Posts Tagged ‘rape

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

26
Dec
18

(NSFW) Cannibal Holocaust (1980): Buffet of Brutality or Eat your Heart out. And your liver and your spleen.

 

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a Primal Root written review

“Here we are at the edge of the world of human history. Things like this happen all the time in the jungle; it’s survival of the fittest! In the jungle, it’s the daily violence of the strong overcoming the weak!” – Alan Yates, Cannibal Holocaust (1980)

*DISCLAIMER* Cannibal Holocaust does feature several sequences of onscreen animal cruelty. I. Kevin Cole, The Primal Root, do not in anyway condone the animal cruelty present in Cannibal Holocaust. That being said, I refuse to let that keep me from watching a piece of our cinematic history, which I feel lis important. That being said, I fully support your choice to NOT watch Cannibal Holocaust due to it’s cruelty to animals. I totally understand. 

Like the character Trash says in Dan O’Bannon’s 1985 living dead classic, The Return of the Living Dead, the worst way she can imagine dying is being eaten alive. It’s an honest, primeval statement that is part of our most basic animal instincts, one that still holds firm ever since our primitive ancestors hid from razor toothed beasts with flesh ripping claws intent to turn us into Sunday. What could be more horrifying that that? OF course, the thought that our own species would resort to such barbarism, hunt us down as food, take their time in killing us, and then devour what remains.

It’s a subject that has been well worn in the brutal and exhaustive cannibal exploitation genre that began in the mid 1970’s and remained popular through the 1980’s. The films of the cannibal genre would typically involve a batch of technically savvy contemporary young people looking to exploit the stone-age natives within an Asian or South American rainforest, only for things to turn violent with the young people raping, murdering and terrorizing the natives, and then having the tables turned and being met with horrifically grotesque retribution. These exploitation films also share an attempt to deliver accomplished and startlingly real gore effects as well as genuine on screen animal cruelty. What I’m saying here, is that this genre is aimed at a very small segment of society and would never be made in the same fashion again. However, for a small period of time, this films were being churned out by Italian filmmakers year after year and playing for months on end at grindhouses across America to audiences eager to see if these films actually delivered on the sensational claims their advertisements boasted.

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Few films of the genre have maintained as as much notoriety as Italian filmmaker Ruggero Deodato’s 1980’s cannibal epic, CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST. Upon it’s premiere the graphic violence garnered so much controversy that the film was seized my a local Italian magistrate and Deodato himself was arrested on obscenity charges and, later on, he was charged with with making an actual snuff film, as rumors began circulating that the main stable of actors were actually murdered on camera. To make matters worse, the supposedly deceased actors had signed on to contracts before filming to ensure that they would not show up in any type of movie, commercial or other media for at least one year after Cannibal Holocaust’s release as to keep the illusion that the film was a genuine found footage documentary. Thankfully, the actors were all contacted and interviewed on Italian television to prove they had not been murdered and eaten in The Green Inferno. Deodato also explained how all the effects worked and provided behind the scenes photos of the cast and crew interacting jovially, and the court dropped murder charges. Still, due to the genuine animal slayings and cruelty, Cannibal Holocaust was banned in Italy, Australia, and reportedly over 50 other countries.  If anything, I feel all this controversy is quite the testament to the power of a truly unique, frenzied, bleak and genuinely horrifying cinematic experience.

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Which brings us to the movie that raised this enduring brouhaha that has left a mark on this piece of entertainment forever more, Cannibal Holocaust. The story focuses on a much acclaimed and celebrated American documentary film crew, known for their brutal, ground level realism and unflinching portraits of bloody reality,  that goes missing in the Amazon rainforest in 1979 as they are filming a new documentary on the indigenous cannibal tribes. The film proper begins with strapping, mustachioed, anthropologist Professor Harold Monroe (played with all the masculine charm and gusto in the world by the legendary trained actor and Adult film Hall of Famer, Robert Kerman)  agrees to put together and lead a rescue team into the “Green Inferno” to find the documentary film crew, or what’s left of them, and recover any footage so that the investors can try and make their money back.

