With any discussion of a film by Roberta Findlay,
it goes without saying, her late-husband's name will have to be
mentioned. This one cannot be any different. Where there's talk
of Roberta, Michael must be mentioned. Michael and Roberta were
one of the most influential duos to ever work in exploitation.
Their landmark feature THE TOUCH OF HER FLESH, as well as the
2 other films that make up the "FLESH" trilogy, touch
on some of the most hateful and downright visceral themes that
even 30 some-odd years after their release, pack a gut-wrenching
wallop. The couple shared duties; Michael directing, acting, producing,
Roberta doing the same and much of the principal photography as
well. Their most famous work is the oft-referred to SNUFF, actually
a film titled SLAUGHTER that the Findlay's made in Argentina as
a derivative retelling of the Manson fable, over a 4 week period
in 1971. SLAUGHTER was minuscule budgeted piece of shit that featured
foreign crew and actors, Roberta and Michael were both characters
in the film as well, a common practice in all their films as was
their love for a wide variety of pseudonyms, (Roberta's Anna Riva,
performed in Michael's little sicky sex films before moving behind
the camera with her husband. Satan's Bed, 1965, features the rape
of a mute Yoko Ono as well as a hot looking Roberta.) SLAUGHTER
was brought back to the states overdubbed and edited into quite
a mess. The film was shown to a two distributors but never released
in its original form. But of course, that is by no means the end
of the story. Alan Shackleton's Monarch Releasing was one of the
companies Michael had pitched SLAUGHTER at. Shackleton didn't
nibble but shelved a copy of the film. But in the news at the
time was the possibility that porno producers might be producing
something almost incomprehensible, death for titillation, something
the papers had coined "Snuff," Shackleton, decided that
this might a good angle to exploit given he released mainly porn
loops and horrid XXX comedies that were not making him a major
player by any means. Strange coincidences and the adding of five
minutes of "behind the scenes" footage of a girl being
killed on camera, gave Shackleton quite a potential for a hot
product. The strange coincidence was a widely publicized rumor
of an actual Snuff film being confiscated by authorities as it
was being smuggled into the United States. Perfect timing, Shackleton
stuff with an incredible campaign and with no references to the
Findlay's actually on the film and his additional "Snuff"
footage. A star was born. Of course the truth eventually came
out but not before protests and Shackleton's brilliant campaigned
had made him a mint.
The brilliant book KILLING FOR CULTURE by David
Kerekes & David Slater (Creation Books) gives you a blow by
blow detail of the film and it's incredible story. The story goes
that when Roberta tried to get more money from Shackleton he threw
her down the steps after choking her. The Findlay's continued
to shoot their crazy, cheap exploitation films post SNUFF though
and dabbled as well in hardcore porn, Michael even went as far
as lensing a few rump wrangling gay features that put the chuck
in upchuck for any curious hetero film completist. But just as
it seemed the Findlays might make a jump to the bigger time, Michael
was killed, instantly and thoroughly. Headed for Europe on May
16, 1977 to seek investors for his invention of a portable 3-D
camera, he was decapitated by the propeller of a helicopter that
crashed into the roof of the Pan Am building in Manhattan. Quite
an irony for a guy who had once directed Jack Wrangler getting
a blow job from Giuseppe Welsh in a helicopter, flying over Manhattan!
With Michael's death, exploitation filmmaking and one of the bridges
between 60s exploitation and 70s hardcore was gone. But Roberta
was still alive and she wasn't finished yet.
In 1985, TENEMENT and THE ORACLE were back to back entries in
the mid 80s horror market. TENEMENT AKA GAME OF SURVIVAL, A SLAUGHTER
IN THE SOUTH BRONX is Roberta Findlay's best post Michael work
in my opinion, Roberta is highly regarded as a damned good porn
director that should be recognized as a ground-breaker for being
one of the, if not THE first female to sit behind a camera in
that role. Sometimes Anna Rivas, sometimes Anna Riva, and sometimes
the male alter-egos, Robert Norman or Harold Hindgrind, Findlay
always made her smut smutty, which is the only kind I lie really.
A couple standouts, GLITTER and the highly revered SHAUNA: EVERY
MAN'S FANTASY, a film mentioned in Jerry Butler's book mainly
because he thought Roberta crossed the line, exploiting Shauna
Grant after she blew her own head off. This, from a guy who fucked
a turkey carcass.
