Fans of 1930's "pre-code" gangster flicks will probably love "The Lady In Red," a beautiful and realistic love letter to films such as "Scarface" (1932) and "Public Enemy." Pamela Sue Martin is ultra lovable as Polly, the rebellious farm girl who just seems to attract trouble like a magnet. At the wrong place at the wrong time, Polly is used as a human shield by the Dillinger gang as they speed away from a bank robbery. They ditch her after she serves her purpose, but a chain of events leads Polly down a very winding road that includes sweat shops, prostitution, a prison stint, and culminating with Polly and her friends picking up the machine guns, John Dillinger style, after the authorities do her wrong. Episodic in structure, which is not a problem, as every 'episode' in Polly's journey is more fascinating and just plain wild than the previous chapter. Now people refer to this as a low budget "B" movie, but the production values are very sleek, with stunning attention to period detail; the cars, the clothes, the hairstyles, the sets and the music, are all completely realistic in a way that is seldom seen in even higher budget films. The cinematography is stunning and this movie is gorgeous. The scenes in the brothel are reminiscent of the Storybook era sets of Louis Malle's "Pretty Baby," while the prison episode is more powerful and realistic than the roughest "women in prison" movie...and YES; that is Beula Ballbreaker from "Porky's," as the evil prison matron, turning in a perfectly savage, evil performance as a hate-filled racist lesbian guard. "Lady In Red" is the perfect balance of exploitation and Hollywood productions like "Bonnie & Clyde," but this is actually more fun than "Bonnie & Clyde." It deserves more recognition.
Blood Rage (1987)Proof That Those Early Friday the 13th Flicks Weren't So Bad..
21 January 2020
Today, when we watch some cheesy, visually ugly 80's trash like this, we can see that those early "Friday the 13th" movies, (I, II & IV) are quite good in comparison. Because those movies, although not as graphically violent as "Blood Rage," they did have atmosphere, and a genuinely eerie/spooky quality to them. There always seemed to be something moving in the shadows just beyond the peripheral vision. not so with late 80's slashers like "Blood Rage," a movie that has no shadows, and no atmosphere whatsoever. Also it's proof that a film of this genre needs more than gory kill scenes (of which this movie has in spades) to make it good, or scary. All that blood and guts was wasted on a movie that just isn't scary, or even suspenseful. Shamelessly ripping off "Halloween" and "Friday the 13th" and believing some sexy actors could replace quality, this one deserves to be forgotten. But obviously that didn't happen, as this thing somehow got the bluray restoration that was totally unnecessary. This "Blood Rage" should not be confused with another film called "Bloodrage" (one word) from Joseph Zito from 1980, which is a FAR SUPERIOR horror movie that is loaded with the kind of stylish, nightmarish atmosphere that this 1987 trash totally lacks. And while this movie has been restored to bluray quality, the earlier "Bloodrage" remains completely unknown, and one of the rarest, most sought after titles around, the scarce VHS tapes going for 100 bucks if you can find it at all.
Gone with the Pope (2010)Legendary Unearthed Grindhouse Classic
19 January 2020
"Gone With the Pope" was for years, a kind of cinematic "urban myth." Film fanatics knew it existed, but nobody ever imagined it would ever see the light of day. Well 'Grindhouse Releasing' has performed a miracle here, and this is certainly their finest restoration to date. Poring over 5 hours of film reels from the Mitchell family archive, they painstakingly put the film together in the order of what Duke Mitchell most likely intended, and have created an incredible film of the grindhouse genre. Having an obsessive fascination for Duke's previous film, "Massacre, Mafia Style,' getting to see this was a big deal for this viewer. I had feared that this one couldn't possibly be as good as 'Massacre...' but as it turned out, this one is BETTER. The camera work, the editing, the framing, are all more competent and professional, like a work from a film maker who has learned from past mistakes, and grown more confident in his craft. "Gone With the Pope" looks like it had a higher budget, featuring location shooting in Las Vegas and Rome. This time around Mitchell's character Paul, has a collection of Rolls Royce automobiles and access to a yacht, which he charters with his mobbed up buddies, to Rome, carrying an unprecedented plan to kidnap the Pope, and charge every Catholic on the planet $1 for his release. The writing at times is so powerful and emotional that one has to wonder just how much of the real Duke Mitchell was infused into the fictional character of Paul. His opinions of the Catholic church are intense and controversial, and obviously written from a very personal point of view. At a certain point Paul's buddies all have their own revelations about God and religion, and begin to change their minds about this outlandish and sacreligious plan, but Paul is not so easily swayed, and needs a bit more "proof" that God truly exists. Well he gets that proof at the films climax, which is a real stunner. Watching this film I had to wonder what directors Martin Scorsese and Abel Ferrara thought of it. I imagine they both hold "Gone With the Pope" in high regard, especially the intense religious imagery contained throughout, and of course the strong Italian influence that saturates every frame of this lost, priceless time capsule. Comments that this movie is somehow "boring" are truly mind boggling, as there is so much going on, so much eye popping imagery to behold, so much fascinating dialogue and such a collection of eclectic songs of the era, and of course, the mid 70's fashions and decor are sometimes hypnotic in their own right. Anyone who finds this movie "boring" must have the attention span of a mosquito. The footage of vintage Las Vegas, as well as the gorgeous scenes on the yacht, and of Rome are stunning as well. Filled with memorable and quotable lines and bizarre, hilarious characters. Fans of gangster and mafia movies should seek out this iconic film; it is a true masterpiece of the genre.
