Sunday, July 31, 2011

Iron Claw the Pirate (1969)

Like most Turkish superheroes Iron Claw the Pirate has no real superpowers. He can shoot and he can fight, have a sexy sidekick and is obsessed by defending his dear Istanbul from evil masterminds. In this case his name doesn’t even make scene. He has no iron claw and his looks not even slightly resembles a pirate – but he’s still one of the coolest and most violent Turkish superheroes I’ve seen so far, and his leather outfit and square-faced look is damn cool! I would go so far to say that Demir Karahan is the hottest superhero-actor in Turkey! But Iron Claw the Pirate has a lot to offer for dykes and straights to, don’t worry!

Fantomas, the French master criminal has arrived to Istanbul to take revenge on something. Not clear what actually, but he’s very vengeful and wants to kill Iron Claw. Our superhero also want to take revenge on something, but nothing more is mentioned regarding that… anyway, Fantomas has also set up a weapon factory and is planning to use these weapons to create terror everywhere, to sooner or later gain world domination of course! He has a blonde female companion to, and another girl that dances almost butt-naked dressed only in three golden leafs! (Hey, that was for you dykes and straight guys!). So Iron Claw, the female ass-kicking sidekick, his old uncle (don’t ask…) and a guy (maybe a cop) in a nice moustache takes it on to crush Fantomas once and for all!

I’m not by any means an expert on Turkish cult cinema. I watch the stuff I can find and that’s it. But Iron Claw the Pirate could so far be my favourite. On the surface it looks like any other film in the genre, but it has several things that set it apart from the rest: a stylish, cool superhero-outfit. Yes, it actually looks professional and not homemade. Fantomas is a great villain and this version of his rubber mask looks very creepy. The ladies, for those who like them, are extra sexy and cool. I’ve already mention that Demir Karahan is stunningly handsome, so that’s already a plus. The script is thin, but it has an absurd amount of action and stunts. Not that they could afford to do any big set-pieces, but the fights and shoot-outs are among the best I’ve seen in Turkish cult cinema so far.

Everything kinda explodes in the end with a huge body count. I’ve never seen so many henchmen getting shot in the face! A very sadistic detail I must add, and it looks even more painful with their screams and spastic movements when they fall dead to the ground. We’re also treated with some very creative camera movements. The best is when we follow the camera through four-five floors and sees fights and kills on each floor, all the way down to the bottom were Iron Claw makes the final kill. I’m not 100 % sure how they made this, but I guess they used an elevator with open doors – but no matter how they did it, it looks great and is one of the action highlights of this crazy little film!

Torture, executions, explosions, shoot-outs, fist-fights, nudity, blood and moustaches – you’ll find everything in Onar Films awesome official DVD release from 2008, a must buy! So take your chance and order it before it’s out of print – and after that it will never be out again.

Altin Çocuk Beyrut'ta (1967)

In 1967 baby-faced Göksel Arsoy was back in the saddle as Altin Çocuk in Altin Çocuk Beyrut'ta. The first movie proved to be a big success and this wouldn’t be the first sequel, two more would follow and forever put the name The Golden Boy on Göksel Arsoy’s career. This time Altin gets involved after a drug bust at a seedy night club. The drugs, and money leads to Beirut were Altin soon gets involved in sexy ladies and a lot of fist fights. Behind it all is a man dressed in a silvery Batman-esque outfit (complete with pointy ears and a cape). But this time is life extra tough because Altin gets brainwashed, or poisoned, and turns evil! Which leads him too brutally lash his woman, who’s strapped up in a torture dungeon!

Altin Çocuk Beyrut'ta is a more slick and well-made production than the first movie, even if the budget seem a bit lower – not counting the Beirut location of course. The sets are more cramped and the villain’s lair is just a few locations inside a factory. But the stylish approach to the story, the excellent work with shadows and editing makes this technically a better movie. What I miss is the bigger epic style of the first film, with more extras and more dangers around every corner.

The use of Göksel Arsoy as a Bond-style hero might seem weird, but most of the Bond rip-offs made never tried to copy the original Bond-actors, it seem so anyway (not counting the Italian ones, who hade more James Bondish actors than any other country). Göksel has the face of a little boy, a bit mean and mischievous like Jimmy Wang Yu. Like a combination between Kevin Spacey and Robert Vaughn. Not a bad thing, because he more looks like a bloke that never would be able to take down a dozen bad guys within seconds, which gives him more of a chance to surprise both the audience and the baddies.

Action yes, not the film with the highest budget, but the fist fights, oh the fist fights. There are only two countries that really focused on spectacular fights: Turkey and India. I guess it’s a question of budget, it’s cheaper to throw a fight than start a car chase, and in Altin Çocuk Beyrut'ta they prove that two fists and some crazy stuntmen can make the cheapest movie look great. The fights are intensive with big swings and a lot of painful falls into furniture, down in the floor or right into walls, stuff that Hong Kong made popular in the Eighties. Sometime I wonder who inspired who.

Göksel Arsoy produced (correct me if I’m wrong, please) the Altin Çocuk-films with his own company, Goksel Film, and created himself one of the most interesting franchises in Turkey, with his own personality and a big slice of Bondesque storylines and brutal action. It would have been interesting if he had followed the two next sequels with even more Golden Boy films, but maybe the energy and interest ran dry and he decided for a more serious career as an actor.

The only way to watch Altin Çocuk Beyrut'ta is through a version shown on Turkish TV. It’s OK viewing, but looks deteriorated and have, of course, no English subtitles. It’s possible that some scenes are lost, because sometime the story took very quick turns without much explanation. But if someone know a better version, let me know.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Exorcismo (1975)

There’s never wrong with a Paul Naschy movie, and when all other movies fail to entertain, Naschy is there with a magnificent beard doing his job like a real man! Exorcismo isn’t known to be either the best or the bloodiest in Naschy’s vast filmography, but I found it to be better than I thought it would be. Why? I guess because I have a shitty taste in movies, but also that the script was pretty decent and easy to follow. Not so episodic, but with a clear and quite interesting storyline.

Paul Naschy is Father Adrian Dunning, a local priest in a small British small town somewhere. One of the families he knows has a couple of rebellious daughters, and a whiny big brother, and something is terribly wrong. One of the girls, Patricia (Maria Perschy) has gotten herself involved in satanic worship and drugs, mostly due to her boyfriend. But when even he starts to stay away from her, it’s quite clear that Patricia has gotten possessed by something during the childish satanic games. Soon members of the family and staff is starting to get killed by someone twisting their necks, and it’s up to Father Adrian to solve the murders and get the evil spirit out from Patricia’s body!

Exorcismo is a quite slow movie, not much is happening except Patricia getting angry and her family looking worried. But the occasional bloodless murders and the bearded presence of Naschy make up for the pacing. I read a review were someone wrote that this movie has a “mediocre performance from Naschy”, which is of course as stupid as it sounds. Sure, Naschy was Naschy and he mostly played the same version of himself, but most actors do – even if the critics will deny it. What’s interesting with Father Adrian is that he’s a-sexual, which is very unique in Naschy’s case. He’s famous for getting laid numerous times in every movie, often showing off his muscles and hairy chest. But not here, Father Adrian seem even aggressive against when women show him some interest, which once again strengthens Naschy’s ability as an actor. His character don’t need to fuck around, he’s a man of the lord and has other pleasures in life.

The story gets more creepy during the last fifteen minutes when Patricia’s demon finally manifests himself in her look, and it’s extremely effective. Way better and scarier than in William Friedkin’s The Exorcist, but maybe not as spectacular. From the dried face and transparent slime running from her lips, to the nasty eye lenses, this is just awesome and very well-made.

