Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Brandon Lee (1965-1993)

Martial arts superstar Bruce Lee carved out fame for himself from an early age. = talented  practicing his skills and eventually opening up classes of his own and teaching many. Gradually he moved to acting, and became the icon we all know and love, appearing in films such Fist of Fury, and Enter the Dragon. Tragically, he died at the height of his fame, at far too young an age

Brandon Lee always had a tough act to follow. Comparisons between him and his father would have been as unwelcome as they were inevitable. Thankfully when he began a career in movies he took a cue from Jackie Chan's book and focused on making himself different. This paid off spectacularly, as Brandon is well known for his comedic skills and his charismatic grins, on top of his superb martial arts, in contrast to the more serious action roles his father dominated. Talent and hard work certainly ran in the family, and Brandon was an active and energetic guy with a clear drive to do what he wanted in life.

Lee wanted to be an actor even since his youth on his father's sets. His career began fittingly with a supporting lead role in Kung Fu: The Movie, then as the next generation in the aptly titled Kung Fu: The Next Generation. After Bruce developed the show's concept but wasn't included as the star as he wanted (inadvertently paving the way for his film career in China), it's a = for Brandon to take the reins, even if only briefly. Following this he took part in Legacy of Rage, a Hong Kong production that would be his first time as a leading man. While the title was there to remind audiences who Brandon was, as if they'd forget, he cuts a distinctly different figure already from his father, delivering an effectively emotional performance that's been consistently praised through the years even by those who didn't like the film.

Brandon's career took a global/international detour to Africa where his next film Laser Mission was made. After this, things took root in America, with  such as Showdown in Little Tokyo and Rapid Fire. The first was exactly the film professional critics love to hate, but he shone as a bright point for most, while Rapid Fire was more successful critically, and allowed for Brandon's fame to grow even further, before finally leading to dark superhero film The Crow, and Lee's tragic accidental death on set.

One of the things I like most about Brandon's filmography is how diverse and eclectic it is. You've got cheesy 80s action, over-the-top 90s action that's cheesy in all new ways, dramatic kung fu roles, heroic bloodshed, and superhero fiction! No two of his films are alike, and there's always something new on display.

Lee apparently expressed wishes to pursue more dramatic projects rather than let action dominate his career. While it'd be a bummer for all us action-hounds out there, that would have been an interesting decision I feel. It's always good to branch out, and never remain pigeonholed into one genre. And that ensures you appear in less bad films. Jean-Clause Van Damme and Dolph Lundgren for example, bless them, have appeared in more than a few stinkers. When you're appearing exclusively in one thing for a while, a lack of quality control can occur as you find yourself picking whatever roles are offered, while a broader acting range can keep things perpetually fresher, if done well. And besides, I doubt he would've stopped appearing in action altogether!

It's a real tragedy what befell Lee. Nevermind what kind of career he would've had, I also mourn for him as a person, and what he could have done with his life outside of cinema. Quoted on Brandon's grave is a sweet epitaph, a passage he read during an interview, regarding his stance on the future.

"Because we don't know when we will die, we get to think of life as an inexhaustible well. And yet everything happens only a certain number of times, and a very small number really. How many more times will you remember a certain afternoon of your childhood, an afternoon that is so deeply a part of your being that you can't even conceive of your life without it? Perhaps four, or five times more? Perhaps not even that. How many more times will you watch the full moon rise? Perhaps twenty. And yet it all seems limitless..."

Brandon Lee Blogathon: Rapid Fire (1992)

Jake Lo is a bright college kid with a tragic past. Having lost his father in a failed protest in China, he's become disillusioned with life. When some activists trick him into showing up at their benefit party Jake reluctantly accepts to speak to the audience, but before he can he witnesses crime lord Tony Serrano shoot a man. After escaping their clutches, Jake is taken by the police, who quickly realise the break they have here, and put Jake immediately into witness protection, against his will. No sooner than Jake's arrived at the safehouse, some corrupt officers try and kill him and pin a murder charge on his head. Now on the run from both Serrano's thugs and the police, Jake must team up with a rogue cop who does business his own way, and take the fight to Serrano...

Rapid Fire is a quintessentially 90s action film. It's got everything you'd expect, and more, with fights aplenty, babes, car chases, explosions, and kung fu! Sign me up!

The movie sets up its plot well, and it doesn't take too long for us to get what's going on, or for the plot to really kick into gear. The protagonist is a good one, with a very effective backstory! His reactions are believable as he's suddenly thrust into this dangerous free-for-all, he's pissed without being belligerent or annoying.

A man-on-the-run story by design, the pacing is fine, and never boring. The film moves briskly enough, and has got enough twists and turns to keep you happy.

The action is really good here! Some of it is grounded and believable, with close-quarters fights, and tense stand-offs. Then we get the crazier moments, with guys whipping out shotguns and shooting speeding cars so many times they flip over and explode twice! It strikes a good balance, never being too much, and always entertaining.

The romance here is all telegraphed from a mile away, and is handled so cheesily, but in an amusing way. You might groan at the cliches or laugh at the handling of them, but it's never bad, just very funny.

Something I really respect about Rapid Fire is how political it is! While otherwise a straight and conventional Hollywood action film, it also shines a spotlight right in the Tienanmen Square Massacre, and isn't afraid to criticise the brutally oppressive Chinese regime. More of that please, Hollywood! Free China!

The characters here are good. Jake Lo is a nice lead character, with a sympathetic backstory. He's pissed off a lot of the time here, but never whines, and isn't dour all the time either.    Detective Mace Ryan (what a name!) is a fun though insane addition, getting some really over-the-top moments. His character is quite well detailed, and we really come to understand him. He also can't bowl for shit!

Policewoman Karla is a likeable addition. Maybe a bit unnecessary, and despite being ordered by a wounded Mace in the climax to forget him and help Jake, she's nowhere to be seen (leading Jake to have to go back in and rescue the guy!), but she's nice, and not too bitchy, gettinhgsome funny moments here and there too.

The villains are pretty neat. Serrano may be a typical Italian mafioso head, but the character is fun and villainous enough to want to follow. He gets one really good moment when with a crooked associate, who's been sent in by the cops with a wire. The guy's trying to get out of there as fast as he can, while Serrano slowly plays with him before revealing he knows. Overall the film gets across well his character of trying to stay strong in the face of waning credibility and tough threats.

The other villain is Kinman Tau, a ruthless Chinese criminal mastermind, and the main antagonist of the film, as well as the one whose actions spur the film into...well, action. He's pretty good, and has his moments (namely the stickfighting scene at the beginning), but he disappears for so long that you feel surprised when you see him again. 'Oh yeah, that guy', you'll think. When he does return he's good, and a decent final baddie, though the lack of screentime does have an effect.

Where Rapid Fire disappoints is in a couple of areas. For a start, there are too many characters! Not all of them are major, but it still feels like too many people to remember. We've got the 'Free China' group at the start, including the pretty blonde, who vanish entirely after the first act. Then there's the myriad mobsters, Serrano himself, his crooked contacts, and Tau and his gang! With Jake and the cops too, it's a bit hard to follow who's who at times.

The other big issue is connected to this. The main villain of the film is Serrano. He's the one Jake witnesses killing someone, he organises the hit on him and makes his a wanted man from the cops too, and there's a long climactic fight to finally take him down!...An hour in. And he's successfully arrested! What happens next you ask? Tau is upgraded to the main villain, and the rest of the movie is devoted to stopping him. Not a terrible direction to the plot, and Tau has been a presence from the beginning, but the problem is so much weight was = on Serrano and his attachment to the plot, so to see him defeated earlier than expected and refocus the plot onto a new big bad is pretty disappointing and disorienting!

This also has a double effect. Not only do you go through this big action setpiece that feels like the climax but isn't, but the movie then keeps going with a whole new climax. Just when your brain thinks the movie's wrapping up it keeps going. The Serrano plot was built up so heavily as the main draw that once he's defeated, it feels like we're watching the last act of another movie altogether.It's a little exhausting having to watch both these setpieces back-to-back.

There are other issues with the film, such as the sheer amount of cops that get killed (]Jesus, Mace, you are so fired!]), and the = moments of the action setpiece with Serrano. It's silly that pretty much no other cops ever show up. Where it gets really ludicrous though is when the bad guys casually whip off a cloth and reveal a 50 cal. machine gun, and promptly mow down = with abandon! It's unbelievable and depressing! I thought these guys wanted to keep a low profile! They were gonna kill Jake to avoid notoriety, and here they are turning downtown L.A. into a warzone!

