Monday, August 31, 2009

Wuxia Week: Duel of the Century

For the uninitiated, Wuxia is the term used for fantastical Chinese films- almost always kung-fu- that were huge in the 1970s. As the great IFC documentary of Chinese Cinema discussed, the thing was so big that directors would shoot three movies a day, alternating between breakfast, lunch and dinner. These films were almost all period pieces and full of men with weird, pointed side-burns. Stories dealt with love, revenge...and usually more revenge.
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I begin my week-long celebration of Chinese absurdist, action cinema with a film that has mostly been forgotten. It has gotten a re-release on DVD in the last couple of years, but that is not enough. I want this film to get some real notoriety for just how strange and fun it is. I bring you...
The movie begins in a sort of inauspicious fashion by trying to introduce about 100 characters in fairly quick succession. It feels a bit like if you ever read stuff in the Old Testament where one chapter is set aside just to explain the lineage of someone. If you can get past the long introductions and stodgy seriousness at first, you will find a much better film ahead. We learn that there is some sort of intrigue going on, but we won't find out what for a while. The big news is that, apparently, two of the greatest swordsmen ever are going to fight a duel to the death! This plot set-up will be used again in another film that I will review this week. We are introduced to a few main characters that will be important, two of which are the leads. One is a rich guy who never uses a sword- ever! He goes through the whole film fighting hand-to-hand, smirking all the damn time. The other one is a dopey, older guy who does most of the investigating. Of course, there are also the two swordsmen and ninety-nine other superfluous characters. Try to keep up!
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The movie is full of loads of both plot and action. The latter is quite good and varied amongst locations and combatants. You get some fighting in a temple, in a bar and outside. Swords, spears, arrows and nets all make appearances at some point. The plot leads our characters from one fight to another, even when the set-up is pretty weird. Take, for example, the bit where they are trying to find out who one of the conspirators is. They find where he was, but the man who saw him is dead. All he left behind was a group of clay figurines. Why? Because the man makes figurines of everyone he sees, of course! One of them is smashed, so our heroes go to another figurine maker in the hopes that he can fix it. They go to see him, but he is- wait for it- an impostor! Our heroes dispatch the assassin and do not get much farther with that lead. They do investigate a tomb where they run into more guys to fight. The pair agree to only fight the killers in certain colored outfits (yellow, red, etc.). Only in Wuxia does this ever happen!
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I will give you the whole ending part here because I earned the right- you know how confusing this is yet?!? Basically, some lower-ranked nobles want to assassinate the Emperor and take over. Their plan is to stage the amazing duel in order to lure most of his guards away. To make things worse, one of the two swordsmen is actually an impostor as well! They use some blackmailing tactics to force the real one to lead the assault. His wife is ill and, for some reason, he cannot just get the cure for her ailment himself. In the process of trying to find this out, our hero is nearly killed, but escapes thanks to some elaborate planning on his part. He manages to escape both a poisoning and an explosion! The fight between the real and fake swordsman goes on and the assault on the Emperor does as well. Our heroes manage to save their leader and help the swordsman out of his deal. We do get the real fight between the two swordsman, who fight 'blind' by flying at each other whilst separated by a large piece of cotton. Again, only in a Wuxia film. They make a point about how the men don't like their own reputations and what comes with it, but deal with it anyway. We get some Shakespearean death before the resolution. The End.
*
This movie is good, but definitely not for everyone. It is a very plot-heavy film and features a few (read: a lot) too many characters. The action is good though, provided you enjoy the typical Wuxia stuff. People fly, but usually pretty low to the ground by Wuxia standards. The swordsman stuff is as absurd as ever, although it does not go nearly as far as some of the stuff you will see this week. People still fight at least a dozen at a time, never once being hit though. It is very steeped in Chinese traditions and that may turn some people off. Casual viewers will want to stick to some of the other stuff in this week's selection, but this is highly-recommended for hardcore HK Cinema fans. Good stuff.
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Up next, a tale of kidnapping, swordplay and...a transsexual? Stay tuned...

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Thai Dynamite: Demon Warriors

Certain ideas are universal, like peace, love and understanding. Or, in movie terms, stuff like 'guy meets girl,' 'a boy becomes a man' and 'military gives werewolf metal skin for no good reason.' However, when a movie comes along that- for better or for worse- feels really unique in its story and presentation, you take notice when you see that theme again. It will be like when we inexplicably get another film about robots and aliens in a ghetto. Today's case involves Nightwatch/Daywatch and Demon Warriors. Both of them are foreign and came out in the last few years. The first film is about vampires that live as a society parallel to humankind and do all sorts of bad things at night. The second film is about, well, you'll see. When the movie even promotes itself as being compared to X-Men, that should tell you something. Enough talk, let's get down to the demon-on-demon action in...

The film begins with our lead meeting up with a mysterious man who tells him that the only way to learn about life is to commit suicide. Oddly, the man goes along with this logic and blows his brains out. He wakes up to find his old body next to him and is told about the history of demons. Hey guys, how about a small amount of setup first? Most films build up to the suicide of their lead character and a giant narrative about bullshit. He is told about a race of demon-human hybrids called Opapatika (hopefully, I spelled that right from memory). They have tremendous powers, but each one comes with a sacrifice. For example, our lead character can see short visions of the future a la Hourman III in DC Comics, but loses one of his regular senses in the process. Eh, sight is overrated anyways. He is told about a group of them that the mentor wants him to track down and kill. Naturally, all of them are extremely powerful. Good luck, buddy.

*

The movie gets even weirder early on as it tries to set-up the villains. They show them, explain what their powers are...and then do this again. The second time is with a visual example though, but still. One of them can see your 'death spot' and kill most people in one blow/shot/stab. The trade-off is that he is given the same wound that he gave them later. Another man is immortal, but...well, is moody in that Highlander way. A third man is really super-fast and strong, but only at night. Now we are stealing power ideas from The Legion of Substitute Super Heroes? Wow, that's a first. The fourth man can make a shadow form of himself and attack people. The trade is that he loses bits and bits of his normal form in the process. It seems to me that if you keep summoning an evil version of himself, you are not that concerned about your real one all that much. One look at his face will tell you that he is not conflicted about it either. In his first scene, he actually does really well, but gets caught by the agents working for our hero's mentor. As an aside, these guys dress in full SWAT gear, allowing them to be killed numerous times over and over again. These guys also fail over and over again, making you wonder what their talent exactly is.

*

To be honest, the rest of the movie is all sort of a blur to me. It's not that there is no plot- quite the contrary. So much goes on, so quickly and so suddenly that it is hard to follow. There is a plot involving a woman who used to be the immortal one's girlfriend. She seems to know all of the other demon warriors too. At times, they fight each other, while other times they fight together. There is one lead demon hunter who looks and acts pretty bad-ass, taking a guy out even after having his arm cut off! The movie is also extremely gory at times, even lingering on some moments a bit too long for people who have less love for gore than I do. One curiously funny- at least, to me- has our hero use his power, only to find that he does not need to, since no attack is coming. He has to think 'gee, that was worth one of my senses!' Shockingly, the mentor who has always acted a little bit evil proves that he really is when he tries to kill the immortal. Why? To become that himself, of course. Much like Cradle 2 The Grave, the movie constantly cuts between at least three fights at once. Also like that movie, only a couple of them are really important. If you want to know the ending, watch the movie. Mu-ha-ha-ha! The End.

