Cyber Monday: Project Shadowchaser Trilogy

Frank Zagarino dies hard!

Cinemasochism: Black Mangue (2008)

Braindead zombies from Brazil!

The Gweilo Dojo: Furious (1984)

Simon Rhee's bizarre kung fu epic!

Adrenaline Shot: Fire, Ice and Dynamite (1990)

Willy Bogner and Roger Moore stuntfest!

Sci-Fried Theater: Dead Mountaineer's Hotel (1979)

Surreal Russian neo-noir detective epic!

Sunday, January 9, 2011

The XXX-Factor: Early 80s Adult Ads

The following Adult film ads are from a May 1981 Variety Cannes issue.  It is wild to go back and see a time period where XXX films were allowed as much recognition (well, ad space really) as mainstream fare.  Of course, this was before every household had a VCR and the VHS porn revolution.  Click on the ads to see full size.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Cinemasochism: A Year in the Life of a Video Junkie

It may not seem like it, but clearly I am not as anal as some of my friends. What kind of video junkie keeps a list of the movies they watch? That would be like an Italian writing a family cookbook. Inconceivable!

My year was, as usual, a mix of low-rent lunacy and mainstream piffle. I watch the piffle because some times I get jaded. Burned out. I no longer fully appreciate the brilliance of Arizal or Earl Owensby. I need a palette cleanser, a NINJA ASSASSIN (2010) to slap me in the face with turgid mediocrity and a deficit of inspiration, bringing me back to my senses. Actually I lied. I always fully appreciate the brilliance of Arizal and Owensby.

First film seen in 2010:
Sure Rupert Everett isn’t my first casting choice for playing Mycroft’s brother, but hey, it beats the shit out of Robert Downey Jr, right? The only way you could find this movie well-made and faithful to the source material is if you had just watched Asylum’s SHERLOCK HOLMES (2009) which featured a flying mechanical dragon piloted by Jack the Ripper. CASE OF THE SILK STOCKING has its moments, but over all, it's a pretty ludicrous potboiler that would have probably been more successful as a pulpy period serial killer film if they had ditched the Sherlock Holmes connection.

Last film seen in 2010:
As far as horror movie remakes go, this is above average, but that’s like saying that Five Guys makes an awesome burger. It’s only true if all you’ve ever had was McDonald’s brown, frozen chemical pucks. (How many metaphors am I up to? I lost count). I’ll give it points for delivering a late '80s-esque, gory-ass, slasher flick that doesn’t decide to take the ever popular Gus Van Zant route and make a paint-by-numbers remake. It’s also well shot, has no comic relief (other than the perversity of the backstory), and features some very respectable sleaze. On the down side? You can’t go 10 minutes without someone using a damn cell phone. Also the acting is pretty blah, the characters are boring and if you are going to have a horror movie in a sorority house, is it too much to ask for maybe a pillow-fight or something?

Films seen in theaters:
I don’t remember, but I don’t think I even broke double digits. Pretty sad, I know.

Newest film seen: THE EXPENDABLES (2010)

Video Junkie Moment of the Year:
- As much as I loved our WEEK OF BLIND VENGEANCE, I have to agree with Will, our completely excessive and uncalled for coverage of INDIANA JONES knock-offs was a blast. It even led to my brother, who has been known to dress up as the fedora-domed whip-cracker for Halloween, receiving some very odd and obscure Indy-themed Christmas gifts this year.

Video Junkie "What were we thinking?" Moment of the Year:
- Deciding to tackle a second blog. Seemed like a good idea at the time.

Best film seen theatrically:
Uhhhh… man, that’s like trying to figure out which hurts more; getting hit with a hammer or a bat. Yeah, I guess I’d have to say the hammer. Batter up! I guess I’d have to say BOOK OF ELI. Certainly not the second coming (so to speak), but I’m ranking it over INCEPTION just because ELI was a post apocalyptic ZATOICHI remake. Nothing I saw in the theater this year blew me away.

Worst film seen theatrically:
PIRANHA 3D. No question. No point in wasting space on this here, read the review. Complete and total crap. On a stick.

