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2/10
Rotten Candy
15 July 2019
The only reason why this dud of a film hasn't disappeared into complete obscurity just yet is because it features an early role of John Candy; - the proudly Canadian actor/comedian who would become very popular throughout the 1980s and early 1990s, and die at the far too young age of 43. Fans of John Candy shouldn't bother to track down "The Clown Murders", though. In fact, nobody should bother to track it down, because it's one of the single most boring, uneventful and inept thrillers of the entire 70s decade. Four pathetic losers, including Candy, joke about kidnapping their attractive friend Alisson, simply because they can't accept that she's now married to a successful businessman and busy selling the farming estate where they all played whilst growing up. They execute their plan during a Halloween party, dressed as clowns, and lock her up in her own farm. The opening sequences and character introductions were already tedious, but the actual kidnapping and hostage situation are downright dreadful. Absolutely nothing happens, except for arguing between the four losers mutually and shots of John Candy shoving fast-food down his throat. The plot promised another mysterious clown killer coming after them, but he only pops up during the finale and doesn't do a lot of murdering, neither. One to avoid at all costs, that's the only sane and righteous recommendation I can make.
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The Twilight Zone: The Comedian (2019)
Season 1, Episode 1
5/10
The Comedian isn't funny, the new "Twilight Zone" isn't atmospheric
15 July 2019
So many great writers and directors have mentioned the original "The Twilight Zone" as one of the greatest influences of their work, so I guess it was only a matter of time before someone came up with the idea to reboot the series. Reboot the series again, that is, since several great directors already revived Rod Serling's brilliant brainchild in the 80s, and once more (albeit less successfully) in the early 2000s. Now it's the acclaimed Jordan Peele who pulled "The Twilight Zone" from underneath the dust, and I think most people would agree he's the right man for the job of producer behind the scenes and of narrator in front of the screen. Peele only has two genre movies on his repertoire thus far, "Get out" and "Us", but they rank among the finest horror/mystery outings of the new Millennium.

"The Comedian", the first episode of the next generation of "The Twilight Zone", isn't very overwhelming, though. The script leans very much towards being boring despite a good basic premise and a few very interesting passages, and it doesn't feature a gloomily uncanny atmosphere at all. In all fairness, not all episodes of the original 60s' series had uncanny atmospheres neither, but it only seems logical that you want to achieve this in your first installment. Samir Wassan is an aspiring stand-up comedian, but a very lousy one because he doesn't even realize that Americans don't want anyone to make fun of their precious 2nd amendment and, simply put, because he isn't funny. Samir then receives advice from his great idol, and finally becomes successful when making jokes about the people in his own surrounding. It costs him his dog and nephew before Samir discovers that the subjects of his stand-up comedy shows are inexplicably erased from existence, and that he should focus on people whom he can't stand. The idea is intriguing, and also suitably mysterious for a TZ-tale, but the episode is too slow-paced and uninvolving. Peele has the charisma of a good host/narrator, but I can only see Rod Serling in that role. The episode is also too long to remain compelling. The original series also experimented with installments of 50 minutes instead of 25, but it had a negative impact on tension and atmosphere back then already, so why make the same mistake again?
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The Twilight Zone: The Obsolete Man (1961)
Season 2, Episode 29
9/10
Fantastic dystopian tale; - Twilight Zone style
12 July 2019
Save the best for last, Rod Serling must have thought! The second season of his magnificent TV-creation "The Twilight Zone" has seen a handful of truly terrific episodes (notably "The Howling Man", "Eye of the Beholder", "Twenty-Two" and "Shadow Play") but in the humble opinion of yours truly this "The Obsolete Man" is the most astounding of them all. And, although I've yet to review three entire seasons after this, I'm already fairly certain this episode will turn up again quite high in my ultimate series' top 10.

I'm a tremendous fanatic of dystopian Sci-Fi tales, especially if they are intelligent and realistic enough to downright petrify you. In the good old tradition of "1984", "Fahrenheit 451" and "Brave New World", "The Obsolete Man" creates a downright nightmarish vision of society in an undefined future. In the totalitarian regime, referred to only as The State, people who don't serve a supposedly useful purpose or contribute anything are quickly declared "obsolete" and sentenced to death. With books being forbidden and burned some years ago already, former librarian Romney Wordsworth also gets condemned by a merciless and avidly fanatic chancellor. But, from the moment you lay eyes upon him, you'll see that Mr. Wordsworth is a literate and very sophisticated person, and so the place and circumstances of the execution that he chooses for himself will hold some surprises in store.

"The Obsolete Man" has a brilliant plot, courtesy of Rod Serling himself, but many others contribute a great deal as well. Director Elliot Silverstein, in his first of four episodes for "The Twilight Zone", terrifically captures the stoic and nihilistic atmosphere of a dystopian sci-fi tale (especially during the courtroom sequences). The show's regular cinematographer George T. Clemens delivers some of his best work with the menacing positioning of the camera. Last but not least, the performances of both Burgess Meredith and Fritz Weaver are nothing short of staggering. Their characters are complete opposites, obviously, but their chemistry is practically burning holes in the screen.
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7/10
Not the best episode, but a logical series' favorite
12 July 2019
First and foremost: someone at IMDb urgently ought to replace the picture image on the page of this episode! The photo reveals crucial information that you're not supposed to know until the climax!

