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La sfida dei giganti (1965)
Tired and shoddy (but with a fun villain)
More or less "Reg Park's Greatest Herc Hits", since huge chunks of this film are lifted lock, stock and barrel from HERCULES IN THE HAUNTED WORLD and HERCULES AND THE CAPTIVE WOMEN (both 1961). A wraparound story is concocted about Hercules questing for his missing son Xanthus, who is imprisoned in the supernatural domain of Gia the earth goddess. Meanwhile, Gia's evil son Antaeus himself a demigod impersonates Hercules and takes over the city-state of Syracuse with the help of its ambitious queen. Ruling as a mad, barbarous tyrant, Antaeus (Giovanni Cianfriglia) starts exiling and slaughtering people at whim, generally soiling the name of Hercules something fierce. Naturally, the real Herc takes umbrage at this...
If you've already seen HAUNTED WORLD and/or CAPTIVE WOMEN then there's really no point in watching this one. All of AVENGER's monster action and FX scenes are borrowed from those films, only with different dialog dubbed in. Its main cheesy pleasure is Gianfriglia's Antaeus. A schoolyard bully in a he-man's body, he's such a cruel, arrogant jerk that you keep watching for the moment when Herc finally kicks his butt. He's at least good for a few laughs, as when barking commands such as, "Drive them into the Valley of Agony... and block the way out!"
The Wild Geese (1978)
Movie Star Mercs: Africa Action
Ye old "whip a disparate group of men into an elite commando team and send 'em on a mission" formula, only with a not-so stiff British upper lip and a distinct African flavor. And it all works quite well. Richard Burton is Col. Faulkner, the veteran soldier of fortune hired by an industrialist (Stewart Granger) to rescue an imprisoned political leader from the clutches of a brutal African dictator. Faulkner assembles a force of experienced mercenaries, including old buddies Flynn (Roger Moore) and Janders (Richard Harris), for the daring but meticulously planned raid, which in the end turns out a rather bloody affair. This is a solid if undistinguished action-adventure film done the old fashioned way (no digital explosions!), elevated by a cast of familiar, likable actors and a closer adherence to the real world. Nobody does anything super-heroic or impossible (even with 007 himself on hand), and the high body count ultimately includes a significant number of the mercenaries themselves. The film even addresses the subject of racial politics in post-colonial Africa without getting preachy or slowing down the narrative. Like THE DIRTY DOZEN, it's the antithesis of the "chick flick" -- this is purely a guy's movie, the kind you knock back in the BarcaLounger with a cold beer to. (If you're a guy, that is.) The impatient under-30 crowd may get a bit antsy during the first hour, though, as virtually all the action is saved for the second half.
Enter the Ninja (1981)
ENTER THE NINJA fails as an action movie. As far as exploitation elements are concerned it's not particularly gory nor does Susan George (or anyone else) get naked. It's shot in a mostly perfunctory TV-movie style and some of the music accompanying the fight scenes would be appropriate for a Saturday morning kids' cartoon show. The story is just a procession of one cliché after the other. But don't let any of that dissuade you! With its risible dialog and comic book plot, clumsily executed, this movie can be a laugh riot.
For his part, Sho Kosugi fares better here as a stone-faced villain than he ever did as a (stone-faced) hero in REVENGE OF THE NINJA or RAGE OF HONOR. Then there's Christopher George, who fiercely overacts throughout the entire film in the hammiest way possible and gets one of the most memorably goofy death scenes ever. I certainly can't recommend ENTER THE NINJA for any thrilling action or riveting suspense (there's none, really), but as a laugh out-loud unintentional comedy it's pretty darn fun. And it stars the original "Django" himself, Franco Nero, who somehow always comes off totally cool even when appearing in the crappiest of movies. Here dubbed by an American and conspicuously replaced by a stunt double in 80% of the action scenes, Nero is still The Man -- porn 'stache, wide lapels and all.
GoldenEye 007 (2010)
Fun for the 007 fan who's a casual gamer
As a longtime James Bond fan with fond memories of the N64 GOLDENEYE from the '90s, I took a chance and picked up this game. My wife has had the Wii for some time now for her fitness stuff but I never touched it -- in fact, the last video game I'd spent any significant time playing was the original GOLDENEYE almost 15 years ago. I was skeptical of how well a FPS could work on the somewhat limited Wii platform, and am quite honestly not a fan of the controllers (the Remote and the Nunchuk thingee). However, using the Classic Controller (with View control set to "Inverse") made all the difference. So far I'm having a lot of fun playing this game! For a Wii title the graphics look great on our 56-inch TV. The changes to the original plot and the replacement of Pierce Brosnan's Bond with the likeness of Daniel Craig add freshness to the gameplay. So far the solo-player version seems a tad short but it's at least challenging, especially when playing at the higher difficulty levels. The real longevity of the game, of course, lies in its multiplayer capability and I'm looking forward to diving into that.
We didn't get a new Bond movie in 2010, but the revamped GOLDENEYE for the Wii turns out to be a decent substitute.
