Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Insane (2010)

Swedish slashers is rare and lousy, from Blödaren till Strandvaskaren and everything in-between. Nothing to see, move along please! So, do we need a Swedish slasher? Of course we do, especially because the rest of Scandinavia churns out genre production and we’re still walking around on the same boring, bloodless ground. Insane is directed by Anders Jacobsson and Tomas Sandquist, which makes a lot out of a small budget. Anders is most famous here in Sweden for directing the semi-classic Evil Ed and also was cinematographer behind the underrated Det Okända.

Anyway, this is the story about David, a weird man who runs his hotel without much disturbance. He sits in his office, painting toys and hopes that a nice woman will check in – which they do, and most of the times it ends up with them being dead at the end of the night. A person in a black coat, gasmask and a huge knife is killing them one by one… One day a woman comes by, she’s looking for her sister, and this could be her last night too…

I guess the obvious Psycho-references is a part of the plan, because much of the time it feels like a remake of Psycho, but with a couple of more twists and a slightly different killer of course. David (played by an excellent Lars Bethke) echoes Anthony Perkins a lot, and the story about the sister and the nearby lake is also very similar to Psycho. In a small part there’s also a copy which reminds me of Dr Loomis in Halloween, and the killer himself feels like the baddie from My Bloody Valentine! But this has always been a part of the Anders Jacobsson-legacy, some nods here and there to famous horror movies and I’ll accept that!

Gore and blood? Yes, it’s a gory show. Maybe not as graphic as I thought it would be, but we’re treated to some nasty splatter scenes (a crushed head, a nice knife thru head and a fun ripped off jaw is the highlights). Everything is very well done and fits the tone of the movie. Shot digital, this is a stylish and handsome production. It feels very Swedish, very IKEA. Simple and stripped sets and locations, not so much details. The important stuff is in the foreground.

Insane is a very ambitious slasher/horror movie (it’s shot in English by the way, but without the awkward accents) which in a way feels a bit too generic for my taste, but still holds my attention with some good chase scenes, impressive camera work and graphic violence. But I still can recommend it to 100 %. I will watch it again, and I hope for a sequel (please, can I play a victim?).

Alien 2: On Earth (1980)

”Are you drunk again?”. The SMS flew back at me directly from Jocke at Rubbermonsterfetishism when I wrote to him about the weirdest news that day: a company called Midnight Legacy is releasing Alien 2: On Earth on blu-ray. I quickly sent them an email asking if this was a joke or not, and a slightly worried Bill Knight replied with “Yes it is true. How did you find out? We are not launching our website until this Friday (15 October) so please keep this to yourself until then”.

I’ll have to confess that I was sceptical until the last seconds, before my PS3 swallowed the disc and showed me the glory of perfect high definition…

The story of Alien 2 isn’t especially complicated. After nearly 27 minutes of very grainy stock footage, talking and not less than two cryptic scenes at a nice beach, our heroes climbs down in a cave system and gets brutally killed one by one by a hungry alien entity! Yeah, that’s about it – but what a magnificent trashy “it”. Directed by Cirio Ippolito and starring Belinda Mayne and Michele Soavi (who are the best actors in the whole movie, the rest is just meat) this is one stripped down movie. An awesome excuse to show gore and an über-cool cave-system (it’s shot in Grotte di Castellana, outside Bari in Italy and the exteriors in and around San Diego). It’s such a simple story that the time flies like a ripped off head, and when you least expect it the movie is over and you just want to watch it again directly.

But first the stuff that some people whine about: the stock footage. This is very grainy, third-fourth generation stock footage of some military ships and something that looks like a space landing out to sea. They also dubbed some poor guy so he know is an actor in this movie, just like Bruno Mattei did with some footage in Hell of the Living Dead. This looks like shit even on blu-ray, because that’s how it looks – nothing to do about it. But it belongs there, it’s one important part of the Alien 2-legacy. Like Hugo Stiglitz in Nightmare City and the papier maché heads getting chopped off in Atlantis Interceptors. It’s there, so love it or be a coward. After that we’re treated to some talky scenes with the main characters – in one scene she stands on the beach, a man with a beard arrives in a little boat, talk to her and then walks away. And I love it.

But when they finally enter the cave it becomes the immortal classic it deserves to be. It’s actually not a bad movie from here on becomes it’s a very competent and atmospheric horror movie which delivers some cool gore-scenes (with a lot of blood!) and a location that makes the production value raise a lot more higher. The effect work is competent, but of course not up to the standard of a boring Hollywood-movie, but its creative work and it’s first and most important very spectacular.

I’m not a believer of diagrams, fancy-talk about bitrates and shoddy screenshots. If I can see something with my own eyes that looks good, it’s good. The thing here is that it looks stunning. I expected something good, but this was so over-the-top in quality that I couldn’t believe my eyes. Even my partner, G, raised his head from his new HTC Desire and asked me “How can they make such an old crappy movie look so fucking great?” (Crappy is his opinion, not mine). This is crystal clear, it looks like it was shot yesterday to use an old cliché. The only thing that says it’s an old movie is the fashion and stuff like that. I noticed one small print damage and when the last frame comes it’s a bit grainy – which is because the negative is processed with a text flying in on top of the footage. The rest is perfection, true perfection.

