Archive for February, 2014


The history of exploitation cinema is loaded with titles that offer more “sizzle” than “steak” — hell, that’s part of the charm — but every now and again you come across something that, as the famous tagline for Pieces states, is “exactly what you think it is!” Case in point : 1976 international tax shelter production Naked Massacre, a bleak, remorseless, and very nearly conscience-free slab of festering celluloid sleaze helmed by French Canadian director Denis Heroux that combines the “psycho vet coming home from ‘Nam” meme so popular at the time with a no-frills recounting of Richard Speck’s notorious Chicago kill-spree, adds a dash of political commentary by way of the then-contemporary violence raging in Northern Ireland, and ends up being both remarkably akin to, and quite a bit different from, much similar fare that was being projected onto drive-in and grindhouse screens at roughly the same time.

Sit back for a few and I’ll do my best to explain exactly what the hell I’m talking about here.


We’ll take a quick look at the background here before delving into the admirably scant plot details : Naked Massacre (also released under the far-less-lurid but still kinda cool title Born For Hell, and originally known in German as Die Hinrichtung) was financed primarily by Canadian investors, who sought to supplement their budget by bringing in foreign cash. It seemed a can’t lose proposition, and it was : many north-of-the-border silver screen “investment opportunities” yielded untaxed returns of 200-300% or more, so convincing deep pocket “silent partners” from France, Israel, the UK,  and Germany (West Germany, to be specific, since this was well before Mr. Gorbachev tore down that wall) to hop onboard this money train wasn’t too hard a sell at all.

The thing is, they didn’t remain very silent for long. and the mish-mash that ensued is the kind of thing that can only happen when too many chefs start sticking their fingers in the broth, to wit : a primarily Canadian crew found itself setting up shop in Northern Ireland to film a movie featuring predominantly German and French talent in front of the camera. Nobody in their right mind sets out on a path that convoluted — but, like the bumper sticker says, “Shit Happens.”

Not to worry, though, friends — even though cash from all over the world was being flung in Heroux’s general direction, this still looks, feels, and plays out like a slice of gutter-level guerrilla cinema that nobody spent a dime on. We wouldn’t want it any other way,now, would we?

born for hell naked massacre 1976

As for that, as I believe I put it, “admirably scant plot” : shell-shocked, traumatized-to-the-hilt army veteran Cain Adamson (played with a kind of low-level, slow-burn zeal by Mathieu Carriere, a French actor then based out of West Germany) is on his way home from “the shit” by way of Belfast — don’t ask me why you’d give a guy whose  sanity is hanging by a thread a lengthy stopover in another fucking war zone — whereupon his first-hand view of “The Troubles” sends barely-subsumed memories of freshly-committed atrocities on his own part rushing back to the forefront of his tormented psyche. He then proceeds to do what, hell, anyone would do in his shoes (right?) — namely head over to a nurse’s dormitory, force all eight lovely and lithe young beauties there to strip off their clothes, and then kill ’em all one by one.

Heroux, to his credit, doesn’t shy away from the implications inherent in any combination of sex and violence this combustible, and instead plays ’em up for all they’re worth. I don’t want to give away too many specifics, suffice to say that this film’s admixture of ultra-low production values, understated, naturalistic acting, and bare-bones sets combine to give the proceedings a deeply claustrophobic and stifling atmosphere that at times positively drips with both tension and flat-out malicious intent. Heroux is playing for keeps and Carriere, in particular, seems happy to leave plenty of open, festering scars on the audience. Abandon hope all ye who enter here.

The actresses tasked with playing the various unfortunate victims all acquit themselves fairly nicely, and while most were faces I didn’t recognize, a few will be fairly well-known to cult film buffs, namely :  Debra (here using the curiously-spelled nickname Debby) Berger, who started her career in Otto Preminger’s notorious Rosebud fiasco and ended up being a Cannon Films stalwart; Christine Boisson, a veteran of both the Emmanuelle franchise and Antonioni’s Identification Of A Woman; and Eva Mattes, who was in at least three different Fassbinder productions that come to mind. Not a bad line-up all in all, I’d say, for a “sleaze picture.”

And yeah, this definitely is a “sleaze picture.” Heroux had nearly a million bucks to play with and an over-qualified cast, but he chose to go for authenticity here, and the finished product is all the stronger for it. Plenty of scenes are downright uncomfortable  (synonymous around these parts with “good”) to sit through, and his pomp-and-circumstance-free directorial style results in a yet another entry into the canon of films like Combat ShockDeathdreamMy Friends Need Killing and, dare I even say it, Forced Entry that prove that when it came to laying bare the psychic landscape of the unstable, PTSD-addled veteran, the independent exploitation auteurs did it better (and, in many cases, earlier) than more-celebrated mainstream Hollywood fare like The Deer Hunter or Born On The Fourth Of July could ever possibly hope to.

There are a million and one movies that could call themselves Naked Massacre if they wanted to — girls taking off their clothes and getting killed is about as far from “unique” subject matter as one could imagine — but only one had the balls to actually do it. And while this movie has lapsed into the public domain and is consequently available in numerous DVD bargain-priced boxed sets (Mill Creek’s Chilling Classics comes immediately to mind), it’s also been slapped up on YouTube for your — ahem! — enjoyment, so here’s a link to Heroux’s laregely-unacknowledged masterpiece in all its — again with the ahem! — “glory.” You all go play nice, now.


