Wednesday, April 28, 2010

The Swarm (1978)

To fully understand the cheese-factor in The Swarm, just read these lines:

Oh, my God! Bees! Bees! Millions of Bees!

Dr. Andrews: Billions of dollars have been spent to make these nuclear plants safe. Fail-safe! The odds against anything going wrong are astronomical, Doctor!
Dr. Hubbard: I appreciate that, Doctor. But let me ask you. In all your fail-safe techniques, is there a provision for an attack by killer bees?

Houston on fire. Will history blame me, or the bees?

Attention! Attention! This is Miss Schuster. Please listen very carefully. A swarm of killer bees is coming this way.

By tomorrow there will be no more Africans... at least not in the Houston sector.

To quote Ian Friedman, the screen is alive with goofiness. I can honestly say that there's never been a movie so goofy, silly and absurd as Irwin Allen's The Swarm. Not that this is a bad thing, because it's very entertaining and though the directors cut clocks in at around two and a half hour, every second is filled with something that makes your heart warm and your brain empty.

Stirling Silliphant, a scriptwriter I like, probably wrote the script in his sleep and I doubt it ever was rewritten. The characters are so shallow and stupid, the dialogue seem to be - as you can see above - written by someone with an average IQ of ten. It's probably not Silliphant's fault, I guess we more can blame Allen who probably needed the script way to fast for his own good.

Another problem is Michael Caine. I love the guy (except that hair cut he always had at that time). First of all is the character written like a total fucking prick. Yes, you just want to punch that fucker in the face and piss on his corpse. He's such a smart-ass, so anti-humble and he's acting like an asshole to everybody, even the poor (yes, you actually are on their side when he's starting his bullshitting) military. The other problem is that Caine obviously hates this (probably well-payed) job. And it's easy to notice that most actors, except maybe Henry Fonda and Slim Pickens, reads their lines with a lot of disbelief, like they're wondering how the heck their agent could get them this job in the first place.

But still, The Swarm is such a goofy and fun movie. It's packed with action and disaster scenes - sometime with very crude effects, but also with some well made stuff too - for example the big swarms in the sky, good effect. The stunts are in glorious slow-mo, and all of them looks damn impressive. The famous train-accident looks exactly like toy train crashing and exploding like a... nuclear bomb or something that involves a couple thousand liters of gasoline! A lot of kids is getting killed too - while Olivia de Havilland is chewing scenery inside, safe from the killer bees! My favorite Bradford Dillman is good too, and makes the best of his little part. Ah, sorry, I almost forgot! Cameron Mitchell, looking a bit drunk, has a small part - mostly on a big TV-monitor. I hope that payed his way of living for many years.

It's hard to dislike The Swarm, and even if it was an enormous flop, it's still a heart-warming crazy motherfucker of a flick, from the master of disaster himself: Irwin Allen.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Visitor Q (2001)

Sometime all you need is a whack in the head with a huge stone, and everything will be alright. So seem the case with Visitor Q, Takashi Miike's ultra-lowbudget family-drama. It's a story about an ex-TV producer who wants to make a reality series about youth violence - but ends up raped by... and ice cream? Anyway, if that wasn't enough, the movie begins with a long sequence with him have sex with his daughter. His wife is a heroine-addict who is beaten bloody everyday by their teenage son - who are beaten and tortured by some other kids at school. One day the father is beaten in the head by an unknown man, brings him home and everything will change...

It's absurd to even write it, but Visitor Q is very old-fashioned. Close to conservative when it comes to family values. It's about a very dysfunctional family, who finds connection to each other by breast milk, necrophilia and murder. Throw in some shit-playing and you'll have a movie like no other. It's all made with a lot of comedy to, and when the infamous corpse-fucking scene comes it's so absurd that you just have a big fucking smile all over your face. Even when the shit comes pouring from the body and the fucking continues, because the shit works fine as lubricant!

Shot on video, both pro-equipment and with home video-cam, this is a beautiful movie that really takes advantages of the format. It might look cheap, but the story is so well written and funny that you'll forget that after the first scene. Actually, the first scene when the father has sex with his daughter is so long and realistic that even I feel awkward watching it. It almost feels illegal, or at least very private.

When the last scene comes, in the greenhouse with the blue plastic wrapped around our main characters and that nice song starts playing, it gives me goosebumps. It's so beautiful, so real, so stunningly emotional. A boy laying on a floor filled with breast milk, a prostitute daughter finally comes home. A dysfunctional family becomes maybe more dysfunctional, but accepts that and finally finds peace and happiness.

That's fucking movie poetry.

Femina Ridens (1969)

As you all know I have a tendency to fall in deep deep love with certain movies, like I've done many times in real life with real people. I get so into a movie that I have a hard time leaving it, if it has that special quality. Femina Ridens (or The Frightened Woman) is such a movie. If you watch it in a shallow way it's just a kitchy, fun, sexy sixties movie with cool music and fantastic sets. But it has a couple of twists that makes it so much smarter, darker and controversial than a lot of similar movies. It's just a waste of blog-space to say it's a cult movie. It's something so much more.

Dagmar Lassander plays Maria who, by a chance, gets invited to Dr. Sayer (Philippe Leroy). He soon shows his real face when he kidnaps her and forces her to be his personal sex-toy. Well, not sex in the practical way. More a doll - to the degree that he forces her to have sex with a doll-replica of himself! He abuses her physically and mentally, tortures her with threats and devices, water and by keeping her in a strange cell. He starts showing her photos for women he killed and explains that he wants to kill her, as the ultimate orgasm. But than a something radical happens, and... I don't want to write more. Watch it yourself.

Underneath the kitchy surface a complicated and dark sexual drama is hidden. It's deals with feminism, how men treats women and how women treats men - it's a puzzle of how humans are toying with each other, how roles suddenly can change and that people are more complex than we can imagine. None of the characters are stereotypes. They might seem so from the first look, but after a while we see layer after layer peel off, and suddenly our prejudices comes into the spotlight. What seems like the typical sleaze-fest becomes something more uncomfortable, something - maybe - true?

I wish I could write more about the twists, but I don't want to be accused of spoiling something, so I'll leave that. But in the end you feel confused. What is good and what is bad, if there's something so simple? There's no typical happy ending, not even in a surrealistic sixties way. It's a cruel hard world, in the middle of cool clothes, cars and wallpapers from an LSD-trip. It's like a reality mind-fuck.

