Friday, July 29, 2011

The Spook Who Sat by the Door (1973)

Holy fuck! This is the real deal shit- a movie that absolutely pulls no punches. Nine times out of ten when you see a trailer that makes a movie look uncompromising, you finally watch the movie and find it wimps out by about the second act. But The Spook that Sat by the Door is so uncompromising that United Artists actually had it pulled from theatres shortly after its release claiming it was too politically sensitive and it wasn't seen again for about thirty years. Rumor has it the FBI strongly suggested they pull the film, which was doing quite well, from release. For once, I believe the rumors.

I've said before that what's missing from neo-grindhouse movies is the political subtext of the 60s and 70s. Those old movies were made by people who were outside of and often pretty angry at the establishment- they were trying to say something- while fanboys are usually apolitical and uninterested in the world outside of film. This movie is a prime example of what I'm talking about- it became a cult classic largely because it's extremely, even frighteningly radical. You couldn't make a movie like this today, partly because of the production/distribution system, sure; but also because nobody today has the sort of consciousness required to think something like this up. Instead, we get something like Machete that isn't entirely sure what it's about.

One of the brilliant touches of the film is how it plays off of and subverts your expectations. We're introduced to Dan Freeman (Lawrence Cook), a token black candidate for the CIA training program who, for at least the first third of the movie seems to be struggling earnestly to make it in a white man's world. There are some very sharp observations here about black assimilation and we find it very easy to wonder if Freeman hasn't deluded himself about the reality of racism in the CIA. He's clearly the token- the spook who's sat by the door to impress newcomers with the 'integration' going on- and the film leads us to believe that he'll struggle to prove himself in the institution. I've read reviews that say it's clear from the start that he's a 'black nationalist' but it wasn't to me.

In the next act, he returns to Chicago after a fruitless tenure in a meaningless government sinecure to help the inner city black community. The initial implication is that he's going to found a community center of some sort, but when he hears some young kids talking about black militancy in a pool hall, he offers to teach them real tactics of guerrilla warfare to use against the white authorities. Then he founds a militant group, the Black Freedom Fighters, and teaches them all of the dirty tricks and paramilitary maneuvers he learned from the CIA! In the third act, they wage war against the National Guard and the police, blow up the Mayor's office, dose a General with LSD, paint him in black face and assassinate him, and the film ends with a black terrorist revolution consuming the inner cities of America! There is no cop out to speak of.

The Spook Who Sat by the Door is clearly a reaction to the deep frustrations of the black community in the early 70s, when the most important black leaders were being killed. At the time, a revolution seemed imminent. Does its message of revolution resonate today? It's hard to say. Does the movie work as more than a political pamphlet? Not entirely. Freeman is more a cipher than a character. Is he angered by his time in the government bureaucracy, or does he begin with dreams of revolution? Is he flawed or heroic? The film doesn't give him many dimensions and, by comparison, gives most of the supporting characters even less. But it's still bracing and somewhat exhilarating to watch. So many action and exploitation movies promise to blow your mind. This one does.

Friday, July 22, 2011

The Blood Spattered Bride (1972)

A reasonable companion piece to Daughters of Darkness (Blue Underground apparently thinks so), The Blood Spattered Bride depicts a newly married couple in which the bride’s anxieties about sex connect well to a ghost who killed her own husband on their wedding night and who’d like our heroine to do the same. The struggle between the sexes reaches a fever pitch in this movie which was based on the same Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu story as Vertigo- there’s a lot more bloodshed in this one, however.

"Husband" (Simón Andreu) and Susan(Maribel Martín )have recently been married and already she’s having hallucinations about being raped (not five minutes into the movie!) when they decide to stay at the old family estate. He hopes this will calm her fears about losing her virginity and they do have sex; but she starts having vivid dreams about a beautiful woman, Cordelia, who wants her to kill her husband before he takes away her freedom. In one such dream, she stabs him repeatedly in the chest and finally in his exposed heart, finally being covered with blood.

