Category Archives: Must See
Whatever you do, don’t go by the IMDb listing for this 1970s schlockfest, which is supposed to be about ‘a gay drag queen with a mother fixation who terrorizes a city, hunting down, killing and dismembering women’. While that sounds like something I’d rather like to see, Miss Leslie’s Dolls is actually about a maniac obsessed with transporting her spirit into the bodies of young women, while the ‘dolls’ of the title are the preserved corpses of the girls she failed to possess.
With long black Morticia Addams hair, bushy eyebrows and five o’clock shadow, and dressed in a matronly purple robe, Miss Leslie looks like Aleister Crowley in Norma Bates drag. Now it’s pretty obvious from the outset that she’s being played by a bloke (Miami theatre actor Salvador Ugarte) being dubbed by a woman, but it all makes sense in the end and the road to the reveal is an absolute hoot.
This trangressive spin on the Old Dark House and House of Wax sees students Martha (Kitty Lewis), Lily (Marcelle Bichette), Roy (Charles Pitt) and their teacher Alma (Terri Juston) seeking shelter from a storm at Miss Leslie’s remote home in the woods.
On setting eyes on the lonely middle-age woman’s tableaux of female statues, the teens suspect her of belonging to some weird love cult, but Miss Leslie explains that she has long held a fascination for dolls and for creating life size ones as her family once owned a doll factory that was burned down in a fire. Martha, meanwhile, is the spitting image of the girl Miss Leslie was in love with 20 years ago.
Things go all Thundercrack meets Psycho as soon as the lights go out, with the students and their teacher getting in some bed swapping and heavy petty (Roy’s a bit of a sex god, and there’s some girl-on-girl action), while ‘girl worshipper’ Miss Leslie heads to the cellar for an emotional heart-to-heart with the skull of her dead mother, whom she blames for her murderous acts. We then learn that all Miss Leslie wants in life is to be desired – and to do that, she needs to be reincarnated into the body of a young woman. Oh dear… there are three potential candidates upstairs!
What happens next is really ‘Out there!’ – with the standout scenes involving the waxwork ‘dolls’ coming to lurid life; Martha, Lily and Roy being chased by Miss Leslie armed with an axe dripping in blood, and a drugged Alma, dressed in baby doll negligee and fluffy mules, trying to escape from the deranged maniac. So does Miss Leslie succeed in her spirit swapping? Well you’ll have to see the film to find out. But I can reveal that’s there’s a neat twist at the end.
For decades this would-be cult classic was considered lost, and doesn’t even get a mention in any of my cult film reference books, including Michael Weldon’s Psychotronic Encyclopaedia (my go-to book for the weird, the strange and the freakish). But kudos to Network Distributing and The Erotic Film Society’s Julian Marsh for unearthing this hidden gem (which I’ve now watched three times).
As I’ve mentioned, the film shares its DNA with a host of other genre classics, with Psycho being the obvious one. Shot at the same studios in Florida where Hershell Gordon Lewis lensed his grand guignol offerings, it has the look and feel of the godfather of gore’s grindhouse flicks (especially Gruesome Twosome), but also has shades of Ed Wood’s Glen Or Glenda and even Beyond the Valley of the Dolls running through its exploitation veins.
There’s much debate as to who really directed this bizarre cinematic experience, which is all explained in the booklet, written by film historian Laura Mayne, which accompanies Network’s release, but that doesn’t matter, as this is a hugely enjoyable slice of cheap and sleazy 1970s horror, which also benefits from an unusual score by the film’s screenwriter (Ralph Remy Jr as Imer Leaf) that fuses the space-age electronic sounds of Bebe and Louis Barron’s music to Forbidden Planet (1955) with Bobby Beausoleil’s otherworldly orchestral score to Kenneth Anger’s Lucifer Rising (1972).
Newly scanned from one of the few surviving prints in its original theatrical aspect ratio of 1.85:1, Miss Leslie’s Dolls is out on Blu-ray, DVD and Digital on 3 September from Network.
