With 2004 coming to a close and the recent resurgence of “moral values” into our society I must thank Anxiety Films for putting on their 4th annual Shock-A-Go-Go festival dedicated to movies that revile in their bad taste and low budgets. Taking place at the Vine theatre on Hollywood Boulevard and consisting of 16 feature length films, a slew of shorts, punk bands and great Q & A sessions with filmmakers David F. Friedman, Roger Corman, Barak Epstein and actress Mary Woronov, the 24+ hour festival was great fun and definitely worth checking out in its future incarnations.
The evening kicked off at seven on Friday night with a series of classic horror and exploitation trailers such as “The Body Beneath” and “Meat Cleaver Massacre”. The first feature of the night was Freidman’s “The Defilers” a landmark in the “roughie” (A meaner brand of nudie film) sub-genre of exploitation pictures. Using a normal scale of film quality to gauge the pictures would do them a great disservice seeing how the purpose of B-movies is to entertain and not win Oscars, so I will stick to the essentials on each film.
“The Defilers” – Written by David F. Friedman – Directed by David F. Friedman and Lee Frost
What It’s Like: Softcore meets Art House
What It’s About: Carl Walker Jr. (Byron Mabe) and his best friend Jameison (Jerome Eden) kidnap innocent Jane Collins (Mai Jansson) and treat her as a sex slave…FOR KICKS!
Money Shot: A beatnik brawl!
Verdict: Despite the unpleasant subject matter the film is quite good. There is actual psychological motivation with Carl acting out in rebellion of his boring bohemian lifestyle and dragging his weak willed buddy along with him. The film has shadows of the Leopold and Loeb thrill kill and some downright haunting imagery including Jane appraising her makeshift prison. When it was later revealed in the evening that the film was made in four days, cost only $11,000 and that Byron Mabe was a grip who ended up becoming the main actor as a last minute replacement, this strangely haunting little indie became all the more intriguing. A roughie at its core but engaging all the same.
Up next was one of David F. Freidman’s favorite films from his body of work “She-Freak”.
“She-Freak” – Written by David F. Freidman – Directed by Byron Mabe
What It’s Like: ¼ “The Girl in Gold Boots”, ¾ “Freaks”
What It’s About: Have you seen Tod Browning’s “Freaks”? Then you’ve seen “She-Freak”.
Money Shot: When the freaks (all six of them) finally attack.
Verdict: For a quickie exploitation film watching the evolution of Jade Cochran (Claire Brennen) from waitress to carnival floozy to bitchy side show operator to a lizard woman is quite rewarding. The key is that the film gleefully seems to accept the fact that it’s a rip off and plows ahead anyway. While it’s no “The Defilers” it was still good fun.
After both films, David F. Friedman came out to address the audience. With his eyesight and hearing failing he was accompanied by his grand niece who helped him to field questions. Given his physical ailments Mr. Friedman was a class act, answering all questions enthusiastically. In a surprisingly poignant moment Friedman admitted that while exploitation was alive and well in the direct to video market that the era of films as spectacles had past. To him the best part of filmmaking was to see the finished film with a large audience and gauge the reaction. Keeping this in mind I doubt that Mr. Friedman was disappointed with the Shock-A-Go-Go audience which was filled with fans.. (Sidenote: He was equally classy when he signed my “2000 Maniacs” poster in the lobby. I can’t say enough good things about the man.)
With the Friedman retrospective over the crowd settled in for a long night of B-Pictures.
More shock in part two of GREG BELLAVIA VS SHOCK-A-GO-GO>>>