Thursday, October 28, 2010
Netflix has really stepped up the amount of interesting content they have available on Watch Instantly. During this Halloween season, here are a few horror films you may enjoy(all entries are linked to Netflix):
Amityville II: The Possession(1982; Damiano Damiani)
The Astro Zombies(1969; Ted V. Mikels)
Audrey Rose(1977; Robert Wise)
The Beast Within(1982; Philippe Mora)
Beware Children At Play(1989; Mik Cribben)
Black Sabbath(1963; Mario Bava)
Blood Bath(1966; Jack Hill/Stephanie Rothman)
Body Snatchers(1993; Abel Ferrara)
The Burning(1981; Tony Maylam)
The Burrowers(2008; J.T. Petty)
Cat's Eye(1985; Lewis Teague)
Child's Play(1988; Tom Holland)
Christine(1983; John Carpenter)
The Church(1989; Michele Soavi)
City of the Living Dead(1980; Lucio Fulci)
Crawlspace(1986; David Schmoeller)
The Crazies(1973; George Romero)
Creature(1984; William Malone)
Creepshow(1982; George Romero)
Dolls(1987; Stuart Gordon)
Dracula A.D. 1972(1972; Alan Gibson)
Dr. Terror's House of Horrors(1965; Freddie Francis)
Edge of Sanity(1989; Gerard Kikoine)
Empire of the Ants(1977; Bert I. Gordon)
The Food of the Gods(1976; Bert I. Gordon)
From Beyond(1986; Stuart Gordon)
Girly(1970; Freddie Francis)
The Gore Gore Girls(1972; Herschell Gordon Lewis)
Graduation Day(1981; Herb Freed)
Grave of the Vampire(1974; John Hayes)
The Hills Have Eyes 2(1985; Wes Craven)
Horror of Dracula(1958; Terence Fisher)
The Horror Show(1989; James Isaac)
The House of the Devil(2009; Ti West)
The Incredible Melting Man(1977; William Sachs)
Isolation(2005; Billy O'Brien)
It! The Terror From Beyond Space(1958; Edward L. Cahn)
Jaws of Satan(1981; Bob Claver)
Lake Mungo(2008; Joel Anderson)
Land of the Minotaur(1976; Kostas Karagiannis)
Lisa(1990; Gary Sherman)
Let Sleeping Corpses Lie(1974; Jorge Grau)
Masque of the Red Death(1964; Roger Corman)
Mega Piranha(2010; Eric Forsberg)
Monsturd(2003; Rick Popko/Dan West)
Monster Dog(1985; Claudio Fragasso)
Mothers Day(1980; Charles Kaufman)
The New York Ripper(1982; Lucio Fulci)
New Year's Evil(1980; Emmett Alston)
Nightbeast(1982; Don Dohler)
Open House(1987; Jag Mundhra)
Opera(1987; Dario Argento)
Peeping Tom(1960; Michael Powell)
Planet of the Vampires(1965; Mario Bava)
Popcorn(1991; Mark Herrier)
The Prowler(1981; Joseph Zito)
Re-cycle (2006; Oxide Pang Chun/Danny Pang)
Return In Red(2005; Tyler Tharpe)
Rumpelstilskin(1995; Mark Jones)
Santa's Slay(2005; David Steinman)
Scarecrows(1988; William Wesley)
Seed(2007; Uwe Boll)
The Sentinel(1977; Michael Winner)
Shark Attack(1999; Bob Misiorowski)
Shock(1977; Mario Bava)
Shockwaves(1977; Ken Wiederhorn)
Silent Scream(1980; Denny Harris)
Spellbinder(1988; Janet Greek)
The Stendhal Syndrome(1995; Dario Argento)
Suspiria(1977; Dario Argento)
Stuck(2007; Stuart Gordon)
Superbeast(1972; George Schenck)
Survival of the Dead(2009; George Romero)
Tales From The Hood(1995; Rusty Cundieff)
Tales That Witness Madness(1973; Freddie Francis)
Tentacles(1977; Ovidio G. Assonitis)
Theater of Blood(1973;Douglas Hickox)
Thirst(1979; Rod Hardy)
The Toolbox Murders(1978; Dennis Donnelly)
Troll 2(1990; Claudio Fragasso)
Two Evil Eyes(1990; Dario Argento/George Romero)
The Video Dead(1987; Robert Scott)
And a few of my personal favorites:
Them!(1954; Gordon Douglas)
Don't Look Now(1973; Nicolas Roeg)
Wednesday, October 27, 2010
How We Are All Responsible For Our Cultural Diversity, or, How Freakin' Hard Is It To Get Your Bums In A Theatre's Seat
Hey there friends and cinephiles,
Today I’d like to exchange on a very important subject with you, one directly related to Evokative’s very existence: Let’s talk about your interest in International films. It’s a bit of a long read, but I promise I get to a point.
