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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 wife, unparalleled.

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 at www.cinefear.com, tell Keith I said, "Long Island isn't that long." He might do something special for you.

Last stop the tenement rooftop...

Trapped on the roof, in the rain.

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This is the good guy...yeah, the good guy.

This is the bad guy...and he is bad.

See. I don't think he's diabetic.

And he's not shaving his bikini area.

The good old days when you could smoke in a public place in NYC...

And rub bobbies with bloody hands...

And folks still laughed at that "Titty Twister" joke.


This looks like my sink every morning after shaving my head.

What would a good Findlay flick be without a rape.

And a gang rape at that...

And a broomstick as well! Clean sweep for Roberta...I know that was bad.


Lesson learned, never ever open the door if you live in the city. That's simple enough.
Brains On Film 2003