Subject: I have found a DVD that I think you would enjoy
|Welcome to the Grindhouse - The Teacher and the Pick-Up|
Actors: Jill Senter, Alan Long, Gini Eastwood, Tom Quinn, Bess Douglass
Directors: Bernard Hirschenson, Howard Avedis
Genres: Drama, Horror, Science Fiction & Fantasy, Mystery & Suspense
The Teacher: She corrupted the youthful morality of an entire school! An explosively tense story about a beautiful, provocative 28-year-old high school teacher whose seduction of one particular student proves fatal. Star... more »
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The "grindhouse" concept lives on
Joseph P. Menta, Jr. | Philadelphia, PA USA | 09/13/2007
(4 out of 5 stars)
"You have to feel bad for the folks who've put out this series of "Welcome to the Grindhouse" DVDs. After all, these DVDs were produced to ride the coattails of "Grindhouse", the recent Robert Rodriguez/Quentin Tarantino exploitation-style double feature that premiered in theaters in April, 2007. So what happens? As fun as it was, "Grindhouse" tanked at the box office, and- as was announced later- the film wouldn't be released on DVD in the same double-feature format as its theatrical exhibition, but split up as separate DVDs: one featuring Tarantino's half of "Grindhouse", the rockin' "Death Proof" and the other presenting the eerie, crazy "Planet Terror", Rodriguez's contribution to the original project. So, now you have all these "Welcome to the Grindhouse" double-feature DVDs that are meant to emulate Tarantino and Rodriguez's two-edgy-exploitation-movies-complete-with-trailers-and-other-goodies original presentation, and that original presentation doesn't exist anymore!
Oh, well-- things happen I guess. But that just makes me want to do my part to promote this entertaining series of DVDs and maybe help make up for the unforeseen promotion complications mentioned above.
Like 2007's "Grindhouse", these "Welcome to the Grindhouse" DVDs give you two movies peppered with a bunch of trailers. If you select "The Grindhouse Experience" on the main menu (as opposed to selecting an individual film to watch), the DVD will play a couple of trailers, then go right into the first feature, "The Teacher", play a couple of more trailers, then go into the second feature, "The Pick-Up"
Also like 2007's "Grindhouse", this "Welcome to the Grindhouse" DVD really feels like an afternoon at the movies at one of those low-rent movie houses that regularly showed low-rent movies in the 70's and 80's before the big chains wiped all those theaters out. The difference here is that these DVDs present films and trailers actually from that era, not lovingly created facsimiles of those films like the Tarantino/Rodriguez effort.
The other thing to remember is that your typical grindhouse-style movie, like the ones included on this DVD, didn't deliver entertainment value because they were "so bad they're good", but because most of them were genuinely worth seeing. While slapdash and amateurish is some ways (mostly due to their low budgets and short production schedules) they were also usually energetic, full of imagination, laced with ideas and scenarios not often seen in mainstream fare, and just plain gutsy. So how are the two movies on this particular DVD? Glad you asked...
"The Teacher"... Not nearly as exploitative as the poster and advertising suggest, this is nevertheless a pretty sexy movie. The main character doesn't pick up every student in the school, however, just the one she really likes... and it's done with the approval of the kid's mother, who thinks her kid needs to break out of his shell a little! So, yes, it's definitely an exploitation film, but a kind of sweet one. And it's funny how the saccharine-sweet theme song of "The Teacher" starts playing every time the teacher character makes her entry (often via bicycle) into a scene. It's like the producers told the director, "we paid good money for that song, so use it!" Be warned, though, there's a bit of a downer ending to the whole thing. Again, it's like the producers said, "hmmmm, we should have someone pay the price for all that sexy fun... we don't want to send the wrong message." You have to love exploitation film morality: Give the audiences 85 minutes of hedonism, then suddenly get all moralistic about it in the last two or three minutes.
"The Pick-Up": Two hitchhikers (pretty girls, natch), the guy who picked them up, and the big bus they're traveling in get stuck in the mud in the middle of the Everglades (don't ask). The rest of the movie depicts sexy fun between the guy and blonde-ish hitchhiker as they kill time waiting to be found, while the brunette hitchhiker wanders through the Everglades hallucinating about ancient rituals, her disturbing past, and other weirdness. It's all rather strange, but somehow compelling. It was also rather brave of the filmmakers, delivering loads of "artistic" imagery when the poster promised sexy hitchhiker fun. I guessed they figured that the numerous nude scenes would make the surreal imagery go down easier. And they were right.
The trailers? There are four or five of them, and they all provide great examples of the grindhouse form: girl-gang movies, Hell's Angels-style motorcycle thrillers, etc. I hope some of the movies these trailers advertise actually show up on future "Welcome to the Grindhouse" DVDs.
