Friday, September 30, 2011

Hellraiser: Hellseeker (2002)

After reading this hilarious comment on IMDB about the TRAILER for Hellraiser: Revelations I just had to watch one of the old sequels again and my choice fell on the one I’ve seen the least times, Hellraiser: Hellseeker. Now, I’m one of those that don’t consider any movie holy. They could have remade Hellraiser as a romcom for all I care! The original movies still exist and can be enjoyed whenever I want to. Regarding Revelations it’s probably shitty, it’s just a movie that was produced to keep the rights to the franchise and nothing wrong with that. Art is business, make no mistake. I’ve been defending the Hellraiser-sequels since as long as I can remember, and I still will do that. It’s just something with them that attracts me. Like a twilight zone in the Hellraiser-mythology…

Kirsty (Ashley Laurence) is now a grown woman and has left her terrible history behind her, living a fantastic life together with her husband Trevor (Dean Winters). A terrible accident kills her and leaves her husband alone in the world with a mind more and more confused for each day. He starts seeing visions and his paranoia starts to grow. The police think he killed Kirsty and his memory-loss gives both him and us some clues of what really happen! Soon his closest friends starts showing up dead, brutally molested and isn’t that a certain Cenobite lurking in the dark of his mind…?

Like the excellent Inferno, and the sequels after, Hellseeker is a typical mindfuck movie. What I heard all these sequels were other movies from the beginning, but was rewritten to be Hellraiser-sequels, which makes them have a distance to the Cenobite-mythology, only using it as a background to some very fucked-up characters. What’s good with them, with the possible exception of Hellworld, is that the originals scripts used are quite good. Not especially original for us who have seen a lot of movies, but more ambitious and dark than most other DTV-sequels out on the street.

But I like them, and Hellseeker - while not in the same league as Inferno – is a fun and nasty sequel, dark and downbeat and even of the character of Kirsty is not that well-written, it’s nice to connect the story back to the original movie. I mean, why not? What gives the Hellraiser-sequels more respect than for example the Children of the Corn-franchise, is that they trying to keep the stories true to the downbeat tradition of the original. Sure, Hellworld is a slasher in (a not convincing) disguise, but the rest are actually quite non-commercial for being cheap sequels produced for the home video market.

There’s not need to complain about Hellseeker, everyone else does it so well. If you can ignore the holy Hellraiser-movie by Clive Barker (and maybe part 2) and just watch it like a separate mindfuck-movie with Pinhead and his friends in cameos, I think much more of you would appreciate what they’re doing here.

If you are true Clive Barker fans, I’m sure you would wait a thousand years for a proper new Hellraiser movie, or…?

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Amavas Ki Raat (1990)

It’s always nice to see generic slashers from another country than the US, and this Hindi slasher, Amavas Ki Raat, don’t stray that far away from the classic template. Not a remake of any kind, but the story is so standard and everything done thousands of time before this one, so you know what to expect as soon as the movie start rolling. But of course, it has a couple of the typical Bollywood-twists and it’s a very entertaining piece of trash in the end.

A witch, I guess - or just an old crazy woman who happens to know black magic - controls a muscular, bearded man to kill innocent women by, most of the time, stabbing them or throwing them from the third floor. The police are nearby and finally they kill him, shot numerous times in the chest! The only survivor from the last killing spree is a little boy, and soon after they killer has been buried he wakes up screaming after seeing him in his dream. To prove to him that the killer is dead two cops makes the not so smart decision to dig up the corpse and show the dead body to the boy! Guess what happens, yes… the killer wakes up and continues killing everyone he sees! Now the police have to hunt a living dead serial killer!

This is as stupid as it sounds, and add to that singing and dancing and a 100% pointless plot with a couple of idiotic comedians trying to be funny by making funny faces, you have yourself a true Bollywood horror movie. If the filmmakers had been smart, they would have skipped the comedy part and they would have a fun and very generic slasher with a killer which is the total opposite to Michael and Jason, he roars like a monster and never stalks his victims. He just jumps out at them and kills them brutally. The killer also died in the beginning, so begins to rot during the movie and look quite hideous at the end.

Amavas Ki Raat is a slasher that desperately trying to entertain its audience by putting as much stuff as possible into the storyline. We have, if I didn’t miss one, at least four times when the police think the killer is dead, drops their guard and he wakes up and continue his killing spree! Four times, maybe five! That’s just awesome, and a bit tedious to be honest. But expect the idiotic comedy parts this is a fun movie, never boring and gives us enough slasher action for at least two movies. It’s not gory, but some blood is visible and it also has a very bloodless head-explosion for those who are brave to sit through the whole movie.

I think I can recommend this to most of you, but prepare to watch it without subtitles – as usual ;)

Oh, don’t worry, like all Bollywood movies from this time, it also has a Kung Fu fight in a park. Not bad, eh?

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Ladies Hostel (1990)

I’m quite sure most of the eurocult aficionados out there are familiar with 100 Days, the Bollywood-remake of Lucio Fulci’s masterpiece The Psychic. Even Fulci was aware of it and seemed quite proud of have being remaked in India. But I’m not sure he – or many of his fans – is aware of Ladies Hostel, a Bollywood horror from 1990 which is a scene-for-scene remake of Aenigma! Nowadays it seems like a quite odd movie to remake, but in 1990 it was still quite new and had probably left its mark on the home video market. I have no idea if it ever went to cinemas in India. Even if I think Aenigma has a few flashes if brilliance (very short ones) it’s still one of Fulci’s weakest movies from the time and is terrible slow and have a pace worse than Dances with Wolves. It just goes on forever!

The story is basically the same; a girl is exposed to a cruel prank and gets seriously wounded after getting hit by a car. At the hospital she’s paralyzed, probably in some kind of coma, but has developed a telekinetic power that she uses to take revenge on the students that caused the accident. One by one they are killed in spectacular fashion until a brave doctor gets too involved to let it continue…

I don’t remember the details of Aengima, but it feels like the same movie just in a different language and… much better! Yes, here the remake really boosted the quality of the story and made it a lot more fun. It’s a clearly superior film compared to Fulci’s vision. No, there are no snails in the Bollywood version, but the statue is there and the rest of the murders – very different ones – are shot with a lot of style and with cool special effects. My favourite scene is when the walls of a house is ripped apart, the camera flies in and we witness a girl getting take from the bed by an invincible force.

I think Ladies Hostel is a bit longer and also contains a couple of song- and dance-numbers it also has a lot more energy and power, and here we actually feel involved in the movie, in the thrills, without looking at the watch wishing it would end as fast as possible. It’s a very eighties movies and the students looks like they are at least 35 years old, but it adds to the charming corny feeling of the movie and the entertainment value surely grows with such a bizarre cast. Not a bad cast by any means, but they hardly look like young students.

Ladies Hostel is a Bollywood horror movie worth seeking out. What I know it’s only out on VCD with no subtitles, but if you have seen Aenigma there’s not problems following the storyline.

The Marsupials: The Howling III (1987)

The Howling is like the slutty cheerleader of horror franchises, everyone who want’s to fuck her can do it without much work or pay. It seems so anyway. But for a person like me who are very fond of trashy unrelated sequels this is of course a godsend. The Howling III is one of the least loved parts in this long series of failures, but I like Philippe Mora’s often very outrageous viewpoint at his source material. His movies are often over-the-top (just watch The Howling 2, probably the craziest sequel ever produced) and injected with an interesting tongue-in-cheek approach which both can been seen as very stupid… or brave.

This movie starts in something claimed to be Siberia, which is just a place with very little snow and an Asian dude in a fur coat. He’s killed by a werewolf and suddenly we cut to Australia were a woman is found in a park by a young man, a filmmaker. He falls in love with her directly, gives her a part in the movie (“Shapeshifters part 8”, which is kinda ironic because soon Howling Reborn, part 8 in the series is being released on DVD and Blu-ray). But soon she’s kidnapped back by three werewolf nuns to her tribe in the backwoods and a ballet dancer also finds herself called out in the wilderness. The government wants to kill them all, but a friendly scientist understands that they are humans like us, just a bit hairier…

First of all, as you might understand when you see the title, this is not werewolves, this is weresupials (complete with a pouch on the belly and everything) based on the Australian animal species. One of the characters is a Tasmanian Devil for example, which is kinda cool. Second of all, this is by no means a scary movie. It’s mostly a very absurd take on the werewolf-myth, and to be honest, if it wasn’t for the Howling-title this would probably have gotten a bit better reputation over the years. It’s quite original, have an off-beat humour and a couple of very cheap and unconvincing transformation scenes, but the sheer amount of twists and absurd characters makes it more entertaining than I expected at first. Just don’t expect any gore or violence; this is something very different from the other movies in the series.

