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Meng gui ba wang hua (1990)
Thoroughly average Chinese horror/comedy fluff
If you've seen the movie that this is a sequel to then you know how wild & wacky the Chinese horror genre can be, but there's no inspiration to be found in this sorry sequel. There needs to be a balance in the horror/comedy ratio for these movies to work and this movie is loaded with way too much comedy filler, which really isn't that comedic when there's no horror to go with it. Sandra Ng can usually be counted on to be funny in anything but she's given very little to do here. This movie has all the evidence of being a rushed production. Recommended only to diehard Chinese vampire movie completists (like me).
Geung see suk suk (1988)
Fourth installment in the series does not disappoint!
The original MR. VAMPIRE is considered the best Chinese horror/comedy ever and it's no surprise that it inspired so many sequels and copycat imitations back in the 80s. The first sequel was gentler and more family-oriented while the second sequel really pumped up the horror elements. This third sequel is a return to the style of the original with a perfect balance of the scary and the silly. I've seen this movie four times now and it's still as entertaining as it was the first time. A real treat for HK action movie fans is seeing Yuen Wah (usually typecast as the ultra-tough bad guy) playing a VERY effeminate character. Another unique element to the movie is its comedic take on the differences between Taoism and Buddhism as the two masters try to outdo each other, especially funny during the "voodoo" doll sequence. Another profoundly silly moment has the two masters throwing food at each other which ends up with Wu Ma blowing beans out of his nose into the mouth of the Taoist. There's comedy, action and horror! Something for everybody!
The Gods of Times Square (1999)
Whether you're spiritual or atheist, see this documentary!
I saw this movie last week and I just can't get it out of my head. It's a feature-length video document of all the street preachers and religious fanatics that used to hang out on 42nd Street before Disney cleaned it up. The vignettes range from scary (black militants advocating a genocidal religious war against the white man) to ridiculous (a man who thinks he's Jesus and is predestined to marry Madonna) to comical (another man dressed as a priest carries a huge stuffed Mickey Mouse into the Times Square Disney Store yelling "Mickey Mouse is the Anti-Christ!"). It's sad how this parade of humanity uses religious fervor to mask their racial intolerance or mental illness. At various times the director claims to being a Jew and then a Buddhist so it's unclear as to his origins of faith. As this video was shot around 1993-94, we get depressing footage of those grand old 42nd St. grindhouse theaters being torn down and a family-owned hot dog stand with it.
Jennifer on My Mind (1971)
A general bummer of post-60s anomie
From the writer of LOVE STORY comes another somber slice of downbeat romance as a man looking for love gets mixed up with a selfish and free-spirited blond hippy-chick junkie. It starts with her already dead and we look back on how they met and her mental decline to the inevitable overdose on heroin. The guy hides her body in his piano and then his car trunk until he can figure out a way to get rid of it. There's potential here for some dark humor but it's never really exploited as the film stays on its tragic trajectory to an ending that at least does bring closure to the story. The film has a slow deliberate pace which makes this film really boring because who cares about these people, especially the girl. The best part was an early appearance by Robert De Niro as a high-strung gypsy taxi driver which is about as far removed from Travis Bickle as you can get. See it if you love obscure counterculture cinema of the late 60s/early 70s.
Worthy but altogether different follow-up to NAKED KILLER
Advertised in some places as a sequel to NAKED KILLER, this is a much different film in style and tone but using some of the same principal cast members. NAKED KILLER had a joyful exuberance in its blackly comic tale of rival lesbian hitwomen. RAPED BY AN ANGEL is a much more grim tale of male/female relations both tender and brutal. In typical Hong Kong film fashion, the cute scenes of Yau and Yam dating are intercut with the brutality of prolonged rape in a parallel story. Like I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE, the multitude of violent rape scenes make this a repellent film viewing experience while also being fascinating in its shameless exploitation of rape as entertainment, despite the use of comic relief to make this more acceptable to a wider audience. While never eroticized, what this ultimately does is trivializes the act. The film is undeniably effective but just don't expect another NAKED KILLER even though Chingmy Yau gets to play another tough chick character. Well cast and slickly-lensed, this is not a film to watch on a first date.
Robot Holocaust (1986)
Watch this movie for the performance by Angelika Jager!
