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Chikan densha: Iyarashii kôi (1993)
Shades of Visitor Q...
This grainy, obscure pink film opens to a nightmarish sequence of a violent sexual encounter on a subway car. The scene goes on for just long enough to trick the viewer into expecting a sex flick with no story or point. The film shifts gears though, and focuses on the teenage boy who spends his days filming these bizarre subway sex happenings. He soon meets a girl his age, who is thrilled by the attention of the boy and his camera. We get to know this couple as two people who have been abandoned by their families, and because of this, they cling to each other and their intense, sometimes sad relationship is the focus of remainder of this short movie, which possesses a cold, industrial look very similar in style and tone as "Visitor Q," only not quite as nasty as that film. Originally called "Birthday," referring to the young girl of the story, who carries around a package of dynamite strapped around her waist, intending to light the fuse on her 20th birthday, and blow up herself, and her new boyfriend, in a suicide pact. Very intense and dreamlike movie, who's grainy look and oblique atmosphere work in it's favor. It's a true gem among the pinku eiga genre and is worth tracking down.
Il ragazzo dal kimono d'oro (1987)
The Two Versions
Most people have seen the International, English dubbed, non-restored version. That version is forgettable. But having seen the new bluray of "Karate Warrior," in it's original Italian, (it's intended language), with the beautifully restored, widescreen print, it's quite different. Apparently when North American distributors bought the rights to this movie, they decided American audiences could only be entertained by a comedy. Because of that, the English dubbing, aside from being completely rotten, is also completely inaccurate. They changed what the characters were originally saying, dumbing it down with stupid lines and lame comedy. Seen in the original, the characters sound like real people, You also get to see some great photography of the exotic city of Manila. As a Martial Arts movie this isn't much, as there are barely any actual fight scenes to speak of, and actor Kim Rossi Stuart was obviously hired for his extremely pretty looks, and not his fighting skills. (He is shirtless for 80% of the film.) However, as a picturesque travelog, and as a standard exotic action-adventure film, "Karate Warrior" turns out to be an enjoyable film. It also serves as an example of how different a movie can appear once it has been restored to it's original quality. Sometimes it makes a big difference..
Shen wei san meng long (1980)
Creepy & Surreal Exploitation
Most of the "Bruceploitation" titles are pretty awful, ("Challenge of the Tiger") while some are genuinely fun, eye popping entertainment, ("Bruce's Deadly Fingers"). Then there is something like THIS,a movie which is just so bizarre that it's hard to believe your eyes. 40 years ago the subject of cloning was pure fantasy, something only seen in movies. Today, with cloning being a reality, this film takes on a whole new meaning, and although it's silly in it's execution, the basic ideas behind it are weird and fascinating. A power-hungry scientist extracts some blood from a recently deceased Bruce Lee, and uses it to produce 3 clones of Lee, that he further dehumanizes by naming them simply 1, 2, and 3. The clones don't have much personality and that makes them creepy. They are trained to be killing machines, as their martial arts skills are honed and shaped to be as good as the Master Lee. Of course this doctor does not have good intentions with his plan, and in the end he sadistically orders the three clones to basically beat each other to death. The only thing that can stop this is the two beautiful nurses who have been there from the beginning, and have developed real emotions towards the guys. And that's easy to understand when the guys are Bruce Le, Dragon Lee and Bruce Lai, three of the most popular of the Bruce lookalikes. Featuring the expected over the top fight sequences, a fantastic retro soundtrack and handsome widescreen photography, and most important, a script that is interesting and very unique. I think these movies have more value now than they did 40 years ago, as historical documents of an era that is sadly gone. Those who are tired of bloated, CGI, Politically Correct Hollywood nonsense, will most likely love this movie.
Shou zhi ao chu (1981)
Beautifully Filmed Gangster Epic
Those who watch this genre just to see endless fight scenes will most likely consider this one as merely average. But as a legitimate film, "Kung Fu Executioner" is surprisingly well made, with much attention paid to the aesthetics such as set design, and artful camera angles/cinematography. This one is visually beautiful to look at. It also boasts a good crime story to compliment the visuals. Heavily influenced by "The Godfather" films, we get a classic tale of two warring crime families, featuring the always great Billy Chong as "the good guy," and his pin-up star looks combined with his skill in the Martial Arts makes him an extremely likable hero, even when he is playing a gangster. It's always great to see African American Kung Fu star Carl Scott in action, with his lightning fast moves, even though his scenes don't always look like they are part of the same film, as if his fight scenes were edited in from another movie. We also get two of the coolest looking assassins to ever appear on screen, one guy who is the son of the opium dealing mob kingpin, who never loses his hat in battle., and the other, gold suit wearing bad guy, who never loses his sunglasses, even when the lenses are shattered in combat. Featuring some full frontal nudity and bloodletting, this one isn't exactly family entertainment, but fans of the gangster genre who also appreciate the artistic qualities of cinema should enjoy "Kung Fu Executioner. '
Jin se tai yang (1975)
Pathetic Waste of Film
During the heyday of the Kung Fu craze, countless movies like this were being churned out, some good, a few great, but mostly terrible. "Dragon Dies Hard" is one of the worst I have seen. Usually the problem is a weak story but worthwhile fighting scenes, but this trash has neither. There is literally no understandable plot beyond some guy being obsessed with Bruce Lee's death. He starts dating some bimbo and suddenly these old men become obsessed with HIM.. because he's dating the bimbo. Fights ensue, the end. And sadly the fight scenes are very few and totally unspectacular. Bruce Li was a fine athlete, but he seems to be sleep walking through this drivel. It's depressing to watch a movie knowing that nobody involved in its creation cared in the least about what they were doing.