I’m sure this movie came to existence in this way: someone realized they could make some good money by producing a movie in Australia, something with tax returns or… well, something like that. They gave Mora the mission and he just decided to have fun with it, just be silly. Partly a send-up on other Hollywood-movies, maybe satirizing the concept of Hollywood and silly sequels and at the same time make something closely connected to his home country. A former painter and involved in the art circles of Australian, I’m sure that affected his work as a filmmaker and gave him the confidence to do something far-out every time he got the chance. Right now he’s making Dali 3D with Alan Cummings, examining the art of Salvador Dali… in 3D of course.

But back to Howling III, watch it on your own risk and don’t blame it on me if you don’t like it!

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

The Nest (1988)

Terence H. Winkless The Nest most be one of the most forgotten creature features ever. Produced by Concorde Pictures and with Roger’s wife, Julie Corman as producer, this is a small but ambitious killer insect-movie in the same tradition as Slugs and Squirm. I guess it was dumped to video directly, which probably made it less known than the titles above. Not that The Nest is a masterpiece, but it has an overall feeling of “fun” and “goo”, and I’m sure most readers of this blog like that.

A fishing village is invaded by roaches, first just irritating bugs like they always been, but soon they start to eat flesh – human flesh. They are also, of course, mutated! So soon more bizarre creatures show up, and attack our hero – the brave sheriff and his girlfriend, the daughter of the man who brought the secret testing facility to the town! Melodrama! Well, what more can I say? The story is all what you expect from a typical killer insect-movie!

I admit it looks a bit flat and the budget was propably spent on a few of the more spectacular effect-heavy scenes, but The Nest is just good old-fashioned monster-fun. First of all, the key to all good monster movies, a good cast: Franc Luz as the sheriff, Robert Lansing as the patriarch, Lisa Langlois as the girl and Terri Treas as the bad mad scientist responsible for the mayhem. Everyone do their best and even an old pro could have chosen to sleep through his part, but do a nice performance that ends in an awesome sequence when he… well, I’m not gonna reveal it to you, but like the restaurant scene in Slugs this is as least as memorable.

While the story is standard and offers nothing new, the fun and likable cast puts of a good fight against thousands of cockroaches and a couple of cheap but very gory and slimey monsters. The cat/roach mix is a fun monster and the Lansing-creature is very good, the final monster is the best. It’s a bit stiff, and don’t move so much, but it’s very inspired by the last creature from The Thing mixing body parts and with animals and a nice gory sequence with the bad guy gets what she deserves, in blood-spurting fashion!

The Nest might be a shallow little movie, but filled with love and atmosphere, monsters, blood and gore. It’s out from Corman’s own company and possible to buy from them via eBay. My wish is that it would come out in a remastered edition, because I think the flat look of it would disappear if some work was invested in the movie and if they made a new master from the original negatives.

Not a classic, but a must for fans of good old monster films!

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Killer Rats (2003)

Oh boy, Tibor Takacs, I just love you. Really, but I guess you – and most of your enemies - never would believe that. Sure, you made The Gate, a very fine Canadian mix between family movie and monster flick, and the equally entertaining and underrated The Gate 2. Not to forget I, Madman, a slow but gorgeous looking (and original) horror movie. But the biggest love you get from me is because of your proud career as a DTV-director, churning out movie after movie about spiders, snakes, rats, earthquakes, volcanos and yeah, every kind of threat towards mankind we can imagine. Many of them produced by Nu Image or similar companies, but always a step above the rest of the crap being released direct to home video each year. Killer Rats might not be one of your more famous works, but even if it’s a bit slow, it’s fantastic piece of ratsploitation with Ron Perlman doing a great job as usual.

Set in Philadelphia, but shot – as usual – in Sofia, Bulgaria, this is the story about a home for troubled teenagers (and dwafs, because I see one at the end). Jennifer (Sara Downing) is the latest one, and she’s taken in because of depression and just being a typical young woman without hope for the future. She’s taken care of by Dr. William Winslow (Ron Perlman), the Chief Psychiatrist at “The Brookdale Institute for the criminally insane”. But he’s not just a typical doctor, he’s a mad doctor but don’t know about it yet – because his work has created hundreds of rats, hungry for human flesh, and they are lead by one nasty big rat who happily takes a bit from everyone that comes his way!

Director Takacs creates, with a meager budget and a cast of unknowns, a lovely little movie. Slow at times, because the script is thin and Takacs always loves to squeeze some atmosphere out from every shitty script that comes into his hands. I’ve seen worse stories, and the characters are OK and most of the actors do more than what was probably expected by them. Ron Perlman, a true trooper when it comes to cheap exploitation, does what a real pro does: his best, and gives everything he’s got. I always respect that! Another fine performance comes from always reliable Michael Zelniker as the slow-minded janitor who has some form of telepathic connection with the rats (something that makes this movie a bit similar to Willard).

And I’m no one is kidding themselves to believe this is big art, so how about the effects, the rats, the gore and action? There are plenty of rats, both real, rubber and computer generated rodents. Something for everyone! The big CG rat looks quite good in some scenes, but is very uneven effects-wise. The rubber-version just looks a rubber-version being shaked so it would seem alive. The gore, nah – not that much really, but you got bloody aftermaths and some limbs here and there. It’s not a dry movie when it comes to the red stuff, but never goes to any extreme hights.

I really enjoyed Killer Rats, maybe more now the second time. It’s a well-made and good-looking rat-movie, another excellent DTV-piece by the one and only Tibor Takacs!

Terror in the Midnight Sun (1959)

The original Swedish title, Rymdinvasion i Lappland, is actually the title I prefer, but for your sake I will us the British title Terror in the Midnight Sun and not the very silly and un-stylish “Invasion of the Animal People”, which was a different cut anyway. I first saw Terror at a bad movie festival in Östersund and it was an enormous success. But I think it’s important to realize that even if some parts are bad, it doesn’t mean that the whole movie is bad. It’s just so easy to laugh at everything on the screen when you just watched someone trying to imitate the Sami language. In comparison with other similar movies from the same time it’s not that bad, it’s just the script that’s very weak and a few absurd details here and there.

A UFO has landed (or maybe crashed) in the northern regions of Sweden, Lapland, and a team of fifties stereotypical scientists are sent there to investigate. The handsome scientist Erik Engström (Sten Gester) falls in love with the daughter to one of his colleagues, and she’s of course a famous Olympic figure skater played by Barbara Wilson who likes to shower. Up in Lapland they find out that it’s only a strange UFO creating tension, there’s also a huge hairy Chewbacca-type monster roaming the mountains attacking the Sami’s and eating their reindeers! What a life!

Terror has a lot of stupid stuff going on, but it’s also short and keeps a good pace from start to finish. Even of the Stockholm-scenes are a bit talky and stiff, the fun starts fast when they arrives to Lapland. A quite unexpected shower-scene and a performance by legendary Swedish singer Brita Borg (not at the same time of course) and the fantastic locations make it a unique old school sci-fi. Not much seem to have been shot in sets either, so it has plenty of fantastic sceneries. I mean, I hate skiing – but this movie makes me wanna ski! The snowy landscape and place of the UFO also reminded me of The Thing, both Howard Hawk’s and John Carpenter’s, but a lot cheesier.

The aliens themselves are just pale, big-headed guys wearing anoraks but their pet, the Chewbacca-monster is quite impressive. Without a doubt one of the best looking creatures from the golden era of monster movies. The sequence when the monster attacks the village is really well done with more than excellent miniatures being trashed by the beast. I think one of the reasons it looks so good is that it was shot on location with natural lightning, because details like that helps a lot creating more believable effects.

