Exploitation | Varied Celluloid - Page 2

Strike of the Tortured Angels

Posted by Josh Samford On August - 10 - 2011
Review submitted by Prof. Aglaophotis

Strike of the Tortured Angels (1982)
Director: Roy Rosenberg
Writers: Dick O’Nell and Gary Capra Jr.
Starring: Susan Lee, Stella Jone, Laura Sode-Matteson and George Bill

The Plot: Our story takes place in Hong Kong where a group of delinquent young girls are being driven away to a Women’s Rehabilitation center. Many of the girls are beaten by the other inmates and put to work by the unfair guards. However, one girl named Susan passively fights back against these troubles with her stoic but rigid personality as she tries to escape. Julie, the toughest of the new girls, wants to escape the school and finds companionship in Susan’s personality and motivations. Susan wants to get even with a cheating Doctor Qua who is slowly ruining her family’s life: he drives Susan’s older sister to suicide by knocking her up, abandoning her and stealing money from the family fortune in the process. Susan will do what she can to stop him from ruining her family any further so the two girls escape with a third on their quest to stop the doctor, but not without facing various perils.

The Review
Try thinking of the worst excuse of a Skin Flick, then think of a bad idea for a Women in Prison film and fill it with uninteresting characters. Now combine them, set them in China and imagine what you’d get. You’d get a dull, stupid, barely arousing movie that gives up on being either of those genres and falls into completely different movie genres like Crime, Revenge and Drama. That’s right: Tortured Angels is the bait and switch of Exploitation films. What starts out as a sexy and silly nonsense riddled Women in Prison movie becomes a boring and unappealing Drama/Revenge film.

What sucks about the movie is how hard its humor and combined sleaziness falls. The movie starts out with Susan and the rehabilitation assistant Mr. Lee mud wrestling and tearing at each other’s clothes over the opening credits. From there, the movie keeps up with the zany sex appeal as the transported girls are forced to strip down and wear short shorts and tank tops, some of which they lose completely in the goofiest (but most exciting) hazing sequence I’ve ever watched.

Throughout this, we get to know our main characters, Susan, Ginger and the rough and ready Julie. Julie is one of the most memorable characters I’ve seen in a movie of this caliber because… and I’m not making this up… she’s played by an Asian woman in blackface. She dons a curly dark haired afro to boot and has the funniest facial expressions for some of the most serious of scenes. Ginger on the other hand is the “weird girl” of the trio; she sort of reminds me of the cute nameless girl belonging to Satahn’s cult from the movie Snuff, the girl in the mini-skirt who would laugh every time someone fired a gun. Ginger spends most of the movie caring for a piglet and carrying it around even when the trio are busy warding off horny bikers and robbing people. What’s even funnier is how the piglet is just as badly dubbed as the actors: they give the piglet the oink of an adult pig!

For the first twenty minutes, the movie is somewhat entertaining as the girls try to find some way out of the rehab center. But then we start learning about Susan’s back story. That’s when the movie stops being fun and entertaining. The reason why Susan gets sent to the reform school is about as sympathetic as a drive-by shooting; I’m still not sure how in the Hell she blames the doctor for what she did, especially since he wasn’t involved. Julie’s strange desire to die of illness despite facing the cure several times makes her character hard to sympathize with.

The cinematography is a little awkward at times due to its mixed themes. It’s decent for the most part with a few good shots like the reflection of the cheating doctor in his mirrored sunglasses or a close-up of broken glass separating the scenes from Susan’s ailing father and the cheating doctor. Throughout the movie though the camera will focus on the bare legs of any young girl in the scene as if this really were a Skin Flick. Which is weird because this movie has practically no nudity in it. Girls get undressed and shower in one scene while one girl gets stripped naked during the hazing scene; we get one shot of a bare tush, but that’s it. That’s not a good thing in an Exploitation film!!

