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, April 3, 2014

Listomania: Odd Thomas & Ends from March 2014

I really should do more of these Listomania posts with smaller reviews (can you hear Tom’s whip cracking?). Here are 5 flicks that I watched during March that are worthy of a mention on the blog.

ODD THOMAS (2013) – No, this isn’t a documentary about the Video Junkie head honcho.  Instead it is a film adaptation of Dean Koontz’s 2003 bestseller, which has spawned five follow ups in the decade since.  Does the man ever sleep?  Well, he had plenty of sleepless nights thanks to Hollywood over the years as they were never able to properly adapt his prolific works into a good film.  Seriously, who takes the former military lead in “Watchers” and turns him into Corey Haim?

Anyway, having been singed by Tinseltown one too many times, Koontz is now very selective about giving out his film rights.  So the news of him giving Stephen Sommers the rights to the first “Odd Thomas” book was met with a crooked eyebrow by me.  Sommers started off his horror career nicely with films like DEEP RISING (1998) and the fun remake of THE MUMMY (1999).  He killed that all for me a few years later with THE MUMMY RETURNS (2001), a film so aggressively loud and annoying with its CGI mummy madness that I walked out of the theater after a half hour.  So, sadly, I missed his subsequent work like VAN HELSING (2004) and G.I. JOE (2009).  I’m sure they made plenty of eyes and ears bleed.  So the idea of him tackling a low budget (well, in Hollywood terms at $27 million) film was intriguing and I’ll be damned if he doesn’t redeem himself.

The film centers on Odd Thomas (Anton Yelchin), an oddball born Todd Thomas but christened with his moniker due to a typo on his birth certificate.  How odd is Odd? He can see the dead and uses this ability to explain unsolved crimes and murders.  He can also see something called Bodachs, creepy creatures from another dimension that are drawn to evil and chaos.  If someone is evil or going to get hurt, a Bodach will be swarming around them. Complications occur when a dude comes into town with literally dozens of these translucent creatures around him.  It is up to Thomas and his girlfriend Stormy (Addison Timlin) and Sheriff Porter (Willem Dafoe) to find out just what is going down in the next 24 hours.  To reveal more of the plot would give away quite a few twists.


I have to say this film was a pleasant surprise.  I went in with tempered expectations, but ended up really liking the characters and the plot.  To be honest, a relationship like the one Odd and Stormy have would usually drive me up the wall in a film, but it works here and I found it oddly (haha) endearing.  I’d say I was just finding it an enjoyable film until the end, which really was a kick in the gut and moves the film to great territory for me.  No spoilers, but you can bet some arguments went down among the 17 credited producers (!) on whether they should maintain it.  Sommers also keeps himself in check most of the time (he still can’t help having a few CGI over-the-top moments) and the film has some really creative editing.  Ironically, Koontz felt this was the best adaptation of his work yet and what happened? Hollywood still found a way to screw it up with the film being mired in lawsuits for the past year and a half.  As it stands, it got a direct-to-video release, almost ensuring we won’t see any more of Odd’s adventures.  That means I might actually have to read a fiction book.  Yuck!

RAW NERVE (1991) – This Traci Lords vehicle sat unwatched for decades due to a teenage grudge.  Namely, how could Lords, a controversial porn star turned legit actress, refuse to do nudity in B-movies?  “Does…not…compute” said my young brain.  I mean, I understood why she refused, but I still felt ripped off.  Anyway, a viewing of the film’s trailer convinced me to finally get over it.  After all, where else will you ever see B-movie stars such as Lords, Ted Prior, Sandahl Bergman, Jan-Michael Vincent, Randall “Tex” Cobb and Glenn F’N Ford together?  I mean, beside a Chiller Convention?  The plot centers on amateur stockcar driver Jimmy Clayton (Prior) who has psychic visions of a killer who shoots young women in the face with a shotgun. Dubbed The Face Killer by the cops, he seems to have a connection to the orphaned Clayton as well as his uncle (Cobb).  Even worse, the killer seems to have set his sights on Clayton’s younger sister, Gina (Lords).  This was one of David Prior’s action flicks for his A.I.P. (Action International Pictures) label and is well made like all of his stuff back then.  The film, however, ultimately lacks the proper punch to make it a classic.  There is a great truck stunt in it though, so it’s got that going for it.

SLIME CITY MASSACRE (2010) – If I could give out an award for most unanticipated and unusual sequel ever, it would probably go to this. SLIME CITY (1988) was a low budget NYC lensed flick that is probably most remembered today for its meltdown FX finale.  The plot of the original (per my old IMDb review) revolved around college student/video store employee Alex (Robert C. Sabin) gets an apartment with the hopes the privacy will allow him to get it on with his virgin girlfriend Lori (Mary Huner). Things change, however, when his neighbor Nicole (also Huner), a goth temptress, seduces him and makes him drink this green elixir. Soon Alex starts sweating orange slime and the only thing that can return him to normal is human blood. Turns out everyone in the tenement are occult followers of a guy named Zachary and Alex's body is going to be the host for his return.

So it was with quite a bit of surprised when director Gregory Lamberson announced a follow up two decades later.  Not only was he bringing the slime back, but he also got lead Sabin to reappear in a new, but pivotal role.  Not looking to tread the same old turf, Lamberson opens his sequel with a dirty bomb nuking most of NYC.  The survivors live destitute in the nuclear wasteland dubbed “Slime City.”  Among them are Alexa (Jennifer Bihl) and Cory (Kealan Patrick Burke), a young couple looking for a place to stay safe.  They end up shacking up with another couple, Alice (Debbie Rochon) and Mason (Lee Perkins), who have a secure spot in a crumbling building.  The two men head out to forage for some food and soon discover Zachary’s old basement still filled with the delicious slime made from human souls.  Soon all four are turning various shades of neon primary colors.

I really have to applaud returning director Lamberson for this unusual follow-up.  Sure, he could have taken the cheap way out and done an unrelated sequel (or, even worse, a remake) but instead he let his imagination run wild, ending up with something that feels like it could have been born from the brain of David Cronenberg or Frank Henenlotter.  Much like Henenlotter’s classic BRAIN DAMAGE (1988), the film also works as a drug addiction allegory as well as a presentation of never-before-seen weirdness. Looking for a film where a guy has corporal relations with his girlfriend who just happens to be a tub of orange slime?  This is your flick.  I also loved how Lamberson assigned each of the four main characters their own individual slime color palette.  All that said the film does still suffer from some budget deficiencies that may turn some viewers off.  Shot on digital video for approximately $50,000, some items are threadbare (several folks in Slime City are dirty, other are clean as a baby’s bottom).  The aforementioned Sabin appears in a time-crossing storyline that gives us the history of Zachary and his followers.  It is a not only a nice nod to the original film, but actually continues the storyline.  If you’re oozing for some freaky, slime covered entertainment, you can’t go wrong here.

