The TSL’s Grindhouse: Night Game (dir by Peter Masterson)


Apparently, today is the opening day of the 2017 baseball season.  The only reason that I know that is because of my sister Erin.  I don’t know much about baseball, to be honest.  I know that my city’s team is the Texas Rangers and they were once owned by George W. Bush.  I know that Houston has a team called the Astros.  But, really, the main thing that I know about baseball is that my sister absolutely loves it.

So, when Erin asked me to review a baseball movie today, how could I say no?  I mean, I may know next to nothing about baseball but I certainly know something about movies!

For that reason, I’m going to take a few minutes to tell you about a 1989 film called Night Game.  Night Game is many things.  It’s a movies that features a lot of baseball, even though it’s not really a sports film per se.  It’s a police procedural, though the film itself suggests that the police often don’t have the slightest idea what they’re actually doing.  It’s a serial killer film, though its killer is never quite as loquacious as we’ve come to expect in this age of Hannibal Lecter and Dexter Morgan.  At times, it’s a slasher film, though it’s never particularly graphic.  Mostly, Night Game is a Texas film.

Directed by native Texan Peter Masterson, Night Game is like the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre in that it is one of those rare films that not only takes place in Texas but was actually filmed on location.  To be exact, Night Game was filmed in both Galveston and Houston.  The entire film has a friendly and quirky Texas feel to it.  Masterson may not have been a great visual director (If not for some language and nudity, Night Game could pass for a TV movie) but Night Game is a movie where the plot is less important than capturing the little details of a time. a location, and the people who lived there.  Though Night Game is 28 years old, it’s portrait of my home state still seemed very contemporary to me.  I guess Texas hasn’t really changed that much over the past few decades.

As for the film’s plot, someone is murdering young women in Galveston and leaving their bodies on the boardwalk.  Obviously, that’s not going to be good for attracting Spring Break revelers.  The film doesn’t make any effort to keep the murderer’s identity a secret.  We see his face fairly early on.  We also see that he has a hook for a hand.  Eventually, we do learn the murderer’s motives.  They’re pretty silly but then again, individual motives rarely make sense to anyone other than the guy with the hook for a hand.

Detective Mike Seaver (Roy Scheider) has been assigned to solve the case.  One thing that I really liked about Night Game was that Mike was pretty much just a normal guy with a job to do.  He wasn’t self-destructive.  He wasn’t always drunk.  He wasn’t suicidal.  He wasn’t always lighting a cigarette and staring at the world through bloodshot eyes while the lighting reflected off of his artful stubble.  He was just a detective trying to do his job and get home on time.  After sitting through countless films about self-destructive cops and criminal profilers, the normalcy of Mike was a nice change of pace.

Mike does have a backstory.  He used to play baseball and he still loves the game.  He goes to every Astros home game in Houston.  He’s in love with Roxy (Karen Young), who works at the stadium.  Things are only slightly complicated by the fact that Mike had a previous relationship with Roxy’s mother (Carlin Glynn).  Don’t worry, Mike’s not secretly Roxy’s father or anything like that.  It’s not that type of movie.

Anyway, Mike is such a fan of baseball that he realizes something.  The killer only strikes on nights that the Astros win a game.  And he only strikes if a certain pitcher was throwing the ball.  The obvious solution would be to shoot the pitcher in the arm and end his athletic career.  However, Mike’s too nice a guy to do that.  Instead, he just tries to track down the killer…

And, as I said, Night Game actually isn’t a bad little movie.  Make no mistake, it’s a very slight movie.  At no point are you going to say, “I’m going to remember that scene for the rest of my life!”  That said, it’s a surprisingly good-natured film and Roy Scheider’s performance is likable and unexpectedly warm.  With all that in mind, Night Game is an entertaining and (mildly) bloody valentine to my home state.

Plus, it’s a baseball movie!  I don’t know much about baseball but, if my sister loves it, it has to be a good thing!

4 Shots From 4 Films: Coffy, They Call Her One Eye, Cleopatra Jones, Ms. 45


4 Shots From 4 Films is just what it says it is, 4 shots from 4 of our favorite films. As opposed to the reviews and recaps that we usually post, 4 Shots From 4 Films is all about letting the visuals do the talking.

I was going to use four other shots for today but then I was inspired by my sister’s pick for artwork of the day.

For those who might question my decision to highlight four grindhouse films on International Women’s Day, I kindly refer them to my essay, Too Sordid To Ever Be Corrupted.

4 Shots From 4 Films

Coffy (1973, dir by Jack Hill)

Thriller, A Cruel Picture a.k.a. They Call Her One Eye (1973, dir by Bo Arne Vibenius)

Cleopatra Jones (1973, dir by Jack Starrett)

Ms. 45 (1981, dir by Abel Ferrara)

6 Grindhouse Films That Should Have Been Nominated For Best Picture


If it’s difficult for a horror film to be nominated for best picture, it was next to impossible for a grindhouse film to it.

