Sunday, August 21, 2011

Road Games - This is No Rear Window

My DVR is quickly approaching its full capacity with a large portion consisting of TCM Underground films. I'm going to write posts on these movies more concisely so I can clear out my backlog without missing a chance to view any of my recordings. To help keep me focused, I'm going to use the following template to review TCM Underground films:
  1. Start with a quick synopsis.
  2. Finish on why I think the film has reached a cult status.
So to start off this new format, I'll begin with a 1981 film directed by Richard Franklin: Road Games. This roadsploitation film follows a trucker (played by Stacy Keach) who picks up a female hitchhiker (played by Jamie Lee Curtis) off the long highways of Australia. As they travel down the road, they hear reports on the radio of women hitchhikers being picked up and strangled by some unknown serial killer. Along their journey, they spot a green van and suspicious driver who appears to be a likely suspect. When the duo decide to spy on the van during their route, the truck driver becomes a suspect himself. While trying to keep a low profile among the authorities and other commuters, can the truck driver and his companion survive a deadly game of cat and mouse?

Throughout this movie, I had a hard time keeping interest. It depicts a trucker lifestyle but is definitely no Smokey and the Bandit. So why might this be a cult classic?
  • It stars Jamie Lee Curtis a few years after some of her big roles in Halloween and The Fog.
  • The truck driver's best friend is a Dingo (and who doesn't like a dingo).
  • This was a large budget Australian film and can be considered Ozploitation.
  • The story was somewhat influenced by Alfred Hitchcock's film Rear Window. Not only is Curtis' character named "Hitch," but the story carries similar voyeurism and stalking elements seen by the helpless Jimmy Stewart.
  • Of all the scenes in the movie, the most memorable is the strangling by wire. It's so memorable because you can see the weapon is clearly a guitar string.
Even though the movie didn't capture me, you can tell it's Exploitation. The story isn't anything spectacular. However, its promotional material, like the poster seen above would have enticed me into the seats of the movie theatre.

So on Death List Five, Road Games ranks #2.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Hobo With A Shotgun - Homelessploitation

I don't think I'll ever be able to emphasize it enough, but I love Tarantino's and Rodriguez's Grindhouse. It was my all-time favorite movie experience: A midnight showing, a fun crowd, a double feature, and awesome intermission trailers. And it was those fake trailers in between films that made me fall in love with Exploitation Cinema. When Exploitation was being produced in the 70's, the movie itself could be terrible, but it was the exciting movie previews that got an audience to fill the seats of the theatre. So to gain interest in the production of Grindhouse, an Internet sensation came to fruition as the general public were challenged to submit their own faux trailers. While there were many awesome trailers produced, there was one that stood above the rest: Hobo With A Shotgun. With high appraise, support, and a legendary lead to helm the title role, this small fan project grew into a full overblown movie production.

Starring Rutger Hauer, this 2011 film was directed by Jason Eisener. Hauer plays a hobo who has just arrived to Hope Town and quickly discovers it's filled with nothing but hopelessness. Aspiring to save up enough money to buy a $40 used-lawnmower, he has no chance of making an honest living in a city overridden by crime. After saving a prostitute named Abby (played by Molly Dunsworth) from being mutilated, the Hobo can no longer handle the corruption and decides to take matters in his own hands - He trades in his dreams and life-savings for an avenging shotgun. As the Hobo slowly cleans up the streets, will he be able to defeat the evil crimelord running Hope (or should I say Scum) City?

From my little synopsis, you can tell this movie is outrageously overblown. However, along with all the silliness and humor, you have to have the right stomach to watch this film as it's filled with some pretty horrific scenes:
  • Homeless are decapitated using "glory holes"
  • Naked women erotically beat dangling homeless people with razor serrated baseball bats
  • A bus full of elementary students are murdered through the use of a flame thrower
Just as Machete is a "Mexiploitation" film, Hobo With a Shotgun is a "Homelessploitation" film. Right from the start, the movie's opening title card screams of Exploitation. Portrayed with a grainy film stock, you feel like you're watching a film in the Grindhouse. Even the story's plot exhibits these perverse elements. The homeless are oppressed and forced to do excruciating things such as chewing on glass while being filmed on camera. However, once the Hobo comes to town serving justice by shotgun, the homeless band together to fight the system. Mix in some sex, blood, and over-the-top dialogue, this movie makes homage to the quintessential Exploitation films.

As for the acting, Rutger Hauer plays the role of the Hobo perfectly. He comes into town, nameless, in a similar fashion to Clint Eastwood from the Leone Westerns. He is strong willed and doesn't like to be tied down. Even though he hides behind a tough demeanor, he has an affectionate side, especially towards Abby. Preserving a platonic relationship with elements of a father and daughter, the Hobo is able to pass his torch of rebellion onto Abby. Molly Dunsworth effectively plays this role, feeding off of Hauer's presentation and becomes a strong and beautiful character the audience likes. In the end, both actors display a intimidating side (especially when Abby sacrifices her hand), where they become scary figures we wouldn't want to mess with, reminiscent of Hauer's Android role in Blade Runner.

If you like Exploitation Films, this movie is for you. If you liked Grindhouse, this movie is for you. Or if you only liked the Thanksgiving and Don't Trailers, this movie is for you.

So on Death List Five, Hobo With A Shotgun ranks #4.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

TCM - Summer Under the Stars 2011

In this blog, I tend to gravitate towards Exploitation and Film Noir, but I am trying to broaden my horizons by being more diverse in the movies I watch. Black and white films no longer bother me as I really enjoy the strong contrast. However, it's usually the dialogue of classic films that keeps me distanced. Luckily, Turner Classic Movies is a great resource to help me get past the dated lingo. TCM is truly a great television station that has opened up my aperture by showing some awesome films that I would have never taken the chance to sit down and watch.

Besides being commercial free and having historical vignettes between films, TCM has some great reoccurring features that I really enjoy:
  • TCM Underground: Airing late on Friday nights (or early on Saturday mornings), this time frame presents a double feature showcasing some strange but awesome cult classics. In the past, I have reviewed some of these films.
  • The Essentials: Introduced by Robert Osborne and Alec Baldwin, this Saturday night feature presents a must-see film and concludes with a post-movie discussion. Also check out The Essentials Jr, currently being introduced by SNL's Bill Hader.
  • Silent Sunday Nights: Silently shown every Sunday night before I go to bed, this is the perfect way to end your weekend before waking up to the beginning of the long work week.
TCM also has an annual event called Summer Under the Stars. For each day during the month of August, TCM presents 24 hours of films featuring a particular movie star. You've probably heard of these Hollywood legends, but have never seen any of their work. TCM makes it very accessible to get familiar with these artists by spotlighting some of their most spectacular performances. Some of the stars showcased this month are Carey Grant, Lucille Ball, Marlon Brando, and Lon Chaney.

I decided to blog about this month long event because my namesake Jimmy Stewart (myself named James Stewart Hardin) is being featured in today's Summer Under the Stars. Although I've seen very little of his work (It's a Wonderful Life and Rear Window), TCM proved my parents didn't do too bad of a job naming me. I haven't really analyzed any of the films shown today, but The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance will definitely be a film I will review and can say is one of my all-time favorites. From what I've seen, I really enjoy Jimmy Stewart as he plays the likable and good willed man and makes me proud to be named after him. I plan to watch more of his work, so stay tuned as I may blog on a particular Hitchcock thriller in the very near future.

So before this month ends, be sure to check out TCM's Summer Under the Stars film schedule at: