Criminally Insane (1975)


Criminally Insane (1975) movie poster

director Nick Millard
viewed: 01/12/2017

More like “Criminally Hungry”.

Criminally Insane is like Repulsion, but made by some bastard child of H.G. Lewis and John Waters. And instead of trauma by sex, it’s trauma not getting enough to eat.

“My heart’s just fine as long as my stomach’s not empty.”

Plus points for San Francisco location.


Faces of Death (1978)

Faces of Death (1978) VHS cover

director  Conan LeCilaire
viewed: 11/18/2017

In the 1980’s, having seen Faces of Death was de rigeur for any horror fan. It was one of the most outré things on most family video store movie racks. As far as Exploitation goes, it might have been the video era’s greatest success.

The bait-and-switch of veritable horrors with hammy fakes fit is well within the carny sideshow tease and titillate. The reality, though, was always cheapened by the fake. And it still is. The voice over doesn’t help though it’s strangely politically progressive.

But these days much worse is readily available on the internet. So, out of the context of its reputation and the scrutiny of fake to realism, where does Faces of Death stand now?

It’s definitely in the Mondo mold, and I imagine that is the best way to categorize it today. It shares with Mondo the faux documentary style, the all-knowing narrator moralizing the stuff, the mixture of real life violence and staged material, especially the use of gruesome animal sequences that set the table and tone for verity and horror.

I d say that it’s flaws start with its structure, a seeming randomness that fails to sense its own strengths and weaknesses. It ends up meandering and working through no pattern of development. Interestingly, the music seems an ironic commentary throughout. Which might help to explain the mind-boggling credit sequence and song.

I appreciate Exploitation movies, though I doubt I need to re-watch this again ever. It’s still eerie and gross.

Invasion of the Blood Farmers (1972)

Invasion of the Blood Farmers (1972) movie poster

director  Ed Adlum
viewed: 10/21/2017

Invasion of the Blood Farmers is some legitimate trash cinema. Written by director Ed Adlum and co-scribe Ed Kelleher, edited by Michael Findlay (the two Eds also wrote Findlay’s abominably amazing Shriek of the Mutilated (1974), it’s got psychotronic pedigree.

Wonderfully stiff acting right out of Ed Wood. It also begs comparison to other low budget auteurs such as Andy Milligan or Al Adamson, maybe with a little prime H.G. Lewis thrown in.

“The more I scrub this bloodstain the bigger it gets!” – some dude scrubbing a bloodstain from the floor of a bar

The leads could be the prototypes for Brad and Janet in Rocky Horror they are so bland and ludicrous. Says the Brad to his Janet, “You’re just a pushover for pathologists!” This because both this Brad and Janet’s father are medical guys working at home on some strange multiplying blood. Ultimately it turns out that it’s all due to some literal blood farmers who are part of some weird druidic blood cult.

It’s the kind of bad that is so close to intentional comedy that you may wonder if there was intent of seriousness here at all.

Night of a Thousand Cats (1972)

Night of a Thousand Cats (1972) movie poster

director René Cardona Jr.
viewed: 10/20/2017

“He’s an excellent butler and as faithful as a cat,” so says star Hugo Stiglitz of his Man Friday, Dorgo. A man that he will eventually feed to his man-eating kittycats after Dorgo manages to beat him at chess. An almost Trumpian faithfulness.

Night of a Thousand Cats is a sleazy thriller about sexual predator (Hugo) flying around Mexico City in a helicopter scoping out victims. It’s got to be said, if all stalkers flew helicopters, they’d be a lot easier to spot. He smokes a wacky collection of pipes between abductions, sexual encounters, and murders. He eventually grinds up folks and feeds them to his cats, keeping victims’ heads in glass bottles for kicks.

It’s actually actually kind of a “roughie”. And it gets added creepy factor for the his tracking of child victims as nastily as adult women.

At 63 minutes, it’s a swift affair, trimmed from its original hour and a half. Add into that creepiness some dodgy treatment of the film’s feline stars, and you’ll probably want a shower afterwards.

Nekromantik (1987)

Nekromantik (1987) movie poster

director  Jörg Buttgereit
viewed: 08/11/2017

Back in the mid-to-late 1980’s transgression was all the rage (in certain circles), and there was still a lot of material yet to transgress. It was in these days and in publications like Film Threat that stuff like Jörg Buttgereit’s Nekromantik became the stuff of outré curiosity and urban legend.

When I finally got to see Nekromantik in the early 1990’s from a San Francisco video store with tons of bootleg VHS, it was still pretty fringe, though it had already begat a sequel.

It’s interesting, re-watching it so many years later. I don’t recall how comedic its tone was, maybe because that really pushed back on expectation? But this story of boy and girl and their sexual love for corpses, until boy loses job, then girl, then corpse, isn’t played completely straight-faced. Because the Nekro is the necro but the Romantik is played romantic like in soft-core porn or a shampoo commercial. Clearly intended for laughs.

And the finale, with sperm and blood ejaculating like an over-the-top geyser from a Saturday Night Live skit? That too is quite humorous.

