Ottawa
3 min

Killing stigma with karate chops

Grindhouse cinema breaks bones and taboos

I want to know about your broken bones — every cracked fibula, every shred of torn gristle. When the doctor cut your cast off, was your arm half the size it was a month before? Joints askew like fallen bowling pins? I need every detail.

What’s wrong with me, you wonder? Mostly, I’m curious, and I’d like to share a few lucky breaks of my own. When we blab about our secret hurts and lost battles, we trade not only ways to heal, but also weapons to fight back.

That’s why I’m excited to emcee Grindhouse Wednesdays, a monthly orgy of exploitation films at Montreal’s historic Cinema l’Amour, raising awareness about HIV/AIDS with the help of youth support group Head & Hands.

Is it the Cinema’s 40th birthday that has me coming all over myself, or the memories of getting a handjob in the third row the last time I was there? Neither. It’s the sound of a good skeletal fracture — that sharp snap muffled by flesh.

Crummpch. 

At the first event, we’ll be screening Russ Meyer’s 1965 flick Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill!, which tracks a team of buxom bandits who rob, screw, maim, kill and kidnap their way through the desert. They’re led by Tura Satana, a cult actor who, in real life, learned martial arts to exact revenge on the men who raped her. It’s rife with dirty chops and kung fu madness — and a hotrod that crushes a hunk’s legs against a wall.

Which brings back a few memories.

When I was five, a lemon-yellow 1966 Mustang with a painted black mohawk rolled into my life. Literally. The throttle was stuck open and there was no driver. It pinned me against another car and kept on pushing, and I watched as the fender tenderly but insistently broke my left femur.

At the Montreal Children’s Hospital, the ER doctors cut my jeans off, exposing both my prick and my swelling, purple leg, and then they mummified my leg in plaster.

Not bad for my first stint as an action hero. 

I was stuck in the hospital for six weeks with my leg in traction, raised on a pulley that trained me how to piss upside-down — quite expertly, I might add. The nurses took excellent care of us boys in the recovery room, though we were merciless with them. We launched spitball attacks at them through our drinking straws at every opportunity.

Giggle, giggle. Thwap. I swear I heard their nerve endings hit the wall. Right next to our spitwads.

There was a particularly big-breasted nurse who retaliated by refusing to clean the saliva-moistened bits of Kleenex off the ceiling. Her strategy? To let them rain back down on us like bombs when we were sleeping.

She was Tura Satana!

I rarely tell this story, though I feel so much better now that you know about my first big break.

And that’s exactly what we’ll be doing at Grindhouse Wednesdays: blabbing about the stuff that matters that we sometimes keep bottled up. By and large, both exploitation cinema and HIV/AIDS are still taboo conversation topics — in part because people are more afraid of sex than of broken bones.

But we can kill stigma with loose lips.

Better yet, we can shift it to those who create silence, and there’s no better place to do this than at a porn theatre.

Why doesn’t Microsoft Word’s spellcheck recognize the word ‘seroconversion?’ How much cock and pussy does it take for a B-movie to make it on your A-list, and for your hand to creep into your undies? I know that deep down you’re a chatterbox. Come out and shout your answers at the screen!

When it comes to exploitation films, I pick and choose. Some of them have been used to caution us away from fucking, like Sex Madness (Reefer Madness’s sluttier cousin) and She Shoulda Said No. But films like Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! are known for using sex as an empowerment tool. In Russ Meyer’s world, the girl always gets her orgasm — and shatters a few skulls while she’s rocking with pleasure.

So, given this mixed record, I propose that we exploit exploitation films for what we need, and chuck the rest. What do you say?

But back to my hospital capers.

For me, getting snapped like a Twix bar was only half as terrifying as getting the cast removed. The doctor sliced through my cocoon with a spinning, screaming plaster saw that was clearly hungry for blood. I cried, wishing instead for the comparatively soft touch of the Mustang’s chrome bumper. I had no way of knowing that when I got older, I would see that saw scene replicated in countless grindhouse films, and I would relive the horror anew.

Now, let’s hear about you. What are your fused fractures? What fibroplasts are re-building highways of bone matrix in your body as we speak?

Be my patient, or be my Tura Satana — I don’t care. As long as you sing happy birthday to Cinema l’Amour while you’re at it.