Dear Mr. Wonderful (1982)Super-Atmospheric New York Movie
16 January 2020
"Ruby's Dream" is one of the most "New York movies" to come out of the 80's; it is literally soaked in that New York city style, to the point where the viewer can almost smell the streets and the smoke-filled bars and pool halls of a grimy, vintage late 70's/early 80's NYC. Every character and every location used is filled with so much nostalgia and atmosphere that it is hard to imagine any native of the city, not enjoying this oddball film. Once again, Joe Pesci turns in an utterly real and believable performance as Ruby Dennis, the tacky lounge singer who dreams of being a headline performer in Vegas, like Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin. He's doing fairly well, singing in the bowling alley that he owns, surrounded by his family, including his sister and his delinquent nephew, who also works at the bowling alley, when he isn't snatching gold chains from tourists in Times Square. This time Pesci is portraying a Jewish guy, rather than the usual Italian that he is known for, and he is utterly perfect in the role. This movie is so well-made, with amazing cinematography and high caliber acting, that it appears to have a high budget. This is a very polished, great looking production that has apparently been forgotten, and relegated to low quality dvd editions that present the film in a cropped, 4x3 picture format. This must be a real stunner in it's original widescreen format, and captures the grit of the street like "Taxi Driver" and "Midnight Cowboy." Those expecting action or a crime film might come away disappointed, as this is mainly a character study, of one man and his immediate family, all of which are interesting in their own way. Especially fascinating was Ruby's nephew, Ray, the teen criminal that looks up to his uncle, but wants to be successful in his own right, by becoming a street thug, fencing stolen goods to the denizens of the local boxing gym. And this one showcases so many scenes of a sleazy, vanished New York; the filthy boxing clubs, the off track betting places, the sex clubs and porn theaters of 42nd street, the smoke-filled bars and streets that seem to ooze an aura of criminality..truly beautiful to behold. Judging from the ridiculously low rating here, I'm guessing that this quality will only be appreciated by a certain audience. But for those who remember the golden age of New York, or just appreciate NYC movies, "Ruby's Dream" is one of the best..I think the reason the city is captured in such an idyllic, almost over the top way, is because the director is German. Therefore we get a movie that is so 'New York' that it almost becomes parody. On a side note, the version I saw clocked in at 115 minutes, so there might be different versions of this movie out there, as this site gives a shorter running time of 100 minutes.
Murderlust (1985)Intelligent Study of A Sociopathic Personality
16 January 2020
Those looking for graphic, bloody killings and exploitative elements will be sorely disappointed when watching this ultra-rare 80's obscurity. "Murderlust" has a very similar feel and simplistic style as "Henry: Portrait of A Serial Killer," but the horrific murders in this case, tastefully happen off screen. The small budget works in favor of the movie, realistically showing the level of near poverty that the main character lives in. A low level security guard who also teaches Sunday school at his local church, Steve Belmont leads the ultimate double life. Among his church congregation, Steve is highly respected, and perceived as an upstanding, religious man. But his boss knows what a rude, heavy drinking dirt bag he really is. So does his neighbor, who lives next door to his disgusting dump of a rented room. Of course none of them know that Steve likes to pick up random women and strangle them to death. And things begin to unravel when his two worlds begin to overlap in this very tense, fascinating tale. "Murderlust" wouldn't be so effective if it wasn't for the impressive, highly believable acting job that Eli Rich turns in. He is amazingly believable as both the violent scumbag AND as the stand up pillar of the community that some think he is. His performance is chillingly authentic and understated. In fact the whole cast here is very good and appear quite natural in their roles. The fine acting and intelligent writing should earn this movie a much higher score than it has here. Obviously it wasn't seen by the right audience; in fact "Murderlust" is so rare that it most likely was seen by almost nobody. So if you are lucky enough to find a copy, and if you have an interest in the subject, I highly recommend it.
Could We Maybe (1976)Wonderful Nostalgic Movie
10 January 2020
Few films have been able to realistically capture young people as they really are.."400 Blows" is one of them. another such film is this little known gem of a movie called "Maske ku' vi," from Denmark. Basically a portrait of a very brief time in life when we are not yet adults, but not really kids either. It's about 15 year old Kim, living with his mother who is struggling without a man in the house to help out. She's frustrated with her son's "laziness," somehow expecting a 15 year old boy to want to do more than hang out with his friends and drink and pursue the opposite sex. And like a lot of kids his age, Kim hates school and anything that restricts his freedom. The audiences of today might be disturbed at the sight of 15 year olds drinking like sailors and sharing cigarettes with their parents, but this is specifically a product of the 70's, and very much a Danish film, and these days this kind of behavior is so alien that it takes on a kind of surreal quality. The first portion of the movie introduces the viewer to Kim as we get to know what he's about. The scenes of him and his friend Ole are so realistic and intimate that we feel like we know them personally. Things take a darker turn when he is kidnapped by bank robbers who take him and a girl his age, hostage. But the robbers aren't a particular mean bunch, and this seems to be a mere plot device to move the story along. The remainder of the film deals with Kim and the girl as they get closer and become a couple on the run. That's really it, as the linear story isn't the important thing about this one. The point of this movie is to evoke a certain nostalgic feeling in the viewer, and for anyone who has been a rebellious teenager, this will have a very important and powerful meaning. This beautifully filmed coming of age movie is somewhat rare, but it is worth tracking down.
