Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Raw Force - Grindhouse Experience Chapter 4

Here we are again, already with chapter 4 of the Grindhouse Experience. I'm getting through this set a bit faster than expected, thanks in large part to the wonderful creation of alcohol. Without which I doubt most of these movies would go down easily, or so it seems.

Lets get the technical stuff out of the way now - Raw Force is a 1982 action/adventure/horror/exploitation/whatever the hell they wanted to do film. Edward D. Murphy, who directs this pure schlock-fest is responsible for only one other directorial credit (Heated Vengeance) and a handful of acting credits. Murphy shows some actual ability, believe it or not. While not blowing you way with his artistry he could set up and execute a shot. His directing abilities certainly outweigh his writing (he's also the write of both of the movies he directed).

The movie opens with a group of women who look local being shipped to Warrior's Island by plane. Its quickly that we learn a Hitler look-a-like is in charge of this human trafficking type operation, which commonly leads to the women being stripped naked for the natives. Cut to a group of tourists getting no a cruise ship who are promised entry to the forbidden areas. They wind up on the mainland and go to all the normal touristy areas- junk markets, bars, strip clubs and an illegal whorehouse until they arrive on Warrior's Island in a life or death situation and find they are not welcome.

Raw Force is ridiculous, certainly the type of movie that is aided by liquor. It goes from a butt naked scramble out of the whorehouse when the cops bust in, to a single jar of gasoline being lit on fire and sinking an entire cruise ship. There are zombies, plenty of kung fu fighting, shootouts where the armed men cowardly hide behind things and shoot blindly at unarmed people, cannibalism (barbecued, not boiled!), boobs and Hitler impersonators. How can it be bad, right? Well its awful. But its awful in one of those ways where if you are someone who appreciates almost totally inept movies you can find plenty of entertainment in it to justify your time. The direction is okay, the dialogue is awful and the acting is just as bad. The score isn't as bad as it should be but you really don't have a clue as to what the fuck is actually going on. And I wouldn't want to with this one.

This is certainly a case of the drunker you are, the more fun you'll have. Bottoms up!

7/10 for the entertianment provided

I'm not posting a poster so the alternate title is Kung-Fu Cannibals if you are trying to find it.

SHIT! I totally forgot to add that this movie was ended with a To Be Continued... So I'm anxiously awaiting the next chapter to this film just like the new Sisqo album he promised me when I met him several years ago at the mall. I hope Sisqo directs Raw Force 2.... Thong Song would be a great track to play over some cannibal kung-fu action.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Cronos (1993)

Cronos is the feature film debut of now household name Guillermo Del Toro. The film begins with narration stating that in the 16th century an alchemist developed the Cronos Device which is a mechanism that enables its user to eternal life. Centuries later a building collapses and a man with ugly, discolored marbled skin lay dying. The device had not been reclaimed until an old antique dealer discovers it in the base of an old statue in his shop. He quickly finds that there are people out there hellbent on finding the device at any cost. After an accidental encounter with the Scarab the antique dealer quickly develops a taste for blood, and has to find out the truth of what is happening to him.

Cronos, at its core, is a horror film. The meat of the story is an elderly man dealing with a type of Vampirism, however Guillermo Del Toro gives us so much more than that. The director of such recent hits as Hellboy and Pan's Labyrinth gives us much more than that. It is relationships, between the old antique dealer and his young granddaughter who idolizes him and all he does and a dying businessman desperate to get his hands on the Cronos Device and his greedy nephew who is anxious for him to die to get his fortune. All of the performances are believable and solid, Ron Perlman is great in the violently sadistic nephew of the businessman. And without so much as a single line in the movie Tamara Shanath evokes so much emotion as the granddaughter. There is one scene in particular where she hands her grandfather a towel, after the effects of the device are setting in that makes your heart break.

Cronos has a lot to say but its also a simply fun ride. Del Toro was 28 when he made this film and few others can say they made a truly beautiful and equally haunting film that transcends genres at such a young age. This will satisfy the horror fans, but just as so, the art house crowd. Its refreshing to see a director with such talent and vision not use the horror and fantasy genre to break in to Hollywood, but to stay with it because that is what they love.


