Stray Cat Rock: Wild Jumbo (1970)

Stray Cat Rock: Wild Jumbo (1970) movie poster

director Toshiya Fujita
viewed: 07/16/2018

More like “Wild Jumble”, am I right?

Stray Cat Rock: Wild Jumbo was released only three months after Alleycat Rock: Female Boss, the first of what would turn out to be a five movie series pumped out in a little over a year. Wild Jumbo bounces from a few different vibes before winding up in a nihilistic kaboom.

Unlike other films of the series that I’ve seen, Meiko Kaji doesn’t have as central a role here, playing a smaller part in the narrative.

She’s part of a sort of gang, running around in some weird jeep, harassing and being harassed, running around, before eventually hooking up with a wealthy young woman who fancies one of the guys. A trip to the beach turns into a lark but also a training exercise (albeit also a quite frolicsome one) to prepare for a heist of a wealthy religious sect.

It’s all kind of weird, though entertaining enough. But the bizarrely pessimistic ending comes as so completely a dead stop to the lightness of the rest, rather than jarring, it almost makes it more interesting?

It’s a jumble. A wild one, in ways.

Bandidos (1967)

 Bandidos (1967) movie poster

director  Massimo Dallamano
viewed: 07/15/2018

A cool title sequence opens Bandidos, a very solid, though lesser-known and seen Spaghetti Western.  

This was Massimo Dallamano’s first film as director, having served as cinematographer for at least 15 years prior. He was fresh off of shooting A Fistful of Dollars (1964) and For a Few Dollars More (1965) for Sergio Leone. According to spaghetti-western.net, Dallamano was disappointed with not being brought back for the finale of The Good, The Bad and The Ugly (1966), and infused Bandidos with themes of betrayal, apparently pointed at Leone.

“Hurry up and die, will you?”

Bandidos is packed with lots of action, nearly brimming with it, and the cinematographer turned director shoots the whole thing teaming with style and panache. It all starts with a train robbery, the brutal killing of all of the passengers, save one, a sharpshooter who has his hands maimed. Revenge percolates, a young man comes into play, student to the damaged gunslinger, but it doesn’t turn out quite the way one might think.

Good stuff.

The Fifth Cord (1971)

The Fifth Cord (1971) movie poster

director  Luigi Bazzoni
viewed: 07/14/2018

A Black Day for Aries (Giornata nera per l’ariete) is much more giallo title than The Fifth Cord, though apparently the latter is the title of the book from which it was adapted. By any other name, it still kicks off with a stylish title sequence

That style bursts out in spades in the tremendous cinematography by Vittorio Storaro who would go on to work on much more substantial cinema with directors like Bernardo Bertolucci, Francis Ford Coppola, and Warren Beatty. Storaro’s camera obsesses over art, architecture, and physical space, and…oh, the story, too.

I’m not sure I’ve ever watched a giallo and not at some point wondered, “what’s going on again?”

Franco Nero is gorgeous but it’s all about the cinematography here. And that might just be enough.

Frightmare (1983)

Frightmare (1983) movie poster

director  Norman Thaddeus Vane
viewed: 07/13/2018

The “other” Frightmare.

“Errol Flynn did it to John Barrymore!” Indeed.

In this case, the kids, a horror film society, dig up their recently dead hero movie star and party with him. Only he’s also demonic and capable of craziness from beyond the grave. Deaths ensue.

Frightmare bears interesting aspects and attributes but is sophomoric in ways that undercut it.

The crow pecking Jeffrey Combs head is an excellent shot.

Monstrosity (1987)

Monstrosity (1987)

director Andy Milligan
viewed: 07/11/2018

The first of Andy Milligan’s California-made movies, Monstrosity takes a major tonal shift from misanthropy in the direction of comedy.

Monstrosity opens on a crime spree, murder, rape, thefts all by a small gang of generally over-the-hill hoodlums and their molls. This rather bleak beginning gives way to a trio of dudes who cook up a golem-themed Frankenstein revenge plan that gives us a dim-witted, frizzy-haired hero monster to take back the night.

As wonky as it is still has that Milligan authorship to it, especially in some of the camerawork and editing. That said, it sort of seems like Milligan was sort of having a more fun time on the set? According to Jimmy McDonough’s biography on Milligan, it’s not entirely likely, but who knows?

The comedy is sort of grating, seesawing back and forth to mildly amusing at times.

The most a-typical Andy Milligan flick I’ve seen.