At the moment I'm writing this, "Will the real Martian please stand up?" is the eight-highest ranked episode out of 156 in total. Since "The Twilight Zone" is one of the most genius and qualitative TV-series in history, this either means it's a brilliant episode ... or an overrated one. I haven't quite figured out for myself what I think of it. I wouldn't put it in my personal top 10, but the basic plot is undeniably original and the narrative structure very imaginative. Like the playful title already indicates, we're looking to unmask an alien visitor who mingled himself/herself among a group of stranded travelers at a remote roadside diner during a heavy snowstorm. Two police patrolmen found evidence of a crashed UFO in a pond, and the tracks in the snow lead towards the diner. Hence, one of the seven people at the diner wasn't traveling by bus, but none of the passengers, nor the driver, claim to have paid attention to the others. "Will the real Martian please stand up" is an amusing and engaging little tale with a few noteworthy moments of ominous atmosphere (like when the jukebox star starts playing by itself) and a splendid cast full of familiar faces. Jack Elam, with his trademark crazy-eyes, steals the show as the mad-raving drunkard, but also John Hoyt, Jean Willes and Bill Erwin contribute a lot with their strong performances. It's probably just me, but I was quite disappointed with the finale, which opts for the grotesque and for silliness instead of fear and hysteria.
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The Twilight Zone: The Mind and the Matter (1961)
Season 2, Episode 27
6/10
I tried concentrating really hard, but my boss and my annoying colleagues didn't vanish...
11 July 2019
Regardless of being one of the slightly weaker episodes of season two, "The Mind and the Matter" definitely does demonstrate again how progressive, accurate and relevant Rod Serling's "The Twilight Zone" really was. This short story was made in the early 60s, and already it deals with topics like overpopulation versus social isolation. We are more than half a century later now, and the issue only got catastrophically worse. Our poor and asocial protagonist Mr. Archibald Beechcroft would instantly throw himself off a bridge if he saw how many people there are nowadays! Beechcroft doesn't like people. He hates being pressed against them like sardines in the subway on his way to work every morning, he hates having to step into a crowded elevator and he hates the loudness of the co-workers at the office. But then, Beechcroft receives a spiritual book from his obtrusively gentle colleague Henry, entitled "The Mind and the Matter", which teaches him to get rid of people simply by the power of intense concentration. Although ecstatic at first, Beechcroft rapidly realizes that completely solitude isn't ideal, neither. I personally rate "The Mind and the Matter" much lower than the vast majority of "Twilight Zone" episodes, simply because it's so silly and doesn't feature the least bit of unsettling atmosphere and/or mystery. Shelley Berman's performance is solid, I reckon, and the scenes with all his nagging and complaining doppelgangers is quite funny.
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The Twilight Zone: Shadow Play (1961)
Season 2, Episode 26
8/10
Beaumont at his best
11 July 2019
We all know the clichéd plot-twist in movies or TV-series where everything that happened thus far was only a dream or a hallucination in the protagonist's mind; - and we surely all have been annoyed by it already. Well, this wondrously creative Twilight Zone episode somewhat turns the tables around. Here, the protagonist (Dennis Weaver with a downright stellar performance) desperately attempts to persuade all the other characters they only exist in his dream and that their lives will be cut short because they'll simply vaporize in case he dies. And Adam Grant most likely will die, because in his recurring dream he's sentenced to death in the electric chair and has less than 12 hours to convince everyone (and notably the district attorney) to halt the execution. Rod Serling's "The Twilight Zones" never ceases to amaze me, as this is another highly original and intelligently scripted tale. The premise is incredibly innovative, and you'll find that the script (Charles Beaumont, who else) is meticulously detailed in spite of all the complexities and paradoxes that it brings alone. John Brahm, one of the most underrated directors of all times, brings the curious tale with lots of style and an uncanny atmosphere and "Shadow Play" also features some of the most passionate acting I've seen in the entire "Twilight Zone" series.

Still, I can't help thinking about what would happen to all the people in Grant's dream in case he would be rescued. He'll have to wake up anyway, won't he?
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The Twilight Zone: The Silence (1961)
Season 2, Episode 25
8/10
Hello Twilight Zone, my old friend...
10 July 2019
Hello Twilight Zone, my old friend I've come to watch an episode of yours again. Because this installment of season two looked quite creepy After watching this I don't feel at all sleepy And the vision that was planted in my brain still remains What a fantastic episode was "The Silence" The restless and talkative Mr. Tennyson stood alone While the bitter and stern Colonel Taylor had him overblown For a year he must remain in a glass cage and keep his mouth shut But for $500,000 Tennyson would surely have the gut Against all odds, and all year long, he kept quiet In Colonel Taylor's bankrupt head this started a riot What a fantastic episode was "The Silence" And during the end credits I realized This magnificent plot and atmosphere had me seized What great acting by Liam Sullivan and Franchot Tone Perhaps one of the best episodes that season two has known The conclusion was shocking and quite a surprise "The Silence" is truly something to check out, you guys

Review inspired by the lyrics of the wonderful song "The Sound of Silence" by Simon and Garfunkel.
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The Twilight Zone: The Rip Van Winkle Caper (1961)
Season 2, Episode 24
6/10
Awesome concept, elaboration could have been better
10 July 2019
Warning: Spoilers
The one thing what makes "The Twilight Zone" so brilliant is simultaneously the one cause of my own personal frustration. I'm talking about the diversity and ingenuity of all stories throughout five magnificent seasons. So many TZ episodes have terrific basic premises, and occasionally I'm even confronted with the fact that this series already covered the ideas and topics that I was also hoping to process into screenplays myself. For you see, I am an amateur writer (absolutely nothing fancy) and one of the plots that I started writing down on a piece of paper deals with a gang of Belgian bank robbers freezing themselves immediately after a big heist in the mid-1980's, and awakening again 25 years later only to come to the conclusion that the currency of Belgian Francs has been replaced with Euros. I vaguely heard of Irving's Rip Van Winkle before, but never read it, and I swear never knew about the existence of this episode of "The Twilight Zone".

But, whatever, those things happen. More importantly, and relevantly, is that "The Rip Van Winkle Caper" is a masterful TZ episode in terms of originality, but the further elaboration is rather lacking. Particularly the first 10 minutes are amazingly compelling, with eerie tensions between four macho criminals and the reluctance of one of them to be put to sleep for an entire century. The plan of mastermind Farwell is nevertheless carried out and three men (not four) rise again in - what they believe - is the year 2061 with bars of god for a 1961 value of $1, 000,000.