PS- The Criterion Collection release of this film has a (among many others) special feature in which Del Toro gives us a tour of his "man cave"... a house that houses all of his collections and fanboy stuff. It was incredibly fun to watch... but it will probably make you very jealous.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

The Grindhouse Experience Chapter 3: "Savage Man/Savage Beast"

The 3rd film in the Grindhouse Experience set is a 1975 Mondo film. Mondo films are exploitation documentaries that focus on wild topics ranging from murder to cannibalism. They are graphic, and often contain footage that is staged. They rose to prominence in 1962 with the release of Mondo Cane, still the most notorious and arguably the best of these films. They remained a staple of the grind theaters for most of their existence.

Savage Man/Savage Beast focuses on the relationships of man and beast, and man and fellow man in various aspects of hunting around the world. Directors Antonio Climati and Mario Morra went to seemingly all corners of the globe to obtain the footage of the hunt. Scenes range from Indigenous tribes hunting elephants with spears, to the traditional European fox hunt being interrupted by animal activists to mercenaries committing sadistic murder in the jungle and cannibalism.

This isn't for the squeamish and animal lovers be warned, even though much of this is people hunting for food for their survival as they've done for centuries, there is plenty of on screen animal death. There also an infamous scene shot in Namibia of a tourist on safari being mauled and killed by a lion. There is no shortage of blood and guts on screen, and had it been more exploitative than it was it could be nauseating, but there is a message in there. Its certainly not prevalent enough to have the film escape being an exploitation film, but it does have something to say about the natural instinct of all beasts, human and animal never escaping the natural instinct to hunt be it for sport or survival.

The film is well made, and even with quite a bit of it being staged and acted, and even more being suspected of it without proof. Its interesting to say the least and will get your mind turning at least a little. And it did have an influence on other exploitation films to follow. This is what the grindhouse was... excess in one form or another.

The 3rd film of this set has been the high point so far hopefully it keeps getting better.


Wednesday, January 12, 2011

The Grindhouse Experience: Chapter 2 "Tortured Angels"

We are on to film number two of the Grindhouse Experience. Lets get to the point...

Strike Of The Tortured Angels (1982)

Imagine an exploitation movie. Got it? Now imagine an exploitation movie made by a kid in 4th grade. That is what this movie is.

I normally do research on a movie I know little about to find out about the actors, directors, writers, so on, so forth. This one gets no such treatment. Why, you may ask... because it is a giant pile of steaming shit.

The whole movie centers around a few girls in reform school. One is in love with a doctor... a doctor who knocks up her sister. This could be the setup for amazing Women In Prison revenge style stuff. Instead we get melodramatic, boring and the least intense action you may ever see. Even when the action gets "crazy" it is still boring and lethargic. Even the actors don't care. There is some mud wrestling action but you won't care because it is an Asian based film where nudity is strictly monitored. So even when you may get something trivial and worthwhile you get nothing. There is some blood, but during that scene there is also a girl in obvious blackface so you are more focused on that. Speaking of blackface... is the lead black girl just a white girl in makeup? It seriously looks that way. I don't know what to say about this movie. Its boring, melodramatic and just plain bad. Your intelligence will be questioned and patience tested. If you are a fan of any sort of fun/sleaze/good movie just move along because there is nothing to see here.

The basis of this movie is enough to be good, but because of how it ended up it may very well be the biggest cock tease in cinematic history.


Oh, and no, you don't get a poster for the movie because it would possibly make your pants wiggle and get you excited for some action that isn't in this movie. Deal with it.

GRINDHOUSE EXPERIENCE: An Ongoing Series of Reviews

So I've just busted into this DVD set I have called Grindhouse Experience. Its a 20 movie collection of 70s and 80s films. Some exploitation, horror, spaghetti westerns, action, a little bit for everyone (or no one). I decided it would be fun to go through the movies and review them all through the year (or month or week... however long it takes).

Some of these movies are pretty rare, and don't have much (if any) type of distribution deal anymore and fall into the public domain where anyone can sell them legally.

I figured the easiest way to do this is go right down the list on the box and watch them in successive order.

Without further adieu, I give you chapter 1...

Women's Camp 119 (1977)

This Nazisploitation flick from cult film favorite Bruno Mattei is full of everything you'll come to know while watching movies of this sub-genre. Attractive women being submitted to various tortures and experiments (they often are doing the experiments as well), nudity, gore, usually some sort of rape (again women often forcing themselves on men and vice versa) and of course Nazis. Doesn't sound like you can really mess that up right? Well as I've come to realize it seems like just about every single one of these movies finds a way to do it. Sure there are interesting and even entertaining parts but they are usually few and far between and sometimes for all the wrong reasons.

