Sunday, February 27, 2011

Light Blast (1987)

I always forget how much action Light Blaster delivers, this underrated San Francisco-action movie directed by maestro Enzo G. Castellari. During the story we're treated to three car chases, a couple of shoot-outs and at least one classic fist fight. Not to mention the nice amount of melting faces and cheesy one-liners. Thanks to Code Red we can finally see this on DVD, in a nice fullscreen version which easily is the best I've seen it so far (but I guess there's always a Japanese ultra-rare tape that is perfect according to the collectors) and is well worth purchasing.

The mighty Erik Estrada is Inspector Ronn Warren, a happily (!!!) married cop who lives on a boat. He's a nice fella, but enjoys killing bad guys fast and effective - even more or less naked, as he does during his first scene in the movie. But a man filled with revenge, Dr Yuri Soboda (Ennio Girolami, old-fart beefcake) is out to earn some money with blackmailing the city, or else he will melt and burn down a lot of innocent people and buildings! The only problem are that Inspector Warren is after him, and very few escapes the vengeance of Erik Estrada!

This is not heavy, serious Castellari. This is light-weight Castellari with a lot of sunshine, bloody squibs and a not so serious tone. And it's very entertaining. Compared to other Italian action flicks from this time it looks quite expensive, with great San Francisco-settings and a couple of fantastic set-pieces in the middle of the city. How they managed to shoot the final car-chase without spending a fortune is something that still surprises me, I mean, the permits? The cost of shutting down those streets and highways? I have no idea how they did it, but it looks great.
I've said it before, but once again: Erik Estrada is one underrated actor. He might not be able to do any meatier parts, but as a hero with a gun he's more than competent. He handles the action very good and makes us kinda believe in the cheesy dialogue. He certinally has charisma to carry a whole movie, and he shows it very clearly here. I especially like how Castellari choosed such a light-weight actor and tossed him into some quite bloody action, it makes it even more cool.

The melting people is a special thing, I'll admit that. This is not state-of-the-art melting, but very primtive - even for a eigthies genre movie. Sure, some people say it looks more realistic than todays CG effects, but that's just bullshit. It looks crap. But hey, it's cool as hell! And I love seeing melting effects even if it looks like my mother made it in five minutes. I wouldn't want to have Light Blast without these effects, seriously.
Light Blast is a fine, well-made action movie with lotsa good stunts and bloody shoot-outs. Now if someone could release Hammerhead on DVD, that would make me a very happy man.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Blastfighter (1984)

Gotta be honest with you girls and boys, this is an old review that I made a few changes in. The main reason for this is that I’m slightly involved in the new Swedish DVD release of Blastfighter. There’s a huge quite from me on the back of the cover (and on the front there’s one from Quentin Tarantino) and on the DVD itself it’s an interview I did with star Michael Sopkiw some years ago. So I decided to use this review again, because it was written long before I even knew it would be a DVD here in Sweden. So here it is, either you like it or not…

One day a napkin arrived at my doorstep. It was sent directly from the US and the sender was David Zuzelo. The napkin was special because it was a message to me, written directly over pieces of food and saliva and signed with "Mr God". I will share a photo with you someday. Well, this napkin is holy for me, because "Mr God" there is actually Michael Sopkiw, the best action hero ever to hit the screen. He only made four movies, and I would say that at least two of them are among the best I've seen in Italian action: After the fall of New York and Blastfighter.

I’ve never been a real fan of Lamberto Bava. He's always been too uneven for his own good and has a tendecy to make movies that look like TV-productions. But of course, he's the man behind Demons, You'll Die At Midnight and Macabre. He also directed Monster Shark (with Sopkiw) and the extremly boring Demons 2. But I always hail Blastfighter as his masterpiece. The rumour says it started as a science fiction-movie by Lucio Fulci, but sometime along the way it transformed into a Rambo-esqe action-opera!

For once the story is quite well written, but the star is (except Sopkiw of course) is the action and atmosphere. Shot in Georgia, US, and with Billy Redden (the banjo-boy in Deliverance) in a fun cameo, it's a real beauty of a movie. Wonderful dark forests, a tense little town with more rednecks than in Skåne (a part of Sweden) and grim faces in every corner of the screen. Sopkiw plays Jake 'Tiger' Sharp (ain't that a perfect name of a hero?) and he returns to his old city after spending some time in prison. He's getting to know his daughter (who seems to be almost his own age) and also George Eastman as old friend Tom.

