Monday, January 31, 2011

Red Eagle (2010)

Last year it was forty years since Mitr Chaibancha fell to his death from a helicopter during the production of Golden Eagle, the movie that became the last sequel in his franchise about Thailands most popular crime fighting drunk. What more fitting is to unleash a new Red Eagle-movie to the unprotected audience of Thailand and the rest of the world? An audience with little or none relationship to either Chaibancha or Red Eagle, which is of course the best way to do it. Because Wisit Sasanatieng’s Red Eagle is one insane, crazy, wacky rollercoaster (I once promised to never use that word in a review) of a movie, and I loved every friggin’ minute of it, even if it was far from perfect.

The year is 2013. Liberal party leader Direk Damrongprapa (Pornwut Sarasin) and fiancée Vasana Tienpradap (Yarinda Bunnag) is protesting and leading a demonstration and campaign against corruption among politicians and other leaders. They’re fighting against a nuclear reactor that’s gonna be built in Bangkok, but three years later and Direk has himself become a corrupt prime minister and an enemy of his former fiancée. During these years the corruption has gotten worse and the crime rate is thru the roof – then suddenly Red Eagle arrives, a masked crime fight that kills, Kills and KILLS! He’s a former task-force member, hurt both inside and outside during a jungle mission and is now addicted to morphine and revenge. A secret organisation, Matulee – maybe connected to some certain corrupt politicians – is sending out their best killer, Black Devil, to kill Red Eagle and take control over the city… but he’s not that easy to kill, that old eagle…

Red Eagle is not even close to being anything connected to the word “realistic”. This is very over-the-top, almost science fiction when it comes to absurdities. The director, Wisit Sasanatieng, is no stranger to this. If you’ve seen Tears of the Black Tiger you know what to expect and that he just does not care about logic or some kind of sense in what’s happening. In one scene a character defends himself against five bad guys with automatic guns, only protecting himself with a frying pan! He also takes out one character with throwing fried food on him from ten meters away! And this isn’t even Red Eagle himself, but one of the cops chasing him! Red Eagle prefers cutting people to pieces with his über-advanced sword, shooting a lot of people in the face and fight on the top of falling elevators!

The action is more or less non-stop. But make no mistake, this is not even close to the style that Panna Rittikrai, Prachya Pinkaew and Tony Jaa created. Red Eagle is normal Hollywood-style fighting and editing, lots of wires and digital effects. The whole movie resembles a comic book, with strong colours (not even close to Wisit’s earlier movies though), weird angles, crazy action set-pieces and personalities that’s bigger than life.

It’s a unique movie, even if we make the Hollywood-comparison, and it’s a lot more gorier, bloodier and violent than the normal superhero-movie from Hollywoodland. Heads and arms fly, blood spurts from every part of the body, a face is flattened by a frying pan, squibs (both real and CG), cuts and bruises. Not for children, which I’m sure we all are grateful for. Wisit Sasanatieng knows that Red Eagles is over-the-top, and he knows that it’s an absurdly commercial movie for the biggest audience possible. That’s why he takes the time to poke some fun at product placements (he really takes a lot of time to show Red Eagle buy and drink some kinda energy drink), the Thai censorship (for example, sometimes texts can show up on the screen with warnings – for real, and during a violent scene involving a smoking man the text claims that smoking can cause death…) etc.

Red Eagle is an intelligent, extremely violent and very silly action movie. Ananda Everingham is excellent in the lead, and has a lot of interesting characters around him. He clearly fills Mitr Chaibancha’s shoes without a problem. I’ve heard it became a flop in its homeland, and it’s a pity because the ending is a real cliffhanger and I’m sure I’m not the only one who wants to see a sequel to it.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Tidal Wave (1975)

In his memoirs, Roger Corman mentions Submersion of Japan (1973), a big budget disaster movie from Toho, which he bought the rights to, removed most of the drama, let Joe Dante and some people at the office re-dub and added Lorne Greene as “Ambassador Warren Richards” in three scenes. The result was Tidal Wave, a movie never – what I know – released on home video, but shown on television later on. I’ve been trying to find the Corman-version for many years now, and thanks to the magic of torrents I’ve just seen it. Was it worth the wait? Ah, maybe not, but it’s still good to close that chapter of my nerd-life.

Submersion of Japan, read my review here, is actually one of my favourite disaster movies ever (together with Earthquake, Avalanche and City on Fire – even Meteor is high up among my favourite disasters). An impressive spectacle about how Japan starts to sinks, getting torn apart by earthquakes and volcano eruptions, and at the same time a low key drama about life and death and the future of the Japanese people. That last part is completely gone in this version, where we instead have a very fast-told story about some dubbed Japanese dudes talking about nothing in-between the disaster scenes and then Lorne Greene doing his job for a quick paycheck.

It’s not actually bad in boring way, but if you’ve seen the long version (which has way over an hour of more drama) it’s a thin and silly little movie which just showcases the impressive special effects and rides on the popularity of bigger disaster movies from the same time. The dubbing is very sloppy and sometimes you can notice how the voice actors talks more slow to try to fit in their words in the original lip movements. It works so-so. But like all Corman-productions there’s always entertainment and here they just jump from one disaster to another and uses that footage well. The effects are very impressive, and some scenes with people are quite gory and sadistic. It’s a Godzilla-movie without Godzilla, which is the best way to explain this version.

The title is actually most stupid thing with the whole movie, because there’s hardly any tidal wave in the story – just a short not especially impressive one at the end. The rest is earthquakes and volcano’s doing their job.

Compared to the original movie this is crap, but fun and crazy crap like we all love. I wish all versions (there’s three edits in all) could be released in a nice fat, DVD and/or Blu-Ray box for people like me to worship.

Uninvited (1988)

Just when I thought I’ve seen it all, Uninvited by the wonderful Greydon Clark comes running after me like a mad and horny dog. But this isn’t about a dog, it’s about George Kennedy, Alex Cord, Clu Gulager and a bunch of stupid over-aged teenagers fighting a mutated, radioactive killer-cat on a private luxury yacht!!! Yeah I know, just that short description of the story is enough, but for you who want to know more can read this:

During a secret experiment and mutated, radioactive killer-cat escapes from a research facility and somehow gets in the hands of a blonde chick who’s is going on a cruise together with mean multi-millionaire Alex Cord. He’s going to the Cayman Islands to hide away some money, and brings with him his closest man George Kennedy and goofy henchman Clu Gulager. It won’t take long until the cat, who’s actually is two cats – the mutated killer-cat is INSIDE the other one, and squeezes itself out from its hosts mouth! Yeah, that’s about it!

I’m not sure I’ve seen anything like this, at least not in American cinema. The best thing, and I always prefer that form of filmmaking, is that it’s not tongue-in-cheek. Everyone, except maybe the brilliant Gulager, plays it straight and serious and Clark goes for the jugular with some cheap but effective gore. It’s just that it’s a cat within a cat! And when it bites someone it infects that person with something so the skin starts to bubble and cracks in a bloody way!

