Film Review: The Last House On the Left (1972)

Also known as: Bad Company, Grim Company, Krug & Company, Night of Vengeance, Sex Crime of the Century (working titles)
Release Date: August 30th, 1972
Directed by: Wes Craven
Written by: Wes Craven
Music by: David Alexander Hess
Cast: Sandra Peabody, Lucy Grantham, David A. Hess, Fred Lincoln, Jeramie Rain, Marc Sheffler, Martin Kove

Sean S. Cunningham Films, The Night Co., Hallmark Releasing, 84 Minutes, 64 Minutes (heavily cut), 91 Minutes (original cut), 82 Minutes (R rated cut)

Review:

“How’d we get into the sex-crime business anyway? My brother Saul, a plumber, makes twice as much money as I do and gets three weeks vacation, too.” – Fred “Weasel” Podowski

I’ve never liked this film. To be honest, I’m not a huge Wes Craven fan, even though A Nightmare On Elm Street is one of my favorite horror films of all-time. Outside of the Nightmare series, Craven just hasn’t resonated with me.

This isn’t a good film but hardcore exploitation and grindhouse fans like to convince people that this is some sort of masterpiece. While I don’t mind gore and horrible things and I actually like grindhouse movies, I’ve never been a fan of gore for the sake of gore or shock just to shock. These are cheap parlor tricks and without substance surrounding them to give them purpose or more meaning, these tricks really don’t mean anything.

The Last House On the Left is a rather pointless film that just uses its time to try to disgust you for no other reason than it came out in a time where filmmakers could really do anything that they wanted and young filmmakers, especially, had to push the bar as high as they could just to get noticed. But when everyone is doing the same thing, you’ve got to push the bar so high that the average person on the ground will never see it.

The film is comprised of two halves, which completely ignores a three act structure but hey, Wes Craven is the king or something.

The first half is a long drawn out torture and rape sequence that takes up more than half of the film. The second half is the parents of one of the victims getting revenge on the psychos. Somehow, these parents turn psycho themselves, instead of just calling the cops when these evil people are actually just squatting in their house.

Nothing in this film makes much sense. It’s supposed to freak you out by showing people just being psychotic for no other reason than psychos gonna psycho.

The acting is terrible, the camera work is worse than terrible and the film’s music almost made me go psycho.

Some people think that this is a classic. It’s far from a classic. It’s gratuitous and even then, I’ve seen much worse in that department. Most of all, the film is really fucking slow and boring. Maybe it was effective in 1972 but considering it only appealed to an audience of miscreants jacking off in rundown Times Square porno and grindhouse theaters, this probably was just a regular Tuesday for them.

Rating: 4/10
Pairs well with: Other exploitation films of the era with a high emphasis on gore and horror: I Spit On Your Grave, Cannibal Holocaust, The Hills Have Eyes, Cannibal Ferox.

Film Review: Godzilla vs. Gigan (1972)

Also known as: Chikyû kogeki meirei: Gojira tai Gaigan, lit. Earth Assault Order: Godzilla vs. Gigan (Japan), Extermination 2025 (France), Godzilla on Monster Island (US alternate title), Frankensteins Höllenbrut (Germany)
Release Date: March 12th, 1972 (Japan)
Directed by: Jun Fukuda
Written by: Takeshi Kimura, Shinichi Sekizawa
Music by: Akira Ifukube, Kunio Miyauchi
Cast: Hiroshi Ishikawa, Tomoko Umeda, Yuriko Hishimi, Minoru Takashima, Zan Fujita, Toshiaki Nishizawa, Kunio Murai

Toho, 81 Minutes

Review:

“Two monsters… One of them is Ghidorah. The other one is new. A completely new sound.” – Commander of Defense Forces

I’m just going to put it out there, this chapter in the Godzilla franchise is going to get a high rating from me. I know that it isn’t anywhere near the best that the franchise has to offer but it has always been a Godzilla film that I have loved and it features my two favorite Godzilla villains of all-time: the debuting Gigan and the always badass King Ghidorah.

Plus, this deals with an alien race of cockroach people that have a sinister plan that involves building a Godzilla branded theme park where their headquarters is actually a big building made to look like Godzilla himself. It’s crazy and bizarre and really encompasses all the things I love about ’70s Godzilla and Jun Fukuda’s run on the series.

On top of that, this teams Godzilla up with his oldest enemy, now ally, Anguirus.

