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!

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Bruceploitation: THE GODFATHER SQUAD (1974)

True story: there used to be this cool cat named Keith who ran a site about Bruceploitation, the subgenre that emerged following the untimely death of Bruce Lee. Keith’s site had it all – it was painstakingly thorough in covering the various actors who gave into the art of imitating, had tons of reviews and, best of all, it was witty. You can see the barebones version of that site here.  He had the world at his fingertips but refused to strike while the iron is hot.  What happened to poor Keef is too horrible for your ears, so we won’t release the details.  Let's just say it was a fate far worse than any mortal man should suffer.  However, we will say that like Bruce Lee himself, when his reign ended, the imitator Bruceploitation websites took over and now hog the spotlight that he once shone so brightly. *sobs*

Okay, what was I talking about again? Oh yeah, Bruce Lee imitators.  One of the more fun aspects of this subgenre were the films that dared to be a little different.  Several such as THE NINJA STRIKES BACK and CHALLENGE OF THE TIGER took their show on the road and filmed at various locations across Europe.  These fanciful co-productions not only got their Lee clones to more exotic locales, but they also offered supporting roles to some the actors populating European projects.  So it was like the best of both worlds for Eurocult geeks like us here at Video Junkie.  THE GODFATHER SQUAD (aka LITTLE GODFATHER) is one of those films that transport the kung fu hero to 1970s Italy.  How could it not rule?

The action kicks off right away as we see two Interpol officers killed in England and France (both essayed by stock static shots probably off a postcard and then generic streets).  A third assassination attempt involving a German Sheppard suicide dog is foiled in Hong Kong by movie star Wang Liu (Bruce Leung).  No, your eyes are not deceiving you and I did say German Sheppard suicide dog and here is the hilarious video proof as evidence (I’m 99% certain the dog growls are being done by a human).

So any movie that starts off with a German Sheppard suicide dog bomb is okay in my book.  Turns out all of these killings are being done by the Karo family, a tight knit group of killers who have been hired by drug dealer Mr. Michael. They are indeed a family as we have Karo and his legit son Kenny alongside adopted sons Duke (Gordon Mitchell) and Sakata (Yasuaki Kurata).  Yes, Gordon Mitchell is playing someone’s son.

Anyway, these guys are miffed that Wang Liu interfered with their contract and tell Mr. Michael they refuse payment until the contract is fulfilled.  This means they must kill Wang Liu. Wait, what?  Shouldn’t they be concerned with killing their original target?  I guess not.  So they come up with the ingenious plan of hiring Wang Liu to come to Rome to shoot a movie and then they will kill him there.  Makes perfect sense, right? Well, I guess it would make sense to a hitman who decides to adopt two grown men to be his sons.  So Wang arrives in Rome with his super annoying little brother (Meng Hoi) in tow.  The killers’ plans are foiled right away when Wang decides to stay with his older brother instead of going to the location.  No problem, we’ll kill him at his bro’s house.  Well, that gets all messed up when Wang Liu and his little bro take big brother up on his offer to let them sleep in his bedroom.  D’oh!  Greetings dear dead older brother.

Obviously this bums Wang out, but not enough to stop him and his little bro from checking out the Roman Coliseum.  There a tourist couple asks them to take their picture and Wang doesn’t catch on when they keep asking him to step back further and further with their camera. Thankfully, hottie Ivy shows up and gets him to launch the killer Kodak into the air before it explodes.  Turns out she is from the film company and works in their insurance division. She takes Wang to the hospital for a check up and – wouldn’t you know it – the doctor tries to kill him too.  So Ivy gets him and his brother on the first plane out of town, but Wang ditches his flight because he senses trouble.  Sure enough, he saves Ivy from some stereotypical Italian gangsters just minutes later.  Man, he really wants to make this film or is really dumb.

