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The Unholy Rollers (1972, USA) Review

The Unholy Rollers (1972)

When I interviewed the esteemed Producer/Director Roger Corman for Claudia Jennings’ biography, he said Unholy Rollers was his favorite of the four films Claudia appeared in for him. As Claudia’s breakthrough film, Unholy Rollers established the character she would be identified with until her death. Beautiful, fearless and ruthless, Karen Walker epitomized the Hollywood Bitch Goddess that many thought represented Claudia’s true nature. The film is noteworthy because it marked Claudia’s debut as a major B movie actress.

“A locker room look at the toughest broads in the world!”

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Nightmare City (1980, Italy / Spain / Mexico)

Nightmare City (1980)

Umberto Lenzi had quite a career during his time as a film maker. Lenzi started law school, then decided his true passion lay with movies and attended the prestigious Centro Sperimentale di Cinematografia. His resume’ included peplum, westerns, giallos and mysteries, all typical of Italian cinema of the time. He later retired from cinema and wrote a series of detective novels. Then in 1972 Lenzi made what many consider the first true, cannibal film, Man from the Deep River. The work contained many of the attributes of future cannibal movies; violence, sex, the consumption of raw, human flesh… The movie established Lenzi as a director of turgid, offensive films.

“The nightmare becomes reality.”

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Beyond the Valley of the Dolls (1970, USA)

Beyond the Valley of the Dolls (1970, USA)

It would not be an exaggeration to call Beyond the Valley of the Dolls one of the strangest movies ever produced. Looking to cash in on Jacqueline Susann’s deliciously trashy novel (and subsequent trashy big studio film) the movie is by turns funny, amateurish, gross, distasteful, misogynistic, exploitative and brilliant.

There are so many back-stories and interesting behind the camera plot-lines that Russ Meyer himself would be hard pressed to invent similar tales. Distinguished film critic Roger Ebert helped write the screenplay, surprising because, while Ebert would praise [the] occasional exploitation film, he generally held a dim view of horror and slasher cinema.

“This is not a sequel. There has never been anything like it!”

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Herschell Gordon Lewis: The Godfather of Gore

Herschell Gordon Lewis: The Godfather of Gore

In the pantheon of horror and exploitation geniuses, no star shines brighter than Herschell Gordon Lewis’s. He invented the splatter/gore genre single handedly and was a true auteur when it came to his approach to producing his films.

“Nothing so appalling in the annals of horror!”

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Beast of Blood (1970, Philippines / USA)

Beast of Blood (1970)

Those unfamiliar with the works of Eddie Romero should make it a priority to search out a few of his titles. Romero is the John Ford, Frank Capra and Wes Craven of Philippine cinema all rolled into one, having directed war films along with dramas, comedies and horror movies. The film industry of the Philippines is a remarkable story in itself, a business that is now well over a hundred years old. In the late sixties and early seventies Romero put a series of films together known as “The Blood Island Trilogy” which were low-budget shockers containing sex, blood and monsters.

“See human heads transplanted!”

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Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia (1974, Mexico / USA)

Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia (1974)

Sam Peckinpah achieved prominence as a director and writer by showing us the savagery and the effect violence had upon human beings. The Wild Bunch, a revisionist, neo-western epic. The movie shocked critics and audiences alike with an opera of bodies torn apart by various weapons and the wholesale killing of women and children. The Wild Bunch thus became the essence of a Peckinpah film, one against all his other movies were judged.

“Why is his head worth one million dollars and the lives of 21 people?”

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The Green Inferno (2013, USA / Chile)

The Green Inferno (2013)

The Green Inferno is the horror director’s homage to the Italian cannibal films of the 1970s and 1980s. Those films, such as Cannibal Holocaust, Make Them Die Slowly and Eaten Alive were in turn influenced by the sub-genre of Mondo films. These films showed actual executions, animal slaughter and other graphic scenes of barbarity. While these movies portrayed indigenous and primitive peoples in an unflattering light, the invading Western protagonists also committed unspeakable acts of violence, leading the audience to wonder who the real savages were.

“No good deed goes unpunished.”

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Star of David: Beautiful Girl Hunter (1979, Japan)

Star of David: Beautiful Girl Hunter (1979)

Star of David: Beautiful Girl Hunter is considered one of the best films in the Japanese sub-genre of roman-pinku films. The term roughly translates to romantic-sexploitation, as opposed to the pinku eiga films which focused on sex frequently combined with violence.

The film was made by one of the bigger studios in Japan, and it shows in the production values and acting. However, the term “romantic” is used in a far different manner than Western audiences will recognize.

“I’m getting rid of you. You’re in the way.”

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Trick ‘r Treat (2007, USA)

Trick 'r Treat (2007)

Michael Dougherty’s horror anthology is a Halloween classic that no fan should miss. The film is an anthology composed of four interconnected tales that are all brilliantly shot and suitably scary.

The fact that this film is not derivative in any manner is a near miracle. Each story has a life of its own and fits together seamlessly with the next. The scares, dark comedy and bloody violence are well balanced and I can see watching Trick ‘r Treat each Halloween…

“If you don’t follow the rules tonight, you won’t live to see tomorrow.”

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In Memory of Tobe Hooper: The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974, USA)

The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974)

Tobe Hooper was one of the most influential horror directors of all time. His vision and intelligence can be seen in almost every slasher and splatter film over the last forty years and The Texas Chain Saw Massacre is Hooper’s masterpiece.

Originally conceived as a faux film “based on true events”, Hooper did draw inspiration from the story of Ed Gein, a murderer, grave robber who had a predilection for a number of other unsavory character traits.

“What happened is true. Now the motion picture that’s just as real. Once you stop screaming, then you’ll start talking about it.”

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Dard Divorce (2007, Germany)

Dard Divorce (2007)

Olaf Ittenbach is a German auteur who is a combination of Tom Savini and Takashi Miike. Originally a dental technician, Ittenbach then became a top notch SFX artist, his most notable credit being for BloodRayne by Uwe Boll.

Along with Boll, he is part of the German new wave bringing media attention to their underground films specializing in rape, necrophilia and extreme violence. Ittenbach’s films focus on pain, body destruction and gore, preferably as much that can be jammed into a two hour film.

“Breaking up is so very hard to do…”

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The Blair Witch Project (1999, USA)

The Blair Witch Project (1999)

The Blair Witch Project is ‘The Cardiff Giant’ of modern horror films. The film employed the now common trope of “found footage” to give an authentic and haunting atmosphere to the story. The movie was also one of the first to use the internet to reinforce the found footage concept, going so far as to hire actors to pose as policemen for interviews and post pictures of artifacts found at the crime scene.

“In October of 1994 three student filmmakers disappeared in the woods near Burkittsville, Maryland, while shooting a documentary… A year later their footage was found.”

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