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that's about it.
Until we meet next time.
Neither the Sea Nor the Sand (1972)
A married woman while on vacation falls passionately in love and begins an affair with a lighthouse keeper, only to be left heartbroken when he dies suddenly. However the very next day he turns up on her door-step, in a zombie-like state. Was it her grief that did that? Anyhow she's overly happy, hoping they can rekindle their love. But she soon realises that his body is beginning to decompose and that she must soon decide their fate. Picturesque, slightly disturbing and haunting British Gothic tale of love with a real sense of tragedy and despair. The grotesquely odd story is kind of ambiguous and scratchy in parts, relying on mood (more so then sense), convincing chemistry and a strongly affecting performance by Susan Hampshire. She really does carry it along quite nicely with a real mix of emotions. But the likes of Frank Finlay (especially in his zombie state) and Michael Petrovitch are not being overshadowed. The music was a bit a shamble. Sometimes fitting, other times awkward. The slow pacing is deliberate and some sequences do pack atmosphere (especially when Hampshire's character comes to the realisation they can't be together), but it feels somewhat lukewarm in Fred Burnley's directorial attempt of capturing some sort of brooding realism to this low-key build-up of macabre. It's nicely photographed with the bleak coastal locations adding to the perceptive nature of its story.
The Blood of Fu Manchu (1968)
"Let her taste the kiss of death".
International mastermind villain Fu Manchu and his sadistic daughter Lin Tang are hiding out in their secret underground lair in the deep jungles of South America planning next quest for world domination. This involves kidnapping 10 beautiful young women and infecting them with an ancient poison that one kiss from their lips will bring instant death. They are sent around the world to eliminate Fu Manchu's enemies and then eventually he would unleash this plague on the world.
After the disappointment of "Vengeance of Fu Manchu", what was to follow was truly scrapping the bottom of the barrel. Now in the hands of the infamously prolific director Jess Franco. The next two Fu Manchu entries would be the death of the series, which was started up by producer / writer Harry Alan Towers. Most people would label the 1969 "The Castle of Fu Manchu" as the worst, but for me it was easily "Blood". Both were sloppy, ramshackle and messily plotted, but "Blood" was downright flat and terribly dull for it. The uneventful side distractions (South American bandits) and overall padding just stalled the pacing and even magnifying the daftness of it all. The action was laboured and there was a real lack of adventure to this serial. Plenty of groping though, but not much else. For most part it's uninspired in its direction. We would see Christopher Lee and Tsai Chin reprising their roles with malevolent glee. Lee going about things in the usual diabolical manner and Chin as glassy as ever. Outside of these two performances, there's not much to it. Surprisingly the exotic jungle backdrop is made to good use by Franco. It looks low-rent, but while some of the previous films had that cheap quality they were better handled than this project. Its limitations really do show it up. Franco tries to bring his trademark (no, not the zoom. But there's plenty of it) use of sleaze and torture, but it just feels forced and becomes a tired method sapping out any real sense of fun. In other words it's dreary and unpleasant but not effective in its execution to have any sort of impact.
A wooden Richard Greene plays Fu Manchu's number one nemesis Nayland Smith, but the story doesn't really give his character all that much to do
mainly keeping him rather secondary. So it's not much of a battle between the two and the characters the plot seems to follow (Gotz George & Ricardo Palacios) don't leave much of an impression. Although Howard Marion Crawford was an annoyance. The women in the cast are attractive and this is to serve an important notion in the plot's progression. Some of ladies to show up would be Maria Rohm, Lon von Friedl and Shirley Eaton.
Black Dog (1998)
"I'm just here to drive".
You get plenty bang for your buck in the on-the-road action joint "Black Dog". Ex-con Jack Crews unwillingly agrees to drive a semi-trailer loaded with illegal weapons from Georgia to New Jersey in order to save his family. While it might be a one-idea action fling, it's got enough gusto and energy making it predictably routine, but still rousing Mack truck ride packed with smashing stunt work that's nothing short than spectacular. Total destruction follows. It's dangerous and it shows (look at the chase through the hills), as the imagery is important due to its simplicity. The script is thick with drama, but this never takes away from the thrills or the build of them. Even though the ending was overly cheery for my liking. Patrick Swayze emit's a natural coolness to his laid-back ex-con character that sure knows how to handle a rig. Then chuck in the villains (hit-men, bikers and FBI) who hound Swayze, where you have the larger-than-life Meat Loaf and the usual twists and turns. Distinguishable, but competently done and very exciting as we get the screeching guitar riffs to remind us that.