It’s interesting, though, the playing backward of the skinning and killing of a rabbit does have some uncanny effect, as if violence can be undone and what is dead can be brought back somehow. The real gore, such as it is, like it or not, does have that aspect of reality that pushes the rest of the material a little further. The last scene is oddly affecting.

Hitchhike to Hell (1941)

Hitchhike to Hell (1941) movie poster

director Pat Carlyle
viewed: 07/25/2017

“Going My Way, Mister?” so ask a number of dames, thumbing a ride in one sequence in Hitchhike to Hell. One of its cuter and funnier bits.

Going My Way, Mister? is another name for the film, as are Highway GirlsHighway HellHitch-hike to Hell, and Honky Tonk Girl. But by any name, it’s not as trashy, sleazy, or fun as behooves a good Exploitation flick.

Rather, it’s more on the preachy side, most of which comes out of the mouth of owner of a little bar on the road, whose son is seduced by the broads and their shifty pimp.

But it’s the little things that charm. Like the “Going my way, Mister?” montage, there’s a cute scene of how each of the gals downs her whiskey, everybody a little different. It’s the little things that give this film its small level of merit. Though the movie posters are also pretty sweet.

Take Me Naked (1966)

Take Me Naked (1966) movie poster

directors Michael Findlay, Roberta Findlay
viewed: 07/11/2017

Sleazy and artsy, Take Me Naked is moderately confounding. It was also Roberta Findlay’s first directorial role, not to mention starring role. Husband and collaborator Michael stars as well.

There’s a bit more tease than sleaze until the gruesome ending, quite a dark turn of events. There is a peeping tom and a lesbian couple and it all ends in murder.

And, yes, a lot of vaseline on the lens (which sounds sleazier to say than it really is.)

Chained Girls (1965)

Chained Girls (1965) movie poster

director Joseph P. Mawra
viewed: 07/08/2017

Let me tell you, you could queer theory the hell out of Chained Girls. It’s almost a thesis project in itself, just packed with not just stereotypes of the day but leering while offering social commentary on the ways of lesbians in the world.

In the right company, this could be a laugh-riot. In other company, it’s about as offensive as you can imagine. For my money, it’s better to laugh than to cry.

This tidbit comes from Joseph P. Mawra, who (as the site will tell you) also made White Slaves of Chinatown and Olga’s House of Shame (both 1964). As well from producer George Weiss, producer of Ed Wood’s Glen or Glenda (1953) among many other Exploitation titles.

An amazing artifact, in its own way.

Bad Girls Do Cry (1965)

Bad Girls Do Cry (1965) movie poster

director Sid Melton
viewed: 06/28/2017

Bad Girls Do Cry is a 1954 exploitation film by Sid Melton that didn’t manage to find the light of day until 1965. Who knows what any suckers who paid good money to see some mid-Sixties sleaze felt about this dated and tame tale of a girl in Hollywood dragged into White Slavery.

Whatever they thought, it’s better to consider the time of the film’s creation rather than release in watching and understanding this flick. Misty Ayers strips down to her very 1950’s underthings, does get raped, drugged and thrown into prostitution, but it doesn’t match the sleaze of a decade later (or the nudity).

I find Exploitation films fascinating in a way, but it must be said that the bulk of them (and the bulk of the bulk of their actual celluloid images) are quite the slog to get through, with few moments of great weirdness and offense.

I will cite here though, which features a good write-up of the picture: “But what makes Sid Melton’s movie a real mind-melter is that it’s all punctuated with shtick. Yup, this potentially grim story of a blonde bombshell forced into prostitution is continuously intercut – and undercut – by bizarre comic interludes that only succeed in giving it all a strange surrealistic edge.”

Black Devil Doll From Hell (1984)

Black Devil Doll From Hell (1984)

director Chester Novell Turner
viewed: 06/27/2017

I’m glad to live in a world where such a film as Black Devil Doll from Hell exists. Really, the odds against such a thing are so incalculable. That could well be said about any shot-on-video horror films from the 1980’s, DIY projects with limited access to quality tools, techniques, talent, audience, and distribution, labors of love. Even more so, outside of even the realm of white America.

Black Devil Doll from Hell is unique, and yet like other bizarre samples of outsider art, feels like a missive from the collective unconscious of American culture.

Many critiques I read of the film fault its weaknesses in production, its unimaginative camera-work, its slowness. But I have to say, it’s such a fascinating artifact, that if anything I was drawn to its qualities, not its shortcomings, of its production. Consider a totally unschooled amateur artist working just simply from the bare tools available (not top of the line camcorder of the day) and zero training save Chester Novell Turner’s own experience of cinema.

The picture is psychologically dark. It’s the story of an abusive relationship, a young, inexperienced woman discovering her sexuality with a controlling and violent, foul-mouthed boyfriend. Only in this case, the boyfriend is a ventriloquist dummy with braided hair a-la of the day Rick James. As much as it fits in that strange subcategory of horror around living dolls and dummies, the story is as real a tale of abuse as any.

I’ve wanted to see this ever since I first heard of it. I don’t know how to classify it with a star rating, but it in no way disappointed in its glorious weirdness.