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Now You See Me (2013)
Izzy, wizzy, let's get busy!
A team of Las Vegas illusionists called The Four Horsemen pull off a series of spectacular heists, donating their ill-gotten gains to their needy audiences.
I cannot say that I wasn't entertained to some degree by Now You See Me's sheer preposterousness: I find it hard to completely hate unabashed nonsense on such a grand scale. Clearly, the film's greatest trick was getting the green-light in the first place. I'd like to know how they did that!
Ridiculous plot twists abound, countless scenes are left unexplained, and characters conveniently behave exactly as the convoluted plot demands. It's all so far-fetched, and yet played with such seriousness, I was sure there would be an incredibly clever and hugely satisfying pay-off that would make it all worthwhile. Sadly, director Louis Leterrier fails to pull the rug from under the viewer's feet with a mind-blowingly brilliant ending. What he actually delivers is even more ludicrous than all that has gone before. And that takes some doing.
Le foto di Gioia (1987)
Bees, bees, bees, I'm looking for a good time.
Lamberto Bava is nowhere near as well-respected a film-maker as his father, having directed some real stinkers in his time (Devouring Waves and La Maschera del Demonio, to name two of his abominations); however, he occasionally rises to the occasion, such as with this enjoyable late '80s giallo that has plenty to recommend it.
The plot is a typical convoluted murder mystery in which a mysterious killer targets glamour models working for an adult magazine owned by curvaceous beauty Gloria (Serena Grandi). There are suspects aplenty, making it fun to try and figure out the identity of the killer (good luck with that... as with many a giallo, the killer is someone very unlikely and their motive even harder to guess). While the murders are relatively tame for the genre, two of them are made extremely memorable by the fact that the killer's POV portrays the victims as bizarre mutations: one girl is seen with a giant, veiny eye for a face, while another (played by Italian pop sensation Sabrina Salerno) is depicted with a bee's head (and is stung to death by a swarm of the insects!).
In addition to an enjoyably absurd plot and the freakish hallucinations, we also get a ton of gratuitous female nudity (mostly from Grandi, although Sabrina fans will also be happy), making the film a delightfully sleazy affair. Chuck in neat supporting roles for Italian exploitation actor George Eastman and Argento regular Diaria Nicolodi, and what you have is a thoroughly entertaining, occasionally stylish (Gloria being stalked through a department store is a well-handled, suspenseful highlight) and not-at-all-stinky thriller.
RED 2 (2013)
More of the same.
RED 2 sees old-timer ex-black-ops CIA agent Frank (Bruce Willis) reuniting with his ex-colleagues to try and find a missing nuclear device that was smuggled into Moscow in the '70s. Also along for the ride is Frank's girlfriend Sarah (Mary-Louise Parker), who can't get enough of the exciting espionage lifestyle. Meanwhile, numerous people try to kill Frank and his pals.
Let's be honest, people don't generally watch this kind of film for the plot (which is a good thing because the story for RED 2 is a forgettable, scattershot affair, leaping all over the place): they watch it for the all-star cast - which this time around features Anthony Hopkins, David Thewlis, Catherine Zeta Jones, and Byung-hun Lee - and for the ridiculous action scenes, of which there are plenty.
Fans of the first film will no doubt have a blast as this film delivers the same mix of comedy and violence as the first film, with highlights being Han destroying numerous vehicles with a mini gun, a car chase through Paris, and an exciting high speed pursuit down a British motorway. Like the original, this sequel is perhaps a touch too long at almost two hours, but the rapid pace and constant change of scenery ensures a consistently fun time for the duration.
6.5 out of 10 for Byung-hun Lee: he might have been included to appeal to the Asian market, but he's easily the best thing about the film, the Korean actor shining brighter than the Hollywood stars.
Old, but not past it.
Retired CIA black-ops agent Frank Moses (Bruce Willis) seeks help from his old colleagues when he finds himself the target of a hit team.
There's a scene in RED (which stands for Retired: Extremely Dangerous) where John Malkovich's character fires a single bullet at a rocket propelled grenade heading his way; the two projectiles hit each other, the resulting explosion killing the woman who fired the RPG. It's that kind of film.
