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The Dead One (2007)
FEZ is a ZOMBIE! El Muerto: George Romero meets Robert Rodriguez
There have been zombie films, superhero flicks, Latino features and teen romance movies, but this is the first Latino zombie superhero teen romance! And this isn't your uncle's zombie film as El Muerto, unlike other members of the walking dead, can run around during the day, feel love, fight evil and he doesn't have a taste for human flesh.
The motion picture is based on the El Muerto comic by Javier Hernandez, published by Los Comex. It is one of the most faithful transfers of a comic book to the screen as adapted by director Brian Cox. The film's title sequence pays reverence to its origins, featuring art by Hernandez that evokes the opening of many Sergio Leone films (Coincidently the film is produced by unrelated Leones).
Contrary to many comic book films that take forever setting up the origin of the character, El Muerto swiftly unfolds his beginnings and gets to the action, establishing his motivation, his powers and the conflict of being a teen zombie. Young Diego (Wilmer Valderrama, yes Fez from That 70s Show) crosses Mictlantecuhtli, the Aztec God of Death and has his still-beating heart (if not his soul) plucked from him. His love for his girlfriend Maria (the beautiful Angie Cepeda) helps brings him back from the Land of Death, much to the surprise of his friend Zak (Joel David Moore of Art School Confidential) and others.
A series of gruesome deaths and some omens lead them to believe the God of Death is up to no good and only Diego as El Muerto can stop him! El Muerto has something for everyone and will even appeal to people who wouldn't be caught dead watching a zombie movie. This is a zombie film for the entire family! It has an engaging action and a romantic theme, believable special effects, great music and sound design. It boasts many incredible actors like Michael Parks (Kill Bill), Tony Plana (now in "Ugly Betty"), Maria Conchita Alonso and Tony Amendola. The underused and underrated Billy Drago (The Untouchables) makes an impression in a stunning performance.
Some cite the character's similarity to the Crow, but they are night and day. They're both black-clad reanimated corpses with make-up on, but that's where it ends. Whereas the Crow is dark and cynical, El Muerto is light and positive. Though hearts get ripped out and there's other gore, it's tastefully done, usually off screen though still with impact.
With Wilmer Valderrama in the lead, it should attract a wide female and teen audience. One gets the feeling that this film will ultimately have long legs on video and become a cult/mainstream favorite as the years pass. It's a great character and should inspire many fun sequels and spin-offs.
Mara of the Wilderness (1965)
Female Tarzan meets Batman
This is a fun, modest film with a lot going for it. Beautiful scenic footage of Deschutes National Forest in Oregon, passing for Alaskan wilderness, threatens a travelogue but there are some entertaining actors, including some of the animals (not the bear).
It's the same set-up as Tarzan, but a female is orphaned in Alaska instead of Africa and she is raised by wolves instead of apes. Mara is played by the gorgeous Lori (Linda) Saunders (best known as Bobbie Jo from Petticoat Junction) who is sporting a fur bathing suit before Raquel Welch though it's not a bikini.
Mara enjoys laughing while bathing a few times and while she eats raw meat (off camera) and has gone primitive she manages to apply her eyeliner quite well. Mara is quick to scrap and whips her knife out often but it seems odd when she runs away at the big battle climax.
Lori has a good rapport with the wolf actors and though she only grunts, has some good facial expressions. It looks like she did most of her stunts and you got to give her credit for running around the wilderness in bare feet.
The pre-Batman Adam West plays the anthropologist lead and gets into some pretty violent fights including one that ends up with a pair of wolf traps clamping into him. West works nicely with the animals as well and gets a raccoon sidekick.
The evil, sadistic trapper almost steals the show as played by the excellent and prolific Theodore Marcuse who died just a few years later. He was a familiar face to 1960s TV, usually playing villainous Germans or Russians on Hogan's Heroes and Man from U.N.C.L.E. He even met up with Batman later as Von Bloheim. Had he lived he probably would've gone to greater acting heights and fame in the 1970s.
Mara of the Wilderness is an amusing diversion, professionally made and with some 1960s TV icons of interest to fans wanting to see these actors in other roles. A 1988 video is long out of print and the movie doesn't seem to be broadcast any more.
Kilink Istanbul'da (1967)
The "Birth of a Nation" of Turkish Films
KILINK INSTANBUL'DA (Killing in Istanbul) was a landmark film for the burgeoning Turkish cinema when it was originally released on Christmas Day in 1967. This humble movie launched a series of wild action films that would be the hallmark of 'Istanbollywood.'
In 1967, America, and indeed the whole world, went batty with the advent of the Batman TV show starring Adam West. Comic book characters enjoyed a resurgence, becoming post- modern camp pop art and movie makers from Italy to Istanbul rushed in to cash in on the craze.
Many companies licensed existing comic book characters like Diabolik or created their own. Atadeniz Film in Turkey felt comfortable enough to just use an existing character without courtesy of license.
