Thursday, June 30, 2011

The Crater Lake Monster (1977)

I’m like any other average 30 something nerd, I love dinosaur movies. I don’t the fascination for the real thing, that’s cood but bones are often quite boring and don’t eat people – if they’re not possessed by an evil spirit and wrecks havoc at a museum or something. But that would happen to me anyway. The Crater Lake Monster is one of all these regional genre flicks that were produced around the US, often it in the north it seems, by unknown and often quite talented filmmakers. It’s very rare with masterpieces in this category of US film history, but the passion for the art of film is always there. This is not one of those masterpieces, far away from it. But the recent blu-ray from Mill Creek makes the movie look fantastic and enhances the viewing experience.

The story is very simple: a water-based dinosaur shows up at a lake and starts eating people, but mostly it making life hard for two local rednecks (one with the biggest beard I’ve seen in along time), who almost have a homoerotic relationship. Or like brothers. It’s probably in the eye of the beholder, and I’m gay so you can make that out for yourself. The rednecks take up a lot of the time, but the rest revolves around the cool sheriff (Richard Cardella, who also came up with the story). He drives around in cool sunglasses and nice sideburns, talk alot, interviews eye witnesses and just being awesome. He’s the best thing with the whole show. Here and there we see random scenes of a well-made stop-motion dinosaur (courtesy of genius Dave Allen) attacking and eating people. That’s about it.

It would be easy to complain a lot about The Crater Lake Monster. Actually, a more fitting title would be The Crater Lake Drunkards, because of the two rednecks running around being drunk and scared, mostly at the same time. I’m not sure why, but several of the day-for-night scenes are in bright sunlight, which make it very absurd when characters admiring the beautiful night sky filled with stars or using flashlights in broad daylight. Most of the script is there for filling and an awkward subplot involving a robber feels just like a very complicated way to get someone killed by the dinosaur.

On the good side, the movie looks stunning and me, as a fan of miles and miles of nature, this is like a porn movie of deep green forests, fantastic mountains, atmospheric fog, blue water and a sense of freedom. Maybe the movie itself isn’t that important, it’s about experiencing the amazing wilderness. And sideburns, local acting talents and seventies fashion. I would say that these local productions are here as a time machine, maybe the best way to show us how people lived in the US during the seventies. Far from the fake-looking fashion magazines, this is the references modern filmmakers should use when recreating this era.

Ah yes, the dinosaur. It looks good, very good. The special effects involving the animation is very fine, but are ruined by a quite plastic looking dino-head from time to time. Another good thing is that we’re treated to quite much dinosaur-footage, which is rare in ultra-cheap monster movies like this.

The blu-ray is a must, the movie maybe not so much a must – but still something for all monster fans out there.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Rojo Sangre (2004)

Rojo Sangre is both a tribute to his career as a sharp satire over how easy media forget. Actors are like vampires, they need blood to survive, and blood in this case is the love from the audience, the film crew and director. Paul Naschy had his ups and downs but worked steadily over the years, where he could find money or interest. From big budgets in Japan to shot-on-video crap-fests in Amsterdam. But at least he worked and worked and that passion, that energy, gave him a stamp of approval in the horror community. He was proud over his work, had a great ego and knew how to get in bed the most beautiful women.

In Rojo Sangre he is Pablo Thevenet, an ex movie-star, now an old man trying to find jobs with humiliating himself in the hands of arrogant newcomers and a cold-hearted agent. One day he’s offered a job in a sex club, nothing graphic – just stand outside the door doing famous characters from history. 10000 euro per week! He can’t say no even if he feels humiliated and hates the job. Soon he finds himself in more and more violent situations, killing of people in the movie- and entertainment-business, often dressed like his characters. He’s becoming a killer, a killer of bad entertainment! But every job has plus and minuses, and this has a couple of VERY devilish minuses…

Written by Naschy, this is in a way the most daring and emotional “personal” and self-reflecting movie you will see. Much like Targets and Madhouse, this is a movie about the final days, or at least the golden years of a genre actor who just works because he must survive and seeks that extra boost to finally find inspiration again. Naschy has a sharp pen and the scathing criticism towards the celebrity culture, the obsession of youth and the shallow entertainment news is of course even more up-to-date now then it was in 2004.

Finally we can also see Naschy has “himself”, playing a character that’s not a monster under make-up or silly dialogue. This is him, doing a magnificent performance has a very vulnerable and frustrated man. The first scene when he’s doing an audition for a small movie part is painful to see. We sense that this is something that actually could have happen during the years when Naschy was a nobody, before he found his way back to the fans and audience.

Like the character of Thevenet the story and visuals get more and more abstract along the way, until we’re not sure what is fantasy and what is reality. Our hero finally gets his best actor prize in the end, and in real life he got the Time-Machine Honorary Award at the Sitges festival for his life-time achievement in movies.