The 11 minutes of outtakes is good, for me as a Alien 2-fan it’s very good even. I watched this on my Sony Bravia 40 inch LED TV, for those who want to know. I have no opportunity to take screenshots, but I recommend this review for that – even if it’s such a difference compared with the real thing.

Alien 2: On Earth could be my favourite release this year (and it’s been a fantastic year for DVD and blu-ray) and I can’t wait for the next masterpiece to come out from Midnight Legacy (and let me just say the following words: Atlantis Interceptors, Blazing Magnum, Spider Labyrinth and Night of the Devils, please?).

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Hey! That's me and Christina Lindberg!

Taken yesterday by Jason Meredith from Cinezilla, at The Scandinavian Sci-fi, Game & Film Convention in Stockholm. Wonderful lady, I've met her a couple of times before but this is the first real photographic proof :) She also signed my This Is Christina-book.

Anyway, there will be more photos from the convention, so check back later today or tomorrow!

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Oasis of Fear (1971)

I guess those that expect a gory, classic giallo in the typical Italian tradition will be very disappointed by Oasis of Fear, but we who loves a good movie will get a lot of joy from this stylish and quite controversial thriller by maestro Umberto Lenzi. Lenzi has been a favorite of mine since my early teens, with his raw energy and fuck you-attitude to the world, the cinema and to the critics. This movie is a great example of that kind of filmmaking, with many layers of both critism towards “the kids of today” to Lenzi’s own generation of middle age hypocrites.

Ray Lovelock is Dick Butler, and he’s traveling around with his girlfriend Ingrid Sjöman (Ornella Muti) in Italy on vacation. Well, with a little perverted income on the side: selling pornographic photographs of her to horny Italians. After some problem with the local police they hurry out on the countryside and decide to seek shelter somehow. They find a big modern villa where a lonely woman, Barbara Slater (Irene Papas) waits for her husband to come home. At first Dick and Ingrid thinks the house is empty and uses their garage to steal some gasoline, but after a furious Barbara discovers them they decide to leave… until Barbara suddenly changes her mind and invites them for food and bed. An evening that slowly turns out to be stranger and stranger, and with Barbara still waiting for her husband to come home…

Umberto Lenzi has an amazing eye for details, and this movie is filled with fantastic shots, cool faces, rapid editing and excellent acting. The story itself is not that complicated, but has a few twists and turns. But in the end it’s a chamber play with three characters in collision with each other. Irene Papas just rules every damn frame shes’s in, and together with Lovelock and Muti this is one fine cast of actors. It feels like a mix between the free-form movies of the sixties, and the more controlled thrillers of the seventies, so of course there will be both a murder and psychedelic disco scenes.

I also love the idea of such a complex line-up of intrigues, which might not be that commercial. First of all we have something that’s almost a morality tale of how the youth behaves, uncontrolled and rude – but at the same time, Lenzi clearly stands on their side. But then our point of view is moved to the Irene Papas-character, which seem frail and weak – but suddenly changes and we understand that this generation can be as shitty as the last one. It’s all about sex and greed anyway, no matter in what age you are.

Shameless DVD isn’t that good at all, BUT that is, what I understand, the best way to see this movie. We have the longest cut ever, it’s in the original ratio and it has most of the time good VHS quality (some parts is a lot better than that I must add) and this is nothing that could stop you all to enjoy this excellent, underrated thriller from Umberto Lenzi.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Hunchback of the Morgue (1973)

Of all movies Paul Naschy made, Hunchback of the Morgue – in all it’s gore and blood – could be the most classic, most nostalgic, yes in a way: the most classy Naschy-movie ever made. Sure, it has some parts that feel unnecessary, but the good thing over-shadows the bad things in this tale of haunted love and a modern Frankenstein.

Naschy is Gotho, a hunchback working at the local hospital. He’s really a quite charming man, more then you are led to believe anyway – and of course more romantic than most other men. He falls in love with one of the patients, but she’s deadly ill and soon she dies, just seconds before he arrives with some fresh flowers. Stricken by sorrow he kills two of the staff and brings her body down in the catacombs under the hospital. His only real friend, one of the doctors, sees a brilliant opportunity to make his own dream come true and constructs a lab down there, trying to create new life from just the flesh of humans…

I’ve heard about Hunchback of the Morgue for many years, mostly because it’s one of the most legendary x-rentals ever released in Sweden (under the title Bårhusassistenten if I remember it correctly). But I never got around too watch the movie until now, but mostly because Naschy is one awesome actor. What strikes me the most with Hunchback is how big it is. We’re not talking about an epic here, but Javier Aguirre really uses the village, the city, to maximum. All the sets and locations look great and have a lot of atmosphere. The catacombs, a mix between real locations and carefully build sets is especially good.