Now, Femina Ridens is a perfect film when it comes to music, pictures, movements and acting. The script is wonderful by itself, original and intelligent. One of the highlights is the famous scene where Dr. Sayer enters a gigantic statue of a woman laying down, through her vagina. It was made by Niki de Saint Phalle, Jean Tinguely och P.O. Ultvedt in 1966 and is one of the most famous Swedish pieces of art ever. Ultvedt also designed parts of the interior of Stockholms subway, and I have the pleasure to see his works everyday. One of the most unique things with Stockholm is the very arty subway, and I recommend a visit there - let me know if I can give you a clue to which stations you should visit. 

You know, I think some fans of "eurocult" has a problem admitting that their favorite directors actually had something to say. They think it's cooler to claim it's all fun, gore, action and surface. For me that's a lack of respect for those artists that worked in what we call "eurocult". I get angry every time I hear some idiot claim that Fulci was a hack - but still loves his movies because of the gore or the "cool incoherent plot". Those people just don't know what they're watching and shouldn't be allowed near anything else than... Independence Day and Pretty Woman. I've always liked and appreciate the intellectual approach that you can find in for example Fulci's work. Yes, hell - even Lenzi had it, not to mention other legends like Argento or Bava. I still think Fulci was the more political one of the more famous directors, but you can find layer after layer at almost all directors that has passion for their work. 

Piero Schivazappa is of course no different. This is the only movie I've seen so far from him, but it's also one of the most impressive "eurocult" movies I've seen in a very long time.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

All things Thai in The Big Boss Part 2

Jack asked me if I could take a look at this post, which I recommend you all to do. It's some of Jack excellent writing, but also a clip from The Big Boss 2. A "sequel" to Bruce Lee's classic that stars Lo Lieh and "Bruce Le". Obviously it's some mystery around this movie, because it impossible to get - but one guy down in South Africa has a print of it and has posted ten minutes on ye' ol' internet.

What makes me interested in it, and that's the reason why Jack asked me to take a look, is that it might be Thai-actors in it. And yes, it is. It seem like a Thai-HK co-production, with Thai-producer Ekash Issaramananyakul involved, and this also means that some of the bigger parts is played by Thai actors. The main baddie was a little bit difficult. I recognized him way to much, and I had to ask Wise Kwai about it. He suggested Krung Srivilai, which probably is correct. Krung probably did hundreds of movies, but very few are listed on internet. According to IMDB he starred in two movies I've wanted to see a long time now, H-Bomb (together with Christopher Mitchum!) and 1-2-3 Monster Express, the biggest success in Thailand 1977. An action movie about a bus that can't stop or something like that (hrm... Speed... hrm...). You can read more about Krung at Thai World View.

The actress was harder, but I'm quite convinced that it's Preeya Roongrueng. She died in a car accident in 1984, but starred in 50 movies before that. I have no idea where I've seen her before - it's not one those movies listed on Thai World View anyway. That site also has information about what characters she used to play: "She often played role as นางอิจฉา (stereotypical character who does not hesitate to do bad things to the leading actress including trying to steal her boyfriend before wedding) or as ดาวโป้ (actress who always played the girl friend of the Mafia boss, the jealous woman, the temptress, the prostitute or the woman who dressed in sexy clothes)" - which seem to fit the little we see of her in Big Boss 2. But I'm not sure it's Preeya, but it's a theory anyway.

But if you have any other theories regarding the Thai-actors up here, please don't hesitate to comment.

Raging Phoenix (2009)

I'm very happy that Prachya Pinkaew and Panna Rittikrai tries to do something else than imitating Tony Jaa in movie after movie. They are wise enough to realize that there's only one Jaa and leaves the imitators to other companies. In the meanwhile they've been nurturing other talents, for example JeeJa Yanin. She had her big breakthrough with Chocolate, and in Raging Phoenix she's a full-fledged martial arts star in her own right.

JeeJa plays Deu, a very unhappy girl who's being dumped both by her boyfriend and the band she's playing with at the same night. Drunken and sad she's soon followed by some kidnappers (one of them is an evil transvestite - as usual in Thai cinema), but is saved in the last second by a strange gang of drunken fighters. All of them has suffered the faith of getting someone close being kidnapped by the same people, and now they spend their days drinking and fighting their way through all suspects. Deu is soon invited to be one of them, but her one-man-approach to finding the bad guys is not appreciated by the others. They're a team, and nothing else...

Raging Phoenix wasn't a big hit in Thai cinemas, which is a pity, because this is a great movie with a very original style. I guess the lack of success could be because of the depressing subject, women being kidnapped and the only thing that helps when fighting the baddies is being extremely drunk. The atmosphere is sad and downbeat too, which makes it cool because the colors and visual style of the movie is something completely different. The fighting is amazing, and except one fight (which feels like to much special effects), everything is perfect. It's like watching jelly fighting! Like animated monkeys or something. It's a mix between Drunken Monkey and drunken Muay Thai, Capoeira and Breakdance! It has to be seen!

Not that this is a perfect movie. It has non-stop action, and much of is it's great, but the last half gets more absurd - and it's nothing you can't small beforehand (pun intended) - and it's hard to take seriously because the subjects gets very strange and it's not explained. Not that I need explanations to everything, but here it would have been nice with some more details. It has a kinda open ending too, so if it had been a success I guess we would had gotten some answers in the sequel.

I still think it's a great movie and if you like really good (and a bit arty) Thai-action, this is the movie for you.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Desyat negrityat (1987)

The works of Agatha Christie has followed me since childhood. After I read all those Enid Blyton-books, the only natural way to go was Dame Agatha. Her books are way more well written and smart than a lot of people will recognize, and is filled with interesting analysis on the human psyche. "Curtain" for example, the last Poirot-story to be published (1975) was written forty years earlier, but still had a very dark streak in it. But her darkest novel was written in 1939, and it's of course "Ten Little Indians" (or "Ten Little Niggers" as the first politically incorrect title was). 

The story could also be an early blueprint for all those slashers and giallo's that came much later. Ten people, all of different gender, class, ages and style, are invited to an island. Almost everyone comes there because of different reasons, and are invited my the mysterious Mr U.N. He's not there though, but to servants who fix them dinner and also starts playing a record - where a voice tells them that they are sentenced to death! A couple of minutes later the first guest meets his death with poison, and soon they're all going down one by one, all after the old nursery rhyme hanging on the walls in every room...