The Driller Killer (1979) | Abel Ferrara’s notorious art house video nasty gets a deluxe HD restoration release
‘Abel Ferrara’s debut is in the exploitation ballpark, but it’s as much a product of Warhol low-budget artiness as the slasher genre.’ Empire
One of the most notorious of the video nasties, this 1979 exploitation-art-house crossover from future Ms. 45, Bad Lieutenant and Welcome to New York director, Abel Ferrar was judged almost entirely on its video sleeve artwork with the film itself left out of the equation. Now it’s getting a deluxe Limited Edition Steelbook from Arrow Video with the disturbing film fully uncut.
Director Ferrara also goes in front of the camera to play struggling artist Reno, a man pushed to the edge by the economic realities of late-1970s New York and the No Wave band practising in the apartment below. His grip on reality soon begins to slip and he takes to stalking the streets with his power tool in search of prey…
The Arrow Video release of The Driller Killer features a high definition restoration of the film, plus the following special features…
• 4K restoration from the original camera negative of the never-before-seen pre-release version and the theatrical cut.
• High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) and Standard Definition DVD presentations in both 1.85:1 and 1.37:1 aspect ratios.
• Original Uncompressed Mono PCM audio.
• Audio commentary by Abel Ferrara, moderated by Brad Stevens (author of Abel Ferrara: The Moral Vision) and recorded exclusively for this release
• Laine and Abel: An Interview with the Driller Killer, a brand-new interview with Ferrara (see a clip below).
• Willing and Abel: Ferraraology 101, a new visual essay guide to the films and career of Ferrara by Alexandra Heller-Nicholas, author of Cultographies: Ms. 45
• Mulberry St., Ferrara’s feature-length 2010 documentary portrait of the New York, available on home video in the UK for the first time ever.
• Collector’s booklet featuring new writing by Michael Pattison and Brad Stevens
• Steelbook Limited Edition features original artwork (2,500 copies).
• Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by the Twins of Evil (UK Amaray specs).
• Collector’s booklet (first pressing only).
To celebrate Arrow Video’s release, we have been given this exclusive extra to share with you. In this new interview with Abel Ferrara recorded for this release, he discusses why he cast himself in the title role after initially asking David Johansen of The New York Dolls…
This is not a sequel. There has never been anything like it!
Cult film history was made when maverick sexploitation filmmaker Russ Meyer joined forces with fellow boob lover Roger Ebert for their 1970 Hollywood satire, Beyond the Valley of the Dolls. A fusion of rock, horror, exploitation and musical, it was a project made entirely by accident by two outsiders whom 20th Century Fox bravely gave free reign to in a bid to reverse their dwindling box-office receipts. The result was a freakish creation indeed!
This time… they’ve really gone
This wild ride follows band mates Kelly (Dolly Read), Casey (Cynthia Myers) and Petronella (Marcia McBroom), and their naïve manager Harris (David Gurian), as they are taken under the wing of a egocentric LA music mogul, Ronnie ‘Z-Man’ Barzell (John LaZar). But temptation leads our Scooby gang astray (well they do ride around in a combi-van) and their individual fates are all linked to the colourful characters they encounter, including heiress Susan (Phyllis Davis), pretty boy gigolo Lance (Michael Blodgett), sapphic fashion designer Roxanne (Erica Gavin), porn star Ashley (Edy Williams), heavyweight champ Randy (James Iglehart), and dedicated law student Emerson (Harrison Page).
Painted with a gaudy psychedelic palette, this demented parody of Fox’s pill-popping 1967 melodrama Valley of the Dolls cranks up the soap opera elements to camp excess, while Ebert’s tongue-in-cheek moralising script shines a cynical spotlight on the Hollywood dream factory and the hippy movement – which was dealt a final death blow in the wake of the Manson family murders, and which inspired the film’s OTT drug-fuelled climax.
The first of the shock rock!
Ebert, of course, not only gave the film its satirical edge and comic tone, but also its immensely quotable dialogue. And he should have got a special award for coming up with lines like: ‘You’re a groovy boy, I want to strap you on sometime’ and ‘You will drink the black sperm of my vengeance’? It’s bonkers, brilliant, and the stuff of legend, as is the incredibly catchy hippy folk rock score.