This is also one of the goriest Naschy-movies I’ve seen, with some really nasty and graphic moments – from decapitations to belly’s ripped open. It’s never realistic of course, but that’s not important – as long as the blood flows. The infamous burning rats are a bad thing, but what’s done is done and what can we do now? Just close our eyes or pretend that they are advanced mechanical rats being sent to their destiny.

But it’s Paul Naschy who’s the best thing with the movie, with a quite complex character and very little of that cool overacting that he sometime can divulge himself in. I would say he’s sympathetic and well-written in the same characters that we once saw in the old Universal movies.

Hunchback of the Morgue lives up to its legendary hype, which is nice to experience for once. I great part of my little Naschy-collection.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Across 110th street (1972)

“What else brings whites to Harlem but business?” With those words Yaphet Kotto’s character Lt. Pope, opens a new relationship with his new partner, the old grumpy racist Captain Mattelli (Anthony Quinn). The place is Harlem, across the 110th street. On the other side rules the Italian mob, but here there’s other kings.

Three robbers massacre a couple of accountants, belonging to the mafia, and some of their own people from Harlem, and flee with 300000 dollars. Outside a couple of cops die and now they have to hide both from the mafia, the Harlem gangsters and Mattelli and Pope. The latter is a new cop, with new ideas and with a more human way to deal with criminals. Mattelli prefers to beat the shit out of them, innocent or not. He has a problem with black people, but accepts a bribe from them every month in order to finance his gambling problems, or so he say. Maybe it’s just greed?

Executive produced by Anthony Quinn, this is probably one of the best and most powerful parts the old fart did during his career. It’s an honest and very realistic view into the head of a bitter, old idiot that have problem accepting the new generation of cops.

Across 110th Street is a very brutal movie, with a fantastic documentary-feeling. Everything seems to be shot on location, and that gives the movie an aura of authenticity. The squibs are bloody and the hits are hard, this is one helluva movie in the gritty tradition of American seventies cinema.

Now, let’s talk about Yaphet Kotto. The man is a powerhouse of acting, a remarkable performer which probably is one of the best actors of his generation. He was hardly a beginner in 1972, with around twenty movie- and TV productions behind him and probably a lot of theatre. Here he steals every scene he’s in, maybe not from Quinn – because they’re charging each other with some amazing performances. As the cliché say, its electricity in the air when these to get together on screen.

Both Kotto and Quinn plays versions of stereotypes, but their characters is so well written and with them in the leads it can’t go wrong. You never know where you have Kotto, and the scene where he suddenly lets Quinn beat up a bad guy – even if it’s something he don’t like – is a fantastic touch of that buddy-feeling that people have been trying to copy ever since.

Across 110th Street could be my favourite cop-movie from the seventies, loaded with the batteries of two magnificent actors provoking each other to something seldom seen. A true classic, one of the best.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Tales of the Dead (2010)

I always appreciate a good anthology, and Tales of the Dead is a bit uneven – but in some parts very good – collection of horror stories all directed by UK filmmaker Kemal Yildrim. Last time I reviewed something similar was Alex Bakshaev’s Naked Trip with Jason Impley in the lead. Both gentlemen are involved in this project, especially Impley as a cinematographer and actor. As a former indie-filmmaker myself it’s extra fun to see what colleagues makes with little money and a lot of passion…

Tales of the Dead consists of four short movies (five if I count the surrounding story, binding all together) and first out is Less is More, which for me also was the best of the bunch. Caroline Nash is May Walker, a woman who “suffers” from Body integrity identity disorder, she wants to have parts of her body removed. Her marriage with Steve (Gary Halliday) is strained, and soon she decides to help herself to the perfect body…

First of all, Caroline Nash and Gary Halliday is brilliant as the couple. Nash makes a top-notch performance as a woman who just wants to be happy, but in her only little way. Yildrim’s direction is excellent and together with Impley’s camera work, this is a great and moody little piece of relationship/body-horror.

Next is Wolf Cry, about a young man (a good Nadeem Choudhry) who obvious can’t separate fact from fiction anymore. His life is movies, movies, movies and the relationship with his mother is getting worse and worse. He starts to get hallucinations and soon he’s more into horror stories than in real life.

I like the idea with this movie, and some parts of it looks great and has the perfect atmosphere. The realistic drama in between the horror-sequences don’t work as good as with Less is More and the visual style is all over the place. The actors is fine though. It’s getting better with Penance, a giallo-style serial killer story with a big dose of S&M. A gory killing, a depressed alcoholic cop and some stylish set-pieces makes this a decent and fun episode.

Last, but not least, is the Blair Witch-style Cromwell’s Curse where a cursed street has the lead. It’s the classic found footage, and here I would have loved some more horror, some more twists – but it’s a concept that works and it’s something that could work as a feature length movie too.