What makes this movie weaker than it should have been is the sudden ending, explaining absolutely nothing! I don’t demand explanations, but here it’s just no reason for the aliens to come to earth. They hang around for a while, their pet escapes and then they go away again. No actually communication occurs between the humans and spaceman and in the end everything leads to nothing and another movie is over.

Terror in the Midnight Sun is not bad, it’s very uneven. It’s worth watching for the cool monster and lovely locations, so if you’re into fifties sci-fi I think you could appreciate this classic co-production between Sweden and United States.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Baltic Storm (2003)

I’m very fond of conspiracy thrillers, especially if they are based on a true story. One of the rare thrillers in this specific genre is Reuben Leder’s (son of Paul “A.P.E.” Leder) Baltic Storm, based on the journalistic work by Jutta Rabe and Henning Witte. It’s easy to claim that conspiracy’s always to be in the mind of some paranoid wacko, but remember that many of our legendary assassinations and military ops more or less is conspiracies because they involve two or more persons who’s conspired to do make it happen. Why conspiracy theories always come up when something like this happens is of course because no one wants something to be totally pointless.

The Estonia disaster that claimed more than 800 peoples lives the 28th of September 1994 is filled with some interesting facts that never have been explained or commented by authorities, for example the rescue of captain Avo Piht, who without a doubt was alive after the disaster according to several official sources, but later was announced dead together with his passengers. This was way before the conspiracy theories started to grow, it was a just a fact that he was alive and that they were going to interrogate him. Baltic Storm delivers another explanation for his disappearance, but it feels more of a cheap Hollywood knockoff, with out any direct proof – just an idea tossed out in a mediocre script.

We’re following German journalist Julia Reuter (Greta Scacchi) and Swedish survivor Erik Westermark (Jürgen Prochnow) in their search for justice, Erik mostly because his son died in the disaster and he wants a real answer from the Estonian and Swedish governments. But soon their hunt for the truth is being sabotaged by everyone from Julia’s employer to shady and sleazy Swedish government officals and somehow, somewhere the Americans and Russians is lurking trying to hide their part in the disaster…

Because I’m one of those fools that think something was fishy with the disaster (Remember Scandinavian Star, which is still under investigation for insurance fraud – so if that disaster can have a conspiracy behind it, so can M/S Estonia) I’m also very interested in what a movie could offer. Not much, but it could have been a really interesting piece of conspiracy thriller. This is the second time I see it since it was released on DVD ages ago, and it still feels like a very cheap TV-movie, produced by newbies at some local TV-station with to much budget for actors. The script itself is a mess, and feels very amateurish and worst of all, the character of Julia Reuter (obviously based on Jutta Rabe herself) feels like the least believable journalist in the world. Prochnow is better, but he also has some emotions to work with and not a silly superhero-journalist that’s way too glamorized to feel realistic. What Donald Sutherland is doing in this movie is a big question, but he’s slumming around and having a ball, probably crying all the way to the bank.

The Swedish DVD of Baltic Star is worth buying because of one reason, it’s a 2 DVD edition and on the other disc there’s a fairly interesting documentary about the disaster and Jutta Rabe’s theories. This is actually more interesting and thrilling than the movie itself.

Baltic Storm is a lost opportunity, which is a pity. Maybe one day we’ll see this story told in a much more talented way.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

The Night Flier (1997)

Sometimes I think it’s more of an old moldy tradition to claim that there are so few good screen versions of Stephen King’s work. Like it’s so easy to say that movies with computer animations only exists to show the special effects and not tell a story, which of course it’s just absurd compared to all the shitty effects-movies being made before computer graphics became normal. It’s just a safe thing to say because most people would agree and it’s easy to step on a person’s opinion with pulling the safe cards: Maximum Overdrive, The Children of the Corn franchise and of course Tobe Hooper’s The Mangler. “The iconic three” of bad examples, even of they are quite OK if you take of those pretentious glasses and just look at them as something separate from Stephen King. I mean, it’s just movies – not something that actually means something in real life - just simple entertainment. One movie that flew (no pun intended) under the radar was Mark Pavia’s The Night Flier from 1997. Here in Sweden it came directly to VHS and that was the last I heard of it until it disappeared into the depths of DTV-hell.

When watching it again after so many years I suddenly find myself watching one of the best and original vampire-movies made during the last 20-30 years. It’s up there with Innocent Blood and Fright Night when it comes to originality and the talent involved. Why? I think it’s because it takes an absurd premise and make it totally serious and casts Miguel Ferrer in one of his few leading parts.

A vampire is using small sport airplane, flying from field to field, killing and ripping victims apart. The government is hiding this from the mainstream news, but a small speculative magazine, Inside View, sends one of their most experienced journalists – and also the most revolting and unethical – to tell the story about the airborne vampire. It’s the semi-alcoholic Richard Dees (Miguel Ferrer) who unwillingly takes the job, just to get his face on the cover again. But the vampire, or serial killer, is noticing the interest and starts to warn him, something that makes him even more interested in solving the case…

Produced by Richard P. Rubinstein, the many behind many of George A. Romero’s work and co-produced by the Italians, lead by Alfred Cuomo, The Night Flier is a surprisingly stylish and well-made production. It’s really a big shame that it didn’t catch on to the big audience, because this movie actually succeeds in bringing us an interesting story and maybe most important, a fascinating lead that even if he’s an asshole, can be something we can relate to. My romantic view on journalism probably made me watch him in a more kind way, because a dream would to be working as a journalist specialized in the supernatural and weird.

I was mentioning Innocent Blood and Fright Night above, but the atmosphere reminds me more of Silver Bullet: Small towns, deep forests and odd local folks getting killed, minus the annoying kid and the silly wheelchair-thingie of course. The Night Flier also boasts a lot of excellent and graphic effects by KNB and a fantastic vampire-monster that shows its freaky face at the end. It’s not overly gory, but still has enough blood and fun for the whole horror-family.

This is a very well-made flick and it deserves a bigger audience. It’s easy to find on cheap DVD on ebay or, I’m sure, your favourite web-store. There’s something called a “director’s cut” out there also, which has a few seconds of extra gore – nothing that extreme though, you would probably not notice the difference.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

The Exterminator (1980)

James Glickenhaus is the man behind three of my favorite action films from the eighties: The Soldier, The Protector and McBain (okey, it’s from 1991 – but it feels like something from the 80’s) and strangely enough, The Exterminator has never been a favourite of mine. Maybe I expected something else when I first saw it, but even later when I saw the unrated version on DVD I felt it missed something, that famous “it”. Not that it’s boring, I can recommend it to 100 % to those that appreciate exploitation like this, but it just lacks that famous Glickenhaus-energy.

After a spectacular and gory ‘Nam-flashback that sets up the relationship between best buddies John Eastland (Robert Ginty) and Michael Jefferson (Steve James) we jump to 1980 and a gritty and equally violent New York, at that time home to every pervert on earth (according to the movies anyway). After Michael is attacked and left paralyzed only surviving with the help of the hospital staff and machines, John sets out on a tour of revenge, not only for the thugs that attacked his old friend, but for every bad guy out on the streets – from pedophiles to robbers. After him is the street-smart detective James Dalton (Christopher George), a man who won’t stop for nobody!

It’s more or less a rip-off on Death Wish and all the other revenge-movies from the same time, just shot with less style and more focus on slow-motion and wild stunts. Not counting the decapitation in the beginning, it’s not an overly gory movie either, but of course violent, bloody and with a sleazy atmosphere that most of the times stays a bit distanced to the story, a bit forced if I might say so. As you can guess, The Exterminator isn’t a perfect movie by any means, but it’s a must to own on the new BD from Synapse. It goes on for 100 minutes and is never boring, the New York locations are great as usual (I always felt that NY is the best city in HD) and a good cast consisting of Christopher George, Robert Ginty and Samantha Eggar makes it worth watching.

Ginty is still a quite odd choice for a leading man. He always looks a bit confused, but not in that dangerous cool movie Vietnam veteran way, and has a facial look that resembles a weird huge baby girl. He kept is baby fat quite long, but got a more mature look later. But he’s a good actor, but I never really been able to see him as an action hero. I was also happy to see the excellent actor Tom Everett as the hotel clerk. It must have been one of his first parts, ten years before his iconic turn as Alfred in Leatherface: Texas Chainsaw Massacre III.

