The world of exploitation films, sexploitation films and “grindhouse” movies is a fascinating one to me – as evidenced by the number of stories I’ve posted – I know that these movies aren’t for everyone, or more accurately – barely ANYONE – but for those who find this world interesting, here are some of the best!
“Grindhouse” movies referred to the low-budget exploitation movies that played New York’s Time Square district in the late 60’s and 70’s – these 42nd Street theaters usually offered triple bills of low-rent, low class features, “grinding out” non-stop 24 hours a day. The theaters were dens of sex, drugs, and of course, movie going at times as well. You entered these rundown theaters for cheap thrills and the possibility of life-changing violence, and that was just from your fellow patrons. This era ended with the advent of VHS movies, which meant you could get your thrills at home – without being assaulted.
The glory era of “grindhouse” was from the mid-60’s to the late 70’s, when Times Square sleaze was at its peak, and drive-in theaters around the country routinely booked these movies to teens looking for cheap thrills. Unfortunately, the drive-in theater is almost extinct and as we all know, Times Square has retained none of that era of sleaze.
To celebrate this low-rent era of sex and violence, here are ten classic exploitation movies, so grab a machete, and eye patch and a shotgun and let’s go!
10 – Olga’s House Of Shame. 1964. Where it all began – these black-and-white “roughies” were pure tease – the promise of lewd conduct and nudity – today this all seems quaint, but in 1964, these were the movies that played in thee part of town you weren’t allowed to go to – sexploitation classics that were made for the rough crowd…
There were a series of “Olga” films, and this one is where it all began: After having been run out of New York City’s Chinatown, brothel owner Madame Olga moves her ring of prostitutes and criminals to a deserted ore mine and starts over. I bet she does!
Here is some great trivia, courtesy of IMDB: The character Stacy, all of whose footage here consists of her being tied up and tortured, is played by the late mother of the Arquette acting clan (Patricia, Rosanna, David, etc.), Brenda Denaut.
Amazon has a great collection of Something Weird product – this Seattle-based company has been a leader in saving classic grindhouse content. This three-movie pack includes trailers for the entire Olga series: “White Slaves of Chinatown,” “Olga’s Girls,” “Olga’s House of Shame,” “Madame Olga’s Massage Parlor,” and “Olga’s Dance Hall Girls” – The Olga sequence from “Mondo Oscenita” featuring rare footage from the “lost” Olga film, “Madame Olga’s Massage Parlor”
Plus: Special Booklet Interview with Olga star Audrey Campbell – A pre-Olga Audrey poses for Byron Mabe in the Nudie-Cutie Shortie, “Audrey Campbell, Art Lover”
And! Gallery of Sexploitation Ad Art with Exploitation Audio!
A great way to jump into the world of sexploitation!
9- The Blood Red Trilogy. Herschell Gordon Lewis was the “Godfather Of Gore”. There is a terrific documentary just released all about him, but this great movie trilogy will tell you all you need to know – “Blood Feast” started it all with the tease line “nothing so appalling in the annals of horror!” And perhaps, nothing so appalling in film making, but it didn’t matter – Times Square audiences flocked to see this non-stop fountain of bloodletting, and drive-ins across America were filled with carloads of kids seeking cheap thrills never before seen onscreen…this set also includes the outrageous “2000 Maniacs” and “Color Me Blood Red.”
These movies opened the floodgates to blood and gore in movies, in many cases breaking local indecency laws – and as crude as these movies are, they were leading the way to freedoms that we now take for granted. Something Weird Video is a leader in restoring many of these classic exploitation features, so go to their website and support them. Exploitationers, start your engines!
Three strippers seeking thrills encounter a young couple in the desert. After dispatching the boyfriend, they take the girl hostage and begin scheming on a crippled old man living with his two sons in the desert, reputedly hiding a tidy sum of cash. They become house guests of the old man and try and seduce the sons in an attempt to locate the money, not realizing that the old man has a few sinister intentions of his own.
Russ Meyer loved women – and he loved women with large breasts. There are so many movies we could discuss, and will at a later time, this is the one that has the most iconic title, and introduced the world to Tura Satana, a tough-as-nails dame who mixed it up with the best of them! Here she plays Varla, who could give it as good as she got it…
Gas Station Attendant: [staring at Varla’s chest as he pumps gas] Just passing through, huh? Boy, that motor’s sure hot! You gals really must have been moving on these little machines. Yessir, the thrill of the open road. New places, new people, new sights of interest. Now that’s what I believe in, seeing America first!
Varla: You won’t find it down there, Columbus!
Unfortunately, Tura Satana passed away on February 4, 2011 at her home in Reno, Nevada. The cause was heart failure. She was 72.
Satana was best known for her role as go-go girl gang leader Varla in Russ Meyer‘s 1965 cult classic Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill!, an ode to female violence for which she provided her own costumes, much of her dialogue, and did all of her own stunts.