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After days of trekking and several grisly discoveries, clues and encounters with various cannibal tribes such as the Yacumo tribe, Shamatari tribe, and the Yanomami tribe, a picture begins to form that the American film crew brought great unrest to the people of these tribes. The rescue team manages to save a group of Yanomami warriors from certain death and then bathes nude in the river to gain their trust, showing his willingness to be vulnerable in front of them. Once the women of the tribe strip nekkid, hop in the river with him, mess around and inspect his white boy wing-ding for a few minutes, they then lead Professor Monroe and his team to a shrine the tribe has erected. A shrine made of the remains of the American documentary film crew.  Monroe trades a tape recorder with the tribe for the surviving reels of film the crew shot.

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Once back in New York city, Professor Monroe along with the investors screen the footage obtained from the Yanomami tribe, and it becomes apparent how shockingly amoral and inhumane this four man film crew was to the natives in the Amazon rainforest. They are seen staging horrifying mass incinerations of men, women and children, disgusting rapes of native girls where they then impale the woman on a pike, the killing of their livestock for shits and giggles, all in the name of good, usable footage, the filmmakers are willing to maim, murder and desecrate whoever they must in the quest for the perfect footage that will make their film a controversial smash hit with audiences, staging whatever carnage they so deem necessary.  That is, until the tribes turn the tables and come after the film crew in a blood drenched, shaky cam, parade of absolute unflinching brutality, it must be seen to be believed.  There is rape, penises are hacked off, people are drawn and quartered by the bare hands of the tribe. The American film crew has reaped exactly what they have sewed, and proved themselves just as uncivilized, monstrous and depraved, if not, more so, as the cannibalistic tribes themselves. Needless to say, the investors are deeply disturbed by the footage and the executives order the footage be destroyed. As Professor Monroe leaves, he ponders just who the real cannibals are, before the camera pans up to the high rises of New York City, our societies own concrete inferno, and the film fades to black.

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In all honesty, when the film ended, I had to look up the actors who we watched getting torn to pieces, hacked to death, raped and eviscerated just to make sure they weren’t actually murdered on screen. The final reels of Cannibal Holocaust are, without a doubt, some of the most effective and visceral horror set pieces I have ever witnessed. The shaky came, the effects and the performances feel so damn genuine and real, that the illusion of it all being true is a hard feeling to shake. Some have said this is the Grandpappy of the found footage genre, if that is the case, Grandpappy has yet to be topped.  I honestly think the key element is, as weird as it sounds, subtlety. There is plenty of gratuitous violence, but the blood isn’t spraying across the jungle like a cartoon. It is dark crimson, real, and isn’t the focus of what’s happening. The performances and camera work are what sell the horror of what occurs in Cannibal Holocaust. And I think that’s a lesson filmmakers should take away from it. We see horrible things being done to other human beings, but it’s focused on for mere seconds. It’s the frenzied rush of horror as people are trying to survive their own grotesque demise at the hands of those who so richly deserve their revenge. The feeling of horror that you know you deserve this and you’ve brought this fate worse than death upon yourself.

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I would say, despite many of the films exploitation elements, and their are many, including the actual killing of several actual animals, Cannibal Holocaust cuts to the darkest corners of human nature, and in doing so, is one of the most potent and effective horror films ever made. But, hey, funny piece of trivia: When screened for the tribes they filmed with, the tribes thought the film was hysterical and considered it a comedy!

FIVE out of FIVE Dumpster Nuggets. This is a MUST SEE for horror aficionados and filth fans alike. Even if you fast forward past the animal cruelty, you will be left shocked and in disbelief by the end.

Stay Trashy!

-Root

 

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29
Jun
17

(NSFW) Firecracker aka: Naked Fist (1981) Explosion of Brutality

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What are firecrackers, exactly? Small packaged explosives, we light the wick, run for our very lives and they explode into brilliant colors sending sparks raining down on a crowd of eye popping onlookers. But that’s it. A booming loud, colorful flash int he pan you won;t remember five minutes after you see it. IF this is the case, the 1981 martial arts meets mafia extravaganza, Firecracker, doesn’t just have a clever name.