After beating up two Russian buffoons on the film set, Wang gets a call from Kenny, who tells him to meet him in St. Peter’s Square and he will reveal who killed his brother.  Now here is where the filmmakers show their balls as they have both men wading through a crowd of folks checking out Pope Paul VI as he gives a speech. Yes, a cameo by the freakin’ Pope (which he probably never knew about).  That is classic. His Holiness should have felt honored to been in the presence of Bruce Leung. Have you seen his kicks?  Godly!  Anyway, they have a chase through town and Wang eventually catches the none-too-sly Kenny and demands to know who killed his brother. When Kenny reveals he did it, Wang kills him with a few blows to the head.  Naturally, this pisses off Karo but also leads to a great scene of him eulogizing his son at the dinner table. “When he was ten years old, he killed two negro kids,” he remembers fondly.  Every dad’s dream…if the dad happens to be a psychotic hitman.  From this point on, the film plays out with Duke, Sakata and Karo all trying to snuff out Wang (and even offering him a job at one point).

While not as zany as CHALLENGE OF THE TIGER (topless tennis!) or THE DRAGON LIVES AGAIN (also with Bruce Leung), THE GODFATHER SQUAD has enough oddity for the non-discerning kung fu film fan.  Modern film fans might know lead Bruce Leung (aka Leung Siu-Lung) best as The Beast, the bald, villainous toad hitman from Stephen Chow’s KUNG FU HUSTLE (2004).  But he has been around since the early 1970s and got a nice slice of Bruceploitation on his resume, despite not really looking like the man.  Leung’s martial arts skills are off the hook and he really should have been in better movies.  Also highly skilled is the ubiquitous Japanese star Kurata.  Their showdown (which goes from Rome’s streets to a snowy hillside) is the film’s action highlight.  Also good is the brawl with Gordon Mitchell that takes place all over an abandoned factory (with a great bit where Mitchell finds a machine gun at the top of a water tower; did he leave it up there knowing their pursuit would end there?).  Previously released on DVD by various labels as LITTLE GODFATHER, the new Code Red DVD of THE GODFATHER SQUAD is worth picking up if you want to see the film in its proper widescreen aspect ratio.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Buns and Ammo: PICASSO TRIGGER (1988)

I hope you didn't think we had abandoned our "Buns and Ammo" overview of the world of Andy Sidaris. This is third in his beach, bullets and babes chronicles where he somehow believes the C.I.A. is inhabited by a bevy of beauties.  Naturally, his casting sessions probably involved nothing more than flipping through some Playboy issues as lots of 80s Bunnies get nekkid to on and off screen oglers.

Crimelord and businessman Salazar (John Aprea) aka Picasso Trigger is assassinated after donating a painting of a Picasso Trigger fish to a Paris museum. Somehow this is related to events stateside with Texan L.G. Abilene calling in the services of his nephew Travis (Steve Bond). Yes, we are officially on our third Abilene sibling, who is also a detective with bad aim. Travis assembles a team that includes HARD TICKET TO HAWAII holdovers Donna (Dona Speir), Taryn (Hope Marie Carlton), Jade (Harold Diamond), Edy (Cynthia Brimhall) and Pattycakes (Patty Duffek), who now works a Vegas show with Kym (Kym Malin). Along with new acquisition Pantera (Roberta Vasquez), the team plans to take out the remaining members of an organized crime family because...uh...they are going to do something terrible on Monday. Who am I again?

As you can guess from my synopsis, this is a totally confusing mess that sees the opening 15 minutes jump from Paris to Texas to California to Hawaii. I kept trying to remind myself of what was going on, but then I remembered that I didn't really know. There is even a group meeting an hour in that is supposed to explain what is going down but it left me even more confused. Even worse, this is where Sidaris started using actors from the two earlier films in different roles. Black muscle man John Brown is now a good guy and Richard LePore - looking like a Charles Nelson Reilly clone - is now a weapons expert. Well, I don't know about expert as one of his devices is a boomerang with a bomb on it. Think about that for a second. Thankfully Sidaris isn't confused when it comes to delivering in the exploitation department. Once again, there are massive helpings of nudity and explosions every ten minutes or so. Nothing is as outlandish as HARD TICKET's skater or frisbee deaths, but I was definitely never bored. Perhaps the highlight is leg crutch that doubles as a rocket launcher (see below).  It also doesn't take much brainpower to realize who the main villain is since the film is named after the guy and he is "assassinated" in the first 5 minutes. Hmmm, who will the big surprise villain reveal be?  As always, pictures are better to essay the highs and lows of a Sidaris flick.  Enjoy!

