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Great Texas Dynamite Chase, The

Posted by Josh Samford On April - 23 - 2011

The Great Texas Dynamite Chase (1976)
Director: Michael Pressman
Writers: David Kirkpatrick and Mark Rosin
Starring: Claudia Jennings, Jocelyn Jones and Johnny Crawford



The Plot: Candy (Claudia Jennings) is a simple kind of girl from a simple farming home. After spending some time in the joint, she finally concocts a plan to escape from prison. When all goes as planned, her sister is waiting for her with a car just outside of the prison and Candy is then set out on the town. Ellie-Joe Turner (Jocelyn Jones) is a bank teller in a small Texas town, where nothing exciting ever seems to happen. When Candy roles into town though, she brings just the right variety of excitement. She walks into Ellie-Jo’s bank with two sticks of dynamite and threatens to blow everyone up if they don’t hand over the money. She executes her robbery perfectly and takes the money she makes in order to save her families farm before heading out West. Along the way she meets up with Ellie-Jo once again, as the young woman has taken to hitchhiking in order to find some form of excitement similar to what she has just experienced. It is here that the two form a close bond and start planning out their very next robbery.

The Review
The subgenre known as Hixploitation may be offensively titled, but it is a genre with at least some semblance of respect or honor for southern culture. Although these films may display outlaws and troublemakers, that in fact is a part of the southern way of life. There’s a certain amount of adoration for rebels to a degree, and growing up in the deep south I have seen this first hand. For better or for worse, we absolutely love a good outlaw. Certainly in the first half of the previous century, that rebellion remained very much intact with far more precedence and focus on the civil war being a part of the every day man’s life. Today, many kids might not know the difference between Robert E. Lee or Ulysses S. Grant if their battles weren’t immediately on the study-agenda at school. For those born prior to 1990, in my experience, there has always been a tiny bit of historical knowledge instilled in our minds. From the Looney Tunes cartoons we grew up watching (with their random Civil War references), to our own parents and upbringing, we caught the tail end of a streamlined diet of southern traditionalism. Whether or not it caught on, that was dependent on the person, but if you were born and raised in the South it is a cultural stigma that can never leave you. The Great Texas Dynamite Chase isn’t so much a cultural study on Southern heritage or upbringing, as much as it is a study on foxy-ladies who whip all kinds of serious butt.

Women taking revenge and generally kicking the butt of men doesn’t make for the most revolutionary of cinema by itself. The concept had been done before this film and it was surely done many times over since the release of this film, but the manner in which these familiar genre tropes are tackled are what makes the project as memorable as it is. The most fun movie on Shout! Factory’s Roger Corman Action Packed Triple Feature DVD set, The Great Texas Dynamite Chase is a mixture of adrenaline packed action and southern attitude in a movie that can only be described as a precursor to Thelma & Louise. While I have never actually seen Thelma & Louise for myself, everything that I have ever gathered from the movie seems to point to the fact that it ultimately follows a very similar plot structure as this one. The major differences coming in the form of a shirtless Brad Pitt as well as stockpiles of dynamite, in each film respectively. There seems to be strong similarities between the two films, with both being about female empowerment whilst two women go on the run from the law, but in typical Roger Corman fashion The Great Texas Dynamite Chase offers a substantially more male-targeted vision of girl power. Expect ample amounts of nudity and just enough action to move us from one plot point to the next.

The tone that Great Texas… grabs is really pitch perfect for this genre type. Right from the very beginning, we are set in the world of hayfields and country music. The music is a mix of bluesy tunes with a little honkytonk piano along with strings. Craig Safan provided the music and he perfectly captures the popular culture of the time (blaxploitation funk) mixed with that raw southern twang. I like that the film isn’t afraid to experiment with various sounds, and the overall soundtrack is intense because of it. The film is generally quite brave in varying areas other than just the music, howver. Our two leads are given very uncompromising and sexual roles, with which they help sell the sexual revolution. These girls are tough and rebellious in their nature and we get to see this when Jocelyn Jones demonstrates her feminine powers at the very start of the film by having an apparent one night stand with some dolt who she quickly tells to leave once morning time has come. The picture of these tough, no nonsense, working women with sexual desires that need to be fulfilled is very quickly drawn out for the audience, and although there’s an exploitative edge to most of the sex in the movie, the women are ultimately the ones who incite most of it and do so while not appearing “loose” or ignorant.