Ah, Uschi. She really was something back in the day, wasn’t she? Admittedly, a good number of the flicks she appeared in were pretty dismal, but she could liven up even the most listless celluloid atrocity by just showing up on screen and taking her clothes off. Okay, her Swedish accent, when left un-doctored, was so thick as to be impenetrable, but who really cares? It’s not like she was hired for what she had to say or anything. She was there for her face, her body, and her always-lively performances. You don’t need to be overly fluent in English for any of that — hell, her fellow Swedes in ABBA didn’t even know what they were singing about and they went on to become one of the best-selling recording acts of all time.

And let’s be honest — it’s not like every film she was in was terrible. Not by a long shot. Her work with Russ Meyer was sensationally iconoclastic, legendary-for-good-reason stuff, and some of her less-well-remembered softcore efforts were pretty solid, as well.

Case in point : old-hand nudie director Edward L. Montoro’s 1970 steamy low-budgeter Getting Into Heaven. I’m not here to tell you it’s some lost classic or anything of the sort, but it is a fun, never-dull slice of skinema that stands apart from other productions of its ilk for, at the very least, being a consistently engaging production that all the principals involved in at least appear to be trying to make as good as it could possibly be. That’s worth at least a little something right there, isn’t it?


The plot’s about as simple/pointless as one can imagine : Heaven (Uschi, working under the curious pseudonym of Marie Marceau) lives with an equally-pretty roommate, Sin (Jennie Lynn), and has a nice cop boyfriend (Scott Cameron) —but a future as an immigrant housewife just doesn’t appeal to her. She has her sights set on becoming a starlet, and is willing to do whatever it takes to land a part in the next big Hollywood production from the studio run by a hormy mogul named Mr. Salacity  (Miles White). Basically, of course, that means that she,  Sin,  and their friend Karen (Phyllis Stengel, credited here with the last name of “Stangel,” which is probably more a lazy typo on the producers’ part than an actual stage name) are going to have to take off their clothes a lot, sleep with anybody who can get them ahead, and — uhmmm — frolic around in the buff with a stuffed tiger. What a girl won’t do to pursue her dreams, huh?

Beyond that there’s not a great deal more one needs to know by way of specifics, apart from the fact that every woman in this movie is darn easy on the eyes and more than willing to disrobe at the drop of the hat and stay that way for a good few minutes. The simulated sex scenes are pretty standard (polite-speak for “physically impossible and designed more to show off female genitalia while keeping boy-parts obscured than for realism”) stuff for the time, but at least Montoro knows when enough is enough and it’s time to move on and set up the next one, which is more than you can say for a lot of similar contemporary fare. The “humor” is all groaningly obvious and more than a touch misogynistic, but shit, that’s all part of the morally, ethically, and artistically questionable “charm”  of these sorts of throwaway sex productions, right? And there’s nothing blatantly anti-female enough going on to rise to the level where it would genuinely bother your conscience. Frankly, nothing happening here even matters enough for that.


Maybe it’s damning Getting Into Heaven with faint praise to say that its best attribute — apart from Uschi’s multiple attributes — is that isn’t boring, but hey, it’s still the truth. And how much more than that do any of us really ask for from any movie? Shoot, plenty of mega-budget blockbusters spend exponentially more money than what Montoro had to work with here and don’t come anywhere close to being as entertaining as this is. Which just goes to show that an amazing, all-natural hourglass figure trumps flashy CGI any day of the week.

And how many films can honestly say that the lead actress doesn’t even have to talk much to steal every scene she’s in?


Getting Into Heaven is available on DVD from, as you’d probably expect, Something Weird Video, where it’s paired with the truly dire Angels. Both films feature reasonably good-looking full-frame transfers and adequate-if-you’re-not-expecting-much mono sound, and extras include a bevy of worn-down-looking Uschi short subjects (probably shot on short ends) along with trailers for and stills/artwork  from numerous other SWV softcore numbers . In other words, more or less exactly what we’ve come to expect from this sort of thing — but the film itself is definitely a notch above what we’ve come to expect from this sort of thing, and when it’s been a long day and you’re not in a particularly demanding mood, sometimes that’s enough.



I’ll admit, I was as psyched as anyone when I heard that Dynamite Entertainment had acquired the rights to the dormant Gold Key characters, and that they were assembling an “all-star roster” of creators to helm the various titles they were planning — and I guess my inner nerd is still looking forward to the debuts of the new versions of Magnus, Robot Fighter and Doctor Solar — but if the premier  issue of the range’s first title, Turok:Dinosaur Hunter is any indication, we could be in for something of a bumpy ride here.

It’s not that writer Greg Pak and artist Mirko Colak have fired off an actively lousy opening salvo here, mind you, it’s just that — well, it’s hard to fathom exactly what’s going on in the book, and characterization is so minimal that we’re left to scratch our heads about why exactly we should even care. It’s a very scant piece of work, all in all, that drops us right into the middle of a situation with no backstory , and the skeletal plot is miles away from providing us with any reason to keep shelling out four bucks month after month to obtain answers to any and all of the questions that will inevitably arise when actual details are this absent from the proceedings.