If you turn your expectations down a little bit and doesn’t expect gore and nudity, Exorcismo is a decent and cozy Spanish horror-thriller with a very fine performance by every one, and Naschy in the front row of course. I recommend the OOP release from BCI, easy to find on eBay or other places who still might have it in stock.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Shaan (1980)

I never thought I would see two James Bond rip-offs that both have the hero getting into the evil mastermind’s lair pretending to be a member of a sing- and dance troupe! But I did. The first one was Bond 303 and the second is Shaan, the 1980 super-hit with superstars Amitabh Bachchan and Shashi Kapoor as the heroes, with good help from veteran hero-actor Sunil Dutt! It’s clearly pushing it to call Shaan a complete Bond rip-off, but I can say that half of the story and half of the movie can be placed under this fantastic pseudo-genre. Why, let’s take a look at the story…

Ambitabh and Shashi is two jolly good conmen, Vijay and Ravi. They survive through elaborated hoaxes and caper. One day they try to fool a young woman and an old man, only two realized they have been fooled by professional daughter/father con-duo Sunita (Parveen Babi) and Chacha (Johnny Walker, yes he named himself after the Scottish whisky). After some comedy and fun they decide to join forces and try to steal a diamond necklace. But they didn’t count on big brother Inspector Shiv Kumar (Sunil Dutt) who arrests them but welcomes them after doing some jail time…. So whats do this lead up to? Well, after an hour someone – the EVIL Shakal, the leader of a crime organization wants to take revenge on Kumar and his effective police force that interferes in the Shakal’s business over and over again, and he won’t stop until they’re all dead!

The special thing with Shakal is that he’s bald like Blofeld, has his own private island with a smaller army, a flock of killer dogs, a man-eating crocodile and of course an gigantic secret underground base! So from a typical easy-going caper movie it explodes into hyper-action and big impressive Ken Adam-style sets. Wow, just wow.

What’s really cool with Shaan is that it works so well, even if the genre-mix is quite extreme and can feel abrupt for the Hollywood-fan. Much must be blamed on the excellent cast, especially the trio of Bachchan, Kapoor and Dutt, who all three are so cool and has enough charisma to put the best action star to shame. Dutt, here 51 years old, acts out he was Superman or something. Falls from great heights without a scratch, hits bad guys so the fly through the walls, get chased by 40-50 dogs and manages to escape them, etc etc. The two younger gentlemen are of course not too bad either, and kick so much Indian butt during the almost three hour length of the movie that Chuck Norris should be afraid.

Except an impressive Dirty Harry-style scene in the beginning, were Dutt alone takes care of a hostage taker, the first hour is quite low-key, with comedy and singing and dancing instead. But when the action finally starts it never lets us down. No less than three car chases (all with impressive stunts), a couple of chases, a fantastic Peckinpah-esque shoot-out at a farm when bad-guy-going-good Rakesh (Shatrughan Sinha) alone protects a family against a dozen shotgun-armed henchmen.

In the end everything explodes – and a few of those clips were later reused in Bond 303 – but here you can see it in good quality and for a miniature buff like me it’s a field day of excess! As a fan of Bond rip-offs the lair is a treasure to behold. From the awesome round table with the killer crocodile underneath (easy way to dispose clumsy co-workers) and the long space-age corridors, this is a marvel of rip-offs, among the most stylish I’ve seen outside the real Bond films.

Shaan is a fine adventure-romp, recommended!

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Bond 303 (1985)

Another day, another Jamesbondish movie! The bad words I read about Bond 303 made me even more curious, because I learned to never trust the opinions about hired writers with little or no knowledge in genre cinema. I’m happy I didn’t believe the opinions out there, ‘cause Bond 303 feels like essential viewing for aficionados of world weird cinema. This is not Jeetendra’s first venture into Bondland, He got his big break with 1967’s (THE year of Bond rip-offs!) Farz as Agent 116. He returned several times to the world of espionage, ladies and action – but maybe never as far-out like this big slice of Indian cheese.

Terrorist attacks all over the world. Planes, trains, houses are blown to kingdom come by unknown rockets! The one to call is India’s super agent Bond 303! When the first meet him he’s occupied with a dozen ladies and they all burst out in an intensive sing- and dance number! Bond 303 befriends a young smart scientist, played by the cool Parveen Babi (who later, tragic enough, became very mentally ill and accused more or less everyone for trying to kill her. She died of complications from diabetes in 2005) and they start to gather information about the evil organization behind it all. But someone wants to stop them and sooner than you can say “curry” they are in grave danger!

I read somewhere that it’s important that Indian movies deliver “entertainment”. They should give the audience a good laugh, some sexy men and women, song and dance, scares and action – all in the same film. Not every Indian production are built after this format, but Bond 303 is definitely a good – no – GREAT example of how an Indian (in this case, a Hindi) movie can be. Colorful and filled of energy, this is one of those movies that cuts down on boring scenes and goes from action to dance to action and a chase to some romance and more action. It never waste one second on something people won’t pay to see, like an original script or convincing special effects. But in the whole, that’s pretty uninteresting.

For me who just loves LEGO hair cuts and sudden changes in the storyline, Bond 303 is a dream come true. For example, one sequences almost perfectly copies the dog scene from The Omen, you all know on the graveyard. But instead of our hero finding a Jackal skeleton in the grave he finds a secret passageway, which leads to an underground temple were he and his comic relief is attacked by living life-size statues! Well, I guess they’re statues anyway. They are stiff when they’re not moving at least. This is of course totally absurd, but it obvious has some purpose to the story because they kill a suspect terrorist down there. In another scene one character flees from Bond 303, but instead of get the hell out of there he finds himself a grotesque monkey-monster suit (it looks more like one of the Goblins in Troll 2, but taller and more Bigfootish) and attacks Bond 303 dressed in this, roaring like it was no tomorrow. Genius, god damn genius!

Bond 303 also has super strength when he jumps from a high rise building and lands on his feet and continues to run. Everything leads to a classic Jamesbondish show-down in a huge underground lair, which is pretty impressive considering the budget.

The film has a big body count, lots of stunts and explosions, miniatures (probably stock footage), song and dance and a couple of awesome Kung Fu fights in slow-mo and probably the worst female impersonation ever committed to the screen (by our hero no less). It’s out on VCD and can easily be found. You will not regret watching it!

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

The Stoneman Murders (2009)

Both a slightly silly thriller and a serious attempt to deal with the infamous Stoneman case that shocked India in the middle of the eighties, The Stoneman Murders is not entirely successful, but is still a quite effective thriller with a solid cast of excellent actors. In the beginning it felt like a similar movie like Memories of Murder, but the further the story goes it’s more like on of those semi-realistic Hollywood productions which take maybe to much liberties for their own sake.

Kay Kay Menon plays the brutal policeman Sanjay who finally succeeds to kill a prisoner during a violent beating. He’s suspended from the police force, but at the same time a brutal murder is committed – a homeless man gets his head crushed by a big stone. Sanjay is convinced that this is something more than just a robbery and his former boss gives him a second chance, in secret investigate the murder at the same time was the official investigation, lead by the cocky Kedar (Arbaaz Khan). Sanjay is so obsessed by the murders that his former colleagues is starting to suspect him – and soon even the killer is after him, trying to make him look even more guilty…

The Stoneman Murders is such a schizophrenic thriller. In one part it wants to show the real life, the dirty and terrible life the poor and the outcast. We’re meeting prostitutes, drug addicts, transvestites (as usual, not a gritty neighbourhood without trannies!), people taking a dump in the street, beatings and just stuff that show us that life is shit. But whenever this is happening, the story kinda floats away and gives us a new red herring or a chase instead – like director Manish Gupta couldn’t make up his mind about what movie he wanted to make. Instead the thriller slowly becomes a murder mystery, not a bad one, but it’s a kind of let down, because I expected something more – ambitious might be the word. The original case is very interesting and I feel they could have done a much more serious movie than what finally was made.

But sure, it’s not a bad movie. It’s a really good thriller with a lot tension and some nice scares. The killer is eerie and spooky and the reason for the murders is both absurd and banal, which makes it even scarier. The best thing with the movie is the excellent cast, all of them are top-notch and worth of all the good reviews they can get. What’s not so good is some of the HUGE logical leaps the story takes. There’s a couple of instances were I just talked to the TV, trying to get the characters do the correct thing and not act like morons. For example, our hero of course grabs the killers knifes and holds it until the police sees him so they REALLY can suspect him for the killings. Like in all bad thrillers. Come one, don’t touch the fucking knife! The worst thing is in the end, and I still can’t explain how they solve that problem – but hey, it worked anyway.

