Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Flareup 1969 (Raquel Welch as a Psychedelic Go-Go Dancer !!)

"Most Men Want To Love Her... One Man Wants To Kill Her !"

  Upon first glance 1969's Flareup has a great premise - Raquel Welch as a go-go dancer pursued thru late 60's Las Vegas & Los Angeles by psycho killer Luke Askew (Hey - sign me up !). The one problem we got here is that between a major studio (MGM) & a major at the time star (Raquel Welch), what might have been a great exploitation flick is turned into an interesting, but somewhat pedestrian thriller (Not that we thought that Raquel was gonna show anything anyways).
   Opening in 1969 Las Vegas (in all its pre theme park glory) go-go dancer Michele (Raquel) is meeting two of her go-go buddies Nikki (Sandra Gilles) & Iris (Pat Delaney) for lunch at an outdoor cafe. Nikki's ex- (and highly disturbed) husband Alan (Luke Askew) shows up and attempts a reconciliation. When that fails he suddenly shoots her and then attempts to blow away Michele & Iris, as he blames them for the break-up. Alan escapes after wounding Nicki, then after visiting the police Michele & Iris head off for their night shift at the go-go bar. It should be noted here that obviously Raquel Welch's character has a special deal with strip club owners, as she's the only dancer who doesn't have to go topless.

   Later the girls visit Nikki at the hospital and learn she's died. Alan shows up and runs over Iris in the parking lot. This prompts Michele to run off to L.A. and once there she gets a job at a go-go joint and meets nice guy parking attendant Joe (James Stacy) who's into bullfighting, photography & model airplanes. Alan follows her, killing a motorist on the way played by veteran character actor Tom Fadden.
  Once there he begins stalking her, at one point ending up in the same abandoned Griffith Park Zoo that was featured in the climax of Rape Squad (AKA Act of Vengeance 1974). In spite of some randomly placed footage of topless dancers the film has the feel of a TV movie and it pretty much stops dead in its tracks when Raquel first gets to LA. Once she's there and hooks up with Joe we get the whole "falling in love" montage complete with horseback rides on the beach as we wait for psycho Alan to show back up and kick things back into gear. Raquel's pretty good here, as by this time she was starting to come into her own as an actress and has she had been mostly doing western roles (and cave women in fur bikinis) this was probably a nice change of pace for her. In addition she seems to change from one late 60's fashion statement outfit to another about every 10 minutes.

   Besides the go-go stuff & Raquel the best thing here is Luke Askew as the psycho stalker. A tall actor with chiseled features and an intense stare, he sort of reminds one of an off kilter Chuck Connors. He was a remembered presence as Boss Paul in Cool Hand Luke (1967), in 1968 would appear in John Wayne's ultra right wing war epic The Green Berets and rather weirdly the next year would appear as a hitchhiker in Easy Rider. He did tons of work in TV (usually cast as a killer or heavy) and passed away in 2012. I've always really liked him.
   One of the great things about this movie is the views of late 60's neon Las Vegas & psychedelic Los Angeles,  plus you gotta love those go-go bars with pop art interiors, wah wah guitars & pulsating lights (this would look great on blu-ray).  The Los Angeles strip club where Raquel works is The Losers which was located on La Cienga Blvd. Supposedly Russ Meyer hung out here and discovered dancers Haji, Tara Satana & Erica Gavin and set them loose upon the world.

 Hey look, Raquel's into model airplanes. That's pretty cool !

   Not a great movie, but a decent little thriller that unfortunately drags somewhat when Luke Askew isn't around - but hey, its got Raquel Welch as a go-go dancer (albeit a clothed one), a great Les Baxter theme song and some James Bond inspired opening credits. You really got wonder what could have been done with this a few years down the road with Arthur Marks producing and Tiffany Bolling starring. Look for Gordon Jump (Maytag repair guy & WKRP) in a quick role as a security guard.

