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!

Artwork of the Day: Ms. 45


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I don’t know who designed the poster for the classic 1981 film, Ms. 45, but it is truly brilliant.

Directed by Abel Ferrara, Ms. 45 tells the story of a mute seamstress named Thana (played by Zoe Tamerlis) who, after being raped twice in one day, uses a 45 caliber pistol to take revenge on almost every man in New York City.  The film’s tagline announces, “She was used and abused — and it will never happen again!” and Ms. 45 is a feminist masterpiece, one that exposed and attacked the same type of men who, undoubtedly expecting to see a typically low-budget, nudity-filled revenge flick, probably flocked down to 42nd Street to see the film when it was originally released.

Like the film itself, the poster is a work of transgressive brilliance, promising sex and violence while, at the same time, announcing that Thana was never again going to be a victim of an exploitive and patriarchal society.  One can only imagine how many men were lured into the theater by the legs on this poster, just to then by left in a state of shock as they literally watched themselves being blown away and punished for their misogyny on screen.  (Reportedly, even the most hardened of grindhouse audiences were left stunned by Ms. 45‘s intense final scene.)

The poster for Ms. 45 is definitely one of the best in grindhouse history and it’s also our latest artwork of the day!

(If you want to read more about my feelings about Ms. 45 and grindhouse cinema in general, please be sure to read my rightfully acclaimed essay on the subject, Too Sordid To Ever Be Corrupted.)

 

 

 

4 Shots From 4 Films: Thriller, Switchblade Sisters, Death Has Blue Eyes, 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.

4 Shots From 4 Films

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

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

Switchblade Sisters (1975, dir by Jack Hill)

Switchblade Sisters (1975, dir by Jack Hill)

Death Has Blue Eyes (1976, dir by Nico Mastorakis)

Death Has Blue Eyes (1976, dir by Nico Mastorakis)

Ms. 45 (1981, dir by Abel Ferrara)

Ms. 45 (1981, dir by Abel Ferrara)

 

Embracing the Melodrama Part II #108: The Brave One (dir by Neil Jordan)


Brave_one_2007For our next entry in Embracing the Melodrama Part II, we take a look at Jodie Foster in the 2007 film The Brave One.  And…

Well, how to put this delicately?

I hate hate hate hate HATE this movie, with every last fiber of my being.  I hated it the first time that I saw it and I hated it when I recently rewatched it and right now, I’m hating the fact that I even decided to review this damn film because it means that I’m going to have to think about it.  I’m going to try to get this review over with quickly because, with each minute that I think about this film, I doubt my commitment to cinema.  That’s how much I hate this movie.  If I’m not careful, I’m going to end up joining a nunnery before I finish this review…

So, in The Brave One, Jodie Foster plays Erica Bain.  Erica lives in New York and hosts one of those pretentious late night radio shows that are always popular in movies like this but which, in real life, nobody in their right mind would waste a second listening to.  Erica spends her time musing about life in the big city and hoping that we can all just love one another and expressing a lot of other thoughts that sound like they’ve been stolen from an automated twitter account.

Erica also has a boyfriend.  His name is David and he’s played by Naveen Andrews.  That means that he looks good and he has a sexy accent and when he first shows up, you hope that he’ll stick around for a while because otherwise, you’re going to have to listen to move of Erica’s radio monologues.  But nope — one night, while walking through Central Park, David and Erica are attacked.  David is killed.  Erica is raped.  And their dog is taken by the gang!

(And the film doesn’t seem to know which it thinks is worse…)

When Erica gets out of the hospital, she is, at first, terrified to leave her apartment.  Or, at least, she’s terrified to leave her apartment for about five minutes.  But then she does find the courage to go outside and, of course, the first thing she does is buy a gun.  At first, she’s buying the gun for her own state of mind but, almost immediately after purchasing her firearms, she happens to stumble across a convenience store robbery.

Bang!  Bang!  Erica’s a vigilante now!

But, of course, she’s not really sure if that’s what she wants to be.  Even though she eventually ends up sitting on a subway and waiting for a guy to approach her so she can shoot him, Erica is still never really that comfortable with the idea of seeking vengeance.  And this is why I hated The Brave One.  The film is so damned wishy washy about Erica’s motivations.  Instead of allowing Erica to get any sort of satisfaction or emotional fulfillment out of her actions, The Brave One has her constantly doubting whether or not violence is the answer.  And don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that violence is the answer.  But if you’re going to make a film about a female vigilante who is out looking for vengeance, why don’t you at least allow her to get some sort of empowerment out of her actions?  That doesn’t mean that the film itself can’t be ambiguous about what she’s doing.  But by having Erica constantly questioning her actions, it makes her into a weak character and it lets the men who raped her and the ones who subsequently threaten to do the same off the hook.  It allows them to be seen as victims, as opposed to products of a society where men are raised to believe that women will never fight back.