And really, that’s the way it should be.  The whole appeal of the grindhouse was that it existed on the fringes.  The grindhouse was not a part of the establishment.  The grindhouse had no desire to be a part of the establishment.

That said, here are six grindhouse films that I think could and perhaps should have been nominated for best picture:

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  1. I Drink Your Blood (1970)

This film is about what happens when a group of already odd hippie Satanists get infected with rabies.  It’s perhaps one of the best examinations of the culture war ever filmed.  In the role of Horace Bones, Bhaskar Roy Chowdhury gives one of the most arrestingly strange performances of all time.

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2. An American Hippie In Israel (1972)

Literally one of the greatest films of all time.  Now, I’m not saying that American Hippie would have won.  1972 was the year of The Godfather, Cabaret, and Deliverance.   But surely, a nomination could have been arranged.   “You fools.  You fools.  Stop pushing buttons.  You fools…”

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3. The Candy Snatchers (1973)

Agck!  This crime thriller still freaks me out.  And that ending … OH MY GOD!  The Sting may be good but The Candy Snatchers sticks with you forever.

4. They Call Her One-Eye (1973)

The Candy Snatchers wasn’t the only great grindhouse film to be released in 1973.  Why nominate A Touch of Class (has anyone ever watched — or heard of — this nominee?) when you could nominate They Call Her One-Eye?

5. Night of the Hunted (1980)

This French classic, from director Jean Rollin, never got a U.S. release so technically, it was not eligible to be nominated for Best Picture.  But what about Best Foreign Language Film?

6. Ms. 45 (1981)

The greatest revenge flick ever!

The TSL’s Grindhouse: The Year of the Yahoo! (dir by Herschell Gordon Lewis)


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At the time of his death last year, Herschell Gordon Lewis was credited with having directed 38 films.  Though he’s best known for ground-breaking gore films like Blood Feast and The Gore Gore Girls, Lewis actually dabbled in several different genres.  For instance, he made one of the first psychedelic drug films when he directed Something Weird.  And, as a public service, he warned us all of the dangers of smut peddlers with Scum of the Earth.

And, of course, there was that political films he made…

WHAT!?  A political film directed by Herschell Gordon Lewis!?

Yes, it’s true!  The man who helped to give birth to modern horror also directed one of the most prophetic films ever made.  The Year of the Yahoo! came out in 1972 but it feels even more relevant today.  The Year of the Yahoo! not only predicted the rise of Donald Trump but also predicted the rise of Barack Obama as well, making it one of the few truly bipartisan satires ever made.  That’s not bad for an obscure film directed by a man who was never given much respect from mainstream critics.

The Year of the Yahoo! opens in Texas.  It’s an election year.  The governor (Jeffrey Allen) would love to get rid of liberal U.S. Senator Fred Burwell (Robert Swain) and he thinks that he’s found the candidate to do it.  The Governor wants to nominate an unimpressive congressman, someone who will be easy to control.  However, the President disagrees.  The President (who is obviously meant to be Richard Nixon, even if his name is never specifically mentioned) has decided that the man to defeat Sen. Burwell is a country singer named Hank Jackson (real-life country singer Claude King).

Hank Jackson has a television show, one that he hosts with his girlfriend, Tammy (Ronna Riddle).  Hank sings songs about how America needs to return to traditional values and how people just need to come together and help each other out.  He may be old-fashioned but he’s okay with the counter-culture.  In fact, when we first meet him, he’s at a hippie party.  He turns down an offer of marijuana but he does so with a hearty laugh.  He’s a traditional guy but he’s got no issues with the long hairs.  Not our Hank!  It doesn’t matter whether it’s a Dallas oilman, an Austin hippie, an El Paso policeman, or a Galveston fisherman.  Everyone in Texas loves Hank!

When Sid Angelo (Ray Sager, the star of Lewis’s Wizard of Gore), a political consultant with White House connections, approaches Hank about running against that lefty traitor, Sen. Burwell, Hank is skeptical but intrigued.  Once Sid get Hank to agree, Sid starts to shape Hank’s message.  As a disgusted Tammy watches, Hank starts to sell out.  Soon, Hank is making jokes about people on welfare.  He’s defending law and order.  He’s taking the side of the landlords against the rent strikers.  Everything from his campaign announcement to interviews with the local media is precisely choreographed by Sid.

Hank’s message starts to resonate with the voters.  This is largely because he doesn’t have a message.  Instead, he just has a bunch of empty slogans and coded phrases.  Hank’s campaign commercial features him riding on a horse while the word “Hope” appears on the screen.  (I mean, who could possibly vote against hope?)  What’s going to happen when Hank’s elected?  Well, as he explains in the film’s theme song, we’re going to run the nation “like a country store.”  Just vote for Hank and “you’ll see how everyone relaxes.”

