Tuesday, September 27, 2011

FLICKS OF THE WEEK: September 11-17, September 18-24


SEPTEMBER 11TH-17TH

Executioner is the second Sonny Chiba film that I've seen and from those two entries I can safely say that I'm really looking forward to diving into the rest of his filmography. The film plays out like a man on a mission flick, where a disgraced cop hires a rag tag group of street toughs, all with their own unique skills and personalities, in order to take down the Tokyo drug ring that ended his police career. The film has an interesting mixture of dark comedy and violent action, provided by the cast of hired hands assigned to take out the drug kingpin and his underlings. Sonny Chiba plays the rogue character of Ryuichi Koga, who like many of his other counterparts, signs up just for the money.

The character of Koga is a great anti-hero figure and Chiba gives him enough charisma and violent skill to make him a memorable character among this rather diverse cast of misfits. The end raid on the drug dealer's headquarters is magnificent in the chaotic way things escalate and progressively get worse and more challenging for the underdog main characters. The film was a fun little escape of insanity and that was all I asked for. Viva Chiba!

Deathstalker 2 is just so damn ridiculous, that you have to allow yourself to sit back and enjoy the absurd show in order to make it from beginning to end. Having basically nothing to do with the first movie in the series, part two introduces us to a new and sassier Deathstalker played by John Terlesky. This time Deathstalker must team up with an undercover princess to help overthrow an evil sorcerer who has banished the princess and replaced her with a clone. Of course, Deathstalker is destined to vanquish the evil sorcerer, while at the same time reclaim the princess' rightful place on the throne and in his bed. Terlesky may have the athletic ability to play the character of Deathstalker, but his physical presence pales in comparison to Rick Hill's original imposing figure.

With that said, the film is actually pretty fun if you set aside any correlation with the first film and just take it for what it is. In fact there are some pretty interesting scenes and locations in this film, like the creepy green lit graveyard filled with shuffling decomposing zombie figures and the cheesy Amazon village centered around a wrestling ring that looks straight out of the old WWF slobber-knocker days. Even with its faults, Deathstalker 2 has a certain charm to it. Just don't get your hopes up.

The Warrior and the Sorceress is a rough re-imagining of the Japanese film Yojimbo, but done with a Roger Corman-like sensibility. The film stars David Carradine as the lone warrior Kain, a wanderer who stalks the barren landscapes of the planet Ura in search of fortune and the means to which he can obtain it. Arriving at a village where civil war has broken out between two factions over the control of the town's only water source, Kain decides to pit each group against each other in order to benefit from their dilemma. Carradine does a commendable job as the sword for hire, hardly speaking throughout the film and rather playing the role of Kain as an observer.

What is really interesting about this film is the insanely warped world that the filmmakers have created on this fictitious planet of Ura. We've got nudity abound provided mostly by the alluring Maria Socas, a tentacle monster that is anything but scary, a fat man with a telepathic pet lizard, a sword that can cut through anything but is never explained how it does such a feat, a throng of lizard faced slavers with a thirst for revenge, and a stripper with two pairs of breasts. Yeah it gets a little wacky. The Warrior and the Sorceress is a B movie that at least keeps you entertained and in wonder at what crazy things they'll throw at you next. Check it out for the curious.

Topping off my fantasy triple feature is the film Barbarian Queen, a far more subdued movie then the previous iterations of the sword and sorcerer genre. In this film we follow a rag tag group of amazon warriors lead by the fearsome Ametha, played by the equally fearsome Lana Clarkson, as she attempts to take revenge for the ransacking of her village. With the tagline of, "No man can touch her naked steel", you get the impression that you're about to witness some kind of adventure porno hybrid or something, but thankfully the film attempts to steer into more respectable territory.

The quality of the acting and locations aren't as inspiring as one would hope, but the rather catchy reoccurring score by James Horner of all people, does lift up the film from its less then stellar origins. In the end, I felt that Barbarian Queen was a decent enough flick, but rather forgettable in the long run. Still it wasn't a bad way to spend an evening.

SEPTEMBER 18TH-24TH

Magnificent Warriors is an outstanding action adventure flick that stars the amazing Michelle Yeoh in one of her most entertaining films to date. The film has been described as being the female version of Indiana Jones, with the inclusion of the main character's whip and the exotic locale, and I can see the similarities, but Dr. Jones has never kicked this much ass and in such a hyper kinetic style. Michele Yeoh plays Fok Ming Ming, an airplane pilot who is assigned a very important mission to extract a prince from a Japanese controlled Chinese village. The stunts and choreography are stupendous, showcasing Yeoh's amazing athleticism and martial arts skill.

The cast is also rather remarkable having Richard Ng, Tung-Shing Yee, and Chindy Lau all having rather susbtanstial parts that display their own individual talents. Richard Ng especially shines in his comedic role, playing the clumsy and accident prone Paulina Wong. The film was just remarkably entertaining, giving me the perfect fix of Hong Kong action that I require.

