Tuesday, February 20, 2018

One Step to Hell (1968)

Original title: Caccia ai Violenti

AKA: King of Africa

Director: Giovanni Scolaro

Writers: Jack DeWitt, Sandy Howard, Eduardo Manzanos, Mario Siciliano

Composer: Gianni Marchetti

Starring: Ty Hardin, Pier Angeli, Rossano Brazzi, George Sanders, Helga Line, Dale Cummings, George Rigaud, Julio Pena, Charles Fawcett

More info: IMDb

Tagline: Hide and seek and kill in the jungles of Africa!

Plot: A British colonial policeman in Africa, circa 1900, pursues a band of escaped killers across territory so wild, it lies just "one step to hell."

My rating: 5.5/10

Will I watch it again?  No.

This Italian/Spanish co-production action adventure doesn't have much to offer besides a few good looking locations but those were marred by the lousy fullscreen VHS copy I watched.  You can't really appreciate scenery much under those conditions.  George Sanders is in it for a little bit but his few scenes take place in one room and it looks like he might've spent a day or two on the set.  Fans of his won't get anything out of him; he's just there to bring some gravitas to the production.  Now Ty Hardin (who only died a few months ago at age 87) put in a bland performance that brings the picture down.  Also adding to the blandness is the run of the mill, this could've almost been directed by anyone, direction by Scolaro.  I wasn't surprised to see that he only directed one flick (but he was the assistant director on seven others).  Then there's the bland score (and sometimes inappropriate) by Marchetti.  I don't recognize any of his credits (which doesn't mean much of anything).  I can't recommend this for any reason other than George Sanders completists and the president of the Ty Hardin Fan Club.  There sure are a lot of neat movie posters for it, though.

The Buddhist Fist (1980)

Original title: Fo Zhang Luo Han Quan

Director: Woo-Ping Yuen

Writers: Chi-Ming Lam, Siu Ming Tsui, Ching Wong

Composer: Fang Chi Chen

Starring: Shun-Yee Yuen, Siu Ming Tsui, Lung Chan, Hsi Chang, Shao-Peng Chen, Mei Sheng Fan

More info: IMDb

Plot: Aspiring barber and experienced kung-fu fighter Shang learns that his childhood friend, Siu Ming, has been framed for murder by an unknown villain. When Shang begins looking into the crime, he soon finds himself the target of an assassination attempt. Who is behind all these crimes, and can Shang stop them?

My rating: 6.5/10

Will I watch it again?  No.

I don't know why there's such an abundance of over the top, silly characters in 70s Kung Fu flicks but I can't stand them.  It's the kind of thing that appeals to very small children.  The Italians did it, too.  But you don't watch these things for the slapstick comedy.  You watch them for the Kung Fu action and this one's got some great fighting.  There's a scene early on when the bad buy gets bamboo poles through each pant leg and one through his shirt sleeves.  It's very well done AND it's funny without the goofy buck-toothed characters.  The chess match between the two masters is a work of art, too.  There's a big surprise at the end that I rather liked.  There are a few little things in here that inspired Tarantino to include them in KILL BILL (2003) or they were common in a lot of these pictures back in the day.  It's better than average for its time and it's definitely worth watching for fans of the genre.

Monday, February 19, 2018

The Buccaneer (1958)

Director: Anthony Quinn, Cecil B. DeMille

Writers: Harold Lamb, Jesse Lasky Jr., Jeanie Macpherson, Edwin Justus Mayer, Bernice Mosk, Lyle Saxon, C. Gardner Sullivan

Composer: Elmer Bernstein

Starring: Yul Brynner, Claire Bloom, Charles Boyer, Inger Stevens, Henry Hull, E.G. Marshall, Charlton Heston, Lorne Greene, Ted de Corsia, Robert F. Simon, Woody Stode

More info: IMDb

Tagline: The Mighty Movie Screen Brings You La FITTE...Man or Devil?