The Stoneman Murders is a good, decent Indian thriller with enough tension to keep you hooked for 95 minutes. If you can ignore the tasteless sing and dance number with happy, ultra-sexy, prostitutes it’s an even better production.

Kitami (1989)

I’m very unfamiliar with the Japanese Pinku genre and to be honest, until a couple of weeks ago I couldn’t name one single movie. So I’m quite happy to finally got the chance to experience Hisayasu Sato’s Kitami, aka Muscle aka The Madness Night aka… ya, you know the rest, a new title for each damn territory. The first one mentioning this movie to me was Jason over at Cinezilla, and that’s the reason my friend Tommy in Japan was kind enough to send me the official DVD. I’m very grateful for these two gentlemen helping me see the Gay Pinku light.

Takeshi Itô is Ryuzaki, an editor for a Muscle magazine. He gets involved with an experimental dancer, Kitami (Simon Kumai) and at first the relationship is very kind, very gentle, but Kitami slowly drifts into sado-masochism and wants Ryuzaki to cut him, hurt him. It ends in Ryuzaki cutting of Kitami’s arm and ends up in prison for a year. But he’s still in love with Kitami, or maybe just obsessed by him, and starts to search for him in the back alleys of Tokyo. One reason is to give back Kitami’s arm that he has in a big jar in his apartment and find true love again…

Just an hour long, Kitami squeezes so much drama and passion into these 60 minutes that a lot of other directors and screenwriters should be ashamed of wasting hours and hours of valuable of time on cliché-ridden scripts about love and pain. This is concentrated passion. I guess some people would find the story a bit to dark, a bit too negative, but those are also the people that pretend that they’re living in a silly dream world. Happiness isn’t only flowers and hearts, for some people it can be the pain and the suffering – for them the only way to know life. What I’m curious about, did Kitami want to loose his arm? Maybe, but Ryuzaki still have to give something back in the end, and in all its macabre details, it’s one of the most romantic endings I’ve seen.

This is the first Hisayasu Sato film I’ve seen, but I’m impressed by the realism and the length the actors go to create characters that feels real, that maybe even are real. There’s no poseurs here, no lightweight pretending. When Ryuzaki and Kitami have sex it’s the characters getting on with it, not actors pretending to be something else (do I have to mention it’s pretty hot to?). Both Takashi and Simon is very impressive in their parts, and manage to stay away from being pretentious – which must have been extra hard for Simon Kumani who plays a very arty farty dancer, a hard thing to do without boarding the performance to parody. But a good script and a good director overcome everything. In a Swedish movie things like this would just have been preposterous, that’s why I’m bringing it up.

I also need to mention the haunting score by So Hayakawa, I wish it was released somewhere. I never really cared for “happy gay movies”, what I care about is real gay movies. Movies that’s not shallow and stupid, stereotypical crap. We, the gay community, seem to be forcing ourselves to only like happy movies, but I demand the right to also be multi-layered and not so damn happy, just like the rest of the world. Kitami succeeds in this, long before any brokeback mountains or any other mechanical Oscar-winning project.

It takes a genius to make a movie like this, and I can’t wait to dive into the filmography of Hisayasu Sato!

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Resurrection (1999)

I, for one, welcome Russell Mulcahy’s decent into DTV and gun-for-hire jobs after the entertaining but overrated Highlander. If he continued to one of those big fancy Hollywood directors he would have ended up being completely soulless and just another mainstream-maggot among the others. He made one of the finest thrillers after Highlander, for example the Ricochet and one of Dolph Lundgren’s best films, Silent Trigger. Tale of the Mummy from 1998 is also one fine piece of DTV classic, very underrated. The year after he teamed up with Christopher Lambert once again for the Seven-rip off Resurrection. Maybe “rip-off” is a bit unfair, but it’s surely inspired by David Fincher’s classic serial killer thriller, and also a damn fine thriller on its own.

A serial killer is hunting down victims in Chicago (mostly in Toronto, this is a Canadian production) and seem to take one body part at the time. An arm, a leg, a head, and soon the workaholic cop John Prudhomme (Christopher Lambert) understands that the killer is building the body of Jesus Christ! Together with his partner, the fast-talking Andrew Hollinsworth (Leland Orser) and an enthusiastic profiler from FBI, Gerald Demus (Robert Joy) they seem to get closer to the killer, or is the killer getting closer to them?

Resurrection shares a couple of similar themes and plot twists with Seven, but I still think it’s in the same level of quality, Sure, it does not have Brad Pitt or Morgan Freeman (which, to be honest, I’m very happy about – Pitt I like, but Morgan hasn’t been a good actor since Seven), but I still think this is one of Lamebert’s finest moments as an actor (he was also co-writer and producer) and overall has a stellar cast of excellent actors. Leland Orser and Robert Joy are both among the best, and even David Cronenberg makes a small performance as Lambert’s priest. He’s a good actor, and it’s always fun to see him show up in genre movies.

Resurrection never bog down with extra character development or romance, everything is very smartly built into the story and it’s just not necessary to stop and think. It’s all there, at the same time as the thrills and scares. Because first of all Resurrection is a serial killer thriller, a quite graphic one. Not much graphic violence, but a lot of gory aftermaths with shocking and realistic special effects. Mulcahy, always an extremely visual director, shows off his talent in a couple of very impressive set-pieces. A pro at work, and it would be good if more could realize what a master he is – after all, he also directed the best Resident Evil film!

Hidden away in the DTV corner of history, Resurrection is one of my favourite serial killer thrillers and it deserves a better place in movieland. The region 1 from Colombia Tri-Star boasts a great widescreen version and an audio commentary by Russell Mulcahy. Get it!

Monday, July 25, 2011

Operation Black Panther (1977)

Sombat Metanee was one of the biggest stars in Thailand during the seventies, and is still considered one of the most famous movies stars ever in the land of smile. What I didn’t know was that he had a talent for directing and produced a couple of major hits. One of them is Operation Black Panther, a James Bondish action-comedy complete with crazy stunts and action. The story, without subtitles, was a bit hard to understand but what I could figure out is that he’s supposed to be some secret agent/police/detective who live with his parents. Or at least terrorize them from time to time with pranks.

Now he’s going to infiltrate a big crime organization and to test his reliability he’s going to perform an assassination for them. But instead of doing he’s flees and a now they’re after him because he’s the only one knowing who they are and were they have their secret base! Somehow, along the way, Sombat get a female colleague, played by Aranya Namwong, who joins him in his fight against the Black Panther organization!

Operation Black Panther is made with a big juicy tongue firmly placed in the cheek. The whole pre-credits sequence is filled with “borrowed” footage from a Pink Panther cartoon, which also makes me think this is a reference to the Inspector Clouseau films with Peter Sellers and the rest of the movie is easy going. The only instance of something darker is when Sombat is breaking into the organizations secret base and tries to kill guards with strangling them, which creates a couple of very funny and black moments of comedy.

But most of the movie is spent on action and it boasts a couple of very creative moments. The first chase is with Sombat’s doubled-fronted car and then goes over to motorcycle. Lots of fast driving in a city I believe is Bangkok and a couple of very nice stunts. A few fights later and we’re treated to a very fun mini-chase with the car in a garage, were Sombat and Aranya take turns driving the car from the opposite side. Ah… fuck it, I’ve stolen a screenshot from the brilliant DIE, DANGER, DIE, DIE, KILL! to make it clearer:

The ending also has one of the worst miniatures since Amando de Ossorio’s The Ghost Galleon, but at least it’s easy to forget in the scene after when a nice explosion lights up the effect quality of the movie!

I’ve noticed, just as a detail, that Sombat has a tendency to strip almost naked in a lot of movies I’ve seen with him. Nothing bad with that, just a good thing, because he’s obviously the fittest Thai star of the seventies and isn’t afraid to show off his biceps and wide chest! He was popular both among women and men, and Sombat knew this "I never thought of acting, but I was good-looking, smart; I had sex appeal” – and that alone can create a career. The only difference was that he could act also, and direct – which he proven clearly with this entertaining piece of Thai popcorn-culture!

