Junesploitation 2021: Andy Warhol’s Dracula (1974)

June 30: Junesploitation’s topic of the day — as suggested by F This Movie— is vampires.

I’ve had the Criterion version of this movie on my shelf for a while, so when Severin re-released this film for their summer sale, I decided that it was the vampire movie that would close out my first ever Junesploitation.

Also known as Blood for Dracula, this was written and directed by Paul Morrissey, despite the fact that some prints had director Antonio Margheriti listed.

A day after the principal shooting for Flesh for Frankenstein ended, Morrissey had Udo Kier, Joe Dallesandro and Arno Juerging get shorter hair cut and start filming. You can spot several directors in this film, like Vittorio De Sica (Bicycle Thieves) and Roman Polanski.

The Dracula in this film (Udo Keir) is not the romantic master of women. Instead, he’s sick for most of the film, whining about his lot in life and the fact that there just aren’t many virgin women left. His familiar, Anton (Arno Juerging), has brought him to Italy in the hopes that a more religious country will have more virgins, as they are the only food that vampires can eat outside of a vegetarian diet.

Il Marchese di Fiore (de Sica) believes that one of his four daughters would be perfect to marry Dracula, but he doesn’t realize that two of them, Saphiria (Dominique Darel) and Rubinia (Stefania Casini, Suspiria), have been deflowered by the Marxist handyman Mario (Dallesandro). Dracula soon learns that they are not pure by drinking their blood. While he is weakened, he is able to make them into his slaves.

Dracula does succeed in drinking. the virginal plasma of the plain eldest daughter Esmerelda (Milena Vukotic) but not the youngest, Perla (Silvia Dionisio, Live Like a Cop, Die Like a Man).

hat’s because Mario assaults her to destroy her virginity, which is somehow trying to be protective.

Throughout this film, the noble traditions of the past are undone by the common man, much less the modern man. You can ascribe artifice to that or just realize that Dallesandro was not doing an accent, no matter what, and you got what you got. Which is kind of like how this movie has Andy Warhol’s name on it, leading people to wonder what he had to do with the making of it.

He answered, “I go to the parties.”

Junesploitation 2021: The Cynic, the Rat and the Fist (1977)

June 29: Junesploitation’s topic of the day — as suggested by F This Movie— is gangsters.

In Italy, they call this movie Il cinico, l’infame, il violento, which means The Cynic, the Infamous, the Violent. This poliziotteschi is a sequel to another Umberto Lenzi film, 1976’s The Tough Ones, with Maurizio Merli playing the role of Inspector Leonardo Tanzi in both movies.

Luigi “The Chinaman” Maietto (Tomas Milan, The Big Gundown, Django Kill… If You Live, Shoot!) escapes from prison and sends two of his men to kill the man who put him away — Tanzi. He’s left for dead and even the newspapers print that he’s dead, but he’s just biding his time, waiting to get revenge.

Tanzi just wanted to stay retired — it looks like he’s become a giallo author — but now he’s a vigilante who comes up against Maietto and American syndicate boss Frank Di Maggio (John Saxon).

This movie boasts three writers whose work pretty much hits every side of the Italian exploitation experience. There’s Lenzi himself, who made everything from Eurospy films (Super Seven Calling CairoThe Spy Who Loved Flowers008: Operation Exterminate), Westerns (A Pistol for a Hundred Coffins), giallo (OrgasmoA Quiet Place to KIllOasis of FearSo Sweet…So PerverseSeven Bloodstained Orchids, SpasmoEyeball), cannibal movies (Man from Deep RiverCannibal Ferox), peplum (IronmasterSamson and the Slave Queen), horror (Nightmare BeachGhosthouseDemons 3Hitcher in the Dark) and so much more. Then you have Ernesto Gastaldi, who wrote so many films that I love, including The Whip and the BodyThe PossessedThe Sweet Body of DeborahDay of AngerAll the Colors of the DarkTorsoMy Name is Nobody and tons of other great films. And then there’s Dardano Sacchetti, who wrote just about any Italian genre film worth watching.