Wow ! - Topless, Bottomless & The LSD Revue !! (and no cover charge !)


Friday, September 20, 2013

Rosalba Neri Friday # 11 - Top Sensation 1969

"The Jet-Set Breaks Loose In An Orgy Of  Violence And Terror !" 

   After several delays and much anticipation Camera Obscura released their long awaited DVD of Ottavio Alessi's 1969 sex thriller Top Sensation this week. With a past release history of murky bootlegs and collector torrent trading a lot of work has been put into this release of a super rare title with the end result being eye-opening video quality & some very nice extras.

   Although probably best known today for starring two of Italy's best known exploitation actress in the very desirable form(s) of Rosalba Neri & Edwige Fenech, the movie itself features a wonderfully sleazy sex filled plot (everybody doing it with everyone) along with some lesbianism, voyeurism, incest & even a bit of bestiality all thrown into the mix (plus some other interesting plot stuff lurking below the surface). Along with 1972's Lady Frankenstein this is Rosalba's best role as after knocking around in spaghetti westerns & peplums (along with some work for Jess Franco), she really seems to relish getting a part she can sink her teeth into.

   A morality fable wrapped in sexploitation package, the plot concerns decadent rich woman Mudy (Maude Belleroche) who sets sail on her yacht with gold digging couple Aldo and Paola (Maurizio Belleroche & Rosalba), prostitute Ulla (Edwige) and Mudy's somewhat mentally challenged son Tony (Ruggero Miti). Tony who spends most the time in his cabin playing with a slot car track (and matches) was brought along in the hope of his mother that Rosalba & Edwige running around in bikinis and/or naked would spark his interest in the opposite sex (hey, if that doesn't work what would !). Everybody here has less then moral values as Aldo & Paola are salivating for an oil lease from Mudy and a greedy Ulla is hoping for a big payoff for de-flowering Tony.

   The boat runs aground and this yacht full of rich (or greedy wanna-be rich) degenerates is set loose in an unspoiled paradise as represented by a serene island populated by pretty young goat herder Beba (Eva Thulin) and her somewhat oafish (and stupid) husband Andro. Seeing Tony's interest in Beba (and to satisfy their own depraved desires) the morally corrupt "yachters" suck the working class couple downward in a spiralling orgy of sex and degradation.

   This is one of Edwige's first major roles and both her & Rosalba (check out that black bikini !) look absolutely gorgeous here with the cinematography making full use of them in various states of dress (and undress) and as mentioned earlier Rosalba is excellent as a cold blooded bitch with an evil glint in her eyes. Speaking for myself, this is the DVD release of the year.

   Released in various run times & edits around the world, Jerry Gross picked it up in the U.S. where it was released as The Seducers. The U.S version (as released on VHS by Something Weird) actually is a bit more more unclothed while the version released in Germany had a completely unique subplot edited in. Camera Obscura's 2 DVD set has an excellent looking version of the Italian cut along with the racier scenes from the U.S. version and the full length German version as extras (both sourced from VHS, but welcome none the less). Also included is an alternate Italian ending, a photo gallery and a documentary on the making of the film (complete with an interview with the still lovely Rosalba).
   For an excellent write-up of this movie please check out Venoms5's recent blog post over at Cool Ass Cinema on this classic slice of Italian exploitation (he does a wonderful job of explaining the various subtexts lurking around here).

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

The Lost Empire 1983

"Now it's beginning to make sense !"
"What are you talking about ?"
"I'm talking about international terrorism. mass murder and a legend of supernatural horror that goes back over 200 years !"

   In later interviews Wynorski said that The Lost Empire being his directorial debut and as he was afraid of never getting the chance to direct again, he tried to cram as many of his favorite genre elements in one movie as possible. Clocking in at barely 85 minutes he manages to throw together James Bond, Enter the Dragon, Dirty Harry, Indiana Jones & a Russ Meyer bosom epic while mixing in woman prisoners (and gladiators), kung fu, evil religions cults, ninjas, devil worship, giant remote controlled laser cannons, zombies, a gorilla on a chain leash and an island fortress.

