Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Young Rebels (1989)

Young Rebels has the same director and writer (Amir Sheravan) and some of the actors (including the legendary Robert Z'dar) of Samurai Cop and Killing American Style but somehow lacks that certain something that elevates a bad film into cult classic status.

So it has bad acting, cheesy dialogue, a plot that makes no sense (and is basically one long fight between our heroes and a drug gang), gratuitous nudity and awful fight choreography but... Well it's not all bad, the film is unintentionally hilarious because it is so dreadful.

Plus without this film there may never have been Samurai Cop and a world without Samurai Cop is not one i'd want to live in.

Saturday, February 17, 2018

Gymkata (1985)

Well it stands to reason doesn't it? Gymnastics and martial arts are a match made in heaven. Let's make a film about it...

Gymkata is a very odd film and definitely in the "so bad it's good" drawer with plenty of unintentional humour. An actual Olympic gymnast Kurt Thomas was bought in as the star (and truth be told he is a non-actor but you will see a lot worse acting in these kinds of films by people who are supposed to be professionals). Our hero is sent into a tiny Central Asian country where the US wants to put a satellite monitoring station. The reason a gymnast martial artist and not a diplomat is sent in is because this little country gets foreign visitors to take part in an extreme endurance event chased by local warriors. A cute custom though as it results in most entrants deaths it can't be doing much for the tourism industry.

Win the event however and you are granted your wish, and hence a satellite base. Which is why the US sends in Kurt Thomas and not Casper Weinberger who I suspect is not that good at kung fu.

So that's what the film is about and it is all very silly. The Central Asian country is basically still in the Middle Ages and a very dangerous land full of grotesque stereotypes and freaks. The action is good though but the gymnastics part of the film is a bit contrived, remote villages just happening to have a pair of parallel bars...

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Why me? (1983)

This is quite an unusual HK film, especially for it's time. It is rare in because it deals with the issue of mental illness. It is typical of HK cinema however to make a film about the tragic story of a mentally ill man (played by Kent Cheng who won an award for his role) and his dying mother (and boy, this is epic in it's tragedy!) but wrap it up with silly goofy humour and some half-baked romance.

That's not to say this film is bad but there are times when your finger does hover over the STOP button on the remote. You should refrain though because this is a pretty good film... overall though could have been so much better. Olivia Cheng and Chow Yun Fat play 2 social workers who are also a couple. Olivia happens upon the mentally ill man and his poor mother who refuses to accept charity.

Olivia tries to get them better housing and a place at a special school but the queue is wrong. Olivia tries to get the queue jumped but as Chow says, the queue is full of people who are just as deserving. Olivia also has family problems of her own including a dead beat dad and Eric Tsang as a step-father, however it's not one of his best roles. His usual jokey clown act seems rather jarring and forced here. These sub-plots are all rather incidental to the main plot of the film which comes to a rather predictable but powerful all the same climax.

Saturday, February 10, 2018

Exterminators of the Year 3000 (1983)

This film is very confusing, the title implies it is set in the year 3000 but somehow 1970s cars are still running - along with advanced bionic children. It is yet another European Mad Max inspired movie set in a post apocalypse wasteland i.e. Italian or Spanish countryside.

The plot is very heavily inspired by Mad Max 2, complete with a tanker chase across the desert. There are gangs of marauders and lots and lots of violence. The film is pretty low budget with little story sense, bizarre dialogue and a singular lack of anything you might consider acting.

However despite all of that it is strangely compelling and remarkably enjoyable perhaps because it is so strange. The action scenes are pretty decent with some very good stunts. There is also plenty of unintentional hilarity especially with some of the dialogue.

It's also the only film i can think of where a robot child is got drunk on beer while someone tries to fix his arm.

Thursday, February 8, 2018

The Toolbox Murders (1978)

The Toolbox Murders is at times a rather unpleasant but compelling splatter gore / psychological horror movie, controversial in it's time and banned in the UK for awhile (one of the first so-called "video nasties").

A religious maniac starts killing women who he sees as sinful in an apartment block, using the contents of a toolbox (hammer, screwdriver et cetera) to perform his grisly and extremely bloody kills. The murders take place over a rather enjoyable country music soundtrack - which is probably the best part of this film to be honest.

The film makes little sense, you'd think four murders in the same block would have the police descending like a ton of bricks on the place but no they barely seem to investigate the crimes at all.

After the initial twenty minutes or so of mayhem the film slow down a lot and concentrates on the kidnap of a young girl and there is a lot of rather weird dialogue and psychological exploration of the killer's motives. The abrupt change in direction of the film can be a bit jarring (though not as much as a claw hammer to the head) but it somehow all holds together. Thanks to a nail gun no doubt.