*

The film is good, but definitely has its ups and downs. If you are not a fan of long, bloody action scenes, then definitely look elsewhere. Also, the English dubbing is sort of weak, but not the worst that you will find. The movie is also very long and full of lots of plot. This is not necessarily a bad thing, but does make it sort of a fringe thing. As I have mentioned earlier, there is a tendency in films from the Asian market to skew away from the '90 minute format' and make films that are much closer to two hours. This means more character moments to fill out the film and longer action scenes. Whether this is good or bad is purely subjective. Of course, Michael Bay overshoots the whole thing by making films longer than Kurosawa used to and still making them shit. As for this movie, it is lot of action, loads of plot and a giant pile of strange back-story. Takes that for what you will.

*

Up next, a week-long event that celebrates China's love of both action and its hatred of logic. Stay tuned...

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Rip-Off Theater: Killer Snakes

Who does not love killer animals? They are just like people, only with less morals and qualms about pooping where we sleep. One of the most famous films of that type in the 1970s was Willard, a film that has yet to appear on Region 1 DVD. This movie did really well, even inspiring a sequel called Ben, which is most famous for its theme song. You know, that song by Michael Jackson that is about a boy and his rat. It won a Golden Globe and was even nominated for an Oscar. I mention all those accolades to build you up improperly for the level of today's film. It is a Shaw Brothers film that was made under their Horror label. It really wants to be Willard, but will it succeed? Find out in my review of...
You know how Willard is the tale of a man who finds solace in animals in order to escape life's hardships. This is that same tale, only amped up by a thousand degrees. The man gets a barely-paying job as a delivery boy, but gets beaten up during an early assignment. The thugs- a bunch of random guys and a couple of prostitutes- break the dishes and steal his money. Naturally, his boss fires him for having the dishes broken. Fortunately, he has a lovely little shack to spend his time in and a lady pal to talk to. Of course, she has a dead-end job working in the fish market, a lovely place when Jackie Chan is not starting exhibition fights there. Obtuse reference! She is interrupted at work with news of her father's imminent demise. She arrives in time to hear his last words. This is immediately followed by the land lady telling her that she has to pay his rent for the month. That's cold, bitch!
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The movie only gets more down-beat from here. The man gets teased with sex, only to be humiliated and beaten up...again. You would think that their fists would be sore by now! To pay off her dead father's debts, the man's lady becomes a prostitute. How does that work out for her, you ask? Badly, I answer. Things look up for our hero has he discovers the work done by the people next door. They capture cobras, cut out their gall bladders and leave them to die. Did I mention that this movie is very pessimistic towards humans yet? If not, it is and I just did. Our hero befriends and heals one snake, learning that he can think like them in the process. How? Who the hell cares, you picky movie goer?!? These guys are worse than the jerks from Evilspeak and they sacrificed a puppy to Satan because they were drunk! When threatened by the men again, our hero's new friends come to his aid, by way of silly effects. Just picture if the Shaw-Scope was a little wider and you could see the snakes being tossed at the actors. These snakes flop around more than Chinese vampires. Even more obtuse reference!
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The 'Willard-ness' gets even more apparent as the revenge comes a-calling. His springing snakes take out a couple men, but the revenge on the one prostitute is more personal. Showing that shibari is popular in China, he ties the lady up whilst she is naked and tortures her with snakes. The climax- an ironic choice of words- involves one of the snakes crawling inside of her and...biting her, I guess. I just hope that is what happens. It only escalates further when his girlfriend's pimp causes her to O.D. Time to get some mega-super-revenge! Call in the snake circle! This scene runs for several minutes and has some strange, strange moments. Much like the hero in Scarface, the guy refuses to go down. The high-point of this is the bit where he chops up snakes as they 'leap' at him. The man goes down eventually, but things turn sour. The police get too close, so our 'hero' decides to ditch them in a burning building. When they survive, they are a bit soured on him and kill the guy. Nearly everyone is dead and maimed- hurray! The End.
*
This movie is not for the weak of heart or stomach. The movie is full of snakes biting people and being chopped up. The 'no animals were harmed in the making of this film' message is very conspicuous in its absence. Much like Evilspeak, the movie is very imbalanced in its dark to light tone. You get tired of seeing the poor guy get tortured and just want the movie to end. When the revenge finally comes, it ends up being worse than anything that was ever done to our hero. So, the lesson is 'don't get revenge because you will just die from snake bites?' Okay, thanks. I won't do that now, movie. Can I go home now? Thanks.
*
Just to keep your guys on your toes, here is a film that rips off X-Men and Nightwatch in one fell swoop. You're welcome. Stay tuned...

Impossibly Cool Cover Art: Black Cobra Series

I gave much of the background on this film in its inclusion in Poor Bastards of Cinema, so there is not a whole lot to say here. What may surprise many of you is that there are four of these movies though. Mind you, it's a series in the sense that the films all star Fred Williamson and, at least in the dubbing, they call him by the same character name. At least they are more related than Inglorious Bastards and "Inglorious Bastards 2." Cheap marketing aside, these movies have been given some awesome posters like this one...
Man, I'd love to see that movie. Too bad that it is utter crap. Maybe the second one won't mislead me.
Wrong again. Best one out of three?
Um...best two out of five?
So yeah, the Italians know how to make great posters. Now movies...eh, they are hit-and-miss. Of course, I am going to keep watching them anyways.

Up next, a Godzilla film that lies its ass off in the poster. Stay tuned...

Friday, August 28, 2009

'60s Trash: The Curious Dr. Humpp

My morbid curiosity often takes me to really some really strange places. How else would I have seen a movie about a Japanese punk band fighting zombies or a man with a giant turkey head killing hippies and drinking their blood? Mind you, it would be hard to have a website like this without this weird drive to see insane crap. Even so, movies like Entrails of a Virgin and Eternal Evil of Asia make me question how good of an idea this is. Then I watch movie that are both strange and entertaining to keep me focused. One such movie is the subject of today's review, a film that could only have ever been made in one decade. It is...
Yes, it is supposed to be 'Humpp' with two 'P's. I don't really know why. I guess that they thought it would seem like a real name that way. One word: fail.
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Our movie begins with sex and lots of it. The first ten minutes consist of people beginning to set up for sex. Right as they are about to really begin, a mysterious shadow comes over them and the scene changes. This happens about four or five different times...in a row. In fairness, you do get a fair range of scenes, from two lesbians undressing to a woman amongst a pack of men. This is a porn for all seasons, really. Around eight minutes of this, you begin to question what the point of all this really is. The answer is made clear...ish by an explanation from the title character. He talks to his female lab assistant about how his experiments involve getting people sexually excited and getting some weird chemicals out of them as a result. It's not what it sounds like, people. Apparently, the woman would like to be involved in the experiments (wink, wink), but the man turns a blind eye to her. He also injects himself with something to stop fake veins from popping up on his body.
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The film changes its narrative to that of a reporter investigating the mysterious disappearances. Things get a little more clear when the scientist runs low on some unnamed chemicals for his work. He does the most logical thing and sends his weird monster down to a bunch of pharmacies to pick up the stuff. God forbid you send the normal-looking lady! After interviewing one of the men at the scene, the police and the reporter talk about what the reason for the trip may have been. In response to a cop, the reporter gives one of my favorite lines of all time- 'Anyone who really needs drugs does not send his monster to the drug store.' How insightful and true, sir! After some touring of the site to see the man's experiments, we get a bit where the reporter follows the monster back to his lair. Well, he tries to do so before he gets caught anyways. He wakes up in one of the man's rooms and is met by the lady assistant. He tries to escape, but decides to stay and have sex with her as some of the drugs given to him earlier take effect. Good call.
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It's hard to explain much of the plot of this movie after that because there hardly is any. We get some scenes of the police trying to find him, but mostly focus on the site. One scene has the two lesbians reverting to their old ways in a shed while the monster watches. The assistant gets less sullen after getting some from the reporter, but still has eyes for the John Saxon-looking scientist. He also has a brain in a jar as one of his confidantes. If they don't explain it, don't expect me to. We also learn that the monster is one of his early experiments. So, to review: brain/head in a jar and a creepy monster. Can you say The Brain That Wouldn't Die, children? He also forces the assistant and the reporter to have sex Demolition Man-style via telepathic head-pieces. I'm not sure why any of this happens. When you re-dub an Argentinian horror film and add in roughly twenty minutes of superfluous sex scenes, what do you expect? Eventually, we learn that our villain was the first subject of an aforementioned scientist thirty years ago who has since been turned into a brain in a jar. Both of them die in ridiculous ways. The End.
*
You have to be in the right frame of mind for this movie. It is ponderous at times and obsessed with sex at other times. It is full of super-fake science and tech-lingo. The sex scenes are not nearly as extended as Please, Don't Eat My Mother, but are entirely pointless. The DVD transfer is as good as the source materials allow, which means that they are pretty damn bad. The black-and-white print disguises issues that would have been more present in a color film, but only by a little. This film was released by Something Weird, the same company behind Mother, most of the Herschell-Gordon Lewis movies (upcoming reviews all) and Blood Freak. These people have a treasure trove of utter crap, including two porn versions of the Tarzan tales- not to be confused with Tarzan and his Mate- and a film about interracial dating called- seriously- Chessboard. If you get movies from them, do not expect quality work. If you want completely insane shit that you would never have believed existed, they are for you.
*
Up next, the return of Rip-off Cinema and WTF China in one film. What can it be? I'll never tell. Stay tuned...

