Tuesday, March 31

Michele Soavi and His End

(spoilerish towards Dellamorte Dellamore, a.k.a. Cemetery Man)

I often ponder whether Michele Soavi has ever found true peace with his directorial career. Of course, Horror fans predominantly know him from his superb genre bookend film, Dellamorte Dellamore, and the young Soavi popping up as a random victim/extra in a host of vintage Italian horror numbers.

But the man essentially grew up in the cottage film industry of Italy during the period most readers here are interested in. His passion was fostered by Argento himself, so I just help but imagine him still feeling at least a touch sore over the fall of what gave him his life's calling.

Looking at his IMDB profile, the director hasn't revisited the genre since '94's Dellamorte. Perhaps Soavi merely saw the writing on the wall and knew Horror in his native country wasn't profitable any longer. Even then, he didn't get back into directing (television productions) several years after his departure from us.

This is why I see Dellamorte Dellamore as Soavi's last mournful stand before accepting the reality of purely commercial filmmaking. Not only in a stylistic sense, but there's a more open current pointing to this running through the film. Francesco Dellamorte (Rupert Everett) as the lead can be seen as a mirror of the director facing the cinematic shift within the world he knows. As the undead rise, it's business as usual to the character, being more concerned with the questions why. The world around him steadily unravels by outside forces beyond his control and Dellamorte eventually finds himself landlocked much like Soavi.

Looking at his faithful sidekick Gnaghi (Francois Hadji-Lazaro) as an outsider looking in, the little role reversal twist at the film's conclusion (with Gnaghi finally speaking and Francesco simply responding "Gna.") can be viewed as the outsider (or fan) taking control of the genre in memory. Soavi can longer continue due to a sea change in the industry and his genre legacy now belongs to fandom to carry on the torch. The variations of She (Anna Falchi) are the future dreams that Dellamorte hopes could carry him away from the world falling apart around him. Though much like Soavi was forced to do, Dellamorte painfully and sometimes unashamedly destroys these hopes, knowing it simply couldn't be. The credits roll over a snow globe; a trinket with the power to encapsulate a special memory to the beholder.

So perhaps Soavi's Dellamorte Dellamore is the director's final meditation and gift to Horror fans the world over; he's fully aware the only work that will have a lasting power are his genre offerings. He can no longer "go home" and even if given the chance--it would probably be too painful for him to do so. Of course, I'm assuming all this, but Soavi has always been curiously guarded about the subtle meanings behind the film. I believe it's because the reasons are deeply personal. Hopefully he has found peace and I personally don't think he'll be coming back.

Monday, March 30

Rolling Vengeance (1987)

Directed by Steven Hilliard Stern
92 Minutes / Charter Entertainment / Cropped from 1.85:1 to full screen

After his family is harassed and ultimately murdered by a raunchy bar owner's group of good ol' boys, a young man rebuilds his tractor trailer into a monstrous...ermm...monster truck.

Fast forward forty-five minutes in to see a man completely alter a normal big rig into a towering rusty Bigfoot with a big drill on the front...in one day. Watch as he repeatedly attacks the hillbillies over the span of several days leaving local police baffled--despite the well known public beef between the two parties and the biggest fuckin' truck this side of Dixie. See Ned Beatty sportin' a terrible looking '50s weave and a leather jacket two sizes too small. Hear the awful soundtrack by a no talent Stevie Ray Vaughn knock-off. Yeah, even the monster truck scenes aren't that great with most being framed in such a way as to make it look like an R/C toy rampaging across miniature landscapes. Keep that thumb firmly on the FF button if you decide to actually watch it. Or better yet instead watch my man Emilio in Stephen "I'm going to scare the hell out of you" King's Maximum Overdrive.

Film: 2.5/10
VHS Picture: 5/10
VHS Sound: 6/10

Video Vault: Electric Video Inc.

This seems to be one of the more mysterious companies out there, dating back when Thriller Video was just getting started. With the only ones from their catalog I've tracked down being Horror/Exploitation titles, EVI appears to be among the scant first ever genre video distributors at the dawn of the '80s. I've been able to find seven of their titles, all from 1981 and 82.

Massacre at Central High (1976, Rene Daalder) -- 1981, no catalog number
Whose Child Am I? (1974, Gerry O'Hara) -- 1981, no catalog number
The Castle of Fu Manchu (1969, Jesus Franco) -- 1981, no catalog number
Legend of the Werewolf (1975, Freddie Francis) -- 1981, #T410
Persecution (1974, The Terror of Sheba, Don Chaffey) --1981, #T411
The 7 Brothers Meet Dracula (1974, The Legend of the 7 Golden Vampires, Roy Ward Baker) -- 1981, #CH-414
Werewolves on Wheels (1971, Michel Levesque) -- 1982, #S-412

Here's a scan of The Castle of Fu Manchu:

This general design with the white paper stock, bold text spine, and yellow synopsis/credits square is the same on all of them. All denote "Made in USA". The covers seem factory cut slightly smaller than the white hard plastic cases (like Thorn EMI's titles) they came in. They also all strangely have no face labels (no sticker residue at all) on the cassettes with only simple title spine stickers with no company logo. Though they're recorded on ancient tape types like Alga T-180s. With 1982's release of Werewolves on Wheels, the company's address changed from Bethpage, N.Y. to Ridgefield, N.J.

Winston Zeddemore Dammit.

As a child of the '80s, I loved the Ghostbusters and still do. I've seen both features countless times and was a fateful viewer of the original animated series. I had the action figures (even the goofiest ones that were only seen in the toy line), the vehicles, the firehouse playset, the plastic tubs of green slime (still remember the smell), the costume with proton pack/trap, and I loved the sugary marshmallow cereal.

That said, Ernie Hudson as Winston Zeddemore has always 100% been a Ghostbuster team member to me. Even from a young age, I never understood why he wasn't featured on the original poster.

Yeah, I know he wasn't a "known" face to the public at the time and in the film he's the odd man out, but dammit he's just as much of a Ghostbuster as those three. Thankfully, he was featured on sequel's poster.

Now we fast forward to today with a little article over at MTV with Ramis chirping about GBIII. He promises the "core" members will be back, "including Bill Murray (Dr. Peter Venkman) and Dan Aykroyd (Dr. Raymond Stantz)." Now, it's probably just the way the article is written, but Hudson absolutely needs to reprise his role as Zeddemore as a Ghostbuster if this whole thing shakes out to become reality. The Ghostbusters are now like a longstanding band along the line of the Stones, if a member leaves or dies, it's essentially over and trying to bring a replacement in (or simply write him off in the screenplay) would just look ridiculous.