For a long time, mostly when I was lining up for films at Fantasia and later on when I became part of the staff, I kept hearing the film fans complain about the lack of decent releases for International films, dissing the Bad Big Distributors who didn’t give the proper love to the titles they did pick-up and deploring all the great films that had been left on the side of the road after festival acclaim, because they had been deemed “Not Commercial Enough” by the Bad Big Distributors. I totally agreed on the discourse.
I thought, “Hey, isn’t there a market right here, film fans who are passionate about the art and want to see someone go out there and nurture these films? Wouldn’t they be happy about that and support that company that would go against the mentality of the Bad Big Distributors to be a Nice Small Distributor?”. Then I started out in the business and more seasoned folks would tell me how “co urageous” I was to venture out in this type of film, and I would always reply with confidence that I knew that the audience was out there, it just never had been properly listened to.
So I went out and I started picking out films I thought were lacking in our cinematic landscape. I tried out many different countries and genres to see what would stick with you most. I cuddled the films for months, gave them festival plays to make sure it would start getting word of mouth as early as it could. When the theatrical release came around we would get (mostly) amazing reviews, stars abound, the texts stating these were one of the better film to see these days in the theatre. We would do all the bugging we could do on Facebook and via email to plead with you to please go see the film on the first week-end. I would bite my nails all of that week-end waiting for the box-office numbers on Monday morning. And then it would come, disappointingly low, with the news that the theatre would be cutting the film at the end of the week. There aren’t enough screens around and they can’t afford to keep an underperforming film in the hopes that the word-of-mouth will pick up. We would maybe get lucky and get a second week. Never a third.
Then I’d think that all is not lost, because at least all those publicity efforts would help the DVD release later on. We’d work for weeks to hunt down extra features, create the subtitles and design a collection-worthy digipack. All these things are much more expensive than a regular black-box releas e but I thought that it was worth it, to give the film the nice release it deserves. Then we’d work on selling the films and I realized quickly that the buyers of most videoclubs and retail locations don’t really care much about cinema. They sell apples and oranges and I was offering the passion fruit that might end up rotting on the shelves for looking too different. It’s too much of a risky purchase for most of them. So I set up a webstore to go around that wholesale-buyers-barrier and sell the films directly to you, at even better prices than what you would find in stores. Alas, sales have been much lower than expected there as well.
What happens when you underperform in sales? You lose money. Acquiring and releasing films is an expensive affair, even when you are careful with the costs. I was very lucky because I was given access to a personnal investment fund that allowed me to start the company. I could ha ve bought a nice house, travelled around the world or pursued a higher education, but I decided to invest in my dream business. I was not planning on becoming rich, but I wasn’t planning on losing it all either. If I did, I could have just given it to a charity to better results in a worldly point of view. But I believed in the possibilities and throughout the last two years kept believing that if I wasn’t reaching the appropriate results, it had to be because I had not done my job well enough, I had not picked the right film yet or the company still had to be better known, and that things would work out better with the next film coming up.
A few days ago I went to a conference on distribution where one of the speakers talked about online marketing. He told us there are two way to look at our audience: its quantity, the number of people y ou “follow” you in the various medias; and the quality, the amount of people who will actually react to your news with an action, like commenting on a post or making a purchase. If the quantity is high and the quality is low, you have a problem because your audience is asleep at the wheel. And I confronted the truth I had been pushing aside for far too long: My company’s audience, you, are asleep at the wheel. I need to wake you up or the car’s gonna crash.
