Treat your toys with care or they might break out.
Above is an Italian poster for the American financed, Philippine shot sexploitation actioner The Big Doll House, which starred Roberta Collins, Brooke Mills, Pat Woodell, Pam Grier, and Judy Brown. This wasn't the first women in prison movie—those had been appearing for decades—but it was the one that got the ’70s prison sexploitation ball rolling in the U.S. It offers a full slate of whippings, waterboardings, overheated isolation, and bizarre snake tortures, orchestrated by the evil wardeness Christiane Schmidtmer. Collins leads the beautiful convicts' eventual escape from bondage and hers is the most memorable character in the ensemble, though all the personalities are interesting. Don't get us wrong—the acting is of course atrocious, and the production values aren't high, but that didn't bother us and it didn't bother American audiences either. They made the movie a hit and the women-in-prison conveyor belt quickly cranked out other Filipino bondage productions like Women in Cages, The Hot Box, The Woman Hunt, The Big Bird Cage, and many others. The Big Doll House wasn't the best of the lot, by any stretch, but hey—being a trailblazer matters. We think it's worth a viewing.
Hong Kong kidnappers have problems mastering possession, and so do the filmmakers.
If Tarantino likes it, it must be tops. At least that's the assumption some would make upon learning that 1976's Ebony, Ivory & Jade has Tarantino's stamp of approval. Well, despite the endorsement and status as a minor classic of the blaxploitation genre, the film isn't great. It has some highlights, including confidently staged action sequences and camerawork that does seem to have influenced Tarantino. But its failings are legion—bad script, wooden acting, and heavy duty crushed black levels that make the actors almost impossible to see in the night sequences. We'll give a pass on that last problem, because it could have happened during the video or DVD transfer.
We'll admit though, this flick is damned funny in parts—unintentionally so, foremost the character Stacy's beatdown of a bad guy who morphs into a dummy at the moment she hoists him overhead and helicopter spins him through a room divider. The basic idea of the film is also appealing—Hong Kong bad guys kidnap five female track stars for ransom, unaware that two of them happen to be martial arts experts that will cause no end of trouble once they untie themselves. Playboy playmate Rosanne Katon in the lead role is also a plus. But as blaxploitation, even a discernibly elevated budget doesn't lift the film above other entries in the genre.
As a side note, the above promo poster should help put to rest any idea that apostrophe illiteracy has something to do with modern education or the internet or whatever. It has always been a problem, and we see it all the time in vintage material. This particular failure to master the possessive form is pretty egregious, though. Yes, it's attached to a movie shot in the Philippines, but the error made it all the way through a phalanx of American writers, designers, pre-press workers, printers, and producers working in the U.S. of A. at—or at least for—Lawrence Woolner's Dimension Pictures. Pretty bad. Though as we've noted in the past, sometimes apostrophe placement can be legitimately tricky.
Machine gun Margaret strikes again.
In the tropical Republic of San Rosario four beautiful nurses—Margaret Markov, Rickey Richardson, Andrea Cagan, and Laurie Rose—are kidnapped and forced to teach the healing arts to a revolutionary army so it can bring medical care to villages it liberates. While one of the nurses begins to agree with the captors, the others just want to escape. But when they do, they are captured by an army leader and what they learn prompts them to escape back to the revolutionaries' jungle compound to warn them of an impending government attack.
Scripted by Jonathan Demme and produced in the sweaty Philippines by sexploitation specialists New World Pictures, The Hot Box features most of the elements you expect from jungle sleaze, with perhaps less skin than the standard. But there's plenty of leering, drooling, and general depravity, followed by punching, kicking, stabbing, and Margaret Markov going cyclical with a machine gun. By the way, we'd not note this ordinarily, but post-massacre we'll add that mowing down people with machine guns is fine for cinema, but all other applications are idiotic and tragic.
There's a debate online about whether this is a women-in-prison film. People often get obtuse online—of course it's a women-in-prison film. The nurses don't spend three reels inside a bamboo cage being hosed down with river water, but they are twice held against their will and escape both times. Textbook stuff. Do we recommend the film? Not quite. But Markov is always worth the time. Amongst a slate of atrocious performers, she can almost act. Almost. The Hot Box premiered in the U.S. today in 1972.
If you’re looking for mercy you’ve come to the wrong place.
The Big Bird Cage finds writer-director Jack Hill at the top of his form as he sticks star Anitra Ford in a Philippine jungle prison where an evil warden uses the female inmates as slave labor to process sugar. Pam Grier and Sid Haig are revolutionaries who want to recruit women for their cause, so Grier infiltrates the prison and primes the women for a big break out. This is one of the most remembered of 70s B-romps, a sleazefest filled with iconic scenes such as Ford being suspended by her hair, and seven-foot model Karen McKevic slathering her body with grease and dashing naked through camp. The classic poster is above, a brilliant production photo appears below, and if you’re looking for actual reviews, well, there are about a thousand online. Wild, weird, and oh so incorrect, The Big Bird Cage premiered in the U.S. this month in 1972.
It isn’t really a racing movie, but it is a bit of a drag.
Hot Rod Gang falls into that category of movies that are better known for their poster art than for the actual film. And the poster art is definitely brilliant—no dispute there—but the movie? Not so much. John Ashley plays a hepcat who gets in trouble for reckless driving and, due to the pursuit of the local strongarm cop, has to adopt a new identity. Thrown onstage by happenstance, this new identity—Jackson Dalrymple—becomes a rock and roll star. Where’s the hot rodding, you wonder? The movie is really a musical comedy with a bit of racing wrapped around, while uniformly atrocious acting bogs down the whole enterprise. The main attraction is watching early rocker Gene Vincent play himself and put on a couple of numbers. The film also features other, less adept, probably dubbed performances, including several by Ashley, who you may remember for his run of Mystery Science Theatre-worthy 1970s horror/action epics shot in the Philippines. In the end Hot Rod Gang all comes together in a rumble and a chase. We can't recommended it, but it’s amusing if you’re in the right frame of mind. Oh, and we almost forgot—our copy kicked off with the ad you see below. Hot rods indeed.