As near as I’m able to discern, here’s what’s happening : at some unknown point in the past, Turok finds himself on the outs from his unnamed Native American tribe for reasons that are entirely unspecified. Then some flying dinosaurs apparently known as “thunder lizards” attack and Turok has to decide whether or not to help out the very people that have banished him. Then real trouble arrives in the form of European settlers. The end.

I assure you, the actual issue itself doesn’t take much longer to read than that “quickie” synopsis did. I get that minimalist dialogue is a hallmark of just about any Greg Pak script, but come on. At least clue us in as to why our giving a shit matters.



On the art front, Colak’s pencils and inks aren’t by any means bad, but there’s nothing too terribly special going to distinguish them from much of the bog-standard super-hero and action/adventure fare weighing down the shelves at your LCS. His works achieves the level of “competent enough” from the outset and never really rises above that throughout. It’s clean and reasonably sharp and easy enough, I suppose, on the eyes, but so is most of what’s out there these days. I believe “thoroughly uninspired” is a fair summation of the state of artistic affairs here.



This being a Dynamite publication and all, 1,001 variant covers are the order of the day, and I’ve reproduced the ones done by Bart Sears, Jae Lee, Rob Liefeld, and Sean Chen, respectively, to give you some idea of the multitude you have to choose from, but then, I have to admit that I’d be hard-pressed to offer up any actual reason to buy even one of these, much less several. Turok:Dinosaur Hunter was a strictly “one and done” purchase on my part, unless some seriously positive buzz begins emanating from some other quarters about how good successive issues end up being. I’m not holding my breath.


In the end (so why am I bringing it up at the beginning?),  maybe all you really need to know about the profound differences between RoboCop a la Paul Verhoeven and RoboCop a la Jose Padilha is that the 1987 original was only a few scant seconds (a few scant seconds showing officer Alex Murphy’s blown-off arm twitching and writhing on the ground, to be precise) removed from an “X” rating, while 2014’s remake has both feet firmly planted in “PG-13” territory.

I honestly think there’s a lot more  more to it than that,, though(about 1500 words more, give or take, to be precise),   because the new RoboCop is far from a complete failure and/or disaster — in some (limited) respects, truth be told, it’s really not that bad at all, in fact. But it’s not all that great, either, especially in comparison to its progenitor.

Let’s dispense with the tired old “take this remake on its own merits” argument first, because I’m sick and tired of Hollywood wanting to have it both ways on this issue. On the one hand, they’re clearly and obviously out of new ideas in Tinseltown, but on the other, they trot out that tired line of “reasoning” for every single remake that comes out these days, and that’s blatantly hypocritical on its face. You can’t expect to cash in on the name and reputation of an earlier flick, not to mention take its fucking title, and then cry “foul” when your new movie is held up for comparison to its “source material.” Sorry, life just doesn’t work that way. Nor should it. If you’re making a movie called RoboCop, it’s going to be judged according to the standards set by the original RoboCop. Deal with it. Because that’s exactly what we’re going to do here.


Despite numerous “tinkering at the edges” differences, the basic plot trajectory of the new RoboCop remains essentially unchanged from is earlier iteration — Detroit police officer Alex Murphy, a hard-working family man who’s dedicated to upholding the integrity of his badge, is nearly killed in the line of duty and “saved” by being turned into a cyborg by a large industrial conglomerate (OCP in RoboCop ’87, OmniCorp here). He then single-handedly goes on a tear and nearly rids the city of crime, even managing to violently “solve” his own murder case,  before his bosses in the corporate boardroom decide he’s worth more to them dead than alive, at which point the shit hits the fan and Robo-Murphy goes to war against the very people who created him.

What could possibly go so wrong, then? Well, it’s those “tinkering at the edges” differences I just alluded to where the new RoboCop comes up short —

At the top of the list, Padilha’s new film gets the whole thing wrong tonally. Verhoeven’s RoboCop was, as its critics charge, an ultra-violent piece of 1980s excess, but it was also, crucially, a deeply ironic, darkly sardonic “piss-take,” as the Brits would say, on those excesses, and had its tongue planted firmly in its cheek from word “go” to word “stop.” RoboCop 2014 has no time or patience for such self-examination and plays it disarmingly straight throughout. Sure, there are moments of levity — in fact, the movie starts out with a laugh — but they’re only that : moments of levity within the context of the story itself. There’s no larger commentary on the inherent ridiculousness of its genre, much less its own premise, going on here. In short, unlike its predecessor, which gave us the 6000 SUX and “I’d buy that for a dollar!,” this flick just takes itself too goddamn seriously.

Going side by side with getting the tone wrong is the fact that RoboCop 2014 makes some less-than-great casting choices. Joel Kinnaman isn’t bad, per se, as Murphy, but he’s essentially playing the same role that he does on AMC’s The Killing, and Peter Weller’s “king of deadpan” approach is sorely missed. Likewise, Michael Keaton’s decision to portray OmniCorp CEO Raymond Sellers as some sort of “new age”/Steve Jobs-type asshole CEO is a good one, but having made that call, he then seems to trudge through the proceedings rather listlessly. Samuel L. Jackson does a serviceable enough take as a right-wing blowhard Bill O’Reilly-type TV host, but he’s downright  bit toned down in comparison to the rabid xenophobic fear-mongering numbskulls who populate Fox “news” every night already in this day and age, never mind how much more intolerable these types of dickheads will be in the near-future world this film is set in. Gary Oldman’s performance is likewise of a “good enough, I suppose” variety as the cybernetics specialist who “creates” the new Murphy and then develops a conscience a little too late in the game, but again, it’s far from being anything like standout work. All in all, it seems the performers are content with doing a “good enough” job rather than an actively good one.

