Sunday, April 01, 2007

Movies: An F in Grindhouse 101

You bet I’m going to see Grindhouse. Just not right away. I want to let the fanboy stench dissipate a little first. Plus I’m leery of the idea of deliberately setting out to make what some would call “bad” movies. Plenty of “bad” movies happen all by themselves.

Lately, though, I’ve had a revelation. Perhaps I’m not grind house material.

Understand, I love my junk cinema. I’m the guy who recently binged on Coffin Joe movies. But when it comes to true grind house, I may be out of my depth.

Assemble a list of twenty movies of any stripe – neglected art house gems, say, or the best films with protagonists named Steve – and I will have seen at least seventeen of them. In many cases all twenty. No brag, just fact, to quote one of my former bosses quoting a TV series I’ve never seen.

At least it was fact until last week, when Entertainment Weekly cited 20 flicks that inspired Messrs. Tarantino & Rodriguez. (List not available online.)

I only notched ten. A meager half.

Here’s what I’ve seen and what I haven’t:

1. Escape from New York (1981). Yes. Repeatedly. I still do Lee Van Cleef’s awesomely callous move with his fingers when he tells Snake Plissken about the explosive charges in his neck.

2. Vanishing Point (1971). Yes. The best exponent of the Southwestern Existential Highway Movie. Examples of this genre that I don’t like include Two Lane Blacktop and Electra Glide In Blue. Blame a New York childhood’s general indifference to cars. I can sum up why I like it in three words: Barry f*cking Newman.

3. Mad Max (1979). Yes. The one title on this list I own on DVD.

4. A Fistful of Dollars (1964). Yes. The best movie on this list. In fact, I’m not sure it belongs here.

5. Dawn of the Dead (1978). Yes. Once. And I never forgot it.

6. The Warriors (1979). Yes. Many times. See earlier reference to New York childhood.

7. The Bird With the Crystal Plumage (1970). Yes. Not my first or my favorite Dario Argento movie.

8. The Street Fighter (1974). No. I’m woefully unschooled in Sonny Chiba.

9. Piranha (1978). Yes. Still hilarious – and scary.

10. Zombie (1979). No. I’ve never seen “the Cadillac of Italian zombie films,” in which a zombie battles a shark. I know at least one person I’ve just disappointed.

11. El Topo (1970). No. It’s almost impossible to see. I read about a guy who watched it while on acid in the ‘70s and had recurring nightmares about it decades later. Which I consider a ringing endorsement.

12. Maniac (1980). No. Haven’t seen it, and never will. Joe Spinnell’s psycho killer movie holds no interest for me.

13. Dolemite (1975). No. Rudy Ray Moore just performed in Seattle to mark his 80th birthday. Didn’t see that, either.

14. Raw Meat (1972). Yes. Cannibals in the subway. See earlier reference to New York childhood.

15. Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia (1974). No. But it’s been parked on my DVR for nine months, so I deserve partial credit.

16. Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! (1965). Yes. Bored me stupid.

17. My Bloody Valentine (1981). No. Not a big slasher film fan.

18. Dr. Jekyll & Sister Hyde (1971). No – I think. I consumed Hammer horror films growing up, but don’t recall this one. And something tells me if I’d seen it, I would remember it.

19. The Big Bird Cage (1972). No. My women-in-prison background is very thin. Except for an incident in Juarez that I’m not prepared to discuss.

20. The Clones of Bruce Lee. That’s not a title, it’s a subgenre. And the answer is no.

It only gets worse. Cinematical offers a similar list. There, I’m 0-for-7. I hang my film buff’s head in shame.