6 More Trailers Exploit The 70s


Now that Thanksgiving has come and gone, it’s time for another installment of Lisa Marie’s Favorite Exploitation and Grindhouse Trailers.  Today, all 6 of our trailers come from the 70s.  That’s actually kind of a coincidence but it’s as close to a theme as I could find so let’s go with it.

1) Superchick

Let’s start things off on a positive, empowering note with the trailer for Superchick.  This appears to be an only-in-the-70s type film.  For one thing, the narrator says “stewardess” instead of “flight attendant.”  What a pig.  (Just kidding…I think stewardess has kind of a nice retro sound to it, to be honest…)

2) Satan’s Cheerleaders

“Are you kidding?  I’m no maiden.  I’ve been a cheerleader for three years…”  Would I find this trailer as amusing if my older sister hadn’t been a cheerleader at the same time that I was going through my whole goth ballerina phase?  Probably.  I haven’t seen the actual film but, for whatever reason, I suspect it doesn’t quite live up to the trailer.

3) Countess Dracula

Ingrid Pitt, who died on the 23rd on the month, helped to bring Hammer films fully into the 20th Century with this film and the Vampire Lovers.  Here she plays the infamous Elisabeth Bathory.

4) Don’t Answer The Phone

This is not a trailer to watch if you’re in a paranoid state-of-mind.  This is a pretty bad movie but it does feature one of the best “psycho” performances of all time from the late character actor, Nicholas Worth. 

5) The House That Vanished

I have mixed feelings about including this one because it’s a TV spot as opposed to an actual theatrical trailer.  But I’m including it anyway because it is the epitome of everything I love about 70s exploitation.  The film is actually an English film that was entitled Scream and Die! which, in all honesty, sounds like a pretty good title to me.   However, by the time it was released in the States, Wes Craven’s Last House On The Left was making a lot of money and every horror film was retitled with a House-themed title.  Also, the “it’s only a movie…” chant is lifted directly from the advertising campaign for Last House On The Left.

6) Ruby

Finally, let’s end with Ruby.  This is yet another one where I haven’t seen the actual movie but from the trailer, it appears to be a proud part of the grindhouse tradition in that it not only rips off Carrie but The Exorcist as well.

BONUS TRAILER:

Yes, I’m including a bonus trailer!  Why?  Because I love you, that’s why.

This is for Michael Almereyda’s haunting and odd vampire film, NadjaNadja was released in 1994 but it features Peter Fonda so it might as well be from the 70s.

And, since I have to end everything on an even number (it’s a long story), here’s another bonus trailer just so we end up with 8 trailers instead of 7.  This is another unconventional, New York vampire tale — Vampire’s Kiss.  This is also known as the movie where Nicolas Cage actually ate a live cockroach while being filmed.  (Personally, I think of it as being the precursor to Mary Harron’s American Psycho.)

Review: The Walking Dead (EP05) – “Wildfire”


[Some Spoilers Within]

We’ve now come to the penultimate episode of The Walking Dead‘s first season. If there’s been one thing about this tv adaptation — of the Robert Kirkman comic book series which it’s based on — has proven it’s that the show is willing to go off the reservation when it comes to following the source material. The show has made some interesting storytelling and character choices right from the start. Scenes which occur later in the comic book have been moved up and combined with others. New characters, both recurring and disposable ones, have been introduced to the original numbers from the book.

Some of these changes have been welcomed by old fans of the book, but there’s a vocal minority who don’t see why there’s a need for such changes and additions. To new fans whose experience with this franchise has been just through the show the changes don’t mean a thing. They’re coming into this fresh and with open eyes. For long-time fans this need to watch this show with open eyes instead of clutching at the strict canonical material that are the books it would be a hard time going. I’m one of those who have been reading the books since the beginning and for the most part I’ve accepted these changes. Even the major departure introduced to end this episode I find quite interesting and with guarded optimism that it will lead to a surprising season finale and set-up season two properly.

We begin the show the very morning after the zombie attack on the camp which ended the previous episode. The survivors are cleaning up the bodies of both the “walkers” put down and those people they lost. The scenes showing how both Carol deals with her abusive husband’s corpse and how Andrea deals with her younger sister Amy were quite powerful in their own way. In one scene, we see an abused and beaten down wife taking out her anger and relief on the source of her problems with a pickaxe. In another, we see an older sister remembering past regrets of never being there for her much younger sister despite promises to do so. The scene with Andrea goes against much of what most zombie survival aficionados would do, but it brings to light just how much the Andrea loved her sister and even if it means seeing her come to a semblance of life just one more time to say her goodbyes she would do it. Knowing what she would need to do in the end just made her tearful final goodbye that more powerful.