Yong chun jie quan (1977)
Clearing up the Confusion
As with a lot of the Chinese fung fu movies from this era, this film goes under many different names. To add to the confusion, there were two different movies, from the same year, both starring Bruce Li, and both focusing on an autobiographical story of Bruce Lee. Because of this confusion, about half the reviews for this title are reviews of one movie, while the other half are reviews for an entirely different film. In fact, it's so confusing that even imdb has melded the two films together, so that a separate page for the OTHER movie doesn't even exist. I am not making this up.
It's difficult to explain this but, here it is; if you saw a movie where Bruce is a waiter who serves a dish loaded with pepper, to a group of abusive morons in a restaurant, and there is a screaming, whining little kid who wants to be a Kung Fu fighter, than you have seen "A Dragon Story." If you saw a more straight forward biography of Bruce Lee, that documents his life by showing him going from a waiter to an actor to an action star, than you were one of the lucky ones to have seen "Bruce Lee: A Dragon Story." Lucky because that one is the superior film. The former movie is just sub-standard, generic fare that doesn't attempt to tell anything about Bruce Lee. Rather it just presents a character who happens to live in San Francisco and just happens to be a waiter, who after a power struggle with a rival gang, opens his own school. Basically little more than a showcase of some (admittedly spectacular) fight sequences. Of course this is important, but for viewers who want a decent story to accompany the action, this one is strictly generic and forgettable stuff. And that screaming little kid has way too much screen time, and is very irritating and corny. Like a lot of other people here, I was searching for the other movie, the one that features Latin martial artist Charles "La Pantera" Bonet, from "Black Dragon's Revenge" and "Death Promise." When I see this movie I will return and create a separate review for it. As a fan of Bronx native, and first Latino Kung fu star, Charles Bonet, I am looking to see all of his films. He's in the OTHER "Story of the Dragon." I hope this clears up some confusion.
Deep Throat Part II (1974)
Crazy Retro Fun
As a fan of the Golden Age of Adult film, I found "Deep Throat II" to be thoroughly enjoyable. How great it is to see familiar faces like Jamie Gillis, Linda Lovelace, and especially Harry Reems, together in a non-pornographic parody of one of the most successful Adult films of all time. "Deep Throat Part II" possesses a kind of surreal quality, in the way that it looks like a porn film, but it never goes there. While it's easy to see why people expecting and wanting to see a hardcore feature, would despise this thing, those looking for a straight up slapstick comedy filled with insider jokes and hysterically over the top performances from the Icons of Adult film, I don't understand how true fans of the 1970's hardcore movies wouldn't love this. Basically a spoof on the Russian spy genre, with Linda Lovelace being under investigation; they all want to know how Linda can make any man confess to anything. Reems plays a desperately horny psychiatrist, playing against type, a man who CAN'T get laid. His performance is hysterically corny and cute. It's also nice to see Linda in a film where she doesn't get physically debased, knowing how she secretly hated performing in adult films. This one is funny and sexy, without being explicit, and it is one of the true time capsules of an incredible decade that will never be topped. Also worthy of mention is it's truly excellent soundtrack, which adds to the delight of this oddball movie.
Kurtlar Vadisi: Filistin (2011)
I begin by stating here that I am absolutely Pro-Palestine and recognize the Palestinian people as the true victims in the seemingly never ending struggle throughout the Middle East. I am also well aware of the media lies that promote Israel as "the good guys," as that is a joke. I'm rating this film strictly on it's quality as a movie, and it is severely lacking. It has the feel of American B movies from the 80's, and it looks cheaper than lower level Hollywood actioners like "Red Scorpion," which is actually a good looking film. The creators of this installment went too far with demonizing the enemy, to the point where they look like bad guys from a cartoon. It's hard to believe that Israeli soldiers ran around gleefully murdering little kids while laughing. And it's ridiculous to portray the Israeli military as helpless, bumbling fools that can rain down a shower of machine gun fire without hitting one person, while one Palestinian sharp shooter can take down thousands of guys with one small hand gun. Israel's military is considered one of the strongest and most well trained in the world. I absolutely understand patriotism and pride in ones country, but this really insults the intelligence of it's audience. I searched for this because of how fantastic "Valley of the Wolves: Iraq" was; .a really fine film. This one had a different director and I'm guessing a different writer. That makes a big difference apparently. Those interested in this series should check that one out and forget the rest.