With the success of Diabolik and other super-criminal types in the pages of European comic books, a new figure appeared... but this time the stories were told with photos instead of drawings. This costumed killer was called Killing in Italy, Satanik in France and is now known in America as SADISTIK in the series published by Comicfix.
The movie appropriates the title and costume from the photo novels along with the protagonist's mastery of disguise and penchant for, well, killing. Though there are many scantily clad women and Kilink has a lovely blonde sidekick, she is not Dana, Sadistik's partner in the books. Also Kilink is more megalomaniacal than Sadistik. The former has plans of world domination and has a full cadre of thuggish underlings while the latter works by himself for himself (along with Dana).
The film also appropriated other well-known characters and elements from comics and movies. Kilink's adversary is Uçan Adam, which in English is Super Man. The character also sports two very distinctive shields with a familiar 'S' design. His mask is patterned after Batman and he's apparently wearing the Phantom's shorts. And he gets his super powers from a wizard named Shazam. Most of the music is cribbed from that year's 007 film, You Only Live Twice.
KILINK ISTANBUL'DA proved popular enough to spawn an amazing 10 sequels. Kilink jumped into almost every genre and met up with a few other well-known characters like Mandrake the Magician and Frankenstein's monster. One was a western and in one Kilink was a female!
Long considered a lost film, a dark grainy version was released on VCD but didn't have English subtitles. Recently, Onar Films in Greece issued a super-limited edition DVD with superior picture and sound and with English and Greek subtitles and menus. There are also incredible extras such as a photo gallery of over two dozen pristine stills from KILINK ISTANBUL'DA and outrageous trailers for other Turkish cinema classics featuring Superman, El Santo the Mexican wrester, Captain America and an evil Spider-Man! The DVD is PAL (All Region) and won't play on American DVD players unless you have a PAL system. But if your COMPUTER can play DVDs then KILINK ISTANBUL'DA will play on your computer! For the time being it is the only way to watch it in America, but if you're a fan of the ultra-psychotronic, then this DVD is for you! And it is very unlikely there'll be a mainstream American release of this disc because of copyright issues.
This import DVD presents the 70-minute black & white film is in its original full screen ratio and is a limited edition. It features English and Greek menus and subtitles and many cool extras. There's a photo gallery of over two dozen rare original stills, a filmography of director Yilmaz Atadeniz and all 11 Kilink films with a synopsis for each! Best of all are three trailers for other Turkish superhero films from the 1960s and 70s. 3 DEV ADAM (3 Mighty Men) features the Mexican El Santo teaming up with Captain America to battle a wicked Spider-Man in Istanbul! There are also two color Turkish Superman trailers, SUPER ADAM ISTANBUL'DA (Super Man in Istanbul) from the 60s as a black clad and masked crime fighter and SUPERMEN DÖNÜYUR (Turkish Superman) a post-Chris Reeve swipe.
Kilink is still very much a presence in modern day Turkey. A popular punk band formed in the Turkish city of Izmir in 2003 and called themselves Kilink. And an outfit was premiered at a London fashion show in 2005 featuring a Turkish designer's colorful take on Kilink's outfit!
If you're a cult movie fan and like superheroes, gangsters, spies, horror, American movie serials or Mexican wrestling films, you cannot live without KILINK INSTANBUL'DA! Remember: It's in crusty black & white, has subtitles and will only play on your computer if you have a DVD player program or a PAL DVD player. But it's a whole lotta fun!
Jack of Diamonds (1967)
American Take on European Jewel Thief Genre
This mildly entertaining German-American production has a Yankee take on the European tradition of suave jewel thieves. Perhaps influenced by the popular Italian comic books, star George Hamilton looks like Diabolik at times (though this movie was released before the film Danger: Diabolik).
Amusing cameos and supporting parts by many familiar faces and ably directed by veteran director/actor Don Taylor. Lots of nice Bavarian locations. Wolfgang Preiss, who played super-criminal Dr. Mabuse in a series of films, represents the law here. Even with some Morricone-ish music, one wishes it was more representative of the wild 60s Euro costumed criminal films like Danger: Diabolik, Kriminal and Mister X. The scene where Hamilton works on a trapeze in his mansion may have inspired the similar Lara Croft bit.
Complete insanity combined with frightening sexuality
Saw this film at Slamdance and was awed by the strange atmosphere it created. Makes the viewer feel extraordinarily uncomfortable with it's suspense while at the same time curious and eager. A lot like Polanski's Repulsion, in fact there's a strong resemblance between Denueve and this stunning actress. This film sets a tone of complete insanity combined with frightening sexuality. Didn't want it to end and when it did I couldn't stop thinking about what might be happening to these people. It's very rare for a short film to be able to create such strong intrigue in 3 or 4 minutes. This film accomplished what it set out to do. I look forward to seeing what more this original director comes up with. The actress is someone to keep and eye on as well.