MIRRORS (1978) – Not to be confused with the Korean film INTO THE MIRROR (2003) or the 2008 Alexandre Aja remake MIRRORS (Aja doing an unoriginal film? No way!), this low budget chiller is from director Noel Black (PRETTY POISON). Marianne Whitman (Kitty Winn) travels to New Orleans with her new husband, but soon begins to believe she is falling into a voodoo conspiracy fronted by the people running her hotel.  This is seemingly confirmed to her when she wakes up one morning to find her husband dead.  Is she really a target or is Marianne slowly losing her grip on her sanity?  Lensed in 1974 but unreleased for years, this was obviously trying to piggyback on the success of THE EXORCIST (1973), which featured Winn in a supporting role.  Director Black, however, does greatly to separate the film from its assumed primary influence, giving it more in common with the “lady going loony” cinema of Roman Polanski of the 1960s. He earns points for keeping the viewer in the dark for this entire film, allowing a fantastic closing shot to let audiences decide what is happening here.  My own personal opinion is Marianne is going nuts.  There is plenty of atmosphere to go around and the film benefits from the authentic Louisiana locations (that was when New Orleans hadn’t been made over and still looked kind of rundown and sleazy).  Winn is excellent and, sadly, disappeared from features after doing a TV film appropriately titled THE LAST HURRAH (1977).

AFTER MIDNIGHT (1989) – I’m a sucker for anthology films.  Wait, let me rephrase that: I’m a sucker for well-made anthology films and this entry from brothers Jim and Ken Wheat (SILENT SCREAM; PITCH BLACK) is a fun little entry. The premise revolves around a college psychology professor (Ramy Zada) who wants to teach his pupils about fear.  He does this by making the tough jock piss his pants by putting a gun to his head and then faking committing suicide in front of the class.  So, uh, yeah…about your tenure.  That night he invites students to his home to have them tell their stories of fear and we get three stories.  “The Old Dark House” has a young couple (Mark McClure and Nadine Van der Velde) having their car break down outside the titular location; “A Night on the Town” has a group of girls stranded in industrial L.A. being chased by killer dogs; and “All Night Operator” has an answering service employee (Marg Helgenberger) stalked by a psycho who keeps calling her.  While none of the stories are anthology game changers, they are all compactly written in the old EC comics style and well made. I’d say the last story is probably the best of the bunch.  In this day and age of droll anthologies that are seemingly just short films thrown together, this is a welcome revisit.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Listomania: Thomas' March Meh-ness 2014

So many stinkers, so little time! Here are a few that didn't quite make full write-ups and in spite of the fact that in general we tend to wallow in our bad movies like hogs in a mud puddle. Actually, only two of them are films that I doubt I'll ever sit through again. Should be pretty easy to spot them.
Oh, and for the record, there are no April Fool's jokes in here, as much as it may sound like it.

KOMMISSARIE SPACK (2010): The title translates as DETECTIVE FAT, but if you are as nerdy as we are, you will get that it's a spoof of Sweden's Detective Martin Beck. More specifically the series of TV movies BECK that has run on Swedish television for no less than 12 years. Detective Marten Spack (popular Swedish actor Leif Andrée) and his angry college Grunvald Karlsson (Johan Hedenberg who you may remember from the 2012 JOHAN FALK movies) are knee deep in a serial suicide spree. After investigating a crime scene in which a man is impaled with everything from knives and forks to a pepper-grinder and a bootleg dvd in his own kitchen, Spack comes to the conclusion that it is a suicide brought on by the fact that his potatoes o' gratin turned out dry due to a lack of cream. Seriously, as someone who has made, and been subjected to, dry potatoes o' gratin, I can totally buy into this theory.

As it turns out the bootleg DVD is the clue they need to discover that it is in fact an underworld execution tied to a black market movie ring. The portrayal of the DVD factory with stripped down employees wearing respirator masks is one of the better moments in the film, as is Grunvald's emotional breakdown in which he confesses that his pent-up aggression is due to a traumatic childhood betrayal over a KARATE KID video.

If you are unfamiliar with the Martin Beck character, you will probably find this movie staggeringly unfunny (except for the bits that echo NCIS and CSI). If you are familiar with the BECK series, you will find it only half that. Clearly inspired by the NAKED GUN series (if about 20 years late), director Fredde Granberg emulates the style of the BECK show with hand-held camera work and lots of silence, while throwing in scads of late era Zucker brothers gags, that all ends up feeling jarringly mismatched. On the one hand we have some very clever moments of spoofery, such as the bit where Spack's whip-smart female colleague (Cecilia Frode) uses a computer to get a break in the case by enhancing a surveillance video in multiple steps that allow them to read a crumpled note in a suspects pocket, on the other hand we some very unsubtle pratfalls and grossout humor. For example there's a throwaway gags such as a bit where they pull into a crime scene, hitting a dog who is comically knocked out of frame, then a bit where Spack's neckbrace-clad neighbor offers him a bong hit and falls off of his balcony. I guess the producers wanted the movie to be successful in Finland. It's not quite the masterpiece it should have been, but it's still plenty of fun.

HILL 171 (1987): One of those movies I've had for decades and never watched. Why? I have no idea. I mean it's a Filipino action flick and the box looks cool, what's the hold up? In recent years I've seen people talk about it being an ultra-violent action flick and even mention it in the same breath as the classic SPARROW UNIT (1987). I'm here to tell you, those bastards lie.

Obviously shot without a script, the vague plot (which is pretty much ignored except for the beginning and end of the movie) is about an army officer who gets together a team of old army friends to "find the dope factory and blow it up." I know, some of the obscure military jargon may be hard to navigate, but if you stick with it, you'll be in for... some bad comedy. One guy is called Tarzan because he can climb a tree and runs around in a rather skimpy loincloth (while wearing a powder blue sweater and tie), another is an expert knife thrower, then there is an expert boxer, an expert runner away, and of course the expert sharp-shooter who likes his likker. As the boss says "if he wasn't such a drunk, he'd be the best!" Uhh, yeah, I think it's a great idea to recruit a blind drunk with a firearm. What could go wrong? Not much apparently as the whole blowing up the factory thing seems to be forgotten for the next hour or so with the guys digging in an empty field in what the boss claims to be an attempt to "find the factory"! Is it buried underground?