Biggest surprise in 2010:
SOLOMON KANE. I was not expecting it to be anywhere near as good as it was. The trailers made it look like something that Dwayne Johnson would have starred in cir. 2002 and Michael J. Bassett has a track record of taking a great idea, setting it up nicely and letting it unwind without any surprises. Granted KANE has its fair share of issues, but it’s stunningly shot and hugely entertaining.

Biggest disappointment in 2010:
I would totally say Isaac Florentine’s NINJA which not only featured some horrible action scenes, but spent most of the movie dwelling on tedious dialogue sequences that added nothing to the non-existant plot or the paper-thin clichés called characters. I would say that, but I don’t want to copy Will! Nope, I’m going with THE EXPENDABLES. I was actually buying into the hype surrounding this movie. Ok, maybe not buying into the hype so much as just excited as hell to see Gary Daniels in the same freakin’ movie with Dolph Lungren, Eric Roberts, Jet Li and Mickey Rourke! Then what did they give Gary to do? Nothin’ but lean up against a wall and get punched by Steve Austin. Oh man, the hell with you Sly. Just as bad, Sly blows the dream bout of Lungren vs. Li. The idea of Li playing Lungren’s height against him is great, but the execution was terrible. And after Lungren’s big death scene, they are going to bring him back alive and suddenly a good guy at the end? Ugh. Lots of really bad CGI (wtf was with that castle explosion at the end? I’ve seen better digital effects on the SyFy channel), lots of wasted talent, and way too much Jason “I never turn down a paycheck” Statham. That said, I'll probably get sucked in to watching the sequel when it hits next summer. Dammit.

Ok, so maybe I'll start a list. You can look for it, same time, next year.

Cinemasochism: A Year in the Life of a Video Junkie

It was certainly a "fruitful" year for this Video Junkie.  My total number of viewings was 362 films, way up from last year's total of 286.  In true VJ form, the selections ran the gamut from classics to stuff you wouldn't wish on your worst enemy (ah, maybe you would).  We have no prejudices here at VJ...well, except for musicals.  Damn, you unrealistic singing people.  So 2010 was a success in that I saw not a single musical.  So here is a quick rundown of what I saw and conquered over this past year of 2010, the year we DIDN'T make contact by the way (damn, you cinema for warping my expectations).

First film seen in 2010: BAD GIRL'S DORMITORY (1986)
Last film seen in 2010: TALHOTBLOND (2009)
Films seen in theaters: 11 (my new all-time low after 13 last year)

Oldest film seen: METROPOLIS (1927)
Newest film seen: THE FIGHTER (2010)

Video Junkie Moment of the Year:

-Our sprawling coverage of all things Indiana Jones rip-offs!

Video Junkie "What were we thinking?" Moment of the Year:
-Our sprawling coverage of all things Indiana Jones rip-offs!

Best film seen theatrically: TOY STORY 3 - yeah, call me cliche-man but Pixar scored again with the best theatrical feature I saw this year.  While not as good as last year's UP, this again showed that you can make a "children's" film that doesn't pander just to kids who want to see cute CGI characters.

Worst film seen theatrically: THE EXPENDABLES - ah, what a dilemma Mr. Stallone has put me in.  I've supported the man through thick and thin, yet he pulls this one one me.  Don't get me wrong, I enjoyed this film, but it is a huge example of "whatcouldabeen" in terms of filmmaking.  Let me get this straight: you assemble an amazing cast of action heroes of years gone by to go all "old school" (his own words) but then decide to muck it up by shooting it all in the horrific "new school" (my words) style of shakey-cam?  Just look at the fight between Jet Li vs. Dolph Lundgren as the perfect example.  C'mon, son. 
Biggest surprise in 2010: SPLICE - I'm not sure why I was so surprised by this as I have enjoyed all of Vincenzo Natali's work.  I think what took me off guard is just how psychologically dark the film is.  Forget the "this is SPECIES" marketing campaign, this had nothing in common with that sci-fi-action flick.  If you can get past some cringe inducing dialog (Polly: "When did you start becoming so scared?", Brody: "When did you stop becoming a scientist?"), you will find one twisted ass movie that gets into Cronenbergian levels of craziness.  That this got a wide release onto unwitting audiences is one of 2010's greatest pleasures.  Naturally, it bombed.
Biggest disappointment in 2010: NINJA - Isaac Florentine is a director we've been singing the praises of at VJ for nearly a decade.  The man knows how to shoot action better than anyone in big budget Hollyweird and that is why we love him.  So imagine our excitement when we hear he is re-teaming with his DeNiro, Scott Adkins, for a film about ninjas!  HOLY CRAP!  Well, stop right there pal because Florentine had a major career hiccup with this film by trying to emulate the style of big budget action dreck.  From the crash zooms and morph transitions to the phoney CGI blood, it is all wrong.  Thankfully, he did return in fine form with the broom obsessed UNDISPUTED III, which carried the apt REDEMPTION subtitle.  We hope you've learned your lesson Isaac.   

