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One Of The Greatest
In the midst of his quest to find Blofeld and destroy SPECTRE, James Bond rescues the unhinged Tracy Di Vicenzo as she attempts to drown herself. Their paths cross once again and it isn't long until they fall in love. To his dismay however, 007 is relieved of his mission to locate Blofeld, with MI6 citing his failure to track the supervillan down. Bond takes it upon himself to assume the identity of a genealogist who is currently studying Blofeld's family tree, before heading to Switzerland. He discovers that Blofeld has set up a clinic where he is supposedly "curing" young women of various food allergies. After his cover his blown, Bond learns that Blofeld intends to use the women to spread a virus which will devastate the world's crops, unless the United Nations pardon him and recognise his title as Count De Bleuchamp.
The first and last outing for Australian George Lazenby, who stepped in to replace Connery after the latter declared he was "finished" with Bond. OHMSS will always be remembered as "the one where Bond gets married" or "the one where Bond's wife gets killed", and it is much deeper than most of the other movies given it's romantic backstory. To most people, it comes across as boring and old fashioned and it's also one of the longest Bond movies, however it will always hold a place within my top 5 Bond movies. Louis Armstrong's We Have All The Time In The World is truly sublime, especially given the movie's context and some of John Barry's greatest work is also featured here. The instrumental title piece is riveting in itself and even more so when it kicks in during the action scenes. Said action scenes are also spectacular and the exhilarating ski chase is a proper thrill-ride. This movie also has some of the best fights in the entire series, here they're a little more violent and slapdash which works to the film's advantage. I am always invigorated by both the anarchic car chase during a stock car rally as well as the chaotic bobsled chase and fight at the end of the film. We are also treated to a dangerously thrilling avalanche in which Bond is almost buried alive, not to mention the climatic attack on Blofeld's mountaintop clinic which was also amazing. The mammoth proportion of chaos and destruction in the film's action sequences is just awesome. Lazenby does a fine job playing Bond here and acquits himself brilliantly where the stunts and action are both concerned. He seems to be more than proficient at hand to hand(he broke one of the stuntmen's noses during a screen test)which is why the fights are so terrific. I would have loved to have seen him progress in the role of Bond and it would have been interesting to see him in the next film, Diamonds Are Forever. The brilliant Telly Savalas has his turn at Blofeld and certainly doesn't disappoint.
Wrapped in a moving love story, the 6th Bond movie is a very impressive actioner as well as an outstanding effort. Frankly I don't understand why this only has a 6.8 on IMDb. 10/10
Se sei vivo spara (1967)
Uber Violent Debut From Giulio Questi
An outlaw known only as The Stranger is shot and left for dead by his compatriots following a successful gold robbery. He is found by two Indians who tend his wounds but in the meantime his compadres have made their way to an eerie town known only as "The Unhappy Place". Their gold attracts the unwanted attention of the "justice loving" townsfolk who turn vigilante and proceed to lynch the outlaws. Zorro the landowner and his army of black-clad cowboys want their share of the loot, as does Templar the corrupt hotel owner and Hagerman the crazed storekeeper. It isn't long before The Stranger arrives and the townsfolk turn against each other.
Making his big screen debut, Giulio Questi's bizarre western is essentially an extension of the "greed corrupts" angle. Questi peppers his narrative with acts of vicious brutality, relishing his characters engaging in animalistic forms of barbarism. One of the bandits is gorily cut apart whilst wounded and another unfortunate character is brutally scalped whilst still alive and breathing. Most critics will describe Django Kill as surreal, however I wouldn't even call it surreal. Baroque would be more fitting, or Gothic would be even better. Furthermore it contains one of the weirdest torture scenes ever committed to film in which The Stranger is locked in a cell with an Iguana, an Armadillo and a creepy Vampire Bat. Yes you read that right, and his painful facial expressions are even more odd as the creatures seem to be doing him no harm whatsoever. Maybe he just had a phobia of exotic creatures, although that Bat did look rather evil. This scene alone will leave you truly bewildered. As a movie it gets off to a brilliant start and the story is set up excellently, but it's not long before it starts dragging it's heels. There were too many subplots for my liking which bogged the film down horribly. The performances were decent, with Robert Camardiel, Piero Lulli and Marilu Tolo worthy of mention. The soundtrack from an unknown Ivan Landor was also superb.
Django Kill is a refreshingly unique but flawed Spaghetti Western. However aside from the grotesque violence and aforementioned torture scene, you won't remember much about this movie after it's over. 7/10
Quién sabe? (1967)
Don't Buy Bread Hombre...