I’m not the one that complains about stuff like this, but it’s interesting to notice that this version of The Exterminator actually is censored. It’s nothing special, just some nudity – but this time it’s a dick (or maybe not, it’s very hard to see) and I can promise you that if it was a nude woman there would be “Boycott The Exterminator blu-ray”-groups on Facebook and stilly stuff like that. Glickenhaus was forced to censor a nude photo on a wall because the MPAA thought it looked like an erected penis, and just used some Vaseline to censor this dangerous piece of nudity. The earlier Scandinavian release of the director’s cut is complete. Here are photos as a comparison taken from the new Synapse BD and the old unrated Scandinavian DVD, a technology failure prevented me from take proper screenshots today:

But this is of course not important, just a small detail, The Exterminator BD is still a fantastic release with very nice picture quality and some good extras. Get it!

Monday, September 19, 2011

Phenomena (1985)

Spoilers, if you haven’t seen it – don’t read this. But I do recommend you to watch the movie.

How to you write a review of a movie that has been dissected and analyzed thousands of times the last couple of years? I always wanted to avoid movies that has been written a lot about, but Phenomena is such a unique movie that I can’t stay away from it. Maybe it’s because of the wonderful new UK Blu-ray which made me see the movie in a new light, realizing that it’s probably Argento’s most coherent thriller – just masked as a chaotic and uneven supernatural giallo. William Fawcett, NerdoCulto on Twitter wrote something that I now can agree with: “has always reminded me more of a fantasy film than a horror film, but with more violence...” – and yes, it is – but it’s still one of the most original and bizarre giallos ever made.

I’m really not interested in writing about the story, but a killer is stalking schoolgirls in a small Swiss town and Jennifer Connelly, who can communicate with insects, befriends an old wheelchair-bound Donald Pleasence who has a monkey with a fondness for razors. And somewhere something or someone is chained to a wall, wanting to get out for more blood!

That’s all you need to know and believe me, in the end it will feel like the story comes together to a satisfying ending. Italian horror movies often are compared to dreams, at least those made by Fulci. But Argento, when he goes into supernatural territory often produces a very dreamlike state of filmmaking and Phenomena is the one movie that forever will feel like a dream to me. Just try to explain the story and it’s like fragments of what you dreamt last night: a scary child, a monkey, insects, a spooky school, big forests and deep valleys, slow-motion, heavy metal, dreams-within-a-dream… it’s almost like Argento wanted to go the Fulci-route, but it ended up with Fulci doing his own similar movie, the extremely uneven Aenigma (a movie with some flashes of brilliance). It’s still, in the end, a classic giallo but packed with so many weird ideas that it stands on its own easily.

I know it’s been debated over the years, but I think the use of metal/rock in the films of Argento is brilliant. It adds to the surrealism, to the off-beat genius of the thrills he’s creating. The oddest use of metal is in Phenomena, when Jennifer slowly is reaching into a thorn-filled bush trying to reach a glove belonging to the killer. The music is not there to build up tension, it’s there to create awesomeness. And that what makes Argento so damn cool.

Okey, this is something I will get shit for, but the hell with that. Argento can sometimes borrow stuff that he likes, for example the ending of Opera – which is totally copied from Thomas Harris novel Red Dragon from 1981. In Phenomena he borrows from a source that might be weird for those that don’t want Argento to be mixed up with lower forms of horror culture: Friday the 13th, yeah, the one where Mrs Voorhees runs amuck at a camp killing horny teenagers for fun. Why? Ok, let’s see: we have in both movies the crazy mother with a retarded and disfigured child, the latter living like an animal and the mother being very nice and polite until she’s pushed over the edge. In the end the final girl flees out to a lake, gets on a boat and gets attacked by the freaky monster-son. There’s also a final scene at the beach where in Friday the 13th the mother gets decapitated, but in Phenomena the character of Morris gets it the same way. This might seem like small details, but next time when you watch the ending you will notice the similarity. Actually, the ending could have been from a later Friday movie from the eighties. It’s both very cheesy and brilliant at the same time.

Except a few of the girls at the school the acting is nothing to complain about. Donald Pleasence is unusually low-key and Jennifer Connelly is excellent in the lead. I can’t see anyone else playing that part. Daria Nicolodi is good too, one of her best performances in an Argento movie. Talented Patrick Bauchau is wasted in a boring part. Keep your ears open and you will also hear Nick Alexander as the real estate agent and if you keep your EYES open you will see Michele Soavi in two parts, both as a cop and as the killer when Donald Pleasence bites the dust!

I’ve done it and now it’s time for you all to revaluate Phenomena as the horror classic it actually is. If you already done that; good, but I’m sure there’s many lost sheep out there in need of guidance and support in this matter…

Blood and Black Lace (1964)

First of all, I still think that Mario Bava or his producers saw Arne Mattsson’s 1958 classic Mannekäng i Rött and became inspired to make Blood and Black Lace. I know very few agree with me, just because Mario Bava is such a predecessor, a creative genius, when it comes to give us new, unique movie experiences. The first time I saw BABL was on a cut Greek VHS tape, and that kinda put me off to watch it again. Many years later I got it on DVD, maybe the first DVD VCI released, and now I gave it another spin in the 2 disc “unslashed” special edition. Like the two first times I just can’t get into the movie, which doesn’t mean it’s a bad movie – just not perfect.

Everyone knows the story, but for you who have no clue what this is: a masked person with a black coat and hat, attacks and brutally murders models at a fashion house. It’s managed by the sleazy Max Marian (Max Marian) together with the wife of the former owner, Countess Cristiana Como (Eva Bartok). The always Peter Lorre-esque Luciano Pigozzi slimes around the place and so a bunch of other suspicious characters. And soon we realize that most of our stunningly beautiful super-models have a lot of dark secrets up their sleeves… and all is prepared to step over each others dead bodies to keep ‘em secret!

Let me first complain, so you can stop reading for a while and throw darts at a photo of me and then come back to read the rest. The script for Blood and Black Lace is absurdly generic even for it’s time. It borders to being almost 100 % predictable in the same way as Transformers 2 or any John Wayne western you choose. This is not always a good thing, ‘cause a giallo lives on the mystery and BABL don’t have so much a mystery. It’s quite easy to guess who is the killer is and when it’s revealed it’s like “Huh, ok…?” and nothing more. The dialogue is mind-numbing and stupid and performed with almost robotic tendencies from almost all actors. What’s good with the story compared to Mannekäng i Rött is that it lacks the heavy-handed and not so funny comedy. This is serious shit and I like it that way.

Blood and Black Lace are all about style over substance, but lack the emotional power to makes the viewer involved in the story. In this case the style aren’t substance, it’s just style and what a fantastic stylish movie it is! I can complain as much as I want about other details, but the looks of the movie is stunning (which not even the lousy DVD from VCI can’t hide) and Mario Bava clearly knows where to point his camera to make even the most boring scene interesting to watch. Everything in this movie is loaded with details and colours, from the sets to the clothes and the behaviour of the characters. It’s just gorgeous.

What makes BABL even more unique for it’s time is the ferocious violence! It’s not that graphic, but boy, it’s a very mean-spirited killer we have here, slapping around his victims like there’s no tomorrow! In one long scene he kicks the shit out of Peggy (Mary Arden) while Bava seamlessly switches the actress to a male stunt-person in drag. Bava goes for the throat and never looses his grip until the ending.

The only questionable visual solution I will complain about is when the killer disappears in a very annoying jump-cut. I guess it was meant that he would be gone in the flickering of a shadow, but right now he’s just standing in the light and disappears like that darn priest in City of the Living Dead, in a bad and primitive special effect.

I like it more the third time around, and I must agree that Blood and Black Lace is a wonderful early giallo with a highy bodycount and nice murder set-pieces. But I hope it will get the released it deserves, sooner or later. It feels like it was made to be released in HD!

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Ten Little Indians (1974)

Harry Allan Towers produced three versions of Agatha Christie’s Ten Little Indians, and in 1974 he made this version using the exact same script as the 1965 version, just changing the setting to the Iranian desert. I’ve also been waiting a long time to get a chance to see this movie. It was released a couple of years ago in the UK, but I just waited a bit longer and a little while ago Swedish company Studio S released it. Most reviews I’ve read over the years told us to stay away from this boring piece of shit. This just made my interest even stronger, and I’m happy to say that it’s not as bad as some people have claimed before. It’s just not very exciting.

