Posts Tagged ‘1974

25
Jun
16

(NSFW) The Teacher (1974) Too Cheeky

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“Well, come on in a minute… I’m not gonna rape you.” – Angel Tompkins as Diane Marshall in The Teacher

a Primal Root written review

Sexy, taboo, tawdry disturbing with just the right amount of putrid awfulness and sense of shame makes The Teacher (written and directed by Howard Avedis) unintentionally genius. The film is aware of it’s limitations, yet still manages to pull out all the stops and deliver a lowbrow, steamy, creepy chunk of sleazy entertainment that was, to my own amazement effectively erotic, which brought about by subtle, slow simmering means.

Most of the credit, if not all the credit, rest squarely on the capable, sensual shoulders of the ravishing Angel Tompkins (as The Teacher of the title, Mrs. Diane Marshall), but when you are effortlessly lovely and seductive as Ms. Tompkins’, all you need do is glance at local teenage rapscallion and it won’t be long before you have them eating out of your hand. there are many nuanced layers to this seedy, sexual creep fest. The most important of which involves a yellow slicker wearing psychotic stalker Vietnam war veteran named Ralph (played by excellent character actor, Anthony James, who turns the film’s most memorable performance.) who may or may not have been one of Diane’s early student/teacher sexual conquests and is now dangerously, murderously fixated upon her. I don’t believe this is ever made explicitly clear in the film, but Ralph’s doomed little brother, Lou (Rudy Harris Jr.) says his brother claims to have made the sign of double backed mud weasel with her at some point in the not too distant past. Ralph has a headquarters up int he top of a derelict building next to a dystopian marina where Diane parks her boat she somehow affords on a teacher’s salary in 1974. This boat’s primary purpose, it would seem, is for Diane to take it out in the harbor, about 500 yards from where she had it docked, take off her top and sun bath…while Ralph watches through the binoculars he keeps in his red velvet coffin up in his lair.

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And that’s how this whole sordid tale gets going, a pair of binoculars, a pair of sun baked boobs and a deeply disturbed Vietnam war veteran. Lou takes his best friend Sean (Jay North, that’s right, a slightly more grown up version of TV’s Dennis the Menace) to Ralph’s lair after the last day of school to take a peek at their teachers chesticles. As the gawk and stare, Ralph hides in the shadows, sneaks up behind the two unsuspecting high school students and scares the ever loving shit out of them. In fact, he scares his brother Lou so bad he falls of the roof and plummets to his death from the voyeuristic perch, where, from a bird’s eye view after he crunches to the pavement below, we can see blood pouring forth from what seems to be his denim clad asshole. Ralph freaks the fuck out and swears bloody, murderous revenge against Sean the innocent Sean for the murder of his brother. Of course, Sean shortly after become fuckmantically involved with Diane, which sends Ralph even deeper into super psycho homicidal behavior which makes for some very strange, very awkwardly funny and even somewhat affecting trash cinema moments.

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But, as you and I know, the opportunity to sexually experiment as a teenager with someone who looks like Angel Tompkins is an extreme rarity, so, despite the obvious liabilities to his young life, Sean loses his virginity and begins an illicit fuck buddy relationship with the seductive, easy as Sunday morning, Diane Marshall. However, I must acknowledge it took Sean a good amount of the film’s running time to get the courage to finally slip Diane the extra credit she’s been blatantly asking for ever since summer break begins. She seems to be after him in every scene they share together and he always brushes her off with is trademarked excuse, “I gotta go work on my van.” Pool parties, kitchen flirtations, laying around nekkid in the master bedroom asking him to kiss her sweet meat…okay, that last one didn’t ACTUALLY happen, but he does finally give into his desires, overcomes his fear of sex with a married woman who is ALSO his teacher, and they both love every damn second of the deep dicking.  However, as a viewer and a human being, the fact that it took this 18 year old boy so long to give in to his 28 year old teachers sexual temptation frustrated me as a sane human being. I mean, really, who cares if a deranged mad man with a saber and banana yellow rain jacket is out to slice you from groin to sternum and jump rope with a length of your shit filled intestines? All that beer drinking, fucking and frolicking are totally worth it in The Primal Root’s book. I say job well done, Sean! Life is fleeting, anyway. Go fuck your teacher, son.