Morality is of course that no one escapes justice, even if they regards themselves as innocent. But everyone is involved in a death of some kind, and more than a few of them also feels guilty because of this. Guilt is also the concept in every character, and is shown here with some very haunting flashbacks in black and white. Both those we see as weak and those who pretends are strong are haunted by the memories of their crime. It's a very grim story, and for the first time and cinema history, this Soviet version adapts the book exactly as in how Christie envisioned it. No happy ending here, no meaningless change of character names or killing methods. This is like reading the book, but with the help of brilliant Russian filmmakers.

Gone is the humor from earlier versions, and the characters sometimes feels to real and nasty. Because it's humans we're talking about, the most dangerous animal in the world. Like in the book more or less all murders are show off screen, but we're treated with a nice bloody touch during the first killing. The location by the way, is amazing. Shot in Crimea, using two famous landmark-mansions there: the Swallow's Nest and Vorontsov Estate. The places oozes with atmosphere, and even if the house seem a little bit smaller than I imagined it from reading the book, I can't think of any better location (it's also a miniature, shot in perspective to look like it's there for real, which looks good... but a bit cartoonish). Desyat negrityat is also filled with wonderful Russian actors who is perfectly casted and still is far from Hollywood in style and talent - they are just better.

Slow pace, but those 2 hours flies by fast with ten murders and always something new around the corner. The best Agatha Christie adaptation ever made, in my opinion.

A Queens Ransom (1976)

So, what do you say about this line up of actors: George Lazenby, Jimmy Wang Yu, Angela Mao, Dean Shek and Bolo Yeung! The sources also claims that Sammo Hung is in A Queens Ransom somewhere! I don't know about the last thing, but the rest of the cast is the most attractive thing about this movie, which is not a bad flick, but could have been more exciting than it became.

A gang of international terrorists, among them Lazenby, Wang Yu and Yeung, has got a well-payed job: to assassinate Queen Elisabeth when she arrives to Hong Kong! This is a time of turmoil and unrest, and Cambodian refugees is coming to Hong Kong, and in the middle of this when the police will be more stressed and confused, the terrorists will hit. Among the refugees is some high ranking Cambodian military and personalities, that sets camp in a remote part of HK, but what is their purpose there? Dean Shek plays nice hillbilly that gets more curious, and befriends one of the women in the camp. At the same time, Wang Yu finds out that the return to Hong Kong after spending eight years in Vietnam brings more surprises than he ever could imagine...

First of all, you can't blame the screenwriters for patching the script together in a logical way. There's a lot of threads and several side stories that hardly hangs together, but still is there to makes us a bit more confused than it probably was planned. The main story is of course the assassination-team, but it takes time - and I guess that is one quite good plot twist - for us to understand what's going on with the other stuff. In a way it seems like the producer decided to cobble together a story around the real queens visit to Hong Kong, so that's why we're treated to a lot of real footage of the queen when she's in Hong Kong - which of course adds to the realism. But if you can look beyond the faults of the scripts, it's actually has a few fun twists and turns, and finally also some okey action.

Yes, it's quite low on action the first hour, just some minor chases and maybe one little fight. But in the end during the final attack, we'll get some fighting (to little though), shooting and explosions. Not bad, but the production looks a bit hasty, and that probably also affected the action. But Lazenby shows off his violent and sadistic side, and Jimmy Wang Yu beats the shit out of a lot of unlucky bastards (and as usual, he always gets a chance to have sex with some caucasian women too!). Bolo Yeung looks like a muscle cow and Angela Mao is excellent in her part. 

A Queens Ransom is still the weakest of George Lazenby's HK-trilogy, but not bad. And if you like HK-action from the seventies and don't demand a masterpiece, this is the movie for you. The Fortune Star Legendary Collection-disc is in anamorphic widescreen, only Chinese dub and with subtitles filled with weird misspellings. I have no idea if it's cut or not, but it had some nudity and blood.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Srigala (1981)

From the director of Indonesian classic The Warrior, comes Srigala - which more or less is a copy of the first Friday the 13, but without the backstory of the mongoloid child and with a golden treasure instead! Why not? And it also has Barry Prime, which automatically makes it a cool movie even if it's not that good.

A bunch of teenagers (or something) goes to a lake to camp, swim and have fun. But they're not alone there. Three treasure hunters, one of them is the manliest of man - Barry Prima - are seeking after a golden treasure on the bottom of the lake! But someone is watching them, a person dressed in black and with an urge to kill, kill, kill! He (or she) takes them down one by one... until there's one final girl left. Will she survive? Will Barry Prime show off his muscles? I'm sure you can guess!

First of all, this is not a bad movie. Sure, it completely lacks originality, but still looks fine - especially in the night-scenes. Lots of atmosphere and beautiful jungle locations. I saw it with out subtitles, and had no problems following the story and character developments. It's not much of a horror movie from the beginning (the first victim, before the credits, it's a very silly looking man with moustach and small, small swimming trunks - but after that we have more of an ordinarly thriller for an hour or so, with a cool and stunt-filled boat-chase and a couple of nice explosions.

It's first in the last half hour that it actually becomes a 100 % copy of Friday the 13th. Scene for scene is ripped off, but I'm sad to say that most of the killings are very offscreen and not bloody at all. But this version (downloaded, ripped from a VCD) might be cut too, because the editing during the murder scenes was a bit strange. But if you can live with that, you'll see how the final girl takes shelter in a house, someone throws her boyfriend through the window, she escapes, runs into a woman that tells the backstory and then is the killer herself! Another nice cat fight here (mixed with some martial arts), our heroine kills the murdered and wakes up in a boat where someone is dragging her into the water. All this is looks good and is well made, but of course never reaches the tension like in the original movie. In a weird sequence they also seem to imitate slow-motion! Which looks completely silly, but a fun touch to the cat fight.

Another bonus is a lengthy dream sequence where the main girl is dreaming about four underwater zombies coming up from the lake to get her! Genius!

Srigala is of course crap, trash, whatever. But as many of these Indonesian movies it's also very charming and hard to dislike. Barry Prima (I can understand that he set a lot of hearts on fire, because he looks quite good here) is cool, and the rest of the cast is not bad at all. I also like the stolen Mike Oldfield-track that accompanies the last scene, not a bad choice at all.

