Exhumed Films! Ex-fest! It’s a great time to be a film fan living in the Philadelphia area. The Exhumed shows are worthwhile for anyone who is interested in experiencing unique film events and seeing movies you might never have seen otherwise (and definitely not in 35mm on the big screen!)
Ex-fest is the annual 12-hour exploitation show. Seven features and a couple dozen amazing trailers. It’s a fun trip through the gutter and cinema where sometimes you will find shiny treasures. Were there any treasures this year? Read below to find out.
The titular character in this Native-American-Exploitation film happens to live in the worst town for a Native American to live in. It’s full of racists and corrupt cops and it’s run by an all-powerful megalomaniac named Colby. The film never really explains what his hold over the town is, but everyone listens to him and his group of redneck cohorts.
Johnny returns to the town after distinguishing himself in Vietnam, but his war-hero cred quickly runs out. Colby realizes that Johnny is in town to get back together with Colby’s daughter, June.
Sacheen Littlefeather plays Nenya, Johnny’s old friend, who has an unfortunate run-in with Colby’s men. That, and another incident with Johnny’s grandfather Chief White Eagle, have Johnny setting out on a rampage of revenge.
That leads to a remarkably low-key and interesting ending involving Johnny and the complicated police chief played by soap-opera favorite David Canary. For an exploitation film, this one is a cut above the rest. It delivers some great scenes (The reaction of the priest to one of Johnny’s victims for example), a solid story, and some memorable performances. It also gave us the immortal line delivered by one of Colby’s thugs: “One of these days you and me is gonna tangle assholes!”
Salt in the Wound – Tonino Ricci, Italy, 1969
This Italian war film has a cool premise and Klaus Kinski. Both combined are enough for the curious viewer to seek this out and if you are a fan of the genre, you will probably enjoy it. Kinski is one of two soldiers who, for very different reasons, are going to be executed by their own military. During the execution their American troop is ambushed by some Germans. The two convicts and a naive inexperienced lieutenant are the only ones to escape.
The film deals with the tension between the three of them, but that changes quickly when they run across a small Italian town that hails them as heroes. Some strange events occur that give everyone something to care about, and they all try to defend the town from the encroaching Axis armies.
There isn’t much here that makes it any different than any other cheap Italian war films of the time. Except for a few oddball scenes that every exploitation film seems to have. In this film, they all involve the final moments of our heroes, but you have a wade through a bunch of so-so film-making to get there.
Zapped! – Brian J. Rosenthal, USA, 1982
Some films are just plain fun in a crowded theater. This was one. Scott Baio plays a teenage science nerd who, through a fortuitous accident, manages to give himself telekinetic powers. Things get complicated when his best friend, Willie Aames, wants to use those powers to get them both monetary gains, victories against bullies, and private time with the ladies.
I knew I would love the movie when it opened with Scott Baio looking at a fish tank that contained mice in tiny scuba outfits. That set the tone, and the film continued introducing new amusing things and oddball characters in every scene.
Not great film-making, but a perfect product of its time and you can’t help but laugh with it and at it. The films ends with an epic climax, and a perfect denouement that encapsulates what makes films like this great.
This was billed as a blaxploitation but was far from it. It’s the story of a bounty hunter going after a serial killer who knows martial arts. It sounds goofy, and it sort of is, but not intentionally.
The film is held up by the charisma of the bounty hunter Zachary Kane, played by Robert Viharo. He is a really cool character. Quiet, super suave, tough as nails with a style right out of the seventies, complete with porn-stach.
Most of the film he is following up various leads to get the bad guy with some help from his love interest Jennifer, and fellow bounty hunter Black.
The middle of the film drags a bit, but that changes with the climax: an epic chase scene just keeps going and going and going. It was great fun.
This was an odd one. I’m not sure how to classify it. It takes the classic exploitation tropes from different films and mashes them together into an interesting mess.
Ross Hagen stars as Mike Harbor, a man who is hired to find a missing jai alai star. That sports figure is not the only one missing. Attractive, athletic people are being kidnapped by a gang of sexy and highly trained women.
They all work for Dr. Tsu (Nancy Kwan), a brilliant surgeon who has perfected transplants. Even whole body transplants. She uses the victims as parts or whole bodies to sell to rich people to keep them young.
There is a lot more going on. Including a menagerie of deformed monsters, an over-the-top Sid Haig performance, a Manila taxi chase, a child assassin, electronic brain-sex, and an erotically-tinged chess game. Everything you could want in an exploitation film, and it almost all works.
This film highlights the dangers of a the swinging lifestyle! Sharing spouses leads to jealousy and murder! I make it sound dire, and the film tries to give the whole thing some gravity, but it all comes off very hokey.
Our lead couple, Charlie and Amy, have some issues in the bedroom. Charlie is bored and tries to convince Amy to join the swinging scene. She resists, and finally gives in because Charlie can’t satisfy her in bed.
What follows is an awkward but fairly tame look at the swinging lifestyle with some footage shot at Filthy McNasty’s, a real 70s swingers club. As things progress we find that Charlie has further issues in the bedroom with other women while Amy thrives on the new-found attention.
That’s when the film takes a dark turn as Charlie sets out to get revenge on who he thinks is responsible. It’s slow, but just goofy and stupid enough to be interesting.
A group of escaped convicts ransack their way through the countryside. Their leader, Jesse Lee Kane (played really well by William Sanderson), is horrible and vicious but arguably not the worst of the bunch.
They wind up at the out-of-the-way home of the Turner family and the convicts them hostage at gunpoint. The trio make themselves at home while they wait for cover of darkness to continue their trip.
The turner family is black. Jesse is white. He uses their racial differences to push their buttons. It’s uncomfortable, and various acts of torture, although not graphic, keep the uncomfortable feeling going.
Eventually, there is a cool twist and the film goes to an interesting place. What happens from there isn’t as great as it could have been, but it does have a nice ending.
Overall, it wasn’t a shocking as expected. It does cross a line that is rarely crossed in films, but it wasn’t that effective. Maybe I’m just jaded, or the film-making wasn’t strong enough. In any case, if you like torture/revenge films (you sicko), you’ll probably enjoy this one.