Friday, June 25, 2010


(1963; Brandon Chase)
Ahhh, life on the farm…circa 1963, Louisiana. Mmm hmm. Well, alright, it doesn’t sound that good. But it could be worse, much worse, especially if you’re a naive blonde beauty looking for indeterminate “kicks” and the kind of excitement that only urban squalor can seem to promise. Anything at all, just PLEASE don’t make me cook Pa’s dinners anymore…
GIRL IN TROUBLE tells the sordid tale of Judy Collins (the gorgeous Tammy Clarke), a farmer’s daughter who decides to chuck the stale humdrum of small town life for the bright lights of New Orleans. Which means she’s also ditching steady beau Johnny, whom she describes as solid and reliable but fears “moving from Pa’s kitchen to Johnny’s kitchen” would be the equivalent of changing cells in the same prison. Amen, sister! So off she goes, suitcase in tow, hitching the back roads of Louisiana. “Like a fool, I took my first steps towards destruction.”
Like so many of the raincoat circuit “road show” pictures of the fifties and early sixties, GIRL IN TROUBLE is badly post-dubbed and is predominated by Judy’s narration of events as they occur. Despite this tawdry hindrance, it is surprisingly well photographed and stands out from much of the like, mostly because Tammy Clarke is exceptionally beautiful, a rarity in the sixties exploitation racket.
Almost as soon as Judy’s decided to take to the road, she’s sprained her ankle and is caught limping down a desolate stretch in the dead of night by a bumpkin who pulls up hesitantly introducing himself, “My name’s Smith…Joe Smith”. Even though it looked as if he’d strained all his brain power to muster that alias, Tammy trusts him nonetheless. This of course leads to attempted rape, thwarted when she bashes him in the head with a rock. Now she’s convinced he’s dead and, furthermore, that she has little recourse…“No one would believe my story, that much I knew.” So off she goes in his car, raucously accompanied by a veritable storm of jazz, which returns every time she finds herself in a bind throughout the movie.
Once in New Orleans, she abandons the car and finds a fleabag called the Lynrose Hotel, signing in with a creepy old lech whose disturbing half-grin is not lost on Judy (“The room clerk’s eyes followed me up the stairs… A leering old man!”). Once settled into her room, she undresses and tries in vain to wash the would-be rapist’s blood off her dress…“Oh, would I ever feel clean again? Somehow I doubted it”.

Meanwhile, the hopelessly depraved clerk lurches cat-like through the attic and into her closet…and what we essentially get here is five minutes of Judy washing her clothes topless while the ol toad licks his chops and bugs his eyes practically out of his head (lasciviously egged on by the GIRL IN TROUBLE brass section all the while…). When she catches him peeping, it’s another mad dash into the streets and into a very uncertain future… “Hours later and many blocks away, I could feel his eyes burning through my clothes”.

So she finds another flophouse and is shown around by a crusty, boozy dragon-woman called Mona, who lavishly appraises Judy’s modest room as “dark as a pit and the bed’s got more lumps in it than the bride’s rice pudding”. Mona is a rather striking old gal and acts as a kind of social barometer or grim reminder (or perhaps she’s just the aping specter of all things "underbelly"). She helps Judy get a job in a dress shop (owned by a friend) modeling lingerie and dresses, which sets up a lengthy sequence in which Judy slowly, playfully poses in a variety of naughty little items (to my surprise, this never became tedious…).
All the sudden, her new boss (an aging blonde harpy) is coolly pawning her off to a boorish Robert Mitchum-type (“I have some new material I’d like you to see… I’d like my best customer to test out my merchandise before I offer it to public”). So Judy’s told to go up to a ritzy hotel room and try on outfits for the guy, who insists she drink brandy and parade through dozens of nighties (the nerve!) until he’s aroused enough to force himself upon her (to thundering, warlike jazz accompaniment…).

When Judy breaks down to Mona (who got her the job in the first place), crying hysterically about the sexual assault, the grande dame of the Orleans gutter swiftly suggests she turn to stripping… “well, why not? What‘ve you got to lose?!”
As was the case with many of the earlier, more tepid exploitation films, a wee bit of nudity and lots of nasty implication were expected to go a long way… While I’d hesitate to guess that GIRL IN TROUBLE was a desperate plea for truth, I do think the purveyors of such kinds of filth were more than just grimy shysters. They were (for better or worse) trailblazers, breaking down old barriers and encountering the new ones… one creepy, leering old man at a time.

