Monday, May 9, 2011

eX-Fest 2011 eXplored

This past Saturday, I had the amazing pleasure of attending eX-Fest, twelve hours devoted to tasting the many flavors of the exploitation genre, thanks to the dudes at Exhumed Films. If you are from the Philadelphia metropolitan area and reading this, you've probably heard of them and likely have been to a show. For the uninitiated, Exhumed Films is a group dedicated to obtaining and screening (mostly) horror films to crowds that love them, that "get it" (mostly), and that keep coming back. They must be doing something right; they've been putting together successful shows since 1997. While they have in the past held mini marathons (I miss you Fulci-Fest) and in the present have gone crazy will full blown 24 hour marathons, these have always been predominantly horror based. eX-Fest aimed to be different, it aimed to explore as many non-horror subsets of the exploration genre in one sitting that any patron could absorb. Before I delve into detailing what unspooled before us that day, I'd like to throw a hearty "thank you" to the Exhumed crew in general and to Harry Guerro specifically for searching for prints of these films and putting this rare bill together. I can't unknown know what you showed me.

Now to the meat of the day. eX-Fest served us a buffet of seven dished, each from a different style. We were given our only clues before the projectors started running, as to what we were about to see. In order, they were: Spaghetti western (that was made in Spain instead of Italy), Italian revenge, "Travolta-sploitation", black-sploitation (by way of the Philippines), Hick-spoitation, Kung-Fu and sexploitation. Some entries where stronger than others, but all of them were damned entertaining. I would be remiss not to mention the excellent vintage trailers between some of the films. As a tribute, I've included some of the trailers for the main features.

Taco-Spaghetti Western - Cut-Throats Nine - 1972
AKA: Bronson's Revenge
Fairly standard gruff fare here: a chain gang of gold mine workers being transported by a handful of army guards who are ambushed and killed, all save one. How he and his daughter, along with the convicts, escape the wintery mountains on foot is what makes up the bulk of this films. No real spoiler here: there's a metric shit ton of walking. When the convicts figure out that their binding chain is made of gold, well then things really get interesting. What should be of interest to genre fans is how the killings are handled. Each murder is close up, special effects gory beyond reason, with a knife wound to the gut including close ups of someone trying to hold guts in or bullets to the face forcing a jelly eyeball out. This is not your daddy's western where someone is shot, grabs their gut and simply falls over. While it has a lot going for it, there are some pacing issues and it runs slow in a few places. It was a good choice to lead with this though, as later in the lineup, it may have been to jarring and brought everything to a screeching halt. Cut Throats Nine was released on DVD but appears to be out of print currently. Check out the trailer below.

Italian Revenge Actioner - No Way Out - 1973
AKA: Tony Arzenta: Big Guns
The talented Alain Delon stars as Tony Arzenta in this well done entry in the brutal revenge sub genre. He's an assassin for the Italian mafia who has had enough and wants out, in order to give his son a better life. While his boss is sympathetic, it's not as though one can just walk away. So a bomb is planted in Arzenta's car. Unfortunately, his wife and son decide to borrow the family car for a jaunt to Whole Foods and Kaboom! No more better life for little Arzenta Jr. (unless he meant for his son's better life to be as a side of beef). What does a jilted assassin do in just such a situation? Goes a vengeance laden rampage, of course. The scene is thus set for thrilling car chases, slick gunplay and even a wicked surprise knifing. Delon delivers cool guy action and quippy one liners with equal skill and this flick was certainly the best made of the eX-Fest films show. Here's another one that is sadly lacking a home video release. Check out the trailer:

Travolta-sploitation - The Face with Two Left Feet - 1979
AKA: The Lonely Destiny of John Travolto
And here we have the mythical movie of the show, the film that, try as one might, you will never be able to clearly explain it to friends. They had to be there. It's an exploitation film only in the sense that it totally exploits the fact that John Travolta was totally popular in Saturday Night Fever. This is the joke around which the entire film revolves. For all ninety minutes. Seriously. Allow me to explain.
The Face with Two Left Feet concerns the adventures of a cabal of teens who all work together at a hotel in Italy. After work, they head out to the discoteca, a club named John's Fever(yup), where the shy member of their group, Gianni, has a crush on Ilona, the hottie DJ. The group finds out that their Idol (Travolta) is going to be staying at the hotel and hatch a plan. You see, it just so happens that if given some massive manscaping and a wardrobe change, Gianni is a dead ringer for Travolta (for who. Ilona pines). So much so that I had to ask a friend if I missed his name in the credits and he was lampooning himself. This flick manages to mix equal parts Scooby-Doo, Ski Patrol and Saturday Night Fever into something that shouldn't be good but is so undeniably entertaining that it is a god damned crime that it isn't available to own. Its so rare, in fact, that there's barely any mention of it on the Internet. Here, friends, is proof that I am not insane. Watch this clip on YouTube, even though it's in Spanish, and cackle with glee.