Is it bad? No, it’s just very silly and cheap and probably also a nice vacation for the actors who could hang around a boat in the sun for a few weeks. I like it and Greydon Clark sure knows who to make non-boring movies, at least what I’ve seen so far.

This could be a perfect movie for Code Red to release by the way, and I would love to hear a commentary on this from the director and a few of the actors. Uninvited is so absurd, so silly and crazy and that’s its hard not to like it!

Saturday, January 29, 2011

The Green Slime Dance

34 minutes into The Green Slime there's a long dialogue-scene between Elliott and Rankin, our male testosterone-spurting heroes. I have already forgotten what they were talking about, mostly because of the fantastic "futuristic" dance that happens in the background. So I bring to you here a little instruction (picture first, instruction under) that I hope you all will learn and do on the dance floor next time you're out for some fun. Ok?

Begin with putting your right hand on your partners shoulder and at the exact same time push each other away, but don't let go! Do this a couple of times.

Stop, like in slow-motion, and move your right hands up to the side of your face and make a gentle circle-movement.

Move the hands slowly down against the side of your body, until you reach the hip.

From the hip, make a sudden (and I mean sudden, very fast) move with both your arms up in this Indian chief-position...

Up with your hands in the air like someone is saying "hands up!"

Then start waving both your arms, in opposite directions from each other, very aggressively, two times.

Up again to the "hands up"-position, and hook in to each others fingers!

And from there, just start to wag each others arms back and forth...

...until the wagging almost goes, without thinking, over to the whole body!

And because this is the sixties you can then smoke and drink as much as you want, it's not dangerous anyway, and continue with a nice slow dance that eventually lead to sex and maybe a blond little baby girl (but you all want a boy anyway, so the father can play football with him on the lawn and inspire him to start smoking a pipe at the age of 23.

Good luck everyone!

Friday, January 28, 2011

The Green Slime (1968)

I like logical titles, and The Green Slime might be the most logical title since The Blob. You get what you expect and neither of them are disappointments. The Green Slime has been in my mind for many years, since I saw it on TNT (now TCM I think) and was extremely enjoyed by its goofiness and charming execution. My memory fooled me on one detail, because I kinda expected a lot of Japanese actors too – but except the children in monster suits, this was a 100 % Caucasian monster-orgy. But that don’t matter at all, because it’s the great Kinji Fukasaku in the directors chair, Yukio Manoda and Akira Watanabe doing the special effects and the might Toei producing it! Can’t go wrong, eh?

Richard Jaeckel is Vince Elliott, the proud commander over Gamma III, an advanced space station. After saving the earth from a threatening meteorite, the accidentally bring a small sample of a green slime (surprise!) in to the space station and not long after it’s starts growing and growing and creates a horde of evil, tentacle-monsters with huge eyes and electricity inside them! A visiting colleague, Commander Jack Rankin (Robert Horton), tries to take over the station in order to save them – both of course everything goes wrong, and now it’s up to Elliott and Rankin to solve the problem, kill the monsters and get the girl!

First of all, those fuckers at MST3K should be ashamed for having (so I heard anyway) this movie for their first episode. Clearly they, just like all the episodes, they have no understanding of what they’re watching or any sense of taste. The Green Slime might be very kitchy, but it’s a damn effect sci-fi movie with a lot of excitement and action. It begins quite slow, with very colourful sets and a cheesy episode on the meteorite where they first find the green slime. But then it’s get more violent and from that moment it’s non-stop action and monster-mayhem until the last frame.

The action is intensive and a lot of fun, a high body count and a lot of tentacles electrifying blonde space marines. Fukasaku crafts a very nice atmosphere, for example in the scene where the first try to lure the monsters from the shadows with the help of some spotlights, which reminded me of more modern horror- and sci-fi movies. Can’t name any example, but it’s something with that scene that’s very familiar. I know that the Japanese version of the movie is shorter and deletes the love triangle, but I can’t ignore that fact that those scenes – and overall the interaction between Elliott and Rankin – feels very inspired, a bit edgy. It’s very easy to see Fukasaku’s style in those sequences: his use of small subtle eye movements, the editing back and forth between the rivals. It echoes of the gangster movies he made later, more than you think when you watch it the first time.

One interesting thing is that the budget seem fairly high for this movie and it’s made by brilliant Japanese technicians – but still, the miniatures looks quite primitive compared to other movies from this time. Why? Jocke at Rubbermonsterfetischism suggested that Fukasaku just didn’t have the experience to shoot effects and miniatures. Maybe he just didn’t plan enough time to shoot the effect scenes? Could be, because it’s very unusual to see weak miniatures in Japanese sci-fi movies. But I’m not really saying they’re bad, just very strongly lit and maybe too may close-ups. For a monster-nerd like me this is heaven and I love every second of the effects.

The DVD from Warner Archive is amazing. It’s not perfect, it has some scratches and dust, but who the f**k cares about that? The colours is vibrant, it’s sharp as hell (except when the lens of the camera seem a bit out of touch with what it’s trying to capture) and good sound too. This is easily one of my favourite DVDs from 2010. Its worth every penny, you can bet on it!

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Curse of the Faceless Man (1958)

Edward L. Cahn was an extremely prolific b-movie director. During a thirty year period, from his debut in 1931 to his death in 1963 he directed no less than 125 movies (ok, around 50 of those are shorts – but still!)! That’s a lot! Cheapies of course, never (what I can see) any big movies, just simple entertainment. I’ve only seen two of his productions, but both of them shows that he was a deeply talented storyteller with both unique and really cool ideas. Two of the movies he directed in 1958 are also those I’ve seen so far: It! The Terror from Beyond Space and today’s feature, Curse of the Faceless Man!

During an excavation in Pompeii one of those stone-bodies is found, trapped in ashes since the famous volcano eruption. With him is a golden box filled with ancient Etruscan jewellery, which by this time – according to the main characters – should be an extinct people. At the same time beautiful Tina Enright (Elaine Edwards) is starting to get weird dreams and paints them down in the morning – and it seem to be the same “faceless” man who they found in Pompeii. Soon more deaths occur, can it be that the body is still alive and wants… to kill!!!

I can agree that that storyline seem a bit thin, but it’s a story filled with great ideas and neat details. But first of all, it has a great atmosphere and the location – in the movie Italy – but I think it’s filmed in LA, works very fine and brings a certain style to the movie. Richard Anderson as Dr. Paul Mallon is a typical hero of the time, a bit stiff, but that’s part of the charm with these movies. The drama does not need more than that, and it works great anyway. But it’s still well-acted and has a wonderful monster in the character of the faceless man. He’s more or less a mummy, but covered with a layer of stone and ashes.

Everything looks ambitious and interesting, from sets to fright scenes and the actors is serious and never looks bored, which can happen during some of these quickies sometimes. Cahn, the director, tells the story in such an effective and intelligent way that I wished he slowed down a bit. Some of the developments are explained by a voice over, which to be honest isn’t necessary – instead it stresses the story a bit too much. The best thing would of it was slightly longer (it’s a bit over one hour now) and left the voice over-guy out of the picture.

