Archive for the Suburban Grindhouse Memories Category

Suburban Grindhouse Memories: THE EXTERMINATOR (1980)

Posted in 1980s Movies, 2013, Action Movies, Crime Films, Cult Movies, Detectives, Exploitation Films, Gangsters!, Grindhouse Goodies, Nick Cato Reviews, Revenge!, Suburban Grindhouse Memories, Tough Guys!, Vengeance!, Vigilantes, VIOLENCE! with tags , , , , , , on July 11, 2013 by knifefighter

Suburban Grindhouse Memories No. 64:
Flamethrowers, Meat Grinders, and State Senators…
By Nick Cato

 

exterminatorposter

 Released six years after DEATH WISH (1974) but two years before FIRST BLOOD (1982), 1980’s THE EXTERMINATOR is a combo of these two classics with a dash of TAXI DRIVER (1976) thrown in. I recently revisited this on DVD, but in the fall of 1980 (when I was in the 6th grade), me and a buddy managed to get into this violent R-rated flick one Saturday afternoon at the always reliable (and now defunct) Amboy Twin Cinema, Staten Island’s best bet of being admitted when you were underage.

After an opening flashback scene set in Vietnam (which features a grisly, non-CGI decapitation courtesy of FX whiz Stan (ALIENS) Winston), we flash forward to 1980 New York City. John Eastmand (played by popular TV star Robert Ginty) works at a meat packing plant along with his best friend Michael, who had saved his life in Vietnam. When they bust a group of thugs robbing beer from an adjacent warehouse, Michael again comes to John’s aid, but the gang follows Michael home and throws him a severe beating that leaves him paralyzed. Fueled by this event, and fed up with the state of the city’s crime rate in general, John goes on a mission first to get the guys who crippled his buddy, then wage all-out war against the mob, pimps, and all kinds of low lives.

John transforms into a vigilante a bit too quickly (in the scene immediately after he visits Michael in the hospital, John already has a gang member tied up and threatens him with a flame thrower). But this is a sleazy action flick, so subtly and character build-up be damned! His arsenal includes a .44 magnum with custom, poison-tipped bullets, an AK-47, and a foot locker full of military-issued hand grenades and knives.

Minutes later, John goes to the gang’s hideout (one is played by THE WARRIORS’ (1979) Irwin Keyes), tells the girls to leave, and then proceeds to shoot one thug and take two others hostage. But his partial-heart leads to one guy surviving, and one of the hookers he let go is interrogated by Detective James Dalton (played by Christopher George), who is on the trail of the vigilante the news has labeled “The Exterminator.” Former ABC-TV news anchor Roger Grimsby appears as himself during a newscast, giving the film a real-time feel (at least if you lived in NY at the time).

With the gang taken care of, John sets his eyes on a mob boss who has been shaking his employer down for years. He does some stake-out work and manages to drug him and drag him to an isolated warehouse, where he chains him from the rafters and dangles him over a huge meat grinder, then proceeds to shake him down for money to support his fallen friends’ family. After he gets the mobster’s keys, safe-lock combination, and a promise that there are no surprises at his house, John goes out to his NJ home and is attacked by a guard dog the gangster “forgot” to tell him about. Now severely ticked, John returns to the warehouse and lowers the Don into the meat grinder, and while nothing is shown (besides shadows and chop meat coming out of the bottom), the scene is still quite disturbing. It also received the loudest cheers from the evidently blood-thirsty (or justice-thirsty?) audience I was with.

In the second most memorable sequence, John visits a hooker (ala TAXI DRIVER) who gives him info on an underground operation that exploits young boys. John shows up at the illegal brothel and quickly destroys the place by burning the owner and shooting a freaky-looking pedophile in the groin (said pedophile is played by FRANKENHOOKER’s (1990) scene-stealing freak David Lipman). The pedophile also turns out to be the State Senator from New Jersey!

