R0BTRAIN's Bad Ass Cinema: Exploitation Celebration, Part 1

So the Summer Movie Season is almost upon us, but I’ve still got Grindhouse on the mind. I don’t care if it flopped in theaters or not, the movie was an absolute blast and maybe my favorite movie of the year so far (though 300 would have something to say about that). At any rate, I really loved the movie, and not only that, I’ve had a blast catching up on a ton of Exploitation cinema in my preparation for the movie.

These movies are cheap, but have an amazing amount of energy and style, making them as fun and trashy as possible. While yes, a lot of Exploitation and Grindhouse movies are absolute crap, the best of the movies are insanely fun or completely engrossing forgotten gems. This is probably going to take a few columns to get through all the stuff I’ve been watching lately, so without further ado, let’s get to the first part of my Exploitation celebration.

Revenge is a Dish Best Served Cold

Did you see the fake trailer for Machete and want to see that movie immediately?! I know I did, and that I’ve already worn out my copies of Kill Bill, Point Blank, Above the Law, and every Chuck Norris movie I’ve got. Thank God there are plenty of other ass kickers out there, and these flicks can maybe quench your thirst for vengeance until Robert Rodriguez makes Danny Trejo into the indestructible killing machine we’re now dying to see.

Truck Turner Starring Isaac Hayes, Yaphet Kotto, Alan Weeks, Annazette Chase, and Nichelle Nichols. Directed by Jonathan Kaplan

Now Shaft may be a bad mutha (Shut Yo Mouth!), but he’s got nothing on Isaac Hayes’ Mack “Truck” Turner in this movie, a former football star and current bounty hunter that takes down rednecks and pimps like nobody’s business. Seriously, this guy is super bad ass, and has one of those reputations on the street that have made him an urban legend. You see why he’s got the rep after he beats down an absolutely huge guy in the first ten minutes of the movie, tearing this guy apart when he tries to go toe to toe with Truck. Another scene has Hayes’ Turner beating up like 20 guys, with one of them saying he wouldn’t have even tried if he knew he’d be fighting Truck Turner.

Things are all going smooth for our hero, until he gets an assignment to bring in a crazy pimp named Gator (Paul Harris). After an awesome car chase and a really well directed standoff and shootout at Gator’s hideout, Truck has to put him down in self defense, but that only ignites the fury of Gator’s Madame, Dorinda (Nichelle Nichols, Star Trek’s Uhura!). Soon Dorinda calls a “Legion of Doom”-style meeting of the city’s pimps, offering her stable of prostitutes to whoever takes down Turner.

What follows is an awesome onslaught of action by Director Jonathan Kaplan, who hardly lets up on the shoot outs and fist fights for the rest of the movie. Only small interludes of comedy and pimps yelling at each other break up the chases and violence, as Turner mows down one scumbag after another. A lot of these scenes are also expertly shot, taking advantage of New York City’s buildings and reservoirs to give us striking images as Turner has rooftop and street level gun battles.

The movie then reaches another level soon after Turner blows away a few would-be killers. Ticked off by Truck’s resilience, New York’s most powerful pimp, Harvard Blue (Yaphett Kotto, Alien’s Parker!) calls in a superteam of assassins to try and take down the bounty hunter. To get to Turner, they end up hurting and killing his loved ones (even his cat!), which is where he finally decides to stop dodging these punks and instead goes hunting for his own assassins, and the movie’s finale in a crowded hospital is a complete show stopper.

Truck Turner isn’t the best movie in the world, but you’d be hard pressed to find one that’s more fun. Isaac Hayes makes an awesome smart ass hero, with his fists and .44 Magnum doing a lot of his talking for him. There’s literally an action scene every five minutes, with Hayes, Kotto, and Nichols carrying the interim scenes with ease.

Thriller, AKA: They Call Her One Eye Starring Christina Lindberg and Heinz Hopf. Directed by Bo Arne Vibenius.

Back when Tarantino was doing rounds, talking about his inspirations for Kill Bill, he kept mentioning this Swedish revenge movie, Thriller. I’d never even heard about the movie up until that point, so I sought it out, and it’s actually a pretty harrowing experience. This isn’t a rip roaring rampage of revenge, Thriller is instead, a slow paced and methodical flick that ends up a sick and twisted novelty.