This film is just incredibly bizarre but in a great way. Of course, you have to be a fan of kaiju movies and classic tokusatsu to truly embrace the madness but this really is a tokusatsu epic for its time. And ’70s Godzilla films almost feel like Ultraman episodes without Ultraman in them.

The weirdest thing about this picture is where Godzilla and Anguirus talk to each other. These bits work better in the original Japanese language version of the film. In the English dubbed version, which I grew up with, their voices are hilarious and it’s impossible not to laugh at it. It’s absurd but it’s enjoyably absurd and strangely enchanting.

I think I always connected to this chapter because the main character is a manga artist. When I was a kid, I was an aspiring comic book artist, so I always thought this part of the film was really cool. Plus, you get to see the inner workings of a manga company when this character makes his first appearance.

Another big plus about this film is that it has a ton of action. The big tag team battle royale seems to go on forever and it is actually a bloody affair, as Gigan literally has a buzzsaw for a stomach and the filmmakers had to emphasize the danger of that by cutting into the heroes.

Gigan is just a fantastic monster: one of the best kaiju ever created, hands down. He’s bizarre, deadly as hell and not a friggin’ pushover by any means. Granted, Gigan and King Ghidorah flee the scene like two little bitches at the end of the movie but the showdown between these beasts is incredible if you are a fan of classic kaiju battles.

I love this film. Always have. Always will. It’s not my favorite but it is the best from its decade.

Rating: 8.25/10
Pairs well with: Other Godzilla movies from the ’70s: Godzilla vs. MegalonGodzilla vs. Mechagodzilla, Terror of Mechagodzilla and Godzilla vs. Hedorah.

Film Review: Season of the Witch (1972)

Also known as: Jack’s Wife (working title), Hungry Wives (original title), George A. Romero’s Season of the Witch (alternate title)
Release Date: May, 1972 (New York City premiere)
Directed by: George A. Romero
Written by: George A. Romero
Music by: Steve Gorn
Cast: Jan White, Raymond Laine, Ann Muffly

Latent Image, Jack H. Harris Enterprises 130 Minutes (original cut), 89 Minutes (theatrical), 104 Minutes (extended cut)

Review:

“[reading from the Witchcraft primer] ‘The religion offers, further, a retreat for emotional women, repressed women, masculine women and those suffering from personal disappointment or nervous maladjustment.’ Christ, what other kind of women are there? No wonder this stuff’s getting so damn popular.” – Shirley

Season of the Witch is kind of a weird movie. While it has some horror themes to it, it really isn’t horror in a traditional sense. It’s got some witchcraft and some creepy imagery but ultimately, it is more of a feminist drama.

The film was originally called Hungry Wives and wasn’t marketed in a way that showed that it was a film about witchcraft. In fact, it was pushed out like it was a softcore porn film in the height of the grindhouse era. Upon its initial release, the film was a failure.

The story is about a bored and abused housewife from suburban Pittsburgh, who meets a local witch and develops an attraction for her pagan practices. She starts doing things that were once uncharacteristic of her, like having sex with a young charmer that had sex with her daughter earlier in the film. She also finds herself and develops confidence and her own power.

The film was directed by George A. Romero and he came up with the idea while researching witchcraft for another project. Around the same time, he also became aware of the Feminist movement and was inspired by it.

Ultimately, the film is pretty dry and certainly won’t satisfy the palate of Romero fans looking for something similar to his more famous work. There is little to no terror and dread in this other than a few visions and a creepy mask.

Also, the original negatives are lost, as is the original cut of the film. All that’s left is a chopped up, much shorter version of the final film. So some of Romero’s vision is probably lost and it’s possible that the quality of the film suffers because of this.

Still, what has survived makes a coherent enough story to follow and yet it is still rather boring apart from less than a handful of scenes.

Rating: 5.5/10
Pairs well with: Other Romero early films: The CraziesNight of the Living Dead and for something more modern, Anna Biller’s The Love Witch.

Film Review: Slaughter (1972)

Also known as: Massacre (France), Masacre (Mexico), Kill Julian Drake (working title)
Release Date: August 16th, 1972 (New York City premiere)
Directed by: Jack Starrett
Written by: Mark Hanna, Don Williams
Music by: Luchi de Jesus
Cast: Jim Brown, Stella Stevens, Rip Torn

American International Pictures, 91 Minutes

Review:

“You’re really far out, you know that? I mean we go out to that house and let them know we are lookin’ to get killed, and all of a sudden your sittin’ on top of the world like your King Shit! Man, you’re weird Slaughter, I mean goddammit, you’re just weird!” – Harry

Jim Brown is a badass and there is no question that the man could pretty much beat the crap out of anyone else in his presence. However, he never seemed to have the command of the screen in the same way that Fred Williamson, Issac Hayes, Jim Kelly, Rudy Ray Moore and Richard Roundtree had. He was sexy, had a certain panache and could carry his own but it had to be hard to compete with the more charismatic male stars who were also making their mark in the blaxploitation era. Regardless, Brown still has an acting career that has lasted longer than the others.