If you can accept the ridiculousness of the action in this all-star geriatric espionage caper, then there's a reasonable amount of fun to be had despite a rather unexceptional and instantly forgettable plot (apparently based on a DC graphic novel). With such names as Helen Mirren, Bruce Willis, Richard Dreyfuss, Karl Urban, Ernest Borgnine, Malkovich and Morgan Freeman on board for the ride, and a hefty dose of the aforementioned OTT violence, the film is never boring, even with a slightly overlong running time of 111 minutes.
At the end of the day, RED features Willis and Urban in a fist fight to Aerosmith's Back in the Saddle, and Mirren firing a large-caliber machine gun, and sometimes that is all you need for an entertaining time.
6.5 out of 10, rounded up to 7 for IMDb.
The Dark (1979)
No lights, camera, action!
An alien lands in Los Angeles and proceeds to decapitate humans using its laser-beam eyes.
A change of director mid-production (Tobe 'Texas Chain Saw Massacre' Hooper replaced by John 'Bud' Cardos) and a last-minute alteration to the plot (the original script's zombie replaced by a nasty extraterrestrial) undoubtedly contributed to The Dark's failure as an effective horror movie. But the worst thing about the film is the fact that it more than lives up to its title by being extremely dark, making it a real strain on the eyes throughout.
It's a shame, because there's a fun film in there trying to get out: Cardos isn't a 'great' director, but he's more than capable of delivering an entertaining B-movie as evidenced by his Kingdom of the Spiders and Mutant. The cast is also pretty good for this kind of fare, with William Devane and Cathy Lee Crosby making affable leads, and Richard Jaeckel suitably stoic as the beleaguered cop on the case Det. Dave Mooney. Also surprisingly good is Roger Kellaway's soundtrack, with dischordant music and eerie whispering voices providing plenty of atmosphere.
4.5 out of 10, rounded up to 5 for the pew pew alien eyeball police massacre at the end.
Death by floating coffin!
Not to be confused with the 1974 Pete Walker horror film of the same name, Norman Thaddeus Vane's Frightmare is a goofy little film, the strange plot, weird atmosphere and offbeat performances resulting in a film that, while not particularly effective as a horror (genuine scares are in short supply), almost demands cult status.
The silly story sees ageing horror star Conrad Radzoff (Ferdinand Mayne, doing an amusing pastiche of Christopher Lee) bumping off two of his directors, one past and one present, before finally shuffling off this mortal coil himself. Soon after, Conrad's eternal peace is rudely interrupted by members of the local horror film society, who break into the actor's mausoleum and steal his corpse, treating it with a considerable lack of respect. When the horror star's wife is alerted to the fact that Conrad's body has gone missing, she hires a medium to contact her husband's spirit, and instructs him to return from the dead and teach the impudent scallywags a valuable lesson.
So what makes this film so batty? Well, for starters, Conrad's mausoleum is a high-tech marble monstrosity that makes bleepy computer sounds and comes complete with a neon sign, a motion activated video screen, and a vent that spews toxic gas. And when the crazy film kids get Conrad back to theirs, what do they do? Well, they invite him to dinner, dance with him and pose for photos with their idol. The death scenes are also a mite strange, the weirdest one seeing Conrad levitating his coffin to bash in a girl's head.
Without a doubt, the best thing about the whole film is Mayne's performance: whether it be alive as a hammy horror actor, or stone cold dead and motionless as a cadaver, he is utterly convincing and quite beguiling. Unfortunately, whenever Mayne is off-screen, the film is almost as lifeless as his character's corpse.
4.5 out of 10, rounded up to 5 for the brief topless nudity from Donna McDaniel and the nice and bloody decapitation of a young Jeffrey Combs.
Luther the Geek (1989)
Clucking good fun.
Deranged killer Luther Watts (Edward Terry) is given parole and immediately returns to his favourite pastimes: acting like a chicken and chewing out the throats of people with his metal dentures. Making his way to a remote farmhouse, he terrorises the occupants, mother Hilary (Joan Roth), her scrumdiddlyumptious teenage daughter Beth (Stacy Haiduk) and Beth's boyfriend Rob (Thomas Mills).
What Luther the Geek lacks in the way of densely plotted narrative, it more than makes up for in boobs, blood, and sheer nastiness. Those who enjoy a spot of female nudity to go with their horror will be delighted by a completely gratuitous shower scene in which Beth is joined by the understandably eager Rob. Miss Haiduk's ample charms are what the rewind and pause buttons were invented for. As far as the gore goes, there are lots of ragged, spurting neck wounds, Rob has his still beating heart and guts torn from his body, and a rather inept cop (Jerry Clarke) gets his finger bitten off before he too has his throat ventilated. And what could be more mean spirited than the lovely Beth being brutally beaten to death by the clucking maniac? I was genuinely upset (what a waste!).