El pico 2 (1984)
Powerful Drug Movie Lost To the Language Barrier...
"El Pico 2," the sensational follow up to director Eloy De La Iglesia's cult hit of the previous year, we get to see what happens to Paco after his best friend Urko dies of a heroin overdose in the first film. The story follows him through a brutal prison term, through many scams and violent confrontations both inside prison and in the outside world, as Paco goes to exhaustive means to stay alive, while attempting to control his always escalating drug habit. The second installment is, in some ways, superior to the first film, which dealt with other challenges besides drug addiction, such as Paco's difficult relationship with his overbearing father, and his mother who is dying of cancer, as well as his intense friendship with his drug buddy, Urko. "El Pico 2" is all about the heroin, Paco's main struggle that outshines everything else in his life. As his friends die, and his father becomes more distant, and Paco's freedom is robbed from him, the struggle to obtain heroin inside prison while constantly fending off rape and robbery attempts from fellow inmates, becomes his entire world. The way this film details how addiction affects an addict both physically and psychologically, is brilliantly handled. Paco starts to look like a walking zombie with dark rimmed eyes and starving body, and actor Jose Luis Manzano finally gets the opportunity to show some true acting skills here, as he is required to show intense emotions, such as extreme fear and anger, and hopelessness. " El Pico 2" features Manzano's finest performance of his short career, (an actor whose life was similar to those of the characters he played in his films,). Manzano died at the age of 28.
The title of this review refers to the fact that there are currently no subtitles for this movie in existence. And this is ridiculous and completely unacceptable, because the lack of subtitles is preventing the entire Anglo-speaking World from seeing this excellent movie, a film that would definitely gain a huge cult following if the distributors would simply create a subtitled translation. It's unbelievable that even the new bluray is without subtitles, which leads me to suspect that it's some copyright issue, as nobody could be this clueless in 2020. Thankfully subtitles can be found for the first movie, for those willing to invest the time, but that only makes the fact there is nothing for the second movie, even stranger. This genre, known as "JD" movies, (Juvenile Delinquent films) is a very popular genre, internationally, and during the late 70's into the early 80's, a number of these movies came out of Spain, during the Franco Era, which gives the films historical value as well as immense entertainment value, Movies such as "Colegas" and "Navajeros," and "Perros callejeros" actually starred real life juvenile criminals, instead of fake, pretty actors, and this practice resulted in the extreme glorification of crime, turning teenage bank robbers and drug pushers and killers such as Angel Fernandez, into celebrities. Fernandez especially, known as "El Torete," was idolized by the younger generation, and they became pin-up models for kids who were attracted to their strength and rebel image. Who wants actors when they can have the real thing? These are certainly iconic films and deserve more recognition today.
The Lady in Red (1979)
It's BEULA BALLBREAKER!!!
Fans of 1930's "pre-code" gangster flicks will probably love "The Lady In Red," a beautiful and realistic love letter to films such as "Scarface" (1932) and "Public Enemy." Pamela Sue Martin is ultra lovable as Polly, the rebellious farm girl who just seems to attract trouble like a magnet. At the wrong place at the wrong time, Polly is used as a human shield by the Dillinger gang as they speed away from a bank robbery. They ditch her after she serves her purpose, but a chain of events leads Polly down a very winding road that includes sweat shops, prostitution, a prison stint, and culminating with Polly and her friends picking up the machine guns, John Dillinger style, after the authorities do her wrong. Episodic in structure, which is not a problem, as every 'episode' in Polly's journey is more fascinating and just plain wild than the previous chapter. Now people refer to this as a low budget "B" movie, but the production values are very sleek, with stunning attention to period detail; the cars, the clothes, the hairstyles, the sets and the music, are all completely realistic in a way that is seldom seen in even higher budget films. The cinematography is stunning and this movie is gorgeous. The scenes in the brothel are reminiscent of the Storybook era sets of Louis Malle's "Pretty Baby," while the prison episode is more powerful and realistic than the roughest "women in prison" movie...and YES; that is Beula Ballbreaker from "Porky's," as the evil prison matron, turning in a perfectly savage, evil performance as a hate-filled racist lesbian guard. "Lady In Red" is the perfect balance of exploitation and Hollywood productions like "Bonnie & Clyde," but this is actually more fun than "Bonnie & Clyde." It deserves more recognition.
Blood Rage (1987)
Proof That Those Early Friday the 13th Flicks Weren't So Bad..
