American Grindhouse (2010)
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I guess that makes me weird, but grindhouse films in various forms have existed from the birth of motion pictures. Films like Maniac, Reefer Madness, and more have titillated moviegoers for almost 100 years.
This documentary does an excellent job of reviewing exploitation from the beginning, complete with uncensored clips from the movies they talk about.
If grindhouse is something you are not familiar with, then this documentary will enlighten you. It is for all those who want to know more.
I thought that this documentary would mainly focus on the exploitation most of us think of from the 60's on to present day. I am glad to say that is has a much more interesting approach then just that obvious plot. It starts at the turn of the 18th century at the dawn of cinema, all and while amusing classic clips. It progresses decade by decade comparing more contemporary films to pre code Hollywood. These are things most exploitation fans would never really think of...'Where did the 70s exploit films come from, and what inspired them?' I personally welcome this lesson, and don't worry you get the schlock and gore too! My point? Even if your a 'know it all' go see it, it's academic with a punch line. Now if I can only find all of these amazing movies they talked about.
*** (out of 4)
This film begins with people debating on what a grindhouse film really is and after the release of the film GRINDHOUSE it seems like everyone was debating the true definition. This documentary, to me, covers pretty much everything that wasn't accepted by the mainstream. We cover a wide range of films starting with some early silents from Edison and then moving to Hollywood movies like FREAKS as well as trashier things like MANIAC, REEFER MADNESS and then going through other decades. Included are the "birth" films from the 40s, the nudist films of the 60s, the gore period starting with Herschell Gordon Lewis and then moving through the 70s with stuff like THE LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT and the blaxploitation pictures. John Landis, William Lustig, Ted V. Mikels, Herschell Gordon Lewis, Joe Dante, Kim Morgan, Fred Olen Ray, Fred Williamson, Allison Anders, Larry Cohen, David Hess, Don Edmonds and Jack Hill are just a few of the people interviewed here and they too have a wide range of opinions on the films covered here. For the most part I think this is a terrific introduction to those unfamiliar with the genre but if you have a good idea of these films and their history then it's doubtful you're going to learn much here. I think American GRINDHOUSE would best be used as a training tool for those new movie fans wanting to see about this stuff and be able to see countless clips as well as get some nice recommendations for rentals. I think the documentary does a good job at covering various genres but at just 83-minutes there's really no way it can really dig deep into everything. Europeon films are pretty much overlooked and this is somewhat frustrating especially when certain films are made to appear as if they started a sub-genre when in fact it was usually something overseas. The film also does a nice job at showing how certain production rules in Hollywood is what helped change the exploitation filmmakers and how Hollywood eventually had to drop what they were doing and offer people what they wanted.
Duh!.... Call me a monkey's uncle, but I had always thought (until today) that the term "Grindhouse" referred to those exploitation films that were exclusively from the 1960s & 70s.
But after viewing this fairly enlightening documentary on the subject, I am now being told that "Grindhouse" films actually go all the way back to the very first time (1894?) when some bloke with a half-baked perversion in his head picked up a movie camera and recorded "that forbidden thing" on film. (Tsk. Tsk)
Anyways - Whether it's bona-fide "Grindhouse", or not, this here documentary sure covered a lot of ground in film history, and it definitely brought my attention to a number of totally "taboo" films out there that I'd sure like to view for myself, such as - Maniac (1934), Mom & Dad (1945) and Scum Of The Earth (1963), to name but a few.
From perversion for profit; to scandalous sensation; to challenging censorship; to teenage rampage, and beyond - American Grindhouse is a documentary that's certain to pique the interest of more than just fans of exploitation films.
*Note of Warning!" - This documentary contains not only film clips of nudity, but, it also shows the graphic depiction of childbirth, as well.
A documentary on the history of exploitation films, which are as old as film itself. As the movie points out as soon as man had the power to keep a video recording of things the first thing we naturally wanted to do was record something exploitative. The film is directed by Elijah Drenner (in his feature film debut) and written by Drenner and Calum Waddell. It features interviews with such legendary exploitation filmmakers as John Landis, Joe Dante, Herschell Gordon Lewis, Jack Hill, Larry Cohen, Don Edmonds and many more. The film is narrated by Robert Forster.