With help from stoner band The Strawberry Alarm Clock and The Sandpipers, Stu Phillips (who gave us the Battlestar Galactica theme and also worked with The Monkees) and soul singer Lynn Carey (whose full throttled voice is the one behind Dolly Read’s lip-synching) produced one of the greatest film musical soundtracks of all time. Its so deserving of a Rocky Horror-styled sing-along screening.
And what do critics know anyhow! When BVD was released it was labelled ‘garbage’, ‘sick’, and ‘a totally degenerate enterprise’. But it’s now the ultimate cult movie and – if you look closely – you can see its progeny today in shows like Desperate Housewives and Scream Queens.
Arrow Video’s Blu-ray release features a gorgeous transfer and is packed with extras. Most of these were made back in 2006 for the DVD premiere, but they are a welcome addition (especially as Ebert and two of the cast members have since died), as is the DVD extras of The Seven Minutes (see my separate review). This one’s going straight into my Top 10 releases of 2016.
The Special Extras in full:
• Intro from John LaZar in which he screams, ‘BVD is finally here on DVD. You know it’s your happening and it freaks you out’.
• Above, Beneath and Beyond the Valley: Meyer’s biographer and various journos discuss his wayward career (which rode the thin line between genius and crazy).
• Look On Up at the Bottom: The Music of the Dolls: My favourite extra explores how Stu Phillips’ score paved the way for women in rock like The Runaways.
• The Best of Beyond: The cast and crew on their favourite lines, breasts and scenes.
• Sex, Drugs, Music & Murder: Signs of the Time, Baby! This short doco looks at the 1960s counter-culture’s dark side.
• Casey & Roxanne – The Love Scene: Erica Gavin and Cynthia Myers on their controversial lesbian scenes.
• Screen Tests: Harrison Page and Marcia McBroom and Michael Blodgett (d 2007) and Cynthia Myers (d 2011) perform the same scene.
• Galleries: Behind the Scenes, Cast Portraits, Film Stills, Marketing Materials.
• Roger Ebert commentary (this is hugely entertaining and quite poignant considering Ebert was in grips of papillary thyroid cancer at the time, and had his lower right jaw removed in June 2006, which cost him his voice. Ebert died in 2013).
• Cast commentary with Erica Gavin, John LaZar, Cynthia Myers, Harrison Page and Dolly Read.
Beyond the Valley of the Dolls (1970) | Freak me out! Russ Meyer’s demented cult camp classic is unleashed on Blu-ray
From Arrow Video comes Russ Meyer’s cult camp classic Beyond the Valley of the Dolls in a limited special edition release (3000 copies only) on Blu-ray and DVD from Monday 18 January, which will include its usual bevy of bonus features, plus the world video premiere (on DVD) of The Seven Minutes, Meyer’s rarely-seen Hollywood swansong.
When Easy Rider proved offbeat movies could be box-office success, all the major studios scrambled to catch up – including 20th Century Fox who decided to hedge their bets on giving sexploitation filmmaker Russ Meyer the chance for mainstream success. The result was this X-rated musical sex comedy horror about an all-female rock band trying to make it big in Hollywood with the help of their Phil Spector-styled manager, the notorious Ronnie ‘Z-Man’ Barzell.
Co-scripted by film critic Roger Ebert, Beyond the Valley of the Dolls is a merciless satire of Hollywood and the music business, a no-holds-barred psychedelic thrill-ride that gleefully stirs sex, drugs, rock ’n’ roll, fashion, lesbianism, transvestism and Nazis into one of the most demented and gloriously OTT black comedies ever made.
Arrow’s special edition also includes the rarely seen The Seven Minutes (1971), Russ Meyer’s adaptation of Irving Wallace’s novel about the absurdities of American obscenity laws. Rarely-seen, it became his Hollywood swansong, as his contract was not renewed after poor returns at the box office (mainly due to a lack of tits and ass).
