With my wife-to-be over in her home country of Finland for a week I took it upon myself to get the boys round for another one of our regular 'trashathons' last weekend (check out my previous write ups here and here). For the uninitiated (or those who can't be bothered to look up those two links) these weekends involve pulling out our lowest budgeted, most breast, explosion and blood filled crappy VHS and bargain-basement DVD's we can find and subjecting ourselves to their 'pleasures' for two nights and a morning. We usually squeeze in a couple of classier modern genre films too that haven't received the widest of releases.
This weekend really delivered the goods I must say. There were no straight up classics, but pretty much all of them did exactly what they said on the tin, which is more than can be said for a lot of exploitation flicks – most make better trailers than they do films.
As usual don't take the star ratings too seriously – I'm generally going on entertainment value over quality.
Deadly China Dolls (a.k.a. Lethal Panthers)
Director: Godfrey Ho
Writers: Simon Fong, Charles Ng
Starring: Alex Fong, William Ho, Sibelle Hu, Maria Jo, John Lam, Clement Lee
Catapulting us into the weekend was Deadly China Dolls, sporting the classic tagline - “floozies with oozies” (yes, that's how they spelt it) and it didn't disappoint. This is exploitation at it's most refined. With one scene you'll get a gun fight, the next some gratuitous nudity, the next a kung-fu showdown and then it'll begin the loop again. There is a story in there somewhere about assassins and gangsters, but not a lot of time is spent on it. It looks about ten years older than it should (even on DVD) and it was clearly made on a budget, but they really go to town with their action sequences. There's a lot of firepower on display and they even manage to pull off some low rate John Woo slow-mo sequences. The martial arts scenes aren't too shabby either, with one of the stars in particular (can't remember her character name unfortunately) pulling off some impressive moves.
OK so the film is pretty crappy in all honesty, but delivers all your exploitation needs and is one of the most effective trashy B-movies I've seen for a while. If you're into scantily clad women blowing things up, killing hundreds of faceless goons and still having time to get down and dirty with some gangsters, then you can do much much worse.
A trailer for the Lethal Action Series (including Lethal Panther):
Horsemen of the Apocalypse (a.k.a. Horsemen)
Director: Jonas Akerlund
Writers: Dave Callahan
Starring: Dennis Quaid, Ziyi Zhang, Lou Taylor Pucci, Clifton Collins Jr, Patrick Fugit, Peter Stormare
We needed a change of pace after the sleeze and destruction of Deadly China Dolls so we went modern with Jonas Akerlund's thriller from last year which seemed to pass by unnoticed by the general public. A distinctly average, but nicely shot and suitably grisly serial killer mystery, Horsemen of the Apocalypse tries desperately to be Se7en but ultimately fails. Dennis Quaid is a grizzled detective struggling to get his life back on track after the death of his wife. Overworked and failing to be there for his two sons, he spends his days and nights trying to find who's behind a spate of brutal and torturous killings following a theme of the four horsemen of the apocalypse. It opts for a finale that's potentially quite interesting and refreshingly low-key for a film of this kind, but the writing is too clunky and the unfolding events are often too clearly signposted, making for quite a predictable experience.
Dennis Quaid is strong in the lead role, not mindblowing, but he kept me interested. Ziyi Zhang is less consistent, but I love watching her in anything. The film is not particularly memorable and has it's flaws, but it's classy enough to be worth a rent if you fancy a dark, moody thriller.
Strike of the Panther
Director: Brian Trenchard-Smith
Writers: Peter West, Ranald Allan and Brian Trenchard-Smith
Starring: Edward John Stazak, John Stanton, Rowena Wallace, Jim Richards, Paris Jefferson, Zale Daniel
First up on Saturday was Strike of the Panther after a lengthy trip to Huddersfield's town centre hitting every market stall and charity shop along the way for more trash fixes. It's an 80's ozploitation 'classic' from Brian Trenchard-Smith, the man behind BMX Bandits and Turkey Shoot as well as the last video weekend's star attraction The Man From Hong Kong. The one and only sequel to Day of the Panther, this is low budget Australian martial arts at it's most fun. It's packed wall to wall with action as any film of this ilk should be - the moves are occasionally slow and always clearly choreographed, but they're diverse and acrobatic enough to remain entertaining nonetheless.
It's as dumb as they get – the hero Jason Blade's mentor and friend becomes psychic for no apparent reason half way through the film and starts to help him fight the bad guys from back his hospital bed. The acting is beyond wooden too, with Stazak delivering one of the blandest lead performances I've ever seen, managing to look goofily confused through the entire running time. Things like this are all part of it's charm though and the filmmakers know what they're dealing with, keeping things moving along at a fair pace and throwing enough fights and daft humour in there to keep you from switching off. It hit the spot for us anyway.
Below is a rather lengthy clip from the film. If you can't stomach that much cheese then skip to the baseball bat wielding ninja at 2.40 – comedy gold!
Director: Christopher Smith
Writer: Christopher Smith
Starring: Melissa George, Joshua McIvor, Jack Taylor, Michael Dorman, Henry Nixon
Jumping back to a modern genre offering, we tried out the British horror/thriller Triangle from writer/director Christopher Smith, the man behind Severance and Black Death, which is doing the festival rounds at the moment. It was an odd experience for me, because whilst I watched it I was genuinely engrossed and loved the looping concept of the film (kind of like a horror take on Groundhog Day), but after it finished and I let my mind take in what had happened I realised how deeply flawed it is in it's logic, leaving an unsatisfying nasty aftertaste to it all. I can't go into it too much without spoiling the film, but for me it broke too many of it's own rules. Smith tries to juggle too much by the end, getting trapped in the narrative's constrictive boundaries and depending on some clumsy contrivances in the finale to tie it up.
As I said, whilst I watched the film I loved it though. It's taught, original and occasionally quite creepy. Some of the minor characters are clichéd and annoying, but Melissa George is effective in the central role even if she overdoes the victim shtick from time to time. Your level of enjoyment of the film will come down to whether you can buy into the narrative though. I did for the most part, but it was too easy to pick apart afterwards.
Director: Sandy Harbutt
Writer: Sandy Harbutt & Michael Robinson
Starring: Ken Shorter, Sandy Harbutt, Deryck Barnes, Hugh Keays-Byrne, Roger Ward, Vincent Gil
With it's cult classic status and history of being one of the early groundbreaking entries to the ozploitation genre, I was pretty disappointed with Stone. It's not terrible, it's just dated quite badly and is frustratingly slow-moving; never a good thing in the latter stages of a film marathon. That said, once I got the idea that this wasn't the bike-chase filled trash-fest I expected, the film did grow on me. Rather than pander to action-movie clichés the film spends most of it's time getting to know the violent, filthy, yet strangely likeable members of it's central biker gang. It's shot and performed with a refreshing naturalism that was always done best in the 70's and some of the scenes when the group are just shooting the shit are the strongest. Unfortunately, the lead actor Ken Shorter, who plays a not-so-undercover cop that infiltrates the gang, is painfully bland and spoils the good work being done elsewhere. Also, as I mentioned earlier, the film has dated over the years. There's a strong hippy vibe to it all that just grated after a while and for a film that was banned in it's time it's pretty tame by todays standards.
Bikers and those attuned to the film's heritage and importance will get more from it and there is some solid 70's filmmaking on display, but ultimately I found the film a little too dull to fully endorse.
Below is the trailer, which makes it look a lot more exciting than it actually is:
Director: Cirio H. Santiago
Writer: Frederick Bailey
Starring: Richard Norton, Corinne Wahl, Robert Patrick, William Steis, Frederick Bailey
Equalizer 2000 is a Roger Corman backed Z-grade post-apocalyptic action movie from the king of Filipino exploitation, Cirio H. Santiago. Now I thought Deadly China Dolls was action-packed, but this just took the piss. The only scene I can remember that doesn't feature gunfire is a soft-focus sex scene between Richard Norton and Corinne Wahl and as surprised as I am to be saying this, there was just too much action for me. Because there was so little variety in what was happening on screen, it just became white noise after a while and we actually had to watch the last half on Sunday morning because we were struggling to stay awake. That said, the finale was great fun and Santiago certainly makes the most of his low budget. Plus you've got to give the film credit for delivering exactly what it's audience wants.
The film's 'plot' is hilarious. Basically, the world has been devastated by nuclear war and is split into several tribes, most of which are at war with one another. Then in comes Slade (Norton) who builds the world's biggest, most bad-ass gun, which for some reason becomes the key to taking over the world and winning the war. Of course it repeatedly falls into the wrong hands and Slade has to win it back to restore peace to the land. There's a goofy charm to it's naffness and it's fun to see Robert Patrick in one of his earliest roles, hamming it up nicely as a rebellious bandit. After checking out IMDB I discovered that he appeared in four of Santiago's films in his first 2 years as an actor, demonstrating how important Corman was in kickstarting the careers of several successful actors and directors.
Art it ain't, but Equalizer 2000 is trashy fun that put a smile on my face, despite a case of action overkill.
Below is an action-packed trailer:
East LA Warriors
Directors: Addison Randall
Writers: Raymond Martino & Addison Randall
Starring: Tony Bravo, Kamar De Los Reyes, Lawrence Hilton-Jacobs, Sabino Villa Lobos, Jastereo Coviare
East LA Warriors was a film I picked up especially for the weekend – that cover was just too hilarious to pass up. Unfortunately it was the weakest film we watched, leaving Sunday's viewing a little stale. It had it's share of so-bad-it's-funny moments, but took itself way too seriously. The film is set amongst the South American ganglands of East LA and teases us with talk of 'the games' (a fight tournament... to the death!), but they appear too little too late and instead it's more of an anti-gang melodrama that comes across as a Mexican soap opera. I would put money on most of the actors being from that background with all the hamming up on display; the scenes between Paulo and his mother are borderline parodies. That said, it was a refreshingly different setting at least and the story here is more fleshed out than in Deadly China Dolls or Equalizer 2000.
It's all watchable enough and there were a handful of goofy action scenes interspersed to keep me from totally giving up on it, but it's very bland and feels like more of a TV-movie than a straight to DVD action extravaganza. There's little to warrant it's 18 certificate too, I think just one harsh moment must have done it. The filmmakers probably slotted that in to up the rating and sell more copies. A disappointing end to a fun weekend.
Below is a homemade trailer and yes that song is from the film - what a theme tune!