Less is More is the highlight of a good, but slightly uneven anthology-movie. Kemal Yildrim is clearly a great talent, and I would love to see a slow moving disturbing drama with horror elements, like the first short movie, as a feature. Watch out for Alex Bakshaev in a cameo, which always is a pleasure!

Mission Hunter (1989)

The sequel to Mission Hunter was released on a nice looking DVD in the US as Battle Warrior, with Tony Jaa’s face all over the cover. That’s not a bad b-movie, Jaa has a small part and it has some excellent jungle-action. At first I was suspicious about the first movie. No one seemed to have seen it and I had that strange feeling that it would be a much weaker movie – and the second part is quite weak to be honest…

After forty minutes I almost gave up. A lot of people talking, joking (in Thai, with no subtitles of course), some very minor action-related scenes, all in the city. Gathering a team of experts or something, including this huge German guy with an impressive moustache and Panna Rittikrai with a mullet from hell. Then they go in the jungle and the German guy show his dick to one of the Thai guys, one of the female members seem to take a shit in front of her team mates and similar high standard comedy.

So… what was there to expect? Well, 45 minutes of mega-action!!! Yes, it’s true. After meeting some terrorists or something in the jungle, our heroes gets involved in a fuckload of action. Shootings, explosions, fighting… and then they arrive to the jungle camp, and it goes totally over-the-top. I’d never seen so many huts being blown to pieces, lots of stunts, gory and bloody squibs, some crazy fighting and much more. This is low budget, but it’s so damn spectacular in that low budget way that only Asians can do it.

It’s always fun to see older movie with Rittikrai because he and his team always tries out a lot of stunts and gags that later is made with perfection in the new movies. The truck-gag in the beginning of Born to Fight is in one of the earlier movies, so the chase-scene that Tony Jaa did in Ong Bak (in the streets, jumping over and under dangerous objects) You will recognize a lot of stuff here, but a bit rougher – and sometimes crazier.

I have no idea what the story really was in this movie, but I know that the last half was brilliant! Something for everyone that enjoys Backyard Asia-style movies!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Yaphet Kotto Blogathon!

I almost forgot this, again! Cool, ey? Watch out for Friday evening here!

Monday Nov. 15th
Unflinching Eye - Alien
Raculfright 13's Blogo Trasho - Truck Turner
Tuesday Nov. 16th
Lost Video Archive - Raid on Entebbe
Manchester Morgue - Friday Foster
Wednesday Nov. 17th
Booksteve's Library - Live and Let Die
Horror Section - Warning Sign
Thursday Nov. 18th
Mondo 70 - Drum
B Movies and Beyond - The Monkey Hu$tle
Cinema Gonzo - Report to the Commissioner
Friday Nov. 19th
Illogical Contraption - Eye of the Tiger
Ninja Dixon - Across 110th St.
Lines That Make Things - The A Team (TV episode)
Things That Don't Suck - Blue Collar
Saturday Nov. 20th
Breakfast In the Ruins - Bone
Lost Video Archive - The Park Is Mine

100% fresh Yaphet Kotto all week long.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Sing Wing Lu (199?)

I have no idea really, but this movie, Sing Wing Lu, could be from the very early nineties or very late eighties. It’s one of the VCD’s I got from Thailand recently and what I can make out Ron Rittichai plays a good cop, a chick plays another good cop and Panna Rittikrai plays their violent good cop- colleague. The story is something about a terrorist/sect leader who orders his crew to kill people, take hostage and other creative things. Maybe he’s a khmer or something like that. Anyway, our trio of heroes follow him and everything end with a long fight.

No, it’s not a brilliant movie in anyway, but who cares? It has one mayor problem: it delivers only in the end. There’s action all over the movie, but very little and never creative or particularly well-filmed. Every time a fight start, they suddenly add crappy in editing-generated slow-mo which looks like shit and takes away the power from the fights. Panne Rittikrai has little to do and is wasted on boring stunts…

…until that grand finale! After over one hour of weak, but kinda entertaining, action they finally arrives to the terrorist’s camp. It’s just a couple of tables, something that resembles a fence and some chairs – and suddenly we’re treated to one fantastic, awesome, über-violent stunt-orgy! Sure, I’ve seen more spectacular one’s on other movies Panna Rittikrai has been involved in, but here you’ll see stuff you never seen before. As usual, a lot of real hits and kicks to body and head, hard contact in clear view. In two shots Rittikrai uses both his legs – and only them – to kick someone in the head. It’s hard to describe, but it looks almost unreal, and if those guys didn’t get hurt, slap me around and call me Susan!

Like most of these early Pechpanna Productions-films, they give you that big juicy, wet, kick-orgasm in the end. The rest is just to entertain the folks drinking moonshine during late nights in northern Thailand. Some laughs, some romance and then a big fucking fight in the end.

I can recommend this movie just because of that end fight, so if you have the chance, pick up the VCD and give it a try!

