no idea how bad trash cinema can get until you see Bat Pussy. This remarkable feat of total filmmaking ineptitude is so strange and mind boggling, it gives off the sensation that you are watching something forbidden, something mankind was never, ever, actually supposed to witness. This might be the holy grail of obscure trash cinema.  However, I can only recommend this sweaty, greasy, hairy slice of cheese to the most devoted and iron clad of Trash Cinema lovers among us. Honestly, I can only see the rarest of breeds, like Bat Pussy itself, ever really having an appreciation for something so fucking indescribably odd and filthy. Unlike any film I’ve ever watched, you have to see it to believe it. And in the recent 2K restored blu-ray release from AGFA & Something Weird, you will see more than you ever bargained for.

HERE’S A TIP!: If you want to turn this movie into a drinking game, just take a drink anytime someone says “Mother Fucker.”

I’m awarding Bat Pussy:

Three and a Half out of Five Dumpster Nuggets.

AVAILABLE TO RENT AT CAP CITY VIDEO LOUNGE! 

Stay Trashy!

-Root

 

 

26
Jul
16

The Cheerleaders (1972): Smells Like Teen Spirit!

cheerleaders_poster_01

“Norm, you’ve got pies in your Levis.” – Stephanie Fondue as Jeannie in The Cheerleaders

a Primal Root written review

This is the film that started it all. The film that bridged the gap between the cinematic beach blanket bingo goofiness era of the 1960’s and the no tits uncovered teensploitation bushapalooza of the 1970’s. That’s right, we’re talking about my favorite Trash Cinema sex comedy of all time, 1972’s The Cheerleaders. A film that pulls of the trick of combining both rosy cheeked innocence and balls deep raunchiness at the exact same time which, in short order, became the go-to magic formula for the genre. In my filthy opinion, no teen tits and ass movie ever treaded the terrain as well, either genuinely hilariously or penis swelling sexily as The Cheerleaders managed to pull it off. Not only that, but teen sex comedies for the next 40 years all owe an enormous debt of gratitude to this game changing slice of Trash Cinema sleaze.

Legend has it that after the success of the enormously bankable 3-D softcore skin flick, The Stewardesses, The Cheerleaders director Paul Glickler decided another sexploitation picture featuring ladies in and out of uniform would make a chunk of change at the box office. After witnessing a troupe of sexy early 1970’s all natural high school majorettes strut their stuff in a small town parade, Glickler knew he had a winner. When he pitched his initial idea was met with plenty of skepticism, after all, we are talking about the sex lives of teenagers which was a tiny bit taboo at the time. But once Glicker crossed paths with Jerry “I Drink Your Blood/ I Eat Your Skin” Gross, Glickler’s sleazy, perverted idea become an glorious reality. The Cheerleaders was released regionally in the budding spring of 1972 , and by the fall of that same year, The Cheerleaders had become the #1 movie in The Land of the Free, The United states of America, doing our grand, old nation proud. The proved at long last that we should never, ever, underestimate the overwhelming power of nubile, bouncy cheerleaders to draw a crowd happy to pay their hard earn cash to ogle their lovely young bodies.

The Cheerleaders - Stephanie Fondue

The Cheerleaders commences at Amorosa High School as their football team is in the middle of their biggest winning streak in many a moon. What is their secret? Their horny cheerleading squads voracious sexual appetite and their mission to ball every opposing team in it’s entirety the night before each game. These young ladies’ immense school spirit is matched only by the fathomless rage of their teenage libidos. The Cheerleading squad is so damn popular they have their own corner in the girls locker room where the pervy janitor has placed his peep hole. The other girls peep around their lockers to watch these lovely young ladies dress and undress. However, one girl seems more enamored by the mysterious sexual allure of this band of sexually aggressive females.  It is the cherubic face, young, naive Jeannie (Stephanie Fondue) and she decides she will do ANYTHING to become a part of the team.

