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Trash cinema or schlock glories?

Mike White brings it on in a new book

Photo: , License: N/A

I’m ashamed to admit I had never heard of David Goodis, James Ellroy or John Paizs. Or Black Shampoo . Where do you find the obscure stuff?

Sometimes you stumble onto them in dollar bins at the video store if the title looks fascinating. I mean, hearing the title Captain Milkshake, like, what the hell kind of movie can be called Captain Milkshake? And it’s actually a sobering look at Vietnam that came out before Easy Rider did, and did a lot of the things that Easy Rider tried to do. The main character is a soldier rather than a biker, so it gives you the perspective of a soldier who knows that he’s going to have to go back to war. It used color film for the Vietnam sequences and black-and-white for the sequences at home. You’d think it would be the exact opposite – that war would be black-and-white and vice versa. But war was so much more powerful for him in his memory that he remembers it vividly.

You’re still writing about film, but you’re done with the magazine. Do you think the Internet is picking up the slack when it comes to discussing these obscure pictures?

I think so … but sometimes it just gets frustrating when I see the same headline coming out on 10 websites the same day. I heard The Avengers are going to be on TV, but I didn’t have to hear that 10 times. I like Cinebeats. It’s great. That’s what I want.

I know Black Shampoo is one of your favorites. Can you give us an idea of what to expect?

It’s a movie from the mid-’70s, kind of like blaxploitation’s answer to Hal Ashby’s Shampoo. Its protagonist is the baddest hairdresser on the Sunset Strip, a lothario doing his client’s hair – and other things as well – and he finds that the love of his life has been sitting at the receptionist’s desk the whole time. But she has had former dealings with the mob, and he ends up having to fight them for her, sometimes using a pool cue or a chainsaw to get her back. The 15-minute chase at end is a tour de force.

So why does this film languish in obscurity?

It’s somewhat offensive. It’s softcore sexploitation, and some people don’t really embrace blaxploitation that much. Hopefully, with movies like Black Dynamite, people will go back and look at some of these films. The poster for Black Dynamite is right off the Black Shampoo poster, which is great.

The magazine’s done, the book’s out, but you’re still writing about film, right? What obscure genre have you found now?

I’m doing a Paracinema magazine piece about movies starring talking genitals [laughs], so I’m still definitely looking for subgenres. Yeah, that’s what I did with my summer, watched eight or nine films like that, including Pussy Talk, a French porn film with talking genitals.

What’s that like?

Kind of like Chatterbox, but a little 
less funny.

(A version of this story was originally 
published by the Detroit Metro Times)

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