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Baksmälla (1973)

Baksmälla literary mean ”hangover”, and that starts this chamber play with Jörn Donner and Diana Kjær as a couple of the verge of break-up and break-down. They are Leif and Lena, who after some years together finally got married yesterday and now wakes up to the bitter reality of marriage.

Things do not get better with the naked woman walking around in the house, someone who woke up in bed together with Leif… Then the day starts, first with a stubborn insurance salesman trying to sell them a new house insurance, which just reveals more about their relationship then he can handle. A series of flashbacks tells us their story, both together and in their own adventures. At the same time they’re trying to refurnish the house, drink a lot of alcohol and blame the airplanes above them for making the house a hell to live in…

Once again Klubb Super 8 delivers a fantastic package. Baksmälla is actually a quite serious movie, a smart relationship-drama with some nice black comedy, some nudity and a lot of truth. Jörn Donner, the Swedish-Finnish actor, director, producer was controversial from the beginning of his career, and still continues to stir up controversy when he feels for it. What people tend to forget is that he’s a good actor and an even better director (among the movies he directed is the 1978 feminist drama, Manrape. Great flick!). Diana Kjær is even better as Lena, the bored wife who looks back at her adventures in Spain. The acting is very naturalistic, and much of the dialogue has a feeling of ad-libbing.

This is hardly a glamorous movie, but an excellent example of the Scandinavian drama-sensibility that has been lost over the years and now only is over-worked, contrived orgies in self-indulgence.

The print used by Klubb Super 8 has some minor damage, but it’s still a beautiful and stunning print. It shows the Swedish (and Finnish) greyness in a great way. For those who want more exploitation, the UK version from 1978 is included to. I just fast-forwarded a bit, and it seems quite different with a lot added nudie-footage and much of the relationship-drama cut. That print is taken from VHS, but still looks acceptable.

I need to mention the awesome score by Claes Af Geijerstam too. I wish this was released somewhere. Some tracks is ironically over-the-top, but mixed with low-key piano-based songs which fits wonderful to dirty snow of Sweden.

Another fine release from KS8, and of course I would recommend everyone to buy it, watch it and realize that there are other relationship-dramas from Sweden than dear old Bergman.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Draugasaga (1987)

I’ve been a movie collector for quite a lot of years right now, and there’s always been three titles that someone seen on television and want to see again: Sekmisja, Månguden and Det Spökar i TV-huset. All three was shown on Swedish television and forever imprinted in the minds of Swedish kids. The first one is of course a famous Polish sci-fi comedy, the second one was long gone, but released on DVD in Sweden in 2010. The last one, Draugasaga, a TV-movie from Iceland by Viðar Víkingsson has been a holy grail for some people, including me. I saw it as a kid, and maybe 15 years ago I saw a shoddy bootleg-VHS at a friends place and then it was gone again. Until now.

Everything is set in the TV-house, the public service television of Iceland. A new kid is hired to be a night watchman. The old watchman is going to quit, and is very afraid of the ghost that haunts the place, a red-haired woman who is very dangerous, especially if she have a big sledgehammer in her hands… Our hero is getting more and more obsessed by the ghost-legend, and his relationship with his girlfriend – who works at the TV-house – is getting more strained. At the same time, a red-haired ghost is getting more active with her sledge hammer…

Most of them who saw the movie when it first aired on Swedish television probably only remember the more visual part, the woman with the hair in front of her face, the sledge hammer outside the elevator, the attack outside on the street. Strong visuals, eerie atmosphere and something that was new to most of us. Draugasaga is much more than so, a weird relation-drama, maybe a form of satire over television, a dream-like story about the past meeting the future. I appreciate all of this, but especially when it mixed with some excellent and creepy horror images.

It clearly has a TV-feeling, that special quality that you will recognize from BBC or Scandinavian TV from the same time. This seems to be shot on film though, and has some very nice cinematography and slow but effective editing. The pace is slow, but there is not one boring second in the movie. One bizarre thing leads to something other weird, and goes to horror and then some kitchen-sink drama. A very unique approach to a ghost-movie I would say.

Viðar Víkingsson has crafted a pearl of a movie, something that will grow on the viewer. For some of us it created nightmares for years after, it became a legend – and well deserved so. But does it still hold up? Yes, it does. Very well indeed, and if you are used to TV-productions from the seventies and eighties this is the movie for you – if you can find it of course...

Captain America (1990)

First of all I want to state that I’ve always been very uninterested in superhero comics. Not my cup of tea. But some superhero-movies has become quite close to me, for example Superman 2, Ang Lee’s The Hulk, all the three incarnations of The Punisher (though I wouldn’t call him a superhero), the original Batman-series from the sixties and so on. I even like the ill-fated Roger Corman-production of The Fantastic Four, but loath the new movies. So it was with a lot of expectations I finally got the brand new DVD of Albert Pyun’s Captain America from Thailand. Most of the stuff I read about it is crap, but some people have a tendency not to like Pyun’s style. Well, I do…

I won’t go into the story, except both Red Skull (the bad guy of course) and Captain America is the creation of WW2-experiments. Our dear captain crash-lands with a rocket in Alaska and is frozen for fifty years, and wakes up to a world where the US president just is kidnapped by Red Skull!