Interestingly, while looking for stuff on Hudson just now, I found this blog entry with pages from an old Starlog chronicling the quasi-struggle for the Zeddemore character to make it on-screen in the first place.

Sunday, March 29

When Box Damage Becomes Glorious

Sometimes you find ol' big boxes that are so damaged that you can't help but love them. This one has endured twenty-five years of abuse to get to me. It's all messed up with extreme edge wear and crush creases, but it all rather compliments the lurid artwork.

Let's doooo the eBay sellers are warped aggggainnnn!

I don't post everything of this sort I find here (would be a daily event), but this one made me sit back and wonder for a few minutes.

That's right, $200+ for a Rocky Horror VHS?!

Me too. Looking at his item list, it's the only one denoted as "Factory Sealed. Includes Original Bill Of Sale." Yes sir, that perfect justification to tack on $197.75 over its current value. It's also amusing how he makes note twice that the tape sold for $110.99 originally...in 1990 monopolized rental industry value. $15 shipping to the U.S., are you fucking kidding me? I imagine he'll be keeping that collection of over two thousand more...

The Saw on Video Vinyl

Picked up Wizard Video/Vestron's 1983 CED of The Texas Chain Saw Massacre! It's a little nicked up, but it's incredibly hard to find, along with Wizard's VHS, they're the first home video releases of the film. It only was two dollars!

Look what your brother did to the damn door! (click for biggin' as usual)

Saturday, March 28

Don't Be Afraid of the Dark (1973)

Directed by John Newland
74 Minutes / U.S.A. Home Entertainment / 1.33:1 Full Frame

A young couple inherits an old home from relatives and soon finds little mysteries surround the building. There's a locked door upstairs with no keys and in the basement a chimney stands bricked up and bolted tightly. The wife, Sally (Kim Darby), has designs to remodel the basement including tearing out the old concrete eyesore, but an elderly handyman whose been maintaining the house for years advises against it. When pressed, the man shys away from giving a solid reason, but soon Sally will know the terrifying truth when she secretly unhinges the ash door. Whispered, sourly demonic voices begin to haunt her and she starts to see tiny creatures scampering about plotting her demise...

This is one of the very few films that I can clearly imagine leaving a lasting impression upon most who see it. Either the older set who see it once and for years seek to experience again or kids who had night terrors for years afterward. The scared-off-by-light creatures look like a cross between Pinhead from the Puppet Master series and that creepy mummy/zombie from Tool's Sober music video--wearing ape suits. May sound a bit silly, but there is a certain feeling of the willies seeing them amble around in shadows with little implements of doom.

I'm unsure this would have quite worked in feature length, so thankfully it feels like all the (nonexistent) boring and needless bits have been omitted. Also must respect the conclusion which I won't say a peep about. Definitely worth tracking down and yet another example of '70s made-for-television features kicking all sorts of spooky ass.

Film: 7.5/10
VHS Picture: 5/10
VHS Sound: 5/10

Friday, March 27

The Last Mercenary (1983)

A.K.A. Rolf
Directed by Mario Siciliano
89 Minutes / Mogul Communications / Cropped from 2.35:1 to full screen

Yep, I think I've reached the true underbelly of Italian genre cinema with this one. Rolf (Antonio Marsina) is a troubled man. Problems with his girlfriend, job (or lack there of), and pesky old war buddies that now trade in the cocaine business. Eventually the gang takes everything from Rolf after he resists joining them. Now the man with the stupidest name in mankind's history is sent kicking and screaming towards only one option--revenge.

I gotta look it up to be sure, but "Rolf" must mean "pussy" in Italian. This guy is the most ineffective candy-ass action hero I've ever seen. For example in one sequence he's beaten up on a forested trail by the coke dealers. After meekly trying to get up and get into his jeep; he just gives up and falls into a shallow marsh filled with leeches (oh my!). Hours later it's now night, he awakens, and finally his girlfriend arrives to save him. Every little thing seems to drag him down into the dumps...and this is our hero.

It's also tough to root for such an aimless sack of shit. Rolf doesn't seem to work (and perhaps never has) and merely lives off his bartender girlfriend. The character is just "there" bouncing about the wafer-thin plot moping around like a bitch who seems annoyed to take any action against even the most horrid injustices towards him. There's also an absolutely preposterous attempt at a Christ metaphor after he gets his palms shot up.

Even the exploitative elements tossed in can't save it. We get drug overdoses, literal shitty fingerprinting, gang rape, stove fire face burning, wooden spike traps, and target practice with children at the end of the barrel. The most left field of these is when Rolf finds a crate of coke on a plane, has a flashback of his mother's fatal dose, and proceeds to piss on the china white and then send it airborne. That's about the only thing remotely amusing. The loose anti-climatic conclusion will most likely make you more pissed off over the waste of brain cells and time.

Fabio Frizzi heads up the score and you can definitely tell. Low rent jazzy guitar twangs complete with an actual Rolf theme song. "Rolf....you're following a path that lllleeeaaadds to paaaaiiiiinnnnn!"....and you will too if you even think of spending over $5 on this. At least the cover art is cool, this is for ultra diehard Italian action fanatics who must see everything and Mogul VHS completists only.

Film: 2/10
VHS Picture: 4/10
VHS Sound: 3/10

Thursday, March 26

John Cena: Movie Star

At the risk of bewilderingly everyone; I don't mind WWE "superstar" John Cena being propped up in action vehicles by WWE Films. I actually just realized he had a film (trailer here), directed by muddle master Renny Harlin, opening tomorrow.

Now, I realize this looks nearly exactly like The Marine with Cena in a police uniform and in city locale, but I'm game. Of course there's no way in hell I'll see it in theaters, but hell yeah in the bargain bin or on HBO.

Both of these actioners are like formulaic projects a mid-80s Arnold would have tackled. And I have no qualms about that. I've seen The Marine more times I care to admit on lazy weekends. It's the kind of straight action junk food that's getting rarer nowadays. When you cut through the high-minded critical bullshit; it's a splashly mix of wooden acting and fight candy spearheaded by a spirited cast. Or maybe that's just a drunk Robert Patrick.

That's not to say I don't appreciate the efforts of Statham to play the same character over-and-over or Stallone still hustling his loose beef through this former glory. I can't see Cena rising to action icon status, but I say let him be and wash yourself in the brainless explosions, he just might strike gold and make a goofy classic like Commando one day.

Also, what the fuck is he doing with a baby goat?

Wednesday, March 25

More Gorgon Goodness!

Gorgon's VHS of Frankenstein '80 arrived. Italian nonsense from '72 featuring an actor with one of the coolest names I've ever ran across, "Xiro Papas". Goofy Frankie beckons!