Here’s the sad truth: Most film fans are hypocrites. They like to complain about the sorry state of the International film industry, but when it comes to actually making the trip to the theatre in a timely fashion, or buying the DVD before it gets in the “15$ or less” bins at the store, they di sengage themselves. It’s easy to complain about the lack of diversity in the theatres and state that we are in an era of blockbuster-based cultural stupidity. It’s less easy to make the efforts to actually do what it takes to keep the cultural economy alive.
So let me ask you: how much is a wide availability of quality International films important to you? If it’s very important, make the efforts: Don’t download. Go to the theatre on the first week-end and help spread the word about the film. Buy the DVD for your collection and tell your friends to rent it. We are in a free market economy. Your dollars vote. You are responsible for your cultural diversity. The same goes with the state of our wider economic, environmental and political issues. Nothing gets better if we don’t each make our own little effort. If it’s not so important to you in the end, then keep things as they are. I’ll end up closing my business as will many other independent distributors. We’ll find other things to do, don’t worry about us. But don’t ever, ever again complain about the poor offerings of the market, because you were partly responsible for its thinning.
I realize that most of those who will read this actually are the one who have been awake, listening and giving us your support. To those of you, thank you so very much. To the other ones, I ask you to please wake up now.
If this note st rikes a chord with you, you may share it with your network of cinephiles friends or even post it on your blog. Spread the word around. Comment on this note and let me know how right or wrong I am. Get in the discussion. I started this company for you, so I’d like to know who you are.
If you want to contribute to Evokative's survival, there are many things you can do:
Go see DOWN TERRACE and DELIVER US FROM EVIL when they come to your city. If a release is not planned in your area, ask your local theatre to book the films.
Rent our films at your local videoclub and if they are not available, ask the manager to buy them.
Head ov er to our webstore and help us get rid of our inventory by actually owning one or a few of our titles. I promise you’ll have a good time with every one of them and they’ll look good in your library! I’ll even give you an extra 10% discount to be applied above our already existing discounts, just for reading this far (WAKEUP10).
Monday, October 25, 2010
The 1990 post-apocalyptic film Aftershock would appear to have an embarrassment of b-movie riches. Where else can you find two kickboxing heroes, a one-armed Chris Mitchum, and Michael Berryman in leather, eyeshadow, and hot-red lipstick? Unfortunately, Aftershock is an example of what happens when there are too many ingredients in the cinematic stew for any cohesive flavor to form.
Shit has gone bad on planet Earth. While there are no mutant viruses or radioactive clouds to confirm this, we know we’re in the aftermath of a seismic shift in civilized living. The buildings are dilapidated and people live in communal enclaves. It’s overcast all the time, like London or Lima. There are really only two remaining classes: those scrounging for a dignified living, and the military fascists who shoot them.
Leading the charge for Team Dickwad is Quinn, a security force commander played by John Saxon. He runs a tight ship, regularly dispatching his second-in-command Mr. James (Lew) to apprehend (kill) suspected rebels. Batting cleanup in the order is Brandt (DeRose), a ponytailed mercenary for hire who brandishes a six-shooter somehow capable of getting off 10 rounds without being reloaded. Their latest haul includes a comely blonde (Kaitan) dressed like an elementary school-teacher who materializes in a hazy glow in the middle of the slums. They dub her “Sabina,” which I believe means “we couldn’t afford Darryl Hannah” in Latin. While her inability to communicate suggests she’s mentally challenged, her strange clothing and lack of forearm barcode makes her very suspicious to the authorities. In this future, all civilians are branded for easy identification.
So what does the citizenry do to cut loose besides dodge bullets? Most folks in search of a good time gather at Franklin’s Bar. The clientele is a mix of losers, loners, and punks, but Hank Franklin (Tamblyn) keeps the moonshine flowing. Among the regulars are Cassidy, a muscular hulk played by Matthias Hues, and his friend Queen, a biker adorned in a wig and lipstick. While Michael Berryman is a unique actor with an already creepy look, the image of him in drag is something that may extinguish the lust in your heart at very inopportune times. (If you’re reading this, Jill: I’m sorry about last night -- I swear that’s never happened before).
Thankfully, there are a few beacons of goodness flickering in the darkness. The central hero of the film is Willie (Roberts Jr.), a dirtbike enthusiast with karate skills nearly as impressive as his feathered hair. Even better is his braided rat-tail, which is either glued to his shoulder or hairsprayed into paralysis. I’m not sure if this was in Roberts’ contract, but the tail is always front-facing and highly visible.