In-between investigating the vigilante killings, Detective James manages to find the time to date a doctor (played by Samantha Eggar). In one scene they meet for a late-night shag session in an empty hospital room, but as things heat up they’re interrupted by an alarm: it seems Michael’s ventilator has gone off, and little do the detective or doctor realize John had come by to help his buddy pull the plug on himself. This John’s a real angel of mercy I tell ya…

With plenty of shoot-outs, a motorcycle vs. car chase scene, a goofy side-plot involving the CIA that leads to a partially head-scratching finale, a poor old-woman getting a beat-down, and a nasty scene of the aforementioned State Senator burning/raping a hooker with a red-hot soldering iron, THE EXTERMINATOR is a trashy revenge/vigilante film that has developed quite a cult following over the years. And like most NY-lensed genre films from this time, there are plenty of shots of Times Square back in all its sordid glory, complete with pimps, hookers, and glorious theater marquees that will have cinema-philes hitting the pause button to read the film titles (of course we couldn’t do this in the theater so it was nice finally seeing what was playing!).

This is a genuine blast of old-school, politically incorrect action film-fare that has almost no conscience whatsoever, and it manages to work despite its ho-hum performances from most of the actors. Too bad the sequel, 1984’s THE EXTERMINATOR 2, failed to deliver the goods.

© Copyright 2013 by Nick Cato

John (Robert Ginty) about to make mince-meat out of a local mob boss in THE EXTERMINATOR.

John (Robert Ginty) about to make mincemeat out of a local mob boss in THE EXTERMINATOR.

 

 

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Suburban Grindhouse Memories: XTRO (1983)

Posted in 1980s Horror, 2013, Aliens, B-Movies, Cult Movies, Just Plain Weird, Nick Cato Reviews, Science Fiction, Suburban Grindhouse Memories, UFOs with tags , , , , , on May 16, 2013 by knifefighter

Suburban Grindhouse Memories No. 63:
Not all E.T.’s are Friendly…
By Nick Cato

XTROposter 

 Released less than a year after the success of Steven Spielberg’s E.T., low budget British sleaze-fest XTRO (1983) exists basically to support its infamous tag line, “Some extra-terrestrials aren’t friendly.” And in the case of XTRO, not all E.T.’s make much sense, either.

A father (Sam) and son (Tony) are playing around on their isolated farm when the son witnesses his father being abducted by a UFO. Three years go by and the poor kid is still having nightmares, and worse, no one believes his story, figuring his old man took off on them. His mother, convinced her hubby has met another woman, grows tired of waiting for him to return and gets involved with another man, leaving young Tony not too happy.

From here on out, XTRO is a bit difficult to follow because it truly doesn’t make a heck of a lot of sense.

A space craft crashes in a wooded area, setting most of the place on fire. We see a humanoid/spider-like alien emerge from the wreckage and examine its new surroundings and it’s eventually hit by a car (apparently these XTRO’s aren’t only unfriendly, but are rather stupid considering they’ve traveled from space to get here). The alien doesn’t die, and manages to make it to a small house where it rapes a woman, which leads to one of the most absurd sequences I’ve ever seen on the big screen: the woman gives birth to a full-grown Sam, apparently now returned to earth in a most strange manner (don’t bother to ask why…it’s just not worth it). The scene is truly gross and still sticks with me thirty years later.

Sam is now on a mission to find his son, who is living in an apartment with his mother Rachel and new boyfriend Joe. He starts to pick Tony up from school, pissing off Joe and causing Rachel concern. Sam claims he can’t remember a thing that’s happened in the past three years (where he has been, his former job, etc), so against the Joe’s wishes, Rachel allows him to move in with them for the time being.

One night, Tony catches his father eating his pet snake’s eggs, and high-tails it out until his old man catches him and bites into his shoulder (we later learn he’s planting alien seed in his son).

And the film gets even more asinine: Tony discovers he has gained a bunch of new powers, including the ability to make his toys come alive. He puts this skill to use when one of his neighbors kills his pet snake. He makes one of his toys turn into a midget (dressed as a clown) and it attacks people with a lethal yo-yo-type of weapon. He also sends a toy soldier after his neighbor for some snake-revenge.

If the theater I saw XTRO in (the now defunct Fox Twin Cinema) had a bar, I would have definitely pounded down a few shots at this point.