There’s a far superior New York-set film that has almost the same plot as The Brave One.  The title of that film was Ms. 45.  It was made for a hundred times less money than The Brave One and, at the same time, it was and remains a hundred times better.  (I previously wrote about Ms. 45 and The Brave One in my essay, Too Sordid To Ever Be Corrupted.)

The difference between the two films can be summed up by the film’s tag lines.  The Brave One was advertised with, “How many wrongs to make it right?”  Ms. 45 was advertised with: “She was abused and violated … IT WILL NEVER HAPPEN AGAIN!”   Ms. 45 features a vigilante who never doubts her actions and, as a result, she becomes a symbol not of violence but of empowerment.  Meanwhile, Jodie Foster is so constantly wracked with guilt and doubt that the film almost seems to be criticizing her for not staying in her apartment and trusting the police (represented by Terrence Howard and Nicky Katt) to do their job.

Oh!  And, of course, at the end of the film, Erica gets her dog back.  Because nobody ever permanently loses their dog in a big budget studio film…

And really, that’s why The Brave One is such a failure.  It takes a subject that was tailor-made for the grindhouse and attempts to give it the slick and self-important studio approach.  And part of that approach is that no one can be offended.  This is a film that both wants to celebrate and condemn at the same time.

And that’s why I say, “Give me Ms. 45!”

At least that movie knows what it wants to say…

Celebrate Halloween with Ms. 45!


Happy Halloween!

In honor of the holiday, here’s a Halloween-themed clip from one of the greatest films ever made — Ms. 45, the movie that proved that the Grindhouse is often more sincerely pro-woman than the mainstream.

(Big spoiler warning: This scene is actually the end of the film so if you’re the type of little toadsucker that’s always crying “You should have warned me boo hoo,” consider yourself warned.)

Too Sordid To Ever Be Corrupted


“How could you have possibly enjoyed that movie?”

I hate that question.  I hate the self-righteous tone of it.  I hate the demand that I justify anything that I choose to do with my life.  I hate the implication of the question, the suggestion that somehow there is some sort of moral force at the center of the universe that determines whether or not a movie can be enjoyed.

Unfortunately, no matter how obviously justified I am in loathing that question, it’s still one that I am frequently asked.  How can I not only enjoy watching old school exploitation and grindhouse films (the majority of which were made before I was even born) but also devote a good deal of my time to not only watching these movies but tracking them down and then telling the rest of the world how much I love them?

(Of course, what they’re really asking is what are you doing watching exploitive trash like House On The Edge of the Park or Fight For Your Life when you should be out finding a husband, driving an SUV, and living a life of quiet desperation?)

First off, I should confess.  I have commitment issues, I know it.  I realize that, as a result of some personal experiences in the past, that I tend to beg for affection and attention even while I’m putting up my own invisible wall to keep anyone from getting too close.  It’s not easy for me to trust but, after writing for this site since May, I feel like maybe it’s time to share a little bit more about me.  Hi.  My name is Lisa Marie.  I’m 24.  I have three older sisters that I love.  I’m a proud to be an Irish-German-Spanish-Italian-American.  I lived in five different states before I was 13 and I’m rarely amused when people point out the country twang in my voice.  Up until I was 17, ballet was my life but then I fell down a flight of stairs, broke my ankle in two places, and that was the end of that.  I worked very hard to earn a degree in Art History.  Not surprisingly, my current job has nothing to do with art or history.  I have asthma and heterochromia (my right eye is a darker shade of green than the left).  I’m blind without my contacts.  I like cats, driving fast, and being single.  I dislike dogs, needy men, and those tiny little smart cars.  The only thing that can equal my love for the Grindhouse is my hatred for the Mainstream.

Here’s a few reasons why.

1) Before Independent Film, there was the Grindhouse.

Today, if a young director wants to show what he’s capable of doing, he makes his own little film and enters it into various film festivals and, if he’s made something interesting, he might sign a distribution deal and his film might pop up down here in Dallas at the Angelika theater.  In the 70s, that young director would make an exploitation film, hope that it had enough sleaze appeal to make back its budget by playing in a New York Grindhouse (or a Southern drive-in) and, if he had made something interesting, his cheap, exploitation film might eventually end up being released on DVD by Anchor Bay or Blue Underground.  The best Grindhouse films were made by director who were eager to show what they were capable of doing.  These movies were not made by multimillionaires with houses on both coasts of the country.  Grindhouse movies were made by director who had to work to create something memorable, filmmakers who knew that they might never get another chance to put their vision on-screen.

2) The Mainstream Lies.  The Grindhouse is honest.