Today, when we watch some cheesy, visually ugly 80's trash like this, we can see that those early "Friday the 13th" movies, (I, II & IV) are quite good in comparison. Because those movies, although not as graphically violent as "Blood Rage," they did have atmosphere, and a genuinely eerie/spooky quality to them. There always seemed to be something moving in the shadows just beyond the peripheral vision. not so with late 80's slashers like "Blood Rage," a movie that has no shadows, and no atmosphere whatsoever. Also it's proof that a film of this genre needs more than gory kill scenes (of which this movie has in spades) to make it good, or scary. All that blood and guts was wasted on a movie that just isn't scary, or even suspenseful. Shamelessly ripping off "Halloween" and "Friday the 13th" and believing some sexy actors could replace quality, this one deserves to be forgotten. But obviously that didn't happen, as this thing somehow got the bluray restoration that was totally unnecessary. This "Blood Rage" should not be confused with another film called "Bloodrage" (one word) from Joseph Zito from 1980, which is a FAR SUPERIOR horror movie that is loaded with the kind of stylish, nightmarish atmosphere that this 1987 trash totally lacks. And while this movie has been restored to bluray quality, the earlier "Bloodrage" remains completely unknown, and one of the rarest, most sought after titles around, the scarce VHS tapes going for 100 bucks if you can find it at all.
Gone with the Pope (2010)
Legendary Unearthed Grindhouse Classic
"Gone With the Pope" was for years, a kind of cinematic "urban myth." Film fanatics knew it existed, but nobody ever imagined it would ever see the light of day. Well 'Grindhouse Releasing' has performed a miracle here, and this is certainly their finest restoration to date. Poring over 5 hours of film reels from the Mitchell family archive, they painstakingly put the film together in the order of what Duke Mitchell most likely intended, and have created an incredible film of the grindhouse genre. Having an obsessive fascination for Duke's previous film, "Massacre, Mafia Style,' getting to see this was a big deal for this viewer. I had feared that this one couldn't possibly be as good as 'Massacre...' but as it turned out, this one is BETTER. The camera work, the editing, the framing, are all more competent and professional, like a work from a film maker who has learned from past mistakes, and grown more confident in his craft. "Gone With the Pope" looks like it had a higher budget, featuring location shooting in Las Vegas and Rome. This time around Mitchell's character Paul, has a collection of Rolls Royce automobiles and access to a yacht, which he charters with his mobbed up buddies, to Rome, carrying an unprecedented plan to kidnap the Pope, and charge every Catholic on the planet $1 for his release. The writing at times is so powerful and emotional that one has to wonder just how much of the real Duke Mitchell was infused into the fictional character of Paul. His opinions of the Catholic church are intense and controversial, and obviously written from a very personal point of view. At a certain point Paul's buddies all have their own revelations about God and religion, and begin to change their minds about this outlandish and sacreligious plan, but Paul is not so easily swayed, and needs a bit more "proof" that God truly exists. Well he gets that proof at the films climax, which is a real stunner. Watching this film I had to wonder what directors Martin Scorsese and Abel Ferrara thought of it. I imagine they both hold "Gone With the Pope" in high regard, especially the intense religious imagery contained throughout, and of course the strong Italian influence that saturates every frame of this lost, priceless time capsule. Comments that this movie is somehow "boring" are truly mind boggling, as there is so much going on, so much eye popping imagery to behold, so much fascinating dialogue and such a collection of eclectic songs of the era, and of course, the mid 70's fashions and decor are sometimes hypnotic in their own right. Anyone who finds this movie "boring" must have the attention span of a mosquito. The footage of vintage Las Vegas, as well as the gorgeous scenes on the yacht, and of Rome are stunning as well. Filled with memorable and quotable lines and bizarre, hilarious characters. Fans of gangster and mafia movies should seek out this iconic film; it is a true masterpiece of the genre.
