The TSL’s Grindhouse: Death Journey (dir by Fred Williamson)

Imagine being caught up in the following situation.

You’re the district attorney of Manhattan.  You’ve got a chance to convict the city’s most powerful mob boss on some pretty serious charges.  In fact, you’ve got three eye witnesses who are willing to testify against him.  Sounds pretty good so far, right?

But wait a minute!  One of your eyewitnesses just died.  Oh well.  You’ve still got two left and surely, the police can protect two… oh wait.  Hold on.  Okay, you know that second witness that you had?  Well, he just got blown up or something.  Now, you’ve only got one witness left.  He’s a weaselly little mob accountant named Finley (Bernard Kirby).  He’s really not a bad guy, once you get past all of the Hawaiian shirts and his obsession with candy.  The only problem is that Finley is in California and you’re in New York.  How are you going to get Finley across the country without him getting blown up by the mob?

Well, let’s see.  You could ask the government for help but when was the last time government managed to do anything without screwing it up.  You could reach out to the FBI or something like that.  Maybe Finley could go into witness protection.  I mean, it’s worked for a countless number of other mob associates…

But no.  There’s no way Finley could survive in witness protection.  He’d probably give himself away as soon as someone offered him a candy bar.  Seriously, Finley is really obsessed with chocolate.

No, what you’re going to do is you’re going to call up Jesse Crowder (Fred Williamson).  Crowder used to be a cop but now he’s a private eye.  He’s a lot like Shaft, except he doesn’t ever get political.  There’s really nothing that Jesse Crowder can’t do.  He’s a marksman.  He’s a fighter.  He’s a lover.  When we first see him, he’s doing kung fu in slow motion.  If you really needed proof that Jesse Crowder is the ultimate badass, consider this: he smokes cigars.  You read that correctly.

Now, you may be asking yourself: why would the Manhattan district attorney know a Los Angeles private eye?  Because everyone knows Jesse Crowder, that’s why.

Anyway, Jesse agrees to take the case.  He’ll escort Finley to New York, on the condition that he get paid $25,000 upon arrival.  Of course, if he has to kill a lot of people, Jesse expects to be paid $50,000.

Needless to say, Jesse does end up having to kill a lot of people.  It’s not really his fault, of course.  They just keep popping up and getting in his way.  Jesse tries all sorts of ways to get Finley to New York.  He tries to drive him.  He tries to take the train.  No matter what he does, the mob shows up.  Is it possible that the mob had someone inside the district attorney’s office?

Fred Williamson not only starred in 1976’s Death Journey but he directed it as well.  Though it’s obvious that Williamson didn’t have much of a budget to work with, he still did a fairly good job with Death Journey.  Certainly, his direction here feels stronger than it did in Mean Johnny Barrows.  In its own undeniably dumb way, Death Journey‘s a fun action movie.  Williamson may not have been a great actor but he had a strong screen presence and it’s impossible not to be amused by the fact that, no matter what he does or where he goes, somewhat inevitably pops out of the shadows and tries to kill him.  With the exception of that opening kung fu sequence that goes on forever, Death Journey is a fast-paced action film.  The film only last 74 minutes so, right when you start to wonder if Williamson’s ever going to show any personality beyond being a cocky badass, the movie ends.

If you’re a fan of low-budget 70s action films, you’ll probably enjoy Death Journey.  If you don’t enjoy it, just make sure Jesse Crowder doesn’t find out.  After all, he knows karate.

With Love, 6 Trailers From Lisa Marie and Evelyn

So, last night, I was feeling a bit down for a number of reasons so my BFF Evelyn came over and we had a little slumber party of sorts in my living room.  And before everyone does a double take and accuses me of trying to be all like Paris Hilton, let me just explain that when we refer to each other as being “BFFs,” we’re not just being sincere but we’re being postmodernly satiric.  It’s kind of the same principle behind why me and my sister Erin tends to casually toss around the word “bitch” whenever we’re having a conversation.  Of course, “BFF” doesn’t inspire quite the same reaction from the older folks at the family reunion as “bitch” does but that’s a whole other story.