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Black Oxen (1924)

Black Oxen is a slightly curious but enjoyable silent movie. A love triangle but with elements of fantasy and science fiction.

The film stars Conway Teale as a NY writer who falls in love with an Austrian countess played by Corinne Griffith. Clara Bow plays the other side of the triangle, in love with the writer but his attention is only on the countess and not the somewhat annoying flapper...

But the countess has a dark secret, she is using specialised treatments and X-rays to retain her youth and is really a much older woman and not in her twenties as she appears.

She gets found out in the end of course. Well apparently, only seven of the film's original eight reels are extant meaning the end of the movie (about twenty minutes) is now missing. Luckily original reviews can tell us what happens! All spoilers arn't bad.

Sunday, February 4, 2018

The New Barbarians (1983)

After the apocalypse the few starving survivors of mankind will apparently battle for survival in the desert wastes in battered old cars covered in spikes and weapons. Now it's not Mad Max but a very passable Italian film obviously inspired by it.

The plot is basic to say the least, a band of helmeted maniacs called The Templars seek to wipe out all other survivors on Earth. To stop them: our hero Giancarlo Prete (who is an ex-member of this group) and some friends.

Well the plot (which is a bit of a rip off of Mad Max 2 if we are going to be honest) is fairly irrelevant with a film like this. The most important question is: what is the action like? Well it is good, often very good in fact, despite the obviously tiny budget. The film consists of a number of bloody set pieces with people blown up, decapitated by exploding arrows, burned alive and run over. It is very violent indeed but also has a great deal of camp fun. And has a car with a giant corkscrew.

One thing to note about this horrific vision of the future is that its set in 2019...

Thursday, February 1, 2018

Häxan (1922)

Häxan is a curious and enjoyable Swedish/Danish silent movie. It is a documentary horror exploring witchcraft and superstition from the Middle Ages onwards with numerous dramatised vignettes featuring witches, black magic and various devilment.

Some parts of the film are tinted which adds to the creepiness and/or fun especially when the tint is red.

A controversial film, scenes of nudity and torture helped it be banned in several countries. The film is full of weirdness and the forbidden, it's a lot of fun. The early part of the film, which is mostly documentary, can drag a bit though.

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

George & Mildred (1980)

The 1970s and 1980s was a hard time for British cinema with money scarce and seemingly ideas even scarcer. Popular sitcoms and other TV shows were ruthlessly plundered to make low budget and relatively low risk movies. George & Mildred was a popular TV sitcom that ran in the late 1970s and became the latest show to hit the big screen. It was also such a colossal flop it pretty much ended the practice.

Truthfully the feature length versions of these sitcoms and dramas has produced some turkeys (and some decent fare such as the Sweeney movies). How about George & Mildred the movie? It's not as bad as you think, it's certainly not good by any stretch of the imagination but it could have been so much worse.

Starring Brian Murthy and Yootha Joyce the film involves various ridiculous scenes in a posh hotel (where George is mistaken for a hitman - the sheer bizarreness of this one of the best things about the film). Ultimately though the film is too far removed from the original show and what made it popular.

Monday, January 29, 2018

Blue Lightning (1991)

Hong Kong: it seduces you, inspires you, attracts you but it's a tough mistress. The streets have the bright lights and a myriad of attractions but in a dark alleyway something is always ready to bite you on the ass.

Danny Lee plays a drunk ex-cop whose ex-wife is killed by person unknown. Only their kid survives. But why kill the woman? That's the question on the lips of cop Tony Leung Ka Fei. As they investigate the crime they start to delve into a world of blackmail, corruption and underage sex...

A bigwig in HK is preparing for election but has a dark secret the assassin is trying to cover up. The assassin comes back for more to remove the evidence, including the friend of the deceased woman in the form of Olivia Cheng (in her last film before she changed career to become a golf instructor). And then he comes after Danny. The bigwig has the police in his pocket, can he be stopped?

A hard bleak and very violent film. In this film HK is sleazy, HK is brutal, and HK doesn't care as another victim bleeds to death on it's tarmac...

Saturday, January 27, 2018

Murder Weapon (1989)

A sex slash gore movie basically. There is an awful lot of murder, an awful lot of sex and it's also pretty awful.

The premise of the film involves two girls (played by Linnea Quigley and Karen Russell) recently released from a psychiatric hospital inviting some of their ex-s to a party who then start getting killed.

Quite a simple premise, and of course it needs some setting up but the film takes ages doing that - including some interminable flashbacks to where the girls are psychologically assessed.

When the murders finally start they are low-budget gore cheese and completely ridiculous. To sum this film up: the sound and set design is all over the place, acting fairly non-existent and the story makes little sense. So obviously it's brilliant. Or would have been if it had cut out a bit of the waffle.

