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!

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.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

El Hombre Mofo: Paul Naschy, Supporting Player

There is no doubt Paul Naschy had an incredible screen presence.  Hell, we wouldn’t have this amazing blogathon going on if he didn’t.  We all know him for his versatile lead performances, so today we’re going to examine a few of his smaller, supporting roles.  No doubt the filmmakers on these projects were well aware of the man’s charisma and reputation.  As a testament to his professionalism, he brought an undeniable quality to every role he took, be it large or small.

THE KILLER IS ONE OF THE THIRTEEN (1973) is a Spanish murder-mystery with some obvious Italian giallo influence right down to the black gloved killer and that “killer” title.  Widow Lisa Mandel (Patty Shepard) has assembled 12 friends of her late husband Carlos on the anniversary of his mysterious plane crash death.  Mrs. Mandel believes that one of the guests drugged him before his flight causing him to fall asleep at the controls and she plans to uncover the culprit over the long weekend at her isolated country home.  This is a pretty routine thriller that is very talk heavy with the first murder not happening until an hour into the picture.  Senor Naschy has a small role as the Mandel’s chauffer.  I firmly believe director Javier Aguirre, who previously directed Naschy in COUNT DRACULA’S GREAT LOVE (1972), cast him with the intention of exploiting audiences’ perception of the man as a horror star to offer one of many red herrings.  Naschy gets a “and the special participation” opening credit and has roughly 4 scenes (including a love scene and fight scene).  Unfortunately, poor Paul ends up on the wrong end of a wrench to the skull. 

Nearly three decades later and we have Naschy cast in another small but important role in a Spanish horror-thriller.  SCHOOL KILLER (2001) is your standard horror slasher film with a group of kids heading to an abandoned school to spend the night while looking for some ghost hunting thrills.  The school was the site of a massacre 27 years ago and it was perpetrated by the strictest of security guards (Naschy).  The bulk of Mr. Naschy’s performance is during an extended flashback to the massacre roughly 50 minutes into the film.  Director Carlos Gil obviously had a sense of respect for Naschy and his horror history to cast him in such a pivotal role.  Just a few years shy of 70 when this was made, Naschy gives the role his all, proving he still has the acting chops to be a sinister villain.  Naturally his performance is the highlight of this so-so film. 

ROTTWEILER (2004) appeared a few years later and was one of the few films Naschy made for an American director.  Co-financed by Filmax and filmed in Spain, the film centers on a young prisoner who is forced into a sadistic game of cat-n-mouse across the country with the robotic titular beast.  Behind all of this is slime ball Kufard (Naschy), whose authoritarian demeanor has no qualms separating young lovers so he can get his kicks.  Director Brian Yuzna delivers quite possibly the world’s most convoluted killer cyborg-dog picture, but he gets points for casting Naschy in the juicy supporting role.  Yuzna stated in interviews that he was a fan of the actor’s work, so it is nice to see him get the attention.  Naschy is once again appropriately menacing in his role and, despite having only two scenes, gives the best performance of the film.  Wait, I take that back.  The scared, soon-to-be-rottweiler-lunch rooster in one of the film’s funniest scenes should get that nod.