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American Grindhouse is an essential documentary on the grindhouse theatre entertainment
tavm20 March 2011
Just watched this fascinating documentary on the exploitation movies of the last 100 or so years on Many interesting insights from various figures like John Landis, Joe Dante, Herschell Gordon Lewis, Jack Hill, Fred Williamson, and the late Don Edmonds, the last one had died not long after filming his interview. He's the one responsible for that infamous Nazi (or possibly anti-) flick that introduced Ilsa (which I have yet to watch in its entirety). This possibly won't be the last word on the various genres that played in various grindhouse and drive-in theatres over the last several decades but it's certainly one of the most essential that I'd highly recommend. Many quotable lines and interesting clips abound here.
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Grindhouse from the beginning to present day
lastliberal-853-2537086 August 2011
I love grindhouse films, especially the gore of Herschell Gordon Lewis, horror like The Last House on the Left, and exploitation films, whether they be blaxploitation, women in prison films, and even nunsploitation.

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.
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Enjoyable, Fast, and Informative
BaronBl00d21 December 2010
American Grindhouse explores the exploitation genres from their inception with Thomas Edison all the way to now(though very briefly). Along the way we get candid, short interviews(more like blurbs) from the likes of John Landis, Joe Dante, Ted V. Mikels, and Herschell Gordon Lewis - just to mention a few. I found the approach, the interviews, and the clips to be very interesting though not much was given to any particular subject. Many faces that should have been on here are notably absent like Roger Corman and Quentin Tarrantino, but that in and of itself should not diminish this look at something that really only lately has received a bit more respect than it is generally accorded. I saw clips of films that I had no knowledge of and will now seek some of those titles out. This is a breezy look at the history of a side of film that gets ignored for having a reputation that the films are garbage. Some without a doubt are,but some are gems. I wish more time had been given to those films. Exploitation films when it is all said and done(can I lace any more clichés through this review?) have stood the test of time better than many, many "mainstream" films.
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The Only Film History Lesson You'll Ever Need
lorryotoole26 March 2010
Just saw "American Grindhouse" at The Boston Underground Film Festival and loved it. Very insightful, very fast and very funny. I enjoyed that they have a couple of witty female interviewees, as well. I thought I knew a lot of movies - particularly grindhouse a.k.a. exploitation films, but this movie puts it all into perspective for me.

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.
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Nice Look at the Exploitation Genre
Michael_Elliott7 November 2010
American Grindhouse (2010)

*** (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.
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Movie Quote - "Get it up, or I'll cut it off!"
strong-122-47888529 March 2015
Warning: Spoilers
Always remember - If what you're viewing on screen becomes unbearable to watch, just keep telling yourself - "It's only a movie... It's only a movie... It's only a movie..."

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.
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Open-Ended Interviews Quickly Lose Sight of Their Original Subject
drqshadow-60-3798869 August 2011
About as interesting as a loosely-related series of sparse conversations with cult-favorite directors is likely to get. The goal seems to have been the assembly of a "straight from the horse's mouth" oral history of exploitation at large in cinema, but none of the subjects could really nail down the outer limits of what the term meant. So, instead, it became a crash-course history of underground film, decorated at all corners with vaguely familiar old men reminiscing about their glory days. The narrative jumps all over the place, sometimes floating from the '20s to the '90s over the course of a single sentence - that's OK, though, because the sheer breadth of knowledge and a shared recollection of the crazy promotional stunts each film undertook to get noticed makes the journey worthwhile. It's also one hell of a Netflix recommendation engine.
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Makes you wonder if the documentary itself isn't exploitation filmmaking!
Hellmant25 March 2011
'AMERICAN GRINDHOUSE': Four Stars (Out of Five)

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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Needs to be far longer! PLEASE!!!
PKazee16 January 2013
I really, really enjoyed this. At the same time, though entertaining and informative, it leaves one yearning for so much more. The clips from the films shown are usually VERY short, and quite often, they are not directly discussed by the commentators. Instead, they are used to "illustrate" a more general discussion of one of the sub-genres covered her (ie: pre-code; nudist camp, nudie cuties, etc). I look forward to someone expanding upon this introduction to provide us with a film exploring each of the sub-genres in more depth.