"That son of a b!tch can drive"
"I don't know about you, but I'm tired of running".
Film-maker Neil Marshall kicked off his career with two outstanding low- budget horror films; "Dog Soldiers" and "The Descent". Quite a promising start. Then followed "Doomsday", which got a mixed response. I enjoyed it, but it's nothing more than an outrageous homage to post-apocalyptic films like "Escape to New York" and the "Mad Max" series. So his fourth outing would see Marshall tackle a swords and sandals revenge pursuit on the frontier of the Roman Empire in "Centurion". It's a gritty and brutal tale of survival and courage, where Rome's invasion of northern Britain hit's a bump when they encounter the guerrilla tactics of the tribal enemy the Picts. There's something about it that looks epic thanks to its crisp, sweeping photography, but its minimalist story telling makes sure it doesn't quite complement it. The narrative is a fast-paced, cross-country chase of rugged action and bloody onslaughts amongst beautiful highland scenery. Where the terrain is just as harsh and unforgiving, as the Roman's enemy. I think it loses shape and momentum after the hour mark and the heavy-handed script gives us the usual character arches, but Marshall's stylish verve is slick and taut. The battle scenes are executed in a spectacular manner, where it's a barrage of relentless and gusty combat. Michael Fassbender leads the way as a man looking for redemption and Olga Kurylenko makes an impression as a Pict warrior. Also Dominic West pops up. Simple, but effective action romp that for most part doesn't let up and is masterfully framed.
"This is a new kind of war".
Red Scorpion (1988)
"He can be controlled".
Joseph Zito is no stranger to noisy gun-ho, explosive action joints with films like semi 80s classics "Missing in Action" and "Invasion USA" under his belt. So you know what he would bring to the table and Zito doesn't disappoint. He goes big on nearly all fronts. An all-out assault on the senses with general mayhem. Now who to play an indestructible Russian Special Force soldier who must go undercover to infiltrate and assassinate an African rebel leader. Look no further than a stolid Dolph Lundgren. He's perfect for the role, as an instrument of war. The plot is typically laid-out; as a soldier goes in terminate a target to only realise he's expandable and left for dead by his superiors. This sees him sympathizing with the guerrillas' cause and leading them against his old comrades. It doesn't offer up much in its one-note story and the script can be a touch preachy, but the tough action is frenetic and well-staged even with some slow (the spiritual journey with the bushman), tired passages. The grimy atmosphere adds to its humid tempo. There are some colourful supporting cast with the live-wire Emmet Walsh, T.P McKenna as the evil Russian General, and sadistic glee from Carmen Argenziano as a Cuban Colonel. Also character actor Brion James shows up for a small part doing the standard bad guy shtick. A film that sticks to formula, but that's its strength and Zito knows it.
Blood Link (1982)
Seeing Through the eyes of a killer.
Doctor Craig Mannings is having visions where he sees himself killing women, but he slowly realises he's actually seeing through the eyes of a killer. What happens to be link? Low-budget psychotic thriller (with a touch of Giallo) that's bizarre and seedy, but not in an exploitative sense
favouring European atmospherics and erotica than all-out crass and graphic exploitation. That's not say there aren't any sleazy and trash elements, but there's a certain style and chic to the production that lifts it up a notch. One thing that sticks with you is Ennio Morricone's layered music score. Emotional, simmering and truly unsettling. This complements Michael Moriarty's dual performance of two extremes. This two-sided turn is a magnificent blend of confidently underplayed and insanely creepy. Moriarty is a joy to watch, especially when he comes face to face with himself. This is where the tension arises, as a viewer we know what might happen while the characters are playing the chase up game. Moriarty playing the evil twin role simply got under my skin and the acts of violence handed out by this character are merciless. The twist when it comes is nightmarish, but the ending paints a very haunting suggestion that gives the film an effective sting because of its convincing performances. Nice touches by director Albert De Martino. Writing-wise there can be some inconsistent patterns (mainly past developments and character motivations), but it feels more like a mood piece with our two central characters (Moriarty superbly at work) interacting. One wanting to help, while the other wants no such thing. There's real solid support by Penelope Milford (who's fantastic in the very final scene), Geraldine Fitzgerald and quick cameo part for Cameron Mitchell.