Tuesday, March 24

Lunch Meat (1987)

Directed by Kirk Alex
88 Minutes / DVD-R sourced from the Tapeworm VHS / 1.33:1 Full Frame

A group of young stereotypes of the '80s run afoul of murderous chicken fuckers with a taste for human. It's that simple, who will survive and what will be left of them? Hey, I should copyright that...errrr...wait a minute...dammit.

Same ol' crap done well and rustic enough to be entertaining. That's this film condensed to a pull line. This came out a year before Die Hard. I know that's from left field, but I always find that little fact so otherworldly while watching late '80s flicks of any sort. Here we have a Super 8 scrappy backwoods flick tailored for the rental market just before an incredibly influential Action genre criterion. It's like each are from totally different planets. Okay, this tangent is going nowhere.

Lunch Meat certainly has its merits. I wasn't expecting much at all except for an absolutely kick ass cover. The group's exposition amounts to a short car ride and catching a burger in the first half hour. Like clockwork, the crazed Curly Howard with cannibal tendencies above and his fam' attack our faceless youngins with an assortment of handtools. This outdoors stalk and slash lasts the rest of the duration. Director Alex holds the tension well with little flares like frantic POV shots. The acting surprisingly isn't half bad. No one stands out, but the victims deliver barrels of palpable desperation and we cheer for the brutal demise of our favorite fucked-lookin' hillbillies. Gore is minimal with a focus instead on bloody brutality. Composer Rick Neigher varies the downtrodden, ominous synth just enough to not sound like the same piece over-and-over. Yeah, it's a keeper, now if I could only find the real deal myself...

Film: 5.5/10
DVD-R Picture: 5/10
DVD-R Sound: 6/10

No Chimps Were Harmed During Filming...

Gorgon Video's original clamshell VHS of Faces of Death arrived today. Not a big fan, but it was cheap and in mint condition, so it had to be done.

In Praise of Troma's "Tromasterpiece" Collection

It looks like Troma is turning a new leaf when it comes to their DVD releases. I've long been miffed over their DVDs essentially being loud advertisements for Troma with the treatment of the featured film being nearly an afterthought. I mean, I don't care to see some stupid clip featuring Toxie and Sgt. Kabukiman or a Deodato interview concerning Cannibal Holocaust on their awful DVD of Argento's The Stendhal Syndrome. But now it appears they're trying to right the ship and debut "definitive" releases of their catalog. Here's the collection's page on Troma's site, hope they keep it up!

Even the art is substantially better this time, especially like day-and-night with The Last Horror Film:

Monday, March 23

Say what?!

Just wanted to ask you glorious mofos that actually read my crap to please pardon my spelling and grammatical errors. I tend to think far ahead in my writing and accomplish momentous feats like writing words twice or misidentifying actors/characters. That's right, Richard (not Robert) Kerman was in Cannibal Ferox...durrrr...

I try to run back through and proofread, but I can't attest to perfection. So bear with me.

Oh yea and I found a Panasonic 8-track AM/FM amplifier today at a pawn shop today. Envy me.

Amanda's return...

So I've been reading comments on various forums and fellow bloggers over the news Bloody-Disgusting broke over the weekend concerning Shawnee Smith's possible (and now confirmed) return to hopefully the last Saw installment.

Naturally, reaction is all over the place, from disdain to orgasms of horror dork-joy. I fall somewhere in the middle.

I've always felt Leigh Whannell and James Wan fucked themselves royally when they plotted that John have a terminal illness from the start. Of course, this is central to the character's "vigilante moral cleansing." Though when Tobin Bell came in so heavy in the second and third sequel, you can't help but imagine the writers feeling pangs over the inevitable.

I firmly believe Bell's John/Jigsaw deserves to stand among other modern Horror film greats solely based on his performance in the second and third films. You can say what you will about Jason, Micheal, and Leatherface, but really that bunch are essentially dimwits with a ton of fanboy claptrap over their supposed psyches. Englund's Freddy is a comedian with props, but his fall in caricature is well-documented. Bell's character has a learned pathos that's exceedingly rare nowadays in the genre. The creators should be praised, but the role belongs to Tobin. Though that's not to say I'm not annoyed by Jigsaw's tendency to harm/kill police and his trite delivery in the newest sequel. But I'll be damned if I'm not locked on to the tube like a magnet whenever I hear his gravelly voice.

Back to Smith, yes I agree with the majority, she wasn't much to speak of in the second film. Saw III is excellent, if you disregard Angus Macfadyen's forced trap run, with much having to do with the interplay with in the confines of that neon green mock emergency room. Smith displays a perfect blend of "little girl lost" with a tormented yearning for a father figure (lover?) in John. Amanda is prone to annoying fits of whining mixed with cursing, but that's just the childish nature of the character, and Smith conveys it splendidly. I find it in poor taste so many like to rag on the third film as the black sheep. It's the best of the series and far exceeds its "torture porn" moniker.

So my enthusiasm is guarded, especially after the last two toothless debacles. Let's wait and see what's in Jigsaw's puzzle box, shall we?

Sunday, March 22

Great Art for Crap: Tor: Mighty Warrior

Always marveled at this cover of Trans World Entertainment VHS for Tor: Mighty Warrior. It's a forgettable and terrible Yugoslavian/Italian sword and sandal adventure from 1963, but TWE's cover art is simply a vomit session of colorful awesome.

Saturday, March 21

Gory Plum of Japanese Lab Worker DOOM

An original Japanese pre-record of Biotherapy arrived today. It's a 35 minute short from 1986 concerning a raging humanoid ripping his way through hapless workers in the laboratory that created him. No subtitles of any kind and there's a rather popular bootleg DVD floating around (sourced from this VHS), but it's cool owning a still super obscure chunk of Japanese zany in its true form. Of course it was snagged on the cheap for $13, but looking at XE 12,800 yen converts into $133 for an original price. Geez...

Friday, March 20

Zombies: The Beginning (2007)

"We are gonna go in there and stick 'em, stick 'em, stick 'em!"

A.K.A. Zombi: La creazione
Directed by Bruno Mattei
92 Minutes / KSM Germany DVD / Anamorphic 1.78:1 Widescreen

Only Mattei...a sequel to his Island of the Living Dead that's a blatant rip-off of James Cameron's classic Aliens.

The sole survivor (well sorta) of Island (Sharon, Yvette Yzon) returns to normality tormented by undead memories. The corporation she works for doesn't believe her grand story, but a man (not Paul Reiser *wink*) soon requests her help as an insider after losing contact with another island laboratory that happened to be tinkering with "specimens." After realizing she must confront her demons, Sharon agrees and is sent in with a crack military extraction team via submarine. Queue the sub footage taken directly from both Crimson Tide and U-571. Seriously.