Anyway, Curse of the Faceless Man is a stylish little horror movie with a lot of ambitions and talent. The DVD from Cheezy Flicks looks quite good and I can recommend a purchase for fans of fifties horror movies.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

When Worlds Collide (1951)

I have a love-hate relationship with George Pal. Most of the time I start watching his movies and realizes once again that he’s pompous religious fool with morals that probably even felt old-fashioned when the movies where made, but then I often revisit the movie some time later and enjoys it more than I should too. Maybe I just need to experience that first burst of anger, analyze it and then look beyond the stupidity the second time.

My biggest complain with When Worlds Collide is actually the lack of disasters. There’s one cool sequence in the middle with a lot of cool miniature-mayhem and even some flood-footage that was used in the Christopher Lee-movie End of the World, but that’s it. Even the final scene when the planets collide is quite weak and don’t deliver enough mayhem for my taste. It’s more about the human drama before and under the disaster, which is quite OK but very naïve.

Well, the whole movie is naïve. From this idea that a rocket will movie people to another planet in just a few hours to the idealistic newspapers headlines how humanity gets together with face their destiny (the panic never really happens, except a few guys at the end), prays to god and behaves like the proud race we definitely not are in reality. But the building of the rocket and some other visual effects is very nice to look at, if that counts.

What bothers me more is the religious theme in the movie. I have nothing against religion in movies, if there’s some kinda criticism, not just blind faith – which tends to be very silly after a while. Here the movie opens with shot some ancient bible and some words about end of the world. People pray and talk about god, humanity (as mention above) turns to their myths and legends to seek comfort and the weird thing is that only 44 people cane be taken away from earth and find a new home in “heaven”, which reminds me a lot about the 144 000 people Jehova’s Witnesses whines about all the time. In the end our completely white gang (no room for blacks, Hispanics, Asians on this brave new world) of survivors arrives to a planet which feels so heavenly it’s absurd.

But sure, this is a movie I watch for the sci-fi elements, the disaster scenes and the completely ridiculous amount of silly dialogue. And shit, it was a long time since I saw people smoke so much in a movie! I hope they brought some good lung cancer-experts with them to the planet Zyra!

Ah, it’s a fun movie. I can’t deny that. Wattya think?

Monday, January 24, 2011

Ironmaster (1983)

How am I gonna put in words how fantastic Ironmaster are? I’m not sure, and if I manage to do that I know a lot of people never would agree with me. But that’s part of the charm with being a man with great taste in movies. What I really enjoy here is that Umberto Lenzi and his staff obviously more took their inspiration from Quest for Fire than rather just ripping of Conan the Barbarian like all other Italian did during this time. The poster might fool people that it’s a fantasy movie, but it’s more based in that “reality” that creates a world inside movies. I also understand that some folks might have a problem looking beyond the small budget, the silly wigs (from Rocchetti & Carboni as usual) and the sometimes uneven acting and corny dialogue…

…but you know, that’s just small details. Look at the whole picture, not the flaws. No movie is flawless, and a movie with out beauty marks is just so damn boring to watch. I watched Ironmaster the first time as a teenager and it stayed with me since then. I would like to examine why it stayed with me, except the obvious fact that it has a lot of very scantily clad men. The plot is basic, we follow a cave tribe. The leader is old and weak and the next up on the ladder is either heroic and decent Ela (Sam Pasco) or the aggressive and greedy Vood (Luigi Montefiori). During an attack from a hostile nearby tribe Vood is killing the leader and blames it on the enemy, but Ela sees him and ban him from the tribe. Filled with anger Vood leaves, but get trapped in the mountains during a volcano eruption and discovers… iron. He forge a new sword and with that as his secret weapon he comes back and gathers men who want to follow him and be the new leader – something he will gain thru violence and war…

The funny thing is that it’s not our hero, Ela, who is “the ironmaster”, but the main protagonist Vood! But that is also one of the cool things with Ironmaster, it’s clearly anti-violence. Ela is brave enough to use his fists or just a wooden stick, and not some fancy iron-rod. He just knows better. But Ironmaster is also, once again, a great example of Lenzi’s directing style. Its fast and razor sharp, with excellent editing and a fine use of music (by De Angelis-brothers). The pacing is fantastic, with no dead spots or drawn out melodrama. This is full speed ahead and it never stops until the final showdown. I just love the use of old-school effects like matte paintings and foreground-miniatures, which looks stunning – especially in the new DVD from Njuta Films. It’s like watching something out of a dream, something that looks completely alien for us. The only time when this illusion is broken is when the metal fence shows up in the background, very quickly in one scene. Except that it feels like something extraordinary. It also has a lot of stunning exteriors from Custer Park in South Dakota, which truly looks amazing.

Ironmaster is filled with fights and has a quite big body count (it even has some minor gore) and one stylish slow-mo scene with people fighting, but what really make a difference is the horror-elements that is visible during several sequences. The meeting with the ape people feels a lot like something from a cannibal movie for example. Primitives out to kill and hunt humans. But the best scene is when our heroes takes shelter in a cave and runs into something that looks exactly like rotten zombies! They of course have some illness, but the gory make-up and the music and tension in this scene could be directly from an Italian zombie movie.

Acting-wise its ok, with Luigi Montefiori in one of his best parts ever. He truly gives fascism a face with his obsessive hunt for power. A fantastic role for an awesome actor. Ela is played by the mysterious Sam Pasco, an American body builder who only has this movie on his resumé – well, almost… watch out for my article about his life and career tomorrow! He’s not bad, but he looks a bit confused sometime and even a bit funny with his absurdly fit body. But he handles the action scenes great and it’s a pity he couldn’t continue to do more movies for Italian producers.

Ironmaster is one of the most solid “fantasy” movies from Italy from this time. What it lacks in budget it gains in energy, action and just how well-told it really are. I might be wrong person to write about a movie by Lenzi, because I consider him one of the best and interesting directors ever, especially in the Italian genre cinema. If you should see a real Lenzi-movie, stay away from Eaten Alive and Cannibal Ferox, watch Ironmaster or any of his other forays into exploitation cinema. If a movie has action and Lenzi is behind the wheel, that’s the movie to watch.

And yes, the new DVD from Njuta Films looks good. I was first afraid when I saw the first minutes of the movie, where the quality felt weak and lifeless. But after the pre-credits, the nice anamorphic widescreen finally showed its strength. Uncut of course, but I shouldn’t even mention something that silly. This is 2011, yeah - movies should be uncut! The only thing I missed with this DVD is something extra, an article, interview – even just in text. I would love to read that (or to write that…). The selection of trailers is strange too, only sexploitation-trailers! But the movie is what you’re gonna buy this movie for, and you won’t regret it!

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Dead Space (1991)

Don’t we all love Alien-rip offs? And don’t we all, even more, love a remake of a movie inspired by Alien which makes this a remake of rip-off of a classic? The rip-off is the amazing, wonderful and mega-cool Forbidden World, a Roger Corman-produced monster-o-thon from 1982. That movie is so damn entertaining, so goofy and so wild. I can’t say exactly the same thing about Dead Space, but I kinda like it and it delivers some gore and monsters – which can save most movies.

