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that's about it.
Until we meet next time.
"It's not your fault your batteries went dead".
From the creator of the insane Japanese zombie feature "Stacy" (2001), Naoyuki Tomomastu goes a step further with his erotically demented low- budget fantasy "Maidroid".
In the not so distant future, Maria was an android that was programmed to take care of Ueno when he was a child. When he got a little older his parents died in an accident and he decided Maria would look after him. As he grew older, he became attached to her emotionally and was upset that the sexual function didn't compute because of her being a prototype. Still this being the case the love he shared for her lasted long after her battery power had died. This shows when he's an old man still talking to her and washing her, though there's no life in her anymore.
While there's news reports of a series of serial rapes hitting the city, detective Yuri Akagi begins to suspect it's an android. Upon each night there seems to be an attack and Akagi might have to do something out-of- ordinary to get her suspect (and when she does it's quite a sight!?).
The concept looks better on paper, than so on screen as its rather patchwork with these two thin plot threads having no real connection, other than having something to say about society's approach to sex and love. Quite laughable with its observations of what men and women are after (especially the motivation for the serial rapist) and the sexual appetite that spurs them on (Love is eternal, nothing material about it and it's more than skin deep). Well the director does craft numerous eye-brow raising moments, both intentional and unintentional. Really it's like two different movies fused together, but have trouble gelling as the editing is a mess and it just doesn't feel right. Creative and unusual with the ideas, but the frenetic execution is ramshackle and clumsy. However there's no denying how jarring in nature it becomes; as the words lewd, sleazy and outrageous figure promptly. Soft-core sequences come from nowhere. The somewhat sweet and heartfelt romance of a man and his droid is broken up by chintzy and violent pockets of the serial rape investigation of very little groundwork. Still when they should be disturbing in detail, it's just goofy. The script is not always serious, as black humour shows up in those kinky scenes that come across like info-commercials for these maidroids.
Mo hua qing (1991)
"I'm so unlucky".
Offbeat, colourful and cutesy Hong Kong fantasy romance of a well-worn story concept. There happens to be two plot threads streaming from this story one more serious than the other.
Shing is a down-on-his luck cartoonist, who's on his way home when he hits a lady ghost Ching-Ching. This leaves the spirit stranded in the human world, where she attaches herself to Tony whenever his out of luck. While stranded there she meets another demonic spirit (known as ghost whore) who's trying to revive her dead son, after they were mistakenly sentenced to death for adultery.
It's likable, but familiar entertainment with a lousy ending. Batty characters come and go, while the scenarios are very cartoon-like with the jokes becoming tiring. Well it's like a comic strip coming to life, which does happen in the film in one very interesting scene. It's an odd and jarring mixture, mingling comical interactions and misunderstandings with some atmospheric imagery and nasty surprises. Still it's the central relationship that takes up most of the time where she helps him achieve what he wants, which for most part is quite dull. Where ghosts tease and torment the living, where the physical gags feature heavily and so does a superstitious framework when Feng Tien's Taoist priest arrives on the scene. The performances are mainly on the eccentric side (Tony Leung & Deannie Yip) and Joey Wang has a beautiful presence.
The File of the Golden Goose (1969)
"It takes two to call off a deal".
Quite routine as can be for a crime feature, but there's somewhat a dreary and hardened underbelly. The investigation that transpires is predictably weary as you feel like your watching something out of a old- school crime TV episode but what it has going for it is that the grimy locations help with the moody ambiance and the main performances up it a notch. Yul Brynner is in the lead and along side are Edward Woodward and Charles Gray as a shady, if eccentric villain "The Owl". So there are some real solid acting chops on show.
An American secret service agent working with Scotland Yard goes about trying to infiltrate a dangerous counterfeit ring looking to upscale their business. Brynner plays it tough as nails (but there's something a little more to his psyche that be shows minor cracks), while Woodward is the chatty local partner who's assigned to Brynner's American agent. I thought it was going to play out like some buddy feature (as the two shared a fitting combination with some British humour), but it soon moves away from that angle midway through when the thick script brings in the villains and the scheming begins (also slowing things down) as our protagonist (Brynner) sets his plans in motion by snooping and trying to uncover the mastermind behind this counterfeit ring. In between this are some intense exchanges, beat-downs, nasty encounters and sauna visiting amongst the London views.
There's clichés aplenty amongst the smokescreen of genre staples and throw in that racy big band score typical of the era. The plot is rather thin, as you can feel it being stretched out with the amount of repetitive actions occurring and its revelation feels abrupt making little headway, but I always found Brynner to be a very watchable actor despite that detached-persona and it does possess a dangerous edge never making the character feel too safe. The earnest direction is tranquil in manner and the handling rather practical in style, as the pace is leisured throughout making a little sluggish. Although its does come to a crushing end in the final stages with a downbeat final shot.
"He's rather a tough nut".
Densô ningen (1960)
Eerie Sci-fi Horror.
