Friday, April 06, 2007


SMOOP II: Electric Boogaloo

By Odienator
After the success of last year's Shameful Movies of Odie's Past Film Festival (henceforth known as SMOOP), I decided to make it an annual tradition. The rules can be found at the above link, but to recap, every showing at SMOOP is a double feature of films that I should be ashamed for liking, but am not. Each double feature has a title and a theme, though the movies may not be related thematically.

Last year, however, several people took me to task for selecting movies that were not shameful enough. This presented a wonderful yet expected challenge for me. Sequels are bigger, noisier, and worse than their predecessors, so I expected nothing less than to go back and revisit some tackier fare. We got it all: pimps, hos, car crashes, chicks in chains, and very strange foreign movies with sex scenes I hope someone will be able to explain to me.

Quentin and Robert aren't the only guys who spent time at grindhouses. I grew up with the 42nd Street theaters, which smelled like pee and had posters in their windows that advertised the kind of sin and degradation that earned you a one way ticket to the home of Linda Blair's possessor. Some of the films below I actually saw on 42nd Street; others fill that crazy desire of SMOOP's programmer, a guy with a love for gory horror movies, gratuitous nudity and musicals. In honor of the Trashy Movie Blog-a-thon and the release of Grindhouse, I give you SMOOP II: Electric Boogaloo. Bigger, badder, and with even more shame!

Chicks in Chains, Literally and Figuratively

Shameful movies: Willie Dynamite and Black Mama, White Mama

When Three-6 Mafia wrote the Oscar-winning “It’s Hard Out Here For a Pimp,” they must have been thinking about 1975’s Willie Dynamite. The titular pimp has plenty of problems. His theme song sounds like a commercial for a Blaxploitation soft drink (“Will-ayyyyy! Oh-ohhh Willl-eee Deeee! Will-ay D!”). His bitches keep getting arrested and/or sliced up by razors. His pimpmobile can’t stay away from tow-away zones. Rival pimps keep pressuring him to join their punany-pushers union; and his stable is repeatedly threatened by the self-proclaimed “Ralph Nader for hookers,” a former prostitute who tries to talk the girls out of walking for Willie or, at the very least, becoming their own bosses. Worst of all, by day Willie D. has to deal with an “8-foot yellow turkey” and the trash can-living grouch who hates him. That’s right, Willie Dynamite’s alter ego is Gordon (Roscoe Orman) on Sesame Street! When he wasn’t also bitchslapping Donna all over Locust Street on All My Children, Orman was teaching kids like us our ABC’s. “A is for ass, B is for bottom bitches…”

Despite my seeing this on a 42nd Street double bill in 1977, Willie Dynamite isn’t as trashy as most grindhouse fare. The actors, especially the late Diana Sands as Ho Ralph Nader, give fairly decent performances. There is very little nudity and, apart from a rather vicious throat-slashing, very little violence. What elevates this to trash-status is the sheer audacity of the screenplay. It thinks it’s a respectable expose on pimpdom, yet it absurdly demands you feel sorry for its hero — and not just because he’s wearing dead animals disguised as fur hats on his head. Willie D is compulsively watchable and fun because its big studio producers, Richard Zanuck and David Brown, are terrified to plumb the depths Roger Corman would have gone to had he made this film. It’s an ABC Afterschool Special on pimping. Toss in bad '70s fashion, a family dinner where Willie’s Mom thinks he’s an Amway salesperson (or something like that) and scenes that remind us what 42nd Street was like before Disney destroyed it, and you have the makings of an unintentionally hilarious cautionary tale/trash classic. This is the original Hustle and Flow.

Special mention goes to the “villain” of the piece, Diana Sands, who sadly died way too early from cancer. She manages to infuse with gravity the lousy dialogue and situations she’s given, which is no easy task. She’s even “conflicted” when she realizes how ruined Willie D’s career winds up being. Her last scene with Willie has a poignant quality that had me scratching my head, yet I couldn’t stop watching her.

Far more appropriate for SMOOP is the movie that filled the aforementioned double bill with Willie D, Black Mama, White Mama. Whaddaya get when you cross a chicks-in-chains movie with The Defiant Ones? You get a Black chick and a White chick chained together, on the run from a Philippine prison, “learnin’ ‘bout each other while they do their thing.” Unlike Willie D., however, there’s no pretense behind the message of Ebony and Ivory female empowerment; the filmmakers just want to show you some tits.