Director Carlton J. Albright achieves quite a bit of tension in the last act, in which Hilary and the cop decide to fight back, and even though this dread is derived from some extremely questionable decisions by both characters, it works well enough. In a delightfully absurd finale, a mentally fragile Hilary converses with Luther in chicken speak, an act that causes the killer to strut around like a proud cockerel, and which gives the poor woman just enough time to reach for her rifle.
Slaughterhouse Rock (1988)
The makers of this mess deserve to do time for crimes against horror.
San Franciscan teen Alex Gardner (Nicholas Celozzi) suffers from recurring dreams in which he is menaced by a demon in an abandoned prison. He consults Carolyn Harding, an expert in such matters, who believes that the dreams are calling him to Alcatraz. Together with Carolyn, his brother Richard (Tom Reilly) and a group of friends, Alex visits the infamous island where he encounters the spirit of dead rocker Sammy Mitchell (Toni Basil), who helps him to defeat the evil spirit of a cannibalistic commandant.
Slaughterhouse Rock is one of those incoherent '80s horror movies that feels like it was made up on the fly. Trashy schlock with a surfeit of mullets, neon lighting and bad synth music, the film makes very little sense, and tries to compensate with gratuitous nudity and gore. It's such a hot mess that, very occasionally, it succeeds in entertaining, but for the most part it proves to be a muddled, aimless, and rather tedious crapfest, the most horrific aspect being Toni Basil's garish outfits.
Nudity: Hope Marie Carlton, as Richard's girlfriend Krista, flashes her ta-tas several times and strips to her scanties.
Goriest moments: Alex dreams that he has his hand cut off and has his chest ripped open. One of the friends is punched through his head. Krista has her neck chewed open.
Silliest moment: Toni Basil doing a ridiculous dance during a montage of previous scenes.
Into the Storm (2014)
Force five action.
Admittedly, Into The Storm is almost identical in terms of story to Jan De Bont's 1996 disaster movie Twister, but it still manages to be an exhilarating ride thanks to its incredible special effects-laden tornado scenes which deliver jaw-dropping destruction on a massive scale.
As with De Bont's film, the film revolves around a group of professional storm-chasers who are on a mission to film a tornado from the eye of the storm. Arriving in the small town of Silverton, Oklahoma, they experience a frightening meteorological phenomenon - multiple vortices that combine to create the biggest tornado on record.
Director Steven Quale spends the first half an hour introducing his stock characters - the members of the storm-chasing team, the locals of Silverton to add emotional drama, plus a couple of thrill-seeking rednecks for comic relief - and then spends the remaining hour or so throwing them into life-threatening situations, with the occasional unfortunate being whipped into the sky never to be seen again.
It's predictable, formulaic popcorn action for sure, but hugely entertaining nonetheless, with the chaotic wind-lashed finale providing satisfyingly catastrophic edge-of-the-seat thrills.
Day of the Dead: Bloodline (2018)
Day of the Dead: Bloody Lame.
George Romero pretty much screwed up the 'Living Dead' franchise with everything from Land of the Dead (2005) onwards, but it was his to ruin. Director Hèctor Hernández Vicens, on the other hand, has no place in making such a travesty as this 'Bold New Vision' of Romero's classic Day of the Dead (1985). An insult to the original in almost every way imaginable, Bloodline will give zombie fans nightmares, but for all the wrong reasons.
First off, the undead in this film are referred to as 'rotters', which makes them sound like something out of a Billy Bunter comic strip. And if you thought that the vegetarian zombie in Steve Miner's Day of the Dead (2008) was a dumb idea, wait until you get a load of Max (Johnathon Schaech), who is clearly intended to be the equivalent of Bub from Romero's movie, a zombie with the ability to reason. Max is a stealth zombie, able to sneak into the military base by hanging onto the underside of a vehicle, and then slope off into the main building where he crawls through the air ducts. He's a stalker too, following pretty doctor Zoe Parker (Sophie Skelton), the subject of his obsession before he was 'turned', using his amazing tracking skills. On top of all that, he can talk too. I bet if someone passed him a few oranges, he could juggle as well.
