January 22nd, 2013

PRISON GIRLS (1972) ***

Director Tom DeSimone was still toiling away in the XXX world when he made this 3-D Women in Prison movie. It’s not quite up to the standard he set with Reform School Girls, but I still enjoyed it quite a bit. Although the version I saw wasn’t in 3-D, there were enough scenes of hands, boobs, brass knuckles, and guns gratuitously pointed at the screen to make it fun.

A bunch of female inmates get a weekend pass from prison. (The Hell?) They’re supposed to go out into the real world to secure jobs for when they are released. But really, they go around tracking down their husbands and boyfriends to get it on.

Some people may be disappointed to learn that no sex scenes happen inside the prison. To be fair, the title is “Prison Girls” and not “Girls in Prison” so it is still somewhat accurate. And besides, the flick starts out with what has to be one of the greatest shower scenes of all time, so it still delivers on the Women in Prison goods.

I will say that a lot of the sex scenes go on far too long. And even though the movie only runs about 75 minutes, it feels much longer. But then again, the flick features four ways, three ways, and just about every which ways, and because of that; it’s still highly watchable. Plus, Prison Girls boasts a cast that includes such skin flick luminaries as Candy Samples (who has a body painting scene), Annik (Werewolf Woman) Borel (as Gertie the lesbian), Marsha Jordan, and Uschi Digard, which pretty much renders the movie review proof.

Not only that, but Prison Girls features some amazing dialogue that will be tattooed in your brain for days to come. My favorite line: “Butt out of this or I’ll strip the hide off your cherry picker!”

PICKUP ON SOUTH STREET (1953) ***

Richard Widmark stars as a pickpocket who inadvertently steals some top secret government microfilm from a lady’s purse. The babe tries to pay him off to get the microfilm back, but he plays hardball with her and holds out for a big score. Pretty soon, the police, the government, AND the Commies are coming after him.

Directed by Sam Fuller in his usual hard-boiled style, Pickup on South Street is a solid film noir full of great performances and crackling tough guy dialogue. Widmark gives one of his best performances as the amoral pickpocket. He’s smooth, ruthless, and cunning. He also happens to a total badass too. It’s a quintessential anti-hero performance.

My favorite performance of the film was given by Thelma Ritter. She plays a professional stool pigeon who peddles neckties on the side. She completely steals the movie and manages to make her down-and-out character fully three-dimensional and likeable. She also gets the best line of the film: “What do I know about Commies? I know I don’t like them.”

Pickup on South Street makes for a breezy 75 minutes. It marches along at a tight pace, yet it never quite kicks into overdrive. Fuller’s no-nonsense style is a nice fit for the material, but overall it lacks the sizzle of his best films. It still comes highly recommended, especially if you’re a Widmark fan.

HOT LINE: SEDUCTIVE TALES (1996) **

Tanya Roberts is the sultry late night radio host Rebecca in yet another compilation of episodes of the Hot Line cable series.

“Where Were We?” (**) is about a husband and wife desperately trying to conceive, but their attempts are marred by a ringing phone, an untimely visit by the gardener, and a fire in the kitchen. You know, when you watch one of these things, you want them to have some level of fantasy. Because the sex revolves around a loving couple and their sometimes funny attempts to make a baby, it takes nearly all of the sexiness out of it. Still, it might be a good “couples movie” though, especially if you’re in the same boat the main characters are in. And because the couple keeps getting interrupted, they never have a full-fledged sex scene until the very end of the episode, which severely brings down the Skinamax Totals.

(Skinamax Totals: One Guy on Girl scene.)

“The Brunch Club” (**) is about a married woman who fantasizes about banging the grocery delivery guy. She meets with some of her friends for brunch and they talk about their various sexual conquests and/or desires. This episode starts off good, but the women’s tales are a mixed bag at best. When they look like they’re picking up steam, the sex scenes either end abruptly or are ruined by over-editing or artsy-fartsy lighting. Still, this episode is somewhat recommended, just because it features JAG’s Catherine Bell doing some softcore work. Plus, it has lots more sex than the previous episode.

(Skinamax Totals: Three Guy on Girl scenes, one Girl on Girl on Girl scene, and one Bubble Bath scene.)

“Mistaken Identity” (**) is about a chick whose boyfriend proposes to her. (He puts the ring in a sugar bowl.) They celebrate by boning. Since the chick is old-fashioned she makes her boyfriend get permission from her intimidating father. When the dad sees his twin brother getting it on with a hot babe, it leads to a series of misunderstandings. Like the first episode, this is definitely more of a “couples movie”. The sex scenes aren’t bad, but the idea of twins could’ve been played up a bit more. (There’s one scene where they play a practical joke, but that’s about it.)

(Skinamax Totals: Three Guy on Girl scenes.)

Overall, Hot Line: Seductive Tales has nine sex scenes throughout its 82 running time. That works out to be a sex scene every nine minutes. That’s not a bad total really, but unless you’re a die-hard fan of the Hot Line series, Seductive Tales is skippable.