Zûmu appu: Sotsugyo shashin (1983)Rare Post 70's Pinku Eiga
9 January 2020
By the end of the 1970's these 'pinku-eiga' genre films were winding down both in popularity and quality. For an 80's production, "Zoom Up: Graduation Photo" is a well-produced erotic film, featuring every fetish under the sun, set against a story about young girls entering the porno industry. One girl gets talked into posing for a pornographic magazine, books that could apparently be purchased through vending machines on the street! Another girl gets raped by a gang of school boys who are over excited from looking at the magazine, and when she goes to the publishers to show her scorn, she also gets talked into posing for the same magazine. The film is quite graphic and the situations inflicted on the young girls gets depressing, as they are truly being exploited. In typical fashion for this type of film, the girls start to like the sexual violations being inflicted upon them. Beautiful actresses and nice production values make this an interesting film of the genre. I guess by 1983 viewers had seen it all and this might explain for the extra level of perversion that comes from using barely legal aged school girls. On a side note, it is surprising that such graphic magazines were being legally circulated within a country that isn't even allowed to show pubic hair in their films. Apparently it was acceptable to show a girl being vaginally fisted, as long as there was no pubic hair visible? Anyway at the end of the film we see the parents attempting to marry off their daughter into a respectable family. The question being, can she hide her sordid past? In Japan this behavior is enough to destroy any chance for a girl to successfully marry. If the movie focused a bit more on this aspect and a little less on the sex, this would be a classic along the lines of "Tokyo Decadence."
My Own Private River (2012)A True Gift For Fans
4 January 2020Warning: Spoilers
The multi-talented James Franco has taken a work of cinematic art, (My Own Private Idaho) and created another work of art. This is not really a documentary, but rather a movie with a linear story, similar to the original, but with many differences. Phoenix' character Mike was always more interesting than Scott (Keanu Reeves,) and Idaho really was River's film. So Franco gives fans what we want, by shifting the focus to Mike's character, utilizing absolutely incredible new footage of River Phoenix to flesh out his character. In order to do this, Reeves scenes are kept to a minimum, and other characters like Bob are strictly in the background. What we get in it's place is a sort of study of male hustlers and street kids living on the streets of Portland and Seattle, and this version is very reminiscent to the equally fine "Streetwise" from Martin Bell. In this version, Mike no longer suffers from narcolepsy, and he has a girlfriend. For 'Idaho' fanatics, this recreation is an absolute, mind blowing experience in that we get to see all the characters we have always loved, in entirely new situations, and from different angles. It is a revelation. I'm also thrilled to see the amazing new scenes of actor Rodney Harvey, who met an early demise in a similar way as River. He winds up working as a hot dog vendor in the park...a HOT DOG VENDOR. It was nice to find out the fate of these minor characters, and to see that they all made out okay in the end. In this version, everyone makes it to the other side, except for Mike, who doesn't make it, and the fact that he's the only one makes it even sadder. Anyway James Franco has performed a miracle with his reworking of an iconic film, and fans should be grateful for this incredible opportunity to go back in time, and see an old favorite, for the first time.
A Dirty Shame (2004)Depressing & Sad
4 January 2020
As someone who has followed the career of John Waters through the years, I have always managed to find something to like about each one of his films, even the minor ones. But this movie is a colossal failure. It seems more the work of a no-talent hack making an attempt at aping Waters' sense of humor and style, than a legitimate John Waters movie. A veteran film maker like him should know that it's not possible to make an underground movie with a budget of 30 million dollars and a cast of famous celebrities. Obviously it will come off as completely fake and ridiculous. Filled with toilet humor that is awkward and not funny, stars like Chris Isaac, Selma Blair and especially Tracy Ullmann make complete and utter fools of themselves. It's understandable that they signed on for the project, because who wouldn't want to be part of the latest creation from the man who brought us "Serial Mom" and "Hairspray," and the beloved cult movies "Polyester" and "Female Trouble?" I'm guessing nobody could have predicted how disastrous this would turn out. How embarrassing to witness old people talking about their vaginas, their bowel movements, and trying to be sexual. Yes it was funny to see Divine eating dog crap in "Pink Flamingos," if only for the sheer insanity of witnessing a scene like that. But it's somehow not funny seeing Tracy Ullmann picking up a bottle with her vagina, because she doesn't HAVE to humiliate herself to become famous; she already is hugely successful. The character of Big Bertha was pathetic, and Selma Blair looked embarrassed to be in this flop. "A Dirty Shame" is, in fact, such a miserable piece of junk that I'm surprised that Fine Line Features even released it. This "comedy" will actually depress anyone with taste and ruin their evening. And to the viewer who commented that "Mel Brooks would be proud...?" I have news for you; Mel Brooks wouldn't urinate on this film if it was on fire.
The Swinging Cheerleaders (1974)Surprising Quality For the Genre
31 December 2019
Those familiar with this series will probably expect this installment to be more of the same, mindless slapstick, sex jokes and wall to wall T&A and sex..especially if you happened to see "Revenge of the Cheerleaders" first, which is pretty worthless junk. But this one, rather than going the expected route, offers some fairly compelling drama, and very little nudity and NO sex at all. Of course it isn't deep, but some serious issues are dealt with, such as loyalty among friends, jealousy, rape, (in the movie's saddest part with Cheryl Smith) as well as the damaging effects that can arise from casual affairs. Self-proclaimed feminist Kate initially joins the cheerleading squad to secretly do research for a term paper about the sexism and objectification of women involved in being a cheerleader. She thinks she won't be able to relate to such silly girls, but to her surprise she strikes up genuine friendships with them and changes her mind about writing the article, but they find out anyway, which leads to some dramatic situations. Meanwhile each girl has her own story; Cheryl Smith's Andrea is a virgin, afraid to go all the way with her boyfriend. He eventually becomes frustrated and leaves her, and that causes her to do something very stupid and self destructive. Lisa is having an affair with her math teacher, but she doesn't stop to think of what it is doing to the guy's wife, who confronts Lisa in the film's most dramatic scene. Finally Mary Ann (Colleen Camp) has her delusions shattered when she finds out her father is not the great guy she thinks he is. At the center of it all is the illegal gambling ring involving the team coach and a couple faculty members, in which they are rigging the football games in hoping of becoming rich on a crooked betting scheme. Maybe the fact that Jack Hill is at the helm is the reason that this one is so much more polished and respectable than the other 'Cheerleader' movies, with it's glossy production values and cast that is very beautiful rather than cheap and slutty looking like in the other movies, but this is quite a fun movie that is more intelligent than most of the films of this genre. And for fans of the Great Cheryl Rainbeaoux Smith, this is a must-see film, as she is so good in it, and is quite believable as the virgin who is afraid of sex. Out of the series I can only recommend this one and "The Pom Pom Girls." The rest of them are pretty bad.
