Monday, December 31, 2012

Devil's Three (1979)

Bobby A. Suarez was, for those of you who have no idea, the best action director in the Philippines ever. Sure, we also had Cirio Santiago, who got some international fame with the help of Roger Corman's distribution. But Bobby was by far the most personal and eccentric of them both, with a healthy amount of violence and action and - maybe even more unhealthy - some very broad comedy tossed in for good measure.

They Call Her Cleopatra Wong and The One Armed Executioner might be his most famous films, and both of them got a nice DVD release a few years back. The lead in the first one was Marrie Lee and in other one Franco Guerrero, both created iconic characters in these productions. Bobby was wise enough to pair them together in Devil's Three, where Cleo Wong is back and with her she has a very fat fortune teller, Rotunda (Florence Carvajal) and the sissiest of sissies, Tony Del Rio (Franco Guerrero). They're hired by Devlin (Johnny Wilson) to save his daughters from a gang of evil kidnappers. Armed with their special physical abilities (in Rotunda's case, being fat and sit on people!) the go after the baddies with brutal force!

Devil's Three is more of a comedy than a straight-forward action flick, even if it's packed with fights and chases and stunts. But the focus is on the personalities of our three heroes. Cleo is the "normal", but who kicks ass like no one else. Rotunda and Tony Del Rio is very broad comic reliefs, but they work good because they are allowed to be heroes even if they're sickly obese or the silliest gay stereotype ever. They're funny and smart and can fight baddies almost as good as Cleo, but are allowed to be themselves. It's like Tony Del Rio mentions in one of the scenes, finally he can be the one he is without pretending to be someone else in his village. Its a rare, strong statement from a gay character in what's basically a exploitation movie. I easily can see Devil's Three as a both a cheap action-comedy and something with a message: the freaks shall inherit the earth.

While not as spectacular as They Call Her... and The One-Armed... Devil's Three still delivers a lot of fine action, some that even looks a bit dangerous. The fights are hard and look realistic because it's rarely you see padding or mattresses protecting the stuntmen and slow-mo is used where it fits perfectly, to enhance a few shots here and there. I don't know of Marrie Lee has a formal education in martial arts or if she's just acting (like many of our most beloved Hong Kong stars). Whatever she's trained in, she's doing it well and I still say she's one of the best and coolest action stars ever.

I have a hard time seeing something bad with movies like this. They're meant to be entertainment and this one succeeds with it without problems. I'm sure more than a few will have problem buying the comedy parts, but if you try to look beyond what you think is funny and open your eyes for some local form of slapstick (and we all know how special the Asian comedy can be) you might find something fun even here. And if not, there's enough raw, gritty b-action for everyone to love.

And... Happy New Year boys and gals. Cya in 2013!

/Ninja Dixon

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Alex Bakshaev's Videohunter (2012)

My favorite indie-filmmaker is Alex Bakshaev and I've earlier reviewed Naked Trip and Zärtlichtkeit. Now Videohunter is out. Bakshaev works with very small means and his movies are often built around silence, but has that important edge that so many serious independent filmmakers misses. They think it's important to be  pretentious without having nothing to say when it's always about the opposite. Being arty doesn't mean you need to be empty, and Bakshaev is one of the few that realizes this. Videohunter is close to nine minutes long and I watched it in bed this morning, while trying to figure out if I should wake up or not. I'm happy I watched it during those conditions. It's a very Europan, dreamlike story - as usual with nods to the geniuses of European cinema: Fassbinder, Franco, Rollin - but here I see more of Bakshaev himself than just inspiration from the masters. I sincerely hope that he one day, once again, makes a feature length movie. 

Here's a link directly to YouTube. I'm afraid my settings on this blog cuts almost haft the picture down below, and you can't miss a thing of this pearl. Or do what we all should do, buy the DVD from Carnie Films.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Märstageddon 2012: Battle of the Bloggers!

Look out, a bat!

A couple of times every year I meet up with Jason from Cinezilla and Jocke from Rubbermonsterfetishism to drink and eat a lot of sugar and fat and watch whatever movies we feel for at the moment. The last one of this meetings happen today, a very icy and slippery day - which mean I had to let them go to the store for some additional candy alone - because it was so icy and I have a tendency to slip and hurt myself, just like two years in a row during Weekend of Horrors in Germany. That's me. Totally incompetent at walking and the delicate art of keeping the balance. We had some very vague plan to watch something dark and nasty, but as usual our plans hardly works out in the end and we ended with up four pieces of mega-cheese instead of the grittiness we aimed for.

First out was Retribution, the 1987 (and it look VERY eighties) horror film starring Dennis Lipscomb. The DVD from Code Red is very nice, even if it's the R-rated version. But it's stilly pretty gory and violent (and the unrated versions of the kills is included as an extra anyway). It's a bit on the slow side, but when it delivers it Delivers with a big D. It's colourful and bloody and has some fun retro-style visual effects. The acting is another thing with this movie - most of the time it's very, very bad - or lets say, a bit over the top. Lipscomb makes the best of it and is good in 99 percent of the scenes, except those where he has to cry. Not his cup of tea, we could see. Anyway, a fun eighties time capsule and a fine DVD.

Next on the list was Bloodbath at the House of Death, the 1984 horror comedy starring Kenny Everett. This is the essence of a lame comedy, but it's so funny because the jokes is so damn cheap, and the atmosphere is sillier than Sillierzilla! And watching it with two friends - including Joachim who might no be the biggest fan of this kind of very stupid comedies - made an even better film. Some of the jokes, especially "Look out, a bat!" is still one of the funniest gags I've seen in a movie - and yes I know, it's hardly original and was probably written by a eight year old schoolboy. But it works. The timing is perfect and the acting from Everett and Pamela Stephenson is hilarious. It's also a bit bloodier and more graphic than I remember it to be.

The last feature we saw was John Frankenheimer's greatest mutant bear-movie, The Prophecy. Still a very amusing nature-runs-amok film from the happy days when a movie with a PG rating both could be bloody and quite disturbing. Made during the height of Frankenheimer's alcoholism, this is one cheesy rubber-monster-packed movie with some clumsy but well-meaning scenes of message and Robert Foxworth singlehandedly defining the typical seventies semi-sensitive alpha-male with his beard, social consciousness and curly hair. Like an awake Hugo Stiglitz. The monsters is awesome and it truly looks like an expensive movie - except when they're sending out some poor guy in a rubber-suit to run after victims. Then it's more like something from Ultraman!

And what a transition, because at the end we watched three episodes of Ultra Seven - yes, from the recently released Shout! Factory box. It might have less city-stomping scenes and more focus on... yeah, "story", but it doesn't take away the fun of this cheap and exciting show. It's more gloomy and serious than Ultraman, with more location-shoots and even some deaths and blood. But it's still a harmless family-friendly show.

That's all folks!

Thursday, December 27, 2012

The Inugami Family (1976)

I'm the first one to admit that I'm watching a lot of soulless crap. Most of what I'm watching never - NEVER - gets reviewed here, because it's too uninteresting. I think this is one of the reasons why I'm from time to time looses interest in writing reviews. These movies, the bad ones, works as (to quote Anton LaVey) "Psychic Vampires". They steal all my energy and points out how meaningless it is, this what I'm doing. The last couple of days, after a few weeks of writing nothing, I've been watching Japanese genre cinema and hey... this is very good for the soul! From Ultraseven (SO cool) to The H-Man and Legend of Dinosaurs and Monster Birds. Original, fresh, fun, absurd and with a depth that a lot of other countries don't have in their art. So I decided to once again take down Kon Ichikawa's The Inugami Family from the shelf and give it a spin, and boy... this is freaking good stuff!

