7.01.2008

Ninja Terminator (1985)

Ninja Terminator concerns three rogue ninjas who have defected from the Ninja Empire for various reasons. Each has stolen a piece of the Golden Ninja Warrior- a relic which, when combined, allows one to summon the Supreme Ninja Spirit through practicing the Supreme Ninja Technique before it. Of course the Ninja Empire will have nothing to do with that so they try to kill these guys for roughly 90 minutes.

It only takes a few minutes to kill the first rogue ninja, the actual Japanese one. He is killed mid-Supreme Ninja Technique and his piece of the Golden Ninja Warrior is recovered. As for the other two, both of whom are white in the best tradition of 1980s ninja movies, one guy is evil I think and the other stole the relic piece because the, "NINJER EMPIRE IS EVIL!" He's the guy with the mustache that looks sort of like Chuck Norris, I guess.

I suspect that two movies were smooshed together because while the Ninja Empire is busy sending toy robot messengers to deliver threatening demands to the rogue ninjas , there's this guy named Jaguar Wong basically walking around getting into fights for no reason. At one point he is looking for a particular restaurant and so he asks three dudes playing catch but is told that, "you're lookin' in the wrong place.... around here... there ain't no restaurants buddy!"

This is the kind of 80s action film where every character is basically trying to out-macho each other. It's not as balls-focused as the more macho Italian movies from the 70s and 80s but Ninja Terminator is pretty damned macho. This is the kind of movie where the following conversation can take place:

"I heard Tomashi's brother was killed earlier this morning."
"Oh, that's too bad."
"Well, ciao!"

So a lot of the movie is unfortunately boring kicky fights. I'd say for every awesome ninja scene you probably get 2.5 scenes of Jaguar kicking people over and over. For a movie called "Ninja Terminator" there is just not enough ninja terminator in this! I wanted more ninjas flipping for no reason and disappearing and climbing stuff. More of the toy robot messenger, even though it does show up twice, once interrupting a perfectly fine watermelon eating session! More Supreme Ninja Techniques and maybe even a second Golden Ninja Warrior for everyone to fight over! But less kicky scenes, and definitely less really gross sex scenes between the mustached Chinese guy and his girlfriend.

The fighting and such is pretty decent for a 1980s ninja movie and the acting is thankfully both over the top and strangely laid back. The version of this movie I watched was dubbed fantastically in English and I recommend seeing it this way. Otherwise you would miss the fascinating droning speech one lady gives to her friend about how swimsuits are useful for not only swimming but also aerobics!

Okay, this review is beginning to turn into one of those "list everything that you loved in this movie scene-by-scene" reviews so I need to stop. You can basically watch this movie for free online, so if you have 90 minutes and appreciate the 80s ninja sensation, please give this movie a watch!

Watch Ninja Terminator Now!

As for me, I don't want to go so far as to say that this movie changed my life, but I will definitely think twice about asking for directions to restaurants in the future.

6.30.2008

Haunts (1977)

A maniac is on the loose in your typical American small town. He is running around town in a ski mask, scissors in hand, raping (possibly) and killing (definitely) any woman he can get his hands on. Could it be the creepy new guy? Or the creepy butcher? Or the creepy uncle? Or how about that priest?

Meanwhile, Ingrid is on her inherited and completely isolated family farm, having bizarre cow milking-induced flashbacks while imagining that every man she sees is a psychotic murderer.

So in a way, Ingrid is sort of symbolic of how I felt watching this movie (right down to the bizarre flashbacks). You don't really know who to trust and at any given point in the movie you're pretty certain the killer could be pretty much any of the characters.

Part of this is because the town has no real infrastructure in place for dealing with murderers. Sure, you've got your small town sheriff and your wise doctor and some incompetent deputies and the town floozy. But everyone basically goes about their business like there isn't an insane murdered running around. Standard procedure here boils down to, "face all possible evidence with stoic denial." Even Ingrid's uncle knows this. When Ingrid comes home after narrowly escaping an attack, her clothes torn and bloody, her uncle uses the old, "it was probably a rabbit or a deer" explanation. At first I was confused and a little scared. "Is he discounting what she says happened, just because that's what you do in these kinds of movies?" Then I thought, "or.... is he suggesting that the killer is a rabbit and/or a deer?" and instead of being confused I was delighted. I chuckled a little bit but as the movie continued on I realized my first guess was right so I was a little disappointed.

I was pretty happy to find out that even after you are sure you've figured out who the killer is... well, you're probably right, but there is another little twist at the end you won't be able to predict unless you are really good at predicting things that are totally out of nowhere.

So, how about the more technical aspects of this movie. The sets, lighting, acting, effects, everything really are all roughly on the same level as a decent made-for-TV movie. The dialog is pretty natural sounding I guess, other than the "probably a rabbit or a deer" part I mentioned above.

Haunts has a pretty interesting atmosphere however. It's slow and deliberately paced and dare I say even a little boring. But it's also kind of moody and there are plenty of weird things to look out for. A lot of plot points get thrown at you and never really go anywhere. It could be an example of throwing it all at the wall to see what sticks, or it could be an expert method of making the audience (me) feel a little uneasy and unsure of things. I feel it worked pretty well.

Not as great as some of the other movies in the Chilling Classics set, but not as awful as the worst of the Sci-Fi Classics set, Haunts is a decent thriller with a great atmosphere.

6.19.2008

The Atomic Brain (1964)

The little description on the sleeve for this DVD is pretty hilarious. "Somehow, atomic power is harnessed to transplant brains." There's another sentence or two on there, but the rest isn't as funny. That doesn't really explain much so I will try my best to help you out.

A miserable old wealthy woman hires a live-in brain surgeon to experiment with brain transplants. You see, she wants to have her brain put into the body of a beautiful young woman so she can continue to be rich and alive. However! There is a chance she could become a vampire or something, as our helpful narrator warns us at the beginning of the movie:

"Is the next step the transplantation of the human brain? Many scientists answer, 'yes.' But they pause and add a grim warning. For in the ancient folk legends tales are told of blood-sucking vampires, crawling out of graves to live on the bodies of helpless victims. Is man now doomed to produce a race of ever-living monstrosities?"

That's quite a leap to make but I'm no scientist so what do I know?

Other important characters include Victor (some guy that has become involved with the old woman so that he can get her money) and a few buxom ladies who are told they are being hired as servants but in reality are just being sized up for possible brain transplantation. As a result you get some pretty hilarious scenes of this old lady totally checking these babes out, even rejecting one because she has a birthmark on her shoulder! Most of the girls are pretty bothered by this though one of them doesn't seem to care and I swear to god actually says at one point, "I have the same measurements as Marilyn Monroe! *giggle*"

Meanwhile, there are some monsters hanging around. They are failed experiments of the doctor and they basically run around acting like animals (because they have animal brains). One monster hilariously has animal-like features, as though transplanting an animal brain into a human body would do that.

So I don't want to give away the ending but you know there are going to be some monsters attacking women, some harebrained science, and some exploitative violence. I was pretty pleased to see a little bit of shocking gore in this one... it was certainly unexpected. I won't give it away but let's just say that EYE didn't expect it. hahaha

What can I say? It's a scifi monster flick. It's not boring and talky like a lot of scifi movies from this era, and it's not a bad way to spend 64 minutes.