Let me stop this review right here and take a moment to discuss my unending love for actress Stephanie Fondue. Like Jill Lansing in Malibu High (1979), this was Stephanie’s only roll and there’s not much information to be found about her or what became of her. All we know for sure is that her real name is Enid and that she did some nude modeling for magazines. Also, according to Glickler, she was incredibly open and free with her body to the extent that she even offered to actually fuck her fellow actors for the sex scenes. For whatever reason, she wondered off from an exceedingly promising cult actress career and vanished into Trash Cinema oblivion. She is absolutely phenomenal in this film. Her awesome punk rock chop top hairdo, to her goofy, awkward teenage line delivery, her fantastic comedic instincts and tomboy sexual appeal coupled with her generous amounts of total nudity, she gives a screen performance that is unforgettable and makes the whole film a joy to watch. Her willingness to do anything for a laugh, from wrestling nekkid int he shower with the entire football team, to exploding forth from a bedroom totally nekkid and spread eagle after a waterbed explodes, insured that Ms. Fondue’s performance is among the most inspiring of all sexploitation. I will forever admire Stephanie Fondue and wonder where she is…and if she’s thinking of The Primal Root, too.

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Okay, back to the review!When it becomes common knowledge that one of the cheerleaders has had to quit the squad due to an unscheduled pregnancy, Jeannie grabs her pom-poms and joins the try out! Beforehand, she gets some advice from Bonnie and Debbie on how to be embody the spirit of the cheerleading squad. First, the get Jeannie to ditch the bra and then get her to put on the clothes her teddy bear typically wears before they totally lose focus and go off to seduce the men of the house, Jeannie’s chronically masturbating brother, Bonnie offers a lovely alternative,  and Jeannie’s incredibly lecherous and wondrously dorky Father. Debbie attempts to seduce the bespectacled golf fanatic.

“Gee, Mr. Davis,” Debbie says, picking up one of Dad’s golfballs,” I like your balls.”

Dad, being a wile old fox, of course, gives her an impromptu golf lesson.

When Dad gets a look at Jeannie’s nipples pocking through her super tight and tiny shirt, he loses his boner quick and flips his shit, going off on poor Jeannie. Outside, as she consoled by Debbie and Bonnie, it comes to light that Jeannie is in fact…still a virgin.

“Norman thinks I’m a piece of toast,” Jeannie strangely asserts. “Buttered.”

Zod, I love the dialog in this movie. ❤

Jeannie tries out and she is horrible, however, she is a virgin and according the wisdom of the 1970’s, less likely to get knocked up, so they decide to give her a chance. First stop, initiation. They tell her she must shower int he boy’s locker room, convincing her by lying that football practice won;t be over for another hour. Of course, as Jeannie stands nekkid, wet and alone in the shower, the entire football team comes running in nekkid, filthy and as is the case with most teenage boys, horny as fuck. Not the best strategy if you don;t want your new cheerleader getting pregnant, but for sheer visual impact, this is among the finest scenes in annals of teensploitation. No other woman in trash cinema history has ever pulled off fully nude pratfalls with such lovely timing and grace.

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And then Debbie fucks the guy at the hamburger stand. And Claudia fucks the coach, And Patty fucks the lesbian gym teacher of a crotch thrusting piece of gym equipment. As you may ascertain, there’s a fuck ton of fucking in The Cheerleaders and if it’s not actually kind of sexy it is bafflingly over the top and awkwardly funny. On the way home from school Jeannie mentions to fellow cheerleader, the red headed Suzy, that she has no idea how to seduce a boy. Suzy shows her how it’s done by hoping over to fellow bus rider, grabs his dick and starts going to town. As we all know, this is pretty much a spot on representation of all a woman need do to seduce a man.  Suzy then goes on to fuck the bus driver as he continues his route.

Soon, an actual plot begins forming as Jeannie invites the Squad over for a slumber party before the big final football game of the season that will determine the championship. The entire football team crashes the party and the Cheerleaders can;t help themselves, like a filthy version of Pokemon go, these ladies gotta fuck ’em all! And they do, with relish. Only thing is, now it is their own team that has been fucked into a near comatose state which will end int heir loss of the championship. It is now up to The Cheerleaders to pull an all night, county wide fuck fest to pound the other team’s pud until every single one of their pinkies is all stinky and the odds are matched. The girls ambush and have sex with their team’s opponent, no one is safe as they attack them at the gym posing as weights, at the drive in, at the garage, in various bedrooms, and in my favorite bit, bursting forth through a table and a pepperoni pizza at an Italian restaurant.

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However, the next day there is one player that didn’t get laid last night. The 4th string QB was somehow missed during the all night cum raid. But whose pussy is pure enough to take down this final swinging dick that stands hard against Amorosa High and their championship victory? Could it be…Jeannie the virgin?