It's not out on DVD and is probably very hard to get on VCD, but if you want something silly and fun, go for Srigala next time you want to download some entertaining Asian film that you never seen before.

Raiders of the Golden Triangle (1985)

I must say I wasn't impressed by Raiders of the Golden Triangle. Maybe I had to high hopes for a non-stop action-fest with tons of explosions and squibs. Not that this movie dosen't deliver some fun stuff, but it's way to fucking serious. It's like Sumat Saichur and his Hong Kong-producers wanted to make art! That's almost a perverted thought actually!

It's the usual mission-movie. Sorapong Chatree, which I like a lot, infiltrates some kinda camp out in the jungle as a prisoner just to be able to kill their leader and help the rest of the military to find it's way to the hiding place. And it's the first part that's happening for the first... 75 minutes I think. It's well made, wonderful cinematography and good direction. But it's way to much talk, to much message. It's a jungle, I need action and adventure!

But thank heavens, the last sequence is an excellent piece of action with so much explosions, a bodycount like a dream, nice shoot-outs and just so much action it will be enough for everyone! Of this came out on a good DVD I would probably buy it just for the last scene, but I wish it could have been a little bit more...

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Power Kids (2009)

Yes, right now I'm gonna write a little about a family movie. A pure family movie. Why, do you ask? Well, I will come to that soon. So just hang on. This is Prachya Pinkaew's third movie as a producer that clearly are made to generate a bigger mainstream audience in Thailand. First out was the excellent Chocolate, where JeeJa Yanin kicked some serious butt. The second was Somtum where Nathan Jones plays a stupid farang that befriends a gang och children. Not bad, but quite uneven. With Power Kids they obviously try to mix these two movies together, and it's a weird combination of very brutal action and family-comedy!

Five kids, among them the son of comedian Petchtai Wongkamlao (and they really look the same!) and Sasisa Jindamanee, who made her film debut in Panna Rittikrai's ultra-gory and violent Born to Fight in 2004, lives with Master Lek, a Muay Thai-expert that learns foreigners the basics in this ancient sport. One of the kids, a small boy, has a heart problem and needs a new heart. After a little adventure to a race track for radio controlled toy-cars he becomes seriously weaker and needs a new heart more or less directly. When he's at the hospital waiting for the new heart, terrorists attacks the building where the heart is, and takes everyone hostages! Our little heroes decides to infiltrate the place and bring the heart to their friend... which of course is more dangerous then they ever could have imagine.

So, why is this movie so much superior than for example US family-movies with a martial arts-spin? Here's a couple of reasons:

* It has a very high bodycount for being aimed at children. Actually, it has a higher bodycount than some of the movies I've seen that are aimed to an adult action-loving audience. People are massacred to death, squibs and slow-mo. The movie starts with a jungle-scene where soldiers are killing each other like there's nothing else to do in the world, and when the terrorists attack the hospital everyone that stands in their way is getting shot down! It's amazing, and I've never seen anything like this in a family-movie before.

* Producer is Panna Rittikrai, yes, the one and only stunt- and fighting-master of Thailand! This means that there is tons of spectacular stunts and fighting to be seen. It has the same problem as Somtum, and even Chocolate, that you rarely never see the grown-up's hit back. It's mostly the children beating the terrorists to a bloody mess! But sure, they get some beating too, not only by the baddies (more about that later), and the end fight where Sasisa and Nantawooti Boonrapsap fights with the leader of the terrorists, played by the great Johnny Nguyen, is great and the action highlight of the movie. But don't worry, there's a lot more.

It's basically Die Hard with children! I liked it, the kids had some talents and the action was most of the time very good and fun to watch. Even Conan Stevens (Somtum, Bangkok Adrenaline) has a small part, but gets killed way to fast. It seem like a normal thing that "farangs" are the evils ones in Thailand nowadays, in cinema, and so even here. But I guess that comes with Thailand's famous patriotism. But I can live with that. Something that I don't like is the way of showing that beating children as a way of upbringing is a good thing. Believe me, there's more than one scene where the kids have to get beaten with a wooden stick to prove that they've done something wrong, and this is by their master. The last thing we see in the movie is the same kinda beating, and he even beats the newly operated heart-problem kid. Sure, it's just something that suppose to be funny... but it takes away some of the charm of the movie.

But if you can live with that detail, this is a fun action-movie that's a lot more violent, bloody and brutal than the latest Die Hard. Not bad, not bad.

Monstry (1993)

Just when I thought I've seen everything, this Russian creature feature falls down in my virtual lap. Monstry is made just a few years after the breakdown after Soviet Union and seem to be a serious, but very cheap, attempt to both make a monster movie and a message-movie about the dangers of nuclear power - much like Chernobyl I guess. I saw it with out subtitles, but the actors acted so straight and serious I don't think it's a comedy.

Something has happen at a nuclear plant. The city around it, and the plant itself of course, has been evacuated and a team of scientists is sent there to investigate. But the first days a couple strange disappearances and deaths occur, and soon they found out that the radioactivity has made giants of the animals! The team stays put in the area to try to get some samples and see why all this is happening, but more and more animals shows up and soon they have to escape from this place. Huge rats, lizards, crows, crayfish... and yes, even a turtle, stands in their way to freedom!

Wow. Really. Come on. Alright. First of all, I was very entertained by it. Nothing that bored me, some okey actors and lots of animal attacks. But yes, it was very, very, very, very bad. In a good way, and it's rarely I see a movie like that. Obviously Sergei Kuchkov and his team had some ambitions with the story, and the movie is filled with sequences that most of they time would need hundred times the budget. There's a lot of real military vehicles and equipment, and the location is nice - but there's rarely anything that works. The effects are VERY cheap, and consists mostly of real animals and simple miniature environments or just someone holding the animal closer to the camera to make it looks big. One classic moment is when one of the scientist is being dragged out the window by a tentacle! I guess it was a tentacle, but thats the only thing we see of that monster!

But I think many will agree that the highlight of the movie is when a turtle very slowly hunts down and crushes a armored tank, and they chases (again, very slow) our heroes into a building! It's like a parody. Talking about parody, in the end we'll also get a chance to see a "falling in love"-montage which is so god damn cheesy that I can't believe it! You'll have to see it to understand how cheesetastic it is.