The third farewell doesn’t happen until 3/4’s of the way into the episode (though we do see Morales and his family go their own way. Going to miss him going for the fences with that baseball bat) and involves Jim. An injury incurred from the fight during the night leaves him and the group with a problem that gets resolved in one of the more poignant scenes in this series, so far. As Morgan Jones from the pilot episode instructed Rick the “walkers” and their bites are a death sentence. The two competing leaders of the group in Rick and Shane want to solve their Jim problem using different methods. Rick wants to take the group to the one place he thinks could still help Jim and that’s the CDC near Atlanta. While Shane, with enthusiastic support from Daryl, wants to put Jim down before he becomes a dangerous liability.

In a scene reminiscent of a similar one from Romero’s original Dawn of the Dead, Jim makes the final and ultimate decision about his life. The goodbyes made by everyone to Jim after he’s made his decision to be left behind was very heartbreaking. Jim might have been a secondary support character but the last couple episodes have fleshed out his character enough that we care what happens to this man who has lost everything and thinks his predicament will reunite him with those he has lost.

The growing schism between best friends Rick and Shane gets a few more nails added to it as we see Shane gradually losing his command of the group. The group looks to be gravitating towards Rick as their leader now and even the wildcard in Daryl seem to look to Rick for the answers. The scene between the two as they patrol the woods near the camp definitely widens the gulf between the two even if Rick looks to be unaware of what’s really going on with Shane. The sudden appearance of ever stalwart and ever watchful Dale sure thinks something is amiss.

It’s the final ten minutes of the show where we finally know why the episode was titled “WildFire”. In another departure, one that would be called huge by fans of the comic books, we see the lone surviving researcher within the CDC sending video reports on what’s being called “Wildfire” and how research on the so-called “disease” has remained useless with no answer in sight.

The whole entire sequence reminds me of the early parts of Stephen King’s own apocalyptic epic novel, The Stand, as scientists desperately try to stem the tide of the approaching apocalypse to no avail. It’s little subtle references to other apocalyptic stories and tales like this which keeps some of the changes and departures from the source material bearable and, at times, even welcome.

It’s this major departure that will send some long-time fans of the comic book apoplectic. The vocal minority will definitely get even louder as to why Darabont and the writers are messing with the timeline and the stories in the original comic book. As one of those fans I should be screaming just as loudly, but the zombie and apocalyptic genre fan in me actually like how this show has gone off the beaten path of the original source material.

If they had stayed word-for-word and panel-for-panel true to the comic book then there’s no surprises to be experience. Knowing how everything unfolds right from the start could get boring even if it is about something read and re-read with love. There’s still no guarantee that the final pay-off of this particular major detour from the comic book will end in a good way, but the possibility of not knowing how this story-arc will end this first season is both exciting and tense-inducing. It could succeed in the best way, but also fail in an epic one. Either way the path now is not set in stone and everything moving forward will be undiscovered country.

Extras

* Quote of the night: “I think tomorrow I’m gonna blow my brains out, I haven’t decided. But tonight, I’m getting drunk!” – nameless CDC researcher.

* For once Glenn doesn’t have a witty quip or remark which just highlights the somber mood of this episode.

* There’s still no news on the whereabouts of one Merle Dixon though he gets name-dropped a couple times.

* A sneaking suspicion that Merle will not appear again this season, but may in the next or later ones.

* Bear McCreary’s score and choices of music for the episode the best in the series, so far to date. Especially, the use of John Murphy’s  Adagio in D Minor from the sci-fi drama Sunshine which was recently used in Kick-Ass.

Leslie Nielsen, R.I.P.


Earlier tonight, I read on twitter that veteran character actor and Prom Night co-star Leslie Nielsen had passed away.  While people seem to know him best as a former “serious” actor turned deadpan comedian, it is forgotten that Nielsen was — during the 70s — an exploitation and grindhouse mainstay.

Along with playing Jamie Lee Curtis’s father (and no-nonsense high school principal) in Prom Night, Nielsen was also the star of the kung fu classic Project: Kill and the bad guy in Day of the Animals.

The clip below comes from Day of the Animals and it shows Nielsen at his exploitation best:

Here’s a little bit of the movie history trivia that I live for: In 1959, along with famously auditioning for a role in Ben-Hur, Nielsen also came close to being cast in another iconic film.  He was among the finalists for the role of Sam Loomis (eventually played by John Gavin) in Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho.

Review: The Count of Monte Cristo (dir. by Kevin Reynolds)


In what has become an unofficial ritual for myself whenever my birthday rolls around I always end up watching a film from 2002 that flew under the radar of most people. While it made modest box-office returns it wasn’t the head-turning blockbuster that some of its producers hoped it would turn out to be. It’s a romantic adventure piece by Kevin Reynolds and for readers of classic literature they’d recognize the title of the film, The Count of Monte Cristo. A film loosely based on the classic novel of adventure, revenge and redemption by French author Alexandre Dumas. The film ends up being a fun, thrilling throwback to films of an era which had marquee stars such as Errol Flynn and Basil Rathbone.