It turns out, of course, that there was a beautiful woman who once stayed in the castle and, wouldn’t you know it, stabbed her hubby to death on their wedding night for asking her “to do shameful things”. As she is drawn into a relationship with the ghost, her contempt for her husband grows making it increasingly likely that he’ll have to put her down in the cold, cold ground, and increasingly unlikely that he’ll get any pussy.

Is it really possession by a ghost or is it her deep psychological fear of being sexually possessed by her husband that’s driving her to madness? The movie is great at keeping both possibilities in the air and even bringing in Carmilla in the flesh, found nude under the sand on a nearby beach, to cause more trouble for the unhappy couple. Like Daughters of Darkness, what makes this work so well is that it’s both strongly psychological and very visceral. The body/mind split between the “psychological thriller” and the “horror movie” doesn’t apply here- minds are twisted and bodies are torn apart.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Daughters of Darkness (1971)

The Europeans really know how to do vampire films, don’t they? America gave us Dracula, of course, but that was basically a European story about Eastern Europe. The best American vampire films, like Near Dark and 30 Days of Night, are basically Westerns with fangs. Lestat, meanwhile, was just dopey, and Buffy the Vampire Slayer was Gidget with fangs. The problem is that vampires are supposed to be hundreds of years old and nothing in America feels more than 50 years old.

Conversely, everything in Europe feels hundreds of years old. The exhausted, bloodless, decadent aesthetes depicted so well by Wilde or Huysmans were already basically vampires even if they had no fangs. The vampires in European fiction were symbols of the old Europe feeding off its youth while enervating them in the process. Vampires are the aristocracy that has become useless, taking everything from their social inferiors, contributing nothing, and bound only to their own rules but to no morality. Aristocrats and vampires alike are depicted in nineteenth century European fiction as manipulative, cabalistic, bisexual, and self-interested.

Daughters of Darkness plays off the legends about the original vampire aristocrat: the Countess Elizabeth Bathory, who allegedly bathed in the blood of hundreds of female virgins killed for just that purpose. Here, she’s played by Delphine Seyrig as a soothingly evil version of Greta Garbo with a touch of the Duchesse du Guermontes. Sweeping into a beachside hotel in the off-season with her lithe female companion Ilona (Andrea Rau). just in time to seduce the only other people staying there, a pair of newlyweds, Stefan (John Karlen) and Valerie (Danielle Ouimet , Seyrig radiates the self-regard of a well-born lady who just expects to be adored.

The newlyweds, meanwhile, have their own problems. Stefan has a dark secret making it hard for him to tell “Mother” about his low-born wife and an emerging taste for sadism. And Valerie is being lured away from her new husband by the Countess in a plot with a very strong lesbian subtext, or just text. Probably the idea of a married woman having her mind controlled by a beautiful, sexually-predatory older woman wouldn’t quite fly in this more PC era, but by making her a vampire we can make blood-drinking interchangeable with all sorts of kinky sex. Well, or just show lots of kinky sex! It would be glib and facile to simply connect this wife-seducing plot to “fears about feminism”- the film is suggesting something deeper and more Freudian: that behind the sentimental marital façade there is a current of male sadism and desire to possess the wife and, conversely, a female hatred for the husband who wants to hurt and possess her. The Countess is successful at slicing the marriage in half because she knows truths about the happy couple that they can’t even admit to themselves. Having been in this experience before- another woman working hard to separate my wife from our marriage- I was sympathetic to its political incorrectness. If lesbians insist that “only a woman knows what feels good to another woman” (which boy do they ever) they can’t be too surprised that their rivalry with heterosexual men makes for interesting drama.

In true Eurofilm style, all of this subtext is out in the open. Before long, she is sleeping over with the Countess in her room, while Stefan is screwing Ilona, before accidentally killing her in the bathroom where she’s burned by the shower. I’d never heard that vampires are burned by “running water” anywhere else- makes you wonder how they stay clean. The three of them hide the body. But will he be able to save his young bride from the clutches of the Countess? I wouldn’t bet on it.