Old C.I.A. agents: 

Their replacements. Yay progress!

Donna & Tayrn, back in business!

Is he superglued to the wall?

Meeting of the minds:

WOAH! Check out that awesome painting!

There's a new sheriff in town, boys.

"This is where I do my best thinking."

"Uh, so where is the whey protein?"

"We were told you had a phone problem." (real line)

Patty Duffek, Playboy Playmate May 1984:

Kym Malin, Playboy Playmate May 1982:

"You made a big mistake, sucka!" (real line)

"Don't even blink!" (real line)

Who wears short shorts?

The horrifying realization you're getting 
blow'd up by a crutch rocket launcher:

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Listomania!: Thomas' November 2011 Viewings

ATTACK THE BLOCK (2011): Ummmm, so our heroes are teenage thugs who mug innocent girls and deal drugs, all of which is played for laughs? Huh. This suckered me in with the marketing campaign that proudly announced its tenuous relationship with SHAWN OF THE DEAD, and I guess some folks found the foul-mouthed, nihilistic, ghetto delinquents to warm the cockles of their hearts, but I’ll be damned if I could find a single likable thing about them. CG alien shadow beasts crash land on Earth and a group of pint-size gangstas decide that they are gonna “kill the motherfuckers!” That’s pretty much the long and the short of it. Personally I was hoping that the aliens would kill them off one by one, but no, no, that is so ‘80s. In our new age of enlightenment, the xenophobic future cons escape from the police and the aliens at every turn. I don’t really want to get on a high-horse and say that this is irresponsible filmmaking, but it does glamorize the thug life. “Hey kids, get your buddies and have fun assaulting young girls at knifepoint! It’s fun and funny!” Even with that aside, the film has nothing to offer other than a very weak attempt to remake CRITTERS (1984) in an urban setting.

THE SQUEEZE (1977): "Fuck Andy Williams". It still blows my mind that there are so many films out there with name casts and prolific directors that somehow get lost in the shuffle and never see a proper video release. I mean, seriously, there isn't a day that goes by in my life where I am not thinking about and scrounging for movies from the '70s. Don't get me wrong, I love movies from the '60s and '80s too, but the '70s were both technically proficient and yet they still hadn't become the cynical, soulless, corporate product like the films we see today. Risks were taken, conventions ignored. The way it should be! A washed-up, alcoholic, ex-Scotland Yard detective Jim Naboth (Stacey Keach) finds a renewed sense of purpose when a brutal mob kidnaps his ex-wife (Carol White) and daughter, not to mention forces him to strip naked and dumps him in front of a local church. This film is loaded with moments that would never be done the same today and features characters that behave in a realistic way. The mob kidnappers don’t sit around and talk about pop culture, instead they decide to force the mother of their victim to do a strip-tease before being raped. It’s un-sexy and unpleasant and she is powerless to stop it. In this day and age, the scene would be completely different. It would be a sexy strip with the woman using her femininity to gain power over her captors and she would definitely turn the tables on them at some point with a big macho (yeah, I said it) revenge moment. The always-great Edward Fox plays the new husband who is absolutely useless, Stephen Boyd is the over-confidant mob boss, David Hemmings is the respectable-looking leader of the gang, and Freddie Starr plays a klepto who seems to be quite fond of ol’ sonny Jim.

