Pairing vintage comic art with hilarious, new dialog by Disney veteran writer Lustig, Last Kiss revels in the absurdities of love, lust and “life with lip”. The series originated when Lustig bought the publishing rights to a romance comic book series from the 50s and 60s, and started rewriting the stories for fun. Since then, the re-dialogued comics have been a popular feature in newspapers, magazines, comic books and greeting cards.
Publisher: Last Kiss
GRINDHOUSE! The Card Game by: Charles “Zan” Christensen, Eric Logan, $40.00
GRINDHOUSE! is a beautifully weird card game for two to four players set in the world of seventies B-movies. By collecting and playing the four colors of production cards with the requisite values for the genre you’re aiming for—and whatever review you’re aiming to get—you complete a production and rake in bucks at the box office. Earn more money than your competition and you win the game.
“Grindhouse” theaters were small movie theaters that made their mark in the seventies by showing low budget films for adults that more mainstream movie houses wouldn’t touch, and that were too extreme for TV. They were filled with horror, splatter, and exploitation movies that latched onto current trends, niche genres, and lurid content to sell tickets.
Blaxploitation movies were popular in big cities, with crowds hungry for black leads and stories that Hollywood couldn’t be bothered to give them. Despite the fact that the racier films might as well have listed their leads as “boobs”, there were opportunities for women to take the lead in ways they hadn’t before—in front of and behind the camera. Determined small-time directors could get a little funding for the freaky idea they had, as long as they could sell it to the late-night circuit.
Sure, you got crap like the misogynist dumpster fire that is The Last House on the Left (1972), but you also got The Thing With Two Heads (1972), a prime example of the hot-button, sloppy strangeness of the time. A black death row inmate ends up with the head of an old, white bigot grafted onto his body and they argue about race relations as they flee redneck police on a dirt bike. Is that art, or is that art? (No, and no. But it sure is different.)
The “uneven” quality of these films—put another way, the “avalanche of garbage”—was the byproduct of a thriving independent film scene that was more accessible for filmmakers and allowed for some much weirder shit, for better or worse.
It was an interesting moment where the studio system stumbled and the independent houses were on a more equal footing. At the grindhouse theater, you could catch a second-run screening of The Godfather (1972) paired with the forgotten low-budget gangster flick Bloody Mama (1970), starring a Tommy-gun toting Shelley Winters as “Ma Barker”.
Toward the end of the decade, the studios increasingly got in on horror and shocker movies and even poached the people behind them, like Wes Craven, Joe Dante, David Cronenberg, and Ivan Reitman. They increasingly turned to cineplex blockbuster event movies, like Star Wars and Jaws, that no indie studio could manage.
The 24-hour grindhouse theater, formerly the primary venue for niche, low-budget movies, was abandoned for the comfort of your own living room, courtesy of a VCR and your local video store.
And, just like that, the grindhouse era was over.
GRINDHOUSE! immerses players to this lost era of film with artwork from the original movie posters and advertisements. In the game, you’re a naive young Associate Producer, tasked by the sleazy company execs with shepherding movies from idea to release. Quantity is the goal. Quality is optional.
The game focuses primarily on exploitation films from the first half of the seventies—Blaxploitation, Women in Prison, Car Chase Films, and even “Nunsploitation”, to name a few.
You’ll see some familiar faces in twilight of their acting careers—Shelley Winters, Jack Palance, Chuck Connors—as well as the breakout “stars” of the period like Pam Grier, Fred Williamson, and Bo Svenson. But you also get introduced to a lot of behind-the-camera folks you’ve likely never heard of: directors, producers, distributors, sound guys, stuntpeople, and music composers.
Can you successfully gather a director, actors, and other necessary components of seventies genre films and release a whole slate of movies to theaters before your competitors?
Can you shoehorn them into whatever genres haven’t already been played out?
Can you impress (or nauseate) the critics sufficiently to get the attention you need to push your movie over the top at the box office?
How to Play
You can pick up GRINDHOUSE! in a just a few minutes, and no prior knowledge of the genre is necessary. (Trust us, though, these “classics” may rub off on you, and no amount of sanitizing wipes will get them off.)
The game uses colors and symbols to help you gather the talent and resources to put together your own low budget exploitation flick. There are three types of cards, each with a different back so you can quickly and easily separate them.
GRINDHOUSE! comes with a rulebook, 70 Production Cards, 14 Genre Cards, and 12 Review Cards.
The bulk of the game is played with Production Cards. These come in four different “roles”—Directors (yellow), Actors (blue), On Set (red), and Post (green). Each card has a play cost and most have one or more value symbols: afros, blood, boobs, buildings, explosions, fists, wheels, and reels.
Each player can work on up to two productions at a time, which consist of Production Cards played in separate horizontal rows on the table in front of them. A production that contains all four roles can be wrapped (completed).
The Genre Cards and Review Cards are played on a set of Production Cards in order to wrap the movie. Both cards show a value cost—met or exceeded with the values on the Production Cards—and a box office haul for your completed film.
But watch out! The market shifts as the game goes on. You can aim for a genre that you know will make money, like a Gangster movie—but be forced to pivot to Redneck Cannibal at the last minute if someone else beats you to it.
The results can be delightfully strange. Team up Thalmus Rasulala, Lee Van Cleef, and Wes Craven to make a supernatural western set in Compton. Get the guy who did Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974) to direct Fred Williamson and Nastassja Kinski in a Nunsploitation film.
You went to film school for this? (Just kidding, you never went to film school.)
When a player wraps their final movie, the other players have a chance to wrap their remaining productions, and then the game ends. The player with the biggest box office haul wins the game, of course. (This isn’t the Oscars, it’s the Benajmins.)
Every Production card showcases a real movie from the period as well as two other productions the person worked on. All of the people mentioned, all of them, actually existed, and some may still. GRINDHOUSE! is meant to be equal parts trashy and educational.
Each game includes 96 cards (70 Production cards, 14 Genre cards, and 12 Review cards) in a double drawer box with a rules booklet.
Mechanically, it is a San Juanization of the German game, Traumfabrik, that Eric’s good friend Josh Balvin gave him one year for Christmas. It’s set in a contemporary setting that Eric personally finds more interesting, and was willing to do all of the really sleazy research required for putting something like this together. (His eyeballs are still raw. His soul has been shaken.)
But What About…?
- Where are the space operas and giant animal flicks?
- Where are the slashers?
- And the ninja films, man. Where are all those goddamn ninjamovies?
GRINDHOUSE! mainly focuses on the years 1972-76. (And maaaybe ‘78.) Those other genres actually hit about a decade later, and we’re saving them to make their debuts in a sequel. (Fingers crossed.) We’ll dive deep into those important sub-genres that we are all so captivated by, and introduce a new production icon, the tentacle!Spooopy.
Eric Logan did the research and writing on GRINDHOUSE! and created its game mechanics. He is the impresario behind, and occasional barker for, the Raygun Lounge in Seattle.
Zan Christensen did the graphic design on GRINDHOUSE! as well as additional research, writing, rules adjustments, and editing. He is a writer and the publisher for Northwest Press, which produces LGBTQ graphic novels and comics.