When it comes to the work of Kon Ichikawa I'm not an expert at all, but I would love some recommendations what to start with - preferably if it's out on a nice DVD or even nicer BD. What I understand this is not a typical Ichikawa film, but obviously he liked it enough to make a whole bunch of movies starring Kôji Ishizaka as the shy, maybe-maybe not incompetent, mumbling private detective Kindaichi (based on a hugely popular series of books written by Seishi Yokomizo). I would give my left arm to see the other Kindaichi films they made together. Anyway. The Inugami Family is the proud tradition of Agatha Christie and similar storytellers, and this time it's even more cliché: old man Inugami has died and seven months later his family, his three daughters with their three sons and the rest, gathers to open his will. The will is very complicated and it will work out the best for one of the family's branches if Inugami's new favorite girl, the young and innocent Tamayo Nonomiya - not belonging to the family bloodline - marries one of the sons. One of the sons is also hideously deformed after the war, but she has to choose what's best for her anyway...

Well, we all know what this leads to: murder, murder and more murder - everything in a delicate mess of intrigue and gossip and the question is if even the famous Kindaichi can solve this mystery before it gets even bloodier!

The Inugami Family is part murder mystery but maybe most of all an interesting and very dark deconstruction of a typical rich (and greedy) Japanese family. I promise you, there's multiple solutions to the murders and after each one it gets even more and more complicated. The calm camera studies the reactions of everyone in the shot, like I never seen it before. A couple of time the visual style reminded me of John Carpenter's The Thing: the paranoia growing bigger, the unexpected kills, the subtle music. Ichikawa also has some fun with the murders - all of them off-screen, until the final revelation at the end when we gets a chance to see every kill again, but this time with blood and goo. It's not terribly graphic, but enough to spice up a brilliant story even more. The style of the movie also reminded me of Mario Bava's Bay of Blood, with it's setting close to a dark lake - perfect to dump bodies in - and greedy family members sneaking around every corner.

The story is very complex and convoluted, and it takes 100 % concentration to watch this film. Because if you look away you might miss a clue or a twist, and to fully enjoy this story you need to know everything.

The Inugami Family, with its black humour, ghastly murder mystery and scathing satire - and don't forget the discrete use of homoeroticism - is one of my favourite Japanese movies ever and a true masterpiece. For those interested, Ichikawa remade it himself in 2006. I need to see that version!

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Legend of Dinosaurs and Monster Birds (1977)

After Toho closed down the Godzilla-shop in 1975, after Ishiro Honda's masterpiece (and a movie that also failed to gain enough audience) The Terror of Mecha-Godzilla and Gamera took a nine year long break after Gamera vs. Zigra in 1971, the Kaiju died away in cinemas (but continued to wreck havoc in television with armies of Ultramen, Kamen Riders and everything in-between in tight pants and spectacular helmets) and seemed to be a lost cause... until 1977 when Tsuburaya Productions and Rankin/Bass Productions co-produced the entertaining The Last Dinosaur (starring a very visibly drunk Richard Boone) and Toei tried their hands on one of the oddest pieces of Kaiju cinema so far, Legend of Dinosaurs and Monster Birds.

Not technically a typical Kaiju movie with men in suits battling in miniature cities, instead it's another version of Jaws...or Grizzly, or Tentacles etc etc. A small tourist spot near a lake experiences odd disappearances and deaths and soon some scientists suspect there's a dinosaur swimming around there, hungry for human flesh. It starts of beautiful and quite scary with a woman falling down in a cave - after walking in a fairy tale forest, breaks a big egg in the fall and a huge slimy, yellow eye looks out at her. She screams and runs away and soon everyone wants to go to this little town to look for dinosaurs and monsters!

Already here the movie feels very off-kilter and has a very modern (for the time) look and characters who are more grown-up and cynical than everyone else who ever appeared in a Godzilla-movie - not to forget Gamera. There's not stupid kids or slapstick here, not talking monsters or colourful space aliens shooting rays of death against skyscrapers. The humour here is very adult and dark and that's also the feeling of the whole movie. This is not for kids and maybe it's goal to be aimed at a grown-up audience also made it less popular and confusing for the contemporary audience. Everyone expects most Japanese rubber monsters to be for kids, yeah? Not here. LODAMB is also quite gory with some torn off limbs, unexpected deaths and adults having problem with each other. No nudity though, which feels even odder when you look at the rest of the movie - because it belongs there.

The effects is all over the place, but as a fan of the Toho flicks I can't say they're less convincing here. They fit the genre and even if this is less "fun", the script is also dark enough to make the story work even with rubber and plastic filling the screen. Another fine detail I like is the inclusion of - I guess - the infamous suicide forest Aokigahara. I can't remember they're mentioning it in the movie, but it's located in the same era and fits both the look and the story. In LODAMB they walk through the forest and finds some human remains and the guide just laughs at it and explains that it's a common place for suicide. It's a macabre little twist and it's left like that without explanations. Check out the wiki page about Aokigahara, seems like a "nice" place.

When I first saw this film I wasn't that found of it, probably because I expected something more traditional - but I've seen it a couple of times since then and I like it more and more and now it's a Kaiju favorite. The dark themes, the blood and twists, the more mature characters, everything makes this a very fine example of Japanese genre cinema.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

The H-Man (1958)

Ishiro Honda was, according me, one of the finest director to ever have lived and work in Japan. He began like everyone else, but after Gojira he became the leading special effects/monster/sci-fi guy - and he did it with the same flair, style and quality as his non-genre movies. In 1958 he directed one of the most interesting films in his career, The H-Man, who completely lacks a big rubber monsters who stomps Tokyo, but still contains one of the coolest creatures in his career: slime.

I'm not gonna go into the story that much, except it's a beautiful and original mix of gangsters, night clubs, cops and slime - yeah, more or less a monster-noir packed with jazz and tough guys wearing hats. Of course everything is triggered by nuclear bombs and it lead to two scenes - directly after each other - that's very similar to what Luigi Cozzi did in his wonderful Contamination. The same dark and gritty atmospheric search of the abandoned vessel, resulting in the spectacular death for some of the people aboard - and then back to the lab where they try out the liquid on an animal, with terrifying result. In this one it's a frog, in the Italian film it's a rat. Cozzi is a big fan of Japanese genre cinema and I'm pretty sure he included it into Contamination as one of many tributes.

Like with Honda's later family production Godzilla's Revenge, The H-Man also shows us what a fantastic storyteller he is with a film that puts the special effects and terror in second place. The H-Man is first of all a gangster/crime movie, but with an awesome slimy twist. Godzilla's Revenge is, as you might remember, a very cute and well-made kids movie with a few pointless inserts of the Kaiju monsters fighting on an island. 

Usually when fancy schmancy nobody's with a PHD in fine arts laugh at Godzilla I always reminds them of how Honda and Kurusawa was dear friends, they often worked together and how much they respected each others work - even if they worked on the total opposite of the movie scale in Japan.

But I'm sure you won't get disappointed at the slime-sequences in The H-Man. This is class, and of course superior to the same years (in my opinion very weak) The Blob. The special effects here is fantastic and produced with a lot of imaginative ideas. This piece of slime moves around and behaves like no slime up till then - sure, some effects is a bit cheesy, the dancer who gets covered by slime comes to mind, but it's very realistic compared to the American counterparts. The melting people looks awesome also, often covered in shadows and the result is like from a horror movie.

The H-Man is a masterpiece of fifties sci-fi and manages to be adult and intelligent all the way through. 

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Panic Button (2011)

"I want to play a game", the ominous voice is familiar and with four characters locked up in a place they can't escape this can be considered slightly inspired by Saw, but Panic Button still stands on it's own two legs (or fly with it's own two wings, if you want to) and still feels quite fresh compared to some of the other Saw-rip offs flooding the markets since 2004. This is a British independent movie who quite cleverly tells a morality tale about social networking, especially Facebook - the story's version is called All2gethr, but is basically the same thing.