Willie is also a connoisseur of fine women, and puts the moves on a lady handing out fliers for the anti-security revolutionaries. After some resistance, he mentions that “if you ever decide to be the mother of my children, look me up.” Now, you can give Willie points for his sentiments on settling down and propagating the species in such a dreary sociopolitical climate. But that’s the worst fucking pick-up line ever. No sober girl in a bar wants to hear you talking about getting her pregnant, especially when she’s handing out fliers for the rebel uprising.
Included in the resistance forces is Danny, played by actor and stuntman Chuck Jeffreys. In a security sweep of the bar apparently targeting sweaty dudes in vests, he and Willie are brought to Quinn’s detainment center. The latter is brought directly to Quinn’s inner office for a violent interrogation. It’s during these and other confrontations with the rebels that Saxon really shines; he doesn’t stand for back-talk and is happy to assert his authority with a pair of brass knuckles. Shortly thereafter, Willie and Danny manage to escape the facility with Sabina tagging along.
Her escape is of greater consequence than Quinn first realizes. His superior, played by Richard Lynch, shows up to deliver the news that Sabina is a high-risk detainee with an I.Q. twice that of any previously recorded and that her clothing is unlike any material known to man. Shocking news, to be sure, but not nearly as jarring as Lynch sporting a pair of late-80s Oakleys and stroking a terrified puppy for no particular reason.
The trio of escaped detainees hook up with Danny’s crew, led by veteran Col. Slater, played by Christopher Mitchum. It’s around this point in the film where things grind to a halt; nearly 25 minutes worth of people sitting around talking about hacked computer files, democracy, and other undercooked ideas. There are movies that can afford to move away from action set pieces in order to develop the characters and plot, but Aftershock is not one of those films. There are simply too many characters to emphasize any one (or two) for a meaningful period of time. The result is an incoherent mess; characters vanish and then reappear without explanation and we never really get a grasp for which supporting characters are important or why. Sabina reveals to the group that she’s an alien researching Earth, but you get the feeling that there was a better film hiding in here if only Harris had cut away this type of convoluted fat.
There’s a solid climax involving a few hilarious dummy falls as well as two decent fight sequences between Roberts and James Lew and then Roberts and Chris DeRose. Unfortunately, this comes a bit too late to compensate for the big sag in the middle of the film. The cheesy-good end only underscores how scattershot the film is overall, and while there are definitely glimpses of a really fun action b-movie here, it just doesn’t come together the way it should have.
Make or Break: There’s an atrocious scene with Willie and Sabina hitching a ride with Hank Franklin where they all break into a sing-along with Jay Roberts Jr. jamming on the harmonica. This was a huge misstep in tone and felt incredibly forced. Awful to watch. Definite break for me.
MVT: Had he been given more screen-time, I might have been tempted to go with Chuck Jeffreys as a sleeper pick. But of all the performers, John Saxon is way above the rest in terms of skill and delivery. He turns in a pretty dickish performance, which is precisely what you need from your villain.
Sunday, October 24, 2010
Saturday, October 23, 2010
Thursday, October 21, 2010
Tuesday, October 19, 2010
THE HIRED HAND is an artsy and unconventional American Western that's more or less about the bond of friendship. Harry (Fonda) and Arch (Warren Oates) are best friends who have been travelling together for seven years. During that time, Harry has abandoned his wife Hannah (Verna Bloom) for reasons that aren't exactly explained. The movie begins with the two friends and another acquaintance riding out to California for the sole purpose of seeing the ocean for the first time. Along the way, they have a run-in with certain characters in a very small town out in the middle of nowhere thanks to their much younger acquaintance who decides to get a little too friendly with a married woman. At some point, Harry decides that he wants to go back home and make things right with his wife and estranged daughter. Initially surprised by his abrupt decision, Arch, out of respect, escorts Harry back home and puts his journey to the west coast on hold.