Forgotten Horror Moments: A Blade in the Dark

There are great horror moments that we all remember. Michael Meyers sitting up after being stabbed in Halloween, Leatherface running down the road in T.C.M. and the guy getting his ass bitten by a rat in Food of the Gods, Part 2. Amongst these iconic moments, there are numerous that deserve a place. I mean, we can't see every movie right? If only there was some sort of dork with a website to help out with this problem. Oh right, that's me. Let's start out with a solid entry in a fairly-obscure Lamberto Bava film called...
This film is an interesting one because it was made for television in Italy (although the quality is still quite high). The side effect of this is that the kills were paced in a certain way. Basically, every kill takes place about every half hour to take place around commercials. Plus, it has director Michele Soavi as a cross-dresser.
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Our story unfolds with a score composer moving into a rented house to get some inspiration. This place has a weird history and a recent penchant for every woman who comes in to later die. Does it have something to do with the film that our hero is working on? What about the secrets that his girlfriend is keeping from him? All of these secrets will be revealed...in the movie. I'm not spoiling them here. What I will give you is the big moment that I love ever so much.
*
Near the end, the killer is chasing our hero's girlfriend around the house while he is away. The woman manages to hide in a closet and locks the door. The killer begins to scratch at the door with the knife. In a bout of weird, sadistic glee, the killer talks to her and tries to 'calm her down' by saying in an eerie falsetto voice "I don't want to kill you...I just want your blood." If that does not creep you out, then you have seen Hostel a few too many times.
*
Up next, subtlety in a Spanish movie about zombies. Stay tuned...

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Forgotten Sequels: Black Mask 2

Kung-fu sequels are actually quite common, though people often do not realize it. For example, Jackie Chan's First Strike is actually Armor of God 2. Or how about the fact that China bills Supercop as Police Story III. This is also not getting into all the unofficial sequels to Game of Death that have been made either. I tell you all of this for two reasons: one is to flex by nerd trivia muscles and the other is to lead in to today's review, a sequel to a Jet Li film that everyone seems to like. Is the original Black Mask good? Well, quite frankly, no. The only version we have ever gotten in the United States is the badly-dubbed version that has also been chopped up like a lab rat. This is not the same with the sequel, which was mostly made in English. Are the results better? Find out in my review of...
I just want to take a moment to laugh at that stupid subtitle. Okay, moment over.
*
The film begins by completely ignoring the story of the original save for one guy: there is a guy named Black Mask who fights crime. He is no longer a super-soldier who had to battle an evil general who created other super-soldiers. Now his arch-enemy is a brain who wants to capture Mask for some weird toxin that exists in his body. Wow, you are stealing an obscure villain from the Doom Patrol now? I expect better from you, Tsui Hark. Oh wait, I've already seen Tsui Hark's Vampire Hunters, so my expectations are very low. Our story revolves an evil scientist doing weird genetic experiments on people. He mutates a group of pro-wrestlers (played by Tyler Mane, Rob Van Dam and Traci Lords) with animal traits. Somehow, this goes badly when one of them gets iguana genes and goes crazy. By the way, the scientist is played by Jigsaw and the promoter is Jon Polito, an actor most people know by looks, but not by name.
*
There is a plot to this, but how important is it really? The movie is mostly just a way to set up numerous fight scenes that are rife with wires and CG- effects. This was back in 2002 when people were obsessed with making full CG cities and backgrounds. Thank God that trend died, right? Some of the crazy fight scenes involve a famous bit of Black Mask fighting a spider-mutated man across a herd of elephants. While that is crazy, it is nothing compared to Mercury Man actually stopping an elephant- 1 point for Thailand. You get some touches of who the fight choreographer for the film is supposed to be (Yuen Woo Ping), but not nearly enough. If crappy CG effects and unrealistic fighting are what you really like, you will have lots of fun.
*
The movie does have some good moments. One bit involves the lady protagonist trying to lure one of the mutants into position for the kid to drop a beam on him. They get him in position, hit the switch and...it stops about three inches above his head. There are other good moments...I'm sure. I did not see many of them though. The End.
*
This movie is a giant mess- the plot, action and effects are just bad. It took six years to get this sequel out and they could not get the big star to be a part of it. Someone managed to coerce Christopher Walken into being in two sequels to The Prophecy- what's your excuse? Besides, how many Once Upon A Time in China films are there? I think it's longer than the Witchcraft series! As for the film, it is just an excuse to show stupid effects and have people do unrealistic kicks. Other than making money for Chinese executives, that is about it. The only other thing to talk about with this movie is to answer a question that may be posed to you by wrestling uuber nerds. 'Do you know why Rob Van Dam took a brief hiatus from ECW in 2000?' Yes, yes I do.
*
I like randomly jerking you in different directions. With that in mind, here is a sci-fi sex film from the 1960s. You're welcome. Stay tuned...

