Monday, February 29, 2016
Ralph Bakshi is probably best known for his X-Rated film version of R. Crumb's FRITZ THE CAT but he did a whole bunch of sorta-similar but different animated films over the years. This one has some of the same voices from FRITZ and also some of the same goofiness but it's way less porno-like(only rated PG- sorry pervs!) and more of a melding of DUNGEONS AND DRAGONS/LORD OF THE RINGS and post-apocalyptic Saturday Morning kiddie cartoon. The tone of this varies wildly from totally nihilistic downer to light-fantasy romp with the blink of an eye. I would definitely recommend this to animation fans of any type and especially if you dig stuff like HEAVY METAL which I was actually lucky enough to catch this on a double-feature with yesterday afternoon. It's probably also a real delightful trip if you do a lot of acid.
If you have seen this movie before then you know that Bakshi throws a bunch of World War II footage of Nazis and Adolph Hitler into his movie to reinforce how very very bad his main evil wizard character is. While I found this an interesting juxtaposition with bumbling cartoon fairies and elves a couple of Hasidic Jews attending this screening apparently didn't find it quite as intriguing and quickly split at the first sight of blitzkrieg. I guess you can't please everyone.
Friday, February 26, 2016
So is the first step of kung fu admitting that you have a problem? Unfortunately not a self-help video for martial arts cinema addicts (which is something I could probably use) this is just another crappy cheapo chopsockey flick. I think the "seven steps" thing may refer to our hero's fighting style which is sorta dance like. It's also like a not-quite-as-entertaining version of Jackie Chan's hi-jinks. There is one point where we are told a lady will be stripped of her clothes but prepare to be let down if you expect to see anything more than her bare neck. The plot is pretty standard except that instead of our main character's master getting killed he just gets his ass beat really bad before it's revenge time against the evil gang. To make the movie even more unappealing there's a part of the DVD I have of this where the audio changes from badly-dubbed English to Chinese. Luckily I did not pay for this disc so I do not feel ripped off in the least. Everyone else should maybe look elsewhere for their violent thrills. AKA KUNG FU OF SEVEN STEPS and SHAOLIN RAIDERS OF DEATH
The villain does do an impressive split!:
Tuesday, February 23, 2016
Oh Jess Franco you've done it again! Some of my favorite insane women-in-prison flicks(BARBED WIRE DOLLS, ILSA: THE WICKED WARDEN and 99 WOMEN) were made by director Jess Franco but this one is not anywhere near any of those in terms of sleaziness, story or really even in overall quality (although the cinematography is the best thing about this whole movie). It took me two tries to watch this one since I passed out trying to figure out what the hell was going on during my first attempt. The first half hour I kept expecting a straightforward women-in-prison type deal but it takes a little while before we ever even get to the prison and then it never really even looked like a prison to me. Of course I've never been imprisoned in Spain so perhaps they just use old villas guarded by guys with machine-guns to house their prisoners there. This film is littered with a lot of nonsensical characters, including our main two protagonists who are terrible at breaking out of jail, Howard Vernon as a maniacal warden, but mainly their lawyer who is quite possibly the worst lawyer in any movie ever! I mean this guy has proof of his client's innocence and a deathbed confession by the judge who convicted them but ends up being completely ineffectual at his job by the end of the movie. On the plus side there is a downer ending so at least Franco got that part right. There's also a little bit of lesbianism and boobs to spice things up so it's not a total loss. AKA LOVERS OF DEVIL'S ISLAND
There is a shorter version of this titled FEMALE QUARTERS which does away with all the out-of-sequence flashbacks which make up a large portion of the movie. I've not seen this version but it sounds like it may be a big improvement.
Monday, February 22, 2016
I remember thinking this movie was one of the most amazing things I'd ever seen when I viewed it back in the VHS days as a young fellow. Watching it more recently I'm not exactly sure why it stood out so much to me from all the other women-in-prison flicks from this era. Maybe I just hadn't seen enough of these movies yet at that point. It's still a pretty good watch though you get all the expected thrills and blood-spills, shower scenes, cat-fights, machete-mayhem, machine-gun madness and horribly oppressed women fighting back against horrible sleazy men.