In revolutionary Mexico, a bandit army under the grandiose El Chuncho ambush a government train. A mysterious American named Bill Tate kills the driver before bringing the train to a halt, thus gaining El Chuncho's trust. Bill joins the gang and it isn't long before he and El Chuncho are like brothers. He aids the bandits in attacking the federales and raiding their armouries, with El Chuncho intending to sell the rifles to bandit chief General Elias. However Bill has an ulterior motive, and why does he carry on his person a golden bullet...
Steeped in Marxist philosophy, Damiano Damiani's revered Zapatafest is a critique of U.S involvement in the affairs of third world countries. With the Mexican revolution as his canvas, Damiani analyses and deconstructs the ideology behind social revolution and how it can be influenced and corrupted by both violence and greed. Gian Maria Volonte is on delightfully charismatic from to the point where he almost outdoes his performances in the Dollars films. Lou Castel and Martine Beswick were superb too and the great Klaus Kinski gave a brilliant turn as the bloodthirsty Priest. The bodycount is deliciously high and the action scenes certainly do not disappoint.
It's easy to see why this film is held in high regard among Spaghetti western aficionados. A fantastic effort from Damiani. 9/10
Raid on Rommel (1971)
In the baking heat of the Sahara in 1943, British army Captain Foster(Richard Burton)is tasked with destroying Tobruk's gigantic harbour battery. However he only has a battered medical unit with which to do it. Will he be able to outsmart notorious desert fox Rommel and complete his mission...
With it's TV movie production values, Henry Hathaway's wartime actioner is essentially a rehash of 1967's Tobruk, which starred Rock Hudson and George Peppard. In fact 95% of this movie's action sequences are pinched from said film, therefore this is basically recycled fun. Some footage is even lifted from Universal's own Away All Boats(the British commandos scrambling onto the landing craft at the end of the movie look curiously identical to American marines). Eagle eyed viewers will also spot Jeff Chandler's explosive demise from that movie, which may or may not have been inserted by accident during the climatic bombardment of the Royal Navy Destroyers. The score is a little annoying and the film gets bogged down in worthless dialogue(a discussion about stamp collecting?). However Richard Burton earns his paycheck as the hardened military man and the action scenes are enjoyable even if they are borrowed.
Arthur Hiller's version may be much more fulfilling, but this is a great time passer for a boring afternoon/evening. 7/10
You Only Live Twice (1967)
Twice Is The Only Way To Live!
The superpowers gear themselves for war following the hijacking of U.S and Soviet spacecraft in earth's orbit. Agent 007 rises from the dead and travels to Japan to investigate, finding himself once again up against the diabolical SPECTRE organisation. However he gets more than he bargained for when he finally comes face to face with SPECTRE chief Ernst Stavro Blofeld, who is in the process of instigating a nuclear apocalypse which will allow SPECTRE to emerge as the dominant world order...
Sean Connery's fifth and supposedly final Bond outing is, in my less than humble opinion, one of the series' best instalments. With it's breathtaking volcano set, terrific John Barry score and top notch action sequences, YOLT is an absolute blast!(no pun intended). The Japanese locations are beautifully photographed and with a script by acclaimed children's writer Roald Dahl, this is one of the more surreal Bond adventures(of which there would be many). Donald Pleasence makes for a superb Blofeld and Connery seems to be enjoying himself. The climatic battle in Blofeld's elaborate volcano lair is just insane and truly spectacular in it's own right, so much chaos!. The stunts and special effects in this sequence alone never cease to amaze me and the bodycount is staggeringly high. An exhilarating foot chase around Kobe docks and the airborne melee featuring the Little Nellie Gyrocopter are also worthy of high praise, even if the effects in the latter are a little clunky. Oh and there's also a brilliant car chase in which are car full of nasty gunmen is amusingly disposed of. After all, it's just a drop in the ocean really.
As a child I always wanted a model of Blofeld's volcano lair, in fact to this day I still long for one. YOLT is one of the reasons why I love the Bond franchise so much. True and unapologetic escapism! 10/10
Il mio nome è Shangai Joe (1973)
The Dragon Strikes Back
A young Chinese immigrant named Joe arrives in the United States in 1882 to look for work. At every turn he is confronted by racial bigotry which forces him to use his superior karate skills to teach a group of bitter cowboys a lesson. Joe eventually finds work at the ranch of sadistic land baron Spencer, who has enslaved the local Mexican population. After seeing Spencer's men ruthlessly murder a large group of Mexicans, Joe goes on the run. His ordeal is far from over however as Spencer sends four of the most dangerous killers in the territory after him...