What’s great about these 60s Eurotrash horror movies is they take all of the mystery, atmosphere, and straight out weirdness of the Gothic stories and throw in plenty of blood, mod fashions, and kinky sex. The story unfolds mainly by burrowing deeper into the psychosexuality of the main characters. Compare this to modern horror films in which the heroes are deep as a paper cut and just keep reacting to events like comic book characters; you can’t help but think today’s horror auteurs all need to spend some time reading Freud. Recent horror films are plenty gory, but not sufficiently fucked up.

Sleepaway Camp (1983)

Today hailed as a “cult classic”, which is really just a nice way of saying, “a bad movie that’s also sort of weird”, Sleepaway Camp was originally just another Friday the 13th rip off- a movie that honestly doesn’t seem too original itself if you watch it directly after watching Halloween. However, what distinguished Sleepaway Camp from the horde of slasher flicks of the era is that although the movie has all sorts of flubs and problems, it’s just sort of weird, particularly in its bizarre ending and homosexual subtext. I think people remember it for years just because they’re still asking themselves, “What the fuck was that about?”

These movies usually begin with a series of tragic events that happened in the past. In this case, eight years ago some dumbass kids from the local camp were dicking around in a motorboat in the lake when they ran over some kids with thick New Yawk accents. Sample dialogue: “Peetuh stahted it!” “Did not, you lie-uh!” The father is killed and one of the kids dies and whoever survived something like that would probably be a homicidal maniac, right? Probably so.

Anyway, flash forward to eight years later and the survivor, Angela, played by Felicia Rose, is heading off to camp with her cousin Ricky (Jonathan Tiersten), chaperoned by his nutty mother (Desiree Gould) who behaves like Little Edie in Grey Gardens with another couple more screws loose. She’s somehow secured physicals for the two kids without taking them to a doctor and we soon realize that there’s something wrong with Angela. She doesn’t eat, hardly talks, stares a lot into the distance and seems more than a little disturbed. Felicia Rose was a new actress but already played creepy well. She’s pretty much the best part of the film.

When the kids get to camp, Ricky has to protect Angela from the abusive fellow campers, particularly the cuntish Judy (Karen Fields) and the bitchy counselor Meg (Katherine Kamhi). There’s also a weird love subplot in which Angela can’t fool around with the one boy at camp who likes her because she once saw her dad and another dude getting it on. It’s sort of a shitty camp anyway: one of the cooks openly jokes about molesting the pubescent campers, the counselor abuses Angela, Mel (Mike Kellin), the owner, covers up the inevitable killings and beats up Ricky suspecting him. And, naturally, people start getting killed off one by one: the pervert cook gets boiled alive with a huge pot of water, one bully kid gets drowned, another bully gets a hornet’s nest dropped on him while he’s taking a “wicked dump”, and so forth. The effects, by Ed French, are pretty much Savini-level, which helps a lot.

There’s supposed to be a mystery to this, but for the most part, we know who’s doing it the whole time. The one twist is a shock ending that actually is shocking if you haven’t heard about it already. Otherwise, what distinguishes the movie are a bunch of weird touches: the gay dad flashbacks, a skinny dipping scene that amounts to a bunch of naked dudes and clothed girls, that weirdo Aunt, a cop with a painted-on moustache, and the child molesting cook that nobody worries much about. There’s a really weird subtext too- Angela, let’s face it, is basically a closet case. Is the film warning of the dangers of closeting? Because I got the feeling at points it was just warning us about homosexuals. What was the deal with that hallucination anyway?

In the end, it’s weird enough to puzzle over, but not a very good movie; only worth seeing once, and probably not even that many times.