This movie was released under the alternate title of Monstrosity. I have to admit that I am partial to the title given on the DVD, The Atomic Brain. My rule of thumb has always been, "if given the option, go with the choice that is more atomic." So there you go. However, isn't that poster great (poster image downloaded from scificlassics)? BODIES FOR SALE! If I was around in 1964 I would definitely be buying tickets for this movie. Having watched it just now, I think I would have been satisfied.

6.18.2008

Beast of the Yellow Night (1971)

A bandit on the run, Joseph Langdon, is about to meet his end in the sweaty jungles of Southeast Asia when he is approached by Satan in the form of a jolly chubby Fillipino guy and offered his life for his soul. He agrees, Satan empties a sack of meat on the ground and our movie begins!

Joseph's soul is funneled into the body of some asshole rich guy who was supposed to have died horribly. He has a gorgeous wife and all the money he needs but unfortunately for him he is basically an agent of Satan. He cannot be killed and basically runs around spreading wickedness and evil wherever he goes. Because Satan thinks mankind is too slow at that stuff (haha). Also, Joseph turns into a werewolf or something sort of randomly (mostly when his wife tries to seduce him) and he then has to go on murder sprees. So obviously this is a movie that works on multiple levels. You've got the "werewolf tearing up things" parts, the philosophic parts where Satan and Joseph have little discussions on whether or not Joseph is still a man (he is), and then the lame parts where Joseph is engaging in subtle duels of wit with his wife and his brother (not the same person).

Oh, you also have a lot of padding in the form of police detectives sitting at desks and endlessly discussing who or what could be killing all these people (I don't think it's giving much away to tell you that it's Joseph... you know... THE WEREWOLF GUY... who is committing the murders).

Overall I'd have to say that this movie is entertaining but could have been even better. As mentioned above there is a lot of padding. Sometimes the dialog is too clever for its own good (so much philosophizing!!) and thus sounds artificial. It's also kind of hard to follow the plot, mostly because two of the three most important characters have somewhat thick accents; a situation that is not helped by the audio quality on the disc I viewed.

But it's also just sort of hard to understand the motives of all these characters. Joseph is tired of his immortal existence and does some weird things, like vaguely suggesting to his brother that Mrs. Joseph secretly loves him and that he (the brother) should go find out what she thinks. It turns out that this is all a lie, but for what? To test the brother? To test the wife? Why does this guy care so much about a couple of people that he just met? Could it be just a game to him? Who cares? Not I!

Since this movie can be found in all those cheap public domain sets there's no reason not to check it out! Is that a recommendation? Probably.

6.17.2008

Troll 2 (1990)

A young boy named Joshua and his kind of crazy family take a trip to the country to partake in some old-fashioned country livin'. Of all the places in the country they decided to go to the small town of Nilbog, population 26. Little do they know that Nilbog is not your typical hospitable small country town... as Joshua's dead Grandpa warns him, Nilbog is the kingdom of the GOBLINS!!

I almost don't have to review this movie. It's got its own little (actually sort of massive) cult following. People have described it as The Rocky Horror Picture Show of the 21st century. And there are in fact sold out show where people get up in front of the screen and act out the best parts of this movie. So there you go, pretty similar.

So I could review this movie like every other person on the planet and tell you how bad the acting is, how cheesy and unintentionally hilarious the whole thing is. But I won't do that because I legitimately enjoy this movie on many levels and yes, I even respect the work everyone put into it.

Troll 2 was meant to be a horror film for kids, like Gremlins or (for slightly older kids) Ghoulies. It's one of the few PG-13 horror films I can stand. Let me tell you this, if the current crop of PG-13 horror flicks were more like Troll 2 and less like The Grudge or what have you I would be going to the movies all the time.

So, when you watch Troll 2 as an adult you have to sort of force yourself into the mindset of a little kid (not hard for me). Sort of like when you are watching The Neverending Story or Return to Oz. From the point of view of a little kid, I think Troll 2 is pretty terrifying. There are parts that are even a little creepy for an adult.

Troll 2 is pretty competent on most levels. I'd go so far to say that the direction is tight and the lighting is great. The acting... okay, the acting is bad. But again, look at it from the point of view of a kid. Kids are stunted emotionally and haven't had time to fully mature their feelings. The only things they understand are extremes... people yelling, people being scared, people laughing. The audience this movie was meant for simply wouldn't even appreciate excellent acting. So why spend the money on pros? Having said all that, the acting is not so bad that it actually detracts from the movie. For an example of that watch any Japanese movie made in the last 10 years or so.

Troll 2 also has a really cool script. There! I said it (actually, I wrote it, but saying "There! I wrote it!" sounds awkward)! I don't care what anyone says, there are some cool things going on in this movie. The goblins are vegetarians so before they can eat you they have to trick you into eating magic goo which turns you into a plant. The goblins even have their own little religion, and some kind of hierarchy, with a priest goblin near the top and a queen over all the other goblins. If you stop and think about it, a lot of thought was put into this kingdom of Nilbog.

Now, I could do the thing where I list off a bunch of hilarious moments from this movie but I won't do that either. Like Story of Ricky, Troll 2 is sort of a set piece movie and I would hate to ruin any of the fun by giving away my favorite parts. This is a great comparison, now that I think of it, because both movies are also the kinds of films where every minute seems to top the previous minute in terms of sheer wackiness. Troll 2 seriously never lets up. It's an awesome ride from T2-0 (the beginning of the movie) to T2-95 (the ending).

I will discuss, however, some things that people don't seem to go into in their reviews.

For example, we know that Troll 2 was meant for kids. Why then are there so many blatant sexual jokes? Why is there a scene where someone is seduced by an evil witch provocatively wielding a corn-on-the-cob?

We know that the script was written by Italians (always an extremely good sign, if you are familiar with Italian exploitation movies). How much of the awkward dialog is a result of this, and how much is a result of having a bunch of amateur American actors being directed by an Italian guy?

So, I suggest you give this movie a watch. Unlike most "good bad movies" it's not only fun if you are drunk. I've probably seen it about six times and I never get sick of it.

6.16.2008

Day of the Panther (1988)

Jason Blade, expert martial artist and all-around tough guy, travels to Perth, Australia to avenge the murder of his partner. There are plenty of people in Perth for him to fight along the way and of course a nubile young lady to seduce. It takes about 90 minutes for him to resolve this situation to his liking, which is just perfect.

Now, before any of this can happen we get to watch his partner being killed in the line of duty. She basically is working undercover and gets attacked by some thugs wearing various festive Halloween masks. I didn't understand this part. She's trying to get away from these thugs but she also keeps jumping through walls screaming "HIIIIIII-YAAAAAH" at them. Finally she meets some guy that doesn't just stand there waiting for her to kick him so she just gives up and that's that.

Back to Blade. Jason Blade is an interesting character, mostly because his name is "Blade." You get a lot of scenes of people calling him this. The police chief tells him, "I want you out of this Blade!" and when Blade goes undercover the crime boss tells him, "You're sharp, Blade!" That last one is pretty clever, actually.