But of course the shit hits the fan quite fast and suddenly everyone with a rifle and with a sister and brother as parents, starts hunting Tiger... and he hits back, fast-hard-brutal! It might take a little while to unfold itself, but Blastfighter is one hell of a movie. The action fastpaced and gory and Sopkiw is THE MAN! He fights, shoots, cuts and explodes himself through the enemy. This is really good. I'm getting more and more impressed by this movie everytime I see it, and it's a shame that Sopkiw just did these four movies and Bava returned to his horror movies.

Finally Blastfighter gets a Swedish release, and as usual it’s Njuta Films who’s behind it! Blastfighter is out on DVD in Italy and Germany since before. I haven’t seen the Italian version, but I heard that one has the correct ratio. This has the same ratio (widescreen of course, 1.85:1) as the German DVD but with a superior sharp picture quality. One odd thing is that this version has the Italian dub track as the main one and the English as a bonus. Theres only Scandinavian subtitles, but that wouldn’t be a problem for non-Scandies because of the English language track.

The only bonus material worth mentioning is the awesome interview I did with Michael Sopkiw some years ago, in text of course.

Monday, February 21, 2011

The Ninja Squad (1986)

Hey, what do you all say about another Godfrey Ho-classic? YES! This time I've watched The Ninja Squad, which so far was the most straight forward and non-confusing Ninja-flick from IFD Film & Arts I've seen so far. I would even go so far to say it was quite good, in a good way - but only if you're into extra cheese of course. If you want something serious, go watch a Jackie Chan-movie or something...

Ten years ago, Ninja Gordon (Richard Harrison) finally decides that his pupil is ready to meet the real life, and is sent home to get a job and get out in reality again. But someone is killing of the Ninjas, Ivan the Red (Dave Wheeler) and our young hero, now a Flipino wannabe-cop who supports his family and fights for his dreams... or something like that. But an evil gang of thugs wants his familys house and land, and he has to fight the off and at the same time watch out for
the evil red Ninja!

Pretty straightforward storyline, yeah? And it's that for real, not me just simplifying things. What director Godfrey Ho and producer Joseph Lai has done here is shooting new Ninja-footage with Richard Harrison and some other western blokes and added this to a Filipino crime drama, which in it's own way seem pretty good. That part of the movie has a realistic and violent atmosphere with dirty locations and lots of melodrama. The shoot-outs and fights are low-key and brutal, shot very effective without anyone showing off too much. The Ninja-parts is the usual wackiness with Richard Harrison and his stuntman doing somersaults in various public parks against other colorful Ninjas (all with cool Ninja headbands of course, who says Ninja or Nin Ja). Some of that fighting is quite OK and it's always extremely cool for us Godfrey Ho-ophiles.

But what the hell did they think when they designed Richard Harrison's Ninja suit for this movie? It looks like sparkly glitter-disco-thingie with some amazing non-correct colors! I wish my DVD-drive would work so I could give you a screenshot, but that has to wait to some other age and time. Or just go buy the damn movie and experience it yourself!

I also want to add that the soundtrack to this whole production is really good, with some nice electronic stuff and something that sound like some alternative synth-pop stuff. Not bad at all, I just wish I knew what it was!

Not bad for what it is, but might lack that belowed IFD-madness that I know many of use wants in unhealthy doses. But I think it's a worthy part of any honest mans collection.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Hell's Ground (2007)

I find the typical Texas Chainsaw Massacre-scenario quite boring nowadays, after seeing hundreds of versions of it during the years. Hell's Ground is virtually a remake of TCM, plot-twist after plot-twist. I don't mind it, but it would have been fun to see something more unique from Pakistan than just another inofficial remake. But it's not a bad movie, it's just a bit too generic.

The ususal gang of young hot people is going on a road trip to see "the hottest rock band in Pakistan", but ends up out in Redneckistan instead. A place the locals call the Hell's Ground, because it's cursed. And ain't it so! The first thing they do is to meet some hungry zombies who bites one of the guys and he's starting to slowly transform into a green slime-gurgling vegetable! A while later they pick up a hitcher who acts strange and pulls out a decapitated head from his bag, so they throw him out and accidentally run him over with their Scooby-van. Not long after that the van breaks down and the only place to ask for help is a... slaughterhouse! You can guess the rest...

Forget the story, because you seen it so many times before. Just enjoy the local take on this story instead, with Islamic mysticism, cool folklore and a nice soundtrack of cool Pakistanian music. The colors are bright and strong, and the smoke machine is in heavy use. On with the fish-eye and freaky angles, weird actors and cool shabby locations. This is what Hell's Ground is all about. Rovdyr, the Norwegian backwoods-slasher is boring just because it's hard to tell it's Norweigan (except the language of course), but here you can see and feel that it's a Pakistanian movie. From culture references in music and the casting of some old-timers, to the clothes and colors. It's a rugged movie, but rugged in that wonderful grindhouse-way that we all love.