The team blasts into a dingy warehouse on the island by night while Sharon, the sergeant, and Mr. Reiser watch their movements from a monitor bank in a van. If wasn't already enough of a giant dump in Mr. Titanic's eye, we soon witness struggles over corporate interests, sneaking about to hook up satellite intel, "we just got our asses kicked!", going out in a blaze of glory together, Riple...I mean Sharon trapped in a room with a ghoul, "they're everywhere!", and a trash bag and foil ventilation hose-infested "nest" where our flamethrowin' tanktop clad heroine makes her final stand. Oh, but Newt is still compost.

It's all just as "wrong" as Island of the Living Dead, but probably more so taking the extreme level of wholesale theft into consideration. Nothing new to the filmmaker in question. I'd say this is a more bland experience than its predecessor. Everything besides the surprisingly entertaining action sequences is a bit of a bore. No, the action isn't well-staged in the slightest, but it has a certain crazed gusto.

The special ops are dressed like SWAT on crank and I find it no small feat the budget was ample enough to have such detailed costumes. Of course, that can't save the duds from the actors wearing them like kindergarten dress-up. The gore is noticeably amped up here over Island, with much flesh exploding, chunky births, and gooey babies. The zombos are kinda like bloodier versions of the nuclear goons seen in Lenzi's equally inept Nightmare City. I'm scared to talk about the naked Filipino children ("spawn") with plastic pantyhose eggs on their heads and cut up swimmer goggles over their eyes. Oh shit, I just did. The English dubbing is even more hilarious, with the dubbers frequently tripping over their words to fit the shots.

It's pretty wild when you stand back to take it all in. Who would have ever thought? The (endearing) cockroach of Italian horror would be the one to make what may be the last old school pasta zombie flick. It boggles the mind and these two films are a true testament to barreling ahead despite a lack of talent but with all the passion. R.I.P. Bruno.

Film: 6/10
DVD Picture: 8/10
DVD Sound: 7/10

Thursday, March 19

The Added Advantage of DVD Re-issues

When the DVD breaks; the VHS drops...usually.

Since Sarcophilous Films debuted their so-so double feature DVD (it's not the source) of Invitation to Hell & The Last Night, I assume I was able to grab a near mint copy of the original MEGA VHS edition of Invitation... for a cool $8 from the interneting jungle of commerce.

Again, it pays to check Amazon, as the same tape appeared on eBay a few days back.

VHS are nearly worthless people, seriously.

It makes me seriously ponder the sanity of some among us when I see this:

eBay: $132 Jungle Holocaust VHS

eBay: $115 Terror (Last House on the Beach) VHS

It simply baffles the left testicle. I've burned calories in thought in an attempt to break down the types of people who would do such a thing, here we go:

1) The Novice Collector who believes he'll never, ever find it again!!!

2) The Savvy Fifteen Years Ago Tapehead who is totally unaware of DVD's expanse who thinks it'll sell in his hole-in-the-wall shop for $300.

3) The Bid Whore who must win; common sense be damned.

4) The Absolute Idiot with money to literally burn.

5) The Sky High Bid Extremist who bids far beyond the current bid in the final ten seconds to destroy all hope.

Judging from the winner's 160 count, the same person won both auctions (so it can't be personality #5). Yes, these VHS editions are rare, but $250 for two films that are on DVD. C'mon man...?

Now, I'm not one to get pissy over how others spent their money, but I think this speaks to the more seller-powered value of these things. Both sellers posted about ten or so individual auction listings for their rare tapes (including these) with all ending in a week. This seems to always yield high returns, especially the posting of a group of tapes at a time. For example, late last year the same VHS edition of Jungle Holocaust in the same (if not better) condition sold in a lot of eight other desirable tapes for $35. I remember forgetting about the auction being bummed it sold for such a relatively low price.

But here's the thing, that lot seller had no other related items up for auction. Maybe it's me trying to make sense of the nonsensical, but I've seen this many times before. So I guess that's a valuable tip for you sellers. Then again it might help collectors understand what will potentially go for low and for high. Ultimately, the key is patience and to have fun. When you starting plunking down $100+ for a tape, seek medical attention.

Wednesday, March 18

Island of the Living Dead (2006)

"Stick it up your ass! You piece of shit-stinking asshole!"

A.K.A. L' isola dei morti viventi
Directed by Bruno Mattei
94 Minutes / KSM Germany DVD (R2/PAL) / Anamorphic 1.78:1 Widescreen

A group of sea-bound treasure hunters have their course diverted by a freak storm and decide to investigate a mysterious, uncharted island. You guessed it, tropical undead begin to appear as they go a' crypt-raiding and discover their path to hell was paved centuries prior. Confusion settles in as the group splits up, seems confounded over the presence of zombies, and argue over whether to leave or not. All the while, the film goes critical and throws a tantrum in a failed attempt to find logic.

Simply put, this is Mattei's super-gigantic "fuck you" notice to Uwe Boll. It's almost as if hackmaestro Bruno saw Boll's House of the Dead and was up to the challenge of making the "crash-land-zombie-island" scenario even more shitastic. But oh man, is it ever ten times more exciting and funnier.

Mattei pulls out all the copycat stops with ripped-off aspects of Fulci's Zombie and even has the aged nutsack to lift the most famous scene/dialogue from Night of the Living Dead. Shades of Tales from the Crypt: Demon Knight are central to the plot, in that each character has little vignettes where the dead attempt to lure each to the darkside, but it all comes off hackneyed and plunges the film into nonsense. Mattei is a master of a brand of strange bewildering "global" precedent; one character will gain specific knowledge and eventually without interaction all of the characters suddenly know. And yes, that explaination is as confusing as the film itself.

All the goofy touches Mattei trades in, SWAT ballerina is my favorite from his entire oeuvre, are also here. There's a token black dude in the group named Snoopy sporting a Snoopy t-shirt. The brightness of daylight drastically increases from shot-to-shot. Our pillager's boat has "SAFETY FIRST" emblazoned across its bow. Stock footage, that's all that needs to be said. A kung-fu zombie fight, oh yes, it goes there too. I don't even want to point out how astonishing terrible the English dubbing is. Though somehow even with the dubbing the actor's physical deliveries still seem far off from center. Mattei throws down a gauntlet that Boll can only have wet dreams about. I swear there's even a snippet directly from HotD sneaked in here, suck on that you German prick.