Of course there's got to be a love interest and she is awkwardly inserted into the movie. She's, like, the niece of, er, the other white guy that learned kung fu from the Chinese people. During one awesome scene she does a ridiculous "sexy dance" that only people in movies do. She does the sexy dance again later in the movie, but no one is around so it is ineffective.

While I was watching this movie I began to feel nostalgic for the late 80s. Sure there were guns, but this was a time when the gun was used not so much as a means for firing a high velocity projectile into another person's body, but more as something you'd use to make people move around where you want them to go. Like a potentially deadly baton. True to history, Day of the Panther has lots of guns in it (okay, two) but they're used to just add a bit of urgency to the command, "Come with me, Blade."

There's a pretty awesome part at the end of the movie where someone gets thrown off of a cliff onto barbed wire. Just when I thought nothing could top that the cameraman helpfully (and very visibly) extends his hand to help the guy that just fell.

All in all Day of the Panther is an extremely enjoyable movie. It's fun in the "haw haw the music is so funny" way but it's also legitimately entertaining, even if it is just a bunch of kicky nonsense.

6.13.2008

Twister's Revenge (1987)

Three retarded rednecks plot to steal a robot truck that they claim is worth a million dollars. When that doesn't work, they kidnap the woman who made the truck. So now it's up to the robot truck and the woman's husband to rescue her.

Have I found the perfect movie? Twister's Revenge is close. It's like a buddy movie mixed with LOVE DOES NOT COMPUTE robot hijinx and the Dukes of Hazzard. Here is a (partial!) list of things you will find in this movie:

- evil redneck getting kicked in the balls
- a robot truck
- people running around in fast forward mode while silly sped-up music plays
- a girl "computer expert" who says things like "the logarithmic AI subsystem is state of art" that completely and utterly stun her cowboy boyfriend, forcing him to admit "now honey, I'm just a cowboy"
- JAWS ripoff music
- crazy man hungry woman who says "man" like "MAY-AN" (you know, like in the cartoons... "It's a MAY-AN!!")
- a part where the robot truck chases one of the evil hillbillies into an outhouse, helpfully labeled "SHIT HOUSE!" in big block letters. Of course, robotruck crashes into the outhouse, forcing the hillbilly to jump into the cesspool under the structure.
- two shotgun fights

This movie is like a cornucopia of awful movie pleasure. The script is awful but not awful in the way that something like Alien Species is. Whereas that movie seemed like it was trying hard to be edgy and cool, Twister's Revenge is trying really hard to make you laugh and it just isn't working.

The acting runs the gamut from "hick with a New York accent" to the guy who says "...my caaaarrrr...." when his car is destroyed by robot truck.

Robot truck, conceptually, is pretty stupid. It drives around on his own, navigating obstacles and cracking robot jokes with his cowboy buddy and all the while I'm thinking, "why a monster truck?" I mean, obviously the draw of the movie is that there is a monster truck and there are obstacles for the monster truck to drive over in slow motion. But the AI aspect of the storyline never really blossoms into anything. I mean, sure, the robot/cowboy banter is legendary but other than that you could have a guy driving the truck and it would be pretty much the same movie. And this woman develops some kind of revolutionary AI and the first thing she thinks of is, "I should put this on a monster truck! Think of all the things it could drive over using SCIENCE!" Why not make a robot person or dog or something?

If I were to remake this movie, I would have it so that the cowboy would be driving the robot truck but they would crash into a (flaming) outhouse (because it's funnier that way). After making a sufficient number of comments about how stinky it is, robot truck would catch on fire and then explode! Of course the first person on the scene would be the woman that made robot truck so instead of notifying the police or whatever she would take both her boyfriend and the truck back to the lab and would have no choice but to put the man's brain into the truck!!! Then it would totally be like a buddy movie mixed with Robocop!!!

6.11.2008

The Devil With Seven Faces (1971)

Some detective guy or something is hired sort of by this lady to do something or other and she has a twin sister who is identical in every way but hair color but she keeps saying things like "we are identical only physically" and she's being harassed by some mobsters that want her diamond and then there's this other guy who charms all the ladies and all of a sudden he's revealed to be a race car driver and the diamond is fake no wait it's real no wait here it is.

This is the impression I am left with after watching this movie. The Devil With Seven Faces is one of those movies where nothing really happens for 80 minutes and then there's some crazy plot twist and the movie is over.

It's not especially violent, though there are plenty of people getting shot and and scrunching their faces up while their hand shoots up to where the bullet hit them and staggering around for a few seconds before turning and falling on their backs.

It's also not particularly suspenseful. I admit I was bored with the movie and had trouble paying attention to it but it's the kind of suspense movie where basically everyone is secretly on the same side and yet want to kill each other so any suspense is ruined because it's just a bunch of secret backstabbing.

I'd like to say that the dialog was natural sounding but it really wasn't. You had the smooth guy flirting with the ladies with such classic lines as, "It's my job to save beautiful women" or whatever. Maybe back in 1971 that was pretty hot but nowadays that would just get you pepper sprayed or tasered, even if you did save the woman's life.

At one point my attention span collapsed into itself under the sheer mass of the boringness that is The Devil With Seven Faces, creating a black hole of apathy which was, speaking from a physics standpoint, impossible to get out of. Impossible I tell you! I had resigned myself to my fate, floating around in that black hole, my body reduced to it's most basic elements when I was saved by the sudden appearance of the heroine in some kind of Japanese cartoon wig?!?!?!

If there is an explanation for this in the movie I missed it. I assume it was to remain inconspicuous? You know, "Well, I know you said she'd be at the beach, but all I saw was this one woman in a giant blue wig just sitting there in the middle of everything. It seemed suspicious but the woman we're looking for is blond so obviously that wasn't her."

So I guess I really can't recommend this movie. The only good part is the wig and I took that picture up there for you so you really have no reason to watch the movie. You could just look at that picture for 90 minutes, or maybe look at the title screen first for the full effect.

6.10.2008

Naked Massacre (1976)

Amidst the turmoil of civil war, an American Vietnam War veteran arrives in Ireland after being discharged from service. Things start out badly as a church he is sort of hanging out in gets blown up. Everyone knows that Vietnam War veterans are typically psychos, at least in exploitation movies. And with a title like Naked Massacre you know this isn't going to end well.

It just so happens that there is some kind of shared living arrangement with the nurses in this town. So you've got a house of young nurses just waiting to be massacred (the nurses not the house). Plus the crazy Vietnam war vet.

Now, I'm a simple man. I like when movie titles double as plot summaries. So that's a plus right away. It helps when I am trying to remember some obscure trashy movie I watched. "Which was the one where, like, there was a massacre? A massacre of naked ladies? A Naked Massacre, you might say?"

Like a lot of exploitation movies from the mid 70s Naked Massacre is gritty as hell and pulls no punches. The dialog is very natural and the performances are pretty realistic, which definitely helps create the hopeless atmosphere.

So I find it a little hard to be flippant when discussing this film. But I'll try, god help me I'll try.

On the one hand, Naked Massacre delivers the exploitation goods. The sheer amount of nudity is impressive and yes, there is quite a massacre.