At no point does the soundtrack sound authentic. It’s hard to say where every song comes from, but it changes in style, composition and age constantly. One minute it will sound like an action movie, then a horror movie and then a 60’s jazz scene. I can recognize a bit from the Jean Michel Jaree song Oxygen (about three minutes in) and I can name one movie soundtrack this flick does rip off: The Burning! That’s right, the same average ‘80’s slasher that, for years, you couldn’t get uncut is featured in Tortured Angels via song. Be it the fake attack scenes or the main theme song, Tortured Angels plays them both during its many campy scenes. Because of the ripped off soundtrack though, many scenes will sound too action-packed, dramatic or intense for their own good. One of the best songs in the movie is used for a stripping scene and a car chase right out of Mitchell and it makes both scenes feel more intense than they really are.

Because this is movie was originally shot in the Chinese language (I’m guessing Mandarin), it’s kind of awkward how most of the characters have English names; sort of like how Ghost Head took place in Japan but everyone was renamed and the script was made to sound like it was San Francisco. However, at one point, someone shouts for Susan, but it’s not the dub actor speaking, it’s the actual actor. Still, the dubbing is pretty funny. Every now and again, the dub actors will throw in an English accent for random characters. Then there’s the dumpy doctor Susan wishes to take her revenge on who has the funniest voice in the whole movie. Not only does Dr. Qua have a British accent, but the actor sounds like he’s mumbling the whole time; if only this was What’s Up, Tiger Lilly?!

I’ll admit, the movie tries to spice things up a bit through the bad dubbing and strange costume changes. At one point, Susan shows up to talk to her sister dressed up in some kind of modern Native American garb as if she were a Tekken character. There’s even a great scene where the trio strip three random school girls and key their bikes. These moments are all short lived and pale in comparison to the squelching drama story though.

The last five minutes of the movie has some hilarity to it. One character responds to a shotgun blast to the gut by rolling their big wide eyes in the back of their head and forming their mouth in a perfect O shape and standing perfectly still once shot. Also, the copy of this movie I have is hardcoded in Danish, so there are many Danish subtitles throughout the film. However, it should be noted that the abrupt ending of the film is presented with a Power Point-like THE END screen, or in this case, simply END. The word END is subtitled in Danish as well… and the word for END in Danish is spelled S.L.U.T. (though pronounced differently). So, by the end, the movie insults the audience with the power of unintentional hilarity.

The Conclusion
As a Drama/Revenge Film, Tortured Angels is mediocre at best; it’s livened only with a few fun characters and random PG-13 sexual themes. This isn’t like Raw Force where there’s a laugh to be had every minute or bare bodies at every other. Its inconsistent silliness is so broken it barely makes the movie enjoyable. It’s silly and serious, but not never enough of either makes it worth watching.

The Big Doll House

Posted by Josh Samford On July - 16 - 2011

The Big Doll House (1971)
Director: Jack Hill
Writers: Don Spencer
Starring: Judy Brown, Roberta Collins, Pam Grier and Sid Haig

The Plot: Collier (Judy Brown), an American, is arrested and thrown in jail while in the Phillipines. Once on the inside she is introduced to her cellmates who are all part of the regular criminal element. There’s Grier (Pam Grier), the domineering lesbian, who wants to bed the new fish. There’s Grier’s jealous former flame who is enraged with jealousy over Grier’s newfound interest. There’s Bodine (Pat Woodell), the rough and tumble tough girl who is powerful but fair. Finally there’s the loudmouth Alcott (Roberta Collins), who either settles disputes or starts them. These captive women will have to overcome their extreme surroundings and bond together if they ever hope to escape The Big Doll House!

The Review
Considered “the one that started them all”, The Big Doll House helped propel a number of genre film celebrities into true cult film stardom. The very first name that should top the list is of course the director, Jack Hill. As a filmmaker who had worked with Corman before at this point, and had directed a number of independent projects without Corman (including the cult oddity Spider Baby), Jack Hill was given a certain amount of leeway in taking this rather sordid material because the production took place so far away from any home office in the US. By heading off into the Philippines, Corman was able to maximize the potential of his very limited budgets and create titles that seemed larger than they really were. Hill and his crew of no-names at the time would go on to create a new genre of ‘women-in-prison’ film and completely redefine many stereotypes of cinema at this point. A cruel, barbaric, sleazy and bizarre title, The Big Doll House was a remarkable success for Roger Corman and instantly raised the stock of director Jack Hill as well as genre greats Pam Grier, Sid Haig and Judy Brown.