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Oh, before I forget, Sean’s mother/pimp is played by none other than Miss Universe 1961, Marlene Schmidt, who quite a piece of Devil’s food cake, herself. She even has one of my favorite bizarre-o lines in the entire film as she chats bikini clad poolside with Diane, “I find him very attractive, even if he IS my son.” Man, not since Back to the Future has a film managed an Oedipal moment like that.

At the end of the day, Angel Tompkins really is what I take away from The Teacher. Well, that and an important lesson about never peeping on your teacher with binoculars of lunatics that live in rat infested demilitarized buildings near a pier. Angel is amply equipped and totally convincing in the roll of an experienced seductress. Someone who will stop at nothing until you drop your trousers and irrigate her soy bean field. Sure, she’s not an especially talented actress, but the lack of wardrobe does help take the edge off, but there’s no denying she is fucking stellar in the one moment when Sean admits in her and his parents that he was spying on her while she was nude sunbathing. Her satisfied, utterly aroused little smirk is goddamn lip smacking delicious. Ms. Tompkins seductively saunters from scene to scene with an unparalleled sense of self possession. It’s as if she’s seducing us as we watch, but that could just be me talking over the sound of my own raging boner.

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Anyway, The Teacher is a goddamn remarkable, low brow, trash cinema experience. It has enough  fun sex shenanigans to get your popcorn popping and a nice freakish mean streak to keep you wondering just where the fuck this batshit tale os sluts, psychos and dick brained teens is taking us. they sure as Hell don’t make ’em this sleazy anymore. The Teacher passes the test, every time, Gang.

I give The Teacher a solid 5 out of 5 Dumpster Nuggets. 90 minutes of playground love, Gang.

 

Stay Trashy!

-Root

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

10
Feb
16

Phantom of the Paradise (1974): Salutations from the Other Side

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a Primal Root written review

I’ve long held that the golden age of American horror cinema stretched from the late 1960’s to the end of the 1970’s. It was an age when turmoil, violence and change was in the air. Filmmakers of the day were shaken and inspired by the horrifying, nightmarish world around them, internalized this terror and in the end brought it out of the darkness as some of the most devastatingly influential horror films the world will ever witness.  There is one other genre that happened to thrive in the 1970’s, one I know far less about, and that is the Rock Opera.

Flicks like Tommy, Jesus Christ Superstar, Grease, The Wiz not to mention, The Rocky Horror Picture Show would either garner rave reviews and great success or go on to become beloved cult films the world over. However, some fell by the wayside and are just now starting the reemerge and find recognition as beautiful cinematic oddities they are. And there is none I am more proud to see finally garnering the praise it has long deserved, Brian de Palma’s 1974 film, Phantom of the Paradise.

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Phantom of the Paradise blends the horror trappings of The Phantom of the Opera and Faust together and give it a glam rock makeover serving as a dark comic satire of the entertainment industry. Phantom tells the tale of Winslow Leech (William Finley in an awesome performance) a young and naive composer looking to make it big with his life long work, a cantata based on the legend of Faust. No sooner does the the owner of Death Records, an utterly charming, smooth talking, calm, collected and utterly malevolent man who has sold his soul to The Devil and goes by the name of Swan (Paul Williams) hear Winslow’s music does he find a way to steal it, exploit it and turn it into pop music garbage to open his long delayed rock palace, The Paradise, with. Swan frames Winslow and has him sent to jail where he is volunteered for an experiment which requires him to have all his teeth removed and replaced with new metallic chompers.  It isn’t long before Winslow hears his own composition on the radio, recreated as a turd of a pop song, and flees from prison. In a psychotic rage Winslow breaks into Death Records, ends up getting disfigured in a vinyl record press, vanishes into the night and is presumed dead…But soon after his disappearance a masked phantom begins stalking the darks hallways and backstage at The Paradise, determined to rain murderous vengeance upon all of those who have hurt and betrayed him.