Firecracker is, for all intent and purposes, a retread of TNT Jackson, but with the additions of much more bloodshed, a bit more nudity and a white girl in the lead. Firecracker tells the story of a young female martial arts instructor, Susanne Carter (played by a very game a frequently nekkid Jillian Kesner) , who rushes off to the Philippines to track down the person who murdered her little sister and exact bloody, merciless revenge! What she stumbles across is a martial arts nightclub where people place bets on fights to the death while you enjoy five star Philippine cuisine. It is soon revealed that, of course, this business is a smoke screen for something far more insidious than murder… DRUG TRAFFICKING! Susan sets course for vengeance and begins to get close to the inner circle of folks running the operation, and even ends up falling madly in love with the sadistic top fighter and sadistic murderer in the process.

Let me tell you, to be honest, Firecracker is basically a bunch of chitchat between fun and weird fight scenes. If this movie could bottle the energy from the fight sequences and spread it throughout the film, it could have been a far more memorable flick. As it stands, the film is missing a certain form of spark that really make it a memorable piece of Trash Cinema. However, that spark CAN be found in abundance during a handful of truly outrageous, brutal, messy, freakish fight sequences sprinkled throughout the movie as if to make up for all the standing around in front of gorgeous scenery and talking about lame exposition sequences.

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I’m talking about one scene in particular that could be edited together as a short film unto itself. It;s tonal shifts from absurdist comedy, slapstick, slasher gore fest, brutal crime drama and sexploitation picture is so bonkers and changes on a dime, it had my head spinning about twenty seconds in. Susanne is getting chased down the back alleys of the Philippines by two wannabe rapists brandishing switchblades and filthy hardons of violence and shame. Susanne run to avoid conflict onto a construction site guarded by a goofy looking armed guard, Susanne run right past him and leads the two rapists right into friendly, funny looking, minding his own business guards path. I was expecting them to maybe push him, he’d slip on a banana peel, land on a shovel and a bucket of paint would fall on his head. No, these mother fuckers shove him onto a PICK AXE! The pick axe stabs him in the back. and one of the rapists then steps on the guys slowly making the pick axe rip through his back and out of his chest. It’s so callous, bloody and shockingly mean spirited I was literally shaken. I mean, yes, these guys are rapists in waiting, but man, that’s some super cold and nasty shit to do to this guy.

So, we now know without a doubt that these scum bags as vicious and cruel beyond compare and we are now deeply concerned for our young martial arts instructors safety. We then recall that Susanne can hold her own in a fight, which makes it all the more strange that she didn’t lift a finger to try and defend the goofy security guard who was just slowly murdered while she stood and watched… It isn;t long after she witnesses this savagery that Susanne decides to fight back! And as she does so, the killer rapists come at her with scythes and knives, ripping articles of clothing off as they go. Now, is this now supposed to be titillating? Because, you know, the way it is shot, they certainly arent afraid to show close ups of her goods as she reacts in startled, somewhat goofy expressions, but I am still terrified of what these guys are going to do. There;s a very strange duality in this scene between wanting to be sadistic and mean while also being sexy and funny. By the time one of the rapist’s head has been split open by a buzzsaw and Susanne is doing nekkid flying jump kicks through the air, I had my head between my hands as my filthy mind experienced some form of existential crisis. This scene literally haunted me for weeks…

The scene is soon followed by one of the greatest action exploitation CONSENSUAL sex scenes I’ve ever witnessed. Susanne and her prize fighter fuck buddy find themselves alone in his bedroom. He tosses her onto the bed and pulls out a knife and begins slowly, seductively slicing her clothes off. Her blouse, her bra and so fort, until she is stark nekkid. Then it’s her boy toy’s turn as she starts slicing his trousers REAL close to his wangdoodle all while whispering arousing bon mots like, “”I can feel the blood pulsing inside your head.” Woah, baby, this is one weird boner I’ve got standing up here.

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These two scenes and a brawl to the death at the end of the film featuring a pleasant up close and personal eye gouging outing are the wonderful reasons I would recommend Firecracker. It’s not a terrible Trash Cinema flick, but it is a tad bit on the dull side for a considerable amount of it’s run time, with moments of campy fun popping up occasionally.