THE ETRUSCAN MASK (2007): This film answers the question on everyone’s lips; “what happened to Ted Nicolau?” Oh and you will be so glad to find out the answer to that. Actually the movie starts out great with an old farmer selling an ancient Etruscan demon-warrior mask to an antiquities collector. After the sale is complete, the farmer retreats to his woodshed where we find the maggot-filled remains of his tortured victims. He then blows his brains out with a shotgun. Cut to a few short years later and a group of college kids (yeah, see, I said “starts out great”), while working for the smallest newspaper ever, stumble across a rich recluse and his witch-like wife who have their home adorned with satanic imagery with the mask as the centerpiece. This causes weird hallucinations and general creepiness until the end when we find out that the mask actually possesses people with a demon who uhhhh… kills people and stuff.
Full Moon veteran Nicolau has never really been a master of his craft, but I’m always going to give an independent, Italian-produced effort a fair shake. Unfortunately here he manages to take a great set-up and blow it in every way conceivable. After the first five minutes, there is literally no horror to be found for the next hour. It’s about the super-duchey kids and a lot of plot exposition that leads to some bad CGI and the most fumbling attempt at a slasher set-up that I’ve ever seen. For this one scene Nicolau decides to do the slasher thing. The mask is worn and the demon stalks a pair of kids (one being Nicolau’s irritating, hipster son) who are about to get it on. Yes, the ol’ Voorhees syndrome is in effect, but the kids don’t even get their clothes off before the knife comes out (so demons must resort to kitchen tools to get the job done?) and even then, after a slow stalk, the actual killing happens off screen. In a later scene he does bring the grue, only to completely obscure a well-crafted latex disemboweling effect with CG blood spray that looks like it was created on someone’s laptop. I’m surprised the effects guy didn’t throttle Ted after that. Come to think of it. Has anyone seen him lately?
Even worse, the female lead, Majlinda Agaj, who was clearly cast solely for her wondrous set of attributes, has a line in the beginning of the film where she says “I’ll keep my clothes on, thank you!” True to her word, she does just that, even in the laughably lame “love” scene. On the plus side, Nicolau turns in a technically accomplished effort for a (did I mention this?) digital video production, with tons of camera set-ups and crane shots. Only to be felled by acting so amatuerish it would make HG Lewis wince, one hour of dullsville and some embarrassingly bad CG effects. Maybe not as bad as THE CHILL, but bad.
How bad is the acting, you ask? Only a video clip will do it justice:

Oh Ted, what are we going to do with you? I give you an “A” for effort and a “D” for execution. The only reasons you didn’t get an “F” was because the opening scene hooked me in and THE DUNGEONMASTER (1982) is always welcome in my home.

NINETEEN RED ROSES (1974): Interesting and obscure Danish police thriller that actually managed to get a US release back in the day. A killer (who we are introduced to in the first scene) is selecting victims who are seemingly unconnected. The police on the case have to piece together the dates, locations and try to figure out a motive. Ok, I don’t think I could be any more vague about it, but I’m trying to go spoiler-free here. While it is dated and feels like a wannabe Martin Beck thriller, it has its moments. Like the Swedish police thrillers, it goes in for a lot of gritty procedural work, while at the same time trying to draw a little influence from Italian giallos. Neither is totally successful, but it still manages to hold your attention.

BECK - BAIT BOY (1997): First in a series of 26 top-notch Swedish TV movies based on the Martin Beck novels by Maj Sjöwall and Per Wahlöö. Imagine CSI without the Hollywood. No trendy emo haircuts, realistic characters and some real nasty grit, thanks to Sjöwall and Wahlöö. Unlike US TV shows, these telefilms pull no punches. While a show like CSI may tackle the same subject there would be plenty of mincing around the nastier elements. Here we are introduced to Martin Beck, a Stockholm homicide detective who's small squad is in charge of solving the ugliest of Sweden’s crimes. While worrying about his daughter trying to rent a black-market flat (the legalities of housing in the over-populated Stockholm area are insanely complex), Martin Beck finds himself thrust upon a rash of murders of young teen boys. In addition to shockingly graphic and unsettling content (bloody killings and descriptions of a boy vomiting up semen before his murder), this telefilm sports great production values and doesn’t go overboard into over-the-top silliness and soap-opera relationships that CSI gets up to.