What follows is basically Harry attempting to fix his strained relationship with his family. Hannah understandably wants nothing to do with him and his young daughter doesn't even know who he is, so Harry and Arch take up jobs as hired hands on Hannah's farm for the time being. Warren Oates, as Arch, acts as a voice of reason and a mediator between the two, with hopes that they can become a family again and he can finally be on his way. Things take a turn when the characters who they had a run-in with earlier come back into the picture. Arch finds himself in danger and Harry is forced to make a choice between friendship and family - if he tries to save his best friend, there's a good chance he may never see his family again.
THE HIRED HAND is a pretty simple movie. Actually, it's a bit slow for the most part. Not a whole lot going on. Like I said, it's very artsy for a Western and comparable to David Lynch trying to direct a straightforward Western. There are some very, very subtle EL TOPO-ish moments as well, not in terms of violence or being allegorical, but in terms of style and look (especially the scenes in which Oates and Fonda are out on the sand dunes, pictured below). That being said, this film has some amazing cinematography, and to go along with the beautiful visuals of the film, we have a gorgeous bluegrass-y score consisting of acoustic slide guitar, banjo, fiddle, and light piano. The story itself is interesting enough, but it's the visuals, score, and the great performances from Oates, Fonda, and Bloom are what really drive the movie.
Make or Break: Despite the fact that, as a whole, there's not a lot going on in the movie, there are still a lot of really good "moments" scattered throughout. It was hard to pick a "make or break" scene, but I'm going with the scene in which Fonda and Oates are burying their younger acquaintance and traveling partner who I mentioned earlier. The character's demise happens early in the film, so I'm not spoiling anything for anyone. Anyway, as Fonda and Oates are laying him to rest, the scene goes dark in a very theatrical manner and Oates says a prayer while the film's amazing score plays in the background. It's a simple but very moving scene that set really set the tone for the rest of the film.
MVT: Fonda does a great job, and of course both the music and cinematography are well-deserving of being the most valuable thing in the movie, but I have to give it to the late, great Warren Oates for his amazing performance. Just watch the movie and you'll see why.
A slow, but highly recommended film nonetheless. If you like the unconventional approach of Westerns, like Fulci's FOUR OF THE APOCALYPSE or Corbucci's GREAT SILENCE for example, THE HIRED HAND is worth checking out. Of course it's not nearly as violent as those two films, but its similarities lie in its tone, style, and how outside of the box it is. Now that I think about it, calling this a "Western" is a bit unfair. It's more of a Drama that just so happens to take place in a Western setting. On a side note, I'd actually recommend this as a fun double-feature with another Fonda/Oates collaboration, RACE WITH THE DEVIL.
Sunday, October 17, 2010
Wednesday, October 13, 2010
There are so many questions that could be asked of this photo:
What did they talk about?
Was there, at any point in time, any snake eating going on by either of them?
Who impregnated the most girls during the 10 seconds that it took to take this picture?
Are either of them wearing flip flops?
Where did Lorenzo park his bike?
How many times did Claude 'casually' do the splits for onlookers?
Was there a dance off at some point?
These are all burning questions for sure, but the one that is most important, I believe, is how exactly does the planet survive a meeting of this magnitude without imploding, leaving only Jean and Lorenzo to roam the earth with no one left but each other? The answer lies within Claude Van's undervears, and forever will it stay there. I'd personally like to think it has something to do with the new season of Lawman on the horizon, but what do I know?
Tuesday, October 12, 2010
Directed by: Robert Altman.
Starring: Elliot Gould, Sterling Hayden, Mark Rydell.
“Well that's you, Marlowe. You'll never learn, you're a born loser.”
The Long Goodbye is Robert Altman’s majestic update/ smart arse deconstruction of Raymond Chandler’s second to last detective novel featuring Philip Marlowe. Released in 1973, it shapes Chandler’s hard boiled mystery into the then current times, Ronald Reagan is California’s governor, hippies practise nude yoga and somewhere in an L.A. hotel Led Zeppelin are putting bits of fish into groupies.
The story is pretty basic, Philip Marlowe receives a late night visit from a friend Terry Lennox, who wants a lift to the Mexican border under the pretext that he has hit his wife and needs to flee. Marlowe obliges but is lifted by the police upon his return and discovers that Mrs Lennox is in fact dead by murder and his pal Terry is in the frame. Marlowe tells the cops nothing, later released when the police discover that Lennox is dead by suicide in Mexico. Or is he? Marlowe takes on a case for the wife of a missing alcoholic writer, a mobster comes out of the wood work looking for money Lennox stole and Marlowe finds himself up to his neck in trouble.