Director Tim Kincaid made other entertaining and campy films in NYC during the 80s like BREEDERS and BAD GIRLS DORMITORY (a favorite) but neither of those contain a performance as memorably bad as Angelika Jager. Speaking English with a heavy (French?) accent and trying to be menacing while wearing a long feather boa in her hair, Jager gives a performance of transcendant awfulness that should be treasured by bad cinema addicts the world over. Just try to keep a straight face as Jager tries to actually act while trying to remember her lines as us in the audience try to even understand the nonsensical dialogue through her heavy accent. Amazing!
Cliche-filled old-school Italian-American splatter
This is the film most famous for being sued by Tom Savini for using his name to sell it when he said he never actually worked on it but was just a consultant. The gore effects are very much in the over-the-top ultra-graphic Savini style with various axes being the weapon of choice. This film wallows in now-familiar cliches like the killer's psychosis stemming from a childhood trauma, except this time it was about the child's father instead of the usual mother complex. Another difference from the norm is that the final victim is a small boy rather than the usual screaming woman. But then there's the scene where a babysitter gets mysterious phone calls then decides to take a shower and hears noises downstairs that I've seen so many other times. I'm sure in 1980 there was still some surprise left in these scenes but they've been copied and parodied so much in 20 years that they've taken on a camp appeal that's fun to revisit. Also very interesting and historical was the classic footage of New York City back when it was a real sleaze-pit. The acting is not always great and the psycho lacks much in the way of screen presence but this is a much-recommended throwback to the days before slasher thrillers had to be post-modern and self-referential to get an audience.
Riot on Sunset Strip (1967)
Another attempt by AIP to exploit 60s youth culture
See this film for the performance footage of legendary bands like the Standells and Chocolate Watchband and also for future Eurotrash starlet Mimsy Farmer's LSD freakout dance. Other than those highlights this film is dragged down by too much melodrama which was all too common in the string of Juvenile Delinquent films in the 50s. The Hippies are represented as drunken, riot-prone thugs and rapists while the Establishment are seen as uptight squares who fully endorse conformity through police brutality. Aldo Ray as the police captain and a nightclub owner represent the sensible side of the Establishment while a small band of well-spoken college-educated Hippies represent the sensible side of the Counterculture. What's always interesting in these 60s exploitation films is how the older generation businessmen like Arkoff and Katzman view the youth culture of the time. Director Dreifuss himself was 60 when he directed it, so what you're seeing is a distorted view of youth through older eyes which gives these films the camp appeal they have today.
Cannibal Mercenary (1983)
What if Herschell Gordon Lewis directed an Asian war film?
Was APOCALYPSE NOW or THE DEER HUNTER a big hit in Thailand? Add some really bad English dubbing and lots of kung-fu movie sound effects and you've got this adventure-horror hybrid. It's a horrors-of-war exploitation film that takes the violence inherent in warfare to absurd extremes. Besides the usual bullet hits and sharp-spiked jungle booby traps you get limb chopping, decapitation, penis stabbing, eye gouging and a spike to the head followed by brain eating (hence the title). One hungry guy even eats the maggots off of a decomposing corpse! Blood flows and spurts to such ridiculous lengths that it's hard not to laugh at the cartoonish brutality on view here. The video box says: SO REALISTIC -- THIS FILM MAKES "PLATOON" LOOK LIKE A FAMILY OUTING! I can't argue with hype like that!
Blood Orgy of the She-Devils (1973)
Bland Orgy of the She Dulls
T.V. Mikels movies often have outlandish plots and titles but the execution almost always lacks excitement. This PG-rated hokum about suburban occultism will have your mind wandering half way into it and fully asleep by the end. So what's good about it? I did like the electronic score and the harem of dancing girls swaying to a native bongo beat in their castle. Whoever played the head witch put some gusto into her performance but overall this movie is a real drag. Even more dull than watching this movie is watching it with Mikels' audio commentary on the DVD. If you've seen the episode of The Incredibly Strange Film Show on Mikels you know that he's a lovable eccentric but he barely says anything on the commentary.
6 donne per l'assassino (1964)
Might I say it's a bit overrated?
I recently revisited this movie on DVD after not having seen it for many years and also after seeing many of the other Bava titles that Image has released on DVD during the past couple years. I expected to be more impressed with Bava's use of colored lighting and shadow. I thought that BLACK SABBATH had more impressive visual style. This movie is also a case of style over substance as the mystery isn't very involving and the acting is adequate at best. But the music score is wonderful and the murders are surprisingly vicious by 1964 standards. I bought the DVD so I will revisit the film again soon and maybe it'll grow on me as did LISA AND THE DEVIL, Bava's later foray into arty experimental horror cinema.