Ok, back to some positives. The action in Rapid Fire is exemplary! Fights are expertly choreographed, there's an equal amount of gunplay and fisticuffs, and Lee is more than able to show off his skills. He's a marvel to behold as he punches, kicks, and strikes his way through foes with abandon, with too many highlights to mention. Maybe my favourite is when the cornered Serrano begs "Not the face", and Brandon promptly hits him nowhere but the face! The posters to Rapid Fire declare Lee is unarmed and extremely dangerous, and this is one time where the advertising didn't lie!

The music here is neat. There are plenty of good action beats, softer moments, a fair amount of 90s saxophone, and the crowning highlight of the film-A pair of songs by rock band Hardline. They're cheesy and =, but really fun. The first, Can't Find My Way, is effective over the love scene, and I Will Be There is an amusing way to play the movie out, and it feels cathartic to hear such a track after [balls-to-the-wall] action for a whole movie. It also has a pleasant melancholy feel to it, knowing that this is Brandon Lee's final film before The Crow. I don't know if that makes sense, but it gives me a sense of sadness and happiness =.

The acting here is very good. Lee is an endearing and energetic lead, who can fight just as well as he can smile! Powers Boothe is lots of fun as crazy cop Mace, while Kate Hodge is a decent love interest. Nick Mancuso is good as the villain. He and his goons can sometimes be amusingly Italian, but are all fine, and never border on self-parody. Tzi Ma plays against type as the villain (many may know him as the kindly Consul Han from Rush Hour), and is neat! He looks intimidating enough despite his age and stature, and makes for a good final opponent.

Rapid Fire is a pretty flawed picture, but it's still a great time! It's got much to recommend, and you're sure to enjoy yourself here if you're an action aficionado.

Brandon Lee Blogathon: Legacy of Rage (1986)

Brandon Ma is a nice young man working two jobs to support his girlfriend May and their future plans of raising a family. The kind of guy to swoop in and help those in need, and not afraid to fight back when victimised, Brandon lives well, but has made the mistake of being friends with Michael, the son of a ruthless crime lord. Michael as inherited all of his father's evil and cunning, and more, and has a plan of his own. Since he and his father's business is threatened by a greedy corrupt cop, Michael uses Brandon as a scapegoat, and orchestrates him to be blamed for the cop's death. This leaves Brandon imprisoned for 8 years, and Michael all prepared to move in on May, who manages to flee in time. Eight years later, Brandon has learned of his 'friend's' betrayal, and with the help of a kindly convict he met in prison, he'll get his revenge and reunite with May if it's the last thing he does...

Legacy of Rage is a rarity in Brandon Lee's short filmography, and a very welcome addition, in that it's a Hong Kong production! I'm glad Lee had the chance to act in at least one film in his other mother country. Thankfully the movie is a good one too. A mix of genres, Legacy of Rage is a brisk film that has elements of drama, action, and more, making for a diverse picture.

The movie gets off to a good start, introducing us to all the characters well. It then shows us all of Brandon and May's plans for the future, which you just know are gonna be crushed, and sure enough they are. Brandon spends the middle third in prison, but thankfully this is never boring, nor grinds the pace or plot to a halt. The eight years soon end up passing (maybe a little too quickly, and almost no-one seems to have aged!)

The romance is well crafted. Even though everything that happens is fairly standard stuff, it's the execution that's important. The characters share chemistry, and have a few good scenes together. Unfortunately they only get one and a half scene after May's forced to flee Hong Kong, and that's it!
although I hated the scene where Brandon burns her letters! I get why, because he thinks she turned to another man, but he should've read them, and realised the truth, and kept these precious mementos! He was gonna learn the truth in 5 minutes time anyway.

Something I like about the movie is that people help Brandon a lot. Things maybe pretty bleak, but = is there to help May, the manager helps, and so does the prison captain, even Brandon's new boss when he gets out of prison likes him and gives him chances. It's little things like this that stop the movie from becoming unbearably depressing. Even though his life still sucks you = without switching the movie off from too much grimness.

The climax is where I have mixed feelings. Theoretically I friggin' hate it all, if not for the ending's superbly played emotions and music. But more on that later. For a start, let's discuss the genre shift. There are a couple of minor scuffles and brawls in the earlier parts of the film, but it's more of a crime-thriller than action. That all changes in the final 15/20 minutes, where Legacy of Rage suddenly becomes a 'heroic bloodshed' movie! Now, this action is all great, and I wouldn't so so far as to say it feels out of place, but it might be a little at odds with the rest of the movie. It could be annoying to some expecting this to be a full-blown action film only to get it just in the ending. I don't object to the direction the creators took this climax, but perhaps they could've kept it more consistent and had more of a [crime-thriller] suitable ending, with maybe Brandon using Michael's now vast empire [against him] to take him down, in a fit of poetic justice, then he could either be jailed (for maximum karma!) or killed. =

Now to come to the real problem with the climax-Its conclusion! Anyone who's seen the movie will know what I'm talking about. Something happens here that is just plain depressing! It's not necessary at all. I feel that Michael had already done enough to Brandon for the story. Now is the time for revenge, not for more to be taken away. Overall this is a big fat downer!

Thankfully the ending makes up at least a little for this, and it a very sweet conclusion. It's interestingly directed, it showcases the friendship between Brandon and Hoi, with no words necessary, and despite being relatively brief, it's a really nice conclusion to the film, with the music being the absolute standout.

The imaginatively named Brandon is a very good protagonist. We're introduced to him perfectly when a young child has missed the bus (what a shock!), and he hauls the [toddler] up on his shoulder and runs through the streets of Hong Kong until he catches up at the bus's next stop. It's a cheesy intro, but it's fun, and instantly endears you to Brandon.

He's a real sweet guy, and you feel bad for him for all the shit he goes through, and all the opportunities he misses out on. He's a real Count of Monte Cristo figure in that regard. Thankfully he too gets his revenge, and we're behind him all the way!

Michael meanwhile is a loathsome villain. He's an absolute scumbag and you pray for his violent death. During the early minutes his sliminess is immediately apparent the way he comes on to May, and talks to Brandon. He'll sidle up to him and say stuff like "Hey, I hear your relationship's not going so well", and before Brandon can have a chance to say that's bullcrap, Michael continues with "You can dump her and I'll take care of her. I don't mind used goods". Ohhhh noooo! What a son of a bitch! Thankfully Brandon punishes him suitably for that 'joke' as he claims it to be.

He's a traitorous bastard too, as we see when he's disturbingly willing to throw his best friend under the bus just to get rid of an obstacle, and to get May all for himself. During the montage where he builds his business up, we see him  and grow increasingly unhinged.

Poor May just can't catch a break in this film, but thankfully she spends the 8 years while Brandon's in prison not depressingly badly. She's a sweet enough girl, and nice love interest, though vanishes for a while in the midsection. She never feels underused or = written though.

Then there's Hoi, or 'Four-eyes'. He's cool! An unassuming gun runner (a good one I hope!), this scrawny little nerdy guy is a great help, and surprisingly badass! He's an honourable and noble friend, and you really = between him and Brandon. My only complaint is that after meeting Brandon on his release and promising the two would do great things, the movie forgets him for a while! Thankfully he's back in full force for the climax, and survives too! Phew.

The supporting cast are all quite good. Some may appear less than others, but they all feel distinct, and lively, from the weaselly corrupt cop, to Brandon and May's sympathetic manager, and the lonely Mr. Huang/Tang. At first he seems like a possibly dirty old man who can't take No for an answer, but thankfully he proves to be the opposite, and

The acting in Legacy of Rage is great. Due to the film's tone, Lee has none of the comedic charm he'd show in later movies, but he still delivers a performance of a very different kind. He handles the serious/emotional material very well  As for whether this is actually him speaking on Chinese I'm not sure. He could speak it, but maybe he got dubbed over anyway? Who knows, but =!

Michael Wong does too good a job as the evil Michael, and you spend the whole movie wanting to deck him. Regina Kent is spunky and cute as May, with moments of good drama, and Mang Hoi is fun as Hoi!...With these names the way they are I'm surprised they didn't hire someone named May!

