Bad Biology

Bad_Biology_DVDA woman born with seven clits. A man with a detachable penis that goes on a rape spree…no, its not Woody Allen’s latest…its the (semi) triumphant return of genre favourite Frank Henenlotter.

Like most Love & Pop readers (well, the older ones anyway) I first encountered the legend of Frank Henenlotter through the pages of Fangoria magazine. His 1982 film Basket Case was getting loads of press and the gory stills certainly piqued the interest and the film was certainly worth the wait. I mean it had 42nd st flophouses, porn cinemas, winos, prostitutes and, best of all, a demented killer being carried around New York in a basket by his brother.

Later Henenlotter films were also unique with Brain Damage and Frankenhooker most noteworthy. I wasn’t a great fan of the Basket Case sequels but they had their moments. Needless to say legions of gorehounds have been long awaiting the return of this maverick filmmaker and Bad Biology has all the trademarks of a Henenlotter film.

The story follows the two aforementioned sexual freaks, one created by nature, one created by misadventure and steroid abuse, destined to collide in a sexual Hiroshima.

Charlee Danielson plays Jennifer, an aspiring photographer born with the aforementioned seven clits. This proves problematic in her everyday love-life as her sexual trysts become so intense that she literally fucks her paramours to death. Another bizarre side effect of her freakish condition is a minute gestation period, resulting in deformed offspring being born mere hours after her latest coupling.

Batz (Anthony Sneed) is grappling (literally) with problems of his own. After a mishap at birth he was left with short-comings in the penis department. His answer to this problem is to inject all kinds of pharmaceuticals into his once flaccid doodle and create a cock that would make John Holmes envious. It’s not a perfect solution though. This cock becomes as demanding as the plant in Little Shop of Horrors, needing satisfaction and gratification and, along the way, deciding maybe it’d be better off on its own. This leads to one of the film’s most memorable sequences as the penis detaches and goes on a rape spree, breaking through walls and climbing up legs till it enters the warm and moist surrounds of fuzzy town.

Along the way we meet all kinds of patented weird Henenlotter characters including porn models, a crackwhore (brilliantly portrayed by Eleonore Hendricks, surely a shoe-in to play Nancy Spungen if they remake the “Sid and Nancy” story!), vagina-faced models, scream-queen Tina Krause playing herself and there’s even a cameo by grindhouse favourite James (The Exterminator) Glickenhaus. And only a select few filmmakers would show the view from inside a vagina looking out.

The film rolls along at a good pace and, like all of Frank’s films, is never boring or predictable. The only fault I can find would be in the (thankfully) short stop-motion sequence, it may be a tribute to the early stop-motion work in films like Basket Case (or not) but it’s decidedly clunky. Given that the leads have to date only ever appeared in this film they both do an admirable job carrying the movie.

Welcome back Frank, it’s nice to see you haven’t mellowed over the years.

Available on DVD and Blu-Ray.

Showgirls [Blu-ray]

Showgirls-Blu-ray

Violent lap dances, horrific sex scenes, betrayal, greasy strip clubs… sleazy and at times repulsive seduction… Showgirls is the ultimate mainstream exploitation film and Umbrella Entertainment have now brought this trash-fest monster of a film to us all in Hi-Def.

I have already reviewed this title (but could go on and on about it forever) so for those of you who haven’t read my review of Umbrella’s DVD release of Showgirls you can do so here.

So how does the Blu-Ray compare to the DVD release?

Presented in a 2.35:1 / 16:9 widescreen print the film looks stunning. The image is far more crisp and the colors are far more lurid and garish – especially Berkley’s trashy makeup and nails. I observed no artifacts but the garish costumes and makeup colors (or maybe just breasts) could have drawn my eyes away from any miniscule flaws. All the neon, costumes and dance sequences are greatly enhanced by the 1080p Hi-def and it just feels so Vegasy – loads of sparkly glitz and glam.

I’m pretty bad at judging audio but I definitely noticed an improvement with this release. The film is presented in an English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track and the music – especially during the dance scenes – had my speakers rattling, and although the dialogue seemed quite low compared to this, overall it was a marked improvement from the DVD’s Dolby 2.0 soundtrack.