Man, somehow Junesploitation has led me to many Italian crime films. For this I am very excited!

Junesploitation 2021: Street Law (1974)

June 28: Junesploitation’s topic of the day — as suggested by F This Movie — is free.

Il cittadino si ribella (The Citizen Rebels) finds Franco Nero getting beaten down by muggers, so he goes looking for his own justice, only to get beat down even worse until he finally learns how to get revenge. This was the first vigilante film in the poliziotteschi genre, as this made it to Italian theaters before Death Wish.

Once Franco makes friends with a thug named Tommy (Giancarlo Prete), he finally gets to take out the people who done him dirty in spectacular fashion. I mean, there are absolutely no permits in this movie and tons of stuntmen — including Franco doing all of his own stunts — defying death just to entertain you.

Plus, you get music by Guido and Maurizio DeAngelis (AKA Oliver Onions), which makes any movie better. And yeah! A pre-Ringo Barbara Bach!

Strangely enough, while this movie inspired Vigilante, it was released in the UK as Vigilante 2.

I pretty much love everything Enzo G. Castellari made, like KeomaThe Last Shark1990: The Bronx WarriorsThe New BarbariansEscape the BronxThe Inglorious Bastards…just add this to the list. I mean, Franco Nero shotgun blasting scumbags while wearing a turtleneck? Let me see the movie made this year that can live up to that. Even the ending made me emotional.

Just watch it! You can find it on Tubi.

Junesploitation 2021: Special Cop in Action (1976)

June 27: Junesploitation’s topic of the day — as suggested by F This Movie— is cops.

I am a conundrum. I speak up against the brutality and the militarization of our police nearly every day, but then the movies I choose to relax and watch are poliziottesco films in which cops go against the system and act nearly as bad — if not worse — than the criminals they are after.

The third film in the Commissioner Betti trilogy — after Violent Rome and Violent Naples — Special Cop In Action is also known in Italy as Italia a mano armata (Italy at Gunpoint). This was directed by Marino Giorlami, who went from being a physical therapist to the director of films such as The Fury of Achilles and Zombie Holocaust. He’s also the father of director Enzo G. Castellari.

The mobsters in this film are the kind of Italian movie bad guys that go from realistic to super villains by the end of the film, moving from robbing banks and taking hostages to hijacking school buses filled with children.

Cops Betti (Maurizio Merli, Highway Racer) and Ferrari (Aldo Barberito) are trying to find one of those kids when one of the criminals assaults a female cyclist, altering authorities to their hiding place. When one of the kids is killed, a mother unloads on Betti, who decides to take the place of the children as a hostage. Man, Betti gets abused throughout this movie, shot multiple times, beaten and dumped on a highway and even set up for murder.

Man, this movie starts off hot and never slows down. Cops get dragged behind cars, John Saxon shows up, there’s a J&B appearance and a downbeat ending — the dead kid’s mom and our hero have dinner when some syndicate thugs blow him away in a drive-by. I’d say that that was a massive spoiler, but that ending doesn’t appear in every print, so who knows if they added it in the hopes they could make a fourth film someday. Or perhaps when they realized this was the end, they remembered it was the 70s and nearly every movie has to end with a downer, so they edited on this closing.

Honestly, I kind of think that Betti can shrug off getting gunned down. If anything, the excessive abuse he endures in this movie is proof.

Junesploitation 2021: Midnight (1989)

June 26: Junesploitation’s topic of the day — as suggested by F This Movie— is 80s horror.

Midnight (Lynn Redgrave) is a horror hostess who wears low-cut outfits, makes bad puns before the movies she shows and looks like an undead mistress of, well, the night. Pretty much exactly like Elvira, which seems weird, because they could have just hired Elvira to be in this movie.

She’s fighting station owner Mr. B (Tony Curtis) for the rights to her name, who keeps throwing things in her way to screw up her life, like trying to lure away her boytoy Mickey Modine (Steve Parrish, Scanners III) by introducing him to Missy Angel (Karen Witter, Playboy Playmate of the Month March 1982, as well as Mortuary Academy and Popcorn).