One thing that was a bit confusing was the mix between shaky English and whatever local language they talk. I heard English is fairly common in Pakistan, but it's just makes it harder to follow the dialogue when the subtitles is switching on and off during the movie.

But I should stop complaining. It has a bloody gore (not in any huge amounts though), a fun cast, an awesome killer! Yes, the killer! I love him! Dressed in a white burqua, splattered with blood and wielding a huge spiked metal-ball on a chain! One of the best and creepiest killers I've seen for a long time, up there together with the inspiration himself, Leatherface.

A must for fans of world wide cult cinema!

Friday, February 18, 2011

Hands of Steel (1986)

Hey, I think what we have here - Sergio Martino's Hands of Steel - a slightly misunderstood action flick which is way more interesting and multi-layered than it first seem. I understand it's made for a quick buck to make a quick and nothing else, but the fact is that it works way better than it should. This is because of several reasons: Sergio Martino's excellent direction, especially in the action scenes which all are great. The second reason is Daniel Green, who's a way more competent hero than I remember from the last time I saw it (which was at least ten-fifteen years ago, on a Swedish x-rental). What makes this movie so special? It's a unique, for it's time, take on the future - especially in the Italian genre cinema.

Daniel Greene is Paco Queruak, a brainwashed assassin who without knowing it is sent out to kill the leader of the resistance, a blind man in a wheelchair. When he arrives to the scene he fails to kill the man and escapes the scene and goes for the desert. Soon he stops at motel and befriends Linda (Janet Ågren), and love appears. But of course, the government is after him and has sent out it's best killers to track him down and destroy him once for all. But what they don't expect is that he's way more human than 70 percent of cybernetic implants he consists of, and he's ready to fight for the humanity!

What strikes the viewers the most is how "realistic" this movie it is. Sure, it has its fair share of cheesiness (like some futuristic modifications on the cars, some weapons and so on), but the reality feels like it could happen and some of the politics has obviously become reality since 1986. We live in a society where poverty is the ultimate punishment for not doing what our politicians says, exactly like in this movie. Another thing that's interesting is how Paco is portrayed. He's a ex-human, with most of his body replaces - against his will - with technology. He's used as a cleaner for the government and suddenly finds himself torn between his robotic persona and his human self. Yes, much of this is used exactly same way in Paul Verhoeven's RoboCop that came one year efter, except there he's a police and a "legal" killer for the state.

But of course, Hands of Steel is mostly a action-packed popcorn-movie which, if you have some patience, delivers a show-stopping second half filled with lots of action, a quite body count and some great stunts. The attack on the motel has echoes of Sam Peckinpah (one of the characters is named "Dr Peckinpah" by the way) with mighty fine shoot-outs and rough violence. The following chase afterwards, with a car and a truck is really cool and ends with the camera-operator literary throwing himself out if the way to not get hit by a car-stunt! And I love that they kept the take, which added even more to the realistic tone of the action.

One of the best parts of the movie is a sidestory about arm-wrestling, where the fantastic Luigi Montefiori plays Raoul, a brutal truckdriver who want to beat the crap out of our hero Paco. There's a fantastic scene where Paco breaks of a piece of thick marble, writes a message on it and throws it to Raoul and his henchmen, which must be one of the coolest scenes I've seen. The other actors is fine too, and a special mention goes to Claudio Cassinelli who made his last movie here. He died in a helicopter accident during the shooting of this movie, which feels even more eerie when you see him doing so many helicopter-scenes here. Rest in peace, amigo.

Hands of Steel is finally out on DVD, I guess for the first time ever (and I don't count any bootlegs here). The print that Njuta Films just is clear and free from dust and scratches, is non-anamorphic widescreen and didn't suffer from being zoomed into on my 40 inch Bravia widescreen TV. There's a written interview with Sergio Martino which is good, but I would have liked to read some more about specific movies - for example Hands of Steel - but it's still good. This DVD also sports the same weird collection of sexploitation trailers like Ironmaster, which I just find very odd.

A long lost Italian action classic is finally home where it belongs, on DVD for us all to love it and celebrate the brutal fists of Daniel Greene!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Satanic Crystals (1992)

The first time I heard of Satanic Crystals was when I saw the trailer at YouTube. Wow, holy mother of shit. This looks fun! My reaction was something like that, and moments later I found it on a German shop and made an order instantly. Why wait? Why food on the table when I can own this über-cool Hong Kong movie that I never heard about before? That was my reaction, and I never felt a gut-feeling so strong and so true before. A couple of days later it arrived and I could finally experience this trashy masterpiece of exploitative Hong Kong-action!

