Junesploitation 2022 recap

I was excited to take part in the 10th annual Junesploitation, a month-long celebration of exploitation and genre films that’s sponsored by F This Movie!

To see the 2021 recap, click here.

Here are the movies that we watched!

1. Space! The Philadelphia Experiment

2. Westerns! The Price of Power

3. Kung Fu! Zui hou nu

4. ‘90s Action! High Risk

5. Free Space! Curse of the Blue Lights

6. Slashers! Stripped to Kill 2: Live Nude Girls

7. Shannon Tweed! The Surrogate

8. Cars! Cannonball Run II

9. Monsters! Fungicide

10. Sex Comedy! Mr. Galactic

11. Free Space! Pushed to the Limit

12. Prison! Penitentiary II

13. Italian Horror! Ring of Darkness

14. Blaxploitation! JD’s Revenge

15. Bugs! Ticks

16. ‘80s Action! Miami Golem

17. Fulci! Nonostante le apparenze… e purchè la nazione non lo sappia… all’onorevole piacciono le donne

18. Cannon! Sinbad of the Seven Seas

19. Free Space! Slave Girls from Beyond Infinity

20. Regional Horror! Death Bed: The Bed That Eats

21. Jackie Chan! Lung Hing Foo Dai

22. Lethal Ladies! Personal Vendetta

23. Giallo! Death Occurred Last Night

24. ‘90s Comedy! BASEketball

25. Revenge! The Quick and the Dead

26. Free Space! Blood on Méliès’ Moon

27. Albert Pyun! Brainsmasher

28. ‘80s Horror! Rawhead Rex

29. Sword and Sorcery! Hearts and Armour

30. DTV! 555

Junesploitation: 555 (1988)

June 30: Junesploitation’s topic of the day — as suggested by F This Movie— is DTV! We’re excited to tackle a different genre every day, so check back and see what’s next.

King Video Distributor is just Wally and Roy Koz, who shot this movie on video and got Wally’s wife Linda to make it with them. She was the first assistant director and associate producer, so one imagines that she had plenty of notes for the scene where the Lake Front Butcher slices a woman and then has some post-death carnal knowledge of the corpse. Most movies would use this as a grand finale, while 555 puts it up front.

The killer has a pattern in that he kills five couples in five nights every five years, living up to the film’s name. The killer also doesn’t need a hockey mask or fancy burned up face. He’s just a dude in a Hawaiian shirt.

Actually, they’re called aloha shirts and first made at the Honolulu-based dry goods store Musa-Shiya the Shirtmaker which was owned by Koichiro Miyamoto. Originally these shirts — made out of Japanese prints — were the symbols of rich status as only those with millions could afford the trip to islands. After World War II and soldiers being stationed there, they became less for the prosperous and also became more floral based as anything Japanese was out of favor during and after the war.

This is a movie that has no idea that in our time it will be looked at as problematic. No, it has no idea what that word will come to mean. The Koz brothers felt like slashers had started to suck and that they could do a better job. So they made this, a movie that is so proud of its best effect that it ruins it on the box cover.

It’s a film that dares name its reporter heroine Susan Rather and has her talk about how no man can turn down her vagina, which that hard boiled cop certainly can’t, and they lie in bed talking dirty and seem like they support each other which is nice because I’m old now and I like to see older couples that still like to be around each other and have a healthy sex life. I’ve seen some reviews where they’re like, “She’s too old to get nude” and I have to say you’ll be fifty someday, my dude.

How romantic is it that when you see the first kill, there’s graffiti that says WK + LK and that’s for the director and his wife.

Shot in Blood-Vivid Video for Your Viewing Pleasure! With a tagline like that and the knowledge that the blood is neon colored, well — this is assuredly going to either upset you or make you all meat sweaty.

Also, Wally Koz was a gold prospector when he wasn’t making this movie.

 

Junesploitation 2022: I paladini – Storia d’armi e d’amori (1983)

June 29: Junesploitation’s topic of the day — as suggested by F This Movie— is sword and sorcery! We’re excited to tackle a different genre every day, so check back and see what’s next.

Loosely based on the stories of the Paladins — the twelve fictional knights of legend who were the foremost members of Charlemagne’s court in the 8th century — especially the epic poem Orlando Furioso by Ludovico Ariosto, Paladins is less Conan than most Italian sword and sorcery movies.

Like Yor Hunter from the Future, this was an Italian TV miniseries edited down into a movie for U.S. audiences and by that, I mean people like me staying up at 3 AM and watching HBO.