The other zombies are of the running kind that roar like a T-Rex.
The humans are equally as irritating. Zoe might have good intentions, trying to create a vaccine to the zombie virus, but her reckless behaviour endangers all those around her, and ultimately costs the lives of almost all of those in the camp. The bad guy, Miguel (Jeff Gum), is a pale imitation of Captain Rhodes from Romero's film, and Zoe's love interest Baca (Marcus Vanco) is merely pretty-boy eye candy for the ladies. There's even a cute kid in the form of Lily (Lillian Blankenship), who Zoe risks all to save (certainly, many die so that she can live).
I guess what this film clearly illustrates is just how great Romero was in his prime: his first three zombie films still stand as three of the best the genre has to offer, even after all of these years.
3/10, purely for the gore.
Sadae solimsa (1984)
Mediocre martial arts shenanigans.
Super kicker Hwang Jang Lee is the main reason to check out this otherwise mediocre mid-'80s kung fu flick (that feels more like a product of the '70s). Lee plays General Yuen, the evil leader of Tiger Camp, who swears to destroy the remaining rebels who oppose the tyrannous Ching dynasty. In order to do so, he needs to find the other half of a book that names all of the dissidents.
Ten years pass, and General Yuen still hasn't found the missing pages; his superiors aren't happy bunnies. Yuen redoubles his efforts, his search eventually leading him to a Shaolin temple where the kindly monks are sheltering a pair of fugitives, and whose leader just happens to have the other half of the much sought after book hidden under his skin!
Hwang Jang Lee's superb leg techniques are definitely the star of the show, the performer kicking his way through countless monks in his quest to find the book. The fight scenes that don't feature Lee are okay, but nothing special. Apart from Lee's flashy footwork, the only other noteworthy things about the film are a bizarre chess game using real women as the pieces, the removal of the book from under the skin of the Buddhist master's back, and the blatant use of Bernard Herrmann's Psycho music.
Modern movies need more flying guillotines. FACT!
After hearing that his two disciples have been killed by One-Armed Boxer Liu Ti Lung (Yu Wang), blind Ching master Fung Sheng Wu Chi (Kang Chin) vows to avenge their deaths. Travelling to a martial arts tournament where Liu Ti Lung is expected to attend, Fung Sheng Wu Chi proceeds to whip the head off anyone unfortunate enough to only have one arm (rather strangely, the town where the competition is being staged seems to have a surfeit of one-armed men!).
Ordinarily, a fight between a sighted one-armed man and a blind guy would be a pretty lame affair (and the outcome inevitable: in the land of the blind, the one-armed man is king!), but in the world of martial arts movies, such a battle proves less predictable and hugely entertaining, the One-Armed Boxer scooting up walls and delivering mighty blows, the blind fellow using his extra-sensory powers to fling his 'flying guillotine' with deadly accuracy.
But this isn't the only amazing duel on offer in Master of the Flying Guillotine: the tournament consists of several equally astounding one-on-one battles between a wide variety of foes, each with their own distinctive fighting style. Thai boxer Nai Men (Chien-Po Tsen) does a funny dance routine before each fight, kung fu babe Shao-Tieh (Chung-Erh Lung) uses her Eagle Claw to tear the clothes off her monkey style opponent, Daredevil Lee Sen pokes out the eyes of the resilient Iron Skin, Japanese fighter Win-Without-a-Knife Yakuma actually uses a knife to win, and Indian Yoga Tro La Seng extends his arms to incredible length. The fights are well choreographed and wonderfully vicious, with broken limbs, gougings, and impalements galore.
There are also some cool fights outside of the arena, the best being between Liu Ti Lung and Nai Men in a small hut with a searing hot floor, and Tro La Seng against Liu Ti Lung, who smashes his opponent's telescopic arms.
Eventually Fung Sheng Wu Chi tracks down Liu Ti Lung and the scene is set for the final battle, the One-Armed Boxer having laid a few traps for his bitter foe. As the pair duke it out in a coffin shop, spring loaded hatchets are activated by our one-armed hero, giving him an advantage over his head-snatching enemy. After lots of craziness, including a fun moment where Fung Sheng Wu Chi goes one better than Linda Blair by doing a 720 degree head turn, the blind man is hurled through a window to land dead in a coffin.