The Cheerleaders is by far and away one of the most bizarre, sexy and funny sexploitation teen sex comedies I’ve ever seen and one I hold very close to my filthy heart. It was quickly followed by an onslaught of cheerleader sex pictures giving way to the term Cheersploitation, and is a genre that has stuck around to this very day. As long as you have enthusiastic, energetic, chicks in skimpy outfits and as long as folks continue to enjoy baring witness to their cinematic antics, it’s genre that will be with us until humanity finally dies out.

Still, The Cheerleaders was the first and will always be, by this purveyor of filths humble opinion, the finest example of the genre.

I award The Cheerleaders FIVE out of FIVE Dumpster Nuggets.

Stay Trashy!

-Root

 

 

 

 

10
Jan
16

Phantasm (1979): All that we see or seem…

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a Primal Root written review

“First he took Mom and Dad, then he took Jody, now he’s after me.” – Mike, Phantasm

I never planned on writing a review for Phantasm. However, with today’s passing of the beloved horror icon, Angus Scrimm, who breathed life into one of my all time favorite cinematic boogeymen, I felt compelled to take a look back at not only of the most enduring and admired horror films, but one I hold very dear to my heart.

Let me start off by stating that there is no real way to create a summary of Phantasm that honestly does the film any justice. It’s the kind of film that takes place inside between the conscious world and that of the subconscious, the the realm of primal, deep, dark human emotions, and at that, from the perspective of a young boy in his early teens who has lost so much he’s having trouble coming to terms with it. Well, Hell, okay…at least let me TRY to tell you what the film’s about.

Young Michael (Michael Baldwin) is living with his older, adult brother Jody (Bill Thornbury) after the untimely death of their parents. Michael is already having trouble coping with the sudden lose of his parents, when he comes to the realization this Jody is considering leaving town and handing custody of Mike over to their Aunt and Uncle. The thought of not only losing his parents, but being a burden on his older brother, who is thinking of leaving him behind, is adding to Mike’s pain and turmoil. There’s a fantastic, heart breaking sequence where Jody rides his bike down the street as Mike chases after him on foot unbeknownst to his old brother. Mike can’t keep up and eventually, begrudgingly, gives up. It’s a pitch perfect moment that visualizes the dreaded feeling of abandonment and the inevitability of change.

To make matters worse, Mike witnesses some very strange goings-ons at the local Morningside Cemetery and Funeral Home. At the funeral of one of Jody and Mike’s friends, Tommy,  Mike witnesses a shadowy, sinister Tall Man (Angus Scrimm, Rest in Peace) lift up up Tommy’s corpse filled coffin all by his lonesome…and load it back into the hearse rather than lowering it into it’s grave.

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As young Mike investigates further he discovers there seems to be a sudden infestation of tiny, brown robbed creatures haunting the cemetery, a knife wielding blonde, big breasted seductress intent on poking every man she can lure into the cemetery to death and the mortuary is guarded by brain sucking, high velocity flying killer spheres. And who looks to be behind it all? The black suited Tall Man who has set his evil sights on Mike.

It takes quite a bit of convincing to get Jody to believe that what is happening over at Morningside is true. With the crazy stories Mike keeps spouting, who can blame the guy for chocking it up to a kid’s imagination? But when Mike comes home with a living, moving, nasty little momento from his last encounter with The Tall Man, Jody hops on board as does their ice cream selling buddy Reggie (Reggie Bannister). The three lay siege to Morningside cemetery int he hopes of uncovering The Tall Man’s true purpose in their small town and send him back to whatever Hell this monstrous being came from. However, as is the case in Phantasm, nothing is exactly as it seems…And the final revelation of Phantasm is devastating, beautiful and deeply disturbing.

**** SPOILERS AHEAD ****

Okay, I am going to discuss the film a bit and I recommend you see Phantasm first before reading further.

One of Phantasm‘s greatest strengths is it’s respect for a child’s perspective. To try and make sense of what is happening int he world around you. It plays almost like an episode of Are You Afraid of the Dark? that pulls no punches. There is something evil and sinister happening in their small town, and it is up to Mike to convince his older brother and for them to solve this horrible problem. There’s a great since of mystery and wonderment as well as mounting dread and tension, but it’s all handled with a real sentimentality and heart that is hard to find in most popular horror cinema of the 70’s era.