The MacGuffin of this movie is two legendary multi-colored jade stones, hidden somewhere in Thailand. One man knows where they are, but after he’s killed (strangled in a very drawn-out sequence), two maps to the place is placed in the hands of the bad guys and the good guys and now they have to get there first. But the road isn’t that easy, because everything from female warriors, crocodiles and lions await them!

As usual I’m lousy to write down the story, because sometime I just don’t think it’s that important. Especially with a movie like Satanic Crystals, which just rely on being extremely entertaining and deliver as much fun as the budget allows. The lead is played by Leung Kar Yan, aka Beardy, who is some kinda private detective, cop, whatever, who joins the hunt for the “satanic crystal”. He teams up with some other dudes, one of them is Christoph Klüppel (who had a nice little career as a muscular action toughie in Thai action movies for a couple of years) and goes to Thailand to get rich.

From there on it’s just a sleazy, cheap, violent rollercoaster of martial arts mayhem, shoot-outs and machete wielding maidens! It seem like the bad guys is getting some local tribe to join them as protection, and they have a small army of female warriors with machetes who chop their way thru our heroes team of adventurers in some very nice action set-pieces. Other danger is lions and crocodiles, and of course people with guns who shoots at everything that moves.

It’s hard to tell who big budget the movie had, because it looks a down and dirty, with action scenes that never look perfect, but still delivers a lot of nice stunts á Jackie Chan and those crazy Thai stuntmen that seem to rule the world nowadays. We’re talking Ouch-That-Hurt-kinda stunts. But anyway, I doubt the budget was so big – but its clear that they spent the money well on a lot of money-shots.

But sure, Satanic Crystals is not a perfect movie. It’s pure exploitation with some very graphic sleazy and nudity, made only to entertain. So compared to the big Hong Kong-classics it might not hold up as a classy action movie, but from now on it’s one of my favorite crazy lowbudget movies from Hong Kong. It has a lot of talent, violence and craziness and easily beats out most of the shit being produced today in Hong Kong. This is so far from any boring Wuxia you come, and I think we all should be grateful for that!

Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives (2010)

I have to admit, I’m an arthouse-junkie – if it goes outside the typical arthouses that shows french dramas about nothing. On Ninja Dixon I always write about negelected movies, exploitation, weird stuff from around the world, seventies cult and so on, but very few times about experimental movies. But with Apichatpong Weerasethakul it’s different. His Mysterious Object at Noon is one of my favorites, an experimental mix between documentary and improvised drama (with touches of sci-fi, but expect not special effects). Uncle Boonmee is on the same scale of oddness, but in a totally different visual style.

Uncle Boonmee is dying of kidney failure. He’s walking around on his farm talking with his sister-in-law and waiting for a young relative to help him with the illness in the evening. During dinner his dead wife appears and soon his long lost son finally comes back in the form of a ghost monkey, a nature spirit with red glowing eyes. This starts the process of Uncle Boonmee last trip to death as he remembers past lives as well as future ones…

This sounds straight and forward, but it’s not. Apichatpong has created one of the most hypnotic movies I’ve ever seen. The camera is in 99% of the takes completely static, focusing on sometimes irrelevant situations, which of course never is irrelevant. Everything has a meaning in Uncle Boonmee. It’s slow and builds its story on thick atmosphere and low-key acting. Apichatpong said that one of the inspirations he had for the visual style of the movie was the old Thai TV-soaps that was shot on film. Static cameras, slow acting (because the actors didn’t have time to learn the lines and had people behind the camera whispering to them what to say) and monster/demons with red lamp-eyes trying to scare the audience. Everything is here, but it looks and sounds gorgeous, with a fantastic wall of jungle sounds over the pictures. The monkey spirit looks great to by the way, like a kind Naschy-werewolf.

I won’t even try to decode the movie, even if I have my ideas and theories. But it’s something that you, me, have to see again and again to fully understand. The static camera forces us to listen, to look and to concentrate on every detail in the scene. No movements to distract us from the hypnosis. Even really weird moments, like the ghost monkey entering the house or the catfish having sex with an ancient princess seem completely natural, something we accept to the fullest without even analyzing it.

It just feels stupid to really try to explain Uncle Boonmee, its one of those movies you should experience under total concentration, either alone in the darkness or together with someone who can appreciate this kind of movie. Let yourself be hypnotized by Uncle Boonmee, let yourself be drawn into his last days of living.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Lets get Giovanni Lombardo Radice into Bond 23!

Sorry for the lack of reviews, but I'm absurdly busy with my "real" job and a few real surprises. I just don't have time for the moment to relax in front of the TV. But soon, when you least expect it...