This is where the scenario goes downhill and becomes very implausible. For starters, the Death Valley location. I can understand they chose a remote resting place for their one-hundred years of sleep, ... but Death Valley? When they awake, they seem surprised that Death Valley is still a godforsaken desert and that the surroundings didn't turn into some sort of futuristic city. Moreover, Death Valley again? This must already be the third or fourth episodes in the series revolving on the inescapability and slim survival changes of this area. Driven by greed, the remaining survivors then take the utmost stupidest decisions, like destroying their truck and walk across the heat with heavy gold in their backpacks. So many potentially great plots could have spawned from this premise, but for some reason the script only centers on the non-survivable trek through Death Valley. You don't need to set your story 100 years in the future for this. Then, finally, I can't fathom why the character of Farwell is the last one standing. Obviously, De Cruz was the vilest man of the foursome, and also the one who was most obsessed with the gold.
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Dick Tracy (1990)
8/10
Crazy colors and mad villains; - the Comic book adaptation that hits you in the face like a light pole!
9 July 2019
The other day I went to the cinema with my 9-year-old son, to watch another one of those never-ending "Avengers" movies, and my melancholic and old-fashioned mind kept drifting off to the times when I was that same age and also became engulfed with the comic book film-adaptations of that era. Surely my son and his entire generation would disagree, but the old comic book films were so much darker and more imaginative! "Dick Tracy", but also other contemporary classics like "The Punisher" or Tim Burton's "Batman", were extremely violent and hardly even meant for children's eyes, but they genuinely brought the raw and unhinged atmosphere of the comic strips much more to life than the uninspired nowadays blockbusters.

"Dick Tracy" is an utterly bonkers and tremendously entertaining movie, largely because director/protagonist Warren Beatty so obviously is a giant fan himself, and thus he insisted on turning the film into an exact replica of the comic as much as possible, with the wonderfully ingenious use of bright colors and the inclusion of practically every exaggeratedly eccentric villain that ever appeared in creator Chester Gould's wicked imagination. For people like me, this film is like a dream come true because I'm always a lot more fascinated by, and rooting for, the villainous characters rather than the heroic ones. Beatty puts his own Tracy character almost literally in the shadows in order to give podium to all the wondrously flamboyant gangsters, who often have names inspired by physical particularities, like Flattop, Pruneface or The Brow. Set in the 1930's, Chicago is in grave danger when the megalomaniac Big Boy Caprice grabs control of the city and pleas to form a gangster-alliance against Tracy. And, whilst the sensual night club singer and reluctant crime mistress Breathless Mahoney puts pressure on Tracy's relationship with Tess Trueheart, another mysterious foe - aptly referred to as The Blank - enters the stage, and he seems to be after bringing down both Tracy and Big Boy.

What a fun film! What awesome performances! So many fantastic actors are practically unrecognizable in their roles, but they are visibly enjoying themselves a lot. Al Pacino is downright awesome as Big Boy, dumbly misquoting Nietsche and Plato but considering himself the smartest gangster in Chicago history. Equally splendid, albeit smaller, roles are made legendary by stars like William Forsyth (Flattop), Henry Silva (Influence), Ed O'Ross (Itchy) and Dustin Hoffman (Mumbles). Heck, even Madonna gives a stellar performance! The script throws all unnecessary complexity overboard and purely aims at solid entertainment, with lots of action throughout the film and a very explosive finale. The editing is razor sharp, Danny Elfman is obviously the ideal composer to provide the film with a gloomy soundtrack and the colors are indescribably exquisite! It would take another fifteen years, with Robert Rodrigues' "Sin City" in 20015, before there came another dark and grim comic adaptation.

PS: the "hits you in the face like a light pole" in the review's subject line refers to a stunt that Warren Beatty did himself, when he jumps from a rooftop onto a light pole and, undoubtedly painfully, hits his face against the steel pole. Beatty's little miscalculation is clearly visible but nevertheless made the final cut. Respect!
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3/10
Fan letter to Vincent Price
9 July 2019
Dear Mr. Price, Vincent,

You are my favorite actor of all times. I was only 8 years old when I spotted you for the first time in "Edward Scissorhands". Back then, I didn't yet know that writer/director Tim Burton created the role of The Inventor especially for you as a tribute and to honor your entire life in the field of horror movies. By the time I was old enough to realize what a magnificent career you had throughout five full decades, you already passed away, but I spent the next 20 years seeking out and discovering your film classics one by one. Thank you for all the horror greatness! So many titles on your repertoire rank among my personal favorite films, like "The Witchfinder General", "House of Wax", "Laura", "The Abominable Dr. Phibes", "The Fly", "Tower of London", "The Mad Magician", "Last Man on Earth", "The House of Seven Gables" and every single installment in the Edgar Allan Poe cycle that you made with director Roger Corman. Some films were less amazing, like "The Monster Club" or "Madhouse", but I had never really encountered a terrible Vincent Price film... until now!

"House of a 1.000 Dolls" was truly an ordeal to struggle through! I sincerely cannot fathom how the producers managed to pull you aboard for this one. The basic premise, with you as a low-keyed magician in Tangiers operating a vicious network that kidnaps young women and trades them as white slaves, is potentially fascinating enough, but you must have noticed immediately - with all your intellect and experience - that the screenplay was horribly boring and inept? The pacing never properly picks up, and for each remotely interesting sequence (like when the random stranger menaces you outside of the theater) there is seemingly endless footage of people randomly talking. The mystery plot surrounding the "King of Hearts" is lame and predictable, none of your other colleagues gives a likable performance and there's zilch atmosphere or tension. I had to battle sleep during "House of 1.000 Dolls", which is something I never thought would happen during a Vincent Price movie. The finale is pitiable too, by the way. Evil geniuses aren't supposed to be defeated as stupidly as in this film. Still, even though you obviously perform on automatic pilot, you still are the best asset of this poor film, by far.

It was most interesting to find out that even geniuses like yourself occasionally made wrong starring choices, possibly driven by contractual obligations or attractive paychecks. I only still have a handful of your films to see, and it's quite comforting to know that none of them will be as dire and lifeless as this one. May you forever rest in peace!
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6/10
Boys, you'll be mass-murderers soon...
3 July 2019
"The Boys Next Door" is probably an ideal title to evidence the statement that good castings are half the work done! We've got two hunky boys, dreamy sons-in-law almost, that are cast as soulless, rotten apples gradually descending further and further into complete emotional numbness. The first, Maxwell Caulfield, never fully able to recover from the dreadful flop that was "Grease 2", and the other, Charlie Sheen, still at the start of his guaranteed road to stardom. Best pals Roy and Bo graduate from high school but, at barely 18 years of age, their lives already seem prescribed and inescapable. Being working-class boys, they aren't officially invited to the graduation parties and the popular girls in school look down upon them. In fact, the only perspectives they have is working in the local factory for forty years and maybe raise a family with an equally inconspicuous town's girl. But, before that, Roy and Bo want to head for Los Angeles for one last and crazy weekend. And a crazy weekend it will be, as their oppressed frustrations and lack of self-control - especially in Roy's case - soon escalate into criminal records and even murder.