On the other hand, as I watched this movie I found myself thinking, "oh, this kind of naked massacre." This is not your typical sleazy naked massacre, the kind where after watching it you want to go outside and enjoy life and get some project you've been working on for the longest time done. It's not the kind of naked massacre that would, say, make you want to go bake a cake or visit your folks or whatever. This is the kind of naked massacre where after watching the movie you sort of just want to sit in your dark room thinking about how much everything sucks and how people are so awful and wouldn't the world be better off if humans never existed and other such things.

There's no humor whatsoever, not even the kind of black humor they usually insert into movies like this to sort of lighten the mood a bit. Everything is bleak, from the pretty shocking church attack at the beginning, to the titular massacre, to the powerful ending.

There's even some kind of anti-violence message at the end where they sort of compare the random and senseless violence of the movie with the random and senseless violence of the war in Ireland.

Having said that, this is an excellent movie. Not only is it effectively brutal but you can watch it with other people and right after the movie is over and they all turn to you and look at you thinking you're some kind of pervert or psycho you can tell them, "don't you see? It's not about sleaze and misogynistic violence. It's really about how people who enjoy sleazy and violent movies are no better than the psychos who perpetrate these crimes in real life!" It helps if the people you are saying this to have a few drinks in them.

3.19.2008

The Amazing Transparent Man (1960)

Master Burglar Joey Faust is busted out of prison by Laura, an accomplice of criminal mastermind Major Paul Krenner. Krenner has forced Dr. Ulof to develop a radiation-based invisibility ray. Krenner plans to make an invisible army he can sell to the highest bidder but first wants Joey to act as guinea pig and steal some money to help fund the whole thing. Realizing the benefits of invisibility, Joey has other plans...

This is an alright movie. It's a little slow and it's more of a crime thriller than an invisible man scifi movie. The actor that portrays Joey is perfect because he looks kind of like your slimy ex-con uncle. There's a love interest (Laura) but she's not particularly attractive nor likable and her outfits are outrageous! I imagine at the time her nightgown was probably seen as unbearably sexy and provocative but for modern man it is more a curiosity of a naive age, like dirigibles or monocles or telephones that do not allow you to play mp3s on them.

There's a definite anti-Nazi theme running throughout this movie. It's not very subtle. Unless you think a line like, "Imagine what Hitler would have done with an invisible army!" is subtle. I think that one was in there, but I might have embellished it a little. It's the kind of commentary that's worthless because you're not saying anything of substance. Who would say, "Well, I disagree. If Hitler had an invisible army I think he would have realized through the sheer force of invisibility that what he was doing was wrong and the world would be a better place now."

The ending continues this commentary and is pretty funny because one of the characters looks straight into the camera and dramatically asks you, "What would you do?!" I got a little nervous being put in the spotlight like that so I answered a little too hastily, "Well, I guess I would probably not give Hitler an invisible army? Is that the right answer?"

Did they actually think that they were making a poignant film? That after the final line is uttered you'd have that thing where one person would stand up and start the slow clap and then another person would join in and then the rest of the theater?
I guess I expected more out of this movie. Check out that lobby card. If you squint you can even see Laura's ridiculous pajamas. "An Entire Nation At His Mercy!!" No. He steals money from two little banks and gives Laura a little feeling up. Two banks and a floozy do not a Nation make!

3.18.2008

Death of a Ninja (1982)

This movie is not well known under this title. But you may recognize it under its more common title, Ninja Wars.

Death of a Ninja is pretty remarkable. I think, given the proper presentation (original Japanese dialog, remastered video and sound), this would probably be an excellent movie. I mean, legitimately good. From what I understand it has won some awards in Japan. The version of this movie included in the Martial Arts 50 Movie Pack, however, has an absolutely hilarious dub and pretty atrocious (but watchable) video quality.

Especially when viewed with the English dubbed track (there is no other option on this disc), Death of a Ninja is pretty crazy. My understanding is that there is a difference in how we in the USA view ninjas and how people in Japan view them. We see ninjas as badass stealth assassins dressed in black. Japanese people (according to the movies I've seen from Japan) seem to see them as weird freaks with bizarre supernatural powers.

The plot is kind of complicated and I want to say you can ignore it and just watch the madness unfold, but then you lose out on a lot this movie offers if you ignore the plot.

A lecherous lord falls in love with the wife (Ukyodayu) of some other guy. Then a mysterious mystic (with the most hilarious dubbed voice I've ever had the pleasure to hear) appears literally out of nowhere to offer his services. The mystic will use his band of devil monks to create a love potion from the tears of a virgin who, in a glorious example of understatement mixed with some degree of self-censorship, must be "seduced" by the monks. It also helps if the virgin in question shares a bloodline with the woman. And wouldn't it be even better if she looked just like her too?

Luckily for all involved it just so happens that a girl ninja named Kagaribi looks exactly like Ukyodayu. The monks kidnap her because her ninja boyfriend, Jotaro, is totally incompetent. This won't be the first time that a woman gets kidnapped while under Jotaro's protection. Realizing what is to happen, Kagaribi uses her ninja powers to sever her own head with her bare hands but the monks will have none of that and they put her head on some other woman's body. You see they couldn't use the other woman because she is not a virgin. There was some reason why they did this but I had trouble following. Why not just put her head back on her body? Maybe they were afraid she would just sever her own head again.

So now it's up to Jotaro to get to the bottom of this. Can he defeat the devil monks? Can he save the woman he loves (or at least part of her)? Does it count to save only her head, or does he need to save both women for full points? And who's that really awesome ninja with the flowing mane of hair?

Death of a Ninja has plenty of the good stuff. It's violent like all ninja movies should be and there are plenty of good looking ladies in various states of disrobing. Kagaribi is awesome as she runs through the bamboo forest slashing down trees with her bare hands. Jotaro is useless until the very end, and even then his competence is debatable. Sonny Chiba is in it and even though he does nothing really other than scowl and look menacing he's at least one hundred times the man Jotaro is.

Earlier, I mentioned the difference between how we in the West see ninjas, and how they are seen in the mystical, inscrutable Orient. Honestly I like both styles of ninja. But I really like the ninjas in this movie. I think they even refer to the devil monks as ninjas in this one, and the devil monks have all sorts of cool powers. They're basically immortal. One of the guys can spit disgusting sticky acid stuff at you. Another guy has superhuman strength. And so on.

So if you like ninjas who are also weird freaky guys, I don't think you could do much better than Death of a Ninja.

3.16.2008

Oasis of the Zombies (1981)

Two attractive young women wearing too short tight shorts and tight tank tops with no bras on underneath take a joyride in a desert and come upon the titular oasis. Investigating further they find some old army stuff and skulls and like most people would in that situation they decide to hang around and wait for zombies to kill them.

So obviously Oasis of the Zombies starts out on a high note. Unfortunately, the opening scene is all this movie has going for it.

Then suddenly there are these other guys and they plan on going to this oasis (the one of the zombies) because there is Nazi gold buried there. One guy double crosses the other leaving him dead. So the dead guy's son then decides to carry on his dad's plan, but not before an astonishingly long flashback sequence where we get to watch the dead father's heroics during the war.

So you've got two groups of people going after the same gold and (as established by the opening scene) zombies who are happy to eat all involved. Yeah! I must say, having typed all this out Oasis of the Zombies sounds pretty cool. Don't let my ways with words and commanding personality and good looks fool you! Oasis of the Zombies is a waste of time!