But I have a mission. Giovanni Lombardo Radice is one of his generations finest, most edgy actors in Italy. You've seen in him in tons of Italian genre cinema, but also on the stage, in big budget Hollywood-movies and he's always brilliant.

Here's the story. Radice was once very close to be cast as the bad guy in the Bond-movie World Is Not Enough, but Robert Carlyle took the part in the end. I like Carlyle, but to be honest, Giovanni would have OWNED that part! And probably make one of the weakest Bond-movies a lot stronger.

These petitions can be a bit silly, but everytime it's for a good cause I always sign - and therefor I encourage you all to go here and sign this to inspire MGM/Eon Productions to cast Mr Radice in Bond 23.

Wouldn't he an excellent enemy of Daniel Craig?

Saturday, February 12, 2011

The Lost Idol (1988)

IMDB claims The Lost Idol is from 1990, but according to one of the actors it’s made earlier – so that’s why I choose something that differs from what the mighty database says. But anyway, The Lost Idol is a quite well-budgeted Thai action-adventure movie with a fun cast consisting of Erik Estrada, Sorapong Chatree, Krung Srivilai and German big guy Christoph Klüppel. Estrada was forced to take this job when he needed money, and found out he could go around the Screen Actors Guild with taking a job in Thailand. He’s not in top-form here, but still manages to be a capable hero.

The year is 1975, Erik Estrada leads a stranded group of US soldiers to safety in Thailand. On the way they take shelter in an old temple and find a golden statue. They bring it with them, but hide it in a cave to go back later to get it. But one of them, a greedy Lieutenant (James Phillips) kills them all, but Estrada gets away. Estrada finds his way to Thailand, hooks up with a female farmer and falls in love. Many years later Phillips is back in Thailand to try to get back into Cambodia to get his golden statue. He gathers a group of mercenaries, forces Estrada to join them, and goes back into the war zone…

The Lost Idol is an ambitious action movie with, it seem, a bigger budget than usual. The attractive cast of both Thai superstars and good westerners adds to the international feeling. But in the end it’s a typical jungle-action movie with a lot of explosions and a high body count. Philip Chalong tries to make it as a big and Hollywood as possible, with large scenes of carnage, beautiful jungle scenery and even some shots I think is in Bangkok. I also appreciated the use of minatures (and in both those scenes they fall apart in a nice spectacular way). The stunts are wild and as usual they save the best for last, when Sorapong and his Cambodian rebels attack the Cambodian military camp. It’s a scene which goes on forever, and I’m grateful for that.

It’s not without plasma either, with the camera-lens getting stained by blood several times during the action scenes. I also love how they include a nice, old-fashioned, fist-fight aboard a helicopter in the end. Feels like one of those old spy movies from the sixties!

Erik Estrada, a guy I like a lot, is not always with us here. In some scenes he’s visibly not that interested and just don’t give it all. It borders to just amateur action, but here and there he shines – especially in the action scenes. Sorapong is good as usual, but Krung Srivilai is a bit wasted in his part as one of the mercenaries. But at least he shoots down a helicopter before he dies. This was also Christoph Klüppel’s first movie. Later he did more or less the same thing in Mission Hunter 1 and 2, but in a bigger part. More about him later here on Ninja Dixon.

The Lost Idol is not a serious movie, it even has some comedy (in one scenes they shoot a hole in a door, in the shape of a man), but its worth seeking up for all of you that appreciates Asian jungle-action and lots of exploding guard towers!

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

La noche de la bestia (1988)

Some days you hit gold, some days you hit shit. Today I took a big scoop of the latter and ate it all too willingly. The reason for this shit-eating is Hugo Stiglitz, a man I’ve been almost sickly obsessed with since I first saw Nightmare City many years ago. The man can be a bit stiff, but he’s still Hugo – the no. 1 sex symbol of Mexico! This time we meet him in this late cheesy entry of eighties horror/sci-fi La Noche de la Bestia!

It’s the for the annual hunting weekend and the boys, including Hugo, is preparing with bringing a lot of beer, fishing equipment, weapons and a jolly good spirit! After at least thirty minutes of chatting, drinking, shooting rabbits and posing in way to small swimming trunks, a woman comes running and after her a truck of gun-crazy wackos in yellow hazmats and impressive mullets. She’s a scientist on the run, escaping from the result of last nights nuclear explosion (yes, believe it or not) nearby. The boys kills her pursuers and gives her shelter in their cabin. But they don’t know that she has a bloodthirsty parasite in her that want to switch body… and not only that, outside a big monster is lurking, hungry for human flesh!

