Due to the fact that people liked the previous article and due to the fact that I still like trash, it seemed appropriate to continue on in my quest to enlighten the world on the scumbag films most have yet to see. So, without further adieu, may we embark on another journey to a simpler time…when going to a theatre meant choosing your seat properly as to not have any number of body fluids land on your head, hobos were either sleeping or dying next to you, your seat was always broken, your feet always stuck to the floor, and the film was always good-bad…The REAL Exploitation.
Combat Shock aka American Nightmares: If there ever was a film that personified the truest essence of 42nd Street, Combat Shock would be it. Buddy Giovinazzo tells the tale of a Vietnam vet who returns home to a country who doesn’t love him, and a wife and child he can’t provide for. The unemployment line’s well is running dry and he owes money to the wrong people. The plight of his life is piling up on him and there’s not anything he can do, except go beyond the brink of sanity.
Combat Shock single-handedly explained the misery brought onto the world during the Reagan era, in a post-Vietnam America. Long Island sets a backdrop straight out of hell. The terrible thing here is the fact that Giovinazzo didn’t have the money to make his set pieces look this morose-this is what the city really was. Dilapidated buildings, rampant crime, drug pushers running the streets were all realities of the time. Perhaps the most potent aspect of the movie is seeing the lead character’s descent into madness. There is nary a climax in exploitation history that holds the magnitude of Combat Shock. During the last few moments of the film (including the “sour milk” scene that John Waters even called “one of the grossest things he’s ever seen”) the audience is beat over the head with a 2×4 that leaves a foul taste in your mouth, no pun intended. Still one of the most powerful films of the last 30 years, Combat Shock’s relevancy remains intact in our war torn world. It’s exploitation at its finest, but it’s social conscious outshines many of its contemporaries. The influence on genre film is undeniable (take a look at certifiable nut job Jim Van Bebber’s “Deadbeat at Dawn” for verification of that). If Giovinazzo never makes another film again, Combat Shock will be enough of a testament to make him a legend.
Don’t Go in the House: Donald Kohler has that sort of family values that only Mrs. Bates could love. Mommy ruled in that good ol’ fashioned hag/iron fist way that included severe burnings as punishment for wrongdoings. After mommy finally dies, Donald thinks he may have freed himself from her tyranny but unfortunately, she still tortures him through horrid visions. These nightmares haunt Donald as he tries to find some semblance of normalcy in a world he’s never fit into. His only way to to gain control? Find young women, lure them back to his home, and burn them alive of course!!!
Dan Grimaldi’s portrayal of Donald Kohler is an unpleasant mix of insanity and discomfort. One would suspect that throughout his career, that including being a cast member of “The Sopranos”, this role cemented a certain form of typecasting i.e., “this guy’s good to play a psychotic mama’s boy.” You can practically wipe the grime off this film. There are so many aspects of Don’t Go in the House that act as a time capsule: Outdated music, evening spent at the disco, knit polyester suits, dingo boots, and pubic hair. Each performance is more outlandish than the next and even the way people talk seems so typically 70’s/80’s-esque. Don’t Go can be considered writer/director Joseph Ellison’s opus, as his only other credits include serving as a 2nd unit director of “Pelvis” and his 1986 self-funded film “Joey”. While it’s definitely the poor man’s “Psycho”, it’s a film with enough nasty traits to keep the most maladjusted of us in stitches.
The Sister in Law: “She Destroyed her husband’s brother…by the most immoral act imaginable!” screams the tag line of this epic trash tale about brothers fucking each others’ wives. I wish there was a better way to describe it, but that’s the truth of the matter. We are witness to a dysfunctional group of people allowing their selfish motives, coupled with copious amounts of drugs and booze, fuck and fight there way to a chaotic climax.