The Big Dollhouse would influence a great number of titles, both in the “Women in Prison” vein of films as well as those in the general world of exploitation. If for no other reason than the fact that this is the movie that introduced American audiences to one of the greatest silver screen starlets the world has ever seen, the irreplaceable Pam Grier. Grier lends her acting talents to the project, as well as her vocals as she can be heard singing the title music Hard Time Woman which actually proved to be a moderately popular title when it first debuted alongside the movie. This was the young actresses first gig, and in many ways the power of her character would continue to live on in her future roles although rarely would she ever play the partial villain that she does here.

These movies were as well known as they were due mainly to their inherit sleaze-factor and cheap thrills that they so often provided. Although other movies would come along and take the genre into even trashier areas, The Big Dollhouse is certainly no walk in the park. Right from the opening sequence the sleaziness is set pretty high within The Big Dollhouse. We watch as the beautiful Judy Brown is introduced to the camera by first being stripped nude, then placed on a table and given a full cavity search. The sequence is rather grotesque and deplorable, but Judy Brown retains her charm throughout the rather degrading sequence. When we watch the head guard wipe her gloved hand onto her jacket, in easily one of the most disgusting gestures in cinematic history, we truly begin to understand where this movie aims to take us.

No Filipino shot “women in prison” title would be complete without a laundry list of disturbing torture sequences in order to populate the movie. There are slight hints at the bizarre as we discover the torture room this time around. Throughout the movie we are treated to a series of vignettes from inside of this room showcasing the various tortures that are administered on the prisoners, and the movie generally takes a dive into the surreal through these sequences. The lighting becomes slightly supernatural, the angles of the camera become twisted and there’s the presence of a strange man wearing a mask over his face that makes him look a lot like Cobra Commander from the GI Joe cartoon. The various forms of torture range from your most basic of cruel actions to the much more elaborate. You can of course expect plenty of whips and Chinese water torture as merely the tip of the iceburg.

The cast is of course made up of fantastic bit players, so you can expect some truly strong performances to go with all of this b-movie related madness. Sid Haig shows up yet again in the fashion of comedic relief. This time out he’s sporting his impressive mustache straight from the start and is dramatically over the top, also in his regular fashion. Carrying a sleazy sort of charisma, he is a joy to watch, even if he is playing a scumbag. Judy Brown is perhaps the least believable “bad girl” on the planet, but she takes on the sheepish mentality needed for this character and plays it well. Pam Grier is also fairly over the top as the bullying lesbian of the prison. Yet, thoughout her character does manage to retain her soft side despite being the most cruel of the main cast. Roberta Collins is fantastic as the tough girl, which counteracts her mousy and drug abused turn in Women in Cages. From the main cast, aside from Pam Grier who usually steals the scene, she may be my favorite of the female leads.

The Conclusion
The Big Dollhouse is indeed a complete classic of this genre. However, in terms of purely an entertainment perspective, I would probably list it as my least favorite film on the Women in Cages 3-Movie set from Shout Factory. I had seen it years before and while I liked it then, it didn’t stick with me. Not like Women in Cages or The Big Bird Cage will. Still, it’s one of the best known exploitation films from the 1970’s and it certainly lives up to its reputation. It just barely earns the 4 out of 5, but on many other days I might label this one a 3. Still, I think it’s highly worth seeing.

The Killer is Still Among Us Review

Posted by Josh Samford On September - 15 - 2010
Back again! How does another obscure Giallo sound? Sounds like a good time to me! So here we have The Killer is Still Among Us which is best known as a pretty disturbing little flick featuring some nasty mutilations! So yeah, jump on board and find out how good it really is!