The plot in Women's Camp 119 is non-existent until the last 20 minutes. Essentially a group of Nazis have orders from Hitler that they need to find new ways to kill the enemy, and help their own cause. This is anything from testing new chemical gases to attempting to set gay men straight by having naked women dance for them and attempt to rape them, to bringing back dead soldiers by having naked women lay all over them and rub on them... basically necrophilia. This one worked, but only when the corpse had a single woman, according to the dialogue during the part he had 2 women, he became too bashful. Yea. Two of the doctors try to sabotage the whole operation and eventually it becomes about a manhunt for escaped prisoners. It actually makes more sense than most of these movies I've seen.

Women's Camp 119 is just as ridiculous as other Nazisploitation flicks I've seen. That is one of the good things it has going, another is that Mattei can actually be a half decent director. The man is responsible for such cult horror hits as Hell of the Living Dead, Rats: Night of Terror, and Zombi 3 & 4 which are all endlessly entertaining to me. The problem with this genre as a whole is that while there is some crazy shit going on, they are beyond boring. I don't know why this is, but I've felt this about many of these movies, and I'm not alone. Many others I've talked to with these feel the same. Perhaps they're presented with too much emphasis on classic exploitation and not enough on the horror side. Maybe they need a more substantial plot, even though many movies have been entertaining with little to no plot... who knows.



I'm a few days late writing this but that's how it goes sometimes. It's okay though, because it would be just as relevant a year from now.

I'm writing because Juan Piquer Simon, director of cult classics such as Pieces and Slugs has passed away at the age of 75.

I wish I could say I've seen more of Simon's filmography than the two listed but I haven't. However you'll be hard pressed to find a director of any film that can make movies as fun to watch as Pieces and Slugs. He also has an uncredited director role and was a producer on a previous CT review, Satan's Blood!

I won't claim to be an expert on the man, I've seen 2 films from him along with Satan's Blood which he was a producer and I have no idea how much he could take credit for as a director. J.P. Simon will live on because he knew the kinds of films he loved and he made. He knew that critics didn't care for horror or fantasy movies, the movies he made and how he made them. He took a fun approach to these movies and made them entertaining throughout. Watching Pieces while enjoying a 6-pack is something few other movies can replicate.

Nothing will ever change that.

Rest In Peace Juan Piquer Simon, your style and approach is admired.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

5 Deadly Venoms (1978)

Kung-Fu movies are a thing many of us remember from our childhood. In the same way we remember Godzilla we remember these martial arts action flicks. They'd regularly play on TV and would always feature grainy transfers and awful dubbing. They were something to laugh at just as much as we'd love the action. For most of us they were only an anomaly. In 1978 Shaw Bros. studio brought 5 Deadly Venoms to the world. Action packed, humorous and well made, it would become one of the most revered martial arts movies ever made.

As the master of the Venom House is dying he sends his last student on a crucial mission to track down the five senior members and reclaim the treasure that has been gained using the master's teachings for evil. The master instructs his pupil to use his skills and team up with any of the senior members who have not turned to wrong doing to stop them and give the treasure to charity to clear the House's name.

Each member is trained in a specific lethal style. The oldest is The Centipede, having hands and feet so fast it makes him appear to have 1,000 legs. The next is The Snake, who's left and right hands operate as the head and tail of a snake, working together in deadly unison. The Scorpion follows suit, his hand like the pincers and his feet the stinging tail with the ability to paralyze his enemies. The final two seniors are The Gecko who learned how to use his weight against gravity and crawl at will on walls. Speed and position are his biggest assets and The Toad who is strong and has only one weak point. He can withstand attacks of all kind and bend hardened materials.

The main plot of the film follows the junior student, Yan Tieh, as he poses as a beggar in town and witnesses various events including a family being murdered, corruption and backstabbing among the key characters of the story. The story intertwines with our six members of the Venom House and concludes in a five-way battle which is possibly one of the best choreographed fight scenes I've ever seen.

Chang Cheh was well versed in the art of kung-fu film making by the time Five Deadly Venoms was made, and his skill in the director's chair is evident. Performances are tight, all comedy is right on time and well placed and cinematography is great. The set pieces are beautiful as well, and make for interesting fight scenes.

I'll admit I just started getting into these movies after finding them entertaining as a kid (for completely different reasons) within the last year or so, but I'm already finding that they are very well made and entertaining movies. I can see why Cheh is heralded as the "Godfather of Hong Kong Cinema" and why Five Deadly Venoms is considered to be one his best works and one of the best kung-fu movie ever made.