Yeah, that was the story in five seconds. Of course he’s related to the president, it’s either his son or something else (the president that is), he wants to find his old girlfriend, find some new love, meet friends and so on. The usual business after coming back too life after fifty years frozen in snow.

Seriously, this isn’t a bad movie. What it lacks is that big fat budget that would have helped to include some even bigger and fatter action scenes, but if you can ignore that, this is a damn fine entertaining piece of cheese. The first twenty or so minutes is fantastic, and the WW2-setting is just plain awesome. The underground lair of Red Skull is mega-cool, Captain America is blowing stuff apart and everyone’s happy. Even Carla Cassola from such eurocult-movies as The Sect and Demonia shows up and shows us how to play a mad, but loving, scientist who loves to experiment on humans in the quest for peace. The middle of the movie turns it down a notch, but Matt Salinger is good as Captain America and keeps up the charm and energy with some goofy dialogue and good charisma. The last half hour is more in the vein of the first, but is a bit of an anti-climax because of the obvious lack of budget.

But as we all know, no one can frame a scene like Albert Pyun. This is still an ugly fullscreen-version (with second-hand VHS-quality), but it’s hard to deny the stylish camera compositions, the rapid and tight editing in the fight scenes, the ultra-slick sets… just pure talent on a very low budget. It also has a fun cast in smaller parts, like Ronny Cox, Ned Beatty, Darren McGavin and a great Scott Paulin as Red Skull.

I would have loved more action, more stunts and explosions. It would have made this movie the best forgotten superhero-movie ever made. Now it’s still a fun and cool movie (and colourful! Everything resembles scenes directly taken from a comic album). Matt Salinger is way better than some people claims, and it just deserves a much better (widescreen) restored DVD or Blu-Ray release. One day I hope…

Monday, November 8, 2010

P (2005)

In 2005 me, Markus Widegren and Anders Östlund was at FFF (Fantastic Film Festival) in Lund to show our latest masterpiece, Kraftverk 3714. Another guest there was Terry Gilliam, and we had the pleasure to talk with him and shake his hand to many times. Anyway, it was a nice festival with some nice movies and nice people. One of the movies I wanted to see was “P”, a Thai horror movie about prostitution and ghosts. But one thing led to another and suddenly we was sitting in a friends living room watching a terribly bad Swedish slasher-movie instead. We got a good laugh, but I missed the movie I REALLY wanted to see.

Six years later and I finally found a release good enough for me, a juicy special edition Blu-Ray with tons of extras and perfect picture quality…

Suangporn Jaturaphut is Dau, a Khmer girl who lives with her grandma out in the jungle. Both of them have knowledge in magic, but Dau is of course a novice in the subject. Her grandma is getting sicker and sicker and one day Dau accepts a job in Bangkok. When she arrives she understands it’s like a bargirl, a dancer and even a prostitute in a bar only for farangs (non-thai, men of course). She quickly becomes more tough, and decides to take revenge on a man who forced her to sex. A snake bites his penis, and he’s never seen again. Of course this is the work of Dau’s black magic, but the magic is bad for her and soon she’s possessed by a liver-eating ghost who hunts during the night and take revenge on the people Dau does not like…

P almost immediately became a controversial project, and I’m not sure it even got screened in Thailand, at least not in Cinemas. It’s also directed by a British director, Paul Spurrier, which might have offended some people – I have no idea, because this is a very open movie about something that’s taboo in Thailand: the sex industry. I think this could be the only time I’ve seen the life of a bargirl in a Thai movie, and a lot more explicit than I expected it to be. Spurrier goes for atmosphere more than pure horror, and creates Dau as someone that feels real and probably is not that far away from the truth. The scenes in the bar is disturbing and beautiful, but directed with taste and intelligence. It’s hard to make a movie about prostitution without getting too sleazy. Well, Spurrier made it.

Even if the drama might be the dominating part in the movie, horror is there too. It gets more intense the further the movie goes, and some of the first scares feels quite lame, but it’s only a build up to the nasty, green-faced ghost that will show up later and chew her way in the cast. I can’t say it’s a gory movie, but its blood and has well-made effect. The ghost-make up is cool and more fun than the usual white-faced girls with long black hair.

The Blu-Ray is marvellous. I haven’t checked all the bonus material yet, but it’s fat with fun stuff. The weirdest part is a simple shot-on-video tour of Soi Cowboy, which seem to be a bar-street in Bangkok. Author (and I think he also had a small part in the movie has a unlucky farang customer) Dean Barrett shows us his favourite whore-street and talks endlessly about what he sees around him. This is both a deeply disturbing piece of footage, and yet, Mr Barrett is quite charismatic and very open about his fascination about this place. One of the best and most absurd bonuses I had the honour to watch actually.

