Cirio H. Santiago 1936 – 2008

I intend to keep this blog focused mostly on musical goings about, but occasionally things need to be said. This week the world of grind-house/drive-in/exploitation cinema lost one of its greatest contributors, Cirio Santiago.

Santiago was a writer/director/producer who had his hands in numerous films dating back to the 1950s. His golden period was arguably the 70s and early 80s, when he co-produced several Jack Hill and Roger Corman films (The Big Doll House, The Big Bird Cage, etc.). His area of expertise was the “women in prison” genre, also known lovingly as “chicks in chains” (or less-lovingly as “bitches behind bars”). These films, while catering to the hormonal male market, nonetheless depicted plenty of strong women, and it could be argued that many in fact had a feminist slant. However you want to slice it, they are at the core entertaining action movies. He also made a mark with early blaxploitation films such as T.N.T. Jackson and Savage!, and his contribution to the post-holocaust Road Warrior ripoff genre was the perennial favorite Stryker.

Several great actors and actresses honed their craft in Santiago’s films, including Pam Grier and Sid Haig, and you can’t get through an obituary without reading how fanboy Quentin Tarantino idolized Santiago and his cohorts.

Which leads me to a somewhat depressing observation. Why is it that we need filmmakers like Tarantino, Eli Roth and the guy from White Zombie to tell us that it’s ok to like exploitation films? And why is it that their films suck so bad compared to the movies they’re ripping off (I mean, paying homage to)? I commend these guys on their taste in film, but I would rather watch a Santiago-produced Filipino sleaze fest than some big budget exercise in boredom any day of the week. I’m just sayin’.

For the complete discography, check this out.

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