Despite this pile of cheesy hilarity, the flick never seems to resort to bland padding and moves at a surprisingly brisk pace. Once in the tombs, the characters run about in what feels just like a haunted house attraction. The gore is somewhat sparse, but it's like Prego, it's in there. This is just pure comfort crap with a glimmer of that muddling Italian '80s genre effort magic. Breathe in that musty, rotting smell of yore. Mmmmmmm...

Film: 6.5/10 (you probably won't agree, but maybe...)
DVD Picture: 7/10
DVD Sound: 5/10

Monday, March 16

Rush Week

Things are picking up in preparation for the season at work, so get ready for more sporadic entries. Though I will be around. I hope to scribe some reviews for a few Italian horror obscurities later in the week, so stay tuned!

Also I appreciate my growing list of followers and comments, thanks!

Sunday, March 15

Swap Meet Finds: Mish-Mash

Today was a bit of a grab bag of VHS.

The Mad Bomber (1973)
Murder by Phone (1982)
Mr. Superinvisible (1970) (L' inafferrabile invincibile Mr. Invisibile, directed by Antonio Margheriti!?!)
Beyond Darkness (1990) (La Casa 5, directed by Claudio Fragasso)
Ninja: Silent Assassin (1987)
Blind Rage (1978)
Metalstorm: The Destruction of Jared-Syn (1983) (directed by Charles Band)
WWF - The Life and Times of Captain Lou Albano (1986)
The Stud (1978) (Now I gotta find the sequel, The Bitch)
Monster (1979)
Martin (Thorn EMI edition, mint)
The Mean Machine (Ricco, The Mean Machine) (1973)
My Kung-fu 12 Kicks (Shi er tan tui) (1979)
The Great General (can't find a year)
Godzilla vs. The Smog Monster (Gojira tai Hedorâ) (1971) (bootleg for a quarter)

Saturday, March 14

Book Ramblings: Terror on Tape by James O'Neill

A Complete Guide to Over 2,000 Horror Movies on Video
Published by Billboard Books, Watson-Guptill Publications, NY / 1994

Just received a used copy from eBay and I figured I'd post some impressions. We got 389 pages of alphabetical reviews and film stills in b/w format. The reviews are basically one paragraph (give-or-take) chunks that vary from thinly veiled synopses to spirited little numbers usually hinging on the author's liking (or disliking) of the given flick. The reviews in total seem fairly even-handed, though as usual for these types of overview guides, exploitation and sleaze is often sensationalized to the hilt ("infamous" seems to be a favorite descriptor) in place of a real assessment. Also there are little breakout boxes with summaries of genre luminaries and their filmographies.

Each review is topped with a bit of lead-in information that looks like this:

[star rating] Thrillervideo. 1979, UR, 85 min.
Dir. Joe D'Amato [Aristide Massacesi].
Cast: Kieran Canter, Cinzia Monreale, Franca Stoppa, Anna Cardini.

Alternate titles are shown as:

See: The Mutilator.

The star rating system is needlessly complicated, utilizing hollow stars in conjunction with a top four solid star rating to denote gaps like "Very Good" and "The Worst". Like with four solid stars meaning "Excellent", three solid stars with a hollow star means "Very Good", while three solid stars is "Good" and so on. It's useless unless one practically memorizes the system.

Alternate video releases aren't given, for example 1981's Nightmare. The guide states "Continental" as the distributor; but VEC, Platinum Productions, and Cinema Group also released the film on VHS in the U.S. at various times. Super obscure films/releases are missing as well. Where's Lunchmeat, 555, and Psychos in Love?

Though I will say the guide provides a nice cap on its namesake, its '94 year of publication places it just a few years off of DVD's '97 debut. Overall, worth grabbing for around $10 tops depending on the condition (mine was $5 in very good shape), but I wouldn't spend more or go out of your way to track it down.

Cage (1989)

Directed by Lang Elliott
101 Minutes / Sterling DVD / Unmatted Full Frame

Lou Ferrigno (Billy) saves the life of Reb Brown (Scott) in Vietnam while taking a bullet to the head. Scott stuck with his savior through the long rehabilitation and now assists the still mentally slow Billy through daily life. When two mafia businessmen (I guess?) witness the two friends opening the pain upon some thugs in a bar fight, they hatch a plan to lure the child-like yet mountainous Billy into a pitfight to save their asses from a large debt. Then we get some rather needless exposition about a female undercover reporter at the illegal events and the thugs burning the bar to the ground. Cutting to the chase, the businessmen eventually capture Billy and convince him to fight (or "wrestle") for the sake of rebuilding the bar. Scott goes on a small rampage trying to locate his missing friend and lands imprisoned by the fight's head of operations. Reluctantly, Billy battles his way through two vicious fights, but just when he thought it was over, he must now face his only true friend in the cage...

First off, the biggest problem is the padding. It's not exactly the laziest form of filler, as in painfully lingering shots of actors being nothing, but as noted above there are too many small threads that serve absolutely no purpose. That doesn't stop this from being intentionally hilarious. The opening credits montage is Billy's rehabilitation with Scott ever by his side; reading children's books, getting frustrated by baby shape toys, and trying to learn to walk again. I know this isn't supposed to be funny, but with Ferrigno and Brown? Hell yes, it's a riot. Not to mention the god awful female-sung, sappy ballad the sequence is married to.

Reb Brown is fantastic. Not even a minute into the feature his trademark scream sounds in the heat of battle. In his trail to find Billy's captors, he manages to almost instinctively scream "ASSHOLE!" repeatedly while shotgunning, light a dude on fire that screams for death, and punch a fat biker chick's block off. Ferrigno generally seems annoyed being saddled into playing a brute Simple Jack. The rest of the cast aren't of much note, but some instantly recognizable "that guy"s appear. Among them are Al Leong (token short Asian baddie with a fu manchu), Branscombe Richmond (Native American action film/TV vet who plays a Mexican here), James Shigeta (the unlucky Takagi from Die Hard), and Danny Trejo as a silent tough. Take it or leave it.

Film: 4.5/10
DVD Picture: 4/10
DVD Sound: 6/10

Friday, March 13

A Classic in Retro: The Return of the Living Dead (1985)

Directed by Dan O'Bannon
91 Minutes / HBO/CANNON Video (under Weintraub Distribution) / Unmatted Full Frame

1985 was an outstanding year for fringe Horror. Captain Rhodes had an aneurysm over Frankenstein. Dr. West taught the dead a little decapitated cunnilingus. A reluctant Horror icon discovered his footing as a vampire killer. Demons took to razor nipple teasing while enjoying blood with their popcorn. Fulci seemed in the middle of a old man's breast ogling dream while Argento was playing with chimps and bugs.

