I’ve been a big Netflix fan since the company first arrived on the scene in 1998 and, thankfully, I haven’t stepped inside a Blockbuster in a very, very long time. Yes, we all appreciate the simplicity of the Netflix experience but, more than that, I personally love the depth of available titles, especially the obscure and odd.
As many of you already know, I am a huge fan of the good, the bad and the ugly. B movies, cheese filled grindhouse classics, cult favorites and horror flicks so badly made they’re brilliant.
Today I thought it might be fun to offer up our top 11 favorite pulp classics currently available for instant streaming on Netflix.
So, in no particular order, here they are!
1. Hercules in New York
Long before he became governor of California, Arnold Schwarzenegger (billed as Arnold Strong) starred as the titular god in this comic adventure. Bored of life on Mount Olympus, Herc is zapped by a lightning bolt into 20th-century NewYork. He befriends a pretzel vendor (Arnold Stang), tears through Times Square in a chariot and crosses paths with the mob and a shifty wrestling promoter before Zeus (Ernest Graves) orders him to return home.
There is so much to love about this delightfully awful flick but, if I had to pick just one thing, it would be the dubbing of Arnold’s voice by an actor who seems to be as dramatically challenged as the strongman himself.
2. Caged Heat
This would be the first of a few “bitches behind bars” classics on our list, the poster really says it all but if you actually need to know more, “a new inmate at a women’s prison falls in with a tough band of sex-starved chicks. When they incur the wrath of the prison’s sadistic warden, the girls are tortured with electroshock therapy. Now, the only thing they want is revenge.”
Caged Heat was Directed by a very young Jonathan Demme who would later go on to win the Academy Award for directing The Silence of the Lambs. The film score is from John Cale, legendary member of the seminal 70s rock band, The Velvet Underground.
3. Scream, Blacula, Scream!
Long before Tyler Perry seemingly discovered the niche’ audience for African American driven stories, we had the “Blaxploitation” genre of the 70s. Many have pointed to this title as one of the best that started the whole black cinema movement.
When a voodoo high priestess croaks, her ambitious son assumes he’ll be promoted to leader of the cult But, after being passed over, the vengeful son reincarnates Blacula. Together, they infiltrate (and contaminate) the voodoo cult.
From 1973 it’s Blacula, “Dracula’s soul brother…”
4. Attack of the Puppet People
This title actually predates most of the other recommendations on this list but it’s definitely worthy of including if only for it’s very high cheese factor. It’s great demented fun! What I wouldn’t give to see David Lynch remake this classic with Christoph Waltz in the lead role of the wacko doll maker!
Deranged puppet maker Franz (John Hoyt) is terrified of being abandoned, so he invents a machine to shrink humans down to doll size. By kidnapping people and turning the machine on them, he soon gathers a troupe of shrunken prisoners to keep him company. But when he shrinks his lovely secretary (June Kenney) and her fiancé (John Agar), they’re determined to find a way to stop the crazy puppeteer.
5. Slumber Party Massacre
The gloriously stupid Slumber Party Massacre came at the very beginning of the “slasher” genre and delivers all the skin and blood any twisted teen, or adult, could possibly hope for.
Young Trish Devereaux throws a slumber party and, naturally, a gaggle of randy boys turns up. But when an escaped psycho crashes the bash, the mood turns gruesome. As the teens go down one by one, three brave girls draft a plan to stop the killer.
6. The Thing With Two Heads
The 70s had their race riots, Black Panthers and the rebirth of the KKK and in the middle of all of this racial strife Hollywood gave us the hilarious The Thing With Two Heads. In it’s time it was meant as social commentary, today it’s just gut busting funny shit!
Racist transplant surgeon Maxwell Kirshner (Ray Milland) never lets anything compromise his work — even his impending death. When he learns he has a terminal illness, Kirshner decides to attach his brilliant noggin to another man’s body. But his search turns ups only one suitable donor: black convict Jack Moss (Rosie Grier). Before you can say “double trouble,” the two heads fight for control of their shared physique in this campy classic.
7. The Big Bird Cage
No, this is not a film about a seven foot yellow bird stumbling around the street they call Sesame, this is actually a bird of an entirely different color, the color of naked skin baby, yeah!
In many ways this is one of the films that really introduced the concept of “gratuitous nudity”, not to mention wet t-shirts, mud wrestling and the wonders of Pam Grier, can I get an “AMEN” ?!
Today lots of people still argue about whether these films were about Gloria Steinem’s female empowerment or just another example of women being exploited by cheap movie makers, hindsight tells us it’s actually a little bit of both.
In the Grindhouse genre this is easily of the best. If I had to pick a favorite moment it would have to be the raping of the gay guard by the female prisoners, it is unforgettable and laugh out loud hilarious!
The girlfriend of a radical guerilla leader named Django, buxom bad girl Blossom and her man devise a plan to liberate the inmates of a local women’s prison when Django’s mercenary friends itch for some female companionship.
Thankfully the print they have on Netflix is great and is much better than this trailer.
8. Sugar Hill
Before we get to this one, seriously, how GREAT are ALL of these posters?! If I had the money and the space I’d have these all over the house, I can only image and hope that Mr. Tarintino does!
When mobsters kill her boyfriend, “Sugar” Hill (Marki Bey) turns to Mama Maitresse (Zara Cully), a local voodoo priestess, for help in avenging the murder. Mama summons the Lord of the Dead (Don Pedro Colley), who grants Sugar an army of the undead to command in exchange for her soul. Now, the vengeful Sugar leads a zombie rampage in her quest to take out the gangsters who killed her man. Robert Quarry co-stars in this blaxploitation horror classic.
Bad ass ghetto zombies, seriously, does it get any better ?! ” The foxiest, sexiest, deadliest chick in town…”
9. Humanoids From The Deep
From celebrated schlockmeister Roger Corman comes this creepy chiller about some mutant fish monsters who bring mayhem to a sleepy oceanside community as they kidnap — and mate with — the town’s nubile teenage girls.
This one starts slow but builds to a gloriously exploitive and stupid climax! The rumor is, after watching an early edit of the movie, producer Corman felt the picture needed more sex and ordered scenes that showed the “humanoids” attacking and ripping the clothes off of nubile young women. Director Barbara Peeters refused to shoot the scenes, protesting that they were inserted purely to show “gratuitous nudity”, (yeah, and your point is….?). Wisely, Corman fired her and hired another director to shoot the additional footage because, after all, he is ROGER CORMAN!!
10. Women in Cages
Speaking of the genius that is Roger Corman, here’s one more classic that arrived very near the beginning of the “bitches behind bars” genre, featuring once again, the Nubian goddess herself Pam Grier!
Gerardo de Leon directs a chick flick of a different sort. When sadistic women’s prison warden Alabama isn’t harassing her female inmates in her torture chamber, she’s maniacally seducing them, forcing them to bend to her every sexual whim. Oh, yeah!
11. J.D.’S Revenge
Ike (Glynn Turman) takes part in a hypnotist’s nightclub act one night but gets more than he bargained for when he’s possessed by the spirit of a vengeful 1940s mobster named J.D. With J.D.’s restless soul on a mission to get payback for his own murder, the only person who can stop his killing spree is one of his targets, the reformed thug turned preacher Reverend Bliss, played to perfection by future Oscar winner Lou Gossett Jr.
A lot of fun and one of the best of the “Blaxploitation” genre, a classic by any standard!