But why?!?! It all comes down to pacing. This movie is so slow and nothing really happens. There are a lot of repeated shots and a lot of scenes of go-nowhere-dialog that only serve as padding (in an 82 minute movie!).

There's only what I would consider to be the bare minimum of exposed ladyparts to make a movie worth watching. And on top of that, for a zombie movie there isn't a lot of gory stuff. Scratch that! For any kind of movie there isn't a lot of gory stuff. I would expect more gore and/or exploitative nudity in a romantic comedy.

So I bring to your attention the lurid and awesome (I know, redundant) movie poster to the right. I found this on this page which is some kind of ridiculously in-depth review of this movie. Now, this scene does sort of happen in this movie. But it happens within the first 10 minutes during the pretty fantastic opening scene. This would be right after one of the girls shows an abnormal interest in a cannon and the other girl, speaking for everyone watching, asks her why she even cares about that old cannon. This movie needs more stuff like that. That is instant comedy! Girls in embarrassing shorts take a joyride in a desert and find a canon in an oasis.

But no! There's none of that in this. I'll bet if the Italians had made this we'd have that in there. Even if they didn't, they would at least have a lot more macho dudes talking about their balls, and that's always good for a laugh.

3.13.2008

Story of Ricky (1991)

Story of Ricky has a bit of a cult following. It's based on a Japanese comic book. Ricky's girlfriend is killed (actually her stunt dummy is thrown off a rooftop) and in revenge Ricky takes out some punk criminal. Of course, Ricky is sent to prison and it sucks because in the future all prisons are privatized and corrupt, unlike today's government-run prisons which are pure and clean and fun and totally fair.

Ricky is not one to just sit there and serve his time while being harassed by psychotic jerks. He is the kind of person who will, say, punch you so hard in your stomach that all of your guts spill out in graphic detail. If you throw a punch at Ricky, he just might punch your fist, exploding it all over the floor.

Assuming you wanted to take this prison down from within, keep in mind that the prison is structured like some kind of video game, with bosses you have to kill before you move on to the next level. Kill all the bosses and you can fight the warden one on one. BEWARE! As the warden explains to Ricky, he's the warden so of course his kung fu is the strongest!

Story of Ricky is what I would call a "set-piece" movie. There's really no plot per se, more of a bunch of bloody fight scenes strung together. But what awesome scenes they are. They are the perfect combination of over the top violence, cheesy effects, and black hilarity.

I watched the Hong Kong Legends version, which is a PAL region 2 import. It's all remastered and whatnot and has both the original language track as well as the awesome dubbed track. To appreciate this movie you should watch it dubbed.

There is a slight chance you won't like this movie. For instance, you might not like good things. You may hate fun. Let me tell you that every person I've forced to watch this movie has loved it.

This is like the opposite of those "scared straight" things because if you show this to a kid he will do anything he can to get locked up because this movie is just that cool.

The only bad thing about Story of Ricky is that no movie can compare to it. Every movie I watch is just a little bit worse after seeing this movie. So you could say that Story of Ricky is a tragedy, in a way.

3.12.2008

Zeiram (1991)

Zeiram is the touching story of a woman (Iria), her virtual buddy Bob, and the titular alien monster bioweapon they must kill.

We are introduced to Zeiram during a stunningly violent scene where Zeiram runs around absolutely destroying a handful of soldiers. Time to call in the bounty hunters!

And so we are introduced to Iria and Bob. Iria is the girl on the cover, Bob is her partner who lives in a computer. Their plan is simple: she'll engage Zeiram in some pocket dimension thing on Earth (so that no one will get hurt) and capture it in some weird crystal. Bob will provide moral support and character development via his constant bickering with Iria.

Everything goes according to plan until two goofy comic relief electricians accidentally free Zeiram and then get trapped in the pocket dimension with it. Now it's up to Iria to not only capture Zeiram but to save these two worthless losers!

I admit that I was immediately worried about this movie. If you are like me, you just read my plot summary and were probably thinking, "cool" up until around the part about the two bumbling electricians. I'm kind of torn on their inclusion. On the one hand, I hate comic relief characters. On the other hand, ninety minute movies about two characters fighting take a special kind of director to be effective. If that director is not present, you get a really boring movie.

After seeing Zeiram I think Keita Amemiya is talented enough to have gone without the comic relief. However, part of Zeiram's charm is that it's a little goofy. I honestly can't say how much of that is a result of the bumbling electricians. I mean, there are some other goofy things. As cool as the Zeiram monster is, it's still just a guy in a rubber suit. As much as I like the practical effects, you've still got a stop motion toy menacing the characters by the end of the movie. So I hypothesize that without the comic relief characters Zeiram would only be silly enough to detract from the overall experience. If the comic relief were to be taken out, the other goofy things would stand out more and I think the movie would suffer for it.

So what else is going on in Zeiram? Well, you've got a lot of fighting between Iria and Zeiram, with Iria using lots of cool sci-fantasy gadgets against him. Zeiram itself is a really cool design, menacing and unstoppable. The practical effects are great! You have suits, stop motion, slimy dudes, etc.

I watched the dubbed version and the dubbing was surprisingly good. This is probably the best lip-syncing I have ever seen/heard. There were times when I was wondering if this was like one of those Italian horror movies from the early 80s where half the people were actually speaking in English originally and half were dubbed into English.

3.11.2008

She Gods of Shark Reef (1958)

Two criminal brothers are shipwrecked on a corporate-owned island inhabited by (mostly) beautiful women. There is also this one old crabby lady who is constantly warning people about taboos and trouble and just generally raining on everyone's parades. There is also the titular reef with a shark in it. The shark looks pretty harmless actually and swims around in a drugged stupor for much of the movie. I guess the whole point of the shark is that the women worship it and throw each other in the ocean as sacrifices. It didn't really make much sense the more I thought about it but I'm not one to impose my culture on others and also the shark needs to eat so I guess I'm cool with it.

But I have one question. Where are the She-Gods? Certainly not in this film.

Anway, the Good Brother, Chris, falls in love with one of the girls, Mahia, and just wants to live his life with her. The Bad Brother, Lee, runs around killing people and stealing things. So you can see that a conflict will develop between the two.

But you (and Chris) will have to put up with Mahia's insufferable island speak. I think people in the late 50s were built of stronger stuff because I could only stand listening to "Mahia leave now? Where Chris go?" for roughly five minutes before starting to regret putting this movie on. Luckily Mahia doesn't speak much in the movie and there is really only one scene where she attempts to have a conversation with Chris for any meaningful length of time.

This is a Roger Corman production and like most of his movies, She Gods of Shark Reef is very low budget but very entertaining and well-paced. It's a pretty short movie and just when you've had about enough of Chris and Lee and their island hijinx and the unbearable island speak the movie is over!

You have to love the official poster for this movie. Check out that tag-line! "Beautiful maidens in a LUSH TROPICAL PARADISE ruled by a HIDEOUS STONE GOD!" Why don't movie posters nowadays do this kind of thing? I look at this poster and I want to watch this movie. I look at the poster for, I dunno, Saw IV and think that maybe they're trying a little too hard to be edgy and cool. Granted, She Gods of Shark Reef is a completely different movie. But I think my point still stands.