Oh, one more thing: Happily, one element that these DVDs (at least, not this DVD) don't emulate is the scratchy prints/missing reels gimmick of 2007's "Grindhouse". The gimmick was kind of fun there, because the scratches and missing reels were often strategically placed to induce a chuckle, but I'm glad that clean, clear prints were used on this DVD.
So, those are my thoughts, for what they're worth. In the end, I'd give the two actual films presented here three stars and the entertaining concept behind this DVD a full five stars, averaging out to the four stars at the top of this review. I'm definitely going to pick up a few more of these economically-priced "Welcome to the Grindhouse" DVDs. You get lots of bang for your buck."
Witchcraft For Idiots
Robert I. Hedges | 10/25/2009
(2 out of 5 stars)
""The Pick-Up" is a plodding piece of garbage about three losers cavorting in the Everglades after their giant bus gets stuck in the mud. If it were only that simple, it would probably have been a middling picture, but no, they had to go an mix in lots of astral visions, psychobabble, and witchery to pad out the plot. While the movie does manage to prove that baby raccoons are very cute (don't even ask), most of the film is padding. There are lots of slow scenes of birds flying, walking through mud, all told at a snail's pace with terrible synthesizer background music at every turn. The three people on the bus are a young and irresponsible couple and a creepy witch-girl who likes to take us psychically back to subplots about disgusting priests, ancient rituals, caricatured politicians, and a very creepy clown.
The film suffers from many flaws, perhaps the worst of which is sound quality. It is frequently impossible to hear dialogue over background sounds and the musical score. Do not be too upset; this actually improves the quality of the viewing experience. The film also features the most awkward kissing lesson in screen history followed by highly improbable arboreal hijinks, and continuity issues galore, all leading up to the most unnatural performance featuring a stuffed animal in cinema history. The film is as boring as it is pointless, but it does have one redeeming quality: it's short.
"The Teacher" is a piece of 1970's trash features a bizarre coming of age plot superimposed with an insane lunatic stalker plot. I give auteur Hikmet Avedis credit for trying to blend disparate plots, but the entire thing comes across as one contrivance after another. The plot concerns creepy stalking Vietnam veteran (of course) Ralph, who drives a hearse and lives in a grain silo overlooking the marina where public school teacher Diane keeps her yacht moored. He keeps his belonging in a casket, which I would have thought the police would have noticed during their investigation after his brother Lou falls to death from the top. Peeping Ralph blames Lou's friend Sean (Jay "Dennis the Menace" North!) for the death, which sets the full psychotic stalker plot in gear. Despite numerous sightings and threats to Diane and Sean, nobody ever once thinks to call the police. That was one logically challenged area of the film, but the other bit of incredulity revolves around the fact that a public high school teacher drives a Corvette, has a giant pool, and her own yacht. How much do teachers make in California, anyhow?
In the least credible part of the plot, teacher Diane and student Sean are on a first name basis with each other, and quickly move to other pastimes together, all while Ralph watches (and gets ever more jealous) and, most insanely, with the explicit encouragement of Sean's mother. The mother was definitely the creepiest element of the film for me. Along the way there are many ridiculous and embarrassing scenes: Diane washes her car in a full length dress, a gossipy restaurant scene provides the most inept flirtation ever, and last but not least, Diane's bedroom provides the backdrop for the most ludicrous use of an umbrella in filmmaking history (and yes, I have seen "The Incredibly Strange Creatures Who Stopped Living and Became Mixed-Up Zombies.")
The film has intentions to be creepy, and the ending is a bit out of the norm, although equally implausible and predictable. For making an effort I will generously give Hikmet his just rewards: two stars."