The Plot: The Killer is Still Among Us details the path of a real life serial killer who stalked the streets of Florence and was appropriately known as The Monster of Florence. Our story focuses on a criminology student named Cristina who is often given very specific details on crimes that are committed locally. She decides to take this case head on for her thesis and soon finds herself wrapped up in a world of voyeurism, pimps and prostitutes. At night the city streets become a dark place where voyeurs spy on young couples while they think they are privately parking out in secluded areas. Our killer takes advantage of these naive youths and shoots them dead and then follows up his murders with the desecration of their bodies. Cristina, while trying to track down the killer, meets a local doctor who is given the job of looking over a couple of the bodies and he tells her what he has discovered during the autopsies. Cristina and this doctor soon begin to date and as the film progresses, we discover that the killer could literally be ANYONE around her and she may very well be the killer’s next target!


Devil Hunter Review

Posted by Josh Samford On August - 22 - 2010
Back from a slight hiatus, I am here to deliver some cannibal action for the masses! Well, in this case “action” isn’t really the proper descriptive, but let’s just pretend okay? Devil Hunter comes our way from the master director Jesus Franco and is everything I have come to expect from the director… which is actually very little. Still, it’s worth reading about, wouldn’t you say?

The Plot: Laura Crawford is a professional model and actress who is vacationing in a beautiful resort island location. Things turn out bad for Laura when those closest to her turn out to be kidnappers who take her hostage in order to ransom her off. Laura’s protectors aren’t willing to deal with these psychopathic kidnappers, so they send in Peter Weston (played by genre legend Al Cliver) who is a ex-Vietnam veteran and general toughguy. When Peter finds the jungle where Laura is being held, both groups discover the secret cannibal tribes who inhabit the island. They are lead by a living Cannibal God/King who thrives off of female sacrifices. Will Peter Weston manage to save the beautiful Laura or will she fall victim to this evil cannibal monster!?


Roger Corman Cult Classic Releases!

Posted by Josh Samford On March - 26 - 2010
No name in the cinematic phone book quite epitomizes the word American Cult quite like that of Roger Corman. The man has produced a true cacophony of cheaply made but well loved works that have established themselves throughout the cinematic landscape, and the good people at Shout Factory are doing the world a service and re-releasing a good number of films from his catalog. You have probably already heard about this, as the company has been heavily promoting their new Roger Corman Cult Classic series, but we now have some release information!

First up is The Ramones vehicle Rock & Roll High School which is celebrating it’s 30th anniversary with a special edition DVD and Bluray release! The special features are listed as such:
* New Anamorphic Widescreen Transfer (1.85:1)
* Special Introduction And “Thank You” From Director Allan Arkush
* Audio Commentary With Director Allan Arkush, Producer Mike Finnell And Screenwriter Richard Whitley
* Audio Commentary With Roger Corman And Dey Young
* New Audio Commentary With Director Allan Arkush, P.J. Soles And Clint * Howard
* Back To School: A Retrospective Including All-New Interviews With Allan Arkush, Roger Corman, Joe Dante, Dey Young, Marky Ramone And More . . .
* Staying After Class: A Roundtable Interview With P.J. Soles, Vincent Van Patten And Dey Young
* Interview With Roger Corman Conducted By Leonard Maltin
* New Interview With Director Allan Arkush Including A Look At Rare, Behind-The-Scenes Stills From His Personal Collection
* Audio Outtakes From The Roxy – Audio Recording Of The Ramones Shooting The Final Scene
* Original Radio Ads And TV Spots
* Original Theatrical Trailer
* Original Theatrical Trailer With Commentary By writer/director/actor Eli Roth Courtesy Of Trailers from Hell.
* Additional Roger Corman Trailers
* And more TBA!



Also being released on DVD is the Punk rock study from Penelope Spheeris, Suburbia. Well regarded, this should turn out to be a worthy purchase as well! Special features look like so:

* New Anamorphic Widescreen Transfer (1.85:1)

* Audio Commentary With Director Penelope Spheeris

* Audio Commentary With Producer Bert Dragin And Cast Members Jennifer Clay And Christina Beck

* Still Gallery

* Trailers


Keep your eyes peeled to Varied Celluloid, as we’ll be covering quite a few films from the Roger Corman Cult Classics series!




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Varied Celluloid is a film website intent on delivering views on movies from all genres. Started in 2003, the website has been steadfast in its goal and features a database of over 500 lengthy reviews. If you would like to contact us about writing for the website or sending screeners, please visit the about page located here.