A little gem of 1970s crime movies, The Long Goodbye takes on the atmosphere of something like Chinatown but staples on a more subdued and natural tone. There are the genre conventions of plot twists, shadowy professionals, crooked monsters and dumb police but Altman steers the film with a sardonic hand, guiding the film into different waters than say Gene Hackman’s Night Moves from the same period.
The real crux of the film is Elliot Gould, primarily a comic but perfect for the smart mouthed hero of the film. Dressed in a crumpled suit with a cigarette constantly glued to his lips, Gould works the iconic P.I. figure as a man out of time, driving an old car and acting with sarcasm and bemusement at the 70s world around him. Constantly mumbling, sometimes as a mere voiceover, Gould feels like a narrator, or someone doing a dysfunctional dvd commentary at times and is nothing less than constantly witty, running an almost stream of consciousness dialogue about everything and anything.
Alienated, with values that seem out of place in the seemingly corrupt glamour of Hollywood Marlowe seems adrift throughout, everyone in this film are not what they seem, many of the lead characters by the film's end are revealed not to have been the character conventions the audience would have expected them to be.
The only man who is as he appears, is the mobster Augustine played exceptionally well by Mark Rydell. In a weird way his character is less Godfather and more simmering, off kilter Takeshi Kitano yakuza soldier. If he isn’t scatting in gangster jive, he’s glassing women in a very shocking sequence or asking people to disrobe.
Another great performance is Sterling Hayden who plays the writer Roger Wade, a tour de force of yelling and alcoholic confusion. I am guessing his character was based on someone like Ernest Hemmingway but I can imagine some of Altman’s Hollywood peers of the time acting like this Looney tunes.
With its off kilter story and execution and Altman’s skill as both storyteller and film maker and with a great cast, especially Elliot Gould, The Long Goodbye is a stone cold classic of modern noir and 70s cinema. Watch out for Arnie in his underpants as one of Mark Rydell’s goons.
Most Valuable Thing: Elliot Gould. Without him the film would be so much less and probably just a standard mystery piece.
Make Or Break: The film is made as soon as Marlowe is lifted by the police, his reaction to their forceful queries is comedic gold. Altman’s strengthens it by using different shots from in the cell then the reactions of the other cops behind the one way mirror.
Score 8.5/10 An excellent film and Elliot Gould’s finest moment. For me it’s also Altman’s best genre piece, his western McCabe and Mrs. Miller leaves me cold but this movie for all its negative characters and double dealings leaves you with a smile on your face by the time Marlowe is walking into the unset playing the harmonica, doing a jig as he goes. The script is worthy of Tarantino too. Top stuff!
Monday, October 11, 2010
Sit back and enjoy as the Gents' discuss A Night in Heaven (1983) directed by John G. Avildsen (Rocky) and starring Lesley Ann Warren and Christopher Atkins.....we talked about other things as well and we had just a great time as always....
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Thursday, October 7, 2010
When we’re first introduced to our main character, Jim (Tom Bresnahan), he’s putting a lump of sodium in the school toilet and causing them to blow up. Jim, being a bright fellow (damn sarcasm not working in print), drops the packet of sodium in the trash while standing right next to the principal. This isn’t the first time that Jim has been caught causing trouble, and now the school, and his parents, want to send him to see Dr. Blakely (David Gale), a local psychologist who hosts an inspirational half hour TV program, Independent Thinking. When Jim resists the quack’s treatment, some kind of mind control, the high schooler begins to suspect something is up. Blakely and company have gotten their hands on an alien from space which looks like, you guessed it, a giant brain. Using the alien’s hallucinatory waves to control minds through the TV, Blakely plans for world domination. However, it all depends on if he can he contain the alien’s growing hunger for brainwaves and prevent Jim and his girlfriend Janet (Cynthia Preston) from stopping him.
Most Valuable Thing: The mix of old and new. The old classic films are great, and I love to watch them. I’m not one of those folks who can’t sit though something made before I was born. However, you know what would have really kicked them up a notch, boobs and blood, and that’s what The Brain adds to the formula.
