High Def Chuck: Breaker! Breaker! (1977), Now Out on Blu-Ray

J.D. Dawes (Chuck Norris) has just returned to his home in California after a long-term trucking job in Alaska. His little brother Billy (Michael Augenstein) idolizes him and wants to be a truck driver, too, so J.D. lets him deliver a load of frozen foods by himself — T.V. dinners, more specifically, a fact that hilariously comes into… Continue reading

Pressure Point (1962)

Stanley Kramer was one of the few producers who could make earnest social problem films really work; the melodrama in Pressure Point is a feature, not a bug. Continue reading

Serial (1980), Now Out on Blu-Ray and DVD From Olive Films

It’s the dawn of the 1980s, and the upper-class hippie holdouts of Marin County, California are snarking and screwing their way through life, certain that health foods and open marriages will save their souls while blissfully unaware that they’re emotionally and psychologically adrift. Continue reading

Phase IV (1974)

Phase IV is a slow, moody kind of film, with a decidedly trippy early 70s aesthetic and a synth music score that anticipates the indie horror trend just around the corner. Continue reading

The Bees Number is Canceled: The Beauty and The Deadly Bees

The best moments of The Deadly Bees (1966), the confused and tepid British horror flick, come when Ralph and Mary hurl barbs at each other a la Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf, only with less booze and fewer swears. Continue reading

Prick Up Your Ears (1987)

Prick Up Your Ears does well in the details, especially when it comes to the collage that Halliwell covers their tiny apartment walls with, but the film also tends to skim the surface of lives that were fascinating and complicated… Continue reading

The Last American Virgin (1982)

Dismissed by many as just another crass teenage sex romp not-so-secretly marketed to pervs a generation older than the stars on the screen, The Last American Virgin (1982), in truth, doesn’t disabuse anyone of that notion during its first half. Continue reading

Hell on Wheels: Roller Boogie (1979) and the Slow Death of Disco

In a world where parks are full of small, evenly spaced groups of people all wearing skin-tight clothing in bright primary colors, where everyone is required by law to blow dry their hair and wear lip gloss, one recreational sport reigns supreme: roller disco. Voluptuous young Terry Barkley (Linda Blair) is a musical genius — a flautist, the sexiest of all orchestra members — but secretly yearns to become a bohemian roller skater, spending her days gliding up and down Venice Beach in Lurex leotards. There’s just one catch: she doesn’t know how to skate. Within moments of parking her luxury car at a local teen hotspot, she catches the eye of master skater Bobby James (Jim Bray, 1970s roller skating champion). They meet, clash, flirt, clash a little more, and just as they decide they like each other, find themselves having to rescue Jammer Delaney (character great Sean McClory), the owner of the local roller rink. He’s being harassed by a gangster-shaped group of mean dudes, so the only solution, of course, is for Bobby and Terry to win the local roller skating competition. Roller Boogie (1979) is one of the most famous of the several roller disco films and shows that sprung up as the 1970s wound down. The movie was released just one month after the similar Romeo-and-Juliet-plus-skates film Skatetown, U.S.A. had bombed at the box office, though producer Irwin Yablans insisted that his film would not fail like Skatetown had. Roller Boogie would “take the world … Continue reading

King of the Gypsies (1978)

The scene is set at a gypsy camp in the 1940s, as Zharko Stepanowicz (Sterling Hayden in one of his late-career mandatory beard roles), self-proclaimed King of the Gypsies, demands to be given young Rose (Tiffany Bogart), as he’s already paid $4,000 for her so she can marry his son Groffo (Mark Vahanian). Rose’s parents object and the elder of the clan demands King Zharko leave without either a refund or the girl. But Zharko and his wife Queen Rachel (Shelley Winters) grab the little girl anyway and take off with her. Years pass, and Rose (now Susan Sarandon) and Groffo (Judd Hirsch) are married, with a young son and another baby on the way. Rose is an expert grifter, a fortune teller on the make and a thief, while Groffo is a useless, violent alcoholic. Their son Dave (Eric Roberts) runs off when young, never goes to school, though when older manages to get a job as a singer, as well as a nice girlfriend (Annette O’Toole). Still, he hopes to pursue the proverbial American Dream, and believes that his life as a gypsy has held him back. But after a few years, his grandfather King Zharko tells him that he’s essentially terminal, and he wants to pass on the title of King of the Gypsies to Dave, bypassing Groffo. When Dave inherits the symbolic title, Groffo, his own father, comes after him, as well as his young sister (Brooke Shields) and the rest of the family, and Dave’s … Continue reading

Coffy (1973)

After years of small roles in exploitation flicks, Pam Grier finally hit it big with the blaxploitation classic Coffy (1973). Written and directed by Jack Hill, who had directed Grier in low-budget flicks before, Coffy to modern eyes looks far less empowering than it does exploitative. Grier spends a significant amount of time in the film nude, as do almost all the actresses; they lose their shirts in fistfights faster than Bruce Lee ever did. But the film, dealing so directly as it does with corrupt politics, urban drug problems and the exploitation of women, was very much ahead of its time, so much so that, as Hill said in a DGA interview in 2011, it was a struggle to make simply because of the constant battle against racism; Grier notes in a separate interview that there were so few African-American stunt people at that time that several men and women had to be trained specifically for the film. Pam Grier is Coffy, an emergency room nurse who has gone on a revenge spree against the drug dealers who got her young sister hooked on drugs. She’s not afraid to get down and dirty with these scumbags, then at just the right moment, grab a gun from her purse and blow their brains out. Soon she finds herself embroiled in a major problem after witnessing her good cop friend Carter (William Elliott) being beaten by a drug dealer’s henchmen. She poses as a high-class call girl and infiltrates the business … Continue reading