The action is another highlight for this film. The stuntwork and choreography is great, and even though wirework makes a couple of thugs jerk unnaturally when shot, the impacts from their falls are very much real! The gunplay is super neat, as well as super ridiculous, with hundreds of rounds fired, blood splattering everywhere, and bodies falling left right and centre. It gets so insane that it actually distracts from Brandon's martial arts! Thankfully the last 5 minutes showcase that to great effect. We get other cheesy moments too, such as a grenade with a hilariously long fuse. Coming only moments after a previous one blew up instantly, this grenade stays stuck in Brandon's car for nearly half a minute!

The direction here is very good too. Stylish and colourful, each scene has something cool about it. Fight scenes are staged well, and even some simple conversations are framed neatly. The soundtrack is very nice too. We've got tense and brooding tracks, and calm and tender ones, with the aforementioned scoring during the ending making for a wonderful/lovely listening experience.

One last thing to discuss is the title-While the characters in this film certainly have something to be angry about, the name is more reflective of the star and his father, which is an odd thing to name the movie after. They'd probably share more of a legacy in philosophy, tranquility, and asskicking moreso than something as negative as rage. It's a neat enough title though, and serves the film alright.

Overall, Legacy of Rage might not be perfect, but for a first leading role it's more than what someone could ask for, and is a great first outing, as well as a fun action and emotional drama in its own right...

two brandon, umbrella rain, car gun, uzis, duo

Monday, March 30, 2020

Brandon Lee: Television Appearances

During his short career, Brandon Lee appeared a couple of times on TV, in a continuation to Kung Fu, further solidifying his attachment to the series his father had first developed, and an episode of Pat Morita cop show Ohara, where he got to play a villain for a change!...

Kung Fu: The Next Generation

Johnny Caine is the troublesome son of the current Kwai Chang Caine. After a heist gone wrong, Johnny is sent back into the care of his father, and the air is frosty for a while, but with some luck the two might get through to each-other. However, a criminal friend of Johnny's keeps trying to get him back into the game for another big job...

Kung Fu: The Next Generation was an unsold pilot to a tv series that never was, instead giving way to the more successful The Legend Continues. As far as sequels go I really quite enjoyed it! It's very different from the original series, but in a good way, that makes it stand out as its own unique ting, while also being familiar enough to not feel like a completely different property.

The story is a good one, telling a = '= father and rebellious son' =, but without all the usual cliches. I really liked its presentation here. The father doesn't come across as preachy or annoying, and the son most importantly isn't a dickhead! He's got his rougher side, but is never obnoxious, and comes around believably.

There's a good balance here between fighting and emotion, with a nice philosophy, that's true to Kung Fu. The series and the martial arts! It never feels boring, and it could teach a thing or two.

Onto the characters, the appropriately but confusingly named Kwai Chang Caine is a good guy, and a nice teacher and father. He's presented as super perfect, but this is the point, and part of Johnny's feelings of frustration and inadequacy. Johnny is likeable enough, with his criminal activities and snappiness never making you dislike him, and you feel invested in where his character goes, hoping he becomes better.

Mick is a real effective villain. He's such a passive-aggressive dick, and you can really feel the peer pressure that emanates from him, and how he can attract = youths to join his =. He's the kind of person who says they owe you big time one second, then = as soon as you're unsure about =. I thought they owed you?

The acting here is all good. David Darlow is a worthy enough descendant to Caine, and comes across as an old-fashioned mystical guy in a modern world, keeping to all the old traditions. He also looks like David Carradine, which I really like. It's much better to have Kwai Chang Caine's descendant look like Carradine, rather than just be played by him, as it feels more authentic and less cheap.

Brandon Lee delivers a good performance, getting across a tougher and frustrated side, but also a softer one, and never being really horrible or irredeemable. Miguel Ferrer delivers a typically good performance too, although I was a little confused where his characters manipulations ended and inconsistent writing began.

The action here is pretty decent, with a few good hits here and there. Darlow probably wasn't a martial artist, but the same can be said for Carradine in the original show. This does a decent job of hiding any potential lack of true skill, though he does look a bit too [unassuming]. Lee gets some good moments. We don't see anything amazing, but it's all entertaining enough.

Overall, Kung Fu: The Next Generation may not be the best TV pilot around, but I'd be quite interested in seeing what it could have been. I hope The Legend Continues is a worthy follow=up to the groundwork this laid down...

Ohara: What's in a Name

Senior police detective Ohara is feeling [down in the dumps] as the anniversary of his wife and daughter's death comes closer. Just as he intends to stay at home for the occasion, his daughter's friend Diane shows up out of the blue, with a favour to ask. When on a trip to Japan she met an older gentlemen, who lavished her with all sorts of gifts. Despite making it quite clear she wasn't interested in a romance, he's refusing to take No for an answer. It soon becomes apparent there's more to the case though...

Ohara was a unique series, and a diverse one as it was one of the few shows of the time to have an Asian lead. Unfortunately it had a short-lived and == had quite a tumultuous life. It's an example of a show killed not only by low ratings, but excessive studio meddling.    Then he'd use martial arts if necessary, then he had a conventional partner, then he carried a gun, etc. None of these ideas would make for a bad show by themselves, but it's frustrating to see a good concept bandied about and diluted like this, and all for nothing since the show was cancelled anyway.

Thankfully What's in a Name is a good example of the series' good quality. Having seen no previous or future episodes of the series, and with no real = idea of the constant format changes, with only this episode to go on it certainly comes across well. I've always had a soft spot for the show, and wished for a proper release.

The story here is a good one. It introduces the characters and their backstories well, everyone interacts well with each-other. There's a good balance of comedy, drama, and criminal intrigue, with none stepping over the others.

One of my favourite moments of the episode was when Diane is talking to her Japanese friend Kazu, telling why she can't be with him and he needs to understand that...and he actually listens! He decides to respect her wishes, listening to reason, and the two part as friends once more. What a surprisingly against type moment!. Of course, the moment is ruined somewhat when he's murdered by his son. Oh well, you win some, you lose some, Diane.

It's the second half which gets more action-packed. There's a murder, a hunt for the 'suspect', and finding the real killers. The identity of the real bad guys is pretty obvious, but thankfully this is never really a whodunnit, and it takes the time to flesh out its baddie, even if only a little with a TV episode runtime.

The acting here is great. Pat Morita is a very nice lead, balancing many emotions perfectly. Robert Clohessy does well as his sidekick, who's a bit of a jokester, but shows genuine concern for his friend. Katherine Moffat is nice as old family friend Diane, while Robert Ito is good as the Yakuza leader, coming across as antagonistic, but not overtly villainous, and has a softer side. Brandon Lee meanwhile is having fun as the villain! His only time as a bad guy he really sells the role here, and you wouldn't wanna cross him! Unless you're Pat Morita, that is!

What's in a Name is a good episode of Ohara, and a perfect introduction. I hope to see more of it someday, and with any luck it'll get a proper release in the future!

Brandon Lee Blogathon: Kung Fu: The Movie (1986)

Kung Fu: The Movie isn't really much of a movie, as its title suggests, but more like an extended TV episode. With shows from the 70s and 80s, you'd often come across stories that were too long for one episode, but not long enough for two. That'swhat this film feels like. Taking no =, and made on the budget of a TV program, it feels like a = saturday night adventure stretched to an ill-advised length

The other big problem with this is the plot. The focuses should be on the mysterious man tailing Caine, and the revelation therein, with the Manchu being the villain. Instead the majority of the plot concerns a local opium smuggling gang, and what time isn't spent with that is = carting boxes of lettuce around! Words can't express how frustrating it is to be given glimpses of an interesting and impactful A-story, only to spend most of the time watching the mediocre B-plot.

As an introduction to the series it's ok I suppose, but its more staid and dull = might make people believe the TV series is more of the same, when it may well be more fun and energetic

The tone of the film isn't exactly peppy. Chinese people (including children) are forced to work in shitty conditions and everyone just = to live with it, there's the spectre of constant racism, people die, and even the noble sheriff gets killed, and is rarely mentioned again. The climax is oddly dour! Caine goes to the trouble of blocking a bullet with his body, for nothing, and =!

Where the movie excels is in the classic aphorisms and wisdom, and to its credit the film still has an Oriental feel despite being set in the Old West

The fight scenes, few of them as there may be, are pretty decent, with the best being the one at the end. Though the fact that it focuses more on weapons than = means we don't get to see a great deal of Brandon Lee's skills. The final battle with the Manchu also disappoints, because he's ready to = two on one with twin scimitars!...When he's shaken to death by the camera without a single blow.