The Child (1977)Obscure & Eerie Gothic Horror
30 December 2019
Many would agree that the 1970's were the best decade for film, especially horror films. Everything was still fresh and new, and audiences weren't jaded the way they are now. "The Child" is one of a selection of forgotten horror gems from the days of the drive-in theaters and grindhouse cinemas that existed in the bad side of town or inner cities. Dripping with atmosphere, the world created on a tiny budget, seems so oblique that it could be taking place on the moon, the beautiful young heroine that arrives in the small village to care for the emotionally disturbed Rosalie, has no idea what she is getting into. A feeling of menace permeates this film, which is basically a zombie flick with arthouse aspirations. It seems the little girl has some kind of psychic power over the dead bodies in the Cemetary; she can make them rise from the dead. and they like her, because she feeds them kittens and other animals, and plays with them at night. This is probably the most morbid idea ever dreamed up for a movie, and something that would never be made today. The zombies are downright creepy looking, and a few scenes are truly terrifying when you let yourself be taken along for the ride. The best thing about this one is it's weirdness; that car, and that chilling synthesizer music and the very weird people. I was lucky to find a widescreen print on bluray and can say "The Child" is an absolute visual stunner. It's so great that it got restored to it's original condition as it deserves a rediscovery. Fans of "Lemora: A Child's Tale of the Supernatural" should love this one.
A Certain Sacrifice (1979)Put Some Clothes On...Ms. Cicconi!
10 December 2019
I'm not a Madonna fan; I think she's a woman of average looks, little talent and nice boobs. The only value this film has is it's footage of New York at the end of the 70's. What a dark, seedy and fascinating place NYC was, before it dissolved into the antiseptic, bland, overcrowded outdoor shopping mall it is today. And "A Certain Sacrifice" really captures that, with it's grimy, seedy look and the pallid, half starved and tortured looking souls that act in it. As a piece of cinematic history it's undeniably fascinating, And with just a little more professionalism (or at least a tripod) this could have been quite good. The basic ideas are quite typical for it's time, with it's overt sexual themes and intentional strangeness. I'm gonna go out on a limb and recommend it to fans of weird, subversive cinema and for those interested in 70's New York city movies. On a side note, this movie showed a lot of scenes of video arcades and porn theaters everywhere, which is a reminder of just how much of a playground NYC used to be. And "Certain Sacrifice" makes it look like quite a dangerous place as well. Oh well, if nothing else see it for Madge's boobs. It's actually a lot better than "Swept Away.."
Passionate Power (1947)A Visual Stunner
6 December 2019
Obscure Finnish movie, shot in glorious, haunting black & white, with the visual style of Carl Dryer and at times, Bergman, "Passionate Power" is basically the study of what happens to the soul when it is denied the love that it needs. A young girl, Aino is the daughter of a tyrannical father, an insufferable snob that refuses to let his daughter marry the man she loves because of his status as a "lowly farmhand." The Ylitalo clan is the richest family in this fairytale-like village, and young Aino is forced to marry some dunce, simply because of his noble lineage. He turns out to be a spineless, amoral drunk who proceeds to destroy the very family empire that her father was so proud of. Aino wants to be with Olavi, the flaxen haired Aryan logger, who gives up his exciting life of adventure to stay in this village and attempt to convince Aino's father to let them be together. When this union is denied, the poison of hate spreads to all involved. Aino becomes an embittered shrew who takes a whip to her drunken loser of a husband, while Olavi sticks around, builds a house and becomes a success, if only to spite Aino and her family. The film gets darker as it progresses, and the characters sink further into madness and desperation, up until it's violent and sad conclusion. "Passionate Flower" is very similar to "Wuthering Heights" in it's observations of the torment inflicted on two lovers when unkind fate keeps them apart. A glorious show of light and shadow and high drama, this one will be most appreciated by fans of the Silent film era.