Not helping things much is the fact that Murphy’s personal “character arc” is a bit all over the map. Weller’s quest to regain some semblance of his lost humanity in the 1987 film may have been a bit straight-forward, but it unquestionably worked, and the new flick’s curious (to put it kindly) decision to give him full awareness of his past from the outset, then take some of it away, then take all of it away, then give a little bit back, then have him fight to regain the rest of it diminishes, rather than enhances, the nature of his struggle. A straight line is usually the shortest way to get from point “A” to point “B,” and in the case of RoboCop, it turns out that it’s also the most interesting.


Last on our laundry list of problems is that RoboCop 2014 gets its political message all wrong. The ’87 original was noteworthy for being one of the few big Hollywood productions of its time to openly take aim at the risible self-indulgences of the “Reagan Years” by pointing out their inevitable outcomes — a two-tiered society of “haves” and “have-nots” kept in line by a police force that functions as a de facto privately-owned occupying army. All the coporate “suits” in the movie were douchebags with no redeeming qualities whatsoever — the cops were on the verge of striking after being privatized — the middle class seemed, for all intents and purposes, to no longer exist — fuck if the whole movie wasn’t damn prescient, since in the years between then and now we’ve seen the rich/poor gap exacerbated to the level of the “robber baron” days and privatization unquestionably fail time and time again, from the San Francisco Zoo to Fannie Mae/Freddie Mac to Bechdel literally buying the entire water supply of the nation of Bolivia. It’s been an unprecedented disaster every single fucking time without exception, yet it’s still held out as the “solution” to almost every problem by unflinching, frankly unthinking, doctrinaire conservatives.

The new RoboCop takes a more nuanced — and gutless — view of the situation : he’s the creation of a “public/private partnership, ” and the working-class, non-privatized, cops in the film are shown to be every bit as sleazy and corrupt as their counterparts in corporate America. Heck, the chief of the Detroit police department (who, curiously, maintains an office in a precinct station) is almost as bad as CEO Sellers himself in this one, and Murphy’s very survival is ultimately engineered by the private-sector Doctor who made him what he is. Some may say that this represents a more “realistic” storyline, that there are good and bad apples in all walks of life, and while that’s true to a certain extent, it’s also deeply ignorant of recent history — last I checked, for instance, it was the much-vaunted private sector that came to the government for a bailout when they ran the economy into the ditch, not the other way around. Sure, RoboCop 2014 is more overtly political than similar blockbuster fare like, say, your average Marvel film, but its focus on issues like domestic drones, the robotization of the military (not nearly as far-fetched as you might think given the Pentagon’s long-term plans) and  expansionist, imperialist US foreign policy (we’ve invaded, and are consequently occupying, Iran in this one) are pretty “safe bets,” so to speak, given that all but the most dim-witted GOP hard-liners know that every single one of those ideas is a seriously lousy one. Again, Padilha and his veritable army of screenwriters are playing it much safer than Verhoeven did back in the day.


The news isn’t all bad, though — the Murphy family gets a bit more to do in this one, and that’s a nice touch;  (Abbie Cornish is thoroughly believable as his wife and it’s good to see both her and their son play more critical roles in the story);  Padilha directs the action sequences with a kind of enthusiastic zest that seems genuinely heartfelt; the ED-209s fulfill a somewhat more believable (but admittedly less fun) role in the story;  and it’s nice to see Jackie Earle Haley (who plays a stereotypical military hard-ass with aplomb) and Michael K. Williams (on board as the new male iteration of Murphy’s partner, Lewis) in pretty much anything.

By and large, though, this armchair critic has to chalk up the new RoboCop as being a failure — sure, it’s got lot less blood and viscera than the original (hence the “PG-13” classification), but because it hasn’t got anywhere near  its guts.



Is it just me, or has it been waaaaaaayyy too long since DC’s Vertigo imprint went trolling for fresh new talent on the other side of the Atlantic? In the early days of the line, of course, British creators were all the rage, from established luminaries like Neil Gaiman, Peter Milligan, Grant Morrison, Jamie Delano,  and Garth Ennis to “one-and-done” types like John Smith, Gary Ushaw, and Nick Abadzis, the UK was the primary well tapped by the editors of the newly-minted “mature readers” range.

And then the trans-oceanic creativity pipeline just sort of seemed to dry up. It’s not that promising new writers and artists weren’t still coming on the scene in Britain, it’s just that Vertigo stopped looking in that direction, for whatever reason. Their London office, helmed by Art Young, folded up shop, and Vertigo seemed to zero in  on North American talent, in the main, for the next couple of decades.

I’m pleased to say that appears to be over, as the very promising new six-part mini-series The Royals : Masters Of War so ably demonstrates. Coming to us by way of the U.K.-based writer/artist team of Rob Williams and Simon Coleby, both of whom cut their creative teeth in the pages of the venerable 2000 A.D. weekly comic, this book hopefully marks the opening salvo in a new “British Invasion” that’s long overdue.