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Along the way, The Phantom ends up becoming infatuated and falling in love with a young, inexperienced but quite talented singer named Phoenix (Jessica Harper), the only person The Phantom permits to sing his work. Anyone else who tries, he promises, will be killed. Of course, Swan makes the decision to have The Phantom’s music performed by what he considers to be the future of music, a glam rock monster who goes by the name of Beef (Gerrit Graham, who is funny as shit in the role). Despite mid shower plunger to the gob warning from The Phantom, Beef is convinced to perform as scheduled…

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Phantom of the Paradise functions as great piece of anti-establishment satire against the soulless corporatization of art and artists alike. Not only this, but Phantom is also a full on musical, complete with song and dance routines, with every song written and composed by Paul Williams. These elements together do nothing but accentuate the strangeness of the film, it’s so bizarre, so daring and so breathlessly creative, it leaves the viewer’s mind reeling. All this quirky genre blending and tonal shifts leaves us with an unexpectedly heart wrenching musical tragicomedy. I can think of few other films that achieve this level of absurdity and poignancy.

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Still with me? I know the description above may sound a bit overwhelming, and indeed, there is a whole lot to take in with Phantom of the Paradise. It is sensory overload, but in the best possible way you can imagine. Despite the film’s litany of references to other cinematic greats, (Touch of Evil and Psycho, to mention just the tip of the iceberg) Phantom of the Paradise is among the most singular and unique films ever made. Any attempt at synopsis can only do Phantom so much justice, because the heart of the film lies in the experience of watching it. It is very often compared to The Rocky Horror Picture Show, released a year after Phantom of the Paradise, and if I am being honest, the two couldn’t be more different. I suppose it is more inviting to spend time with a group of people basking in their own carnal desires than with a group of tortured artists who sold their soul for rock and roll. It’s just a damn shame Phantom of the Paradise never quite caught on in the states. Of course, I’ve heard the film is fucking HUGE in Canada. And, in face, the two fellows from Daft Punk, according to Paul Williams, met at a screening of Phantom of the Paradise! But that has nothing to with anything…just a cool bit of trivia.

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However, in a way, I kind of hope it remains a hidden gem that exists just below the radar. This way it will never be over exposed to the point of nausea or run into the ground to the point of tedium. Phantom of the Paradise is much beloved by those drawn to it’s peculiar story, dark, comedic, enchanting characters, beautiful songs and unchained artistry. Phantom is a film every bit as much for the misfits as Rocky Horror, but with a much more tragic and lyrical fantasy narrative. You cannot help but feel pity and sympathy for Winslow and righteous indignation once he is transformed from sweet Winslow to the pained and murderous Phantom and finds his revenge. One cannot find something darkly funny about Swans form of easy going, suave, laid back evil as he knowingly manipulates those around him to his bidding, feel sadness as Phoenix is corrupted by fame and absolute astonishment at the the radical comedic performance of Gerrit Graham as Beef.

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Phantom of the Paradise is a marvel of a film. Brian de Palma, Paul Williams and company have crafted something so different, so daring that mainstream audiences had no idea what to make of it. A film so beautiful, poetic, energetic and well played is obviously becoming relic. A thing of the not too distant past, when artistry, creativity and taking chances we heralded above ticket sales and domestic box office grosses. I suppose it’s no big surprise at this point for me to reveal Phantom of the Paradise would rank as one of my top 5 favorite movies of all time. It’s a story of love, passion, betrayal, revenge and possibly redemption set to some of the grooviest goddamn songs to ever be featured in a motion picture. A story of how monsters are created and the good guys and bad guys we all have the potential to be. For those who have never seen it, I recommend highly recommend checking it out, but keep in mind it is not everyone’s cup of glitter. For those of us who adore the film, it;s always worth heading over the The Paradise from time to time and witnessing one of the funniest, most lyrical, most enjoyable tragic love stories ever told.

I’m awarding Phantom of the Paradise 5 out of 5 Dumpster Nuggets.

Stay Trashy, Gang!