Dear Mr. Wonderful (1982)
Super-Atmospheric New York Movie
"Ruby's Dream" is one of the most "New York movies" to come out of the 80's; it is literally soaked in that New York city style, to the point where the viewer can almost smell the streets and the smoke-filled bars and pool halls of a grimy, vintage late 70's/early 80's NYC. Every character and every location used is filled with so much nostalgia and atmosphere that it is hard to imagine any native of the city, not enjoying this oddball film. Once again, Joe Pesci turns in an utterly real and believable performance as Ruby Dennis, the tacky lounge singer who dreams of being a headline performer in Vegas, like Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin. He's doing fairly well, singing in the bowling alley that he owns, surrounded by his family, including his sister and his delinquent nephew, who also works at the bowling alley, when he isn't snatching gold chains from tourists in Times Square. This time Pesci is portraying a Jewish guy, rather than the usual Italian that he is known for, and he is utterly perfect in the role. This movie is so well-made, with amazing cinematography and high caliber acting, that it appears to have a high budget. This is a very polished, great looking production that has apparently been forgotten, and relegated to low quality dvd editions that present the film in a cropped, 4x3 picture format. This must be a real stunner in it's original widescreen format, and captures the grit of the street like "Taxi Driver" and "Midnight Cowboy." Those expecting action or a crime film might come away disappointed, as this is mainly a character study, of one man and his immediate family, all of which are interesting in their own way. Especially fascinating was Ruby's nephew, Ray, the teen criminal that looks up to his uncle, but wants to be successful in his own right, by becoming a street thug, fencing stolen goods to the denizens of the local boxing gym. And this one showcases so many scenes of a sleazy, vanished New York; the filthy boxing clubs, the off track betting places, the sex clubs and porn theaters of 42nd street, the smoke-filled bars and streets that seem to ooze an aura of criminality..truly beautiful to behold. Judging from the ridiculously low rating here, I'm guessing that this quality will only be appreciated by a certain audience. But for those who remember the golden age of New York, or just appreciate NYC movies, "Ruby's Dream" is one of the best..I think the reason the city is captured in such an idyllic, almost over the top way, is because the director is German. Therefore we get a movie that is so 'New York' that it almost becomes parody. On a side note, the version I saw clocked in at 115 minutes, so there might be different versions of this movie out there, as this site gives a shorter running time of 100 minutes.
Intelligent Study of A Sociopathic Personality
Those looking for graphic, bloody killings and exploitative elements will be sorely disappointed when watching this ultra-rare 80's obscurity. "Murderlust" has a very similar feel and simplistic style as "Henry: Portrait of A Serial Killer," but the horrific murders in this case, tastefully happen off screen. The small budget works in favor of the movie, realistically showing the level of near poverty that the main character lives in. A low level security guard who also teaches Sunday school at his local church, Steve Belmont leads the ultimate double life. Among his church congregation, Steve is highly respected, and perceived as an upstanding, religious man. But his boss knows what a rude, heavy drinking dirt bag he really is. So does his neighbor, who lives next door to his disgusting dump of a rented room. Of course none of them know that Steve likes to pick up random women and strangle them to death. And things begin to unravel when his two worlds begin to overlap in this very tense, fascinating tale. "Murderlust" wouldn't be so effective if it wasn't for the impressive, highly believable acting job that Eli Rich turns in. He is amazingly believable as both the violent scumbag AND as the stand up pillar of the community that some think he is. His performance is chillingly authentic and understated. In fact the whole cast here is very good and appear quite natural in their roles. The fine acting and intelligent writing should earn this movie a much higher score than it has here. Obviously it wasn't seen by the right audience; in fact "Murderlust" is so rare that it most likely was seen by almost nobody. So if you are lucky enough to find a copy, and if you have an interest in the subject, I highly recommend it.
Måske ku' vi (1976)
Wonderful Nostalgic Movie
Few films have been able to realistically capture young people as they really are.."400 Blows" is one of them. another such film is this little known gem of a movie called "Maske ku' vi," from Denmark. Basically a portrait of a very brief time in life when we are not yet adults, but not really kids either. It's about 15 year old Kim, living with his mother who is struggling without a man in the house to help out. She's frustrated with her son's "laziness," somehow expecting a 15 year old boy to want to do more than hang out with his friends and drink and pursue the opposite sex. And like a lot of kids his age, Kim hates school and anything that restricts his freedom. The audiences of today might be disturbed at the sight of 15 year olds drinking like sailors and sharing cigarettes with their parents, but this is specifically a product of the 70's, and very much a Danish film, and these days this kind of behavior is so alien that it takes on a kind of surreal quality. The first portion of the movie introduces the viewer to Kim as we get to know what he's about. The scenes of him and his friend Ole are so realistic and intimate that we feel like we know them personally. Things take a darker turn when he is kidnapped by bank robbers who take him and a girl his age, hostage. But the robbers aren't a particular mean bunch, and this seems to be a mere plot device to move the story along. The remainder of the film deals with Kim and the girl as they get closer and become a couple on the run. That's really it, as the linear story isn't the important thing about this one. The point of this movie is to evoke a certain nostalgic feeling in the viewer, and for anyone who has been a rebellious teenager, this will have a very important and powerful meaning. This beautifully filmed coming of age movie is somewhat rare, but it is worth tracking down.