This has a whole slew of AKA's including CHAINGANG GIRLS, HELLFIRE ON ICE, my personal favorite: SHE-DEVILS IN CHAINS and CAPTIVE WOMEN 3( a full rundown of the CAPTIVE WOMEN series is available here)
This is probably one of my least favorite ABBOTT AND COSTELLO movies. It is interesting to see Shemp of the Three Stooges playing a mostly straight part but that's not really enough to recommend this one. Costello plays exceptionally stupid and childlike in this, he poisons his friend's horse with candy and then him and Abbott steal a racehorse to replace him. It's based on a story by author Damon Runyon(who I only know because his name is mentioned in an Alice Cooper song) so I guess if you find that compelling and don't mind very dumb comedy give it a watch. I'm gonna stick with their monster match-ups myself.
Sunday, February 21, 2016
This movie starts out as a western and then turns into a horror flick by the end. It takes two exploitation genres and blends them together really well with the gritty bloody western and, strangely enough, the Italian cannibal film. I don't know if anyone ever attempted this blend before. Even in Italy where downbeat gruesome westerns were churned out by the hundreds throughout the 60s and 70s. This is probably due to the fact that the cannibal film hadn't become popular until the Euro-western had all but died out.
For a modern film starring big Hollywood actors like Kurt Russell and David Arquette this doesn't skimp on the blood and guts with a scalping, people ripped apart by hungry savages, arrows piercing skin(including cult fav Sid Haig's looking old and grizzled and mean), necks sliced, titular bone-tomahawks chopping off fingers, toes and hands and enough other gritty realism to fill it's over 2 hour runtime without ever getting boring. It's too bad this barely played in theaters near me or I woulda loved to have seen it with a bigger audience.
I'm not sure whether this is actually a better movie than THE HATEFUL EIGHT, which I did enjoy quite a bit and also showed Kurt Russell acting his ass off in a similar fashion, but this does feel more epic and there's no annoying Tarantino voice-over to take you right out of the film.
Wednesday, February 10, 2016
A giant cyclops who looks like he's walking on high-heels(who gets spoofed in FLESH GORDON), a snake-lady, a giant man-eating two-headed bird, a fire-spewing dragon, a teeny-tiny little shrunken down lady, and most famously a sword-fighting skeleton. All these great-looking fx were created by Ray Harryhausen, without any cgi(imagine that!), and to me are really the stars of this classic. This used to play on TV quite a bit back in the 70s so it has a lot of sentimental value for me. I also recall viewing the second sequel to this, SINBAD AND THE EYE OF THE TIGER, down at the drive-in when I was 7 years old or so, which I probably actually saw first, and became a big fan at that moment. An evil bald wizard takes on Sinbad and he gets some help by a weird-voiced little boy genie and a bunch of disposable slaves and sailors(yes, people used to die in family movies back in the 50s before society got so sensitive about everything) which lays the groundwork for lots of cool action set-pieces (in DYNAMATION and DYNARAMA!!) that even your grandma can appreciate.
Although it took 14 years this was eventually followed by 2 sequels in the 70s:
THE GOLDEN VOYAGE OF SINBAD - 1973
SINBAD AND THE EYE OF THE TIGER- 1977
I can see where this one is an influence on directors like Gaspar Noe with its artful-style, beautifully shot sequences, haunting soundtrack and grim sledgehammer realities but it's a pretty basic film that is just the account of a home-invasion by a psychopath who slaughters a family. Based on a real mass murderer from Austria the thing that makes the movie a bit more interesting than your average slasher flick from this time is the voice-over narration that takes us into the head of our leading madman and offers us a glimpse into the insanity. This kinda reminds me of 1980's MANIAC except that one feels way sleazier and exploitation-y and I don't think anyone would mistake that for an art film whereas this one leans more in that direction despite some pervy moments and one particularly bloody stabbing. It's almost like a European version of HENRY: PORTRAIT OF A SERIAL KILLER except that would be released three years after this. An interesting worthwhile one-time watch that I don't think I'll ever feel the need to revisit but this may appeal more to certain folks with more artistic tastes.