Now, to be honest, I probably should find this series more immediately off-putting than I do, simply because I flat-out despise the monarchy. The American tabloid press seems even more obsessed with them than their British counterparts, and for the life of me I just can’t figure out why. The comings and goings of the vapid, idle super-rich don’t interest me in the least. The Windsors — and every other royal family — should have been stripped of their “birthright” and been forced to work for a living like the rest of us a long time ago, in my opinion,  but at least Williams and Coleby have chosen to focus their story on a novel new take on exactly why these folks enjoy such power and privilege — namely, they’ve all got super-powers, and us lowly “commoners” don’t.

Admittedly intriguing in a sort of “gosh, why didn’t I think of that?” way, this also provides a funky new twist on the notorious and thoroughly-well-documented practice of interbreeding and inbreeding that the world’s various royal lineages still adhere to,  because the “purer” the bloodline, the more powerful the heir-to-be will consequently end up being. It’s all pretty creepy and cool at the same time.

Williams drops us right into the action high above Berlin in 1945, with our ostensible “hero,” Prince Henry, about to jump into battle. As he surveys the devastation around him — brought to remarkable life by Coleby’s evocative pencils and inks which are more than ably abetted by J.D. Mettler’s amazingly sensitive and realistic color palette — he flashes back five years earlier to the moment he first decided to break the non-intervention pact that all the super-powered royals of the world had been living under. While London was being decimated by Hitler’s blitz, Henry’s older brother, Arthur, wandered through life shit-faced drunk and his father, King Albert, sat idly by doing nothing. It all apparently got to be a bit too much for our guy Henry to handle, and with the support of no one else in his family apart from his sister (and, it’s hinted, lover), Rose,  he  decided that enough was enough and chose to unilaterally break the truce.


What happens next? Well, I guess that’s what the next five issues are for, but Williams does such a superb job setting the stage here that my curiosity to know more is definitely piqued. Apart from Henry, no one’s very “likable,” per se, which strikes me as a pretty realistic depiction of royalty in general, and it seems that typical “palace intrigue” bullshit will only be a small part of the world he and Coleby will be exploring here. We’ve seen “Point A” and the early stages of “Point B,” but how we go from one to the other is still entirely up in the air, and that’s a good thing because, hey, we all like comics that keep us guessing, right?



So it appears what we have his is part alternative history, part World War II comic, part old-school Vertigo Brit book (albeit by a new generation of creators — apart from old pro Brian Bolland, who does a nice job with the first issue’s alternate cover) and part revisionist super-hero tale. If succeeding issues follow through on the promise shown in this debut chapter, then I’m definitely in it for the duration.



Remember what I said the other day about being done with hicksploitation for the time being? I lied.

I didn’t mean to, honest, but earlier today I was a little bored and gave 1971’s Midnight Plowboy (also released under the not-quite-alternate-per-se title of Midnite Plowboy) a go, and ya know what? By the end of it I was still bored. Maybe even more bored than I was before.

The title of this outing that unites the “talents” of producer Harry Novak, director Bethel Buckalew (once again credited only by his surname here) and star John Tull for the first (I’m assuming) time is clever enough, I suppose, given that Midnight Cowboy had just won the Oscar for best picture a couple of years previously and a number of prints of that soon-to-be-regarded-as-a-classic were still playing drive-ins all over the country, but honestly, the “humor” quotient in this one never really rises above the “so obvious you just have to groan” level — which is okay for 10, 20, maybe even 30 minutes, but it’s not enough to carry an entire 84-minute feature, especially when the only thing punctuating it is bog-standard softcore sex that’s even duller than your grand-dad’s old pocket knife.



Here’s the rundown : dumbfuck inbred hick Junior (Tull, who sure seems to gravitate toward characters with that name) decides to give it a go in Hollywood when the ladies in his po-dunk Alabama (I think, at any rate) town prove unwilling, and within minutes of hitting Tinseltown he’s getting it on in the backseat of a car with some blonde “free love” type while her hubby watches. Then he finds his way to a brothel run by a madame named — errr — Madame (played by Nan Cee — get it? Sure you do) where, despite being flat broke and smelling, no doubt, like a barnyard, he beds every single chick in the joint before being hired on as their chauffeur. Not of a limo, mind you — but of a van, given that the girls seem to work in a pack every night.

The usual inept sexual hijinks ensue — lots of anatomically impossible positions, little to no exposed male genitalia but plenty of boobs ‘n butts n’ bush , you know the drill (no pun intended — I promise) — and along the way Junior actually falls for one of the working girls (who’s portrayed by Debbie Osborne, the only chick in the flick I actually recognized) before — well, shit, that’s about it. The movie doesn’t even “end” so much as it just stops.



Unfortunately, it probably should have stopped a lot sooner because, while the cast, to their credit, do seem to be having a fun, high-spirited time, that never translates over to the audience very much. I’m glad they all enjoyed gettin’ nekkid together, it’s just a shame that they didn’t give us any reason to enjoy watching them.

Ah well, the Novak/Buckalew/Tull triumvirate would end up following the old “practice makes perfect” adage and do a much better job of things just two short years later with Sassy Sue.