ROBBERY (1967): Solid, straightforward account of the infamous 1963 "Great Train Robbery" in which a coordinated group of 15 criminals from different mobs robbed a postal train of £2.6 million (about $65 million today). Peter Yates could be accused of flat direction here, but I like to think that he's letting the great cast (Stanley Baker, Barry Foster, Frank Finlay, James Booth, George Sewell and others) play out a great story that needs little embellishment. Watching this really puts Ronnie Biggs into perspective. He's become famous for this heist, but really had almost nothing to do with it other than help the team find a train operator who couldn't drive the train after all! A little dry in spots, but good stuff in spite of it.
VIDEO NASTIES – MORAL PANIC, CENSORSHIP & VIDEO TAPE (2010): The central part of the amazing 3 DVD set titled THE DEFINITIVE GUIDE TO THE VIDEO NASTIES, this is surprisingly nicely done. Jake West and Marc Morris have made a career out of making featurettes for DVDs in London, and truth be told, this is nothing more than 3 discs of extras, the main feature being a moment in history. Tracing the evolution of the video rental business from its primitive beginnings in which you had almost literally a guy in a closet renting uncensored videos, through the hysteria over films that were believed to be real snuff movies, to the actual banning of films that were barely even questionable on a thematic level, this documentary is fascinating whether you remember those days or not. One of the best things about the documentary is that West and Morris avoid (for the most part) the pitfalls that plague so many other featurette producers (*cough* Code Red *cough*), such as the heavy reliance on obnoxious, alleged “expert / fans” or worse, Eli Roth. West and Morris amazingly get the real players to talk candidly about what happened from journalists, professors and filmmakers, right through to the MP who authored the bill, an arch bishop, a film censor and a former Scotland Yard head, and many, many more. In addition to the interviews for the documentary, West and Morris unearth a plethora of archival clips to add additional insight and give a true feeling for the hysteria of the day. It’s amazing in this day and age how some of these people feel that what they did was completely justified, such as incarcerating the proprietor of a video shop for a longer sentence than a murderer and arresting people for renting THE BEST LITTLE WHOREHOUSE IN TEXAS. Come to think of it, I've seen the film and that might be justified after all. Amazingly some of these witch-hunters are still adamant that they were cracking down on a real snuff film epidemic and saving the children from becoming killers and rapists. Amazing stuff that is well worth hunting down, particularly if you are the kind of person that reads blogs about trashy movies and gets that Damned song stuck in your head for days at a time.

Monday, December 5, 2011

The Lovecraft Legacy: SHADOW OF THE UNNAMABLE (2011)

So apparently I am a bit of a "blog whore" as I took up with another blog to do a review of the H.P. Lovecraft adaptation SHADOW OF THE UNNAMABLE.  Not to be confused with the 80s THE UNNAMABLE flicks, this is a sixteen minute short film out of Germany that set about to faithfully adapt Lovecraft's 1925 short story.  Does debuting director-producer-writer Sascha Renninger succeed or fail?  Head on over to my mistress at the Unfilmable blog to check out my review of SHADOW OF THE UNNAMABLE and find out.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Listomania!: Will's November Universal THE MUMMY marathon

Growing up as a kid, I caught most of the Universal horror classics (DRACULA, FRANKENSTEIN, BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN, THE MUMMY, THE WOLF MAN, and all the CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON flicks) but missed a lot of the sequels. In October, I decided to fill in quite a few of the gaps and watched all of the films in the FRANKENSTEIN series.  In November I decided to start filling in the holes on another classic monster series. I saw Universal's THE MUMMY (1932) as a kid, but never really got into it. Mostly because the title creature in the form I best knew him (from countless horror film books) was only in one scene at the opening. As an adult, I appreciate it more (mostly for Karloff's performance) but still think it has some really bad pacing issues. Regardless, I never went further in the exploits of Universal's bandaged baddie until last month.