For some reason Sam and his wife (ex-wife?) decide to visit the farm they used to live on and leave Tony home with a gorgeous nanny (played by Maryam D’Abo of the 1987 007 film THE LIVING DAYLIGHTS), who of course has her boyfriend come over for a shag session (and Bond fans might want to note Miss D’Abo does a generous nude scene here).  Tony keeps bugging them to play hide and seek, and they eventually do, but during the game the nanny is knocked out by the aforementioned midget clown and impregnated with alien eggs (remember, I told you this thing makes little sense) while Tony sends one of his toy army tanks to deep-six her boyfriend.

Meanwhile, back at Sam’s old farmhouse, he manages to have sex with his wife (ex-wife?) but during the act his body starts to bleed profusely and transform.  Joe shows up with Tony looking for Rachel, and this is when total chaos ensues: Sam and Tony follow the light from a UFO, and Sam turns into an alien, who manages to kill Joe with his ear-shattering screams.  The alien Sam then takes Tony and heads toward the space craft as a confused Rachel goes back to her apartment … and is raped by the same alien who raped the poor woman earlier in the film.

The more you consider XTRO, the more you’ll be convinced the makers of it were determined to create the exact opposite of E.T.: where Spielberg’s film was family friendly and featured a positive, wholesome ending, XTRO is a mess of gore, splatter, alien slime, and one of the most nihilistic, depressing endings to ever grace a sci-fi/horror film.  All the strangeness with the toys still baffles me, but it did provide some laughs for the grossed-out audience.

I recently watched this film for the first time since seeing it theatrically upon its release, and found it even more confusing than I had remembered. I’m surprised this one has such a healthy cult following, especially since stretches are a bit slow and the acting stiff, with the exception of Rachel (played by Bernice Stagers, of Fellini’s 1980 CITY OF WOMEN), who most of the film revolves around, despite an ad campaign that would let you believe Tony was the focus.

XTRO is a real mess. It’s gross, nasty, and ends on such a low note some might consider the director to have been a manic depressive. Yet at the same time, lovers of B-movie schlock should enjoy it well enough. This here’s one father/son relationship tale I doubt any parent would approve of. I still haven’t seen the sequel.

Live long and SUFFER!

© Copyright 2013 by Nick Cato

 

Ever see a woman give birth to a full grown man? Yeah, XTRO goes there!

Ever see a woman give birth to a full grown man? Yeah, XTRO goes there!

Suburban Grindhouse Memories: CROCODILE (1981)

Posted in "So Bad They're Good" Movies, 1980s Horror, 2013, Animals Attack, Bad Acting, Giant Monsters, Grindhouse, Nick Cato Reviews, Suburban Grindhouse Memories with tags , , , , on April 4, 2013 by knifefighter

Suburban Grindhouse Memories No. 61:
Godfather of the SyFy Channel Movies…
By Nick Cato

CrocPosterWhile anyone can turn to the SyFy channel on any given Saturday to see an endless list of horrible, made-for-cable killer shark/alligator/piranha/octopus films, back in the late 70s/early 80s, JAWS-inspired rip-offs had to be seen in your local theatre. 1981’s CROCODILE is one of the more memorable of this hokey sub-genre.

I hit the (now defunct) Amboy Twin Cinema one chilly afternoon in late November of said year for a solo-viewing, and while films like GRIZZLY (1976) and PIRANHA (1978) were better made JAWS rip-offs, CROCODILE has that certain low budget charm that makes it more memorable … at least if you’re a trash film junkie.

A hurricane destroys a small island somewhere off the coast of Thailand. As houses become rubble, we see crocodiles scampering around trying to survive the chaos. Then the quick opening credits feature a couple of naked women being eaten by the crocodiles, causing applause from the small daytime crowd who chomped popcorn around me. A doctor and his family are then seen eating dinner, wondering if the hurricane had been caused by an atomic explosion (and just why they think this is anyone’s guess).

They use this as an excuse to travel to a resort beach-side hotel where the doctor’s wife and two daughters are eaten by an over-sized croc. Pissed, the doctor, along with the fiancé of one of his daughters, vows revenge. You can almost hear JAWS’ famous theme music kick in at this point.