Accidental destruction of a TV
leads to a severe case of blackface.
Then there's a big scene where they go to a dance hall, get in a big fight and err... accidentally kiss each other. Right. Now we're going to blow something up... please? Nope. Now we are going to have a lengthy subplot with the guys and a bunch of recruits breaking rocks with picks. The recruits get disgruntled because essentially the army buddies are pricks and there's a lot of drama that leads to a fight. Eventually they do finally get around to finding the "factory" (a couple of huts) and nothing is blown up. I should point out that these fight scenes are not even remotely in the realm of Rey Malonzo or even Weng Weng. They are sloppy, barely choreographed affairs that rely on a lot of haymakers and leaping.

The movie opens with a scene in which some cops kill a bunch of guys in a field and then dig into the sacks of rice they were hauling. They think something might be odd about the sacks (good reason to kill a dozen men) and one pulls out what looks like a handful of dandelion stems and declares it to be marijuana! With this kind of attention to detail, you know you are in for something special, but what it doesn't prepare you for is the wacky comedy that is so lame and cartoonish that I understand that the Three Stooges walked out half way through the picture.

SPLIT (1988): How is it that this utterly innovative, starkly original, low-budget mindwarp hasn't gotten more press over the years? Back in the days of renting movies based simply on the fact that I hadn't seen them, I stumbled across this ambitious, sci-fi, head-trip made by amateurs. I loved it, my friends hated it. My friends were stupid.

A young homeless man named Starker (Timothy Dwight) with buck teeth appears to be a few clowns short of a circus. He rants wildly about the people who are spying on him and swatting at invisible pests. Suddenly we find out there are people spying on him. Two men watch his ranting in a computer lab wondering why he is wearing fake teeth. To their horror the men discover that they don't have a file on this nutbar and issue orders to track him down and tag him like Marlin Perkins on a safari. The catch is, Starker is actually not a loony, paranoid homeless dude. Well, he is homeless, but since they really are out to get him, he's not a crazy paranoid. Starker has strategically placed stashes of clothing around the city so that he can slip off the grid, so to speak, and evade the agency that is tracking all of humanity. This agency is run by a Director (Chris Shaw, who wrote and directed), who is being kept alive by an elaborate machine that slows his degeneration down until he can perfect a process that will turn him into a cyborg. At this point you are probably thinking "damn, that sounds pretty wild, but it must be a straightforward hunt and chase flick." You would be wrong.

This movie takes so many sharp left hand turns that if you don't pay rapt attention you'll get lost faster than a knife fight in a phone booth. Starker is the ultimate non-conformist who manages to attract the other bizarre denizens of the city including a pretentious artist (John J. Flynn) who has his mind blown when Starker explains the secrets of the world and utters the immortal line "Anchovies... who's going to can anchovies? Society could crumble." Starker also hooks up with a seemingly normal waitress, Susan (Joan Bechtel), who is convinced that Starker is crazy and dangerous.

I don't want to give away too much, it's actually better if you go into this movie cold and ride the wave to crazy island, but even with the spoilers I've let drop, there is so much more weird, psychedelic strangeness where that came from, I openly challenge you to find anything that comes close. It's so ambitious and so imaginative it is one of the great injustices of the universe that this is Shaw's only film, aside from one other editing gig and one other acting gig.

THE REGENERATED MAN (1994): I've always been a big fan of the classic, low-rent monster flick DEADLY SPAWN (1983) and its surprisingly underrated sequel METAMORPHOSIS: THE ALIEN FACTOR (1990), but for some reason I have never seen any of Ted Bohus' work following those gems. Bohus got his start working on a pair of Don Dohler flicks FIEND (1980) and NIGHTBEAST (1982). With those four films heading up his resume, THE REGENERATED MAN should be a masterpiece, right? Right?

Oh good lord, say goodbye to your loved ones because you may not be returning from this mission. The plot concerns a scientist (Arthur Lundquist) who works in what appears to be a small corner of someone's bedroom developing a tissue re-animation serum (yes, it glows green). One night he is attacked in his lab by some Long Island lunkheads who are trying to rob the place of "valuable stuff", but since there are none, settle for forcing the doc to drink his own medicine. Before you can say "together again", the good doc is transforming by night into a shar pei demon thing who can't really move around very well, but can shoot people with his finger bones. "Fair enough" I hear you say. I know, nothing wrong with that as such, but for some reason Bohus is like every kid on the East Coast and is obsessed with The Three Stooges to the point where he has people acting like they are in some screwball comedy. No slapstick, but the same style of voice acting and dialogue.

Bohus lives out Freud's
wunscherfüllung theory via cinema
In one scene three thugs are intimidating and attempting to rape a girl walking home with groceries to her child. This is played for laughs (nothing funnier than the harassment and attempted rape of a single mother) and features Bohus himself as one of the thugs! In another scene he's got a completely random guy being shaken down by '30s era mobsters (for laughs) for a full 10 minutes before the Regenerated Dude shows up and kills the mobsters by shooting his finger bones at them. The scene just goes on and on and on and it's not even remotely funny. He also kind rips off the "tied to this fucking chair" bit from THE THING, which is pretty much criminal.

Adding insult to injury, the production values are lower on this picture than anything Bohus has done previously, and if you've seen FIEND, you know that's saying something! Shot on video in tiny re-purposed sets, not only are the special effects unexciting, but they are pretty minimal too. Even worse, the final set-piece is done via CGI that embarrassingly bad even for its day. Well, I wanted to find out what happened to Ted Bohus and sadly, I found out.

MONSTERHUNTERS (2009): I am a sucker for good kid flicks, particularly if they are horror themed. I don't think I'll get much argument if I talked up classics like BLACKBEARD'S GHOST (1969) and THE MONSTER SQUAD (1987), but I also enjoyed CORALINE (2009) and PARANORMAN (2012) quite a bit too. So given the opportunity to see a Danish pre-pubescent monster-comedy, how can I say no? That kind of reasoning has led me astray far too often.

