Monday, March 28, 2011

Don't Turn the Other Cheek (1971)

If I said that there was a movie where Lynn Redgrave teamed up with Franco Nero and Eli Wallach to fight in the Mexican Revolution and against Captain Kronos Vampire Hunter I'm 100% sure that no-one would believe me. Yet this movie exists alright, and it's a damn fine one at that.

Directed by Duccio Tessari (The Blood Stained Butterfly, Three Tough Guys, A Pistol for Ringo), Don't Turn the Other Cheek is a great obscure little spaghetti western, one of the many released by DVD company Wild East Productions.

Don't Turn the Other Cheek is about Russian prince and confidence trickster Vladek Orlowsky (Franco Nero), who after finishing a wedding con (which takes up the still-motion opening credits), is ambushed by a group of bandits, who, mistaking him for a real priest, want him to try and get information about a hidden cache of gold out of a dying man. Orlowsky gets the information and kills the bandits, but not before they mess his ride up.

He goes to a nearby prison, where a bandit, Lozoya (Eli Wallach) is being kept. Orlowsky busts Lozoya out but not before meeting up with his deranged cousin and now sheriff (Horst Janson from Captain Kronos Vampire Hunter). Orlowsky and Captain Kronos (I don't remember the movie ever bothering to name the character) have a violent history with each other, which resulted in Kronos having to wear special metal body plating-what I can only assume was caused by Franco Nero busting out his skills from 'Enter the Ninja' and tearing Kronos's spine out with his bare hands.

While escaping, the two bump into Irish Journalist Mary O'Donnell (Lynn Redgrave), who mistakes Lozoya for famed Mexican revolutionary El Salvadore. Orlowsky and Lozoya try to find the gold while being forcibly dragged across Mexico by Mary. After them is Kronos and the villainous General Huerta (Eduardo Fajardo).

The characters are all great, from the con-man prince, to the bandit-turned revolutionary, the radical journalist and the colourful villains. The real villain of the film is definitely Redgrave though. Mary O'Donnell is the kind of journalist who not only starts revolutions for her newspaper (knowing that 'El Salvadore' is a fake), but kills at least 20 people in her pursuit for a good story, and was apparently trained in reporting by Q Branch, as she has gadgets in the movie, like a camera bomb. Her bitchiness is exactly what causes a few of the more un-PC moments of the movie. After killing about 50+ Mexican soldiers, the trio escape by motorcycle, which Nero pushes Redgrave straight off! And later, they leave her locked up in a prison with dozens of other people. And Nero literally smashes her in the face!

The movie turns semi-serious in the last third. Lozoya visits his sister and nephew, who, soon after are killed by Huerta. And when the trio finally get to the village of San Tomas, where the deciding revolutionary battle is going to take place, they find all 20 of the men willing to fight General Huerta hung.

Being a spaghetti western, this movie doesn't value human life too highly, as it has a body count that nears that of Django (about 140). Single battle scenes will feature from about 5 to 30 people killed. Also being that it's a spaghetti western, the good guys can gun down dozens of people and be in prolonged fire-fights yet be completely unharmed. And it wouldn't be a proper spaghetti western if the heroes didn't have each other at gunpoint at least every 15 minutes.

On the topic of the Mexican Revolution in this movie, all of the scenes which focus on it are not dubbed, but subtitled. I can only wonder why the American distributor would cut out semi-American history while the Italians would keep it.

 All in all, Don't Turn the Other Cheek is funny, action-packed and a credit to it's genre.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Return of the Living Dead 5: Rave to the Grave (2005)

Bloody Sci Fi channel, what the hell did Dan O'Bannon ever do to them that caused them to make Return of the Living Dead 4 and 5, two of the most unwelcome sequels of all time.

Rave to the Grave starts off by completely ignoring any backstory present in it's predecessor Necropolis by giving every returning main character a case of selective amnesia; I won't go into that though, as I've yet to see Necropolis. Peter Coyote, also returns from the previous film, cashing his cheque in what's basically an extended cameo. Coyote plays Charles Garrison, some guy who, for some reason has several canisters of Trioxin on his hands. He tries to sell it to people who are-unbeknowest to him-undercover Interpol agents, and becomes zombie chow while testing out the chemical on stolen corpses. You'd think that for someone who knows as much about the chemical as he did, that he wouldn't gas up several corpses and not bother to assume that they'd come back to life behind him. Well that's exactly what happens and Coyote and the re-animated bodies are all killed by the Interpol agents (more on them later).

Meanwhile a College student, Julian is rifling about his dead uncle's (Coyote) house and comes across a secret compartment that leads him to the remaining Trioxin canisters. After taking a canister to school to have it tested by his science geek friend Cody, Cody, along with two other friends decides to sell the Trioxin as a drug to other students on campus behind Julian's back and reap on the profits. The drug soon starts to take effect on people though, and before long, it starts to slowly turning them into zombies.