With so much inventive action and so many colourful characters, Master of the Flying Guillotine is a hugely entertaining old-school kung fu classic, essential viewing for any self-respecting fan of the genre.
Cage Dive (2017)
They needed a bigger boat.
Just when I thought it was safe to go back in the water, a found-footage shark movie swims my way. Cage Dive takes the well-worn hand-held camera/faux documentary route to tell the story of three Californian adrenaline junkies - Jeff, Josh and Megan (Joel Hogan, Josh Potthoff and Megan Peta Hill)- who travel to Australia to experience great white sharks up close and personal. Unfortunately, their thrill-seeking experience doesn't go quite as planned when a freak wave capsizes the boat, leaving the friends stranded in shark-infested waters.
I was actually enjoying this found-footage shark movie up to the point where an argument over the use of a flare results in the characters accidentally setting fire to their inflatable life raft; at this point, the film well and truly 'jumps the shark', after which it slowly sinks further and further into the murky depths of bad film-making. And when brothers Jeff and Josh forget about the sharks to have a scrap over Megan, with whom they are both in love, the film finally hits rock bottom.
To director Gerald Rascionato's credit, the shark attack scenes are deftly handled and realistic (I guess that the sharks are CGI; if that is the case, they're extremely well done), resulting in a reasonable amount of tension, and there's one satisfyingly nasty moment where we see a survivor with the side of his face hanging off, but for much of the time it's just three whiny over-privileged idiots bobbing around in the sea. You'll be longing for the fish to start biting again.
4.5 out of 10, rounded up to 5 for IMDb.
Dumb title, dumb film.
Mash together the titles of two of the biggest sci-fi blockbusters of the '80s - Aliens and The Terminator - and what you get is Alienator, a dumb name (although possibly marginally better than the alternative, The Terminalien) for a very dumb film.
Directed by Fred Olen Ray, this cheap-as-chips sci-fi clunker opens in the basement of an industrial building (posing unconvincingly as a high-security space prison) where rebel Kol (Ross Hagen) is awaiting execution for leading an ambush against the armies of the great tyrant Baal. But before Kol can be put to death, he manages to escape in a spacecraft and flies to Earth, where he encounters a group of college kids who take his story with a pinch of salt - at least until they find themselves under attack from an unstoppable gynoid (a female robot) sent to kill the fugitive.
The acting, direction, sets and special effects are extremely dire, but the film's bonkers cyborg is a real hoot: played by female bodybuilder Teagan Clive, who looks like she has been overdoing the testosterone and steroids, the Alienator is what you might get if you crossed Tina Turner with Bret Michaels (from rock band Poison) and Arnold Schwarzenegger. If you saw that chasing you, you might just die laughing.
There's plenty of other trashy nonsense for fans of z-grade sci-fi to revel in - stupidly shaped sliding doors in the space prison, prison worker Tara (P.J. Soles) wearing a strangely revealing outfit, flesh burrowing space bugs, a full body-burn stunt, a crossbow bolt in the Alienator's head, a cyborg trap made from chicken wire, Kol's lightsaber-wielding old man- but there's also an awful lot of really dull, poorly directed tosh to sit through. Day of the Dead's Joseph Pilato (as Tech #2) looks bored, and I can't really blame him.
3.5 out of 10, rounded up to 4 for IMDb.
Terror at Orgy Castle (1972)
A waste of a great title.
A young couple, Bill (William Howard) and Lisa (don't know who plays her, but she's a hottie), decide to spend a couple of days of their European vacation in a haunted castle, unaware that the owner (Bambi Allen) and her other guests are devil worshippers.
Terror At Orgy Castle: what a great title - shame that it's wasted on a dreadfully dull soft-core porn flick with mild horror trappings, a film made all the more boring by a really monotonous voice-over (seems like director Zoltan G. Spencer couldn't be arsed to record any sound while filming and added the narration afterwards).
As far as the sex goes, there's lots of it, although it's a case of strategically placed limbs and careful camera angles obscuring anything too explicit (there is, however, absolutely tons of full frontal nudity from both sexes); the horror is virtually non-existent - certainly nothing to inspire any terror!
Death Bed: The Bed That Eats (1977)
One of the weirdest film you're ever likely to see.