Poor Bastards of Cinema: Burn After Reading

Comedies are fun, but they can also be dangerous. This is what a peripheral character in the Cohen Brothers new classic from the last year. His inclusion on this list will soon become apparent. Also, this will include some spoilers, so read at your own risk. This is the fate of one man who dared to be nice in the film...
Burn After Reading
The film involves a middle-aged woman who is obsessed with getting plastic surgery in order to look younger. When her HMO refuses to pay, she seeks other ways. Her and her friend (Brad Pitt) discover some government documents on a disk and see dollar signs. All the while, the guy who lost it is mad, as are the people behind the scenes. All this goes on while the people are not exactly doing their jobs all that well. Their boss puts up with it, because he has a giant crush on the woman. This won't end well, will it?
*
Skipping past a lot (you should see it all though), things only get worse and people get crazier. Like any film of this nature, Burn does escalating insanity quite well. Near the high-point of this, the manager tries to put an end to the whole thing by just getting the disk. He sneaks into the man's house and nearly gets out, before he is caught by the C.I.A. agent. He gets attacked in the street with an axe and cut to pieces (not shown in full). So, to review, the man who did nothing but like the woman who did all the bad deeds is hacked to death. The woman is not.
*
Up next, a man commits the cardinal crime of wanting to have sex with his girlfriend. Stay tuned...

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

A Rare Case: Dead & Buried

As a lover of foreign and obscure films, I am used to cheap, pan-and-scan prints. I am also used to crappy DVDs that come with nearly no Special Features. Most of them just have a trailer...for the film that you just watched- riveting! So it is really a Rare Case to get a DVD that tries way too hard to keep you interested. This was the case with...
Dead & Buried
To begin with, this was a really good film. I have not reviewed it because I know that I could not help but spoil the ending to it. I like the film too much to do that.
*
Thanks to Anchor Bay, this movie comes with a good transfer and a couple nice featurettes. Pretty much the usual stuff for them, really. They even did this with the crappy Romero film Season of the Witch. To make things better, the film comes with an audio commentary track by the director. That sure is nice of you, guys. But wait...
*
There is also a second commentary track by the writer. Okay, that's a little weird. Maybe they just didn't get along and needed to do...
*
A third commentary track. What is this, The Lord of the Rings trilogy?!? I think that this movie is great, but this is a bit much. What a Rare Case indeed.
*
Up next, a movie full of nudity...that doesn't show any? Stay tuned...

Beard Power: Firewalker

Buddy comedies are a genre in and of themselves now, thanks to such pioneers as Eddie Murphy, Jackie Chan and Jay Leno (the star of Collision Course). Like pies, not all of them are made equally. This is the case when you try to force two people not known for comedy (intentional, at least) into a film that requires it. Some people are just made for this kind of thing (Owen Wilson) and some people are not (Luke Wilson). Now add in the fact that this was made in the mid-80s, a time when not everyone was thinking all that logically sometimes (i.e. The Safety Dance). Today's film is, to borrow some l33t lingo, is a fail as Epic as I have ever seen. It is...
Firewalker
Our story is about Chuck and Louis Gosset Jr. as treasure seekers who are looking for one last score. Like jewel thieve, you would think that they could just be happy with the penultimate one. They end up in a generic desert country, but run afoul of some trouble. They have to escape some cliched, low-budget deathtraps (just pick one and you'll probably see it). We get a silly little jeep chase and some low-budget crashing. So far, it's all 'been there, done that.' We are treated to some weird flashback footage of the titular character, a giant Indian man. I wonder if is going to play a bigger role in this movie.
*
The duo move on to South America to find a stash of ancient treasure. They run across a blond who has some helpful information on stuff. Unfortunately, the place is not exactly a nice place to visit, so some subterfuge is required. This leads to a scene that features Chuck Norris and Louis Gosset Jr. dressed as...priests? Is this real or did the acid finally kick in? Along with the woman (dressed as a nun), they partake in a series of chasing and action scenes. If you ever wanted to see Chuck Norris spin-kick people whilst dressed as a clergyman, you are in luck. They escape and end up in the clutches of...John Rhys-Davies as a gay military general. Listen movie, if you aren't going to try, then neither am I! At least you don't have a stupid plot thread with Gosset Jr. disappearing and Norris immediately figuring that he was eaten by an alligator, despite zero evidence. Bad movie, bad!
*
The 'comedy' of the film comes from silly stunts and stuntmen. Unfortunately, it looks all too real when Norris-Gosset swing towards a ledge and the bearded wonder runs into it crotch-first. So much for being a good Republican and pumping out a ton of kids. The only real humor comes from the 'treasure' that looks like it belongs in a High School production of 'Treasure Island.' The ending fight with Chuck and the villain is pretty good, but it is far too late. I'll stick with Walker: Texas Ranger clips on Conan- thanks, though.
*
The worst kind of bad movies are bad dramas and bad comedies. This movie is one of the latter, saved only by a few good moments. Otherwise, it just hurts like a Coleman Francis movie, albeit with slightly-bigger budget. If your fetish is terrible cliches, this movie will be like ultra-porn (thank you, Futurama). There are some good movies with bad cliches in them. I would suggest you rent one of those instead.
*
Up next, a forgotten sequel starring Jet Li. What do you mean 'he is not in it?!?' He was in the original. Are you saying that I have to review...aw, crap. Stay tuned...

Great Moments in Stock Footage: Russian Space

Sit on down and let me tell you a tale, a tale of some very popular footage. It all started over forty years ago when the Commies over in Russia made a movie about space. The special effects were actually considered to be good- this could not stand. How could we, a Capitalist nation, make money off of this achievement? By dubbing it in English and making it our own! Of course! This is how we got...
Voyage to the Prehistoric Planet
This little cult film is pretty popular in certain circles, having appeared on Mystery Science Theater 3000 at one time, not to mention on dozens of other local shows like Elvira's. The effects are honestly quite passable and the story is good, even squeezed through the strange filter of American editing and dubbing.
*
Well, at least they only did this once. Doing it again would be...
Voyage to the Planet of Prehistoric Women
Yeah, I should explain this one. Peter Bogdonavich was a protege of Roger Corman, the man behind the original dubbing effort. He gave his guy a challenge: re-dub the movie, put in some new footage with bathing beauty Mamie Van Doren and make a film. That is the result.
*
This movie is pretty good too, although it does suffer from the strain of being dubbed over two different times. There is one part where the narrator (also Bogdonavich) actually talks over a scene where people are visibly talking. Um, was that not important, guys? The Van Doren scenes are a bit silly as well, having them worship the pterodactyl monster used in other parts of the film. The best part is when the robot tries to dump the guy he is carrying when lava flows around it. Not cool, Robby!
*
By the way, I actually own this film. $6 well spent.
*
Up next, a piece of film that appears in another film for entirely no rhyme or reason. Stay tuned...