Yet the titans of the era were off-note. Freddy had a panache for throwing down on Weber grills while fans pondered just what was so queer about Jesse. Jason was probably chillin' in the Hamptons while an impostor was playing forest hockey with teen blood. Worst off, Halloween fans were still in sequel limbo trying to figure what the fuck child-mutilating pumpkin masks had to do with The Shape.

But then there's The Return of the Living Dead. Dan O'Bannon's wunderkind of comedic zombie horror that launched countless virginal yet gore-soaked sails into genre fandom. It's a film that strived through years of soft obscurity and coveted ex-rentals to drive the midway point of the Reagan era to be something of a quiet watershed moment for the horror genre.

Arguably, ROLD has two huge attributes that propel it to the ranks of the finest undead flicks-- first, the cast. Everyone is, without question, spot on. It's one loud ass flick, especially once Hell's earthen wear starts to clang. Everyone's screaming, cursing decisions, slapping each other, dying--and it all holds the viewer in a spell like a lapdog. Aiding the realism is the fast and loose fashion the scenes are played with actors bolting around, accidentally tripping over their own feet, and treating props with wanton abandon. O'Bannon and company were wise in their creative orgy to hang their confidence on the actor's shoulders. One imagines this respect was commanded and expanded to all by the film's three anchors, Clu Gulager, James Karen, and Don Calfa. Also Linnea Quigley never looked better on-screen than she does here. I love her to death, but it seems everywhere else she looked like a fan of the China white.

This barreling train of frustration and pensive realism lends itself well to the comedy. The second aspect that keeps it in good company with Romero and the like. For the most part, no farcical slapstick can be mined; situational laughs rule the day. Just like the tone set by the cast, the comedy is presented in a way not to fart in the face of the viewer in contempt of their intelligence. The screenplay understood that if the audience bought into the characters; the comedy would flow naturally. Though strangely, the source of the terror provides the most belly yucks; from the midget zombie, the naked yellow medical corpse, and the demands to "send more cops."

The zombies. I always chuckle when I hear die-hards spouting off about sprinting fleshrots or what ascribed level of intelligent they should be held to. I prefer shamblers, but it's amazing how we forget just how many of the then strict "Romero-rules" are shattered here. Verbal communication, the use of tools, running, remembrance of the past life, and trickery upon the living are all employed. Of course, this is just a contemporary horror comedy at heart, but it's even funnier after the bitchfest over the running in Dawn '04 or Romero's brainy dead in Land.

This film holds a special place with me; being amongst my earliest of horror memories. Remember when local network affiliates had the balls to actually air horror? Yep, me too, and this is how ROLD entered my life. The film was rare as hell (even at the video stores) at the time; however, my local FOX network repeatedly threw it on the boob tube during their weekend afternoon creature feature double feature presentations. It had to be a favorite of whoever ran the board since I can't recall any other regular (Shock Waves, Waxwork, Squirm) getting nearly as much play. Eventually I bought a bootleg VHS and after much outcry from the fanbase--finally a DVD surfaced...and then resurfaced. The film honestly gets better with each viewing, but I do hate the numerous and senseless audio changes O'Bannon made to the DVD. This tape represents the original audio and soundtrack mix in all its Hi-fi glory.

Film: 9/10
VHS Picture: 7/10
VHS Sound: 7/10

Thursday, March 12

Delta Force Commando (1987)

"A puke grenade, asshole!"

Directed by Pierluigi Ciriaci
90 Minutes / Vista Home Entertainment / Cropped from 1.85:1 to full screen

After a practically empty "U.S.A.Base" (?!?) in Puerto Rico is attacked by a mere five rebels and a crudely fashioned wooden box with a radioactivity symbol is stolen with less hassle than shoplifting from Wal Mart, Mark Gregory and Fred Williamson go on a vengeance trail by jet to recover the nuclear device and avenge the killing of Gregory's dumbass "lemme walk into gunfire" pregnant wife. Sound stupid already, right?

Bo Svenson then shows up to do nothing but be a commander back at home base. The two deflectors eject from the jet (each at different times) and wander (for fifteen minutes) the Bosnian-doubling-for-South-America hills. Williamson is inevitably captured on the basis of being black (shades of Inglorious Bastards) and held for some interrogation by a little electric ball torture.

Gregory appears on the scene with his trusty slingshot to bust his fellow blue-balled commando out. Here the randomized solider baddies prove themselves to be Bellevue patients and Gregory gets some prime time to flex his stoic Schwarzenegger a la Terminator impression. Both somehow end up in a broke-ass bus to wander the Bosnian-doubling-for-South-America hills...again.

A chopper arrives that can't aim worth a shit at a full size bus and meekly the bus gets tired of this shit and stalls. Get ready for a solid ten minutes of the chopper circling the bus, firing upon it, and opting to not just blow it up. Our heroes obtain the bird through some gymnastics and one of the dying baddies explodes the entire bus with a flare gun apparently packed with a pound of C4 judging from the enormity of the boom.

Finally, we arrive at a dried up dam bridge and the GI's chopper manages to befuddle a small army armed with automatics and bazookas. The primary Latin heel with pizza shit on his cheek then brings the eggbeater down with one shot from three hundred yards away. Gregory and the perpetually confused Williamson crash land and proceed to get down and dirty for the climatic showdown.

If it's Italian-made, it'll offer something. You just can't help but laugh at how awful the whole thing is. Check out the Japanese trailer over at YouTube and you'll gain all the knowledge you need.

Film: 5/10
VHS Picture: 7/10
VHS Sound: 6/10

I'm Going to Disneyland!

Flipping through screen captures I took from the (awful looking) Italian DVD of Fulci's classic, The Gates of Hell (City of the Living Dead), I noticed something I never have before. Christopher George is sportin' a vintage Mickey Mouse wristwatch! I never figured gruff reporter Peter Bell a fan of Steamboat Willy...