The initial bank robbing sequence is quite nerve wrecking to be honest. We watch as Claudia Jennings walks into the bank with her stick of dynamite and strikes it up while making her demands toward the teller and those around her. Although the fuse length seems to go back and forth between cuts, the speed of the fuse remains fairly fast and we in the audience start to wonder just how much longer it has before it will finally explode. Despite the continuity gaffes, the tension of the scene actually works quite well. The film overall seems to survive due to the tension created from various action scenes, the quick witted character moments that are sprinkled in throughout and ultimately one of its biggest helping hands comes in the form of the humor. Comedy is as much a part of the story as the chase scenes and the action. Scenes such as the second bank robbery, where we discover that most of Candy’s dynamite sticks are duds, is a funny case of misfortune as humor or a comedic version of Murphy’s Law. The entire bit reminds me of current trends in comedy, where ideas such as this are rode to their extreme. The entire “Meet the Parents” series is based entirely around this concept, and after the first movie it was already beat into the ground. Ultimately though, I think the character moments and the interaction between the cast are what makes this movie as memorable as it is. The cast are all spectacular in their roles, with Claudia Jennings and Jocelyn Jones lighting up the screen as ferocious pieces of female empowerment.


The Conclusion
The film ultimately has its issues, as any movie does, but I think for a piece of hixploitation/carsploitation from this time and era: you really can’t go wrong. A very solid outing with a terrific cast and a focus on delivering pure fun through a cinematic cyringe. Overall, the entire package is stout and worth picking up, but The Great Texas Dynamite Chase is the standout film from the Roger Corman Action Packed Triple Feature. Check it out!




‘Smokey Bites the Dust’ Review

Posted by Josh Samford On April - 22 - 2011
Hey everybody, the carsploitation/hixploitation extraveganza continues here on Varied Celluloid as we take a look at this 80′s action-comedy which is also featured on the Roger Corman Shout! Factory triple feature DVD. Although it is likely the weakest of the three films, it does have a very young William Forsythe! That’s worth something, right?

The Plot: Roscoe (Jimmy McNichol) is an adventurous youth who doesn’t like to play things safe and he spends his hobby-time instigating car chases with the local authorities. During the big homecoming celebration however, Roscoe takes things to a new level when he steals his friend’s exceptionally nice ride and also kidnaps the homecoming queen Peggy Sue Turner (played by Janet Julian) who soon takes a liking to the brash young man. Peggy Sue isn’t just any girl though, she is the daughter of the local police chief! Now, on the road, the chase is on! Roscoe has the sheriff chasing after him, Peggy Sue’s football star homecoming-date, Roscoe’s good friend who is after his borrowed car and nearly anyone else on the road who can give him a good chase. Will Roscoe find a way out of this situation before one of these parties catches up with him, or will he be forced to pay the price?


CONTINUE READING HERE!

Smokey Bites the Dust

Posted by Josh Samford On April - 22 - 2011

Smokey Bites the Dust (1981)
Director: Charles B. Griffith
Writers: Max Apple and Bryan Williams
Starring: Jimmy McNichol, Janet Julian, Bill Forsythe and Walter Barnes



The Plot: Roscoe (Jimmy McNichol) is an adventurous youth who doesn’t like to play things safe and he spends his hobby-time instigating car chases with the local authorities. During the big homecoming celebration however, Roscoe takes things to a new level when he steals his friend’s exceptionally nice ride and also kidnaps the homecoming queen Peggy Sue Turner (played by Janet Julian) who soon takes a liking to the brash young man. Peggy Sue isn’t just any girl though, she is the daughter of the local police chief! Now, on the road, the chase is on! Roscoe has the sheriff chasing after him, Peggy Sue’s football star homecoming-date, Roscoe’s good friend who is after his borrowed car and nearly anyone else on the road who can give him a good chase. Will Roscoe find a way out of this situation before one of these parties catches up with him, or will he be forced to pay the price?