Theatrical viewings:

Most in one month:
October: 36
Least in one month:
December: 11

Films watched more than once:
-555 (2 times)
-DAWN OF THE DEAD (2 times)

Directors most watched (individual films):
-Tobe Hooper (19) - a huge undertaking where I try to see everything the man has made! Check the reviews.
-Terrence Fisher (6)
-Freddie Francis (4)
-Val Guest (4)
-Alan Gibson (3)
-Arizal (3)

Best films that I saw for the first time in 2010:

Worst films that I saw for the first time in 2010:

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Life in Poster Art: Jean Rollin (1938-2010)

Be sure to visit
the best blog dedicated to Rollin's unique genius

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Sci-Fried Theater: CONDOR (1986)

My “A #1” Rule of Movie Making: Everything is cooler if set in the future. I’m not talking about that “thinking man’s science fiction” stuff either.  Not that I think that sort of thing is bad, I mean, CHILDREN OF MEN (2006) was cool and all, but the future? Nah, I ain’t buyin’ it. More like the hyper-present. Nope, in my book the future isn’t just changing out the billboards for giant plasma monitors (psssh, like we’d even have billboards in the future!), for my money the future is neon-lit monorails, cars that drive themselves, computers with toggle-switches and big incandescent bulb-lit plastic buttons, and robots! Robots are totally the future, right? Now if you add in secret agents with blow-dried hair, blazers with the sleeves pushed up to the elbows, and giant, clunky laser weapons, what do you have? You have CONDOR!

Nice cannons on that deck!
Set in the most futuristic date ever, 1999, Los Angeles is now a thriving metropolis that, well, seems exactly the same as it did in 1986, except that it finally got that monorail system that they decided was such a stupid idea back in the ‘70s. This apparently alleviates a lot of the traffic and light traffic in L.A.? Man, that is totally sci-fi!

Ray Wise is Christopher Proctor, one of the top agents for a Los Angeles based FBI/CIA hybrid organization named Condor (nope, that’s not an acronym for anything) who thwarts evil-doers foreign and domestic. Sort of a Department of Homeland Security, except presumably without the civil rights violations. Proctor (who appears to have broken into Don Johnson’s wardrobe trailer) has just returned from an assignment in Singapore where he lost his partner of unspecified sex who was “more than a partner, a whole lot more”. This is of course after he turns down an advance by a busty hottie at the local fast-food outlet Pirate Pete’s, telling her “sorry, you are not my type”. Damn, but she is built! Out of hydraulic piston technology, that is! Perhaps he knew that when he turned her down. The troubling thing about this scene is not that Proctor has no appreciation for the siren’s lure, but that we never see what it is he got from this land-locked ship. Do they serve sustainably farmed fish n' organic, fat-free, low-carb, unfried chips? Or is it rat on a stick? This important detail must have been lost to time constraints, I’m sure of it.

Upon arriving at “the office”, a giant MIB-style mega-emporium of officiousness, Proctor’s boss Cyrus Hampton (Craig Stevens), introduces Proctor to his new secretary. Says Proctor “you sure know how to hire good looking assistants!” Nope, says the boss, it’s your new partner! What?! It’s a girl, partner? Ewwwww! Jeeezus dude, nobody’s asking you to marry her, fer cryin’ out loud. Not only is it bad enough that she’s a she, but after losing an arm-wrestling contest (what, no Indian burns and wedgies?), poor Proctor discovers that she is a girl robot partner! As Cyrus explains it, Lisa (Wendy Kilbourne) is a new type of robot, one that is a “molecular computer” that uses no binary logic, but instead is composed of new-fangled bio chips that emit enzyme producing bacteria that allows her to function as a human instead of being hamstrung by the on/off system of normal computers. Yeah, ok, that’s more of an explanation than I ever got from a Schwarzenegger movie, so I'll go with that.