Monday, June 21, 2010


(1977; Rene Cardona Jr)

Somewhere out there beyond the distant horizon lies an island paradise where women and shark alike exist solely to be ravaged by Latin machos in skimpy, bulging banana-warmers. Practicing feminists (and animal rights activists) should probably refrain from reading much further… TINTORERA was originally conceived as a (Mexican) JAWS rip-off, but we quickly learn that writer/director Rene Cardona, Jr. had very different plans, which pan out to something like a soft-core version of the “The Love Boat”, complete with implied 3-way sex and sharks (though the sharks are incidental, an afterthought…).

Although it opens with foreboding theme music and footage of a tiger shark, TINTORERA is a sleazeball epic (at 126 minutes) more interested in detailing the sexual escapades of Steve (Hugo Stiglitz) and Miguel (Andres Garcia), a pair of lotharios of opposite temperament who become reluctant buddies after they bed and fight over an English tourist (Fiona Lewis).  When she succumbs to a shark attack during an early morning dip, the pair simply assume she's returned to England.

Hugo Stiglitz is a man of exquisite passions, intensely brooding alot while attempting to prove to the world that scowling men with scuzzy beards can wear booty shorts, too… Miguel is the prototypical Latin lover, a care-free gigolo (perpetually sporting a tiny speedo and toothy grin) who frequently accosts Hugo with the philosophies of womanizing and taking life easily. Pretty soon, the pair are swapping partners regularly on the deck of Hugo’s borrowed yacht while casually trampling through the scenery in the buff.
A variety of characters cross paths with the stud-men, including pretty American sisters Kelly and Cynthia. On their way to the beach, the gals hitch a ride on an orange truck driven by a pair of mustachioed banditos (with a “GOD IS LOVE” sticker on their windshield). When attacked in their sleep, the gals cheerfully decide to go along with it, effectively proving that you can’t rape the willing (I did warn you).

Hugo’s manservant Colonado (aka “redhead“) is a wisecracking letch who often steals the scene, especially during his uproariously sleazy grind on the dance floor. Susan George (of “Straw Dogs”) plays a free-spirited English gal on holiday who draws Hugo and Miguel into another intense love triangle, rounding out the plot. Colonado, witnessing the trio’s nude frolicking, remarks “the vibe is getting folkloric”.

The decadence during these scenes can be a little much, especially when seeing Hugo’s bare ass pop out of an apron while he cooks “an omelet for three”. For a good half hour we witness the trio fall in love, walk hand-in-hand-in-hand, make goo goo eyes, etc. And (I should add…) the homo-erotic tension between Hugo and Miguel is palpable.
Between all the drunken coupling and amorous antics, the buddies spend their free time hunting and killing sharks (oh yeah, the sharks…). During his first trip out shark-hunting, Hugo remarks, “killing these creatures makes me sad”. That said, he kills countless others before it‘s all over. Many sharks are killed on camera for this sucker (a rather disturbing, insidious way to pad out a sex flick). Then there are long stretches where you’ll forget this is a shark movie altogether... during these lapses, a shark will occasionally swim through a scene (as if to remind us).
Finally (about 90 minutes in), the “killer” shark elbows it’s way back into the plot, biting Miguel’s head off and effectively ending the queasy love triangle. Susan packs her bags (“the memory of Miguel will always remain with us”) and Hugo sets out to get the beast (while seeing repeated flashbacks of Miguel’s angelic smile). While hunting Miguel's killer, we witness Hugo brutalize several sharks, viciously bashing one’s head in. Of course, now that Hugo is alone he also sets out to get laid again, meeting Priscilla Barnes (Terri from “Three’s Company”) and getting back together with sisters Kelly and Cynthia. A drunken skinny dip with the three results in another shark attack and now Hugo’s really pissed…

TINTORERA is one those films that truly tests your ambivalence. As much as I was offended by the senseless slaughter of dozens of sharks (and the concept of rape played for laughs), I also found it to be endlessly, ridiculously amusing. This movie is so unabashedly sleazy and just revels in the bogus philosophy of the swinging 70s. At various points I found myself rooting for the pair… they‘re sort of a Mexican “odd couple”, overcoming their differences for the greater purpose of bedding as many comely tourists as possible. It’s one of those cases where you know you’re wrong, but can’t help but tip your hat. So… Go Hugo! Long live Miguel! VIVA TINTORERA!