In the lead this time we see Marc Singer, who with his faithful robot-friend Tinpan, arrives to a distant planet where they picked-up a distress signal. Like the original movie, this planet is the place of a secret research facility, where they accidentally have created a monster – who now is roaming the base, killing and eating everyone in its way. That’s about it, nothing new or fantastic. Just Marc Singer showing his fit body, some beautiful women, some cheap gore and a quite stiff monster. But it is still a lot more entertaining than some of the other Alien-clones that came out in the nineties.

Where Forbidden World just is chaos, a Ken Russell-movie, Dead Space is clean, neat, and more Roy Andersson, but with a touch of David Bowie á 1990. A parable as good as… something else. Shot in seventeen days, this is a movie that looks better than feels more coherent than it should be. But maybe it’s hard to fuck it up with such a generic script? But director Fred Gallo makes a good job and it’s never really boring, just very ordinary.

The first hour is the slowest, even if it has some nudity and gore (some nasty make-up effects too), but when the mayhem starts is low budget effectiveness with cramped sets being torn to pieces, the monster running around like it’s ass is on fire and some good thrills. But it never comes up in insane trash-quality of Forbidden World.

Dead Space is a decent and well-made little b-movie which is safe viewing for us monster-lovers and Marc Singer-fans. It delivers no surprises, just a sanitized version of Forbidden World. Not bad, I liked it and will watch it again – believe it or not.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Cave In! (1983)

Shot in 1979, but not released until 1983, Cave In! clearly feels a lot more seventies than eighties. Produced by Irwin Allen, this TV-movie with a disaster theme was one of several he produced for Warner and now, thru Warner Archive, they’re finally out on DVD. For me, as an Irwin Allen-o-holic this is fantastic, even if I read mostly negative opinions about these made for TV-disasters. But I know what I want, and I’m not disappointed…

Senator Kate Lassiter (Susan Sullivan) is on her way to visit the Five Mile Caverns, to see if they still can be open to the public. One of the guides is her ex-boyfriend, Ranger Gene Pearson (Dennis Cole) and this will be a tense situation! At the same time an escaped convict, Tom Arlen (James Olson) manages to hide in the cave after killing a police! But the worst thing is of course the marriage between ex-cop Joe Johnson (Leslie Nielsen) and his wife Liz (Julie Sommars) who are on a trip to try to piece it together again… and do I even have to mention the manipulative and controlling professor Harrison Soames (Ray Milland) who keeps his grown-up daughter in symbolic chains. When the cave suddenly caves in, our gang of wandering clichés is stuck there and must survive to get to the ground level again, and at the same time fix their problematic relationships!

Yes, this is Irwin Allen all the way, but with a small budget and a set consisting of a papier maché cave and a dramatic flashback for each character! To be honest, and we all know it, this is not original. This is a TV-movie of the week, with a script tossed together from a lot of other movies that has been done (Irwin Allen “remaked” one scene a couple of years later for When Time Ran Out…), but it also has that amazing TV-coziness that we rarely find nowadays. I can imagine how the family, but not the youngest, gathered in front of the telly to watch the latest Friday-movie with a bowl of popcorn and dad holding a beer in one hand and with his other arm around his wife’s shoulders (I also see brown or orange wallpaper, but that was only if it was released in 1979 instead of 1983).

The cave obviously is a symbol for relationship-hell. If you get thru it you’ll survive and can live happily ever after. The drama works, especially because of the very fine performance of Leslie Nielsen as the bitter ex-cop and Julie Sommars as his desperate wife. Good stuff. Ray Milland calls in his performance, but his character is also so twisted and evil that it’s hard not to be fascinated by him. When his daughter finally breaks up with him (I just don’t consider that a spoiler) I got goosebumps.

Action? Yeah, there’s some falling cave-walls, a diving-scene and a good sequence with our gang trying to get over a very weak bridge (also see the volcano-movie with Paul Newman…), which is not bad at all considering the budget.

I love old TV-movies and Cave In was a pleasure to finally see. Nothing new under the sun of course, but a couple of solid hours of entertainment. And please Warner Archive, release the longer version of When Time Ran Out… on DVD so I can buy it!

Thursday, January 20, 2011

The Bloodsucker Leads the Dance (1975)

Come back Giallo a Venezia, all is forgiven.

It’s rarely I write about bad movies, but I just can’t stop myself when it comes to Alfredo Rizzo’s The Bloodsucker Leads the Dance, giallo-style gothic horror from 1975. Now it’s been unleashed in Sweden to an unsuspecting audience, and I think we’re all grateful to Njuta Films not releasing only good movies, but also very bad ones!

Giacomo Rossi-Stuart is Count Richard Marnack, who lives on an island together with his staff of lesbian-wannabe maids and a highly religious butler. His big hobby is theater and after finding out that his favorite theater group has been shattered, he asks the ladies too come and join him on the island for a while. He falls in love with one of the actresses, and everyone seems to show there boobs at least one time. Soon after that someone is starting to decapitate the guests…

First of all, the man doing the dubbing for Rossi-Stuart was obviously sedated from a visit to the dentist! It sounds like he’s trying to do some ventriloquism, but with a live Italian actor instead of a creepy looking doll! The dialogue could have been written by a dead person and the porn-direction by Alfredo Rizzo makes Giallo a Venzia look like Santa Sangre! Not to mention the flat lighting…

So this is trash, mega-trash. And I’m happy to own it and have it my collection. There’s stuff I like about it too, actually, believe it or not! For example, our favorite bearded uncle Luciano Pigozzi sneeks around the castle, spying on naked girls and looks like the Peter Lorre-wannabe he’s always been. The aftermath of the killings is well-made, with nice gory bodies and heads sitting, laying and hanging around the sets. Good effects, it’s just a pity they couldn’t use more energy to build a story around them. But the main thing with Bloodsucker Leads the Dance is boobs, boobs and more boobs. There’s not even a vampire, just a boob-giallo.

One of the actors, a not-so-hunky fisherman at the other side of the island also looks like a chubby version of Mike Monty! With man-boobs, so it’s something for everyone here! Another fine detail is that they use black & white stock footage of a storming sea, when it’s a color movie! Maybe they’re trying to be a bit arty, evoke the old style gothic horror in some pretentious way – but I guess it was a question of budget for stock footage and nothing else.

I would lie if I told you that The Bloodsucker Leads the Dance is good, but for fan of Italo-horror/giallo it’s of course a must in the collection!

Sunday, January 16, 2011

The Flesh Eaters (1964)

Nothing makes me angrier than stupid comments on IMDB. Sorry, I get angrier over the terrible state of the world we have today, war and famine, racism and homophobia… but stupid comments on IMDB at least irritates me. Just read the comments and review of Jack Curtis The Flesh Eaters, and you’ll understand what I mean. A majority of these idiots actually claims that The Flesh Eaters is a BAD movie, trash. Junky exploitation-crap. Nothing could be more wrong, they’re just writing this because it has a rubber monster and is very low budget. This is instead a very smart thriller/monster-movie with a tight script and a great cast of four well-written characters!