After the Trioxin canisters is the two Interpol agents mentioned before, Gino and Aldo. They are bar none the best part of the movie. They can't act, probably don't speak a word of English, and are part of a running joke that doesn't work at all (they love crispy cremes and EuroDisney), and is in fact so bad, it actually becomes entertaining.

Acting aside, Gino and Aldo are fun, entertaining and they're two of the best zombie slayers I've ever seen in movies like this. The zombies have started to infest the campus, and you're under the impression that this outbreak cannot be stopped by any means, that all hell is about to break loose-well, armed with a couple of machine guns, the two agents defuse the whole situation in a way that is completely unheard of in any zombie film...actually killing all of the zombies! They literally stop the outbreak with a few bullets, and an unexpected rocket launcher-the only reason that the movie is still going is that we've still got the rave to get to. As for the rocket launcher, it's one of the more unexpected moments in the film. Two hippies are driving with two zombies in the back (put in there by guys who thought that they were just high) and get attacked, etc. The two agents were following the car, and when it comes to a halt, they get out of their car and these two Interpol agents just happen to travel with high-grade military artillery in their car boot and totally obliterate the car while operatic music plays in the background.

The campus where the film is set is strangely adult-less. There are no teachers present, students hold massive raves, sell and take hard drugs, stand around in broad daylight tripping out, and wear super skimpy tops that a porn star would be proud of. That and students can walk around campus casually while carting a military chemical containment canister around!

The acting is uniformally terrible, the only actors of note being Maria Dinulescu (a Romanian actress, decent in her own right but doesn't get to do much here) and Sorin Cocis and Claudiu Bleont as the two Interpol agents. Some of the dialogue is pretty bad too, "Come on Chucky, we're frat brothers, we're supposed to share everything, especially when it comes to internal organs".

The gore effects are decent, ranging from eyeball trauma with drumsticks... guitar decapitation!

The climax of the film is the titular rave, where everyone starts turning into zombies thanks to the drug and the place turns into a bloodbath. Never fear however, because we have two Italian Interpol agents dressed as Viking Valkyries, armed with machine guns to save the day!

Yeah, this movie exists!!!

And the movie ends with a cameo by Tarman, who's hitchhiking for the rave. No one picks him up and he walks off into the distance forlornly yelling 'BRAINS' as some sad folk music plays.

Overall, the film is a bearable zombie flick if you disregard its sequel-status to Return of the Living Dead and the only thing saving it from being just another tedious zombie movie are the aforementioned actors. Regarding that sequel-status though, this and Necropolis are bound to drive any ROTLD fans into a complete murderous frenzy.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Epitafios-If the Dead Could Speak (2004)

I remember a show from a couple of years ago called Harper's Island. It was a slasher film in TV show form and had the gimmick of having one or more murder per episode. It wasn't really that good and was cliched as hell. But there is a show with a similar format that is a genuinely great show-Argentinian made Epitafios.

Epitafios is about a serial killer Bruno Costas (Antonio Birabent) who's hunting down everyone involved with an incident that happened several years prior. A teacher took several students hostage, accidentally killed them, and managed to escape justice. Five years later, the teacher's mutilated body is found and it's up to former policeman-now taxi-driver Renzo Marquez (Julio Chavez) and psychologist Laura Santini (Paola Krum) to put a stop to Costas' deranged plan before his vengeance is ultimately enacted on them.

Not shying away from showing graphic violence and uncaring in character shields, Epitafios is grim and unrelenting, much more so than even the most brutal of American shows-every episode has some sort of twist or turn that will leave even the most hardened viewer reeling (particularly in the final episodes).

Spanning 13 episodes, the plot is very intricate-just like Costas' murderous plans-but not to the point of total confusion, the characterisation and acting is top notch, and the atmosphere is tense and uncomfortable (in the good way).

So, to cut it short, if you're any kind of horror/crime fan, then find this immediately so you're not missing out on a great spectacle in modern day horror.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Jaguar Lives (1979)

Imagine if you will, a film that pulls together the dream cast of Christopher Lee, Donald Pleasence, Joseph Wiseman, Barbara Bach, John Huston, Woody Strode and Capucine. That sounds like a film that you could do no wrong with doesn't it. Well, Jaguar Lives still manages to fuck up the best B-movie cast ever assembled, not because of how good or bad the movie is, but because of how little screen time everyone gets.