The Prodigal Son is something of a Hong Kong masterpiece. Directed by the legendary Sammo Hung and starring two of cinema's most iconic martial arts masters, Ching-Ying Lam and Biao Yuen, the film just exudes class and charm. The story is a rather simple one as it follows a young supposed martial arts expert by the name of Leung Chang, played by Yuen, as he comes to find that his perfect fight record has been staged by his overprotective father. Fearing for his sons safety, Leung Chang's father has paid off every combatant who has ever challenged his son, resulting in his legendary but false fighting prowess. Having one day been defeated by an opera performer, played by Ching-Ying, who refused to accept the father's bribe, Leung Chang does everything in his power to have his better as his master.

There are many comedic aspects to this film and seeing that it is a Sammo Hung production, that comes as no surprise. The fighting styles on display are of the highest quality and the personalities of the large array of characters are quite well played. Sammo even gets into the action, playing Ching-Ying's fat brother and constant adversary. The training sequences are also very memorable, making for a highly charged final fight between Yuen's Leung Chang and the opportunistic and egomaniac Ngai Fei, played by the always consistent Frankie Chan. The film is just a master work and if you're a fan of Hong Kong Cinema and martial arts in general, then you owe it to yourself to see this film. Great work Sammo and company.

OSS 117: Panic in Bangkok is an exceptional French Eurospy film that rounds out my viewings of the amazing Agent OSS 117 series of movies. If you're a fan of the earlier James Bond films, then you have to see these movies. In this entry, Hubert Bonisseur de La Bath, AKA Agent OSS 117, must stop a diabolical scientists who has created a virus capable of decimating the world's population. Kerwin Mathews takes on the role of the unbeatable secret agent and he does a remarkable job in making it look as fun as all hell. Mathews brought his A game in this film, putting on the charm and charisma that catapulted him into another starring role in the sequel, OSS 117 se dechaine.

His portrayal, much like the other remarkable actors that have taken on the role, is cool and collective, always resulting in Hubert coming out on top no matter what forces are up against him. It really is just a blast watching this larger then life secret agent thwart the bad guys and win the day, not excluding the lush and lavish locales that 1964's Thailand provides. If you're looking for a film that has a fun factor of ten, then you really don't need to look any further then an OSS 117 film and Panic in Bangkok is right up there with the best of them.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

MY FILM: Among the Fallen Premiere


Well it's a mere 6 days away from the premiere of my first film, Among the Fallen, and I'm nervous as all hell. The movie will be playing at the Cinema Wasteland Show in Strongsville, Ohio on October 1st and I'm really hoping that people get the flick or that they are at least entertained by it.

Our small tight knit crew of friends and acquaintances put a lot of effort into the film, working long cold and bloody nights, all for the payment of a few McDonald's cheeseburgers. The fact that they stayed with the production over the years and never gave up on the final film, or me, really speaks wonders for their determination and trust to the story that I was crafting. I couldn't have asked for a more dedicated and selfless crew. Hopefully horror fans outside of our little circle can appreciate the demented little tale that we have created and be swept away within this intimate and surreal zombie film.

I've just finished the flyers for the Cinema Wasteland show and the upcoming Eerie Horror Film Festival event, so check them out below. If you're in the area of either event or already have tickets, stop on in and check the flick out. I can't wait to unleash this film onto the public and see what they think, yet my nerves are still shaky at the prospect of putting such a personal film out there for all to see. What the hell... you only live once.





Thursday, September 22, 2011

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

EQUINOX vs EVIL DEAD: Comparing Cult Classics


There are some eerie similarities between the films Equinox and The Evil Dead, but it's not until you start to compare the two movies side by side that you really get to see some strikingly parallel imagery that seems dangerously close to one another.

I've always thought that both films felt like companion pieces to each other and after putting together this segment, I'm convinced that Sam Raimi and Company have borrowed some aspects of the earlier production and were in fact inspired by the outlandish nature and weird world of Equinox.

Don't take my word for it, because a picture speaks louder then words. The comparisons are surprisingly complementary, almost suggesting that The Evil Dead was a rough remake of the strange 1970's cult classic. So what do you think? Is The Evil Dead the long lost cousin of Equinox, or is this all just poppycock?











Thursday, September 15, 2011

REVIEW: Equinox

Equinox
Director: Jack Woods
Year 1970

Equinox is a fantastically weird and atmospheric little gem that achieves a great deal, considering its meager budget and limited cast. Originally made in 1967, but then updated three years later, the film is something of an enigma. The story is told in flashback form by the sole survivor of an afternoon picnic that was anything but ordinary. The young man describes the horrific and unusual experiences of that day, filled with encounters with demonic and gargantuan creatures, bizarre possessions, ancient castles, and malevolent beings. The film may be low budget and widely accepted as amateurish, but in my opinion, this strange combination results in a highly entertaining film that captures a certain atmosphere that is sorely lacking in modern day productions. Bring on the weird, wild world of Equinox.

What a shitty one room apartment.

What a shitty place for a picnic.