The movie ends with the credits machine written on paper scroll by over the screen. Amazing. I would love to know more about the making and purpose of this movie, because it's so out of touch with the typical Russian quality. This was the land of Mosfilm, which is among my favorite companies, so it's weird to see something so totally opposite.

See it if you have a chance, but don't blame it on me.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Ghost of Guts Eater (1973)

Ghost of Guts Eater is some kinda legendary movie among video-collectors. The only release (except maybe a VCD) is a Swedish one, from HB Video-Film Norrköping, and it's also in its original language and in the correct ration - which is quite rare for being a Swedish release! Of course I don't own this movie, but I downloaded the same version to be able to finally see it. Surprisingly it's quite humorless for being a Thai movie. No funny-looking wackos or jokes that involves peeing in the pants, which is refreshing to experience for once! 

Sombat Metanee plays a handsome farmer in remote village somewhere. His wife, which I guess is the nice Pissamai Wilaisuk, has one big problem only. She's possessed by her dead grandma's ghost! No one knows about this of course, not even herself, but the other villages suspects she's the ghost (or vampire) who's killing the animals in the village. The possession shows itself in that her head is getting loose from the body and flies away with the intestines dangling under it! Nice! The local priest and shaman suspects her too, and after a fight with Sombat he's planning a revenge by resurrecting a body from the graveyard to kill Pissamai!

After dealing with this problem, Sombat and Pissamai travels to another village where they soon find out that there's another similar ghost (they're called Krasue by the way) eating its way through the animal stock. This scene reminds me of that one in Man Bites Dog where the serial killer and the documentary-crew is running in to another serial killer with a documentary-crew. Surprise! The husband of this Krasue is also a demon who can fly, and he loves to eat baby-hearts!

But the adventures don't end there, and it will be a very tough time for our little family...

It's strange that this movie is so obscure anyway. It's well made, with some crude but effective special effects. The flying head is not convincing at all if you look at just that detail, but it works in the story. It also has two big stars, Sombat Metanee - who was one of the biggest stars in Thailand after Mitr Chaibancha - and Pissamai Wilaisuk who also was very popular. It's shot on 35 mm I guess, which was more expensive than the so popular 16 mm - and probably didn't need any live-dubbers in the theaters either. But the movie over all has a big look, with great landscapes and a lot of special effects-driven scenes.

Ghost of Guts Eaters feels, like another classic - Queen of Black Magic - very exotic, and it also has some almost social realistic views of country-life in general. The scene where Sombat is forced to whip his wife to see if she's possessed by a vampire is something you never would have seen in a western movie. The story also have a few twists, some of the very fast, so I had to rewind to understand what was happening sometimes. It never becomes as crazy or weird as its Indonesian counterparts though, and keeps its feet on the ground even with a zombie, a giant, a flying head and a demon in the cast of characters.

In the end, Ghost of Guts Eaters comes of like quite serious little movie. A little bit to long, but always well-acted and good atmosphere.

A little bitch-fight in the night...

The Beasts (1980)

The cheapest way to make a movie is to go the woods... and you'll have great locations for free, you can spray blood everywhere and no one will see what you're up to. Not to forget that it's cheap. It's been done so many times over the years... yes, even in Hong Kong. The Beasts draws its inspiration from Deliverance, The Hills Have Eyes (another cheap location in that one, the desert!) and a lot of slashers. But what makes The Beast a lot more better than some of its American counterparts is that it's sets not limits. Sure, there's been more graphic movies made both before and after, but this has such a gritty and nasty feeling that I think I haven't seen anything like it.

A couple of teenagers goes out on a hiking trip in the Hong Kong countryside. They soon run into a couple of disgusting rednecks, who rapes one of the girls and kills her boyfriend. The girl gets so shocked she's admitted to a psychiatric clinic. Her father decides to take revenge on the creeps that did this to her and her friends, and sets out in the woods to really mess things up for these guys!

That's the story if I take away everything around it. Because we actually spend some time with both the rednecks and the kids from the beginning and get to know them. The teenagers are the normal horny bunch of pop-listening (unauthorized use of a Genesis-song for example) idiots, but are portrayed sympathetic and charming, and with a healthy dose of sexual tension. But they are probably mostly chosen because they look cute and weak, and is easily terrorized by the fantastic bunch of inbreeds that's after them. Here we have snakes, who looks like a Hong Kong goth-rock singer with no teeth, Moe, a fat retard and a couple of others who all have their all specialties. Moe also has a monkey, a quite big one, that he carries around with him all the time, which looks absurd because he treats the poor animal like a doll and just stuffs him under his arm when he's running. 

All of them, except Moe, is of course very perverted and just see one reason with women: to rape them. They're also more or less protected by the gas station attendant (they are always evil in these kinda movies) and holds a firm terror-grip on the rest of the village. So in a way, these are actually the main characters in the movie. Even the father, played excellent by Eddie Chan, comes off like a less important character. 

The power in The Beasts is that it's set in such a beautiful location. It's not everyday you'll see a brutal rape in the middle of a fairy tale-like forest! The killings are not that graphic really, but are filmed in such a way that they feel much more violent than they really are. But of course there's blood, nudity and stuff that probably can be hard for sensitive people to watch. Dennis Yu directs like he's done it a hundred times before, and I think this is one of this first movies. He knows how to tell the story with intelligent camera set-ups and some artful direction, but never lets us down when it comes to the exploitation-part of the movie.

The Beasts is a damn fine little nasty that really deserves a nice, uncut, remastered release somewhere in the world.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Jao Insee (1968)

I'm sure this movie was a big hit in 1968. Jao Insee, the fourth sequel in Mitr Chaibancha's series about the masked crime-fighter Red Eagle. He died shooting the next part, but I wonder if this isn't the best so far in the franchise. As usual I've seen it without subtitles, but the story is simple enough. Someone is killing important people in Thailand, everyone with a knife in their chest or back - adorned by a little white skull on the handle. Rom Ritthikrai (Mitr Chaibancha) and his assistant Oy (the lovely Pissamai Wilaisuk) witnesses one of the killings in a nightclub and he decides to help the police. He goes undercover as a criminal and gets a job, working for a leading gangster. Somehow the killings lead to him - but Red Eagle soon finds out that someone else is after him - not just the mysterius leader of the crime organization, but also a man with a strange rubber mask that seem to know who Red Eagle actually are...