Bradamante (Barbara De Rossi) is a woman with an invincible suit of armor that comes to save her — like literally, it rides in, a haunted suit of armor, after she’s nearly assaulted in a waterfall which proves that yes, this is an Italian movie.

She gets caught between the Christians like Orlando (Rick Edwards) and the Moors, which include Isabella (Tonya Roberts), Ruggero (Ronn Moss, Rowdy Abilene from Hard Ticket to Hawaii) and Ferrau (Tony Vogel).

Now, Moors are supposed to be the Muslim inhabitants of the Maghreb, the Iberian Peninsula, Sicily and Malta. Let me tell you, in no way does the Bronx-born Roberts seem like she fits in. Moss is also as blonde as it gets, so…yeah.

How else do you know this is Italian? Just look at the supporting cast: Bobby Rhodes as a mercenary. Leigh McCloskey from Inferno. Al Cliver. Hal Yamanouchi as a samurai. Famous Zombi zombie Ottaviano Dell’Acqua listed in the credits as rapist.

Yes, it sure is an Italian movie.

Director Giacomo Battiato usually stayed away from the kind of movies I watch, so this is the first time I’ve encountered his work. I am frankly shocked that this wasn’t a Cannon movie, because this feels like something they’d pick up.

There are some great costumes in this, like Ferrau’s bird-themed armor. It’s pretty much less hearts and more swords, non-stop combat as if it wanted to be Excalibur instead of Ator. It also looks like a big movie thanks to Dante Spinotti, who would leave Italian exploitation behind and make Hollywood magic in films like ManhunterThe Quick and the Dead and L.A. Confidential.

Trigger warning: this has five attempted rapes, including one by a wizard, one by an invisible man and the other avoided by Ferrau’s bird-shaped codpiece is too rusty to come off.

As far as I know, this has never come out in the U.S. on disk. You can find it on YouTube but if you’re the kind of viewer that needs a perfect print, I got really bad news for you.

 

Junesploitation 2022: Rawhead Rex (1986)

June 28: Junesploitation’s topic of the day — as suggested by F This Movie— is 80s horror! We’re excited to tackle a different genre every day, so check back and see what’s next.

Clive Barker writes some of the smartest horror there is, so when his first two movies — this and Transmutations — ended up being rubber monster suit movies, there’s some humor in there. That said, he wasn’t completely upset with this and also understood its limitations: “I think, generally speaking, the movie followed the beats of the screenplay. It’s just that monster movies, by and large, are made by directorial oomph rather than what’s in the screenplay. I’d like to think the screenplay for Rawhead Rex had the possibility of having major thrills in it. I don’t think it was quite pulled off.”

Rawhead Rex was a pagan deity that existed before Christianity, making this folk horror, as well as the kind of movie where a priest gets baptized by a giant monster pisses all over him and don’t we need more of these kinds of movies?

I mean, can you imagine if Barker got his way and Rawhead Rex looked like a giant penis and a face made from raw meat?

You can watch this on Tubi.

Junesploitation 2022: Brainsmasher… A Love Story (1993)

June 27: Junesploitation’s topic of the day — as suggested by F This Movie— is Albert Pyun! We’re excited to tackle a different genre every day, so check back and see what’s next.

Who are we to say that Andrew “Dice” Clay and Teri Hatcher could not be a couple?

Anyways, the Diceman was not on the top of the world in 1993 — a proposed network series was canceled and he started honing down the edge in his stand-up routine. But somehow, he played a near superheroic bouncer that battles martial artists over a rare lotus flower and when I say, “Yeah, Albert Pyun directed and wrote this,” that pretty much explains it all.

The bad guys are not ninjas — they will say this often — but Chinese Shaolin monks who believe that eating the lotus flower will give them infinite life. It’s in the orbit of the Brain Smasher (Clay) because Cammy Crain (Deborah Van Valkenburgh, Jackie on Too Close for Comfort and, of course, The Warriors) has sent the flower to her supermodel sister (Hatcher).

Wu, the leader of The Shaolin Monks, is played by Yuji Okumoto. As Chozen in The Karate Kid Part II, he is the best bad guy ever as even in the face of a hurricane, he will not redeem himself.

This film also packs on the character actors, with Brion James, Charles Rocket, Nicholas Guest and Tim Thomerson as detectives, Liz Sheridan as Brain Smasher’s mother (meaning that Sheridan played mother to Jerry Seinfeld and Andrew “Dice” Clay in the very same year), Dee “Matilda the Hun” Booher and Liz Shaye.

This only came out on VHS in the U.S. and never even made it to DVD. I mean, who doesn’t want to see Dice punch a man into his brain? The title does not lie. This does happen.

