Monday, October 25, 2010

The Big Bird Cage Trailer (1972)

The Big Bird Cage (1972)

Ah, the women-in-prison movie: perfect for those who like their T&A mixed with a little despair. There’s always a group shower scene, nearly always a scene in which the fire hose is turned on rioting prisoners in white tee-shirts, usually a few mean lesbians of the lipstick variety, a few catfights, some sexually abusive guards, and a climatic riot in which those cruel guards get what’s coming to them. The politics of these movies are pretty unambiguous: prisons are warehouses for abuse that not only fail to rehabilitate prisoners, but make them worse; on the bright side, they have group showers.

One can forgive Jack Hill for following these conventions in The Big Bird Cage; after all, he basically invented the genre the year before with The Big Dollhouse- this is the sequel. That was the most successful independent movie ever made at that point, so imitators followed quickly. A rather brilliant idea on Hill’s part was to play up the outrageous aspects of the newly-born genre in the sequel and fail to take any of its conventions seriously. In a lot of ways, this is the more entertaining film

Hill also had a great cast. Exploitation flick royalty Sid Haig and Pam Grier play Django and Blossom, left-wing revolutionaries of the sort that are hardly found in movies after the 70s. Haig and Grier play the characters to the hilt: he as a layabout who’d rather drink wine than start a revolution and she as a fiery ass-kicker who just wants to shoot her machine gun. The plot involves the two trying to jumpstart a revolution in a women’s prison in the Philippines. Their fellow revolutionaries need women after all.

Meanwhile, Django and Blossom’s attempted stick up in a casino has led to trouble for the irascible American sybarite Terry Rich, played up by fashion model Anitra Ford. Having slept with half the government, embarrassing the state, Rich is thrown into prison after the revolutionaries attempt to take her for a hostage. She’s a great character, haughty, superior, and lascivious. In spite of being spoiled and imperious, she soon wins over the fellow prisoners- in a nice campy touch, they take to her after deciding she’s more of a whore than a political prisoner

Other standouts include Candice Roman as the sexually-frustrated Carla, Teda Bracci as the brash Bull Jones, Carol Speed as the ‘ho enthusiast Mickie, and towering fashion model Karen McKevic as the also towering Karen. In a clever touch, meanwhile, the lead guards are flaming gays, which is played for laughs but was supposedly well-received by gays at the time- I suppose because the comedy isn’t particularly mean-spirited. At one point, Haig infiltrates the camp by playing gay in scenes that are really too silly to be offensive. Similarly over the top is a scene in which the head guard Rocco, played by Vic Diaz, is raped by the horny rioting inmates.

And, yes, there is the inevitable riot. One does wonder how hard it would have been for the women to break out much earlier, since the prison cells are made of thatched grass and the prisoners aren’t chained. But, okay, the final conflict is action-packed, although probably too many of the characters get killed off, which adds an unnecessarily somber tone to a fairly silly movie. In general, the ending is a bit of a let-down. Nevertheless, the film moves well, the characters are memorable, and there is a lot of violence and nudity, so it’s easy to see why The Big Bird Cage has become a favorite of exploitation film enthusiasts.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Bad Biology (DVD Trailer)

Bad Biology (2008)

After you’ve seen a few films in his twisted oeuvre, you start t to notices that Frank Henenotter loves stories about young men trying to do the right thing while struggling with their misshapen monstrous id. In Basket Case, the hero tried to control the murderous impulses of his deformed Siamese twin who he carried around in a basket. In Brain Damage, it was a hallucinogenic-drug injecting parasite that, unfortunately, had to be fed brains to survive. In Bad Biology, he finally puts on screen what he was getting at all this time- a young man struggling to control the urges of his enormous, deformed, heroin-addicted dick. Actually, just typing that line reminds me why I missed Henenlotter’s mad movies!

Luckily, the young man, named Batz and played by Anthony Sneed, is not alone in this world. There’s a young lady out there who is perfect for him- Jennifer as played by Charlee Danielson, a young lady with at least seven clits and a ravenous sex drive that causes her to kill many of her sex partners and give birth to their hideous offspring about an hour later. These two really are the Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks of mutant genitals. So, certainly we know they will meet up and have sex together, but watching them get there is the real story, just like in any romantic comedy. It’s not likely, though, that they will ultimately “meet cute”, or do much of anything cutely.

Here’s what I love about Henenlotter- when he and rapper R.A. the Rugged Man decided to create an independent horror film, they took the independent status as a challenge to make the sort of movie that nobody else in their right minds was going to make. A film whose first line is, “I was born with seven clits”, should not follow that up by wimping out, and Bad Biology gleefully shoots its wad way over the line of “appropriate content” into a place in which a run-amok drug addicted penis is having its way with nubile women all over Staten Island. There is no way you can show this film to your older relative, or your sane friends.

But it’s competently made and shot in glorious 35 mm, as opposed to that horrid digital video that’s all the rage now; it looks like a friggin movie. Some reviewers have criticized the acting, and not everyone pulls it off, but Danielson does a fine, fearless job as the main character, and it’s not like these lines are easy to deliver. I was annoyed, personally, by some of the cheesy CG, which you might notice I’m sick of; but it’s used sparingly. I do wish the characters had hooked up earlier, although that would have blown the really sick “money shot” earlier and left them nowhere else to go. Finally, I love the fact that this totally offensive movie sneaks in a message about female sexual liberation. And it’s hard not to love a film that, if the director was never birthed, would never exist in any form.

Frank, we missed you!