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Kızıltuğ Cengiz Han (1952)

Thank heavens for vacation, this is the time were I can sit down and watch all the movies I wanted to focus on for a long time. Kızıltuğ Cengiz Han, aka Red Plume – Genghis Khan is one of them, one of the earliest Turkish movies to be saved from oblivion. Thought to be lost for ages, Onar Films finally released this hidden classic in 2008 and it’s not until know I took the time to watch it! Shame on me, but as long as I put the money in Onar Films I’m proud and happy.

Turan Seyfioglu is Otsukarci, a freelance warrior who one day runs into the great Genghis Khan and becomes friend with him after helping him out when bandits attacks! Khan offers him a job, but he refuses politely. But he agrees to help him with one thing, go to another ruler and demand some money that he owes Khan. All things well until the ruler sees him and realize he’s a damn copy of his lazy son – who needs to be in a fight the next day! Otsukarci pretends to be the son, but everything falls apart and everyone understands he’s just a fake! Now our brave warrior is in-between to rulers, who are mighty angry at him and each other!

Something like that! Red Plume has been lost for years and years, and big parts are probably missing from the story. Either destroyed by age or just edited away for difference purposes. So the story is a bit thin here and there, but thankfully the most of the action seem intact and it’s excellent stuff. Great and violent sword-fights, cool stunts and a very classy 1930’s feeling of matinee and entertainment. Turan Seyfioglu is damn fine hero to, with a cool moustache and nice swings in those fists.

I’m just guessing, but maybe Red Plume aren’t the most best-selling title in Onar Films library of Turkish classics, if so, it’s a pity because it’s probably one of the most unique and special DVD’s they released. Not sixties or seventies kitch, but a very competent and nice adventure movie which so appeal to everyone into peplums and historical epics. The final, a big battle also offers some rare graphic violence and blood, which surprised me. It’s way to short and ends a bit abruptly, but is worth every penny spent on this DVD.

And if I hear one single person complain about the quality on this DVD – shut the hell up, because the quality is excellent, remember this is a lost film. This is probably the only way we ever can see this movie again. Nothing to complain about, because this is it! No alternatives. Get your sexy asses over to Onar Films now and buy this one and all the other cool titles he as in store for you!

Operation Kid Brother (1967)

Also known as OK Connerty, Operation Kid Brother is one of those Italian James Bond rip-offs, but a bit more ambitious regarding the casting. First of they have Neil Connery, Sean’s real younger brother, playing the younger brother to the worlds best agent 00… yeah, they never finish his name. His boss is Bernard Lee, Louise Maxwell is his assistant, Anthony Dawson a bad guy, Adolfo Celi the main baddie and Daniela Bianchi as the woman!

I think the official plot summary on IMDB quite clearly explains the confusing plot: “The evil crime syndicate Thanatos is bent on taking over the world, using a magnetic wave generator that will cause all metal-based machinery to grind to a halt.” Yeah, sounds like another Bond movie and except for having a slightly lower budget it feels like a Bond movie in many ways. Not only the cast, but the locations, the underground lair of the Adolfo Celi and the nice score by Morricone and Nicolai. Also several references is made to the original Bond franchise and Ian Flemming, but I can’t say it’s a spoof. The story is quite straight forward serious and the comedy is not especially visible.

Neil Connery has gotten a lot of slack for his performance in Operation Kid Brother, but I felt now when I finally was watching it again that he’s quite decent – a lot better than some people said before. He’s obviously not as used to the camera as his brother, but looks good and handles both dialogue (I think, because he’s dubbed) and the action very well. I wonder why he has a beard, looks like a fake beard to. Could it be to just make him look a little bit different than Sean? Was it a legal thing? They have a short dialogue about his beard, and with the explanation that he’s very fond of his beard and refuse to shave it.

The main star is, of course, the director Alberto De Martino, a guy that for many years was regarded like some kinda hack by “fans” out there who just did see a couple of his last movies. Personally I think De Martino still is one of the more competent and personal genre directors from Italy. There’s no one who can deny the amazing quality of Blazing Magnum, the excellent The Omen rip-off Holocaust 2000 (I consider it in parts better than the first Omen movie and way better than the sequels), the fantastic Antichrist, the ultra-cool Medusa vs. the Son of Hercules and a lot of other movies in every genre possible.

He creates a slick movie, filled with action and energy. The script might be confusing and a bit drawn out, but when the action hits it hits hard and fun. The ending, with a fraction of the budget of a real Bond movie, still has an underground base, explosions, a high body count, a fun idea with attacking the base armed with arrows!

Never released officially on DVD, it’s only available on a decent looking bootleg – fullscreen and mastered from VHS. It’s still a nice addition to the collection and a eurospy movie which deserves a little bit more respect than it gotten so far.

Interpol 009 (1967)

Ching Tang is Chen Tien Hung, agent 009! Yes, even Shaw Brothers tried their luck in the spy-business in the sixties, inspired by the James Bond franchise of course. The Italians did hundreds of them, Turkey had their The Golden Boy series and even in Sweden we were treated to Åsa-Nisse i Agentform which managed to do the fire truck-scene from View to a Kill twenty years before Roger Moore did it. Still a shit movie, even if it was predecessor! But back to Interpol 009, a good-looking but not too exciting adventure…

Agent 009 is having the time of his life with a couple of bikini-dressed women on a beach somewhere when he gets the call that they found two dead bodies in the water. One of them is Chinese and he’s sent on a mission to Hong Kong to investigate an organisation that produces counterfeit money. But the bad guys are on his tail and he’s forced to pick a fight with the police to be able to find a secure place for a while. There he meets a pick-pocket that becomes his friend and companion in solving the mystery!

First of all, Margaret Tu Chuan is a fantastic choice as the main baddie. She had that psychotic look, extremely good actress and a very beautiful. Two years later she committed suicide together with her lover and it’s a damn pity. Ching Tang is good as 009, but feels even more lightweight than Roger Moore in the role as a super agent, but his charm and wits make up for it. There’s actually not much action in Interpol 009, and the big action scene comes towards the end, a good and massive shoot-out in a big house + a nice chase during the final minutes, but other than that it’s very little in the action department.

What Interpol 009 is about is nice locations, beautiful people, gadgets and some broad comedy between 009 and his comic sidekick, the pick-pocket. I wonder what would have happen if Shaw Brothers fused Bond with kung fu, for real, not just like a small detail. That would have been very interesting. Because I really miss the action and the muddled plot made it easy to go out in the kitchen and grab something to eat without really missing something important.

In the end I liked Interpol 009, mostly for the style and atmosphere, which can make a boring movie worth watching. This is not a boring movie, but the lack of action made it less exciting than it should have been. I still recommend it to spy aficionados and collectors of the wonderful world of the weird.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Seven Dead in the Cat's Eye (1973)

It’s been a long time since I watched a giallo. The last time most of the movies I’ve written about have been Asian (mostly Thai) flicks, but after two days of intense migraine I’ve decided to watch something non-Asian to heal my mind – or at least watching that’s not in low-res VCD quality without subtitles in a language I can’t understand. Up there on the pile of unwatched giallos lay Antonio Margheriti’s Seven Dead in the Cat’s Eye, a movie I owned for a while but it wasn’t until I watched Gainsbourg: Vie héroïque recently I also got reminded of this 1973 giallo.

The story is familiar, Jane Birkin plays a young woman returning to the old family castle only to be met with tension and melodrama. The son in the family, played by handsome Hiram Keller, is said to be “mad” and he has a tame gorilla in cage! Soon people start to die, and in a hysterical fit Jane discovers a rotten body in the basement – who is it and how is the body connected to what’s happening?

I’m aware of Margheriti’s gothic horror films, but for me he’s always gonna be the master of action and adventure with tons of exploding miniatures and cool guys with guns. His gothic flicks have never really interested me, mostly because he seems to have made them because Mario Bava made them and it was trendy. Now, Margheriti always followed the trends – he was a working horse, an excellent gun-for-hire. Nothing bad with that, it only makes my respect for him bigger. Seven Dead in the Cat’s Eye is an interesting mix between giallo and gothic horror.