Junesploitation 2022: Blood on Méliès’ Moon (2016)

June 26: Junesploitation’s topic of the day — as suggested by F This Movie— is free! We’re excited to tackle a different genre every day, so check back and see what’s next.

Man, Luigi Cozzi. StarcrashContaminationPaganini Horror, Cannon’s Hercules, his remix of GodzillaSinbad of the Seven Seas, the remix remake ripoff weirdness that is Demons 6 De Profundis, The Killer Must Kill Again, writing Four Flies on Grey Velvet and even just being a fan of film and running Argento’s Profondo Rosso store and museum — I just love the man. Like, I wish I could buy him dinner and drinks and just pick his brain for hours about the history of film.

I think this is as close as I’m going to get.

Cozzi originally came up with the idea — or at least the title — for Blood on Méliès’ Moon when he was working for Cannon in the 80s, but had no idea how it could be made. As much as we hate on modern technology, it did make this happen, as the Cozzi said that it was like when he “decided to become a publisher, until then, to publish a book you had to print at least one or two thousand copies. That meant a lot of money and often your storehouses were full of unsold copies. After the advent of digital, you could print even only thirty copies of a book and so I decided to start publishing books and novels.”

Let me try and summarize this absolutely berserk movie.

Inventor Louis Le Prince — a real artist could possibly have been the first person to shoot a movie of any length using a single lens camera and a strip of film; he also disappeared after boarding a train in September of 1890 on his way to demonstrate the camera, but there are theories that he was killed by Edison, disappeared to start a new life and celebrate his homosexuality where he would not be judged, that he committed suicide due to multiple failures or that his brother killed him to get their mother’s will. The case has never been solved — create a device that the Lumière Brothers would eventually call The Cinematographer.

Luigi Cozzi, playing himself, finds a book called The Roaming Universe that was left for him when Barbara (Barbara Magnolfi!) is killed by the statue of the Blood and Black Lace killer within Profondo Rosso’s Argento museum basement, a book that she received during a seance during which an old woman violently puked it into existence.

A man has also sent Cozzi a lamp fashioned after Le Voyage dans la Lune and claims that a shadow version of La Prince in the guise of a masked magician has left the doorway open to a dark dimension that will soon doom our reality using film as his weapon.

It’s a little like La rage du Démon, in that one of Méliès’ movies causes chaos, but it’s also a lot like a conspiracy tract you would have found in the 80s all Xeroxed and left in a payphone booth or a strange YouTube channel that at first you giggle about but then you say, “Well, that makes sense.” It’s baffling and brilliant and corny and silly all at the same time, a messy final message from an auteur who can’t help but be entertaining no matter what he does.

There’s also a trickster named Pierpoljakos (Philippe Beun-Garbe) who takes Cozzi through other dimensions, a severed head that can speak, Cozzi’s wife reacting to him telling her that he has to save the world by just rolling over and going back to sleep, Cozzi in fuzzy pajamas, Ben Cooper level masks, monsters and effects, as well as Lamberto Bava showing off his dad’s book collection, Dario Argento at an autograph signing and a nightmare that has critic Paolo Zelati claim that Cozzi is the Italian Ed Wood, which should upset him, but just ends up making him happy.

There’s also a discussion of the volcano sequence that Cozzi ripped off for Hercules and asks, “Did Cozzi choose the images or did the images choose him?” He also gets to fly on a rocket and when he lands, gets a smile from his own creation, Stella Starr from Starcrash.

This movie reminds me of the Profondo Rosso store itself, a cramped small place with a few books, some DVDs and goofy masks, all standing above a shrine to the genius that is Italian exploitation cinema in the catacombs below. It doesn’t make a lot of sense, it doesn’t have to and it’s wonderful.

I have in my office a Profondo Rosso mug and it’s one of my prized possessions. It’s like some alchemical object, something I hold and hope that the inspiration and madness and love of cinema that Cozzi has always had stays within me. I also am happy to report that when I mentioned his name to Caroline Munro, she lit up and said, “He really is the most wonderful man.”

You can get this movie directly from Profondo Rosso.

Junesploitation 2022: The Quick and the Dead (1995)

June 25: Junesploitation’s topic of the day — as suggested by F This Movie— is lethal revenge! We’re excited to tackle a different genre every day, so check back and see what’s next.

Why did I wait so long to see this movie?

Was I worried that it would disappoint me?

Did I need to explore the Italian west first?

I have no idea!