The Review
With a name like Smokey Bites the Dust, one knows precisely what is being called forth in the minds of fans. Our film today is a Roger Corman produced car chase romp, and the allusions to Smokey & the Bandit were absolutely bound to happen and no doubt they were intended. There are some very certain similarities between Bandit and Smokey Bites the Dust, that is for sure. There’s the overweight sheriff, not too different than Jackie Gleason’s character in Bandit, who is hunting our lead character. There’s the use of CB radios to have fun with the aforementioned silly sheriff character, who continually takes the required lumpings throughout the course of the movie. Then there’s the outrageous mix of comedy and action set pieces, as well as the love interest who is cold at first but soon warms up to our hero. There’s no question that the two films fought for the same exact audience, but one movie is certainly the more competent of the two. I’ll let you guess which movie that is, but I’ll give you a hint: it’s the one that is still remembered favorably the world over. Smokey Bites the Dust isn’t necessarily a bad movie mind you. It is a mindless piece of action fluff that is certainly capable of pleasing its core audience, but if you expect much more than a few choice scenes from this one, then you’re bound to be left disappointed. The magic that the other films featured on this Shout! Factory triple feature action pack is sorely missing from this title, and it is easily the worst film of the bunch.

I suppose I could just be spoiled after all of the tremendous transfers that were featured on the box set. Both Georgia Peaches and The Great Texas Dynamite Chase look amazing for their age, but the general look of Smokey Bites the Dust is just awful in comparison to the two other films on the set. Why this movie was not held to the pristine standards of the other two movies is something that I can’t answer, but for sure the lesser film was definitely given the lesser treatment in this situation. To address the picture quality, I’m sure that the folks at Shout! Factory weren’t slacking up and simply released the film in the only version possible, which is unfortunate but not intolerable. Another division from the rest of the DVD pack, aside from simply the picture quality, is its attempt at comedy. Although all three films on this set are knee deep in the world of the action-comedy genre, Smokey Bites the Dust certainly seems to be the most humor-oriented. The film as a whole unfortunately captures the very worst of 80′s style comedy. Similar to the Porky’s sequels and early Troma efforts, the comedy is over the top to the point that it starts to become painful to watch.

Smokey Bites the Dust has so many issues going against it that ultimately leaves it a weak product. This is unfortunate because many of the cast members actually seem talented and I’m sure there could have been a decent action-comedy to be made with all of these ingredients. Unfortunately, you can always ruin a good meal when you add too many ingredients. While Smokey Bites the Dust does feature a relatively talented cast of actors, the characters simply don’t inspire any kind of conviction or interest to endear them to the audience. In fact, outside of the confines of a comedic action movie the character of Roscoe really isn’t much of a hero. Here we have a kid stealing car after car, damaging private property, buying ten packs of cigarettes for a seven year old (in possibly the funniest bit of the entire movie, and also the most morally questionable) and all of it for no real purpose whatsoever other than the fact that things are boring in smalltown America. When you really start to look at motivations, this movie doesn’t really hold up that well. Roscoe literally travels across the country in order to evade boredom and in the context of the movie he potentially ruins the lives of a handful of people and we ultimately have no idea why. I realize that this is a comedy, first and foremost, but even a comedy should be held to some standards of narrative.

The comedy is certainly what tanks this one though. The humor found here is in the over the top variety that is sometimes found in other Roger Corman works, such as Death Race 2000, but this is a film that lacks the satire or wit of that particular classic. Instead we are treated to “bits” throughout, that come across as “shtick”, which are dependent on gimmickry and are not necessarily realistic situations. For instance there is a “humorous” sequence involving our sheriff character (played by Walter Barnes, who is no substitute for Jackie Gleason’s archetypal portrayal of the sheriff in Smokey & The Bandit) being chased by another law official, which leads to a sequence where the two chase each other around in circles around a tree while a “ring around the posies” style children’s tune plays over the soundtrack. I’d also be remiss if I didn’t mention the silly sequences revolving around the very young Bill Forsythe. The classic veteran actor plays the football star on the tail of Roscoe who has kidnapped his “girl”. His gimmick is that he often puts his hands together and says a prayer, as if he were a religious man, but then he signs off by thanking his “coach”. Since the character is a football jock, of course his coach would mean everything to him! Oh the cunning wit and daring satire!


