5 Absurd Exploitation Film Subgenres
Film is a great way to escape the everyday and participate in a rich and wonderful fantasy world, whether you're heading to Middle-earth in Peter Jackson's The Lord of the Rings or future Detroit in RoboCop, where Dick Jones is so gonna get his because that guy is a total asshole. At its best, film can act as a mirror for the audience and make us see ourselves -- our desires, our secrets, and our hopes and dreams -- for better or for worse and give us insight into the human condition. At its worst, it probably was directed by Uwe Boll and/or starred Ashton Kutcher.
While nearly every genre of film has its merits, from the real world presented in documentary to the laughter brought on by comedy and the stirring emotion of a good drama, probably the most notably awesome genre of all is exploitation. Why? Because it exists solely to exploit something, and it doesn't even hide it. It wallows in it. But weirder than even that, than the knowledge that people are making films to exploit most famously sex in sexploitation films and (slightly less popular but still very famous) black culture in blaxploitation films, is that there are just oodles of subgenres out there, all dedicated to exploiting some subset of people. I figured I'd share some of my favorites with you because it's good to know this stuff exists.
Generally speaking, nuns are about as culturally relevant these days as telegrams, zeppelins, and Tony Danza. How often do you even see nuns anymore? And when you do see nuns, do you ever think, "Mmm, I'd like to Hail Mary a piece of that?" No. No you don't, because all nuns have to be at least 60 and reminiscent of Abe Vigoda in the looks department. Nonetheless, for a time in the 1970s a certain group of filmmakers and filmgoers all shared a beautiful dream -- that nuns were hot and either a) desperate to shed their religious oppression and clothes to engage in frolicky nun debauchery or b) two seconds away from a homicidal rampage at any given moment.
Shining Example: Images in a Convent
Italian director Joe D'Amato, mostly known for horror movies produced on a budget that wouldn't get you a pair of Nyke sneakers at a ghetto flea market, gave us one of the best examples of nunsploitation. (I'm using the word "best" in the same way you'd use it to describe the different shits you see in a zoo. Like "The elephant clearly has the best shit, it can bury a man whole.")
I found a 15-minute clip on YouTube and was surprised because I didn't think there were 15 minutes in this movie that didn't feature nudity. I was surprised again to discover that there aren't, and you can see naked nuns on YouTube, apparently. I checked with the bosses at Cracked and they watched the clip and then told me to find them more clips and a bottle of white wine. Then they told me I was pretty and my mouth was the sort of mouth built for kissing and other naughty things, some other stuff happened, and, long story short, I couldn't use that clip.
Even the box art is chock-full of nudity, but at a more acceptable level. It calls this the most explicit nunsploitation film ever made, but it's not that it's full-on nun porn (there is a bit of full-on nun porn, but it's not the whole movie) so much as they just never stay clothed. And even when they are clothed, like in a nun's habit, they have boobie panels cut out. There's also some demon possession, because of course there is.
The "-ploitation" suffix makes it sound like something is being taken advantage of, which makes Nazisploitation sound bizarre at first, because how do you exploit Nazis? Are there civil rights attorneys out there to prevent innocent Nazis from being taken advantage of? Can we donate to a charity on their behalf?
Luckily for you, none of that is a concern -- these are just good ol' fashioned movies about Nazis committing sex crimes. There may be other plot elements, but basically they're very focused on the idea that, as part of their day-to-day Nazi routine, the SS were really into sexual depravity. And there were a number of busty SS officers as well. I can't speak to the historical accuracy of that.
Shining Example: Ilsa: She Wolf of the SS
I can't express in a way that will ever be profound enough just how ill-advised the very existence of this movie is. Imagine building your own car from scratch in your garage. It takes years to do and you literally machine all the parts yourself, you cut the panels and shape them, every aspect of this thing was made by you, by hand, and when it's finally finished, you realize with some consternation that you've assembled it with the gas tank attached to the front bumper and it's padded with TNT for some reason. And also the car was responsible for one of the most atrocious genocides in the history of mankind. This movie is wrong like that.
Ilsa starts with a disclaimer against the horrors of the Nazi regime, a nice, classy touch, given that this movie is mostly about German boobs and torture. Misplaced sentiment is a thing that never existed in the basement where this movie was filmed. Ilsa starts by humping a POW, but he fails to satisfy her, so she has to castrate him. How will he ever learn if you do that? That's foolhardy, is what that is.
Much of the rest of the movie is about torturing women to prove that they can handle pain intercut with more dirty Nazi sex. If someone made this movie today, it would be trending on Twitter for days.
The first time I heard of Ozploitation, I of course hoped it had something to do with Munchkins buttfucking flying monkeys, but alas, I was in the wrong Oz. Please don't question my motives. This subgenre is focused mainly on the Land Down Under, where everything is just a little bit more awesome thanks to Vegemite and deadly snakes.
