Machete Maidens Unleashed! is a mandatory look at grindhouse moviemaking during the untamed 1970s.
Machete Maidens Unleashed! is a film we've watched a few times, and whenever a movie racks up multiple viewings we think it needs to be highlighted. It's a fast paced documentary about the wave of low budget exploitation flicks made in the Philippines from the late ’60s through the ’70s. We weren't old enough to see any of them during the actual grindhouse era, but caught them in later years, and one reason we came up with this website was for the opportunity to riff on these types of flicks. Over the last decade-plus we've had the pleasure of writing about entertaining dreck like Savage Sisters, The Big Doll House, Night of the Cobra Woman, and Cleopatra Wong. Built around interviews with stars such as Pam Grier, Sid Haig, Margaret Markov, Gloria Hendry, and directors/producers like Eddie Romero, Jack Hill, Joe Dante, and Roger Corman, Machete Maidens Unleashed! is an insider's look at a unique era in cinema history. It compellingly juxtaposes snippets of cinematic insanity against clips of the performers involved laughing over the craziness of it all. While the moviesdiscussed often fall into the category of sexploitation, at the time they were also considered an adjunct of the women's liberation movement—a point made by a couple of the actresses interviewed. Coming out of the sexually repressive decades of the fifties and early sixties, nudity was seen as a rebuke to patriarchal control. Covering productions ranging from 1964's The Walls of Hell to 1979's big budget war flick Apocalypse Now, this is a wide ranging documentary, and by far the most entertaining one on the subject matter we've seen. What with our website's Philippine provenance, and with PSGP having spent a couple of years in Guatemala, another country where life was cheap but fun was unparalleled, this also hit us directly in the nostalgia gland (PSGP feels like the only reason these films weren't made in Guatemala is because everyone actually would have been murdered, instead of just thinking they would).
All the interviewees seem to understand that they're from an extinct breed of very brave film performers, making entertainment for audiences ready to see absolutely anything happen. It sometimes seems that modern audiences have forgotten that the filmmaker is not the material, and the actor is not his or her character. The message comes through strongly here that movies are simply make believe. The creators maywant to outrage, or teach, or push censorship envelopes, or illuminate themes that leave audiences enriched in some way, but it's still just a job they perform before going home to their real lives. We wouldn't be surprised if some of the interviewees now feel they'd been traumatized, but during this movie, at least, they shrug off the difficulties of filming—ranging from extreme weather to graphic nudity to military revolt—as obstacles true professionals must navigate. The title cards of some of these films should be enough by themselves to intrigue you. We have a set below. We've also mixed in some screenshots. We'd love to have uploaded actual production photos, but the films are so low budget those are close to impossible to find. But why look at photos when you can watch the movies? Give it a shot. Quarts of booze are optional. Machete Maidens Unleashed! had its world premiere in Australia in the summer of 2010, and first hit U.S. shores today the same year at the Philadelphia International Film Festival. We've pointed you toward a few Philippine grindhouse flicks above, and you can read about more—there are so many, so please excuse the avalanche of links—here, here, here, here, here, here, and here.
The skies may be friendly, but the ground is an entirely different story.
When you come across a ’70s movie with bad acting, bad scripting, vaudevillian humor, nude women, and a foreign setting, there's a good chance you're dealing with the output of either American International Pictures or New World Pictures. Fly Me comes from the latter studio, and was directed by Cirio Santiago, one of the kings of Asian sleaze cinema.
The story deals with three flight attendants played by cinematic obscurities Pat Anderson, Lyllah Torena, and the gorgeous Lenore Kasdorf, who get into various pickles in Hong Kong and Manila—and get various pickles into them. One stew is secretly working for a drug cartel and is kidnapped after failing to perform up to expectations, a second meets and falls for a guy who turns out to be a British secret agent, and the third mostly tries to ditch her mother and get laid.
We'd love to tell you the movie is good, but no such luck. It lurches back and forth from sexploitation to lowbrow comedy, and as usual with Cirio Santiago's films, the action scenes are inept. We'll admit to enjoying TNT Jackson, but based on the preponderance of evidence he appears to be a real hack as a director. He's a Filipino legend, though, who helmed something like a hundred films, so he'll certainly have opportunities to redeem himself as we continue our explorations. We'll keep you posted. Fly Me premiered today in 1973.We love being stewardesses. The pay isn't great but you can't beat the travel. Oh, Captain, I've always wanted to join the five-inch high club. This chick is freaking the fuck out. Excuse me, sir. You're one of the hosts, right? You might want to toss this one with the rest of the empties. Oh no. A creepy foreigner. I heard they attack if you show fear, so just keep walking. Stay calm. Don't run. Screw that plan. Cork-soled wedge sandals, get me outta here! I have an idea. Let's go to your room and have screaming hot monkey sex, okay? Oh! Mom! Hi! Remove your grubby fingers from my daughter's big fat ’70s bush this instant! Incongruous crash-zoom of an actual bush! Hey everyone, I'm looking for my missing girlf— Er... did I say missing? I meant dead. And I miss her very much and would like a replacement. I'll take that one. Don't bother wrapping her or anything. I'm gonna eat her right in the car. Drop dead, creep! I didn't mean on top of me! Ugh, how rude! That's him! The head of the sexual slavery ring! Rip his balls off and stomp them into cracker spread! I've seen things in my police career that were hard to watch, but this is the worst of all. By the way, you okay? Wanna have sex again or do you need a few hours to recover from your trauma? Well, girls, Manila sure was a hoot. I wonder what Mogadishu will be like?
