A Very Brief Look at Exploitation Cinema

Next week, I will be attending a screening for Haywire. As some of you may recall, initially I was a bit on the fence about seeing this one. But my expectations are now set I am ready for an action-packed, highly stylized exploitation film from director Stephen Soderbergh.

That got me thinking about the genre of exploitation films – and what films would fit the bill. I cannot absolutely declare a personal love for the genre, but I have never shied away from seeing any of the films if the opportunity presents itself, which to be honest, is not too often.

So in the small window of time I had to prepare this post, I decided to do a little ‘research’ on the subject. This research revealed that my limited exposure to the exploitation genre was only the tip of the iceberg. Based on what I have seen or read, I make the following observations:

  • During the earlier days of cinema films like Reefer Madness (1934), Freaks (1932), Marihuana (1936), Assassin of Youth (1937) and the Road to Ruin (1934) stand out as favorites of mine. Road to Ruin has the dubious distinction of being made TWICE (there was a silent version made in 1928).
  • Among the various and sundry sub-genres, there is one called ‘Canuxploitation’ (Canadian B-Films); there is even a website dedicated to the films of the genre
  • Some of the titles, however odd they may appear, may actually end up on my Netflix queue in the not too distant future … namely Vanishing Point.
  • While several renowned filmmakers have remained in or on the periphery of what would be classified as exploitation cinema (George Romero, John Carpenter, Roger Corman, to name a few) there are a few who transitioned to more mainstream fare, such as Jonathan Demme, who directed the ‘women in prison’ flick Caged Heat (1974).

Others have their own opinion on the topic of exploitation films as well. If you get a moment check out these links:

And now I take it to you: Are any of you a fan of exploitation films? If so, what are your favorites?



  1. Nice post. Exploitation films have always fascinated me, though I am still very much a novice when it comes to digging into the different subgenres. Thanks for including all of those links — my Netflix queue is going to be twice as long now, heh.

  2. Jack Deth says:

    Hi, iluv and company:

    Nice choice of a topic that is often easily swept aside as too camp (‘Reefer Madness’) or too kitsch (‘Caged Heat’)!

    Roger Corman and Jack Hill visited this well often, with slight variations added that helped put Jack Nicholson (The Little Shop Of Horrors) and Pam Grier (The Big Doll House) on the map. Proving that actors, no matter how big they become. Have got to start somewhere.

    • It’s just too easy to dismiss stuff, isn’t it?

      Will have to look up The Big Doll House.

      Another inspiration for today’s piece came from my Overlooked Film feature from this week, “So Young, So Bad.”

  3. Can I say first of all, I love the new look! Very professional! I’ll have a longer look at this later, just heading out the door. Sounds interesting though.

  4. I recently got a book at a swap shop called ‘Defining Cult Cinema’, in the intro it points to exploitation films as often “bad movies” deliberately intended to subvert the status quo. It suggested that often what appeals to a minority of film fans, appeals to them precisely because it doesn’t appeal to the majority. Thanks for this!


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