Hitch-hike (1977)

Holy shit! David Hess actually appeared in a movie that’s enjoyable to watch. After the plodding misogyny of House on the Edge of the Park and the overrated crappiness of Last House on the Left, I was wondering if everyone’s favorite cinematic scumbag rapist ever acted in anything decent. Indeed he did- Autostop rosso Sangue, known in the US as Hitch-hike is good twisted fun. Is it any surprise that he plays a scumbag rapist kidnapper here?
Basically, Hitch-hike is a cat & mouse movie in which three different characters are trying to be the cat. A bickering husband and wife get abducted by a hitchhiker while traveling across the American west (or its Italian equivalent) and each of them vies for power over the other two while weird psychosexual charges are exchanged. It’s a bit like an exploitation flick version of “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?”.

The husband, an alcoholic Italian writer (played to the hilt by Franco Nero, Django himself) with a rich wife, compensates for his feelings of personal failure by abusing his wife mercilessly. The dubbing, by Nero himself, is of the Whatsamattayoo? school of Italian English making his constant attempts to paw or insult her much more amusing than they should be. He’s easily the worst male chauvinist since Gabrielle Tinti in Velluto Nero and makes one wonder how bed gender relations really were in 1970s Italy. Seriously, the guy is a charmer!

The wife (played by Connie Clery of Moonraker), meanwhile, is way out of this schmuck’s league and clearly knows it. One of the major themes of the movie is that she has a sexy body and the camera takes it in as often as possible. Her dissatisfaction with her drunken lout of a husband explains why she picks up the sketchy looking hitchhiker (played by David Hess) to piss him off and why she seems to flirt with the idea of letting him have his way with her once he takes them hostage. Maybe she likes the attention and maybe she just likes hurting hubby.

Hess, meanwhile, plays a psycho bank robber who wants to get away with his money, humiliate the husband and screw the wife, and possibly get the lout to write a book about him and become famous! The writer manipulates his desire for fame, while also humiliating him for having escaped from a loony bin. And the wife seems to hate him, but maybe hates her husband more and maybe likes the sexual attention from this creep.

In a mainstream movie, these tensions would play just beneath the surface with little coming of them. Luckily, this is Italian exploitation so Hess ends up tying up the husband and fucking his eager wife right in front of him before she comes back naked with a shotgun to blow him away! There’s also a crazy truck and camper chase straight out of Duel, rivals from the bank robbery gang who want the money, and an ultra-violent twist ending. The movie works wonderfully at maintaining the tension and paying it off with sex and violence. It’s also a good example of how entertaining it is to watch completely amoral people trying to overpower each other.

Update: Here's the trailer with the great Ennio Morricone score as well as the sex scene with Djano crying. As if it's not hot to watch your wife fuck someone else. What??? Just saying.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Penitentiary 2 (1982)

The first Penitentiary made enough money that funding came through for a sequel and Jamaa Fanaka is a director who loves to work. Thus we have Penitentiary 2, basically a repeat of the first movie set outside of an actual penitentiary. Leon Isaac Kennedy returns as Martell 'Too Sweet' Gordone, trying to make a new life for himself after having boxed his way out of prison and trying to avoid being pulled into the world of professional boxing. As you might guess, he winds up pulled into the world of professional boxing. His opponent from the first movie, Jessie “the Bull” (Donovan Womack) is his opponent here, and his enemy Half Dead returns, this time having escaped from the law and played by Ernie Hudson of Ghostbusters fame. His old trainer Seldom Seems (Malik Carter) returns as well, although with considerably less pep than in the first film, owing perhaps to Carter’s reputed drug problems.

Much of the continuing storyline is set up via an opening scrawl in the style of Star Wars, an obvious homage that suggests the influence of the Lucas film on Fanaka’s own filmmaking. He seems to be tipping his hat to the huge influence that the Star Wars films had on American cinema in general and this film seems more like a crowd pleaser, with music often signaling the audience’s emotions and the storyline simpler than before, more spelled out through the dialogue. It’s a bit dumbed down, just like the Lucas movies. The impact of the Star Wars trilogy on cinema is apparent, but it’s not exactly been good.