I’m rating this puppy THREE out of FIVE Dumpster Nuggets.

Stay Trashy!

-Root

 

30
Jul
16

Eaten Alive (1976):A Slice of Deep Fried Southern Sleaze

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a Primal Root written review

I’ve spent a lifetime tracking down and viewing the strangest, nastiest, weirdest films that have ever been made. Years I’ve spend renting, sitting in theaters and even buying movies for my collection before ever having viewed them in the hope of tracking down a little nugget of dirty trash cinema gold.  And in all those years, few have reached the levels of sick, disturbing, nasty southern fried exploitation sleaze and depravity as Tobe Hooper’s 1976 bargain basement horror flick, Eaten Alive (aka: Legend of the Bayou aka: Death Trap aka: Horror Hotel aka: Murder on the Bayou aka: Starlight Slaughter). This flick is about as seedy, filthy and low brow as horror cinema gets. It’s garish, lurid, ultra cheap and is missing so much of the artistic flourishes which made Tobe Hooper 1974 The Texas Chainsaw Massacre not only a massive success with audiences but critics too, so much so that it is considered an American classic and even has it’s original negatives housed at The American Film Archive.

You will never find Eaten Alive being lauded over and put in a film preservation vault. Not, this is the kind of movie main stream critics use to wipe the turd crusted asses with. This is the ultimate deglamorization of the horror genre. The colors are thick and heavy, the sets rudimentary, ramshackle, and worn down, totally caked in dust, dirt and filth.  And the first lines we ever hear are during a close up shot of a huge belt buckle coming undone as a young Robert (don’t call me Freddy) Englund exclaims, is a raspy southern accent “My name’s Buck and I’m rarin’ to FUCK!” He makes this exclamation as he bends a young prostitute over and attempts to ass fuck her, which she is less than willing to do. Eaten Alive begins…with a man trying to stick his cock up a woman’s ass… Sophie’s Choice, this is not.

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It all gets even more dark and mean spirited from there, as the madame of this particular Pussy Shack, Miss Hattie (Morticia herself, Carolyn Jones) boots the young prostitute , Clara (Roberta Collins), out on the street for refusing to let young Buck savage her inexperienced poop chute with his throbbing, eager, member. She ends up heading deep into the bayou to stay at the run down, once thriving, now absolutely disgusting and grotesque Starlight Hotel. It’s a shanty out in the middle of the swamp and houses not only the disturbed, one legged, bespectacled, murderous proprietor… Judd (Neville Brand), but also is the domain of Judd’s behemoth per crocodile, a crocodile he claims he got directly from The Nile, which stays in a fenced in portion of the swamp right beside the front porch of The Starlight Hotel.

Clara is chopped to pieces and tossed to the crocodile within minutes of arriving when Judd realizes she used to sling leg for cold hard cash back in town. He flips his shit, tucks his scythe into her young, lovely flesh several good times and tosses her still breathing body off the porch, into the swamp to spend her last gasping breaths chocking on her own blood as she is torn to pieces by the resident devourer of anything made of meat. It’s a pretty nasty, unapologetic and fucking cruel way for this character to meat her end. It’s like Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho…only set in Florida Man’s South. Where these sorts of things are still shocking, but not necessarily surprising and everything is much more gruesome.

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Eaten Alive is a horror movie with no exits, no easy way out from the grueling, unrelentingly malicious story and it’s schlocky tone. From the get go, the audience knows that their emotions, their nerves, will not be spared and, as my close, personal friend, Joe Bob Briggs once said, the key to a good Drive-In movie is that anyone can die at any moment. Tobe Hooper keeps this rule close to his heart in Eaten Alive, as many kind hearted, well meaning characters are introduced and then have scythes rammed through their skulls and an enormous gator tugs at their flailing legs and pulls them in half. It’s that kind of ride. Innocent family pets are shown being bitten into and dragged to their watery deaths while their adolescent owner screams in horror. So, be warned, this movie is for the sicker of us who respect films that can show just how unlikable and horrifying the human condition can be.