Rojo Sangre is a fantastic final, big role for Naschy and he will live long after many other so called movie stars has left us.

Long Live Naschy!

Attack of the Puppet People (1958)

I’m not the first to admit that Attack of the Puppet People is a little bit misleading title. The correct title should be Escape of the Puppet People or something similar. But this does not stop this amazing little Bert I. Gordon production to be a wonderful popcorn movie, who actually in many ways is more interesting and sometimes more well-made than the awesome The Incredible Shrinking Man. Why? Because it dares to be more poetic in its theme and not just a voice-over orgy!

June Kenney is Sally Reynolds, secretary to the weird but nice dollmaker Mr Franz (John Hoyt). One day her fianceé, the excellent John Agar, dumps her and she start to suspect that Mr Franz has transformed him to a doll! Silly girl, and of course she goes to the police with this claim! No one believes her and just when she thinks she’s safe Mr Franz transforms her to a doll-sized little human! She reunites with her boyfriend and a bunch of other victims and together they try to escape from Mr Franz doll factory!

Attack of the Puppet People is much smaller (no pun intended) in as compared to The Incredible Shrinking Man, but the lack of “epicness” make it quite powerful. Most of the miniature-sequences are set on a table and the planning and discussions among the “dolls”. Mr Franz is in the other room talking to an old friend, while he thinks his little humans are dancing to some modern music and having a blast with mini-champagne. This an excellent idea and it works way better than it should, probably because of Mr B.I.G’s talent for entertainment value.

When Shrinking goes for adventure, Puppet People goes for dark theater. This could have been black, nasty surrealistic stage play. This could easily be done, if it was written for the stage, with projections, shadows and sound effects. The character of Mr Franz is easily the creepiest “mad scientist” I’ve seen, not because he’s wild and crazy but because of the opposite. He’s calm, he talks slow and carefully. He’s very polite, but deep inside he’s just a little girl who tortures her rabbits. It’s so clear, even in the emotional ending, that his problem is loneliess. His invention is just for his own pleasure, not to take over the world or be rich.

But the movie is filled with suspense and adventure that work, and I think you all will agree with me that when Agar in pure FURY rips a poor doll in small pieces, that’s the best scene ever shot in the history of fifties sci-fi movies from the US! It’s absurd, funny and a bit tragic at the same time.

Another fine piece of entertainment from Mr Bert I. Gordon.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Crocodile (1981)

If you wanna gaze into the face of insanity, Sompote Sands has the eyes to look into. Mr Sands had a dream, a dream to introduce Tokatsu and Kaiju to Thailand. He started of with a couple of crazy-ass monster movies, some of them with “stolen” footage from Kamen Rider and other Japanese TV-shows. These movies are a chaos of wild action, strange comedy, blood and rubbermonsters. The complete lack of storyline is actually relaxing and you don’t even need subtitles to be entertained. Somehow, in the end of the seventies, he decided to shoot a more serious monster film, Chorake (IMDB states that this was a south Korean monster movie, Agowa gongpo, directed by Won-se Lee – but I doubt that, but who knows?). This was later bought by the infamous Dick Randall who did a re-edit, dubbed it to English and slapped some generic western names on the poor Thai actors. The result became… Crocodile!

Nat Puvanai is hunky Dr Akom, who loses his whole family in a brutal crocodile-attack. He soon focuses his entire existence on finding the crocodile, finding a friend in Tanaka – a rough fisherman and hunter. At the meantime the crocodile grows larger and Larger and LARGER and soon he’s almost some damn Godzilla-version of a croc, literary crushing a couple of tourist-infested villages! Akom, Tanaka and a irritating journalist goes out at sea for a final showdown…

The story is very thin and it’s hard to understand what the fuck is going on. From the beginning it feels like a typical giant monster movie with a high body count and lots of action. The last half is almost identical to Jaws, with the three men against the shark… eh, crocodile. It took me a while – around seven to eight years – to actually watch the DVD, mostly because the quality was less than stellar. During these years I’ve seen movies in almost unwatchable quality, so this time it felt like Avatar in comparison! I haven’t seen Sands original cut, but I think this could be the better version, because I have a feeling the original movie probably was a bit longer (and believe me, this movie does not have to be longer) and with more focus on melodrama, and it already have enough of that.

The highlight is of course the monster action, and the two big set-pieces (probably shot at the same time, because the same people are showing up as victims) are two villages getting torn apart by the huge croc. This is entertaining as hell, with nice and primitive miniatures getting crushed and blown to pieces, lots of extras trying to escape collapsing buildings and more than a few western tourists spitting blood while trying to get out of the water. The effects might not be of the highest quality, but the energy is there and those scenes are filled with action and stunts!

One fun detail is that legendary ADR editor and voice actor Nick Alexander can be heard as one of the characters. I think this is the first time I've heard him in a movie outside Europe.