Byron Sanders is Grant Murdoch, a pilot in deep economical problems – but today is his lucky day! Drunk, complicated movie star Laura Winters (Rita Morley) need to get to a theatre in time, and her secretary Jan Letterman (Barbara Wilkin) talks Grant into flying them there. After a while they are forced to land because of technical problems and are suddenly stuck on an uninhabited island, they think! Because suddenly Professor Peter Bartell shows up, a scientist working in his little tent on a nearby beach. And something fishy is obviously going on, especially after they find a clean-eaten skeleton on the beach. “A shark” says the professor, but Grant knows different… Soon they discover that the sea around them is filled with a flesh eating organism, some kinda acid-bacteria that wants to devour everything!

First of all, this movie looks great. It’s one of the most well-shot and intelligent constructed “b-movies” I’ve seen from this period. The small budget hasn’t stopped Jack Curtis and Arnold Drake from filming it like it would be a Hitchcock-movie, a noir-classic or something that usually has more ambitions than to scare people. The story is mostly four people in a very interesting and multi-layered melodrama on a beach, but mixed with a monster-movie story.

I’ve read some criticism against the actors, which is of course totally wrong. They play characters, and every character is for once very specific, they have a goal and a personality. It’s impossible to confuse them. German actor Martin Kosleck and Rita Morley is pure brilliance in their parts, but all of the others are very good. After half the movie a beatnik named Omar (Ray Tudor) shows up, high on being alone on the sea for a couple of weeks and dressed in a bathrobe. He uses the word “jazz” as a substitute for everything he says and is the ideal victim when the body count starts! A great character, maybe not necessary for the movie, but a welcome ingredient to spice things up a little bit.

The Flesh Eaters also has some early gore, which works very fine. A knife scraping away flesh from a leg, blood that spurts out from a belly, a character melting away etc. The atmosphere is violent and cynic and one character gets first stabbed badly, then shot times in the face and the fed to the monster! Yes, there’s not only one big monster in the end, there’s a huge mother of a monster too! And it looks damn cool! I already told to much, watch the movie instead.

The Flesh Eaters is a smart and intelligent monster-thriller with interesting characters and gore. It’s fantastic to discover such a brilliant “b-movie”, and thanks to Dark Sky it’s been saved from obscurity with an excellent and sharp-looking DVD!

Zombie 4: After Death (1988)

First of all, I know the title is just After Death, but I used the Zombie 4-version in the headline because it’s a title that many recognize easier than just After Death. So no whining please! ;) This is the first time I’ve seen Claudio Fragasso’s masterpiece since the golden age of really bad VHS-bootlegs in the beginning of my career as a movie-collector. After Death begins with a bang, a voodoo priest doing some rituals in a cave and sacrificing his wife to hell! A couple of inhabitants on the island, scientists trying to find a cure for cancer, shows up and get’s killed. The only survivor is a little girl – and twenty years later she’s back in the company of Nick Nicholson and Jim Gaines!

I watched it yesterday, but I can’t remember what they’re gonna do on the island again, but they have to stop anyway and take shelter in the only house. At the same time Massimo Vanni and good old gay porn star Jeff Stryker is running around in the jungle, finally finding the cave and wakes up all the zombies again by reading from “The Book of the Dead” (yes, Evil Dead…). And hell breaks loose, as usual…

What strikes me first with After Death that this feel more like a sequel too Lucio Fulci’s Zombie Flesh-Eaters than Zombi 3. It begins with some survivors finding the cause for the zombie-invasion, some violence and gore occur and the jump forward in time to a peaceful world with no zombies – until some morons read those four cursed words again. The zombies looks more like bumfight-ninjas, but they raise from their jungle-graves just like in Fulci’s classic!

If we ignore all those who claim that Claudio Fragasso is a shitty director, this is actually a well-paced movie with a lot of cheap style and clever b-movie making. Fragasso and his team make the most of the little budget, and even of the English dialogue are extremely silly it works in the context of the style of the movie. What could make a lot of people, even me the first time, disappointed, is the lack of excessive gore. But that don’t mean it lacks gore, absolutely not. It has a couple of exploding heads, a nice hand thru body, a face-ripping and a little bit of that and a little bit of this. It also has a lot of squibs and blood-spurts, even if I don’t count that as gore.

When I saw After Death the first time I didn’t know Nick Nicholson, but after his passing last year, it feels fantastic to be able to see him so full of energy as in this movie. His part is quite big, and he’s ruling every scene he’s in. Love the beard, Nick - wherever you are…

But I guess After Death is most famous for the presence of a Mr Jeff Stryker, here working under the alias Chuck Peyton – which sounds even more like gay porn name than Jeff Stryker itself! Because Stryker was, and still is, a famous gay porn star who happen to star in one single Italian horror movie, and that was After Death. How? Well, this boyfriend at his time was German acting-legend Werner Pochath, who worked as a uncredited producer on this movie (so I’ve heard anyway). And the rest is history. Jeff Stryker came to Stockholm some years ago, did some unauthorized wanking in public and hasn’t been here since. But if he shows up again, I will force him with violence to sign my After Death-DVD!

After Death is a lot of fun and recommended viewing to exactly everyone in the world.

Jeff Stryker before death...

Jeff Stryker during death...

...but sorry, nothing... AFTER DEATH!!!

Saturday, January 15, 2011

The Birthday (2004)

I think it was in 2005, me and Markus Widegren was at the Fantastic Film Festival in Lund showing our latest masterpiece, Kraftverk 3714, for a small audience (I mean, who pays for watching a DV-shot indie-movie? Very few I can tell you…). That was of course the worst thing with the festival, because there’s nothing more terrible that watch your movie with some unknown folks who won’t understand everything. The best thing was that we had the opportunity to watch a lot of movies for free! Yay! One of them was The Birthday, a Spanish movie with Corey Feldman and Jack Taylor!

Mr Feldman is Norman Forrester, a VERY geeky and nervy pizzeria-employee who’s gonna meet his girlfriends parents for the first time. Everything would probably be alright if it wasn’t for her father’s birthday, where everything must be perfect. It’s held in an old house, a skyscraper, that he built 37 years ago and now will be demolished in one week. Something is wrong already from the beginning, Norman’s girlfriend seems very nervous and almost hostile against his presence – which is crap for him, he’s just bought her an engagement ring for every penny he saved. But that’s a problem that can be solved compared for the next big thing during the party: every waiter is members of a dangerous sect, waiting for their god to be born again any minute! Now it’s up to Norman and some unexpected friends to stop the sect, get the girl and save the guests…

Badly distributed since its release, I’ve been trying to find a DVD release ever since. Finally it was released in Germany and thanks heavens, it was even better than the first time. This is a very quirky comedy, a black comedy with hints of horror and sci-fi. Everything is set inside a cool art deco hotel and with long dialogue scenes, extremely stylish takes and weird slapstick this is surely something very unique. Corey Feldman (in his best performance ever!) channels Jerry Lewis as Norman and is a perfect opposite to Jack Taylor’s robot-voiced, always angry father and the emotionally disastrous girlfriend, played by Erica Prior. Even if some of the supporting actors borders to overacting, it fits perfect in the mood of the movie. Wonderful faces can save even an uneven performance.

