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!


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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"


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!


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.