Death Bed: The Bed That Eats is without a doubt one of the weirdest horror films I have ever seen. It's not just the plot that astounds with its sheer surrealistic nuttiness, but also the execution: the avant-garde direction, the strange music, the kooky performances, the random editing, and the echoey voice-over from the spirit of an artist trapped behind a painting, all of which go to make this a real one-of-a-kind off-the-wall movie.
Told in four chapters - Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner, and Just Desserts - the film revolves around a bed that devours anyone and anything that comes in contact with it. The bed - created by a tree demon in the form of a breeze - came to life when the woman the demon wished to seduce suddenly died. Over the years the bed, which occupies an abandoned house, has claimed many victims, dissolving their bodies in the acid that sloshes around under its sheets. One of these victims was the aforementioned artist, who, imprisoned behind his own work of art for 70 years, bears witness to each and every death.
When three young women arrive at the house, the bed begins to feed again, starting with cutie Suzan (Julie Ritter, who gets nekkid before being eaten), followed by Diane (Demene Hall), who might have escaped if it hadn't been for those pesky prehensile bed sheets. The third girl, Sharon (Rosa Luxemburg), is spared, because her eyes remind the bed of the demon's dead maiden.
Crazy moments include the bed consuming an apple and regurgitating the core, Suzan dreaming of eating bugs, the bed devouring an orgy, and an eyeball rolling around the sheets, but for my money the most memorable scene is when Sharon's brother stupidly tries to stab the bed and finds himself wrist deep in acid, the bed dissolving the flesh, leaving him with skeletal hands that start to break apart as the cartilage wastes away.
With bonkers stuff like that, I happily recommend the film to fans of bizarre cinema, even if, truth be told, it isn't really all that good.
Attack of the 50 Foot Woman (1958)
Harry's got a hot, filthy-rich wife who adores him. And still he isn't happy.
While out driving on Route 66, wealthy heiress Nancy Archer (Allison Hayes) witnesses something most travellers on the famous highway don't get to see: a massive spherical spaceship and its giant bald occupant. Being a bit of a lush with a history of mental illness, nobody will believe Nancy's story; her philandering husband Harry (William Hudson) and his floozy Honey see it as an opportunity to get Nancy committed and lay their mitts on her fortune.
When Nancy insists that she and Harry go in search of the alien craft, Harry reluctantly agrees, never believing that they will find anything; of course, they do. Harry flees leaving his wife at the mercy of the huge extraterrestrial, but the being turns out to be friendly, returning Nancy to her home. However, exposure to radiation causes the woman to grow to gigantic proportions. Angry at her husband for his many indiscretions, she goes on the rampage.
The problem with this film is that the 'mayhem' is reserved for the final ten minutes of the movie, and isn't all that spectacular anyway, the 50 foot tall Nancy (who looks a lot less than that in some shots) attacking a small-town hotel, rather than causing havoc on the freeway as per the film's iconic poster. The fifty-five minutes that precede this are dull and repetitive, the sight of the alien's massive, rubbery, hairy hand and a quick glimpse of Nancy's oversized fingers (papier-mâché over chicken wire?) doing little to alleviate the tedium. Furthermore, the special effects used to make the alien and Nancy look large are crude, even for a low-budget, drive-in B-movie: in many of the poorly composited shots, the giants are transparent.
Despite being one of the better known schlock titles from the fifties, Attack of the 50 Foot Woman is a massive disappointment.
Mortal Kombat (1995)
Get over here!
The world's best martial artists convene at a tournament, the outcome of which will determine the fate of the entire planet.
Seven years before turning popular video game Resident Evil into a movie (and a long-running franchise), director Paul W.S. Anderson did the same thing for beat-em-up Mortal Kombat, a game renowned for its fast and furious fight action and some some wonderfully inventive finishing moves (plus a secret 'blood mode' for those who like their video game violence extra juicy).
Anderson quickly introduces the game's many characters, providing a modicum of back story for each to give them the incentive to compete, before getting down to the nitty gritty: the tournament itself, which delivers numerous well choreographed smackdowns all accompanied by a pulse-pounding techno soundtrack.
Granted, it's not the most cerebral of movies, but it makes for a fun way to spend an hour and a half, especially for those who have given themselves arthritis of the fingers trying to perfect the game's finishing moves; seeing the characters brought to life on the big screen is a blast, even if the CGI used to do so is a little creaky by today's standards (on the other hand, the practical effects used for the four-armed monster Goro are extremely impressive).