-Root

16
Oct
14

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974) 40 Years with a Whole Family of Draculas

 

Patric Reynolds

Patric Reynolds

 

In Loving Memory of Marilyn Burns 

A Primal Root Written Review

Our experience begins in the void of darkness, we are blind to the world around us, yet we can hear the nearby sound of a shovel burrowing into the soil. The sounds of heavy breathing, exertion. Our senses are heightened alright as our minds race with the possibilities, as we are made to feel uncomfortable, trapped, anxious…And then our very first image. The visage of a thoroughly rotten, glistening, corpse that eerily resembles a batch of General Tso’s chicken, illuminated by a camera’s flashbulb, accentuated by the startling sound on the film;s soundtrack rumored to be anything from a cello to Tobe Hooper running a pitchfork down a piece of metal. Either way, in the span of mere seconds, the audience viewing The Texas Chainsaw Massacre is experiencing one thing above all else, fear.

The premise is simple. Throw a pack of kids in their late teens and early twenties into the heart of darkness, watch them die and then cheer on that one young woman who remains as she struggles for survival. We would call it cliched if it weren’t for the fact that The Texas Chainsaw Massacre was the very first. To call Texas Chainsaw Massacre a milestone in horror cinema is justified. Like absolutely nothing that came before it in the film’s attempt to truly obliterate the sanity of anyone who views it, Texas Chainsaw Massacre inspired a generation of horror filmmakers and decades worth of copy cats who could never dream of coming close to Texas Chainsaw Massacre’s raw, uncompromising, power. Though many sequels and cash-in’s follows in Chainsaw’s wake, there is no other horror film like it.

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Tobe Hooper, a young filmmaker out of Texas,  was inspired by, as legend has it,  tales of serial killer Ed Gein and his penitent for digging up corpses to steal their skin and wear it as well as the man’s hobby of turning the remnants of the dead into furniture and serving dishes. Another inspiration came in the form of a holiday shopping trip to Sears. As hooper stood in the hardware aisle int he midst of the holiday shopping madness, his eyes fell upon a rack of chainsaws when the thought came to him, “I know of a way to get out of this place in a hurry!” According to Hooper, within second, the premise for The Texas Chainsaw Massacre was born.

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre might be the most innovative and enduring piece of cinema to come out of the hippie movement, it has become a touchstone for the end of the movement an highlighting the sick, subversive nature or our American culture and society itself. In the wake of JFK, Bobby Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr. assassinations, the failed war in Vietnam, the brutality of The Civil Rights movement and The Tate-Labianca murders, it was no wonder such a ferocious, merciless, hopeless piece of cinema was the product. Many other horror films of the era, like Romero’s Night of the Living Dead and Dawn of the Dead, Wes Craven’s Last House on the Left and Bob Clark’s Children Shouldn’t Play with Dead Things and Deathdream, all dealt with the frustrations, horror and disheartening of a generation of idealists, who struck out to change things, and watching as that struggle got buried, and never actually took hold. By the late 60’s and early 70’s we had become a nation haunted by that period in time when so many believed in a dream, only to watch it fall apart, like a person being chopped to pieces under a whirring chainsaw. None matched the unbridled fury, the primal scream of disgust and anger that The Texas Chainsaw Massacre delivered. All at once, the young people of a generation are painted as idiots, ego-centric assholes willing to mock one another and leave those less fortunate behind as they seek their own personal pleasures. And by films end, we are reminded, that it’s all just business as usual as an ancient old man in a suit and tie sucks the blood from the tip of the new generation’s finger tip. The message is clear, welcome to the American Nightmare, don’t expect to ever wake up.

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The Texas Chainsaw Massacre is a true work of absolute terror. A story pitch perfectly told, well acted, beautifully shot and fantastically edited. I could go on all day about Texas Chainsaw Massacre being one of the premiere achievements in outlaw independent filmmaking, but the results speak for themselves.  The Texas Chainsaw Massacre is now, 40 years later, considered a film classic and a masterpiece of the horror genre. All these decades later and it has not lost an ounce of it’s power to drive it’s audience to the brink of their sanity. To this day, as Leatherface dances with his chainsaw and the sun rises over rural America, just as the film cuts to black, dead silence, I still have to catch my breath every time.  40 years on, and we’re still feeling the the influence of that idyllic summer afternoon drive that became a nightmare. The most bizarre crime in the annals of American history. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.

I’m giving The Texas Chainsaw Massacre LEGENDARY status aka: Infinite Dumpster Nuggets

Stay Trashy!