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Beard Power: Hellbound

Chuck Norris doesn't sleep- he waits...to make bad 90s actions movies. The man behind Walker: Texas Ranger made a career thanks to the Canon/Globus conglomeration in the 1980s and continued this into the next decade. Towards the end of his epic run (I think Sidekicks did him in), he made this movie that involves the occult, some knights and Chuck heading to Israel. I smell an international incident coming! As a bonus, the film also includes a lady that would play a big role in Mr. Norris' television career. Without any more stalling, I bring you...
Our story begins with some knights riding around and trying to stop some Satanists. See- I told you about the openings. They ride in to stop an evil priest from doing some sort of vague ceremony to summon the devil or something. They kill him, but not before he vows revenge. He's not going to come back with a comet's return, is he? Sadly, the whole thing just involves killing some people, traveling to the promised land and using some sort of dagger. Not every film can be The Brainiac, I guess. The movie cuts to Chicago where Norris is a tough-talking cop with a black partner. Let me address two things: this is not Miami Vice and it is not his partner from Walker. I wish either of those was true. Instead, we get a Rabbi being killed by the priest from the beginning of the movie. Why? He needs to reassemble the Scepter for his big ceremony, but it was broken into nine pieces. Break out your Dragon Radars, kids!
*
Somehow, our heroes get funding to go on a trip to Israel- talk about Chicago politics run amok! Also, I did not mention this before, but Norris' character is named Frank Shatter. Words fail me. Once in the Holy Land, our characters drive around looking for clues. They are aided by a nice young woman who would later end up as Chuck's assistant/wife on Walker: Texas Ranger. He rewards her with a juicy part that involves being smart in one scene and being captured in the next. You can see what enticed her to the role, can't you? We get some 'comedy' scenes involving our duo not fitting in and not knowing how to pronounce certain words. I suppose you are wondering why I am barely talking about the actual plot by know. There is a reason: there is barely any.
*
The whole thing culminates in Chuck rushing to the rescue of his lady friend, who has been captured by the evil priest. He begins to do his ceremony, but our black clad hero (since Good Guys Wear Black) arrives. His partner, played by 'Terrence Trent D'arby,' does not really have much to do here. You know why? Because this is an Aaron Norris film, dammit! You know what is coming, don't you? The priest transforms via magic, Chuck does a dragon kick and good triumphs over evil. Hurray!
*
There is not a lot to say about this movie, to be honest. Like the Chuck Norris film billed as 'Norris vs. Jason Voorhes,' the hype is just too much. Did you really expect to see Norris fight Satan? What kind of douche-bag action star would have himself actually fight Satan? You had to know that this film would just be a series of scenes with Norris fighting people to bad synthesizer music, right? To be fair, the film is not without some merits. A little of the humor is actually good and the action is adequately-staged. The climax does not deliver to our unrealistic standards, but it works. If you can understand what the film really is, you may have some fun. Look at the bright side: it's not Firewalker.
*
Up next, a film that stars the men behind Forest Warrior and Supernova. At least it's not Firewalker. What's it called? Oh, God dam...um, stay tuned...
*
This is now part of The Final Girl Film Club.  Check out her lovely site at http://finalgirl.blogspot.com/

Impossibly Cool Cover Art: Satan's Slave

Movies about Satan have proven to be very popular over the years. Movies about killer cults have proven to be very popular over the years. It naturally makes sense that these genres would be combined for dramatic effect several times. Today's case is a British film that promises a lot with its poster.

Unfortunately, the film itself has very little paranormal in it. Don't get me wrong- it is a pretty good movie. It just has more parts with a woman wandering around in a Glenn and talking than you would expect with this movie.
*
On the plus side, it does have the guy who played Alfred on the Batman show in the 60s as the villain. That always helps out.
*
Up next, some redone poster work for a pretty crappy Italian movie or two. Stay tuned...

Monday, August 24, 2009

Italian Redux: The Church

I like Demons, as well as Demons 2. The movies makes absolutely no sense and exist in some sort of weird reality where all that crazy shit can happen. I still love them. Now you can imagine how I felt when I heard about the crap-storm that was Demons 3: The Ogre. Don't get me wrong- what I saw of the movie was alright, it just wasn't a Demons film. They just figured that any horror film with a monster in it by Lamberto Bava was a film in the series, I guess. Still, it's not the stupidity that is Black Demons. I thought to myself 'Will someone ever make a real Demons 3?' Then I recalled a little film that I had seen and nearly forgotten about. It is fairly obscure, but does feature Asia Argento in an early, pre-nudity role (she was 10 at the time of filming). A lot of the story is different- and borrows from other stories- but the core of it is a Demons film. It is...
Our story begins with a trip back in time to the age of knights, wenches and bloody murder. A group of Knights Templar are killing innocent villagers just for the fun of it. Seriously Europe, lay off those guys! I know that you are a mostly-Catholic union of countries, but this is getting a bit silly. At least do what tomorrow's American film does and makes them sort of the heroes- they earned it. Sure, the people turn out to be Satanists, but my point is still the same. Anyhow, they dump all the bodies in a large mass grave (dug by the victims, of course), which ends up being the site of a church in present day- only in Europe! A group of High School students end up at this Gothic site, as well as a model doing a fashion shoot. These are, of course, every day events in Italy. Oh and they all get locked in with the other tourists. This should be fun.
*
Things start to get weird pretty fast as a mysterious bit of magic turns a couple people into demons. What- it's not any weirder than someone being cut by a mask in a theater lobby. Another strange scene involves the model- who is wearing a wedding dress for the shoot- getting the seams of her dress caught in a door that suddenly slams shut. Meanwhile, somewhere else, a writer gets possessed by a mysterious force and a woman gets haunted by a freaky spirit. We get some nice, bloody deaths as well, since this is by the same guy who directed Cemetery Man. Most of the people act like generic 'characters in peril. One biker couple meet a bloody and violent end as well when the girl gets dropped through a hole and is hanging by her ankle. Unfortunately, the Church is built above a subway tunnel- what the hell?!? She gets mowed down. Of course, nothing compares to one of the freakiest scenes of all time...
*
As Asia and another survivor explore the tunnels and walk by a freaky site. A naked woman is laying a stone tablet while a super-detailed goat demon has sex with her. He has giant bat wings, a giant head and super sharp nails. It really gives it to her. Naturally, the duo walks right by this site, says nothing and moves on. How can you not say anything about that?!? Check it out here. It is in the first minute of the scene.
*
This movie is good, but very, very strange. The whole thing is about people trapped in a Church that is controlled by an anachronistic clockwork locking mechanism. I won't spoil the ending for you, since I actually like this movie. It has gore, crazy monsters and demon rape. As a bonus, it has a soundtrack by Goblin. What else can you people ask for? Logical plotting and follow-through with all of the story elements. Damned Erudite!
*
Up next, a film about Satanism, Israel and the star of Delta Force? Stay tuned...

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Rip-off Theater?: The Flying Serpent

Larry Cohen is one weird, whacked out bastard. The man has written and directed such films as It's Alive and The Stuff. Not to mention a movie about spree killings that turns into one about aliens and the history of mankind- you can figure out which movie that is. One of his most famous movies on the cult circuit is the cinematic classic Q: The Winged Serpent. For my take on that film, go here. How many other films do you know with Quetzalcoatl starring in it? Well, my friends, there is at least one more. This little cinematic gem has been all but forgotten in our modern age of cinema. You guessed it- I'm going to change that! This is...
You have to understand that this movie was made a long time ago (although it's not the oldest review on the page) and will not be as coherent and clever as newer stuff.
*
The film establishes early on that an eeevil archaeologist (character actor George Zucco) has discovered a mysterious and ancient creature. It is a serpent with wings that lives in a cave just outside of San Juan, Mexico. Of course, why didn't I look there?!? By the by, there is also Montezuma's treasure in there. Problems arise, however, when a local ornithologist mentions in an article about how the treasure may be nearby. He has not actually seen it, mind you, he is just speculating. Our villain comes up with a rather odd plan to kill him. The movie hinges upon one setup for all the killings that is a little silly. Basically, the bad guys plucks one of the beast's feathers and plants it on who he wants dead. He lures them to the site and the beast attacks, in order to reclaim the feather.
*
I have to admit a sad fact to you now: this movie has almost no budget. You figure that out when the beast first attacks and you realize...that it is a fairly-small doll on a string. In fairness, there is some good detail work done (enhanced by the lack of color, honestly), but it is still not going to compare to Cohen's beast. This murder catches the attention of the local press, which brings us our hero, heroine and comic relief characters. The first one is a radio show host who decides to do a show in the area for some cheap promotion. The second one is the villain's daughter, who is completely in the dark about the whole thing. For a film that is already a rip-off (for the most part) of The Devil Bat, it is nice to see that they can also borrow some plot elements from 1944's Mad Monster as well. The comic relief is the host's technician who, let's be honest, adds nothing.
*
After another couple of murders (using the same monster exiting the cave and flying shots), the evidence obviously points to the scientist. This is not helped by his claims of being 'the richest man in the world!' The problem is that he never takes the money out or uses it. He's a lot like Bill Gates used to be: the richest man in his country...if he ever cashed in the stuff. After they figure out who is the culprit, they set up a trap for him. They decide to do a live show near the cave, which draws the man to do his old trick again. In a clever bit, they switch backpacks with the man and his one beast attack him to get the feather back. Villain dead- check. Guy gets girl- check. Comic relief dies horrible, bloody death- sadly, no check there.
*
This movie is good, but definitely not for everyone. If you can appreciate the differences in 50+ year old cinema, you will have a good time. The acting is solid, the pace is pretty even and the monster is there for enough. The actual creature shots, as I said, are limited, but still good. The biggest complaint most people will have is that the film is too dry and I can see that perspective. In spite of this, all of you Seth McFarlane's (he loves old cinema, in case you hadn't noticed) out there will enjoy this gem for the uniqueness alone.
*
Up next, a film that is not Demons 3. Of course, Demons 3: The Ogre is not really Demons 3 either. Confused? You won't be...much. Stay tuned...