The story is one known well enough. It’s a tale of a man, Edmond Dantès wrongly accussed of a capital crime and imprisoned in the Alcatraz-like prison Chateau d’If through the machinations of three individuals: his best friend Fernand Mondego, first mate Danglars and the ambitious deputy prosecutor Villefort. Dantès spends the next several years in Chateau d’If under the cruel and sadistic eyes of it’s warden, Armand Dorleac (played by Michael Wincott with his usual flair for sadism). It’s while Dantès  has started to contemplate suicide after rejecting God for the pain and suffering he has had to endure that he has a fortuitious meeting with another guest of Chateau d’If. It’s this relationship between Dantès and Abbé Faria (Richard Harris in the mentor role he had begun to play in his later years) which take up the bulk of the first third of the film.

Dantès tells him of the circumstances which led to his imprison in Chateau d’If and the thoughts of vengeance on those responsible for his predicament. Faria tries to turn him from his dark path, but seeing how determined his young friend seems on journeying down its twisted path he agrees to teach him how to become adept at being a noble, finances and in swordcraft in exchange for help in digging themselves out of their prison. Taking several more years to complete the education Dantès needs to exact his revenge it ends at the death of Faria and his mentor’s final gift to his student. The location of a treasure so vast that Dantès could retire to a life of peace and contemplation or fund his plans of vengeance.

The middle section of the film shows Dantès finding the treasure and remaking himself through his newfound wealth as the Count of Monte Cristo to better insinuate himself amongst the wealthy and noble-born his targets mingle in. With the help of a bandit whose life spares after a duel in Jacopo (Luis Guzman) the plans Dantès has worked on for years begin to bear fruit as he manipulates and fools Fernand, Villefort and Danglars into his confidence to better see to their downfall. It’s during this time he meets his former fiancee Mercedes (played by the ridiculously beautiful Dagmara Dominczyk), now Countess Mondego after being told of Edmond’s execution earlier in the film, and Fernand’s son Albert. The circumstances of how his former love having had a child and married to one of the men who had conspired against him brings a new complication to Dantès plans.

The last third of the film shows the culmination of Dantès and his elaborate plans to bring about the downfall of all those who had wronged him. While the plans, at times, strain the bonds of disbelief at actually having fooled and worked against his enemies the way the film makes the audience root for Dantès to succeed helps. This is a Dantès who comes off as noble despite being of commoner origins who we stand behind and support in his plans of vengeance. With the amount of wealth at his disposal it’s not too difficult to put oneself in the same shoes and not think of vengeance as well to strike a balance.

It’s a testament to the direction of filmmaker Kevin Reynolds that the film and it’s story never bogs down despite a story with many elaborate plots and secondary characters introduced midway. The fact that the film only borrows some of its complexity from an even more labyrinthine novel shows how the filmmakers actually had to simplify the story as to not make it so complex that it loses the bulk of its audience.

The Count of Monte Cristo also benefit from a strong cast led by Jim Caviezel in the titular role with Guy Pearce playing his former friend and betrayer Fernand Mondego and James Frain as the prosecutor Villefort. Caviezel plays his role as Dantès and as the Count of Monte Cristo as two different people with distinct personalities. There’s Dantès the earnest sailor who just wanted to get back to his love, Mercedes and then there’s the sophisticated and ruthless Count whose machinations would lead to the destruction of lives and reputations. It’s a mystery why Caviezel hasn’t become the star he surely was in the making and this film showed that he had the talent to become one of the industry’s new leading men. I blame Mel Gibson in casting him as Jesus in The Passion of the Christ for having put a curse on Caviezel.

Guy Pierce in the role of Fernand plays the conniving and remoreless villain role to the hilt. With an overbearing and effete noble bearing to his performance it was a character written to inspire hatred not just in its main protagonist but in the audience as well. Pearce knows what his roles represent and has fun playing up the role as main heavy.

Richard Harris as the priest Faria did his usual great work as the elder mentor to a younger man. It was a role he began to be known for starting with Ridley Scott’s Gladiator right up to his final mentor role as the wizard Dumbledore in the Harry Potter film franchise. It’s hard to explain to people that Harris was not always this wise and mentoring father figure, but one who played roles where he’d play womanizers, charming cads and roguish rebel.

The Count of Monte Cristo ended up being more fun than it should be with enough complexities in its storytelling that the film doesn’t dumb down too much the story it was adapted from. To be honest the only way one could truly adapt Dumas’ novel of revenge and redemption is through a long-form tv series. It is just that complex with so many characters that a film adaptation would just be too long or just unnecessarily crowded with characters the audience would care to know. It’s a good thing that the film by Kevin Reynolds was still able to keep to the spirit of the original source while whiling away the story down to its basic core.

It’s a film that plays like a throwback to the swashbuckling films from Hollywood of the 30’s and 40’s and it wouldn’t be too difficult to see Caviezel in the roles Errol Flynn once inhabited. There’s very little special effects in the film which adds more to this sense with swordfight scenes as expertly choreographed as any of the past. The Count of Monte Cristo, for some reason still unknown to me, continues to be the one thing that keeps airing on my birthday and the fact that it’s such a fun and thrilling film that I continue to watch it everytime my day of days roll around. Can’t wait for next year.