Cult Movie Marathon: vol. 1
I certainly all in favor of the modern technological advances made in the viewing of movies. On a daily basis I am sure to enjoy a movie from DVD, Blu-ray, High definition 3D or the latest entry into the entertainment distribution spectrum streaming video. As a person with mobility a restriction going to the theater is somewhat problematic so these new sources have become my lifeline to the form of entertainment that has fascinated me since my age was reckoned in single digits. Even if you have a few friends over to watch a film on your state of the art home theater system it can never remotely approach the experience derived by a visit to the local movie house with a group of buddies. There was a synergy generated by the juxtaposition of the company you share the experience with and the setting. Typically the venues for viewing these flicks were once grand theaters with plush red velvet seats and art deco furnishings. In a time before television places like this were the primary source of entertainment. We were the first generation born into the sage of television and while the mainstream movies shown throughout the week reflected some of the greatest cinematic achievements of the fifties and sixties in order to maximize dwindling profits the owners would have special showings on Saturday afternoon of the pre-teen set and turned over the late Friday showings to the teens. There were also venues devoted to these ‘B’ movies and what has been dubbed ‘exploitation movies or, in recognition of the name given to the theaters specializing in this sort of films, the Grindhouse. Sure modern technology can display the films in a resolution unimaginable back then with an audio that would have shook the well-worn seats but it can’t capture the type of fun we experienced when the house lights went down and the flicking sound of the projector became audible.
While the experience is likely to remain in our memories there is a distributor that has remained in the vanguard of nostalgic television and movies; Shout Factory!’ For years they have been consistently mining our fond recollections of the television shows we made it a point to watch and the movies we enjoyed oblivious to the level quality we have subsequently become accustomed to enjoying. These movies are not about how proficient the director was in plying his craft or how talented the actors were in their performances, they certainly weren’t overly concerned with the realism of the special effects particularity in offerings of the horror and science fiction genres. Creature features frequently revealed zippers poorly placed of fishing line obviously attached to the ‘mysteriously’ floating object. These were made cheap and quick to turn a fast and albeit slim profit margin for all concerned. Shout Factor has added to their catalogue of these grind house specials with a two volume set; ‘Cult Movie Marathon’. While known of the flicks are special by any means they due fit the criteria of cult classic or at least guilty pleasures.
Director: Vernon Zimmerman
Writer: Howard R. Cohen
Produced in the golden age of the grind house golden age this story about young women in roller derby combined two of the mainstay plot devices used in exploitation flicks; sex and violence, in lieu of an actual cohesive story the filmmaker fell back on the time honored stand contrivances, put shapely young women in provocative outfits and have them beat down each other. Naturally the use of the adjective, provocative is subjective and must be taken in chronological context. Like many movies of this period it demonstrated how the counter culture has seeped into more mainstream endeavors reflected in a liberal expression of sexuality, albeit tame by what would be permissible in the coming decades. Like many movies of this ilk it was a knock off of a similar flick from the studios, in this instance ‘Kansas City Bombers’, featuring the studio sex bombshell, Raquel Welch. For this flick a Playboy playmate of the year, 1970, Claudia Jennings. Between the award coveted in certain circles and her tragic premature demise she had created a name for herself in the grind house circuit. The story follows her character’s rise from a worker in a cat food company to the queen of the roller derby. This sport was popular a few years prior and young women in tight tee shirts and hot pants punching each other will always draw an audience.
Director: Denis Sanders
Writer: Nicholas Meyer
Categorized as the hybrid genre Science fiction/ Horror, it also falls into the cult classic favorite of creature feature. Aliens have invaded the earth and their nefarious plot for domination relies on their technological ability to transform human women into bee creatures. Their preferred method of killing the men of earth is wearing them out to the point of their demise by exceptionally zealous sex. Once again the pages of Playboy, specifically the centerfold, were pursued by the casting director leading to the casting of Victoria Vetri. Under the nom de voyage, Angela Dorian, she was named Playmate of the year for 1968. Mr. Hefner’s publication provided a rich source of extremely beautiful young women with a documented lack of modesty.
Director: Burt Topper
Writer: Willard Huyck
This flick harkens back to the great gangster movies of the thirties and forties only a mere shadow of the production effort. In a nod to a motif that that was previously utilized with better results in the ‘Dirty Dozen’. A rag tag group of convicts gathered together to locate and destroy a major moonshine operation in the Deep South. Christopher George portrays a Federal agent that breaks a group of harden convicts out of a chain gang to accomplish a mission not possible if rules and regulations had to be considered. This fits into the anti-establishment sector of the genre. The flick does meet the criteria for the requisite amount of violence although it understandably lacks the common fixation on breasts. Aside from a couple of girlfriends of the thugs this is a testosterone drive movie. One actress providing such a character is Lynda Day George, a common fixture of television series of the time with the usual rounds in ‘Love Boat’ and ‘Fantasy Island’.
Director: Albert Pyun
Writer: Albert Pyun
Pyun was a name that frequently rolled by in the grind houses and for those a bit further away from the urban areas, the drive-ins. He built his career on ‘B ‘flicks and was behind some of the better examples of the category. This movie does manage to edge into that group. For a movie intended for these venues it is not all that bad and is adequately entertaining. The premise is ridiculous enough for a few laughs in a MST3K sort of way. A rock group barely one step up a garage band finally gets a gig that could be their big break. If the filmmaker remained on that tact this would have been a drama of sorts. The twist here is the performance is out of this world, literally. The all-girl glam rock band has a gig in the popular club, ‘Radioactive Dreams’, located on the other side of the galaxy.