Not surprising, the same bunch of characters arrives to another location, this time a luxury mansion far out in the Iranian desert. What makes them special is that they are a fantastic collection of great character actors: Oliver Reed, Maria Rohm, Gert Fröbe, Adolfo Celi, Charles Aznavour, Richard Attenborough. Elke Sommer, Herbert Lom and the voice of Orson Welles! They are lured there by the mysterious Mr U.N. Owen (get it, Unknown) who accuses all of them of murder. And whenever one of those silly Indian statues are found broken, someone is being killed… you know the story, and you probably also know the killer if you seen one of the other versions!

But I won’t reveal who’s the killer, I promise.

So, as usual I bring you the good stuff first – because that’s the most important. I never review movies I totally dislike, that’s just a waste of time for be and for you. What’s good is the gorgeous setting, which looks and feels impressive and fits the story excellent. I was afraid it would be to far-fetched (I like scary, deserted islands like in the original story) but the spooky mansion and the wilderness around it worked perfectly here. Peter Collinson is a good director, and crafts a competent thriller around a script that delivers very little surprises. He also shy’s away from the violence and gore, something that this movie would have needed to be something special.

But if you can live with the generic execution you will find Ten Little Indians to be a good little mystery (which unfortunately uses the Agatha Christie-scripted happy ending that was used in the stage version) with a fucktastic cast! I mean, this the highlight of the movie. Adolfo Celi, one of the finest of Italian character actors, Gert Fröbe and Herbert Lom, Attenborough plus a younger hotter cast: Oliver Reed (not sensational, but good), the beautiful Maria Rohm and the awesome Elke Sommer. It’s a cast for film nerds and only this will make this a recommendation from me.

I shouldn’t forget the great score by Bruno Nicolai either! I wonder if this is released on CD? Talking about the music, even Charles Aznavour gets his own song number (which is not surprising, because that’s what he is – a singer). Felt old-fashioned in a good way.

To be honest, if you want to see a brilliant verson of Ten Little Indians watch the Soviet version from 1987, Desyat Negrityat (my review). That’s a very faithful adaptation, maybe the only version 100% true to Christie’s original vision. But until then, this one delivers cozy entertainment for Saturday mornings and that day you need to stay home because of a nasty cold.

The Killer is Loose (1956)

I must admit that it’s very rare that I review a movie of this kind, a crime thriller from 1956. But the thing is, The Killer is Loose is damn fine movie and what really attracted me to it is the simple execution, obviously made that way because of a low budget and fast shooting-schedule. Directed by western-director Budd Boetticher, a veteran with many bleak and smart “b-movies” in his career, this could also have been a perfect western, but if that was the case I would probably never seen it – so I’m happy he decided to make a modern story.

Wendell Corey plays Leon 'Foggy' Poole, a mild-mannered bank clerk with thick glasses and a calm personality. One day the bank he works at gets robbed and soon the police, lead by Detective Sam Wagner (Joseph Cotton) discovers that Poole is involved in the robbery. When they try to arrest him they accidentally shoot his wife to death and he gives up. He’s sentenced to ten years and swears to get back on Wagner. A couple of years later he escapes, close to him being released because of good behaviour, and sets out to get his revenge…

I think many filmmakers strive to find the ultimate simple story with out too much intrigues but with a good amount of complex characters and interesting twists. The Killer is Loose is one of those few movies that makes that happen in an almost perfect way. Sure, the script is sometimes almost too simple and some of the solutions (to make the drama bigger) feels a bit unrealistic (Poole and Wagner and his wife standing and talking together in the court room after the sentence being set for example) but these small pieces of storytelling freedom is just there to make a better story and to set up for the second half of the movie when the psychotic Poole escapes and plans his revenge.

Joseph Cotton and Rhonda Fleming are both fantastic performers, but this movie belongs in its entirely to Wendell Corey who makes a character before his time, a bad guy who is polite and quite, with a nerdy looks and very far from the typical Hollywood-baddies of the time. He’s so calm that just his personality and his nice look, make him dangerous. Picture Norman Bates, but even more fucked up. Corey, another actor who died way too early because of alcohol addiction, never shows any emotions outside – it’s just in his eyes, and damn he’s good at it. I don’t think he ever played a serial killer, but he must have been one of the first to have portrayed a psychopath this way.

The Killer is Loose is packed with great scenes. My favourite is when Poole is visiting his old military-buddy and terrorizes the family with – at first – doing absolutely nothing. He just wants food, until his old friend is starting to provoke him…

I’ve heard this flick is out from MGM’s DVD on demand service, but I’ve seen a copy from TCM. But not matter how you see it, I’m sure you won’t get disappointed. A great movie, a great thriller.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Christoph Klüppel - Back From the Jungle! part 5

Continuation from part 4.

Ninja Dixon: ....and I have to ask you: You, if someone, has experience of running around in the jungle with bare chest and arms - how do you cope with the mosquitos? :) I've been in Thailand, and I plan to visit it again, but for me its hell out in the countryside hiking, with the heat and the insects trying to feed on my blood!

Christoph Klüppel: Of course, we had some insect repellent to put on our arms and other exposed bodyparts for protection. But mosquitoes and insects were not as much of a nuisance as one might expect. First of all, most of Chalong’s movies of the ”Gold” series were usually shot during Thailand’s sunny, dry ”cool” season, between November to January, when the mosquito plague is not so severe, and bad weather is not an obstacle to continued shooting. In the rainy season, things can look quite different. Also, many “jungle” areas used in the movies look more like ”jungle” than they actually are. Although there are trees, undergrowth and truly “jungle-looking” locations seen in Phillip Chalong’s various action movies, those scenic locations were hardly ever deep in the jungle, but often merely a few hundred meters off a farm lane or even a main road. After all, the set had to be accessible not only by the actors and camera team, but also by lighting trucks, crews, and trucks bringing lots of various equipment , and the “jungle areas“ chosen for the shooting were generally selected so that they could accommodate all that.

ND: I need to ask about Devil’s War (1993), the only time I’ve heard or read about this movie is on your homepage. So can you please tell us about it? Is it possible to find on VCD or DVD?

CK: “Devil’s War” is the very first, if not the only movie of Kitti Dasakorn, who also plays a part in this movie, next to his older brother Darm Dasakorn, who had been quite famous as an actor in the local movie scene, before he actually shot someone in real life and had to spend a few years in jail. The movie “Devil’s War” was low budget and lives of the good storyline and the great commitment of all the actors. I am playing the part of a Vietnam war veteran, whose plane gets shot down over a dense jungle area, survives badly hurt and is eventually found and nursed back to health by a local woman, who becomes his wife. Living in the jungle, hunting for food with arrow and bow, I one day get back home from a hunting trip and find my wife and daughter murdered. Following the foot traces of the small group of murderers through the dense jungle, I realize that this small group eventually joins a larger group of travellers and that the two groups continue their journey together. Falsely assuming that the larger group is complicit in the actions of the murders, I decide to kill all of them. However, as the number and weapons of this group are far superior to my own knife and bow, I start killing them one by one from ambush and with “jungle-techniques” such as traps, sharpened sticks etc. However, there is eventually even kind of a happy end. But I don’t tell you about it now; wait until you see the movie. I don’t think that it ever came out on VCD or DVD.

ND: Mission Hunter 2 came some years after, in 1995. Is this a direct sequel to the movie, or is it just in the title? The story and cast is similar.

CK: “Mission Hunter II” is not a direct sequel to “Mission Hunter I”. It is an entire different independent story, even though the cast is similar.

ND: You’re back, Rittikrai is back – but the movie is most famous for Tony Jaa’s small part. The US DVD markets it as a Jaa-movie for example! Do you have any memories of Jaa during this time? He must have been very young?

CK: To say the truth, I don’t remember Tony Jaa and his little part at all. There were a number of other stunt-men in Panna Rittikrai’s stuntman-crew, who in my opinion performed quite as difficult and impressive stunts, as Tony Jaa did. So at that time, at least in my personal view, Tony Jaa didn’t stand out in any special way. And, by the way, not only Tony Jaa, but we all were yet pretty young back then!