THE MUMMY'S HAND (1940) - Down-on-his-luck archaeologist Steve Banning (Dick Foran) and his annoying sidekick Babe Jenson (Wallace Ford) find a vase for sale in an Egyptian market that they believe has clues to location of the tomb of Princess Ananka. They take it to Dr. Petrie (Charles Trowbridge) of the Cairo Museum who agrees, but his colleague Andoheb (George Zucco) deems it a fake. Of course, Andoheb is doing this because he is also moonlighting as the new high priest of Karnak, whose job it is to protect this sacred burial ground. Not to be deterred, Banning convinces a Brooklyn magician (!), Solvani (Cecil Kellaway), to finance his trip. They find the tomb rather easily and discover the mummified body of Kharis (Tom Tyler), who was buried alive for trying to resurrect Ananka. Andoheb arrives on the scene and, using magical tana leaves, resurrects the mummy to kill everyone.

More of a semi-remake than a sequel, this new decade's mummy movie is pretty rough stuff. The film's worst problem is that the title creature doesn't appear until the 43 minute mark. Not good for a film that runs 67 minutes. Also, that mummy-less time is filled with some reaaaaally bad comedy, from Brooklynite Babe to the embarrassing Solvani (there is an actual bit where the tries to locate his contract and pulls everything from oversize cards to mountains of scarfs from his pockets). Coming from westerns, Tyler is a good mummy and I like the effect of his eyes being blacked out. One interesting thing is they use footage from the THE MUMMY to tell the history, but edit in Tyler in for Karloff.

THE MUMMY'S TOMB (1942) - 30 years have passed since the events of THE MUMMY'S HAND (so this is set in 1970?). Andoheb (Zucco again) survived the events of the first film and now places Mehemet Bey (Turhan Bey) in charge of getting revenge on the members of the Banning expedition (what did he do in the 30 years between?). Bey travels to Banning's home of Mapleton, Massachusetts with Kharis (now Lon Chaney, Jr.) in tow and takes a job as a cemetery caretaker. This gives him the perfect cover to send out the mummy to get revenge. It does so rather quickly as Banning (Foran again) is dispatched of by the 20 minute mark. Babe (Ford again; although is character's last name is inexplicably changed to Hanson) comes into to console his friend's son, John Banning (John Hubbard), but he gets offed too. Bey is a revenge master, but then gets sidetracked by Isobel (Elyse Knox), John's fiance. Beautiful white women - foiling madmen for ages! So he uses Kharis one more time to kidnap this hottie, which finally causes John to spring into action.

I watched this one right after THE MUMMY'S HAND and was glad I did because it is a direct sequel. Well, a 30 years later sequel. I prefer this one to its predecessor because it dispenses with the comedy and gets right down to the mummy mayhem. Running just 60 minutes (with 9 minutes of it being summary footage from HAND), it hits the ground running and rarely stops. Poor Chaney went from spending hours being made unrecognizable in THE WOLF MAN (1940) to spending hours being made unrecognizable in this. I really like Jack Pierce's design in this one with the attention to the previous film's mummy demise (he is slightly darkened from being burnt and missing an eye). The end is actually a great set up as the mummy once again attacks the huge Banning home and the villagers set fire to the place (during the town rally, the sheriff even says, "Pass out the clubs and torches!”).

THE MUMMY'S GHOST (1944) - Taking place a few years after the events of THE MUMMY'S TOMB, this has Yousef Bey (a young John Carradine) becoming the Egyptian high priest heir who is now charged with bringing Kharis the mummy (Lon Chaney, Jr. again) back to Egypt. He travels to Mapleton, Massachusetts to revive and retrieve the creature. Local college kids Tom Hervey (Robert Lowery, as a college "kid" in his 30s) and Amina (Ramsay Ames) soon find themselves targets as Amina just happens to be Princess Ananka reincarnated. Of course, the villain again finds his plans sidetracked by a certain weakness for the opposite sex. What is with these guys getting weak kneed at first glance of a woman?