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Great Moments in Stock Footage: Barbarian

Stock footage is the crutch of many bad directors. It allows you to show something without even shooting something. On top of that, the stuff is usually cheap- bonus! This has gone back to nearly the beginning of film-making, most notably in the wake of 1 Million B.C. The same dinosaurs would show up to battle in several other films- including Robot Monster and King Dinosaur. This sub-medium's impact on cinema is often understated and ignored. Time to change that! Let's begin with a pretty obscure example from....
Barbarian
This is what you need to know. Roger Corman produced four Deathstalker films, basically his low-rent versions of Conan the Barbarian or Ator. Years later, a Russian production company wanted to make their own Deathstalker movie and paid an unknown sum to use the footage from the previous film. They just crafted their film around this footage. This created the problem that I am going to point out today.
*
Whether this film is a remake or a sequel is sort of unknown. Some parts imply that it is latter, while most of it implies the former. At the end of Deathstalker, the titular hero destroyed two of the three objects of power using the third (this works somehow). The evil wizard was killed at the end.
*
Barbarian begins by having the evil wizard come back to life using one of the three objects. In a later scene, they show the hero (not Deathstalker) in a bar. A fight breaks out. This scene is one shot in the original Deathstalker and used in part for all four of them. No, really. In one of the shots you see the evil wizard...just not this movie's. That's right- they did not cut a scene showing the other actor as the same character. Think people!
*
Up next, a 60's classic is cut up...again and again. Stay tuned...

Kung-Fu Zero: Jaguar Lives

When you think of famous film debuts for kung-fu stars, what do you think? Big Boss' in-your-face action? Drunken Master's daring absurdity? A bad kung-fu movie that has a plot that builds and builds around a reveal that is both really obvious and oblique? If you guessed the latter, you are in the right mood for today's film. This movie was designed to introduce the next breakout kung-fu actor. Does that always work out? Well, just ask Gary Daniels, Daniel Bernhardt and Michael Dudikoff about that. To make matters worse, the film was written by a man with about four film credits, one of which was a film about Mickey Rourke keeping a woman tied up in his basement. It's director was mostly a television episode director who only did a few other films, including the cinematic classic Lunch Wagon Girls. Plus, they cast every random good actor they could find and gave them nothing to do. I should be worried, right? You should be too as I review...
Our film begins extremely abruptly with our hero and his unseen partner. They are in the middle of a mission and trying to stop some misdeed. Right at the highest point of the suspense, someone shoots our hero and the narrative jumps to him recovering. Thanks for all the plot set-up guys, I'm riveted now. Oh and that giant statue of Jesus in Rio De Janeiro that people always use as an establishing shot- they blow it up. We are now in the middle of a desert watching Joe Lewis (aka The Jaguar) do yoga shirtless. It's like you read my mind, movie. He has recovered from the stress and the bullet wound, but doesn't want to go on a mission. This plot will be seen again in about ten years in Rambo III. Like all men, he has one weakness: 1970s era Barbara Bach. She convinces him to go on a globe-trotting mission to stop a drug cartel. Works every time!
*
The movie feels like it is supposed to have more going on, but failed to produce it. They set up this idea of the mysterious boss behind it all. The only problem is that the mystery is completely manufactured and goes nowhere. Our heroes journey sends him all over the place and interacting with many random plots that are chosen for them. As such, I will note them properly.
*
-He meets up with a crazed General (Donald Pleasance) who is working for the drug dealer. This is an excuse to set-up a couple fight scenes before he moves on.
-He meets up with a lady who runs a factory related to the drug cartel. This is an excuse to set-up a couple of fight scenes before he moves on.
-John Huston shows up somewhere in the middle of this in a pointless and thankless cameo.
-He runs into a crazy, rich guy (Christopher Lee) who catches him and forces him to run a ninja gauntlet...in his giant backyard. This is...aw, you get the point.
*
The movie builds and builds until we get the big reveal. They show the villain's face and it is...someone we have never seen before. Why? Because it is Jaguar's ex-partner! Dun dun...who cares? We get a long fight scene of the two of them shirtless on a castle banister. It is not quite as good as the fight from Deathstalker II, but much better than the one in Deathstalker III. You already know what happens, don't you? Jaguar lives and the bad guy dies. Whoopee. The End.
*
Yeah, this movie is dumb. It is a good look at the 1970s though, for better or for worse. It involves people flying all over the world for location shooting, has white guy kung-fu and features three former Bond villains. Even with all of that, the movie is incredibly uninspired. The kung-fu is not terrible and the action is alright- there is just nothing really to it. The whole film hinges on caring about Joe Lewis and rooting for him. Yeah, that does not happen. He has the chemistry and charisma of a wet paper bag. He can kick well, sure, but that's about it. Fortunately, Lewis, like Don "The Dragon" Wilson, had his kickboxing background to fall back on for a while- he needed it.
*
Up next, a film that will sound really familiar to Larry Cohen fans...except it predates his work by thirty-six years! Stay tuned...