Okey, I'll confess there's a lot I don't understand - but the even if the movie is over two hours long, it keeps up the pace and delivers a lot of nice fistfights, shoot-outs, cool and beautiful people, some silly comedy and a little bit more action. The action is quite well executed too, and Chaibancha handles the fighting and guns (huge bodycount by the way!) like he was born with a action hero! But after over 250 movies at this part of his career behind him, I guess he knew how to do it like a pro! With the fistfights and the secret lair underground, it's clearly inspired by James Bond - but Chaibancha has a lot of charm and his character - alcoholic by day and crimefighter by night - works excellent. You could say that he plays three different roles in this movie: first himself, the drunk Rom Rittihkrai, then the tough and beefed criminal with a three day stubble and finally the very violent and brave Red Eagle.

When watching a movie like this you might notice that the dubbing, music and sound effects are a bit generic. The voice actors like to overdo their manly deep voices when it comes to the heroes, and whine like rats when the henchmen talks. The music is very anonymous, and all this is because it was dubbed and sound mixed many years later. Either the sound was lost over the years, or that it just didn't have any sound when it was released. It was instead live actors doing the voices in the theater! So what you hear and see is what you get. The prints are often very deteriorated, and a lot of frames are missing - which can be a bit comical sometimes.

But if those things don't disturb you, I'll recommend you give Mitr Chaibancha and the Red Eagles-series a chance. Because it's great action-packed fun!

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Sherlock Holmes (2010)

Well, hello hello! Here we have a pleasant surprise! The Asylum has produced mockbusters of are couple of years now, often with stories similar to the big Hollywood-epics they're copying. But with Sherlock Holmes it's just... Sherlock Holmes, and very far away from that blockbuster with Robert Downey Jr and Jude Law. In this case that's only a good thing, because Rachel Goldenberg's version of Arthur Conan Doyle's legendary character has a lot more charm than you could expect. 

We begin in 1940. The Germans is attacking London, bombing the hell out of it. An old and dying Dr Watson is sitting in his apartment claiming this is the second time he see London burn. He ask his maid if she can write something day, and so be begins to tell a story that begins with a huge sea monster attacking a ship on it's way to London. He and Holmes is getting involved, but Lestrade is dismissing everything as a hoax, just a crazy witness trying to get some attention. When a dinosaur kills a man in East End and a big water pump is stolen in a part, the mystery becomes even bigger and more absurd...

Yes, to be honest. This is a nice little script made on a very low budget. Everything hangs together, and even the sea monster and dinosaur get their explanation, even if you have to stop thinking that it's a bit to complicated. It would have been easier to do some things with out a prehistoric monster and a giant squid! But fuck that. The Asylum-team has shot everything in the UK, and used some marvelous locations and some clever angles to hide that they don't have any budget to build sets with. The cinematography is professional and so even editing and the movie even has a big, pompous score that fits perfect to the story. Rachel Goldenberg directs with a steady hand and if she can continue to direct, she will be the best director in the whole company. 

As usual the visual effects are cheap, but works fine because the story is so absurd anyway. They even have a more cartoonish quality that fits just great. But my favorite character in this movie among the bad guys is neither the dino or squid, it's the ultra-cool retro-style cyborg that blesses the story half way through. It makes the story even more steampunk than it is, and it's quite much after all, and looks great in the movie. We're getting CG-explosions, one animated dinosaur and sea monster, and a cool robo-dragon as a bonus! Everything made with a lot of heart.

But it wouldn't be as great with out some excellent actors. Ben Syder and Gareth David-Lloyd as Holmes and Watson are way better than I would ever expect, with a lot of chemistry and charisma. The dialogue is mostly quite witty, and I actually wish that The Asylum could make another movie with these too now. The main baddie is played with a lot of joy by Dominic Keating.

I can confess that I have a hard time complaining when it comes to this movie. It's way to charming and entertaining, in it's ultra-lowbudget-style, to get irritated at. A well done little matinée that I will revisit many times.

Bangkok Adrenaline (2009)

I must say I was a bit worried when I started the movie and saw footage of a couple of guys partying in Bangkok. Hand-camera, a bit cheap-looking. But really, after those first minutes Bangkok Adrenaline took of and gave me the most charming and action-filled 90 minutes in a long time. I heard about Bangkok Adrenaline a couple of years ago, and have been waiting ever since to see it and own it, and as a collector of Thai-movies and especially action, it was a long and nervous wait. I've experienced so many disappointments (Hanuman: The White Warrior and The Sanctuary, I'm looking at you two!), a couple of great ones (Fireball and Chocolate) and finally a movie that didn't take itself so seriously, and just was a shameless reason to show a lot of stunts, fighting and bad jokes.

Here's the plot: a bunch of "Farangs", tourists, among them Conan Stevens and Daniel O'Neill, have just spent 3000 bath and need to win them back. John (played by the director himself, Raimund Huber) comes up with the great idea to win them back on poker, at an illegal gambling place - and it ends with them owning money to the mafia boss, one million bath! They get the not so brilliant idea to kidnap a rich mans daughter and claim ransom, but everything - of course - get's fucked up and it ends with them being chased all over Bangkok by literally hundreds of Thai stuntmen... sorry, bad guys! And it's not helping them at all that the daughter is a raving bitch and that they're not just that smart either...

Yeah, I know. It's not much of a story. But compared to a more famous (= over-hyped) movie like The Sanctuary, you actually understands the story here! It might be weak, but still, like all good action movies, it's built around interesting characters and a couple of awesome action-sequences. The movie was budgeted to 500.000 dollars, which even in Thailand is quite small - and especially when you see how big it looks. There's a lot of Bangkok-locations, nice gritty areas, those primitive high-rise buildings, a LOT of stuntmen. Really. I was surprised. There's a couple of scenes when there's an army of henchmen running after our heroes, all involved in some nice advanced fighting and painful stunts! Though it's shot digital it looks very professional and Raimund Huber show himself to be an amazing action director (the action-choreography was created by Ron Smoorenburg, Daniel O'Neill and Gwion Jacob Miles, and it's superb!). He also handles the comedy well, and I can't say all jokes was funny, but I laughed a lot more than I thought I would.