The story has an amazing build-up, from something that just could be a fun little comedy to something totally over-the-top. The finale is fantastic with a great use of sound (something that more or less made us deaf during the cinema, so it was nice to be able to control the volume in the safety of my home) and without any real special effects, just cool ideas and stylish camera work.

The Birthday is a very underrated movie that deserves a good, wide release on DVD and Blu-Ray. Come one distributors, pick it up – it’s worth it!

A recommendation: Cinezilla!

I have a lot of favorite blogs, and each of them often have a special interest which also interest me. For example Rubbermonsterfetishism (monsters and... yeah, monsters!), Backyard Asia (weird Asian movies) and so on. I don't want to really leave anyone out, so check on the right side of this blog and you'll find links to a lot of awesome blogs from around the world!

One blog that I want to recommend extra much today is Cinezilla, which focuses mainly on European genre movies (but there's a lot of other countries too). What makes Cinezilla extra awesome is that Jason Meredith, the esteemed journalist (and that's not an overstatement) really goes that extra mile to analyze the movies, find references that no one else thought about before (his article about Tarkovsky vs Fulci is legendary for example, even if he seem to not take himself seriously there - but I think it's extremely interesting) and really takes our favorite trash-favorites seriously, like no one else. No ironic tongue-in-cheek here, at Cinezilla movies is art even if the director is Bruno Mattei.

So, give him a visit, follow his blog and add a link from your blog and homepage! NOW! ;)

Friday, January 14, 2011

Merantau (2009)

Merantau is a rite of passage in Indonesia, when a young man leaves his home to see the world and maybe learn something in the process. Here a young man leaves his home and kicks ass for most of the time. Not a bad way to spend his time, I guess? Merantau is directed by Welsh documentary filmmaker Gareth Evans, but it’s far from gritty and realistic. This is basically the typical Thai action film with Tony Jaa (country boy goes to town and gets in trouble), but with far more depth and drama. Nothing bad with that, but I guess most of us (including me) will watch it only for the action.

When Yuda (Iko Uwais) comes to Jakarta to teach Tiger Silet, a local martial arts, he finds himself out of a job and with no place to live. After running into a prostitute while chasing her little brother who just stole his wallet, he suddenly gets involved in the nasty, nasty Ratger (danish actor Mads Koudal), a baddie who deals with human slaves and likes to fuck as many prostitutes as possible. He’s also a brutal fighter. Anyway, Yuda decide to save this girl from her slavery and is suddenly the most chased man in Jakarta. Good for him that he’s a master in ass-kicking!

But don’t be fooled by the trailer (something you obviously can find on YouTube), Merantau takes it’s time introduce characters, set the mood and feels like a serious drama for quite a while, until Yuda can’t control himself and beats the shit out of a stripbar filled with henchmen. Then it’s bascially action until the last fifteen minutes of the movie when it turns to drama again, which works better than it sounds. The fighting is very spectacular and the style is very organic, very natural. It’s like watching something unreal, something animated. Uwais is obviously a very skilled fighter, and he’s quite a good actor too (this is his first part, he was a truckdriver before getting this part) and if he gets a good agent who can take care of his career he can be something big.

The endfight might be a letdown for you who expect something big in the style of a Tony Jaa-movie, this is just two baddies fighting with our hero on a flat area – but what a fight! This is poetry in fighting, a perfect example how to use fantastic choreography to create something stunning and beautiful. The stunts when people are falling are well-made, but often using wires – so the impact never looks as hard as in the HK-movies from the eighties, or the new wave of Thai action. But it’s not that stunts that’s important in this movie, it’s the fighting – and the fighting is top-notch.

... and if you want to see blood, this is the movie for you. Not in any extreme ways, but there's a squib-scene which literary covers the walls of an elevator with blood - and it's getting quite nasty int he end too. Just so you all know.

I also want to mention Mads Koudal, the actor playing the baddie. Often in Asian movies the western actors are quite bad, or at least they overact like hell or are there to fill out the story. The character of Ratger is one motherf**king nasty man, evil to the bone – and evil with a depth, something he shows to his brother in the movie. They have some kinda physical abusive relationship, and still love each other to the last drop of blood. Mads is a great bad guy, one of the best I’ve seen in the genre for quite a long while, and makes something special from a character that could have been just another meatbag in the history of foreign baddies in Asian movies.

Merantau is a great movie, with great locations and excellent directing. We’re impressed in the House of Ninja Dixon and hope to see more from Iko Uwais and Gareth Evans very soon in the future!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Escape from the Bronx vs Doomsday

When I first saw Neil Marshall's über-violent Doomsday there was one scene I reacted to directly, when one of the locals bashes a bat into the face of a masked soldier. This reminds me a lot about a scene in Enzo G. Castellari's masterpiece Escape from the Bronx, when Romano Puppo beats the shit out of some. I don't think it's a coincidence, but a deliberate tribute to Castellari's movie.

What do you think? I haven't listen to any commentary with Marshall, so I have no idea what he says about this detail. But I hope I'm correct :)

I got a tweet from the awesome Axelle Carolyn (Doomsday, Centurion and other movies) with this message: "Neil hasn't seen ESCAPE FROM THE BRONX (unless it's got a different name in the UK?) but the coincidence is pretty funny!" - so there's the answer, and I was wrong. But maybe he saw it when he was very young and that detail stayed with him subconsciously ;)

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Manhattan Baby (1982)

A long time ago, during the ancient nineties, people actually hated Manhattan Baby. Said it was the beginning of all the bad movies Fulci made after his gore-soaked horror-career (that only included 4-5 movies, the “fans” had no idea about the movies before that). But now it’s a different time, and even some of his even later movies have got the blessing from the nasty nerds out there in the void. I saw Manhattan Baby on a VHS-bootleg the first time and was even then impressed by its visuals, but the sound was bad and it was hard to concentrate. Some years ago I bought the DVD and since then I’ve learned to fully appreciate the amazing little movie that Manhattan Baby is.

Christopher Connelly is Professor George Hacker, an archaeologist who brought his daughter and wife to Egypt for some work and vacation. During a mysterious event, his daughter gets a gift – an amulet with enormous powers. At the same time Hacker and his colleague is involved in a terrible accident inside an old pyramid and Hacker is left blind…
Back in New York the treatment for his eyes starts, and it’s looking good. But his daughter has shown the amulet to her little brother and together they start use it, for “journeys”… Soon people start to die around the family, is it possible to stop the curse?