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There’s an outstanding sequence where a little nuclear family stops by The Starlight Hotel to stay the night and collect bed bugs. The married couple, Faye and Roy are played by none other than two of my favorite character actors, Marilyn Burns (The Texas Chainsaw Massacre) and William Finley (Phantom of the Paradise). Their marriage is obviously a slow burn downward spiral into permanent psychosis and Roy apologizes constantly, fantasies about his wife using his eyeball as an ash tray and barks all night. It’s a tense, wholly bizarre marriage filled with passive aggressive behavior and absolute batshit crazy behavior. I’m not sure what the fuck is exactly going on here with these two when they’re alone together, but I do feel for their little daughter Angie (Kyle Richards) who spends her time screaming in despair with her hands clasped over her ears as her parents act like complete nutty bars. It’s one of those scenes that I;m so happy exists, because it’s so much fun to watch these two actors go tow to tow and go crazy on one another, but the implications are disheartening to say the least.

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Soon, Clara’s sick and slowly dying Father, Harvey (Mel Ferrer), and his blonde, well stacked daughter, Libby show up in town looking for Clara. Harvey knows he will be gone soon and wants to find her so he can make good with her before his imminent demise. Things ended on a sour note and he wants to be the bigger man and is desperate to track her down. Where do they end up staying? You guessed it! The Starlight Hotel! The two begin to investigate her disappearance which gets the local Sheriff Martin (Stuart Whitman). All the while, Buck (Robert Englund) takes his curvy young girlfriend, Lynette (Janus Blythe) up to The Starlight Hotel for a little consensual sodomy which all leads to a collision course with absolute horror at the dank, gross and inexplicably popular hellhole of a hotel. There’s gotta be a Motel 6 nearby, right?

 

One of the more disturbing aspects of Eaten Alive is the film’s distinct lack of anyone to really root for, it’s lack of humanity and likable characters. There’s not much to distinguish the villain of the piece, Judd, from the rest of the stories inhabitants. We can;t root for Buck, he’s a rapist, a drug dealer and a fucking bully. Sheriff Martin is totally incompetent and impotent as a lawman or any kind of hero. Roy is a failure, a whimpering loser on the verge of a psychotic break down…even Clara’s Dad is so obsessed beyond reason with finding her and comes off as a total jerk. Still, you see these poor sacks of flesh getting filleted by Judd and then ripped to pieces by the voracious crocodile and you genuinely feel bad for these poor, fucked fuckers.  It’s like a treatise against having faith in humanity. Possibly even life itself. Did I mention this movie is dark?

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Some of the women fair a little bit better and are able to save themselves most of the time and work together to overcome the blood thirsty men who happen to be coming after them intent of sinking as much blade into their young soft bodies as possible. But, possibly the only totally sane character in the whole film is Roy and Faye’s young daughter, who is certain to be scarred for life after her long weekend witnessing horror after horror and narrowly escaping being stabbed to death and Eaten Alive… Yeah, I foresee many hefty therapy bills for the rest of this poor child’s life…

 

There’s a lot of joy to be had, also, in watching a young pre A Nightmare on Elm Street Robert Englund playing a pretty nasty piece of white trash dirtbag named Buck in Eaten Alive. He gives his all in what could have been a pretty forgettable character, but that Englund personae pulls through and makes Buck a pretty memorable piece of shit. You can’t help but see the shadow of Freddy in so many of this characters posses and mannerisms. I often like to imagine that Buck is possibly Freddy Krueger’s cousin.

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All this being said, Eaten Alive is a kind of harrowing masterpiece of deep Southern sleaze cinema. The gore is gnarly, the kills palpably unpleasant, the effects all bargain basement which, in it’s own way, adds to the sticky, morbidity of the piece AND there is a plentiful helping of gratuitous tits and ass, which is kind of the sugar that helps this dirty little pill go down. The sleaze on display here is authentic. One walks away from a viewing of Eaten alive feeling dirty and in need of a shower. There’s no deeper meaning to be found in this head first dive into depravity, murder and insanity. It’s a film totally preoccupied in the grimy, the dirty and the disturbing and offers no apologies. There is no light at the end of this tunnel. Only blood, chaos, death and darkness. And what could be more terrifying than that?