Crown International flooded the drive-in and grindhouse market in the 70’s and 80’s with mountains of films like this one, that tapped into some of the classic exploitation themes. Director Joseph Ruben (The Stepfather) pulled some above average performances out of his cast (which included “Deer Hunter” star John Savage) while utilizing the Shakespearean-influenced themes in a modern setting. The Sister in Law is another film that’s a snapshot of it’s time. The clothing and architecture scream of that Dallas/Dynasty prime time soap opera. But don’t let that fool you-everything about this film is primotrash! There’s load of sex, tons of substance abuse, tons of insane behavior that could only be acceptable in an exploitation flick. This one’s a little hard to find, but I know that it floats around in those $5 drive in flick collections. If you come acrossed it, you’ll see some familiar faces and get treated to a dirty little trip…this ain’t your mom’s soap opera.
The Killer Nun: If there was ever a subgenre that broke down everything into sub-subgenres, it was the exploitation world. Andif you’re looking to find a well established sub-subgenre, the “Nunsploitation” world would be it. One of it’s crown jewels is the blatantly anti-Catholic film, The Killer Nun. It’s an all star roster of the time, featuring Warhol meat trophy Joe Dallesandro squaring off with one of Sweden’s sex bombs, Miss Anita Ekberg. Ekberg plays Sister Gertrude, an emotionally wrecked nun who’s life is turned on its ear as she succumbs to the temptation of drug addiction, sexual deviance, and depraved murder. Her reign of evil is challenged by a mouthy patient who (ahem) corrals the other patients together to fight the sadistic ways of Sister Gertrude. But will it ever be enough to stop her?
As were many of the religious-centric Italian flicks of the time, Giulio Berruti’s film was allegedly based on true events that took place not too terribly long ago, in an unnamed Central European country. As was the case with a lot of these left of center movies, the film’s heavily reliant on it’s blasphemous themes to carry the story. There’s a lot of deemable offensive moments that would scare off a priest in seconds flat. But perhaps the most hilarious aspect of this film (if you can find one) is the fact that ANYONE can clearly see that it was a blatant rip off of “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest”. The major difference being that Ekberg’s turn at nundom is filled with crazy sex and hallucinogenic drug use. The Killer Nun is firing on all cylinders and it covers the spread, like a good Italian sleazefest should. A nun slipping headlong into hedonism is bombastic enough, but to toss in Joe Dallesandro as a “dramatic lead” ups this movie’s filth factor 20 notches (Dallesandro famously spent his post-Warhol acting career trying to prove he was more than a bulge & a smile.). It’s offensive, reprehensible, and vehemently hateful towards Catholicism-all things you need to make an Italian exploitation classic. Sleaze hero William Lustig’s own Blue Underground released a fantastic uncut presentation of The Killer Nun a few years ago, allowing it to be exposed to a whole new generation of unsuspecting audience members. If Italians and exploitation are your PB & J of film, then The Killer Nun is a sure-fire win. Useless fun fact: Director Giulio Berruti’s son Giulio Maria Berruti II has a credited role in The Lizzie McGuire Movie!!
Hellcamp aka The Beast in Heat: Barring the incomparable Ilsa films, Nazisploitation offered the world very little in the lines of redeemable output. Not so much because of its subject matter, but because like most hot spots in the genre film world, nothing is ever as good as its origins. But throughout the short-lived sub-category, a handful of films that did not feature Ilsa’s buxom, prison protecting self. One of the few is a film called Hellcamp (or The Beast in Heat). Director Luigi Batzella (working under the pseudonym Ivan Kathansky, like it mattered) tells the tale of a crazed Nazi scientist named Dr. Krast (who is meant to look like Ilsa cranked to 11). Dr. Krast has created a genetic freak of sorts, who is sex-crazed and Neanderthal-like in his physical appearance (fittingly played by Sal Boris, one of the ugliest actors in the history of cinema). This “creation” is an insatiable monster who wants to feed on these young, beautiful (of course) women who’ve been taken captive by the Gestapo. As the evil doctor’s sadistic experimenting continues, a group of captive sympathizers mount their counter attack in order to free the prisoners and take down the evil scientist, as well as, put an end to the tyranny of the SS.