Zûmu appu: Sotsugyo shashin (1983)
Rare Post 70's Pinku Eiga
By the end of the 1970's these 'pinku-eiga' genre films were winding down both in popularity and quality. For an 80's production, "Zoom Up: Graduation Photo" is a well-produced erotic film, featuring every fetish under the sun, set against a story about young girls entering the porno industry. One girl gets talked into posing for a pornographic magazine, books that could apparently be purchased through vending machines on the street! Another girl gets raped by a gang of school boys who are over excited from looking at the magazine, and when she goes to the publishers to show her scorn, she also gets talked into posing for the same magazine. The film is quite graphic and the situations inflicted on the young girls gets depressing, as they are truly being exploited. In typical fashion for this type of film, the girls start to like the sexual violations being inflicted upon them. Beautiful actresses and nice production values make this an interesting film of the genre. I guess by 1983 viewers had seen it all and this might explain for the extra level of perversion that comes from using barely legal aged school girls. On a side note, it is surprising that such graphic magazines were being legally circulated within a country that isn't even allowed to show pubic hair in their films. Apparently it was acceptable to show a girl being vaginally fisted, as long as there was no pubic hair visible? Anyway at the end of the film we see the parents attempting to marry off their daughter into a respectable family. The question being, can she hide her sordid past? In Japan this behavior is enough to destroy any chance for a girl to successfully marry. If the movie focused a bit more on this aspect and a little less on the sex, this would be a classic along the lines of "Tokyo Decadence."
My Own Private River (2012)
A True Gift For Fans
The multi-talented James Franco has taken a work of cinematic art, (My Own Private Idaho) and created another work of art. This is not really a documentary, but rather a movie with a linear story, similar to the original, but with many differences. Phoenix' character Mike was always more interesting than Scott (Keanu Reeves,) and Idaho really was River's film. So Franco gives fans what we want, by shifting the focus to Mike's character, utilizing absolutely incredible new footage of River Phoenix to flesh out his character. In order to do this, Reeves scenes are kept to a minimum, and other characters like Bob are strictly in the background. What we get in it's place is a sort of study of male hustlers and street kids living on the streets of Portland and Seattle, and this version is very reminiscent to the equally fine "Streetwise" from Martin Bell. In this version, Mike no longer suffers from narcolepsy, and he has a girlfriend. For 'Idaho' fanatics, this recreation is an absolute, mind blowing experience in that we get to see all the characters we have always loved, in entirely new situations, and from different angles. It is a revelation. I'm also thrilled to see the amazing new scenes of actor Rodney Harvey, who met an early demise in a similar way as River. He winds up working as a hot dog vendor in the park...a HOT DOG VENDOR. It was nice to find out the fate of these minor characters, and to see that they all made out okay in the end. In this version, everyone makes it to the other side, except for Mike, who doesn't make it, and the fact that he's the only one makes it even sadder. Anyway James Franco has performed a miracle with his reworking of an iconic film, and fans should be grateful for this incredible opportunity to go back in time, and see an old favorite, for the first time.
A Dirty Shame (2004)
Depressing & Sad
As someone who has followed the career of John Waters through the years, I have always managed to find something to like about each one of his films, even the minor ones. But this movie is a colossal failure. It seems more the work of a no-talent hack making an attempt at aping Waters' sense of humor and style, than a legitimate John Waters movie. A veteran film maker like him should know that it's not possible to make an underground movie with a budget of 30 million dollars and a cast of famous celebrities. Obviously it will come off as completely fake and ridiculous. Filled with toilet humor that is awkward and not funny, stars like Chris Isaac, Selma Blair and especially Tracy Ullmann make complete and utter fools of themselves. It's understandable that they signed on for the project, because who wouldn't want to be part of the latest creation from the man who brought us "Serial Mom" and "Hairspray," and the beloved cult movies "Polyester" and "Female Trouble?" I'm guessing nobody could have predicted how disastrous this would turn out. How embarrassing to witness old people talking about their vaginas, their bowel movements, and trying to be sexual. Yes it was funny to see Divine eating dog crap in "Pink Flamingos," if only for the sheer insanity of witnessing a scene like that. But it's somehow not funny seeing Tracy Ullmann picking up a bottle with her vagina, because she doesn't HAVE to humiliate herself to become famous; she already is hugely successful. The character of Big Bertha was pathetic, and Selma Blair looked embarrassed to be in this flop. "A Dirty Shame" is, in fact, such a miserable piece of junk that I'm surprised that Fine Line Features even released it. This "comedy" will actually depress anyone with taste and ruin their evening. And to the viewer who commented that "Mel Brooks would be proud...?" I have news for you; Mel Brooks wouldn't urinate on this film if it was on fire.