But the main thing is the action, and here we have some really cool stuff. The first big action scene is in a warehouse, and it's one of the best I've seen in a long while. It's Jackie Chan and Tony Jaa, mixed with a European style which I liked a lot. A lot of ouch-that-hurt stunts too, and I must say that it's weird that Daniel O'Neill isn't a bigger star yet. He can fight, has charisma and is handsome too. After this there's a lot of running and chases, until the next big scene which is inside a factory - of course. The bad guy even has the leading lady inside his office, with glass windows - just like in Jackie Chan's Dragons Forever. Here the style of the movie looks cheaper, and the scenes don't look so planned. It's a huge location too, and it's quite dark everywhere where they don't shoot any scenes. But it's not bad, and it keeps up the energy and violence to a nice, juicy level. But it don't end there, and we're also treated to a wonderful fight on a speeding Tuk-Tuk! There's so much more, and I just can't remember it all.

But can the actors carry this movie? Because an action film with good, or at least charismatic, actors can be boring. Yes. In a way it seem like they play themselves a lot, maybe except Conan Stevens who makes a fun and very, very, very stupid brute that just wants to eat and nothing more. It's a classic character, and gives the audience a lot laughs. Daniel O'Neill is excellent, and even Raimund Huber is good. The Thai actors have a bit of a problem with the English language sometimes, but still makes good performances. I also have to mention Priya Suandokemai, who makes a funny, rude and very physical performance as the bitchy daughter Irene.

Bangkok is a very fun and violent action movie, with some fantastic fighting-scenes and excellent use of locations. It can be a bit to silly for some people, but if you just throw away that idea what high class comedy is, you might enjoy even this movie. I can't wait to see what the next movie from these guys are, and I hope it won't take that long to arrive to cinemas and DVD!

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Sick-o-pathics (1996)

I actually never really enjoys this kinda super-low-budget-amateur-splatter-ironic-silly-goofy wigs-trash-kinda-movies. But Sick-o-pathics feels like a naughty, little irritating cousin that laughs at his own jokes (which consists of farts and gore) and just never can be quiet. And in this case it's quite charming, believe it or not. At least Massimo Lavagnini and Brigida Costa are better storytellers than for example another character in this biz, the ultra-boring Andreas Schnaas. But this twisted tale is actually three tales, so let's take a look...

Hello Dolly - a guy wants to have some fun, so he buys blow-up doll from the Devil (Sergio Stivaletti) at a porn shop. He goes home, finds the doll totally torn to pieces and wet of... something. Disappointed our hero goes to sleep and finds himself in the violence of the now resurrected doll, who also has a giant penis inside it's vagina!

The second story is The Poor, The Flesh & The Bag, where another unlucky fellow gets his hands on a bag of money (I guess it's suppose to be that) when he needs to pay a loan to mafia boss Renato Polselli, but finds out that the bag is actually flesh-eating monster!

And finally, the most famous episode: Aeropophagus! In this version of Anthropophagus the soon-to-be monster was stuck on the sea only with beans to eat, and that drives him mad - and gives him deadly farts! Now he roams the little Greek island, farting people to death! Among them Antonella Fulci! Our hero in this story is sent there by a crazy doctor, played by David Warbeck!

All these stories is movies, directed by the evil horror director Dare Dane (Dardano Sacchetti), who tortures the rastafari-wig-wearing ultra-violent Max O'Keest with his collection of video tapes in a dungeon somewhere in Rome!

Sick-o-pathics is a pure homemade movie. Shot with a simple video camera, not much lightning, crappy editing and friends and family in the roles. Just like a thousand other homemade movies all over the world. But where it lacks talent, it has a lot of charm and a few laughs too! It's only 50 minutes long and didn't bore me for one second. The comedy is wild and silly, childish and naive, and there's to much black metal. Gore? Yes, quite a lot - and most of it is really bad, but also very bloody and graphic. Hello Dolly is a fun story, and the only one that could have been a little bit more creepy. The doll itself feels bizarre and the rape-scene (I would like to call it that, even if it's the doll... "raping" the man) is like something from a Asian gore-movie!

But I most of the fun is to spot smal and smaller guest spots by familiar faces from the Italian genre-industry. We have Lucio Fulci and Antonella Fulci, Joe D'Amato and Luigi Cozzi, Renato Polselli, Sergio Stivaletti, Sergio Bergonzelli and the best of them all, David Warbeck!

Yes, let's talk a bit about Warbeck's part here. Clearly he's having so much fun, that I've never seen him have so much fun before. It's like a new world for him, comedy. Broad, wild, wacky, silly and over-the-top comedy. Mr Warbeck is overacting his way into stardom here and has the funniest and best scene in the whole movie. God damn, we lost him way to early...

This is trashy, crappy, silly fun. And I've heard there's an official DVD on it's way now... so I think this could be a lovely little piece in your collection sooner or later...

Sweet Home (1989)

Sweet Home has been on my hard drive for a long time now. There's no easy way to obtain a legal copy, so downloading is the way until there's a 4 disc Blu-Ray special edition of this awesome haunted house-movie. It was release simultaneously as a Famicom-game with the same name, and the fun trailer for the movie is plugging both of them at the same time. And the movie looks way much more fun.

A TV-crew is going to an old mansion out in the forest to restore and make a TV-episode about a famous painter and the murals that are suppose to be inside the house. It's the middle aged producer, his daughter, their female director, a camera man and the woman that's suppose to restore and examine the murals. When they arrive they find not only one mural, but several, each one more bizarre than the other... and it won't take long until one of the characters being possessed by a ghost and starting to dig up dead babies in the woods... soon they are trapped inside a building where the shadows want them dead!

No, as you understand, Sweet Home don't offer anything new at all. It's a mix between every ghost movie ever made, but with a touch of both Japanese craftmanship and not so little inspiration from Argento and his Italian colleagues of horror. Sweet Home is thick with atmosphere, which easy compensates the quite underwritten characters. Not that they are boring, but to be honest: this is a special effects movie and it's made only to scare the shit out of the Japanese audience with gore, visual effects and a big scary house.