Here our heroes (or what to call them) wins a trip to New York through the site and during six hours they get a chance to win a lot of nice prices... if they're just honest. And guess what, this is social networking - no one is honest. I'm sure we can all agree on that. By answering very private question they can win cars, tickets, everything you can wish - but soon the honesty of the anonymous game leader creates some dangerous tension in the cabin...

I'm pretty sure some people can't stand this film, mostly because of some plot holes and the sheer absurdity of the set-up. But personally I find these twists good, because what I see is an escape-from-reality. I mean, I can accept Godzilla rampaging through cities without problems, so I have nothing against a film which kills Facebook-users on a private airplane over the sea. It's more or less the same thing. There's a story to be told and then there's no laws against improbable storylines. Thank Satan for that!

The best thing with Panic Button is the fine cast, which once again proves what brilliant actors the UK fosters. The four leading actors, Scarlett Alice Johnson, Jack Gordon, Michael Jibson and Elen Rhys are all excellent, very convincing. It's something about that tradition of realistic, toned-down acting in their traditions that still works so well (of course there's still sucky British actors, but you know what I mean). It's about them taking the job serious that makes it work. It might be a low-budget Saw-rip off, but they're still doing what they're paid to do.

How's the gore then? Not much actually. There's a blow-off head and an arm-chopping, but both of them is very fast and you can't see them properly either. It's more the ideas behind it all that makes it a bit eerie, especially what everything leads up to. Sometimes the budget shows itself with a set that looks a bit corny sometimes, a bit cheap - but if you ignore the details and enjoys the mental cat and mouse game I think you will enjoy Panic Button as much as I did.

Can't wait to see what director Chris Crow has up his sleeve with his upcoming The Darkest Day, also starring several of the actors from this film.

Jack Hunter and the Lost Treasure of Ugarit (2008)

I have a soft spot for Indiana Jones rip-offs. It's a safe bet most of these movies, with their jungles and deserts, hidden treasures and action scenes, has something for everyone. Of course they're cheaper, tackier, sillier - but still, they're just doing what Indy did: celebrating the good old adventure stories of the past. I'm still a huge fan of J. Lee Thompson's King Solomon's Mines (starring the one and only Richard Chamberlain), even if the sequel - shot at the same time - more or less sucks. Sky Pirates, from Australia, is another favourite - and who can dislike Antonio Margheriti's forays into the genre during the early eighties? By chance I found a box a couple of days ago, titled "The Adventures of Jack Hunter" and I just couldn't stop myself. It's a mini-series and for it's home video release it's been divided into three feature length movies:  Lost Treasure of Ugarit, The Quest For Akhenatens Tomb and The Star Of Heaven.

Ivan Sergei plays Jack Hunter, an adventurer specializing in finding rare artefacts and his dream is to find everything belonging to Ugarit, some ancient civilization. In this long adventure he roams around Syria, Egypt and Turky together with cocky lady Nadia Ramadan (Joanne Kelly) and comic relief sidekick Tariq (Mario Naim Bassil) and their nemesis is an (what else?) evil German guy named Littman (Thure Riefenstein, who strangely enough recently shot a movie for the production company I work for!). On their way they meet corrupt militaries, elderly archaeologists with hidden agendas and a couple of hidden, underground temples!

Jack Hunter is a TV-production but surprisingly enough it's a lot better than a lot of other similar productions I've seen. The budget it sometimes not the best, some scenes feels very rushed and the special effects is uneven in that wonderful SyFy Channel-way we love so much. But instead it boasts a lot of action, some very nice temple-sets and actors who might not be the best actors in the world, but seems to have a lot of fun instead. Ivan Sergei is okay, but feels both a bit young and a bit too handsome to be an experienced adventure (but on the other side, real-life TV-adventures like Patrick Spain from National Geographic's Beast Hunter is VERY cute and fuckable - sorry - so I might be wrong). The other actors is at most okay, including Thure Riefenstein who does his bad guy routine in his sleep again. But that kinda belongs to this form of entertainment. It's not fantastic, but still not bad. It's competent, Sunday afternoon entertainment.

It also steals quite shamelessly from Indiana Jones with Jack Hunter walking around in the exact same clothes, experiencing the same form of adventure (but no ancient traps, sorry) and doing his routine against the other actors just like Harrison Ford would have done it. There's a few lines of dialogue here and there that's almost lifted directly from the old movies. Yes, I know that Indiana Jones "stole" a lot from old movies, but in that case Spielberg and Lucas always was open about the homage-part - in this case, and others, it's just Indy that's been the inspiration.

Anyway, I really enjoyed Jack Hunter! A lot more than I expected. Unoriginal script, but it works and it's never boring or feel padded with unnecessary scenes. It's just fun, fun and a little bit more fun. But don't expect it to change your world. This is just a nice, long, vacation for the brain and nothing more. 

Friday, December 21, 2012

Haters Gonna Hate: Ninja Dixon's the Top Ten of 2012!

Hey! Another year has passed and it’s time for yet another silly Top Ten list of 2012! I don’t like doing lists because it reveals my bad taste in movies, but I only live once and at least one or two of my choices will make someone upset. That’s what makes my heart tick a little bit extra. And no, I just don’t care if a movie has been released at some obscure festival during 2011, it’s the official release that counts. I’m not gonna list them in any particularly order, because in my humble world its very hard to say that one movie is slightly better than the next. So, are you ready?

The Innkeepers
- Ti West impressed us all (but not you, I know – so don’t bother) with House of the Devil and even if The Innkeepers is a very different movie it’s still an original, smart and very atmospheric ghost story, close to be just an indie slacker-drama. Which is fine by me, because the story makes me care about the characters and believe me, I was sitting on the edge of my sofa the whole movie.

- This years surprise was, without a doubt, this Irish sleeper, THE best monster-comedy since Tremors with the same quality of the humor, drama and characters. The effects is stunning and fun, but in the end it’s lovable characters and fine dialogue that makes this Grabbers this years biggest winner. And most important, it jokes about alcoholism – but never jokes about alcoholics.

- This will be the original “haters gonna hate” on this list, but I totally fell for this amazing, visual and crazy motherf**king film. I just don’t care if something doesn’t add up in the end – because it’s a FILM! It’s not reality. It’s a saga, a fantasy, and I’m just not nerdy enough to even care about plot holes. One negative thing I can say is that the power diminishes on the small screen compared to what I saw in the cinema.

- I just don’t understand how this “German Giallo” can have been released without people all over the world not knowing about it. A stylish twist on Suspiria, Deep Red and every other Italian thriller from the 70’s… and with a good amount of gore and nudity, wonderful visuals and excellent acting (most of the time anyway). I predict it will be next years sleeper hit on DVD and blu-ray everywhere.

Universal Soldier: Day of Reckoning
- WTF? The trillionth sequel to Universal Soldier? Yeah, exactly. But you who have seen this knows why. An original dark twisted story right down the depths of the Universal Soldier saga, part Apocalypse Now, part mega-violent martial arts. Great actors, breathtaking BRUTAL fights and a very fresh take on something that could have been really, really bad in the hands of the wrong people.

- Ditching Hollywood, ditching bigger budgets and making Livide. Alexandre Bustillo and Julien Maury was brave enough to follow their own path and make this impressive fantasy-horror-drama with nods to classic Italian and French horror (Argento and Rollin comes to mind) and do something so drastically different than their modern classic Inside. Beautiful and haunting.