The Swinging Cheerleaders (1974)
Surprising Quality For the Genre
Those familiar with this series will probably expect this installment to be more of the same, mindless slapstick, sex jokes and wall to wall T&A and sex..especially if you happened to see "Revenge of the Cheerleaders" first, which is pretty worthless junk. But this one, rather than going the expected route, offers some fairly compelling drama, and very little nudity and NO sex at all. Of course it isn't deep, but some serious issues are dealt with, such as loyalty among friends, jealousy, rape, (in the movie's saddest part with Cheryl Smith) as well as the damaging effects that can arise from casual affairs. Self-proclaimed feminist Kate initially joins the cheerleading squad to secretly do research for a term paper about the sexism and objectification of women involved in being a cheerleader. She thinks she won't be able to relate to such silly girls, but to her surprise she strikes up genuine friendships with them and changes her mind about writing the article, but they find out anyway, which leads to some dramatic situations. Meanwhile each girl has her own story; Cheryl Smith's Andrea is a virgin, afraid to go all the way with her boyfriend. He eventually becomes frustrated and leaves her, and that causes her to do something very stupid and self destructive. Lisa is having an affair with her math teacher, but she doesn't stop to think of what it is doing to the guy's wife, who confronts Lisa in the film's most dramatic scene. Finally Mary Ann (Colleen Camp) has her delusions shattered when she finds out her father is not the great guy she thinks he is. At the center of it all is the illegal gambling ring involving the team coach and a couple faculty members, in which they are rigging the football games in hoping of becoming rich on a crooked betting scheme. Maybe the fact that Jack Hill is at the helm is the reason that this one is so much more polished and respectable than the other 'Cheerleader' movies, with it's glossy production values and cast that is very beautiful rather than cheap and slutty looking like in the other movies, but this is quite a fun movie that is more intelligent than most of the films of this genre. And for fans of the Great Cheryl Rainbeaoux Smith, this is a must-see film, as she is so good in it, and is quite believable as the virgin who is afraid of sex. Out of the series I can only recommend this one and "The Pom Pom Girls." The rest of them are pretty bad.
The Child (1977)
Obscure & Eerie Gothic Horror
Many would agree that the 1970's were the best decade for film, especially horror films. Everything was still fresh and new, and audiences weren't jaded the way they are now. "The Child" is one of a selection of forgotten horror gems from the days of the drive-in theaters and grindhouse cinemas that existed in the bad side of town or inner cities. Dripping with atmosphere, the world created on a tiny budget, seems so oblique that it could be taking place on the moon, the beautiful young heroine that arrives in the small village to care for the emotionally disturbed Rosalie, has no idea what she is getting into. A feeling of menace permeates this film, which is basically a zombie flick with arthouse aspirations. It seems the little girl has some kind of psychic power over the dead bodies in the Cemetary; she can make them rise from the dead. and they like her, because she feeds them kittens and other animals, and plays with them at night. This is probably the most morbid idea ever dreamed up for a movie, and something that would never be made today. The zombies are downright creepy looking, and a few scenes are truly terrifying when you let yourself be taken along for the ride. The best thing about this one is it's weirdness; that car, and that chilling synthesizer music and the very weird people. I was lucky to find a widescreen print on bluray and can say "The Child" is an absolute visual stunner. It's so great that it got restored to it's original condition as it deserves a rediscovery. Fans of "Lemora: A Child's Tale of the Supernatural" should love this one.
A Certain Sacrifice (1979)
Put Some Clothes On...Ms. Cicconi!
I'm not a Madonna fan; I think she's a woman of average looks, little talent and nice boobs. The only value this film has is it's footage of New York at the end of the 70's. What a dark, seedy and fascinating place NYC was, before it dissolved into the antiseptic, bland, overcrowded outdoor shopping mall it is today. And "A Certain Sacrifice" really captures that, with it's grimy, seedy look and the pallid, half starved and tortured looking souls that act in it. As a piece of cinematic history it's undeniably fascinating, And with just a little more professionalism (or at least a tripod) this could have been quite good. The basic ideas are quite typical for it's time, with it's overt sexual themes and intentional strangeness. I'm gonna go out on a limb and recommend it to fans of weird, subversive cinema and for those interested in 70's New York city movies. On a side note, this movie showed a lot of scenes of video arcades and porn theaters everywhere, which is a reminder of just how much of a playground NYC used to be. And "Certain Sacrifice" makes it look like quite a dangerous place as well. Oh well, if nothing else see it for Madge's boobs. It's actually a lot better than "Swept Away.."
Intohimon vallassa (1947)
A Visual Stunner
Obscure Finnish movie, shot in glorious, haunting black & white, with the visual style of Carl Dryer and at times, Bergman, "Passionate Power" is basically the study of what happens to the soul when it is denied the love that it needs. A young girl, Aino is the daughter of a tyrannical father, an insufferable snob that refuses to let his daughter marry the man she loves because of his status as a "lowly farmhand." The Ylitalo clan is the richest family in this fairytale-like village, and young Aino is forced to marry some dunce, simply because of his noble lineage. He turns out to be a spineless, amoral drunk who proceeds to destroy the very family empire that her father was so proud of. Aino wants to be with Olavi, the flaxen haired Aryan logger, who gives up his exciting life of adventure to stay in this village and attempt to convince Aino's father to let them be together. When this union is denied, the poison of hate spreads to all involved. Aino becomes an embittered shrew who takes a whip to her drunken loser of a husband, while Olavi sticks around, builds a house and becomes a success, if only to spite Aino and her family. The film gets darker as it progresses, and the characters sink further into madness and desperation, up until it's violent and sad conclusion. "Passionate Flower" is very similar to "Wuthering Heights" in it's observations of the torment inflicted on two lovers when unkind fate keeps them apart. A glorious show of light and shadow and high drama, this one will be most appreciated by fans of the Silent film era.