The Black 6 (1973)
Won't satisfy blaxploitation or biker movie fans
Made during director Matt Cimber's dive into the blaxploitation trend of the early 70s along with LADY COCOA and THE CANDY TANGERINE MAN, this film tries to resurrect the dead corpse of the biker film genre by using a black cast and racial conflict melodramatics and having them battle a gang of racist white bikers. This same concept was done much better a couple years earlier in THE BLACK ANGELS. Obviously intended to be enjoyed by black audiences, the Black Six gang are decent people who only become violent when provoked. The white biker gang are just one-dimensional thugs and murderers. It's all rather tame and dull throughout and only enjoyable for the outdated fashions and funky theme music.
El caníbal (1980)
Slapdash Jess Franco zombie/cannibal horror -- peeyoo!!
This film seemed way too long even at only 75 minutes. The problem with jungle horror films is that there is always way too much footage of people walking (through the jungle, up a rocky cliff, near a river or lake) to pad out the running time. The film is worth seeing for the laughable and naked native zombie with big bulging, bloody eyes which is always accompanied on the soundtrack with heavy breathing and lots of reverb. Eurotrash fans will be plenty entertained by the bad English dubbing, gratuitous female flesh and very silly makeup jobs on the monster and native extras. For a zombie/cannibal flick this was pretty light on the gore but then I probably didn't see an uncut version.
The Unholy Rollers (1972)
Not-to-be-missed roller derby exploitation
ROLLERBALL was too pretentious and KANSAS CITY BOMBER was too lightweight. This is the real deal! If you love the lowbrow sport of roller derby or are just a fan of Minnesota-born Claudia Jennings (in her first starring role) then this film is a must-see! Raunchy and violent just like the women-in-prison films that Roger Corman was also pumping out at the time (in fact many of the supporting cast were also appearing in those WIP films). Sure this film has the novelty value of having Martin Scorsese's name in the credits but there's much to enjoy in the film besides looking for his editorial hand with an anarchic non-ending that just seemed perfect.
Love Me Deadly (1972)
An obscure necro-horror flick with too much soap opera
This is the precursor to modern art-horror hybrids like KISSED or NEKROMANTIK. A frigid woman who likes funerals and is turned on only by dead bodies enters into a sexless marriage with CAROL BURNETT SHOW stud Lyle Waggoner and secretly joins a cult of necrophiliacs in a local morgue. For a film that had so much perverse and ghoulish potential, this film only partially entertains. There's a particularly shocking scene early in the film of a guy being embalmed alive but the film gets bogged down in the drama of marital problems in the second hour. While the serious approach to such outrageous material is greatly appreciated, a little more ghoulish horror would've been nice.
Dull and stupid disco-era sexy sci-fi from Italy
Italians have been notorious for churning out lots of bad sci-fi films in the late 70s in the wake of the success of STAR WARS. Who is this film supposed to appeal to? The special effects, costumes and dialog are childish and the sex scenes are so tame they could probably get a PG-rating in this country. Two aliens on a spaceship land on primitive Earth and learn how to have sex, while they're being chased by a big black dude with silver glitter in his beard. I fell asleep for awhile in the middle but I doubt I missed much.
Won't satisfy either war or trash film fanatics
This film is one hour of boring war action with about 20 minutes of tasteless sleaze stuck in the middle. And even the sleaze is pretty tame compared to director Batzella's later foray into shocking sadism, SS HELL CAMP. You get whippings, castration and a Nazi gets a cup of urine splashed in his face. The rest of the movie is total fast-forward material. Along with most of the offerings from France's Eurocine (HELLTRAIN, FRAULEIN DEVIL), this is one of the worst films in the disreputable genre of Nazi concentration camp exploitation films.
Femmine infernali (1980)
Sweaty hothouse WIP Eurotrash
I have yet to see the re-edited version known as SAVAGE ISLAND with Linda Blair but this original version was OK. All the girls look sweaty, stinky & dirty as they work, fight and make out with each other. That's about it for plot until they do escape and most of them get killed. Europeans love those downbeat endings. It's always nice to see Peter Lorre lookalike Luciano Pigozzi in another piece of low-rent Eurotrash like this.