Ollie (Carl Winther) is the weak-kneed 12 year old brother of 8 year old horror movie obsessed Lasse (Toke Lars Bjarke). After their grandfather tells them tall tales of his days as a monsterhunter, the boys find a secret basement in their house complete with monster hunting gear and the special freezer that gramps alleged contained the shadowbeast. The local bully (Joshua Berman) opens up the freezer and the CGI smoke monster escapes, possessing people and making them behave in ways that are very un-Danish... Belching, farting, eating unhealthy foods, being sexually aggressive and putting everyone around them in harms way. So, basically, Americans. The creature can replicate as well, which means that soon the town is possessed by crazy people and only the kids can stop them, via liquid nitrogen sprayers. Not exactly a bad film, but squarely aimed at its target audience with only a few jokes aimed at adults (the mother is a shrink who has a nude male statue right next to her patient couch). That wouldn't really be so bad if there were some interesting monsters, but instead we get low-grade CGI black smoke and freezing effects that were stale by the end of the '90s. A real missed opportunity.

ZAAT (1971): I am completely baffled how it is 2013 and I had never seen this movie before and was only prompted into viewing it because Jon Kitley's birthday cake paid homage to it (made by non-professional baker Dawn Kitley). True story (see pic below).

Alternately numbingly dull and spectacularly bad, I can't even imagine that this was made with a straight face. A shuffling, bed-head scientist who mumbles his own internal dialogue decides that he has just had it with the world (they are insane, not him!) and he will get revenge and maybe some nookie if he turns himself into a giant, amphibious fish-monster. Also he's going to put some of his special formula (kept in a spray bottle) in Florida's water to mutate the fish. Damn, I always knew there was something in the water down there. We know all about his plans as he has them drawn (literally) out on what appears to be a zodiac wheel, but is in fact his own giant advent calendar. There's a wedge for transforming himself, there's a wedge for killing his ex-boss, there's a wedge for kidnapping a bikini-clad swimmer and transforming her into Mrs. Zaat via what appears to be a giant fry basket in a radioactive hot-tub. Things go rapidly downhill from there and our mopey misanthrope discovers that being a giant leech creature with a hit list ain't the bed of roses it's cracked up to be.

This movie is spectacularly shoddy and cash-strapped, but for some reason, or because of that, it manages to mesmerize the viewer much like Montag the Magnificent before busting out his chainsaw. It may leave you on the floor in pieces, but oh, what a spectacle to behold! Shot in black and white on location in Jacksonville, Florida, writer-director-producer Don Barton shockingly never made another film but still managed to leave an indelible impression. So much so, that it was (briefly) immortalized in cake in Aurora, Illinois. Is there any higher honor, I ask you?

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Revenge of 3-D: DARK COUNTRY 3D (2009)

I like weird movies. I like movies that make me wake up in the morning in a cold sweat thinking "what the hell did I watch last night?" Some folks wake up and wonder what the hell it was that they drank, or what the hell it was that they screwed. More power to 'em. I dig cinema that would make David Lynch stumble bleary-eyed out of the theater scratching his head in confusion. I also dig expressionist thrillers and mysteries, whether or not you want to call them "noir" is up for debate. The noir era according to most folks doesn't start until the '50s. Personally I think that line of thought discredits a huge amount of great noir-style films of the '30s and '40s, such as Fritz Lang's M (1931), which certainly fits the description of "Film Noir".

Semantics aside, this genre of film has a niche audience and tend to be hard to come by in the modern era. The closest we've come to a mainstream hit in this area is SIN CITY (2005) which used a noir influence as a springboard to a complete clusterfuck of a movie. A popular clusterfuck, but a clusterfuck all the same.

With all that in mind, it is amazing that I never saw DARK COUNTRY until five years after Sony Pictures unceremoniously dumped it direct to DVD in a barebones 2D release with zero promotional push.

A suddenly middle aged man, Richard (Thomas Jane) awakes in a shabby motel room outside of Vegas with his new wife, Gina (Lauren German). As we find out, they had an alcohol fueled whirlwind romance that resulted them waking up with rings on their fingers. Richard has quit his job, cleaned out his bank account and hit the road in his well-worn 1961 Dodge Polara looking for the girl of his dreams. Their playful new romance begins to slide into dark waters almost immediately when Richard picks up a few things at a diner and notices a missing persons flyer taped to the register with a woman's face that somewhat resembles his new wife. If that wasn't ominous enough, a slick guy in a suit, sitting in a booth starts asking questions and telling him that he should take care not to get lost on the roads at night and that nothing happens to his pretty new bride.

Once on the road, night descends and after playing sex games with the lights off, they come inches away from running down a blood-soaked man who has barely survived a horrible car accident (make up designed by the one and only Bernie Wrightson). Deciding the best thing to do would be to take him to a hospital, they discover that they are lost and their mutilated passenger starts becoming somewhat aggressive, mumbling cryptically "have you ever been murdered before?" To give any more details would spoil the film that is a superb homage to film noir, Hitchcock and even a bit of BLOOD SIMPLE by way of highly stylized comic book visuals. Where SIN CITY went to the extreme with it's highly polarized black and white imagery, DARK COUNTRY uses CGI to paint the screen with a slightly surreal brush, echoing the color palette and style of a graphic novel without falling headlong into overkill.

The film itself has a fascinating out of time design to it. It feels like it could be the 1940s, except there are plenty of deliberate anachronisms to lend an almost disorienting feel to the movie. There is a scene with a cellphone (usually the bane of my cinematic existence) that is very carefully done to make it look as if the cellphone was made in an era in which cellphones hadn't been invented. It is probably something that you will either love or hate as it as it is a device to keep the audience off-balance. There is a part of your brain that will nag you that things aren't right, which is the point. Things aren't right, they are very, very not right.

I have never been much of a fan of Thomas Jane. I thought he was horribly miscast in THE PUNISHER (2004), which had the added burden of being a horrible adaptation. I thought he was fine in THE MIST (2007), but this film made me change my entire outlook on the man. Sure it is a flawed film; due to it being a niche film, it was a very low budget and only had a 25 day shooting schedule, as opposed to the average 60 day shoot of a Hollywood film. Then again, it is about three times longer than Jim Wynorski takes to shoot a BARE WENCH sequel, which should give you an idea of how important time is to filmmaking. Because of the short shooting schedule, there were some concessions made, and Jane himself is very open about the films flaws. I think he's harder on the film than I was, but he has talked about how wasn't able to devote more time to editing the film and has expressed disappointment that they had to resort to CGI for a car stunt.