Anyway, as I informed everyone earlier on twitter, Evelyn and I did all the usual things that you do at a slumber party.  We stripped down to our underwear, watched horror movies, ate food that we shouldn’t have eaten, had a violent pillow fight, and swore that we would never reveal the divine secrets of the ya ya sisterhood.  I also recruited her to look through all the possible picks for the latest edition of Lisa Marie’s Favorite Grindhouse and Exploitation Film Trailers and help me narrow them down to just 6 trailers. 

This, she helped me down without (too much) complaint.  Though it may not always be apparent, deciding which 6 trailers to feature each week is actually a pretty long and thorough process and it’s one that can be very tedious if you’re not a fan of these movies.  I think a lot of people would have said, “Who cares?  Just toss up 6 random trailers and be done with it.”  Not Evelyn.  Even as I forced her to watch some really odd and kinda disturbing trailers, she stuck with it until we had this week’s 6 trailers.  She even put up with me explaining to her why a certain trailer was more grindhouse than another.  And that is one of the many reasons why I love Evelyn and why she’ll always be my BFF.

And here’s the 6 trailers that she helped me pick for this week…

1) Stigma (1972)

Okay, Evelyn and me both literally fell in love with this trailer from the minute we heard that narrator say “The curse that begins with a kiss.”  Needless to say, we both jumped to a conclusion as to what that curse was and let’s just say it wasn’t syphilis.  But anyway, this appears to be some sort of cross between an old educational short and a blaxploitation film.  I haven’t seen this film yet and hadn’t even heard of it until I came across the trailer but now, it has become one of my obsessions.  I must see Stigma.  I must find out about the curse that begins with a kiss…

2) The Magic Garden of Stanley Sweetheart (1970)

Wow, isn’t that just the most annoying title ever?  It just screams “FILM SCHOOL GRADUATE!” at the top of its trust funded lungs.  Still, this trailer does have one line that made me laugh out loud and that line was: “Where am I going?”  Otherwise, this trailer is also memorable for the horrid “gingerbread” song that plays over the first few clips .  Evelyn claims that the song is now stuck in her head, which is pretty bad since the entire song is basically “something something gingerbread something something gingerbread…”  Evelyn thinks that Stanley (played by Don Johnson of A Boy and His Dog and The Harrad Experiment) looks hot in this trailer.  I think he’s a little bit too much of a pretty boy.  Neither one of us can believe that he later grew up to be the redneck in Machete.

3) Death Journey (1976)

Fred Williamson is …. Jesse Crowder!  Despite our different feelings concerning the appeal of Stanley Sweetheart, both Evelyn and I agreed that Jesse Crowder would kick his scrawny little ass.  That said, I objected to the “I’m going to bruise you up a little” line towards the end of the trailer but Evelyn defended it, making the argument that Crowder would have bruised up a man with a knife as well.

4) Rivals (1972)

“It could have been … a love story.”  Much like Stigma, this is a case of us just falling in love with a overdramatic tag line.  Apparently, the film itself appears to be a grindhouse version of Cyrus.

5) Zachariah (1971)

We had to include Zachariah because, as the trailer explains, this was the world’s first electric western.  Add to that, Don Johnson looks a bit less fancy here than he did as Stanley Sweetheart.

6) Get Carter (1971)

We saved the best for last.  Now, I know that the original Get Carter is such a classic (especially when compared to the Stallone version) that you might wonder if it really belongs here.  Well, trust me, it does.  Get Carter is pure grindhouse art and this trailer proves it.  Plus, both me and Evelyn were surprised and delighted to discover that once upon a time, Michael Caine was quite the sexy beast.  When, at the end of the trailer, we were told to “Get Carter before he gets you,” we both responded with, “Carter can have us.”