There’s no time to cause any more gender-biased fuss, Cyrus needs the duo to go after high-tech criminal/terrorist The Black Widow (Carolyn Seymour) who has escaped from a high-tech, robot patrolled prison with the aid of a GHOSTBUSTERS ecto-detector and James Bond’s jetpack from THUNDERBALL. No, seriously. How she got this stuff into the slam is anyone’s guess, but what she’s up to is no mystery. Incarcerated for infiltrating and stealing the Pentagon’s super-secret “Vanguard Code” which gives anyone who possesses it in their memory free access to America’s defense arsenal, Black Widow plans on holding the country hostage for one miiiiiilion dollars! Well, actually she wants 25 million dollars, safe passage out of the US and Agent Proctor delivered alive so she can exact her vengeance for the death of her brother. As a demonstration of her power, she has hacked into the police computer system and has used her knowledge of the Vanguard Code to use the police’s BLUE THUNDER-esque chopper drones to attack an L.A. powerplant. Man, she sure knows how to kick L.A. in the jimmy! The only thing worse would have been the water reservoir, but it would have made for a far less dramatic explosion, I suppose.

Written by veteran Saturday morning cartoon writers Len Janson and Chuck Menville, and directed by Virgil W. Vogel, a veteran of every damn '80s TV show ever (including “Magnum P.I.”, “MacGuyver”, “Hardball” and “Tales of the Gold Monkey”), this movie feels like it should have been an animated feature in the vein of STARCHASER (1985). In spite of an obvious lack of budget, this movie really tries to put as much future craziness up on the screen as possible, throwing wacky futurisms out with abandon and delivering it all at a breakneck speed and a scant 73 minute running time. Add plenty of cheap action (including electric-car chases), lasergun shoot-outs, amazingly campy dialogue and a great cast (including a cigar-chomping Vic Polizos and martial arts wielding James Avery) make this an absolute blast. The only downer is that I would have loved to see what this could have been as a feature film. The mind boggles.

Nice sheets dude. Is that a racecar bed?
Things I learned about the future from watching CONDOR:

– In the future police robots must use wristwatch communicators to make voice calls for back up.
– In the future cars will have on-board dash computers composed of a CRT with toggle switches and big plastic buttons.
– In the future people will drive wood-paneled mini-vans.
– In the future assassins will still wear Gargoyles.
– In the future top government agents will have ID cards made of plain, typewritten paper.
– In the future an appropriate name for a cat will be “Virgil”.
– In the future people use hologram-projectors to watch obese women in plastic Viking outfits sing Wagner.
– In the future government computers render 3D worse than a freakin’ Playstation, but at least have anti-aliasing software.

Friday, December 3, 2010

El Hombre Mofo: Tom & Will's Top 3 Naschy Picks

What better way to bring the Paul Naschy blogathon to a close than by listing some of our favorite Paul Naschy flicks. These are the ones we would recommend to the beginners as the best examples of the man's work, the films that will help you unleash your inner Naschy beast.

Thomas T. Sueyres:

1. THE HUNCHBACK OF THE MORGUE: This was also my first Naschy movie, but unfortunately the experience was marred by the fact that I rented the butchered RUE MORGUE MASSACRES tape back in the day and walked away wondering what all the fuss was about. It wasn’t until I bought a copy of the widescreen, uncut Japanese release from a dude selling dupes with handwritten labels that I had my Nascepiphany. From Naschy’s pathos laden performance to the jaw-dropping “wtf” moment with what appears to be a monster made of poop, in my humble opinion, you can keep your wolfmen, this is his crowning achievement.