When you see the car stunt in question out of context, you might think that Jane's heart wasn't in the right place. However there are many outstanding elements in the film that erase that cynical notion. The opening craneshot (done in one take, no cuts) of the '50s era hotel sign took them half of a day to shoot. That may not sound like much, but when you have a 90 minute movie to make with location shooting (enhanced by CG), spending a half a day on one small shot digs pretty deep into your resources. For me, the shot is crucial and completely sucks you in, letting you know before a single actor shows up, before a single line of dialogue is uttered, exactly what kind of film you are about to experience. In addition, the film was shot in stereoscopic 3D. Jane made intricate notes while storyboarding on what style of 3D he wanted for each shot. Some sequences have enhanced depth, some have pop-out effects, some are a very subtle layering and some transition between the three. The effort taken to make the 3D work in the context of the movie is truly stunning in an age of cynical post-conversion.

Jane wanted a slightly shorter cut, trimming down some of these scenes that he felt went on a bit too long. He's right, it does need a little tightening up here and there. Unfortunately Sony Pictures stepped in and shut down post production right in the middle of it. Everyone seems to be tight-lipped on the specifics, but I think it's pretty obvious that it had to do with money and marketability. Sony halted the editing process and demanded a finished cut be handed in for review. After seeing the cut, only then was Jane allowed to go back to the cutting room and reassemble the film, almost from scratch, pushing back post production to the point where it interfered with the start of his next projects (presumably his cameo in 2010s SCOTT PILGRIM). Because of this, some of the editing and post was done while Jane was out of town and the film suffers a little from it. To add insult to injury, Sony decided that they were not going to release the film theatrically and instead dumped it on DVD with absolutely no marketing push whatsoever. Studio executives love to start production on something strange, but when faced with a strange movie they wet themselves in a panic and try to scrape it from the soles of their shoes, so that nobody can accuse them of stepping in it. As of this time, the only way to see it in 3D is via the French double disc release in blu-ray 3D and anaglyph DVD. The discs also include a making of featurette and audio commentary. Sometimes the French are pretty damn cool... sometimes.

The movie took a lot of flack from internet sites for being too obtuse (it is definitely a strange bird) and many viewers found it too confusing and too dark. Jane has stated that he made it for the kind of people that used to stay up late to catch "Twilight Zone" or "Outer Limits" as kids. While this has been used as a negative, to me it's a positive because I was one of those kids. It successfully captures that feeling and adds a layer of pulpy darkness in the vein of POINT BLANK (1967), except without the psychedelia. Jane even admits he told the composer to take his cues, so to speak, from composers such as Bernard Herrmann.

Unfortunately it's also one of those films were you can stumble across a spoiler on the internet completely by accident (thank you IMDb) and it's not too difficult to figure out what is going to happen if you were one of those "Twilight Zone" kids. Again, it is a flawed film, but a very detailed and compelling one.

Jane's return to the director's chair was to be with a film titled WET HOUSE, about an in-patient clinic in which hopeless addicts go to live out their final days. The clinic's doctor begins to suspect that the place is haunted, or could it be that he is losing his mind? Based on THE SIGNALMAN by Charles Dickens (not to be confused with Charles Dikkens the well known Dutch author), what sounded like a pretty amazing film has gone MIA for the past year. The reason for that as it turns out is the producers decided to divorce Jane from the project wholesale and cast a female lead and a new director. After viewing DARK COUNTRY, I think it's pretty obvious that the producers got cold feet and thought a safer (ie dumber) more by the numbers film would make them more money. It's really a shame as the premise sounds fantastic, it has a literary source and Jane is clearly a director who doesn't feel the need to set the bar at an 8th grade comprehension level. Something of a rarity these days.

It is now being reported that Jane's new film is Glenn Ford western homage A MAGNIFICENT DEATH FROM A SHATTERED HAND which stars Jane and Nick Nolte. Jane has stated that he wanted to do it in 3D, but it was so difficult to get the backing on a western in the first place, that getting a 3D western greenlit was impossible. It's a damn shame that Hollywood has insisted on crushing the 3D format through abject apathy and outright laziness, as a gritty western shot wide in 3D would have been amazing. Even so, I am really interested in seeing how he follows up DARK COUNTRY.

Monday, March 24, 2014

No Reservations: THE GHOST DANCE (1980)

Maybe it is because I was growing up during that time period, but it seems like 1970s America was obsessed with Native Americans.  Perhaps it had something to do with the 1976 Centennial (“Happy birthday to us for the land we stole!”) or American Indian Movement?  Or maybe that littering commercial?  Nah, it was totally because of THE MANITOU (1978).  All jokes aside, Native Americans in non-savage roles seemed to figure prominently in the motion picture industry (and not just when Marlon Brando was attention whoring) in the ‘70s and early ‘80s and nowhere was this more apparent than in horror cinema as the mysticism of Native Americans proved to be fertile ground.

Perhaps it was Stephen King mentioning in his novel “The Shining” about how the cursed hotel was built on top of an ancient Indian burial ground, but soon medicine men of both the good and bad variety were filling up the screen with chanting in titles such as the aforementioned MANITOU, PROPHECY (1979), NIGHTWING (1979), WOLFEN (1981) and SCALPS (1983).  One of the most obscure entries in this subgenre is THE GHOST DANCE (1980), a regionally shot horror film that not only got in on this Native American craze but also jumped on the slasher train rather quickly.

The film opens with a group of anthropologists removing a coffin from a burial site in the desert.  This is obviously bad news.  How do we know?  Because an Indian guy is standing nearby with his arms crossed and shaking his head side to side.  That evening a man named Aranjo (Henry Bal) sneaks onto the site and digs up a pot containing a satchel. We also know this is bad news because when a security guard comes out to check on things, he is bitten by a rattle snake and then impales himself on a piece of metal.  Aranjo returns home only to get his wife nagging at him.  That doesn’t bother him as he has discovered “the source…the power” as he tells her. Soon he is conducting a ceremony and is possessed by the spirit of Nahalla (also played by Bal).  That is bad news for the wife as she gets her throat cut by him.  It is also bad news for a family friend who shows up the next day as Nahalla sicks the family dog on her (or maybe he turned into this dog, we’re not quite sure).  Damn, that is a lot of bad news for the first ten minutes of a film.