Penelope Spheeris' distant, almost documentary-styled direction is fantastic, the character drawings of Roy and Bo as well as their social backgrounds are phenomenally handled in the script and the performances of both Caulfield and Sheen are unarguably terrific. And yet, I can't help feeling somewhat disappointed after "The Boys Next Door". Its reputation and numerous reviews promised me a grim thriller with lots of extreme violence and a nihilistic atmosphere. The kick-off is excellent, with callous info files and mugshots of real-life serial killers during the opening credits, but Roy and Bo's own and allegedly relentless "rampage" is rather weak. Sure, I felt sorry for the victims, notably the innocent young couple, but the whole thing could (and should) have been much more dismal.
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Slayground (1983)
7/10
Bleak > bleaker > bleakest > "Slayground".
1 July 2019
"Slayground" is truly one of the bleakest, most distant and coldest thrillers I've ever seen, which is probably why I found it so intriguing and compelling. The grim and nihilistic atmosphere is definitely the film's strongest asset, because the pacing is wildly uneven and the screenplay - adapted from a novel by Richard "Point Blank" Stark - is quite implausible most of the time. Still, any film that starts to the tunes of George Thorogood's "Bad to the Bone" is worth my full and unbiased attention! With this great and legendary song playing over the opening credits, we first follow a man who picks up a juicy street flower by the name of Jolene, but he gets robbed and killed by her. The man was supposed to be the getaway driver during a carefully planned heist of money-transporting truck, and thus Stone and his associate Sheer are forced to hire a young, inexperienced and reckless driver instead. The escape goes wrong and results in a nasty road accident and the death of an innocent 9-year-old ballet girl. Her grieving father, an implacable businessman, hires the enigmatic but deadly efficient contract killer Shadow Man to trace down his daughter's killers and settle the score. "Depressing" is definitely the keyword to describe this film. The story is already bleak, but so are the characters and the filming locations. Peter Coyote has an almost natural aura of melancholia over him, and Mel Smith is exceptionally well cast in a rare serious role. Fleeing from his mysterious hired killer, Stone travels from the most downbeat suburbs of New York to the utmost depressing Blackpool in England, where the climax takes place in an abandoned funfair. There is nothing more petrifying than a forsaken carnival, I assure you! None of the brutal executions are shown on camera, but "Slayground" is the rare type of film where this works more effectively, and has a far more shocking impact. The "Shadow Man" killer is an incredibly fascinating supportive character that is seldomly shown or mentioned, but he's omnipresent and nightmarish. Of course, it's highly implausible - and even slightly preposterous - that he has all the knowledge and resources to trace his targets so quick and easily, but you'll gladly accept this for the sake of entertainment. Recommended, if you have the stomach for it.
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Baptiste (2019– )
7/10
Tchéky Karyo keeps searching even after "The Missing".
24 June 2019
"Baptiste" is actually the third season of "The Missing", but since the missing person is already found in the second episode and an entirely new storyline develops from there, the makers probably thought it was better to start over as a spin-off with a new title. "The Missing" was a great series with tense & convoluted screenplays and a magnificent role for Tchéky Karyo as the brilliant and persistent ex-researcher Julien Baptiste, who still occasionally helps the police with difficult cases. When vacationing with his family in Amsterdam, Baptiste is called upon by the local commissioner (who's also a former girlfriend of his) to help locating the missing niece of a Brit named Edward Stratton. When Baptiste finds the girl, she tells a very different story, namely that she's a prostitute and that Stratton was an overly obsessive client of her. When confronted with her version, Stratton confesses to Baptiste that he's being extorted by a relentless Eastern European human-trafficking ring, the Brigada Serbilu, because he helped the girl to steal a large sum of money from the criminal organization. Shortly after, the young prostitute dies in an attempt to escape from Brigada Serbilu, but the money she stole is still lost and the Brigada now even targets Baptiste's family to force him finding the money. "Baptiste" is nowhere near the greatest TV-series ever produced, and even a step down from "The Missing" already (especially season one), but it remains well-made action/thriller entertainment with great performances, relevant social themes, solid suspense and a handful of unexpectedly shocking twists. Certain sub plots are rather silly and unnecessarily stretched with implausible twists, like the money that keeps disappearing, but every scene involving the portentous Brigadu Serbilu (and notably the creepy Constantin character) network is realistically raw and terrifying. Like "The Missing", "Baptiste" is primarily a British production but in collaboration with Belgium and The Netherlands, which mean that several local acting talents have the rare opportunity to finally star in a more prestigious series than usual, like Barbara Serafian, Boris Van Severen or Tom Audenaert.
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The Bees (1978)
3/10
Teach us more about "Zhe Beez", mad Uncle Ziggy!
20 June 2019
Warning: Spoilers
Don't be alarmed, there's nothing wrong with your television set. The blurry black dots on the screen are the makers' ingenious method to illustrate that the world is infested with killer bees!

Oh boy, oh boy, oh boy! I was expecting to see a rather silly and typically cheesy late 70s B-movie in the 'nature runs amok' sub-genre, but I wasn't the least bit prepared for "The Bees" turning out to be one of the most unintentionally hilarious and awfully inept horror films of all times! This film, courtesy of the nobly unknown writer/director Alfredo Zacarías, deserves far more honor than I can write down in a simple review. "The Bees" deserves essays, novels and even complete MST3K specials to be dedicated to it, because that's how bad - but wondrously entertaining - this movie is!