Now, before I start making this film sound like the ultimate bummer, Phtasm also has an excellent sense of adventure and fun on it’s surface. Jody, Mike and Reggie are a damn funny trio and their reactions to the ludicrous happenings around town and pricless. Darkly hysterical moments like Michael finding an enourmous flesh eating bug tangled in his hair, Jody asking Mike is the strange breathing sounds he heard was the “retard” up the street and, my personal favorite, when Mike is confronted inside the mortuary by The Tall Man who stands several passes down the hall from him, Mike, speechless utters in complete My-Goose-Is-Cooked fashion, “Oh, shit…” Phantasm is a damn good time about one darkly sobering mother fucking subject matter.

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Phantasm is a horror movie about the sad but honest fact that everyone we love will die. That those closest to us will have to eventually leave us one day and that no matter how hard we fight, or try to hold on, or battle against it, we will ALWAYS lose. I understand the notion that we carry these people with us forever in our hearts and memories, that they live on forever in the tales we tell of them and the ways that they’ve touched us. But we will never get to sit down and hold their hand, feel the comfort of their presence of enjoy a glass of whiskey with them ever again. They are gone. Gone. And so shall we be. And that’s something we all must face.

At the end of Phantasm Michael and Jody do battle with The Tall Man and end up trapping him in an abandoned mine shaft and dropping a dozen or so gigantic boulders on top of the sucker. Our last glimpse of Jody is from onto of a high hill from where he rolled the boulders on top of The Tall Man, sealing his fate. Mike sees his brother, bathed in light with his arms held high over his head in triumph. Mike and Jody have one. Then the film reverses on Mike and he awakes in his bedroom. He is comforted beside the living room fireplace by he and Jody’s good friend Reggie. Reggie explains that not only are Mike’s parents dead, but Jody is also dead, killed in a car accident.

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This is a moment of true horror, a devastating moment that still breaks my heart just thinking about it. And this is where Phantasm succeeds so well, in making us care for the characters that are part of this tale. You can sense the brotherly love between Jody and Mike, their sense of camaraderie and their shared feelings of grief and confusion over the loss of their parents and the prospect of both their uncertain futures. To find out that Mike has lost the entirety of his immediate family, the people he has known and loved since birth, is a crushing blow.

Phantasm is a horror film that dwells in the dark, most assuredly, but it also has a great deal of heart and warmth to it, which as I stated above, is something of a hard commodity to come across in 1970’s era horror cinema. Just look at Tobe Hooper’s Texas Chainsaw Massacre, John Carpenter’s Halloween and Wes Craven’s Last House on the Left. It was a bloody horrifying decade for horror. Phantasm, too, explores the shadows of human nature. But, as odd as it might sound, Phantasm reminds us of what makes life worth living and that life is fleeting and serves as a reminder that we must cherish each moment of happiness we have. To show those we hold close that we love them, that we care and that we are here for them. Because one day, as we all know, they will be gone and we will never get that opportunity to hold them near and tell them we love them again.

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Phantasm is a masterpiece, plain and simple. From it’s unique story penned and directed by a very young Don Coscarelli, it’s unforgettable, dreamlike score by Fred Myrow, and it’s natural, engaging performances by everyone involved,  Phantasm is a type of dark fairy tale about the inevitability of  change and loss which digs deep into our most horrifying childhood fears about death. It takes us right back to the time when we were children and had to make sense of this adult world, a real world we were just beginning to become acquainted with. Phantasm is an audacious film which dares to take a trip through the mental landscape of a deeply scarred, traumatized child. By film’s end, Mike and Reggie decide they must leave their small town and find a new start. Mike begins packing his bag so that they can hit the road and head into a new day, a new future where they can begin to come to terms with their pain. Mike closes his closet door revealing The Tall Man in his mirror. “BOOOOOOOOY!” The Tall Man growls…and Michael is caught. Pulled through the mirror and into darkness.

One day you and I will face Death. Inevitably, as The Tall Man says, “The Game is finished. Now, you die.” And when that day comes, that unavoidable day when we reach our ultimate fate, we can only hope that in death we will fine peace and comfort. Not a brutal Hell made up of our most nightmarish childhood fears.

Phantasm and it’s iconic boogeyman, The Tall Man, would live on with many colorful, imaginative, bonkers sequels that pick up and continue the story admirably well. But, if you were to ask me, the tale begins and ends with the original 1979 classic Phantasm. One of the most poetic and lovely horror stories ever told.

I award Phantasm FIVE out of FIVE Dumpster Nuggets.

Stay Trashy!