The story is a bit uneven, and hardly original, but Margheriti has a lot of fun with the fantastic location. Because there’s not much do when it comes to special effects or miniatures, Margheriti goes wacko with the camera and makes every damn scene interesting and fun to watch, even when the dialogue lacks or not much actually is happening. It’s also easy to sense of a twinkle in the eye in the whole production, with only Jane Birkin playing it totally straight. She’s also excellent, and outshines the whole cast of professionals. Ah yes, I will not forget the presence of her fantastic husband at the time, Serge Gainsbourg, who has a minor part as a police detective. He looks and acts like usual – half asleep – but cool as hell!

Gore? Not at all I would say, but it has a couple of very stylish blood splattering-sequences – you know that really RED blood that we all love in the giallos of the seventies! Yummy!

Friday, July 22, 2011

Magic Lizard (1985)

Some people use drugs, I personally prefer watching Thai family entertaining the get the same trip. Sompote Sands Magic Lizard, the last movie he directed, is the perfect example of pure cinematic insanity. Made in the same style like his other fantasy movies, but with that extra twist of absurdity and more aimed at a younger audience. I wasn’t really prepared for the entertainment value, because the few screenshots I’ve seen has just been that damn lizard standing around doing nothing. But believe me, he do a lot. More than I would in a life time in just ninety minutes.

Our friend the Magic Lizard (voiced by the annoying little girl in our nightmares!) is skating with his friends around Bangkok (I think) some nice and happy music. Then he goes to relax under a pagoda but is soon disturbed by invading huge aliens, who look like something from Kamen Rider or Ultraman who steals his crystal! Those darn aliens! Shocked by this he goes to his friend, a Hanuman statue, who flies away to get the crystal. But now when the lizard already is out, why not some adventures?

Yeah, those adventures… it’s hard to describe them, because the whole movie is very episodic and not very concerned by a comprehensible storyline. He meets a big bloodthirsty crocodile who kills people in bloody attacks (including a very nude woman), he finds himself a nice bike to drive around with, gets chased by a train on a track not once, but twice, meets some treasure hunters who are stuck in a golden cave with some mean skeletons and a golden bull! The lizard also befriends a horde of elephants and a dirty old man played by Lor Tok (who we saw as the evil mastermind in James Band 007 the other day). A lot of chases, songs and cheap rubber monsters later we’re treated to a happy nice ending!

Yeah, what can I say? This is of course brilliant. Brilliant in a way only Sompote Sands could be brilliant. For fan so cheap monsters and rubber creatures this is heaven. No big monster wrecking havoc, but they are so bizarre, so odd and strange. One of my favourite scenes is when the poor lizard is fighting a bear, and the bear suit just looks fucked-up! Everything with the crocodile is cool to and the big mechanical rubber elephant used in a couple of scenes is awesome also! It’s easy to make fun of Magic Lizard, but why? This is packed with bizarre entertainment! Not one boring second! But my thought goes to the poor sucker inside the lizard-suit, who obviously had problem walking around in this monster of a dress! I could see at least two places were he probably just fell because he couldn’t stop it and they used in the movie because it looked fun! In one of those he’s actually riding on a galloping bull! The same bull that a moment later takes a graphic dump into the lizard’s mouth!

Magic Lizard (aka King-Ka Kayasit aka กิ้งก่า กายสิทธิ์) is out on VCD in Thailand and it’s a very good release, widescreen with a sharp and nice-looking print. Recommended for you who might have something extra to show your children or poor partner who can’t defend themselves!

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Tips till Svenska läsare, Chimärerna - ny svensk SF roman!

Som en del av er vet har jag ett litet bokförlag som heter Oddbooks. Vi har precis i dagarna släppt KG Johanssons nya roman, CHIMÄRERNA. KG's förra roman, Googolplex utsågs av Spektakulärt till årets sci-fi roman 2010! Läs mer här!

Chimärerna i korthet:

Sommaren 1962. Marilyn Monroe dör och misstankar mot Bröderna Kennedy växer sig allt starkare. På hösten upptäcker amerikanska spionplan sovjetiska kärnvapenmissiler på Kuba. Presidenten är hårt ansatt och krisen slutar inte som han hade tänkt sig. I en liten by i Norrbotten försöker människorna förstå vad som har hänt, och vad som kommer att hända.

Våren 1982. Efter ett attentat sitter Olof Palme i rullstol. Samhället har slagit tillbaka hårt mot terrorismen och Sverige håller gradvis på att förvandlas till en polisstat. Ungdomar försöker dämpa oron med sprit och droger men allting blir långsamt väre. En flicka med rötter i den Norrbottniska byn drabbas hårdast.

Nutid. Gymnasieläraren Martin blir pappa och går ut och firar. Han träffar en ung flicka som han snart hamnar i ett förhållande med. Flickan har udda intressen och Martin dras in i en häxkittle av sex och satanism. Han inser att han är på väg mot en katastrof men klarar inte att avsluta förhållandet. Martin försöker förtvivlat förstå om flickan menar allvar med sina teorier, eller om
alla hennes berättelser bara är fantasier...

En rekommenderad shop är som har den för 72 kr! Vi väntar fortfarande på att recension ska komma, men stöd gärna ett litet förlag med stora ambitioner - och dessutom stödjer ni också min kommande DVD utgivning :)

Är man sugen på mer så finns även novellsamlingen BÖGSKRÄCK, HBT + makabert = jävligt sant! Finns också för en spottstyver på!


Bloody Krasue (1994)

In Thai the title reads กระสือ กระหายเลือด which literary means “Bloody Filth-Eating Spirit”, but a Thai friend suggested that Bloody Krause would be a more fitting title so I’ll trust him and hereby baptizes this movie to it’s first (?) English title ever. The Krause has been the subject of many many many movies from Thailand and Indonesia, and it’s a female ghost, consisting of a flying head with the guts hanging underneath it. Cool, eh? First time I heard of this movie was when I saw the original poster on eBay and bought it (it’s the poster used in this review) and finally I also found it on VCD and it just took me a year or so to finally watch it. And you know, this was actually not bad at all!

Thida Teerarat plays a woman being chased by a gang of bandits. What they want with her I have no idea, but she escapes them and finds shelter at an old woman, a good-hearted witch! In the night the old woman, who is a Krasue, flies away in the night scaring away the bandits. Next morning Thida finds the old woman dead in her bed. Thida decide to stay in the house, because no one else claims it, but what she don’t know is that she’s possessed by the Krasue now and every night she have to fly out and eat the animals belonging to the neighbours! They are aware that she’s a Krasue but she causes no danger for them and protects them. But soon the bandits is getting closer and Thida starts to get a thirst for human blood instead of chicken!

Not that Bloody Krause is any original, but it’s a surprisingly well-made little horror movie. Thida Teerarat was hot at this time, and both in 1992 and 1993 she won the best actress award at the “Thai Oscars”, the Tuk-ka-Ta Thong award. She’s also a very good actress and gives us a sensitive performance in-between the horror scenes, were she looks completely out of her mind as the flying head! Overall the acting is very good, and Ekapan Banleurit playing her love-interest especially. The style of the movie is classy and looks extremely good even on the cheap VCD I have. The direction by Sang-Tawan is intelligent and so is the script, with really no boring parts, by Wasuthep O-Siri.

Compared to the last Krasue film I saw, Ghost of Guts Eaters, the effects works better here, mostly because of the lack of primitive video effects. This is mostly a fake head flying with the help of wires and cool close-ups of the actresses faces drenched in massive green light. It’s not overly gory, except a few shots of the ghost eating meat and drooling blood, but it has enough attacks on humans the last half hour to make up for that.

As a bonus there’s one very nice and violent fight scene, similar of what Panna Rittikrai and friends did in their movies in the eighties. The fun thing with that scene is that it was obviously shot in chronological order and probably quite late in the day, so it gets darker in every shot and in the end its night! Sure, it could have been on purpose, but as an ex-filmmaker I know the problem and have experienced it myself several times!

Bloody Krause is a very good movie in the Krause genre. Not original, but never boring and filled with nice shots and some excellent use of stolen music!