It’s a bit of a shame that there’s no extras on this release considering there are other releases of the film that contain commentaries and other features, although admittedly none of those extras are affiliated with any of those involved in the film. But hey the Showgirls (VIP Limited Edition) comes with shot glasses, a deck of Showgirls cards and a game called “Pin the Pasties on the Showgirl” – a crude version of “Pin the Tail on the Donkey”. The Umbrella DVD comes with a trailer so you’re not missing out on much if you don’t want to upgrade to the Blu-ray release.

Image and sound wise this release is a vast improvement from the DVD release but ultimately if image and sound isn’t worth the purchase price then stick with the DVD. Hopefully one day us Showgirls fans are treated with an upgrade of this Blu-ray that features a commentary from either Berkley or Verhoeven. Please pretty please!

Showgirls is available on DVD and Blu-Ray from Umbrella Entertainment.

 

The 33D Invader

33-D-Invader

From Man Kei Chin (aka Cash), esteemed director of such classless muck as Sex and Zen 2 and The Forbidden Legend: Sex & Chopsticks I & II, comes this goofy softcore take on The Terminator.

Opening in the year 2046, we meet our heroine Future, a nubile young thing being sent back to the year 2011 by the United Nations in search of a suitable male specimen to impregnate her. You see, due to frequent radiation attacks from the planet Xucker, the majority of the population have been rendered infertile, thus the need for Future’s little trip into time. Unfortunately two alien assassins from Xucker have also been dispatched to halt Future’s mission to save mankind.

The unwitting Future lands in the apartment of three nerdy and horny male university students in present day Hong Kong and proceeds to look for a mate. Numerous fumbly sexcapades ensue with wacky sound effects, sleazy sax, and some Amy Yip references. But with a little help from the trio of hotties next door, she soon succeeds in saving the planet. Yay.

From the above plot description I’m sure most of you can foresee how this film unfolds, but if not, it goes something like this: inane sex scene, comic relief, inane sex scene, comic relief… ad nauseam. The alien assassins are perhaps the best feature, being as they are cactus-cocked hermaphrodites played by JAV idols Akiho Yoshizawa and Taka Kato. These two inflict some ridiculous (gore-free) violence upon the three geeks, including tearing a penis off and tying another in a knot, not to mention the always terrifying Alien Lethal Flower Nipples tactic.

Amusing baddies aside, this is not a particularly interesting Cat III, unless you are either a sex comedy fanatic or a die-hard fan of Sex and Zen-type shenanigans, minus the period trimmings. It seems these films are having a bit of a revival, which is great for the slapstick-inclined sleaze-hounds among us, but personally I find them particularly grating on the nerves.

No extras.

The 33D Invader is available on DVD from Madman.

Not Quite Hollywood

NotquiteHollywoodAs a kid I fondly remember trips to the local video store and being lured in by the cover art of many of the classic exploitation titles. These flicks were forbidden fruit for me at the tender young age of eight or nine as my parents refused to let me hire such “trash”. One of these titles that caught my eye was the original Mad Max. Seeing that it was playing on late night TV I sneakily set the timer record on my parents VCR to catch a glimpse of this kickass looking flick I was never allowed to watch.

I threw the tape in after school and my life was changed for ever. Blown away by the over the top characters, car chases and explosions my enthusiasm for all things exploitation was born. During my teenage years flicks like Ghosts… of the Civil Dead, Romper Stomper and Bad Boy Bubby really cemented a love of the style of Australian cinema’s style, atmosphere, barebones production and quirky characters. Not Quite Hollywood will I’m sure bring back similar fond memories for its audience, especially those lucky enough to experience the drive-in theatres that were ultimately killed off by the arrival of VHS.

Director Mick Hartley has crafted a fascinating document of the golden age of Australian genre filmmaking during the 70s and early 80s. This period of Australian cinema has often been overlooked and left out of the history books. Essentially buried by unappreciative film critic snobs who deemed the content of the films as lowbrow, lurid and unworthy of the accolades placed upon the more “acceptable” films of the Aussie New Wave (Picnic At Hanging Rock and other lets face it tightassed and dull flicks like Breaker Morant). Not Quite Hollywood sheds light on many forgotten films, filmmakers and their dedicated crews. Hartley originally conceived Not Quite Hollywood as a TV series during the 1990s but was met with resistance by the aforementioned snobbish mentality of those not wanting to acknowledge the era. Hartley found a likeminded fan of Australian exploitation in the form of American director Quentin Tarantino who after seeing a treatment of the documentary stepped in to getNot Quite Hollywood off the ground.