Crocodile was a lot more fun than I thought all those years ago when I began to watch it and I’m happy that I finally got the idea to give it a new try. Fun creature feature for us fans of Thai trash!

The Last Days of Pompeii (1984)

I’ve seen most of the screen versions of Edward George Bulwer-Lytton’s 1834 disaster novel classic with the same name. This is by far the best version, even if it’s still just a very expensive slice of Christian propaganda. I haven’t read the original book, but somehow it feels like it could have been the forefather to all the disaster clichés. Sure, there have been a few other early disaster movies that helped the film industry to design all future movies in the same genre (1933’s Deluge, San Francisco, 1936), but this has always been the mother of them all. Why? Because it has a fantastic gallery of stereotypes, from the evil non-christian priest, the proud slave, the good-hearted roman, the leader of the city that just want to please people with parties and fun, the old fart that knows everything etc etc.

Like almost all the other versions we mainly follow the noble Greek Glaucus, the up-and-coming capitalist Diomed and the good gladiator Lydon. All around these characters are a jungle of other personalities, all with their own agenda. But the main thing is the secret group of Christians that fight for their survival, both hiding in the forest having meetings and in the arena versus warriors and lions. It’s all pretty clear that the reason why Vesuvius finally erupt is because of the evil heretics who want to stop the good-hearted Christians from worshipping their god.

Anyway, this is a co-production between Italy and the US and has an impressive cast of heavy character actors: Ned Beatty, Laurence Olivier, Anthony Quayle, Brian Blessed, Ernest Borgnine, Olivia Hussey, Lesley-Anne Down and two very familiar faces from Italian genre movies, the great Catriona MacColl and the awesome Franco Nero – both make probably the best performances in the series. A young and very sexy Benedict Taylor plays a future priest that has doubts about his profession. Olivier is for once really good, even if he uses all his traditional acting-tricks in the book (his use of eyes, the tongue, the nervous laughter etc). Ned Beatty and Ernest Borgnine, both of them good actors, are obviously playing the same parts like they have done so many times before, but it works.

The story unfolds slow and with a lot of dialogue and melodrama, but strange enough it never gets boring. Peter R. Hunt, the work-horse of British cinema, makes the story work without to much boring talking heads and shows his talent for action (this is the guy directing On Her Majesty's Secret Service, no surprise!) especially in the excellent gladiator-scenes.

But the reason for a production to exist is of course the final scenes should deliver something extra spectacular. I’m happy to say this version has the best and longest volcano eruption with fantastic use of both real sets falling apart and nice miniature getting crushed. This is also, I think, the only version I’ve seen so far were we actually see people (and animals) getting buried in the ashes (in dramatic poses, probably inspired by the archaeological excavations which made Pompeii famous). The special effects is top-notch and among the best I’ve seen in a TV-production from this time.

Right now you can only buy this mini-series in Germany. The set is quite cheap and is worth every penny. Quality? Ok, nothing fancy, but works fine on my big Sony Bravia. A must of disaster movie aficionados.

Friday, June 24, 2011

The Hanzo Trilogy (1972-1974)

It took me a while to actually watch the Hanzo films, but when I finally sat down it was something that was hard to stop watching. Shot between 1972 and 1974 and produced by legendary actor Shintarô Katsu’s own production company, it’s easy to get the feeling that this was a 100 % ego-trip for the eccentric actor mostly famous for his characters Zatôichi (which he played in 27 movies) and Lone Wolf. Maybe he took the chance to be a troublemaker, and somehow I think Hanzo is a slightly exaggerated version of himself: brutal, almost too self-confident, a sexual force, a hero and someone that other obviously was afraid of.

The first movie, Sword of Justice, has a weaker storyline than part 2 and 3, but very effectively sets upp the persona of Hanzo. A sado-masocist, a rapist, a torturer and someone who just don’t give a fuck about his bosses. He’s in charge and he knows it. He has enough dirt on anyone so they just leave him alone. In the second part he pretends to take hara-kiri just to scare his bosses, and this very brutal manipulation goes on one time after another. In the end of the slightly vague first movie (storywise) he stands on a big map, looking out in his town. It’s a powerful image that both evokes American cop shows and the departure from realism that you can find in mangas, comic books – when we suddenly leave the “real” environment to be in something that only can be show literary.

When the second movie starts we already know Hanzo, we’re aware of his fondness for penis-pounding, that he prefer raping women to tell them the truth (and of course he’s so good at it that they love it). The Snare, as the second movies titles is, starts with a dead woman – probably after a failed abortion, found in a mill. This leads Hanzo into a dark path, a combination between murder mystery and conspiracy. His trademark of killing enemies inside his trap-filled house is here and the sex is getting more intensive and violent. This sets a theme, money and gold, which leads into the third movie, “Who’s got the gold?” which starts in bit comical way when Hanzo wants to have sex with a ghost. He and his two servants found out that she’s not a real ghost, but placed there to scare of people to find some hidden gold – but who has stolen the gold and why is it hidden down in a lake?