Here’s the other actors names, to make it easier for others who’s researching this movie:

ศิโรจน์ โอศิริ (Sirojn O-Siri)
กุสุมา หทัยทิพย์ (Kusuma Hataitip)
นันทิดา ระหงษ์ (Nanthida Rahong)
ชุมพร อุดมศักดิ์ (Chumporn Udomsak)
เป้า ปรปักษ์ (Pao Porapak)
เผ่าไท พรพิสิจ (Paothai Pornpisit)
สุชาดา อีเอม (Suchada E-aim)

It’s produced by Pakinee Sunthornchart.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Garuda (2004)

When Garuda came people said it was the first big monster movie to come from Thailand, which is of course wrong. Sompote Sands did the same thing in the seventies with some of the most insane movies ever made. Garuda is more inspired by American modern monster films, and even send a few hints towards the awful US Godzilla by Roland Emmerich. But Garuda is way better than that movie, and even if the story is very generic it’s still a very nice addition to the world of monster films.

Sara Legge is Leena, a half-Thai, half- French scientist and her best friend and assistant, Tim (Daniel Fraser) is called to Bangkok when the drillers building the new subway system finds a weird cranium, something that could be proof that the legendary creature Garuda actually existed for real. They’re met by a cocky team of special soldiers, who is very nationalistic and hates that fact that Leena is half-Thai and Tim is a foreigner! Soon they discover a petrified forest and of course a real live Garuda who starts to kill them one by one, and finally manages to get up to the surface to create havoc in Bangkok!

The first big Thai movie shot with HD cameras, and it looks excellent. It probably helped a small movie to look bigger and even if some of the effects work less good it’s still a fun monster film with a lot of action and little story. The story is very straightforward and never really stops to do something unnecessary. There’s at least two love stories hinted, but they never take that final boring step to waste time on something like that when we just want to see action.

Monthon Arayangkoon is a creative director and gets a lot out of the small sets. The petrified forest is of course bigger, but much seem to be generated with CGI. The highlight is a cool showdown between the Garuda and one of the soldiers in a corridor, with some shameless nods towards The Matrix. When the monster finally roams the streets of Bangkok they even copies a shot from Emmerich’s Godzilla, when the monster is lifting a car up in the air and we see the driver from the inside falling to his death.

Much of the story around the action is focused on the nationalistic feelings that must have been a big issue at this time. In this movie it’s important for Thai’s and non-Thai’s to work together, when in later movies it’s became more common with evil foreigners who wants to hurt the Thai beliefs and traditions. A big deal is about Leena being a half-breed for example. I also have a feeling that the idea was to create a franchise from this movie, because the team has since earlier also fought against a Naga (which is seen in a flashback) and who knows what other creatures they could have been set against?

Garuda is a good movie, a lot better than some of the better SyFy channel productions out there and is worth a purchase on DVD.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

James Band 007 (1980)

I knew instantly needed to own James Band 007 when I saw the awesome poster somewhere on the internet. Luckily for me, Ethaicd had a couple of copies left on VCD and I ordered it directly. And after I saw it I found an original poster for it on eBay, but that’s a whole other story. First of all, I love Bond parodies, rip-offs and homages from all over the world. Thailand had a couple of films similar to Bond since earlier, and even Jao Insee, on of Chaibancha’s Red Eagle films feels a lot like a Bond film. But James Band was obviously not just a rip-off, but a pure parody with everything a “real” Bond movie should have.

Thai comedian Thep Thienchai, famous for his less than beautiful face an toothless grin, plays a lazy tourist chauffeur, driving one of those rickshaw-style bicycle vehicles in Pattaya. One day the Thai James Bond hires him to take him somewhere nearby, but it’s upwards all the way and Thep just can’t drive fast enough – which the bad guys use and kills Bond! Well, before he dies he gives Thep his briefcase with gadgets and whispers to him to continue the mission and save the world. He quickly takes over the role of super-agent and somehow fools everyone that he’s the real Bond! One girl is convinced he has a rubbermask on, but fails to rip of his face! On an island sits this movie’s Dr Evil, played by veteran comedian Lor Tok, with his two stupid robots – R2D2 and C3PO! Yes, the Star Wars characters! He also has a lot of henchmen, one of them the legendary Pipop Pupinyo (which is famous for his bald head and big moustache). Will Thep succeed, or will Dr Evil use his death ray against more airplanes in the sky?

James Band 007 is a cheap and crude parody, but is surprisingly funny – even without subtitles! Shot in a Pattaya not destroyed by tourists, it has plenty of beautiful locations, fancy hotel rooms and chases and fights all over the place. With a budget being quite low the movie relies a lot on the presence of Thep Thienchai, whose rubber face was a popular sight in Thailand for many years. He died in 1994. With the comedy much being physical there’s also a lot of funny situations. My favourite is the lizard-head Thep wears on top of his head when he’s swimming ashore on the island. Clearly a nod to Goldfinger were Bond has a bird on his head, but this time the animal won’t stay quiet and Thep is finally forced to bury it under sand and rocks to stop it from revealing his presence!

The robots are another very odd detail with the film. Build with more primitive materials than the original, and also very stupid and the R2D2 also seem a bit to horny! They also have a tendency to get into fights with each other, or just behaving very badly – much to the annoyance of Lor Tok! James Band 007 also takes a nasty turn when he’s so warm in the 007 clothes that he starts to kill the bad guys, with knife and gun and once – poor Pipop – with crushing a head! It’s not really bloody, but way more violent than other comedies I’ve seen that spoofs James Bond.

The soundtrack is filled with stolen tracks from a lot of Bond films and also has a more pop-ish, disco-esque version of the Star Wars theme! I don’t think there’s any original music in the whole movie, which only makes it even more entertaining.

James Band 007 is a colourful, funny and totally mad comedy which still works great! I would love to see a DVD release someday, not that the VCD is bad – it’s very good – but I would like to see it in even better quality!

(Thanks Chanchana for the screenshots!)

Monday, July 18, 2011

Sidang Dara Dedemit (2000)

Sometimes I’m just too lazy to even try writing a review, especially if the movie is to crazy or strange to write down in words. It has happen before and now it’s time again. Let me introduce Sidang Dara Dedemit which seems to be one of several movies, episodes, about a beautiful woman and her bald gay spirit friend. This bald guy is played by Ozzy Syahputra, who’s a famous actor and singer in Indonesia.

It’s a mix between scares and comedy – mostly comedy – and some utterly bizarre characters. It’s cheap, dirty and very silly. But even without subtitles it’s hard to be bored by it. There’s plenty of extremely cheap video effects, dwarfs and the fog machine is working hard to create atmosphere in something that could have been a daytime soap opera but with monsters and ghosts!

Anyway, this is very entertaining and I will try to find other episodes so I can tell you more about the adventures of Si Manis Jembatan Ancol and Ozzy!

But I will let the screenshots talk instead, here you go:

Black Killer (1990)

How do you review a movie were you have no idea what the story is about? Trying to avoid the story and focus on everything else I guess. Black Killer is one of those Panna Rittikrai movies I have on VCD and I finally took time to watch it. Released in 1990, this is when Rittikrai kinda slowed down his own fighting and released his students more and more. He focuses more on less stunt-oriented fighting and even some more acting. In Black Killer he runs around in his classic outfit, stone washed jeans jacket, a mullet and with a gang of kids around him – on of them Tony Jaa, as you can see down below.

But like in all of these movies some sinister types are sneaking around, that includes three ninjas! They seem to been sent out by another main baddie (with a beard, as usual) who’s looking for a woman who might have some important documents with her – or maybe that’s two different storylines, can’t tell. Sorry. What Panna and his kids do I have no idea, but they visit a blues rock concert (probably guest starring some famous singer) and slowly gets involved in the story. Everything leads up to the typical big fight with blood and stunts.

Black Killer must have been a small hit at the time. Not that it’s especially original, but it has a great pace and goes from action to action, some comedy in-between and then some more action. The story is all over the place, but it’s clearly that the filmmakers aim for a wide audience and tries to include everything that can lure people to the outdoor cinema. The only thing missing is something supernatural, or? Well, there’s a scene were two older men either uses magic on each other or imagining that they’re killing each other, because knifes appears in hands and blood spurts all over the place. And then they are alive again!