7 – Chillerama – 2011. Directors Joe (Wrong Turn 2) Lynch and Adam (Frozen) Green are just two of the Directors who contributed to this anthology that celebrates the grindhouse era. Get the unrated version and let these talented filmmakers take you back to a bygone era of sex and violence.
It’s the closing night at the last drive-in theater in America and Cecil B. Kaufman has planned the ultimate marathon of lost film prints to unleash upon his faithful cinephile patrons. Four films so rare that they have never been exhibited publicly on American soil until this very night! What could possibly go wrong?
The other Directors who contributed are Tim Sullivan and Adam Rifkin, and the goal here is simple: celebrate grindhouse movies by replicating the spirit and energy of that generation through the passion of great new film makers!
6-Vampire Circus – Hammer Films set a new standard for horror in the 60’s, but even they felt the need to ramp it up to stay relevant in the post “Blood Feast” era. Behold 1971’s “Vampire Circus”, a crazy blend of traditional horror and psychodelic sex and violence as a town is gripped by vampires – and circus freaks!
The terrific Synapse Films blu-ray includes a documentary about the film as well, a great package…Synapse is also doing a great job restoring classic exploitation films like this. Just because they played in grindhouses, it didn’t mean they weren’t good movies – this was just where the audiences were for this type of movie, and companies like Hammer were trying to stay relevant by adding the “grindhouse” touch to their films.
A great “last gasp” from a studio trying to find its way in a changing cinematic climate. Good Hammer film, great HD release from Synapse. Recommended!
5 – The Body Beneath. Ever heard of prolific Director Andy Milligan? Well, he battled Ed Wood for the title of world’s worst Director, and this is arguably his masterwork. “The Body Beneath” is low-budget, woodenly acted and gloriously soaked in sex and violence. If you must, also check out his classics “The Ghastly Ones”, “Bloodthirsty Butchers” and “Fleshpot on 42nd Street” to really appreciate the man…and yes, I have a book all about his world of micro-budget movie making – they might not be good, but he made more movies that you did, so there!
I mean, look at the “come on” in the poster: “SEXUALLY RAMPANT GHOULS, DEPRAVED SOULS…AND BLOOD-RED ROSES!”
Also on the DVD are a great selection of Milligan trailers including “The Body Beneath”, “Guru The Mad Monk”, “The Ghastly Ones”, “Seeds”, “Vapors”……and topping it off there’s a 6-minute photo gallery of lots of Rare and Very Obscure horror and sleaze movie posters /ad art…many of them are not Something Weird titles….and as you watch the gallery, the audio track plays hilarious old radio spots for various horror-trash titles.
4 – Suspiria – 1977. sometimes, exploitation can be good! Dario Argento mastered a form of italian thriller called the “Giallo”, their version of grindhouse movies – full of sex and violence, with a hynoptic european quality that sometimes was just as sleazy as the US – see “Strip Nude For Your Killer” as a perfect example – or they can be as stylish and spellbinding as “Suspiria”…definitely your first step into the world of Argento.
Jessica Harper stars as a newcomer to a fancy ballet academy – who gradually comes to realize that the staff of the school are actually a coven of witches bent on chaos and destruction. How can you go wrong with this? A great first step into the twisted world of Italian giallo – and Dario Argento!
3-The Sinful Dwarf. – Enter the holy grail of grindhouse! This 1974 Danish film grew to legendary status – as almost everyone denied it existed – but oh yes, it does! And it is just a wrong as the title suggests…read that again – IT IS JUST AS WRONG AS THE TITLE SUGGESTS – but if you want to slide down into the bowels of grindhouse, this is the one for you!
A flophouse is run by a woman with peculiar friends and atrocious singling ability (trust me, they prove it!), but even worse, her son is a sinful…well you get it. Nothing good happens to anyone who check into this place!
There is a XXX-version, but it is just a minute or two of hardcore material inserted into the movie randomly. The other version is more than sleazy enough for you, I promise.
2 – Thriller, A Cruel Picture. If you don’t know who Christina Lindburg is, you missed out on Sweden’s most beautiful young exploitation star of the early 70’s. She only made a few movies, but has received legendary status in sexploitation circles, and this is her masterwork…
A young woman, muted after a sexual assault as a child, is trained to seek violent revenge on those who have wronged her after being kidnapped and forced to work as a prostitute.
Quentin Tarantino called it “the roughest revenge movie ever made!” and he’s not far off…this is exactly what a grindhouse movie was all about: non-stop sex and violence.
Christina Lindberg is Sweden’s gift to the US: an exploitation beauty who made only a handful of films, but can be found on thousands of websites – the iconic image of her with an eyepatch and a shotgun is everythign grindhouse stands for…
There are a number of movie trailer compilations in the market now that celebrate the grindhouse era, but this is the first, and the best. When you watch this onslaught of movie trailer madness, you are taken back to the grimy theaters that showed these masterworks…once again, Synapse Films delivers the goods!
Leave me a note and let me know what you think!