I’ve heard the third movie is the weakest, but I’m not sure I can agree on that. The only weakness is that we know Hanzo’s character so well that nothing comes as a surprise. What makes it better is how much more intensive he’s decided to find out who the guilty is, including hiding in a closet for days until he can get clues he needs. One detail that I find interesting his how his servants are talking about him getting tired of women, because he seem to protect a man instead. Then they start to laugh and look at each other and say “But he has us!”, which points to the concept that he actually uses them sexually when he wants it. The affection he shows the inventor, the man he hides in his attic, is also a bit off compared to the two first adventures.

In the end the stories isn’t the most important thing with the Hanzo films. It’s the concept of being totally un-respectful at authorities, at least from Hanzo’s point of view. According to him they are just humans, greedy humans, and should be treated the way they deserve. He shows more respect towards thieves and killers, maybe because he can see himself in them. The Hanzo films are radical, both sexually (the sex scenes almost boarders to the absurd, the comical) and politically. The violence is graphic and bloody. Let me also say that it’s the third movie that has the most impressive and well-choreographed sword-scenes in the whole series, which people tend to forget when they say it’s the weakest part.

The Hanzo films are Japanese classics with a stunning performance by Katus and the rest of the actors. They are perfectly created sado-masocistic fantasies from the mind of Japanest biggest troublemaker. After a life of drugs, sex and getting into fights with Kurusawa, the great Shintarô Katsu died of cancer in 1997.

What a guy, what a guy…

Friday, June 17, 2011

Taring (2010)

From legendary production company Rapi Film (Queen of Black Magic, The Warrior, The Devil’s Sword and tons of other cult classics) comes a new latex-filled night of terror, Taring! Shot in the jungles of Indonesia and a cast of über-slim photo models with tons of make-up and couple of guys thrown in for the sake of being meat, this is a mix of typical Indonesian folklore, The Descent and every movie with photo models in peril! Hardly a masterpiece, but well worth watching.

A new day for our anoretic superstars, a new location – this time in the dangerous Werenggi forest! Perfect place, beautiful scenery – but also haunted and forbidden for children and pregnant women to enter! The locals almost run away in fear when they realize that bloodshed will come, but our street-smart shallow crew of fashion-experts just does not care. After a day of photography the night comes, and also the nasty creatures of the forest…

Taring is a good-looking production, low-budget but ambitious. Shot on HD and with a cast of cute actors and actresses. The cast is actually not bad. They are likable and have some depth. The typical gay make-up artist (“Cici”) is not too irritating and it has some character-twist which works better that it should. But it’s not a fanastic movie, it’s just a by-the-book people-getting-eaten-by-monsters which has a slightly more exotic setting then the normal US produced DTV movie.

It’s never determined if the monsters are some kind of mutated people or demons, or ghosts – but they really look cool. Slim, long hair and naked, with glowing eyes in the dark and big teeth. Sometime they walk on all four with their back facing the ground (just like the deleted spider walk in The Exorcist). They reminded me of the Swedish supernatural being Näcken (a water spirit) because of their fondness for sitting on a rock staring at their victims at first.

As usual the weakest thing with a movie like this is the generic plotline and maybe a bit sloppy editing/directing during a few of the horror scenes. One clip with a creature is used a couple of times for example. What they really succeed in is the darkness surrounding the camp, with creatures looking at them from the the bushes and trees. The gore is a bit up and down in quality. It’s latex all the way through, but cheap and maybe not that detailed. But it’s still bloody and quite graphic, lots of intestines and spurting blood.

Taring is a fun movie, never boring and gory. I’m sure fans of newer and older Indonesian genre cinema will appreciate this movie from Rapi Films!

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Evil Cat (1987)

Directed by Dennis Yu, famous for giving the world The Beasts, Evil Cat is another extremely entertaining crazy motherf**ker of a movie. You know the stuff that only could have been made in Hong Kong during the eighties. Produced by trash-maestro Jing Wong (a very underrated filmmaker by the way), this delivers a lot of stuff in it’s running time and even have time to throw in some minor gore and of course the traditional, and unavoidable, slapstick.

A cat-demon has been chasing a family for ages now, but has not been visible for 50 years. That’s because the last one fighting the cat managed to lock it inside a well and then put a big stone plate on top of the well, with some useful magic spells written on it. A nice trick to keep demons, ghosts and other irritating and slightly dangerous beings far away. But of course, as you might have guessed, the cat is unleashed again after some curious workers decide to take a look under the stone plate and everyone is once again in danger! This time its Master Cheung (Chia-Liang Liu) who needs to fight the demon, and he get good help from Long (Mark Cheng) who’s boss was the first one to get possessed and also are in danger of being killed!