Nicely atmospheric Japanese Sci-fi Horror by Toho productions which sees a supposedly dead soldier getting revenge by killing off those crooks who left him for dead, by using a teleporting machine to locate and then finally dispose of them on by one. However a police detective and reporter are on the case in trying to stop this indestructible killer. "Secret of the Telegian" has a clever gimmick, striking special effects (mainly involving the life matter transmitter) and an interestingly complex little tale engulfed with mystery and darkness, however while there are some eerie visuals and a creepy villain (just listen to that cackle) who lives in the shadows. It's just not as fun as it could have been. Too bad as it starts off strange, but there are some really slow passages and its script is dry as can be. Even when it came to the action, it's rather streamlined with plenty of foot chases despite the distorted villain being able to teleport, but the best moments occur when it's leading up to the stylistic deaths. There's something ominous about its tension through those scenes and the music beautifully complements it with its haunting cues. The photography is smoothly projected and the art direction (with some obvious back-lot sets) is rich in details. I see some people mention about a black & white version, but try to get your hands on the colour film. Looks great! Yoshio Tsuchiya, Akihiko Hirata and Yumi Shirakawa give solid performances and the direction is tersely layered.
The Psychotronic Man (1979)
"Doctor, I need your help".
It's anyone's guess what's truly going on here. Especially after watching the intro where the opening credits go on for a while. And I mean awhile. It was the title that caught my eye "Revenge of the Psychotronic Man". It screams "Hey, look at me"! Anyhow what I got myself into was something bug-eyed. Think of "The Incredible Melting Man", which was made a couple years earlier and the tone is similar, but without the graphic context. Still it wasn't as bad as I thought it might be, but you can see why it's virtually unknown. While being a penniless production, its clunky, dry and tawdry nature remains for most part rather entertaining. Why is it entertaining
because of just how unusual and surprisingly twisted it plays out? Even when it seems to concentrate on uneventful filler, there's something unnervingly atmospheric and random that makes it hypnotic. Even when some scenarios are risible (like the first death with the constant slow-motion) and long-winded (there's a lot of driving going on). Something which would hit you straight away would be the creepy score that overpowers many sequences and that of some oddball sound-effects like the ominous bell chimes that comes and goes. You get more of a rush from the music than the visual action. The direction is virtually non-existent, but the gritty location work of Chicago and the shadowy imagery gives it a bit of a moody edge. While the performances are on the stilted side, but durable enough and dialogues remain lacklustre. Bemusing low-grade horror Sci-fi.
Welcome to Blood City (1977)
"Why does everything come down to murder"?
A group of strangers wake up to find themselves in an unknown place with little recollection of how they got there and of their previous lives. They come across Sheriff Friedlander (Jack Palance), who takes them to a town called "Blood City". It's like they're back in the Wild West, but with a strange law system and social order involving a slave society and where murder is encouraged. But something is not quite right, as unknowingly for these people they are part of an experiment / reality game from outside forces who can manipulate the situations.
Originality can only go so far, if your execution isn't up to par. That's the story for the Sci-fi outing "Welcome to Blood City". Its ambitious quality in its ideas shows, but it's poorly staged. Low budget eats away and so does its limitations. While the technical side won't set the world alight with Peter Sasdy's steadfast direction, but I can't just fault that as the material is somewhat hodgepodge too. What starts off is intriguing, only goes onto become inconsistent and muddled as the more we learn about the predicament the characters find themselves in, the less involving it gets. The problem here is that it gives away the reveal too early, and when we find out about the experiment it seems to be incoherent in its narrative developments. The question why, is asked a lot. Rules just seem to be thrown about, the reasoning is that's the way of life and motivations become hazy of what's really going on behind the scenes with a real lack of elaboration on the bigger picture that becomes silly. The writers probably became lost with all the possibilities being churned out.
The complex concept behind the film does offer some sinister and nightmarish strokes, but it lacks the visual flair to complement it. Looking quite makeshift. Still it does have a brutal and ruthless edge to some scenes, but the excitement/suspense levels never rises, sometimes the pacing being bogged down and the climax finishes off on a anticlimactic and baffling note (if humorous with a final chase involving Palance doing his best woody the woodpecker impersonation). In the same way the flimsy ending does leave you dumbfounded.
Keir Dullea is likable enough in the lead and Jack Palance is always a treat with that devilish smile. It's a cunning performance. The interplay between Palance and Dullea's characters is for most part amusing. Samantha Eggar gives a good turn playing two roles; one in the game and that of a scientist behind scenes who gets a little too involved in her programming work.
So in the end it's disappointing in what it could have been, as there's an interesting, if strange set-up and the beginning builds that up, but alas it doesn't come together. Still there's something admirable about it.
"Jesus, talk about the boonies".
