I got together with some friends this weekend for one of our regular filmathons, which generally consist of the trashiest films we can find on VHS mixed with a few classier genre titles. This session was no different, squeezing 11 films into one weekend. I'll admit a few of the films weren't watched too closely and most of the dialogue in the trashiest efforts was overshadowed by us taking the piss throughout, so I've not always given a rating and I'm going to keep the reviews very brief. I've also added some trailers and clips for your amusement, so enjoy!
Director: Jett C. Espiritu
Writer: Bing P. Santos
Starring: Efren Reyes Jnr, Chona Castillo, George Estregan
I only caught the last half an hour of this, but from what I saw and from everyone else's reactions all I can say is 'what the hell?' It's an extremely confusing mess of a film with very little going for it. Its naffness knows no bounds, and the horrendous camerawork and editing caused much amusement, setting the trend for the rest of the weekend.
Director: Jackie Kong
Writer: Jackie Kong
Starring: Martin Landau, Bill Osco (AKA Rexx Coltrane), Jose Ferrer
A cheap monster movie featuring Martin Landau with a monster luckily kept in shadow for the most of the running time. In fact most of the film was kept in shadow (or it might have been the TV we were watching it on) and we couldn't always tell quite what was going on. It was pretty bad, but an improvement on Vengeance Squad, with a more coherent story and some enjoyable sequences, especially the monster showdown at the end, which was hardly Aliens, but provided a few laughs and cheers. There were some very random scenes though including a drunken Jose Ferrer seemingly ringing a phone sex line?!
Director: Isaac Florentine
Writers: Boaz Davidson, Michael Hurst, Zaki Rubenstein
Starring: Scott Adkins, Tsuyoshi Ihara, Mika Hijii, Todd Jensen
Our first quality film came in the shape of Ninja, a top-notch action movie which reminded me of the no-nonsense action films I used to love from the 80's and early 90's. Its story is nothing to write home about and the dialogue and acting is hardly award winning, but the action comes thick and fast, never lagging during its 90 minutes or so running time. The fight sequences are fantastic and show off the skills of Scott Adkins and Tsuyoshi Ihara to great effect. Their showdown at the end is especially impressive and luckily the action is shot and edited properly, showing that these actors really know their stuff and the violence isn't implied through over-zealous editing as with most Hollywood action films these days. It's not a perfect film, Adkins, although a great fighter, is a little dull as a lead actor (Ihara on the other hand makes a great villain), it's pretty cheesy at times and as mentioned before the plot is pretty thin. For martial arts and action fans though this is a film well worth waiting for - it's due a DVD release in March 2010 and I'd recommend it to anyone who enjoys a bit of the rough stuff.
Master Ninja (TV Series - one episode watched)
Series Creator: Michael Sloan
Starring: Lee Van Cleef, Timothy Van Patten, Sho Kosugi, George Lazenby
A cheesy TV series from the 80's cashing in on the kung-fu/ninja craze, Master Ninja (aka The Master) is daft, cheap and textbook, but I had fun with the episode we watched. Lee Van Cleef strolls around with a huge medallion and conveniently wears his full body ninja outfit whenever he's needed for an action scene (not that you can expect a man of his age to do his own stunts). George Lazenby seems to have forgotten that he only did one Bond film as he spends the whole episode in a tuxedo and drives an Aston Martin. The young lead Timothy Van Patten is a cookie cutter character who's as wooden as, well, a piece of wood, but it's all so silly I had a laugh watching it.
Director: Dorothy Ann Puzo
Writers: Dorothy Ann Puzo, Lisa M. Hansen, Moe Quigley, Michael Sonye
Starring: Brad Davis, Sharon Stone, Jonathan Banks, Adam Ant
An action revenge movie from the 80's, Cold Steel was one of the better cheesy 80's flicks that we watched at the weekend. It was a bit slow at times and was pretty by the numbers throughout, but it had a couple of things going for it. For one, some of the violence was surprisingly brutal, with an early killing and the finale standing out and actually eliciting some 'ooohs' from an audience that generally just laughed at everything. There's also a random car chase in the middle that although nonsensical, contains some really impressive stunts. All in all it was pretty forgettable, but worth seeing for the aforementioned scenes as well as the curiosity of watching a young Sharon Stone and Adam Ant (?!).
The Warrior and the Sorceress
Director: John C. Broderick
Writer: John C. Broderick
Starring: David Carradine, Luke Askew, Maria Socas, Anthony De Longis
Riding the wave of Conan's success, The Warrior and the Sorceress is an uber-trashy sword and sorcery flick that rips its plot from Yojimbo/A Fistful of Dollars. It's very, very silly, featuring a bizarre talking lizard, some very camp warriors and a woman with four breasts. Yes you read that right, not two, but four breasts. Clearly realising how bad the film was going to be, writer/director John C. Broderick threw in as much nudity as possible (all women in the film are naked at least 90% of the time, seriously) and the famous quadro-boobed lady to make this a memorably sleazy offering. David Carridine is clearly just there to earn an easy buck, and looks pretty rough through most of the film. The action is generally quite bad, although the swordfights were still quite enjoyable, and you can't expect much more from a film of its age and background. It's worth watching for a cheap laugh, but make sure you back it up with plenty of alcohol.