THE ARROW SPECIAL EDITION
• Limited Edition collection of both of Russ Meyer’s Hollywood films (3000 copies)
• High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) presentation of Beyond the Valley of the Dolls
• Standard Definition DVD presentation of The Seven Minutes
• Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing for both films
• Original mono audio (uncompressed PCM on the Blu-ray)
• Separate music and effects track for Beyond the Valley of the Dolls
• Two commentaries on Beyond the Valley of the Dolls by co-screenwriter Roger Ebert and actors Erica Gavin, John LaZar, Cynthia Myers, Harrison Page and Dolly Read
• Sinister Image: Russ Meyer, David Del Valle’s 1987 interview with the director and his former model Yvette Vickers
• Introduction to Beyond the Valley of the Dolls by John LaZar
• Above, Beneath and Beyond the Valley: The making of a musical-horror-sex-comedy
• Look On Up at the Bottom: with composer Stu Phillips and three members of the Carrie Nations discussing the film’s music
• The Best of Beyond: favourite moments selected by cast and crew members
• Sex, Drugs, Music & Murder: Signs of the Time, Baby!, a look at the late 1960s culture that spawned Beyond the Valley of the Dolls
• Casey & Roxanne: The Love Scene, discussed by participants Erica Gavin and Cynthia Myers
• Screen tests for Michael Blodgett, Cynthia Myers, Harrison Page, Marcia McBroom
• High Definition photo galleries
• Multiple trailers
• Reversible sleeve featuring two original artworks
• Booklet featuring new writing on both films by critic Kat Ellinger, Anne Billson’s 1991 interview with Russ Meyer, excerpts from the outraged British critical reaction at the time, and a personal reminiscence by David Del Valle.
One of my Top Five re-releases of 2015 has to be Arrow’s Blu-ray release of Jack Hill’s 1973 thriller Coffy, one the best Blaxploitation films of the era, and the one that turned Pam Grier into a cinematic icon.
‘This is the end of your life you motherfucking dope pusher’
LA nurse Flower Child Coffin (Pam Grier), aka Coffy, goes on a one-woman mission to take down those responsible for turn her little sister onto heroine and putting her honest cop friend Carter (William Elliott) in hospital. Posing as a junkie hooker and a high-class Jamaican escort, Coffy works her way into the inner circle of drug-dealing pimp King George (Robert DoQui), where she finds the level of corruption is much closer to home than she expected…
Coffy was a godsend part for exploitation actress Pam Grier. Her baddass vigilante was a landmark in 1970s cinema and redefined what it meant to be a powerful black woman on screen. As the street wise and fiercely independent hard-working nurse who isn’t unafraid to put her body and her life on the line to exact her own form of justice, she was the perfect modern, revolutionary heroine. And Grier brilliantly brought her to life.
The American International Pictures actioner was also a career boast for B-movie auteur and director for hire, Jack Hill, who had previously lensed two ‘chicks in chains’ grindhouse movies (both with Grier), as well as the Lon Chaney Jr cult curio, Spider Baby, and also shot the US scenes for Boris Karloff’s infamous Mexican horror quartet.
When Cleopatra Jones, AIP’s female Shaft project, ended up being picked up Warner Bros, AIP put Coffy together in just 18 days in a bid to beat them to the punch. Director Hill certainly delivered the goods, as audiences really dug the film. A follow-up, Foxy Brown, quickly followed, again with Grier in the lead, and Hill directing – and it was just as good.
Despite it’s grindhouse veneer, Coffy‘s sex and violence isn’t done solely for cheap thrills. There’s a strong morale code running under the surface, while the racial issues it touches on reflected what was going on in 1970s America – and still does today, particularly in the light of those events in St Louis and Baltimore. But its Hill’s street smart script and tight direction that sets this Blaxploitation feature apart.
But Coffy is also pure entertainment, with some great ‘guilty pleasure’ moments that stay with you forever, like the call-girl cat fight scene and Coffy hiding razor blades in her Afro. There’s also King George’s wicked fashions (he also gets his own theme tune) and the funky R&B Roy Ayers soundtrack (which peaked at No31 in the US charts in 1973). Oh, and let’s not forget THAT poster, which Tarantino called ‘the epitome of a great exploitation poster’. Grier followed this film with AIP’s Scream Blacula Scream, which also available on Blu-ray (click on the link for my review).
THE BLU-RAY RELEASE
Arrow’s director-approved presentation features a restored HD transfer (which looks fantastic btw) alongside an audio commentary with Jack Hill. Among the new interviews on this release is A Taste of Coffy, featuring Hill on making the film (19min), and The Baddest Chick in Town!, in which Pam Grier discusses the films and her inspiration behind the character (17min). Also included is an academic video essay on the Blaxploitation genre, image gallery, and a collector’s booklet, with new artwork packaging by Gilles Vranckx.