Most North American audiences probably had little contact with Aussie films before Mad Max came out, and Mad Max is a pretty great example of the genre. I'd use it here if I didn't think everyone had seen it already. Basically, Ozploitation came into existence when Australia introduced an R rating in the early '70s and filmmakers responded by trying to make as many R-rated films as they could on a budget that wouldn't get you a Happy Meal.
The Howling III: The Marsupials
The Howling was a pretty popular horror movie, but the franchise really fell to shit after the first part, so much so that a lot of people weren't aware that it's even a franchise. Did you know that there are eight Howling movies? And literally none are good after the first one? Now you do.
The Howling III is arguably the best of the worst in the series and a fine Ozploitation flick. How do you make an Australian werewolf movie? Drop the wolves and use kangaroos. It's about werekangaroos. Maybe they're werewombats. Werekoalas. WereTasmanian tigers. Doesn't matter. There's even a birth scene with a little joey in a pouch. However lame that sounds to you, it's actually worse when you see it. There's also this scene:
The film is loosely about a scientist researching werewolves and this dude making a movie and how they both end up having sex with werewolves. There's also a scene in which a ballet dancer turns into a werewolf on stage and eats a guy. It's pretty much fantastic.
I wouldn't call myself a fan of this genre, but clearly a lot of modern TV executives are, if the proliferation of hillbilly-themed TV shows is any indication. Basically that's the gist behind the film genre as well -- hillbillies are funny and weird, let's mock them mercilessly.
In fairness, in film it's less about how funny hicks are and more about how they want to kill and/or eat and/or wear you. Filmmakers for decades now have sought to convince us that pretty much anyone whose home can be accessed by a dirt road in the American South is an inbred cannibal sex monster. You're going to be eaten, killed, or humped by literally everyone in the better part of at least seven states.
Deliverance might qualify as the most famous hixploitation movie of all, and it has the added bonus of giving the world the phrase "squeal like a pig," something we never knew we needed until we heard it that first time. If Deliverance doesn't qualify, then The Texas Chainsaw Massacre does, and you all know how that turned out -- damned hillbillies making people masks.
Shining Example: Cockfighter
I'll be honest, I'm writing about this solely for the name because it makes me laugh. I'm an adult. What's a hixploitation movie called Cockfighter about? Cockfighting. A guy who took a vow of silence and devoted his life to cockfighting. Hollywood doesn't make stuff like this anymore, and man, it should. The main character doesn't speak, he just wants his chicken to kill all the other chickens so that he can win Cockfighter of the Year. That's the real plot, not a joke one.
In the movie, the character sells everything he owns so he can keep cockfighting and also gives up his family. Has anyone in the history of ever been so committed to wanting to watch one chicken kill another chicken? Maybe Colonel Sanders on a bender, but other than that, no. Not at all.
Short of playing jug music and marrying cousins, there's probably no other topic that's more hillbilly than cockfighting to focus a movie on, so thumbs up to Roger Corman and the crew behind this film for really hitting a niche where it counts.
No, this isn't about Bruce Boxleitner, why would you think that? You don't even know who Bruce Boxleitner is. In a perfect world, it would at least involve Bruce Campbell, but I don't think he allows people to exploit him. That leaves Bruce Lee. Lee also would not allow people to exploit him if he had a choice, and he could have kung fu-ed the living hell out of anyone who tried while he was still alive, but this genre popped up only after his death.
How did such a bizarre genre come to pass? Blame the awesomeness of Bruce Lee and the stereotype of all Asians looking alike. When Lee became huge in America, kung fu movies exploded. Then in 1973, only just after the success of Enter the Dragon, Bruce Lee died. Hong Kong realized they'd potentially lost a massive cash cow, so they scrambled to replace Bruce Lee and keep the kung fu genre alive. Thus was born actors like Bruce Li, Bruce Le, Dragon Lee, and literally over a dozen other guys who all, from a reasonable distance, looked like Bruce Lee. And they made cleverly titled movies like Re-Enter the Dragon, Exit the Dragon, Enter the Fat Dragon, Enter Another Dragon, The Dragon Enters but Just the Tip, Backdoor Dragon Boogaloo, and I Entered the Dragon and All I Got Was This Syphilis. Some of those I made up.
Shining Example: Game of Death
I have to pick this as the best Brucesploitation film of all time because it actually stars Bruce Lee. This was the movie Lee was making when he died, and five years later it was rereleased with the same name and new scenes that featured a dude who wasn't Bruce Lee. They literally replaced him in his own movie and included scenes from his real, actual funeral. In the movie, Lee's character dies, so the filmmakers thought, "Welp, real Bruce Lee is dead, so footage of his real funeral will look extra authentic!" In Asia, tastelessness wasn't a thing until the year after this movie was made.
Other tragically flawed ideas included scenes in which Lee's character does everything he needs to do wearing a motorcycle helmet so you can't see his face and a scene in which Lee's character looks at himself in a mirror and they opted to use a cardboard cutout of Lee. It's cardboard.
Also noteworthy in that scene above, right at the two-second mark, you'll notice that towel on his shoulders isn't real. They cut in a scene from another movie and just added the towel to make the scene consistent with the overall shitastitude of the entire film.