The documentary begins by covering the sexploitation/lowbrow comedy of the era with a segment calledOckers, Knockers, Pubes and Tubes. This segment illustrates the freedom filmmakers in Australia experienced with the introduction of the R rating. The R rating brought the end of the harsh stranglehold the Australian censorship board had on the content of films made and screened in the country. Several hilarious jokes are aimed effectively at a certain one armed censor who was doing his best to kill everyone’s fun. As you guessed this segment is jam packed with tits, projectile bodily functions and other naughtiness that wasn’t previously allowed to soil the screen. Flicks like Alvin Purple, Stork, Felicityand Barry McKenzie are discussed with their directors and for those who’ve always wondered what fuss with John Holmes’ member was all about can get their eyeful with a clip of Fantasm! John D. Lamond (Aussie’s definitive sexploitater who later tried his had at horror) being interviewed in a strip club had me laughing my ass off. ““I’m told I treat women like a sex object. I suppose it’s true because I ask for sex — and they object!” damn right they would buddy!

Comatose Killers and Outback Chillers covers the likes of Patrick, Road Games and Razorbackand is quite an interesting watch in regard to the reaction of American actors being used in Australian films. It became a very sore point with many in the industry as Jamie Lee Curtis accounts for in her interview. We are treated to more clips which include a fake as hell looking killer croc devouring an Aboriginal child from Dark Age and plenty of blood splattered T&A.

High Octane Disasters and Kung Fu Masters was my favourite segment of the documentary as it illustrates the true DIY spirit of independent filmmaking. Many of director Brain Trenchard-Smith’s productions including Mad Max, Turkey Shoot and The Man From Hong Kong. Trenchard-Smith’s films were low budget productions that with dedicated hard working crews and actors exceeded their financial restraints. The lengths stuntman Grant Page went to do the stunt work in these films will have you dropping your jaw in amazement. This guy is a true legend who pulled off some really crazy shit cheating death numerous times and earning himself Dennis Hopper’s seal of approval. Steve Railsback comes across as a bit of a dick when discussing Turkey Shoot and was very unhappy with the production of the film but the actors and crew were put through a lot to make that film and I don’t imagine many of them would’ve walked away without a bit of animosity towards Trenchard-Smith.

Tarantino’s fanboy rants may prove a bit much for some viewers but its hard not to share his enthusiasm for this great period of film. The copy I received for this review was just a screener so there were no extras contained on the disc but the retail edition is a two disc set packed with extras for those who wish to further explore the world of OZploitation.

A fantastically entertaining and informative watch Not Quite Hollywood will have you digging round the shelves of your video-store in search of these forgotten gems of genre cinema. Umbrella and Madman have recently re-released a bunch of these titles so do yourself a favour and check ‘em out.

Easily one of the best genre documentaries in recent memory Not Quite Hollywood is essential viewing for fans of exploitation cinema and an important cultural artefact for cinephiles wishing to extend their knowledge of offbeat flicks. Don’t let this one slip you by.

Extras:

  • Audio commentary with Ozploitation auteurs
  • Deleted / extended scenes
  • Quentin Tarantino and with Brian Trenchard-Smith interview featurette
  • MIFF Ozploitation panel
  • Image and poster gallery
  • Audio interview with director Richard Franklin (PATRICK, ROAD GAMES)
  • Funding pitches from Quentin Tarantino and John D. Lamond
  • Ozploitation trailer collection
  • Original theatrical trailer
  • Easter egg

Available on R4 DVD from Madman Entertainment.

Pervert!

pervertPervert! is a modern-day homage to the films of Sexploitation king Russ Meyer. I went into this not expecting much as I’m really not a big fan of the recent flood of “homages” and “tributes” being churned out by directors pathetically trying to cash-in on the current “retro” / “grindhouse” trend. Pervert! however, is a totally different beast.