Back at the University, we met Dr. Kay Foster (Julie Amato, looking a lot like Judith Light from WHO’S THE BOSS), who was responsible for the unearthing of the burial ground and keeping this Indian mummy under wraps (ah, boo yourself!). She teaches a class about “The Ghost Dance,” an ancient Indian religion created by Wovoka.  Remember this kids because it has nothing to do with the rest of the film.  Back at the site, some workers get into an accident straight out of THE OMEN (1976) as Nahalla causes their truck to back up and crush the legs of one of the workers (one worker is played by Don Shanks, who would go on to play Michael Myers in HALLOWEEN 5 [1989]).  Kay heads out to the site with her beau/Indian reservation liaison Tom Eagle (Victor Mohica). Okay, out of all the character names you’ve encountered so far, care to guess who is going to be the hero of the film?  At the site they encounter some grumpy tribal elders, who get in a dig at Tom by saying, “You of all people should understand.” Also attuned to this spiritual disturbance is local medicine man Ocacio (Frank Salsedo, the old Indian chief from CREEPSHOW 2 [1987]).  He sends a little girl he hangs out with (!?) to the University to get a piece of Nahalla’s corpse so he can dispose of him the old school way. They are a bit too late though as that evening Kay’s secretary and a local newspaper photographer (their relationship is set up earlier when the secretary says he is stopping by and said she was cute) are having sex in a stagecoach exhibit.  Have you no respect?  Our boy Nahalla shows up and dispatches of them both in graphic fashion – she is impaled on a spear and he is thrown through a glass display and then has a shard pushed through his stomach.  This causes Tom Eagle to wake up in a panic.  Now either he is spiritually plugged into what is going on, or that dude had the world’s loudest scream.

Oddly, Kay and her associate Paul (James Andronica) don’t seem too bothered by these two deaths.  To paraphrase ROBOCOP: “Too bad about the secretary, huh?” “That’s life in the big city.”  Of course, Kay has way more trouble on her hands.  Nahalla seems to be stalking her as she sees him popping up outside of houses and on the roadside.  She even goes to the cops to report him.  He also gets her attention by whispering “Melissa” throughout the exhibit hall, which is odd since her name is Kay.  This mystery is solved by the determined Paul, who uncovers that Nahalla was an Indian rebel who started his own dark religion in 1894 and, like any good renegade, kidnapped a white woman named Melissa and made her his wife; ten dollars to the first person who can shout out who is a dead ringer for Melissa.  As you can guess, Tom Eagle must soon deal with both Nahalla and the possessed Kay and this can only be solved in one way – sitting around a fire in a cave and chanting!

While not 100% successful, THE GHOST DANCE is certainly one of the better Native American themed horror films. There are a couple of dull stretches, but it is an interesting combination of ideas. What really interests me is how quickly these filmmakers got onto the slasher bandwagon.  Sure, HALLOWEEN (1978) had hit a few years earlier, but the gore factor in slasher films didn’t amp up until FRIDAY THE 13th (1980).  That they managed to get this out in the same year is pretty impressive.  Sure, the effects aren’t on the level of Savini, but the murders are surprisingly bloody.  Co-writer-director Peter F. Buffa also manages to have a few creepy scenes thanks to some Indian chants on the soundtrack. Interestingly, he was one and done with features when it came to this film.  It appears he moved into politics in California and became the Mayor of Costa Mesa (no doubt pandering to the GHOST DANCE demographic).  Shot mostly in Arizona, the film benefits from some great desert locations. The cinematography by Fred Murphy, who is still working today, is impressive, especially one serendipitous scene that has Nahalla on a mountain with a huge real storm lighting up the skies behind him.  Sadly, the film has only been released on VHS here in the States and the transfer is very dark during the nighttime scenes.  So if you are looking for a Native American horror flick for your next powwow, give THE GHOST DANCE a smoke in your peace pipe.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

The Gweilo Dojo: IRONHEART (1992)

As always I'm going to nail my colors to the mast straight off. Bob Clouse is the man. Even his minor work in the '70s and '80s is entertaining. Say what you want about GYMKATA (1985), it certainly hasn't slipped into obscurity. GOLDEN NEEDLES (1974) and FORCE: FIVE (1981) are never going to compete for popularity with ENTER THE DRAGON (1973), but they are still great fun. His post-apocalypse film THE ULTIMATE WARRIOR (1975) was without question the basis for MAD MAX 2: THE ROAD WARRIOR (1981). He contributed to the '70s killer canine subgenre of the nature-gone-amok subgenre with THE PACK (1977) which is one of the best examples of it's type. Sure there was GAME OF DEATH (1978), but look at what he had to work with. An unfinished film and no budget. Besides, I can't even begin to imagine how difficult it must have been to try to break into the film industry, much less become successful when you are completely deaf. Even so, GAME is not the low point of his career. IRONHEART is his last film and unfortunately it is without question his worst.

A rich businessman, Milverstead (Richard Norton) and his henchman Ice (Bolo Yeung), are operating a white slave ring by having hot girls picked up by pretty dudes in his club in order to kidnap them and shoot them up with smack. Why is he wasting his money injecting them with heroin when he keeps them locked up in the hold of a ship where they can't escape? Apparently, it for the same reason that Donald Trump digs firing people; just for the sadistic pleasure of it. A newly promoted cop, John (Britton K. Lee), is on the case looking for the missing girl. Not very hard mind you as he is the absolute worst detective in the history of motion pictures. How bad is he? Let me tell you.

One day while tooling around in his red Porsche he sees a female jogger being attacked by a group of pot smokin' trash. After watching her get torn apart and screaming for help for a while, he presumably realizes that this situation will not resolve itself peacefully and slowly walks down the hill to confront the thugs who even though armed, don't bother to actually shoot him and proceed to get their asses kicked one at at time. In another scene he and his new way-too-hot-for-him girlfriend (Karman Kruschke) are attacked by Milverstead's goons causing her car to be rendered inoperable. John decides that the car can't be left where it is because Milverstead would be able to trace the car back to her and, presumably, find out where she lives. He is a newly promoted cop so his solution is to have it towed away for being illegally parked. Just kidding. No, his solution is to pull out his sidearm, shoot a hole in the gas tank and then shoot the leaking gas causing the car to explode in a giant ball of flame and burn in the middle of the street. Makes perfect sense, aside from the fact that he just violated about 20 laws and ordinances.

The fight scenes are sadly few and far between and shockingly, none of them feature Norton. In Bolo's first of two fight scenes he makes a big display out of slowly taking off his jacket, slowly pulling out a headband, slowly tying the headband around his head, then punching the guy twice, backing off and shooting him with a submachine gun. Why even bother taking off your jacket for that? There are a few longer fight scenes at the end, sadly they suffer from a cropped image and heavy handed editing. Even worse there is clearly some graphic violence that has been cut to receive an R-rating. The tell-tale sign of foleyed sound effects for images that aren't on screen (such as the sound of blood squirting) indicate some heavy editing.