I award Eaten Alive 4 out of 5 Dumpster Nuggets!

Stay Trashy!

-Root

 

 

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

13
Aug
15

Death Game (1977) Daddy Issues aka: Don’t let your Dick make it a Predicament

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a Primal Root written review

“This motion picture is based on a true story. It should serve to remind us that fate allows no man to insulate himself against the evil which pervades our society.” – opening title to Death Game (1977)

Dear Penthouse Forum,

My wife and kid were out of town and I was all alone in my immaculately maintained mansion that my high ranking position at a well-to-do white collar job affords me. I was minding my own business, listening to some records, enjoying the bachelore lifestyle one dark and stormy night when all of a sudden a rapping came at my front door. It was two gorgeous blondes, soaking wet looking to use my phone. I didn’t want to send them back out into the cold stormy night, so I invited them in to use our family telephone and dry themselves off. I mean…it’s the decent thing to do, right? I never for a second had any intention of sticking my penis in either of these blossoming young women…Not a single thought of it…

So commences the simple, provocative, male fantasy the initiates the 1977 horror film, Death Game aka: The Seducers. The film that genuinely gives you a boner and then savagely tears it away, smacks you across the face with it and leaves you standing in your shame.  Loving, caring family man and business man, George Manning (Seymour Cassel, Max Fisher’s Dad from Rushmore), is on his own for the next couple nights. See, his wife had to go on an emergency trip to take care of their young son whose appendix ruptured while staying with his Grandparents on summer vacation.  While at home along in his expensive west coast home a storm rolls in, and with it, two young women, who claim to have lost their way while trying to find a party. Soaked to the bone, they ask to use George’s phone. He kindly obliges them and gives them robes so that they may dry off.

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The two nubile, shapely, incredibly attractive young ladies are Jackson (Sondra Locke) and Donna (Colleen “HELLOOOOO NURSE!” Camp) and after lounging by the fire side with George and listening to records, Agatha and Donna strip nude and lure George into and threesome in the downstairs bathroom…which has an enormous jacuzzi tub and a fucking sauna. George is loaded, Gang. George puts up a minor struggle before dropping trou and getting wet wild with the two luscious vixens. Now, I never figured in my wildest dreams that I’d ever watch the Dad from Rushmore in a hot as balls threesome sequence with the likes of Ms. Locke and my long standing wet dream Colleen Camp, but I can say this, it is a pretty amazing spectacle to behold.

Soon comes the morning, and George finds that Jackson and Donna making a mess in the kitchen as they make a sloppy, disgusting breakfast. They spill food and shit all over the house, destroy expensive stereo equipment, smear food on themselves and act like little psychotic hyperactive kids from Hell as we watch reality start to sink in on George’s face.  Donna has even grown a strange, unhealthy attraction to George and has begun calling him, “Daddy.” Gang, this is not good. After threatening to call the police, Jackson and Donna agree to let George drive them to the bus station only to break it no his house later, assault George, tie him up and torture the bastard for the rest of the weekend all while screaming about “Daddy.” Late in the evening Jackson and Donna decide to hold a mock court and put George on trial, accusing him or rape and perversion. George is allowed to defend himself, claiming that his family needs him. The mock court deliberates and find George guilty as charged and will be executed at dawn which is counted down by hour glass.

Now, earlier in the film we see George lovingly spend time with his wife. The two are obviously in love with one another, enjoy each other’s company. He speaks on the phone sweetly to his son. It;s not like George is an abusive, inattentive, cold scum bag. He’s a average guy living the good life. He has everything he could possibly want right at his finger tips. He is happy and content, but never the less, welcomes the sexual attention of the wet, slinky, bosomy foxes who show up on his doorstep while his faithful wife is away.  George is never perceived as a bad guy, just the typical man. Death Game implies that the average Joe, when confronted with two dripping wet nekkid seductresses would, when push come to in-out-in out, give in and start log jammin’. No questions asked. And then they throw the pussy out the window. Literally. It;s pretty awesome.