ND: The showdown in this movie is fantastic, one of my all-time favourite action-sequences. It seems quite complicated with a lot of explosions and stunts everywhere. How long did it take to shoot that ending?

CK: I can’t remember any more, how long it took exactly to shoot this action-packed finale, but it definitely didn’t take more than a few days. Everybody worked hard with dedication and did the best they could with whatever little was available, as the budget of the movie was quite limited. But the result was definitely impressive.

ND: And by the way, before I forget, how long was the shooting schedule of these movies?

CK: As far as I recall, the shooting schedule of these movies never much longer than some 4 weeks. It may be that some scenes may already have been shot before my involvement or afterwards, but I don’t think that the total shooting took much longer than those few weeks.

ND: “Mission Hunter II” became, what I know, your last movie – at least in a major part. Why is that? Did you feel yourself that you wanted to focus on other things? Please tell us about your career now and future.

CK: In fact, I actually did some further acting work after the completion of Mission Hunter II; for example, I played a short part in yet another movie produced by Khun Chokechai, called “Sing Siam” which is concerned with Thai boxing. Later on, I also played a part in a 15 sequence-TV action series, called “Dangerous Duo” (“Ku Anatarai” ) with Pete Thongjuer and Amphon Lampoon in the lead.

However, there are mainly two reasons for my eventual “withdrawal” from acting. First and foremost, with the shift of technology from shooting movies on film to the arrival of modern “video”-type shooting technology in the late nineties, things became more difficult, especially for me as a non-Thai. The arrival of “video”-type movie-shooting technology enabled , for example, the shooting of extended conversations without any cuts, making memorizing longer parts of script ( in Thai) necessary, which would have been a bit difficult for me to do without being able to read Thai. At the same time, remuneration became rather less than in earlier days, so that it wasn’t really worth my while to try and make the effort to continue working in the movie industry, which I actually never felt to be my real calling.

Another reason was that my career in the local fitness industry had meanwhile started to materialize and consolidate; throughout the years, I held several fitness management positions in various renowned local fitness clubs, next to running an own gym-equipment manufacturing business. And, as a foreigner living in Thailand with the intention to reside here for good, my continuous stay and long-term visa was dependant on the possession of a work-permit. A very important document over here, required even for things as simple as opening a bank-account etc. For all these reasons, I valued continuous job security with its privileges such as work permit, proper long-term visa and a regular income etc. as more desirable than the occasional work as an actor with all the inherent risks for my long term plan to live, work and reside here for good. To successfully keep up a management employment and also to pursue acting work with its irregular schedules, often requiring up-country stays of days or even weeks at a time was simply something hard to combine with each other.

Sometimes one simply must decide what’s most important in one’s life, and in mine, this was definitely not acting.

That was Mr Christoph Klüppel, ladies and gentlemen! Me, Ninja Dixon, is very grateful for this opportunity to interview Mr Klüppel about his movie career in Thailand, his past and what’s happening right now. I put together what I believe is his complete filmography (not counting TV and advertising), and feel free to use this and the interview as a resource and reference in the world of Thai action cinema, with a note were you took quotes and information.

The Lost Idol (1988)
Mission Hunter (1989)
In Gold We Trust (1990)
Satanic Crystals (1992)
Devil's War (1993)
Mission Hunter 2 (1995)
Sing Siam (1996)

You can find his official page here, were he also has a lot of cool photos from his fine career. And yes, what about Satanic Crystals? Even after watching the movie (for the first time) Mr Klüppel had no specific memories from the shooting... so just watch it yourself instead and love it!

Thanks and I hope you all enjoyed this!

Ninja Dixon

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Die Farbe (2010)

Remember The Call of Cthulhu from 2005? The black & white very successful adaption produced by The H.P. Lovecraft Historical Society. This is still one of the best movie adaption of Lovecraft ever made, and I’m sure I’m not alone looking forward to their next production, The Whisperer in the Darkness. But until then, get you dirty little hands on Die Farbe, a very impressive and ambitious German production which rivals the title of the best Lovecraft film ever made. Not a movie for everyone, and the competition regarding good Lovecraft films isn’t that big actually, so if you don’t agree with me it’s OK.

Die Farbe is based on the short story The Colour Out of Space from 1927, but it was a long time since I read it and I can’t really comment on the similarities. After reading a couple of summaries of the original story it seem like Die Farbe is very faithful to the source material, but instead of Massachusetts the story is to a big part moved to Germany and a young man and his search for his lost father in the area affected by “the color”.

The color yeah, it comes from a meteorite and is spreading and poisoning the people and nature in the area, slowly killing everything, stealing the energy from everything alive around it. Could this be the first story about a meteorite creating havoc in a small town?

Director and screenwriter Huan Vu goes a whole different route here compared both to productions of the Lovecraft society and older adaptations of the Lovecraft’s work. Die Farbe is also in black & white, but has a very different pacing and idea about telling the story than I’ve seen before. Gone is the goofy monsters and charming b-movie feeling, Die Farbe is a slow and atmospheric horror/sci-fi flick with stunningly beautiful photo and a very European way of storytelling. Not fast editing, no direct action, just dread and death.

I think the choice of making the movie in black & white can be because of two reasons: it looks good and it fits the time when the movie is set to be, but also it makes the use of the color very effective. Because when the color from outer space appears it’s also the only thing in color. The visual effects are very good and never disturb the story by being cheesy or annoying. Overall the acting is good, even if many of the actors are amateurs. The gorgeous landscapes and nature – even if it’s in black & white – is fantastic to watch. I wish I had a house there!

It’s hard to describe Die Farbe, but I can recommend it to anyone interested in Lovecraft and brilliant indie filmmaking. This is as far from SOV cheesiness as possible, this is a real movie and a real story. I bough the BD from the official homepage, and it’s also available on DVD. I’m sure most of you would appreciate this fantastic-looking visual delight, so go get it!

Christoph Klüppel - Back From the Jungle! part 4

Continuation from part 3.

Ninja Dixon: In Gold We Trust (1991) looks big and seem to have some money behind. Philip Chalong is doing the directing again, but there is a lot of non-Thai people involved. I heard this was a co-production between US and Thailand, with American money bringing stars like Jan-Michael Vincent and Sam Jones into the movie. Can you tell us a bit about what you know about the history of this movie?

Christoph Klüppel: Unfortunately, about the history of this movie I don’t know much at all, as I was hired as an actor and only came” into play” once the shooting started. So I was not involved in the preparation work leading up to the actual shooting of the movie. What I can remember regarding the shooting is that working on this movie was , probably partly due to the US financing, far less stressful and less exhausting than working on ”The Lost Idol”. When shooting ”IN GOLD WE TRUST” ,there hardly was any need to get up as early as 3.30 a.m. to be driven out to the set somewhere in the middle of nowhere or into the jungle, which was quite common when shooting ”THE LOST IDOL”; and , when shooting ”In Gold We Trust” it was also not as often necessary to work until late at night. As far as I recall, the shooting , at least as far as my part was concerned, was also completed in far less time than ”The Lost Idol”. So all in all, shooting ”In Gold We Trust” was – at least for me - a ”walk in the park” compared to the far tougher circumstances and work conditions I had to put up with when shooting ” The Lost Idol”.

ND: One of many reasons I love Thailand, and also watch a lot of Thai movies, is the fantastic locations. This movie has a lot of very exotic and beautiful places. Where was it shot? The cave for example, is it the same that was used in The Lost Idol?

CK: ”In Gold We Trust” was, at least for a major part, shot in areas around Saraburi and in the forested hills leading up to ”Muak Lek”, 130 km North-East from Bangkok, where also the cave was located. It was not the same cave as the one that was used in ”The Lost Idol”, though . Some further scenes ( f. ex. the scene where the safe was hidden in the cave under water) was shot in Petcharat Camp, also located in Saraburi region, just a bit off the major highway. The Saraburi area always used to be one of the most preferred shooting areas of director Khun Chalong, as it offers beautiful natural scenerie, waterfalls, forested jungle-like areas, etc. and is yet just some hundred kilometer from Bangkok. In those times film needed to be developed in the lab in Bangkok to check whether the various takes had turned out all right, and due to the proximity between the set and the capital Bangkok, it was easy to take any completed film rolls back to the lab in the city, get them developed promptly, and – in the event that any scenes shouldn’t have turned out all right - the respective scenes could easily be shot again, while we were still working in the same area. But usually this wasn’t necessary, as the camera team was quite experienced and most professional.