What’s frustrating about Penitentiary 2 is that it begins with a story focusing on the great theme in Jamaa Fanaka’s work: an average black man struggling to have a stable life in adverse conditions, only to abandon it. Too Sweet is struggling with the pain of having lost his parents in a car accident, doing jail time for a crime he didn’t commit, and trying to readjust to the outside world. He has reconciled with his old girlfriend Clarisse (Eugenia Wright) and is working a delivery job to meet the terms of his parole. But this is all derailed by the psychotic Half Dead (Ernie Hudson) who wants revenge on Too Sweet and gets it by raping and killing Clarisse before a long brawl that is only stopped by the police before Too Sweet can kill him- an obvious replay of the brutal fight the two characters had in the first movie, at almost exactly the same point in the story.

Luckily, Fanaka knows it would be absurd to send Too Sweet back to jail for defending his home. Instead, he uses the killing as the catalyst that sends Too Sweet back to the ring. There are two problems with this. First, he has Kennedy announce his intentions to box in a speech that again assumes the audience has to be told everything: “I’m going to box… I’m going to be somebody… I’m going to get respect. I’m going to talk to the kids about the insanity in this world. I’m going to make a difference in this dirty rotten world. I’m going to do it for Clarisse. I’m going to be champion of the world.” We could have probably figured this out without being told. Secondly, the murder of Clarisse doesn’t interfere in the story too much: a few scenes later, Too Sweet and Seldom Seems are picking up cute girls in a disco. It never seems like the rape and murder of his true love has much emotional impact on Too Sweet, which it probably should.

Too Sweet has to prove himself by fighting Jessie the Bull, with the match strangely taking place in the penitentiary. The boxing is shot well and Fanaka is much-improved as a director. As with the first film, there are plenty of colorful characters, from Half Dead's sidekicks Do Dirty and Simple to Too Sweet's new trainer, played by Mr. T in his first screen appearance. There are also great cameos by fighter Archie Moore and the great Rudy Ray Moore. And the conclusion is rousing.

But there's a rushed quality to the film that leaves some logical gaps: Half Dead never ends up fighting Too Sweet in the end and Jessie "the Bull" has almost no screen time outside of the bouts- it gives the impression that the true story hasn't happened. There's also the matter of the quickly forgotten dead Clarisse. At the end, I have mixed feelings about this movie. It's definitely a crowd pleaser and a rousing film. Jamaa Fanaka is a solid commercial director. But I wish someone would give him the money necessary to make a movie that's both exciting and as weird and radical as his earlier films. Otherwise, it's like Half Fanaka, and cinema needs the man giving us all his heart and soul.

Macon County Line (1974)

There’s something very appealing about the languid pace of these mid 70s drive-in movies. It’s as if nobody is in a particular hurry to get anywhere or do anything. “Free and easy” was how I remember them describing that mood in the 70s, which I barely remember at all. The teens in current movies seem very uptight by contrast- always rushing places and snarking at each other. Did they even have snark back in the 70s? I think part of the reason I watch these old movies is simply because they offer a reassuring picture of a world in which young people bum around and don’t worry terribly much about their ‘careers’ or consumer items. Well, until they get cut up with a chainsaw that is.

Here, we focus on two brothers, Chris & Wayne Dixon , played by real-life brothers Alan & Jessie Vint, who are “catting around” the South on one last fling before one of them enters the Army. It’s 1953 and the film is a bit of a nostalgia piece with great rock and gospel songs a la American Graffiti. The film starts with the brothers having sex with a woman in New Orleans before her husband arrives and chases them away in that classic sexual archetype. There’s also something reassuring about these old saws- we all know how they’re going to end. The laughs come easy.