Manhattan Baby isn’t as confusing as some people will say, the story is quite clear but they just left out a lot of details, a lot of explanations. I’m happy for that, I want to fill in the blanks myself. I guess the thought is something supernatural, something occult, but for me it always has been connected to ancient technology. The stories about the Egyptians and their unknown, lost, technology is famous and some even claim they was aliens (no, I don’t think so – I didn’t even believe in Santa or God as a kid). The amulet, according to me, is not so much a supernatural thing, but a technological thing. Maybe connected with radioactive power. A time machine, or a dimension portal, highly dangerous in the wrong hands. The occultist, Adrian Marcato (the always awesome Cosimo Cinieri), reacts like he’s been exposed to strong radioactivity (blood from nose and ears, spasms) after touching the amulet for example.

Manhattan Baby is also, as usual with Fulci, a beautiful movie with so much atmosphere that even James Whale deserves to be a bit jealous. The opening in Egypt, is among the best sequences in a horror movie Fulci ever directed! Everything is perfection, a flawless use of camera and lightning. Compared to his other horror flicks it’s quite low on gore, but the the little that is looks great, from the nice impalement in the beginning to the nasty and ultra-gory bird-scene in the end. In-between Fulci gives us a lot of nice set-pieces with cool effects and that special Italian movie-poetry that we learned to love from him.

Manhattan Baby is another proof that Lucio Fulci was a master storyteller, who could show stuff with only his camera that other directors only could dream of. Now when I come to think of it, he should have done a silent movie! That would have been very, very cool.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

The Rift (1990)

Juan Piquer Simón has died in lung cancer, another fantastic artist who has left us during the last twelve months. Simón became a fan favourite because of his fantastic mix of commercial ideas, in almost a Hollywood-like style, but filled with gore, cool actors and just a lot of love and passion for the genre he was working in.

In The Rift, a slightly late competitor to the eighties trend of underwater-movies, we meet the one and only Jack Scalia (with an amazing haircut), the grumpy and cool Wick Hayes, designer of an super-advanced deep-sea submarine, When his last sub disappears and he looses a friend in the accident, he’s more or less forced to go down once again together with a new crew, among them his buddy Ray Wise and captain R. Lee Ermey, to solve the mystery. What they find down there is… something very monstrous!

I can proudly say that this is THE best movie in its genre, underwater-monster-missions. It has almost perfect pacing, more monsters than you can bargain for and even some nice graphic gore-shots which splatters the screen with plasma! Like every movie by Simón the monsters isn’t realistic in a way that some fancy schmancy critics might like, but right from some Kevin Connor-movie or one of his own earlier movies, for example the excellent Fabulous Journey to the Center of the Earth.

The Rift looks better than most of the other low budget incarnations in the genre, which nice sets and props, lots of cool actors and more action than to expect. Jack Scalia is as usual a perfect hero, and Ray Wise a great sidekick. R. Lee Ermey do what he does best, looking evil with a heart and even Edmund Purdom shows up in a quite pointless cameo (but I guess it paid his bills that month).

Way better than some people claim, and one of those amazing VHS-tapes that I watched too many times as a teenager. Juan Piquer Simón was a true master of unpretentious genre cinema, something he probably knew himself and this quote tells the truth: "I am an adamant fan of fantasy, thriller and horror films. They are a great purgative and one of the most visual or cinematographic of all the genres." – This is so damn visible when you watch his movies. Maybe the stories themselves lacked depth (not the characters), but he gave us everything we wanted to see in a horror movie: gore, monsters, nudity and more monsters!

Rest in Pieces, Juan Piquer Simón.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Corruption (1968)

An actor should be able to do whatever the director and script tells him to do. I have no idea why Peter Cushing accepted the part as the crazy Sir John Rowan in Robert Hartford-Davis Corruption, but it’s one of the most odd and extreme characters Cushing every played. I mean, dear old Peter has played evil characters whole his life, but they always had a logic, a heart, a passion. Sir Rowan is just plain motherf**king mad!

As a famous surgeon, Sir Rowan has it all: money, fame and a young hot wife. After visiting a wild party Sir Rowan gets into a fight with a sleazy fashion photographer (it can happen us all!) and in the chaos a big spotlight falls directly into the face of the wife – who get’s badly burned. In this situation both goes a bit mad, and without much explanation Sir Rowan starts to kill young women to get fresh skin to fix his wife’s burn wound! All goes well in the beginning, but when they discover that the skin dies after a while, he need to kill more women…

This is one sleazy, brutal and nasty little movie. I can understand those who can’t understand how Peter could sign up to do such a mean-spirited movie. I have no idea either, but I think he found that this character in a way was both very natural – like a modern London-surgeon and something very much edgier than he’s done before. From the beginning he’s the normal polite man that he played hundreds of times, but after his wife starts to manipulate him with her self-pity (she’s the real bad guy here, he’s just crazy) he transforms himself to a very cold, evil and sadistic person.

The murders are drawn out, very violent (and I’ve just seen the cut version, the unedited scenes is available on Youtube) and merciless. He goes after prostitutes first, but when he’s forced to take on a normal, decent girl, he does it. Everything for the perverted love of his loved one. I think Cushing makes a fantastic, excellent performance – among the most interesting stuff he’s ever done. The character itself was probably a lot more shallow before Cushing laid his hand on him, and when there’s a lack of depth the eerie realism in his performance easily wins us over.

Of course it borders to cheese when the laser in one scene breaks havoc in a room and cuts thru walls and people, and the silliness of some of the supporting parts takes away some of the seriousness. Over the whole movie we’re treated to an amazing jazz-score, often very inappropriate to nasty scenes of violence towards women and ruthless, but kinda hip, gangsters.

A movie that deserves an uncut DVD release (or rather Blu-Ray), but I doubt it will ever happen. It’s been released in Spain, cut, but in good quality. But it’s not enough. I want it all…

Krzysztof Kolberger RIP!

Not everyone knows who Krzysztof Kolberger was, but here in Sweden – and especially inside among the fans of cult cinema – he was Christopher Kohlberg, the actor playing Mason, the hero ninja in Mats Helge Olsson’s action classic. Not that he was a martial arts-expert or something, but he had that good look and was talented actor.

Everyone knows what a chaos the shooting of The Ninja Mission was, Bo F. Munthe once told me they called him late in the evening at his home in Stockholm, because they realized that they needed him that day. He jumped into the car, drove down where they shot the movie, arrived in the middle of the night and found out that they forgotten him. Another problem was the communication with Krzysztof Kolberger and Hanna Bieniuszewicz (who got the more English-friendly name “Hanna Pola”), to very serious actors ( who didn’t know English at all. In the end Bo F. Munthe demanded to be killed off so he could go on with his life and the legend says that Krzysztof and Hanna took one of the production cars, escaped back to Poland and sold it to get some money for their work.

The Ninja Mission wasn’t Krzysztof’s first movie, he already had 17 movies and TV-show behind him, and probably a lot of theatre. And his once-in-a-lifetime performance as a ninja didn’t end his career either. He made another forty or so movies back in Poland, a popular character actor. One of them is Katyn, who’s available on blu-ray in Sweden.