Where to start with a masterpiece of lousiness like this? I believe the following sentence, which I stole from the trivia-section, pretty well summarizes what sort of utter nonsense you can expect: "Alfredo Zacarías got the idea for the story after his son gave him a jar of honey as a gift". Oh wow, that truly is the sort of inspiration where Academy Award winning titles are made of. I think I'll offer my dad a toy soldier and encourage him to script an epos on World War II! Writing a plot synopsis for "The Bees" is pointless, because it'll sound convoluted and intelligent even though it's dead simple and dumb. Here goes: African killer bees, that are being researched in South America, get illegally imported into North America by greedy cosmetics companies. Evidently, a few ones escape and in a very brief period of time, the entire US is beset by aggressive buzzers. The brilliant scientist Dr. Sigmund Hummel (John Carradine) and his niece (Angel Tompkins) team up with hunky Dr. John Norman (John Saxon) and develop an artificial pheromone to neutralize the male specimens, but the super-intelligent bees strike back even harder than before.

Sounds promising, doesn't it? And it is, until you discover that the first solution consists of turning the male bees into homosexuals, and the entire third act deals with Saxon and Tompkins actually communicating with the bees and spreading their warning to humanity to stop messing around with Mother Nature! If you are into really bad cinema, "The Bees" features one inane highlight after the other. A talented and experienced actor like John Saxon must have realized that the speeches he gives to the alleged board of the United Nations are utter drivel? Tompkins carries around killer bees in her beauty-case, the bee-attacks are completely random and the supposedly "shocked" and "petrified" looks on the faces of people are genuinely priceless. Notably the attacks at a beach and during the Gerald Ford parade are laugh-out-loud hysterical! But the - hands down - most bonkers quality of the film is the role of John Carradine as the German Dr. Sigmund Hummel; - or "Ziggy" as he's referred to by Tompkins and Saxon. There absolutely isn't any reason for this character to be German, but Carradine fully grabs the opportunity to go tremendously over the top with his accent, facial expressions and gestures. Sometimes, Dr. Ziggy simply falls asleep whilst others are talking, and then he wakes up and begins chattering about "Zhe beez! Zhe beez!".

You can't possibly give "The Bees" a higher rating than 3 out of 10, but ratings are meaningless for this type of films. It's guaranteed entertainment to watch alone, but preferably even with a group of friends. There are also plenty of other 70s bee-movies available to form a double-feature with, but make sure to avoid the big-budgeted "The Swarm" since that one is a pretentious and dull flick.
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Barquero (1970)
7/10
Macho-showdown at the River
17 June 2019
"Barquero" ended up on my must-see list for a number of reasons. First of all because it's a so-called American Spaghetti western, which basically means (in my book, at least) that it's raw, uncompromising and violent in comparison to those polished and politically correct John Wayne flicks. Secondly, the basic premise is incredibly simple yet original and intriguing. A gang of outlaws and a bunch of townsfolks each find themselves stuck at the wrong side of a river, leading to a tense ego-contest between the embittered and asocial ferryman Travis and the vicious but indecisive gang leader Remy. And last but not least, because the lead actors in "Barquero" are two of the most robustly charismatic but criminally underrated actors in history. I think it's safe to say that both Lee Van Cleef and Warren Oates lift the film to a much higher level, and it wouldn't be even half as recommendable if their roles were played by different actors. Even with a broad river separating them, there's a continuously intense and ominous rivalry between these two über-machos. The film suffers from a few very tedious parts and Gordon Douglas' direction is rather monotone, but the locations and performances are great. Van Cleef receives good support from Forrest Tucker as the eccentric "Mountain Phil", while Oates' can rely on the excellent Kerwin Matthews.
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5/10
Before she was a Baywatch-babe, she was a Witch-baby!
17 June 2019
I hit puberty in the early 90s, so in other words, I was a horny and hormone-controlled teenager when "Baywatch" first aired on TV, and naturally had a crush on practically every babe that paraded through the screen in a skimpy red bathing suit. Pamela Anderson, evidently, but I was even far more enchanted by two other blond and typically nineties' beauties; - Erika Elaniak and Nicole Eggert. The latter was a cherubic and polished but nonetheless very sexy girl-next-door type. Whoever knew that, before her "Baywatch" period, Eggert had already appeared in a cheap and ultra-sleazy Roger Corman production loosely - VERY loosely - inspired by Edgar Allan Poe's writings? At the beginning of the film, Eggert depicts the fiercely foul-mouthed witch Lenora who gets executed in front of an angry town's mob and her powerlessly staring husband who's holding their few weeks' old baby in his arms. Nearly 18 years later, the baby matured into the gorgeous Nicole Eggert again. Morella is excited to celebrate her birthday and taste adulthood, but little does she know that the voluptuous nanny has been carefully preparing Lenora's reincarnation via the pure body and soul of her daughter.

Roger Corman knows Poe, trust me. He was single-handedly responsible for the absolute greatest Edgar Allan Poe film-adaptations during the early sixties, like "House of Usher", "The Masque of the Red Death", "Premature Burial", etc. If Corman really wanted to make an atmospheric, qualitative and genuinely frightening adaptation of Poe's short story, he certainly could have done so. Instead, he cleared just hired Jim Wynorski ("Chopping Mall", "Transylvania Twist") to direct a cheap but profitable B-movie with a focus on ravishing women, tacky horror, secondhand sets & scenery and boobs, boobs, boobs! 18-year-old Eggert still gets a stand-in for her nude sequences, but Corman regulars Lana Clarkson, Maria Ford and Gail Thackray showcase their bodily assets gratuitously and repeatedly. The sets and stock-footage, like the numerous lightening strikes, are shamelessly edited from much older flicks (you might recognize "The Terror" - 1963) and our producer would still continue to recycle them in later films like "The Haunting of Hell House" - 1999. "The Haunting of Morella" is nevertheless fun and amusing, at least if you don't mind the derivative plot and the dull moments in between the cheesy gore and the nudity.
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8/10
The "Terrifying" type of low-budget Sci-Fi!
13 June 2019
To me, at least, "The Resurrection of Zachary Wheeler" belongs to a very selected group of 70s cult/science fiction movies. They are criminally obscure and practically forgotten, presumably due to the low-budget production values and lack of action and/or special effects, but at the same time they are unbelievably intelligent and downright terrifying due to the ahead-of-its-time themes and story lines. This film pretty much gave me the same overwhelming effect as when I first watched the 1979 gem "Parts: The Clonus Horror". Not coincidentally both films are very similar, dealing with early types of cloning methods, conspiracies to protect the elite classes and massive media cover-ups. Both titles are original, tense, disturbing and fascinating, but also inexplicably underrated. Oh, and they have something else in common: Michael Bay stole the innovative ideas of both films for his own fake Sci-Fi box office hit "The Island"!