After dining and dashing from the local diner and picking up a cute hitchhiker Jenny (Cheryl Waters), they run into some car troubles and have to stop in a sleepy little Southern town of the sort where everyone forgets what they were saying in the middle of a sentence and the local lawman seems like his name should be Jethro- in fact, he really seems this way as he’s played by Max Baer Jr., Jethro Clampett himself. Baer stars, produces, and co-wrote the script, and it seems likely that he’s trying to overcome his Jethro image here- his character Deputy Reed, is a hardnosed, racist, closed-minded hick with a badge: in other words, the worst nightmare of the teens that would have seen the movie in a drive-in back in 1974. He’s also a stereotype, of course, and we know that, eventually, he’s going to come after those free’n’easy teens and try to blow a few holes in them.

The catalyst for this is a pair of traveling criminals who invade his home and brutalize and murder his wife in a genuinely disturbing scene midway through. One interesting touch- she’s watching a television report about Senator McCarthy at the time, which might be pure nostalgia, but seems to say, “Hey, America, you’re worried about the Reds? Here’s the real threat to worry about breaking into your house as we speak!”

Meanwhile, Jenny and Chris are having sex in a nearby barn with the car broken down outside of the Sheriff’s house, while he’s driving around with his son (played by a young Leif Garret) teaching the kid to avoid black children! Soon Sheriff Jethro is stalking the kids in the woods turning their idyllic romp into a bloody nightmare. This, of course, happens in the last twenty minutes and the movie takes its sweet time getting down to business. No doubt drive-in audiences of 1974 weren’t terribly concerned about plot mechanics and liked seeing the lawman as the villain. The film ends with inevitable pretensions of really being about the wages of violence and intolerance, which might have been what made the film a smash hit in 1974. Or it was the naked girls and shotgun violence. Either way, it’s still a solidly-constructed time waster.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Exorcism's Daughter (1971)

The title is misleading: not only is this not an Exorcist rip off, but it was actually made before the Exorcist and only released in the US in 1974 in an attempt to cash in on William Friedkin’s horror masterpiece. Its alternative title, “House of the Insane Women” is more accurate- it is about a nineteenth century Spanish mental asylum for insane women. The staff are worn out and mistreat the patients horribly, beating and insulting them and even pimping out some of the nutzo nymphs to a local bug-eyed pervert who enjoys the occasional loony bin orgy.

Into this dysfunctional family comes a new doctor Alba who is more in the Enlightenment mold and promises the prisoners that “the time of the straightjacket is over”, arousing their hopes to be treated, “like a human being” as they chant in a dreamlike celebration scene. The slow-mo sequence evokes the dream of liberty and its terror as well, justifying the film’s existence. There are other lovely sequences, including a madwoman lying in the rain and a paranoid in a church belfry mistaking a bell for a severed head in a direct echo of Vertigo’s bell-tower sequence. As in most of the Spanish exploitation films of this era, there are plenty of gorgeous stone castles lit by torches.

The story pits the Enlightened Doctor against the local Catholic establishment, who see his methods as being akin to witchcraft. He focuses his efforts on healing Tanya, a childlike paranoid with a dark secret in her past (psst: she’s the daughter of the exorcism subject, hence the title). Naturally, there are conflicts; the old guard bitches, “Everything’s prohibited! Ya can’t hit ‘em, dunk ‘em, nothing!” The townspeople, predictably, are convinced instead that he’s fucking the patients. The local heiress is trying to blackmail him into fucking her. And, what do ya know- he’s falling in love with Tanya! Before long, he’s siding with the lunatics against the sane society outside.

The movie is a solid Spanish shocker in the gothic mode; it reminds one a bit of The Devils. But it’s not quite as shocking as it needs to be and exploitation hounds might be disappointed by its lack of gore and sleaze. As with many of these Spanish gothics, there’s a fair amount of melodrama to wade through. But, its portrayal of the forces of order trying to keep down those who want freedom is fairly rich and it has some great lines, with my favorite being the drunken guard’s, “On my headstone, I want them to write, “He drank of life while they died.”