Old Hezekiah (Darrell Sandeen) resides with his young, busty live-in whore Cheryl (Mary Carey) in Desert Range, an isolated stretch of desert in the south(?) where he indulges in his love for the art of meat sculpting. When his son James (Sean Andrews) comes to stay Cheryl gets a hankerin’ for some younger meat and the two of them begin an affair behind the old man’s back. Suddenly, Cheryl mysteriously disappears and James thinks his ol’ man may be behind it. When Hezekiah comes home the next day with a new whore, James sets out to investigate his pops “studio” where he discovers Cheryl’s temporarily re-animated corpse. But all is not as it seems, as later on when ol’ pops is chained down, the bodies still keep a droppin’…

Writer/director team Jonathan Yudis and Mike Davis obviously have a Russ Meyer obsession. There are scenes and set-pieces here stolen directly from such Meyer films as Supervixens, Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill!, Vixen and a few others but nevertheless Pervert! still manages not to come off as yet another feeble attempt at a cash-in. Like Meyers films, Pervert! is very comic bookish in style with dream bubbles, wacky in-your-face camera angles, cartoon sound effects and loadsa really silly humour. Aside from Darrell Sandeen’s fantastic performance as the perverted old holy roller, the acting isn’t all that good especially from porn star and one-time Governor of California candidate Mary Carey, although she still fulfils the role of the stereotypical Meyer chick: big, natural tits! (in fact I’m pretty sure there’s no silicone in this flick at all).

So, being as this is a tribute to the spirit of Russ Meyer there’s obviously a whole lotta gratuitous nudity, but there’s also (mainly in the second half) a generous splattering of gore. From arterial blood sprays to ol’ Hezekiah tearing his own heart out for one of his meat sculptures, Pervert! can be rather bloody at times. Also, to its credit, Pervert! never reveals its low-budget origins – it has excellent camera-work, razor sharp editing and its cartoonish colours are extra bright and bold.

Overall, for a low-budget modern-day attempt at a Sexploitation flick, Pervert! is pretty decent. Sure, some of the jokes fall flat, the acting aint too hot, and its all been done better before but if you’re lookin’ for some mindless nudity and laughs, check it out.

Special Features:

  • Into The Chasm of the Hypervixens: The Making of Pervert
  • Deleted Scenes
  • Extended Lesbian Scene
  • The Bloopers
  • Pervert music video
  • Trailers

Available on DVD from MVD Visual.

Video Nasties

vieonasties

The ‘Video Nasty’ furore in Great Britain in the 80s was perhaps the ultimate argument that any publicity really isn’t necessarily good publicity. When an attempt by Go Video to build interest in the UK release of Cannibal Holocaust included a faked letter of outrage to moral crusader Mary Whitehouse, things massively backfired and a tabloid furore was whipped up that resulted in the wholesale banning of a whole range of titles including, most famously, Evil Dead – which at the time was top of the national video sales chart.

Since the BBFC at the time had no classification process for home video, a rush of lurid titles had hit the market. Seizing on this, the British tabloid press – never a group collectively likely to shirk the possibility of a good scandal – sprang a succession of provocative headlines and public pressure led to the banning of 39 films. These titles would remain banned in Britain until the mid-1990s, with most being passed by the BBFC upon their various DVD releases in the early 2000s.

And so to Umbrella Entertainment’s three-film collection entitled simply, Video Nasties. As it turns out, the title is something of a misnomer as in fact only one of the three movies on board (Wes Craven’s The Last House on the Left) was ever actually on the Video Nasty list. Somehow, such a transparent marketing pitch seems oddly in keeping with the history of misunderstandings of the whole saga that led to things like Tobe Hooper’s tame The Funhouse getting the ban when the real target was rumoured to be Last House on Dead End Street, which had bootlegs under the title The Funhouse.

So what we actually get on this DVD set are Last House on the Left, Maniac and Basket Case.

Basket Case (1982) is the brainchild of writer/director Frank Henenlotter and tells the tale of Duane Bradley, who carries his deformed twin brother Belial around in, well, a basket. The pair were Siamese twins and now seek vengeance on the trio of doctors who separated them.

A schlocky premise, to be sure, but Henenlotter shows personality and originality to transcend the film’s tiny budget. Kevin Van Hentenryck is charming as the naive Duane (despite his frightening 80s perm-mullet), securing audience sympathy right off the bat and when his loyalties begin being torn between his murderous brother and his burgeoning romance with local girl Sharon (Terri Susan Smith), Henenlotter keeps the character orientation centremost. This gives the film a weight and strength often missing from films of its ilk. Basket Case is definitely an underappreciated gem.