Listen, Let's Make Love (1968)An Exercise In Aesthetic Beauty
2 December 2019
This Italian film might be considered shallow, but "Scusi, facciamo l'amore?" is a stunningly gorgeous film, from it's posh interiors of the Euro "jet-set," and the endless parade of late 60's haute couture fashions, and of course, the main character, young Pierre Clementi, who must be one of the most ridiculously beautiful men to have ever lived. Clementi is cast as Lallo, the arrogant son of one of the most notorious gigolos among Viennese society. Upon arrival to the lush city, for his dad's funeral, which he actually doesn't even show up for, but manages to make it to the "after-party,' he quickly meets the female members of the Euro jet set crowd, impossibly wealthy and mostly beautiful women, who immediately notice that Lallo possesses the same physical attributes as his father. And the young rogue wastes no time taking advantage of the situation. Criticized for being a "cold and empty' film, those critics failed to realize that it was intentional, and a way to reflect the life of a gigolo/male prostitute, who on the surface, appears to be having a wonderful time, but who eventually realizes that a career that consists of selling your body, can lead to devastatingly sad consequences. Of course this happens when Lallo realizes that the women he thought he was using, were actually using him, as one by one, they make their exits after they are done having their fun with the stud, who turns out to be more naive and innocent than one might think. It's not very original, but the whole production is just so damn beautiful that it serves well as an impressive piece of escapist fantasy, resembling something that Luchino Visconti would have made, if he wasn't so "proper." And for fans of Pierre Clementi, this is not to be missed. I have been a Clementi fan since I saw him as the dangerous gangster with the gold teeth in "Belle De Jour," so I might be biased. But this movie is a prime example of late 60's Euro cinema, as well as a documentation of a time and a lifestyle that no longer exists.
Legend of a Fighter (1982)Destroyed By Dumb Comedy
1 December 2019
I had high expectations for "Huo Yuan-Jia" due to the high rating here. I even had the luck to find an original Chinese language version so I was excited. The first portion of the film is very good, with the drama of the story unfolding, along with well-choreographed training sequences and intelligent, interesting dialogue between the central characters. An interesting story was unfolding. Sadly, before the halfway mark, the whole thing literally falls apart, eviscerated by some of the most ridiculous and embarrassing slapstick comedy. Out of nowhere came the guy with the rabbit teeth and painted on freckles and the circus sideshow began. Frustrating and so disappointing, as "Legend of A Fighter" had so much potential to be a great film of the genre. An opportunity to tell a great, serious story based on fact, was passed up for juvenile toilet humor. And it's not like I have no tolerance for humor in these movies; if it is done right it can be great fun. One example is "Mad Monkey Kung Fu," which is hysterical, mostly because the comedic elements were handled competently. But here it's just stupid. Another thing that sinks the production is it's lackluster sets and cinematography. Typically films of this genre are packed with eye popping colors and sets that are fascinating to look at at, but this one is very bland. Some good fight choreography is all this one has to offer, and it isn't enough to save it.
Golden Age Kung Fu Epic
30 November 2019
Ex-Marine Lee Van Clief commands the screen, along with his sidekick Chrales "El Pantera" Bonet, in this eye-popping, colorful Kung Fu extravaganza. One of a number of movies produced around the time of Bruce Lee's death, that offer hunches and conspiracy theories about Lee's demise. Story-line takes a back seat to the action, the colorful Hong Kong cinematography and especially the great energy that flows between the two leads that make this one of the most fun 'buddy cop' movies ever. Both Van Clief and Bonet, (aka the Puerto Rican Panther" are New York natives, and it is so obvious that the two had an absolute blast in Hong Kong, making this crazy flick.,and that energy transfers to the viewer, who should have a great time with this one. Fans of the genre will recognize Charles Bonet from the cult Grindhouse flick, "Death Promise." For so many years "Black Dragon's Revenge" was somewhat of a 'lost film,' meaning that it was only available in the most rotten, virtually unwatchable prints. Because of this, many of these movies were thought to be cheaply or incompetently made junk. Having had the opportunity to see a pristine, fully restored print of "Black Dragon's Revenge," I can attest to the fact that this is a well made movie, featuring some stunning cinematography, artistic camera angles and very impressive fight choreography. And this time voice dubbing is kept to a minimum, as the main players speak in their own voices with live recorded sound. This is the second entry in a trilogy of "Black Dragon" movies featuring Van Clief. All three movies are very strong entries in the Kung Fu genre. I'm hoping to see a restoration of the first "Black Dragon' and the third, "Way of the Black Dragon,' as these movies deserve the attention.
Flesh Gordon (1974)Seminal Cult Classic
28 November 2019
I have to say, the current 4.7 star rating here only serves as an example of the level of ignorance of people out there, who have ZERO understanding of the film medium. "Flesh Gordon" is an undeniably impressive creation, with it's fantastic stop-action FX and it's gorgeous sets that were obviously inspired by the art of H.R. Geiger, and most of all, the way it carefully recreates the look of the 1930's serial...quite amazing. It's obvious the creator of this seminal piece of cult cinema was a huge fan of the original tv series; I mean just look at the almost fanatic attention to detail here. Although often referred to as a pornographic feature, "Flesh Gordon' is most certainly not a porn film, as there are no scenes of penetration or 'hardcore' of any kind. Of course plentiful nudity abounds in this surreal, weird and sometimes hysterical semi-parody of the Flash Gordon serial, that follows the story arc very closely. The sex rays being aimed at the planet Earth are sending it's inhabitants into convulsing, grinding sex freaks. This doesn't sound like such a bad thing to Emperor Wang of Planet Porno, but it is causing mayhem on Earth, so when Flash/Flesh catapults into space with Dr. Jerkoff and the lovely Dale Ardent (I always thought the name 'Dale Hardon' would have been funnier) inside the Mad doctor's giant penis-shaped spaceship, Emperor Wang decides to take on the trio. The recreation of the monsters, including the bizarre "Penisaureses" and a metallic alien-like monster and some other ingeniously designed creatures, are a delight to see, especially among fans of Ray Harryhausen. There are so many hilarious and fascinating characters present, including a gay Robin Hood and a Lesbian Queen who prefers to torture her prisoners into submission. The Queen is played by none other than Candy Samples, and is among the most hysterical moments in the film. Moments involving 'Rapist Robots' ensure that this is highly non-PC entertainment, and something that could never be produced today. "Flesh Gordon" recalls the 'Golden Days' of cinema, the incomparable 1970's, a time when directors were drunk on the new-found freedom to express their deepest, wildest ideas without fear of rigid censors that kept films from being too provocative through the 40's, the 50's and early half of the 60's. "Flesh Gordon' is a beautiful relic, a nostalgic tribute to a time gone by, and a freedom that has sadly been lost to "political correctness,' which is just a fancy way of saying "censorship." This is the kind of movie that graced the movie theaters of 42nd street back in the day, those huge, smoke-filled auditoriums where you got three 'B-movies' for 6 bucks, and hoped that you could get through all three features without the cops raiding the place due to a stabbing in the balcony or a report of an overdose in the rest room. Recommended for true fans of cinema, this is such a fascinating production in so many ways. There is a blu ray that features an absolutely gorgeous print of the uncut, 90 minute version, so it can finally be seen the way it was meant to be. Despite all the nudity and raunchy humor, "Flesh Gordon" retains a kind of innocence that even Disney movies lack..