If only the film had as much sparkle as Jo Walker's spangly silver polo neck shirt.
While sightseeing in Bangkok, a young American woman, Phyllis Leighton (Hansi Linder), is captured by thugs who ship her to Madame Kim Soo's secret island where abducted girls are drugged and forced into prostitution. The girl's mother contacts Captain Tom Rowland (Brad Harris), who is in Thailand at a police conference; he teams up with private detective Jo Walker (Tony Kendall) to try and find the missing woman.
Three Golden Serpents is the sixth of the seven Kommissar X movies; coming at the end of the swinging sixties, it's a little trashier than the earlier films, dealing as it does with the sleazy subject of an Asian sex-ring, and even delivers some gratuitous female nudity (rather than the scantily clad beauties of the earlier entries in the series). But as entertaining as this sounds, the film is actually a fairly dull affair, with a plodding plot that goes nowhere slowly, and only one half-decent shootout to keep the viewer awake (the gun-fight ending with Walker attaching a missile launcher to the end of his pistol!).
Kommissar X number V.
After a daring escape, ruthless thief Arthur Hillary (Franco Fantasia) pays a visit to Montreal, home of his identical twin brother Robert (also played by Fantasia), the only person who knows the whereabouts of a cache of stolen jewels worth $3milllion. On Arthur's trail is American cop Capt. Tom Rowland (Brad Harris), and private investigator Jo Walker (Tony Kendall), who is working for the company that insured the jewels.
Euro-crime flick Kill Panther Kill, the fifth in the Kommissar X series, is a fairly unexceptional caper for stars Harris and Kendall, with the pair once again doing their antagonistic partnership routine, and director Gianfranco Parolini delivering the bog standard ingredients: pretty ladies, fist-fights, shootouts, crosses and double crosses, and car chases.
Despite some local colour in the form of the 1967 International and Universal Exposition in Montreal, and two enjoyably daft fight scenes (a silly punch-up against members of judo club and an even more ridiculous gun-fight against some henchmen in a builder's yard), the film is unremarkable nonsense that quickly wears out its welcome.
4.5 out of 10, generously rounded up to 5 for IMDb.
The name's Walker... Jo Walker.
My first Kommissar X experience was the fourth film in the series, Kill Me Gently, which was something of a mess. Kiss Kiss, Kill Kill, the first in the series, is much more fun, a cheesy Bond-style espionage caper with not one, but two heroes trying to thwart a power-hungry villain out to own the world's largest gold reserve.
Private detective Jo Walker (Tony Kendall) and police captain Tom Rowland (Brad Harris) investigate the disappearance of a nuclear physicist and the murder of several shady businessmen. The trail eventually leads to O'Brien (Nikola Popovic), who has been killing off his business partners in order to gain complete control of the gold that they have amassed on their island fortress.
With suave protagonists, sexy women (including an army of curvaceous mind-controlled blondes), and a ruthless megalomaniac, plus lots of fisticuffs, shootouts, and an explosive finale in the baddie's lair, this is entertaining nonsense for fans of '60s spy flicks - the type of films so mercilessly spoofed by Austin Powers.
A silly '60s secret agent caper.
Kill Me Gently, my first Kommissar X movie, is actually the fourth in the series. My unfamiliarity with the already established characters might account for some of my confusion, but I suspect that bad storytelling and crap editing are more to blame.
This silly Bond-inspired secret agent/crime caper revolves around a stash of LSD brought to Turkey by the Americans for military purposes (what they intend to do with it is anyone's guess). A gang of criminals called the Green Hounds will do anything to get their hands on the acid, leaving NYPD Captain Tom Rowland (Brad Harris) and private detective Jo Walker (Tony Kendall) to try and stop them.
The first hour of this film is so poorly strung together that it is almost impossible to follow and proves very difficult to sit through, with only the local colour and some pretty girls to keep one interested. Make it past the hour mark, however, and things do get a little better, as the action moves to a desert region known as The Valley of 1000 Hills, where the good guys do battle with the baddies, resulting in some fairly well-executed stunt sequences.
There's a fun scene in which one of our good guys (I don't remember who) is pursued over the hills, but escapes by sliding down the sandy slopes on his butt, and we also get an impressive motorcycle chase over the same undulating terrain, the bikes hurtling through valleys, up and around natural banks, and over peaks. It's an entertaining final act, although an extremely dumb closing moment involving a talking camel sums up the film as a whole: very silly, with little concern for logic.