These two fun, cheesy exploitation films aren't "grindhouse"
Muzzlehatch | the walls of Gormenghast | 10/22/2009
(3 out of 5 stars)
"THE TEACHER (directed by Howard Avedis, 1974)
This teacher-student seduction/psycho stalker tale starts out well enough that I actually thought it was going to be a genuinely good movie (as opposed to good sleaze) but is fairly quickly derailed by almost uniformly horrendous acting and some fairly idiotic plot developments. Still, the opening is memorable: a quick pan from a boat in a harbor with the name "Diane" to a dilapidated 3 or 4 story industrial building facing the docks, and a close-up on the crazy face of Ralph (Anthony James), closing up a red coffin that he keeps in a half-open room on the top floor. Ralph races downstairs to his white, circa 1960 hearse (the coffin/hearse thing are never explained) and off to stop outside of a school. There he witnesses Diane (Angel Tompkins) say goodbye to 2 boys, but Ralph only has eyes for the beautiful young teacher, as the title comes up and the terribly cheesy theme song "The Teacher", sung by Jackie Ward, makes the first of many appearances. Ralph waits for Diane to leave and follows her blue Corvette (Diane's got quite the lifestyle for a high school teacher) home, waiting outside her suburban house while she changes and then following her again. She notices at one point and stops, trying to confront him but he speeds past, soon arriving back at the industrial complex and heading to the top floor where he will spy on Diane in her eponymously-named boat sunbathing topless. Yes, Angel Tompkins' rack is the major draw here, and a fine one it is. But Ralph is interrupted in his salacious activity by the appearance of the two young men we saw a few minutes earlier, who hop off a motorcycle and make their way to his secret spot while he hides. Turns out one of them is Ralph's brother Lou (Rudy Herrera) and the other his best friend Sean (Jay North, not getting the best work since his halcyon TV "Dennis the Menace" days and looking very much like a smaller-framed John Schneider here); Lou has found the hiding place and the two proceed to spy on Diane until surprised by Ralph, at which point a shocked Lou falls to his death! Ralph blames Sean for Lou's death, and proceeds to chase him with a bayonet, but Sean gets away.
The rest of the film essentially alternates between Diane's seduction of Sean - who has graduated, so I guess that makes it a little more OK - and Ralph's attempts both the revenge himself on Sean and to get a little special time with Diane. Sean has a fairly stereotypical family life, with a father who wants him to be working all the time and an indulgent mother (both very, very bady acted) but somehow seems to have time to do the nasty with Diane as often as possible (more gratuitous nudity, please). There's one particularly fascinating scene where the two lovers go to a bar - Sean is obviously underaged but the bartender serves Diane multiple bottles of wine which she shares with him - and they are spied on by a couple of old ladies who are horrified at the "over 40" Diane (she's actually 28) seducing the kid. The two old ladies are played by the Katherine Cassavetes and Lady Rowlands, mothers of John and Gena, very bizarre, and the bar is just exactly the perfect 70s suburban bar. Both Sean and Diane are completely sloshed but manage to make it home in Diane's corvette with no acknowledgment that drunk driving is dangerous - this would never happen in PC 2009.
The ending is pretty cool too, though not very well shot or choreographed, as Ralph kidnaps Sean and takes him to his hideout, at which point he....well, you'll have to see it to find out yourself, I'm not going to spoil it for you. All in all, lots of fun with very bad easy listening/lounge/muzak instrumental score and the stupid theme song popping up several times, good SoCal suburban and industrial locations, and an interesting if not terribly talented cast making for an interesting slice-of-exploitation life circa 35 years ago.
PICK-UP (directed by Bernard Hirschenson, 1975)
A couple of attractive young ladies lie in the tall grass by the side of a road. Handsome blonde hippie-type Chuck (Alan Long) stops his RV and offers them a ride. Dark, slightly exotic Maureen (Gini Eastwood) warns freer-spirited Carol (Jill Senter) that no good will come of this, as Chuck is an Aries...
So begins the bizarre mystical/sexploitation/hippie melodrama PICK-UP, one of the stranger and most unplaceable films I've seen in a while. Chuck and Carol develop an attachment pretty quickly, Carol flirts with him and flashes a group of horny guys in a pickup truck that passes them....Chuck's driving the RV through Florida to Tallahassee and communicates with an irritable manager on the phone...Maureen does Tarot in the back and seems pensive. Eventually they get lost and the RV gets stuck in a swampy area, where the bulk of the film takes place. None of the characters seems to worry too much about getting out of being stuck, or getting anywhere in particular though Chuck is under contract. They're carefree, you know? Alternating odd and seemingly random flashbacks to the earlier lives of all three characters, Maureen's mystic pagan religious revelations, and Carol and Chuck's uninhibited lovemaking, this is a bizarre mesh of "art" film elements, exploitation, and really quite gorgeous scenic nature photography courtesy of director/cinematographer Hirschenson. After a while I basically stopped caring about what was happening, because none of it really mattered very much. It's nice to look at, both leading ladies are very cute and very naked much of the time, and the ending is pretty bizarre and nonsensical. This must have mystified most drive-in audiences; what the aims of the filmmakers were, I really couldn't tell you. Sit back, fire one up, and dig it, man.
The Bci transfers here are fine, in the correct aspect ratio and with decent sound-mixes - given the cheapness of the productions originally, they look surprisingly good. Neither is anything close to a great film, but they are both more interesting than the usual exploitation fare from the era and fans of this kind of stuff will probably rate this higher than I did; but I'm glad to have seen them, in any case."