If you feel compelled to blow off my advice, though, Midnight Plowboy is available doubled-up with another “hit” from the Novak-Buckalew creativity juggernaut, the equally dire Country Cuzzins, on DVD from Something Weird Video. Both are presented full-frame with mono sound,  the prints look reasonably good (or good enough, at any rate), and you can make out all the dialogue and canned grunting and groaning just fine. Extras are the usual smorgasbord of backwoods-lovin’-related shorts, trailers, etc. In other words, nothing too special — and maybe enough to really get me off hickspoitation once and for all. Or at least until the next time I’m bored again.


I guess it’s pretty obvious if you’re a reg’lar ’round these here parts that yours truly has been on something of a hicksploitation kick lately, and since I never seem to know when to quit, last night I gave ultra-sleazy 1973 Harry Novak production Sassy Sue a whirl, and ya know what? I think I might just have had my fill of this extinct subgenre for awhile.

It’s not that this softcore effort directed by old skin pro Bethel Buckalew (here credited only by his last name for some reason) is all that bad, per se — it’s just that it’s hard to imagine anything sleazier or more tasteless, so I might as well quit while I’m ahead — and by “ahead” I mean, of course, at the absolute bottom of the barrel.

tallie and colleen

To the extent that this flick can be said to have a “plot,” then,  here it is : somewhere way below the Mason-Dixon line, farmer/moonshiner Pa Willard (Patrick Wright) is worried that his dim-witted, most-likely-inbred son, Junior (John Tull) is a little too interested in the livestock — particularly Sassy Sue, one of the family cows — than he is the nubile young ladies running around the countryside in their Daisy Duke shorts (when they bother to wear anything at all, that is), and so he arranges for a bevy of hot n’  horny young honeys to come on by the homestead and give seducing his boy a go.

Pa gets it on with some of the gals, and so does Junior (thankfully), but that gol’ durn dimwit just can’t seem to keep his mind off the cow for very long —

So, yeah, the bestiality theme certainly adds an extra layer of unwholesomeness to this turgid cinematic cesspool, but beyond that the one other thing that seems to set Sassy Sue apart from its other county cuzzins is the fact that, tedious and repetitive as things get (and let’s face it, in these early ’70s nudie films that’s entirely par for the course),  the various (no doubt under-paid) actors and actresses all seem to be visibly having fun with this admittedly idiotic material. In fact, the only person who seems bored by it all is Buckalew, who never gets beyond your basic “point and shoot” approach — although, in fairness to him, it’s not like the material requires anything more than that. So the “what the fuck do you expect?” factor definitely comes into play here.


As for the flesh on display, a veritable “who’s who” of sexploitation starlets bare it all for the camera here, most notable among them being the semi-legendary Sharon Kelly (or, as she’s better known in this day and age, Colleen Brennan), who’s joined by the likes of Tallie Cochrane, Sandy Carey, Karen Cooknell, and Jeanne Durham, to drop just a few names that fans of this brand of “entertainment” will most likely recognize. Sure, Rene Bond and/or Uschi Digard seem notable by their absence, but apart from them, it seems the gang’s all here, and they really do seem to be enjoying their various and sundry rolls in the hay — even if the guys have a habit of leaving their overalls on.

Or, heck, maybe because the guys have a habit of leaving their overalls on.


Sassy Sue is available on DVD from Something Weird Video (who else?), where it’s paired with another Novak-produced backwoods boobs n’ butts number, The Pigkeeper’s Daughter. The full frame transfers and mono sound  on both movies are pretty darn nice all things considered, and extras are of the usual “assorted shorts and trailers that are of a piece with the main features” variety. Nothing too terribly remarkable, but it all works,  and even though at 84 minutes this one could stand to lose a good 10 to 15 to  help maintain audience interest a bit more, all in all it’s a reasonably entertaining piece of entirely predictable monkey (or , I guess, cow) business.


If you’ve purchased or rented any Grindhouse Releasing title in the past decade or so,  you’ve no doubt seen the trailer for southern-fried exploitation vet S.F. Brownrigg’s tantalizingly sleazy 1974 effort, Scum Of The Earth (not to be confused with Herschell Gordon Lewis’ seminal “roughie” of the same name), and hoped against hope that one of these days it would finally be getting a proper DVD release. Last I heard, Bob Murawski is still planning on getting an extras-laden special edition out at some point, but in the meantime you can still view the film itself courtesy of a fairly high-quality VHS rip from its 1980s Magnum Video issuing that I’ve linked to at the bottom of this review.

Hold your horses, though, because first I want you to fully understand the incomparable awesomeness of this “Holy Grail” of the hicksploitation genre.

Alternately billed as Poor White Trash Part II for reasons that seem iffy at best — the original Poor White Trash  having come out all the way back in 1957 and being much more widely known (to the extent that it was even known at all) by its “proper” title of Bayou — Brownrigg’s complete lack of taste or subtlety oozes through every celluloid pore of this astonishingly over the top take on life, as its poster says, “below Tobacco Road,” and the end result is enough to make even the proudest resident of Dixie either blush, howl with anger, or who knows — maybe both.