-Root

05
Oct
14

Children Shouldn’t Play With Dead Things (1972)

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a Primal Root written review

Before the man ended up tackling truly awful films like Baby Geniuses and Karate Dog, late filmmaker Bob Clark made some well loved and enduring films. Hell, they play his film A Christmas Story at least 700 times on every cable station from November to New Year’s Day, and his horror film Black Christmas is held up beside John Carpenter’s Halloween as one of the most suspenseful and horrifying slasher films ever made. The deeply unsettling Vietnam era horror film, Deathdream He even created the legendary Trash Cinema Classic, Porky’s back in 1982! The man proved he could do it all and with pizazz. For my money, one of the man’s finest and most under appreciated works is one of his very first. the 1973 horror/comedy Children Shouldn’t Play With Dead Things.

Children Shouldn’t Play With Dead Things is the tale of a troupe of hippie thespians who travel out to a secluded burial island off the coast of Florida for an adventure at the witching hour.  Their leader and owner of the theater company is Alan (Alan Ormsby) a complete megalomaniac who take much pleasure in putting his friends down, sexual harassment and has a penchant for loud clothing. He leads his troupe to this island with the promise that he will raise the dead. The gang catches on quick and thinks it’s all a ruse to scare the shit out of them, which proves to be the case as they are attacked by two ghouls that turn out to be fellow actors in pancake makeup. However, soon after this bit of fun, Alan ends up ordering his thespian clan to dig up an actual corpse, that of a deceased fellow named Orville, before actually promising to call up a curse from Satan himself and bring the dead back to life.

After several false starts, the magic incantation actually does work and the undead residents of the island cemetery rise from their graves to devour the usual rag tag group of acid casualties, witchy women and squares in bell bottoms, but this doesn’t happen till nearly the end of the movie. In fact, the majority of the film is spent highlighting the petty power struggles and squabbling that takes place between this group comprised of hand picked members of the Flower Power/Free Love community. Children Shouldn’t Play With Dead Things peels back the facade and takes a long, hard look at the hippie dream of peace, love and community and how this counterculture failed on delivering it’s idealistic vision of a better, new society. Power games, sexism, and sadistic threats are what dominate this unpleasant and corrupt group of young people. In short, this is no longer a utopian world of change, but an exact replica of the society they we seeking to be an alternative to.

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Just beyond the caustic satire of the counterculture is a dark sense of melancholy and despair which is fully embodied in the character of Alan. The villainous Alan does not believe in traditional Flower Power, but espouses on the pointlessness of our very existence, “The dead are losers. If anyone hasn’t earned the right for respect, it’s the dead…Man is a machine that manufactures manure.”  Alan takes great pride in devaluing those around him. Calling his leading man a “slab of meat” and mocking Satan himself in his incantations. Alan lives in a world without value or truth. He even states that he will take Orville home to feed to his dogs and then use his bones as Christmas ornaments. Sure, he might be saying this all for shock value, but from the reaction of those around him you get the impression this is not an act, but who Alan really is.  So, in the end, after Alan spends so much of the film waxing his nihilistic poetry, exposing the pointlessness of life and the non existence of God or Satan, it makes a kind of deeply sick sense that the dead should return to life. Rising like malfunctioning machines comprised of rotted flesh and old bones, moving about as a parody of the living’s pointless, expendable existence.

Instead of embracing these walking dead as the ultimate substantiation of his empty, nihilistic beliefs, Alan does everything in his power to save his own ass. In one of the film;s most memorable moments of absolutely shocking and comical pessimism, Alan and a female friend run up the stairs for safety, followed closely by the flesh hungry dead. Alan, in a moment of complete selfishness, pushes this woman down the stairs and into the arms of the flesh eaters coming for them. The actions stops for a moment as the woman and zombies alike stop in their tracks and stare at Alan, as if astonished at his loathsome cowardice, before taking this young woman off to be eaten.

This is where that vision peace and love got us. Not the most cheerful of thoughts to consider.

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Children Shouldn’t Play With Dead Things is one brutal in it’s sick, drastically dark satire, but it’s still a fantastic comedy. Filled with quirky performances, snappy dialog, and some fantastic one liners.  On a near non-existent budget, Children Shouldn’t Play with Dead Things manages to be both completely entertaining and utterly engrossing  while reminding you why you dread running into those kids you used to hang out with in drama club back in high school. The thespians are all very real, very human characters and the zombies, in cheap makeup and thrift store clothes, are vivid, nasty customers with facial expressions registering rage and hate rather than the typical benign indifference of a Romero zombie. After being rudely awaken,  these dead folks are back to settle a score.  The makers of this film use their limited budget to their advantage and deliver an intelligent, bleak look into a counterculture that never did take, died,  and simply rotted away like flesh from the bone.  In the end, it’s Death getting the last laugh.