Wednesday, March 11

Haunts (1977)

A.K.A. The Veil
Directed by Herb Freed
97 Minutes / Media Entertainment /Cropped from 1.85:1 to full screen

A withdrawn Swedish-American woman (Ingrid, May Britt) lives with her often boozed-up uncle (Cameron Mitchell) on a quaint stretch of farmland. Troubled with foggy yet traumatic memories of childhood, she shys away from even casual male interest. Ingrid is eventually coyly pursued by a cocky young man who happens to be the town sheriff's (Aldo Ray) daughter's boyfriend. Her undemonstrative demeanor turns to terror as she finds him to be a hooded killer welding scissors that stalks her at his whim and soon murders other women in the area. After enduring a horrifying rape by his hands, Ingrid is still reluctant to contact the sheriff. But after a second assault, the police gunning down a killer that isn't the young man, and her uncle beginning to eerily advance upon her sexually--just who is Ingrid's real enemy? (and no, it's not Satan)

A nifty psychological thriller that tends to run a bit long-in-the-tooth, but worth plowing through at least once. May Britt, who was on the tailend of her film career, conveys the discomfort and quiet anguish of a distressed woman with absolute conviction. Mitchell constructs arguably his best performance of his later "movie purgatory" years. Or it might just be the fact he doesn't play an overt maniac or a character in a plain suit as if he refused to comply with the production's wardrobe. Aldo Ray is his usual stuffy on-screen persona, but he demonstrates an especially terrifying stare of hatred when his character is presented with a revelation regarding his daughter. Freed doesn't do much in his direction, but if you're in the mood and not too sleepy, as the credits appear you just might be pleasantly surprised by the sum rather than the parts.

Film: 5.5/10
VHS Picture: 4/10
VHS Sound: 4/10

Tuesday, March 10

Slime City (1988)

Directed by Greg Lamberson
81 Minutes (Director's Cut) / Retromedia DVD / Anamorphic 1.78:1 Widescreen

A young man (Alex, Robert Sabin) moves into a new apartment building and finds his near-by residents to be an odd couple of dire punks. Alex finds himself accepting an invitation by one of them to enjoy green Himalayan pudding, a dead alchemist's stash of strange wine, and in a moment of intoxicated weakness falls to the trashy sexual allure of the punk seductress. The morning after Alex awakens to find his skin slicked with slime and rapidly suffers body melt.

That is until he viciously kills a hobo in a back alley. Immediately afterward Alex is back to his normal self and blows off the whole incident as a hallucination. Unfortunately he becomes obsessed with the alchemist's brews and the cycle of melting and murders begins to accelerate. With Alex's girlfriend suspecting something gravely wrong and a detective sniffing around, will he be able to overcome his messy addiction?

Fun romp that feels like the perfect sister film to J. Michael Muro's classic 1987 Street Trash. Robert Sabin and Mary Huner (who pulls double duty as Sabin's on-screen girlfriend and punk seductress) anchor the film's razor thin plausibility with a solid sell of their respective roles. Though the rest of the cast is a bit of a wash. The effects are colorful and gooey just like those found in the aforementioned Street Trash. This film is certainly party friendly material and recommended to those who enjoy splattery horror comedies (who doesn't?)

On a sidenote, E.I. Independent's DVD is excellent and a definitive release for the film. The studio seems to be hibernating at the moment (reforming under the title POPcinema), but I'm so glad they thrived long enough to produce this awesome DVD. Grab it cheap and enjoy.

Film: 6/10
DVD Picture: 8.5/10 (aside from the interlaced transfer and some damage, it looks outstanding)
DVD Sound: 5/10 (constant popping and voices are muffled at times)

A Franco Slasher?!

The Trans World Entertainment VHS of Jess Franco's Bloody Moon arrived today. I love its simplistic cover art and have wanted to track down a copy for awhile now. I grabbed it from Amazon's Marketplace for a "decent" price ($16) considering it's on DVD. Though its condition is pristine.

Monday, March 9

Penitentiary (1979)

Directed by Jamaa Fanaka
99 Minutes / Wizard Video / Cropped from 1.85:1 to full screen

A wrongfully accused man (Too Sweet, Leon Isaac Kennedy) is thrown into the lion's den of malicious nicknamed convicts within a gritty penitentiary. With the constant threat of beatings and rape; the proud young man resorts to his skillful fighting to prove himself. This catches the attention of the Lieutenant who presents the scrapper with the idea of entering the prison's boxing tournament. Reluctantly, Too Sweet agrees after hearing of a chance of early parole and moves into the cell of a weary old trainer. After rising through the ranks to the acclaim of his fellow prisoners, a longstanding feud comes back to sucker punch the champ at his height. Too Sweet now sees the only way to finally settle it is in the ring.

This film's subtitle should be "Penitentiary - Prison? Besides the Point". I'm not up on late '70s day-to-day prison policy, but the portrayal of lock-up we see here seems a bit too lax. Prisoners freely roam the halls out side their cells nearly all times of the day. There's a live band and guards leisurely stretching in the yard. The boxing matches are a crazed free-for-all and even women prisoners get to watch with the men. The warden and guards are like annoyed night janitors dealing with horny teenagers in their treatment of the internees. Not to mention no badges ever showing up when screamin' mad violence erupts within the block.

Yet that doesn't diminish the impact of the crowd-pleasing manic energy the film throws out. It's all designed to entertain based solely on the spectacle of it all. From the sweaty brawls, raunchy bathroom sex, and metric ton crossdresser who screams like a banshee at the matches. Surprisingly and much to the spirited cast's credit, there are several scenes that are truly believably emotional in their delivery. Though the endearingly stupid package these qualities are coated in fatally hinders the film's realistic credibility. Check it out and remember--keep your ass clean. Also there's no better way to experience it than Wizard's grotty and now twenty-seven year old tape that looks like it's been through a few rounds itself to get to me!

Film: 6.5/10
VHS Picture: 6/10
VHS Sound: 7/10

Sunday, March 8

Hilarious Artwork: The Washing Machine

Since I know damn daylight savings time will kick my earlyraiser ass tomorrow; I decided to forgo a flick review tonight. I actually was going to do a little review from memory of Donald Borchers' 1989 Grave Secrets which I popped in a few weeks back, but looking at the box art just now I gotta admit not remembering one lick of it. I do remember the whole thing being fairly bland. So you can use that as my review. No plans for a revisit.

Anyway back to the point, I figured I'd share one of my favorite covers in my DVD collection--the E.M.S. release of Ruggero's Deodato's The Washing Machine hailing from Thailand. This cover has it all. Gore, lurid images of women, and some of the most "what in thee hell!?!" Engrish to ever grace an assumingly authorized DVD release.

Well, at least you can't blame them for trying to gear the product towards the core audience whilst creating an all-new human sense...

Swap Meet Finds: Swamped in the Letter "P"

I was completely covered in P today. Haha, I kill myself...

The Visitor
The Psychic (Sette note in nero) (1977)
Psychic Killer (1975)
Liquid Sky (1982)
Roaring Fire (Hoero! Tekken) (1982)
The Immortalizer (1990)
Scared to Death (1981)
Psychos in Love (1987)
Possession: Until Death Do You Part (1987)
The Premonition (1976)
Panic (Bakterion) (1976)
Laboratory (1980)
The People (1974)
Portrait of a Showgirl (1982)
Playing with Fire (year?)
The Power (1984)
Psychomania (Meda VHS)
Persecution (Terror of Sheba) (1974)
The Philadelphia Experiment
Penitentiary (Wizard Video)
Pulse (Kairo) (Bootleg Red Sun DVD)

Off to Goo Gone the dirty and swap out a few damaged cases...