The plot of TENEMENT basically is the story of a South Bronx
apartment building taken hostage by a gang of crazed, junkie,
80s versions of thuggish, punks. But with the heavy and always
filthy hand of a Findlay behind the action, the film transcends
most trapped in the house horribles by making the festivities
inside the TENEMENT demanding the viewer's need for a swift dose
of antibiotics after screening.
Apartment dweller Hector (NY character bit part specialist Paul
Calderon's first film credit) has had it with this band of basement
squatting junkies, he finally gets the police to respond, the
cops swoop in after we witness the miscreants shooting up and
lunching on rats they kill with loaded .357s. But justice doesn't
prevail and after a few hours in the pokey, the gang is released.
Roberta spares us any boring, courtroom drama and just lets the
hasty return to the building speak as her indictment of the shoddy
New York version of justice. Roberta's New York is the New York
the rest of hear about on the news, the New York we don't want
our daughters traveling to for getaway shopping sprees, or our
sons taking a "weekend in the city" to find themselves.
Our worse fears of smacked out rapists and psycho junkie killers
all are realized in Roberta's NYC and especially in this TENEMENT.
The gang returns with only one thing in mind, revenge. The plan
is simple, take over the building, terrorize, maim, torture and
kill everyone in the building, one floor at a time. And when the
plan get set in motion, the gang looks fairly impossible to stop
with a apartment building full of old folks, unwed mothers, drunkards,
hookers and junkies. There seems to be only one possible legitimate
threat to the gang, but of course, he just wants to mind his business
and keep to himself in his roach infested getaway from his day
job. Sam is his name and he's one rather large African American
is down on the system and doesn't want any part of the other tenants
bullshit regarding some gang. Of course, all that changes, when
he finds the dead body of a mother that had been brutally raped
and murdered while her daughter was in the other room.
The rape scene in TENEMENT is one
of the most brutal laid down to cinema horror, on par with Craven's
brutal scene in LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT and the Camille Keaton's
multiple jabbing in I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE, the gang violates this
single mother like a pack of animals, before the victim finds
a pair of scissors on the nightstand and lands them in the eye
of contestant #1. When he rolls off of her, two thugs pounce on
the bed and deliver such a beating that my hand went flailing
for the remote just to verify what I was witnessing by replaying
the scene almost instantly. Joe's return from the pisser required
at least 2 more viewings. But the beating is an appetizer for
the meal that follows. Tonight's Special - a broom stick up the
good hole for a less than cooperative
rape victim. Now that's filling.
Throughout the night in the building, a gut-check game of cat
and mouse takes place, the apartment dwellers hold the gang off
for a while, then someone makes a mistake and the gang capitalizes.
Every killing is done is a truly nasty fashion, and when the victims
sporadically turn the tables it's no less brutal. As the numbers
on both sides dwindle, the tenants decide to enact instead of
reacting and begin to seek their own versions of revenge on the
scumbags who have made their lives Hell for too long. I don' want
to ruin what is a fun and decently made entry in a slightly overdone
subgenre of "trapped" horror films.
As much as I really enjoy TENEMENT, it is not without its flaws,
if this review is noticeably absent of character names and the
actors who play them, that is because, most of the actors are
NY's own, folks who didn't have credits before and many never
had another one. The gang members are especially interchangeable,
featuring all brands of minority, yes, even the trashy but fuckable
female who is the leader's heavily abused main squeeze. Sam, who
is played by Joe Linn has all the delivery skills of Isaac Hayes
on NyquilTM. But the nice pacing and brutal realism more than
make up for any actors flaws. There are plot holes a plenty as
the scale of the buildings inside seems to fluctuate and both
sides run up and down stairs and you as the viewer, will do better
trying not to follow who is on what floor because the continuity
guy seemed to spend more time gnoshing bagels at the Craft Services
table than jotting production notes. Once again, leave your movie
flaw-o-meter in its hand crocheted cozy for this one and enjoy
the action on the screen.