In several ways, Hellcamp was indicative of what Nazisploitation was. While these films were made in a fairly formulaic manner, i.e. some sort of prison where beautiful, naked women were tortured, it does carry a decent amount of weight in shock value. It goes for the throat, plain and simple. Most of the directors of these films were claiming they were trying to show what atrocities the Nazis had committed while relating it to their modern day settings, but in the world of exploitation nothing is really THAT serious. There’s so much crazy shit happening, it’s hard to decipher whether there’s an actual point to the film, or whether it was another Italian director trying to outdo his peers. While some of the Nazi-influenced exploitation films are regarded as being genuinely good (Ilsa, The Night Porter, Salo, and Salon Kitty to name a handful), what would follow over 1976 and 1977 were pure, unadulterated sleaze. Hellcamp may have been the trashiest of the second generation Nazi-erotic genre. All forms of ridiculousness are played to the 9’s with rape, cannibalization, torture as part of the menu. The beautiful Macha Magall (Dr. Krast) was not a stranger to films of this nature, as she also had roles in Daughter of Emmanuelle and SS Girls. Combining her turn as a sadist, Brad Harris as the male eye candy, and Sal Boris playing (yet again) another freak, you’ve got yourself textbook Italian exploitation. Hellcamp was to be the last film Batzella made, but what an impression to leave on the world. Hellcamp is one to make you squirm, with all of it’s bombast and excess laid out for the world to see.
Emanuelle in America: A woman who was all things to all people, the Emanuelle franchise’s name has endured well beyond the common exploitation film’s shelf life. Emanuelle in America follows our pseudo- goddess /investigative photographer on her adventurous exploits into the world’s seediest of places. During some of her most recent findings, Emanuelle (played here by the original, Laura Gemser) uncovers a international conspiracy to make and distribute snuff films. Her further searching lunges her into a world of eroticism, depravity, and as always, unspeakable acts of violence. Her travels will take her to beautiful places the world over, and all the way to our nation’s capital. Along the way, Emanuelle finds love, lust, and much more than she’d ever bargained for.
For those of you who grew up masturbating to Cinemax’s Emanuelle series, be prepared to be in for a surprise. This is NOT your teenage self’s Emanuelle. The early films christened with that name were basically every bit of exploitation film crammed into one. In America is the most notorious of the series, due to its director, Joe D’Amato’s pension for excessive filth. D’Amato’s career not only includes classics like Beyond the Darkness and Anthropophagus, but a lengthy amount of time spent in the porn industry. He also helmed the early Emanuelle flicks that were a highlight reel of disgustingness. This particular one garnered a reputation for being a sexploitation altar. Not only does the film show graphic, gory violence but aligns that gore with torture-filled sex. Everything ever whispered about this film is 100% true. There’s the ubiquitous sex scenes (YES, there’s penetration-yeesh!) and nudity is plentiful. But as most exploitation goes, there’s that one scene…yep, the horse scene. By mentioning a horse in the same sentence as the phrase “exploitation film”, I am quite confident you know what’s going on. The scene moves far beyond shocking and into the “EEEEWWWWW!!!” category. It’s appalling for all the right reasons, and remains one of the most well-known of all the exploitation films of the 70’s. Gemser would go on to embody what film fans thought of when they heard the phrase “exotic beauty” and carried the Emanuelle mantle over the course of several films. While the name has now become associated with softcore porn, its not-so-quiet beginnings are a cornerstone of the sleaze film’s history.
Alright, well you know what to do. If you read this, you’re either appalled or your interest is aroused. If it’s the latter of the 2 (or both), get your ass out there and find these. Get drunk with your friends and pop one of these bad boys in. Exploitation is there for your amusement. View it as such!!!
Tags: 42nd Street, booze, Buddy Giovinazzo, cannibalization, Cinemax, climax, Combat Shock, Crown International, Dan Grimaldi, Dead, Deadbeat at Dawn, depraved, Don't go in the House, drugs, Emanuelle in America, eroticism, excessive, exploitation, Filth, genre film, Gestapo, Gore, Hellcamp, Ilsa, Italian, Jim Van Bebber, Joe D'Amato, John Waters, Joseph Ruben, Laura Gemser, murder, Nazis, Nazisploitation, Nunsploitation, Psycho, rape, redeemable, Salo, Salon Kitty, seediest, shock, Sleaze, Sweden, The Killer Nun, The Night Porter, The Sister-in-Law, The Sopranos, The Stepfather, Torture, Trash, Violence, Warhol