Cheap, stupid, silly... and funny!
In Puerto Rico, bald, pointy-eared extraterrestrial invaders are kidnapping bikini babes for breeding stock. Only a scarred, crash-damaged NASA cyborg named Frank is in any position to stop them. But first he must confront Mull, the monstrous creature the aliens have brought with them...
Confession: I have yet to watch this film without being under the influence of some kind of recreational substance. You might wish to take that under consideration when weighing the merit of my analysis. You see, I actually like FRANKENSTEIN MEETS THE SPACE MONSTER. Yes, it stinks. Badly. It's cheap, stupid and silly. 60% of the film is pure padding, for the most part cobbled together from stock footage (much of it military). The scenes of Frank's scientist-creator (James Karen) and his shapely female assistant tooling around San Juan on a moped will test the patience of even die-hard trash film freaks.
Nonetheless I find this cheese log tasty, especially when I have the... ahem... munchies. It makes me laugh. There's some great stuff here for a "Do It Yourself" MST3K party. The aliens among them a young Bruce Glover (Crispin's dad) run around in motorcycle helmets brandishing plastic ray guns. Mull, the titular space monster is both laughable and cool-looking at the same time. The music is very groovy, too; the infectiously catchy song "That's the Way It's Got to Be" (by The Poets) somehow goes great with NASA stock footage. Then there's the goofy alien second-in-command, Dr. Nadir (Lou Cutell), whom I like to refer to as 'Smirky McBat-ears'. He's simply hilarious. ("And now... maximum energy!")
Recommendation: See this movie stoned. Because that's the way it's got to be.
La cripta e l'incubo (1964)
Nice Gothic atmosphere but too tame and leisurely
A Christopher Lee flick I'd never even heard of, much less seen. The cult film legend is not the titular bloodsucker in this Spanish-Italian co-production, however. Here the vampire's identity is supposed to be something of a mystery, although if you're at all familiar with Sheridan Le Fanu's "Carmilla", from which the script was adapted, you'll have everything figured out long before the characters do.
Director Camillo Mastrocinque piles on the classical Gothic themes and motifs like there's no tomorrow: vampirism, witchcraft, ancient family curses, heaving bosoms straining against diaphanous pregnoirs, creepy castle corridors and crypts by candlelight that sort of thing. Facilitating this omnipresent atmosphere is some excellent black-and-white cinematography expressly modeled in the style of visual maestro Mario Bava (BLACK Sunday). Adriana Ambesi (FANGS OF THE LIVIND DEAD) and Ursula Davis (SPARTACUS AND THE TEN GLADIATORS) provide the eye candy; the story's lesbian angle is handled quite demurely but is unmistakably present, not merely hinted at yet always kept implicit. While the absence of shocks and skin, not to mention the leisurely pace, may well dissuade the casual fright film viewer the Gothic horror fan will be in his or her element. And you can never go wrong casting Lee as the aloof, aristocratic type.
Makes for an interesting double feature with Hammer's THE VAMPIRE LOVERS (1970), which is also inspired by "Carmilla".
Santa Claws (1996)
Debbie Rochon is the only reason to endure this
During the Christmas holidays, a B-movie scream queen/pinup model is stalked by an obsessed, murderously psychotic fan...
Blah blah blah. You know the score, sight unseen: women get naked, people die. Apparently the raison d'être for SANTA CLAWS was to plug the fan magazine writer/director John Russo was publishing at the time, "Scream Queen" it gets a very prominent mention. In the film, the magazine staff is producing a low budget horror video called "Scream Queen Christmas" try saying that three times fast! starring B-movie celebrity Raven Quinn (Debbie Rochon). Her most ardent admirer, the disturbed young man (Grant Cramer) who lives next door, spraypaints a cheap Santa costume black and goes on a killing spree with a garden weasel. (Really. A frickin' garden weasel.) SANTA CLAWS touts its lineage to the original 1968 NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD as a selling point but you wouldn't know it from watching this cheap-looking, amateurish piece of crap. (Russo co-wrote NOTLD with George Romero and directed the minor cult fave MIDNIGHT; three members of the NOTLD cast have small roles in the flick.)
Rochon, whose films have never really proved worthy of her talent, is the only real reason to endure it. Not only is she beautiful, she acts circles around everyone else in the cast, who are just plain terrible. (Cramer's over-the-top rantings are good for a laugh or two, though.) Gore is practically nonexistent; only the frequent nudity, served up as Christmas-themed striptease acts for the video shoot, will appeal to exploitation junkies. Rochon doesn't whip out her love muffins until the final twenty minutes but she's almost worth the wait. For best effect, I recommend turning off the cheesy soundtrack and playing the naughty Yule classic "Santa Baby" while Debbie's doing her thing.