Then, everyone around our protagonist — like her agent(Frank Gorshin) — starts getting murdered and all fingers point to Midnight.

This was written and directed by Norman Thaddeus Vane, who wrote and directed Frightmare. Before that, he was a contributing writer for Penthouse, working on the letter to Forum.

I really need to make a Letterboxd list of Wolfman Jack movies one of these days. He’s in this for a bit and is a welcome addition to the proceedings.

According to Stephen Thrower’s Nightmare U.S.A., this movie was a complete nightmare behind the scenes. Karen Black was originally going to play Midnight — I am so into that casting choice — with George Segal playing opposite her. Yet when she quit the film and Redgrave came on, Segal refused to be in the movie due to “agent conflicts.” As for Ms. Redgrave. she locked herself in her trailer and wouldn’t do any ADR after the film wrapped. Then Sont cut ten minutes and barely released it in theaters.

You know what? She’s awesome in this movie, acting like she’s playing for people in space, not just the back row of the theater. It’s a role that literally defines over the top. That said, she’s still no Cassandra Peterson.

Junesploitation 2021: Motorama (1991)

June 25: Junesploitation’s topic of the day — as suggested by F This Movie — is a car movie.

A ten-year-old runaway boy named Gus has left behind an abusive home to go out on the road in a stolen ‘66 Ford Mustang that he drives with stilts attached to the gas pedals. His goal is to collect game cards from the Chimera Gas Company and if he spells M-O-T-O-R-A-M-A, he wins $500 million dollars.

The first person Gus meets on his journey — and the last — is Phil (John Diehl), a gas station attendant who flies a yellow kit with a photo of a cop (Robert Picardo) shaking hands with him, all to show whatever is in heaven that he’s a worthwhile person.

The real thrill of watching this movie is in seeing who shows up next. From Martha Quinn as a bank teller and Jack Nance as a hotel clerk to Meat Loaf as an arm-wrestling biker, Mary Woronov as a kidnapper, Flea as a busboy,  Robin Duke as a corporate drone, Allyce Beasley as a receptionist, Susan Tyrrell, Michael J. Pollards, Garett Morris, Drew Barrymore as the girl of our hero’s dreams and, of course, Dick Miller — man, this movie has something for everyone. And by everyone, I mean me.

Director Barry Shils produced Vampire’s Kiss and also made Wigstock: The Movie. Writer Joseph Minion wrote the aforementioned Vampire’s Kiss and After Hours, as well as directing Daddy’s Boys for Roger Corman, using the same sets as Big Bad Mama II.

This movie is great because it’s a hijinks ensue film, but within the context of a child becoming an adult by undergoing a quest to determine what really means the most in life. It’s not weird for weird’s sake. It just feels like it was filmed in a place not quite our own and sent to the wrong reality, where we must study it and determine what we can learn from Gus’s quest.

Junesploitation 2021: Uppercut Man (1988)

June 24: Junesploitation’s topic of the day — as suggested by F This Movie — is free space!

Sergio Martino made some truly baffling and wonderful movies in the late 80s. Perhaps even stranger, two of them — this film and American Rickshaw — were made in Miami, a place that Italian directors loved in the wake of Miami Vice (see also: Cy WarriorCop TargetThe Last MatchMean TricksFirst Action HeroPlanktonKarate Warrior 2Primal RageMoving TargetNightmare Beach, the Bud Spencer version of AladdinBrothers In BloodStrikerThe Wild TeamCut and RunMiami GolemSuper Fuzz*, Go for It* and Atlantis Interceptors*).

Also known as Qualcuno Pagherà (Someone Will Pay), Punhos de Exterminador (Terminator Fists, which is a great title), Vaincre ou Mourir 2 (Win or Die 2), Bloodfight and The Opponent, this movie is seriously everything I love about late 80s Italian bootleg cinema.