When I say weird, I mean weird. There's tons of crazy, off the wall moments that kind of catch you by surprise and throw your mind for a loop. It's not exactly the filmmaker's masterful approach to the narrative that accomplishes this feat, but more of a collection of random moments that project an unexpected rash of unworldly wonders and unforgettable moments onto the viewer.

Take this for consideration. In the film, an acquaintance of the group of teenagers, an elderly professor, lives in a cabin in the woods where he studies and protects an ancient book called the Necronomicon. Now this isn't the strangest part of the story, but it's a nice start. When the group of kids arrive at the old man's cabin, they find that it has been crushed by some unseen force. The devastation is remarkable, leaving the group to wonder what could have caused its demise. Well the answer is anything but expected, when later in the film we come face to face with a giant squid. A GIANT SQUID! What the hell is happening?

I wouldn't go in there if I were you. Damn crazy kids.

On second thought, let's not go to Camelot. It is a silly place.

Let me explain a bit. The appearance of the giant squid is the result of old professor pants having unleashed an evil force unto the world by meddling within the texts of the Necronomicon. His innocent tampering basically gives an open invitation to all the creatures of the underworld to come and go as they please, entering and exiting through an invisible barrier that our main characters accidentally stumble upon after finding an invisible castle. Huh?

The film is as random as my ramblings on the subject, but what holds all the wackiness together is the overall feel of the movie. It's unusual and unusually put together, but in my opinion that's the charm of the film. Nothing is as it seems and the real world begins to blend with the world of the great beyond in more ways then one, mixing up the proceedings and giving the audience a feeling of insecurity and doubt on the survival of the main cast of characters. Nothing supports this anticipation of morbid events more then the appearance of the robust roll call of creatures that inhabit this upside down world contained within this barren valley.

Whoa ho ho it's magic..... you know.

King Kong's ugly step-brother.

For me the creature aspect of this film is what really shines. These unnatural abominations seemed ripped straight from Ray Harryhausen's mind, often mimicking some of his most classic works like King Kong and the various iterations of Sinbad's most vile beasts. The stop motion, for such a low budget production, is top notch and gets the job done as it gives off that creepy vibe of something both living a dead, thrust into the real world.

There's a winged demon that is especially creepy, which constantly dive bombs the group and even deals out a bit of death among their ranks. Another show stopper is a lumbering gorilla like beast that dwarfs the rest of the cast in size. I remember watching this film as a kid and being quite disturbed by its appearance and mannerisms. The filmmakers also chose an alternative method to the stop motion creations, with a much simpler depiction of a brooding ogre like menace, portrayed more or less as a guy painted in green, sporting a furry tunic and one hell of a nice blonde uni-brow. The approach for the ogre isn't as impressive as the winged demon, gorilla, and giant squid, but it gels well with the unexpected nature of the film, providing a diverse set of morbid obstacles for our main characters to run up against.

You're about to receive the mother of all bitch slaps.

This little devil will, "Swallow your soul!"

Aside from the creatures and the unexpected quality of the film, what drew me in most to the atmosphere and concepts of Equinox was its extremely eerie similarities to one of my most favorite of horror films, The Evil Dead. It's been said before that Sam Raimi, the director of The Evil Dead series, had not seen Equinox prior to the filming of his movies. It's also known that Tom Sullivan, the man behind the special makeup effects and overall design of the look of the films, including the ominous Book of the Dead, had said that he had brought the similarities up to Raimi and tweaked a few things in order to separate the two films from each other a bit, but for me Equinox just seems a precursor and inspiration for what The Evil Dead films would later become.

Truthfully, I really don't care if Raimi and company lifted their entire Evil Dead ideology from the concepts of Equinox, because their end result is one of the most interesting and atmospherically heavy cinema worlds to come across in some time, but the similarities between the two films is just uncanny. I think I'm actually going to do a piece on the comparisons of the films, provided by images and plot points, because it really is an intriguing idea that they both can share so many elements and exist in the same cinema space, yet have never admittedly crossed paths creatively.   

The power of Christ compels you! THE POWER OF CHRIST COMPELS YOU!

They don't pick up hitchhikers in this neighborhood.

Equinox is an original film filled with so many conceptual curiosities and otherworldly elements, that it's easy to go a little lax on the judgement of the movie's incoherent nature. The creature creations and designs are unbelievably effective, especially when you consider the budget of the production and the inexperienced filmmakers behind it. I've always had a soft spot for this film, having viewed it as a child and then later recalling its fantastically envisioned world as an adult years after. The comparisons to the Evil Dead franchise also intrigued me when revisiting my first acknowledgments of this film, forcing me to appreciate it that much more in bringing about something that could have quite possibly inspired another filmmaker into creating one of his most heralded collection of films.

Equinox may be a bit of an odd ball and an underappreciated, not to mention peculiar, film, but I believe that the strangeness of the movie is its saving grace. I highly recommend this film to anyone who enjoys occult cinema and the weird subject matter that rises up from those otherworldly and mysterious origins. Keep an open mind and check it out.

4 out of 5 stars        An Underappreciated Cult Classic!