The men visit a crocodile expert who says the only way a crocodile could have survived in the sea would be due to radiation, which caused much deserved laughs among my Saturday afternoon creature feature brethren. The film then goes into a few badly edited sequences of the croc wiping out some waterfront towns and eating a bunch of people, and in the film’s most memorable scene, the sucker consumes an entire water buffalo! Good thing PETA members were unaware of this or the film would’ve probably been picketed.

THIS is when the JAWS rip-off-ness kicks into high gear: our two heroes employ the help of a local fisherman who agrees to use his boat to hunt the croc down. Meanwhile, my fellow suburban grindhouse mates laughed for a good ten minutes when the local police set a trap for the croc underwater in a river: a king-sized bear trap stuffed with a huge chunk of meat. Of course it doesn’t work, so our trio heads out to sea along with an irritating news reporter (a.k.a. LUNCH) to track the monster croc.

Most of the scenes of the croc attacking the villages are quite phony, and there are times you can’t tell if the close-ups are cheap stock footage of a real croc or a sad attempt to make a latex croc head. Another PETA moment features someone stabbing a regular sized croc in the head, making me wonder if the director had some kind of real-life vendetta against aquatic animals.

The JAWS rip-off goes so far as our makeshift seamen using brightly-colored barrels to attempt to lure the croc to their boat! The only thing missing was the fisherman telling the boys a spooky night time story about his experiences with a croc swarm during World War II.

The continuity in this flick is ridiculous, especially when you have the croc, in some scenes, almost as big as Godzilla, then in others, maybe a few feet larger than the people it’s eating (one poor guy has his legs chomped off and tries to swim with stumps in a particularly cruel, but effective, scene). And speaking of Godzilla, this Thailand import features atrocious overdubbing and acting that’s better left forgotten.

With an abrupt ending that leaves the audience wondering if the croc and the main hero are dead or alive, most people at this particular screening booed and tossed the rest of their popcorn at the screen. Me? I loved every second of this terrible croc-caper despite all its shortcomings.

Who knew three decades later films like this would be big money makers (such as LAKE PLACID (1999) and regular fare on cable TV stations such as the SyFy network.

If you want a killer croc film that works, try ROGUE (2007). If you want a JAWS rip-off that’s insanely entertaining, is so-bad-it’s-good, and will actually make you cheer for the monster, CROCODILE is your film.

Remember to watch your step next time you visit Thailand…

© Copyright 2013 by Nick Cato

Great original poster for CROCODILE from its 1980 Thailand release.

Great original poster for CROCODILE from its 1980 Thailand release.

Suburban Grindhouse Memories: GIRLS NITE OUT (1982)

Posted in 1980s Horror, 2013, B-Movies, Grindhouse, Killers, Nick Cato Reviews, Psychos, Slasher Movies, Suburban Grindhouse Memories with tags , , , , , on March 7, 2013 by knifefighter

Suburban Grindhouse Memories No. 61:
I’ll Take a Couple of Bear Claws, Please…
By Nick Cato

Girl's Nite Out poster Among the endless list of 80s slasher films is GIRLS NITE OUT (1982), a semi-dud that at least tried to be a bit different from the crowd. Tried to be. The above newspaper ad made it seem much more exploitative than it is, and did a fine job of luring high school sophomores like myself into the theater, which in this case was the (now defunct) Amboy Twin Cinema.

A young man is found hanging at a sanitarium in his bathroom. When two gravediggers are digging his grave, they’re both attacked and buried. The film quickly had the crowd’s attention.

We’re then taken to a college where the basketball team has just won a championship game. The entire school is in a festive mood, and we learn the female students will be having a scavenger hunt the next day (because, you know, what better way to celebrate a sports victory than with an all-female scavenger hunt?). But of course the night of the game there’s a serious party, where everyone talks about the poor guy who is now at the local nuthouse for killing his girlfriend, unaware he has hung himself. Then the film takes a tedious nose-dive as the students fight like junior-high students over girlfriends and boyfriends and generally act like idiots for approximately 20 minutes (although it seemed like an hour).

After the party, the guy who is the team mascot is murdered in his dorm room, and the unseen assailant steals his bear costume. I need to pause (paws?) here to say that my friends and I laughed our butts off over this development and didn’t hear a word the police were saying when they came to investigate the next morning.