2. NIGHT OF THE HOWLING BEAST: You know I said how you could keep your wolfmen? Ok, so I kinda lied. “Kinda” because this really doesn’t have much werewolf action in it, but it’s a great flick anyway. You have an lycanthropic explorer in the Himalayas encountering a Mongol-esque warrior king with a fatal skin condition who lives in ice caves with hot chicks who wear see-through nighties and there is a Yeti on the loose! WtF?! Find me another movie with anything close to that. See? You got nothing.

3. ULTIMO KAMIKAZE: It’s really tough to pick out three top movies, but I think this one like the neglected NIGHT OF THE EXECUTIONER, does a great job of showing Naschy’s ability to play in solid crime/action roles. The plot is really all about Naschy as an assassin that adopts a variety of disguises (including drag) to kill mobsters, but Naschy throws in subplots about his character’s Nazi past and his penchant for morose art. Honestly this is not just a highly entertaining Naschy flick, but it really is one of the great, under-appreciated ‘70s crime films. I firmly believe that if this had been dubbed and distributed like the Italian crime films, this would have a solid following with obnoxious hipster directors claiming it to be the greatest movie of all time and plagiarizing it for their most recent star-studded “homage”. Come to think of it, maybe it’s better this way.

4. Honorable Mention: BLUE EYES OF THE BROKEN DOLL: Naschy did a number of “giallo” style films of which I don’t think anyone is going to argue that this isn’t the best. Even so, it’s really a great Spanish thriller that, much like A CANDLE FOR THE DEVIL, have a vibe all their own and really don’t compare to the Italian stuff. Great atmosphere, plot twists, creepy characters and nekkid chicks, this movie really succeeds on all levels. Because of this, it’s even more disappointing when movies such as SEVEN CORPSES FOR SCOTLAND YARD come up short.

William S. Wilson:

When it comes to Paul Naschy viewing, I am a mere neophyte compared to some guys I know.  Of the 99 films he has made, I have seen 21 of them.  Not too shabby, but I still have a ways to go until I obtain the coveted “Naschy Scholar” moniker.  If forced to give up my favorites so far (by nubile vampire wenches, of course), here is what is tops on my list of the ones I’ve seen.

1. THE HUNCHBACK OF THE MORGUE: Hey, Tom totally copied my no. 1!  Actually, I can't make that claim as he was instrumental in me losing my Paul Naschy virginity to this movie.  I had heard Tom and Naschy Scholar Jon Kitley talk of this Naschy guy for a couple of years.  I finally gave in and asked Tom to hook me up with his best title with this being the one he provided.  I’m not sure why, but I always imagined this Naschy guy was going to be a dull rip-off of the Universal films and I couldn’t be further from the truth.  Another one infected.  This film has it all – horror, gore, nudity, pathos, and a big pile o’ guts blob monster.

2. THE WEREWOLF’S SHADOW (aka THE WEREWOLF VS. THE VAMPIRE WOMEN): At the risk of being called a fanboy by Tom, I’d say this is my favorite of Naschy’s werewolf features.   Again, it is another one of my earlier viewings (and first Waldemar flick), having seen it on a budget DVD label.  The atmosphere is off the charts and I love director Leon Klimovsky’s use of slow-motion.  Plus you have murders, rampant nudity, and a freakin’ werewolf that bites huge chunks out of folks.

3. HORROR RISES FROM THE TOMB: Wow, what can I say about this one that hasn’t been said already?  Two amazing performances by Naschy with his severed head Alaric being one of my favorite characters of his.  In addition, you have some great country locations, awesome tombs, séances, black magic, nudity and some of the coolest zombies ever (those white eyes, so creepy!).

Honorable mention:

4. BLUE EYES OF THE BROKEN DOLL (aka HOUSE OF PSYCHOTIC WOMEN): Okay, Tom is totally copying me this time!  I’ll admit that I also have a real soft spot for Naschy’s thrillers.  Titles like this, A DRAGONFLY FOR EACH CORPSE and HUMAN BEASTS provide a nice spin on the popular Italian giallo genre.  Naschy stars as a criminal who just happens to fall in with 3 sisters who might be crazier than him.  There are some really effective kill scenes and I think the ending is a great kicker that’ll make you go “Oooooooooh” when you think back to the title.