Is there anything sweeter than a beautiful movie palace?
You probably recognize Grauman's Chinese Theatre, in Los Angeles. These days it's called TCL Chinese Theatre, because it's owned and operated by TCL Corporation—based in China, ironically. Since we write so often about movies we thought it appropriate to discuss the beautiful buildings in which the films were exhibited. Back in the day these were usually purpose-built structures, though some did split duty for stage productions and concerts. While many of these old palaces survive, nearly all surviving vintage cinemas in the U.S. were under threat at some point. Generally, if they hadn't been given historic protection they wouldn't be upright today.
Other times, if a city was poor, real estate costs didn't rise and old buildings stood unthreatened, usually idle. This happened often in the American midwest, where movie houses were neglected for decades before some were resurrected amid downtown revitalizations. It sometimes happens in Latin America too, although occasionally the formula fails. For example, Cartagena's majestic and oft photographed landmark Teatro Colón, located in the historic section of Colombia's most popular coastal tourist city, was torn down fewer than six months ago to make way for a Four Seasons Hotel.
Some of the cinemas below are well known treasures, while others are more unassuming places. But even those lesser known cinemas show how much thought and work was put into making moviegoing a special experience. The last photo, which shows the Butterfly Theatre in Milwaukee, exemplifies that idea. The façade is distinguished by a terra cotta butterfly sculpture adorned with light bulbs. As you might guess, many of the most beautiful large cinemas were in Los Angeles, which means that city is well represented in the collection. Enjoy.
Paramount Theatre, Oakland (operational).
Cine Maya, Mérida (demolished).
The Albee Cinema, Cincinnati (demolished)
Cooper Theatre, Denver (demolished).
Paras Cinema, Jaipur (operational).
Cathay Cinema, Shanghai (operational).
Academy Theatre, Los Angeles (operational).
Charlottenburg Filmwerbung, Berlin (demolished).
Pacific's Cinerama Theatre, Los Angeles (operational).
York Theatre, Elmhurst (operational).
La Gaumont-Palace, Paris (demolished).
Essoldo Cinema, Newcastle (demolished).
Théâtre Scala, Strasbourg (operational).
Teatro Colón, Cartagena (demolished in 2018).
Teatro Coliseo Argentino, Buenos Aires (demolished).
Pavilion Theater, Adelaide (demolished).
El Molino Teatro, Barcelona (operational).
Fox Carthay Theatre, Los Angeles (demolished).
Kino Rossiya Teatr, Moscow (operational).
Nippon Gekijo, aka Nichigeki, Tokyo (demolished).
Cine Impala, Namibe (operational).
Cine Arenal, Havana (operational).
Teatro Mérida, Mérida (operational, renamed Teatro Armando Manzanero).
Ideal Theater, Manila (demolished).
Odeon Cinema, London (semi-demolished, converted to apartments).
Mayan Theatre, Los Angeles (operational).
Rex Cinema, Port au Prince (being restored).
Urania Kino, Vienna (operational).
Tampa Theatre, Tampa (operational).
The Butterfly Theater, Milwaukee (demolished).
When the Belle rings it's time for everyone to get it up.
Above is a Japanese poster and a pamphlet front for the French sexploitation flick Laure, aka Forever Emmanuelle, which premiered in Japan today in 1976 after opening in Italy nine months earlier. We watched it, and first of all the movie looks great. It's crisp, bright, and colorful—three things you really want when Annie Belle is the star. We gather that the palpably high budget was due to an infusion of big studio money from Twentieth Century Fox via Cinecittà Studios, as they tried to cash in on the 1970s sexploitation phenomenon. None of this means the movie is good.
Emmanuelle flicks are chaste and atmospheric, more romance than raunch, and Laure is no exception. Belle plays a highly sexed minister's daughter running wild in the Philippines, from Manila to the jungly outer reaches. There's a plot having to do with searching for the isolated Mara tribe, but the movie is more a series of swinger lifestyle lectures and sexualized vignettes, such as when Belle drops her skirt so she can walk around in public wearing nothing but a shirt that flashes her muff, and when she gets laid in a bamboo hut that's being dragged through the woods by a dozen Filipino workers. She's wanted by everyone whose path she crosses, but it's Al Cliver who piques her interest, thanks to his unwillingness to attempt caging her or cooling her hot blood. At one point he announces, “Jealousy is an obscenity.” It takes quite a man to watch the woman he loves have explosive orgasms with every stranger who happens along.