Thursday, January 25, 2018

Seven Days to Noon (1950)

A renegade scientist steals a nuclear warhead from a British research centre. If that's not bad enough he's now in London and threatening to blow the city up if the government doesn't renounce nuclear weapons in seven days...

Barry Jones plays the idealist scientist and Andre Morell plays a Scotland Yard superintendent leading the manhunt to find him. While the almost impossible search takes place the government begins the enormous task of evacuating one of the largest cities in the world. This goes pretty well though all considering, though we're only a few years after WW2 so the Army and authorities had plenty of practice in mass personnel deployment!

A tense and well structured suspense movie. The characters are well drawn, the scientist for example is misguided rather than evil. Supporting characters add a bit of lightness where needed.

Monday, January 22, 2018

The Transformers: the movie (1986)

The Transformers: the movie was an animated feature to help sell the toys... i mean tell the remarkable story of the conflict between the Autobots and Decepticons...

The film is notable for some of the actors who lent their voices to the characters, especially Orson Welles who voiced Unicron. Amazingly this was the great man's last role. Other stars who you can hear in this film are Leonard Nimoy, Casey Kasem and Eric Idle. Not many films can boast that kind of line-up!

The story itself is decent enough with nothing too innovative. The film flows well though your attention may wander after a while, what works as an half hour long TV episode does not necessarily translate into an hour and a half long movie. A problem with the film, i feel, is that it was too much like the TV series...

Visually however it is still a treat and the soundtrack... well if you like late 80s US heavy metal then you'll love it. Otherwise you may want to bring ear plugs. Personally i love it and own the OST too.

Overall its a decent enough animated film. Maybe it didn't work as a movie that well but it certainly was light years ahead of the endless CGI-fests that are the Transformers movie experiences today.

Friday, January 19, 2018

Quiet Fire (1991)

1991 action movie Quiet Fire stars Lawrence Hilton-Jacobs as ...guess what? A Vietnam vet! Well that is a surprise...

Lawrence's ex-commanding officer is now running for the US senate and he thinks Lawrence has the dirty on him which could derail his blossoming political career.

Therefore he sends an army of assassins (including two female bodybuilders - no really) and bent cops (including Robert Z'dar) to kill him. Luckily everyone is pretty inept at killing our hero though there is plenty of collateral damage.

The film is hilarious, and very little of that intentional. The action comes thick and fast but is generally pretty shoddy though entertaining along with most of the acting. There is also plenty of unnecessary but gratuitous female nudity. Plus a heavy amount of cheese.

Therefore it has all the ingredients to make a great trash movie. And it is. I enjoy this kind of film a lot and particularly this one, Lawrence had the right amount of charm and goofiness to suit the nonsense going on around him.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Bluebottles (1928)

Bluebottles is a charming comedy short starring Elsa Lanchester, one of three stories written for her by H.G. Wells and with a small cameo from her future husband Charles Laughton.
In the film Elsa plays an innocent happy-go-lucky girl who gets drawn into a cops and robbers gun battle by accident and also by accident ends up the heroine. The film is often quite surreal and often in the vein of a comic strip, the robbers for example all have stripey jumpers - all they needed were bags over their shoulders with "Swag" written on them!

While everyone else in the film is drawn as a fairly conventional and one dimensional stereotype Elsa displays a whole range of expressions and emotions and the overall effect is quite amazing. A very enjoyable little film.

Sunday, January 14, 2018

The Shootout (1992)

A movie in that very HK specific genre : slapstick comedy ultraviolence.

This time starring Aaron Kwok as a pretty boy / pretty useless young cop who gets caught up in a case involving violent armed robbers and thus gets assigned to Lau Ching Wan's team. Then he falls in love with a KTV singer (Fennie Yuen) but of course she turns out to be the criminal boss' (unenthusiastic) girl... et cetera.

That makes it easy to find the criminals of course, which is just as well as the cops don't really seem to do any police work. Their idea of investigating seems to be following a suspect into a brothel and then singing badly in a karoke lounge.

The final showdown takes place in a police training area, why and how the bad guys got there isn't explained but it makes for a good action setpiece to end the film. Jackie Chan produced and his hallmarks are here : fast, imaginative action.

It's not a film for plot but a film for big guns and bigger explosions. Sometimes thats just what you want.

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Killing American Style (1990)

In many ways this is the prototype to the cult classic Samurai Cop with Amir Shervan directing the legendary Robert Z'dar in a slice of 80s action cheese.