I think that the reason why is because what you see is what you get. I think Jim Brown just plays Jim Brown. Sure, from film to film he has a different occupation or a different purpose. At the core of all his characters though, is authentic Jim Brown.

I feel like Brown’s vehicles also weren’t as good as the other blaxploitation stars. In all honesty, this is probably his best film of that era and it isn’t very good. It’s also not bad but it’s pretty tame and just lacks the style and energy of the other films in the genre.

I do like that this primarily takes place in Mexico though. It isn’t a rehash of the American urban blaxploitation shtick and gives us something refreshing while keeping a familiar formula. Jim Brown plays an ex-Green Beret that has to avenge the murder of is parents. This takes him to Mexico where he must take on an Italian drug cartel and get to a final showdown with the great Rip Torn, who makes a solid heavy in this.

The finale of the film was pretty good but just about everything else is fairly mundane. One thing that was annoying about this movie is that it often times used these weird fish-eye effect action shots that felt like they were cut into the editing just sort of randomly. These shots looked bad and were a distraction to the flow of the action.

Slaughter just isn’t very exciting or engaging. You want to really like Jim Brown’s character but he just never seems to turn the volume up enough.

Rating: 6/10
Pairs well with: Other Jim Brown ’70s pictures: Slaughter’s Big Rip-OffBlack GunnI Escapred From Devil’s IslandThree the Hard Way, etc.

Film Review: Blacula (1972)

Release Date: August 25th, 1972
Directed by: William Crain
Written by: Joan Torres, Raymond Koenig
Music by: Gene Page
Cast: William Marshall, Vonetta McGee, Denise Nicholas, Gordon Pinsent, Charles Macaulay, Thalmus Rasulala, Elisha Cook Jr.

American International Pictures, 92 Minutes

Review:

“You shall pay, black prince. I shall place a curse of suffering on you that will doom you to a living hell. I curse you with my name. You shall be… Blacula! ” – Dracula

Most people don’t seem to know that William Marshall was a damn good opera singer. However, Blacula is still what he is most known for. That’s cool though, because Blacula is an awesome mashup of blaxploitation and classic horror.

In this film, we see an African prince and his bride go to Dracula’s castle to convince him to help in stopping slavery. Dracula laughs this off and makes jokes about enslaving the prince’s wife. Eventually a scuffle breaks out and Dracula turns the prince into a vampire. A few hundred years later, the prince’s casket is sold to this gay couple from Los Angeles. They bring it home and inadvertently unleash Blacula on the city. It doesn’t take long, however, for Blacula to discover a woman that is the spitting image of his long dead wife. He falls head over heels in love with her and after some time, she feels the same way.

Other than Marshall, the film stars Vonetta McGee as the apple of his eye. McGee was in a ton of blaxploitation films and has had a pretty good career because of how prominent she was in B-movies in the 1970s. There is also Thalmus Rasulala, who plays a doctor that suspects vampiric activity. Rasulala was in other blaxploitation films Cool BreezeWillie DynamiteBucktown and Friday Foster. He also starred alongside Dean Martin in his last leading film role, Mr. Ricco. Rasulala was also in RootsAbove the LawNew Jack City and a few other notable movies.

As a horror film, this fits well within the style of a typical American International offering from the early ’70s. Sure, it’s low budget but it’s the kind of low budget that has some style and substance to it. It’s a really good B-horror film with a decent cast and some hokey fun.

As a blaxploitation picture, the film is a little light. It has some political and social commentary but it is far from heavy handed and really just serves the purpose of setting up the film. After that, it just goes on to keep the film in a setting populated by mostly black characters. There are some club scenes and a hip urban ’70s vibe but ultimately, this falls more into being a horror film in the vein of AIP’s other offerings.

I really liked William Marshall in this role and Vonetta McGee is always great to see, as she knows how to hold her own and is just as tough as the men she used to share the screen with.

Blacula is just an enjoyable, cool, fun and entertaining film for its era.