The Conclusion
Look, there are obviously far worse films out there and it doesn’t help that both Georgia Peaches and The Great Texas Dynamite Chase are both so entertaining, but on its own merits Smokey Bites the Dust is certainly a weak piece of action-comedy. While I don’t recommend it on the whole, as a part of the action packed triple feature from Shout! Factory, it’s not such a bad deal. I give the film a two out of five.




Gleaming the Cube

Posted by Josh Samford On April - 21 - 2011

Gleaming the Cube (1989)
Director: Graeme Clifford
Writers: Michael Tolkin
Starring: Christian Slater, Steven Bauer and Min Luong



The Plot: Bryan Kelly (Christian Slater) is a young teen who cares for very little in the world outside of his daily doses of skateboarding, punk rock music and rebellion from all of society. His adopted Vietnamese brother Vinh Kelly (Art Chudabala) is the flip side to that coin, as he is everything that a parent could dream to have. He does well in school, he behaves, shows respect and doesn’t try to rebel against everything his parents stand for. When Vinh discovers some odd numbers shifting around on the books at the local shop he works for, he begins to investigate. His boss, Colonel Trac (Le Tuan) apparently has something else going on behind closed doors, and when Vinh gets close to the truth he is abducted and tortured by Trac’s business associates. When the torture goes a bit too far, young Vinh is left dead by strangulation. Trac and his men make the death look like a suicide, but his brother Bryan isn’t so sure. Distraught over the death of Vinh, he begins to question his own senseless rebellion and begins to investigate what exactly happened to his brother.

The Review
Sometimes a film comes along that perfectly captures the heights of a very specific subculture… but then multiplies those heights, and then pads out the rest of the movie with a fairly generic plotline that allows for things to enter into the world of the criminally absurd. While I won’t stake my claim that Gleaming the Cube is anything other than an over-exaggeration of skateboarding culture during the eighties, it ostensibly sets itself up as both a philosophical and action packed mix of teen-angst melodrama with the groovy attitudes of skateboarding videos from the time. The end mixture is something that deserves its place in any time capsule examination of this time and culture. Featuring an excellent cast of supporting actors, Gleaming the Cube is an almost star-studded examination of the world of late eighties skateboarding… only with a murder mystery plotline and a love story subplot that is mildly awkward. A film that doesn’t stand out on its own merits as a thrilling or new piece of cinema, the accolades that I would like to place upon it are for the entertainment it delivers and the utterly strange world that our film seems to take place in. A toned down version of Prayer of the Rollerboys, never has the world of action sports seemed so otherworldly and surreal.. while also gritty and urbane.

I realize that I am using a number of hundred dollar words in a description of Christian Slater’s Gleaming the Cube, but the very least I can do for the film is show it some respect. So, please, bear with me in that regard. While the movie may not demand a really thorough examination in the same regard as the work of Frederico Fellini, and regardless of how dumbed down Gleaming the Cube can be at times, there are some really interesting decisions made behind the scenes that puzzled me while watching. The very first thing that caught my attention in the movie is the fashion. Of course any film made in the late eighties or early nineties is bound to feature some tragically awful apparel, but the clothing that Christian Slater and many of his skater friends wear closely resembles something out of a post-apocalyptic action film. His anti-conformity attitude is ratcheted to the n’th degree, and teenage rebellion has never seemed quite as over the top as it does here. In the third act, when Slater’s character starts to wear more traditional clothing (if you call wearing a dress suit to public school traditional for a teenager, that is) he doesn’t so much “sell out” by his rebellious code but instead adapts into his surroundings… which is another way of saying “selling out”, I suppose. In the fact that this “selling out” isn’t actually tackled or even discussed brings up another strange facet of the movie that leaves the audience slightly puzzled. In fact, that is precisely why I like the movie as much as I do. It is a movie that seems to come from so many varying directions that it doesn’t seem beholden to any given audience, and doesn’t even seem to perfectly endear itself towards the culture that it looks to examine.