Jackson and Donna quickly turn from being a straight male fantasy (booty to be plundered) to being sinister, embarrassing reminders of the dark side of our carnal lusts and the damage giving into these animalistic wants can incur. The two girls become a threat to Georges safe and happy life. They threaten to destroy his reputation in the community, end his marriage and tear apart his family, even his awesome house is at stake. Jackson and Donna are the darkest side to the male sexual fantasy of getting away with an affair and, in the eyes of Death Game, exposes men as incapable of being trusted and willing to throw everything away for the possibility of a scott free fuck on the side.

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Whether or not you agree with Death Game’s thesis, it mercilessly pounds it’s point home as George, a pillar of his community, falls prey to his own sexual desires. Sure, we are witness to images of Jackson as she she bites into a juicy red apple and looking every bit the seductive serpent found in the garden of Eden, but the responsibility for everything that happens to him falls solely on George, who was led by the yearning of his throbbing lower appendage. The two young ladies, who claim to be underage after spreading ’em for George, are clearly insane and deeply scarred, one assumes, due to sexual abuse by the hands of their Fathers. It’s something heavily implied in the subtext of Death Game, and it’s not too subtle, either. One listen to the film’s opening song “Good Old Dad” will clue you in to what kind of nasty subject matter we’re dealing with here and the apparent feminist underpinnings of Death Game’s story.

One of my favorite aspects of Death Game is the way the film’s director, Peter S Traynor, utilizes the male gaze to arouse our voyeuristic impulses as soon as Jackson and Donna arrive at George’s door. We are treated and teased with brief glimpses of Jackson’s bare legs and her panties under her robe, a momentary view of Donna’s impressive cleavage, as we begin to view the two as sexual objects, just as George sees them. This is done seamlessly, efficiently and masterfully. We become around along with George. All three of our central character meld together as images overlap one another during their threesome and all seems right, everything perfect, wonderful, a fantasy made flesh.

But, as often seems to occur with these forms of encounters, in the unforgiving first light of morning, reality has a way of annihilating perception of perfection.

Jackson and Donna usurp George’s male authority in his own home, dominating him both mentally and physically in a series of brutal, sadistic, set pieces.  Ultimately, Death Game drives it’s grueling, nasty, (and feminist) take on the man’s true nature home. Donna and Jackson could have knocked on any of George’s neighbor’s door, randomly selected, met any man  and the exact same scenario could have taken place.  What I believe the message Death Game is trying to deliver is that the real horror, the real evil of is not coming from Jackson and Donna, no, they are a result of sexual objectification and abuse in our society. George could be any man whose desires have gotten the better of him, and Death Game associates that failing with Jackson and Donna’s psychotic and homicidal nature.

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You can love or hate, take or leave the feminist politics inherent in Death Game, but you cannot deny how fucking excellent the film is. Sure, the ending is more than a little abrupt and out of left field, but otherwise, the performances are phenomenal and it is directed with precision, skill, and nuance. It manages to both titillate, terrify and leave your pulse racing. But, something I appreciate far more than this, it’s a horror flick that boldly starts a discussion. Death Game is a brilliant film that drudges up the subject of sexual politics and it’s most taboo, discomforting points. The ones we seldom like to bring up or discuss in polite society, again, reinforcing why I pledge my eternal love to horror in all it’s forms. It is not an escape, it is not an exit, it is a long, often deeply disconcerting look in the mirror forcing us to face and question who we are as individuals and as a whole.

Death Game is a damn fine slice of psycho sexual horror and one I cannot dent makes me feel wonderfully, helplessly uncomfortable. I would love for one of The Trash Cinema Collective to show this to either their prospective girlfriend or boyfriend on a first date. Please do, and let me know the outcome.

Also, Colleen Camp, The Trash Cinema Collective salutes. She is one HEALTHY girl!

I award Death Game  FOUR AND A HALF out of FIVE Dumpster Nuggets.

Watch it with someone you’re sure of. Here’s hoping the upcoming Eli Roth produced remake “Knock, Knock” starring Keanu Reeves *snicker* prompts someone to release a remastered copy of Death Game. Let me tell ya, my DVD of this flick looks like someone shoved the VHS tape up a horses ass and then transferred it directly to a DVD. Really, it looks terrible. Can someone please release a cleaned up copy of this one? Much obliged.

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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