Like many Hong Kong movies, especially in the horror genre, from this time I’ve experienced that the first half often is filled with scenes to make the movie longer, and so even with Evil Cat. Not that this is a bad thing, because if the filler scenes is good then I’ll totally buy it. Evil Cat really becomes a great movie after 45 minutes when the action is larger, the violence is more graphic and the tension is higher. The cat itself is a possessed woman for the most of the time, screaming and roaring, using its hands/paws to kill and decapitate. The stunts are well-made and the fighting filled with energy without being similar to Jackie Chan and his brothers in martial arts cinema. This feels more like old-school kung fu, but with colorful lights pumping in the background and hairs bigger than a real cat.

The ending is the true highlight of the movie, and if I may go so far: a classic scene. The cat-demon has materilized once more and is killing her way through the police station. Lots of squibs, two more gory scenes and some very fine action. It’s very eighties, very colorful and very good entertaining. A perfect sibling to the police station scene in Lady Terminator (which is a LOT gorier, so don’t expect a similar bloodbath).

Out on a cheap and widescreen DVD from Fortune Star and a must buy for everyone into weird and crazy Hong Kong horrors!

Friday, June 10, 2011

Bloodrayne: The Third Reich (2010)

The name Uwe Boll still angers people with no life. Personally I always liked his slightly demented approach to anger the game nerds all over the world, maybe because I feel no connection at all to gaming and everything around it. It just does not matter if he changes everything in a game when he’s turning it into a movie, as long it entertains me. The last couple of years Mr Boll has been doing other movies, not connected to games, and some of them are very impressive: Seed, Tunnel Rats, Stoic, Rampage… and hell yeah, even craziest stuff like the first Bloodrayne and Far Cry is worth watching because of their mindless violence.

While the first sequel to Bloodrayne was a good-looking b-movie (and well-made) it lacked the energy and the massive gore that the first movie had. Thankfully Boll tries to give us fans of the red juice a little bit more of that in the second sequel, Bloodrayne: The Third Reich. The movie, which is mostly about Bloodrayne killing Nazis and Michael Paré turning into a nazi-vampire, feels hurried and a bit sloppy. This is quite natural because Boll shot three movies at the same time! A drama-documentary about Auschwitz and a something that looks like Bloodrayne, but a bit chubbier: Blubberella.

I never really cared of focusing on the bad things in a movie, but I need to say that our beloved Clint Howard feels a bit weak in one of the bigger parts as Doctor Mangler. Now, like all of us, I love him – but he’s never been a great actor and tends to mostly read the lines in a mechanical way. He’s in the movie to much, but I think this is because they needed to fill the story more and more with dialogue to make the movie longer (it’s very short now, 75 minutes). The final action scene is not as spectacular as I wanted it to be, but delivers some fun.

The best thing with Bloodrayne: The Third Reich is Michael Paré who became a regular in Boll’s movies over the years. He’s a good heavy and looks fresh and healthy and wears his fangs and vampire make-up perfectly. Natassia Malthe is back as Rayne and I always felt she’s better suited for the part than Kristanna Loken. She’s handling the fighting and sword-wielding a lot better anyway.

As usual, even with a low budget, Boll handles the action good and there’s a lot more blood than in part two. A ripped belly and one graphic decapitation is the only thing we get when it comes to more classic gore, but it’s better than nothing.

I would love to see more WWII action from Uwe, but with a higher budget. His style feels very European and fits the grey eastern block perfectly. Like part two not a masterpiece, but a fun time-waster with some blood and tits. The ending is open for a part 3 and I think that would be a good idea, because that scene teasing Rayne vs Hitler is something I would like to see.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

The Last Dinosaur (1977)

I heard some bad things about The Last Dinosaur, but to be fair, it’s a pretty good dinosaur-adventure which got its reputation from the uneven special effects. I would say The Last Dinosaur just is rubbermonster-impaired flick, a movie which is far more ambitious than people even can imagine. It recently got a very nice DVD-R release from Warner Archive, in a nice widescreen print and also in the long original cinema-version. I can already say now, if you enjoy the rubbermonster-mayhem’s directed by Kevin Connor and starring Doug McClure, this is the movie for you.

A visibly drunk Richard Boone is Masten Thrust Jr, the richest man in the world. I’m not sure what his talent was that made him so rich, but he seem to spend most of his time hunting down endangered animals and putting them on display in his living room. But now he has a new goal, to kill… eh, study the last dinosaur in the world! So in his underwater-submarine-drilling-thingie he, Joan Van Ark, the excellent Steven Keats and (he always scream it out loud) BUNTA! (Luther Rackley) travels to Japan and to the lost world! But soon the expedition ends in disaster and Thrust is getting more and more obsessed with killing the dinosaur than just studying it, which – to say the least – causes some tension in the group.