Third in this MUMMY reboot series, it seems like Universal's only demands were "give us a mummy movie and make sure it runs 60 minutes." I do like that they continued on the chronology of the small town besieged by the mummy menace (newspaper headlines scream of the monster's return). The filmmakers do cheat a bit as they never explain how the mummy survived being burnt to a crisp as he appears just as before (no joke, his first scene is just him walking out of the woods looking no worse for wear). Carradine gives his all to the performance, but Chaney seems a bit stiffer than usual. The film’s best attribute is a major downer of an ending.  I kept looking at the counter and wondering how they were going to wrap up everything in a happy ending so quickly.  Turns out they didn’t and I’m grateful for that.  This is one of the bleakest endings in any monster movie.  One other memorable (and amusing) scene had the mummy roughing up a museum security guard.  When I watched this, I immediately thought that wasn’t supposed to happen.  Afterward, I read in Universal Horrors that indeed that Chaney got a bit carried away and cracked the glass that no only gave his co-star a headache, but gave Chaney a sliced arm.  Here’s the clip:

THE MUMMY'S CURSE (1944) - Arriving just 5 months after THE MUMMY'S GHOST, this was the final Universal entry in the Kharis mummy series. Set 25 years after the events of GHOST (we’re in the late 1990s now!), this has the drainage of a swamp spooking the local workers due to their fear of the mummy legend (there is no explanation as to why primary location Massachusetts is suddenly Louisiana; even odder is the foreman has a picture of the mill from the climax of the last film behind his desk). Dr. James Halsey (Dennis Moore) and Dr. Ilzor Zandaab (Peter Coe) arrive to look for the mummy during the excavation and, of course, the Egyptian of the pair has ulterior motives. Also rising from the swamp is Amina/Princess Ananka (Virginia Christine), who is rejuvenated by the suns rays but is still the object of Kharis' (Lon Chaney, Jr. one last time) affection.  For once, the Egyptian is impervious to a woman’s charms and…oh, what’s this…his henchman is digging her.  Oh jeez.

With the series as tattered as the mummy’s bandages, it is fitting this is the last one in the series.  The plots seem pretty unchanged for these last three sequels (mummy chases people), so I can understand why Universal buried the mummy after this one. Despite the unmentioned extreme location change, the screenwriters surprisingly didn't include any voodoo stuff in the proceedings. The film also features a really embarrassing "yes massa" character, which I found surprising since the other entries avoiding anything like this. It is too bad we never got to see him throw down in one of their monster rallies.  This entry does feature one of the best sequences in the series though when Ananka rises from her muddy grave.  It is really a haunting scene that poor mud-covered Christine, who is quite stunning, managed to get in one take.

So with the mummy series officially put to rest, this month I will focus on THE INVISIBLE MAN series.  I mean, if I can see him.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Clonin' the Barbarian: CONAN THE BARBARIAN (2011)

I know, I know, I can hear you. “What were you thinking?” My only defense is that Marcus Nispel did make one underappreciated sword film in 2007 and I figured he might be able to bring some of that here. It was like he was Clint Eastwood and I was Albert Popwell, and as he is putting this film in the can, I said “I gots ta know.” And when I found out, I had the same reaction.

I’m not even going to get into comparing two CONANs. Comparing the 1982 CONAN to the 2011 CONAN, is like comparing 1983 Ozzy Osbourne to 2003 Ozzy Osbourne. Suffice to say, that nasty sinking feeling in your gut that you got when the first pics of Jason Momoa came out was right. An insipid pretty-boy saddled with one of the most uninspired scripts since INDIANA JONES AND THE KINGDOM OF THE CRYSTAL SKULL.