Well, this sounds like fun, yeah? I would say five minutes of this 73 minute long is worth watching, and these five minutes is represented by these screenshots:

That is probably the WORST VISUAL EFFECT I’ve ever seen in a movie, and if you think it looks “ok” here, just watch the movie and see it in movement. If I understand the Spanish correctly they, after watching the huge nuclear explosions, just decide to go to bed and “let the police handle it”. When the parasite takes over Hugo Stiglitz and makes him go rampage for a minute or two is fun and quite bloody, and the monster itself – which looks silly as hell, but quite original – crashes thru the floor and tries to kill our surviving heroes it’s also fun. Ok, the flashback when the scientist’s finds the meteorite is good too and the scene where a guy get his foot ripped off is entertaining too, but that’s about it.

The rest is Hugo and his gang of Mexican macho men talking, drinking, swimming, burping and joking (I think, but they laugh sometime and the story also include an exploding blow-up doll gag). It’s a pity because they have a cabin by the lake, a crazy monster and primitive gore – so why don’t the use it more, dammit?! If I made this movie it would be five minutes talking and the rest just pure monster mayhem! The ending is “meh” by the way, and seem to be a bit sentimental and serious, which is hard to take serious because we just saw a big papier maché monster trying to whip our heroes to death with its tongue!

But I own this on original DVD, which still makes me cooler than all of you. Ha!

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Ninja Terminator (1985)

How do you review a movie like Ninja Terminator? The answer is not at all. Instead I'll give you these three screenshots which says it all. Brilliance, nothing less than brilliance.

But I have to ad that it's extremely entertaining, even more than you ever could the imagine. The fights are fun and with a lot of acrobatics, and the South Korean/Hong Kong co-production they used for the other half of the movie as some great fighting and seem like a good little martial arts movie in it's own right. But of course, what would Ninja Terminator be without Richard Harrison walking around aimlessly in a colorless apartment just waiting for his stand-in to show up, run out to the nearest park and do some smokin' Ninja-fighting?

Monday, February 7, 2011

She Killed in Ecstasy (1971)

I’m the first to confess that She Killed in Ecstasy was a slight disappointment when I first saw it. But I can explain: I’ve just seen a lot of über-gory, fantastic eurocult classics like Zombie Flesh Eaters, Deep Red…yeah, all the classics and suddenly this slow, atmospheric revenge-drama took over my TV and almost bored me to death. But like all of us, you’ll get older and sooner or later you don’t crave the latest gore flicks – you want something else. That’s where Jess Franco shows up and brings his special kind of sleazy poetry to the world.

She Killed in Ecstasy is a strange, poetic revenge-story, very odd and very slow. But every frame is filled with tension and the marvelous cast, from Soledad Miranda in the lead to the victims: Paul Müller, Howard Vernon, Ewa Strömberg and finally Jess Franco himself is one of the most solid casts he’s ever had in a movie. Franco keeps the story simple, without any long and boring explanations. After Dr Johnson (Fred Williams) kills himself after being almost bullied out from scientific group, maybe of jealousy, his wife decide to take revenge on his death lures the doctors into a sex-trap which ends with her cutting or suffocating them to death!

This is so far from the typical revenge movie, it never becomes sleazy, even if it has a lot of nudity and some violence, but stays more on the arthouse-side than the exploitation side. The subtle acting from everyone involved, except maybe the great Howard Vernon who almost makes a Hitler-like performance when he stands on a stage condemning Dr Johnson, is powerful and has an aura of realism and depth. The victims, how selfish they might be, still feels human after all and never becomes stereotypical baddies. Jess Franco, a man I think is quite a decent actor, makes one of this best jobs here and it’s very obvious, whatever he said himself about this movie, that both the character and story is something he cared for very much.

Low on zooms, Franco uses stylish and simple angles with really showcases the fantastic sets. Maybe not the normal hotel rooms (Franco must be the master of portraying hotel rooms by the way, a Franco-movie with out that kinda room always seem to miss something), but the wonderful exterior locations and the fantastic surrealistic house on the island. The light is most of the time almost naturalistic, but never turns ugly or pornographic.

She Killed in Ecstasy might lack that kitchy madness that so many people love, but it has poetic revenge, a great cast and a visual style that still is one of the most unique and atmospheric I’ve seen. It’s a movie that takes it’s time and you might not like it the first time, but sooner or later it will starts to bug you (like a lot of Franco’s productions) and soon you will sit there again, inhaling the power of Franco at his best.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Soo Lui Laek (1989)

I’ve picked one movie from my VCD-collection, something according to ethaicd is titled Soo Lui Laek. If this is correct, or even the year, I have no idea. But it’s another of Panna Rittikrai’s early movies, produces in the backwaters of Thailand with a cast of his typical stuntmen and some other guys I haven’t seen before.