I was prepared for a bad movie, a silly movie, and in the beginning it really felt that this was going to happen. Richard Boone look and acts like a drunk disaster behind sunglasses, stumbles on his lines (at one point he even stops acting and turns to read the script – but they use this is in editing) and is terrible. All of this is in interior shots, but somehow – when the exteriors come – he manages to actually do a good job again and the longer the script goes, the darker his character gets and also Richard Boone’s performance.

The special effects is actually nothing special or unique for us aficionado’s of Japanese monster movies. They are hokey and silly, very unconvincing, but still has that fantastic charm that only Japanese monsters can have. The suit-actors do a good job and makes us believe in what we see, even if it’s never convincing. The script is the most interesting thing. While I’m not buying young attractive blondes getting horny on old drunken Boone, his character is well-written and the tension between him and the younger members of the expedition is quite complex. In the end, it’s a very good ending by the way, it’s very clear that The Last Dinosaur probably his as much him as the dinosaur. Two dinosaurs who done their job, one last time.

If you can stand the sight of the token black guy with the name BUNTA, Japanese extras dressed as cavemen and Richard Boone going from crap to really good over the course of one single feature length movie, this is something for you. And yes, if you love rubbery dinosaurs in every corner of the frame. A movie for me, I guess.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

The Werewolf and the Magic Sword (1983)

Count Waldemar Daninsky is back in action, in another dimension of his life. Yeah, another backstory, another ending, another in-between. Just the way we want it. The only really bad thing with The Werewolf and the Magic Sword is that they can’t have a motor trouble on a forest road and getting attacked by gangster, until Paul Naschy comes and saves them. Like in all of his other movies.

Bascially Paul Naschy did movies about himself, by himself and around his own persona. Very few actors can handle this egomaniacal trip (look at Tom Cruise), but Naschy has such a cool charisma, nice beard and wide chest that he can do this completely without shame. This is about him fucking maidens, if you cut away the horror parts.

In this part of the saga Daninsky and some Hungarian chick travels to Japan to find a cure for his werewolfness. But like Europe, Japan is one of those parts of the worlds where the full moon appears several times a week and this means Daninsky gets a lot of yellow flesh to eat and lots of virgin-blood to suck (I’m sure those samurais were virgins to!). They meet up and be-friends Kian (Shigeru Amachi) who soon feels guilty over not stopping Daninsky’s slaughter of the proud Japanese people. The only salvation is an evil witch… but first some maidens to make love to!

Here we have a Daninsky-movie with, it seem, higher budget and longer shooting schedule. It’s a more even movie than some of the other flicks he made during the same period, but my main complain is that it’s slightly too long. There are one or two scenes to much of him trying to get someone in bed or just walking around whining about his werewolf-illness. The werewolf action is nice, with the normal amounts of blood and with a couple of very entertaining sequences when Naschy burst into a room (or camp), just throwing people in every direction and spitting blood. Pure poetry.

Naschy is one of those actors that live on his charisma and big ego, because in his case it never was a problem with a big ego. It just made everything he did even better, more colorful and spectacular. The Werewolf and the Magic Sword is not his best movie, but it’s a good-looking production with nice production values and Naschy having a ball in the Japanese setting.

As usual, it’s recommended to everyone with a great taste in movies – and awesome Spanish macho-actors.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

The Exorcist III: Cries and Shadows (1975)

Okey, I’m silly with keeping this title, The Exorcist III: Cries and Shadows, but it’s a helluva lot more fun than Naked Exorcism or The Last Exorcist, and I never cared of using the original title if there’s an English to use. Using the original title is more of a way to say “Hey, I know better than all of you and I just copied the title from IMDB anyway because I can hardly spell to my own name”. You know the people doing this, so I refuse to be one of those. This is a very crude cash-in on The Exorcist, with very little finesse but still a few fun ideas here and there.

A teenager boy, Piero (Jean-Claude Vernè) photographs – he think – a naked woman at a lake. But the negatives reveal nothing. This could just be a spooky thing, easily forgotten, if it wasn’t for Piero getting stranger and stranger. He sees visions of orgies, satanic rituals and the same woman. His mother encounters the woman several times in the house, being brutally attacked every time. Piero’s decent into madness/demonic possession is told through flashbacks and in the end an exorcist shows up and saves the day…or?

Damn, this was a sleazy movie. Very sleazy. Not worthless, but very uneven and filled with pointless talking-heads and way too many shots of young Piero’s cameltoe. On the other side, the flashbacks to the orgy is fun and very naked and the movie as one gory death-scene. The set-up is quite ambitious really, like the filmmakers actually had a somewhat serious plan with the movie, but stumbling half-way because of their own incompetence. The great final is just a couple of paintings falling down from the wall, some screaming and puking and a bed floating around above the floor, but nothing spectacular and it’s a bit of an anti-climax. There’s a easily forgotten twist-ending and some good music, but that’s about it.

Richard Conte, the former Hollywood-star, makes his last performance in a role that could have starred literary everyone else close to the movie-set. I guess they just needed some extra starpower and Mr Conte a couple of quick dollaros to fly home to LA again and die.