On, then, to the story particulars : newlywed couple Paul and Helen Fraser, honeymooning (for reasons I can’t fathom) in the woods have their new life together cut violently short when Paul, going to his truck for some smokes, meets his end courtesy of the head of an unseen madman’s axe. Helen (Norma Moore), understandably panicked, quickly decides to make a beeline for what passes around these parts for “civilization,” only to encounter “assistance” from swamp hick Odie Pickett (Gene Ross, who is obviously lovin’ every minute of it when he’s on screen, and is even credited with “additional dialogue” in the credits), who promises to take her back to his shack where she can phone the law, even though, by his own admission, he doesn’t like “having no truck” with them.

Of course, in reality he has no phone, but he does have a bizarre, inbred bunch o’ kinfolk, all of whom have their own amusingly one-dimensional backstory : there’s his pregnant child bride, Emmy (Ann Stafford), whose father traded her off to Odie at age 12 in order to pay off a debt; his country hooker daughter, Sarah (Camilla Carr), and his idiot man-child son, Bo (Charlie Dell), aand the whole lot of ’em  have their sights set on their new house guest for entirely different reasons.  Needless to say, Odie has absolutely zero intention of ever letting her leave, under any circumstances, so they’re all going to get their chance to sink their hooks into her or die trying.


Cue every single backwoods hick stereotype you can think of : incest, possum eating, tobacco chewing, moonshine swilling, domestic abuse — it’s all here, in gloriously gut-wrenching detail. No stone is left unturned when it comes to making rural southerners look like complete imbeciles utterly devoid of either class or conscience. And yeah — it’s every bit as awesome as it sounds.

Suspense is pretty hard to come by here (unusual given that Brownrigg would also give us one of the more under-appreciated B-horror efforts of its time, the superb Don’t Go In The Basement), and “story” takes a back seat to unfurling an ever-growing laundry-list of corn-pone atrocities, but none of that really matters since it’s not what you’re watching this for, anyway. The tagline to trash-horror classic Pieces comes to mind here since, like that reviled-for-all-the-best-reasons flick, Scum Of The Earth is, indeed, “exactly what you think it is!” And honestly — who would want it any other way?

But I’ve taken up enough of your evening (or day, as the case may be) with my interminable blathering already already. It’s high time you clicked the link below and experienced the utterly depraved majesty of this one for yourself.


Enemies are no fun. They can really cramp your style, not to mention fuck your life up immeasurably. I like to think I really don’t have any, and if that’s just me being delusional, well — it’s a delusion I’m happy to live with. But let’s not kid ourselves — even your worst enemies, assuming you have any, lack the power to get under your skin the way your friends do.

Friends are people who, by definition, know too damn much about us. They know our weak spots. They know our secrets. They know how to hit us where it hurts. Especially friends we’ve been through some tough times with. Sure, maybe they helped us through those rocky patches, but shit — we’re well beyond that these days, and the fact that they knew us then will always be a threat to us in the now. So yeah — friends just plain can’t be trusted.

Just ask Vietnam vet Gene Kline (Greg Mullavey), a guy doing his best to put together a “regular” life back home after participating in a My Lai-style massacre and spending some time in a psychiatric ward when he got back home. His friends pushed him to do things he can’t live with. They egged him on. They prodded him. Cajoled him. Forced his hand. And worst of all, they all got away with it. Time to see what can be done about that.

my friends need killing ad mat

Director Paul Leder’s 1976 gutter-level “psycho vet” flick My Friends Need Killing is further proof — as if any were really needed — that the independent exploitationers did a far superior job detailing the psychological struggles of newly-returned ‘Nam grunts than Hollywood could ever dream of. I don’t know about you, but I’ll take movies like this one, Deathdream, and Combat Shock over “serious,” over-wrought fare like PlatoonThe Deer Hunter, or In Country any day. This is way more visceral, immediate, and authentic, even if its revenge theme is over the top by its very nature. Leder — who had a varied B-movie career that included such semi-classics as I Dismember Mama  and A*P*E — isn’t about to let you look away here, he’s all about drawing you in and not letting you go. You wanted this war, asshole? The chickens have come home to roost — time to deal with the consequences.

my friends need killing vhs front & back

At the heart of  My Friends Need Killing lies a superbly unhinged and thoroughly satisfying performance from Mullavey. You literally feel like he’s capable of doing anything, and guess what? He is. The powerlessness of his long-suffering wife, Laura (Meredith MacRae) is also palpable and adds yet another frisson of way-too-close-to-home realism to the proceedings. And rather than detracting from the atmosphere being created, the staid, unimaginative, straight-forward production “values” that Leder was stuck with because he had next to no fucking money only enhance the unbearable nature of watching Gene’s tenuous mental state come undone as he ditches his hastily-assembled cookie-cutter life in order to mete out vigilante justice on the guys who were responsible for breaking his mind.

Simply put, this flick is all about pulling no punches, and its quasi-documentary feel makes the impact of the numerous body blows it lands hurt like a motherfucker.


Sure, the soundtrack music is more than a bit unpolished and incongruous, but that only adds yet another layer of psychosis to the grim, unrelenting, and remorseless cinematic black hole that that Leder is literally pushing us further and further down into. And his “point-and-shoot” camera work and obviously rushed takes serve as a bludgeon wielded by the hands of a craftsman who knows that “style” would only dull his message even if he could afford it. No time for that nonsense here — he’s too busy kneecapping you and taking your wallet to pretend that he’s doing anything else.