Co-written by Jonathan Demme, who cut his teeth on prison movies such as this and Caged Heat, Black Mama, White Mama chains Pam Grier to her three-time co-star Margaret Markov, and welds a women’s prison movie to the equally popular jungle revolutionary movie. Poitier and Curtis, I mean Grier and Markov, escape from one of those women’s jungle penitentiaries so popular in the early '70s, and while on the run have more catfights than Joan Collins while successfully falling out of their tops. Markov and Grier are both tough chicks, and neither is hard on the eyes nor are they shy about giving you what you paid to see.

All the requisites of both film genres are in abundance: there are grungy guys with guns shooting people for their cause AND a multi-culti shower scene, complete with a masturbating female guard peering through a hole in the shower wall. “Did you enjoy yourself?” asks another guard after busting her overheated colleague. “Hell yes!” said a voice that sounded like me.

The Black and White Nookie Of Death

Shameful Movies: Species and Def By Temptation

Guys, ever have one of those nights when, smack dab in the middle of some super-hot first date sex, your date turns into an alien or the Devil? Stuff like that really crushes one’s ego. “Did you hear?” the gossipmongers would whisper, “he was so bad in bed, the girl turned into Satan and killed his ass.”

Both Species and Def By Temptation use gore, nudity and violence to remind you that Jesus doesn’t like it if you bump uglies before marriage. They played together here at SMOOP to illustrate that old Eddie Murphy comedy routine about the difference between Black people and White people in horror movies. No matter the color, the dudes put their dongs where they don’t belong and die; it’s what happens when they deduce they are doomed that’s different.

Species tells the heartwarming story of an alien named Sil whose race sends instructions on how to create a human/alien mutation. The scientists create a female named Sil, unaware that the alien DNA comes with a case of that disease Christina Ricci has in Black Snake Moan. Sil escapes, heading into the night to breed a race of superaliens the old fashioned way. It’s easy for Sil to find volunteers for her sex-o-rama—she looks like model Natasha Henstridge. Men mistake her immediate demands for sex as a stroke of good luck, and pay dearly for it. Nothing’s free in this world, ESPECIALLY not hot sex with models.

Chasing Sil amongst the broken bodies of her victims (she pulls one female rival’s spine out) are Oscar winners Ben Kingsley and Forest Whitaker, Virginia Madsen’s bro, Doctor Octopus and that chick from CSI. One of those people satisfies the hottie the way most men wish they could, and gets killed anyway, proving that there’s just no pleasing women in bed. Showing that he was an equal opportunity offender, screenwriter Dennis Feldman wrote a sequel where the primary alien looking for love in all the wrong places is male. Avoid that one.

Ernest Dickerson’s cin-tog livens up Def by Temptation, a Troma release that features writer-director James Bond the Third as a divinity student in the big city. Temptation appears in the guise of Cynthia Bond, a demon/vampire/succubus who crawls the bars in Black neighborhoods looking for guys out for an easy score. She takes them home and gives the gossipmongers grist for the mill when she turns into the kind of nasty girl Vanity wasn’t singing about in that song. Blood and gore ensues as she gives the guys an AIDS metaphor.

Chasing Ms. Bond is the unrelated Bond the Third, Dwayne Wayne from A Different World, Radio Raheem, and Samuel L. Jackson who, if memory serves me, isn’t even allowed to say his favorite 12-letter word. Dickerson’s camerawork adds atmosphere and a few surprises, including the scene that proves Murphy’s point that Black people DO act differently in horror movies. When bartender John Canada Terrell realizes the woman he’s banging in the shower is Old Scratch, the next shot is a skewed camera perspective of him running, full frontal nude, directly at the audience. No towel, no drawers, nothing. He was willing to run down the street like that to escape the date from Hell. Ms. Bond gets him anyway (the shot of that is creepily effective), but still. He ran without asking why. Nobody in Species even thinks to run away before Sil kills them. "Push that bitch offa you and run!" one patron yelled at the screening I attended. Men. They never listen.