THOMASINE AND BUSHROD (1974) **

Thomasine and Bushrod is an interesting, uneven, and ultimately unsuccessful black-themed western written by and starring The Mack himself, Max Julien. Vonetta (Blacula) McGee stars as a sexy bounty hunter who is madly in love with outlaw Julien. Together they start robbing banks, turn into wanted fugitives, and become folk heroes among the poor.

Director Gordon (Superfly) Parks Jr. tries to give the film a Bonnie and Clyde flavor. But the slow pace and unlikeable main characters keeps Thomasine and Bushrod from really clicking. I mean even though the titular duo rob from the rich and give to the poor, some of their actions are pretty coldblooded. Plus, their constant squabbling gets old rather quickly. Not to mention the fact that you can pretty much tell where these two are headed from the get-go.

But while their characters don’t exactly endear themselves to the audience, Julien and McGee are quite good. McGee is very sexy in this and gives one of the best performances of her career. And Glynn Thurman also turns up as a Jamaican outlaw who joins forces with Thomasine and Bushrod. His performance isn’t quite up to the heights of his work in J.D.’s Revenge, but he definitely livens up the movie whenever he is on screen.

Parks’ next flick was Three the Hard Way.

GORDON’S WAR (1973) ***

Paul Winfield stars as Gordon, a soldier who comes home from the war to find his old neighborhood torn apart by drugs. He enlists the help of some of his veteran friends and together they wage war against all the dope pushers in Harlem. Eventually, Gordon and his team ruffle the feathers of some big shot Mafioso who supply the drugs to the inner city.

Gordon’s War is anchored by a terrific no-nonsense performance by Paul Winfield. He essays the role of Gordon with soft-spoken authority and commands your attention with his easy going charisma. From forcing drug pushers to take their own product, to burning off gangsters’ faces, Winfield kicks all kinds of ass in this movie.

The direction by Ossie Davis is tough and gritty and the whole film is pretty downbeat and unglamorous, which I appreciated. Sure, there are some lighter moments here (most revolve around pimps with colorful names like “Big Pink” and “Spanish Harry”), but Gordon’s War is far more serious and socially conscious than most Blaxploitation action films of the day. Davis also manages to create some great imagery (like the scene where a bunch of topless women are cutting cocaine under black lights) on a shoestring budget.

Gordon’s War starts with a bang, but the tension and urgency seems to leave the film about 2/3 of the way through. Then it feels like its treading water instead of building up to a big finish. The final chase scene is pretty good, although I preferred the smaller, grittier moments from earlier in the film.

Look fast for a young (and topless) Grace Jones making her film debut.

Naturally, Winfield gets all the best lines like, “I’ll kick your ass so hard, you’ll shit out of your ears!”

THE LAST STAND (2013) ***

Welp… he said he would be back.

Yes, it’s been a full decade since Arnold Schwarzenegger has carried a movie all by himself. Sure, his cameos in The Expendables movies whetted our appetite for Arnold’s big screen return, but die hard Schwarzenegger fans have been waiting to see what kind of film The Governator would make once he left office. I’m glad to report that his comeback film, The Last Stand is another solid entry in Arnold’s ass-kicking career.

Arnold plays a sheriff in a small border town in Arizona. He receives word that a notorious drug czar has escaped and is making his way to the border. Naturally, that means the bad guy’s headed Arnold’s way and it’s up to him and his meager police department to stop him.

As far as Arnold’s oeuvre goes, The Last Stand is closer to the Raw Deal end of the spectrum than Commando. That’s okay though because it has its own vibe and charm about it. At its heart, the film is a throwback. It’s nothing more than a western, except there are Corvettes instead of stagecoaches. And Arnold is playing the same kind of sheriff character Gary Cooper and John Wayne played time and again. No one set out to reinvent the wheel here, but it’s a damn fine wheel nevertheless.

Naturally, Arnold gets some great lines. When someone asks who does he think he is, he replies with a bullet and “I’m the sheriff!” It’s not nearly as iconic as “I’ll be back”, but Arnold’s earnest portrayal really gives the dialogue some weight. I also liked the scene where he beats down the villain and says, “You give immigrants like us a bad name!”

On the action side of things, I have to say director Kim (A Tale of Two Sisters) Jee-Woon did a pretty good job. He creates a nice atmosphere and some of his camerawork is rather impressive. Since it’s a slow burn kind of film, the action doesn’t really kick in until the last third, but when it does, it hits the mark. (Although the car chase through the cornfield runs on a bit long.) The gore is pretty good too (one guy explodes) and Arnold puts a bunch of people in a hurt locker, so it’s all good. (I loved the part where Arnold jumped out of a second story window while holding a guy, then shot in him the head, and used his dead body to cushion his fall.)

The nice thing about The Last Stand is that Jee-Woon surrounds Arnold with a rather terrific supporting cast. Johnny Knoxville is pretty great as a deputized gun nut. He provides some good comic relief that never overshadows the action. Luis Guzman is as awesome as you would expect at playing Arnold’s right hand man, and Peter Stormare brings a nice amount of weirdness to the role of a hired killer. And after this and The Avengers, I think it should be a law that Harry Dean Stanton cameos in every movie.