Plot: During the war of 1812, Louisiana buccaneer Jean Lafitte assists the Americans in defending New Orleans against the attacking British war fleet.

My rating: 7/10

Will I watch it again?  Yes.

It's funny that in the first few minutes of watching this I couldn't help but think that I'd seen this before until I realized that I saw THE BUCCANEER (1938) a few years ago (also directed by DeMille).  I like this remake for different reasons but the '38 picture is better and more fun.  The word around the campfire is that DeMille (who directed the previous one) took ill while shooting this and let his son in law, Quinn (who had a small role in the previous one), take over.  It's a good film with some fine performances and it looks great in color and in widescreen.  Brynner is fun but it's hard getting past that toupee.  And what's with that big white hair on Heston's noggin'?

(That's Heston on the right - har har)

Two performances bugged me and that's the guy seen right after the nearly 3 minutes of opening credits.  He's the sentry Jackson (Heston) confronts for not doing his job.  He's annoying (and that accent...geesh).  The other is Ezra Peavey (Hull).  He's also annoying, so much so that I'm surprised Jackson didn't have him drowned.  Walter Brennan, who played him in the '38 film, was much more enjoyable.  There are some good action scenes and intrigue.  It's not a home run by any means but it is enjoyable.  It helps to be fond of some of the cast going into it.  I expect I'll watch the '38 picture a couple of times before coming back to this one. 

Angel of Death (1987)

Original title: Commando Mengele

Director: Andrea Bianchi

Writers: Georges Friedland, Marius Lesoeur, Jesus Franco

Composer: Norbert Verrone

Starring: Christopher Mitchum, Suzanne Andrews, Fernando Rey, Howard Vernon, Jack Taylor, Dora Doll, Jean-Claude Lerner, Shirley Knight, Antonio Mayans, Anthony Parker

More info: IMDb

Tagline: The blood of millions is on his hands...The power of evil is on his side.

Plot: A Jewish commando unit hunting Nazi war criminals tracks down the infamous Dr. Mengele in the jungle, and find that he is torturing nubile young virgins and performing horrible medical experiments on the locals. They prepare to battle their way past Mengele's hordes of fanatic Nazi bodyguards in order to get to him.

My rating: 5.5/10

Will I watch it again?  No.

This might be an amateurishly made picture in many respects, complete with some bad acting, dialogue, fight scenes and so on, it's not boring and that's partly due to the poor quality of the movie.  The director and three writers went under pseudonyms (even Jesus Franco) and none of them are known for anything that's good except for Franco who had a couple of decent credits among the 200+ he directed.  This is a so-bad-it's-good movies but not so much that you'll have a great time, even with friends and bottles of liquor sauce.  The first third has A LOT of flashback exposition that drags the modern story down but there's a lot of unintentional laughs within it with the acting, dialogue and so on.  I try to find something positive in everything and with this picture it's the music and the last five shocking minutes.  With the ending you could tell they couldn't wait to show you.  It's batshit and fun but it's also too late because the previous hour and a half isn't good.  But still, I'll take it over a typical bland ending any day.  As for Norbert Verrone's synth score, it's his second of only two films he made.  All I can find online about him is that he played synthesizer on an album in the 80s and he has a net worth of $250k.  His music for this picture isn't unlike most low budget 80s synth scores except he's got some catchy tunes that don't get old after hearing them for the 20th time before the picture ends.  I rather enjoyed it.  

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Eraserhead (1977)

Director: David Lynch

Writer: David Lynch

Composer: David Lynch

Starring: Jack Nance, Charlotte Stewart, Allen Joseph, Jeanne Bates, Judith Roberts, Laurel Near, V. Phipps-Wilson, Jack Fisk

More info: IMDb

Tagline: Be warned. The nightmare has not gone away...

Plot: Henry Spencer tries to survive his industrial environment, his angry girlfriend, and the unbearable screams of his newly born mutant child.

My rating: 6.5/10

Will I watch it again?  No.