There is an additional prologue sequence on the DVD I have of this which seems really unnecessary and out of place and is the only bit where we are getting narration by someone other than our stab-happy protagonist so skip that if you can. AKA SCHIZOPHRENIA
Monday, February 8, 2016
This starts out like a documentary about Bourbon Street in New Orleans, then it becomes a monster movie about some hairy dude(or "The Swamp Thing" as he's called, portrayed amazingly by rockabilly singer Sleepy LaBeef) grabbing people out of boats in the swamp and killing their asses. This happens all before we even get to the title card! After that it transforms itself into a nudie-cutie flick about a strip-club holding auditions and the owner of the club, allegedly played by director Ron Ormond?, who here looks like he's channeling Tony Clifton, gets the idea to go catch the monster and charge people to gawk at him. That part reminded me of KING KONG and just like with KONG our monster naturally gets loose and starts wreaking havok. The best, surprisingly-gory-for-1968, example of this is a dude getting his arm ripped right off and beaten to death with his own dismembered appendage. Sprinkle in a little mobster action with a disgusting scene of a guy being forced to drink from a tobacco-chew spit-filled spitoon while he's being roughed up, catfights, a goofball French painter, a head crushing, a boob ripped off and some other blood and guts which may remind you of an old HG Lewis opus and this one is a good time for schlock-lovers(If you can get past the one old-lady burlesque dancer, played my Mrs. Ormond, that is).
Ormond would go on to direct more weirdness but all of his later films have a strong religious/Jesus-y slant to them.
The "evil" stripper in this, Titania, looks like an early prototype for John Waters' Divine character.
AKA THE EXOTIC ONES
As the Shaw Brothers studio got deeper into the 1980's many of their films got goofier and goofier. This one is only a little on the ridiculous side and still manages to straddle the line making for a good kung fu epic with enough silliness to please lovers of the 80s. Some of the more silly aspects include kung fu masters who shoot laser beams, people getting totally wrapped up in silk cocoons like caterpillars and a guy who can use his heart to puff his body up(similar to BIG TROUBLE IN LITTLE CHINA which hadn't been made yet) and cause his opponents to puke up their heart. In addition to this there's lots of flying wire-work-type of martial arts, a bunch of ninjas and a fair amount of bloodshed including a couple of ninjas that get cut right in half.
This is a sequel to BASTARD SWORDSMAN from the year before but it's not at all necessary to have seen it to enjoy this film.
Tuesday, February 2, 2016
I wanted to like this movie being a Rutger Hauer fan and all but I shoulda known better since this is basically a remake of the Japanes Zatoichi films all American-ized for big round eyed people to enjoy. It starts out OK with some Vietnam-flashbacks and the story of how our hero gets blinded and then trained to be a superhero-like swordsman. Somewhere along the way though it turns very comedic and stupid like many 80's movie do and this is where I realized this would not be the classic I had hope it might be. Also there's an annoying kid character which is another big minus. technically these elements may exist in some of the original Zatoichi films but I guess I'm able to overlook them there since they seem like much better-made movies to me whereas this seems just like so many other dumb 80's action movies. Still looking for another Rutger Hauer movie besides BLADE RUNNER where his acting talents are not wasted.
For ninja fans you do get Sho Kosugi showing up for the big finale although he does not don his ninja outfit here.
Cheap Canadian POLICE ACADEMY-rip-off flick. This probably wouldn't be anything special to me if it didn't feature Canadian Rock God Jon Mikl Thor as a biker named Thunderhead who signs on to this group of misfit police wannabees. How they don't feature Thor on the poster or cover of the VHS for this I haven't the foggiest but this seems like very bad advertising. I haven't actually watched POLICE ACADEMY in a very long time so my foggy recollection says this is probably just about as stupid/funny as that. Also I believe P.A. was filmed in Canada also so they're pretty similar. There aren't any black men making special FX noises with their mouths here just lots of boobs, weird-looking Canadian beaches, a Clint Eastwood-rip-off character, hooker humor, a slapsticky goofball Nazi lady and Thor getting to kick biker's asses in a ridiculous fight scene. Pretty much everything in this is ridiculous but if you put this on you know exactly what to expect. Have a few beers and enjoy the ride.
How this did not end up on the Troma label I'm not exactly sure since it seems like that would be a natural fit for something like this.