-Root

05
Mar
12

Rape Squad aka: Act of Vengeance (1974)

a Primal Root written review

Okay, we’re getting into a touchy area right now with Rape Squad, the 1974 Rape/Revenge exploitation sleaze fest. Hell, the title alone is enough to make one uncomfortable which may explain it’s alternate title… The rape/revenge format is one of the very few film genres that still disturbs me. I can watch a whole camp full of horny counselors get hacked into chop-suey and laugh my ass off but watching the depiction of anyone, woman or man, being sexually violated always chills my blood and makes me sick to my stomach. It’s probably the last form of violence you can film a fictionalized reenactment of and it will chill my blood.

That being said, the first act of Rape Squad is some pretty harrowing stuff. We are introduced to Linda ( played by the very lovely Jo Ann Harris) who is briskly established as running her own food truck and works with horses. It’s not ten minutes into the movie before Linda is attacked in the middle of the night at the stables. Jack, the man who rapes her, she later finds out is known to the authorities as “The Jingle Bell Rapist” as he always demands his victims sing the popular Christmas carol as he rapes them. Jack seems to be a little obsessed with the holiday season as he is constantly overheard singing carols and compare stripping his rape victims to unwrapping presents. Even stranger, it looks like he’s committing his raping spree in the middle of summer…a little explanation as to why this psychopath is so caught up in the yule tide cheer would have been appreciated. One thing I now know, there’s something REALLY creepy about someone not only forcing sex on you AND making you sing while they do it. It’s some pretty sick, disturbing shit. Not only that, but Jack dressed in an orange jumpsuit and wears a hockey mask and comes off looking like a rape happy, jail break spawnage of Michael Myers and Jason Voorhees. I’m sure those two are truly disappointed in their son…

The rape scene goes on for what feels like forever as Linda repeatedly fights for her life and escapes the clutches of her attacker several times before finally being brought down and violated. Jack likes to boast that he’s the best and Linda should thank him for kicking her in the face, slapping her around repeatedly and then raping her. It’s all very rough to take and it gets just about as bad as Linda faces the aftermath of having to go down town to the police station to report the crime. She is questioned about the details of the attack (were you drunk? Did you try to resist? Did you provoke the attack?) by a male detective in front of about a dozen perps and fellow lawmen. It’s grueling and extremely uncomfortable to watch as the traumatized young Linda does her best to put up with this disrespect (there’s not another female in sight) before finally justifiably laying into the detective about how she’s being treated like the criminal for having being dressed in a kind of Daisy Duke Lite ensemble when she was assaulted. Of course, she is labeled a bitch and sent to the doctor to undergo a rape kit.

The doctor lays Linda down and repeats the lines “Thata’ girl” and “Take it easy” as he probes and examines her vagina. It’s cold. clinical and the patronizing language the doctor uses makes the whole sequence feel as if Linda’s being raped all over again. The camera stays focused on Linda’s face as she fights back tears and bears the psychological and physical pain. The test results show no traces of semen so now the police assume she made it all up. And, the cherry on top of the insensitive police department sundae arrives as Linda is leaving the station and an officer makes the offhanded comment “Gee, I wish that would happen to me. I’d just sit back and enjoy it. HAR, HAR, HAR!” Linda stop dead in her tracks, gets in this assholes face and verbally turns him into mince meat. It’s really a pitch perfect response to his idiocy and must be seen and heard to feel it’s impact. It’s one of those little monologues where you want to get up and cheer.

The police do nothing, another woman’s house is broken into and she is, like Linda, slowly, methodically, brutalized by the same hockey mask wearing, carol singing, sicko that stalked her down the night before. The police hold a lineup held behind protective chicken wire (WTF?) and all five of the previous victims assemble in order to identify their rapist. This line up turns out to be a waste of time set up to illustrate how impossible the detective’s job is of tracking down the Jingle-Bell Rapist and even harder it will be for the victims to identify him. (“Well, shoot, guys! This case is just too damn hard! We should probably just give up.”) The victims join forces and create an all woman team they call “RAPE SQUAD”! They start taking martial arts lesson replete with a montage of them repeatedly whacking a sparing dummy in the ballsalogical region, creating an emergency phone line for victims of sexual predators, and providing chaperon service to the apparently all male police station so that victims might have a woman present while being asked “So, were you asking for it, miss?”

