1/8/12

Blood Games (1990):A Real American Pastime,Vengence

Since it's National Blood Donation Month and I'm picking movies with a sanguine connection, I couldn't resist checking out Blood Games, a rape-revenge flick that has balls... baseballs I mean. The Australians always have a way at cutting to the core of things, and they might not have ever hit it on the head more accurately than with their re-titling of Blood Games as Baseball Bimbos in Hillbilly Hell. That evocative title lets you now everything you need to know about the film. There will be hicks, tits, shotguns, sub-Roadhouse level redneck wisdom, and the great American pastime. In short, Blood Games is an exploitation goldmine, and there's nuggets in there big enough to make a Kanye West necklace with. This is definitely an under-seen, under-appreciated gem, and I'm proud to make it the next selection in Blood Donation Month. So sit back and relax while I tell you about a time when men struck out and women struck back... with bats and guns and buses.

Babe and the Ballgirls are a traveling exposition baseball team. Along with their coach, Midnight (Ross Hagan), they travel from town to town playing local teams while the coach makes large wagers on the team to pay off their mounting debts. In one small town, they run into a bit of trouble. The losing team of hicks doesn't take too kindly to being beaten by a group of gals, and town boss Mino Collins (Ken Carpenter) doesn't want to pay up on a thousand dollar bet. Midnight and Mino rumble in a barroom bathroom, and Mino pays off the debt. However, it has taken too long for the coach to get back to his team. Midnight's daughter Babe (Laura Albert) and one of the other girls go to look for him. Instead they find Roy Collins (Gregory Scott Cummins), Mino's son, and his best friend Holt (Don Dowe) who try and rape the girls. When Midnight shows up, he gets stabbed helping the girls and Roy gets shot in the leg. Trying to escape town, the team boards their bus head out quickly, but Roy and Holt  shoot the bus off the road resulting in Roy getting crushed to death. Mino takes no small offence at the death of his boy, and soon the town forms a posse to go after the girls and kill them one by one.


If you were sitting with me right now, Blood Games would be all I want to talk about. From the quotable lines (Mino drops bon mots like "There is no such thing as pain." and "You're fucking with the devil now boy.) to the gratuitous shower scene, slow motion action sequences, and the mere existence of George "Buck" Flower in this flick, I could ramble on about this one like Tarantino on speed. So I apologize if the synopsis ran a little long. I'd also talk at length about director Tanya Rosenberg, I have no idea who she is. She only directed one film. She's not listed or talked about anywhere. It's like she appeared, dropped this exploitation gem on us, and disappeared like some kind of cult film fairy. It amazes me that this rape-revenge flick (there is a full blown rape later in the film) came about in the early 90s, well past the heyday of such fare. It's almost unfair to call this a 90s film. The French cut panties, big hair, and neon colors the girls wear places this movie squarely in the pre-grunge era when the 80s were still stubbornly leaving their mark in a new decade.

One of the big things that Blood Games has over other wrathful women film is that there's not one woman in peril, there's nine of them (and the coach, but he's only in danger long enough to get killed). Laura Albert, as team leader Babe, is the film's center, and she holds the surviving girls together as they escape into the dense woods surrounding the town. Albert is one of the only girls who appeared in movies both before and after Blood Games though now it seems she finds most of her work doing stunts on Batman Begins, Pineapple Express, and this year's Oscar nominated film The Artist. The other standout among the gals is Donna, Shelley Abblett in her one film role. Abblett delivers one of the film's most memorable lines, "I have been pushed around by men my whole life, and I'm sick of it.", a war-cry for vengeance seeking gals everywhere. While few of the girls ever did any acting or went on to do anymore, I found each of their performances enjoyable.

Veteran actor/director Ross Hagen does a fine job as Midnight, the team's coach, but sadly his role is minimal at best. Gregory Scott Cummins (Stone Cold, Phantom of the Mall) also has a small part as Roy, the sore loser, but he impresses with rampant dickery and a certain Kevin Sorbo-esque look. He also has one of the best arm wrestling scenes this side of Hands of Steel though instead of snakes it's done over candles. More impressive is Ken Carpenter as the town bossman Mino. Carpenter, who would later appear in Hellraiser: Hell on Earth as the Camera cinobite, gives a great tough guy perfromance, and his fight with Ross Hagan in the bathroom with his pants around his ankles is surely one for the books. Don Dowe, a character actor still working today, also turns in a fine performance as Holt, the dumbest of the hunters and Roy's best friend. Something about him made me think about Bill Fagerbakke as Dauber on Coach, Except, you know, more rapey. That beings us to the film's final delight George "Buck" Flower who appeared here under the name Ernest Wall, a screen name he only used once. I hope each and every one of you knows who Flower is and can imagine how good he'd be as a hillbilly named Vern. He also has one of my favorite exchanges in the film. Holt says, "Vern, you can't beat your own meat." to which Vern replies, "I can beat it better than you can." Comedy gold.

I've seen some speculation that Blood Games was intended to be a parody of female vengeance flicks, but I saw no trace of anything that could point to that. While there are certainly some funny moments, intentional and unintentional, Blood Games doesn't seem like it was supposed to be played for laughs. Like a mash-up of I Spit on Your Grave, Deliverance, and a sports film (some say A League of Their Own, but apart from girls playing ball I fail to see a correlation), Blood Games is indeed one of the best exploitation movies of the last twenty five years. Right now it's playing on Netflix Instant Watch, and I can't recommend this enough. If you like your exploitation violent, sexy, and down and dirty with a giant dollop of 80s on the top, then you really can't afford to miss this one. This film starts with a baseball game, and it is a crackerjack. When it comes to cult fare like this, I really don't care if I ever come back. I got to root, root, root for the gals to win, and the ones that die, it is a shame, but this flick gets One-Two-Three (and a half) Buggs to count for the old Blood Game. 


Bugg Rating 

2 comments:

  1. I adore this movie, but my bias is strong. I played softball for years and am still an avid baseball fan so for an 80s exploitation film to combine action with it, I can only say YES. Even though it's a horribly misogynist film in many ways--it's the whole closeup of boobs whenever a character tries to rape a woman--I forgive it because this film is just so hilariously over the top. Mattsuzaka I believe made a great point in speculating that "Tanya Rosenberg" may actually be a pseudonym to give the film a little more safeguarding from misogynist accusations. It's certainly possible!

    Oh, and I believe I referenced A League of Their Own in my review more because of the whole leads being sisters, one a pitcher, one a catcher. And the final kill--from a baseball fan's POV--is simply wonderful.

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  2. Ha, that Emily beat me to it! ;) I love Blood Games, and I love that you love Blood Games, and I love that Emily loves Blood Games, and I kind of feel that we three, as people who have watched, reviewed and love Blood Games, should start our own fan club! For my nickname, I call Midnight!

    Anyway, I saw Blood Games sometime back now, and your enthusiasm for it makes me want to give it a re-watch and real soon, too! It's a criminally under-known film that certainly holds its own in the Exploitation department, and I would love to see it get a home video release from one of the smaller labels someday.

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