How crap is the script, you ask? Well, Conan falls in love and shows his romantic side… do I need to continue? Both the lousy casting of every single actor on the set, and a script that is so banal and trite that it is stunning that it got a green light, even in Hollywood, this clunker is a chore to sit through. Even Morgan Freeman can’t seem to muster any enthusiasm as his narration is about as spirited as a reading from a 5th grade history text. Sure, there’s plenty of bloody swordfights, but there is nothing interesting about them. Nispel had some very creative set-pieces for his carnage in PATHFINDER (2007), but here, it’s mostly straightforward hack n’ slash. Ironically the three credited writers actually lift elements from PATHFINDER to prop up their lack of imagination. For instance there is a lengthy prologue with our hero as a child who grabs a sword and manages to dislodge a section of the face of the villain’s right-hand man. Which film am I talking about? Yep, both!

A famous critic once said that a James Bond movie is only as good as its villain. This actually applies to a lot of genre movies, in particular the fantasy film. PATHFINDER had Clancy Brown as a bloodthirsty, genocidal Viking leader, bent on conquering and enslaving a new land. Nothing fancy, but easily his best turn since The Kurgan. Here we have Stephen Lang as a would be conqueror searching for a mask that will turn him into a god, but, as it turns out, a god who is easily defeated by falling off a bridge. Yeah, sorry about the spoiler, but that is how it goes down. Does Conan savagely decapitate him in front of his followers? Nope. Is he drawn and quartered by angry villagers? Nope. He falls off a bridge. I’m not much for theology, but I’m pretty sure gods have the power to maintain their balance, no matter how challenging the situation. Matter of fact this movie seems to think that falling from heights is the worst fate that could befall (no pun intended) a person. Conan fights magic sand dudes that come up from the sand, attack and fall back into the sand. Yet, when they are knocked off some scaffolding in a sequence that seems to be lifted straight out of a Jackie Chan movie, they fall down and are destroyed. The sorceress also dies from a fall and Conan's love interest is threatened with one! I can only surmise that the writers were all severely acrophobic.

Yeah, I just spoiled the hell out of it. Sorry, but you should really thank me for it. I just saved you 113 minutes of your life that on your deathbed you will desperately want back. I can't believe this got made and released while the vastly superior Robert E. Howard adaptation SOLOMON KANE (2009) still languishes in purgatory. The impenetrable wisdom of Hollywood I guess.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

The XXX-Factor: Sybil Danning in Playboy, August 1983

One of the great things about Blogspot are the "traffic sources" stats on what search items brings readers to our blog.  Running a close third behind Boyka (Scott Adkins' buff villain-turned-hero in the UNDISPUTED sequels) and Linda Blair (a certain OUI pictorial pops up) is 80s action/b-movie cult queen Sybil Danning.  It is almost like sex sells or something.  Danning is definitely a favorite around these parts and, like most folks, we got introduced to her through her Sybil Danning's Adventure Videos.  She was like the Elvira of the action scene, introducing some great (and not-so-great) movies with terrible puns and incredible skimpy outfits.  We were in love.  As if a hot lady and z-grade action weren't enough, Danning also had her own acting career and the Austria-born actress had no qualms getting nude.  Hell, she even refined the art of being nude without being nude.

Anyway, long story short, we obviously weren't the only ones smitten with Miss Danning's charms and we're doing this post to satiate all of the like minded folks typed "Sybil Danning + nude + Playboy" into Google every five minutes.  Below is her spread for Hugh Hefner's seminal nudie mag that appeared in August 1983.  And for you Tom types out there, we've also included the text from the article about her.  It begins with her kicking out her boyfriend (yay!) and then talking about some of her films (she even bags on Lou Ferrigno).  Fans of "never got made" stuff will be interested in reading about BLACK DIAMOND, her planned female James Bond film.  It never got before cameras, although a comic book of it did get released.  Behold the power of Danning (click to enlarge, but try not to break your computer screen)!