The RAPE SQUAD learns how to disarm the offending weapon. It's basically like squashing two Cadbury Cream Eggs and flattening a Jimmy Dean cocktail weeny.

Not only that, but they manage to turn the tables on all manner of sex abuse scumbags from dirty night callers whom they accost in dark alleys, strip, shame, and threaten with law suits to angry horrifically scrawny slap happy pimps whose cars the RAPE SQUAD savagely beat with hammers and then crush their testicles and then kick them in the head till the lose consciousness. They even go as far as to go home with forceful, cocky guys to see if they might be the kind to date rape someone. Once the arrogant would-be raper makes their move, the RAPE SQUAD, moves in to destroy their apartment, beat ’em up, tie em down and dye their cock and balls Smurf Blue so they are marked and identifiable if they should ever raise their dicks to rape anyone.

The ladies kick ass and take names all while indulging is in a few totally nude sequences, one of which they go and dip themselves in a hot tub and discuss their plans to begin the RAPE SQUAD. It’s exploitation, pure and simple, and it;s to be expected. They dealt with the worse case scenario of the rape and it’s aftermath so disturbingly well that a little bit of the ladies getting naked and showing off how comfortable they are with themselves and their bodies is kind of commendable. Either that or I am trying to justify the filmmakers for inserting some titillating submerged full frontal nudity and luscious bobbing breasts in order to play to the crowds baser instincts…The hell with it, it’s an exploitation film and that nekkid shower/hot tub scene is integral to the plot! They just finished kung-fu practice, damn it!

The final act of the film bring the RAPE SQUAD face to face with their rapist as he leads the five of them into a final showdown in a dilapidated, abandoned zoo. The final battle is pretty hardcore and even a bit subversive, bloody, and savage. However, I couldn’t help but wonder how The Jingle-Bell Rapist managed to stay so well hidden while wearing a bright orange jumpsuit and blazing white hockey mask…Well, anyway, when the final conflict finally happens it ends up being a match between the rapist and RAPE SQUAD ring leader, Linda over the fate of the Squad and to deliver vengeance onto the individual who scarred the lives of so many woman…

I smell an act of vengeance a'brewin'.

Rape Squad aka Act of Vengeance was a far better film than I was expecting. The subject matter is handled with great care and some fantastic performances are given. The stand out being Jo Ann Harris as Linda who gives everything she’s got and really sells her rage, shame, trauma and eventual strength and triumph over her aggressor. She basically carries the entire picture and is one very talented actress for an early 70’s sleazy exploitation picture. I really do admire the first parts of the film dealing with Linda’s attack and the horrible aftermath. It feels earnest and like the filmmakers really wanted to make a point as to how horrifying the act of rape is and that victims of this crime should be treated with far more care. I mean, it seems almost unimaginable that those sworn to serve and protect would be so callous towards someone whose just been sexually assaulted. still, I’ve heard many accounts of just such thins happening to women who report being attacked and raped and, if you ask me, I would much rather be stalked down and murdered by a Jason Voorhees style slasher (yes, even the spear gun impale through the dick death from The Final Chapter) than go through what Linda does.

It’s only when the film switches gears from the rape to the revenge plot that it delves a bit into the campy side. Like I said, there is an extensive nekkid hot tub scene and some preventative rape violence that I cannot help but assume were played for laughs. Especially when they beat the living hell of of an angry pimp that looks like a skeleton wearing my grandma’s old wardrobe. But without the intensity of the rapes and the ordeal that happens being illustrated so effectively, I doubt the RAPE SQUAD’s actions would be as crowd pleasing as they are.

Rape Squad is not exactly a sexist film…nor is it a feminist film. This is a really odd package deal. I enjoyed it thoroughly and was pleased how all aspects of the picture were handled. It’s an exploitation film that falls into the usual cliches but not before grounding things in stark, cold, reality and showing us the dark side of violence and ignorance. Rape Squad aka Act of Vengeance is an above average grindhouse flick well worth checking out if you’ve got the fortitude for this type of endeavor.

Stay Trashy!

-Root




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