For once the story was extra hard to understand, but I what I could understand it’s a about a failed robbery where Panna Rittikrai, maybe, gets his hand – without knowing it – on the jewellery and then at least two gangs of criminals tries to find out what happen. But really, I have no idea. That just what it seems to me when watching the film.

These movies can be a bit of a Russian roulette when it comes to entertainment. This falls perfectly in-between being just boring and having some decent action. There’s a lot of fights and most of them is pretty good, but lacks the imagination of some of other movies also starring Rittikrai. People fly thru the air, lots of direct contact, but never becomes special enough to remember. The body count is high after all, but that’s about it.

If you want to see a pedestrian story with average fights, see this one. Just don’t except a new Gerd Ma Lui or 2 Nuk Soo Poo Ying Yai (aka Thai Police Story), or even an explosive action-fest like Mission Hunter 1 and 2.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Flood (1976)

The beauty with Irwin Allen is how he cast his productions, always very competent character actors – even in the main roles, and always some old movie star. It’s the last thing I appreciate extra much. It’s similar to how Swedish director Arne Mattsson worked, always gave the old-timers something to do, let them be a star in something bigger. In Flood Richard Basehart and Gloria Stuart represents the classic generation of actors, and of course both of them is excellent. But Flood is mainly a man’s movie, a manly man’s movie. Robert Culp, Martin Milner and Cameron Mitchell, all three middle aged men with young hot girlfriends!

Story? Yes, it’s the same as always. A coming disaster in form of a poorly constructed dam, a small town with a mayor that refuses to believe in that something so absurd as a dam-disaster can happen and the man of warning himself, the all American hero (with his buddy, the tough helicopter pilot). And then the dam bursts and…yeah, you all know it by now!

Nothing bad with clichés, I love them, and Flood indeed delivers some of the most juicy clichés since Earthquake! Everything from the boy-in-peril to pregnant-woman-in-peril to the meeting with the officials that ends with them not believe in our hero – and everything in-between! The budget is slightly higher than Cave In and here there are actually extras, and bigger sets… and a miniature of the dam! And visual effects! And even a stunt or two! Not much of course, because the main effect scene is when the dam bursts and then we’re treated to some stock footage, a couple of scenes where water is flooding into houses and over streets. Not much visible casualties as usual in Allen’s TV-productions.

But Flood is something for us that loves and appreciate TV-movies. It’s often effectively told with out to much unnecessary scenes, and it’s always guaranteed political correct – in that special seventies way we all like. It’s a movie made by pros, and I can’t complain about anything special, except maybe that it – as always – needs more disasters to feel really spectacular! Robert Culp and Cameron Mitchell is favourites of mine, especially Mitchell who was one of the most underrated actors of his generation. Here’s a weird thing, Roddy McDowall, another fantastic man and actor, shows up in the beginning – but then he kinda disappears! Maybe I looked away the moment he died or departed from the story in some other way. Weird!

Flood is out from Warner Archive in a great-looking release, and like the other in their Irwin Allen-collection, this is a must for the serious disaster- and TV-movie fanatic.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Interview with Blackie Dammett from 9 Deaths of the Ninja!

(another interview I did many years ago, this time with actor Blackie Dammett, who also is the father of Red Hot Chili Pepper's lead singer Anthony Kiedis)

Fred Anderson: How did you first became interested in acting?

Blackie Dammett: As a kid in Grand Rapids Michigan (like almost everybody else everywhere) I dreamed of Hollywood and the movies. I watched them in darkened theaters and read about them in magazines. Our family often took vacations to California and Los Angeles in particular. As a teenager I ran away from home several times--hitchhiking and even hopping freight trains to LA?2500 miles from my home.

As a young man in college my good grades earned me a scholarship to UCLA (university of Californian in Los Angeles) where they have a motion picture curriculum. I earned my degree in theatre arts specializing in motion pictures. during college (where I took obligatory acting classes) I met among others Richard Dreyfuss, Joey Bishop's son Larry, the doors Jim Morrison and Greg Friedkin, son of David Friedkin who produced "I Spy" - the TV show with Bill Cosby and Robert Culp and who wrote "The Pawnbroker" with Rod Steiger. My intention was writing and directing, and after UCLA I went to work at MGM as a writer, getting job through David Friedkin. He introduced me to James Komack who produced "Welcome back Cotter" with a young John Rravolta and "Chico and the man" with Freddie Prinze and "The courtship of Eddie's father" with Bill Bixby.

