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Sex, Violence and Badass Bad Guys, Exploitation Movies

A look at the exploitation movie, the staple diet of the Grindhouse.

In the 1960s and 70s many theatres and cinemas were in decline, one way that was used to try and halt their demise was to show exploitation movies.

The exploitation movie covered a broad range of themes, cars, sex, Nazis, black people, cannibals, revenge , freaks were all covered within the genre, however one aspect these films had in common was that they were all made on a cheap budget and appealed to a Saturday night teenage audience, many of these films broke cinema taboos of the time and have gone on to become cult classics.

Sexploitation movies: The king of the sexploitation movie was undoubtedly the director Russ Meyer, Meyers films  very often featured big breasted women who one could argue featured as sex objects, but  many critics have argued that the women in Meyers films were sexually empowered and usually had the upper hand over the films male characters. Meyer justly earned the reputation as ” King of the Nudies” and is probably best known for his soft porn classics ” Faster Pussycat Kill Kill ” (1965)  and ” Vixen ” (1968). Meyer retired from directing in 1970 but his films have remained favourites in Grindhouse cinema ( the American name given to theatres that primarily showed exploitation movies) and for collectors of cult films.

 Blaxploitation movies: Blaxploitation ( a combination of the words black and exploitation ) movies were aimed at a predominantly black audience, these movies usually featured black actors and a soul and funk soundtrack, often set in the ghetto with plenty of negative stereotype white characters such as politicians and policeman and a good guy battling against pimps and drug dealers. These movies  suffered from  the criticism that they stereotyped black people and a protest group backed by many black film professionals forced the end of the blaxploitation movie by the end of the 1970s. It is debatable which film is credited as the first in the genre, some film buffs make a claim for Sweet Sweetbacks Baadasssss Song (1971) others claim that Shaft (1971) starring Richard Roundtree with a bigger Hollywood budget is the original. Pam Grier who starred in many blaxploitation movies notably Coffy (1973) and Foxy Brown (1974) featured in exploitation movie fan Quentin Tarantinos Jackie Brown (1997) a film that partly paid homage to the 70s blaxploitation films, and in Austin Powers Goldmember Beyonce Knowles stars as Foxy Cleopatra a portmanteau of the characters Foxy Brown and Cleopatra Jones.

Cannibal movies: Being made in the 1970s right through to the late 1980s the cannibal movie became a staple of Grindhouse cinema, films such as Cannibal Holocaust and Cannibal Ferox featured exotic locations and scenes of torture and cannibalism usually set in the jungles of South America , although never critically acclaimed these films found a ready market in the burgeoning video market of the late 70s and early 80s.

Nazisplotation: One of the strangest sub genres of exploitation movies was the nazisplotation film, usually set in Nazi death camps or brothels during the second world war, torture and female nudity are commonplace in these films, the most popular and well known film in the genre being Isla , She Wolf of the SS (1974) which features Isla a nymphomaniac dominatrix.

Grindhouse films have benefited from something of a renaissance in recent times with the release of Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodrigos Grindhouse films, both directors directed a movie each in this series, Tarantino with Death Proof and Rodrigo with Planet Terror, these films paid homage to the genre with fast paced car chases, buxom girls, mutilation and were filmed in a ” grainy ” style to age the film and included forthcoming attraction adverts to give more authenticity to the experience .


Exploitation movies although often receiving a bad press at the time of their original release with a reputation for low quality some have gone on to receive critical approval and a cult following and have a deserved place in the hearts of most film fanatics.                                                                                                                                

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  1. Posted October 6, 2009 at 5:11 am

    I don’t think I have seen any of those films was maybe a little to young but your article was very interesting and I may now go in search of some of the titles. Theses kinds films will always be a hit with teenagers, for whatever the reasons. Good write, I enjoyed.

  2. lindsay
    Posted June 22, 2010 at 3:54 am

    i love drive-in grindhouse exploitation films,particularly the ones with tough, sexy chicks like all the pam grier movies. i have them all from coffy and foxy brown to the big dollhouse, black mama, white mama and friday foster. she was the QUEEN of the 70s exploitation movies! there were others too though like cleopatra jones of course, and a blonde chick named ginger who was like the white foxy brown. i love watching these movies- they just dont make them like this anymore! i love the fashions, the lingo, the cars and the funky 70s music! the 70s was an awesome era and they made the sleaziest, cheeziest, funnest exploitation movies!!!!

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