Director: Jesse V. Johnson
Writer: Jesse V. Johnson
Starring: Raymond J. Barry, Michael Weatherly, James Russo, Tom Berenger
After an overdose of cheese, we decided on a classier film to bring us back to Earth on Saturday. Charlie Valentine is a slickly produced low budget gangster film from British director Jesse V Johnson. It's a handsome looking film with some brutal and unflinchingly violent scenes that will satisfy action fans. For me though, after a strong opening 20 minutes I found that the film tailed off a bit into predictable gangster territory. The dialogue especially is lifted from a dozen other films and it didn't offer anything new to the genre. Also, although the lead actor Raymond J Barry delivers a solid performance I felt he was let down by a lot of the rest of the cast, especially Michael Weatherly who plays his son in the film. He's not terrible, but he's very forgettable and uninteresting, which could be more of a fault with the writing, but it's not a scene-stealing performance. That said, the finale is satisfying and as I mentioned before it's a good-looking film with some powerful action scenes, so I'd still recommend it.
Director: William Fruet
Writer: John Beaird
Starring: Henry Silva, Nicholas Campbell, Barbara Gordon, Gina Dick
From the DVD case, I was expecting Trapped to be another entry to our gradually building list of laughably naff 80's movies, but it was actually pretty good. It's quite generic at times and features some painfully dumb 'heroes', but overall it's a well made backwoods horror film that still holds up after 27 years. Henry Silva, usually known for small supporting roles, gives a disturbing and powerful performance as Henry, the self-appointed 'leader' of a small town hidden in the back roads of Baker County, USA (the original title of the film). A group of students witness him murder an outsider who has slept with his wife and Henry goes about trying to tie up the loose ends. The hicks in Trapped are given much more depth than is expected from a film of this type and they end up being much more interesting and well rounded than the group of students who do some of the most ridiculous things. Where most of the film seems to shy away from cliches, whatever the students do seems to have come from the 'Idiots Guide To What Not To Do In a Horror Film'. They have several opportunities to escape in the film and every time they go back to the town only to get caught or chased again. The infuriating 'good-guys' aside, this is an enjoyable horror gem that's worth a watch if you can track it down.
Director: Armand Mastroianni
Writers: John Sharkey & Brian Tobin
Starring: Joe Dallesandro, Vinny Argiro, Ray McCloskey
Right, back to the trash. Double Revenge is a forgettable, dull, revenge thriller. The bank robbery, ensuing hostage situation and chase at the start of the film are OK and gave us promise for the rest of it, but it all went wrong after that. It's a film that takes itself way too seriously and just gets quite boring. OK, so it didn't help that it was our 6th film of the day and we were getting tired, but there's very little action apart from the opening 15 minutes, a passable car chase in the middle and the predictable showdown at the end. I'd normally be fine with that if what was in between the action was good, but it really wasn't. It's got an incredibly heavy handed overuse of the American flag throughout, trying to make a 'bold statement' about the judicial system, but there's not enough substance here to back that up and I didn't buy the plot contrivances that attempted to do so. All in all it's a tedious and pretentious thriller that should stay in the VHS graveyard that it came from.
Black Cobra 3
Director: Edoardo Margheriti
Writer: ? (unavailable on IMDB)
Starring: Fred Williamson, Forry Smith, Debra Ward
To wake us up on Sunday we 'treated' ourselves to Black Cobra 3: The Manila Connection, a Fred Williamson vehicle from the early 90's that looks like it should be from the early 80's. Wow, this was pretty bad. The opening scene where a soldier breaks into a jungle compound is hilariously silly (check out the way he gets past an electric fence!) and our introduction to Williamson shooting up a supermarket is a laugh (check out the clip below), but most of the film is pretty slow and just plain bad rather than being so bad it's funny. There's lots of silliness of course and a few sub-A-Team action scenes, but not enough to sustain my attention. It's one of the longest 90 minutes I've spent watching a film.
Director: Sydney Pollack
Writers: Paul Schrader, Robert Towne & Leonard Schrader
Starring: Robert Mitchum, Ken Takakura, Brian Keith, Herb Edelman
Before I left to drive home I wanted to end on a high note so we thought we'd watch a more respectable film to round the weekend off, and we definitely made the right choice. I really should write a longer review for this, but writing up the whole weekend of films has been epic and I don't think I'd do it justice. All I can say is that I thought The Yakuza was brilliant. What really struck me was how respectable it was to Japanese culture coming from a largely American cast and crew. It was one of the only Hollywood films I've seen that tackled samurai and Yakuza subject matter and actually felt like a Japanese film (bar the language of course). It's slow paced, but well performed, beautifully shot and when called for, tremendously tense and exciting. The action scenes are short and sharp as they should be, with a drawn out climactic showdown that is absolutely stunning. Robert Mitchum and Ken Takakura are fantastic and their final scenes together are very powerful. It's an absolute classic that deserves a lot more recognition, standing tall amongst its talented crew's back catalogue of established classics.
(I wanted to include a trailer but I couldn't find one online, only some clips that ruin the film, so I decided not to include them)