I would probably buy it if it was released on a good-looking DVD, but until then I doubt I will ever watch it again.

Monday, June 6, 2011

House by the Cemetery Revisited – The Christian Version (2010)

Last years this abomination of Christian propaganda was released (or unleashed) on DVD and download and to be honest, House by the Cemetery Revisited – The Christian Version is probably the worst piece of shit I’ve seen. And I’ve seen a few crappy productions. But still, I like watching wrecked religious propaganda, especially as harmless as this one.

What we have here is Lucio Fulci’s “italion” masterpiece House by the Cemetery, re-edited and raped by a guy named Jeff Teck. Why? I have no idea, but he obviously does not know shit about editing, spelling and hell yeah, even propaganda! Most of the gore is cut, there’s pointless signs with messages (think “silent movie”) with a burning background – often with more fucked up spelling problems than you can find on my own blog here. Big chunks of the story are gone and in one place, which is absurdly funny, a new voice-over is added to enhance the Christian message of this former splatter-classic.

The DVD is a terrible non-anamorphic low-resolution version of House with some terrible digital artefacts, which of course makes this disaster even more entertaining. But wait, it’s actually worth watching just because how crappy it is. It’s rarely a recommend a movie because of this, but this is especially fun for atheists like me, who wants to make fun of religious wackos or just people who want to see their favourite horror movie raped beyond recognition.

After 52 minutes of pure shit Mr Teck finally hits the big time with probably the craziest ending I’ve seen since Takashi Miike’s Dead or Alive 2: Birds. He also dubbed in his own voice again in the final together with some fantastic home-made digital effects and the worst... ah, I don’t want to spoil that last minute of ending for you. Don’t buy it, find a free download somewhere and enjoy this important part of Christian propaganda history!

A special thanks go to Jocke over at RUBBERMONSTERFETISHISM for lending me this masterpiece.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Order No. 027 (1986)

It’s not everyday you see a North Korean action movie. Well, it’s not everyday you see a North Korean movie! The obviously have a big film production in NK, but very few of these flicks finds their way out from the country and therefore it’s hard to get a clear look at the NK film history, from a point of view that’s not pure propaganda. I’m sure we all understand that every country has it’s propaganda, but it’s rare to see movies were the heroes are the “commies”! Order No. 027 is one of those movies were everything seem upside down, but still is very close to our own western action movies (and Hong Kong and Japanese cinema). At a first glance Order No. 027 is a typical men-on-a-mission movie, just like Where Eagles Dare, Inglorious Bastards, Kelly’s Heroes and so on…

The heroes in this movie are a gang of North Korean super-soldiers, experts in martial arts and using guns and knives. They are on a mission into South Korea to get some secret plans… or something, but it’s important and will protect their fatherland from the hairy, dirty South Korean bastards! But the baddies are getting closer and soon our heroes have to protect themselves with fists, kicks and everything else around them – including a fork!

This is of course mixed with a heavy dose of propaganda, but not much more than what we’ve seen in US movies from the same time and earlier. But what’s more important, Order No. 027 has a big amount of violent and spectacular action scenes. Here the filmmakers don’t shy away from showing of some amazing stunts, explosions, full-contact fighting which seem to be a mix of Jackie Chan, Bruce Lee, Sonny Chiba and even some of Panna Rittikrai’s early action-movies. We’re not talking realism here, but the fights are still brutal and hits hard against all body parts. I think we have three or four major action set-pieces. All of them are very well-made, but my favourite must be the jazz-club brawl which is like a less-rehearsed Jackie Chan-movie with people crashing down from the second floor through tables, some advanced fork-throwing and a couple of seconds of John Woo-esque shoot-outs.

In one scene a soldier almost gets super-powers when he fights faster and faster (with speeding up the movie) and here and there the fighting goes into game-territory when they loop the same hit over and over again. Awesome is the word. Quite impressive is also the long, one-take fights which occurs from time to time. Not much fast-editing at all, but like in the Thai cinema you will see everything in its violent glory.

Order No. 027 is a violent, endlessly entertaining action movie which should be a blast for anyone interesting in Asian jungle action, martial arts and war-movies. Switch the North Korean symbols to any other country and there’s not much difference in propaganda and still a helluva lot more entertaining than everything Chuck Norris ever done.

Friday, June 3, 2011

The Terror of the Tongs (1961)

Hardly the best of Hammers long line of fantastic cinema, but in the middle of the crude portrays of Asians and weak script there’s a quite entertaining slice of a small-scale adventure. Written by the great Jimmy Sangster the script hardly lives up to his usual genius, but I wonder if it wasn’t edited down by someone else before shooting began? I have no idea, but something is clearly missing.