Colegas (1982)The Three Amigos
19 November 2019
This epic film from director Eloy de la Iglesia is one of the best movies ever made on the subject of the bonds of friendship. Antonio, Jose, and Rosario share the kind of bond with each other that only seems to be possible when we are very young. There is no posturing or illusion among them, their friendship is so pure that it sometimes hurts to watch! Iglesia made a number of these 'teens in revolt' movies in the late 70's and 80's, and it seems like he had a genuine connection to what it means to be that age, and at odds with authority, and the world around you. These movies are so authentic, most likely due to the fact that he would cast real kids and basically had them play themselves. His favorite actor/delinquent to work with was of course, Jose Luis Manzano, the curly haired, angelic looking devil from "El Pico" and "Navajeros," both excellent films as well Sadly most of these kids died before age 30, but they have been immortalized forever in these classic cult films. "Colegas" is huge in scope, going through so many different levels, and situations both comical and sad, and sometimes just plain scary, at one point even ending up in Morocco, all the while the bond of friendship is at it's core.. It is unbelievable that these movies aren't well known outside of their native Spain, and there are no English subtitles available for many of them. But they are definitely iconic in their own land, and a fine document of what life was like in Franco's Spain.
Deep Throat (1972)Why THIS Movie?
19 November 2019
Of all the quality adult films out there, why is this particular movie so popular? It's title is a household name, and undeservedly so. Artless, with poor sound (even for a porn flick), ugly cast, unappealing sex scenes that focus on genitalia closeups way too much to be taken as anything but exploitation, yet "Deep Throat" is the film that most represents the world of 1970's Adult film. Maybe it's the cool title, or some brilliant marketing techniques, but most people who seek this out are gonna be disappointed. I implore those people who become disillusioned with the 70's porn genre when watching this as their first expose into that world, to seek out films like "Sometime Sweet Susan," "The Story of Joanna," "Butterflies," "Lustful Feelings," "Wet Rainbow," "Dracula Sucks,"Sex Wish," "The Image" etc. all of these films are worlds better than "Deep Throat" on every level. I find "Deep Throat" to be depressing, and the jokes are corny, and juvenile. I'm usually a great fan of Harry Reems, but even he is not on his game here. And it's not as if the man can't do comedy; check out Reems in "Sherlick Holmes" to see him in top form. The worst thing about "Deep Throat," is that it makes sex look dirty and depressing...and a good adult film will never do that, because there is usually some artistic quality to go with the sex on screen, and also a good story. "Deep Throat" is about as sexy as dirty socks..and unless you have a foot fetish, that isn't praise..As a connoisseur of Classic Smut I can't recommend "Deep Throat," other than for curiosity purposes.
Farming (2018)Raw & Brutal Skinhead-themed Film..
17 November 2019
Those negative reviews for this movie are a joke. People need to leave their personal feelings and viewpoints out of it when they are reviewing a movie. And those petty enough to call the director out as a "liar," claiming "this never happened" nonsense is equally ridiculous; it's a movie, created to entertain and or educate. Who cares if it's fact or fiction? The people with this complaint probably believe that Hollywood trash like "Pearl Harbor" is not mostly fiction. On to the technical aspects of this movie, (something that actually matters), "Farming" is a beautifully, artfully shot slice of eye candy, which is ironic considering the grotesquely ugly themes of this difficult movie. Kate Beckinsale is utterly believable as the Cockney speaking Londoner who brings extra cash into the house by raising the Nigerian children left in her care by parents who don't have the means to raise them. Growing up in a completely White surrounding, where most everyone seems to be at least a little racist, and sometimes intensely racist against the people who's skin color is the same as young Enitan, the Nigerian boy, thrust into this alien world where everyone looks different from him. This film is basically about self identity, and how our surroundings and upbringing shape the person we become, and how our minds work. So although Enitan is Black, he grows up like his peers, despising people with black skin. What an insane and unique theme for a film..FINALLY something different. When Enitan joins up with the skinhead gang who had been torturing him, things become quite intense indeed. He calls himself Andy and shaves off his offending afro, so desperate to be among the people he relates to, even as they hate him and abuse him to no end. Movies about skinhead culture are rare, maybe one appears every 10 years or so. This one stands out with the best of them, including "This Is England," "Romper Stomper," and is especially similar in tone to "Made In Britain" with Tim Roth. Also worthy of praise is the acting in "Farming," as everyone turns in intensely believable performances. John Dagleish gives an especially ferocious performance as 'Levi,' the leader of the Tilbury skinheads, and Damson Idris' portrayal of the tortured, self loathing Enitan is brave and faultless. This movie is destined for cult status as it finds it's right audience. Those pathetic 1 star reviews prove that this film reached the wrong audience. Oh well, "Blade Runner" was also a flop when it first came out, so only time will tell. I recommend "Farming" to fans of edgy cinema that doesn't shy away from uncomfortable scenarios, and also to those interested in the Skinhead youth culture of the 70's and 80's. Similar to "The Krays" and "Legend," thankfully this is also a British production, so it manages to avoid the sappy, moralizing and PC garbage that Hollywood feels the need to inject into it's productions.