The action? It’s not bad, but it’s quite ordinary and even if it’s not in the jungle (were everything is free and they don’t have to break something) they clearly stays away from more dangerous and painful stunts. The full contact-hits is lesser also, but the fights has energy and always tends to be quite bloody! I mean, we have ninjas with swords here! One poor sucker gets both his arms and his head chopped off! The final fight is more violent and has more advanced stunts then the rest of the movie, which is a common thing. Always save the best for last.

The VCD from Lepso Studio is in quite good shape and is recommended for collectors of obscure Thai cinema.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Lumpoon Daeng (1988)

The original title is ลำพูนแดง, which means Red Country. I have no idea what this refers to, if it’s just a poetic form of blood or if it has something to do with the evil communists that always was the baddies in these movies. I doubt it’s the last, because here we have something that looks like a very typical countryside action story with legend Sorapong Chatree as the good guy and (I think) Rith Luecha as the bad guy.

I’m not totally sure about the story, but think it’s like this: Sorapong gets his hands on a Buddhist amulet, obviously a very sacred one. Suddenly he can’t be hurt buy guns and becomes a helluva fighter. He’s shot and shot, but no scratch on his body! This is of course fine until the day he tries to save a girl (Duangduen Jithaisong) from get kidnapped. He and the girl’s sister (or friend) chases them but it ends with her getting fatally injured and the baddies gets away! She dies and the police of course think he’s guilty to the kidnapping! So he’ll have to prove that he’s innocent by saving the other girl and killing all the bad guys!

Something like that, sorry if it’s not correct, but I can seriously not find any other storyline to fit in to the movie! At first the VCD looked like shit, but after a couple of minutes it became quite good, which helps a lot when you watches a film without subtitles. As usual this is Sorapong Chatree’s show and he’s just fabulous. He has a strong screen presence and handles all kinds of action very well. Here he has to fight and shoot his way through a lot of baddies, with a lot of chases and explosions around him. The action is good, not bad at all. Squibs are plenty and the stunts are quite good to.

This is also a good example of how local traditions and folklore is weaved into the story without much hoopla. Sorapong just have this power because of this amulet, and in the end he takes it off to be able to fight the bad guy without cheating. That’s it, nothing more is analyzed around this. I remember myself being in Thailand wearing an amulet which caused a lot of interest at some old men. “Can we buy it?” they asked and then told me how someone experimented with hanging these on people and then practiced shooting on them! If they survived I have no idea, but this amulet was obviously good to protect against bullets and knifes! Sorry for the sidetrack, but I love it when the filmmakers don’t makes such a fuzz about small details like that.

Lumpoon Daeng, in the end, is a good action movie with lots of stuff for us fans of older Thai action.

Off Limits (1988)

I’ve seen the title, Off Limits, so many times, but I stayed away from it, mostly because I never really cared for something that looked like an ordinary cop movie from the eighties. I want my cop movies to be a grittier and this looked way to slick and mainstream on the covers I’ve seen. But like all good movies, they tend to follow you and finally I had to take a closer look and wtf, this looked really interesting! A serial killer thriller set in Saigon, 1968! The serial killer movies from the eighties was often closer to murder mysteries, and I most of the times prefer that before the grislier movies that came after Silence of the Lambs and Seven.

Willem Dafoe and Gregory Hines are two cops working in Saigon. They are the usual assholes, quite racist and violent and very cynical. One day a prostitute is killed in her home, shot point blank in the head with her baby screaming next to her. A pin belonging to an officer in the US army is found on the site. Soon they find that this is the seventh murder, all done by the same serial killer. The deeper they dig, they discover that someone wants to stop them, kill them and also kill the only witnesses that could identify the killer…

Hidden behind a bland title (and “Saigon”, another title used is even more boring) lies a very violent and smart thriller, which in an intelligent way show the way it was without being another boring Vietnam movie. Except for one sequence it stays away from war scenes and spends most of the time in the grittier areas of the city (it was shot in Bangkok, Thailand, and makes great use of the atmosphere there). It could have been a serial killer flick set in New York or something, not much differs from if they had chose that location, but the exotic city clearly makes the story more interesting to watch.

The cast of Dafoe and Hines, both good as usual, is combined with the brilliant performance by Fred Ward and Scott Glenn. In two smaller parts we see David Alan Grier (I’ve only seen him as Don “No Soul” Simmons in Amazon Women on the Moon before) and the always awesome Keith David (Childs in John Carpenter’s The Thing) as one of the unlucky witnesses. The rest of the supporting cast is Thai actor and actresses and a few Vietnam names here and there.

Off Limits gets a lot of its quality from the chemistry between Dafoe and Hines, and its one of the best things with the movie. The action itself, not that much to be honest, looks realistic and bloody and have that documentary feeling that it often gets when someone shoots on location in big cities in Thailand. It’s just hard to make everything to look clean and nice, and that’s of course not the point here either.

In the end Off Limits is a very satisfying thriller with excellent actors and well-told. It’s not the typical Vietnam movie and it’s very refreshing to see.

The Thing from Another World (1951)

I have mixed feelings about The Thing from Another World, but it is a classy production with some sensational scenes of action and thrills. But I would say that Carpenter succeeds better telling the story of “Who goes there?”. I guess my main problem is that it’s way to narrow and conservative. Science is something bad and women are only reduced to serving coffee and being pretty. I guess that was a normal thing in 1951, but it felt like an obviously smart movie like this could have done better in that department. I’m not saying that other movies from the same time and later in this genre did it better, but it’s a very obvious thing and it’s stated very clearly several times that, for example, science and thinking just causes problem. Kill is the best opinion, not communication.

But now I’m whining too much, The Thing From Another World is a great monster film, a wonderful slice of fifties sci-fi and has so many good things to, because what we expect from a movie like this is monsters and mayhem and it really deliver a lot of that using the claustrophobic and atmospheric sets as a background.

It’s quite different than Carpenters The Thing and gone is the excellent paranoia, just a classic and well-made monster movie with some really cool ideas. A few scenes here and there is brought over to the eighties by Carpenter, but his movie very much feels like a sequel to this one – which makes the upcoming prequel even more interesting, because it will probably be closer both to the original movie and the original short story at the same time.

James Arness as the monster is both silly and cool at the same time, and thankfully they let him stay far from the camera and often slightly in shadows or with clever editing making us have problem looking at his face to long. One scene that’s excellent is when they open the door to the greenhouse and the monster is standing there, close to the door, trying to grab them. This reminded me of the door-sequence, and the first kill, in Tobe Hoopers The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Another scene that is very impressive and looks damn dangerous is when the actors are throwing gasoline all over the place and trying to set “the thing” on fire. This is in the same class as the fire scene in the remake! I wonder if someone got hurt, but it’s a very risky sequence!

One thing that makes this film stand out compared to other genre movies is the extremely witty and fast dialogue, which is non-stop. This could be a damn Tarantino-movie for what I know, because people are talking constantly and often interrupting each other, changing subjects in mid-sentence, utter just one or two words before getting distracted. It’s like a dialogue-ballet, very carefully written and makes the scenes move fast like the lightning. Never seen anything like this actually, and it was a pleasant surprise.

Maybe the hype took the movie down a notch for me, and my love for Carpenters version (one of the best movies ever made) made me love this movie less and made it easier for me to see the faults, but it’s still a magnificent sci-fi classic and a must for fans of the genre. I hope to see it out on blu-ray someday, to be able to enjoy the black & white photo even more.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Beginning of the End (1957)

Like I written many times before, Bert I. Gordon is favourite director and it’s weird that I haven’t seen Beginning of the End until now, in the year 2011 dammit! Anyway, I got my hands on the excellent Hen’s Tooth edition finally and gave it a spin earlier today. Like many of Mr BIG’s other movies, it’s time for the serious critics to reevaluate his work. Sure, all us fanboys have long ago realized what a magnificent filmmaker he is, but the rest of the world need to understand this to.

So, is Beginning of the End a masterpiece, an hidden treasure of brilliance? An innovative monster movie with a message? No, I don’t think so, but it’s extremely good entertaining. The budget is low, but when even my partner looks up from the computer and say without irony “Damn, that’s really good special effects for that time!” it’s easy to understand that this movie still holds up despite its meager budget.