Friday, August 21, 2009

Likecraft: The Call of Cthulhu (2005) + Something I missed

Before I step away completely from the debacle that was the 2007 film Cthulhu, I need to add something that I forgot in my haste to get the review up. According to the Wikipedia page on the film, they made some rather curious promotional material. The strangest is a fake interview with H.P. Lovecraft himself done in an old newsreel style. See it here if you would like. While I will give them a point for creativity and a point for style, I will also deduct 6,000,000,000 for any implied consent/interest by the long-dead author. If you are not even going to attempt to do his stories right, do not pretend that he would endorse them!
*
Today's film stands in stark contrast to the previous one due to two things: creativity and love of the source material. What a concept! It is a low-budget film that has made its way onto DVD somehow. I don't know the means, but I'm glad that it happened. This is the concept behind it in a nutshell: Lovecraft lived during the Silent Era (he died in 1937), so they made a film in the style that would have been made during his lifetime. It is like how a lot of Stephen King's first films are very '80s or Michael Crichton's works are very '70s. Without further ado, I bring you...
The Call of Cthulhu
Our story begins with a group of sailors discovering a mysterious ship in the ocean after a storm. It is abandoned, save for one dying man. They help him and hear a tale about some treasure on a nearby island. The narrative jumps to a professor who gets a letter about his great-uncle's death. He shows up and hears a strange tale of ancient power and a mysterious book. He is warned not to investigate, but, like every literary protagonist, he ignores the warning. The ensuing night he is haunted by bad dreams- maybe he should have listened.
*
This is a short film (47 minutes), so I'm going to be a bit more brief here than usual. The sailors end up on the island and investigate it. After a little while, they are alerted by a thunderous sound. A dark shadow emerges and they all flee down the giant rocks. The beast reveals itself as...Cthulhu. The Deep Old One is angry and hungry, neither of which proves too good for our heroes. One of them makes it back to land, but is not entirely sane anymore. Can you blame him?
*
There is a bit more to the film, but I won't spoil it for you. The key to the review is to state that the film is a loving rendition of the story with only a few changes here and there. Plus, Cthulhu himself makes an appearance, which is impressive even in stop-motion form. A true Cthulhu done by someone like Guillermo Del Toro still eludes us...for now. You have to be in a weird state of mind for films like this and the remake of The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, another film that blends updated effects with love for the source material. If you can accept that the filmmakers intentionally made a silent film in sepia, you can have a good time. Hell, web icon The Spoony One does- the poster makes an appearance on his wall in nearly all of his older videos (he recently moved and redecorated). Rent and enjoy.
*
Up next, a bad action film from the 1970s that pretends to be a sequel. This should be interesting. Stay tuned...

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Hatecraft: Cthulhu (2007)

I would feel bad for H.P. Lovecraft having his works turned into crappy movies over the years were it not for one fact. If you ever read up on his life, so many worse things have already happened! I just hope his estate is getting something out of this, because I am sure not. Today's subject is the most recent big-screen...err, direct-to-DVD adaptation of his writings. It is also the worst one that I have ever seen. I add that caveat in case someone has made a shitty version of Dagon with plush toys (watch me be right too) that I have not seen. The problem with this movie is the same one that The Asylum's Vampires vs. Zombies has: it promises so much and delivers nothing. You don't invoke the name of the Elder God unless you can back it up! Let's see what they have got in...
Our story begins with an older man returning to his old New England home that he has not been to in years. I know, it's gets scary right from the get-go. The trip home is not a friendly one, as it is for his mother's funeral. The man left home long ago because he came out as gay. If you think that this is a riveting plot point, then you are in luck. The movie hammers home the whole 'family discomfort' thing in for nearly half the movie. We get one awkward dinner scene where the movie sets up the main plot of the family's misdeeds. This is followed by a riveting scene of him being sad in his hotel room. At least we aren't getting a shot of him looking out a rain-covered window- god dammit! We get some shots of the town and some curious bits with him interacting with locals. He gets a mysterious note from a liquor store employee to meet him, but she then acts scared when he tries to pick her up to do so. In one of the movie's most laughably-bad moments, he practically yells that he would not rape her because he is gay. Too subtle!
We get more hints about the town being weird, but the movie is still a bit too obsessed with 'family strife' scenes. After a hint from the liquor store lady, he tries to find out about a mysterious book. He talks to a historian in town, who is paralyzed from the waist down. He is married to a lusty woman played by- I kid you not- Tori Spelling. What is your 90210 star doing in my Lovecraft movie?!? To make things even dumber, we get a scene of him talking to her in front of a polar bear tank! It only gets worse when our hero comes back to the woman's house and she drugs him. In the movie's second funniest-f0r-all-the-wrong-reason scene, the woman rapes our gay hero. I am at a loss for words. The only thing that saves this part- somewhat- is the use of realistic shots of the New England coast. You don't have more of this, why? They get closer to explaining the plot of the film when a gay Romance sub-plot rears its head. I'm not homophobic in any way (why should I care what you do?), but this serves zero purpose! We believe that the character is Gay without you having him lie in bed post-coitus with someone(they show nothing, so don't worry, Utah). The only payoffs for this scene is a dream sequence with the only monsters of the movie and the death of said guy.

In wrap-up, the movie just gets dumber. The guy discovers a video-will by his mother which talks vaguely (still!) about the father's misdeeds. He goes to an auction of her stuff, but gets arrested by the cops. Something weird happens in town and everyone vanishes. Our hero escapes prison and runs to the beach. He discovers that the whole town is part of a cult and wants to him to sacrifice someone to their God. This is the goddamn Wicker Man! Show me Cthulhu already! The film ends with him apparently turning evil...for some reason. The End!
This movie is a big, giant lie. Like The Gardener, it builds and builds towards nothing. On top of that, the movie moves with the pace of a glacier.  Mind you, the less-than-stellar 2001 film based on Dagon was full of creature shots and had an Elder God appear at the end. Sure, it was a dated CG effect, but it was there! I have to say it again: Tori Spelling.  What the hell is she doing in this movie? I would rather see any other actress in the world appear here.  Avoid this movie and just watch the original Wicker Man.  I'm going to quit before I punch my screen now.
Up next, a counterpoint review. A film about Cthulhu that actually has him in it. Stay tuned...

Impossibly Cool Cover Art: Day of Wrath

Christopher Lambert is a man who has been responsible for some genuinely-good performances (Greystoke), some mildly-good ones (Highlander IV) and some terrible ones (Absolon). Occasionally though, he makes a movie that is not funny, terrible or entertaining. Unfortunately, nobody told that to the DVD disc art guys...Yeah, that movie is a lot less interesting than the cover makes you think. It is not bad- just alright. The fact that you cast Lambert and Brian 'King of the Hawkmen' Blessed in your movie and make it about people hiding their Jewish heritage during the Inquisition is beyond me. At least you did not make a badly Photo-shopped version as well.
Oh well, at least you did not make a third one that is actually honest too.That's enough Lambert for now. Up next, a British film about, oh, I don't know, Satan! Stay tuned...

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Poor Bastards of Cinema: Black Cobra

A lot of attention is given to certain characters in movies. People talk about the villains, the monsters, the 'final girl' and even the sleazy coach in bad 80s horror films (you know the ones). The ones that have started to catch my attention lately have been 'the poor bastards.' These are the guys (or girls) who play minor roles in the story, but meet just as bad of an end as the jerks of the film. I think these guys need some attention, because, let's face it: they have earned it. For starters, let's cover a little Italian movie called...
Black Cobra
To begin with, this movie is a terrible rip-off of an already terrible film: Cobra. How can it go up from there? It can't.

The scene in question involves the action after the seeming climax of the film. The villain survives a knife in the back and plans revenge. He completely changes his look (fake tan, hair dye, etc.) and follows our hero and the lady out to lunch. In a completely nonsensical bit, our hero (Fred "The Hammer" Williamson) spots the guy in his peripheral vision and figures the plan out instantly. He sees a gun and, in a moment of true heroics, kicks himself and the girl's chairs (and their bodies) out of the way of a shot. Who takes it? Some random old man in the background.

That's right- our hero saves his own life, but dooms a random guy! Who was this guy? Was he important enough to merit his own film? We will never know now, will we?!? The guy doesn't even get a name in the credits! That poor bastard.

I have a lot more to say about this movie, but I'm saving it for a video review. Yes, I will eventually make some.

Up next, a guy who learns that love is just a way to get killed pointlessly. Stay tuned...

Those Crazy Brits: It!

