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Silly slapstick euro-western, Terrance Hill-style
Early western entry by one of Italy's finest directors - Enzo G. Castellari. If you're expecting something epic, like his western masterpiece Keoma, have another thought coming: this is a goofy western comedy very much in the Terrance Hill/Bud Spencer territory. Being such a juvenile movie, i'm surprised that Castellari's next film High Crime would turn out so serious.
Young con man Tedeum inherits a gold mine, and knowing his con men relatives he's sure it's worthless. He teams up with a sleazy ex-con turned monk and tries to sell the worthless mine to some poor sucker. Soon his family finds out that the mine is real and full of gold: will they get to him before he sells the mine to the evil major and his henchmen?
Although no Trinity, the movie works fairly good. It looks pretty good, have some pretty funny characters and a really catchy theme song (I can't get it out of my mind!). The plot is really simple, but suits the lightweight comedy fine. The movie made me laugh a few times, even though I insist that its got waaay too much slapstick humor for its own good.
Wrestling Woman Vs. The Robot?
I saw an undubbed/non-subtitled version of this René Cardona wrestling flick, so naturally my judgment is kind of clouded. It's very similiar to the director's former Night Of The Bloody Apes, although there is very little gore and nudity. The sets, story, style have the same feel and the rapist man/monkey monster has a small part. A mad doctor is using a super-strong robot to kidnap various people (probably politcians or rich industrialists, as usual). Somehow a female wrestler and her cop boyfriend finds out about the doctors diabolic plans and runs to the rescue. The robot itself is just a big Mexican with silver color sprayed on his face. His whole act concists of walking through cardboard walls and sink people with one fatal blow. I lost track of how many cardboard doors and walls he must have walked through during the film's brief 90 minutes, but it must have exceeded 20+. Although I loved the robot and the wrestling, amongst other things, the movie has far too much dialouge for its own good, making it pretty dull for non-Spanish talking people like me. Thus, I cannot really recommend this film to others than Hispanic viewers or fans of Mexican wrestling.
Afyon oppio (1972)
For crimaholics only
Sicilian Connection's basic idea is to follow a large shipment of opium from turkey to Italy and then, finally, to America. Joe Coppolla, a small-time dealer trying to make it big-time, is the egocentric and unsympathetic lead character and owner of the shipment. Will he succeed in selling the drugs or will the police or the mafia get to him first? Wooden acting, awful dubbing, uninspired camerawork and bad direction made me not care at all...
If you're a fan of Italian crime movies and seen all the classics (like Castellari's fantastic movie High Crime), this might do the trick. In fact ANYTHING would to the trick. Sicilian Connection is for italian crime buffs what warm, cheap beer might be for an alcoholic: It will take the urge away for a while, but it won't give you any real satisfaction. Addicts take note, others better stay far, far way.
La noche de los mil gatos (1972)
Decent mexican horror
Night of a 1000 Cats was not the masterpiece of Mexican exploitation I expected it to be, but is still a solid little gem of low budget filmmaking. Hey, René Cardona Jr. is directing it, and Hugo Stiglitz plays the lead, and thats all I needed anyway. As usual Hunky Hugo plays a rich playboy womanizer, but in this film he is a little more psycho than usual. He lures women to his old gothic mansion, makes sweet love and kills them. He feeds his hungry cats with their bodies, but preserves their heads and adds them to his "collection". No reason is given for Hugo's deviant behavior and his "minimal face expression" approach to acting certanly isn't helping us understand the character. We do get ordinary "I want you to stay with me forever. FOREVER" -clichés thrown in our faces, but they don't make much sense since Hugo seems to be a well-adjusted fellow with no social problems. The other problem I had with "1000 Cats" is the same one that another commentator pointed out: it's very hard to separate Hugo's women, since they all look pretty much alike and all share the same (minimal) personality. The film's constantly moves in and out of flashback, which only adds to the confusion. So, here we have an underwritten, underplayed (but hunky!) character killing what seems like the same woman over and over again. The characters in the film just doesn't work, (except for Hugo's mute butler Dorgo, the mad monk. Right on!). The film could have been slightly faster paced too.
So, what DOES work?
First of all, this is a René Cardona Jr.-flick and it is my firm belief that everyone of his films are worth watching, at least once. His films always have a certain "feel" to them, that I can't explain but enjoy very much. They all have that little extra something that seperates them from similiar (some say identical, but what do they know?) films. Although low budget productions, he always manages to squeeze the best out of his pesetas and present a good looking, well edited and charmy product that delivers the goods, whatever they might be. "1000 Cats" is no exception. In many aspects, it's not what it shows, but what it doesn't show that makes it work. Sure the characters are flat, and the story doesn't make sense, but at least it's everybody and everything is nice to look at, fairly fast paced, well crafted and directed. Just imagine how awful it COULD have been if none of those components would have been there.
Maybe I'm in a forgiving mode, but:
Shark: Rosso nell'oceano (1984)
Rubber Fest '84!
Very entertaining, hilariously schlocky italian monster movie, which by the way has nothing to do with sharks what so ever. Monster Octopus would have been a far more appropiate title, but if the italians wanted to squeeze the last buck out of the shark craze it's ok with me. Lamberto Bava obviously didn't inherit his fathers talent for grand filmmaking, but at least he had the sense to make his stupid little movies fun and fast paced. Monster Shark is no exception, plus it's a feast for lovers of rubber monsters and italian homoerotism.