P is a gorgeous looking hybrid of social realistic drama and gory ghost movie. Well worth watching for you ghost-fans out there.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

The One Armed Executioner (1983)

Bobby A. Suarez production of The One Armed Executioner is a surprisingly solid movie, way less trashy than I thought it would be. Not original by any means, but a great revenge-movie with lots of action and a great cast of both heroes and baddies.

Smooth-faced Franco Guerrero plays Ramon Ortega, a successful Interpol-agent who after his latest bust, an explosive attack on an airplane containing a suspected drug dealer, finds himself threatened by a crime organization. They enter his home, murders his wife with a sword and chops his own arm off and leave him to die. After a period of heavy drinking and being a douchebag his martial arts master finds him and teaches him to fight only with one arm! Now he’s gonna find them all, one by one, and introduce their maker to them…

Like I wrote above, this is a very solid movie. It feels more expensive than it probably was and Bobby A. Suarez really shows off his directing-skills here. The widescreen framing looks beautiful and the only thing making it seem more exploitation is the Philippine setting and the typical stuff that happens in those productions, exploding huts for example. And obvious ex-pats slumming as bad guys (great bad guys by the way!). It has a mainstream, almost Hollywood-like style, but never steps away from that wonderful feeling of cheap Asian action that we love.

So it’s a quite serious movie, with some fantastic action scenes. I love the final with a lot of crazy stunts and huge explosions (some stuff looks very dangerous, stuntmen just getting away from explosions within seconds), but the token training-sequence is a blast too. It’s not that gory, but of course there are squibs (Jim Gaines gets shot for example) and a lot of cool ideas. The first scene with the dwarf and the telephone booth is a classic for example.

I’m gonna confess that movies from the Philippines is not my expert area (I try to concentrate on Thailand), but after watching more and more stuff from this country I’m getting more and more impressed with both production values and the talent behind and behind the camera. The best actor in this movie is Franco Guerrero, which is a brilliant actor who I need to find more stuff with. It’s rare to see actors in these kinda low budget movies both handle the drama and the action so well.

This is the second movie on Dark Sky’s newest DVD release (together with They Call Her Cleopatra Wong) and it looks great. This time they had the opportunity to use a very nice widescreen print (the beginning and credits seem to be from another print, and that sequence is not anamorphic – weird) and clear sound and sharp picture. It’s still cut, but the original uncut scenes is since long gone and is only available from VHS – so instead of splicing an inferior VHS print into this beautiful film print, the uncut scenes – which is nothing special really – is included in the extras as extended scenes.

Once again, this double feature is a must-have release. The bonus stuff is cool and funny, and the two movies are two of the most entertaining pieces of action I’ve seen this year. Support the legacy of Bobby A. Suarez – buy it now!

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Susanne (1960)

Susanne is a normal story about a well-behaved girl who finds booze and love, falls in love with a boy, gets in a car crash, becomes brain damaged and transforms into a chain-smoking slut who gets pregnant and then finds happiness in family-life. Directed, produced and written by doctor Kit Colfach and his wife Elsa. A morality tale about the dangers exposed to the Swedish youth!

Honestly, even in its primitive state of storytelling, it’s a very entertaining movie – especially the first half when Susanne is exploring her newfound freedom as a cute teenager. It slowly gets darker and more documentary in style. After the car accident, which is graphic for the time, we’re treated to some graphic real surgery footage and Susanne being a real bitch both towards friends and parents. Then she gets pregnant, and of course there’s real footage of a birth (not with the actress of course).

The style is simple, many shots is often out of focus and sometimes the camera seem to be somewhere else than filming the important thing in the scene. But this works for the story and it makes everything feel more realistic. Because of technical trouble, the whole movie is dubbed afterwards by other actors. They hired a deaf lip-reading expert to translate the mouth movements, which works so-so.

The symbolism is strong, it goes from the green Swedish countryside further into the grey concrete houses and in the end, when Susanne has gone thru hell but realized that she really loves her baby and her husband, family is everything. A little bit to right wing for me of course, but this was a different time in Sweden.

Now Klubb Super 8 has released a wonderful DVD of this movie, complete with English subtitles for those outside Sweden that wants to experience a classic piece of warning-movie. The print is very good, if you think about how obscure this movie is. The best thing is the brilliant commentary track with Susanne Ulfsäter, who plays Susanne, and her real-life daughter Lotten Sundgren. Lotten is a film journalist and asks so many good questions to her mother, and brings us a lot of very interesting facts about the movie. It’s a pity it’s only in Swedish.

A moralistic exploitation-movie made by an avid golfer/doctor – what can go wrong with that?