East End Hustle (1976)

Young Maryanne (Ann Marie Provenchier) grows up in relative poverty with four siblings, a fatso dad who wears dirty undershirts and smacks the kids at the breakfast table, and, worst of all, a ridiculous Quebecois accent. Sleazy dudes hit on her on sidewalk corners and she works in a textile sweatshop where the boss regularly expects her to screw him. In addition, the bossman decides to rent her out to some pimp friends. The opening scenes of East End Hustle have a suitable aura of sleaze although their languid pacing is a bit off-putting. For some reason, the criminals all speak in a low voice that sounds like they’re on Quaaludes. It’s hard to fear them pimp-slapping young Maryanne when you’re worried that everyone's about to fall asleep!

Luckily for her, and us, she’s saved before doing actual escort work by an avenging hooker angel, Cindy (Andree Pelletier), who is leaving the life behind and who also talks in a thick Quebec accent. “’Ey! Geet in my car ovuh dere!” Ah, the classic days of Cinepix Canuxploitation; back when anyone who wanted a good tax write-off could fund a Canadian exploitation movie and American viewers could try to figure out why the inner city had so many signs in French.

Who knows if it’s a pointed detail that the head pimp, Dan (Miguel Fernandez), sounds like he’s from Brooklyn while the hookers all sound French Canadian. As a pimp, he’s pretty tough and starts bumping off the girls who rebel against him. Weirdly though he talks in a low, steady voice like a librarian. Maybe his boring gelding demeanor sapped the glamour out of hooking for Cindy, who has come to the wisdom: “When your pussy goes for money, something else goes too.” So true. The movie does a decent job of detailing the dynamics of the stable of whores with plenty of nudity, sleaze, and over-the-top dialogue, my personal favorite being a hooker who responds to her dress being torn with, “’Ey yoo! Oh fookin’ shit!!” It might have been more fun if they’d just stuck with that: sort of Car Wash with escorts.
Alas, Cindy becomes a sort of vigilante, pulling a knife on the hoodlums who harassed Maryanne in the opening when they try to pick up the girls and leaving them sans pants in the middle of the street. She’s still in trouble with the mob and Dan the evil pimp tries to send her a message by dispatching his goons to rape her in a public restroom! This starts her on the path to lead a hooker revolution against the evil pimps via an underground railroad of shitty Montreal houses. The mobs take her groggy boyfriend hostage, which doesn’t seem to upset him greatly. But we know this can only end in violence.

The violence does come in the form of some NYC hitmen who slit some throats and send Maryanne down three stories of an open townhouse to her death. The filmmakers clearly know what their audience is looking for with nice gratuitous touches like establishing Cindy’s relationship with her boyfriend via a hot, graphic sex scene. At times, it felt more like a straight sexploitation flick than a revenge epic. The violence is somewhat graphic too, although less so. But there are probably enough sleazy plot points to satisfy a not-too-discriminating exploitation hound. If you’re watching the movie, you’re probably hoping to see boobs, bush, blood, and bad 70s clothes, and it has that in abundance.

The weird thing about the movie, aside from the Inspector Cluseau accents, is the thing with everyone speaking like they’re trying not to wake someone asleep in the next room. Cindy keeps double-crossing the pimps but they don’t seem very angry. They’re looking to kill her, but she doesn’t seem very scared. The soundtrack is full of generic late 70s soft rock, which doesn’t help much. And, as with many of these movies, the characters aren’t well defined beyond what they’re doing; Cindy is the ex-hooker taking on the mob and not much more; Dan is the evil balding pimp; Maryanne is the wimpy young hooker; etc. The languid and subdued tone really goes against the main appeal of these movies: namely, watching a kickass female get revenge on her male oppressors. Cindy is no Pam Grier, that’s for sure. The easy joke here would be that Canadian action heroines are more boring than American ones, but after living here for eight years, my opinion is that Canadians are plenty interesting, although with an English reserve. But it is possible to be a bit too mellow in your vengeance seeking.