The film predates Leslie Nielsen's typecasting period, which began with "Police Squad" and lasted for the rest of his life, so you might have to make a mental switch to take him serious as the stubborn but persistent research journalist. He, Harry Walsh, arrives at the scene of a tragic car accident and identifies a near-fatally injured victim as the young & upcoming senator Zachary Wheeler. Later in the hospital, however, all the staff denies that Wheeler got admitted and Walsh is rudely thrown off the premises. Despite pressure from his chief editor and government spokespersons, Walsh refuses to publicly recall his earlier reporting and gets fired. He privately continues to look for answers, though, and traces down Wheeler to a remote New Mexican medical facility where, in all secrecy, the upmost amazing scientific breakthroughs are being realized. Meanwhile, the recovering senator Wheeler also discovers the truth behind his miraculous rescue, and he's not as pleased as you'd think.

I deeply and humbly bow my head to the writers of progressive Sci-Fi like this! Can you believe this plot is nearly 50 years old? The plot already dealing with clones before the term "clones" was even properly integrated. They are referred to as "Somas" instead. Topics like stem cell treatment nowadays still lead to heavy moral discussion, but it featured here first. Moreover, "The Resurrection of Zachary Wheeler" is also a very competent action/thriller effort! Walsh's cat-and-mouse games with a duo of pursuing goons are amusing and certain sequences inside the facility definitely hold a shock-effect in store. Excellent performances from Bradford Dillman and Angie Dickinson as well. The utterly abrupt non-ending initially feels frustrating, but it also underlines the soberness, realism and intellect of the script. Rich, influential and powerful people always win.
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Everly (2014)
5/10
Everly move you make, we'll be shooting you!
12 June 2019
Since the start of the century or so, there seemingly exists an additional new sub-genre within the world of action/thriller cinema, which is best described as "Shoot 'em Up" films. "Shoot 'em Up", starring Clive Owen, itself is obviously a good example, but there's also "Crank", "Hardcore Henry", "Free Fire", "Taken" and this "Everly". You guessed it; - these are films with very thin plots and without any proper character development, but they primarily focus on non-stop violent action, excessively over-the-top gunfire action and a practically immeasurable body count. They are entertaining if you're in a completely undemanding mood, I reckon, but they are quite unmemorable as well. Moreover, despite all the action and bloodshed, these films are actually sort of boring, because they constantly repeat the same old "bang-bang-you-are-dead" routine.

The sole difference between "Everly" and the aforementioned titles is that the indestructible killing machine here is a woman; - and one of the sexiest specimens on the planet, I may add. In fact, one might even shallowly state that any film starring Salma Hayek in a tight and bloodied tank top is worth checking out, regardless of the quality. Hayek, pushing 50 but still looking as fit as a 28-year-old, depicts the private luxury prostitute of an Asian crime lord, locked up in a fancy apartment. One day, however, Everly decides she doesn't want to be Taiko's prisoner anymore. The film opens with a heavily injured Everly and a room full of dead Asian gangsters already. I feared the script would be another structural mess with flashbacks but, to my surprise, the plot simply continues from there onwards and Everly only takes on new and other opponents. She tries to reach her mother and estranged 4-year-old daughter, and she receives help from a slowly dying but remorseful Asian she refers to as "Dead Man". Apart from a few notable highlights, including the battle of the prostitutes and the sickening games of the aptly named The Sadist, "Everly" is mundane and passable. The violence is really graphic, but never shocking or even remotely upsetting because writer/director Joe Lynch ("Wrong Turn 2") couldn't decide if he wanted a serious or a light-headed film.
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6/10
Suspense & Suspension of Disbelief
12 June 2019
"The Prime Minister" is the type of fast-paced crime/thriller that delivers copious amounts of action and suspense, however, it simultaneously also requires an almost complete suspension of disbelief on behalf of the viewer. If, and only if, you manage to turn off your skepticism regarding the overall story and the near-ludicrous plot-twists, the film will provide fantastic and non-stop entertainment. In case you swear by realism, don't even bother to press the play-button.

Writer/director Erik Van Looy is, in Flanders at least, a well-respected and much-loved media figure. He's the host of the most popular quiz on prime-time TV, appears in the panel of several games and talk shows and the films he directed ("De Zaak Alzheimer", "Loft") rank among the biggest blockbusters in history. His American adventure to direct a remake of "Loft" perhaps didn't work out as successful as he might had hoped, but he certainly returned to Belgium with a typically "Hollywoodian" idea for a crowd-pleasing and intense thriller. Our national pride in acting, Koen De Bouw, stars as the Belgian Prime Minister. There goes the plausibility already, in fact, because this country never had such a charismatic and eloquent prime minister. On his way to a European-American summit in Brussels, he is kidnapped and learns that his family - wife and two children - are held hostage, and that they will be executed if the Prime Minister himself doesn't agree to murder the American President during their private meeting in the afternoon.