Mistress of the Apes (1979)
A silly, forgettable jungle adventure.
I was hoping that Mistress of the Apes would be an enjoyable piece of jungle sexploitation, with gorgeous blonde lead Jenny Neumann being the female equivalent of Tarzan, swinging through the trees in nothing but a loincloth; this is most definitely not the case.
Neumann plays Susan Jamison, wife of a famous anthropologist, who travels to the Congo region to try and find her missing husband, unaware that he has been murdered by poachers. What follows is a rather tepid adventure, with Susan and her pals Laura and Paul learning the truth and trying to avoid becoming the poachers' next victims, while also befriending a troop of ape-men, the missing link between Australopithecus and homo sapiens.
While there is a little exploitative content - most notably the (not-too-graphic) rape of Laura by the baddies, and Susan breast-feeding an ape-child (who looks just like any ordinary baby) and having sex with one of the lucky banana-eating knuckle-draggers - the film is mostly a real snooze fest.
As a fan of horror films and the art of special effects make-up, I found that the most interesting thing about the whole movie was the fact that the ape-men makeup was created by Oscar winner Greg Cannom (The Lost Boys, The Mask) and Oscar nominee Rob Bottin (Robocop, The Thing).
The Amazing Mr. X (1948)
Not amazing, but certainly very good.
What a convoluted little noir thriller: enjoyable and very stylish, but with a plot that takes a few far-fetched twists and turns, leaving the viewer with more than a few questions.
Lynn Bari stars as wealthy widow Christine who, two years after the death of her husband Paul (Donald Curtis), is now courting lawyer Martin (Richard Carlson), although she still cannot put her feelings for her dead spouse behind her. On the beach below her clifftop house, Christine encounters Alexis (Turhan Bey), a spiritualist who displays an uncanny knowledge of her life, right down to the details of her husband's demise. Intrigued, Christine begins paying Alexis visits at his home, unaware that the man is a con artist, having gained his information from his partner in crime, Emily (Emily), a servant at Christine's house.
Disturbed by Christine's behaviour, her younger sister Janet (Cathy O'Donnell) and Martin decide to investigate the psychic shyster, hiring a private detective in the hope of exposing Alexis as a con artist. Things get even more complicated when Paul appears during a seance, convincing Christine that his spirit is reaching out to her. In reality, Paul is very much alive, having faked his death (leading one to ask exactly where he has been hiding for the past two years), and now wants to get his hands on Christine's fortune.
Exactly how some of the haunting hallucinations that plague Christine are achieved is left extremely vague (I'm still not sure how the spooky dress managed to follow Christine around her room), and Paul's timely arrival takes a little swallowing, but the haunting atmosphere, brisk pace, wonderful black and white cinematography (that makes great use of shadow and light), and some inventive use of camera angles (we get a shot from underneath a glass topped table and one from behind the taps of a sink) all go to make The Amazing Mr. X an entertaining and engaging mystery for the duration.
The Phantom Creeps (1949)
78 minutes of Lugosi nonsense.
The Phantom Creeps (1949) is an edited down serial from 1939, a dozen episodes (total runtime: 4 hrs 25 minutes) chopped down to 78 minutes for broadcasting on TV; this goes a long way to explaining the messy and often incomprehensible plot, the numerous cheesy cliffhanger scenarios, the hokey performances, and the dated Flash Gordon-style scene transitions.
Bela Lugosi slums it as Dr. Alex Zorka, a scientist whose many inventions (a giant robot, an invisibility belt, a ray gun, and spiders that are controlled by small explosive discs!) are a threat to world safety. Out to stop him from selling his creations to the highest bidder are G-man Capt. Bob West (Robert Kent) and Lt. Jim Daley (Regis Toomey), aided by spunky reporter Jean Drew (Dorothy Arnold).
Although this severely truncated version obviously features the best bits of the serial, the choppy, repetitive nature of the story makes it a real challenge to sit through (although undoubtedly nowhere near as difficult as sitting through the whole 4 hrs 25 minutes). Despite the unforgettable sight of Lugosi bombing the Hindenberg from a biplane, this doesn't warrant a rating any higher than 3/10.