My favourite Krzysztof Kolberger-movie isn’t The Ninja Mission, instead I consider Curse of Snakes Valley my preferred choice when it comes to a good, cool Krzysztof Kolberger-o-rama. It’s a Polish Indiana Jones-style movie with a twist of Alien DNA! Shot in Thailand, or maybe Vietnam, with quite an impressive budget, this is a movie that needs a good English-friendly DVD-release.

About a year ago I tracked him down, and with the help of his very nice daughter Julia (also a filmmaker) I got the signed and dedicated photo that you can see above.

Today, 7th of January 2011, he died from cancer...

Rest in peace, Krzysztof – may the world never forget how cool you were!

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Deep in the Woods (2000)

Made some years before the big French horror-boom, Lionel Delplanque’s Deep in the Woods is almost forgotten. Could be because the international distributors successfully hid it under a generic slasher-campaign and dumped it directly on DVD. The lack of the excessive gore that made the French famous is also probably one reason for this movie to be hidden away from the horror fans. But it still is one gorgeous movie, violent and with more Giallo-vibes than slasher!

A young troupe of actors is invited to a secluded castle belonging to millionaire Axel de Fersen (François Berléand). They’re there to perform for the grandchild of de Fersen, an autistic boy named Nicolas (Thibault Truffert). The only one else in the castle is Stephané (Denis Lavant), the slightly perverted handyman. Obviously something is wrong and after Nicolas stabs himself with a fork, the evening is over and everyone resides to their rooms. Except the killer, who finds the wolf-costume used in the play and starts killing them one by one…

This sounds like normal slasher-routine, and to a point it is. But the visuals are so stunning, the kinder trauma leading up the murders is nasty and the atmosphere is very European. The killings are more stylish than gory, even if everything is quite graphic of course. I love the way Delplanque uses the Red Riding Hood-theme, from small details like the doll that is important to the killer, to the play that the actors are performing. The killer is dressed like the wolf, and it has a very fairy tale-style. Mystic, almost dreamlike.

Not all questions are answered, which for me makes it even better. I don’t like to have everything written in big letters. For example, the police sneaks around the forest looking for a serialrapist/murderer, but it’s never clear if this is one of the characters we meet. Sure, it could be one of them, but it’s never told out loud.

In a cameo we also see Marie Trintignant, the daughter of Jean-Louis Trintignant. Three years later she died, killed either with purpose or by accident by her rockstar-boyfriend, Bertrand Cantat.

An underrated predecessor to the bigger and more popular French horror movies, and it’s a stunning work of horror – maybe not the most violent, or original, but well worthy it’s place among the best of its kind.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Vampire Wars: Battle for the Universe (2005)

An ambitious title for a very cheap movie, Vampire Wars is actually a very fun and entertaining pilot for a TV-show that never was realized on the channel formerly known as The Sci-Fi Channel. It’s a tongue-in-cheek mix of horror and action, with some healthy but not to annoying doses of humour.

A crew of vampire-hunters is roaming the universe, killing vampires and making jokes with each other. One day a new member arrives, the young and ambitious Damian (Dominic Zamprogna) who are suppose to be the one that will be captain after tough-guy Churchill (Joe Lando). After a disastrous mission Damian is left alone in command with his skeptical group of vampire-killers under him. But one mission is left, and they’re forced to follow him…

This is a very cheap production, but wait. It’s not cheap in a bad way. First of all, we have this whole universe where every planet looks like some Canadian backwoods-forest, including old warehouses. The computer animations leading to each planet it something that was primitive even in 2003 and everything, from the sets to the clothes look homemade. What really makes this movie worth watching is the slick direction by Matthew Hastings and the nice cinematography (I guess, 35mm) and the cool vampires and random monsters showing up to enlighten the story.

Universe is based on different vampire-tribes, two of them are The Voorhees and Leatherfaces. Another one is like a parasite-worm who controls its victims and makes them hunger for human flesh. The Leatherfaces is the most primitive, with human skin on their faces and spears and stuff. The Voorhees is the typical punk-goth-hybrids with bad hygiene. Leader of them are Michael Ironside, who seem to have a lot of fun in his performance.

The gore is not bad at all, mostly blood that spurts everywhere, but a few gory impalings, limb-rippings and lots of gory aftermath too - way more than a lot of other SyFy-movies. Vampire Wars is one of those “b-movies” that knows what it is and never hides that fact that the budget was a dime or two, but still manages to delivers good entertainment, blood, a quite witty script and lots of adventure to the audience.

For us who are much into monster-movies there’s a fun surprise at the desert-planet, the monster from The Terror Within 1 and 2 makes a cameo! Yes, it shows up very unexpected and tries to kill our heroes! Not to surprising, because the producer of this movie is Andrew Stevens who starred in The Terror Within 1 and 2 (and even was the director of the last one!).

If you find it for a buck or two, this is a movie I can recommend.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

The Sea Serpent (1984)

Timothy Bottoms, dressed like he just escaped from William Friedkin's Cruising, a 200 year old Ray Milland who talks like he’s either drunk or have some illness, some of the worst dubbing EVER and a Muppet-monster directly from b-movie hell. But Amando de Ossorio’s The Sea Monster (aka Hydra) is still an entertaining movie with lots of monster-attacks and endless talky scenes about nothing. Just the way we want it.

Bottoms (who at this point was at the bottom of his career – pun intended) plays Pedro, a captain at a fishing boat. When the ship is attacked by the sea monster and kills his whole crew no one, of course, believes him. In a long and boring court-scene, they take away his boat-license. But he’s not depressed, instead he decided to prove that he’s correct and joins up with a women who also seen the monster. Together the make contact with some old professor – or something, played by Ray Milland and together they’re going to fight THE SEA SERPENT!

And yes, Jared Martin, Jack Taylor and León Klimovsky appear. Jared in a big role, but Jack is wasted in a cameo and Léon too.

I think we all can agree that The Sea Serpent is crap, trash. Not worthy to be he last movie from maestro de Ossorio. But that’s life and that’s how it is, so why regret something we can’t change? Try to see it like one of the lesser monster-movies from the fifties instead for a final masterpiece from a brilliant director. Then it kinda works. The miniatures are very primitive and cheesy, at least the boats and the monster itself. The bridge looks quite ok, and also the lighthouse.

The action is – except a few boring talky scenes of nonsense – more than I expected. Lots of monster-attacks where they’re using a full-size monster-head to eat people with. But most of the time it’s something that looks like a hand-puppet trying to looks dangerous. The music is, of course, very inspired by John Williams soundtrack to Jaws.

What happen with Timothy Bottom’s career by the way? Johnny Got His Gun, The Last Picture Show… and then slowly quite ok genre-movies like Rollercoaster and Hurricane… and suddenly The Sea Serpent, What Waits Below, In the Shadow of Kilimanjaro, The Fantasist – and finally the lowest form of films, co-productions with Sweden (Mio in the Land of Faraway and Istanbul!). But don’t misunderstand me, I like the guy a lot – but he surely had an interesting career!

And to state it once and for all, if The Sea Serpent got a new release on DVD or Blu-Ray, I would buy it directly!