Last House on the Left is well-known in genre circles for both its gritty realism and the fact it is the debut of Wes (A Nightmare on Elm Street, Scream) Craven. It is based on Ingmar Bergman’s The Virgin Spring as two girls out on the town fall into the clutches of a marauding gang of thugs, who take them to the woods and murder them before ending up staying at the house of one of the girls. There, the well-to-do parents discover who is under their roof and decide to take bloody vengeance.

There are many problems with Last House on the Left as a film. It is poorly constructed – the flick never matches the emotional gut-punch of the murders that occur halfway through the piece – it contains ill-advised attempts at comedic relief that come off as tasteless in the face of the grim violence and it also has a poorly-fitting soundtrack (written and performed by David Hess, who plays main villain Krug) that awkwardly juxtaposes jaunty music over dark visuals, the exception to which is the surprisingly haunting balled “The Road Leads To Nowhere”. The latter song also crops up in a tip-of-the-hat in 2003’s Cabin Fever.

Despite these flaws, the documentary-style filming and some surprisingly strong acting means the film still packs a hell of a punch. Whilst it is certainly not a good movie, the anger and power of it remains undimmed even after more than three decades.

The extras are interesting, with the cast and crew viewing the film mostly with embarrassment (such as an almost apologetic Craven on the commentary track) and some with pride (most notably Hess, and rightly so) while critically neither of the lead girls appear anywhere in the interviews or commentaries while Fred Lincoln (who plays flick-knife wielding thug ‘Weasel’) decries the film as “a piece of shit” and “the only thing in my career I’m embarrassed about.” The latter is especially pointed given that Lincoln is a prolific porn actor and director with over 250 credits to his name.

Maniac shares with Last House on the Left some lofty goals. It is an intense character portrait of a mother-obsessed sociopath and we witness him struggling with his own demons as he kills (and scalps) women across the city. Perhaps intended as an evil twin of Taxi Driver, the anti-hero of Frank Zito (played with single-minded dedication by Joe Spinell) is simply harrowing to be with. He is a twisted loser, and perhaps engenders some pity but mostly only disgust. In turn, Maniac is a seedy, difficult viewing.

There is a lot of skill involved in the making, however. As well as Spinell’s anchoring performance there is some quality gore work by Tom Savini (most notably a graphic shotgun-to-the-head blast where the recipient is played by Savini himself) and excellent direction from William Lustig, who would go on to helm the underrated Maniac Cop series. One expert sequence of a woman being stalked through a public toilet would later be homaged in Alexandre Aja’s Haute Tension (2005).

Again, the extras are absorbing, with Spinell clearly passionate about the material. He saw this as a potential award-winning effort, the kind of performance to break him into the big time. Instead, the nasty tone of the piece saw it buried in controversy (a lot centred around its iconic poster showing a man holding a severed female head while wearing jeans tight enough to reveal his erection from the act) and consigned Spinell to playing a succession of minor Italian gangster roles for the remainder of his career.

The Video Nasties package, then, may sport only one genuinely good film in the shape of the modest Basket Case, but it is always interesting, with all three films having significant artistic credibility. Disappointingly, the transfers on all three are sub-par, although this is partially down to the low budget of the original prints. Fortunately, solid extras on all three films more than make up for this.

The mixed bag of quality and nasty tone of two of the movies means this is not one for the casual viewer but for horror fans, all three are essential viewing.

EXTRAS:
  • Audio commentaries
  • Interview featurettes
  • Scoring Last House featurette
  • Image Gallery
  • Theatrical Trailer
  • More gore
  • The Joe Spinell story
  • TV spots/poster gallery
  • In Search of the Hotel Broslin
  • Outtakes and behind-the-scenes footage

Available on R4 DVD from Umbrella Entertainment.

42nd Street Pete Interview

42nd Street Pete @ 8th Ave 6/2/2009
Michael Raso shot this image with Canon FTb 35mm SLR

Right now ‘Grindhouse’ fever is on the rampage, (Rodriguez/Tarantino’s “Grindhouse”), so who better to interview than 42nd Street Pete, the most well known Grindhouse aficionado/historian around.

For those of you who think ‘Grindhouse’ is a film, I’m hoping that by the end of this interview that you will be psyched to go into the lurid and sinful world of Exploitation films and find yourself a whole bunch of new films to devour.

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