Wow that was creative use of opening credits (which supposedly Nico Mastorakis directed), but sadly that's where it ends. The obscure "Darkroom" is a very mediocre late 80s slasher produced by infamous film-maker Mastorakis (the man behind the controversial "Island of Death"). This run-of-the-mill psycho-slasher has maybe one or two effective stalk and slash set-pieces, but for most part it's a vapid experience level at its flatfooted direction, drawn out pacing, poorly disguised mystery and lacklustre performances (saved by Sara Lee Wade). Actually there's a lot wrong with it; however it remains viewable for some unknown reason. Where did they get this tacky sounding score from, it sounded like something that you would find in a TV episode. The setting does work to its favour though, being an isolated farmhouse (which looks like the one in another Mastorakis produced film; "Grandmother's House") and scrubby surroundings for this terror to unfold. Everything about it is telegraphed, from its attempts at suspense to its twisted reveal. There's nothing subtle about the writing, as the script delivers some strange dialogues, random developments and a typically clichéd back-story illuminating the killer's motivation. In the past he saw something he shouldn't and this made him a disturbed, ominous individual who likes voyeurism and snaps photographs of his victims before and after his done the deal. The pace plods with characters acting suspicious, but the back-end does pick-up the energy with the cat and mouse interplay, but it goes about it in a completely daft and contrived manner.
"I want you to die"
The Night Digger (1971)
Shallow graves can't hide secrets.
I'm surprised that this particular film isn't as well known, as "The Night Digger" is an effectively expressive British psychological thriller (penned by Roald Dahl) with a touch of Gothic drama, psycho-sexual unease and sinister moods. The performances of the cast do go a long way to carrying the intrigue and ambiance, where Patricia Neal, Pamela Brown and a very brooding Nicholas Clay do an outstanding job. Neal's repressed turn really is one of great strength and emotion, while Brown authentically commands the screen as the demanding, disabled mother. Clay has a charm about him, but lurking underneath is something unsettling. The relationship that slowly builds between Neal and Clay's characters is affecting, that when she becomes suspicious of him, due to the disappearances of young woman in the area. She just doesn't want to believe he has anything to do with it, despite knowing he surely does. She yearned for something meaningful, and that was him as he brings out the confidence in her and of course she loves the man. So they run away together. The moments when she finally confronts him over it, while terse it remains powerful. Even the sequences with Neal and Brown (adopted daughter and mother) crafted out gripping exchanges. The scenes involving the murders or even the lead up to them (where he torments the victim) are truly creepy, and Bernard Herrmann's subtle, but tense score paints it nicely. This is set-up in an remote country mansion within a small rural town, so town gossip features prominently and is somewhat a driving force for some key plot progressions. So is the loneliness of Neal's frustrated character, which Clay's character takes advantage of and so does Brown's. The pacing is causal, but it helps the atmosphere build and lets the character's form shape.
Judge and Jury (1996)
"An eye for an eye".
Coming late to the party after such films like "The Horror Show", "Shocker" and "The First Power". The murky supernatural action "Judge and Jury" follows almost the same formula of a convicted criminal coming back from the grave after being sent to the electric chair. Now Joseph Meeker is seeking vengeance against those who put him there and also involved in the murder of his girlfriend during the hold-up. He has his eyes on former pro-footballer Michael Silvano and his family, as he believes that's the man responsible for his girlfriend's death.
In all it's trashy and outrageous with an extremely animated live-wire performance from David Keith as the vengeful spirit who likes to dress up in costumes. You know the Freddy Kruger influenced villain . Still I didn't find anything menacing about his performance, it was more clownish and in which case he does dress up as one. The lame brain plot has very little to it (protagonist being pursued by a spirit while trying to protect his family) and feels straight-forward (chuck in the usual family drama and turmoil with our protagonist haunted by the traumatic experience), but it doesn't hide the fact there's numerous inconsistencies in the writing (mainly surrounding the villain) and the ending is somewhat a whimper. However it does keep a quick pace, throws up plenty of action sequences with bombastic stunt-work (surprisingly some moments do impress for such a production) and the script can have rapid tongue.
The performances are reasonable. Martin Kove has an unintentionally goofy presence to him as the guy who happens to be at the wrong place at the wrong time and must battle the spirit. Cult actor Paul Koslo shows up looking all weathered as the cop who put away Meeker and Kelly Perine is another sort of comic relief who gets paired up with Kove with some amusing interplay. Laura Johnson and Thomas Ian Nicholas (of "American Pie" fame) play the Silvano family. Director John Eyres is the man behind the project and you know what you would get looking at his flimography low-grade and plain-looking, but there's a certain liveliness and gritty kick to the b-material that makes the mayhem entertaining. Oh and don't forget the slow motion.
"I believe Joseph Meeker is dead"!
Un esercito di 5 uomini (1969)
"I have a job for you".
You want familiar, familiar spaghetti western
look no further than "The Five Man Army". Its real lack of originality is made up by its sense of adventure and entertainment as five comrades come together to hatch up a plan to steal a railway shipment of gold from a merciless general. There's nothing mean-spirited, or violent as even when the twist makes its way in. It's rather goodwill in approach and the script does offer up the clues to where all this scheming its heading to. Some interesting names do show-up on this project. Director Don Taylor, co-writer Dario Argento, actors Peter Graves (charismatically getting by with his suave style) and Bud Spencer (being his brute self)
then there's Ennio Morricone who provides once again a characteristically fruitful signature western score that went hand-to-hand with on-screen action and nice scenic scope. You could say there's nothing particularly rousing or even memorable about this (outside the music score), however the pace is streamlined, the genre staples are well orchestrated, dialogue never distracts, characters while safe are agreeable and there's an intense moment or so in a typical, but well done spaghetti western.