Symptoms (1974)

Symptoms (1974) movie poster

director  José Ramón Larraz
viewed: 07/09/2018

Symptoms, a slow boil psychological horror-thriller from director José Ramón Larraz seems to have fallen between the cracks before being rediscovered somewhat recently.

If for no other reason, Angela Pleasence delivers a sublime performance as Helen, a woman with a haunted aspect, who brings home a friend, Anne (Lorna Helibron) who has recently split up with her guy for a long weekend at her country estate. Only, it seems that Anne isn’t the first young woman to come to Helen’s estate, and what ever did happen to Cora who was here before?

A very dreamy atmosphere pervades, inside and out. Larraz paints England as pissing down rain, grey, and dreary, sleepy. A somnolent undercurrent of desire emanates from Helen, but what is really going on between her and Anne? And what about the creepy handyman?

I was also brought to mind of Larraz’s Vampyres (also 1974). Is this the same building in both movies? The two films both share as well, lesbian protagonists, haunting an isolated English manor. Norman J. Warren’s Prey, also came to mind for similar connections.

The blood in the butter was a nice touch. Angela Pleasence, excellent.

Graduation Day (1981)

Graduation Day (1981) movie poster

director  Herb Freed
viewed: 07/07/2018

Stylish editing and sound design highlight Graduation Day, an above-average classic era slasher. Yeah, and groovy disco intro.

As the title indicates, it’s the end of the school year for these Midvale High seniors. Seniors, who despite living out the  last couple days of high school,  are practicing off-season sports and getting killed accordingly by a mystery revenge-seeker in gray sweats and a fencing mask.

Richard Balin as Mr. Roberts the music teacher is fab, a little bit lounge singer, a little bit Paul Lynde. And Patch Mackenzie really reminded me of Jennifer Lynch.

Despite one of the worst fake-outs on who’s the killer, it’s an entertaining ride, if vaguely overlong.

The killer’s telltale bedroom is also kind of funny.  “Jeez, so-and-so, you really like weaponry, don’t you?”

The Burning Hell (1974)

The Burning Hell (1974) movie poster

director Ron Ormond
viewed: 07/06/2018

“My subject is hell.”

300 zeroes hell.

Ron Ormond and Estus Pirkle’s The Burning Hell is like a Chick Publication brought to life.

It’s even more preachy (if that is possible) than If Footmen Tire You, What Will Horses Do?, their prior outing is Exploitation Christian Propaganda.

I could totally imagine Ted Cruz in this movie.

As psychotronic as anything I can imagine. Seriously, some of the craziest fucking shit. And much more tedious a mindfuck.

From a weird movie perspective, it’s solid gold.

And also, fuck you Estus Pirkle.

If Footmen Tire You, What Will Horses Do? (1971)

If Footmen Tire You, What Will Horses Do? (1971) title screen

director Ron Ormond
viewed: 07/05/2018

Communism will destroy the United States. Sex Ed, cartoons, and television can be your moral doom. Mississippi Baptist Christianity is the only thing that can save us, according to Estus Pirkle in Ron Ormond’s If Footmen Tire You, What Will Horses Do?  Also, “Dancing is the front door to adultery.”

So massively crazy is this Christian scare film cum Exploitation sleaze. What’s even more frightening is how fucking amazingly and terrifyingly relevant this red hot bowl of shit is even today. I thought to myself, if this was made today it would be a YouTube video (Ironically enough, I watched this on YouTube).

Hilarious and atrocious, If Footmen Tire You is some pretty wow stuff. Frankly, the DSM-5 should classify this kind of religious fervor is a psychological abnormality.

Estus Pirkle was 41 in 1971, and looking into this psycho prism is like a glimpse back into its own type of hell, one ruled over by Pirkle as Satan himself. Only crazy crap of a similar order may be just as alive and well today.  Lucky for us Pirkle died in 2005.

A incredible artifact.

Siberian Lady Macbeth (1962)

Siberian Lady Macbeth (1962) movie poster

director Andrzej Wajda
viewed: 07/04/2018

Siberian Lady Macbeth is a grim little film from Andrzej Wajda. This Polish-Yugoslav adaptation of a Russian property seems to bring viewers to mind more of The Postman Always Rings Twice than the Barf of Avon.

Shot in black-and-white CinemaScope, it also feels as if it could be easily transposed into feudal Japan.

Olivera Marković plays the ambitious and bloodthirsty Katerina, who is also beautiful and severely oppressed in her home life by her coarse father-in-law. When in walks a handsome peasant stranger, and Film Noir ensues.

The levels of bleak rise higher as the film wears on to its dark conclusion.

I actually thought it was pretty interesting.