Great aspects include a handful of totally unexpected but seriously vile and brutal execution sequences, the clever references towards actual Belgian politicians and the sadistic role of Stijn Van Opstal as the driver. I previously only knew him as an adequate but inconspicuous supportive actor in local TV-series ("Tabula Rasa", "Met Man en Macht"), but he deeply impresses here as the downright evil and unscrupulous terrorist who enjoys torturing, humiliating and provoking the Prime Minister and his PR-assistant. Even with a fair portion of suspension of disbelief, there are still a couple of major defaults. Van Looy unnecessarily adds melodrama to the plot with a typically cliched twist regarding the Minister's private life. And, surely, the climax could have been slightly better? I appreciate that Van Looy didn't turn his protagonist into a bona fide action hero, like Harrison Ford in "Air Force One", but there must have been other options to avoid such an anti-climax?
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Gambling City (1975)
9/10
You can gamble everything for love if you are free!
7 June 2019
Browse through my review-history and you'll rapidly notice I'm a tremendous sucker for Italian cult/exploitation cinema of the 70s and 80s. Unfortunately, that also means I'm very biased. I'll admit straight away that you won't read too many negative things in this review! I absolutely loved every second of Sergio Martino's excellent "Gambling City"; - what with its highly original and intelligent screenplay (courtesy of prolific writer Ernesto Gastaldi), the raw and violent action footage, the authentic passion between protagonist Luc Merenda and the stunningly beautiful Dayle Haddon, the sleazy and loathsome villainous characters, Luciano Michelini's slightly over-eccentric soundtrack and the massively spectacular grand finale! Like most contemporary Italian films, "Gambling City" is quite the rip-off! That's totally fine, though, since these rip-offs by far exceed the Hollywood originals in terms of entertainment value and controversy. The main inspirations here are "The Cincinnati Kid" and "The Sting", but Martino also cleverly thrives on the success of the native Poliziotesschi. Granted, the hero is a sly con-man instead of an unorthodox copper, but the wild car chases, brutal executions and tragic retaliations are definitely there!

Luca Altieri is a charismatic thug with a unique gift. He's a fantastic cheater at poker games, so much even that he gets himself noticed by the crippled but powerful crime boss and illegal casino-owner known as "The President". Luca could then lead a laid-back and luxurious life as professional cheater, but instead he prefers to run off with the ravishing mistress of The President's son Corrado. The megalomaniac Corrado is a worthless heritor to his father's crime-imperium, but he naturally doesn't think so, and his jealousy and hatred against Luca makes him even more dangerous. Again, I may be biased, but seriously don't believe the people who claim that "Gambling City" is boring and predictable. Gastaldo's script contains a number of smart twists and original sub plots. Although superficially not as extravagant than most, Corrado Pani depicts one of the most psychopathic villains in crime-film history. The poker sequences are somewhat long and tedious, especially if you don't understand one iota of the game's rules (like me), but there are plenty of action-packed highlights to compensate for this. I'm still amazed by the beauty of Dayle Haddon, and Luc Merenda clearly enjoyed every second of his acting career at that point in time. Check out also "The Violent Professionals", "Shoot First Die Later", "Kidnap Syndicate", "Man without a Memory" and "Torso" with him. Oh, and one last thing you should always remember: happy endings didn't exist in Italian cinema during the 70s!
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6/10
Prestigious reworking of Umberto Eco's landmark novel
7 June 2019
Only a limited number of films that I watched during my youth managed to leave an everlasting impression on me, but Jean-Jacques Annaud's adaptation of Umberto Eco's "The Name of the Rose" is one of them. Even though we are 25 years later, and I've seen perhaps 15.000 films since then, I still remember practically every detail of that wondrously grim and mysterious film in which creepy monks were being killed off in a remote and petrifying old monastery. Although I tried a couple of times, I never found the courage to actually read Eco's source novel. It's just too thick, sorry. The 1986-masterpiece is urgently due for a re-watch, but instead I stumbled upon this Italian/German mini-series that allegedly was a lifelong dream-project for actor and producer John Turturro to realize. Come to think of it, it's actually quite surprising that it took more than 30 years for someone to make a new version! Seeing that Annaud's film is "only" a little over two hours long, I must assume that it threw a massive amount of Eco's book-content overboard. With 8 episodes of approximately 1 hour each, I'm sad to confess that "Il Nome Della Rosa" is too long and quite often balancing on the verge of boring. Also, I keep reading that the script differs immensely from the book, at least for what concerns the numerous sub plots surrounding the pivot murder mystery.

Turturro is great, but Sean Connery's charismatic image remains stuck in my brain as the one and only William of Baskerville; - wise Franciscan friar and Sherlock Holmes ahead-of-time. All the other, nevertheless adequate, actors can't even begin to measure themselves against the quality performances of the fantastic actors in the 1986 film, like F. Murray Abraham, Ron Perlman, Michael Lonsdale or William Hickey. The sole performance I rate higher comes from the fairly unknown Damian Hardung, who's portrayal of young novice Adso Von Melk is more authentic and convincing than Christian Slater's role.

Or, perhaps I just ought to stop comparing this with youth's nostalgia and simply acknowledge the multiple great aspects of this prestigious mini-series. The production values, for instance, are deeply impressive. The 14th century set-pieces, costumes and relics are astounding. Also, the history lessons processed into the screenplay are far more educational and compelling than anything you'll ever learn in school, and Tchéky Karyo has a brilliant supportive role as the megalomaniac Pope Giovanni XXII. If there's anything I firmly believe, it is that medieval Popes were exactly as deplorable and vile as him.
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The Miracle (2018– )
8/10
Beautiful & fascinating ... But I've got a million questions left
7 June 2019
Being enormous fans of Italian films and TV-series, my wife and I were instantly hooked to "The Miracle" as per the opening sequences of the first episode. It's the perfect combination of everything: the amazingly beautiful theme song ("Il Mondo" by Jimmy Fontana), the curiously captivating premise of the Madonna statue that cries copious gallons of blood, the convoluted characters (including a struggling Italian prime minister, his estranged wife and a rather unusual priest), the stellar performances of the entire cast, the slow-brooding but ominous atmosphere and the patient but excessively stylish direction.

The series follows a certain pattern as the episodes pass by, with the events leading up to the discovery of the statue at the beginning of each installment, and several parallel storylines unfolding throughout the series. Prime minister Pietromarchi desperately attempts to keep the blood-crying Madonna out of the media while politically battling to keep his country within the European Union. How contemporary accurate and relevant, by the way! His cynical and unhappy wife Sole detests the angelic Polish nanny whom her children respect more than her. Forensic expert Sandra Roversi starts an obsessive search for the person whose DNA matches with the blood of the Madonna. Father Marcello acknowledges the miracle of the crying Madonna and considers it to be a hopeful sign for the decaying world, but he can't conquer his own inner demons.