Blue Tiger (1994)
Driven by revenge
Searing, passionate and stylish revenge thriller that rises above its b- grade formula due to its well-written character dramas lead by a powerful performance from Virginia Madsen. Its her character's fierce determination of a mother that drives it, especially in her commitment as she gets the tattoo of the avenging red tiger on her back. Madsen really takes it upon herself to portray a damaged individual who's desire for revenge sees her character entering the dangerous underworld of the Japanese mafia seeking the identity of the killer of her son who was caught in the crossfire during an Yakuza hit. The only clue driving her was the glimpse of a tattoo of a blue tiger across the killer's chest. Fearsome action with heated drama and cold straight-faced villains
no surprises with the intrigue, but its well-made and there's perfect support parts led by Harry Dean Stanton.
Kingdom Come (2014)
Boarded in for a reason.
Dreary, uninteresting low-cost supernatural set-up of a group people waking up in a abandoned asylum with no way out, but why are they there and what links everyone together? One or two nasty scenes with some decent looking effects (although the demons looked somewhat makeshift, if original), but all too predictable and dumb in its delivery to be effective. The build-up is not particularly captivating either, as we watch the characters bicker, whine and shout at each other, as they get picked off one by one as past secrets come out of the shadows to destroy them, or maybe not. It's all about the choices and redemption. Which path you choose determines your fate. When the twist arrived with its reveal of this nightmarish playground it had me groaning... so did the ending. The acting wasn't any great shakes either. In a way I thought it bought it down, as it was a film that seem to rely more on its acting and story dynamics (which where weak) than the visual action.
Cursed bikers on the prairie.
Summer in Nebraska, 1919 and a group of bikers on vintage motorcycles ride across the prairies on their way to California. On their journey they find themselves being pursued by a town posse. They decide to lay low, and invite themselves onto an isolated farmed owned by two sisters. Daughters of an Indian medicine man. The younger sister is welcoming, while the older is weary as she uses sorcery to defuse any sort of threat. Trippy rural, low- budget horror-comedy-romance-drama... I don't know how to categorise this one. I mainly sorted this one out for Scott Glenn. A bizarre, laid-back atmosphere with a touch of airy mysticism and a bunch of familiar faces giving animated performances (Keith Carradine, Scott Glenn & Gary Busey playing hillbilly cousins). While atypical (just look at the death scenes and ominous underlining), it was rather annoying to sit through (mainly the performances - Christina Raines taking top honors, music and its erratic mood swings) and its plot is threadbare with very little happening throughout. "Hex" is a neurotic story of love, acceptance and horror. But it doesn't completely come together, as there's not much to hold it there.
No Safe Haven (1987)
"Now we're even"!
There's no safe haven, when Wings Hauser it out for revenge. Which a drug cartel soon finds out. "No Safe Haven" is your typically forgettable 80s action fodder
ridiculously over-the-top in nearly every department from the action set-pieces, clunky dialogues and the villainous bad guys (especially a lip-smacking Branscombe Richmond). Quite reckless, but done with enough panache despite its low-budget frame. It's somewhat slow to begin with, but it does pack a punch when the frenetic action is transported to an impregnable South American jungle fortress. After the death of his two younger brothers and his mother at the hands of a vicious drug syndicate, Hauser's CIA agent Clete is a man on a mission. He gets by with plenty of charisma, a touch of intensity (mainly those scenes in the first half when one-by-one he playfully begins picking off the henchmen to make a point) and with the aid of a weapons expert amusingly played by Robert Tessier. Gladly the story stays simple with little in the way of distractions, as Hasuer goes about his brutal business accompanied by a screeching rock soundtrack. We know what it wants to deliver and for most part it serves up the stereotypically colourful and cheesy action goods.