Rating: 7/10
Pairs well with: Scream Blacula Scream, of course! I also like watching these paired with those two Count Yorga movies from the same era and also put out by American International.

Film Review: They Call Him Holy Ghost (1972)

Also known as: Uomo avvisato mezzo ammazzato… Parola di Spirito Santo (original Italian title), …Y le llamaban El Halcón (Spain), El halcón de Sierra Madre, Blazing Guns, Forewarned… Half-Killed… the Word of the Holy Ghost, His Name Was Holy Ghost
Release Date: March 30th, 1972 (Italy)
Directed by: Giuliano Carnimeo
Written by: Tito Capri, Federico De Urrutia
Music by: Bruno Nicolai
Cast: Gianni Garko, Pilar Velazquez

Astro C.C., Lea Film, 94 Minutes

Review:

They Call Him Holy Ghost is a film that sounded much cooler from its synopsis than what the final product actually was. IMDb describes the film as “Gianni Garko returns as the Holy Ghost, a supernatural gunfighter dressed in white and with a dove sitting on his shoulder.” Man, that sounds friggin’ badass.

Gianni Garko is a legendary spaghetti cowboy, a supernatural gunfighter sounds intriguing and a sidekick played by a white dove… well, why the hell not? Plus, one of the pictures I saw online had Garko’s Holy Ghost blasting off one of those giant machine guns that were synonymous with Django and other roles Franco Nero played.

Then the film started and the opening sequence was just purely f’n awesome! Evil men, people treated like garbage to the evil men’s amusement, then the just and righteous Holy Ghost shows up with his dove and a machine gun, drops some quirky dialogue and turns the bad guys into Swiss f’n cheese! Sadly, it all goes downhill from there, though.

For 94 minutes, the film is slower than it should be. I had hoped that this would be as energetic and nuts as the original 1966 Django but it was pretty talkie and actually quite goofy. Sure, it had some action but this picture evolved into more of a comedy as it progressed. In fact, the longer the film ran, the sillier it got to where the big finale was sort of like a spaghetti western reinterpreted by slapstick performers. This would have been a cool film to have seen in a realistic and gritty spaghetti style.

This movie was mostly enjoyable even if it went off the rails after it’s great opening. Gianni Garko is always fun to watch and he committed to this role very well but the schizophrenic tone pulled me out of the movie and turned potential into disappointment.

Rating: 5.5/10
Pairs well with: Any spaghetti western starring Gianni Garko.

Film Review: The Final Comedown (1972)

Also known as: Blast! (recut version)
Release Date: April, 1972 (Chicago)
Directed by: Oscar Williams
Written by: Oscar Williams
Music by: Grant Green, Wade Marcus
Cast: Billy Dee Williams, D’Urville Martin, Celia Kaye, Billy Durkin, Raymond St. Jacques

New World Pictures, 83 Minutes

Review:

“Billy Dee Williams…Badder than ever!” – tagline

The Final Comedown isn’t very good but it does approach the issue of race relations in post-Civil Rights America in an uncommon way. This isn’t just about urban blacks taking it to the man, this has a deeper philosophical subtext to it and while Billy Dee Williams expresses his character’s concerns, every chance he encounters an ear, the narrative sort of pulls the rug out from under any sort of real solution.

The white man is evil, especially with a badge or a lawmaking pen. The young white liberals in the film try to right the wrongs of their parents and ancestors but even their call for justice and equality is met with an extremely violent end.

I actually liked this film more than the average bear, based off of other reviews I’ve read. Others considered this to be too preachy and to just beat its message over your head, relentlessly. While I don’t disagree with their claims of heavy handedness, within the context of the film, it works.

I thought that Billy Dee Williams was great in this, even if he spent the last half of the film, shot up and bloody, sitting in an alley. The real superstar here was D’Urville Martin. I’ve seen Martin in just about every blaxploitation film he’s ever been a part of and this is the best he’s ever been. Usually, he is a comedic sidekick or a stylish villain type. In this film he gets dramatic and is more real than I’ve ever seen him. From a serious acting standpoint, this is the high point of his short career, as he sadly died way too young.

If you are a fan of blaxploitation pictures, this one is jam packed with action. The second half of the film is essentially a street war between youthful blacks, liberal white kids and the racist police force. It is heavy handed and unapologetic but I don’t have a problem with that. I just wish Billy Dee Williams had more to do in the second half than sitting in an alley, waiting to bleed out.

Rating: 6/10
Pairs well with: Other Billy Dee Williams pictures from the era: The Take and Hit!