- I’ve really thought this over… and Sinister, with it’s weak ending, is one of the best horror films of 2012. It’s not without flaws – not only the ending – but the atmosphere is fanastic, the acting fine and the set-up, the concept of the film with the disturbing super 8 footage is SO good. It’s a nice twisty story and it’s always entertaining, but I wished it could have stayed with a more basic, down-to-earth mystery than what we got now. Can’t wait to see what they’ll do with the sequel.

Father's Day
- After a lot of trouble and problems Father’s Day finally got released on DVD and BD and it’s a movie worth waiting for. Similar in mood to last years The Taint, but with even more intelligence and edgy satire, gore and action – and one of the few neo-grindhouse films that’s succeeded to give us characters to care about. Sure, it’s also cheap and silly, trashy and tasteless – but made with heart and passion. Good stuff!

The Bay
- I really liked V/H/S and Evidence, but The Bay was the fake footage movie (made like a mockumentary this time) that made my day. It has a realistic feeling and never goes over-the-top, and that might be the reason I like it so much. I’m familiar with the breed of parasites used in the story since earlier and it’s nice to see them used in this story. But yeah, it could have used more gore and monsters – but what can we do?

- This super-cheap Norwegian folklore-horror got a great reception at the Monsters of Film in Stockholm earlier this year. A claustrophobic intelligent horror movie which takes a fine Scandinavian myth and makes something interesting of it, instead of the normal creature feature. Don’t except something big and spectacular like Troll Hunter, this is closer to European 70’s cinema than blockbuster Hollywood.

And... Some Guy Who Kills People, as a bonus - because me, the idiot, forgot to include it in the top ten of 2012! Excellent black comedy with a serial killer theme, smart and with some stunning performances - including legend Karen Black! Deeply recommended!

Close but not close enough: Evidence, V/H/S, The Tall Man, Attack of the Werewolves, The Raid. Good and great movies, stuff that I own and will watch many more times – but they didn’t make the list. Regarding The Raid – yeah, awesome movie, but I felt more attached to the director and stars earlier movie Merantau. The Tall Man can be seen as a disappointment, the ultimate anticlimax – but I like that they actually did what they did. Evidence takes the found footage-concept and makes it totally insane, V/H/S is a lot of fun of but is weaker because one or two crappy stories. Attack of the Werewolves is a damn fine Spanish horror-comedy, much like Shaun of the Dead, but Grabbers is still the best on in the genre this year.

The honorary title goes to Supermen of Malageon, an awesome Indian documentary about a filmmaker and his team in the working town of Malageon who makes their own local blockbusters. Heart-warming and funny, one of the best documentaries I’ve seen in years.

And he worst one? Well, I don't like to bash movies but one specifically movie that includes the words "Dear", "God" and "No", is among the worst and most untalented shit I've seen this year. I rather dip my cock in the frying pan than watch it again.
So, that’s it darlings. What do YOU think is the best movie of 2012?

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Frankenstein's Bloody Terror (1968)

I'm a softie. I feel, when watching any random movie with Paul Naschy, that he was something special. One of the few really passionate geeks out there, on the same level of geekiness as Luigi Cozzi and Mario Bava. Fans of all thing genre, especially the non-realistic, fantasy-injected genre cinema with more heart than money. Frankenstein's Bloody Terror isn't a Frankenstein-movie. The American distributors added a very, very, very silly pre-credit which explains that the Frankenstein family evolved into the Wolfstein family and that's it - the monster of a mad scientist suddenly becomes a supernatural wolfman.

The story is simple. Two gypsies accidentally awakens a werewolf, who - after killing them - goes after the villagers and infects Naschy, doing his old Waldemar Daninsky part, and makes him the new wolf in town. He seeks help from a famous doctor, who turns out to be a vampire and the battle beings. There's also something with a young loving couple and some old farts (their fathers) rambling stiff lines to each other.

Yeah, it's a bit of a mess - but it's also Naschy's first foray into werewolf-cinema (I just don't count that other "lost" movie, I seriously doubt it got made) and he sprinkles the story with the soul of American horror comic books rather than the old Universal monsters. It's basically lit like a story right out from EC Comics and with a story so wild it could be one of those poverty row monster flicks, but with more colour and very fake RED blood. I love it. It's god damn hard to NOT love, because there's so much fun stuff going on.

Naschy himself is big and bold and takes a big bite from every scene he's in. When he's a werewolf he's just furious and aggressive and just a marvellous fucking monster. One of the best. Maybe THE best werewolf ever existed (yeah, even better than Lon Chaney Jr). I think it's because Naschy goes so far down in the animalistic rage, the sexual tension between him and all the victims. Naschy just doesn't bit people, he almost rapes them - men and women - with his whole body and bodily fluids spurting in every direction. Naschy IS Waldermar Daninsky, he owned that part.

What I miss with this crazy production is - actually - the more straight forward storylines that he used in later movies. Daninsky is such a good and interesting character that he deserves something more than just chaos. Frankenstein's Bloody Terror is a fine movie, fun and silly and filled with love and coolness, but it's still the first trembling step of a master.

Give it a go. But remember that there's a lot of other adventures with Daninsky that's better and bloodier. 

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Executive Action (1973)

It takes two persons to create a conspiracy. Yeah, that's it. Believe it or not. A real damn conspiracy. Nowadays most people with a "critical" viewpoint on life, politics, science etc etc seem to think that a conspiracy needs to be something big, almost supernatural. Something where everyone is involved - especially government, medical companies, mega-companies and so on. But the only thing that needs is at least two people planning to do something towards a third part. I'm pretty sure that's what happened regarding the murder of JFK. It's not the first time and it's hardly the last time. The myth of "the lonely crazy gunman" that sticks it ugly head up and takes over the "serious" media and opinions of know-it-all's has taken over and no other theory is worth investigating in-depth. No wonder madmen and querulants shows up and makes an even bigger mess of each famous case. There will never be a solution of the JFK-case. Never. Neither sides is especially convincing, but one thing is for sure: it's very unlikely Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone.

Oliver Stone's JFK (and I find that an excellent film) wasn't the first conspiracy thriller dealing with the case. The French I As In Icarus did it in the end of the seventies and in 1984 the Kris Kristofferson thriller Flashpoint used it as an interesting twist. But first of all who dealt with the assassination was Executive Action. I'm not counting movies like Seven Days in May or The Manchurian Candidate who just had similar themes. Executive Action deals with it in a very frank and open way: JFK was killed by assassins hired by rich, conservative republicans who was afraid to loose to much money on his politics. We follow the training of the killers, the planning conducted by a bunch of almost anonymous businessmen, lead by Burt Lancaster and Robert Ryan (both famous for their fight for civil rights, democratic values and as far as possible from being republicans - which also reminds us how personal this movie is, it's more than just a thriller - it's a statement).

The story is mixed with documentary footage and goes on until the murder and what happens after that... and it all ends with a montage of all the innocent victims who died mysteriously the years after the assassination.

This is a brave and bold statement, but everyone involved seem pretty sure that this could be a possible solution - and I tend to agree with them. But enough about my personal opinion. Executive Action is foremost a fantastic thriller, very low-key and realistic. It has all its legs on the ground and never goes to far in its theories. It's an unromantic and quite cynical view at what could have happen. Even the acting is toned down and very realistic. I love Robert Ryan and here he's doing on of the last performances in his career (maybe the last) and his flame is still burning, even if he probably knew he had lung cancer at this point. There's not one single bad performance in the whole film, and watch out for Dick Miller and Ed Lauter in supporting parts!

While not a mystery in the classic 70's conspiracy style, Executive Action is still a minor masterpiece and a must for everyone interested in the genre to see.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Paul Naschy's Memoirs of a Wolfman (1997)

I've been enjoying several Paul Naschy movies the latest week or so, from stuff I haven't seen before to revisiting good old classics. During this time I've also been reading the US paperback of Memoirs of a Wolfman, the autobiography that was published in 1997. The version I have was release a couple of years later and includes a bonus chapter and a signed card by Naschy himself. Very nice and it makes me even more sad that I never hade the pleasure to meet him in real life.