Jaguar Lives concerns a retired Super Spy named Jonathan Cross: codename The Jaguar (famous kickboxer and Bruce Lee disciple Joe Lewis), who is goaded into doing one last job by his boss (Barbara Bach) in order to find out who caused the death of his friend and partner Brett: codename The Cougar (Anthony De Longis) during a botched operation. His journey to uncover the mysterious plan known as The Killing of the Kings takes him from Hong Kong, to Madrid, to Tokyo and a whole variety of exotic locations until he eventually comes to find that the identity of the villainous Esteban will hit closer to home than he ever suspected (obvious plot twist is obvious).

On his travels, Cross journeys to a Middle Eastern country called El Habbab to meet his old friend Ben Ashir, played by Joseph Wiseman. Cross talks to the old man for about three minutes and then zips off the continent and Wiseman is not seen again in the movie. Next, arriving in a banana republic, Santa Fortuna, he talks with the head of state, General Villanova, who was nearly assassinated by one of Esteban's men. The general is played by the delightfully evil Donald Pleasence, who spends most of his scant four minutes of screen time casually telling 'Meester Jaguar' how he's going to torture and murder him, while directing him around his mansion ("This was designed by my brother, it was right before I had him shot").

After meeting up with several other celebrities with ludicrously small screentime, Cross is kidnapped by Adam Caine (Christopher Lee), an old associate who wishes Jonathan to become his heir. Cain puts Cross through several few-second-long martial arts trials before eventually letting him go. At nearly ten minutes, Christopher Lee has the most screen time but it's still nowhere near enough.

Despite the movie lacking very many fight scenes, they are evenly paced enough for the film not to be too boring. One of the more baffling things about the movie is the villain Esteban. His identity as Cross's thought-to-be-deceased partner is kept hidden until the movies final minutes, but at the start of the movie, during the botched operation we see Brett pull out a gun and shoot Cross in the back. Cross didn't see who shot him and just assumed that Brett was killed in the ensuing explosion, but we saw him, yet his identity as the villain is still kept secret for the rest of the movie.

The plot also has several other problems, such as the identity of the boy who accompanies Wiseman's character (he turn's out to be Brett's son, but we don't find this out until the movie's last few minutes, and it doesn't really impact with the plot either), and several charcters who either try to kill Cross, sell him out or let him go for no particular reason.

Joe Lewis's performance as The Jaguar is a little wooden, about as much so as Sam J Jones in "Flash Gordon". The rest of the performances range from good to great, it's a little hard to tell though, since the only actor to actually appear in the movie for more than five minutes is Lewis. The fight choreography is good, which is to be expected seeing as Lewis was very proficient in martial arts, particularly kickboxing. Of note is a stunt Lewis performs midway during the film, a jump-kick towards two guys on motorbikes.

And of note is the final fight scene between Cross and Brett, where halfway through the fight, the two men remove their shhirts for no particular reason other than to show off their 70's chest hair.

All in all, Jaguar Lives, while dissapointing with it's cast decisions, is still a fun, entertaining eurospy film albeit slightly boring in some places.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Frostbitten (2006)

OK, welcome to my Blog everyone, I hope you enjoy it.

Predating Let the Right One In by two years, Frostbitten takes the crown for being the very first Swedish vampire movie ever!
Centering around a Swedish SS group in the 1940's (yep, this film one-ups Dead Snow by having a Nazi vampire) at the start, then on a girl named Saga and her mother, who've just moved into a Swedish town, where sunlight is nonexistent during the winter solstice. The story revolves around both the mother Annika investigating an aged chemist at the hospital where she works, and her daughter being befriended by the awesomely stylish goth Vega and her friends and being invited to a party. Long story short, in the interim of the aforementioned doctor slaying re-animated corpses from mysterious fatal maulings, two orderlies at the hospital who are looking for drugs to supply the party with, steal some mysterious red pills from the doctor's office. The rest of the movie focuses on Saga trying to get the hell out of the party's bloody aftermath and on Annika, whose investigation on the strange doctor could get her killed!

Blending horror and comedy effectively (whenever the comedy is present, which isn't all that often for a movie touted to be hilarious), Frostbitten is a fun vampire film that is an interesting contrast with the super-serious Let the Right One In. The acting is good, and the story compelling; there is some interesting stuff about vampires here. The characters are good too, ranging from the former-SS soldier/Chemist to Vega, who's by far the best character, and to say anything more about her would be to spoil the best parts of the movie. There's only one elephant in the room with this movie.


No, seriously, it just abruptly ends two thirds into the film! There are several plot threads that are just completely abandoned! I've seen Godfrey Ho films that didn't end as quickly as this did!

Other than that massive problem, the film is very entertaining, and one of the best Scandinavian horror films next to Norway's Cold Prey series (of which the third installment came out in October last year, and it's arrival on DVD is one that I have marked on my calender).