Shit, even the cut-rate gore effects don’t diminish the “shock and awe” of this film’s brutal kill scenes —on the contrary,  they enhance the overall ethos of a movie being made with no time, no resources, and no agenda apart from shoving your face into society’s toilet bowl. It’s almost as if there was a need or compulsion to make My Friends Need Killing more than there was any actual desire to, since nothing on offer here seems to indicate that Leder and his cohorts had much of an idea as to how to go about their business :  they just let the camera roll, shot from the hip, and kept on firing away. We’ve extolled the virtues of “want-to”  filmmaking over “can-do” filmmaking time and time again on this site, but “need-to” filmmaking like this takes things to another level entirely. Heck, you could make a pretty solid argument that too much “skill” would only muddy the waters with a production as visceral as this one.

Yeah — it’s fairly safe to say that I was straight-up blown away by the raw power of Leder’s no-budget, no-frills opus here, and I’m willing to wager that you will be, too. Fortunately, even though it’s never received an official DVD (much less Blu-Ray) release, and VHS copies are hard to come by, a truly generous soul who goes by the moniker Jack Fistos of  has uploaded it onto YouTube in its full 73-minute cut. Sit back, relax, and enjoy.

Just don’t try this with any of your friends at home,  right?


Did you know that horror icon Christopher Lee appeared in a cut-rate 1977 production known, variously, as Meatcleaver MassacreMorakEvil Force, and, best of all, Hollywood Meat Cleaver Massacre?

If not, you’re in good company, because when this flick came out, apparently nobody was more surprised to see his name atop the credits than Mr. Lee himself! He’s only in there for a couple of minutes, mind you, as our story’s Rod Serling-esque presenter, giving a little canned lecture about the history of summoning occult spirits, both good and bad, to do one’s bidding. It’s pretty innocuous stuff, set in a suitably book-lined study, and could just as well serve as the front-end narration for any of literally hundreds of different supernatural-themed horror flicks.

In fact, it apparently was shot for one of these “hundreds” of other films altogether, but when that project never materialized, its producers simply sold the footage of Britain’s favorite Count Dracula to the one-and-done producers of this bizarre little fiasco who cooked up a quick little script that at least had some tenuous relation to  the type of shit that Lee was talking about and rolled with it.  Lord Summerisle apparently wasn’t too pleased about “starring” in a film he’d never even heard of, much less actually participated in, and initiated legal proceedings to have his material excised from it and his name dropped from all related advertising, but he gave the idea up because, well, the cat was already out of the bag and it would have involved a lot of time and hassle. Can’t say I blame him for that, especially since he didn’t exactly need any of the extra cash that suing these guys would possibly have netted him, and so it goes that some variation of “Christopher Lee presents” hangs over the various titles of this cheapie to this day.

meatcleaver massacre vhs front & back

Definitely a product of its time, Meatcleaver Massacre (we’ll go with the default title its listed under on the IMDB as its “official” moniker) draws upon Manson Family-style “hippie cult murders” and the slaughter of the family of Dr. Jefrrey MacDonald as laid out in the best-selling book Fatal Vision as its primary sources of exploitation/inspiration, throws in a heavy dose of wanna-be psychedlia, and ends up, well, not making a whole lot of sense. Which is no crime around these parts, to be sure.

After Lee’s  intro, we’re introduced to a professor of occult studies (does any university actually have an “occult studies” department?) based in that noted hotbed of all things academic, Hollywood, named Cantrell (I might be wrong about this but I don’t think he’s ever given an actual first name — he’s played by James Habif, though, if that matters to you) who publicly embarrasses a loud-mouthed kid named Mason Harrue (Larry Justin) who won’t shut up during one of his lectures. Mason takes it pretty hard and sneaks into the prof’s home with a group of his friends while the family is sleeping with the intention of “putting a scare into them.” Things go bad, though — as they always seem to — and Mrs. Cantrell and the kiddies are killed, with the professor himself ending up in a coma.

So, yeah, you can probably tell by now that there’s no actual “meatcleaver massacre” here to speak of. In fact, no one even brandishes a meat cleaver. But that’s all beside the point, What does happen is that a comatose Cantrell manages to mentally summon forth an ancient Gaelic demon spirit known as Morok to take revenge upon all the ruffians who butchered his family, and sure enough, they all end up dying — sometimes in strange ways, like the kid who gets killed by a film projector.

meatcleaver massacre

Several of the revenge-murders are presented in a rather surreal and even dreamlike fashion by only-time director Evan Lee (no relation, obviously, to Chris), but beyond that this is pretty standard ’70s supernatural fare, with nothing particularly to recommend for it apart from its rather aggressively languid (there’s a contradiction for you) pacing. In fact, rather than wondering what’s going to happen next, it’s not uncommon for viewers of Meatcleaver Massacre to wonder if anything’s going to happen at all.

Curiously, though, I didn’t find myself bored with the flick, even though I probably should have been. Maybe it’s the hammy over-acting that kept me glued, or the trance-like state the film accidentally induces due to its sheer lethargy, or perhaps I’m just a sucker for fly-by-night productions with shoddy (if any) ethics, but I kinda liked this thing, even though there’s no real reason to. You can catch it used on VHS for cheap (it’s never been released on DVD), or watch in its entirety on YouTube courtesy of a rather prolific poster named horrorfan185 , at the link below and see whether or not you agree with me.