The memoirs chronicles his life from childhood and we get a detailed look at his family and relatives - and friends of the relatives, which might seem to be a bit exaggerated - but you will also notice that more or less everyone of these persons is connected to what he did later. They introduced him to things in life, they said something, they experienced things together with him - everyone means something for Naschy and without very few exceptions he gives them their full credits.  Another fine thing he does - up to his 20-30's - is to write down the comics he read at the time and the movies he watched, which also gives a strong hint of what inspired him during his filmmaking career.

It's well known that Naschy had a big ego, close a to narcissistic persona. He's a very proud actor and filmmaker and never shies away from letting us know when he's done something good and brilliant and masterful - but he also, very emotional, digs deep down in his failures and depressions, how he was so weak that he couldn't take care of himself, how he did stuff for money just to be able to pay the rent. The last chapters is actually quite painful to read, and the part where he tells us about his heart attack is so sad! The bonus chapter is the worst, where his self-confidence is rock-bottom and he basically say "goodbye" at the end, to never return. Thankfully he obviously got back on the saddle again and had quite good career even after that, including his best performance ever, in Christian Molina's 2004 film Rojo Sangre. He also starred in an official Spanish Dogme-film, Once Upon Another Time - a film I need to see as soon as possible.

The bitterness overcomes the happiness, the enthusiasm, in the end, which is a damn pity. But we know better and Naschy knew better also. Memoirs of a Wolfman is packed with anecdotes - some of them extremely bizarre - and a good insight in the work of low-budget filmmaking in Spain and Europe during 60's, 70's and 80's. The strangest chapter is when he tells us how he got involved in a cult of real devil worshippers!

His enthusiasm for making horror movies, the macabre and living on the edge of society, which he seem like at the same time as he's missing the recognition from the elite, is the fuel of this book. Naschy seems to more than a good, decent guy - a person who always cared for people who cared for him. An interesting mix between a macho-man and lover of women to a supporter of gay rights, and a guilty-filled catholic and left-wing horror fan. Everything at once and probably the reason why he made such interesting and stand-out movies.

Sometimes difficult to read because of the hardships in his later life, but also a very rewarding story surviving and fighting for what you love. 

Friday, November 23, 2012

Skjult (2009)

"I. TOLD. YOU. SO!", that's the usual mature words from Jocke over at Rubbermonsterfetishism after I've seen another one of the movies he's been nagging about for years and years and year and years. Skjult (or Hidden, the US title) is one of these films. And like in the case with the Finnish horror classic Sauna he actually, finally, bought the movie for me so I would feel forced to watch it. This is of course good for me, because I never so no to free DVDs and if they happen to be good it's even better. With Skjult I was on the edge of my seat, not only because of the suspense but also because... well, lets wait a bit with discussing that. First the story...

Kai's mother has died. He hasn't seen her for many years, mostly because she was a fucking monster. He still despises her there in the morgue and when he understands she left her dreaded house to him, he goes on a mindfuck until he's not sure what's real or not...because, is someone...something living in the house? Who can it be and what do it have to do with him and the past that haunts him over and over again...

Skjult is one of the best and eerie horror movies I've seen in a while. I especially like the mix of horror and mystery, something that many wannabe horror-directors forget in their hunt after making a cool, gory horror story. I like that to, but I'm a fan of good twists and the one in Skjult really kept me very nervous - because part of the set-up of the twist makes the ending suck big time. And... well, I don't think it sucked. I think it ended just the way I wanted it, but still... there's clues here and there that it's a lazy, shitty ending - but something tells me it's just a way for the filmmakers to fuck around with us in the same way as the leading character is being fucked with by his memories.

A good genre movie never needs dialogue and Skjult thankfully keeps away from the talky parts and tells a story with few words and a lot of very intelligent use of the camera and editing. I literary jumped right up a couple of times, which is very rare nowadays - for me at least. Kristoffer Joner, who plays Kai, is one of the best and most convincing Norwegian actors right now, a guy who can do genre movies like Ond Tro and Bad Faith and still do it without ham it up. There's not need to act like damn moron just because you're in a horror movie (just watch me in Camp Slaughter!), keep it real and the audience will follow you to hell and back.

Skjult makes small, neat references to several horror films and sub-genres. From The Changeling and House by the Cemetery to slashers (somehow it actually a slasher turned-in-side-out, like Santa Sangre is a giallo backwards - more on that another time) and classic haunted house stories. This is excellent and it works so well. It's one of those combinations that you would never see in a Swedish production, at least not yet. It's brave because it's could be confusing for a genre-sensitive audience.

If you want deep, dark forests, dangerous waterfalls in slow-mo, old ugly dirty buildings and close to dim-witted locals (in a realistic way, I've seen all these characters where I lived before, in Jämtland, Sweden), Skjult is the movie for you. It has a frustrating, but in the end - after giving it some thought - a very rewarding ending. It makes you think and analyze and I've been doing some thinking and no, it doesn't suck. It's actually not bad at all.

Rent it, buy it, try to see it. I would love to hear what you think about this Norwegian chiller!

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Attack of the Werewolves (2012)

I don't like horror-comedy. I think horror should be serious and - most of the time - humorless. That makes interesting movies. But there's a few - very few - movies that mixes horror with comedy in a good way. Shaun of the Dead, Tucker and Dale vs Evil and Cabin in the Woods for example. I know that the last one isn't everyone's cup of tea, but I don't give a f**k about that. They're comedies, but the horror is real. People die, the monsters is scary or the situations serious. That makes a good horror-comedy. Attack of the Werewolves, also known as Game of Werewolves, is a new Spanish production - released this summer in it's country and now on blu-ray in the UK. It's also one of the few horror-comedies that works.

Tomas is coming home to his old village, where he lived until he was 15 years old. He's invited to talk at some fancy occasion, because he's a famous writer - well, not that famous actually: he wrote on book that sold nothing and now he wants to write a second one. But the villagers has other plans for him and suddenly he finds himself facing a werewolf... and the only way to stop the werewolf is if it's eats Tomas! This won't end well...

It works because the danger is real. There's not slapstick-monsters, just real dangerous ones. I love that. Attack of the Werewolves is also packed with excellent actors, and the leading man - yet another semi-failed Spanish men with dream, just like in Torremolinos 73 - played by Gorka Otxoa both manages to be touching in his dreams to write another book, and handles the slapstick and gags at least as good. His former best friend Calisto (Carlos Areces) is extremely funny, a real character still being over-the-top. The same thing can be said about the third protagonist, played by Secun de la Rosa, probably the most annoying and most incompetent literary agent ever shown on screen.

The real success is the simple - but very effective script - with a couple of great twists and a storyline that just goes up! Up!! UP!!! all the time until they do stuff that people only think about but then trash because it's too much or too silly, but here they do it and it makes it even more awesome. Like Shaun of the Dead it still stands firmly on the ground of reality, but set in a landscape of absurdity. The violence is violent (but less gory than I thought it would be), the comedy is broad and the drama is big drama. Like all good movies want to have more when the movie ends, because you like the characters and it's open for so many more adventures.

Spanish comedy is special, not for everyone, and pretty close to the even more outrageous Italian comedy. But I think the Spaniards is better at mixing some seriousness into the story, with less shallow characters and more interesting storylines. Of course there's bad comedies to, but I guess the legacy of Almovador and De Iglesias has left a lot of inspiration to other filmmakers also.