The movie concerns a girl named Madeleine (Christina Lindberg), who is kidnapped and hooked on heroin by a pimp named Tony (Heinz Hopf). Tony’s a pretty sadistic guy, as after he kidnaps Madeline, he writes a letter to her parents stating that she’s run away and never wants to seen them again, which causes her father to take his own life. Later, when Madeline tries to run away, he takes her eye, which is a pretty insane scene in and of itself. So eventually Madeline gives in to Tony, and is given her own free time to roam the city when she’s not with clients, because he knows she’ll come back because she needs her heroin fix. Only, unbeknownst to him, in her free time she gets Karate lessons, Shooting lessons, and STUNT DRIVING lessons! This all comes in handy when she starts hunting Tony and killing all her clients.

Turns out the big problem with this movie is simply that Bo Arne Vibenius is not a very good director. Where this film could have been an adrenaline pumping tale of vengeance, the movie is more like a car wreck that you can’t take your eyes off. The movie is VERY graphic, as the violence of the film is almost always in slow motion, featuring Lindberg in bloody shotgun battles and very odd fight scenes with tons of gore. There’s also a car chase that features a lot of collateral damage and tons of unnecessary explosions, but really isn’t very exciting at all. Really you’re just dumbfounded that all these innocent people are being killed by this film’s hero for no reason, but maybe all action movies in Sweden are like this. Then again, the eye patch wearing, shotgun touting Lindberg look does look pretty inept during the action sequences in the film, which the slow the motion is probably trying to mask and she doesn’t even need to be in a car if there’s a big car chase to fill up time. So maybe this guy is a decent director after all.

If you’re watching the “Unrated” version of this film the movie also features Hardcore sex scenes that are inserted into the picture, which also adds to the dirty feeling you get by watching the film. The big problem with the hardcore scenes is that they come when Madeline is being used by the clients, so they’re not really erotic at all. So in the end, we get a revenge movie that’s not really action packed or erotic, but is so audacious that it’s really tough to look away.

Coffy Starring Pam Grier, Sid Haig, Booker Bradshaw, Robert DoQui, and Allan Arbus. Directed by Jack Hill

On the complete opposite end of the Revenge movie spectrum is Coffy. If you ever plan to see a Pam Grier movie other than Jackie Brown, then please make it this one. Filled to the brim with action and nudity, Coffy IS exactly the movie you were probably wanting to see if you watched Thriller. In the flick Grier stars as Coffy, a nurse who spends her nights going vigilante on a criminal organization who got her young sister hooked on dope.

If I had to rate the sexiest performances I’ve ever seen on film, this performance by Grier would be in the top 5. She’s unbelievably hot here, using her body and wits to wade through an army of pimps and gangsters to get to the men she wants to kill. And kill them she does, as Director Jack Hill stages awesome arrays of violence. I love on his DVD commentary of the picture how Coffy is able to get two drug pushers to let their guard down and then “kill the shit out of them.” Coffy stabs, runs over, and blows away all those responsible, taking a host of thugs out along the way. There’s also a ton of cat fights in the movie, as not even prostitutes or their wardrobe is safe from Coffy’s wrath.

The bad guys in this are incredibly sleazy and over the top, including Robert DoQui as King George, a pimp who looks like he’s dressed as a 70’s superhero, complete with flowing cape. The odd thing is, DoQui (who is awesome as the gruff sergeant in RoboCop) somehow finds this weird nobility with this character at times. The rest of the bad guys are simply caricatures, such as Allan Arbus’ Arturo Vitroni. Vitroni is maybe the least imposing mob boss in movie history, as he just comes off as more goofy than anything else, with Arbus playing him like a cartoon, but he’s good for a few laughs.

The best villain of the bunch is Sid Haig as Omar, Vitroni’s right hand man. He’s a monster in this movie, nearly beating a cop to death in the film, as well as killing off another character by putting a noose around the victim’s neck and then using it to drag the man behind a car at high speeds. He makes quite the formidable opponent for Coffy, but in the end she’s able to use her wiles to trap him.

Coffy is the type of movie that absolutely whips you up into a frenzy and has you screaming for blood right up to the end. Grier gives an awesome performance that’s about as bad ass as she’s ever been on screen before and Sid Haig gives a memorable turn as the film’s heavy. Bottom line is, if you want your vengeance served cold, but by a hot woman, this is the movie to see.

Well, I had planned on throwing in at least one more revenge movie, but it looks like I’ve gone and not left myself enough room. Guess I was a little more excited about these movies than I thought I was. So I’ll finish up my Revenge movies next week and then either get started on my looks at Zombie movies or Road Rage. See you next week.

Picture Credits: cinemastrikesback.com, static.flickr.com, filmstarts.de, dvdtimes.co.uk, badmovieplanet.com