Deserves A Wider Audience
5 November 2019
One of a collection of Spanish movies focusing on the world wide subject of juvenile delinquency, "El Torete" features real kids instead of actors, young criminals in real life, basically reenacting their crimes for an audience. Some might say it isn't a good idea to make screen idols out of criminals, as it just glorifies a life of crime. But the realism lends an undeniable fascination to the events as they unfold on the screen. Because the subject matter knows no geographical boundaries, it is truly a shame these movies are not available to an English speaking audience. There are no subtitle files available online, and although these movies have made it to Blu Ray, again, no English subtitles. "Street Warriors/Perros Callejeros" and it's sequel can be found with an English overdub, but it sounds awful and turns the film into a silly comedy. I was happy to find subtitles for "El Pico," but sadly there is none available for "El Pico 2." I'm hoping that the distributors of these great vintage movies realizes the profit that can be made by making these movies available to an International audience.
Flowers in the Attic (1987)Gorgeous Southern Gothic
3 November 2019Warning: Spoilers
Those unable to put the wonderful V.C. Andrews books out of their minds while watching this film, will likely be annoyed by it's differences from the source material. At one time I hated this film for those exact reasons, until i learned that everything wrong with the movie was a direct result of forced cuts and changes by the studio who produced this. As it turns out, the movie WAS made to follow the book, but the entire subject of the incestuous brother/sister relationship, which is the central theme of the entire series, ended up on the cutting room floor AFTER being filmed. As frustrating as this was for the legion of V.C. Andrews fans, just imagine the frustration of the director of a film that gets vandalized by people who who don't have even a basic understanding of the art of film making. Because "Flowers In the Attic" was intended to be an 'R' rated film, the distributor thought it would make more money as a family friendly feature. Obviously that didn't work, because the movie absolutely flopped at the theater. And that is what always happens when people tamper with the art of others. So, fans of this Southern Gothic tale need to fill in the blanks as they watch this, still wonderful movie about shocking child abuse and sordid family secrets. So much is just perfect with this production, and those qualities outweigh the flaws. For instance those sets; the upstairs room, and especially that gigantic attic filled with antiques, cobwebs, old clothes and photos, couldn't be more like the way it is described in the book. And the house they chose for Foxworth Hall is stunning, and precisely what the author had in mind when creating this tale. The fact that older actors were used to portray Cathy and Chris, is annoying, but it's obviously done for legal reasons, as the original film contained sex scenes and nudity, and a very adult theme, and using underage actors would have landed the film makers in court, and possibly prison. People forget that some of what can be described in books cannot be be transferred to film, unless this had been a European production from the 1970's, where anything seemed to be allowed. Watching Flowers again after so many years, I found myself truly swept into this beautiful, gilded world of haunted, starving blonde children, being slowly poisoned by their own mother, while the innocent kids believe they are on the verge of starting a wonderful new life filled with riches beyond their means. The character of Corrine Foxworth has to be one of the most evil, diabolical fictional women to ever appear on film. This is essentially a tale of greed, a desire for that American dream of big houses, fast cars and status, a desire that corrupts and poisons this woman's soul, to the point where she is willing to murder her own children. All of this has remained intact for the filmed version of "Flowers In the Attic,' and this is what remains so compelling and shocking about this movie..much more so than the idea of a brother and sister turning to each other for a physical love, while locked up in a room together during the most important time in their lives, growing from child to adult. This tale, told against the back drop of such a beautiful gothic setting, with such haunting music and drama, is utterly fascinating. It's also different from anything that was playing in theaters in 1987, and maybe it's strangeness kept audiences away. I have read comments concerning the movie's "cheap look,' as though it was a lower budget production, but this is not accurate. The production values are lush and very rich, with much care spent on the little details that viewers will notice upon repeat viewings. In short, as an adaptation of a novel, this one is only passable, but as a stand alone movie, this is really compelling, which explains it's cult following. On a side note, the European Blu Ray offers a fascinating glimpse of what this movie was before the studio tampering, by including the original ending, as was intended before some idiotic test audience complained that it was "too dark," and that the incest element was "gross and weird..." Why any professional would take the advice of such morons is a bigger mystery than any secret enclosed within Foxworth Hall.
Gates of Paradise (2019 TV Movie)Finally They Get It Right...