Oh, but how's the werewolves? Let me tell you one thing: you won't be disappointed! These are big, brutal classic werewolves. Part Naschy, part Chaney, part animal. The make-up is extremely good, among the best I've seen - especially in something that probably don't have the biggest budget in the world. They're violent creatures to, and shows it in graphic ways - but it could have been even more nasty if you ask me. Somehow, when watching it, I feel that Paul Naschy himself would have played on of the old men in the village if he was still alive. His spirit is all over the story, either they meant it that way or not.

Good, fun, charming werewolf-movie!

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

The Man with the Severed Head (1973)

I've poured a couple of whisky's in my poor, poor body and now I'm gonna try to write a few words about The Man with the Severed Head, aka Crimson. Forgive me if it's incoherent! This is an interesting movie 'cause of several reasons: it stars Paul Naschy, one of my favourite horror stars and it's also produced by Eurociné, the legendary cheapo production company owned and controlled by Marius Lesoeur (and later his son Daniel Lesoeur). They're mostly famous for a couple of extremely cheap Jess Franco production but also the notorious Zombie Lake, a movie poor Jean Rollin directed just because Franco never appeared to do his job!

A band of thieves gets in big trouble after their leader gets a serious brain injury after a failed robbery. To save him they go to a famous surgeon, who happens to don't have any working hands after an accident, to make a god damn brain transplantation! They need a new brain of course and kills some other gangster - who happens to be a raving psychotic - good choice, lads! Anyway, they make the transplant, but of course everything goes wrong!

It has some good parts - but mostly really bad and boring parts. The best thing with the production is the awesome cast, from Paul Naschy in a supporting part and the always excellent Claude Boisson and the reliable character actor Víctor Israel, who also gets killed in the masterpiece Horror Express. Olivier Mathot has a bit of an underwritten role, but he's a welcome presence in any of these movies. The women are there to look pretty and nice, but has very little to do - it's a man's world, as usual.

What's good with The Man with the Severed Head is the brain-transplant part, which is something from an American fifties horror movie or maybe one of Franco's Dr Orloff adventures. It's cheesy and fun and colourful with a cool lab and a lot of unrealistic science explained in very serious ways. The rest is, unfortunately, not that good. This is one of those movies you'll watch because of the cast and nothing else. Well, at least if you're an un-experienced Eurociné-viewer. For us who love, adore and worships this very special production company this is one their most slick and expensive (well, everything is relative)) productions with some really nice cinematography, good directing by Juan Fortuny and a script that holds together, even if nothing much happens.

The biggest disappointment with it is how they take a fun premise and they never do anything good with it. If I did a movie with a brain-transplant I would let the patient run amuck really good and not just run around like a drunk reality soap contestant and not do much more than that. Why not let him roam the French countryside, perform some creative kills and THEN die. Now the final is just a bad episode of some German detective-show.

The Man with the Severed Head is only for us who needs to see either everything starring the talented Paul Naschy or produced by Eurociné. You rest... well, stick around and I'm sure there will be something more interesting for you to watch. 

Monday, November 19, 2012

Werewolf Shadow (1971)

Yeah, Naschy is without a doubt the best werewolf actor ever. He's mixing the classic werewolf with the more modern, animalistic creature without resorting to exaggerated make-up effects. He just doesn't need it, this athletic weight-lifter who was more focused on being an director and writer than acting, but when the production company of his first werewolf-movie found out that Lon Chaney Jr was too old, too fat, too alcoholic and too sick to work again the only solution was Naschy himself. And we should be eternally grateful for that. Werewolf Shadow became on of Naschy's biggest hits and it's easy to understand why. The story is tight (but hardly original) and it delivers some cheap and fun gore, gorgeous directing by the master León Klimovsky. It's a very handsome and attractive production, from the talents behind the camera to those in front.

Two beautiful chicks goes on a road trip to some distant parts of France, looking for the grave of a famous crazy medieval princess/fucked-up serial killer - and maybe even a vampire! On the road they meet Polish nobleman (and werewolf) Waldemar Daninsky who offers them to stay in his house for a couple of days. What they don't know is that the crazy vampire princess is an old enemy of Danisky and soon she's back from the grave, spreading her vampirism and the only solution is for Daninsky to fight her once again - in the shape of a bloodthirsty and uncontrollable werewolf!  

You see? The story is simple and fun and an excellent excuse to show a lot of werewolf-attacks, nudity and slow-motion vampires running in forests. The first scene is Daninsky laying in the morgue, ready for autopsy. According to Naschy himself they shot that in a real morgue and moments before there was a real, bloody body laying there, a young man killed in a motorcycle accident. They just flushed the blood away and Naschy was ready for his scene! This is one of the best-looking Paul Naschy's also. He's strong, looks vibrant and virile and he practically owns every scene he's in - even with beautiful women clinging around his neck.

But he really comes alive as Waldemar Daninsky, in a raging fury (that could be a cool 80's action film with ninjas: Raging Fury!) and with a foaming mouth he rips people to death, chewing on their throats and rolling his eyes it was his last day of acting ever. And it's SO convincing. The make-up is cool, it's simple compared to other movies, but there's no need for more. It's all about the acting, how the body works, the eyes. Naschy knew how to do it and he did it extremely well. But what to expect from a guy who wanted to be The Wolfman since he first saw him in the cinema as a teenager?

I'm not expert, but somehow it seems like Naschy was one of the first filmmakers to introduce graphic gore to the Spanish cinema. That doesn't mean it's much of it in any of his films, but Werewolf Shadow had a couple of graphic scenes that I totally forgot from the first time I saw it. The most surprising thing is when he chops a head off a vampire woman, all in one take - the effect itself isn't that good, it's primitive, but I was expecting them to cut away to a reaction shot of Naschy, because it felt like it should be like that. But instead we see him chop it off with a couple of whacks! No cuts, nothing. Not convincing either, but it's the thought that counts in cheap horror movies like this.

Now I've been writing about shallow, cheap things like gore and nudity and werewolf-attacks, but that's what Werewolf Shadow is about. I mean, for fucks sake, the alternative title is "The Werewolf Versus the Vampire Woman", which kinda says it all. It's extremely well-made entertaining with Paul Naschy in top form.

This is a timeless, slightly trashy, classic. A must in every collection of eurocult! 

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Panic Beats (1983)

The first time I saw Panic Beats I didn't like it so much. It was okay and that's it. So after a few years, and a weekend spending in front of Paul Naschy's fine autobiography "Memoirs of a Wolfman" I decided to give it a new try, hopefully with a couple of years of experience and maybe, mentally, a bit more mature. Well, who am I kidding? I will never grow up! Panic Beats on the other hand was a bit of a revelation this second time, especially after reading about how it was made in Naschy's book and I would say it's a damn fine and fun horror movie after all.

Paul Naschy is Paul who's deeply in love with his sick wife. They're travelling to his family's old villa where they're gonna spend some time so she can relax and feel better. But what she doesn't know is that Paul is one horny motherf**ker and it doesn't take long until he's after the young maid! Soon weird things starts to happen in the villa, can it be old bastard Alaric de Marnac who's back from the dead to harvest victims again!

One thing I repressed after the first time is how many twists this little film have. It's far from the typical Naschy horror, and a owes a lot more to the giallos of Italy - including black gloves and something sinister happening somewhere in the background of the story. There's at least two, three... maybe four, twists coming at ya and it works and makes a movie that could have been very traditional work very well. Naschy, who also directs, delivers a good surprising character who's actions is very hard to predict.

It takes a while for Alaric de Marnac (which also makes this an original sequel, spin-off to Horror Rises From the Tomb) to show up, but when it happens its with full power and quite surprising. Something that's been very overexaggerated over the years - probably with the help of hyperactive fan boys hugging their rare, now totally worthless, x-rentals - is the gore. Sure, it's violent, but there's actually only two really graphic kills - and both of them are more or else off-screen for the time. The effects is cheap and simple and the blood is plenty, but still... Naschy have done much gorier films through the years.

