Quentin Tarantino‘s Inglorious Basterds gets released to theatres today and it had me thinking about film. Exploitation, B-Movie and Horror films really. You see Mr. Tarantino and myself share a love of these types movies. The movies that played at the Grindhouses on 42nd Street in New York from the 60′s through the sanitizing of the late 80′s and early 90′s. Mr. Tarantino bases a lot of his films from those Grindhouse movies of yesteryear. So it had me thinking about things. Especially why do I love these kinds of movies? What draws me to these movies? Sometimes they are so bad they are good, and sometimes they are pure works of genius. What draws me to a filmmaker like Herschell Gordon Lewis or Roger Corman? These are two of the bigger and more recognized names in the genre but there are hundreds, literally thousands of directors and producers who worked in these genres for decades that went on to even bigger careers including Steven Spielberg with Jaws, Sam Raimi with the Evil Dead movies, Peter Jackson with Dead Alive (Braindead), and Francis Ford Coppola with Dementia 13. All of these filmmakers went on to win big awards and make huge movies but all of them started out in exploitation and b-movies.
So what makes someone love those kind of movies? As I sit here typing this and dissecting my reasons andopinions one big idea pops into my head, the thrill of finding a diamond amongst all the trash. Also the thrill of seeing something so outlandish you can’t help but sit with your jaw hanging open looking for your next film fix. So on the day of Tarantino’s latest Grindhouse homage I thought perhaps I would list my top ten grindhouse films of all time and maybe open the door for you to check something out for yourself. Please keep in mind that not all of these films are going to be appropriate for all viewers. A lot of these movies were made outside of the mainstream and quite frankly may feature disturbing images and disturbing subject matter, so please take my advice and proceed with caution if you are easily offended or don’t like horror movies. So here’s my ten exploitation films to see in no particular order.
Zombie (1979) – While George A. Romero is hands down the king of the the Zombie genre this Italian feature directed by splatter master Lucio Fulci is one of the finest zombie movies to ever grace the silver screen and now home video. I adore everything about this movie, from the soundtrack, to the splinter in the eye, to the zombie shark fight under the water. A true classic of the genre.
Suspiria (1977) - Directed by Dario Argento this Italian film about three witches is so influential andimportant to movies that I think every one in the world should watch it at least once. I got hooked on it after listening to the band Ministry who sampled some of the dialog for one of their songs. I rented the movie and was blown away by the atmosphere and direction. Not to mention it’s easily one of the greatest soundtracks ever committedto tape by the band Goblin.
Night of the Living Dead (1968) – Directed by the one and only George A. Romero this is the film that changed the game for me. To this day it remains my Citizen Kane of exploitation movies. I still can’t watch this movie without covering my eyes when the little girl gives her mom the what for with the hand shovel. A classic and a must see.
Evil Dead II: Dead by Dawn (1987) – I used to watch a lot of USA Up All Night with Rhonda Shear back in the day. Not only did they play music videos but they also showed awesome movies late at night, that’s how I caught this and Cemetary Man (which almost made my list here). I had fallen asleep on the couch only to wake up to Ash’s girlfriends’ decapitated corpse dancing outside the window of the cabin in the woods. I was hooked from there on out andstayed awake to watch the rest of the movie. I then foundmyself running to find the movie at my local mom and pop rental store (Home Video in Hampton, Iowa shout out to Van!). What I witnessed changed my life forever, I became an instant fan of Sam Raimi and little did I know that he would go on to direct the Spider-man films (which happens to be my most favorite comic book hero of all time). Do yourself a favor and rent all three of the Evil Dead films tonight.
Dead Alive (Braindead) (1992) - Before Peter Jackson was an academy award winning director he was a guy just like me with a love for comedy and splatter. Dead Alive is to this day the perfect mix of gore and comedy. I can quote this whole movie for you from beginning to end. If you don’t believe me, ask me the next time you see me, I promise you, I’ll quote it.
Enter the Dragon (1973) – I’ve got to get in some of my love for the Martial Arts movies too. Enter the Dragon is probably Bruce Lee‘s best work, definitely his most accessible and honestly just a ton of fun to watch from beginning to end.
Ninja Wars (1982) – This is definitely not Sonny Chiba‘s best work but it’s a favorite of mine that I bought on a whim on VHS somewhere in the middle of playing a show with my band back in the day. It was a double feature VHS pack and still to this day, it’s fun to throw this on, kick back and just have a good time watching crazy monks battle Sony Chiba.
Hellraiser (1987) – Directed by my favorite author Clive Barker this film is just one visceral thrill after another and it gave us the scariest of all the 80′s horror icons Pinhead. Watch it with the lights on.
Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! (1965) – Directed by Russ Meyer this movie stands up more now as camp than it did in 1965 but it’s a must see for anyone with just a passing fancy of cinema from the fringes. Now it’s a lot more fun to watch as a comedy than a serious movie, but boy is it a ton of fun to watch.
Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975) – And what’s a good list without some comedy? Easily my favorite of the Monty Python films. Another movie that I can quote from beginning to end. If you haven’t seen this then you owe it to yourself to take some time out of your day to get your hands on a copy of this.
The worst things about making lists like this is you leave so much out of the list. I’ve completely skipped over movies like Re-Animator by Stuart Gordon or pretty much all of David Cronenberg‘s career. I’ve also left off favorites like Nightbreed and Dawn of the Dead, John Carpenter‘s The Thing, Wes Craven‘s Last House on the Left and the entire catalogue of Hammer films with Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing. Not to mention all the Universal classics like Dracula with Bela Lugosia nd James Whale‘s Frankenstein or even Tod Browning‘s Freaks. But you get the idea of what I’m going for. So here is an assignment if you so chose to, come up with a list of your ten favorite films OR tell me why it is that you like certain things? What attracts you to the movies that you like and the music that you listen too?
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