Exhumed Films Ex-Fest 2015


Exhumed Films put on a great show once again. This celebration of exploitation excess had a fairly consistent lineup with some great highlights and only one real stinker. Definitely a fun and memorable day in the theater!

I am still amazed that I have been able to see movies like this on 35mm. Here’s hoping that Exhumed Films continues to do what they do best for a long time to come!

Assault on Precinct 13 – John Carpenter, USA, 1976

Early on John Carpenter had a handle on some of the essentials of film-making: maintaining pace, effective use of music, creating cool characters with minimal setup, and knowing the right moment to shock the audience. This story of a remote police station under siege by gang members out for revenge uses all those techniques to full effect.

The crowd especially liked Napoleon Wilson (Darwin Joston), the fan-favorite criminal whose character and back-story are written just enough for viewers to really root for him. It’s just one example of Carpenter’s “less is more” writing style that really makes this film shine. The music score is still stuck in my head and has been since the screening.

Ninja Busters – Paul Kyriazi, USA, 1984

This film was never released in theaters, TV, video or DVD. Exhumed Films might hold the only print that exists. Lucky for us they decided to screen it. Ninja Busters is a goofy martial arts comedy. The tale of two loveable losers (Sid Campbell and Eric Lee) who join a martial arts school to meet women. The meeting women part doesn’t really work, but learning martial arts does. Pretty soon our heroes are skilled enough that they can deal with an army of ninjas and mobsters that they run afoul of.

This film is a perfect mix of its parts: Sub-par martial arts, stupid comedy, and an aura of so-bad-it’s-good. It makes for an entertaining, if not ground-breaking, film. A film I wish I could own so I could watch it at home with some friends.

Cockfighter – Monte Hellman, USA, 1974

I’m a huge fan of Charles Willeford’s novels and was glad to see that what makes them work comes across in his screenplay as well. Warren Oates plays a silent cockfighter trying to come back from a huge loss and win the Cockfighter of the Year award. It sounds goofy in premise, but it’s a serious character study that is steeped in a very realistic portrayal of a world I never knew existed.

Yes, there are actual cockfights in this film. And they were very hard to watch. But the film is a product of its time when these things were legal, and it adds to the authenticity of the film. Monty Hellman does a good job maintaining that. The characters feel real, and the scenes and story are odd, and alien but very intriguing. The ending reminds me of P.T. Anderson, in a good way.

Flesh Gordon – Michael Benveniste, Howard Ziehm, USA, 1974

I was surprised to find out this was made before the beloved 1980 version. It’s a goofy, softcore spoof of the original Flash Gordon comics. Instead of Flash, it’s Flesh. Emperor Ming is now Emperor Wang. Dr. Zarkoff is instead Dr. Flexi Jerkoff. You get the idea. It’s low-budget and doesn’t have much else to offer besides goofy titillation, with one notable exception.

The special effects! It employed some really good Harryhausen-like animation. Apparently Rick Baker worked on this film before moving on to bigger and better things.

Street Law – Enzo G. Castellari, Italy, 1976

Italian crime drama from Enzo G. Castellari, master of… making lots of genre films? This one does have a great opening. Slow motion shots of street crimes in progress set to some blaring rock music. And it does have Franco Nero. It also has a solid revenge concept going for it to. That makes it a cut above the rest. A mild-mannered business man is mugged during a bank robbery. The police won’t help, so he sets out to take matters into his own hands.

Fun, with some good action and car chases, but you won’t find anything new here besides maybe those cool opening shots.

Poor Pretty Eddie – Richard Robinson, David Worth, USA, 1975

What a weird film. The print we saw was titled Black Vengeance, and when the story began to become clear I thought I knew where it was going. I was wrong. And that was the joy of the film. Just watching as the story progressed from familiar territory to a very… different place.

We start off watching the story of a famous Jazz singer (Leslie Uggams) breaking down in the middle of nowhere on vacation, and stopping at a very out-of-the-way and slightly creepy hotel/restaurant/garage owned by an ex-burlesque dancer alcoholic played by Shelly Winters. There are some creepy individuals working for her, some of which become obsessed with the new stranded woman. It becomes clear that something bad is going to happen to her, and my assumption was the film would be about her getting revenge for whatever that was.

Well, let’s just say things play out slightly differently. It’s not what you would expect, especially the sheriff played by Slim Pickens. What a wonderfully weird film!

Forced Entry – Jim Sotos, USA, 1975

The worst film of Ex-fest in my opinion. It’s a generic story of a serial killer who picks up and murders young girls because of his sexual inadequacy. It’s a bit directionless, very slow, and not sleazy enough to make up for any of those inadequacies. The best part is a very young Nancy Allen showing up in a short-lived role as an unfortunate hitchhiker.

Fleshpot on 42nd Street – Andy Milligan, USA, 1973

This is a fictional account of the lives of prostitutes on NYC’s famous 42nd street in the early 70’s. What I did like about the film was the view it gives the audience into that time and place. The execution, acting and story were poor, but at least it felt like everyone involved was actually a part of that world.

Love him or hate him, Milligan has made a lot of movies and has earned himself a small place in the history of genre film. And this is a good example of what his strengths and weaknesses are.

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