The acting here is ok, though no-one really excels. David Carradine is good in the lead role, though.=. Brandon Lee delivers good performance, but doesn't appear enough to really sink his teeth into the role. Mako is entertaining as the main antagonist, and is able to shine despite his lack of screentime. William Lucking can always be trusted to play a good minor villain, and Luke Askew is good as the noble Sheriff. Kerrie Keane is nice enough as the =. Martin Landau is here as the main = villain, but you'd hardly know it. He barely appears, and does practically/pretty much nothing. And finally the great Keye Luke has a small but effective role here, and he's eminently likeable no matter what!

Kung Fu: The Movie is an alright picture, but not on par with the original series it follows, or that enjoyable. It also doesn't offer much of Brandon Lee, unfortunately.

Sunday, March 29, 2020

Brandon Lee Blogathon: Showdown in Little Tokyo (1991)

Chris Kenner is a detective in the Los Angeles police department, in Little Tokyo. Ever since his parents were murdered as a child, Kenner was raised in Japan, and has adopted the way of life =. Now a fearsome opponent of any criminals, he also has trouble keeping partners, until Johnny Murata comes along. A bit of a rogue himself, he's been assigned to keep Kenner out of trouble, but trouble soon finds them when they discover a Yakuza drug operation, led by the sinister Yoshida, the man Kenner last saw over the body of his parents...

The 80s were a special time for action films, and they were truly unique in a [wacky and cheesy] way. They did whatever they wanted, and =. Not all were good of course, and some were just stupid, but every now and then you see a hidden classic that really makes you =!...Showdown in Little Tokyo was not from the 80s, actually, being instead from 1991, but it embodies the spirit and tone of those movies so well that it feels in a way like a last hurrah.

Showdown in Little Tokyo wastes no time getting straight to the point. It introduces the heroes and villains in quick succession, as well as the = of the story.   The movie moves at a cheetah's pace, with only a 78 minute runtime! I don't know who decided this movie would be not 2 hours or even 90 minutes, but 78, but they should be given a medal! Not every film needs to be the same length, and there's nothing wrong with movies 70 or even 60 minutes long, so it's nice to see Showdown breaking the mould and showing how easily it can be done. This is such a breezy film,

This film is fun, no doubt, but it's very stupid! Like Lundgren taking a bullet damn-near right next to his heart, and not even being slowed down. Or when there's a table that's more invincible than Lundgren himself, as Kenner uses it as a shield against machine-gun fire, and isn't perforated! And there's the moment where, to avoid interrogation, a man snaps his own neck! Is it possible? Maybe, and I certainly believe the Japanese are that talented, but man is it crazy to see! Showdown in Little Tokyo is full of moments like these. It never gets too much, and each one has you wondering what on earth will happen next, and if it'll involve cheesy puns (the answer is yes).

The comedy here really works. It stops the film from taking itself too seriously. The dialogue is really something special too! I couldn't believe some of what the characters say! Some examples are =", "=", and the spectacular delivery from Brandon "Will you do this right? Clean? Like a cop in the 20th century, not some samurai warrior? We're gonna nail this guy. And when we get done... we're gonna go eat fish off those naked chicks!". The rest though you'll have to see for yourself!

Something I really appreciate about Showdown is how it manages to be = without being sleazy. It never comes across as grimy. Not that I mind a bit of sleaze every now and then, but it could've felt sour in a film like this. The only place where I felt the film  It's not handled horribly or anything, but  didn't feel necessary, and would be at danger of making the rest of the film less fun by inclusion, except for the fact that it seems to be  forgotten by everyone soon after. One thing I do respect the film for though is its handling of a rape victim as a love interest. The event doesn't 'tarnish' her and make her 'unlovable' for the lead, but he instead sticks with her all the same. Rarely seen in movies!

The two heroes here are great fun, and their differences play off really well. Kenner is a hulking but serene man, raised in the = of Japan, whereas Murata is of Japanese descent, but very much raised in American culture.I also like that the movie treats both ways of life as perfectly valid. Kenner might wonder why Murata knows so little about his own culture,  and Murata gets a bit of culture shock at some of the crazier things he sees, but they're both respectful.

One thing the movie doesn't deem important though is their names, which are barely mentioned in the film. Murata is said once, as is Johnny, and with the former, you'll be lucky to hear it.

The diabolical Yakuza leader Yoshida is a great antagonist! He really feels like a threat, and not someone you wanna mess with. He's downright creepy at times too. One scene I really like, and feel informs his characters is when a failed henchman chops off his own finger to appease his master, but Yoshida remains unsatisfied and just murders the guy. While showing a straight depiction of Yakuza 'honour' would be interesting (i.e. "You have failed me! I demand a finger!...Ok, thank you, you're pardoned. Back to work"), I feel this corruption does a good job at showing the kind of man Yoshida is.

The supporting cast are good. Minako is a likeable female lead, and love interest, getting a few good moments throughout. Other characters like the motherly shopkeeper or the = coroner are neat, though only appear for one scene each. Some of the villains make a great impression (like Hagata, master of pain), but the main sub-villain is just alright. Fine, but the script doesn't really give him a whole lot to do besides stand there and shoot.

There are numerous moments in the film that'd look fake with any other actor, like when Kenner leaps over a speeding car! On one hand, it looks [ridiculous], but on the other, this is Dolph Lundgren we're talking about! Have you seen some of the tricks gymnasts pull off?! And not only is the super agile Lundgren skilled in that regard, but also in martial arts, and in the military. So to summarise, yeah, he probably did jump over the car all by himself, no strings attached.

The action in display here is all very well executed. The leads are clearly in the shape of their lives, and one can't help but look on in awe at the stuff they do here, and the way they take guys down. Every man hopes to look as good as Lundgren and Lee do here!

The only problem I have with the film is this. The main duo say that they're going to take down Yoshida and his gang the right way, by the book...and they proceed to violently kill every one of the gangsters! I get this is an action movie, but it's really distracting for the characters to say one thing, then so thoroughly do the opposite! It flies in the face of the plot, really. Even when casually sneaking a girl out of an enemy stronghold Dolph can't help but kill 8 people then and there. This is at its worst in the final fight, where the heroes blow up the drug factory (presumably/hopefully not wiping away all traces of evidence!), and slaughter everyone in their path, with Murata setting the sub-villain on fire after dropping him an alcohol vat! It feels out-of-character, and more than a little psychotic! Not to mention stupid too, given the explosion it causes.

The acting here is great! Dolph Lundgren and Brandon Lee are awesome leads, with Lundgren being his typical softly spoken powerhouse, while Lee is lots of fun as the quick-talking jokester. Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa can play villainous roles in his sleep and this is no exception (even if it is hard to take him seriously in a bathouse diaper). Tia Carrere is a nice love interest, and =. Her nude stunt double is also great!

The cast here is a who's who of Asian-American talent, from Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa, Gerald Okamura, Al Leong, and many many more. In fact most of the cast is Asian, with   It really bugs me when professional critics just sweep movies like this aside as being 'mindless trash below anyone's attention'. It may be mindless, but it's giving a ton of =, so can it with the =, why don't ya!

The music in Showdown is an eclectic mix. We've got swanky 80s tunes, Oriental music, as well as typical action beats. It's a pretty good score, and keeps you entertained throughout.

Showdown in Little Tokyo is a badass film. It's everything that's great and cheesy about action films from the 80s and 90s, and it's well worth a watch, especially for the leads. They're really something special here, and Brandon is more than distinctive enough!...

badge, suspect? car, gang guns, fight, badge/gun, swordsman, don't get killed, overlook crusher, car shot

Saturday, March 28, 2020

Brandon Lee Blogathon: Laser Mission (1989)

Freelance agent Michael Gold has been assigned to talk with German scientist Professor Braun, to try and convince him to either take his secrets of laser technology to the States, or to at least not give it to the Russians. Braun is happy to go to America as long as neither side harasses him, but before the pair can move they're knocked out by sinister agents, and the professor kidnapped. Now Michael, teaming up with Braun's feisty daughter Alissa, has to rectify his mistake and rescue the professor, and make sure the world stays safe...

Laser Mission was my first ever exposure to Brandon Lee, and it really didn't disappoint! He made an immediate impression on me with his charisma, as well as how utterly and completely unlike his father he was! It's nice that he always sought to be different and stand out, rather than take the easy way and just copy his dad.