Largest crocodile ever captured in Philippines slated to be star of zoo.
We’ve seen hunters battling giant crocodiles on the covers of pulp magazines, but yesterday, it happened for real. On the southern island of Mindanao, in the Agusan del Sur township of Bunawan, hunters snared a giant crocodile measured at twenty-one feet and more than 2,300 pounds. That makes it the biggest specimen ever captured in the Philippines. Gleeful mayor Edwin Cox Elorde posed with the creature, and, after one hundred villagers managed to wrestle the trussed croc into a fenced enclosure, announced plans to use it as the central attraction in a planned ecotourism theme park. While the capture and exploitation of the animal bothers environmentalists (including us), and we can just picture this future theme park (not a pretty image), Bunawan crocodiles’ free days frankly were numbered from the moment one of them bit the head off a ten-year-old girl back in 2009. When more people narrowly escaped being croc chow, and two reptiles ate the head off a carabao (water buffalo), the push to capture the animals intensified. Yesterday, hired hunters succeeded. Up next: the croc's inevitable escape and vengeful rampage.
Update: Lolong, which was the name given to the croc, has died. After living an estimated century in the wild, he lasted less than a year in human hands. Figures. Locals plan to stuff him so they can still keep him on display.
Champion boxer Manny Pacquiao scores victory in the political ring.
We were going to post about this earlier in the week, but then changed our minds. But today we’re feeling wordy, so here you go. If you follow boxing, you know Manny Pacquiao. He’s a punching dynamo, one of the toughest guys in the world, and has been on the sports pages for months due to the drama surrounding his on-again off-again bout with undefeated Floyd Mayweather. If you follow politics, you know by now that Pacquiao won a seat earlier this week to the Philippine parliament. He’ll be representing Sarangani province, which is on the island of Mindinao. Pacquiao won his post by beating a wealthy and entrenched political clan, and in defiance of those who predicted his congressional bid would fail the same way his 2008 attempt did. But this time Pacquiao was more organized, disseminating his anti-poverty message at a grassroots level, and outspending his opponent Roy Chiongbian. In fact, some observers have suggested that Pacquiao’s massive spending doesn’t square with his message about poverty, but we don’t particularly see that. Pacquiao spent what was needed to win and now claims that because he used mostly his own money he owes no favors to special interests. In our view, politics is about nothing but favors to special interests, and if you’ve spent millions of your own money your first thought might perhaps be to make some of it back. Just saying is all. But we admit to seeing events through an American prism. We don’t want to sell Pacquiao short—he’s passionate, seems sincere, and worked hard for his win. In politics, it’s sometimes possible for sincere outsiders to storm the palace. Maybe Pacquiao is one of those outsiders. And there’s always this: if he turns out to be just another corrupt corporate shill, Sarangani voters can always fly Floyd Mayweather into town to beat the shit out of him.
The Philippines can be dangerous and beautiful—sometimes in the same night.
We’re patting ourselves on the back today, because El Mono Blanco successfully moved our headquarters from San José City to Manila without missing a beat on Pulp Intl. Why did he move? Well, let’s just say MB wore out his welcome in the hinterlands. His first clue was when his nightly slumber was shattered by hysterical screaming. To his surprise and chagrin, the screaming was coming from his girlfriend, who was sitting bolt upright in bed next to him, having been awakened by rummaging thieves. The crooks managed to steal a camera before they fled, but in true pulp fashion MB stalked the dark streets of San José City, screaming that he would kill them if they dared show their faces again. Picture him in slippers, unleashing a torrent of profanity that would make George Carlin spin in his grave. A day or two later, in an unrelated incident, a man threatened MB with a painful and grisly death via machete. Discretion being the better part of valor, or something like that, MB pulled up stakes and beat it out of town. So add another weird chapter to Pulp’s short but rich history. We know what you’re thinking. Why not avoid these troubles by simply moving someplace safe, like Canada? Soundly reasoned, and thank you. But where would be the fun in that?
Women on the verge of a nervous breakout.
When Pam Grier goes bad, she goes all the way bad. In the Roger Corman produced Women in Cages, she’s the head matron of a hellhole prison somewhere in the Philippines and spends the movie permanently covered in a sheen of sweat as she sneeringly tortures her beautiful female convicts. The girls endure every manner of humiliation—the rack, rats, snakes, the hole, leeches, electric shocks, and some really harsh words. Oh, and the whole prison is basically a racket to sell the women into sexual slavery, so there’s that problem too. After enough of this treatment, the jailbirds finally decide it’s time to escape into the jungle, but unforeseen circumstances result in them taking Grier hostage, leading directly to her death via gang rape and strangulation. The audience is supposed to feel she’s gotten what she deserved, but all we felt was our lunch coming up. Women in prison movies are misogynist by definition, but there is still a line somewhere and, though it’s difficult to know exactly where it is, it isn’t difficult to know when it’s been crossed. Anyway, once Grier has been disturbingly dispatched, the escape takes a few more twists and turns which we won’t give away. We’ll just sum up by voting thumbs down on this one, and footnote by adding that we’re glad Pam went on kill so many men in her later movies. Women in Cages premiered in the U.S. today in 1971.
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