The Forgotten (1973)
Decent but not the best of Brownrigg
I really liked Brownrigg's SCUM OF THE EARTH and KEEP MY GRAVE OPEN so I had my hopes up for this 70s drive-in favorite. I'll cut Brownrigg some slack because this was his first feature but this lacks the gloomy atmospherics his later classics had. The acting is of a high caliber for such a low-budget regional horror film but everything is too brightly lit and the photography is dull-looking. Overall this is a very competent little horror show but not as memorable as some of his later works.
Escape from Hellhole (1983)
Should satisfy most WIP film fans
This Indonesian WIP entry covers most of the cliches (catfights, whippings, firehose splashdowns) but leaves out the lesbian wardens and gratuitous nudity (even though there is a shower scene). There's also a bizarre trippy dance sequence halfway through the movie (scored with cheesy synthesizer music) which ends in a gory suicide attempt. The most shocking bit has the bad guy getting his tongue bitten off by the main character (whose name sounds a lot like "injury"). While a bit long at 100 minutes, this is still a worthy addition to the "women-in-prison" genre.
Smashing Time (1967)
A stark raving mod mishmash
I wanted to like this movie so much more. The episodic and cartoonish approach should work within the late 60s pop-art Mod London setting but too much slapstick (pie and spray paint fights) and a lagging pace keep this from being the true cult film it should have been. Tushingham (with her big bulging eyes) and Redgrave (who looks a bit like Jay Leno) are well cast and there are plenty of wild fashions on display but the film never really gains any momentum until the last 20 minutes or so. I also liked the bit where Redgrave records a typically mindless but catchy pop song. Fun to watch once but not something you'll revisit again and again. Try to see the widescreen DVD which really does justice to all the wild color schemes on display.
Irma Vep (1996)
Possibly the best French art film ever!
This film ignores most of the things that make French art films such a chore to sit through and keeps a kinetic energy that continues from beginning to end through the use of handheld camerawork, overlapping dialogue, excellent music selections (Sonic Youth!) and an ending that lapses into total experimental film techniques. The (ad-libbed?) scripting and acting are totally believable in relating the chaos and turmoil involved in putting together a feature film as well as flawlessly imitating the look and feel of the "you-are-there" documentary. Especially interesting for Honk Kong film freaks is the presence of Maggie Cheung acting as herself and remarking on working with Jackie Chan but not John Woo (too masculine!), while her interviewer remarks that French cinema is boring and made only for intellectuals. This is a great film about cinema and particularly how French cinema has become stale and out-of-touch with its own audience.
Doctor Dracula (1978)
Not prime Adamson, but still pretty bad
I've been on a quest to see all of Adamson's films for years and so imagine my surprise when this rarity turned up on local TV before Halloween. This is another of Adamson's patchwork features cobbled together using an older unfinished film (LUCIFER'S WOMEN) mixed with newer footage featuring Adamson regulars John Carradine and Regina Carroll. During commercial breaks the host of the show mentioned the overabundance of blue eyeshadow used in the movie and how it doesn't make sense that a person can be possessed by a fictional character (Svengali). Unintentionally funny is the deep voice used by a possessed woman which makes her sound like she's been possessed by the spirit of Suzanne Pleshette. Be sure to take a nap before watching the movie because it may put you to sleep.
A Taste of Hell (1973)
Is it a war movie or a horror film?
Made during the Filipino exploitation film boom of the early 70s, this film tried to mix the war film with elements of the horror movie but comes up way short on anything horrific. This is basically a WWII action film but with a facially disfigured, insane and homicidal soldier on the loose killing everybody. He reminded me of Alex Winter's freak makeup in his film FREAKED. Ultraprolific Filipino character actor Vic Diaz gets his head chopped off before being riddled with bullets. It's amazing what you could see in PG-rated movies back in the 70s.
A movie-within-a-movie about the ethics of moviemaking
Misleading title disguises a very good low-budget drama about the making of low-budget biker/exploitation movies and the dangers of letting too much reality intrude into the unreality of the movie world. The actor playing the obsessed director looks SO MUCH like Roger Corman that it had to be intentional. It's so sad that a film of this quality has to hide behind a salacious new title and be sold as a teen sex drama to be shown in theaters. See Dennis Hopper's THE LAST MOVIE for a similar story but made with more money and less focus.