Later the next day, a local DJ starts giving clues as to where the scavenger hunt items are, and our goofy “college” students listen in on their small portable radios. Meanwhile, our mysterious killer customizes the bear suit by attaching serrated knives to a wood block then placing it where the claws should be (NOTE: this predated Freddy Krueger) and prepares to go on a rampage.

It takes a good half hour or more for the killings to begin, as GIRLS NITE OUT tried a bit too hard in its first section to make us sympathetic to these throw-away characters. There are also a few subplots that don’t amount to much, and although most of the kill scenes are dark, they are gory, but I just couldn’t help myself from giggling whenever the bear-suited killer shows up. Neither could the crowd.

Like most 80s slashers, there are suspects all over the place, and a couple of kill scenes are quite brutal (especially one poor lass who is ripped to pieces then left to die chained up in the shower). But again, whenever the bear-suited killer is seen, the face is just so silly-looking, it’s hard to take any of this seriously (and you can forget about any genuine tension).

In the “shock” ending, we discover the killer is the sister of the guy who hung himself at the beginning of the film. She is told by our hero cop that her brother is dead, but she claims he’s fine, and shows him his corpse in a freezer. Yep…it’s multiple personality time again, folks (sorry for the spoiler).

I guess the only people who will enjoy this are serious slasher completists and those with an unusual thing for bear costumes. The killer, played by Rutayna Alda, does a good enough job despite her non-threatening countenance (which she later used to her advantage the same year in AMITYVILLE II: THE POSSESSION (1982) and on soap operas like SANTA BARBARA and AS THE WORLD TURNS). Fans of cutie-pie Julia Montgomery (of the REVENGE OF THE NERDS films) might also want to take a look, as she’s the main star here.

In the end, the crowd seemed indifferent, I left still laughing over the idea of a slasher in a bear suit, and one of my friends’ hatred of the horror genre was strengthened.

GO TEAM!

© Copyright 2013 by Nick Cato

Don’t go near the window…especially when a maniac in a bear suit is at large!

Don’t go near the window…especially when a maniac in a bear suit is at large!

“”

Suburban Grindhouse Memories # 60 – SEASON OF THE WITCH (1972)

Posted in 1970s Movies, 1980s Horror, 2013, Classic Films, George Romero, Indie Horror, Nick Cato Reviews, Suburban Grindhouse Memories, Witches with tags , , , , , , on January 31, 2013 by knifefighter

Suburban Grindhouse Memories No. 60:
Season of the Zzzzzzzzzzz…
By Nick Cato

SeasonWitchPoster In October of 1982, fans of the HALLOWEEN series were confused about the third film, which was titled HALLOWEEN III: SEASON OF THE WITCH. While technically it had more to do with the actual holiday than the others in the series, the film didn’t feature infamous slasher Michael Myers or star Jamie Lee Curtis. In time, the film gained a cult following and a slick blu ray edition has recently been released. But when the film was originally released theatrically, someone thought it would be slick to simultaneously repackage a 1972 film titled HUNGRY WIVES under the title SEASON OF THE WITCH and put it out the same weekend as the third HALLOWEEN film to swipe some of the successful series’ revenue (got all that?). And while I couldn’t find any proof they were successful, I can testify that the theatre I saw George A. Romero’s SEASON OF THE WITCH in (the now defunct Amboy Twin) was packed to the rafters…and the second showing sold out as well.

Despite being a huge Romero fan, I had never heard of SEASON OF THE WITCH (or HUNGRY WIVES) until I opened my local paper that Friday afternoon and saw an ad for HALLOWEEN III: SEASON OF THE WITCH and, right across from it, and ad for another film simply called SEASON OF THE WITCH with the tagline, “An early work from the master of horror, George A. Romero!” And seeing this, I knew where I’d be that night; HALLOWEEN III was going to have to wait a day or two. I also convinced two of my buddies to put off their HALLOWEEN III screening and, knowing we were doing it for a Romero film, they joined me. In the pre-Internet days, there was no Googling to see if something was worth it or not.