2 November 2019Warning: Spoilers
After the hysterical failures that were the first 3 films in this mournful series, it was a miracle that I, or anyone would still be around for part IV. Prepared for another hilarious train wreck, I was shocked to find that "Gates of Paradise" is worlds better than anything that came before it, on so many levels. It becomes apparent almost immediately that the acting in this one is actually professional, and doesn't feel like watching a high school play. It's a miracle. The actress who plays Annie offers a realistic, natural performance, and she doesn't appear "embarrassed" to be involved in this project. Everything here is new and unfamiliar to anyone following the series, but only for the first few moments. Soon we accept the older versions of Heaven and the rest, mainly because these actors are SO much better than the ones they replaced. We are also introduced to the teenage version of Luke Jr. played by Keenan Tracey, who is so immensely likable, and genuinely attractive, and after looking at the lifeless, pasty faced Logan and Tom in the previous installments, seeing an actual flesh and blood, sexy male lead is very refreshing. Luke's character, although not given enough screen time, is very pivotal to the story, as the connection of the two siblings, half brother and sister Annie & Luke, is the heart of this movie. And the threat that history will repeat itself for this new generation of Casteels, is the real draw to the entire story. Once Annie is ensconced within the formidable walls of Farthingale Manor, "Gates of Paradise" really takes off. Jason Priestley is back as an older Tony, and his performance here is astoundingly improved from the earlier movies, where he made an absolute fool of himself. It seems like the (obviously more competent) new director cared enough about this project to pull ol' Jason aside and direct him to tone down his jerky, spastic performance as the evil, creepy Tony, which is exactly what directors are SUPPOSED to do; DIRECT their actors. This time Priestley nails it, and Tony Tatterton goes from being a joke, to becoming a genuinely sick and controlling sociopath. Honestly I have never seen a performer redeem himself so effectively before. And while on the subject of sick and controlling sociopaths.....two words; Daphne. Zuniga. Wow, what a delight it was seeing the return of Zuniga, a staple of many 80's cult classics like "The Sure Thing' and "Modern Girls," as the evil Nurse Broadfield! Rivaling Louise Fletcher's evil Grandmother in the original "Flowers in the Attic," Zuniga appeared to be having a blast playing this venomous "angel of death,' violently harpooning Annie with the giant hypodermic, and at one point lacing her food with a laxative and then HIDING HER WHEELCHAIR, just to "teach her a lesson." Yes, the heroine of "Gates of Paradise" is actually confined to a wheelchair throughout the film's running time, and this makes everything all the more terrifying for this girl, as she is completely at the mercy of some very sinister people while having no idea what is going on! I also need to mention how nice it was to see the character of 'Rye Whiskey' make an appearance, after being totally forgotten from the other movies. Best of all, this movie even offers a perfectly satisfying "final scene," concerning Annie and Luke,' that is so sweet and quite beautiful, and made the task of sitting through the first awful three movies, worth the effort. Out of the darkness and into the light, like Dante's Trilogy through Hell, and Purgatory, and emerging...in Paradise; hence the title, "Gates of Paradise." This might sound like quite an exagerated description of a Lifetime movie, but it's the only way i can describe how much fun I had watching this thrilling little horror drama, and what a complete surprise it was, considering everything that came before it. "Gates of Paradise" is the first movie based on a V.C. Andrews book that succeeded in actually feeling like it's source material. In fact, this one is a bit reminiscent of "Flowers In the Attic,' with Annie being similar to Cathy, locked in the attic, at the mercy of the Grandmother, here replaced by the equally cruel and formidable nurse. Whether the prison is an attic, or a wheelchair, that sense of hopeless lack of control is still there. Yeah, this is the BEST of the series, and i have renewed hope for "Web of Dreams."
Flowers in the Attic (1987)Was Probably A Masterpiece Before....
31 October 2019Warning: Spoilers
Before all the studio-forced cuts to the finished film, based upon opinions by some moronic test audience who thought it was "too disturbing..." I always wondered why this very well made film completely deleted the fact that brother and sister become lovers, which was the very thing that made the books so intense and creepy. After discovering that those scenes actually were filmed, and later discarded, it all makes sense. "Flowers In the Attic" is a beautifully wrought, atmospheric Southern Gothic epic, but with the heart and soul cut out. I am sure the Legions of fans of this cult phenomenon would give anything for one of those "director's cuts" of "Flowers In the Attic." If nothing else, that would give the director the opportunity to finally present his original vision to the world. As it stands, this is still a very watchable movie, but it's a difficult watch, knowing that it was once, so much more, before it's deconstruction..
The Bold and the Beautiful (1987– )Absolute Claasic Style Soap Opera
27 October 2019
The two families; the Forresters and their fashion Empire, 'House of Forrester,' make them basically American Royalty, and the Logan's, the family from the wrong side of the tracks, the gorgeous blonde Logan sisters that cannot stay away from the Forrester men. At one point another bloodline was introduced, the Spencer family, led by the formidable "Dollar Bill" Spencer, a ruthless business tycoon whose character is surely inspired by J.R. Hewing of "Dallas" fame. The Spencer clan replaced the Spectras, a rival fashion house led by the 'Mae West'-like Sally Spectra, who made her living feeding of the Forresters, by stealing their couture designs and producing them in her sweatshop for a tenth of the price. This went on for YEARS. and this show has been going on for years, rarely straying far from this tight knit, small group of characters. and you know what? It NEVER gets old. Why? Because this show is done with so much class and old fashioned style, the way soaps were done back in the 80's, the "Golden Age" of soap operas to be sure. The sets are stunning, the music is lush and the cast is gorgeous. Nobody dies and comes back to life, nobody steals the memories of another character or gets whisked away in a space ship. The show has stood the test of time because it never ventures into that silly territory that current shows wallow in. B&B is an absolute classic. It's understandable when fans get frustrated when the plot moves too slow for them, but this is the whole concept of daytime soap and it's to be expected. I'm sure those fans would regret complaining if B&B disappeared like so many other soaps. This and Y&R are, simply put, classic and classy entertainment, wonderful escapism, filled with characters that we know so well that we feel like they are family. The Bell soaps were always a cut above the rest!