Is Roberta Findlay as good a filmmaker as her husband? I don't
think she is, but who can say, she served as Cinematographer on
most of Michael's films, and she even handles that, as well as
directing this film, she is an extremely talented filmmaker, without
a doubt. It's hard to say how gifted Michael may have been, had
he lived, here's an even stranger question to ponder, "How
talented would Michael have been if Roberta had been killed and
he was left to carry on?" They were a creative "team."
She continued to flourish after his death and continued to learn
and expand her craft, but one cannot help but believe they may
have been destined for a bigger chunk of filmic pie had Michael
lived. His vision was unique, their collaboration as husband and
TENEMENT is required viewing for any fan of exploitation film,
Roberta is an icon and should be recognized as one. Her husband's
legacy took on a life through her refusal to leave the system
that they worked in, together. Unflinching while wallowing in
adult entertainment. Unflinching in showing acts of misogyny,
rape and abuse, her role as a female filmmaker is rivaled only
by fellow fem-sleazer Doris Wishman. But there's no denying Roberta's
smegma makes much of Doris's harmless nudie work look like Nickelodeon
TV material by comparison. I heard that once a film student went
to interview Roberta about her work, she doesn't talk to many
folks about it, the lucky scribe ended up in the sack with her.
I can tell you, I'm more than a little jealous. He fucked a legend,
or more than likely, he got fucked by a legend
as Bon Scott
said "Hell, ain't no bad place to be
" get your
own uncut copy of TENEMENT under its AKA Game of Survival over
tell Keith I said, "Long Island isn't that long." He
might do something special for you.
|Last stop the tenement
|Trapped on the roof,
in the rain.
Gestapo Black Exploitation?
From Tobacco Row It's Good!
Squad Join Today!
Meateater Do Not Touch!
Stranger Run Run Opie!
House On Hwy 5 Sheesh!
Locked Doors It's Dirty!
Massacre Some Like It.
Pussy It had to be done
Alley It is Rock.
Woman Truck. Woman.
Freak A Classic for You!
Geek Bigfoot Porn
School Ghosthustlers Wow!
Island You Must See!
Not that kinda Cock!
Alienator Feeling Alienated?
Island Vanity and the Beast
Spree Tim Ritter's $0 budget wonder
Prof. Tread still can't sleep.
Tramp She is sumpin' else.
Footmen Tire You...? Heavy religiosity!
Knievel Evel of Course!
Killing Of A Chinese Bookie! Smart Guy.
Pink Angels Gayness, and Bikes
Burning The 80's, ahhh the 80's.
- The Winged Serpant! Larry Cohen rules!
For Your Life! WARNING Racist content
Tall Buford Pusser in the Hizouse!
Camp Internet Geeks Unite!
Losers Ya Loser!
of the Mutilated Bro. George gets busy.
Me An Angel Gal Biker and more.
Grim Reaper Reap on.
One of William Girdler's triumphs.
At Dawn A Modern Classic.
Boy Carradine, Dress, Dourif!
Hollywood Rape-Slaughter Rare expose'.
Savage Weekend. Take
Dead and Buried.
A Should-be Classic.
Summer In Barefoot County. PeeUww!
Night Train To
Terror Choo Choo!
Drink Your Blood Glug, glug!
Russ Meyer and breasts!
Stop Women Honnnk HonnnnK!
Deadly Darling! Pigs!
the Germ Fighter! Clean up!
Doesn't Cathy Eat Breakfast? Why?!
County Express! Glug, Glug!
The Night God Screamed!
White Dog Racists
City Slickers get offed!
Times Five Sean MacGregor's Titantic!
at the Red Wolf Inn Burp!
Eyes See It
Greatest Sinner One of the best!
Baby! Goo Goo!
Camp Nightmare Viva the Revolution!
of the Beast Creatures Booga!
Play Dead Incest craziness!
of Death Vacation madness!
Come, Evil Go! Bye, Bye Sinners!
Strutters Get Black Sucker!
Pretty Eddie Deep South Craziness!
Golem Jewish Folklore or what?
NYC Apartment Blues
To Kill A Clown
Alan Alda Vietnam Vet!
Spook Who Sat Next To The Door Booya!
Woke Up Early The Day I Died Mr. Ed Wood.
Mutilation Man Andy Copp goes arty on us!
People Across The Lake Good TV!
Woman Hunt Load Up Gents.
Devil At You Heels Daring Devil.
Are The Damned Dammit!
Farm TV movie Classic!