This is a really enjoyable action flick. It's got plenty of excitement, is never boring, and the plot is pretty neat too. It's populated with a diverse cast of characters, from its [ass-kicking] and wisecracking lead, to the sultry partner who knows more than she lets on, and many more. This isn't an outright comedy, but it never becomes too serious, or loses sight that 's a silly movie. Cheesiness abounds, like the hero shrugging off gunshot wounds, or falling from great heights. The film has a healthy amount of puns, but not a lot. For example, when Michael impales one of the villains, he neglects to say something like "I think he...got the point".

The story starts off quickly enough. It almost feels at first like we're in the middle of a story, but this ends up being no problem, and we quickly understand the plot and stakes. Things move with a fast pace, and we see Michael being imprisoned, meeting the main villain (the amusingly named Kalishnakov), then escaping in search for Brauns's daughter Alissa, kickstarting the rest of the movie.

Come the halfway point the characters are stuck on foot in the desert, and thankfully this is never boring. The repetition of the identical surroundings mixed with the nothing that's usually in a desert could make such scenes tedious, but Laser Mission handles it well. It helps that this takes place after the big chase, so it's like downtime for the audience. It's also not too long either, which is a relief.

The 'hunted in the desert' section is fun, though a little short, and contains a few amusingly stupid moment, such as a silent and stealthy hunter who goes"RAAAAHHHHH" when running for his target, and seemingly the worst shot on the African continent, as he continuously/continually fails to hit a prone man right in front of him! Michael isn't much smarter either, doing that tough guy thing where they stand motionlessly, taking their time loading their gun, ignoring the psycho using them for target practice! The guy fires off like 15 rounds at Michael and misses every one, and our blessed protagonist only needs one shot and he wins.

The disappearance of the seemingly friendly/potentially untrustworthy guide is a bit strange, although I guess it works as a misdirect. Weird he just ditched them like that though! And finally, there's Eckhardt himself. That whole encounter is good, and there's a decent amount of foreshadowing and set-up, but it's over remarkably quickly. No sooner than two minutes have passed when the guy's been [impaled over a garden fence].

The conclusion is great, character and action wise, though I felt the ending went on for just a little too long. Kalishnakov has already 'resurrected' at this point only to 'die again', and there's a wrap-up, with the characters discussing things and having a good laugh. But then Kalishnakov comes back again, and Michael kills him again, and the characters once again discuss things and have a good laugh. None of what we see here is bad per se, but it feels like they copy-and-pasted the same ending twice in a row.

Michael Gold is a fun protagonist, and is down-to-earth, with a joking side, while also being a suave guy. He comes across a smidge to cocky at times though, which may annoy some a little, but it's never legitimately annoying.

While often grumpy and occasionally bitchy (and always sexy!), Alissa is more than just a pretty face, and shows a = proficiency with firearms and hand-to-hand combat, which Michael is consistently surprised about, despite knowing she's former KGB. She's talented in other areas too, such as [trekking the desert in heels,] and   dress stays remarkably clean throughout these car chases and desert journeys.

Professor Braun doesn't get a huge amount of screentime, but makes every moment count, and is a lively presence throughout, with many noble moments. The two soldiers Manuel and Roberta are fun too. As comic relief, they could've been in the wrong hands (and some viewers still might not like them), but I always thought they were entertaining, especially as the movie goes on. What really sells them for me is not only their tenacity, but how they switch sides upon seeing what's going on at the mines!

There's one character who shows up at the end who doesn't say or do much, but I quite liked nonetheless. They're a former KGB agent, yet surprisingly doesn't look like a slender supermodel, or femme fatale, but is a refreshingly normal looking woman. As for her presence, I do wish she had'v been included a little more. Perhaps a few earlier scenes which don't give away the surprise.

And lastly, the villains. They're a pretty over-the-top bunch, in good ways. Eckhardt is a psychotic hunter who casually mounts human heads on his walls (I better hope the police don't visit!). He's fun, but I feel there could have been a bit more exploration about what Eckhardt's role in this evil plan is. He's not superfluous or anything, but one does wonder at times what exactly he has to do with helping Russian terrorists conquer the world, when he's just a crazy hunter from the bush.

Kalishnakov meanwhile is a dastardly and conniving snake of a baddie, as well as playfully mean (as can be seen when he's throwing diamonds down Alissa's's blouse. What a child!). He also will not die! He goes the whole movie with barely a scratch on him, then he 'dies' at least three times in the climax, coming back each time until the last fight finally does him in.

The action here is great, with not only plenty of gunfights, but also lots of hand-to-hand combat, with Brandon Lee proving himself to be a more than proficient ass-kicker. He gets some very impressive moments here, and some of them made me really laugh, like the guillotine bit!

Laser Mission might have been a low budget film, but it works well within its means. There are some nice explosions and collisions, and firefights, as well as a neat car chase. Characters flail around amusingly when shot, but nothing is too unconvincing. The sound effects are pretty neat. All the weapons sound like nail guns, oddly enough. Strange noise, but unique. The locations are great, from the run-down military prison, to the bustling city docks, and the sparse desert, as well as the mine where the final confrontation takes place, there's plenty of variety here.

Something of note people bring up when discussing Laser Mission is its supposed geographical/geographic confusion, with the eclectic mix of sceneries and nationalities, from African, to Spanish, and Russian. While it's fun to joke around about (though those making mean-spirited cracks or actual complaints get on my nerves!) it's not really that confusing. An African nation with a coast, desert, and abundant natural resources, with a Portuguese (not Spanish) as well as Soviet presence lines up pretty neatly with Angola. Plus, the movie's not exactly secret about where it's set, and we plainly see everyone going into Namibia for the final third.

The score in Laser Mission is lots of fun. We've got some nice incidental music, of various types, but the main draw is the spectacular theme song! It's a legitimately good tune, and cheesy fun. It's also played so much! Michael Gold is in a life-or-death firefight? Play! Michael is in a car chase? Play! Michal is going shopping? Play! You can easily imagine the producers saying among themselves "Do you think we've used the theme song enough?" "NO. We've gotta get our money's worth!". Thankfully it's never overused. It could've been close, but it's played juuust enough. Any more could've been risky!

Finally, the acting in Laser Mission is quite good, though mixed in places. Brandon Lee is a great lead, charismatic and humorous. He does succeed a little too well in = though ,and mightm ake some audience members wanna slap him on occasion. Ernest Borgnine is a cuddly teddy bear, and is wonderful as usual! Debi Monahan is...very pretty! She's good in place's and mostly fun, but as an actress her skills are...slightly limited.

Graham Clarke and Werner Pochath are very good villains, each in their own different ways. And Pierre Knoessen and Maureen Lahoud deliver funny performances as the comic relief soldiers. He's the silly one and she's the straight man, with both getting their goofier moments and times to shine, namely the ending.

As far as film debuts go, one couldn't ask for a more fun one than Laser Mission!! It's not a perfect film by any means, but it is a quintessential 80s/90s action flick, and does more than enough right. I highly recommend it!...

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Bela Lugosi's Career in Comedy

Horror legend Bela Lugosi acted in many different genres during his years in Hungary and Germany, and even a few in the States, but once he appeared in 1931's Dracula, his career was firmly sealed. He would become primarily pigeonholed in horror films,   He had a great/deep love for the genre, though resented being typecast. It's for this reason that he seemed to relish doing horror-comedies, because they allowed him more freedom, and let him not only play these roles/parts sincerely, but also gently poke fun at these stories.

Spooks Run Wild (1941)

A band of unruly youths are sent to a camp out in the wilderness. Once night falls they almost immediately run away, some for dates, others for nights out on the town. They end up waylaid in the local forest however, and stumble into a spooky old house, where  Remembering the news of a violent 'monster' on the loose, the gang come to the conclusion that they're trapped with him, and try and figure out a plan to survive the night...

[A famous comedy series b= in the = days of Hollywood were the East Side Kids gang. They went by a few different names, including the Dead End kids, and the Bowery Boys, but were pretty much the same =. All in all they spanned over/across 68 films! With this many =, they'd sometimes = different genres, as with today's picture, Spooks Run Wild!]

Boy, was this a film that tried my patience! Spooks Run Wild starts out decently, introducing all the characters to us, and setting up the story. But as soon as the teens end up in the creepy mansion the story grinds to a halt!