The true joy and fun of the project ultimately comes through in the utter adoration that is shown to skateboarding itself. While I have never been a skater (I have the balance of a one-eared cat with no whiskers), I have always been interested in the culture as an interesting American phenomenon. The “X-Games”, an annual event showcasing the best in action sports (skateboarding, BMX riding, etc.) really brought skateboarding to its peak in popularity during the 90′s. However, skateboarding also came into popularity during the eighties despite the fact that in mainstream culture it was generally viewed as a interesting sideshow distraction rather than a legitimate sporting event. Gleaming the Cube captures the cultural sideshow presentation of the sport in full swing. In that regard, as previously mentioned, the film really works as a cinematic time capsule. Demonstrating the very worst fashion of the eighties, along with some very exaggerated interpretations of that Californian “skate kid” identity. The film could very well irk the nerves of some modern viewers not quite prepared for the over indulgence of style headed their way, but when watching as a cultural pathologist of sorts it is interesting to see where the sport started and how far it has come. It would nearly take another decade for the X-Games to bring skateboarding out of a deep depression that saw it decline heavily in popularity, but here in 1989 we can see how rooted the sport was within the punk-rock and DIY aesthetic of the time.

There are two ways you can look at a movie such as Gleaming the Cube. You either watch it and have fun with it or you have fun at its expense. You could just as easily sit back and make fun of the ridiculous fashion style and the rather over-the-top nature of the story, but the fact is the movie knows what it is and it appears that they just ran with it. A case of style over substance and fun taking the front seat, Gleaming the Cube is a hard movie to dislike despite all of its flaws and imperfections. The performances by most of the cast are amplified to the point of distortion, but that is part of what makes it okay to laugh “with” the movie. It doesn’t appear that Graeme Clifford had any pretensions about the sort of movie he was making and by running with it, he developed a very fun cult classic that delivers in all of the departments that one might expect. We have action, we have adventure, there’s some romance and even some head-ier things such as racial prejudices and family drama. How can you not like that?


The Conclusion
A no frills-all thrills attempt at bringing the spotlight on the world of skateboarding. What was at one time simply a spectacle, but has now developed into a sport, the movie offers insight into the skateboarding phenomena at an important time in its lifeline. The action, in terms of skateboarding, is rather simplistic in comparison to what would now be considered cutting edge, but that is part of the movies charm. Delightfully campy and fun, I can’t help but give Gleaming the Cube an honest four out of five. Take note that this is a title that not all audiences are going to feel instantly drawn to, but for those looking for a fun dose of eighties magic this might just prove to be the ticket.




‘Gleaming the Cube’ Review

Posted by Josh Samford On April - 21 - 2011
Hey everybody! We’re back with a fun trip back in time. We travel all the way back to the eighties as we explore the side-show attraction that was skateboarding and punk rock music! Strap on your boots, your acid washed jeans and make sure to spike up your hair, because today we’re digging into Gleaming the Cube! Starring the ever popular Christian Slater!

The Plot: Bryan Kelly (Christian Slater) is a young teen who cares for very little in the world outside of his daily doses of skateboarding, punk rock music and rebellion from all of society. His adopted Vietnamese brother Vinh Kelly (Art Chudabala) is the flip side to that coin, as he is everything that a parent could dream to have. He does well in school, he behaves, shows respect and doesn’t try to rebel against everything his parents stand for. When Vinh discovers some odd numbers shifting around on the books at the local shop he works for, he begins to investigate. His boss, Colonel Trac (Le Tuan) apparently has something else going on behind closed doors, and when Vinh gets close to the truth he is abducted and tortured by Trac’s business associates. When the torture goes a bit too far, young Vinh is left dead by strangulation. Trac and his men make the death look like a suicide, but his brother Bryan isn’t so sure. Distraught over the death of Vinh, he begins to question his own senseless rebellion and begins to investigate what exactly happened to his brother.


CONTINUE READING HERE!

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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.

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