Simon Moore wrote this movie as a tribute to Sergio Leone and man, it comes through in every scene of the film. He had intended to direct his own script as an independent film and soot in either Spain or Italy when Sony Pictures Entertainment bought the script, got Sharon Stone as the lead and went with Sam Raimi after she was impressed with his work on Army of Darkness. She went so far as to tell the producers that if Raimi did not direct the film, she wouldn’t be in it.

Raimi would blame himself for the film’s failure, sayin “I was very confused after I made that movie. For a number of years I thought, I’m like a dinosaur. I couldn’t change with the material.” That said — it made $47 million on a $35 million budget and time has seen the movie be critically rethought.

The Lady (Stone) has come to the town of Redemption — a place where the only law is John Herod (Gene Hackman) — for a fast-draw single elimination shooting tournament in which no challenge can be refused and the gunfight goes on until a contestant yields or dies.

There are really only four people who can win the contest: The Lady, Herod, a former gangster turned preacher called Cort (Russell Crowe) — Herod’s former right-hand man who abandoned his violent career in favor of a peaceful religious life after Herod forced him to kill a priest — who is given one bullet per battle so he doesn’t shoot his way out of town and The Kid (Leonardo DiCaprio), who just might be the best gunfighter of all time if you listen to what he has to say.

Each of them must battle their way through, however, as Herrod defeats Sergeant Clay Cantrell (Keith David), a killer hired by the town itself to murder him and The Lady kills Eugene Dred after he assaults the saloon owner’s (Pat Hingle) daughter. Afraid that she won’t be able to achieve her mission — which is more than the money in the tournament — she nearly runs away before Doc Wallace (Roberts Blossom, Old Man Marley in Home Alone) hands her her father’s badge and tells her that she must clean up the town. At the same time, Cort must battle Spotted Horse (Jonothon Gill), a man who says that no bullet can kill him.

The flashback that follows — Herod caused her to kill her father (Gary Sinise) — sets up the reason why she must destroy not only the man who murdered her father but destroy his entire town, which won’t be easy.

This is the kind of movie I love so much, packed with actors of true character, like Lance Henriksen as trick shot fighter “Ace” Hanlon, Tobin Bell as Dog Kelly, Sven-Ole Thorsen as “Swede” Gutzon, Evil Dead II writer Scott Spiegel as Gold Teeth Man and Italian western star Woody Strode as Charlie Moonlight. This was Strode’s last role and the movie is dedicated to him.

This movie is full of not only amazing gunfights, incredible dialogue and plenty of tension but a bravura ending — daylight through a shadow! — that literally made me jump out of my seat. It’s also packed with montages and a moment where there are so many extreme zooms and rack focus moments that I was sure that the ghosts of every beloved Italian director had risen from their graves and taken over the film.

Junesploitation 2022: BASEketball (1998)

June 24: Junesploitation’s topic of the day — as suggested by F This Movie— is lethal 90s comedy! We’re excited to tackle a different genre every day, so check back and see what’s next.

David Zucker made Airplane!Top Secret and The Naked Gun movies so we should really be forever forgiving everything he does, but he’s a pretty great person by all accounts, serving as a staunch environmentalist and ah, never mind, he made some Republican political ads and a video in which he attacked President Barack Obama for the Iran nuclear deal within a prescription drug ad. At least he wrote 11 updated verses to the song “The Ballad of Davy Crockett,” right?

He also made this, based on a game that he’d been playing forever that makes no sense — the players in the movie are the actual original players of the Zucker-driveway game, asked by the director to be in the movie — and that doesn’t matter because just like any of the Zucker movies, we’re here to see non-stop jokes, as well as Joe “Coop” Cooper and Doug Remer (Trey Parker and Matt Stone, the creators of South Park, who agreed to do BASEkeyball thinking that the cartoon would be canceled by the time filming was due to happen) act like idiots.

I think I cast this movie, as it features Ernest Borgnine as league money mark Ted Denslow, Robert Vaughn as the bad guy, Jenny McCarthy as his mistress (and Denslow’s widow) and Bob Costas, Al Michaels, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Dale Earnhardt, Reggie Jackson, Tim McCarver, Pat O’Brien, Dan Patrick and Robert Stack — appearing on Unsolved Mysteries — as themselves.

They made t-shirts of this movie! How did that happen?

Confession: Beyond loving this movie no matter how silly or outright dumb it gets, my brother and I grew up with hardly any other kids around us, so we’d invent games just like BASEketball. One was Street Tennis and whenever I watch this, I laugh because I remember just how complicated our rules were and we were the only two people who would ever play this game.