ND: Jan-Michael Vincent did a lot of movies around this period, and then slowed down to finally retire totally some years ago. You have some scenes with him, mostly action, but how was he to work with and did you hang out with him between takes too?

CK: Jan-Michael Vincent was quite all right to work with, but I personally don’t remember him as very sociable in his free time. I recall that he appeared to be a bit “under the influence” of some alcoholic beverages often, or even most of the time, although this did not affect his acting ability to a major extent. I guess it may have been one reason why he mostly preferred to rest in the times between his takes . That’s probably one of the reasons why I didn’t get much of a chance to hang out with him. Also, as we were working on different teams, we actually didn’t have all that many shooting days in common. While Jan-Michael was with the “good” guys, I was with the “bad” guys, led by Sam Jones ; therefore, many times Jan Michael didn’t need to be on the set during scenes I was playing with Sam Jones and the other ”bad” guys, whereas I was not always needed on the set when Jan-Michael and the “good” guys were filmed.

ND: One scene I watched over and over and over again is when you lift Vincent up, just holding his head. How did you do that scene? I tried to spot wires, but didn't seen any stuff like that. Another illusion is when you get killed by the sword at the end, a very nice effect. But how did they do it?

CK: As of the mentioned scene, lifting Jan-Michel Vincent up just holding his head, there were definitely no wires used; what you see is what actually happened: the director instructed me to grasp Jan-Michael by his neck and pull him out of that earth-hole, and that’s what I did. And I didn’t have to do it just only once; to poor Jan-Michael’s misfortune, we had to repeat that scene at least three times until the shot was finally approved by the director. As I recall, Jan-Michael tried to help to make the scene look more realistic by jumping off the ground at the moment of my lifting him up, but in the excitement performing this particular scene several times in a row, I probably clutched his throat a bit hard at one or the other time. Jan Michel never made a fuss about it, but his then wife later scolded me for this at a party organized at the director’s house to celebrate the completion of the shooting, rebuking me that Jan Michel’s throat had been aching for days after this particular shot. – As of the scene when I get killed by the sword, the pointed end of a custom-made wooden blade wrapped in silver foil was attached to my back under my shirt before the shot was taken, making it appear, as if the blade had pierced me from the front and was now sticking out behind. When the scene begins, I am first seen from the front, so that the previously attached blade end is not yet visible at this moment. When the Japanese soldier then “pierces” me with his sword, the sword blade telescopes, shortening to less then half of its original length with the impact on my body . “Injured to death”, and grasping the sword, thereby holding it in place, I slowly fall down, turning slightly in the process, so that the blade’s pointed end, previously attached to my back now becomes visible, creating the impression that the Japanese soldier’s blade had pierced my body from the front. In fact, everything quite simply done, but obviously realistic.

Attention: Mr Klüppel shared with me a whole bunch of excellent and very rare behind-the-scenes photos from the scene described above, and I've attached them in a separate album for you all to see. Password is "attackafant". All of them are copyrighted to Christoph Klüppel and you need his permission to use them. Respect this.

ND: You have most scenes with Sam Jones, and I have to admit I always liked that guy. Here's he's really over-the-top, giving us a larger than life-character. Can you tell me about working with him?

CK: I was definitely impressed with Sam Jones’s acting style, which, in my opinion, truly brought to life the vile “bad guy character” which he portrayed. Sam Jones was easy to work with, and, due to our common interest in weight training and fitness, we had quite a few conversations. Sam Jones had even bought some department store weight-training equipment and brought it along to the set where he tried to work-out a bit between scenes whenever there was a chance; as of myself, I preferred to work-out at the hotel where I lodged and where I had arranged for my own gym set-up in one of the hotel rooms from which bed and furniture had been removed. However, during all the period of the shooting, there was hardly much time or spare energy left to work out much.

ND: It must be hard to find a stunt-double for you, so I guess you - like in The Lost Idol - do a lot of your stunt work yourself. How did you prepare for the stunts, training, stunt co-ordinator and so on?

CK: You are right, all the stunt work, which I had to perform, I had to do by myself, same as most of the other actors, with exception of the lead actors from the US of course. There were stunt-people to take over for them whenever there was a scene with any potential danger.
As of the stunts we other actors had to perform by ourselves, there usually was no special preparation or training provided for those; however, due to the regular intense weight training regimen which I used to adhere in those times, I fortunately was in a good physical shape and quite fit, which certainly helped. As of the stunts, the director and his assistant directors simply explained what to do and how to do it, and then we just tried to perform as best as possible following their instructions. Usually this worked just fine.

ND: I noticed that also in this movie your characters name is Christoph, like in The Lost Idol. Did they found your real name perfect for the parts, or was it just something that came naturally in the dialogue during the shooting?

CK: Obviously, the director Phillip Chalong must have found my real name perfect for my parts in both movies ”The Lost Idol”and ”In Gold we Trust” , although in the movie ”In Gold WE TRUST” it is spelled ”Russian style” as ”Kristoff” , whereas my real name is spelled ”Christoph”. As I am enacting the part of a Russian mercenary, in the English version of the movie released in the US, my own voice was dubbed by someone speaking English with a Russian accent; my own strong German accent obviously didn’t fit the part.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Christoph Klüppel - Back From the Jungle! part 3

Continuation from part 2.

Ninja Dixon: When I first visited Thailand, one of the VCD’s I bought was Mission Hunter. I had no idea what it was, except you’re in front with a huge gun! Produced by Pechpanna Productions and famous producer Chokchai Pechpanna. Can you tell us how you got this part?

Christop Klüppel: First of all, the famous producer’s name is Chokchai Maliwan. Petchpanna was the name given to his production company to give recognition to Panna Rittikrai, who was Khun Chokechai’s business partner back then; his stuntman-crew’s exciting stunts and his initiatives actually made those two Mission Hunter Movies what they became popular for. Khun Chokechai was mainly responsible for the business part, i.e. he raised the necessary money, financed the movie and was responsible for the marketing.

As of myself, I got my part in “Mission Hunter 1” as a direct consequence of my performance in the movie “The Lost Idol” directed by P. Chalong. Once “The Lost Idol” had been shown in the cinemas, my then well-developed bodybuilder’s physique had generated quite some interest among the local public; as someone, who had been hired as an actor by Chalong - back then one of the most accomplished action movie producers in Thailand -, I was simply viewed as someone who could possibly draw attention to the much smaller budget production of “Mission Hunter I”. So I was approached by Chokechai Maliwan and his team who told me about their plan to shoot Mission Hunter and hire me to play a part in it, an offer which I accepted without much consideration. And I never had to regret it, as I was very well attended to throughout the shooting up country in Khon Khaen area, Panna’s home region; I received VIP treatment. The actual shooting was also much less stressful than during “The Lost Idol” and - last, but not least- a casual friendship developed between Chokechai Maliwan and myself which has lasted up to today. We are still in loose contact, more than 20 years after shooting these movies, and we still meet for lunch now and then.

ND: Your co-star in Mission Hunter was Panna Rittikrai, famous for being the mentor of future-star Tony Jaa and himself an action-star for many years. He’s famous for creating a lot of memorable stunts and action. How was he to work with? Did he choreographed your stuntwork too, or was he just an actor?

CK: “Co-star” is a big word, as it makes me a “star”, too. To say the truth, I never actually considered myself as a “movie star” just for having had the opportunity to play parts in some of these movies back then. As of Khun Panna, he was always friendly, easygoing and easy to work with. We always got along well. He impressed me with his modesty, professionalism and down to earth character, despite all his accomplishments. I have never had any negative experience with him whatsoever. Panna did not only act, but, as far as I recall, he was also actively involved in directing/choreographing many of those action shots; after all, stunts and action has always been his major expertise.