• Foxy Brown, director Jack Hill’s follow up to Coffy, is also out on Blu-ray from Arrow, along with the director’s Spider Baby and Pit Stop, which are also on Dual Format (DVD and Blu-ray). Click on the links for my reviews.
This lurid Britsploitation from legendary B-movie producer Richard Gordon (Devil Doll, Horror Hospital) is a gleefully ghoulish celebration of the permissive Seventies, with lots of bare bums (of both sexes), pot smoking, and some really groovy hippy clobber on display as a series of grisly murders take place at a ruined lighthouse on an island off the English coast.
They came, they saw, they died!
It all kicks off when some American jazz-loving tourists (including a dubbed Robin Askwith and former physique model John Hamill) are beheaded and speared in a frenzied attack on Snape Island, and the only survivor (Candace Glendenning) ends up in a sanitorium run by Anthony Valentine (the late Callan/Colditz actor who died on 2 December 2015), whose speciality is hypnosis using disco lights.
With the help of crusty old sea dog (the ever gruff Jack Watson), a private investigator (played by Gordon regular Bryant Halliday) and a team of hipster archeologists (tasked with searching for Phoenician treasure), head out to island where they quicky become prey to the crazed killer (who turns out to be some filthy long-haired feral dude)…
Never mind if the plot doesn’t add up to much, what makes this Brit shocker swing is the combination of fun kills (like a head rolling down the stairs) and an up-for-it cast. They include Cabaret star Jill Haworth as the plucky heroine, Anna Palk as maneater Nora – who gets all the best dialogue (think Noel Coward but with more bitch in its bite), and Derek Fowlds (of Yes, Minister fame) trying to look tough in leather. Big names like George Coulouris and Dennis Price also put in memorable, if token, appearances.
This prime slice of early 1970s British horror looked shite when I first saw it on VHS (grainy dark print and crappy sound) in the early 1980s. But this new HD restoration is a revelation. Yes, it’s all shot on at Shepperton Studios lot, but in pristine Blu-ray, those craggy, cobwebby sets and atmospheric lighting give the film a stylistic nightmarish quality; while the climactic fire sequences have great depth of field with an almost 3D quality.
This was one of cinematographer Desmond Dickinson’s final assignments. His best work was on Olivier’s Hamlet and Asquith’s The Browning Version, but genre fans will know him for lensing Herman Cohen productions like Konga and Trog. Director Jim O’Connolly had previously done Berserk (also one of Cohen’s) and one my favourites, Valley of the Gwangi. And talking of favourites, the the music is by Kenneth V Jones, surely one of the most underrated British film composers. He did the excellent score for Roger Corman’s final Poe film, The Tomb of Ligeia.
Board your one way ticket on the Sea Ghost now for a fun ride into some classic Britsploitation…
Tower of Evil is released on Blu-ray and DVD from Screenbound Pictures (formely Odeon Entertainment), and available from Classic Movies Direct.
• Audio commentary from producer Richard Gordon and film historian Tom Weaver (in which Gordon talks about the cast and Weaver adds in some general trivia)
• Retrospective featurette with Jonathan Rigby (who does a sterling job bringing together all the elements not covered in the commentary)
Hot on the bloodied heels of the sleazy 1974 horror House of Whipcord and the cannibal shocker Frightmare, director Pete Walker and screenwriter David McGillivray stepped inside a suburban London Catholic rectory for their next Britsploitation effort.
The result was House of Mortal Sin (aka The Confessional in the US), a deliciously dark slasher contrived by Walker to make the British censor nervous and the critics chatter, while giving horror fans the sensation they craved. 40 years on, it’s become another enduring classic of 1970s British horror cinema.
Tortured by desires his vows forbid… master of a house of mortal sin!
When Jenny (Susan Penhaligon) discovers her confession has been taped by local priest Father Meldrum (Anthony Sharp), her boyfriend Terry confronts the pompous cleric, but ends up in hospital suffering serious life-threatening injuries.