Daniel Greene was once Paco Queruak in Hands of Steel, which is why that Terminator Fists title makes sense, and now he is Bobby Mulligan, a boxer who works for Martin Duranti (Giuliano Gemma, Silver Saddle). His wife, Gilda (Mary Stavin from Strike Commando 2 and Born to Fight) ends up working our hero’s speedbag — if you know what I’m saying and I think you do — and Martin declares a vendetta against our hero.

Bobby was already in love with Anne (Keely Shaye Smith, who was in the “Stuck with You” video with Huey Lewis before marrying Pierce Brosnan), whose father Victor (Ernest Borgnine!) was once a boxer, which will come in handy later. He doesn’t trust anyone who is a fighter with his little girl, especially after he gets in a slaphappy battle with our hero in his grocery store.

Duranti, learning that he’s been cucked, wants Bobby to do the job in a fight against Eddy (James Warring, who was the World Kickboxing Association World Cruiserweight Champion), but Bobby has no idea what that means and wins the fight. So the mobbed out Duanti sends his men to break our hero’s right hand, pretty much ending his boxing career. However, Victor comes around and starts respecting our hero because he also refused to throw a fight. Guess what? His daughter comes around too.

Remember that opportunity for Victor I mentioned? That comes when the mob takes our hero’s ex-drunk coach Larry (Bill Wohrman, Porky’s), forces him to drink chemicals and drowns him in a scene that is a narrative and tonal shift, but so is the end of this movie, when our hero goes from the championship match to rescuing his woman in a junkyard and getting horrible and bloody revenge, but not before the bad girl turns good and pays for it with her life.

I really wish Martino had made more of these cover movies, because I love every single one of them. It starts with the conventions of the accepted boxing movie and just gets wild, as you hope that it will.

The montage where Borgnine teaches Daniel Greene to box with only his left hand is beyond joyous, as is the scene where our hero tries to do some road work and a car runs him down. Man, I got so excited writing about this that now I want to watch it again.

*Yes, I know, these were made years before Crockett and Tubbs got to town.

Junesploitation 2021: Dobermann (1997)

June 23: Junesploitation’s topic of the day — as suggested by F This Movie — is 90s action.

Dobermann (Vincent Cassel, Black Swan) got his first gun at his baptism. Now, he leads a gang of bank robbers, made up of his knife-throwing deaf girlfriend Nat the Gypsy (Monica Bellucci!), Olivier who is also a woman named Sonia, Pitbull and even a priest who likes to put grenades into the helmets of motorcycle cops.

A sadistic cop named Christini (Tchéky Karyo) has been chasing Dobermann for what seems like an eternity and he decides that this will be the night he catches him. He sets up an ambush in a club as the gang celebrates their latest bank robbery and his methods are even worse than the villains.

This film may have an opening CGI animation that looks dated and sure, it’s highly influenced by Tarantino, but it’s packed with action and incredibly cool villains as protagonists. There’s been a sequel planned for a long time and I hope that it gets made. If you’re into gunplay set to music by Prodigy, I mean, you really should watch this. I also realize that this is a very small subgenre of action film fans, but so it goes.

Director Jan Kounen and Cassel would go on to make Blueberry, which is based on the comic books by Jean “Moebius” Giraud. That makes sense, as this film is also based on a comic book by Joel Houssin.

Junesplotation 2021: Zeder (1983)

June 22: Junesploitation’s topic of the day — as suggested by F This Movie — is zombies.

Zombies are boring. Let’s face it — the best things that had to be said about them really didn’t escape the 80s. And outside of perhaps Train to Busan, how can you improve upon movies like Dawn of the DeadZombi and Return of the Living Dead? People try and well, you have to give them credit for it. But I was really trying to stretch during Junesploitation and find a zombie movie that no one would choose, as well as one that might rekindle my love for these movies.

Released in the U.S. as Revenge of the DeadZeder doesn’t go for the Fulci throat — or eyeball — like nearly every zombie movie made in the wake of the Godfather of Gore’s tribute to the living dead.

The film begins in 1956, as a psychic girl named Gabriella is brought to the French mansion of Dr. Meyer. As a test of her abilities, he takes her into his basement where she immediately begins to claw and dig into the dirt, searching for something. Soon, she’s attacked and taken to the hospital and a corpse is discovered that is identified as Paolo Zeder.