Awful made-in-Europe softcore skin flick
I actually watched this at least twice on Cinemax over twenty years ago, but was rather inebriated both times and thus couldn't remember anything except the ending. (At a public disco, the titular heroine slips out of her fur coat she's stark naked otherwise and starts boogying.) I must've been really toasted, it seems, because otherwise I'd have recalled just how awful this made-in-Europe softcore skin flick is.
Christina von Belle (American B-movie bimbo Jewel Shepard) is a filthy rich heiress with a thirst for hedonistic adventures. After orgying at a seaside villa with her boyfriend (Ian Serra, the guy from PIECES) and another couple, she's kidnapped and held for ransom by a gang of lesbian terrorists called, for no explained reason, the 10th of November Group. The leader of the terrorists is played by "mature" porn star Karin Schubert, whose dubbed accent sounds like Zsa Zsa Gabor channeling Ilsa, She-Wolf of the SS; Josephine Jacqueline Jones (BLACK VENUS) has a small role as one of the amorous amazons. Thus we're treated to a super-lame catfight, a bit of girl-on-girl petting and Christina's erotic dream-fantasies, in which she lolls naked in a cloud of dry ice vapor as black-gloved hands push toy cars and tanks across her body. (???) Christina eventually escapes from the island of sapphic militants only to fall into the clutches of a handsome Mediterranean smuggler, whom she naturally shags even though he, too, is holding her for ransom. Yet another escape is engineered with the help of a lovestruck teenage lad. (She boinks him, too.) Mr. Smuggler's goons take off after her, so the flick is climaxed by a dopey slapstick chase sequence in which a stunt driver on a motorcycle is almost killed.
I suppose fans of Shepard (RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD) will want to see this, but can't imagine anyone else getting much out of it. I certainly didn't. Christina is strangely dull and restrained despite the ample nudity and potentially exploitable situations. Shepard, while nice enough to look at, has zero screen presence in the title role. (She does get naked every ten minutes or so, at least.) The script is ludicrous not, for the most part, in a good way. An annoying techno-disco score that positively screams "mid-'80s!" just makes things worse. Still, I'm feeling generous at the moment, so I'll give it a few Brownie points for Shepard's lovely derrière and the scattered unintentional laughs amid the dialog.
Chi sei? (1974)
The Lethargy of Evil
Amazing, the power of advertising. I had never seen this film, but I definitely recalled the TV spot that creeped me out as an impressionable youngster way back in the day. Apparently I wasn't alone in this; BEYOND THE DOOR fell into that category of movies that most cult aficionados were aware of but had likely never had the chance to watch. Now that I've finally seen it, I can only express my disappointment.
Talky, lethargic and needlessly obtuse, this mishmash of ROSEMARY'S BABY and THE EXORCIST squanders every opportunity it affords itself. Juliet Mills plays Jessica Barrett, a San Francisco housewife and mother of two whose comfortable existence is shattered by an unexpected pregnancy instead of joy she's overcome by strange feelings of dread and unease. She and her music producer husband Robert (a miscast Gabriele Lavia) are alarmed to learn that the fetus is developing at a greatly accelerated rate, precluding an abortion; their family doctor is at a complete loss to explain it. With Jessica exhibiting bizarre behavior to hubby and the kids, a mysterious figure from her past named Dimitri (ZOMBIE's Richard Johnson) appears out of the blue to hover on the periphery, watching and waiting. He only inserts himself into the situation once it becomes clear that some kind of supernatural force is at work the mother-to-be demonstrates telekinetic powers, speaks in an inhuman voice and vomits up a lot of green bile. In desperation Robert turns to Dimitri for answers, but the stranger only makes demands. There can be no contact with doctors, and the child must be born...
Although Mills and Johnson are quite good, taking their roles and the material seriously, I just couldn't bring myself to care about their characters or what happens to them. Most of the supernatural manifestations are effectively staged (notably in a scene depicting the demonic possession of objects in the Barrett children's room), but unfortunately these moments are buried deep within a sluggish, confusing narrative. I was surprised that a '70s Italian rip-off of trend-setting American horror films could actually prove tamer than its inspirations no peeing on the carpet or masturbating with a crucifix here. Eating a rotten banana peel picked up off the street just doesn't quite compare.
Top Sensation (1969)
Edwige & Rosalba... 'Nuff Said!
Eurobabes Edwige Fenech (5 DOLLS FOR AN AUGUST MOON) and Rosalba Neri (LADY FRANKENSTEIN) get wicked, kinky and naked in this bizarre Italian thriller. A rich, sicko socialite (Maud Belleroche) plays weird sex/mind games using a parasitical young couple (Neri, Maurizio Bonuglia), a golddigging prostitute (Fenech) and her own mentally disturbed son as pawns. Most of the action takes place aboard a luxury yacht cruising the Mediterranean. The games get out of control, resulting in murder when the yacht stops at a rustic island populated by sheperds. (The scene with Fenech and the baby goat is simply unbelievable.) Composer Sante Romitelli's interesting score is kitschy and groovy at the same time. The movie looks and sounds terrible on bootleg VHS... Positively screams for a widescreen DVD release!