I still have the black and blue-marks on my upper arms from being punched for a few hours after SEASON OF THE WITCH ended. And I couldn’t blame my friends for their anger.

The film takes forever to get moving. And, even then, it moves like a horse being dragged to the glue mill at high noon. We meet a bored housewife named Joan (Jan White) who has a husband who’s always away on business and a college-aged daughter who has the personality of a handball. Joan spends her days as a bored housewife and her nights at her neighbor’s boring parties, as well as a ridiculous amount of time walking through the woods in artistically-shot, trippy sequences. I think this was the first time I heard an audience start yelling for the film to get going so early on…maybe after fifteen minutes? As a Romero fan, I was getting annoyed at all the noise, but by the middle of the movie I had joined them.

The boredom is broken up with dream sequences of Joan being attacked in her home by a masked assailant. She seeks therapy for her nightmares but it doesn’t help and the dreams continue…as did the audience’s cheers for the masked assailant to kill her. Joan eventually visits a woman who gives her a tarot reading, and she develops an interest in witchcraft after finding out the tarot woman is part of a coven.

In the only sequence I enjoyed, Joan goes to some kind of underground hippie-owned store to purchase witchcraft supplies. I couldn’t stop laughing over a sign on the wall that said “Take Some Trash” posted over several garbage cans right inside the store! Over the years I’ve wondered if this was some kind of comment on the end of the hippie era, but now think it was just Romero tossing some goofy fun into this dreadful mess that I recently read is the only film of his even he wishes he could remake.

One amazing thing here: I don’t recall a single person leaving the theater. The film, while slow and painfully boring, does tend to keep your interest in the wake of the nightmare scenes. I think most audiences had a crazed bloodlust by the final minutes, hoping this masked intruder would finally decapitate Joan and end this celluloid torture session.

But in the “shock” ending, Joan is having another nightmare when she wakes; someone is pulling on the front door handle, trying to break in the house. She grabs a shotgun. The crowd I was part of went nuts…and I’m talking scream-out loud nuts! Most cheered for the guy breaking in to kill Joan…a few even begged her to blow her own head off! (Yeah, we New Yorkers are a happy bunch). But neither request happens. Joan ends up shooting the intruder.

And the intruder ends up being her husband Jack, back early from yet another business trip.

Boos erupted to the point I was partially deaf for a good half hour.

I still can’t remember what happens after that, but I’m pretty sure Joan joins the tarot reader’s coven. Either way, some older woman next to me said, “Man, that was really for the birds!”

And despite being a George Romero fanatic, I had to agree. SEASON OF THE WITCH (a.k.a. HUNGRY WIVES, a.k.a. JACK’S WIFE) is a slow, tedious, boring-as-you-can get feature that even the most die-hard horror fan will have trouble getting through without a fast forward button. Being in a suburban grindhouse made it kind-of fun (and barely bearable), but I’d love to know how other audiences around the country reacted to this “early work from the Master of Horror.”

I’ll take another dozen of Romero’s …OF THE DEAD films before sitting through this thing again. Until next time, I’ll be putting ice packs on my upper-arm bruises…

© Copyright 2013 by Nick Cato

When the BEST part of a film is a slow-moving recurring nightmare sequence, you know you’re in trouble! The Masked Intruder from SEASON OF THE WITCH (1972).

When the BEST part of a film is a slow-moving recurring nightmare sequence, you know you’re in trouble! The Masked Intruder from SEASON OF THE WITCH (1972).

Suburban Grindhouse Memories: SPRING BREAK (1983)

Posted in "So Bad They're Good" Movies, 2013, 80s Movies, Comedies, Drive-in Movies, Grindhouse Goodies, Nick Cato Reviews, Sex Comedies, Suburban Grindhouse Memories, Teen Sex Comedies with tags , , , , on January 10, 2013 by knifefighter

Suburban Grindhouse Memories No. 59:
The ULTIMATE Party Flick
By Nick Cato

spring_break_poster_01

March, 1983. President Reagan refers to the Soviet Union as an “Evil Empire.” A transit strike cuts off train service for 70,000 New Jersey commuters. Pope John Paul II begins an eight-day, eight-nation tour of Central America. And here on Staten Island, my friends and I went to the opening night premiere of SPRING BREAK, a FAST TIMES AT RIDGEMONT HIGH / PORKY’S-like teen comedy that features more beer-guzzling, wet T-shirt contests, and bad jokes than any other film in existence. We may not have been politically conscience at the time, but at least we had our priorities straight.

