Monday, March 25, 2024

Exploitation Month II Quick Picks and Pans


The Big Bird Cage Poster

The Big Bird Cage (1972) Here’s the movie that put Pam Grier on the map as a force to be reckoned with. Grier and Sid Haig star as revolutionaries Blossom and Django, who infiltrate a Philippine prison camp lorded over by an evil warden (is there any other kind in these movies?) and his sadistic guards. The title refers to an elaborate (and treacherous) sugar mill designed by the warden (Andres Centenera). Anitra Ford appears in a notable role as Terry, a prisoner wrongly accused of being in cahoots with Django. It’s as tasteless as it’s engaging, featuring copious nudity, catfights galore, and some unfortunate gay stereotypes. Dubious elements aside, writer/director Jack Hill’s women-in-prison flick is briskly paced and a hell of a lot of fun.   

Rating: ***½. Available on Blu-ray, DVD and Freevee 

Foxy Brown Poster

Foxy Brown (1974) Pam Grier secures her place as one of the most electrifying stars of the ‘70s as the eponymous protagonist of this blaxploitation classic, another strong entry from director Jack Hill. After Foxy’s federal agent boyfriend is gunned down by thugs, she vows revenge against Katherine Wall (Kathryn Loder) and her prostitution/drug ring. Antonio Fargas co-stars as Foxy’s ne'er-do-well brother Link, who’s in the hole for $20,000, and Sid Haig enjoys a brief appearance as a gung-ho pilot. With brains and beauty in equal measures, our title heroine proves she’s more than a match for the bad guys. 

Rating: ***½. Available on Blu-ray, DVD and Tubi

Mudhoney Poster

Mudhoney (1965) Set in Depression-era rural Missouri, Russ Meyer’s accidental morality tale packs a surprising dramatic wallop. Calif McKinney (John Furlong) a recently paroled convict, takes a job on a farm run by Hannah, a lonely woman, and her uncle Lute (Antoinette Cristiani and Stuart Lancaster, respectively). While Calif discovers he’s falling in love with Hannah, he must reconcile his past, and contend with her alcoholic, mean-spirited husband Sidney (Hal Hopper). Meanwhile, temptations abound at a nearby cathouse run by Maggie (Princess Livingston) and her vivacious daughters. With this being a Meyer film, he doesn’t miss an opportunity to focus on the finer aspects of female anatomy, but there’s much more to this movie than mere sexploitation. Mudhoney boasts some excellent performances by a talented cast, tackling serious themes including abusive relationships, redemption, and religious hypocrisy. 

Rating: ***½. Available on DVD (out of print)  

Robotrix Poster

Robotrix (1991) This Category III sci-fi comedy from director/co-writer Jamie Luk steals (ahem!) – borrows liberally from Robocop and The Terminator. When policewoman Linda (Chikako Aoyama) is mortally wounded in the line of duty, her consciousness is transplanted to an android body by Dr. Sara (Siu-dan Hui) and her buxom assistant Anna (Amy Yip), who also happens to be an android. Linda is employed to hunt down Ryuichi Sakamoto (Chung Lin) an evil robotics scientist who places his own mind into one of his murderous creations. With an abundance of sex, violence and sophomoric humor (think of a script written by and for 15-year-old boys, and you get the idea), Robotrix is stupid, silly fun worth checking out, despite its frequent excesses. 

Rating: ***. Available on Blu-ray and DVD

Sweden - Heaven and Hell Poster

Sweden: Heaven and Hell (1968) One of many so-called “Mondo” documentaries, Luigi Scattini’s film is an “adults only” pastiche of lurid material under the guise of being an exposé of Swedish society. Focusing on the denizens of Stockholm, it examines a variety of subjects, including sex education, contraception, adoption (including footage of an actual birth), saunas, drug abuse, and more. The scenes are loosely organized, jumping randomly from one topic to another, and tied together by a rather judgmental narrator. This relic from the ‘60s is probably best known for the “Mana Mana” song, put to better use by Jim Henson for Sesame Street and The Muppet Show

Rating: **½. Available on DVD

Mr. No Legs Poster

Mr. No Legs (aka: The Gun Fighter) (1975) Director Ricou Browning (the man in the Creature from the Black Lagoon costume and creator of the TV show Flipper) serves up a slice of sleaze with this sub-par action movie. The title refers to an unpleasant legless mob enforcer (Ted Vollrath) who rolls around in a wheelchair equipped with two hidden double-barrel shotguns. Richard Jaeckel, John Agar and Rance Howard try their best, given the substandard material, but most of the other performances are amateurish. Most of the movie looks cheap (the setting for the perfunctory bar fight seems to be made of cardboard), but the stunts are better than you’d expect. The ragged-looking print for the Blu-ray was apparently pieced together from several surviving elements, but I wonder why anyone bothered. 

Rating: **. Available on Blu-ray 

Savage Streets Poster

Savage Streets (1984) Linda Blair stars as Brenda, a “high schooler” (Blair was 25 at the time) who ends up on the bad side of some “juvenile” delinquents (Robert Dryer, who was 34, plays the leader) out for revenge. When her deaf/mute sister Heather (Linnea Quigley) is raped and her best friend Francine (Lisa Freeman) is killed, she plans her own brand of revenge. John Vernon appears in a thankless role as the ineffectual school principal (he doesn’t do much beyond sneering and threatening). The movie’s very disturbing (and drawn-out) rape scene would have been better off left on the cutting room floor. The filmmakers don’t miss any opportunities to show bare flesh (whether it’s integral to the story or not) and violence towards women. The soundtrack adds insult to injury, chock-full of execrable power ballads that describe the plot (“There’s a time for revenge…”). Even Linda Blair fans might want to skip it. 

Rating: *½. Available on Blu-ray and DVD



  1. A great collection of eyebrow raising films, Barry! I really really need to see foxy Brown! I'm ashamed I haven't because Pam Grier is awesome!

    And I maybe should give mudhoney another shot. I've only seen it once but it didn't do much for me compared to beyond the valley of the Dolls and faster pussycat kill kill.

    1. Thanks. John! I can't recommend Foxy Brown highly enough. Pure fun. Let me know if you see Mudhoney again. Compared to the other two Meyer films you mentioned, it's much more serious in tone. ...And that reminds me, I need to get around to a full-length review of Beyond the Valley of the Dolls eventually!