The story is pretty minimal and throwaway. There's a monstrous killer on the loose (who the paper feels free to refer to as a literal monster, strangely enough), and they're believed to be roosting in the abandoned Billings house on the top of the hill, thanks to the hearsay of a nosey gas station attendant

although there were many points during the film when I thought 'If you assholes just went to sleep, you would  scary!'

The mystery is barely there. For the whole movie Bela is presented as the baddie, while the fleetingly seen Dr. = is like a Van Helsing figure. However, all through the film I smelled a rat. I had a feeling there'd be a twist about Bela, and he'd really be a harmless =, and the doc would be the real baddie. I won't spoil =, but there is nothing to spoil with Dr. =. He only gets like three scenes in the whole movie! And he's a weirdo too, so the twist is kinda obvious.

weird elements such as the graveyard's caretaker, who upon seeing Bela and Angelo standing beside a grave, immediately tries to shoot them! Look, dude, I get you don't want trespassers after hours, but maybe you could try telling them to leave rather than instantly resort to murder? The dude could just be a = mourner! But it gets worse. The = boys = through the graveyard, and guess who immediately fires upon a group of teenagers without a word! What an asshole!

Their dialogue is a little strange sometime though. What bad boys know what thyme and citronella are?

[Richard and Linda] are the responsible adults taking care of the gang, and there seems to be a bit of animosity =, as well as concern from Linda when they go missing, so she goes off on her own to look. Apparently even the producer/writer didn't know where she went, because she disappears for the next half hour! I was disappointed with how little character these two got. They were all shaping up to =, but then get ignored, and barely appear.

Despite knowing practically nothing about him, besides a few tantalising hints, the sinister = is a great presence   His diminutive sidekick is good too, though a little underused.

The film's true villain is a bit of a let-down .When he first appears he talks like the hero, but sounds so weirdly clinical and =, as if he's a robot. Then when he shows his true colours he's alright, though unremarkable.

The comedy in Spooks Run Wild was like everything else for me, hit and miss. Some moments didn't really work, and there's a plethora of cringy dad jokes ("How can you read in the dark?"-"I went to night school."), but other lines are great! It's Scruno who gets some of the best dialogue,

Sunshine Sammy Morrison  on the other hand is great!  talented, getting many of the movie's best lines, and = chemistry with everyone else.

"That's exactly what I don't mean nothin' else but!"
"Ah you're yella!" "I'm I'm yellow, you'se colourblind!"

Whether he's the villain or not, Bela still delivers a great performance, both charming   There's also a very welcome Angelo Rossito, complete with a snazzy matching outfit!

The music is reminiscent of other Monogram horror pictures such as The Ape Man, and is pretty good, even if it did feel a little at odds with some scenes. Nothing major, and it's overall a fine addition to the movie.

Spooks Run Wild isn't a bad film, and it's certainly worth watching for Lugosi, who's in top form here both as a scary and comedic presence, but the film overall isn't that great. At least it's never offensively bad or anything, and =.

Ghosts on the Loose (1943)

There's a wedding in the air as = Glimpy's sister is walking down the aisle. The ceremony goes well, but the

I was afraid going into Ghosts on the Loose that it'd just be a carbon copy of Spooks Run Wild. It's got all the same ingredients-The East Side Kids, comedy and horror, and Bela Lugosi! How does it fare though? Surprisingly different! Although while it is a better movie than the spiritual predecessor, I did still have some issues with it.

Ghosts on the Loose lies to us from the get go, as the whole first half focuses more on wedding preparations than a haunted house! These scenes are amusing and harmless enough, and never boring (and I guess I can appreciate the novelty of a wedding in a comedy going off without a hitch!), though I couldn't help but be annoyed at how much time was being spent with this [preamble.]

When the movie finally gets its act together and focuses on what it was supposed to, it's alright, though very light on plot for a long spell. We mainly just see the gang seeing one spooky thing, then another 

The plot finally starts moving forward when the gang finds a subversive printing press in the basement, and realise the true occupants of the house are some Nazzi scum! This highlights something that's simultaneously a problem and a = to the film. On one hand, if the villains are just spies, that kinda eliminates anything spooky from the plot. But on the other hand, this does help differentiate it from Spooks Run Wild

The climax is ok since things are finally happening, though has a few annoying elements. Since there was only 10 minutes left I thought the police would instantly believe the kids, but nope! They come, then go, come and go, they believe them, they don't, they do, they don't, etc. Then there's the final battle, which consists entirely of the bad guys getting hit by mops/brooms one by one, even Bela! Just one bop to the head and he's down for the count!

The ending is really weird, with a gag I didn't see coming. The scene is funny, but man! You'll know it when you see it.

While the scares here don't really feel that = since we know they're not ghosts or anything, they still look fun and creative, from the empty portrait everyone stands in, to the alternate paintings they swap out to disorient the unwelcome visitors.

The comedy here is alright, and moderately successful. There's not as much funny dialogue here, but there is an increase in amusing malapropisms. The movie's humour comes more from the situations the characters find themselves in.

The characters here are ok. Muggs is more likeable than in the last entry. He's actually a bit of a boy scout this time round! The lack of edge doesn't really take much away from his character, and makes him more bearable than anything else. The rest are all on par with how they acted last time round. That is, they were amusing enough even if I could barely tell them apart. Nothing special though for the most part.

The villains are pretty mediocre, just by-the-numbers spies. The same goes for Bela's character, who's pretty unremarkable, with no real personality. Only the actor adds anything to the role, and there's only so much he can do with limited screentime.

The actors here all do good jobs. The kids don't really get as much time to shine individually as the last film, but each get something to do, and never feel wasted. = and = are a nice enough couple, and likewise get enough screentime, =. Surprisingly, despite playing an older sister, Gardner was 5 years younger than Leo Gorcey!

Bela Lugosi meanwhile is good as the head spy. Since he's not playing a ghoul he doesn't get the same opportunities to cut loose with evil laughs and =, but he still gets some spooky moments. Just a shame he doesn't appear more. The rest of the villains do ok jobs with what they're given, even if it isn't much.

One hilariously shocking moment comes courtesy of Lugosi being Hungarian. When he's = in the picture frame and sneezes, he goes "Hapchi!", which is how Eastern Europeans sneeze. Chances are though most viewers aren't aware of such things, and it sounds more like he's going "Ah shit!"

The music here is quite good. The spooky tracks are effective enough, while the gang does a surprisingly ok job as a choir! I thought they'd be horrible, and while they won't necessarily win awards, they weren't bad and it was endearing seeing this = bunch singing some = for a wedding.

Ghosts on the Loose isn't a comedy or horror classic or anything, but it's an alright time. It improves on some problems I had with the previous film, falls victim to some of the same issues, and  some entirely new ones. But it's not bad, and is hardly a waste of time.

Zombies on Broadway (1945)

12:27, 16:44, 21, 23, 25:50, 30:24, 32:05, 40:39, 43:10, 53:45,

Zombies on Broadway is a fun film with an interesting premise, which opens itself up to a lot of =. The film thankfully lives up to this and then some, with a great pace and a = that goes from the = of the city where gangsters roam, to a spooky island, where sinister experiments are taking place.

The set-up

The only problem is that Dr. Renault's story isn't really resolved satisfactorily. He just gets bopped on the head, and the heroes leg it off the island.

This is partially made up for though by what happens next. In a film from the 1940s, we get a proper denouement! It's very good too, resolving all the previous threads in a really funny way.

The characters in Zombies on Broadway are a truly great bunch!

As for the minor characters, there are so many to choose from! Many are one scene wonders, from Sam the 'zombie', to the jittery janitor, the kooky curator, and the reporter with a grudge, and two goons. Even the singer who serenades the main duo on their arrival to the island leaves one heck of an impression! It's a shame these = didn't appear

Bela Lugosi does a great job here. While the movie may be a comedy, he delivers a serious performance, which contrasts very well with the = surroundings. Good comedy is also knowing when to take things seriously just as much it is not.


The location in Zombies on Broadway is great. The island looks spooky and evocative, and the doctor's = home is =. This contrasts nicely with the glitzy broadway scenes too.


Zombies on Broadway is a great comedy flick, and an unsung gem! Mixing the two genres to great effect, and filled with = performances, = scares, and = laughs, it's well worth a watch [even if it didn't have the draw of Bela Lugosi]...