A Classic in Retro: Make Them Die Slowly (1981)

A.K.A. Cannibal ferox
Directed by Umberto Lenzi
93 Minutes (uncut) / Thriller Video / Cropped from 2.35:1 to full screen

Awww yes, the undisputed king of awful cannibal flicks. A film so infamous even Elvira refused to host/present it for this Thriller Video edition. The gang's all here, the whore with the yellow headband; the "researcher" thrown in for the illusion of dramatic weight; the dude wearing the Oshkosh bandanna as a fashion statement; the wounded liability; and a coked up Giovanni Lombardo Radice with a sadistic streak and no balls...literally. Not to mention the "cannibals" wielding dangerous sticks and angling for that $10 payday.

"damn jaywalking iguana!"

Let's go kill some fuckin' animals and rape natives. Hells yes. Better yet on the animal front, they'd sure make great scene transitions, right? So let's do it! That'll break up the ass backward smack exposition in New York with Robert Kerman of Holocaust-fame earning change to most likely prowl the stripteases by night. How 'bout a score that swerves wildly from leisurely to ominous within the confines of a porno wall of sound? It's nearly impossible to apply logic here.

"...ate HIS GENITALS!"

The film is exploitation eating itself, taking the prior year's Cannibal Holocaust and tearing away any shred of positive attributes. The plaster Lenzi applies to fill in these cracks is purely abhorrent hate, smut, and senseless violence directed towards all life on planet Earth. Aim high, Gore Force. Though I guess that's what this era in Italian filmmaking specialized in. The industry not only riffed off of whatever American trend was popular, but also broke apart the quality work found within itself. Almost like the bottom-of-the-barrel directors and writers kept distilling down higher art of their own pasta-preferring brethren in the hopes of picking shards of thematic gold from the what's left with their faux-bloodstained fingertips.

"Let's sing!"

So I guess I can't hate the film. Not only was Lenzi just doing what he does, but he's batshit crazy...whom can really blame him? He might hit me with his cane. If he wants to pull up his britches and drag a bunch of starving artists into the Green Inferno to splash karo syrup around and murder natural beauty, so be it. Go crazy with your bad selves and that's exactly what they did. It's terrible, mortally reprehensible, and entertaining as all hell. Just never watch it with anyone you truly care about...and take a shower afterward. That's right. Lock the doors, get buck naked, fry up some bacon, and drink plenty of water with remote-in-buttocks. I'm not kidding.

"...seeking release for strange new feelings."

Now on to Thriller's 1984 VHS. It's a towering, hard-earned monument to the height of horror rentals featuring perhaps the greatest art to ever grace a big box. Sadly, I myself only have the actual cassette with no big box fun at this point...but someday. Fully uncut, that's right, with all the penis and breast-rippin' your mental wellness cannot handle. Like Ving Rhames in DotD '04, Thriller said "Fuck y'all" to prude parents and sweaty-palmed video shop owners across America. The gore sequences are even laden with scratches and jumpy splices. This is glory. Strangely, the cropping from scope is only infrequently noticeable. A true testament to Lenzi's skill in barely utilizing any of the frame. The color is rich and the sound isn't much to write home about.

Own it here or on DVD and don't take questions.

Film: 7.5/10
VHS Picture: 7/10
VHS Sound: 5/10

Saturday, March 7

Beyond the Living Dead (1973)

A.K.A. La orgía de los muertos / The Hanging Woman
Directed by José Luis Merino
91 Minutes / Unicorn Video / Cropped from 1.85:1 to full screen

Paul Naschy in a fleeting role as a ghoulish cemetery caretaker suspected of murder after a countess turns up dead in a mausoleum. Let the creeky histrionics begin with macho argument grappling, slutty women in tight corsets, and a lot of whodunit pipe smoking.

Naschy would have done much to enliven this muddling rustic, period Spanish horror flick if given the chance. The best sequences feature him hunched over corpus fawning over their rotted visages. Otherwise, his role is small and probably all wrapped up with a day of shooting. The wolfman was busy in '73. The other stuff is pretty yawn enducing with a few completely unexplained plot threads and suddenly disappearing characters. Perhaps this is a cut U.S. edit? Oh, at least there's some boobs, a couple non-threatening undead, and that trademark bright an' thick 3M blood.

Film: 3.5/10
VHS Picture: 6/10
VHS Sound: 6/10

The Challenge (1982)

Directed by John Frankenheimer
108 Minutes / CBS FOX Video / Cropped from 2.35: 1 to full screen

An American loner (Rick, Scott Glenn) is propositioned to secretly deliver a samurai sword to its purportedly rightful owner in Japan. If he succeeds a generous payment will come his way, but suddenly he's thrust into the middle of a centuries-old blood feud between two brothers after being discovered at the airport. Rick aligns himself with Toru (Toshirô Mifune), a frugal samurai master imparting his knowledge upon students. His brother, Hideo (Atsuo Nakamura), is the polar opposite being at the head of an enormous corporate empire. But when Rick betrays Toru's trust, the outsider's driving motivation is questioned. Will Rick ultimately rise to "the challenge"?

Middle-of-the-road effort that suffers from its genre's and primary funding country's trappings. The biggest being the character of Rick drunk with "bumbling yet ultimately "right" American in strange land" movie syndrome. We're treated to several comical sequences throughout of the bullish Rick trying to adjust to Japan's such "odd and off-kilter" culture. Mifune's character is also minimized in the conclusion merely to prop up Rick as the all-American badass he "rightfully" is and "should" be to the American audiences watching. Frankly, it smacks of condescension, especially considering Mifune's storied tough guy career.

Still, the climatic sword and bullet battle in Hideo's huge industrial complex goes a long way to make up for the clumsy cultural back-and-forth the feature wallows in. Mifune owns the screen during this portion. It's nearly impossible to describe the sheer excitement in seeing Mifune prone ready to strike in complementary office settings. It's clearly evident the man still had amazing agility and control. Without question Mifune is more of an asset to the film than Glenn. On the other hand, the wiry and lean Glenn has a frantically brutal bare-knuckle, office supply throwin' fight with Hideo that's a must-see but all-too-short. Check it out if you have the chance, just don't expect a lost action classic.

Film: 5/10
Beta Picture: 6/10
Beta Sound: 6/10
...do you dare tread upon the staircase?

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