Junesploitation 2022: La morte risale a ieri sera (1970)

June 23: Junesploitation’s topic of the day — as suggested by F This Movie— is gialo! We’re excited to tackle a different genre every day, so check back and see what’s next.

Death Occurred Last Night (also known as Death Took Place Last Night and Horror Came out of the Fog) was based on the Giorgio Scerbanenco novel Milanesi Ammazzano al Sabato (The Milanese Kill on Saturdays) and was directed by Duccio Tessari, who co-wrote A Fistful of Dollars before making his name with A Pistol for Ringo and The Return of Ringo. More to the interest of those who love black gloves and switchblades, he made The Bloodstained Butterfly and Puzzle. He co-wrote the script with Biagio Proietti, who was also the writer of The Killer Reserved Nine Seats and Fulci’s The Black Cat. Tessari even wrote the lyrics to two of the songs in this movie!

Avanzio Berzaghi (Raf Vallone) has come to Milan to find his runaway daughter and works to solve the case himself — much like an Italy proto-Hardcore — at the very same time that detective Duca Lamberti (Frank Wolff) — a character who also appears in the movies Caliber 9 and Cran d’arrêt — and his partner Mascaranti (Gabriele Tinti, husband of Laura Gemser) investigate the seamier side of the city. They finally find her body in a field, burned beyond all recognition. Now, all Berzaghi has left is seeking out revenge that will never be enough.

The film also shows flashbacks of Berzaghi’s relationship with his daughter Donatella (Gillian Bray), a three-year-old child in the body of a fully grown woman with the needs that go with the physical maturity of a twenty-five-year-old. As she lusts after nearly every man she sees, her father had intended to keep her locked up after the death of his wife, but that plan obviously fails.

A cross between giallo and poliziottecschi — each of the two storylines takes each of the genre to heart and then meet at the end — this is a film that doesn’t take its cues from Argento — it was made the same year as The Bird With the Crystal Plumage — and emerges as a unique take on the form with an even more unique soundtrack by Gianni Ferrio which doesn’t sound like any other giallo score — it doesn’t sound like any other music from a film at all — and often puts people off on this movie. Not me.

Speaking of Bird, Lamberti’s wife is played by Eva Renzi, who is so important to Argento’s film. She’s incredible here, not just the most fashionable person in the movie, but her relationship with her policeman husband is one of equal standing.

Want to discover some more giallo? Check out my list of three hundred plus psychosexual murder movies right here.

Junesploitation 2022: Personal Vendetta (1995)

June 22: Junesploitation’s topic of the day — as suggested by F This Movie— is lethal ladies! We’re excited to tackle a different genre every day, so check back and see what’s next.

I’ve become kind of fascinated by the movies that Mimi Lesseos made, as she didn’t just act in them, she wrote and produced them, so they have the air of a vanity project but I can’t fault that because they’re all entertaining and wonderfully strange. Start with Pushed to the Limit and then come here.

Bonnie Blackwell (Lesseos) has been abused for years by her husband Zach (a scenery chewing and frothing at the mouth Timothy Bottoms) when she’s saved by the police and decides to train to be a cop instead of remaining a victim.

Sgt. Bill Starr, one of the cops that saved her — a harrowing scene where her husband repeatedly slams her face into a steering wheel until her forehead splits open and sprays blood — gets her into the police academy, a moment that has a jaunty song on the soundtrack that’s nearly a full spinning turn away from the dark tone that’s been the majority of this movie. It’s in no way an easy experience, as she’s put through a whole new level of hell as no one takes it easy on her, including hand to hand instructor Geno LeBell (Frank “The Tank” Trejo, a first generation student of American kenpo karate founder Ed Parker) whose name betrays Lesseos’ pro wrestling origins, as he’s named after “Judo” Gene LeBelle, a man who shows up in nearly every pro wrestling scene in every pre-WWE era movie.

Things move fast — Bonnie gets paired with a veteran cop named John Beaudet, they fall in love, she visits prison to tell her husband he’s going to be her ex-husband, he breaks out, her mentor is killed — and our heroine faces off with her husband, who we suddenly learn is involved in human trafficking, selling off Vietnamese/American teens as mail order brides.

Director Stephen Lieb also made L.A. Task Force (L.A’s most beautiful women are being killed by a maniac), Deadly Eyes (phone sex workers are being killed by a Jack the Ripper copycat) and Blind Vengeance (martial arts teacher falls for a student who is the ex-girlfriend of another fight master). You may read that list of movies and say, “What junk!” and you can’t find me to answer, as I’m hunting them down to watch them in my magical movie basement.

You can watch this on Tubi.