Meldrum, who secretly lusts after Jenny, then tries to blackmail the young woman, and begins ‘punishing’ anyone who gets in his way. Can Jenny convince confused young priest Father Cutler (Norman Eshley) and her sister Vanessa (Stephanie Beacham) of Meldrum’s transgressions and secret desires before its too late?
Drawn from Walker’s own experiences, McGillivray’s screenplay takes umbrage against corrupt authority figures and hypocrisy within the Catholic Church through the film’s central character – the murderous Father Meldrum, who twists his beliefs to suit his own demented ends.
In his only starring role in a feature, 60-year-old Anthony Sharp gives the role a chilling edge and keeps it wonderfully underplayed – even when his cassock-wearing assassin goes on the attack turning traditional instruments of salvation (incense burner, rosary beads, poisoned communion wafer) into tools for blackmail and murder.
But it’s Sheila Keith as the sinister housekeeper, Miss Brabazon, who steals the show for me. Hers is a truly terrifying creation – a one-eyed, stone-face schizoid, who maltreats poor Hilda Barry’s bed-ridden OAP on one hand, while also being touching in her unrequited love for Meldrum on the other.
The film’s closing scene might, which suggests Father Meldrum will continue with his deadly ministry long after the credits roll, is a real kicker (thanks Pete).
House of Mortal Sin is released by OEG Classic Movies in the UK on Blu-ray and DVD
Rutger Hauer speaks out about why he took on such a crazy venture in Canadian director Jason Eisener’s explosive 2011 exploitation homage, Hobo With A Shotgun.
The reaction to Hobo With A Shotgun has been nothing short of phenomenal – and rightly so.
RUTGER HAUER: You know, not since the first test screening of The Hitcher in 1985 have I seen one of my movies get such a great audience reaction as Hobo has. It’s the only time that I’ve experienced watching a film with an audience where they know exactly what it is, and what you’re doing, and they know how to appreciate it – it was lovely.
How did you get involved with it, and what attracted you to the project?
HAUER: I’d say that about one third of my work involves projects I think I should gamble with, and the more I do them, the more pleasure I get out of them, because you discover things. The script was a bit loud and flat, so I wasn’t sure if there was more to tell, or if maybe I hadn’t read it correctly. But once I connected with Jason on Skype for an hour (I was shooting a film in Cape Town and he was in Halifax), I knew I had to work with him because it would be fun. Going into it, I felt like I was making a dirty, naughty film, with no holding back: I understood what the game was and I enjoyed it.
Did you have any input into the Hobo character or the script?
HAUER: Yeah. Jason had very specific ideas about the character, because the whole story was based on Dave Brunt, who is a real person walking around in Halifax with his own story – he was the inspiration. Jason wanted me to hang on to that, so my task was to see if I could bring the real character into my movie character. So I studied Dave. He was there on set most of the time, and he was very supportive of me playing him. He was very proud that I was pretending to be him.
What is Dave Brunt’s story?
HAUER: He’s a damaged person basically, because he was disabled when a truck drove into him. He settled for a couple of thousand dollars or something, but a big part of his life was ruined. So he became somewhat of an outcast I would think; but he’s also a very pure character who loves nature and knows all about any wild animal you can think of.
The movie is extremely violent, but also totally over-the-top. How did you handle that?
HAUER: Jason felt that I shouldn’t play it for jokes. My task was to be deadly serious, because Dave is also very serious about this stuff: you can’t fool around with honour and pride, and sensibility.
Did you find it hard keeping a straight face during the really insane scenes?
HAUER: Every scene became such an over-the-top soap opera that it was a pure joy to see how everything developed into such ridiculous, crazy stuff – but of course it was my job to stay in character. Naturally though, after Jason said ‘cut’ you would piss yourself, because of all that had happened during the scene. It’s hard, sure, but I had a lot of fun shooting this movie because it was so wild, so creative, and everyone involved has a love for making movies.
Were there any moments while filming some of the really insane scenes when you questioned if it was just too crazy?