ND: Like almost all countries of in Asia, from Hong Kong to Japan, the comedy is an acquired taste. And here we have Mission Hunter, which has some scenes of very broad comedy. If I remember it correctly, one of the jokes is your character showing his “private member” to the others, to impress! I don’t know what I want to get with this question, but what’s your opinion about the comedy in Mission Hunter? :)

CK: As the “private-part”-comparison in the mentioned scene obviously went in my favor, I naturally didn’t mind it so much. However, I personally certainly have a quite different kind of humour, and I have never considered this particular scene all that funny. But the point here was to entertain/amuse the mainly up-country Thai audience which the movie was intended to please, and it certainly did the job. Thais generally often find things funny, which a Westerner would not perceive as funny at all, whereas a Thai may be offended by something, a Westerner may consider a harmless joke. There exist cultural differences, and those even extend to what is perceived as funny and what is not.

(all photos from the movies belongs to Dr Christoph Klüppel)

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Christoph Klüppel - Back From the Jungle! part 2

continuation from yesterday...

Ninja Dixon: Your first movie was The Lost Idol, was it made in 1988 or 1990? I heard different years.

Christoph Klüppel: The shooting of The Lost Idol – in Thailand it is called “Gold III” - began in the end of 1987, and the last scenes were shot in early 1988.

ND: It has the feeling of a movie with a slightly bigger budget than usual. The cast is big, the explosions are even bigger and it has a name cast. How did you get involved in this movie?

CK: My involvement with this movie was incidental. Having moved from Austria to Bangkok (in April 1987) , just only a few months before The Lost Idol was produced, I got into a taxi one day, driven by a driver who spoke fairly good English. He expressed awe about my well-trained bodybuilder’s physique of those days and said that I should be in the movies. During our subsequent conversation he then explained that he used to live near the home of Thailand’s most famous action-movie producer Chalong Pakdivijit ( “Philip Chalong”) and that he could take me there. So I simply had him drive me to the producer’s villa, rang the door bell and said hello. Khun Chalong was home, and I was welcomed in and received in a friendly manner. At that time, Mr. Chalong was working to get ready to produce The Lost Idol; he was likewise so impressed with my physique (in those days, well-trained bodybuilder types of my height of almost 2 m height were rare over here!) that he promised to give me a part in his new movie right away at this, our very first encounter. As I had just moved to Thailand and at that time didn’t have any other employment opportunities in sight, yet, I was most grateful for the opportunity and accepted the offer.

ND: Even if Erik Estrada is top-billed, it feels almost like an ensemble cast – everyone is important, even the bad guys. I read somewhere that Estrada was forced to take this job in Thailand because of money trouble in the US and that he had to take a job outside the actors union. How was it working with him?

CK: As far as I am concerned, working with Erik Estrada was quite easy and pleasant; I always got along with him quite well. I remember Eric Estrada as being of an easygoing personality, and I never observed any unpleasant issues, such as an exaggerated star-demeanor, with him. In fact, I recall that I was quite impressed with his professionalism. However, I didn’t have very much personal contact with him, as he had been provided with a driver, and, together with the other US actors, had been accommodated at a more luxurious hotel than the rest of the cast. So after his work was done, he was usually promptly driven back to his hotel to rest. On off days, he was taken on excursions, and so we didn’t have much opportunity to get better acquainted.

ND: Two of Thailand biggest movie stars are in it to, Sorapong Chatree and Krung Srivilai. When you did this movie, where you familiar with their stardom?

CK: Back then, I was already somewhat familiar with the stardom of Sorapong Chatree, who until now remains one of the most popular actors in Thailand and is meanwhile also producing movies on his own. And, I personally also believe that he is good and down-to earth person, despite his well-deserved stardom. In all his movies Sorapong plays a hero and a person of high moral integrity, and that has endeared him to the Thai public. And to me, he appears to be that type of person in real life as well; during my 25 years in Thailand , I have never heard of him being involved in any scandals, and there never were any rumours about even the very least misconduct on his part, even though public figures of his standing are generally subject to increased public scrutiny and media attention. As far as I know, Sorapong Chatree lives an exemplary life-style and until now contributes a lot to society.

As of Krung Srivilai, I can’t not say all that much; as far as I know, he generally plays bad guys in the majority of his movies, and at the time of getting to know him during the shooting of “The Lost Idol” I didn’t perceive him to be a particularly popular movie star.

ND: It seems just the actors were westerners, but it has a Thai crew. How was the communication with the other cast and the crew? Did you speak and understand Thai at this point?

CK: The Lost Idol has both a Thai cast (in order to be able to successfully market the movie in Thailand, where names like Erik Estrada, James Phillips or Myra Jason wouldn’t ring a bell) , and a Western cast with some well-known Western actors ( to be able to successfully market the movie in the US (where nobody would know the likes of Sorapong Chatree or Krung Srivilai). At the time of shooting “The Lost Idol” I had been in Thailand for about eight months and already understood a bit Thai, basically just enough to have an idea what was being talked about and to manage to make myself understood. This facilitated my communication with the Thai crew, but, as of Khun Chalong and his assistants, they spoke good English anyway, which was essential for them to communicate with the US actors. For me personally, there were no major issues regarding communication, neither with the Thai crew nor any of the Western or Thai cast.

ND: You are obviously a very physical guy, so I guess the action wasn’t any problem for you here, but that helicopter scene look quite dangerous. Was it you, or did they actually find a stuntman that had your physique?

CK: That helicopter stunt was performed by me in person. There certainly wasn’t any stuntman that had my physique and, even though the scene looked dangerous, I was yet confident in my capability to successfully manage to perform it. For safety, I was hooked up to the ski of an old army-helicopter with a hidden steel cable, and when the helicopter took off, I had to cling on to one its skis during take-off, clutching a straw-dummy in a Vietnamese uniform with my legs to make it appear, as if an enemy “soldier” was clinging on to my legs to pull me off the helicopter. I had been instructed to kick that dummy off, when the helicopter was flying over a certain tree, which I did; however, my kick caused the dummy’s head to fly off in one direction and the rest of the dummy’s body in another; when you carefully watch the scene in slow motion, you can still notice both parts falling separately to the ground. However, as this event was recorded in a very long shot, the scene fortunately didn’t have to be retaken, although back then I even volunteered to do it again. After I had kicked off the dummy, the helicopter flew a wide round to prepare again for landing, and during this time, my arm- muscles got so exhausted that it became quite hard for me to keep hanging on. So I also brought my legs up and wrapped them around the helicopter’s ski during its flight in order to take strain off my tiring arms and to enable me to hang on for a bit longer; after all I didn’t have much confidence that the attached safety cable would actually hold my weight of 120 kg, if I would indeed let go. But in the end, everything went well, and the helicopter brought me safely back to the ground before I ran out of strength and couldn’t cling on any longer. Such events were typical when shooting movies in those days; technique wasn’t very advanced yet and very little of the “dangerous” action was performed by stuntmen, but the movies lived from the initiative, courage and dedication of the actors who had to perform most, if not all their action stunts by themselves without much technical assistance.

ND: With Erik Estrada and James Phillips in the cast, plus you, The Lost Idol was probably aimed at an international audience. How did this affect you? Did you get a chance to travel around doing press for the movie?

CK: The Lost Idol was intended both for the Thai audience and an international audience, mainly in the US. However, I fortunately didn’t have to travel to abroad to help promoting the movie. And I was quite glad about that, as I certainly wouldn’t have been eager to travel anywhere; I was, and I still am happy for each and every day that I have the privilege to be here in Thailand, and even nowadays, I hardly ever leave the country, unless it is unavoidable.

However, as of promoting “The Lost Idol” locally, I remember that shortly before The Lost Idol had its premiere in the cinemas, I myself and some of the Thai actors were asked to attend a televised Thai boxing competition in one of Bangkok’s boxing stadiums; each of the actors had been given a golden necklace by the producer to donate it to the winner of each of the various boxing matches which is customary habit over here, and in this case it was aimed at promoting “The Lost Idol”, which is called “GOLD III” here in Thailand.

Read part 3 tomorrow...

Part 3, published tomorrow Wednesday, will deal with his role in Mission Hunter together with martial arts legend Panna Rittikrai!

(all photos from the movies belongs to Dr Christoph Klüppel)