  Starting off with a lengthy on screen crawl that attempts to explain the highly convoluted plot, but it's best not to try and figure too much out here - just sit back, enjoy & put your brain in neutral. Things kick off with an elderly oriental store owner selling a necklace to a buxom blonde when suddenly the eyes on an idol located in the store start glowing red and a bunch of ninja guys burst in and throw the oriental guy out the front window. Some cops show up and start blasting away while the ninja guys whip out pointed stars on chains and use them to take care of the police.

  Next we cut to a school where some guys are holding a classroom of kids hostage with the police presence commanded by Kenneth (The Thing From Another World) Tobey, when a black clad police person on a motorcycle crashes thru the school doors and blasts away the bad guys (but not before uttering a Dirty Harry like smart ass comment). As all this happens in the first 10 minutes, you know some stuff is really going on here.
   Turns out the Dirty Harry on the motorcycle is Officer Angel Wolf (Melanie Vince) who's the sister of one of the cops at the store shootout. Rushing to hospital (and wearing a silver body suit unzipped for max cleavage) she arrives just as he's dying and takes one of the pointed stars he managed to grab in the shootout. Her FBI boyfriend Rick Stanton (Paul Coufos) immediately identifies it as belonging to "Lee Chuck" who's some sort demon/devil guy that has to collect departed souls everyday (or something to that effect). Plus he's tied into religious cult leader Dr.SinDo (Angus Scrimm from Phantasm), who conducts gladiator like tournaments on his island fortress.

   As tournament entries have to be in groups of three, Angel has to round up a couple of more kick ass type chicks. First up she heads out to the desert and we get a bit of Native American mysticism as she summons "Whitestar" (Raven De La Croix) who shows up wearing a fringed white buckskin bikini (and constantly throws out Mae West like one-liners). For the third member Angel & Raven go to a women's prison (all right! - this movie has everything!). Once there they witness a fight in the prison yard in between Heather (what - no cool name for her?) McClure played by Angela Aames and Whiplash (Angelique Pettyjohn - Star Trek & Blood Island).

  Whiplash strips down to her prison approved dominatrix outfit & whip and the girls go at it. Luckily there's also a handy mud puddle close by so they can fall in, after which Heather kicks Whiplash's ass (but not before a couple more of the girls get their tops ripped off). This prison seems to pretty lax on the rules as along with wondering around the yard to watch the catfight, Angel & Whitestar also get to recruit Heather while she's taking a shower and seem to get her out on some sort of work release deal with no problem.

  Showing up on the island the girls are thrown into rigorous training - usually in as skimpy clothing as possible (no worry -Whitestar gets to keep her fringe bikini), while been overseen by Koro (Robert Tessier - The Longest Yard) - who's bushy black eyebrows seem to disappear and reappear from scene to scene. The plot at this point takes about seven left turns, with the evil Sin Do (or is it "Lee Chuck" ??) wanting to conquer the world with his giant laser cannon - which I think is powered by the eyes from the idol (or maybe those are just used to increase his evil powers ??).

   Along the way we get women gladiator sword fights, kung fu, a guy in a gorilla suit on a chain leash that's used to hunt down escaped prisoners (and gets beaten up by Raven De La Croix), disembodied talking heads, gratuitous nudity (including but not limited to Raven De La Croix), plus Angus Scrimm peeling his face off. There's really no way to describe this - the wooden acting & the intentional funny or not dialogue combined with Wynorski's enthusiasm and his "throw everything against the wall and see what sticks" writing & directing style all add up to one jaw dropping movie experience.
   Wynorski has been talking of a DVD release of this for years, but lately there's been a bunch of rumblings on his Facebook page about an upcoming release of this and his 1986 Dawn of the Dead/slasher mash-up Chopping Mall - along with some theatrical showings.