Panic Beats was shot in General Franco's old villa and Naschy have told how the whole places was filled with photos and letters, just abandoned and forgotten - like the pathetic but yet so dangerous former owner. Veteran actress Lola Gaos, who does a wonderful performance as the housekeeper Mabile, was one of those being terrorized by the fascists and that added to the tension of the acting and atmosphere of the set. Naschy himself was a socialist and it's easy to read in some of his movies - but I still haven't seen the highly political movies he made during the end of the seventies, for example the assassination thriller El Francotirador. I think it was a decision he made, both to mock the fascist regime and use them to produce something provocative and entertaining, like a good old horror movie.

My favourite Naschy film is still the gritty, sleazy and gory Seven Murders for the Scotland Yard (and Hunchback of the Morgue of course), but Panic Beats isn't far away. It's a good story, it delivers some nice kills and nudity for those who like that and foremost: it looks very good and truly prove what a good director Naschy was. 

Thursday, November 15, 2012

The Mysterious Island (1929)

I have several favourite genres, but the one I care the most for is the "unknown civilization"-style adventures, preferably from the 70's and directed by the great Kevin Connor and starring Doug McClure. Can't get better than that. But I love all of them, except the new ones who's a bit to family-friendly for me. One I've missed all my life and actually didn't know existed until a couple of weeks ago is Lucien Hubbard's The Mysterious Island, one of the earliest examples of "talkies". According to Famous Monsters of Filmland they started shooting the movie in 1926, as silent movie. Budget problems, weather and all sorts of problems delayed the movie and it wasn't released until 1926 - now with new scenes added, with sound! But is it any fun? We'll see...

Lionel Barrymore plays Count Dakkar (Nemo's real name) who with his submarine seeks vengeance on those he don't like, for example the evil Falon (Montagu Love), who just taken over Dakkar's peace-loving, slightly socialist-wannabe island, with his army. Dakkar and the traditional handsome hero and traditionally beautiful heroine escapes with the submarine. Falon won't accept this and goes after them in his sub until there's no turning back and they have to face the... terrifying underwater people!

The long production time, reshoots and change from silent to sound is very visible in the finished result. The talkie-scenes looks stiff and very "on-the-nose", with long and complicated exposition. The main bulk of these is also placed at the beginning of the film, which makes it odd when it slowly becomes more of a silent movie the longer it goes. On the good side here, the acting is a lot better and more realistic than I've seen before - both in the sound and the silent-parts.

The Mysterious Island has some deep flaws, which might be the result of the above mentioned problems. It stays way to long focusing on politics and talking and some drama and some more talking. It's until the last half hour we're getting some monster-action and adventures without soldiers and war, but that half hour instead is just fantastic. Both subs get problem and they're sinking deeper and deeper until they lands in the middle of an underwater city, inhabited by creatures of short stature who looks like a mix between Donald Duck and the 1967 version of Son of Godzilla! Creepy fuckers, really creepy. They're like aggressive little zombies! But life isn't easy down in creepy fucker-town, because they're attacked by a dinosaur (a crocodile dressed like a dinosaur) and also a big octopus (played by a real octopus) and this is problems our submarine-crew need to deal with to!

The effects here is well-made and sometimes very, very good. The simple, but effective effect, with thousands of these creatures running from and to and beside the giant octopus looks good in a surrealistic way. We see how they've done it, but it still works so well. 

The legend also says that both Benjamin Christensen and Maurice Tourneur also worked as directors on the production, during the years. I don't know if there's any truth in this, but why not? It's not impossible and it's talented and interesting enough to have people like this involved on different stages of the production. Despite its flaws and being way to focused on drama and less on monsters and adventures, this is a damn fine little movie and I'm very happy I found it on DVD in Germany, in a good transfer and very English-friendly - and in black & white, the colour version is since long lost. 

You can find it easy on and if you're a fan of oldies like this - get it!

Masquerade (1991)

This review is dedicated to my faithful reader and frantic commenter Megatron, who when I linked the IMDB page to him wrote "THANK YOU!!!". Because of him I actually decided to find it, watch it and also write maybe the first serious English-language reviews of Masquerade aka Private Detective aka The Black Glove aka Bassi istinti. Like many other Italian hardcore movies from this time - and overall during the nineties - money was spent on the productions and they often also was released in a non-sex version, softcore or just as a "sexy" mainstream movie.

Masquerade feels more like a normal movie, a TV-production or something similar in this soft version of the film. The presence of Rocco Siffredi might give the original vision away, even if he shot a couple of non-porn movies during his career. I hate Siffredi by the way, so I'm happy to say he's not in this production so much - and I'm pretty sure his only talent is more visible in the hardcore version, something I never will watch anyway.

It's not much a story. A female cop, Linda, is sent undercover to Florence where she teams up with her curly-haired male colleague Guido (played by someone who seems to be some kinda porn-legend in the US, Joey Silvera) to investigate a shady art dealer and the businesses around him. Soon someone is killing people involved in the art business, a killer with black gloves, hat, coat and a long, sharp knife!

Masquerade is a giallo, a pure Italian giallo with everything - mostly - giallo needs. It only has three-four murders and it's not that gory, but there's some bloody and a stylish killer getting rid of annoying characters. Like it should be. It looks like a cheap TV-production, a bit flat, but with nice locations and sets and surprisingly good acting (but what do I know, it maybe the better-than-average English dub helped out here). Joey Silvera has some charisma and comic timing and the ladies looks good and beautiful and can at least move in front of the camera without looking silly.

The mystery itself is nothing special and the ending, the revelation of the guilty person, comes out of nowhere - but hey, I wasn't bored anyway. Thankfully the sex-scenes are short and not especially graphic, just a tit and ass here and there - can't even imagine how boring the hardcore-version must be. Masquerade in this version is just kinda cozy, a little bit boring, but it's easy to watch and not without talent.

When watching this and writing the review I'm also reminded how I found out about it the first time. It was Katja and Linus, who was collectors and friends a long time ago. They introduced me to a lot of filmmakers, actors, genres that I never heard about earlier and I spent many evenings at their apartments when I visited Stockholm as a young man. Linus sadly left us a while ago and I lost contact with Katja, but I'm grateful for what they taught me and the amazing worlds they introduced me to <3 span="span">

Boring, crappy fun for us who needs to see EVERY giallo made. You rest can... watch something better.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Supermen of Malegaon (2012)

Made during seven months in 2008 but not properly released until this year, Supermen of Malegaon will go to the history as one of the best and most heart-warming documentaries ever made - and even better, it's connected deeply to the world weird cinema culture me and many others enjoy so much. It's not one of those hip, shallow, funny anecdotes docs that's been flooding the market during the last years, this is something much more closer to reality, something that's for real - as real as a documentary can be, because we all know those are often closer to fiction than the normal Joe can imagine. It's all about telling a good story.

Supermen of Malegaon tells the story of filmmaker Shaikh Nasir and his team of local talents in the poor, dirty city of Malegaon in the north of India. He has just hired weaver Shafique to play Superman in a new action-comedy-adventure where our hero is fighting pollution, drugs and all the other things that's destroying our world. With a budget of a couple of hundred dollars and a fantastic amount of imagination and enthusiasm they go on a journey to make their dreams come true, from the depressed screenwriter who's been fighting for 15 years to go to Mumbai to a director that refuses to leave his town - and in-between them the quiet, shy hero with a Superman-suit that gets more and more worn for each day of fighting, jumping and slapstick!

With a simple digital video camera and an energy, that we all should envy these supermen (and a couple of superwomen also), we follow them in their quest to make a local blockbuster. It would have been an easy task of make fun of these heroes, but director Faiza Ahmad Khan walked the line perfectly and delivers a touching and dramatic film about passion and love. Instead of laughing a the director when he accidentally drops his only camera into a dirty lake we're terrified, because we want him to finish this movie, for him and his team's sake. Khan never shies away with the camera, and there's both hard times and happy times during the making of Malegaon ka Superman - not everyday is easy and money is always a problem, but nothing is stopping them.

In the middle is the adorable, soft-spoken, gentle and slightly shy leading man Shafique, a man who can't weight more than 50 kilos. His dream is to play a hero and he gives everything in his performance, from wild stunts to dancing. The whole movie is sprinkled with quotes and dreams and it's impossible to dislike a guy that willingly does this and still is so happy. He died one year after the movie was shot, in cancer, but his dream became true: everyone is calling him Superman and he truly became a real, true star.

As a filmmaker myself, sometimes, I'm so impressed by the creativity of Shaikh Nasir and his team. They make a camera crane from an old wagon, uses an old bicycle for wild tracking shots, doing their own green screen effects behind a barn etc. A lot of spoiled Swedish indie-filmmakers should watch and learn from this documentary.

The only complaint I have is that it's too short. I could have watched an hour more, because I love these people so much.

Easily one of the best movies this year and it's something you have to watch at once!

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Eyeborgs (2009)

Once in a while you stumble upon something that you don't expect is good, at least that's the case for normal mainstreamers who only watches what they "know" its good because someone famous fancy schmancy critic said it is so. Me, an many others, never trust the mainstream and digs deep into the swamp of direct-to-video movies on the hunt for something out of the ordinary, and Eyeborgs is one of those movies. I'm not saying it's a classic, an unknown masterpiece of something like that, but it's worth a lot more than the stupid comments it gets on the IMDB or those who rather watch I, Robot than something more edgy and interesting.

In a not so distant future ODIN rules the US. Odin is a security and surveillance system monitoring every part of the country with a lot of different robots and cameras. But soon some people is getting killed by the robots, for small crimes like smoking tobacco (which is forbidden) and weird enough the surveillance cameras shows nothing odd - just accidents, or people killing other people. Who's controlling who here and what's the goal of this manipulation of the media... and robots? Homeland Security agent, "the father of the Eyeborgs", R. J. 'Gunner' Reynolds (Adrian Paul) soon gets involved against his wishes and understands that someone has tampered with his "babies"...

Eyeborgs is a fine budget-aware movie (IMDB says 3,7 million dollars, which sounds reasonable) with a more ambitious vision than the title or the back of the cover makes you think. Paul Adrian might not be the most charismatic actor alive, but he's still good enough for these semi-mainstream affairs and has both the locks and the charms to carry the movie. Everything about Eyeborgs looks and sounds good, which makes me thing it once was written to be a bigger, more star-driven vehicle, but somehow ended up on the lower end of the budget-universe. The computer animations, the robots, is a mixed bag - from bad to not bad at all, but they're still just Eyeborgs and there's nothing silly with them not being ultra-realistic. Instead the stunts and action around them is good and they're well-animated.

The nice story feels like a mix between RoboCop, Starship Troopers, more or less every modern conspiracy thriller made in the same budget range. It works fine and is highly critical to the surveillance-civilization we're getting closer and closer to be. This one makes several references to 9/11 and what seems to be the republican party, even if no political agenda is mentioned. This one also has a couple of interesting characters and there's more layers in them than in a normal DTV production. Danny Trejo makes an extended cameo and its nice to see him as a smart guy, not the normal thug - even if he's a tough guy even here.

It also questions what we see and who the terrorists actually are. If simple screenshots from movies or highly faked Photoshop-creations can be used as real photos in news media today without anyone questioning it - or maybe you remember the animated video game sequence being used as real war footage in the news - you also also understand that everything is possible and as long as the audience accepts everything without using some basic critical thinking, we WILL be fucked sooner or later.

Eh, now I'm going political again. As usual. Eyeborgs is a good and well-made action-thriller with cool robots, nice explosions and ambitious production values for being such a low budget production. I think you will like it. 

Monday, November 12, 2012

The Sentinel (1977)

I've seen Michael Winner's The Sentinel so many times over the years and I never get tired of it. It's one of those 70's horror movies I always return to and I always find something new in. It still shocks me, believe it or not. Not that it's scary nowadays, but the atmosphere is so damn dirty and sleazy and odd and weird and yeah, truly fucked-up. What I understand Don Siegel was suppose to direct it from the beginning but he bowed out because of the subject and in came the biggest madman of them all, Michael Winner, and poured nudity, gore and a fuckstastic cast of character actors over us. I'm pretty sure Siegel would have made a scarier movies, but he would never even get close to the bizarreness of Mr Winner's vision.

Christina Haines plays a successful supermodel living with her dashing boyfriend Chris Sarandon. They're happy, but like all decent couples in this age of enlightenment they want some privacy and Christina finds her own apartment, where she can relax and... well, that's not gonna work, because soon she finds out that her neighbours is some weird freaks who loves her a bit too much for her own good. And what the hell is that priest doing at the window all day? Soon Christina's life is upside down and when it gets weirder and weirder in the house no one believes her of course, until it's too late...

In general I can agree with some of the criticism against the movie. Christina Raines is a bit stiff, she's not the best actress to hit the screen - especially in the more normal drama-scenes, she's a lot better when it gets weird and violent and many of the cameos has a gimmick-style over them, but we're talking about Michael Winner here, a man who always stood with one foot in serious mainstream and the other one in gratuitous exploitation. And to be honest, my favourite Chris Sarandon is a bit wooden here also, I'm the first to admit it. This also gives the movie an eerie dream-like feeling where nothing is what it seems. The FANTASTIC cast is just stunning and it's extra fun see future stars in supporting parts: Jeff Goldblum, Tom Berenger, Christopher Walken, Beverly D'Angelo and Griffin Dunne (though he's not credited on IMDB, but believe me, he's there as an extra). Even Richard Dreyfuss shows up in an uncredited appearance and he still denies it's him - I've asked him!

What's good about The Sentinel then? Oh, I lot. A LOT. The story is simple, yet brilliant and in the typical 70's way - dark and cynical. The location and and cast - very similar to Rosemary's Baby, which makes it even more exploitation, is wonderful and truly bizarre. Burgess Meredith is acting like he's an old New York queen, Sylvia Miles and D'Angelo has the lesbian couple, John Carradine being grumpy in the attic, Ava Gardner being both glamorous and slightly alcoholic at the same time - I will always love her for doing her stuff, she just got better and better over the years! The Sentinel goes a lot further than any other mainstream movie I've seen from the time with nudity and sex and just that dirty feeling that's so hard to scrub off. That also goes for the violence.

It's bloody and graphic and all in gory, juicy close-up's. It's like watching an Italian horror production sometimes, but maybe with fewer scenes of carnage. The famous stabbing scene is there and it always surprised me because it's so damn graphic - and that whole sequence is so intense. You can also say that about the final, with an army of real-life "freaks" (sorry for using that word) playing demons around Burgess Meredith chewing the scenery like never before, and he seems to have a lot of fun! Michael Winner rarely shies away from stuff the audience don't want to see and The Sentinel has it all.

I've seen a lot of movies, more than you can ever imagine, but I can say that The Sentinel is one of the absolute favourites. It's there for me when I'm sad and it's there for me when I'm too happy and need something to bring be down. The only bad thing with it is the lack of mutant bears, just like in my second (very secret) favourite, John Frankenheimer's The Prophecy. But don't tell anyone about that, or I'll get a big bad spanking from the geek elite!