Actually the movie wouldn't be so bad if it had less padding and more fighting. Without the fighting we are left with Lee's acting and it is atrocious. The man has one expression for everything and it's usually reserved for something with a hook in it's mouth. This may be due to the fact that it appears that he his reading his lines phonetically off of cue cards. I guess there's a reason he never appeared in anything else. Even his haircut makes him look like a dork.

Unfortunately in his later years Clouse suffered from kidney disease and ultimately led to his death five years after this film was made. I can only assume that the debilitating effects of dialysis and medication made it difficult to direct a low-budget movie, to say the least. Sadly, it really shows with unimaginably long sequences of padding, including a five-minute long opening scene of people enthusiastically dancing in a club to a cheesy hip-hop song. The second unit director must have shot hours of this footage and it is used and abused to the point where it makes up probably a third of the film's running time. Add to that a staggering amount of footage of people walking, driving, shooting pool, exercising and sometimes, just to break up the monotony, there is some terrible, droning voice-over work to advance the whisp of a plot.

With such a fine legacy behind him, to have Bob Clouse go out on such a low note is a crying shame. Still, because it's a Bob Clouse movie, it must be watched. Now if only I could get my hands on THE LONDON CONNECTION (1979)...

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

The Gweilo Dojo: HONOR AND GLORY (1993)/ANGEL THE KICKBOXER (1993)

As we crawl toward our four year online anniversary (“What!?!” I can hear Tom say), it is still amazing the amount of favorite subjects that we haven’t touched upon.  Case in point: Cynthia Rothrock!  The first American queen of martial arts cinema is woefully underrepresented here at Video Junkie, but it certainly isn’t from lack of love.  Rothrock is like a hipster woman ass kicker – she was totally doing it before it was cool. The Delaware born actress began training in the martial arts in her early teens and, after relocating to California, she began participating in karate and weapons tournaments and ran a martial arts school.

Filmmaker/genius Leo Fong cast Rothrock in her first film with the San Francisco set 24 HOURS TO MIDNIGHT (1985).  However, it was the keen eye of a Golden Harvest suit that catapulted her to martial arts movie stardom as she headed to Hong Kong to perform alongside greats like Jackie Chan (R.I.P.), Sammo Hung, Yuen Biao, and Michelle Yeoh.  Working steadily overseas proved to be an asset to her career as it allowed Rothrock to really show off her skills.  A return stateside saw her hooking up with ENTER THE DRAGON (1973) helmer Robert Clouse for two CHINA O’BRIEN films, making her the only female martial arts star in the U.S. market at the time. Rothrock’s growing popularity saw her splitting her time between the United States and Asia, resulting in a rather disparate filmography in terms of quality.  Eventually these two cinematic worlds collided in the early ‘90s when she teamed up with veteran HK exploitation filmmaker Godfrey Ho on two movies (HONOR AND GLORY and UNDEFEATABLE) filmed in America.

HONOR AND GLORY opens with a slideshow about a nuclear missile and its trigger that have recently gone missing. Naturally, all of the military men in the board room (really a tiny office) are concerned and they have every reason to be as it appears evil billionaire Jason Slade (John Miller) is willing to purchase it for a hefty sum on the black market.  How evil is Slade?  He tells the board members at B.B.I.T. (Bank of Business and International Trade) that he is “chairman of the board for life” while fondling metal balls in his hand.  What, the producers couldn’t spring for a cat on his lap?  Integral to Slade’s impending downfall is news reporter Joyce Pride (Donna Jason), who is as swift with a kick as she is with a microphone.  Don’t believe me?  Check her out:

Man, the streets of D.C. are rough!  Now, I don’t want to sound hyperbolic, but when a film has lady kick a soda can onto another woman’s forehead in the first 10 minutes, I’m pretty sure it is going to be a classic.  After handling her kung fu business, Joyce heads to the airport to pick up her sister Tracy (Cynthia Rothrock), a Federal agent returning from doing overseas work in Hong Kong.  Joyce fills Tracy in on her Slade efforts (she apparently houses a full editing suite in her home) and the sore subject of their father comes up.  Seems Joyce is holding a grudge that daddy didn’t pay enough attention to her, resulting in two very different sisters.  Or, as Joyce so eloquently puts it, “you chase honor, I chase glory.”  Damn they should make a title out of that.

Later, Slade is heading out of his office building when he is ambushed by Joyce, who beats the crap out of all of his henchmen when they try to mess with her cameraman.  Well, she doesn’t beat down new hire Jake Armstrong (Chuck Jeffreys), who was fetching the limo. Armstrong is good.  So good in fact that his business card reads, “You couldn’t be safer in the hands of God.”  I don’t know about that, God has a pretty mean roundhouse kick.  Anyway, Joyce heads to her old kung fu school to catch up with her Sifu (Tai Yim, who also did the film’s action choreography) and abuse her wannabe suitor Mickey (Yip Yim Hing).  Okay, HONOR AND GLORY drinking game: take a shot every time someone says “sifu” in this scene (even if it sounds like they are saying “seafood”). Dude, you would get totally wasted.

Meanwhile, the filmmakers continue to reinforce how evil Slade is by having him talk about his reasons for enjoying tennis. “Winning’s the easy part, Jake,” he says to his bodyguard, “It’s toying with them that I enjoy. I like to draw them to the net and let them think they have a chance. Then I crush them on the baseline.”  Whoa, chill out, Patrick Bateman!  Outside the gym, a couple of hitmen try to get Slade but Jake takes them out with ease.  I assume they were hitmen…or guys who really don’t like people who ruin the ethics of tennis.  Either way, Slade hires Hideo (Richard Yuen) to kill the two board members he thinks set him up.  After all, they nodded toward each other knowingly when Slade gave his “for life” speech earlier.

Wait, wasn’t there something about a missing nuclear trigger going on here?  Oh yeah. Slade is contacted by a white pimp who goes by the name of Silk (Gerald Klein), who is brokering the deal for the device.  Our hustler actually says his deals always run “smooth as silk.”  After making the arrangements, Silk calls another contact in John (Leo Rocca), who just happens to be…insert suspenseful music build here…the father of Joyce and Tracy!  And guess what case Tracy just happens to be investigating here in the States?  Yep, that’s right she is tracking the disappearance of a certain nuclear device. My God and you thought your family had drama?  Joining Tracy on her investigation is Dragon Lee (Robin Shou), her old partner from Hong Kong.  The filmmakers really establish his character well by showing him just jump into Tracy’s car during a stakeout and having her say, “I thought you were in Hong Kong.”  Slade is oblivious to all this heat though as he is planning to get the device for $5 million and sell it to a Saudi prince for $3 billion. Now far be it for me to interfere in high stakes illegal weapons sales negotiations, but I’m pretty sure that dude is overpaying on the resale.  Jesus, what a mark up!  What is this AMERICAN NUCLEAR PICKERS?  Not so oblivious during all of this is Armstrong, who is not only beginning to suspect his boss might be crooked, but is also starting to fancy Joyce (by breaking into her home and asking her where she learned her kung fu). Naturally, it all comes to a head in the designated location for modern martial arts flicks – a warehouse!