Bermude: la fossa maledetta (1978)
Janet Agren Vs. Mindcontrolled Sharks
This is one strange shark movie. It's basically a movie about some kind of superior underwater race who for unknown reasons uses mind controlled sharks and the Bermuda triangle to kidnap fishermen... or something like that, I've seen it twice and still ain't sure. Although long parts of the movie is pretty dull (the Italians never seem to get the dramatic part working, but who cares?), parts of it has a surreal feel and is actually pretty damn scary. The ultra low budget really shows in the action scenes. Cardboard boats sinking in an aquarium gets to symbolize the Bermuda triangles devastating force, and there's even a cardboard sunken city. Hey, it works for me. There's one fantastic scene in the movie - it will haunt me forever: A bunch of people hang out at a yacht and a bearded guy sets the mood by playing a creepy song on his acoustic guitar. It goes something like "The sun is shining - on the beautiful ocean". A girl is walking around with a deformed doll in her hand. For no reason at all she suddenly throws the doll in the sea and then jumps after it. People start throwing themselves in the sea, one by one, and for no given reason. Blood starts coming out of the deformed doll and sharks appear, but they never attack...
Shark's Cave tries to be a Jaws clone with a twist (it even copies the "dead-guy-popping-out-of-the-sunken-ship" - scene from Spielberg's masterpiece), but ends up being something completely different: a solid work of Italian madness. To this day, it remains director Tonino Ricci's only decent effort; he's bad even by Italian standards. Well, Shark's Cave must have done something right - against better judgment I've just started my search for his 1987 follow-up: Night of The Sharks...
Kamikaze 1989 (1982)
Fassbinder's last film...And it shows!
First of all, this is an incredible bad film. Before I saw it, I to believed that anything Fassbinder touched would turn out to be pure works of genius. You are reading the comments of a very disillusioned man. Kamikaze -89 is ugly, stupid and impossible to take seriously. It shoots at a million different directions, but fails to hit anything but its own feet. After 100 minutes in the company of Kamikaze -89, my brain started hurting.
That said, it's not a complete waste of time. Seeing a pi***ed, drunk out of his mind, Fassbinder strousing around in leopard outfit, like a wounded walrus, DOES have its perverse charm. In fact, seeing Fassbinder and some of his regulars degrade themselves in this totally psychotronic film is the only thing that makes it somewhat worthwhile.
The story takes place in the near future... 1989 to be specific. Everybody wears the ugliest new wave outfits on this side of Culture Club and Germany has become the most advanced and powerful country in the world. All social and political problems have been solved and everybody is happy. Or so it seems. The state of Germany have but one enemy, a person or organization called Krystopompas (!), who believes that the people of Germany has become pacified and dehumanized by the regime. He starts giving bomb threats, and the state of Germany puts their best man on the case, police lieutenant Jansen (Fassbinder in a leopard suite). Then a lot of nonsense takes place. People start pointing fingers at Jansen, yelling "Krystopompas!" for no apparent reason. Jansen goes to a strip-joint where everybody is laughing hysterically for no apparent reason. Lots of other nonsense follows. And then the film takes some awful 1984-inspired turns and mysterious conspiracies like "The blue panther", "unexpected deaths" and "the 31st Floor" become visible. Needless to say, Fassbinder somehow cracks the case and then he screws a picture of an astronaut. The end.
Not your average Jaws clone
I expected a Jaws clone and got a movie about threesomes. After I got over the initial shock I actually found Tintorera to be a sweet, almost classy, little male fantasy. Tintorera is actually a sex/beach-flick, and thus perfectly captures the feel of the seventies take on sexual revolution; an era of hedonistic disco parties, sexual experimentation and short, loveless sexual encounters. Rene Cardona Jr. regular Hugo Stiglitz looks great as a wealthy boy on vacation, Esteban, who "finds himself" in a three part relationship with the cute Gabrielle and his former sexual competitor Miguel, the Shark hunter. Meanwhile the feared Tintorera, a big-ass tiger shark, is having a feast on the sexed-out beach community. The "f***-and-die" concept, usually seen in slasher films, is clearly visible and you could say that Tintorera's attack on the swimmers are really an attack on the sexual revolution. If you want cheese you'll have no trouble finding it (the Darth Vader-like breathing of Tintorera or the underwater conversations between Esteban and Miguel directly springs to mind...), but don't look to hard since the larger parts of the movie is actually pretty well-made and totally undeserving of its bad reputation (which I think is more due to the whole idea of a shark/sex movie, than the movie itself). Chances are you might actually enjoy it, as I did.
Also, if you are a gay man interested in exploitation cinema you are bound to like it: the homosexual overtones between Esteban and Miguel are painfully obvious and there are numerous shots of Hugo Stiglitz cute little ass.
7/10 on a regular scale
Un killer per sua maestà (1968)
This shoddy Italian crime film perfectly captures the feel of a five cent pulp novel: some detectives with a cool names (James Steele? I can't remember...) protects a middle east king from being murdered by political opponents. The evil doers have hired the world's number one hit man for the job, a perfectionist loner who for some reason eats candy all the time. The ingredients for the film are the following: 1) a lot of fighting 2) a lot of badly written "tough" dialouge 3) a little bit of conspiracy 4) a little bit of sex, and 5) an awesome easy listening soundtrack complete with "ba-di-ba-daba-da" choruses. The running gag is that the happy-go-lucky/comical relief detective time after time tries to get it on with a cute nurse, but always gets interrupted by the I'm-a-serious-motherf**ker detective. The Killer Likes Candy is OK pulp, I guess, but I must admit I was getting a little bit bored near the end. Never the less, I can think of far worse ways to have spent 90 minutes of my life.
5/10 - for the soundtrack, dear...
Traficantes de pánico (1980)
If you're looking for a die hard action movie with wild car chases, bloody shootings, international terrorism and (to top it off) a disco soundtrack - look no further! Hostages! is THE action movie of the seventies. I'm no fan of the action genre in general, but Hostages! gets my adrenaline pumping like it's bloody hunting season! Do yourself a favor and rent this movie. it deserves to be cut some slack.