3.10.2008

Moon of the Wolf (1972)


I'm not a "so bad they're good" kind of guy. I honestly enjoy movies like The Alpha Incident and Alien Contamination. I think it's a shame that people who enjoy these kinds of movies refer to them as "guilty pleasures" because it suggests they feel bad for liking them. That's sad.

I am saying all of this so that you understand that I have standards. I don't like just any olf movie off of some collection of 50 public domain movies. Case in point: Moon of the Wolf.

Somewhere in Louisiana a girl is killed, possibly by a wild animal. The townspeople are uneasy, so Sheriff Whitaker begins an investigation.

That's your plot. Someone turns out to be a werewolf of course, and eventually the werewolf gets shot to death.

I have to admit up front that I have zero interest in gothic horror, unless the gothic horror has Dean Stockwell with an afro as part of the plot. Werewolves and vampires and stuff? Not interested.

The only thing compelling about werewolf movies is that there is more often than not going to be some good blood and gore effects. However, since Moon of the Wolf was apparently an ABC TV movie you know there's going to be none of that. So you're left with Sheriff Whitaker walking around town, interviewing people. It's one of those movies where you know within seconds who the monster is and you have to wait sixty minutes for the movie to catch up with you.

So I have nothing good to say about this one. As mentioned above it's a TV movie so the direction is dull, but not as dull as the lighting and photography. The best part is where the werewolf is cornering some guy and the scene is from the point of view of the werewolf (so you don't know who the werewolf is... clever!) and the guy does that thing where he tries to reason and plead but they don't want to give any hints about the identity of the werewolf away and it takes too long so the suspense they were going for is ruined. You know what I'm talking about: "No... please... oh no... oh god... please no... but... I mean... you can't... you mustn't... it's just... it's just not possible... it's impossible... I didn't... I won't... aARRRRGGGHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH"

3.06.2008

Attack from Space (1964)

Starman returns! That creepy guy is back, ready and willing to run around in a spandex suit that's just a little too tight, saving your children!

Attack from Space came out after Atomic Rules of the Earth but it doesn't really continue the story. In fact, the introduction is exactly the same, with the slightly retarded aliens from the Emerald Planet creating Starman and giving him his powers (flight through space, ability to talk to anyone, radiation detection).

This time, Starman isn't taking on anything as ordinary as a maniacal nation hellbent on the destruction of the planet. No, the enemy this time around is aliens!! They call themselves the Superions but they look just like people. Clever trick, or-?!

Dr. Yamanaka is a brilliant rocket scientist with two annoying kids. Like most kids back in the 60s their hobbies include snooping around where they don't belong and consequently being kidnapped by goons. These goons happen to be employed by the Superions and now the Superions have just what they need to convince Yamanaka to build super rockets for them!

But Starman will have none of that. He runs around the enemy base for what seems like 70% of the movie throwing people off of walkways and then grabbing their guns and shooting dozens of bad guys, laughing the whole way like a madman and ignoring the fact that he is supposed to save the children. Starman- savior or psychopath?

There are a lot of hilarious things in this, like how people can breath in space and how they fly through a star and it's okay and how they have a speedometer in their rocket that suggests they are flying at the astounding speed of 120 kilometers per hour!

Also, Starman is a little creepy. Look at this guy! Would you trust this man with your children??

I'd have to say that this was a step up from the first movie in the series only because instead of fighting a bunch of guys in suits and fedoras Starman fights a bunch of space Nazis. Also, because of the scene where Starman changes from his human disguise to his alien suit!

3.03.2008

The Alpha Incident (1978)

A mysterious virus from space is being transported across the country via train. A single biochemist, Sorenson, is installed on the train to guard it. However, all the failsafes and all of Sorenson's training are no match for the slightly retarded but vaguely menacing railroad worker Hank who sneaks into the car where the virus is being held one night, opens the case, and drops the glass container the virus is being held in!

At the next stop of course Hank goes around touching every single person so now the whole stop is infected and Sorenson has to quarantine the area under threat of death. Luckily, there are only five people in the whole area, including Sorenson and Hank.

From here until the end you have one of those "people stuck in a room together" suspense movies. It works pretty well, especially considering the low budget of the movie. The characters are pretty typical. You have your tough but quiet hero, your shy old pervy guy, your overly antagonistic jerk, your kind of trampy girl, and your (as mentioned above) slightly retarded old guy.

So obviously most of these people are not going to get along. Sorenson starts out on the right foot with his standard greeting, which is to shoot people in the arm or leg. It only makes it worse when night falls and everyone starts to get ready to go to sleep and Sorenson basically tells them, "Oh, that's right. If you sleep the virus will kill you! So don't do that."

So everyone starts pissing each other off and no matter how many friendly games of poker they play, no matter how many dirty magazines they read, no matter how many times they dance, you know people are going to die. The girl changes into her low cut pajamas, which we are treated to in a hilarious Vaseline-smeared camera lens glamor scene, complete with sleazy music (I might have just imagined the music). This causes even more problems because she's basically surrounded by perverts and a possible rapist.

Luckily someone does fall asleep and you get to see some pretty nauseating gore. I won't ruin it for you but you know those little capsules you would put in the water when you were a kid and the water would dissolve the capsule and the little foam monster inside would swell up to five times its former size? Well, that's pretty much what happens to your brain when you get this virus and fall asleep! Awesome! The Alpha Virus is hardcore!

But mostly there is a lot of talking and while at first I was worried about how dull this movie was going to be it turned out to be pretty suspenseful. The dialog is pretty natural in the way that a lot of movies from the 70s were. No one is making snappy one liners in this movie, that's for sure. Sadly, the suspense is is ruined from time to time when the action cuts to a couple of scientists in a lab telling each other that they have no clue what is going on. It does this a few times, so it was obviously meant to pad the movie.

2.29.2008

Alien Species (1996)

Two cops are driving some convicts around when they stumble upon some people that are in need of a lift. Meanwhile, some other people are working in a room doing some kind of research using computers. It's not really handled very well and everything just kind of happens in this movie.

You know that there is going to be some kind of situation where the convicts get free but have to band together with the normal folk due to aliens. I mean, come on, look at the poster. When that kind of stuff happens, it doesn't matter how many men you've murdered in bars or how many girls you've raped and slaughtered! You band together with your fellow man and take those alien bastards down!

So they do. There is an attempt at some kind of "bunch of people who hate each other forced to work together" drama but it doesn't really work so instead you get a bunch of shrill jerks skulking about in caves acting annoyed at one another, being slowly chased by aliens.

Am I giving too much away if I tell you that one of the convicts has a heart of gold and was wrongfully convicted? Well, that's what he claims anyway. A jury of his peers disagreed and I am not one to question due process.

The special effects are awful. You have a bunch of computer generated spaceships zooming around. There are a lot of explosions but they are also fake. They just take a picture of a city and overlay explosion animations over it!

There is a lot of swearing but very little blood and no nudity. Don't these people know why we watch movies with titles like Alien Species?? This is no Alien Contamination, that's for sure. The aliens in this movie basically just punch people to death.