Fans of crazed Hong Kong action and bizarre plotting will no doubt get a kick out of HONOR AND GLORY.  While Cynthia Rothrock is top billed, it is probably Donna Jason who is the star here.  Not that I mind as Jason has the same combination of attractiveness and martial arts talent that Rothrock has. Well, she doesn’t pull off that crazy backwards scorpion head kick that Rothrock always does, but I was pleasantly surprised by her skill.  It is a shame that not much is known about her and that she didn’t do more.  John Miller is also pretty accomplished skill wise as the villain of the film and his bulging eyes performance is just what the doctor ordered for a film like this (“I am like a God! I piss on you from a great height,” he tells Silk at one point). Rothrock, Jason, Hall and director Ho would also make UNDEFEATABLE around the same time, resulting in one of the internet’s favorite kung fu fights.

Also impressive in his role is Chuck Jeffreys.  A Washington, D.C. native, Jeffreys also got his onscreen start across the country in San Francisco in a series of films for Leo Fong and George Chung.  One of the things that will immediately hit viewers is how much Jeffreys looks like ‘80s Eddie Murphy. Not only does he look like him, but he sounds just like him too (listen for the bit where he tells Slade to “kiss my ass” and tell me it doesn’t sound just like Murphy).  The resemblance is so uncanny that I wondered how he didn’t become Murphy’s stunt double, but then I saw on his filmography that he did double Murphy in BOOMERRANG (1992).  On the upside, Jeffreys is a much better martial artist than Murphy and gets plenty of opportunities in this film to show off his moves.

With so many ass kickers, Robin Shou, future star of MORTAL KOMBAT, seems almost like an afterthought here.  It is like he walked onto the set unannounced and asked, “You need anybody?”  He only gets two fights, but they are both well done.

Now if you know the name Godfrey Ho (working under the oh-so-subtle pseudonym of Godfrey Hall here), then you know the kind of insanity the man can deliver.  Frankly, Ho is a cinematic slut (see what I did there?) and this has led to a whacked out career of over 100 movies that are literally all over the map.  Rather than one of those slapped together ninja edits that still give Richard Harrsion night terrors, HONOR AND GLORY is a legit film with Ho obviously working with a bigger budget than usual.  Of course, that doesn’t stop any of the goofy Ho-isms like an establishing shot of the United States Congress with a Washington, D.C. tag on it or Joyce driving up to her old kung fu school to find people just randomly in a Chinese dragon costume in the parking lot.  We get it, they are Chinese!  Believe it or not though, Ho was up to his usual behavior and actually offered up two edits of this film with the alternate version ANGEL THE KICKBOXER featuring a returning Robin Shou and Yukari Oshima as cops. “We make two-for-one,” I can hear Ho squeal in a voice that can only sound like James Hong in BIG TROUBLE IN LITTLE CHINA (1986). Of course, only a sucker could get fooled by that.  Wait, Video Junkie head honcho Tom got hoodwinked by this?  I mean, hey, it can happen to anyone.  Damn, that is one tricky Ho.

ANGEL THE KICKBOXER is actually a totally bizarre experience to watch after HONOR AND GLORY because it does adhere to the storyline presented in the US shot footage and incorporates several of the same actors.  This version actually opens with cop Dragon Lee (Robin Shou again) being told by his superiors to look out for hitman Hideo (Richard Yuen again), who is called Suzuki for some reason in the subtitles.  We actually have a small scene where Rothrock’s character meets up with Lee in the office (apparently breaking into a spar session is welcomed) and she tells him she is heading back to the U.S. on a top secret mission (the plot of HONOR AND GLORY).  Lee and his girlfriend (Yukari Oshima) head out looking for Hideo/Suzuki and, in a rather humorous continuity error, flash a picture of him to guys.  Why is this funny? The picture is a B&W copy of a still from the final showdown from HONOR AND GLORY. I love it.  Anyway, Hideo/Suzuki is in Hong Kong to take care of some crooked bankers led by Li (Waise Lee).  Seems he didn’t deposit all of Jason Slade’s $100 million into a Swiss account and the bank has now been seized by the Hong Kong government.  Naturally, this allows for lots of fights (including two fights set to stolen music from GREMLINS) before Lee tells his girl he has to head to the United States to continue his work.  Oshima does the typical grumpy girlfriend routine seen in nearly all Hong Kong flick.  When Lee asks her what is wrong, she says she is afraid he will catch AIDS.  Okkkkkay.

Believe it or not, a person online actually edited these two alternate versions together to create one super long version. Yes, a two hour plus Godfrey Ho film! What more could you ask for?  Well, besides sanity. Amazingly, this version also includes U.S. shot scenes that were not included on the Imperial VHS that I have.  One scene has Slade sitting down with his concerned father for some whiskey as they calmly talk about their business.  What?  The egomaniac Slade has parents?  Even better is Slade saying, “When this thing blows over, the publicity is going to be great for the bank.”  LOL.  Also, there is a scene where Silk, the whitest pimp on Earth, is in a car getting money from one of his charges.  “Don't get smart with me, bitch” he says when she tells him that the girls aren’t making money. Pimpin’ ain’t easy, indeed.  There is also a new U.S. filmed scene between Rothrock and Shou towards the end that came from the Asian version.  Once the case is wrapped up, he tells her that he is heading back to Hong Kong to wrap up the case on that end.  Of course, their scene starts with one of them sneaking up on the other and them jumping into a sparring session. Jeez, get a room already, you two!

Note: Tai Seng released the ANGEL THE KICKBOXER version on VHS and DVD in the U.S. To make matters even more confusing, they later released an earlier Yukari Oshima film under the new title ANGEL OF KICKBOXER.  (As Jack Burton would say, “I don’t even know what the hell that means!”)  With such similar titles, the internet believes they are the same film.  They are not.  Thanks to some detective work by John Charles, we can now say that ANGEL OF KICKBOXER is A PUNCH TO REVENGE (1989).  Confused?  I hope so.