David Lynch is one of those polarizing filmmakers that most people either like or not.  I'm kind of on the fence.  After knowing about this film for more than thirty years, I FINALLY watched it.  I pulled down the big screen for this one (11' x 7') and had the sound up nice.  The sound is great.  The background sound (it's not noise and it's not music in the traditional sense) is constant and it keeps you in the film.  Visually it's interesting.  I didn't want to look away from it.  But following this as a narrative film is futile.  I'm not sure if Lynch was trying to say anything but he created (over a five year period) an unusual film experience.  I doubt I'll ever watch it again but I'm glad I finally saw it.  It's different, I'll say that much.

Bad Georgia Road (1977)

Director: John C. Broderick

Writers: John C. Broderick, Jeffrey Bernini

Composer: Don Peake

Starring: Gary Lockwood, Carol Lynley, Royal Dano, Tom Kibbe, John Wheeler, Cliff Emmich, Glynn Rubin, Dick Haynes, John Kerry, Conrad E. Palmisano, Mary Woronov, George 'Buck' Flower

More info: IMDb

Taglnie: They're makin' time to the county line.

Plot: A NYC magazine fashion editor leaves everything when she inherits a $100k estate in Alabama.  Little does she know that it's not the sprawling romantic Southern plantation she thinks.  Instead it's a small rundown house and a small-time moonshine runnin' business.  Defeated, she sees the money potential in the liquor and tries to make it better.

My rating: 5.5/10

Will I watch it again?  No.

I don't know why I keep watching these dumbass 70s hicksploitation pictures.  I know they're not going to be good but I keep hoping to find that gem among the trash.  This one stars Gary Lockwood, Frank from 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY (1968).  You'd think that'd be a positive but he plays the main redneck, Leroy, who runs the liquor.  He's covered in dirt and grease and he's always out for himself.  I barely recognized him.  That's good acting, I guess.  Royal Dano is fun as always.  There's not much action, almost nudity (but not quite) and lots of stereotypes and dumb yokels (which include the police, of course).  The only thing that makes this stand out from the rest is around the 3/4 mark there's a rape.  It gets real awfully fast, going from a dumb redneck comedy to HOLY FUCK!  After that it's right back into familiar territory and it ends without bringing the story to a close.  The ending works but it leaves you wanting more...well, not really wanting more to this movie but wanting closure I reckon.  The last twenty minutes is unlike any hicksploitation flick I've seen and that's worth a little something.  And what the fuck is the title all about?  It takes place entirely in Alabama (although I'm sure it was filmed in CA).

Saturday, February 17, 2018

Blood Work (2002)

Director: Clint Eastwood

Writers: Michael Connelly, Brian Helgeland

Composer: Lennie Niehaus

Starring: Clint Eastwood, Jeff Daniels, Anjelica Huston, Wanda De Jesus, Tina Lifford, Paul Rodriguez, Dylan Walsh, Mason Lucero, Gerry Becker, Rich Hoffman

More info: IMDb

Tagline: He's a heartbeat away from catching the killer

Plot: Still recovering from a heart transplant, a retired FBI profiler returns to service when his own blood analysis offers clues to the identity of a serial killer.

My rating: 7/10

Will I watch it again?  Yes.

I hadn't realized it until just now, while looking at Eastwood's directorial credits, that I've seen 22 out of his 36 pictures.  I'm going to miss him.  It's amazing that he'll be 88 this year and the guy's still making pictures.  That's just fantastic.  Anyway, about this one, I liked it.  It's a good thriller with a different kind of gimmick for the serial killer genre.  Eastwood's the big reason to watch this (surprise).  He's great.  The rest of the cast does a fine job and Eastwood's direction keeps things moving smoothly and interesting.  The ending surprised me but then I'm not one to examine every little detail (most of the time) and try to solve the mystery.  If the movie is good I give myself to the film and go for a ride.  When it's not good my mind wanders and I usually don't care.