Komack hired Greg Griedkin and myself to work on the Bixby show as apprentices. Eventually MGM hired us as writers and we worked on a few scripts until the studio changed hands and we were not renewed by the new administration.

I drifted into public relations and ended up working for Alice Cooper's company The Image Group, which had clients like John Lennon, Three Dog Night, NY Dolls, Sha-na-na, Peter Yarrow, Paul Butterfield and others.

One day I was walking down Hollywood blvd and ran into my friend Karen Lamm, who was then married to Robert Lamm from the group Chicago (she would later marry beach boy Dennis Wilson, the one who drowned). She was coming out of acting classes at the Lee Strasberg institute and casually mentioned she thought I ought to try it. I did. Eventually I studied with the master Lee Strasberg himself (Marlon Brando, James Dean, Marilyn Monroe, Montgomery Clift, Shelley Winters, etc.).

Within a year I was working. "Walking Tall - the final chapter" was my first film. a week after we returned from Tennessee I did Starsky and hutch and then went right into Charlie's angel's. The rest, as they say, is history.

FA: I agree! Tell me about Class reunion. You?re character there was very weird.

BD: Probably my second most bizarre character. Class Reunion was the follow up to National Lampoon's animal house with John Belushi and was a (relatively) big budget highly anticipated film (by far my biggest
paycheck and I worked more days (40 some) that any other actor). It was written by John Hughes (Home alone, Pretty in pink, etc) but too bad he didn't also direct.

He was a fresh faced kid out of Chicago and it was his first movie. The producers picked Michael Miller to direct, a guy with a drinking problem who had screwed up some earlier films and gave him one last chance to redeem him self. Although he started out sober I guess he slipped because the film never had a real good focus and although it opened big it never had legs at the boxoffice and most critics panned it. The LA Times gave it a good review however and said, "Dammett is perfection as the pathetic psychopath". I remember I beat out Robert Englund (Nightmare on Elm Street's Freddy Krueger) and several other good actors for the part of Walter Baylor.

In a scene where the witchcraft girl uses her special powers to throw me into a wall they had me hooked up to one of those reverse catapults they use for shotgun blasted actors. The first time it worked great, but the wall shook so they did a second take. The stupid SFX guys braced a 2X4 board perpendicular against the back of the wall and when I hit it, I separated my rib cage at the breast bone and I had to do remaining 80% of the film in considerable pain which seriously impaired my physical humor. It was the same SFX people that shortly thereafter were responsible for Vic Morrow and the 2 kids being mangled to death by the crashing helicopter blade in Jim Landis "Twilight Zone".

FA: So, the most important of all, how did you get involved in the
classic Nine Deaths Of The Ninja?

Even before I came to the audition in the Century City (section of Los Angeles) offices of the producer, I decided to make him a German terrorist raised in North Yemen and I brought the Sydney Greenstreet-esque white topical suit, the tu-tone spectator shoes, and nazi stuff myself. It was the mid-80's when LA heavy metal bands had a proclivity toward anti-social behavior like nazi symbols so they were easy to find. My entire costume in the movie was my own creation.

In the script Alby had this strange fascination with Rahji and I carried it to extremes. During the audition I made up the scene where I couldn't get my cigarette lit and had a fit and tore up the producer's coffee table overturning water glasses and throwing magazines around the office and scaring the hell out of everybody. The director loved everything I did in the audition and told me to create my own madman.

FA: Alby the cruel is a pervert, a crazy bad guy. How did you work with this fantastic character?

BD: I didn't see him as a pervert, more stressed by the situation and the environment which was easy to relate to since as a film crew we were in almost the same predicament as the fictional characters. An inhospitable
jungle, poisonous snakes and spiders, sudden monsoon rains, a guerrilla communist army lurking in the dark trying to kill us, petty fights and jealousies within the cast and crew. and like in the story occasional breaks from the horror of the war when we had our rest and recuperation in Manilla with all the sex and tropical foods and garish night life.

The crew was international: an American director, Indian producer, ex-patriots from many countries living in the Philippines at the time in production and crew. And American, Japanese, Indian and Philippino and probably a few other nationalities in the cast.

FA: Some final words to our readers?

BD: I must say, of the 20 some movies and 30 some TV shows and about 50 plays, Nine Deaths Df The Ninja was one of my favorites because I could and did get to chew up the scenery because:

a). ...the part itself was so outlandish and...
b). because we shot the movie in the Philippines during the NPA's war against president Marcos and the country was on the verge of collapse and life itself was absurd. We had a battallion of soldiers protecting us in the jungle and every store in the country had an armed guard with a machine gun.