They Call Her Cleopatra Wong (1978)

I’ve never seen so many men dressed as nuns getting killed in one single movie. I guess that’s one of the unique and funny things with the crazy production of They Call Her Cleopatra Wong, starring the hard-hitting and charming Marrie Lee as super-spy Cleopatra Wong (who purrs like a kitten and makes love like a siren). There is a story... something with a big crime organization spreading counterfeit money all over Asia. There’s not much else to do than to call Ms Wong and let her trace the baddies, save the nuns and kill a lot of people, all together with her gang of crazy super-cops.

The baddies has taken a monastery and the nuns in there as hostage, and this means that the private army of evil henchmen must walk around in nun clothes, with big guns hiding under there. The staff of fake-nuns is putting fake money in jars of strawberry jam, which is the way they’re distributing the money. One magnificent master plan indeed.

What makes Cleopatra Wong so darn fun is the non-stop action. Gone is the boring, endless scenes with talking heads that seem to populate mega-cheap movies. Here it goes from one fight, one chase to another one – and ends with a long explosive, cheap, silly, squib-filled attack on the monastery which ends with the cheapest explosion ever (you just see the reaction shots of the actors plus two inserts of shaky interior sets being blown up) and a cool and just plain awesome Marrie Lee showing of on a motorcross!

It just gets better and better for each minute. The fights and chases are a bit smaller from the beginning, but the further the story goes the more action there is, the more wacky characters and absurd dialogues. I’m not sure Marrie Lee is the best fighter I’ve seen, but after a while you get used to her style and it works fine after all.

The soundtrack, which has several pieces of music I recognize from bigger movies, is pure gold. It actually feels very fitting to the movie, and someone had the good taste to choose a lot of funky music with very raw and rough percussion-work.

The new DVD from Dark Sky is a bit rough, it’s fullscreen (but the pre-credits is in widescreen) and probably from a video master. But it’s not bad, and even on my 40 inch Sony Bravia it looks good. This was the best material available, and that’s good enough for me.

They Call Her Cleopatra Wong are one of the funniest, coolest, craziest and most entertaining movies I’ve seen for a long while. It could go on for a few hours more, because the huge amount of fun action and Backyard Asia-feeling of the film made my day. Highly recommended!

Friday, November 5, 2010

Panna Rittikrai is back - Bangkok Knockout!

Panna Rittikrai is the most insane action director and choreographer in Thailand. I've been a fan for years now and finally he's back with a movie again, an movie he's directed himself. If you've seen his old movies - or the latest big movie, Born to Fight, you know that he's not that fond of story, it's just a way to show brutal action and over-the-top insane stunts.

This seem to be the first trailer/teaser and it looks impressive. More old school than the latest from the bigger studios he worked as an action choreographer for, more simple, more spectacular, more dangerous!

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Earth vs. the Spider (1958)

I might have the mind as an eleven year old boy and a body like a mega-hunk, and that might be the reason why I love the work of Bert I. Gordon so much. He gives the young boys and girls in us energy, that special feeling of watching something awesome a Sunday morning or a late Friday evening. Something that never really happens with new movies (no, I’m not one of those tragic I-hate-all-new-movies-people), but is closely connected to vintage midnight movies and Sunday TV-screenings of black & white classics.

A long time I ago I watched Earth Vs the Spider on tape, and I obviously forgot that over the years until I gave my new DVD a spin. The story isn’t unique or anything, it’s just a classic teenagers find giant spider, police kill giant spider, giant spider is placed in the middle of the sleepy little American town, spider wakes up and wrecks havoc! You know what I mean. The budget seems to be fairly low and there aren’t any graphic combat scenes between spider and man, but there’s enough giant spider to keep everyone happy.

Bert I. Gordon knows that he hasn’t the biggest budget in the biz here, and uses small details to enhance the action to something special. For example the violent burst of blood in the beginning of the movie, the crying baby on the street, the woman caught with her skirt in the car door. Those small details make so much difference. Like some extra chili pepper in the Bolognese.

All the backgrounds in the cave were shot in the Carlsbad Caverns, New Mexico. Gordon then shot the rest in an idyllic backlot at Universal Studios and some exterior scenes at the famous Bronson Canyon. He then added actors and action to the interior of the caves, which works a lot better than it should on such a small budget and hurried shooting schedule.

As the business man he was (and still is), he also promotes two of his other movies in this movie, War of the Colossal Beast and Attack of the Puppet People. They came the same year, 1958, and its great way of giving them an extra boost! My favourite scene is when the spider wakes up again though, after hearing some loud and “danceable” teen-music! If I was a spider, and would have felt the same way too!

But I think the main success with The Spider is Bert I. Gordon’s talent of storytelling. It’s easy to forget that behind all overgrown creatures and dancing teenagers. Gordon can tell a story, the editing is effective and camera work and light is always above average. The budget might be low, but there’s a lot of heart and passion in his movies. After reading his book I get a feeling he’s just a normal guy who wants to entertain the kids, not present us a message or a deeper meaning, but just make us go away from that boring reality for a while where big spiders and puppet people attacks!