Genius at Work (1946)

Genius at Work is the second collaboration with = and = to have a horror-comedy tone to it, but this time round we don't just have Bela Lugosi, but Lionel Atwill too! Sounds like a great mix, and thankfully it's a great movie! It starts off interestingly, getting us introduced and invested in this Cobra case, and the leads. The setting and their occupations is =, and = for the film

The movie flits effortlessly from scene to scene, with there being a few distinct sections, each at different locations.

Lastly there's an action-packed and energetic and action-packed climax   also neat is that simple pistols are as loud as cannons, and as powerful too! It can be annoying when the media acts as if pistols are like BB guns.   I didn't mind  since they already contributed to the ambush, and it's hilarious to watch as they try and escape the firefight only to end up smack bang in the middle in the craziest way! I didn't like that they didn't get Marsh though. At least it seemed they were able to get Stone, though it woulda been satisfying if they'd nabbed the main villain themselves too  But then the police get him too!

The very end disappointed me. Not only did the heroes not stop the villains, but the movie just abruptly stops with a Dad joke, and that's it! No loose ends are tied up, and Elaine is never seen again. Which man did she end up with? I wanna know!

The characters in Genius at Work are a real highlight, and carry everything well [on their shoulders]. Mike and Jerry are entertaining, never annoying, and =.

What surprised me is how intelligent the duo are allowed to be! They're a couple of dopes for the most part as you'd expect, but there are moments, one in particular, where they're really allowed to shine, and even a chump like Mike works out the key to the mystery! I can't understate how much life it breathes into such characters when they may be stupid some of the time, but show [such] glimmers of intelligence. It's these moments that justify the title too, which at first seems very un-indicative of the story, but works. In the Clutches of the Cobra perhaps would've been better though!

Getting to the villains, they're something special too! Atwill is the main villain as = Marsh, while Bela is the subordinate. But they've got a good dynamic! Stone isn't just a = butler, but definitely a = partner in crime. He's not afraid to speak his mind or give his opinions, and you can tell Marsh values his judgement, and he gives him many important tasks as the film goes on. Each get plenty to do, and neither feel wasted.

effects   use of green screen is bloody impressive! Either that or these were real stunts, with the lead actors. If so, kudos! Also I wouldn't wanted to have been 'em!

Mother Riley Meets the Vampire (1952)

The city of London has been rocked by a serious of mysterious disappearances. The victims were all attractive young women, and their abduction is believed to be the work of The Vampire, a sinister European villain of a possibly supernatural origin Middle-aged shopkeeper Mrs. Riley is butting heads with the rent collector, as usual when she receives a letter telling her she's inheriting her late uncle's fortune. She's all set to get the package in the mail, unaware there's been a mix-up,

Back in the 1930s onwards, = comedian Arthur Lucan found himself a nice niche as a drag performer, playing the character of Mother Riley. He was a big success, acting and writing in = films, until his death in 195=. Knowing nothing about him going into this film I was afraid he'd be really cringy and annoying, but much to my surprise, he was very good! Loud and =, and not for everyone, but I found him to be very fun. He nails  and he never oversells it. He's over the top, but never obnoxiously so I felt. Not so in your face that he's practically sitting in your lap.

The story gets off to a rip-roaring start. Many films in the 1940s utilised Bela Lugosi poorly, often having him stand around doing nothing but look scary/handsome. Here though we get plenty of him right out of the gate, showing that even in his twilight years, Bela still had the goods if he had the right script! Nothing can keep him down in this movie!

As we all know, Britain was behind America by several decades (in a good way), so while it may have been the 50s already, this was still a classical time for the U.K. Mother Riley Meets the Vampire definitely has a golden-age feel to it. The film has a definite working-class tone to it, with a load of fun local accents present.

Where I felt the movie faltered was in the presentation of the second half. It's not necessarily bad in it of itself, but because the first half was so action-packed and story heavy, in a way it feels like the movie has downgraded when we're now just treated to Mrs. Riley's shenanigans in the house while the villains barely appear. Having the first half be a more laidback mystery as the goofy characters figure out what's going on, then a more story-driven second half, but things are reversed, making for a kinda unsatisfying second half.

final fight   brawl  fight with the robot  The robot actually seems to disappear too for a considerable amount of time. I forgot it was even there! Thankfully he returns big-time for this last scene, so I didn't mind too much. Once  there's a chase scene through the bustling = roads of England, and it's pretty fun, and not too long. There are a few amusing bumps and scrapes =.

Then there's the ending, which was downright annoying! Mrs. Riley doesn't contribute to the capture of the villain at all! She's juuust about to, but then the police arrest him, and she just randomly flies off the boat

Many scenes here are distinct and amusing, and some can a bit weird too, but never overly so. Though some scenes here and there stretch credulity a little, like how oblivious the local cop is when seeing a truckload of wrapped up bodies being taken into the creepy house! Nothing to see here, just a load of corpses, nothing to do with the Vampire!

The comedy here is often effective, with funny lines, amusing situations, and a variety of things going on. Mother Riley as a character brings a lot of the humour to the table, with dialogue like "Your manners are positively disgustorating", and her interactions with the vampiric Lugosi work very well!

Mother Riley is a fine protagonist, dopey enough to be amusing, but not so stupid that she can't tell what's going on after a while. She's pretty proactive too! When she discovers the kidnapped victims, she heads straight for the police. When they don't believe her she beats them up and goes right back, to deal with things herself! Nervous maid Tilly is a fun sidekick, who gets her moments, and has fun interactions with the other cast members.

Count von Housen is a great villain. While it may have been done to cater to the local censorship (vampires were forbidden from children's/family films), I dug the concept of a supervillain pretending to be a vampire for the image. The movie handles it well, though after the halfway mark he never really does anything vampir-y.

variety of henchmen, from a cackling little =, to a firm = German mistress, and a guy who dresses like an American rancher but talks kinda like Peter Lorre. They're a fun bunch

The only characters I feel were wasted by the script was the kidnapped girl and her sailor boyfriend, who are almost entirely/completely ignored. They seem nice enough from what we see of them. = is a goodhearted guy who can take a wallop to protect/save his love, and Julia is a crafty girl who doesn't let her capture and imminent death/demise stop her from tricking the villain.

The effects in Mother Riley Meets the Vampire are surprisingly good! Some props do seem cheap in places, such as the super lightweight mummies. Where the movie shines is the robot! Unlike many other 1950s b-movies, with their boxy robots made of fridge parts or cardboard tubing, this actually looks like an honest-to-goodness robot! It's intricately designed too, in a way that goes real effort was put into designing and creating this.

The music here is a nice variety of the familiar Mother Riley tunes ,which are suitably jaunty, and spooky =. There's also a musical number =, which may be familiar to those who've watched the Jeeves and Wooster =! It's a fun rendition of Tweet Tweet, Hush Hush, with altered lyrics to suit the new context. Another moment aaalmost leads into a song, but then it just sorta stops, and the characters keep talking as normal.

The acting here is all very good. Arthur Lucan is a fine lead. He seems obviously weird and in drag at first, but after a while he inhabits the character so well that you kinda/almost forget he even is in drag. He might grate on some, but I enjoyed Lucan quite a bit. He does a great job straddling the line between too much and just right, always landing on the latter side.

Bela Lugosi is fantastic in this movie! He gets a big meaty role where he can be spooky, charming, and diabolical, all in one! It's a joy seeing him get such a substantial part and he doesn't disappoint. His entourage all do fine jobs too, including Ian Wilson as Hitchcock. He kinda looks like a young Lugosi himself the way he's done up. I enjoyed him, and felt he was a great manic mad scientist in his own right.

Dora Bryan is nice enough as Tilly. Also present as her boyfriend is Richard Wattis! I SWORE/swore I recognised him from his voice, even if he looked a little different, but I figured he'd be too big name for a production like this...But then I realised this is from 1952, so he probably wasn't that famous yet, and lo and behold it is him!

To finish, Mother Riley Meets the Vampire may not be to everyone's tastes, but I found it to be a very amusing classical comedy, and it really gives its starts the best to do!

