Thursday, May 27, 2010



by Jacques Boyreau

As an admirer and something of a collector (but by no means a completist) of early exploitation/horror/sleaze films on VHS, I keenly picked up this book when I spotted it on the racks at Alternate Worlds (Chapel St, Windsor). Unfortunately, despite it’s great title and novel design (the cover looks like a VHS cassette and comes in a blood-splattered slipcase like an old sell-thru video tape), this colour compendium of vintage 1980s American video box art misses the mark almost as frequently as it hits it. With each video sleeve taking up a double-page spread (reproducing both front and back covers) author/compiler Jacques Boyreau certainly comes up with a few rare, lurid gems (The Legend of the Wolf Woman, The Black Panther, Nightmare Circus, Night of the Strangler, One Armed Executioner) he also throws in a few choices that had me scratching my head as to just what exactly Boyreau’s idea of a ‘grindhouse’ film may be (with the inclusion of baseball, war and hunting documentaries, Saturday morning cartoons, Jerry Lewis comedies and even a Barbie and the Rockers video and a Gary Coleman home safety instructional tape!). The text is minimal and limited to just a few page introduction, making Portable Grindhouse something more for the casual fan who wants something to display next to their shelf of Tarantino DVDs rather than the exhaustive study which the subject deserves.

(Fantagraphics Books/USA/2009/200 Pages)

Review Copyright John Harrison 2010



Director: Various
Cast: John Ashley, Andrew Prine, Arch Hall, Jnr., Johnny Carrol
Studio: Umbrella Entertainment
Aspect Ratio: 2:3 Widescreen and 2:3 Full Frame
Region: NTSC All
Running Time: 514 Mins
No. Discs: 4


The latest in Umbrella’s line of ‘Grindhouse’ releases (following on from their Ted V Mikels and Retro Sexploitation sets) is comprised of releases put out by cult film critic/musician/writer/wrestler Johnny Legend on his own Legend House label in the US, and focuses primarily on vintage juvenile delinquency (or JD) cinema from the 1950s and early-60s, with a few oddities thrown in for good measure.

Directed by J. G. Tiger

A grimy obscurity filmed in Dallas, Rock Baby, Rock It tells the predictable tale of a teen dance club being shut down and taken over by rock & roll hating gangsters. Filled with clichéd jive dialogue (“Play it cool, Kitten”) and featuring mostly local actors with some very un-Hollywood like faces, this film does have its own strange, low-rent charm, and is filled with some great little-known rock & roll and rockabilly gems from the likes of Johnny Carroll (who also stars), Don Coats & the Bon-Aires, Preacher Smith & the Deacons and The Cell Block Seven.

TEEN MANIA (2007/Colour/B&W)

Compiled by Legend, this 66 minute party tape dishes out some choice clips from such 1950s & 60s teensploitation gems such as Rockabilly Baby, Untamed Youth (with platinum blonde bombshell Mamie Van Doren), I Was a Teenage Frankenstein, Beach Ball, Hot Rods to Hell, Riot on Sunset Strip, The Love-Ins and more.

Directed by O’Dale Ireland

Minor teen idol John Ashley stars as a rich, spoiled bully who rigs the election to become school president and proceeds to intimidate the students and bleed them dry, all the while keeping a dopey accountant and team of leather-jacketed hoods forming a shield around him at all times. It all leads to the usual tragic consequences and eventual comeuppance. A moderately entertaining but fairly staid and unexciting late-period JD film, highlighted by a rollicking theme song belted out by Reggie Perkins (“He’s the gangster in our school…He’s cool, he’s like a freezer…That’s why we call him, High School Caesar”). Ashley went on to appear in beach party movies in the 1960s, then reached an exploitation career high by producing and starring in a string of sleazy Filipino horror films directed by Eddie Romero (including the classic Mad Doctor of Blood Island).

Directed by John Bushelman

A group of overaged delinquents break out of a detention farm and get hooked up with drug smugglers operating out of Mexico (who hide their heroin inside piñatas). Another seedy, low-rent JD wonder from Johnny Legend’s seemingly bottomless vault of cinematic scuzz.

Directed by Albert J. Cohen

Having nothing to do with rock & roll, this early sexploitation pot-boiler has curvaceous, primitive jungle women driving their menfolk crazy with their frenzied dancing and evil temptations. Told mainly via narration, it’s like an old episode of Wild Kingdom, with big bosoms and long legs. Stars Laurette Luez as the glamazonian Tigri, queen of the prehistoric women.

SPIES A GO GO (aka NASTY RABBIT, 1964/Colour)
Directed by Nicholas Merriwether

A pretty silly rock & roll/spy farce, inspired by the Cold War and the emerging James Bond craze, about a Russian plot to infect America with a deadly bacteria smuggled into the country inside a rabbit. A spy who doubles as a rock & roll singer foils the plot. Worth watching for star Arch Hall Jnr. (who is much better in Wild Guitar and The Sadist), the cool guitar-twanging, and the cinematography by future Hollywood heavyweights Vilmos Zsigmond and Lazlo Kovaks.

Directed by Gerald Cormier

The real odd one out in this set, Barn of the Naked Dead wallows in an atmosphere of grimy backwoods sleaze, as three aspiring, Vegas-bound showgirls are kidnapped by a tight-jeaned young maniac (a creepy and effective Andrew Prine) and held captive (along with other women) in his barn, where they are whipped and forced to perform circus tricks (!). Those who don’t comply get doused in blood and chased down by the madman’s hungry cougar. A ludicrous subplot has the psycho’s radiation-scarred father wandering the desert killing people. Although not reliant on nudity or overt lesbianism, Barn of the Naked Dead is nonetheless an interesting and unique riff on the WIP (Women In Prison) films which enjoyed a brief run of popularity in the early 1970s. The creepy electronic score (by Tommy Vig) is offset by the inclusion of a cheesy lounge-like pop vocal (Evil Eyes performed by Pamela Miller).

Extras included on this set include a number of Johnny Legend ‘surprises’ (clips/trailers/anecdotes, etc), an interview with Andrew Prine and an edition of Legend’s video show Gore Beat, co-hosted by John Landis and covering the films of Fred Olen Ray, Brian Yunza and the late, great Ray Dennis Steckler.

Review Copyright John Harrison 2010


Friday, May 21, 2010


Hard to believe it's been almost TWENTY years since an issue of Betty Paginated first filtered through my mailbox. A lot has happened in the world (and in my life) during that time, but it's great to see Dann Lennard still with a fire in his belly, spewing out his views on all the tangents of pop culture which pique his interest - specifically, movies, music, wrestling, comics and porn, along with some more personalised reflections on what has been going on in his life since the last issue surfaced a couple of years back (including a collapsed lung and dose of glandular fever that struck him in 2009).

Standout pieces from the latest issue include an in-depth review of Mark Hartley's brilliant Ozploitation documentary Not Quite Hollywood (written by fellow zinester Kami), a (justified) rant against comic books artists stealing other peoples' work (including Nick 'son of Gene' Simmons), interviews with veteran Aussie film stuntman Grant Page (Mad Max, The Man from Hong Kong), and Watchmen artist Dave Gibbons, wild 80s pro-wrestler Chris Colt, and much more within it's 36 pages (not to mention all the freebie comics, zines and other goodies Dann usually throws in).

Check it out!