Hell on Wheels, and Under Them Too

Shameful Movies: Death Race 2000 and Psychomania

It’s fun when we get to the year depicted in futuristic movies and books, because we get to see if they were eerily prescient. Unless you lived near Queens Boulevard, Death Race 2000 was thankfully erroneous in its depiction of Y2K. In DR2K, people compete in a sporting event that involves running people over with your car. Different types of hit people earn different types of points. Manning the wheels are David Carradine (who also starred in the pseudo sequel Deathsport, which I saw on the Forty-Deuce) and Rocky Balboa, Mr. Sylvester Stallone.

QT certainly saw Death Race 2000 before he made Death Proof, his section of Grindhouse. This Roger Corman quickie, directed by Paul Bartel and featuring his Eating Raoul cohort Mary Woronov, has car crashes and pedestrian pummeling galore. Years before I saw this film, my uncle Chris told me this film was “very nasty” and he was right. With a low budget, filmmakers have to be a little less subtle and a lot more offensive with their satirical points, so Bartel and company resort to such scenes as rolling old people in wheelchairs out into the middle of the road so that cars may forcibly remove them from it (this doesn’t go as you may expect). Roger Corman knows how to stroke our baser instincts, which explains why the legend is he has never lost money on a production.

All About Eve is my favorite movie, and I should have been brutally distressed to see George Sanders in a Satanic biker movie. But I found it easy to believe Addison DeWitt would engage in a ritual that turns a woman into a frog in exchange for sending the bikers back to Hell. Psychomania is a confused biker movie that scared the ever-loving shit out of me as a kid, but is tame enough for a PG. A biker gang called The Living Dead make a deal with the Devil to become just that — the living dead. After a ludicrously funny mass suicide and return, they wreak “havoc” on a California town. Havoc includes knocking over a baby carriage and making loads and loads of donuts in the dust. They hook up with a girl hot for trouble, and eventually return to Hell via the aforementioned reverse Frog Prince deal. The movie does not make one lick of sense, but it’s fun to watch and would make a damn fine drinking game. Every time these hell’s angels rev their engines, take a drink. You’ll be dead.

Spanish Fly, or Grabbing the Bull by the Horns With Your Johnson

Shameful Movies: Jamon, Jamon and Matador

SMOOP goes international, and la fiesta está caliente! You may think I’m cheating by selecting a film by Oscar winner Pedro Almodóvar, but back then, he wasn’t known as the guy who directed Todo Sobre Mi Madre. He was the sick bastard who made candy-colored Spanish movies that gave the MPAA fits when they came to this country. Matador is old-fashioned Almodóvar, full of what made grindhouse movies famous: envelope pushing sex and violence. A gored bullfighter (Nacho Martinez) gets off while watching people get murdered and/or murdering people while a criminal lawyer gets off on killing people while getting off on them. Still with me? Antonio Banderas plays a student who starts confessing to the murders committed by both the matador and the lawyer, despite the latter’s penchant for stabbing huge hairpins into the necks of her male lovers. Is she a distant relative of the aforementioned killer sex women from Species or Def? Or did Almodóvar see that horrible Tom Selleck vehicle, Lassiter, made two years earlier and featuring a similar scene between Lauren Hutton and an unlucky guy?

No matter. Those Spanish directors sure are freaky. Eventually the two killers find each other and you can just imagine what transpires. Meanwhile, in our other feature, Jamon, Jamon, director Bigas Luna gives us two Oscar nominees (Almodóvar favorite Penélope Cruz and Javier Bardem) in an overheated melodrama about an underwear factory, a well-endowed underwear model, class warfare, naked bullfighting, brutal death by ham, a sign shaped like a bull with big testicles, and a sexy parrot. More on the sexy parrot and the naked matadors in a second; you don’t wanna know what happens to that bull sign.

Unlike most people, I think Penelope Cruz can be a fine actress provided she doesn’t speak English. Jamon gives us the uber-hot Cruz at 17, gladly offering up her ample naked bosom to hungry men lucky enough to bury their face in it. In fact, everybody seems to be having sex with somebody in this film; it got so complicated I actually had to stop the video and draw a chart so I could keep track. Cruz plays the daughter of the local prostitute (or la hija de puta as the credits on IMDB tell us) who’s impregnated by Manuel, the son of underwear factory owner Carmen (Stefina Sandrelli). Carmen is outraged that Manuel is going to marry below his station, so she hires her underwear model (Bardem) to seduce la hija de puta away from Manuel. Bardem’s character isn’t known for his brain; in Spain you need, um, qualifications to be an underwear model, especially if the underwear company is called Samson.

The MPAA shit on itself when it got a look at Bardem and his equally naked pal using unconventional means to incite the bulls during a late night bullfight. That’s self explanatory; the Spaniards aren’t afraid of full frontal male nudity. This is the most penis-obsessed movie I have ever seen. What confuses me to no end is the “sex scene” in the brothel between the guy, Cruz’s mom (la madre puta, according to that profane IMDB), and a parrot. If someone can explain to me what this scene is supposed to mean, I’ll be a better man for it.

Closing Night: Mad Musicals

Shameful Movies: The First Nudie Musical and Cottonpickin’ Chickenpickers

Just like last year, SMOOP closes with musicals. Where last year’s festival ended with the best film in the series, this year ends with the worst. I freely admit to cheating a tad regarding the latter title up there — I didn’t like the movie that much; I liked making fun of it. I watched it twice, but I couldn’t commit to liking the whole as much as the parts.

It’s great when movies live up to their titles. The First Nudie Musical is the movie Rodgers and Hammerstein would have made if they were perverted cheap musical hacks. A film studio is on the verge of going under, so a director and his assistant (played by Shirley herself, Cindy Williams!!!) decide to put on a show, as Rooney and Garland used to do in those old movies, to save their jobs. Except this show has naked tap dancing, '70s nudity, and a scene where the male actors dress as giant vibrators with buttons across their crotches — buttons the actresses eagerly push. How can any trash lover dislike a movie with a truly inspired rendition of the piano “Scales” and with lyrics like “I’m not blind, and I’m not cripple, won’t you let me do your nipple?” Shockingly, this was released by Paramount Pictures and was promoted by the studio in 1977.

Last, but certainly not least, is Cottonpickin’ Chickenpickers, a movie that must have been made to cash in on the Hee-Haw craze. Of all the films on this list, this one comes closest to the true grindhouse experience. The video I saw was made from a horribly dated print full of scratches and fading colors. The continuity errors were enormous, the boom mike made cameo appearances, and the car chases went past the same scenery about 800 times, like on The Flintstones.

What makes this a classic bad movie and a worthy addition to SMOOP’s festival roster are the musical numbers. The plot is simple: it’s about cottonpickin’ chickenpickers, or chicken thieves. Imagine the country and western songs you can get from that plot, then include a theme song with the titular words. As a whole, the movie didn’t make me like it enough to recommend on shame factor, but I did love several scenes. My favorite three are a musical number where the singer is playing a guitar with no musical accompaniment, but seven instruments are playing on the soundtrack, the car chase, and the “You Dirty Ol’ Egg Sucking Dog” number. You will not be able to get this song out of your head, except by force. “Stop stealin’ mah chickens, You Dirty Ol’ Egg Suckin’ Dog! Egggggg Suuuu-Ken Dawg!” sings the guy with such earnestness that you want to join hands with him and sing along. Now that’s how a trashy movie should make you feel.

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Of your list, I've only seen Species and The First Nudie Musical. I remember enjoying Species for what it was (I actually attended the junket for that one) and I thought Nudie Musical was sort of fun when I saw it late at night on Showtime back around 7th or 8th grade.
EC, be lucky you didn't see most of these, though I highly recommend the foreign film double feature over anything else. If you're even remotely as perverted as I am, you'll get a kick out of their unfiltered, sick depravity (they both got rated NC-17), and be reminded how unfair American films are about sex and nudity, but not violence.

I caught Nudie on the show Joe Bob Briggs used to do for The Movie Channel, but I do remember when it came out. I like when a movie gives you exactly what the poster said it would, something that didn't happen as much as it should have back in the grindhouse days.
Great post! I enjoyed your enthusiastic comments about each film.
Thanks, Cinebeats,

Checked out your blog and read your comments about Welcome Home, Brother Charles, a movie I completely forgot about (and with good reason, as you reminded me). I remember going to see that with my cousin on a triple feature of Three The Hard Way and Black Belt Jones. Cool site.
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