Blackspoitation - Savage! - 1973
AKA: Black Valor
Here it is folks, your chance to watch the plight of the African American as understood and told by film makers from the Philippines. While it is a Blackspoitation film, Savage! has less of the outrages tropes of the genre than a lot of it's contemporaries, which I suppose is because it isn't from an American film studio. I felt like this was the least entertaining of the eX-Fest films, but it's not fair to call it a bad film, it isn't. Savage! is a sufficient action piece with an interesting political message, but honestly, that isn't why you're watching. You want to see some jive turkey mother fuckers. And, fear not friends, you sure do. I do want to point out how awesomely righteous the poster is for this flick. Take a good look. James Iglehart as Savage never wears an outfit like that or wields either of those guns. Gotta love exploitation advertising.

Hick-sploitation - Redneck Miller -1977
Oh man Redneck Miller. This is part of a rare genre, seldom seen as far north and east as Philadelphia. It's the tale of a man and his wheels, which he prefers remain unmolested. Something which we can all sympathize with. Unfortunately, someone is seen boosting the heroin drop of local black mafia boss, Super Mack, while riding on Miller's custom motorcycle. On the surface, there might not seem to be a lot going on here, but let's dig a little deeper. You see, Miller is a local country station disc jockey who spends his days shagging the wives of all the local dudes, unfazed by pretty much anything, except having his wheels molested. Super Mack actually has insecurities when it comes to women, a vulnerability that, while hysterical given his outer behavior, is completely unheard of in cinema of the time. And it comes in a southern made hicksploitation film. Ponder that a second. Ok, enough deep shit, the following is actually uttered by Miller to one of his groupies after he drives off Super Mack (who'd threatened to rape her): "Two things baby: I can't out talk a bullet and you've got a lot of lovin' in you, I can only die once."

Kung-Fu - 5 Fingers of Death - 1972
AKA: Iron Palm
Oh man was I ever excited when this started to unspool on the screen! I haven't seen 5 Fingers of Death since I was ten. It's one of my favorites for two reasons. The first is the basic premise of two feuding schools of fighters battling it out before a big tournament allows for so much embellishment, so much interesting side action. The second is that I really wanted to be the head butting guy when I was little (what can I say, it was during my head butting phase). The fighting choreography here is excellent and it's not hard to see why this is considered the first big international Kung-Fu film. The excitement builds through many levels and I found myself cheering out loud during several battles; I felt like a little kid again. Of the movies shown at eX-Fest, this was the most well known, easily. While some might begrudge the Exhumed Films crew for choosing it, I say that it's important to balance the schedule evenly and not simply fill it completely with unknowns. The entire film is available to watch on You Tube. For now, to sate your hunger, here is the trailer:

Sexsploitation - The Other Cinderella - 1977
I'd never seen this before but I was glad to end the day on a high note, with something exciting to help keep me up after a long day. Ah puns. Before you write is off as a depraved porno (which it sort of is), you should give me a chance to explain. The Other Cinderella is a soft core, skinemax style 70s porno, sure, but it's so much more. Consider it this way: it's a soft core porno musical comedy. Emphasis on musical comedy. It's like an early Mel Brooks comedy, with musical numbers and copious amounts of nudity. It is seriously a riotous good time. Especially good is Sy Richardson as the flaming thief turned fairy godmother who grants Cinderella (I shit you not), her very own snapping pussy, which the prince must fit, along with the glass slipper, to find his queen. The audience was rolling the whole time as the campy, raunchy jokes came continuously. (bu-dum-ching!)

On top of getting to watch these rare gems of exploitation with a mass of fellow fans, the day also included many awesome genre trailers, posters and t-shirts, prizes and beer! This was a day not to miss. Keep your eye on Exhumed Fims' website or Facebook page for more crazy events, include their next show Go Ape!, which will feature all 5 real Planet of the Apes films.

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