Scusi, facciamo l'amore? (1968)
An Exercise In Aesthetic Beauty
This Italian film might be considered shallow, but "Scusi, facciamo l'amore?" is a stunningly gorgeous film, from it's posh interiors of the Euro "jet-set," and the endless parade of late 60's haute couture fashions, and of course, the main character, young Pierre Clementi, who must be one of the most ridiculously beautiful men to have ever lived. Clementi is cast as Lallo, the arrogant son of one of the most notorious gigolos among Viennese society. Upon arrival to the lush city, for his dad's funeral, which he actually doesn't even show up for, but manages to make it to the "after-party,' he quickly meets the female members of the Euro jet set crowd, impossibly wealthy and mostly beautiful women, who immediately notice that Lallo possesses the same physical attributes as his father. And the young rogue wastes no time taking advantage of the situation.
Criticized for being a "cold and empty' film, those critics failed to realize that it was intentional, and a way to reflect the life of a gigolo/male prostitute, who on the surface, appears to be having a wonderful time, but who eventually realizes that a career that consists of selling your body, can lead to devastatingly sad consequences. Of course this happens when Lallo realizes that the women he thought he was using, were actually using him, as one by one, they make their exits after they are done having their fun with the stud, who turns out to be more naive and innocent than one might think. It's not very original, but the whole production is just so damn beautiful that it serves well as an impressive piece of escapist fantasy, resembling something that Luchino Visconti would have made, if he wasn't so "proper." And for fans of Pierre Clementi, this is not to be missed. I have been a Clementi fan since I saw him as the dangerous gangster with the gold teeth in "Belle De Jour," so I might be biased. But this movie is a prime example of late 60's Euro cinema, as well as a documentation of a time and a lifestyle that no longer exists.
Huo Yuan-Jia (1982)
Destroyed By Dumb Comedy
I had high expectations for "Huo Yuan-Jia" due to the high rating here. I even had the luck to find an original Chinese language version so I was excited. The first portion of the film is very good, with the drama of the story unfolding, along with well-choreographed training sequences and intelligent, interesting dialogue between the central characters. An interesting story was unfolding. Sadly, before the halfway mark, the whole thing literally falls apart, eviscerated by some of the most ridiculous and embarrassing slapstick comedy. Out of nowhere came the guy with the rabbit teeth and painted on freckles and the circus sideshow began. Frustrating and so disappointing, as "Legend of A Fighter" had so much potential to be a great film of the genre. An opportunity to tell a great, serious story based on fact, was passed up for juvenile toilet humor. And it's not like I have no tolerance for humor in these movies; if it is done right it can be great fun. One example is "Mad Monkey Kung Fu," which is hysterical, mostly because the comedic elements were handled competently. But here it's just stupid. Another thing that sinks the production is it's lackluster sets and cinematography. Typically films of this genre are packed with eye popping colors and sets that are fascinating to look at at, but this one is very bland. Some good fight choreography is all this one has to offer, and it isn't enough to save it.
Golden Age Kung Fu Epic
Ex-Marine Lee Van Clief commands the screen, along with his sidekick Chrales "El Pantera" Bonet, in this eye-popping, colorful Kung Fu extravaganza. One of a number of movies produced around the time of Bruce Lee's death, that offer hunches and conspiracy theories about Lee's demise. Story-line takes a back seat to the action, the colorful Hong Kong cinematography and especially the great energy that flows between the two leads that make this one of the most fun 'buddy cop' movies ever. Both Van Clief and Bonet, (aka the Puerto Rican Panther" are New York natives, and it is so obvious that the two had an absolute blast in Hong Kong, making this crazy flick.,and that energy transfers to the viewer, who should have a great time with this one. Fans of the genre will recognize Charles Bonet from the cult Grindhouse flick, "Death Promise." For so many years "Black Dragon's Revenge" was somewhat of a 'lost film,' meaning that it was only available in the most rotten, virtually unwatchable prints. Because of this, many of these movies were thought to be cheaply or incompetently made junk. Having had the opportunity to see a pristine, fully restored print of "Black Dragon's Revenge," I can attest to the fact that this is a well made movie, featuring some stunning cinematography, artistic camera angles and very impressive fight choreography. And this time voice dubbing is kept to a minimum, as the main players speak in their own voices with live recorded sound. This is the second entry in a trilogy of "Black Dragon" movies featuring Van Clief. All three movies are very strong entries in the Kung Fu genre. I'm hoping to see a restoration of the first "Black Dragon' and the third, "Way of the Black Dragon,' as these movies deserve the attention.