In the grand old fading traditions of long Saturday afternoons in neighborhood theaters and dusk-to-almost-dawn outings at the drive-ins on the dark edge of town, grindhouse guruQuentin Tarantino brings us his “Rolling Thunder Pictures Triple Feature.”
Thrill — and bust a rib laughing — at the colossally campy “The Mighty Peking Man” (in Shaw Scope, apparently an Asian version of Panavision), a 1977 Hong Kong production about a gigantic apelike creature that’s captured by greedy fortune hunters and brought back to civilization — along with his pet blonde bombshell (Evelyne Kraft, “Lady Dracula,” “The Fifth Commandment”), a wild jungle girl clad in a skimpy animal skin outfit a la Raquel Welch in “One Million Years B.C.”
Witness hilariously fake-looking model cities and villages destroyed, English dubbing completely out of sync with lip movements and the most shameless rip-off of “King Kong” ever filmed.
Then get down and funky with “Detroit 9000,” a 1973 blaxploitation film from director Arthur Marks starring Alex Rocco (perhaps best known as Moe Greene, the gangster who got shot in the eye while getting a massage in “The Godfather”) and black actor Hari Rhodes as detective partners chasing a gang of black thieves responsible for a high society heist. Lots of action and bloody violence, cornball attempts at hip dialogue, some fairly decent music, a hilarious cameo by Scatman Crothers as a hallelujah preacher, and a lot of clumsy over-emotional acting.
Finally there’s 1975′s “Switchblade Sisters” from director Jack Hill (“Foxy Brown,” “Coffy”), with a cast of actors who haven’t been seen before or since this thing was made, right down to the most minor player (except for one guy who plays a fast-food manager, but I can’t remember his name for the life of me). A tough gang of teenage girls calling themselves the “Dagger Debs” terrorize some of the grimiest districts of L.A. and young girls are victimized by lesbian prison guards and meet various other tragic fates.
These artifacts were unearthed by Tarantino’s Rolling Thunder Pictures, which was launched by Tarantino and Miramax in 1995 with the goal of releasing exploitation movies and “undiscovered imports” that Quentin thinks some of us need to discover.
This batch has value only for those who appreciate the amusement that can be derived from bad cinema with a capital B.C. You just have to share Tarantino’s grindhouse-geek sense of humor. Otherwise, it’s best to avoid this B-minus and C- and D-minus fare. However, there is perverse fun here, and I would grade none of these efforts with an F.
— Gene Triplett