The movie follows the history of exploitation film from the turn of the century, when film was invented, to present day and displays a decade by decade examination of it. It intercuts clips from various movies with interviews from different filmmakers, critics and actors discussing them. Some of the earlier clips are the most interesting and shocking. It examines the effects of various things on the industry, like the Motion Picture Production Code as well as the 'Grindhouse' theaters themselves. 'Grindhouse' theaters were movie theaters that almost solely showed exploitation films and usually stayed open all day and night. They were named after the run down burlesque theaters on 42nd Street in New York City. The film follows the history of 'Grindhouse' theaters and the exploitation film industry all the way to it's near extinction in the mid 70's when movies like Steven Spielberg's 'JAWS' finally blurred the lines between indie exploitation and Hollywood films and made exploitation 'B' movies a mainstream excepted thing.
The movie is extremely interesting and educational. It's also very entertaining and never dull. It moves at a remarkably fast pace and finishes in a very quick 80 minute running time. There are a few movies and filmmakers I'm surprised they never touched on, especially considering some of the ones they did, which makes me feel the film is not as complete a film history lesson as it could have been (but then again no movie possibly could be). It is only 80 minutes like I said and I'm sure there were budget restraints as well (It is a very low budget movie itself). The interviews are outstanding and the clips shown are as shocking and disturbing as any movie I've seen. Which makes you wonder if the documentary itself isn't exploitation filmmaking.
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Finally, I was pleased to hear John Landis refer to PASSION OF THE Christ as an Exploitation film, as that's exactly how I viewed it... with total delight, I must say. In fact, given it and APOCALYPTO, an argument could be made for Mel Gibson as the greatest Exploitation film director of the past decade... even if he does not exactly see his own films in that light.
This film covers it all: from the earliest Edison films, to the pre-code days (who knew the 1920s were so raunchy), to the story of "Freaks" and the end of Tod Browning's career.
With interviews from John Landis, Joe Dante, and William Lustig, you have it all: the importance of H. G. Lewis (despite his questionable talent, as Landis points out), and the world of Larry Cohen and his "no permits" approach to renegade movie making.
If nothing else, the story of "Ilsa" and how the director got involved is priceless. That film has achieved such cult status -- it is probably known by far more people than who have ever actually seen it.
This serves as a general documentary of the fringe movie world. The best thing is all the clips of these old movies. The talking heads aren't digging too deep but are generally well informed. Robert Forster does a good job as the narrator. His gruff voice isn't the normal narration but somehow fits the subject matter. This is a steady march through history categorizing all the major movements hitting the big moments. The best interviews are the actual participants who are talking about their own movies. The doc does grind down as the movie has nowhere to go with the arrival of porn. I guess that's another doc. The final section of Hollywood trying to rip off the grindhouse isn't quite as compelling. As a general doc, it hits most of the big points.
It was Tarantino and Rodriguez that revitalised the term Grindhouse when they made their double feature but it took off in the 1960s with the change of mores and loosening of censorship laws that allowed film- makers to exploit and challenge an area of cinema that was designed for discerning adults that like terror, sex, violence and buckets of blood.
The documentary is narrated by Robert Forster and interviews starts, directors and fans of the genre including Joe Dante, John Landis, Don Edmonds, Fred Williamson, Jack Hill, Allison Anders, James Gordon White, Larry Cohen, William Lustig, Judy Brown, Jeremy Kasten, Jonathan Kaplan, Bob Minor, Lewis Teague, David Hess, Fred Olen Ray, Herschell Gordon Lewis.
However it is not just talking heads, you have clips from grindhouse films and especially a good representation of clips from films from the 1960s and 70s.
The documentary starts out by looking at the old sensation films of the 1930s before moving into the 1950s nudity wave. From the 1960s, the double whammy sellers of sex and violence become prevalent, with the likes of H. G. Lewis coming to the fore, and then the glory days of 1970s grindhouse cinema hit.
The reliable Robert Forster is the narrator, while those being interviewed include John Landis, Joe Dante, William Lustig, Jack Hill, and many more besides. Tons of clips are also used to illustrate various points, but for the most part this is a generalised celebration of exploitation cinema, extremely superficial but entertaining nonetheless.