Friday, August 14, 2015


Tenement Directed By Roberta Findlay, Starring Dan Snow (1985).

When I first saw this film it was back in the glory days of Netflix I had the three DVD's deal and no streaming capabilities. I know that sometimes I come off as a technophobe, but streaming every possible film on the planet has made us all basically spoiled brats! I like the convenience but miss the days of blindly renting something and taking a stab at an unknown film that hasn't already been over-saturated by whiny reviews online about how it sucks before you even get to see it. Anyway, I digress but the reason I'm bringing this is up is because the film in question tonight is one I was stoked about just by the cover art. Having just seen William Lustig's Vigilante, which totally blew me away and Don't Go in the House, I was all keyed up for another scummy grindhouse hit and Tenement just didn't measure up at the time, if anything it left me cold. 

As cold as a nice refreshing Rolling Rock on a toilet?

Did I unfairly misjudge this Roberta Findlay production, which even has Dan "Cigar Face" Snow basically as himself? At the time I was really excited to check out every punxploitation flick that I could get my mitts on and this one just formed a huge question mark over my head. Chas over-sold it too with phrases like "ultra violent urban assault" and "a wet rollercoaster ride through inner city hell". What was I missing, this film has it's sect of fanatics, so why do I not respond to it?

I took a break from this one for about five years and then felt that I should re-evaluate it and surprisingly enjoyed this grimy street punk outing a lot more the 2nd time. It's still incredibly cheesy but at least I had more of a sense of humor, having detested the film so hardcore at my first viewing. 
From what I've read about Roberta Findlay, she was a porn director who dabbled in exploitation occasionally and was most famous for directing Snuff (1976) with her husband Michael who was killed later on in a freak helicopter accident. Roberta cut her teeth in SWV style porn like Curse of Her Flesh (and other Flesh related titles in the series). In the Jerry Butler porn book, which shits on everyone in the biz, he refers to her as "A Nice Lady", good for her!

This flick opens with one silly happy rap song (that's actually pretty catchy) Walter E. Sear who composed my favorite broken casio/Collecovision score for the VHS of Dr. Butcher and The 7 Doors of Death version of The Beyond actually produced this and handled this film's soundtrack!

Some coke snorting Bronx punks hang out in the shittiest looking scum pit (beer bottles are seen on the toilet). Of course they're up to no good, one dude snacks on a dead rat and talks about how delicious it is. These lowlives are more pathetic than The Orphans, the saddest gang in The Warriors and have zero class. I bet the rabid punks from I Drink Your Blood would turn up their nose at these shit heels. Their leader Chaco, played by Enrique Sandino kind of resembles Miguel "Puman man" Fuentes if he were scagged out on smack. The actor who plays him is pretty laughable and even delved in TV on Miami Vice and The Shield. 

There's a certain amount of inept charm that this film has going for it that keeps it afloat.
Sometimes it comes off like loose improve (as if there was hardly any script). There's the constant presence of a time frame, or countdown I guess, as the punks end up at the prison building for three seconds before getting back to the ghetto and abusing all the tenants. One of the worst, most unlikeable "good guy" characters is Mr. Rojas played by Larry Lara (who's whereabouts are unknown, maybe he's a manager at Arby's now)? His performance as a slumlord is pretty entertaining with his heavy "Ricky Ricardo style accent".

I'm the Joe Spinell of horsey sauce and curly fries!

They intercut the punks getting dusted and the "decent folks" at a community party trying to figure out what to do. The score (which is some goofy stock library guitar music) sounds like it's playing from a boom box on the set. The domestic situation filler is pretty excruciating between the different dull characters and adds nothing to the story. For a more effective realistic ghetto drama check out Life is Hot in Crack Town instead.

One black female character who hates her living situation is gang-raped by all the horny punkers, it's pretty grim how the film seems to be punishing this woman for believing that she's too good for the ghetto and it's kinda fucked up!

You've mistaken me for someone else, I'm Nose-chain-face, got it?

One Spanish Baba Booey looking character is knifed in gruesome detail, what this movie needs is an elderly vigilante--I mean where's a B-rate Charles Bronson when you need him right? 
Halfway through Cigar Face, (or should I say Nose-chain-face, because he has jewelry that differentiates him from the Toxic Avenger character) sadly O.D's and has a seizure that kills him. I was sorry to see him go, because after that, all we have left to identify with is Rojas (to reiterate, he's a racist slumlord--GREAT)! One of the strangest parts of the film shows the gang leader have sex with his girlfriend and they slather each other in a victim's blood kind of like those vampire fetishists, very gross!


Eventually the tenants fight back, but they're so unorganized that it comes off as ridiculous and fake. I mean not even the bumbling cops from Police Academy or New Yawk's Guardian Angels show up to help these citizens patrol their shitty apartment complex. The only way to get through this film is to suspend all logic, turn off your brain and sympathy, so in other words get a lobotomy and Tenement will be your favorite movie! Get me outta here! Even though this film is awful, it's kind of shocking in it's ballsiness to be so unpleasant and hard to like that it's almost existential.    


Remember in the 80's when this Sandino poster was super popular?

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