(At times, The Year of the Yahoo! almost feels like a musical.  The majority of the songs were written by Lewis, who was a legendary figure in the advertising industry before and after his career as a grindhouse filmmaker, and Claude King had a nice voice.  The songs are surprisingly catchy, even if they often are a bit too on the nose in their satire.)

Now, make no mistake about it.  This is definitely a Herschell Gordon Lewis film, which means that it often appears to have been made with more enthusiasm than skill.  At times, The Year of the Yahoo! moves way too slowly.  There’s a riot scene that is embarrassingly filmed.  The action stops for a stomach-churning sex scene between the hairy Ray Sager and a campaign volunteer.  The entire film, in fact, is full of actors who appeared in Lewis’s other films and it’s a bit weird to see familiar grindhouse performers cast as governors and campaign aides.  This is a Herschell Gordon Lewis production, with everything that implies.  While Lewis’s style was perfect for his semi-comedic gore films (Who can forget the “Have you ever had …. AN EGYPTIAN FEAST!?” scene from Blood Feast?), it feels a bit out of place in a film that is attempting to comment on reality.

And yet, it’s hard not to appreciate and kind of resoect just how serious the film’s intent seems to be.  Watching The Year of the Yahoo!, you get the feeling that Lewis actually was trying to say something important.  In The Year of the Yahoo!, Lewis not only attempted to make an important point but it was a valid point as well.  He may not have had the resources to really pull it off but consider this:

In 1972, Herschell Gordon Lewis predicted that a candidate could shoot the top of the polls by enticing voters with vague promises of hope.

In 1972, Herschell Gordon Lewis predicted that a wealthy TV celebrity, one that claimed to speak for the common man, could be packaged as a populist and sold to angry voters.

The Year of the Yahoo! was incredibly ahead of its time.  Say what you will about the film’s production values but you can’t deny this.  Everything that Herschell Gordon Lewis predicted came true.  That’s quite an accomplishment for someone often dismissed as merely being a gore director.

In fact, it’s such an accomplishment that it should give us all one thing for the future:

yahoooooo

6 Trailers for Valentine’s Day


Well, since Valentine’s Day is nearly over, how about a new edition of Lisa Marie’s Favorite Grindhouse and Exploitation Film trailers?

These trailers are all about celebrating the love so let’s get started!

The Diary of a High School Bride (1959)

I reviewed this one here.

The Harrad Experiment (1973)

Oh my God, this movie is so 70s.  Check out my review here.

Harrad Summer (1974)

The Harrad Experiment was so bad successful that it was followed by a sequel.

The Teacher (1974)

This actually isn’t a bad film.  I reviewed it here.

Gable and Lombard (1976)

I recently discovered this film.  I haven’t watched it yet but I hear its terrible.

In Love (1983)

I know that I’ve shared this trailer in the past but what can I say?  Even though it’s an edited trailer and I’ve never seen the actual film, I still love this trailer.  That song really gets stuck in your head.

What do you think, romantic trailer kitties?

Awwwwww!

Awwwwww!

 

Holiday Scenes That I Love: The Ending of Christmas Evil


Here one final holiday scene that I love.  I present to you the ending of the greatest psycho Santa movie ever made, 1980’s Christmas Evil!  Needless to say, if you haven’t seen Christmas Evil, the scene below counts as a spoiler.

If you have seen Christmas Evil then you know that, even though it’s about a possibly psychotic gentleman who thinks that he’s Santa Claus, it’s also a surprisingly sweet-natured and sincere little Christmas horror film.

And the ending, to me, is simply holiday perfection.  Even the grindhouse can occasionally can get in the Christmas spirit!

Here you go.  Merry Christmas, everyone.

 

Artwork of the Day: Blood Freak


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Today’s artwork of the day has a Thanksgiving theme!

Now, it may not be obvious from looking at the poster above but 1972’s Blood Freak is a film that is uniquely suited for today’s holiday.  What’s the film about?  Well, in short, it’s about a kinda beefy dumb guy who gets a job working at a turkey farm.  He spends all of his time surrounded by turkeys.  Well, except for the time that he spends smoking dope!

That’s right — marijuana!  The weed with roots in Hell!

He takes a few hits off a joint and, when next he awakes, he discovers that he has been transformed into a blood-thirsty monster that has the body of a man and the head of a turkey!

No, this movie is not a comedy.  At least not intentionally.  However, it is a classic.  And so is the poster! Needless to say, the woman on the poster never appears in the film but the artist, whoever he was, did an excellent job of capturing the essence of the turkey monster.

The only unfortunate thing about the poster is that it doesn’t include a picture of the narrator.  That’s right, Blood Freak has a narrator.  He pops up randomly through the film, sitting behind a desk and smoking a cigarette.  At one point, his narration is interrupted by a sudden coughing fit.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

Happy birthday, Erin Nicole!

(And if you want to read more about Blood Freak, check out my review here!)