Directed by Sean (FRIDAY THE 13th) Cunningham, SPRING BREAK was another in a long line of early 80s teen comedies, and while it’s not all too funny, it is remarkably entertaining (at least if you’re a high school freshman, as I was upon this initial viewing).

Nerdy buddies Adam and Nelson rent a room in a party-motel in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. But just as they’re settling in, two cool dudes (Stu and O.T.) show up and claim they had already booked the same room. Figuring it’d be easier to score chicks with two cool guys as roommates, Adam and Nelson agree to let them crash there. The first time we see O.T., he enters the motel and chugs a large bottle of Miller like it’s spring water as bikini-clad babes run around looking for their rooms. He’s a big, shirtless dude with a goofy headband, on a mission to party like it’s the end of the world…and along with Stu, his mission is accomplished less than twenty minutes into the film.

During the first night with their new roommates, Adam and Nelson watch from the corner of the bedroom as Stu and O.T. shag two Playboy model-looking girls. It’s a private lesson neither one of them will ever forget, and their spring break is off to a rockin’ start.

BUT (cue villain music)…not wanting his stepson to have any freedom (or give his political career a bad name), Nelson’s stepdad shows up to try and stop the fun. His right-hand doofus henchman, Eddie (played by legendary character actor Richard B. Shull) is also some kind of building inspector who attempts to shut the motel down, but of course is thwarted every step of the way by Stu and O.T. via cases of Miller beer and inflatable sharks(!).

SPRING BREAK is a silly film that was created for no other reason than to make money off teenage boys (::raises hand::). It suffers from some lame acting, a terrible script, and basically exists to show off some of the hottest bikini babes the producers could find (they did quite good). Among them is a fictional all-girl “rock” band called HOT DATE that performs a song unsubtly titled “I Wanna Do It To You.” O.T. even falls head-over-heels in love with their singer (played by gorgeous former Penthouse Pet of the Year Corinne Alphen) and doesn’t care if he has to let his coolness factor down to try and get her. Also on hand (besides the fantasy girls) is the cute, all-American girl next door Susie (played by ‘Seventeen’ magazine cover model and then-future TV star Jayne Modean) who eventually hooks up with Nelson and “turns him into a man.”

In one scene (to show how these two-pairs of unlikely friends are all now true buds), the four of them take a drunken leak into the toilet at the same time. It’s more heartwarming than you’d expect! Another is when the foursome goes to buy pot off some older freaky Latino hippie who lives in a van. It’s probably the funniest scene in the film (although that’s not saying much).

I’m pretty sure Miller Beer had something to do with the production: not only is it chugged and product-placed all over the screen, but it’s used to wet down the participants of countless wet T-shirt contests and poured over everyone else’s head (apparently in Ft. Lauderdale you’re supposed to wear your beer before you drink it). At least this is what I took away from the film, besides the idea that having cooler guys than yourself as roommates can get you laid easier.

The soundtrack features Cheap Trick and .38 Special’s hit song ‘Caught up in You,’ which is used during a rather frustrating sequence (Nelson gets lost after he attempts to get back to Susie’s room after he runs out to grab a can of Coke!). And even though Hot Date’s song is terrible, the band is easy on the eyes, so we’ll let their lack of musical ability slide…

Perhaps this film was the inspiration for those GIRLS GONE WILD videos that ruled late night infomercials in the early 2000s? Or maybe even a vehicle to try and popularize the infamous sport of belly-dive competitions? Or maybe SPRING BREAK issimplya standard to the coming-of-age, nerds-lose-virginity, party-animal films of the 80s done the right way. Sure, it’s a mindless exploitation film, but the characters are a lot of fun (especially the motel’s manager Geri, who will remind you of your cool elderly aunt) and it’s a great way to forget both the dreary winter months and adulthood: use it to get away to a much more fun time and place, even if it’s for just 90 minutes.