Make or Break: For me, it was the crazy Cronenberg meets Asian porno scenes of grabby tentacles and the giant rubber brain itself. The brain is good for a few laughs (and more than a few D&D nerds will get a Beholder feel off it), but the tentacles aren't just silly. They actually seem pretty creepy, and they really help to keep the film from becoming entirely camp.
Score: 5.75/10.00 The Brain makes for an above average sci fi horror flick, but there are scads of films in the genre better than it. That being said, you could do a whole lot worse. The Brain brings enough cheesy laughs and retro thrills to make for a fun viewing experience and is definitely a great film for inviting your friends over and having a laugh.
Tuesday, October 5, 2010
In this episode we cover Killer of Sheep (1977) directed by Charles Burnett and Heavenly Bodies (1984) starring Cynthia Dale. Rupert joins us for the reviews and we had a great time having him on for some more movie geekery!!!
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Sunday, October 3, 2010
At various points in life, we’ve all had friends screw us over in some way. People who never returned borrowed copies of Excitebike (Wayne), others who pinched liberally from your stash (Steve), and varsity athletes who hooked up with your date the night of senior prom (fuck you, Tim). Despite transgressions like these, I’ve been fortunate that none of my friends tried to stab me to death and leave me in the middle of the ocean. Doug Russell, worthy protagonist in Cirio H. Santiago’s 1978 blaxploitation film Death Force (a.k.a. Fighting Mad) is not so lucky, however.
Three Vietnam War buddies are on their way back to the States after their combat service and have a large shipment of stolen gold to show for it. After selling off the loot to a shady buyer played by Santiago regular Vic Diaz, the three veterans are reveling in their new wealth aboard a boat to Manila. One partner, Morelli (Argenziano) has immediate designs on using the money to take over the Los Angeles underworld. He suggests to McGee (Penitentiary’s Leon Isaac Kennedy) that their partner, Russell, can’t be included in such plans since he’s a family man heading home to a wife and baby. But instead of giving Russell (Iglehart) his slice of the pie and letting him make a new life, they scheme to cut him out of the money right then and there. McGee distracts Russell as Morelli sneaks behind him and slices his throat and the two dump their former friend into the open sea.
Russell soon washes up on an island occupied by two Japanese soldiers marooned there since just after World War II. While the Japanese soldier has light comic streaks and is largely utilitarian -- catching and cooking fish, fetching drinking water -- the general is a samurai master prone to waxing nostalgic about Joe DiMaggio. They treat the burly American soldier’s wounds and are able to nurse him back to health. How he didn’t attract sharks or completely bleed out while drifting for hours in the ocean with multiple stab wounds is never touched upon, but Santiago could give a shit about our scientific logic. In time, the general trains Russell in the art of the samurai and transforms his clumsy sword swiping into slightly less-clumsy lethal force. His skill becomes so deadly, in fact, that he can slice coconuts clean in half as they are slowly lobbed to him.
Make or Break: Training scenes have the potential to really sink films, so the first beach scene between a recovered Russell and the Japanese general definitely made it for me. After the general describes the samurai code and his allegiance to his Emperor, Russell treats it all very lightly and makes wisecracks in response. Feeling disrespected, the general tosses the bigger and stronger Russell to the ground like a sack of potatoes to assert his authority. It sets the tone for the rest of the training scenes between master and pupil.
MVT: Carmen Argenziano as Morelli. As mentioned, Kennedy gives a really solid villain performance but I just thought Argenziano was operating at a different level. Morelli plants the seeds that set the story in motion and he projects authority in his interactions with cops, underlings, other criminals, and especially with McGee, his allegedly equal partner. While McGee does a lot of the sleazy asshole things that the audience requires to validate Russell’s revenge, you get the sense that Morelli is masterminding all of it.
Death Force is a solid 70s actioner that would please most fans of Filipino exploitation film and is a definite watch for anyone who digs the films of Cirio H. Santiago. While his filmography is short, James Iglehart also starred in Bamboo Gods and Iron Men and teamed up with Santiago previously for 1973’s Savage! It’s a bit of a shame he didn’t turn into a bigger star, but he’s in fine form here and definitely rates as one of the underrated heroes of 1970s action cinema.