Like a lot of movies from this time period, you have a hero running around spouting one-liners. They get old quickly. It's one of those movies where they felt they had some awesome chemistry going between the characters and thought it would be realistic and funny if characters would just say sarcastic things during every conversation. The script is awful. And not in a funny way... the constant one-liners and sarcastic comments are annoying, to the point where it's hard to appreciate the movie for its terribleness.

This is also one of those movies where you have a nerdy scientist guy but they overplay his nerdiness and/or scientistness and it ends up being stupid. Leading to conversations like this:

Scientist: Our probability of survival decreases by the second!
Hero: Say it in English Doc!
Scientist: We're screwed!

They made fun of this in The Lost Skeleton of Cadavra and it's unbelievable that scriptwriters continue to think that's hilarious stuff. Is there anyone on this planet who will hear that and think, "hahaha that's a good one. The hero didn't understand the big words and the scientist was like 'we're screwed!' hahaha"

The nerdy guy also has other powers. He can put an alien artifact on top of his laptop and then merely by slamming his hands into the keyboard he can figure out what the artifact does and how to use it. At least he doesn't upload a virus into the alien ship like that guy in Independence Day. He is also good at finding loaded rocket launchers on the sides of roads for the hero to use.

Finally, the pacing is poor. This movie seems to last forever and an inordinate amount of time is spent cave skulking. There are also too many scenes of the nerdy guy being a jerk to his hot female scientist partner. Upon reflection, I think I could sum up this movie by saying that an inordinate amount of time was spent on everything in this movie.

2.28.2008

Atomic Rulers of the World (1964)

Atomic Rulers of the World is serious business! A group of somewhat retarded aliens from the Emerald Planet who are worried that the earthlings will contaminate the universe with atomic radiation create Starman!

Starman's mission is to look for potential atomic situations to deal with, using his atomic wristwatch. His first situation- foil the schemes of the evil leader of Magolia, some crazy country that is out to take over the world. Their plan is meticulous and fool-proof. First they will blow Japan up with a nuclear bomb. Then China. Then Europe. Then Russia. Then the US. Finally the rest of the world!

So then it's off to Japan for Starman, the country where, we are told, "the penalty for lying is DEATH!!"

Starman disguises himself as a normal Japanese guy but he doesn't need to because he is invincible and goes around saying things like, "I am called Starman. I was created on the Emerald Planet. I come from outer space." He basically tells this to anyone who will listen... nuns, thugs, children, the police, etc.

There are a bunch of lovable orphans running around getting involved accidentally with Magolian thugs, so of course Starman has to save them. He's a little creepy, in his skintight alien outfit with his ridiculous little antenna, hanging out with kids and saying things like, "I am the friend of all children" and, "children are the future of Earth."

There's a big section in the middle that's kind of talky in that boring early 60s scifi way. Luckily there are plenty of great fights peppered liberally about. The fight choreography is surprisingly good, especially compared to similar kinds of movies and shows of the time. Starman is a crazy sonuvabitch so he has no problem just walking into an enemy base, laughing, and loudly declaring that he is Starman! It doesn't matter that there are dozens of guys with submachine guns!

The dubbing is excellent in that it is pretty hilarious. It's not terrible but it's still bad enough to be amusing. It's just right.

WARNING: DO NOT LOOK DIRECTLY AT THE POSTERS FOR MORE THAN FIFTEEN SECONDS AS THEY ARE HIGHLY RADIATED.

Atomic Rulers of the World was invented by brilliant cold war scientists, who labored day after day in secret radiation proof bunkers to combine two highly volatile Japanese short films: Super Giants and Super Giants Continues. Although many lives were lost, all was not in vain for today we are left with a wonderful film and thanks solely to their work on this movie the cold war has ended.

2.25.2008

Alien Contamination (1980)

The first movie in the Nightmare Worlds set is pretty awesome. I'm talking about Alien Contamination. This is an Italian movie from 1980 so you know it's going to have tons of awesome gore and a bunch of take-no-bullshit macho dudes running around slapping women.

Alien Contamination is one of those movies where just about all you need to know is contained in the title. Some guys find some weird looking alien eggs on a boat. The eggs explode, spewing acid in their faces. Then they explode, as though they had swallowed little bombs. I'm not sure how that works but it's awesome.

One of the survivors of this little group is a cop and of course, being as how this is an Italian horror/scifi movie from 1980, he calls women "babe" and stuff and can't stop himself from telling you about his balls.

There's this woman from the military and she decides that these eggs must be from Mars, so she goes to find the guy that landed on Mars. This is kind of shocking because up until this point there has been no hint that the world in the movie is any different than the world of 1980 Italy. And then they spring it on you like it's nothing. "Oh hey, what ever happened to you guys when you were on Mars?" "Well, it was a long time ago and it suuuuuuuucked."

So her job is to convince this guy to come with her and the cop to investigate the eggs. She does this by antagonizing the guy to the point where he slaps her and says, "That's just so you know where I'm coming from!" Then they're off!!

Honestly at this point of the movie there's a lot of talky stuff and I kind of didn't pay much attention. It's okay though, you don't need to pay attention to this part because it's just telling you about the story. The end is really cool though, with the return of the awesome exploding body effects and one of those endings where one guy looks up at the sky and gives a little monologue.

2.21.2008

Horrors of Malformed Men (1969)

Horrors of Malformed Men was pretty disappointing, especially considering its lurid cover art.

Look at that cover. Pay special attention to the line at the top: "BANNED FOR DECADES!" Sure, there's a lot of nudity in this one (more than in Female Prisoner #701: Scorpion? I don't think so!). And there are a lot of guys hopping around in freak makeup. Okay, that's pretty impressive for 1969... I guess.. But keep in mind that Nobuo Nakagawa's Jigoku, which is far gorier, came out a good nine years before Horrors of Malformed Men.

It starts out pretty good. You've got an amnesiac guy in a mental hospital, surrounded by crazy half naked ladies in a cell. That's my kind of therapy! This guy, Hirosuke Hitomi, claims to be a doctor who was falsely declared insane and committed against his will. The rest of the movie is him piecing together his past. He finds out that there is a very recently dead man who in life looked exactly like him and before you know it he's taken his identity and is surrounded by babes!

All this good stuff can't last for long. Hirosuke continues to learn more and more about his past and this leads him to confront the dead man's father.

Okay, up until this point the movie is pretty good. It's slow but paced well and there are plenty of fine naked ladies to keep you interested. The mystery is pretty compelling and every layer that is pulled away reveals yet another! Just like an onion or a Russian doll!

The ending is kind of lame though. With about 10 minutes left in the movie you've got a ton of unanswered questions. I was thinking there was going to be some awesome and expertly handled revelation that would explain it all! Instead, some minor throwaway character from earlier in the movie shows up literally out of nowhere (seriously, he walks into a secret cave on a mysterious forbidden island) and goes "I'm a famous detective!" and explains everything to everyone. What a letdown.

2.20.2008

The Lost Skeleton of Cadavra (2001)

This is such a great movie. I generally don't go for movies that are funny on purpose but The Lost Skeleton of Cadavra is the right mix of subtle parody and off the wall zaniness.