There are many monsters that do not get a fair share of the attention. Sure, Dracula and his pals get tons of movies, but what about their Jewish colleagues? And, for the record, I do not mean the Jewish vampire from The Fearless Vampire Killers (or Pardon Me, But Your Fangs are in my Neck). No, I'm talking about The Golem. This poor guy has barely had a few movie appearances and only a few outside of film ones (if you count Hardrock of the 1980's Jonny Quest show). Most recently, he was portrayed as a nebbish Jew stereotype (intentionally so) by comedian Richard Lewis. He can do better than that! How about a film where teams up with that guy who played the lead ape in the Planet of the Apes films? That will work. In the grand tradition of Them and They Live, I bring you...
The film begins with a brief history of the Golem for all of the uninitiated. We cut to a burned down factory where a pair of museum workers are called in to investigate something. One thing has survived the building's demise: a giant, f-ing statue! The young one (McDowall) goes to get something from the car to test the statue's material. When he comes back, he finds his boss seemingly-killed. What could have done it? A random mugger? A giant bee? The statue? This question is raised for a while before we ever get an answer. In the meantime, the statue is put in the museum for all to see...and be creeped out by. The thing is just giant and ugly. Meanwhile, an investigator begins to look into the matter, ignoring the obvious signs of Roddy obsessing over the statue. He puts more attention into the lady who works at the museum, a young crumpet who just looks like a future lady-in-peril. Unfortunately for her, Roddy has eyes for her (yeah, right). What will happen to his unrequited love?
*
Fortunately for our definitely-not-gay lead, he learns that the statue is actually a Golem. I will give you a moment to catch your breath after that surprise. He begins to communicate with the monster, although it is pretty one-sided. Things only get worse for Roddy as he is denied the promotion he thought that was due to him (since his old boss died in the beginning). He gets crazier and crazier, turning this film into a fun character study. Sadly, the romantic sub-plot keeps coming back. The woman and 'stud' get all googly-eyed at each other, all the while missing the obvious signs. After the boss makes Roddy mad one time too many (and denies him visitation with the statue), the young guy sneaks back in and sends the monster to kill him. Over forty minutes into the movie, the thing finally moves on camera! Don't rush on my account. By the way, he kills the man off-camera- get used to this.
*
It takes a while (even a scene where the Golem brings down a bridge) before the investigator puts 2 and 2 together. By the time he has done that, Roddy has kidnapped the woman (not shown) and takes her to his aunt's castle (they do show this). Inside, she learns that Roddy's mother is actually a mummified corpse! Well, that explains his taste in best friends. We jump cut to the aunt talking to the girl in her room/cell. The girl talks about how creepy it was to have tea with Roddy and his mom- this too is not shown. What's the deal, movie? This is the re-released master version, so I doubt this was a cut for content. Anyhow, the police finally find the castle and surround it. They learn that the Golem is nigh invulnerable, as bullets and rockets do no harm to him (this they actually show). After all of this, Scotland Yard stumbles upon the most logical solution: drop an atom bomb on the place! That's a dramatic leap, people. Our investigator hero decides to re-enact The Great Escape and rides in on a motorcycle to save our heroine. The aunt is killed by Roddy, so he's not that good at being a hero though. They ride away, duck into a foxhole and hear the sound of the bomb drop. The End.
*
This movie is a weird piece of British film history for so many reasons. On one hand, the movie is a cross between a mummy film (with a Golem) and Psycho. The star was a popular character actor that would go on six years later to become an iconic man. They also force a big love story into this movie, which fits about as well as O.J.'s bloody glove. The biggest problem is simply the stuff that is not shown. I still don't know why they did that. In spite of that, the film is pretty enjoyable if you can accept that 60s films (especially British ones) were a bit slower paced than modern ones. This comes as a double-feature with the very under-whelming film The Shuttered Room. Had this movie been given any Extras, I would highly-recommend it. As it stands, it is a good transfer to a very curious film. Check it out, foreign horror buffs.
*
Up next, a look at the worst cinematic blight in H.P. Lovecraft's name. This is saying a lot, people. Stay tuned...

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Mondonesia: Dangerous Seductress

It has been a while since I reviewed a Mondo Macabro movie. Like with the Fulci films, I almost felt like I was over-exposing them. Plus, I had this weird mental gaffe where I completely forget about doing them. Either way, they are back. Up first is a movie made in Indonesia, but filmed entirely in English. Is it an awkward experience? Yes. Is the movie completely insane? A big Yes. The movie is chock full of the stuff that I love, but is it a solid experience? Find out in my review of...
The film begins with a dangerous police chase through the streets of an Indonesian city. A bunch of criminals have stolen some random jewelry. After a few minutes of this, a car crashes and one of the man's fingers flies off. More importantly, the mysterious ring on said finger flies off. The ground sucks the object up and we get to meet our main villain: a mysterious witch. She was buried underground and her body torn apart. Using the power of the ring, she is able to bring part of her body together, but she is still rooted to the ground. She needs some blood to complete the spell and gain her freedom- but where will she get that from? The film cuts...a woman being abused by her boyfriend- lovely. Also the woman is a bottle blond and this is supposed to be in Los Angeles, although all we ever see is the inside of a building. She eventually gets away and calls her sister, who just happens to be a model over in, wait for it, Indonesia. Road trip!
*
The young lady settles in pretty quickly, ending up in her sister's lovely mansion. Unfortunately, her sister has to go off for a few days to do a fashion shoot. She gets left behind in the big house by herself, with only her sister's fiancee to keep her company occasionally. The good news is that she discovers some lovely reading material: a big book of black magic. Faster than you can say 'easy plot device,' the witch takes over the young woman and transforms her into the titular character. One fashion montage and one slutty cocktail dress later and she is out on the town. She gets all the Indonesian men all hot and bothered. She goes home with one Australian man (by the way, the movie is full of these guys) after causing another man to crash his car when he tries to follow them. After a long bit of teasing and undressing, she shoots with a harpoon gun (apparently all house boats have one) and kills him. The witch appears in a mirror and sucks all the blood the woman gains through it. It only gets better.
*
The movie sort of coasts for a while on two scenarios: the girl kills some man and the sister gets visited by a mysterious woman. All of the foreshadowing for the finale is done by the woman who just appears and disappears at random. She never just says 'your sister is possessed by a demon- go home!' Way to helpful, you damn apparition! Meanwhile, the girl kills more men, including three in one scene set in a meat plant. Go for the high score! She gives more blood to the witch, while a detective investigates the whole thing. Unfortunately, he meets his end at the end of the witch's magic- so much for that plot thread. The sister eventually comes home and ends up battling her sister. Thanks to the help of a mysterious mystic that looks like a cross between Bobby McFerrin and Mr. T. We get a super overload of special effects (read: light flashes and overlays) before the big, bombastic finale. All in all, a very weird experience.
*
This movie is really, really weird. If you just stop to analyze the whole thing, the weirdness is only magnified. This is an Indonesian production, featuring many people from the country, a pair of blond models, that weird black guy and a future WWE Diva Search Contestant. This is China Strike Force all over again! Thankfully, this film does not feature Coolio in any way. It does have one of the weirdest Netflix description captions of all time though- 'This campy horror flick features the special-effects makeup artistry of Steve Prouty, the master behind such films as The Cat in the Hat and the live-action How the Grinch Stole Christmas.' Really- that's the best you can do? I guess that will have to do.
*
Up next, a tale of love, betrayal and...a Golem? Stay tuned...