Mainstream films are just that.  They are films designed to appeal to the widest possible audience.  A mainstream movie is not made for you.  A Mainstream movie is made to appeal to the brain-dead suburbanites who can be easily recruited at the local mall to be a part of a test screening.  A Mainstream movie is made to be inoffensive.  A Mainstream movie is edited and re-edited to remove anything that could possibly negatively reflect on the bottom line.

Grindhouse movies, however, didn’t have time for that.  Grindhouse movies were made to exploit the moment.  As a result, there was no time to worry about appealing to everyone.  There was no time to constantly edit until not a single rough edge remained.  Grindhouse films are messy.  Grindhouse films are not always pleasant.  They don’t always have the perfect ending.  In short, Grindhouse movies are like life itself.

In the end, safe and inoffensive mainstream movies are made to appeal to the who we wish we were.  Grindhouse movies — sordid, sometimes uncomfortable, and always appealing to the audience’s most primal thoughts, fears , and desires — are made to appeal to who we actually are.

3) The Mainstream is bland.  The Grindhouse is dangerous and unpredictable.

Where else but in a Grindhouse film could you hear a killer who speaks like a duck like in Lucio Fulci’s The New York Ripper?  Because the Grindhouse was free of the need to try to fit in with what the mainstream decreed to be normal, the Grindhouse had the freedom to come up with some of the most brilliantly demented plots in the history of film.  When was the last time that the plot of a Mainstream film really caught you off guard?  I’m not talking about safe, inoffensive surprises like Avatar‘s 3-D effects.  I’m talking about a plot where, halfway through, you look at your fellow viewer and you both say, “What the fuck was that!?”  Anything can happen in the Grindhouse.  As soon as things start to feel safe and a little boring, the Grindhouse has the ability to make things exciting again.  The Mainstream, meanwhile, just asks you to get married.

4) The Mainstream always condescends.  The Grindhouse occasionally empowers.

Here’s a story of two movies.  In the mainstream Brave One, Jodie Foster gets a gun after she’s raped and her dog is stolen.  (In typical mainstream fashion, the movie doesn’t seem to be sure which crime is supposed to be worse.)  In the grindhouse Ms. 45, Zoe Tamerlis gets a gun after she’s raped twice in one day.  In the Brave One, Foster passively sits on the New York subway and waits until she threatened with rape a second time before she kills the potential rapist.  In Ms. 45, Tamerlis shoots every man she sees because she knows that every man she sees is a potential rapist.  In The Brave One, Foster gets her revenge by remaining the victim.  In Ms. 45, Tamerlis becomes the aggressor.  Both Foster and Tamerlis act in self-defense but Foster is wracked with guilt because the mainstream cannot risk losing its audience.  Tamerlis becomes stronger and more confident with each murder as, for the first time, she has found a way to control her own destiny.  At the end of The Brave One, Foster is not only rescued by a man but she gets her dog back too.  At the end of Ms. 45, Tamerlis goes on a shooting rampage at a Halloween party and is finally killed by another woman.  The Brave One‘s tag line was “How many wrongs to make it right?”  Ms. 45’s tagline: “She was used and abused and it will never happen again!”

I know this is probably going to be my most controversial argument.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m not advocating that we should just go out and start randomly shooting men.  But, I will say this — in Ms. 45, Zoe Tamerlis refuses to be a victim and she — and the film — refuses to let society off the hook.  When I think about Ms. 45, it doesn’t inspire me to hate men (because, trust me, I don’t) and it certainly doesn’t inspire me to grab a gun and start shooting.  It does, however, inspire me to not allow myself to fall into that never-ending cycle of victimhood.

I’m not attempting to argue that Grindhouse films are secretly feminist films.  Grindhouse films are infamous for exploiting women.  However, so does the mainstream.  (Of the two films, The Brave One features nudity.  Ms. 45 does not.)  Both the Grindhouse and the mainstream obviously get off on victimizing women.  However, in the Grindhouse, women were occasionally (though certainly not often) allowed to fight back with the same aggression and determination that the mainstream, for the most part, usually reserves just for men.

(If The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo had been released in the 70s, it would have played at the Grindhouse.)

5) Lastly, and most importantly, the Grindhouse is still our little secret.

Let’s just admit it — independent films are trendy.  Contemporary independent films have, to a large extent, become the new mainstream.  The earnest film students who had a Sundance hit are now going to Hollywood to make the next Benjamin Button.  Sundance is just ShoWest with more facial hair.  However, the old school grindhouse will never sell out because it no longer exists.  It was destroyed by the morality police before it could sacrifice its soul.  While an independent filmmaker is just a director who will eventually grow up and break your heart, the great Grindhouse films are frozen in time, too sordid to ever be corrupted.  The Mainstream will never embrace the Grindhouse and for that reason, the Grindhouse will always be the ultimate statement of freedom.