I give Children Shouldn’t Play With Dead Things THREE AND A HALF Dumpster Nuggets.

Stay Trashy!

-Root

24
Sep
14

George Romero’s Martin (1976) Reality Bites

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a Primal Root written review

“Do you believe God’s whole world runs by the laws of the few sciences we have been able to discover? Oh, no, Christine, there is more. But people are satisfied. They know so much, they think they know all. And that makes it easy for Nosferatu. That makes it easy for all the devils.” -Cuda, Martin

 

George Romero’s name immediately conjures up images of his iconic shambling, flesh eating “shoot ’em in the head” zombies, and it’s no wonder. Hell, the man’s spent the better part of a career spanning over forty years devoted to these walking dead flesh eaters who changed the landscape of horror cinema forever with movies like Night of the Living Dead (!968), Dawn of the Dead (1978) Day of the Dead (1985) and Land of the Dead (2004) among many other “Of the Dead” films and follow ups spawning countless unofficial ineffective sequels and lukewarm, forgettable remakes and also saturated the market for the past decade influencing everything in pop culture to the point I wish someone would just put a bullet in my head and end the unimaginative, cash-in, living dead hysteria that won’t seem to ever fucking wind down and die.

But to concentrate on the man’s most popular and commercially successful ventures is to ignore the bold and creative films he is lesser known for. Films like The Crazies, Knightriders, Creepshow,The Dark Half, etc. The man has made some phenomenal films outside the living dead canon he’s most known for, and I’d like to focus on what I consider to be among his most intriguing and underrated works, the independent vampire flick, Martin. 

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Martin tells the tale of a shy, quiet, troubled teenage boy who believes himself to be a vampire, in fact, he comes from a lineage of his family that other relatives believe is cursed with hereditary vampirisim.  We’re introduced to Martin (John Amplas) as he stalks a fellow female passenger on an overnight train to Braddock, Pennsylvania. As he stalks this average young woman back to her overnight cabin aboard the train, we watch as Martin imagines her waiting for him behind the locked door in a revealing neglige, seduced by his vampire charms, lusting for him and embraces Martin with open arms, allowing him to feast on her warm red blood.  What Martin imagines is presented in grainy black and white, like the classic Universal monster movies of the 30’s and 40’s, like Dracula or Frankenstein, before cutting back to the bright, technicolor of reality where Martin attacks the young woman in her cramped cabin. The reality is far from Martin’s dream scenario. He walks in to the sound of her flushing the toilet before she steps out with her hair up in a towel, wearing a well loved bathrobe, her face caked in beauty cream as she blows a huge snot rocket into a wad of toilet paper. When Martin attacks her, intent on doping her up with a well placed prick of his syringe, she fights back with everything she has, hurling obscenities like “FREAK! RAPIST! ASSHOLE!”  athim while struggling against his clutches. Honestly, Martin is a shrimpy looking dude, and I have a feeling she would probably kick his ass normally, but the drugs take hold and she passes out, thus, allowing Martin to slice her arm open with a straight razor and dine on her blood. That’s right, Martin has no fangs.

When the train reaches it’s destination Martin meets his new caretaker, his elderly cousin Cuda (Lincoln Maazel). Cuda is a devoutly religious and highly superstitious  man,  and believes completely in the old family legend that some members are cursed with vampirisim. Cuda takes the boy in with the hopes of saving Martin’s eternal soul before destroying the creature of the night for all time. As you might guess, Cuda has nothing but contempt for young Martin, addressing him as Nosferatu and even threatening to put a stake through Martin’s heart, killing Martin without salvation, if Martin harms anyone in his city. But it’s not long before Martin ignores these warnings, and sneaks off into the night to hunt and feed.

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From the very first frame, Romero, with the help of a haunting, beautiful score from Don Rubinstein and utilizing the fading landscape of Braddock Pennsylvania, imbues his film with a sad, bleak, disturbing atmosphere, one where the American Dream has run dry and the world is left to rot and decay. The mills have alls hut down, the local economy has crumbled, and everyone left is struggling just to survive. The tone is one of desperation as a population holds on to the dying old ways of their lives and existing in denial.