Killing American Style isn't as good as Samurai Cop though, it has the latter's violence, gratuitous nudity and bizarre characters though lacks a bit of charm. Its still well worth a watching if this kind of trash is your thing. If you are like me basically...

The plot is ridiculous (of course). Z'dar leads a gang of bumbling hoodlums which includes the very strange Lynch who literally is a man who thinks with his penis. Luckily for Z'dar and company the cops are equally as useless.

Unluckily for Z'dar he tangles with a long haired hero (hmm that sounds like another film) who is also a kickboxer...

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Mantrap (1926)

Clara Bow was one of the biggest box office draws in the 1920s. This was one of her many silent movies, a comedy set in the Canadian backwoods in a place called Mantrap.

The film can basically be summed up as: city girl is charmed by the country life and her backwoods husband, then get bored and is seduced back by to her city ways when a couple of NY guys (Percy Marmont and Ernest Torrence) arrive on vacation. Clara flirts with everyone and there is a bit of a menage a trois (all in a chaste 1920s fashion of course) but it all ends very well and everyone goes home happily for tea.

Clara was made for this film with her bubbly ways. The plot is a bit obvious but the film has plenty of charm.

Monday, January 8, 2018

Masterblaster (1987)

"What is this film about?" "Paintball gone wrong." "OK good - what did you just say?"

A paintball tournament (and this is for pros not people on a work away day messing about) is held in the USA starring a motley collection of character stereotypes. There is a decent cash prize for the winner. Only the problem is someone has switched their paint gun for real weapons and is starting to waste the competitors for real. Well someone is taking the tournament just that little bit too seriously...

Ex-Vietnam vet Jeff Moldovan looks to save the day and hunt the bad guy down. Although the film is rather poor in many ways it does have some reasonably good action scenes and the ending (and thus the unmasking of the bad guy) was decent in keeping you in suspense.

Saturday, January 6, 2018

Raped By An Angel 3 : Sexual Fantasy Of The Chief Executive (1998)

With a title like this you know its probably not going to be a philosophical work, especially as the notorious Wong Jing is behind it...

This film can be best described as a softcore porn crime thriller in that it involves a candidate for the position of HK Chief Executive (Alex Fong) who is also a successful businessman but in his office building women working alone at night get raped yet this somehow does not affect his election standing...

The fact he keeps seeing naked women while out on the campaign trail doesn't affect him either or the fact he likes a bit of rumpy pumpy on his desk though he does go and see old-flame turned psychologist Angie Cheung who suggests he cut himself off from the world for 24 hours.

When the 24 hours are up, and he scarcely remembers what has happened in that time, he finds out one of his office staff, Pinky Cheung, has been raped and he is the suspect. By an amazing coincidence though Pinky's brother is the cop assigned to the case. So no clash of interests there.

To be fair to the film the story is not that bad though not very original and you can see the twist coming a mile off. Gratuitous use of female nudity and writhing bodies of course but an entertaining little film for all it's faults. The film may have been inspired by President Clinton and his legendary libido.

Thursday, January 4, 2018

Snake Eater (1989)

Snake Eater stars Lorenzo Lamas as an ex US Marine special forces soldier and now a cop. He has to use his skills and experience to track down the people who killed his parents and who have kidnapped his sister...

All of which sounds great, the problem is Lamas' character is fairly inept as a soldier and cop. The film chronicles his mis-adventures tracking down a stereotype band of inbred rednecks in the woods. He gets there in the end but gets trapped or beaten up a lot.

Well that's not the only problem with this film, everything else about it is also fairly inept though you don't watch these films for the acting or original storytelling let's face it.

The film is redeemed by some amusing and interesting scenes such as the trap to catch criminals early in the film and the action is not just endless shootouts and explosions. However it's not a film you'll be desperate to see again anytime soon.

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Oily Maniac (1976)

If there is to be an award for the film with the best title ever then this 1970s Shaw Brothers film may be in with a shout...

Using Malay witchdoctor magic a crippled young man having a hard time (played by Danny Lee Sau-Yin) transforms himself into an oily maniac, or to be precise a monster made out of oil, and basically busts some ass...

Low-concept maybe but definitely high-cheese, this is an entertaining 70s shock horror flick but don't expect high art. The special effects are not fabulous (but then again it was mid-70s on a low budget) and that is maybe part of the appeal. There is also plenty of female nudity on show and a number of women get their clothes ripped off. Yeah its that kind of film. Sex and oily monsters. Like a Friday night in Wan Chai.

What more could you want? A plot? Well there is one! More or less. Mind you, the plot is full of holes. A monster made out of oil does have one rather large design flaw, but no one seems to realise this until the end. Is this film any good? It is hard to tell really, no doubt a large part of the appeal is the fact it is called Oily Maniac...