The year in 1910 and Geoffrey Toone (a real bore) is Captain Sale, who has lived in Hong Kong the last fifteen years together with his daughter, the cute and adorable Helena (Barbara Brown, who died very early, in 1975 – anyone know how and why?). On the latest route he befriends Mr Ming (Burt Kwouk) who smuggles a piece of paper into a book, a gift to Helena. Hours later his brutally killed in the Hong Kong harbour by a member of the Tongs. Soon the good captain realized that he and his familyn is in danger to, because the Tong wants that paper and they’re doing everything to get it!

Beware, spoilers ahead!

Shot in studio with some random stock footage from Hong Kong, The Terror of the Tongs is not a bad movie, but feels very uneven – mostly because the script almost completely lacks any kind of logical behaviour. It must have been a lazy day for Sangster when he wrote it. The biggest problem is when Captain Sale’s daughter is killed, which by itself is quite surprising, but the aftermath is so underwhelming that it’s like the captain almost don’t care that his daughter has been brutally murdered! He shows no emotions, and it’s not because he’s in shock – it’s just badly written. But still, he wants to take revenge and starts to pentrate the Hong Kong underworld of criminals and gangs, which could have been a lot more exiting than how it became. Instead he walks around like he’s sleepwalking and talks to British actors dressed like Chinese. And that’s about it.

The movie has some highlights of course. Christoper Lee as the evil mastermind Chung King is great, and the only of the British actors that comes out with his dignity intact with Chinese make-up. Probably because he skips the silly accent and walks like a normal human being. Burt Kwouk is good, as usual, but has a small part. The ultra-cool Milton Reid does one of his classic henchmen and he’s a blast as usual. Marne Maitland is excellent to, but that’s about it.

But the production looks good, if not a bit stiff, and the violence is not especially graphic, but still quite violent for it’s time. Not the best or most memorable Hammer-movie, but worth watching if you like Christopher Lee and British character actors making a fool of themselves dressed like Chinese.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

The Ultimate Warrior (1975)

Now, this is what I call a movie. Robert Clouse, the magnificent director behind Enter the Dragon never managed to repeat that success, but made one after another of competent action movies until his death in 1997. The legend says he was almost completely deaf and relied more on visuals than dialogue, but having competent co-workers controlling how the dialogue and the rest of the sound worked. The Ultimate Warrior is in a way pretty unique. It came several years before the big post-apocalyptic boom, but I’m sure it was inspired by The Omega Man, Soylent Green and The Last Man On Earth. Most of all it reminds me of The Omega Man, with similar locations and here with a group of people holding stand against the raving maniacs outside the barricades. But I would say this is a much better movie than Chuck Heston’s movie.

After a plague most of the earth is dead, that includes everything from humans to plants. The place is New York and Baron (Max von Sydow), a hippie-style self-proclaimed leader is holding up against the violent gang lead by Carrot (William Smith) on the outside and people who just seem to be desperate and crazy. They live their little nice life in there, but what Carrot does not know is that they’ve become fewer and fewer. They need a warrior, and there’s where Carson (Yul Brynner) comes in. But Baron has other plans, he’s not planning to use Carson to protect their little village, but to escape from New York with his pregnant daughter together with seeds and start a new life. This is of course not approved by the other members of the community and as their relationship with Baron falls apart Carrot and his gang is getting closer to get inside the compound…

This is a very gritty movie, probably quite low budget too, shot on left-over sets at some studio area. The houses looks a bit to TV-movie for me, but maybe they’re the real thing. But f**k that, it’s still a gritty f**ker of a movie. After watching Clouse’s martial arts flicks this could come as a disappointment, but the fighting is just very different – maybe even “realistic”. It’s mostly Yul Brynner (who looks great, pushing closer to sixty here) stabbing bad guys in different ways, and it feels convincing. It’s not beautiful, but in a movie like this the violence shouldn’t be beautiful to watch.

What’s even more interesting is the character of Baron (or The Baron) and his people. Obviously a hippie-collective, but still a clear fascist mini-state. If someone steals something the punishment is hard and cruel, which suddenly change the tone of the movie when it happens. I like how we’re fooled to believe how good they have it inside the village, but they are basically the same like the wacko’s on the outside – just more organized and clean.

But the best thing is the actors – which also includes a very young Stephen McHattie. Max Von Sydow do one of his finest characters from his seventies career, with a weird mix of warmth and complete coldness. But the big thing with The Ultimate Warrior is the two macho men vs each other, William Smith and Yul Brynner. Both do excellent work here, Smith as his usual psycho and Brynner as a strangely emotionless gun-for-hire. The start of the movie is iconic, with Brynner standing on top of the entrance to the subway (or maybe it’s a phone booth?) waiting for something to hire him. I will steal that sometime in one of my own works.

The Ultimate Warrior is a very underrated piece of work and once again shows the talent of Robert Clouse as a master storyteller. For fans of Yul Brynner, William Smith and post-apocalyptic movies this is essential viewing.