As Martin stalks and ambushes his victims, it becomes apparent that sex is not his concern at all. In fact, when he is propositioned by a female shopper he befriends at Cuda’s grocery store, he has no idea how to respond. Turns out, Martin’s still a virgin after all these years and has no idea what to make of this. The lure of sex seems to hang all about Martin, and his response to it comes off as confused, sad and out of place. When he finally does give in to the seduction, he comes away unfulfilled. This is not your typical lustful vampire.

What Romero has sought out to do with Martin is, much like he did for zombies in his 1968 horror milestone Night of the Living Dead , is to deconstruct the vampire legend and all of the conventions we as an audience hold to be law. Martin is Romero’s treatise that examines the myth of the vampire, (featured in black and white, either as fantasy or long ago memories of how being a vampire once was, this point is left ambiguous) and reality (shot in bright, bold, 1970’s color) de-romanticizing the vampire legend. Also being tackled here is religion and superstitious belief.

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Martin cannot stomach the reality he exists in, and instead, creates intricate fantasies (presented in grainy black and white) where he visualizes himself sneaking into a grand castle rather than some  sleazy 70’s bachelor pad, or striding into the arms of an eager lover rather than holding down a shrieking victim who just took a huge dump in the adjoining bathroom. He imagines himself into the romantic Hollywood reality of the movie vampire, the one that is so alluring. which might be why he’s so quick to state “There’s no magic. There’s no real magic ever.” several times in the film. Crucifixes, garlic, holy water, sunlight, the classic rules do not apply in reality. Martin has no fangs, he uses a straight razor. He has no powers of seduction, he must use dope to keep his victims from breaking him in half. This is not a world of magic and super human power, this is stone cold, un-romantic reality.

Still, Martin believes he is actually a vampire and must feed on the blood of the living in order to survive, just as Christians believe utterly and completely in the resurrection, Heaven, Hell, and the power of the holy spirit. Martin still places an importance in the canned icons of his belief system, “The Hollywood Vampire” but is intelligent enough to know he is only humoring himself with these fantasies and delusions. After one startling moment in the film where Martin scares the living shit out of Cuda by stepping out the darkness  wearing a cape, bares fangs and has a pallid complexion only to finally laugh at the old man and reassure him, “It’s only a costume.” Martin has been told all his life what he is and has come to believe what’s been drilled into his head from birth.  Martin longs to be one thing, but he knows he is something else and this knowledge is the essence of the film.

Martin also takes dead aim at organized religion, portraying it in vapid, empty terms. Romero himself plays a hip priest who insults the shitty wine his church serves at communion, doesn’t believe in angels or demons and loves the movie The Exorcist. And when Cuda calls upon an old school priest to ambush Martin and perform an exorcism of their own, it comes off as an old useless ritual and Martin simply walks away as the priest blubbers on reading from the holy text. But more disheartening than any of this is Cuda himself, a man so blinded by his own faith that he believes it is his divine right to wield life or death over his own flesh and blood. Cuda believes the vampiric curse and that it is his duty to destroy the evil, to murder his own relative in the name of God. This is the same mentality in religious hysteria that leads followers to murder doctors who perform abortion and claim to be pro-life but support capital punishment, to commit atrocious acts of violence in the name of your own personal lord and savior. It’s sick, it’s twisted and it’s wrong.

"It's only a costume."

“It’s only a costume.”

In the end, Martin is a film about the lies we tell ourself and the delusions we live every day. Those that we have been taught by those closest to us and those we tell ourselves simply to get by. Martin wants so badly to be a vampire he is willing to kill others. Martin admires the lore and power of vampires. How they are loved, feared and lusted after, all things that the shy, timid misfit feels he can never obtain.

Martin is a singular, gorgeous, and poetic take on the vampire horror film and it’s Hollywood lore. To date, I have never seen a more thoroughly unique and sweetly sad vampire tale.  This is the rarest of horror movies, one not about a horrible other, or even about the creature next door. No, this is subtle, ambiguous look at what makes monsters of us all. A look into the heart of the horror in our everyday human existence and the evils we are capable of inflicting on one another. Not only through physical acts, but through the power of ideas, belief and control.

I give Martin FIVE out of FIVE Dumpster Nuggets. If you ask me, this is Romero’s absolute masterpiece.

Stay Trashy!

-Root

 




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