Made at a time when uber-violent Kung Fu films were box office draw, Mario Caiano's brutal chop socky pastafest is rich on the sauce and high on the sleaze. The unknown Chen Lee(no relation of Bruce)is our hero taking the fight to the evil slave traders. The Fighting Fists of Shanghai Joe is really just a cash in as well as an attempt to revive the dying Italo western. Alas it may not have been fresh enough, but that doesn't mean that there isn't fun to be had here. Eyeballs are viciously torn from skulls, hands are gorily chopped off and lots of racist thugs get beaten up in superb fashion, so what's not to like?. Said effects do look cheap, but the Kung Fu fights are brilliantly choreographed, particularly the melee in the saloon. The movie starts off routine but gets more exciting in the second half. The climatic fight sees Joe facing off against a fellow Kung Fu student which is a welcome departure from your usual wild west showdown. There's also some cool slow motion to jazz the film up. Bruno Nicoli delivers what is in my opinion one of his best scores, in fact the main theme is reused from 1970s Have A Good Funeral, My Friend...Sartana Will Pay. I don't know how proficient Chen Lee was in karate but the way in which he executed himself during the fight sequences was highly impressive. Gordon Mitchell and a creepy Klaus Kinski were terrific as hired killers Burying Sam and Scalper Jack respectively. Piero Lulli also made for a charismatic villain.
Enjoyable east-meets-west fare that will pass the time of day. 8/10
The Quintessential Italian War Movie!
France 1944. Five U.S army convicts, Lieutenant Yeager, Fred Canfield, Tony, Nick and Bearle are being transported to a military prison when their convoy is ambushed by the Germans. The condemned men use this opportunity to escape and plan on heading to neutral Switzerland. As the men make their way towards the border, they mistakenly kill a platoon of American commandos disguised as Nazis and subsequently fall into the hands of the free French. Lieutenant Yeager is now obligated to aid the French in a secret commando mission, to steal the detonator of the latest V2 rocket...
This latter day Macaroni Combat actioner from Enzo G. Castellari is a rip roaring ride in warsploitation. Quentin Tarantino, an avid lover of Italian cinema, borrowed the title and altered it for his spectacular 2009 wartime saga(his Inglourious Basterds is not directly linked to this movie, although it is a homage to Macaroni Combat movies). Castellari is something of a god where Italian cinema is concerned and this film is a fantastic example of why this is the case. Explosive action sequences with crazy stunts, an immense bodycount and spectacular amounts of chaos on show are the order of the day here!. The aforementioned solid action scenes could only be achieved under the helm of Castellari himself and this movie is a firm example of why he is truly adept at directing action. The performances were excellent and the characters likable. Bo Svenson was cool and Fred Williamson and Peter Hooten were also superb. The film is almost comic book-like and I got a laugh out of it's humorous aspects. It couldn't have had a better score from Francesco Di Masi and the title/end credit sequences were awesome in their own right!.
This is really everything I want a war movie to be, simple and action packed with decent characters. If you want a session of solid escapism, then this is the movie for you. In fact it's the best the Macaroni Combat subgenre has ever looked!. 9/10
Astute gunslinger Sartana springs the thief Grandville from prison in the hope that he can access a fortune in gold stolen by the latter. Grandville was double crossed by his partner who has since been killed and now a crooked sheriff, a fierce bandit and his gang, a saloon keeper and a shady widow are after the loot. Sartana and Grandville are become marked men and bounties are put on their heads. Immediately Sartana begins playing everyone off against each other whilst trying to find clues to the whereabouts of the gold. As the bodycount increases, Sartana finds that Grandville is not all he seems...
This fourth instalment in the awesome Sartana franchise is as whacky as you'd expect. There's a huge amount of fun to be had here as suave Gianni Garko fills the boots of our titular hero for the last time. What exists of a plot becomes increasingly convoluted as the film progresses, but hey it's a Spaghetti western. As with the first three movies this one has a very Bondian feel mainly because of the gadgetry Sartana relies on to get him out of tight situations, or in not so tight situations he uses curious clockwork toy fashioned like a mini totem pole to light his cigarettes. This is a refreshing addition to the plot which succeeds in making the film more engaging. We have a decent score from Bruno Nicoli and the movie gets off to a brilliant start with our protagonist making a cool entry. The action scenes are exciting but the finale is truly memorable. Daft as it may be, Sartana's climatic "organ solo" is one of the most amazing(and highly amusing)lessons in Spaghetti western ass kicking ever committed to celluloid. Bodies drop like flies thanks to a good old church organ which has been equipped with some complimentary armaments, namely cannon and a machine gun turret!.
What else can I say, a great hour and a half of fun. 9/10
An Amusing Oddity
Two drifters, a confidence trickster named Billy who believes in doing things "clever" and the dim-witted Harry who dreams of owning a ranch, journey across the wilderness after Billy has conned Harry out of some gold. The two soon become friends and they travel through the west causing all manner of mayhem. However, a bloodthirsty band of killers are after Billy which means that both men's lives are in danger...