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.
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A Wonderful Love Letter to Exploitation
gavin694223 August 2012
A documentary about the history of exploitation movies, from the silent movie era to the 1970s.

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.
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Good general documentary on movie fringe
SnoopyStyle20 November 2013
It's a far ranging exploration of the exploitation cinema. It takes a history trip from the beginning of film all the way to today. It doesn't really try to limit the scope, and skims through 100 years. It features several talking heads. The most famous of the experts is director John Landis.

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.
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Exploits of exploitation cinema
Prismark1012 October 2013
This is a terrific documentary for fans of exploitation cinema and B movies. The documentary charts the history of US exploitation film from the beginnings of cinema to the modern day.

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.
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A terrifically entertaining and informative documentary
Woodyanders12 August 2011
Warning: Spoilers
Exploitation cinema has been around since the creation of film itself, as this extremely snappy and concise, yet still comprehensive and illuminating documentary astutely points out. Among the subjects covered are the definition of exploitation, the origins of exploitation in the silent movie era, the Hays Code, Tod Browning's "Freaks," educational shock docs (yep, we get to see some disgustingly explicit birth of a baby footage), film noir, 50's juvenile delinquent pictures, nudist camp romps, AIP fare, Russ Meyer, roughies, gore flicks, biker outings, chicks-in-chains movies, the 70's blaxploitation explosion, Nazisploitation, the eruption of porn, and the ongoing legacy of grindhouse pictures in the early 21st century. The eclectic array of interviewees are quite lively and enjoyable, with especially stand-out contributions from film critic and historian Kim Morgan, a highly funny and dynamic John Landis, the ever-charismatic Fred Williamson, a seriously whacked-out David Hess, "Ilsa" director Don Edmonds (who flat out admits he made this notorious cult classic because he was starving and desperately needed the money), screenwriter James Gordon White, director William Lustig, exploitation legends Jack Hill, Larry Cohen, Herschell Gordon Lewis, and Ted V. Mikels, and actress Judy Brown. Zipping along at a constantly brisk pace, perfectly narrated by Robert Forster, and containing a wealth of choice trashy and graphic clips from countless gloriously down'n'dirty nickel'n'dime features, this baby is absolutely essential viewing for exploitation cinema buffs.
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Sooooooo boring, for absolute beginners only (if even)...
KREEPY19 October 2010
I suppose if you know absolutely zero about exploitation/genre films, this might be a somewhat decent primer...for middle school film class. Sort of a "Genre Film for Dummies" type film, lots of talking heads and deadly dull interviews, etc. Very disappointing film filled with regurgitated information easily found in a million books, magazines, Google searches, etc. A waste of time. Just buy "The Psychotronic Encylopedia of Film," "Nightmare USA," "Grindhouse: The Forbidden World of "Adults Only" Cinema," and "Sleazoid Express: A Mind-Twisting Tour Through the Grindhouse Cinema of Times Square" instead if you're really interested in exploitation film and you'll be good to go. This doc was amateur hour all the way. Blah.
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Clip compilation
Leofwine_draca5 March 2016
American Grindhouse is a straightforward clip compilation that traces the history of exploitation cinema from its very beginnings through to the present day. It's very ordinary in format, and the writing is hardly engaging, but it just about gets by thanks to the extraordinary assortment of interviewees they've assembled for the job.

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.
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"As soon as the movie camera was invented...exploitation cinema followed"
moonspinner551 November 2015
Cheerful, appropriately unfettered documentary on exploitation, sexploitation and blaxploitation movies, from 1913's "Traffic in Souls" to the (would-be) grindhouse movies of the present day (Tarantino's efforts rightly looked upon as homages rather than the real thing). Elijah Drenner co-wrote, co-produced and directed this clip-heavy essay on the names, faces and posters behind the salacious, scandalous, shocking and sometimes successful grade-B features that played in rundown theaters on the bad side of town. Of the celebrity interviews, only directors John Landis and Joe Dante are knowing enough to give us a broad spectrum of the now-cult genre. Drenner loves showing off the title cards and advertisements of the movies his guests are talking about, but there's no exploration into the financing, production or box-office returns of these pictures. It's a facetious, shallow entertainment--which may be purely intentional, as it accurately reflects the sex-drugs-and-gore-infatuated features on display. ** from ****
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