The colors and shadows are strong, and there's no way Kiyoshi Kurosawa is trying to hide the cool stuff for his audience. You'll see people being melted in two parts, hatchet in head, graphic melting, dead babies screaming, one of the coolest final-ghosts I've ever seen in a movie. It's both rubber-deluxe and a lot of fantastic visual effects that clearly are on the same level as the Americans during this time. Dick Smith was involved in this movie too, and I have no idea how much - but the make up-effects and everything else looks amazing. His trademark old age-make up is included anyway, but I guess he had a lot of other things to do too.

But I would also say, even if the movie is so cool it's not real, that it's a bit to long. It drags even with non-stop effects and scares, and could have a lot more powerful with 10-15 minutes on the cutting room-floor, just to tighten up the pace. But maybe it would have been different in 1989, when I would never have the possibility to check Facebook or the email on my iPhone.

This is a movie that we need a remastered DVD or blu-ray of, and why there's no such thing is a mystery.

Finally, "A Queen's Ransom" on DVD

I totally missed that this Jimmy Wang Yu/George Lazenby-movie finally had reach the glorious format of DVD. It's been on VCD for a while, but I've been waiting for the DVD to show up from Fortune Star. So today I sponsored DDDHouse with 40 HK dollars :)

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Ray Harryhausen's Film Fantasy Scrapbook

This is one my favorite in my little book collection, Film Fantasy Scrapbook by Ray Harryhausen. I haven't read it in a couple of years, but it's filled with beautiful black and white photos from his movies and of course from behind the scenes too.

I found it quite cheap maybe... 12-13 years ago in Gamla Stan, Stockholm at Aspingtons. I was so happy, because I've been searching it for a while then. Nowadays it's easier to find I guess. This is also (I think) the first print, which is extra nice for a nerdy collector like me ;)

Some Kraftverk 3714-reviews!

I forgot to post a link, but at Weekend Video there was a fine review in Swedish and now there's one at Trashfilmaddict to, in English. So feel free to visit these to excellent blogs and see what they say about our little movie Kraftverk 3714!

And today I'm gonna post a copy to Denmark to, and another one to Sweden. Still waiting for that Polish review :)

Friday, April 9, 2010

Submersion of Japan (1973)

I think the main reason why I'm so much in love with disaster movies is the miniatures. No, don't misunderstand me. I enjoy modern disaster movies too (even 2012), though they have very little of miniatures to show us. But if we go back to the glory that was the seventies, the movie producers just had to recreate the worst disaster people could imagine. Honest, Mark Robson's Earthquake is one of my favorite movies EVER - and it's still just built of silly clichés and cool miniatures. But Submersion of Japan is in a league of it's own.

Dr. Tadokoro (Keiju Kobayashi) discovers that Japan will sink. The tectonic plates is slowly moving, and Japan is right on top of the biggest one! At first he's met with scepticism, as usual, but when there's proof of a giant rift underneath the Japanese sea, everyone understand that something has to be done. The prime minister Yamamoto (played by beyond awesome actor Tetsurô Tanba) starts a huge operation to first see if there's something to do, and then how they're gonna save the 110 million Japanese citizens from a certain death! But the political consultant and wise man Watari (Shogo Shimada) has a more controversial idea: don't save anyone. Because with out a country there's no Japan and the Japanese people need a home...

When the first big earthquake hits Tokyo and levels it to the ground, the panic spreads and now Japan needs the help of the whole world, from old arch enemies China, to the US and Europe. But will they help? Japan hasn't been so helpful themselves over the years...

Submersion of Japan is very far from the typical disaster movie. It's focused on the politics and the drama around those characters. There's very few persons we follow, mostly the Prime Minister and his staff - they only exception is the ultra cool Onodera Toshio (Hiroshi Fujioka), the brave submarine-pilot that just want to save his girlfriend. A lot of the time is spent on politics and philosophical discussions and there's no Charlton Heston hamming it up to the background of a crumbling LA.

This is a Toho-production from a time when Jun Fukuda raped the Godzilla-franchise (I know, it was probably not his fault, but it still hurts) and the movies got sillier and sillier. So that's why this movie is such a surprise. It's dark and very serious, no humor and very merciless scenes of people getting crushed by houses, burned to ashes or watching their families die horrible deaths. Most of the disasters are spent from a distance, but sometimes we're suddenly back on the streets seeing how fucking terrible the situation are. The disaster scenes is not even the main thing with the movie, but are very impressive when they come. 

The highlight is probably when Tokyo is destroyed in darkness and fire, with collapsing skyscrapers and burning people. Very impressive miniature work and very different from the monster movies of that time. A lot of energy has been put on creating realistic landscapes and houses, and it all falls apart like the heydays of Toho. Excellent stuff. This movie was also bought by Roger Corman and reedited to Tidal Wave with inserts of, among others, Lorne Greene. And here's my question, Tidal Wave? The tidal waves in this movie is very few, and far from the most impressive special effects work. I wonder why Corman choose that disaster? It would have been easier just to focus more on the earthquakes and volcanos! Anyone seen the Corman-version by the way? Would love to get my hands on a copy of that!

I still think Submersion of Japan is a disaster-masterpiece, and probably my second favorite in this genre ever. The remake from 2006 is not bad by the way, but is more of a tear-jerker. It has cool disaster scenes though, and is well worth watching.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Reptilicus (1961)

As a fan of monster movies you learn to accept a lot. But I can say, with out being especially sad or ashamed, that Reptilicus is one of the more boring monster movies out there. At least the first fifty minutes, which is sloooooow and filled with not so funny scene with famous Danish comedian Dirch Passer. But after that first monster attack it picks up in speed and delivers some very cheap action-sequences. The puppet and miniatures are to small to even remotely be effective and it's badly edited with footage of soldiers shooting in random directions.

BUT Reptilicus also has one of the most stunning stunt scenes I've seen in a Scandinavian movie, and I'm surprised that reviewers never bring this scene up. What we have here is a lot of people in panic, running to a bridge. The foreman at the bridge is getting nervous, maybe because the monster is behind them, and starts to open the bridge - and people can't stop because of the pressure behind them (yes, just like that scene in Roland Emmerich 2012, but this one is a lot more effective). It's an amazing scene, and I have no idea how they got those Danish daredevils to go ahead and do this! Maybe a lot of beer? It don't seem to have done at all with visual effects or cutting around to a lower bridge. What you see is what you get.

Anyway, here's some screenshot of the best sequence in Reptilicus, and it still impresses me: