I trekked over to meet up with 'the guys' last weekend for another one of our movie marathons (previous write-ups can be found here – 1, 2 and 3) and this session certainly didn't disappoint. Easily our most purely exploitative lineup, this time round we watched no modern or respected cult genre offerings, we stuck solely to long forgotten titles from 70's and 80's, unearthing a few trashy classics along the way.
As ever, and especially with a list of films like these, the scores relate more to the enjoyment factor rather than their quality so read on with an open mind...
The Hard Way (a.k.a. La Via Dura, Colombian Connection)
Director: Michele Massimo Tarantini
Screenplay: Michele Massimo Tarantini
Starring: Miles O'Keeffe, Milton Rodriguez, Chuck Bishop, Philip Wagner, Henry Silva
Duration: 77 min
This was pure, basic action at it's cheesy best. There is no time to rest, the gunfire is relentless as Miles O'Keeffe and gang mow down a never ending supply of rebels under the command of Milton Rodriguez and his right hand man, Henry Silva. It's mainly Commando/A-Team style violence with the bad guys spraying bullets anywhere but at the heroes, who seem to spin around (for no reason) and deliver a fatal blow to their victims instantly (causing them to leap into the air of course). It doesn't get boring though as often is the case with films that have no breathing room. A mixture of forrest and army encampment settings plus plenty of explosions and some helicopter madness keep things from staying too samey. A scene where the heroes use a trip-wire on a helicopter is particularly memorable as is a classic line by Silva; “I love killing people”. The older member of the squad (Bishop or Wagner, I'm not sure) is hilarious to watch too as he clearly has no idea how to handle his gun and looks close to having a heart attack in any scene featuring any sort of physical exertion (i.e. all of them).
Yes, it's got zero plot and is utterly ludicrous, but it was the perfect start to the weekend and got us in the right mood for what was to come.
Death Force (aka Fighting Mad)
Director: Cirio H. Santiago
Screenplay: Howard R. Cohen, Cirio H. Santiago & Robert Waters
Starring: James Iglehart, Carmen Argenziano, Leon Isaac Kennedy, Jayne Kennedy
Duration: 96 min
Next on the agenda was Death Force, a blaxploitation movie from one of the genre's pioneers, Cirio H. Santiago, the man behind cult classics like Savage! and T.N.T. Jackson as well as Equalizer 2000 which we caught at the last marathon. The film is about former soldier Doug (James Iglehart), who's 'friends' in Vietnam stab him and haul him overboard a boat on the way home in order to get full share of the gold they've smuggled with them and use the earnings to start a life of crime back in the US. The soldier survives though after washing up on the shore of an island inhabited by two crazy Japanese soldiers who seem to believe that WWII is still raging. They bring him back to health and eventually train the man up in the art of the samurai, skills he uses when he returns home to find his cohorts at the top of the criminal food chain.
What follows of course is an old fashioned revenge flick with plenty of fist and sword fights. It lacked the over the top silliness of The Hard Way and was occasionally a little slow and serious, but made up for it with a couple of well handled martial arts sequences and a fairly entertaining lead performance. There was a two minute section that was pure madness too (I don't think words could explain what happened) and provided much amusement late on a Friday night.
Watch the entire film for free here!
Director: Fritz Kiersch
Screenplay: Rick Marx & Peter Welbeck
Based on a Novel byJohn Norman
Starring: Urbano Barberini, Rebecca Ferratti, Oliver Reed, Paul L. Smith, Jack Palance
Duration: 94 min
Gor is a low-rate fantasy adventure from Cannon's glory days and is everything you'd expect from the studio's output at the time; ultra campy, dated, unimaginative, yet nostalgically entertaining for all the same reasons. As with most 80's fantasy films, the (initially) unlikely hero (Urbano Barberini) is teleported (via a magic ring of course) to planet Gor, where he becomes embroiled in a battle to claim back the world from the clutches of the evil king, Sarm (Oliver Reed).
Reed is clearly drunk throughout the film and sports a ludicrous helmet, there's a totally unnecessary girl-on-girl wrestling match in the middle and it features an obligatory midget sidekick. We're in truly trashy territory here people and unless you're willing to laugh along, you're not going to get a lot from this movie. The sword-fights are hilariously bad as are the costumes and there's a phenomenally daft scene where the band of rebels 'secretly' sneak up behind a huge team of enemy soldiers only to hitch a ride on their man-carried caravan for a mile or two and are never noticed. Jack Palance is on screen for a mere two minutes in the closing scenes despite getting lead billing and looks as confused as the audience as to why he's there. He logs more hours in the film's sequel though according to IMDB. How in the hell a follow up ever got made I'll never know, but for goofy 80's fun you can do worse than stick on Gor, just don't ever attempt to take it seriously.
The Spanish trailer:
The Evil (aka House of Evil)
A pre-First Blood Richard Crenna stars in this haunted house movie from the late 70's, which is surprisingly good. Filled with practical effects (and basic compositing) that hold up well, The Evil is still pretty creepy and very entertaining. It's an old-fashioned story of an big manor-house haunted by an ex-resident as well as containing a gateway to hell in the basement (like most houses, yeah?). The new owners (Crenna and Joanna Pettet) and a group of their colleagues and students are over to help fix the place up but become trapped inside and tormented by unseen forces of evil.
It's clumsily written (why the hell does Crenna not tell anyone about the suspicious doors in the basement until the end?) and more than a little daft, but generally it's well paced and engaging. It's got a surreal finale too where our heroes meet the devil himself, a nattily dressed Victor Buono, in a scene bizarrely reminiscent of the 'Architect' monologue in The Matrix Reloaded but with a much more satisfying payoff.
Perusing IMDB for more info on the film I noticed the director Gus Trikonis worked pretty much solely on TV after The Evil (following earlier titles like Supercock - not what it sounds like), which is a shame as it's not a bad little film and deserves more recognition. It has had a lot of reviews on the site though, so maybe it's just me that hasn't heard of it before. Fans of classic haunted house movies should definitely track it down.
Number One With a Bullet
Director: Jack Smight
Screenplay: Gail Morgan Hickman, Andrew Kurtzman, Rob Riley & James Belushi
Starring: Robert Carradine, Billy Dee Williams, Valerie Bertinelli, Peter Graves, Doris Roberts
Duration: 103 min
I have a long and complicated history with this film. Without filling the page, I basically got several copies of Number One With a Bullet bought for me by a friend for various birthdays and Christmas' as a joke. Eventually to pay him back, a group of us made our own sequel to the film for his birthday. A couple of years later after showing our low-tech homemade follow up to my university roommates, we proceeded to shoot another one and a half further sequels.
So it's with sad regret these many years later after finally sitting through the original film in it's entirety, that Number One With a Bullet is a terrible film. OK, so most of the videos and DVD's we watch on these weekends are pretty shoddy, but they usually have a genuinely enjoyable charm to them. This doesn't.
Basically a Lethal Weapon rip-off, Number One With a Bullet follows Berzak (Robert Carradine) and Hazeltine (Billy Dee Williams), two police detectives who according to the IMDB “are assigned to investigate a murder and discover a trail of corruption and criminal activity that leads right back to their own police department”, but I have no recollection of any murder at the start, the two cops seem to already know who's running the mob and the 'inside-job' aspect is a side note tacked onto the end.
It's one of the most dull 'action movies' I've ever seen, with only a smattering of set-pieces during it's overly drawn out running time. These are generally embarrassingly lacklustre too, with possibly the slowest car chase committed to celluloid when the good guys face up against a lorry with the bad guys locked inside. In it's favour an aerial gunfight is quite enjoyable and a foot-chase early on is memorable due to the fact that two of the characters are bafflingly wearing drag (a fact that is never explained).
Robert Carradine displays why he's the least talented member of the family with an overly slimey and unlikeable performance. Billy Dee Williams is barely there, not given enough screen time and looking like he's shopping it in when he is in front of the camera. There are several attempts at witty, sardonic lines but generally these fall flat due to the lazy performances.
A big disappointment from the film that played such an strange, yet integral part in my teenage years. It's influence helped spurn me on to be a filmmaker through a bizarre series of events, but watching the original back, it casts an ugly shadow over the legend.
I couldn't find a trailer, but here's Billy Dee Williams in a Colt 45 advert:
Revenge (aka Vigilante II, Street Law)
Director: Enzo G. Castellari
Screenplay: Massimo De Rita & Arduino Maiuri
Starring: Franco Nero, Giancarlo Prete, Barbara Bach, Renzo Palmer, Franco Borelli
Duration: 105 min
We were hyped for this one. Directed by Enzo Castellari, who brought us films like Keoma, The Bronx Warriors and the original Inglorious Bastards paired up with Django himself, Franco Nero, we thought we were in safe hands. For the most part we were. The first 15-20 minutes are non-stop chaos with a series of short outbursts of violence and vandalism, followed by a brutal bank robbery and an awesome car chase, sewing the seeds for Carlo's (Nero) journey of vengeance.
Unfortunately the film slows down somewhat in the mid-section as Carlo continues to find reason to want revenge on the thugs that have made his life a living hell, over-labouring the point and causing us to clock watch. A nice car vs. man stunt piece in the middle lifts things a little but then die down again. It's actually quite interesting at times to see Carlo's first attempts at getting back at the criminals by blackmailing them, but lets be honest, at our video weekends we'd much rather see him kick their ass.
The finale eventually delivers this and successfully so, but it's too little too late. The film is 15 minutes too long and gets a little confusing at times once Carlo starts hiding out with wannabe-reformed thug Tommy (Giancarlo Prete). Perhaps given a proper viewing with fresher, less bloodthirsty eyes I might have given this a better chance as it's still very good at times, but in this environment it was a bit of a disappointment.
The Final Terror
Director: Andrew Davis
Screenplay: Jon George, Neill D. Hicks & Ronald Shusett
Starring: John Friedrich, Adrian Zmed, Ernest Harden Jr, Rachel Ward, Daryl Hannah, Joe Pantoliano
Duration: 82 min
The Final Terror is blatant cash in on Friday the 13th that whilst uninspired was still pretty solid and went down well at that time in the evening. A group of young, attractive forrest rangers go camping in the woods and gradually get slaughtered by an unseen assailant in the darkness, what more could you ask for?
Well, it would have been nice to get a little more gore and nudity to be honest. It's an entertaining enough film, but for a slasher it skimps on the red stuff and the teens' actions aren't nearly risky enough. By the end a heck of a lot of them are still alive too which seems like a bit of a cop out. That said, a couple of the deaths are nicely handled and the final showdown is impressively over the top. The location is well used too and the forest looks great in the daytime and provides a creepy setting at night.
I think one of the things that kept the film afloat were the performances. OK so nobody's winning any awards here and Daryl Hannah, although top billed (to cash in on her success) says and does nothing, but generally the cast are believable and enjoyable to watch. Joe Pantoliano has an early role as an unhinged teen that everyone suspects to be the killer and he is fun to watch – over the top, but entertainingly so.
All in all, it wasn't a revelation, but it was fun and fairly well made. A nice find.
Watch the entire film here:
Bronson Lee, Champion
We almost gave up for the night after The Final Terror, but decided we could squeeze in one last movie. We made the right choice. If one film could be best enjoyed at 2am after five other trashy 70/80's movies then Bronson Lee, Champion was it.
It's an utterly ludicrous, cheap martial arts film from Japan that is terrible in every way, but was insanely enjoyable. The humour is really dumb, but worked well in the setting, the acting is hilarious, especially the lead Bronson Lee, who spends the entire film wearing big black sunglasses and looking like a Japanese Elvis impersonator with a comedy moustache. The storyline is stupidly bare-bones and jumps around nonsensically all the time. It didn't help that the film seemed to be heavily edited – scenes would just end abruptly and jump half way into the next one. It all added to the humour for us though and I enjoyed the hell out of it.
What also helped was that the fight scenes were plentiful and actually well choreographed. So as well as being hilarious the film was fast-paced and pretty exciting. The whole thing is a bit of a blur, so there's not much else to say, but in my mind it remains the perfect late night movie.
A clip from the film:
Director: Jobic Wong
Screenplay: Bobby Ming & Jobic Wong
Starring: Sam Jones, Christopher Doyle, Bobby Ming, Craig Scott Galper, Chin Horn, Lenny Bryce
Country: Hong Kong & USA
Duration: 90 min
Wow. What an experience. The final film we watched will permanently sear itself into my memory for quite some time.
So we see the front cover. Sam (Flash Gordon) Jones with a big gun and a sexy lady blowing shit up. Awesome, let's whack it on. 20 mins in and Jones is teaching a bumbling group of Filipino army recruits how to drive a truck. So far so disappointing.
Then everything changes.
A rat is set on fire for real on screen then used as a torture device in some sort of sick game. OK, that's pretty messed up, guess they don't have the same laws over in the Philippines.
But there's more. Our heroes get captured and held prisoner. Then this happens:
Yes, thats right. He got acid poured into his brain, which made him melt out of his skin! After a dull 20 mins of truck training this wasn't quite what we expected. The film after this point goes insane, becoming action packed, brutally violent and actually quite a lot of fun (when it's not horrifically disturbing). There are plenty more messed up sequences, such as when one of the captives pulls his hands free from some restraints that are hooked through the middle of his hands, when one person is sawn in half and a couple of people get decapitated.
Throw in some random motorcycle scenes, a bizarrely downbeat coda after the heroes seem to have won, and you've got a film-watching experience like no other. It's nonsensical, poorly made, but by God it got my attention and I think I kind of enjoyed it.