HAUER: Not really. I just thought that I had to pick my own moments of craziness. In a story, you can only burn and kill so many people before it gets boring – you have to be creative. I think that’s what the audience was expecting also. We had to make a movie out of the original trailer and top it, because the expectations were so very high.[youtube:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ssHEAOrAdCU&feature=related%5D
When I think of career-defining moments for an actor, Mickey Rourke immediately comes to mind with his amazing ‘back from the dead’ performance in The Wrestler. Other actors who found a new lease of fame long after their early successes include Clifton Webb (the jobbing actor was 55 when his Waldo Lydecker in 1944’s Laura made him a bona fide star) and Vincent Price (who was 62 when he played his most iconic performance – a vengeful Shakespearean actor – in 1973’s Theatre of Blood). Then there’s Rutger Hauer.
Having sealed his star status playing a renegade replicant in 1982’s Blade Runner, Hauer has carved himself a brilliant career in both Hollywood and Europe over the past three decades. But it has taken the first-time director and self-confessed fan Jason Eisener to give the 67-year-old veteran actor the role of a lifetime in his bloody, brilliant homage to 1980s exploitation films Hobo with a Shotgun.
Rutger plays a nameless, homeless man who wanders into a small rural town to find it ruled over by the violent Drake and his sadistic sons Ivan and Slick, who use the townspeople in their deadly games of humiliation and torture. After saving a prostitute from becoming Drake’s next victim, Rutger’s hobo turns vigilante and lets loose his rage, becoming a local hero in the process. In retaliation, Drake sets forth two bounty hunters (The Plague) to take out the hobo, resulting in a bloody, brutal showdown…
I found myself drooling over Eisener’s use of colour, music and production design that all seamlessly fit together to evoke action flicks like Death Wish that dominated the VHS market throughout the 1980s. Eisener’s influences are up there on the screen for all of us to see: the opening music evokes the Euro horror Mark of the Devil and the sexploitation classic Black Emmanuelle, while the primary chromo colours dripping off the screen are a deliberate nod to Mario Bava and Dario Argento. Eisener’s editing skills are just as sharp as his eye for detail (Robert Rodriguez’s own exploitation homage Machete has been an influence), while his script is packed with quotable gems like… ‘Put the knife away kid or I’ll use it to cut welfare cheques from your rotten skin!’
Eisener’s inspiration for his characters, meanwhile, come from the most surprising of sources. Drake’s slickly dressed sons aren’t modelled on Tom Cruise in Risky Business (as I imagined) but on a Nintendo character called Captain N, while the iron clad bounty hunters are based on The Muppet Movie assassin Snake Walker. Now that’s warped.
But Hobo is all about Rutger Hauer’s performance, and doesn’t Eisener’s camera just love his grizzled features? Hauer totally owns the role and I couldn’t take my eyes off him for a moment. The best scene by far is also the funniest, when Hauer gives a monologue to a hospital ward of newborn babies, telling them they will probably all end up becoming prostitutes and paedophiles, rather than doctors and lawyers, when they grow up. Priceless.
So is Hobo with a Shotgun the best midnight movie ever? The answer is: ‘Hell, yes!’ It’s also the perfect companion piece to Rodriguez and Tarantino’s Grindhouse which inspired Eisener to make the film after winning a fake trailer contest. I do hope, however, that he hasn’t used up all of his tricks on this film, as I would love to see him flex his film nerd muscles on another kick-ass project sometime soon. (ED: Eisener has done just that on his shorts for The ABCs of Death and V/H/S/2).
Hobo with a Shotgun can also be viewed online from Momentum Pictures (click here)
House of Whipcord (1974) | Pete Walker’s depraved exploitation horror remastered for your sick pleasure
Only young girls may enter and no one leaves…
Immoral young women are undermining the social fabric of Britain. What can be done about it? One couple think they’ve found the answer – buy a disused prison, fill it with women of loose morals and then degrade, flog and hang them until they see the error of their ungodly ways. When French model Ann-Marie (Penny Irving) causes a scandal for appearing naked in public, she accepts an offer from the dashing Mark Desade (Robert Tayman) to hide out at his family’s country estate. But she soon finds herself hurled into a secret women’s prison run by Mark’s parents – disgraced prison governess Mrs Wakehurst (Barbara Markham) and the blind, senile Justice Bailey (Patrick Barr). Now, she and her fellow inmates face the starkest of choices – submit or die. But Ann-Marie gambles…
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