Judging by the laughs and applause from the crowd I watched this with, everyone had a blast. SPRING BREAK is probably the best way to vicariously enjoy spring break if you’ve never made it down there or can’t afford to do so.

An extras-free DVD was finally released in 2009, so if you’re curious, check your brain at the door, kick back, crack open a Miller, and enjoy the fun. You also might want to have a towel handy to dry all that beer off your head.

(BEST SCENE: O.T. doing a drunken belly-flop from the top of a tall palm tree as an equally drunken crowd cheers him on!)

© Copyright 2013 by Nick Cato

Our four party animals (Nelson, O.T., Stu, and Adam) in a publicity shot for SPRING BREAK.

Our four party animals (Nelson, O.T., Stu, and Adam) in a publicity shot for SPRING BREAK.

Nick Cato’s TOP 5 FILM EXPERIENCES OF 2012

Posted in 2012, 2013, Best Of Lists, Foreign Films, Grindhouse, Martial Arts, Nick Cato Reviews, Suburban Grindhouse Memories with tags , , , , on January 3, 2013 by knifefighter

Top 5 Film Experiences of 2012
By Nick Cato

I spend more time each year seeing retro-screenings of older films than new films, but this past year featured some solid, new grindhouse-quality releases. Here are my top 5 favorite film “experiences” of the year, featuring both new and old titles.

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5) 4:44 LAST DAY ON EARTH (2012): As a huge fan of Willem Dafoe, I’m always thrilled to see his latest project, especially when it’s an independent film. This downbeat apocalyptic drama by cult director Abel Ferrara features a different demise for mankind and has a tone all its own. I caught a Q&A session with Ferrara on opening night in Manhattan, which greatly enhanced the evening.

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4) VULGARIA (2012): This comedy from Hong Kong had the crowd floored on opening night of the annual Asian Film Festival in New York City this past July. The director stated AMC theaters had acquired the rights to distribute this in limited release across the USA, so hopefully that’ll be happening soon. It centers around a film producer who lectures his class on the crazy things he has done over the years to finance some films. It’s sheer hysteria from beginning to end, all the more amazing as the print I saw was subtitled. Don’t miss it.

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3) SWITCHBLADE SISTERS (1975): Jack Hill’s legendary, off-the-wall all-girl gang epic was featured in a rare 35mm screening at the Nitehawk Cinema in Brooklyn this past fall. Being able to see this on the big screen for the first time was a highlight of my filmgoing year (and life). If you’ve never seen it, you have yet to live.

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2) THE RAID: REDEMEPTION (2011): This action-packed Indonesian film had limited distribution in the USA in 2012, and even showed up at some major multiplexes around the country. A SWAT team raids an apartment complex a local drug gang has turned into their headquarters. The action and fight sequences are nearly non-stop, and a particularly brutal form of martial arts is used by the entire cast. A couple of knucklehead teenagers saw the subtitles and left during the first three minutes. They have no idea how GREAT a film they missed. The director even managed to sneak a couple of cool twists in-between the barrage of violence and suspense. Simply incredible.

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1) SALO: THE 120 DAYS OF SODOM (1975): Possibly the most controversial film of all time, Pier Paolo Pasolini’s dark epic came to NYC’s IFC Center in June, 2012 for a one-time showing and a sold out crowd. If you have seen it, but not on the big screen, words can’t describe how much more INSANE everything looks (and sounds), especially on this vintage 35mm print. While slow and repetitive at times, brutally mean spirited, and just downright depraved, Pasolini’s artistic look at a bunch of fascists who kidnap, torture and humiliate a bunch of teenagers into submission at an isolated Italian villa is as beautifully shot as it is painful to watch. SALO isn’t a pleasant or even enjoyable film to sit through, but it’s one any lover of obscure cinema should see at least once in their life…and if they can do it in a theater, all the better. Hearing a sold-out crowd giggle through one of the more disgusting sequences made it a bit easier to go down. Love it or hate it, SALO is a film that once seen can never be forgotten. (Editor’s Warning: SALO is not for the squeamish)

© Copyright 2013 by Nick Cato