Fast forward three decades and change and we meet Stefano (Gabriele Lavia, InfernoDeep Red, Sleepless), a novelist who has been given the gift of a typewriter by his wife. He starts to investigate the ribbon of the ancient machine and finds a series of letters from Zeder that detail phenomena he called K-Zones, which are places where death does not exist and even those deceased may be reborn.

Our hero soon loses everything — his wife, any semblance of normalcy, his mind — to penetrate the web of conspiracy that surrounds Zeder and the K-Zones. His wife is even murdered by those who want to keep the existence of the undead world a secret, so the film closes with Stefano attempting to bring her back.

Beyond the dependable as always score by Riz Ortolani, there’s a great scene near the end where a tower of video monitors replays the rebirth of the supposedly dead priest Don Luigi Costa arise in grainy glory.

This was written and directed by Pupi Avati, who is still making movies to this day, but is probably best known for House with the Laughing Windows.

The American VHS art for this — when it was released by Lightning Video — made it seem like this was going to be everything you expect from a zombie film. I’m happy to report that it is not. Instead, it’s a dark mediation on secrets and death.

You can watch this on YouTube.

Junesploitation 2021: Babes in Kong Land (2002)

June 21: Junesploitation’s topic of the day — as suggested by F This Movie — is a movie with Julie Strain in it.

Also known as Planet of the Erotic Ape and World of the Erotic Ape, this shot-in-Cincinnati ape rip is actually a rip off of (IMHO) the Richard Hatch, Kay Lenz, and John Saxon bore festival that is Prisoners of the Lost Universe (1983) — only with sex and apes added. A TV repairman, who sidelines as a mad scientist, tests his new invention (something about transporting TV signals into space) and accidentally transports himself to a planet (which sounds like the dopey, 1989 John Roarke (S.F.W) fronted sci-comedy Mutant on the Bounty) where Amazonian women banish men into “The Forbidden Zone” and bed with talking apes. The gist of the tale is that the women of this world are ruled by a brutal dominatrix and their “erotic ape” sex partner, tired of his love-slave imprisonment, escapes. And when you’re a tribe of horny women without an ape, you turn into a lesbian jungle cult — and take an interest in your world’s newest male inhabitant. Or something like that.

Look, if you want to see a porn movie with five topless girls on an island horny for a guy in a ratty monkey suit, you’ve found your movie. If you want a lot of girl-on-girl action, you’ve found your movie. If you want a movie shot as a comedy, but without any comedy, you’ve found your movie. Hey, it’s only 60 minutes and the human babes on male ape sex arrives within the first five minutes, so what’s not to likey, here?

Keen eyes weaned on the lowest-budget of the low-budget B-Movies (aren’t our eyes all, for B&S wouldn’t exist without them) will recognize the reason that we’re here: Julie Strain, a Penthouse “Pet of the Month” in June 1991 and “Pet of the Year” in 1993, who has graced us with the likes of Psycho Cop Returns, along with appearance in Naked Gun 33 1/3, Beverly Hills Cop II, and Battle Queen 2020, along with Monique Gabrielle of Jim Wynorski’s Transylvania Twist, as well as 976-Evil II, Munchie.

Eric Eichelberger* (Ghoul Scout Zombie Massacre) started his career on this long-gestating Julie Strain project, but not at the same time. The future director and actress would come to work together on Blood Gnome (2004).

* We had an extensive interview with Eric in February of this year regarding his currently-in-development documentary Exploit This! The Complete History of Exploitation Cinema in America. We also reviewed several “erotic ape” movies with our “Ape Week: Sex on Planet Ape: The Lost Erotic Ape Movies” feature as part of our “Ape Week” of reviews of all of the Planet of the Apes movies and its rip offs, reboots and knockoffs.

We lost Julie Strain at the age of 58 this past January 2021.

About the Author: You can learn more about the writings of R.D Francis on Facebook. He also writes for B&S About Movies.