Of special note is a co-starring turn from Thai/French personality Emmanuelle Arsan, who in 1959 anonymously published the book Emmanuelle, source of the film franchise. Or at least she was thought for years to have been responsible for the book. Her husband Louis-Jacques Rollet-Andriane is now considered the author. Arsan was also credited with directing Laure, or at least co-directing it, but that was Rollet-Andriane again, whose name isn't on the film for reasons too involved to go into here. Well, it's definitely Arsan playing the role of Myrte, adding to the film's visual allure by looking great naked at age forty-four. She can't act, but she's good at giving wise looks and secretive smiles. She's easy to buy as the source—or at least inspiration—for Emmanuelle, because she's a very sexy woman. Despite all the film's beauty, we aren't going so far as to recommend it generally, but for lovers of globetrotting softcore or fans of Annie Belle it's mandatory.
A picture is worth a thousand words—and it also saves a thousand investigative man hours.
This story slipped by us in the aftermath of New Year’s, but we decided to post it today because it’s so strange it could be the stuff of pulp fiction. Saturday in the Phillipines, in the capital city of Manila, councilman Reynaldo Dagsa, from the Barangay district, was shot dead outside his home while taking a photograph of family members. But in a freak occurrence, he accidentally photographed the man who killed him. The gunman is visible at left in the photo, taking aim at Dagsa an instant before pulling the trigger. The photo led directly to the arrest of the suspected gunman Michael Rollon, as well as an accomplice identified as Frederick Sales, who appears at the upper right. Both men had prior criminal records, and both were out of prison on parole at the time of the killing. The photo was not given to the police immediately because it was not clear that Dagsa had photographed his killer, but during the investigation police asked the family for the camera Dagsa had used in hopes that it would reveal some evidence. Senior Superintendent Jude Santos, police chief of the Manila municipality of Caloocan City where the shooting occurred, admitted that if not for the photo his detectives would have had a difficult time identifying and apprehending the suspects. Both Rollon and his accomplice Sales are behind bars awaiting a hearing, and a third suspect identified as Ariel Buenaflor is being sought.
The Philippines can be dangerous and beautiful—sometimes in the same night.
We’re patting ourselves on the back today, because El Mono Blanco successfully moved our headquarters from San José City to Manila without missing a beat on Pulp Intl. Why did he move? Well, let’s just say MB wore out his welcome in the hinterlands. His first clue was when his nightly slumber was shattered by hysterical screaming. To his surprise and chagrin, the screaming was coming from his girlfriend, who was sitting bolt upright in bed next to him, having been awakened by rummaging thieves. The crooks managed to steal a camera before they fled, but in true pulp fashion MB stalked the dark streets of San José City, screaming that he would kill them if they dared show their faces again. Picture him in slippers, unleashing a torrent of profanity that would make George Carlin spin in his grave. A day or two later, in an unrelated incident, a man threatened MB with a painful and grisly death via machete. Discretion being the better part of valor, or something like that, MB pulled up stakes and beat it out of town. So add another weird chapter to Pulp’s short but rich history. We know what you’re thinking. Why not avoid these troubles by simply moving someplace safe, like Canada? Soundly reasoned, and thank you. But where would be the fun in that?
Known as the King of Philippine Movies, actor-director Fernando Poe, Jr. was such a popular figure in his home country that he ran for president in 2004. After a hotly contested election that he lost, his supporters accused the opposition of fraud. Seven months later he was killed by a coronary thrombosis, whereupon some people close to Poe blamed his enemies, but that’s a pulp story for another time. What we’re interested in today in his huge body of work—nearly 175 movies over more than five decades. You’d almost have to be two people to produce so much and, in a way, he was. He directed for years under the name Ronwaldo Reyes, and kept the identity secret until the night he walked onto stage at the Filipino Academy of Movie Arts and Sciences (or FAMAS) Awards to claim a statuette. The above film, the actioner Ang Padrino, may have low budget promo art, but it won three more FAMAS Awards for Poe, including best picture. It opened today in Manila in 1985.
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1955—Rosa Parks Sparks Bus Boycott
In the U.S., in Montgomery, Alabama, seamstress Rosa Parks refuses to give her bus seat to a white man and is arrested for violating the city's racial segregation laws, an incident which leads to the Montgomery Bus Boycott. The boycott resulted in a crippling financial deficit for the Montgomery public transit system, because the city's African-American population were the bulk of the system's ridership.
1936—Crystal Palace Gutted by Fire
In London, the landmark structure Crystal Palace, a 900,000 square foot glass and steel exhibition hall erected in 1851, is destroyed by fire. The Palace had been moved once and fallen into disrepair, and at the time of the fire was not in use. Two water towers survived the blaze, but these were later demolished, leaving no remnants of the original structure.
1963—Warren Commission Formed
U.S. President Lyndon B. Johnson establishes the Warren Commission to investigate the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. However the long report that is finally issued does little to settle questions
about the assassination, and today surveys show that only a small minority of Americans agree with the Commission's conclusions.
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