When reaching episode six or seven, of a total of eight, you'll realize that "The Miracle" definitely won't be revealing all its secrets. Quite the contrary, there are so many unanswered questions bouncing back and forth in my brain! I won't raise them here to avoid spoilers, but I can only hope that a second season will be released soon. Still, in spite of all the loose ends and a few shortcomings here and there, "The Miracle" is one of the most addictive and hypnotizing European series of the decade.
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5/10
It's dumb and derivative; - Scout's honor
3 June 2019
Let's see... We've had Nazi zombies, zombie beavers, Cuban zombies, Russian zombies, Aussie zombies, zombie strippers, retired zombies, zombie toddlers, intelligent zombies, mockumentary zombies, space zombies, ex-girlfriend zombies, drug-addicted zombies, football zombies, political zombies, cowboy zombies, zombie nerds, Lederhosen zombies, etc. I could probably list another dozen of variations and then simply add "And now we also have zombie boy scouts" at the end, but the point is rather clear. There's an oversupply of zombie comedies in all kind of shapes, settings or specific situations.

I really don't want to sound like a sourpuss, because most of these films are well-made and reasonably entertaining, but the issue is that they are fundamentally all derivative, mundane and tiresome. Without even looking at the trailer, social outcasts turn into unlikely saviors because their geeky habits come in handy, bullies and other loathsome townsfolk attack them in nasty zombie versions, and the biggest dork of the bunch gets to kiss the high-school princess at the end.

Of course, I'm well aware that we don't necessarily watch these "zomedies" for their innovative and intellectual plots. We watch them in the hope of seeing excessive gore, gratuitous sleaze, and maybe even a handful of memorable moments or ingenious gimmicks. Even in this area, "Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse" is seriously lacking if you ask me. The gore is adequate enough, although too much special effects are computer-generated, and the girls in the cast (Sarah Dumont, Halston Sage, Niki Koss...) are yummy. There's also a great scene with cats' eyes, but that about wraps up the good news. Where were the stand-alone splatter/comedy highlights? I only remotely chuckled with the Dolly Parton references and the one scene where one of scouts can't resist fondling Missy Martinez' giant fake zombie breasts. Embarrassing moments, on the other hand, there are plenty. It's a stupid sight to see a living corpse sing Britney Spears' greatest hit, and penis-stretching is simply infantile. And yes, I do realize I sound like a sourpuss now, but how disrespectful is it to cast the legendary Cloris Leachman ("The Last Picture Show", "Young Frankenstein", "Dying Room Only", ...) as a toothless old hag who tries to bite a teenager's butt?
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Black Roses (1988)
6/10
Hold on to your mullets, the Black Roses are coming to town!
3 June 2019
This probably won't mean anything to people from America, but the opening sequences in "Black Roses", which were the best part of the entire film by far, seriously reminded me of the winning act in the Eurovision contest in 2006. They were a Finnish band named Lordi and dressed up like OTT demonic monsters on stage. It was quite a shock they won the conventional and borderline puritan musical concert, but it was a funny sight. Same goes for the intro of "Black Roses", in fact, because the demonic make-up effects are delightful, but the music sounds more like glamor-rock instead of heavy metal.

During the 1980s, several directors had the bad idea to mix horror movies with metal music. Both were popular separately, so together they must be even more successful, right? Wrong. I love horror and I love heavy metal, but the string of combo-flicks that came out in the 80s is overall disastrous. Although I haven't seen "Trick or Treat" yet, "Black Roses" must be the indisputably masterpiece of the sub-genre! At least it's vastly superior over titles like "Terror on Tour", "Rocktober Blood" "Hard Rock Zombies" and "Rock & Roll Nightmare". Metal band The Black Roses, with their popular front man Damian, announces that they'll kick off their American tour with a series of shows in the sleepy town of Mill Basin. It's delightful news for the local youth, but the parents and elderly townsfolk are heavily against the Roses' type of "satanic" music and life-style. They don't realize how right they are, actually, since Damian and his band are evil minions of Satan that gradually gain control over their fans' minds and bodies during the concerts. Several aspects make "Black Roses" a lot more enjoyable than the aforementioned titles, for instance a better soundtrack ("Soldiers of the Night", "Paradise" and "Dance on Fire" are good songs) and a handful of awesome murder sequences. There's a nasty scene in which a guy is beaten to death with an ashtray and a very sexy high-school sweetheart even strip-pokers her friend's dad to death! The film also remains a pure 80s cheese-galore, with lovely images of spectators turning into skeletons during the concerts and Vincent Pastore (in an early role) getting sucked into a speaker. That'll teach him to make fun of boys wearing earrings!
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7/10
How many macho-egos does it take to rob a diamond mine?
3 June 2019
Many titles that are on my must-see list are there because I blindly added them for names in the cast, without necessarily knowing what the plot is about. "The Diamond Mercenaries", aka "Killer Force" is a prime example of this habit, since it unites cult icons Telly Savalas, Christopher Lee and Peter Fonda! What more do you need to know in order to see a film? And it's gets better, since it's also co-starring Bond-beauty Maud Adams and it was co-written and directed by one of Hammer's greatest talents; - Val Guest ("The Quatermass Experiment", "The Abominable Snowman").

In fact, "Killer Force" is a gift that keeps on giving, because it's a fantastic mid 70s action/thriller with a terrific heist-plot, an original setting, a fascinating cast of characters and plenty of bloody awesome execution sequences! The mighty Telly Savalas (and his uniquely flamboyant wardrobe) plays one of the coolest roles of his career as the obsessive head of security at a diamond mine in the godforsaken middle of the African desert. A supportive character asks him: "Where were you when they handed out feelings?". Savalas' answer: "Probably out somewhere chasing a diamond thief". He feels that someone is planning a major diamond heist, and he's right. Five former Vietnam mercenaries, with the help from someone on the inside, have a master plan ready, but it's not without risks. The first half of "Killer Force" is unnecessarily convoluted, as Fonda's role is quite ambiguous, but it's always compelling and especially the second half is non-stop exhilarating. All male characters are arrogant machos with ginormous egos, but notably Christopher Lee and Telly Savalas seem to be battling for the "who's the most sadist" character of the film. "Killer Force" simply embodies why I worship vile and nasty exploitation cinema of the 70s; - it's great sardonic fun and comes highly recommended!
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