Bela Lugosi Meets a Brooklyn Gorilla (1952)

Nightclub entertainers Duke Mitchell and Sammy Petrillo are stranded on a tropical island after a plane crash en-route to Guam. They're found and nursed back to health by the local tribe. Duke soon falls in love with the beautiful princess Non//la, who tells the duo of the only other white man on the island-One Dr. Zabor. The man is friendly at first, and willing to help Duke and Sammy in any way he can, but he soon turns out to have a hidden agenda

The amazingly titled Bela Lugosi Meets a Brooklyn Gorilla is known as being an infamously terrible movie, and at first glance it's easy to see why, but I went into this film with an open mind, and was pleasantly surprised! It's a thoroughly entertaining b-movie

What surprised me most about Bela Lugosi Meets a Brooklyn Gorilla is that it's progressive in three different way! It's showing a strong and capable woman, an indigenous tribal woman who knows full well of the outside world's history and =, and one who's adept at science! Of course, I do question how this small island tribe was able to afford to send someone to college, and it is a little weird at times how this simple tribal girl rattles off so many = things, but overall it's handled pretty well.

S  it race    The film never condescends  them, and while they're primitive by = standards, they're not stupid, know full well of the modern education system, and are never portrayed as barbarous cannibals or anything (although Bela Lugosi versus an army of cannibals sounds awesome!

found their romance to be sweet and authentic.

While he can be over the top in a Jim Carrey-ish way, and his laugh sounds like a dying seal, Sammy Petrillo is actually quite good! He's a great impressionist, and his acting is =. He can be annoying at times (although in fairness he is meant to be), but other times he really sells the role.

Duke Mitchell meanwhile is perfectly acceptable as the team's straight man. Good looking, kindhearted, kinda sounds like Eddie Mekka. He didn't wow me, but there's nothing wrong with him either

Overall, the two share a really good chemistry with each-other, playing off [each-other well]

The rest of the actors

But where are my manners. It's time to talk about Bela Lugosi! He does very well, = both scary and funny, and he's clearly having a good time.   He takes about 20 minutes to show up, then appears pretty consistently, although doesn't get to do quite as much as I would've liked. He's never underused, but you might get a 10 minute block where his only scenes are just silently glowering or something.

The movie has a couple of musical numbers, which aren't half bad, although Mitchell/Duke's voice is not what you'd expect! It kinda sounds like a [bad] Elvis impression with an almost muffled quality, like he's got his teeth clenched or is singing underwater.

Now for the film's backstory, which is a tale and a half, and quite frankly Jerry Lewis doesn't come out if it smelling of roses. The dude hired Petrillo to be a Jerry Lewis clone, then got pissy when he acted like a Jerry Lewis clone. He also acted as if a high pitched = was a trademarked idea copyrighted solely to him. Seems to me Lewis was bein' too big for his britches!

In further detail, the man recognised Petrillo's talents and imitations, and hired him, but promptly stuck him on a shelf for =. Feeling constrained and wanting to =, Petrillo's father got him out of the contract, and he struck out on his own in the nightclub scene, meeting fellow = Duke Mitchell and teaming up, to some success. Eventually the duo landed some pretty = gigs, and a movie deal, but an irate Lewis began putting pressure on all the nightclub chains, forcing them to blackball them. They could've said no, but 'What if Martin and Lewis perform here someday? We don't wanna risk that!'. Typical. I doubt those two would let themselves be seen by an less than 5000 people though, for any less than millions of dollars.

His cronies even tried buying the negatives for this film in order to destroy it    While Lewis's son said it was always a tense moment in the house whenever Petrillo's name was mentioned (can't imagine why when he was the aggrieved party! Dude just made a movie where he acted a bit like you, he didn't kill your wife, mate!), Petrillo himself was always an upbeat soul whenever the drama was mentioned. He looked on the bright side, =, and always had fun. Whether he was pissed off inside, he still channelled his feelings into being the better man

So to finish, Jerry Lewis could be a real piece of work sometimes, but Lou Costello always had a  heart of gold!

19:30, 26:15, 49, gorilla, 1:05:31  a film of misfits typecast actors seen as has-beens, put-upon = entertainers, and =!  great imagery, like Bela's tribal henchman grabbing a = to drink as he reclines in his master's fancy chair

A bitter actor would no doubt make some film totally tearing such films to shreds, but Lugosi always had such a good time in these films, and they were never harsh or mean, and always a fun time!..
Whether you like this film/these films or not, one thing you can't deny is that it/they sure respected Bela Lugosi

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Let's Go Collegiate (1941)

Frankie, Tad, and Buck are three college students trying to juggle exams, girlfriends, and their rowing career all in one. Things get complicated when star rower Bob Terry gets drafted an is unable to compete in the = race. Thinking quickly, they find lower class worker Herc on the streets and offer him the job of impersonating Terry for the night. Unfortunately the loudmouthed boor Herc enjoys his new life too much, and won't give it up, no matter how much this = the others...

The final outing between Frankie Darro and Mantan Moreland, Let's Go Collegiate really brings the whole gang together (figuratively and literally!). It's not so much a duo film in the same way the others were, but the = still interact plenty, so it's not like Mantan's been relegated to a supporting role in his own = series.

The story here is a good one. It's a strong premise, and one that utilises all of its characters well. You really feel the frustration of the heroes as they get stuck deeper and deeper in this bad situation, but thankfully the gilm's mostly not uncomfortable to watch. The climax is also a relief, as new characters enter the mix who realise what's going on, and we finally see someone on their side!

The plot has got a few problems though. The first is the girlfriends. They are bitches! I get what the movie was going for, having them be so entranced by 'Bob Terry' they lose sight of their own boyfriends, but the writer goes one step further and actually has the girls dump them for their new man (not realising the other is engaged). It's pretty uncomfortable watching the guys/boys get so unfairly treated, and the girls acting so callous. I also question how far blind adoration would go when the person is as unappealing as Herc! The worst part of = is how the couple all reunite by the end like nothing's happened. I can only imagine the conversations "Hey honey, remember when I got hot for another guy and dumped you, but took you back when he ran off? Good times, good times..."

The other issue with Let's Go Collegiate is Herc himself. He's a big lug, but he's not that bad of a guy! He does a few bad things, and his mere presence at the college is enough to cause big problems for the guys, but he never directly =, and considers them his pals right to the very end. He may not treat 'em properly/right, but he does appreciate them. And the worst thing he does is completely offscreen = that =. I feel the movie could've made him grow more antagonistic as it went on, and give us a firmer reason to dislike him and wanna see him =.

One of the most notable things about Let's Go Collegiate is how diverse it is for a 1940s production! We've not only got the black Mantan, but the Asian-American Keye Luke! A very welcome sight to see

The leads do make one crack about laundrymen early on, though thankfully I don't think it was an intentionally I think we were meant to =. This is emphasised in a later scene, where a visiting sportsman casually goes "What Tong do you belong to?  and Buck just gives them a withering glance and walks off without a word. There's also another scene where Herc calls Jeff 'Midnight' and he firmly and = says/retorts "The name's Jeff!" That was really satisfying! Jeff was never as = as a doormat in these films, but there were times when he wasn't treated as equally as the others, so to see him was a real treat!

There are a lot of characters in this movie, but thankfully they're all balanced well. It's Frankie and Tad who get the lion's share of =, with Buck and Jeff trailing right behind.

Frankie is a grumpy little man in this movie, though he at least has a reason to be in the second half. He and Tad aren't that different, but the actors ensure they don't blend together.

Jeff  f  plays an integral role in the climax!   I'd say he plays about a 25% role in the =, which might not sound like much, until you realise there's also Frankie, Tad, and Chuck, not to mention the others

There's some nice music here, with three songs. Two are sung by Gale Storm, and they're alright. The second is a mix of all the movie's main players, and is the most fun. The main couples are nice enough singers (although that doesn't sound like Marcia's voice! Could be wrong =), but the real standout is when Mantan and Marguerite get to share the stage! They have a nice little speak-singing moment, with some fun humour too. They help liven the number, and =.

The acting in Let's Go Collegiate is great. Frankie Darro and Jackie Moran are fun enough leads, and they might be a bit = at times, but they're at least understandable and sympathetic. Mantan Moreland is in top form, always quick with a funny line or witticism, and gets to share the screen with the lovely Marguerite Whitten again! Keye Luke =. Frank Sully is amusing as the 'baddie' Herc, while Marcia Mae Moran and Gale Storm really feel like bad guys. I thought their performances were fine, but didn't really enjoy them due to the actions of the characters. There are more to discuss, but you can watch the film to see them!

It's a shame that Let's Go Collegiate is the last of the Frankie and Mantan outings, but at least they ended them on a high note. This is a pretty funny movie, and well worth watching for fans of golden age comedies, as well as college goers. Why not see what your forebears got up to in their college years! =...