Monday, June 14, 2010


(1977; Lamar Card)

“Riding High-I, Riding High-I… I’d rather be riding high in my super-van” drones the dreadfully catchy (and woefully John Denver-esque) soft-rock theme song. When SUPERVAN dropped into my lap for review, a couple of things immediately came to mind. First and foremost, I’ve always admired the audacity and unbridled gaudiness of the 1970s (a time resplendent with middle-aged men proudly strutting around like peacocks in psychedelic leisure suits with monolithic collars). Second, it’s an action/adventure/comedy alleged to be exclusively about the custom van culture (I mean, can you imagine?!).

SUPERVAN begins with Clint (Mark Schneider, the frog-prince of vans) leaving his dad in a huff, suitcase in tow… “I’ve got a chance to do something!”. As he climbs into his glorious brown behemoth (dubiously airbrushed “Morgan the Pirate”), his father sighs indignantly while pulling out a wad of crisp bills, as if to say “sayonara, see ya later o’ van-ish boy”.

Once on the road, Clint beams triumphantly as the radio bellows endlessly about vans, including the announcement of the annual van show, “Freak-Out 76”, which we get a full-on belly ache of later on… along the way Clint saves a spunky, fuzzy gal named Karen from a pack of would-be biker rapists (setting up the obligatory adversary-biker subplot). While fleeing the greasy bikers, Clint casually parks in the gaping mouth of a landfill compactor, which crushes “Morgan the Pirate” as Clint whines about the five grand it was going to win him at the big “Freak-Out”. The biker inexplicably follows suit, literally pushing his bike into the compactor, then feigns outrage as it‘s crushed.

Next thing you know, we’re at a futuristic shop where Clint’s screwball scientist buddy unveils the solar-powered, laser-beam blasting “Vandora”, which elicits a goofy, heavenly tributary squeal of “HEY VANDORA, HALLELUJAH! HALLELUJAH!”. Apparently, the head of Mid-American Motors (generic baddie Morgan Woodward) had commissioned it’s assemblage to out-van all the dimwits at the “Freak-Out”, but for some reason that remains unclear, Clint’s buddy gives the van to him. I think this is sort of a “sword-in-the-stone” type deal, but I’m all guesses here…

Anyways, what we’ve essentially got here is many, many shots of custom vans and all the requisite frolicking that goes with your average van rally. Apparently van culture is all about the kicks, as we see lots of “vanners” get drunk and high while ogling/groping their accommodating female counterparts during the hazy “Freak-Out” montage (accompanied by the “Freak-Out” theme song).

This inevitably leads to a “vanner” wet t-shirt contest in which a thoroughly sloshed Charles Bukowski (no shit!) douses each and every gal he can with a garden hose… the victims of which are coerced into exposing their glistening nipple buds for a shot at drive-in immortality. During this sequence, we also catch Bukowski eagerly, drunkenly attempting to corral a frightened, soaking wet blond half his age while donning a “Wet T-Shirt Contest WATER BOY” t-shirt. The DVD case promises “special appearance by Charles Bukowski” and it is indeed special, though I seriously doubt he even knew (or at least remembered) he was in this.

From there, we get much more ado about vans including a muddy hill-climbing contest, a comely trio of singing “vanner” boosters (the less said about these gals, the better), an endless stream of soft-rock odes to “vanning” and lots of footage of the custom paint jobs, ad nauseam. The bikers jump Clint, Karen uses Vandora’s laser beams on them, Vandora wins the contest, etc…

For the life of me, I cannot figure out the mystique of the custom van subculture. Sure, we get lots of footage of half-tanked van enthusiasts pawing at one another malignantly, but what else is there? Just not my cup of tea, I suppose... Though some would consider this the “Citizen Kane” of the custom van epic (and I’ll wearily concede it’s the big, fat tyrant of van flicks), to me it’s the bloodless culmination, the final nail in the coffin of “all things van”.