Created to mimic the style of a 1950s black and white scifi movies, The Lost Skeleton of Cadavra concerns the experiments of Dr. Paul Armstrong, a "meteographer" who is studying the properties of a meteor that is full of atmospherium. He is convinced that in the right hands atmospherium could benefit mankind in many ways. Meanwhile, a pair of aliens and their pet mutant have crash landed on Earth and need the atmospherium to fuel their ship. And an evil scientist is looking for the meteor so he can being the titular skeleton back to life.

I'm not a big fan of 1950s scifi movies. They tend to be goofy (good) but really boring (bad). I have a hard time sitting through them, but I've seen a few. This is why I love The Lost Skeleton of Cadavra. It's like a bad 1950 scifi movie with all the boring stuff either cut out or exaggerated to the point of hilarity. Filling in the space left by cut out boring stuff is more goofy stuff. It's like a big hunk of cheese, the kind with holes in it, but where the holes are filled with more cheese!

This is the kind of movie where you can tell that everyone involved really loves the subject they are parodying. Toned down a little bit, you could put this on one of those 50 Scifi Classics DVD sets and it wouldn't seem too out of place.

The acting is all purposefully wooden and/or melodramatic. Just like in the 50s!

Having said all that, sometimes they try too hard. I would have liked a slightly more subtle approach, and some jokes go on for too long. One of the best parts is near the beginning when Mrs. Armstrong out of nowhere points off screen and comments, "Look! They've got the right idea!" You're then treated to several seconds of stock footage of squirrels. It's funny because it isn't really exaggerated or anything, but it's just the kind of thing that happened in these old b-movies!

Now, will you like this movie? It's hard to say. You have to have at least a passing familiarity with bad 1950s scifi movies in order to get all the jokes, but there are plenty of jokes that work in this movie regardless. I watched this one with a couple friends who aren't as familiar with these kinds of movies and they both had a blast.

2.06.2008

Female Prisoner #701: Scorpion (1972)

Female Prisoner #701: Scorpion is everything that was right with Japanese movies in the 70s. Conversely, it also happens to be nothing that is wrong with modern Japanese movies (ghost girls, choppy editing, ridiculous pace).

It takes place mostly in one of those awful and corrupt prisons you see in movies all the time, where everyone involved is a total and irredeemably evil scum bucket. The basic flow of this movie involves the protagonist, Nami Matsushima, being abused until she flips out and gets her revenge.

This movie has a sense of humor believe it or not. It's not all gloomy barbarism in the prison! This is a pretty violent movie, but none of it is serious. Witness that part where a certain someone gets a glass shard in his eye and he sort of just stands there angry, like there's not a giant shard of glass in his eye! There's a lot of black humor in this movie.

Nami does a lot of sitting around taking abuse in this movie. But at the end (I don't think this is ruining anything for anyone) she runs around in a stylish black overcoat and hat kicking so much ass it's unbelievable. The last 10 minutes or so of this movie is AWESOME. I mean, even more awesome than the first 80 minutes.

Female Prisoner #701: Scorpion jump-started a whole series of Female Prisoner movies in Japan. I haven't seen any of the others and have heard they aren't nearly as good as this one.

2.04.2008

Meatball Machine (2005)

An antisocial factory worker falls in love with a woman working in the neighboring factory. Too timid to do anything about it he basically just does nothing for much of the movie until he encounters this little alien bug looking thing. These aliens come to earth so they can inject themselves (graphically) into humans, which they use as vehicles to fight each other. It's like a fleshy version of Robot Jox!

This movie wears its inspiration clearly on its sleeve. This is basically Tetsuo: The Iron Man in color with more blood. But it lacks a lot of the charm of that movie.

Whereas Tetsuo is very vague and offers no explanations for anything, Meatball Machine is one of those movies where you have characters explaining everything to you at length. And it's also one of those movies where they will repeat dialog and key scenes for you in case you've forgotten what was just told to you 20 minutes ago. I guess what I mean to say is that there is a lot of padding in this movie. As a result, even at only 90 minutes this movie seems to run too long. It drags at times which is a huge problem in a movie that is supposed to be chaotic and violent and crazy.

On top of the poor pacing, I couldn't find a single character I cared about. The "hero" sits there and is reduced to a sputtering blinking mess at the sight of any danger or conflict. There is a transvestite character in the movie who is pretty awesome though. I don't want to ruin it for you! But it's the best scene in the whole movie.

So besides the transvestite, what is good about this movie? Well, I'll tell you. The special effects are pretty interesting, though they aren't as good as the (very) similar effects in Tetsuo (1988!). I don't remember a single CG effect, so if you appreciate good practical effects you might get a kick out of this.

I really don't have a lot to say about this one. It was kind of boring.

1.31.2008

The Dunwich Horror (1970)

The Dunwich Horror is based on a short story written by H.P. Lovecraft, a horror writer who was active in the early 20th century. His stories tended to be about alien monster gods and how they screw with humanity.

The Dunwich Horror kicks off with a great animated introduction and a catchy theme song.

Dean Stockwell stars as Wilbur Whately, weirdo white guy with an afro who, like most occultists, is just in it for the girls. Wilbur desperately wants to borrow Dr. Armitage's copy of a famous occult book for his nefarious purposes. At first he tries charm. That doesn't work, so then he has to get his hands dirty. As opposed to the Short Story Wilbur (who is killed humiliatingly by a mere dog), Movie Wilbur kills a security guard by impaling him on a spear! AWESOME. Movie Wilbur is hardcore.

I prefer this character as he is written in the movie over the short story version. In the short story Wilbur is a weird looking giant genius kid that no one takes seriously. That's fine, but this Wilbur is awesome. He's like Dracula- menacing and charming.

Let's draw up a little comparative chart to help clear up any doubts about how great Movie Wilbur is:


Clearly, Movie Wilbur comes out on top. 'NUFF SAID.

Everyone else in the movie is pretty good, I guess. Compared to Dean Stockwell's Wilbur Whately they all come up short, but this is understandable.

The special effects are awesome. I don't want to ruin anything, but let's just say that the whole monster thing was handled very well considering the budget and leave it at that. Most of the other special effects are weird psychedelic things and camera filters, which work well.

I think this movie could have been better though. It was a great idea to make Wilbur a charming and effective nemesis. But I would have liked if they had taken the ending from the short story and just attached it to the ending of the movie. This is all they had to do and it would have been perfect!

I seriously recommend this movie to absolutely everyone in the world. Every time I watch it I like it even more.

1.28.2008

Metamorphosis (1990)

I'm slowly working my way through the Chilling Classics 50 Movies set. It's like an adventure or a safari but instead of being out in the wild fighting for my life to accomplish something meaningful, I am sitting at home watching some bad movies and eating chips.

The other night I watched Metamorphosis. I'm not going to bore you with cast and crew trivia (if you care about that stuff look it up at IMDB), but it was released in 1990 and is basically a really low budget Italian The Fly. But with dinosaurs instead of flies.

I don't want to ruin this for anyone, but I don't think I'm giving too much away when I tell you that a brilliant scientist is forced to use himself as a guinea pig in his crazy experiment.

Metamorphosis must have had a really low budget (right?) so wisely 99% of the movie is pretty subtle. You get a few gore effects here and there and some kind of creepy makeup work on the scientist guy.

Sure the ending to Metamorphosis was terrible. Heck, the rest of the movie wasn't great. But I was certainly entertained for 90 minutes.