Guilio Petroni brings us the peculiarly titled ...And For A Roof, A Sky Full Of Stars. The plot is almost nonexistent and doesn't become clear until nearly halfway through the film. It's very much a Jekyll-and-Hyde effort, the film begins and ends like most Spaghetti westerns but it's really a lighthearted buddy adventure. It just doesn't know what it wants to be, the segments of wisecracking comic relief are punctuated by familiar scenes of brutality that one expects from the genre. Giuliano Gemma and Mario Adorf are our protagonists who give above par performances, the chemistry between them is decent and the movie itself plods along at a reasonable pace. The action scenes are sparse here, we've seen them all before and there is nothing spectacular where they're concerned. Morricone delivers a rousing score which will be instantly recognised by Spaghetti fans. The sequence in which Billy seduces a stunning looking young widow(played by the gorgeous Magda Konopka) who's just buried her husband is definitely the film's highlight, as a matter of fact it's probably the only reason that it is worth another viewing. It is here that the film is at it's funniest and the entire sequence is truly sublime, I was mesmerised watching Billy and the widow eat Turkey as they stare lustfully at each other.
...And For A Roof, A Sky Full Of Stars is an above average effort that is far from great, but it's entertaining and will put a smile on your face. 7/10
"Walther PPK 7.65 mm, Only Three Men I Know Use Such A Gun, I Believe I've Killed Two Of Them"
During the Cold War James Bond 007 and Alec Trevelyan 006 infiltrate a Soviet chemical weapons facility. However as the detonators are set to destroy the facility, alarms sound and Trevelyan is killed by Soviet troops as Bond narrowly escapes with the entire complex exploding. Nine years pass and the Cold War has ended, although MI6 learns that a devastating satellite weapon known as the GoldenEye has fallen into the hands of a notorious crime syndicate known as Janus. 007 is sent to St. Petersburg to investigate and to his horror discovers not only that his old compatriot Alec Trevelyan is very much alive and the chief of Janus, but has stolen the codes of the GoldenEye and now controls it. Bond learns that the vengeful Trevelyan aims to use the GoldenEye to fire a destructive electromagnetic pulse at the UK, thus allowing him to hack into every bank account in the country and erase any trace of theft...
GoldenEye heralded a new beginning for the Bond franchise. The original creative team was almost entirely replaced and the producers began pushing the franchise in the direction of the modern action flick. With the culmination of the Cold War the world began advancing rapidly in terms of technology and various political ideologies would be completely changed. It was with things like these that the Bond movies would have to compete, therefore the series underwent a serious rejuvenation as the filmmakers sought a fresher approach. Timothy Dalton resigned from the franchise after playing Bond only twice as legal disputes threatened to kill the series. However setbacks were professionally overcome and GoldenEye was released after a bleak six year gap, this time with Pierce Brosnan in the role of agent 007. GoldenEye really was a spectacular comeback for the franchise, although I think that the 80s Bond movies are among the best in the entire series!. The Pierce Brosnan era is my least favourite(I always have and always will prefer the pre 1990s "classic" era)but GoldenEye is by far Brosnan's greatest. His second and third outings were fun, but lacked the elements which made the older Bond movies so great and his fourth was just downright awful. Exploding with rollicking action sequences and boasting some terrific dialogue, GoldenEye gets off to a cracking start with an enthralling shootout and chase which ends with an extremely impressive motorcycle cliff-dive!. It also has some of the craziest stunts of the series and the bodycount is higher than that of your average Bond movie. Then we have an anarchic shoot-em-up in a Russian military archive directly followed by an awesomely chaotic pursuit which sees Bond hijacking a Russian tank and wreaking destruction on the streets of St. Petersburg!. The exhilarating chase and fistfight between Bond and Trevelyan which precedes their taut confrontation atop a huge satellite antenna was just as spectacular!. This was the first Bond movie to use CGI which is fortunately kept to a bearable minimum. The other realistic special effects, such as the fiery destruction of Trevelyan's armoured train as well as the aforementioned satellite antenna, look amazing!.
Whilst Pierce Brosnan is decent in the role of 007, Timothy Dalton is greatly missed here and I would have much preferred to see him return to the role a third time. I thought he was fantastic in the previous two films(especially Licence To kill)and the dark premise of GoldenEye was much better suited to him rather than Brosnan. Game Of Thrones' Sean Bean made for a superbly jaded Alec Trevelyan and the gorgeous Famke Janssen was also brilliant as the sex-loving, thrill-seeking assassin Xenia Onatopp. Eric Serra's score was decent enough, but he's no John Barry.
An immensely fun actioner with riotous proportions of chaos on show. 8/10