The film starts with a young couple making out in their car getting attacked by something big and hungry. Later the police find their car completely ripped to pieces. A young journalist, Audrey Aimes (Peggie Castle), is the first one, the next day, to find out that a whole small town has met the same fate. Everyone is gone and the houses are destroyed. When researching the cause of this she meets the young hunky scientist Dr. Ed Wainwright (Peter Graves) who is experimenting with enhancing the size of vegetables. Together they discover a race of enormous grasshoppers who threatens to destroy Chicago… and maybe even the rest of the world!

In Mr BIG’s excellent memoirs you can find a whole chapter about how Beginning of the End was created and the adventures of the cannibalistic grasshoppers he used and who gradually disappeared in the mouths of each other and also a couple of positive vintage reviews of the movie. I think those reviews are very much spot on, this is a well-made little movie who uses the limitations of the budget in some very smart ways. Instead of building expensive miniatures he just made big photos of landmarks in Chicago that the creeps could crawl on, and I think it in 95 % of the cases looks really good. Way better than building miniatures on that budget! There’s also a fair amount of stock footage, mostly of explosions and military, and its used in a very creative way and works without being annoying (which I sometime can think when I’m watching re-used footage).

But like most of his movies, for example The Spider, it’s the storytelling that is the highlight, the editing and a frantic energy. There’s never time for any stupid subplots or unnecessary romance. Gordon knew what he was there for, to deliver fast and crazy entertainment for a monster-starving audience. Beginning of the End might not be the most original movie in the bunch, but it’s surely one of the most entertaining.

The Rosary Murders (1987)

I’m very fond of forgotten thrillers from the eighties, either supernatural films like Lady in White or Black Rainbow to murder mysteries like Jack’s Back and Apartment Zero. Mystery was a big part of these thrillers and they often had original ideas and good acting. I also like how many of them seem to have a giallo-esque atmosphere. I never heard about The Rosary Murders when I found in a secondhand shop a while ago, but the cast of Donald Sutherland and Charles Durning made me interested, and of course the Catholic themed story…

Someone has killed Father Lord, but not even the Catholic Church would like to admit that. But when a nun also is killed, apparent suicide, Father Koesler (Donald Sutherland) has to go to the police, because Father Lord she also holds an identical rosary in her hand. Soon the the killer stops hiding the murder behind natural causes and suicides and just shoots his victims point blank. But he wants to play a game with Koesler and confesses to him that he will continue killing priests and nuns. But because of the vow Koesler took as a priest he can’t tell anyone, and he’s alone to find the killer and stop him…

Directed by Fred Walton, who did the very uneven When a Stranger Calls and the 100% lousy April Fool’s Day, this is a more mature and classy production, but still something that looks like a TV production, just with slightly higher budget and more ambitions. The first part of the movie is clearly the best, with a strong mystery and some character presentations. Both Sutherland and Durning is two of my favourite actors, and they’re playing the opposite parts so good. Sutherland as the liberal, laid back priest who wants to change stuff in his church and Durning has the conservative, almost aggressive priest who wants to change nothing and thinks the church has no faults at all.

Both characters feel real and I would say the best thing with the film is their performances. Now, this is based on a book so I guess the story is to blame on the original source material, but I would have preferred if the mystery stayed a mystery, but now it just becomes a cat and mouse game and we know who the cat and the mouse is. That can work in my cases, but here it just takes away the tension. Even with an angst-ridden Koesler walking around being worried that his co-workers will be killed never feels that interesting.

But in the end The Rosary Murders is a nice decent thriller which still is an enjoyable piece of celluloid, and at least a lot better than April Fools Day, but lacks the thrills that actually shows up in When a Stranger Calls from time to time.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Paranoiac (1963)

If I ever would marry a violent alcholic it would have chosen Oliver Reed, mostly because he was extremely handsome in a psychotic way, a very talented actor and knew how to insult people in a classy way. If he wasn’t a ladies man I would have taken him for gay and married him on the spot. But he’s dead and we can only look in the mirror for a very fascination career. Once he was one of the new hot actors in the Hammer stable and did a fantastic werewolf. But it’s in Paranoiac he shines, he shine like a fucking diamond.

I’m not gonna tell so much about the story, but it has similarities with other psychological thrillers from the same time. It revolves around a difunctional family that dwells in the sorrow of the two parents that died so many years earlier. One of the sons killed himself and now suddenly someone who claims to be that son shows up again, much to the anger of the other brother, the psychotic alcoholic Simon Ashby (Oliver Reed of course). And then there are twists and turns…

First of all, the UK blu-ray from Masters of Cinema looks absolutely stunning. The sharpness, the quality is absurd. I have never seen a Hammer production look SO good before. Paranoiac is a weird choice to release on blu-ray, because it’s not the most visual Hammer film. It’s in black & white, low-key in both performances and story and relies heavliy on a brilliant and simple, but yet effective, script by Jimmy Sangster. Like another twist-filled thriller, A Taste of Fear, Paranoiac has a story that grabs you from the beginning and fucks around with your head until the end. The knife-wielding character showing up after half the movie is extremely creepy, but is just one of many twists. Sangster, or the produceras, must have been inspired by another famous thriller that was released a few years before this one, but I won’t mention that title because it would spoil a few twists.

But personally I like when the story is so complex that they don’t have to travel around the world to tell the story. Most of this is around the same house and sets, with a few outdoor scenes, but not that much really. This is a movie telling a story, not showing off fancy camera movements. What I can complain about is the ending, which is very sudden and never gives time to any after-thoughts or analysis. No mistunderstand here, it ties every story-knot, just too fast.

Far from Dracula and Frankenstein, this is another smart and lovely Hammer thriller which I can recommend to everyone here.

The cover for the new Swedish release of Killer Crocodile!

This just in, a very nice cover for Studio S release of Killer Crocodile! You can read my take on this one and the sequel here, and I guess this means we finally will have a good easy to find European version (I think it's out in Germany since earlier, but quite expensive) instead of the old Thai DVD.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Primitive London (1967)

I dislike mondo films, mostly because I want to be enjoyed by movies, not disgusted by them. But there is of course mondo-esque films I can watch: the cute ones. The cuddly. The innocent. The charming and silly. Mondos that are far away from circumcisions and “real” executions. Sweden: Heaven and Hell is one mondo I can handle, mostly because it’s so absurd when you actually is Swedish and live in Sweden. Another one is Primitive London, released on a stunning BD from BFI. It’s also more entertaining then London in the Raw, which mostly featured people eating at “exotic” restaurants and a few tits here and there.

Primitive London also sets out to show the real London, the reality behind the headlines and rumors and manages to show everything except the real reality. And that’s what I want. This time we’re getting a closer look at hat making, beatniks and mods (a couple of amazing interviews here), a striptease school, a goldfish-surgery (and feeding whisky to the goldfish afterwards), more nude dancing, a stand-up comedian, female judo, a guy showing his muscles, pop artists, more nudity and even more nudity. Everything connected with a dry voice-over pretending to do something serious.

Not that the movie itself is serious. Most of the footage is made up, not real stuff, and at least twice the voices of the producer and director breaks into the soundtrack and starts bickering about how much nudity the movie shows. The director wants to make something more serious, while the producer wants more girls and tits! A bit stiff written, but still kinda funny. What I enjoy with a movie like this is the sensationalism that is constructed around subjects that aren’t that sensational. It gives an innocent aura around totally absurd subjects, which is my kinda aura.

What feels unnecessary is the graphic birth scene, complete with everything you don’t wanna see in HD! I never felt why this should be included in every shockumentary about there, because what I know it’s around 267 births per minute all around the world, so why even include such a common thing in a shockumentary about strippers in London is beyond what I can understand. Another scene which can be a little bit disturbing is a visit to the chicken-factory where we get to see in close-up how a chicken is slaughtered. Not fun.

But 99,8 % of of the movie is filled with fun and joy and morality tales about the youth of today, which are evil, selfish and not able to take care of themselves. As usual then, always blame it on the kids!