Thursday, August 21, 2014

PLANET OF THE VAMPIRES (1965) poster art

Until today I had never seen this piece of poster art for the Bava classic of science fiction horror PLANET OF THE VAMPIRES. It is gorgeous, don't you think? I cannot wait for the soon to be released Blu-Ray of this underseen film and hope that it is packed with hours of extras. I know Bava expert and biographer Tim Lucas is producing a commentary track for the disc but I wish for more, of course. At the very least a look at the amazing poster art for the film from around the world would be in order. 

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Brief Thoughts - KICK-ASS 2 (2013)

I held off on seeing this one for a few reasons foremost being the nearly universally harsh opinions on the film from all who felt the need to express one. I never got details of why people didn't like this sequel - only a general dislike that made me think it must have gone in a direction most did not enjoy. I assumed the film must have been a departure from the original in some way that pushed viewers away. But now that I have seen it I am perplexed as to why fans of the first film were unhappy. I may lose some kind of critical cred with this statement but I really enjoyed this movie. Its not quite as impressive as its predecessor but its a damned solid follow up that moves the story and characters forward in clever and honest ways. It is just as transgressive and violent as the first and in some ways more emotionally complex. I liked this movie and wish it had been a success. Guess I'll have to read the comic book sequels to see what the writers decide to do with everyone in the future.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Outer Limits - The Game?!?!?

How did I not know this exists? Holy crap! Here's the description from Board Game Geek

-The game consists of a deck of 42 cards: 8 'Radar Image', 32 'Monster Parts', and 2 Wild cards. A game board is also included which has spaces for up to four 'radar' screens'.
-The entire deck is shuffled and five to ten cards are dealt to each player (depending on how many are playing).
-On each turn a player draws one card and then may play one card to each active Radar screen on the board. If he holds a 'Radar Image' and an empty screen exists it must be played (this is the only compulsory play). Monster Parts may only be played on areas that have an Image.
-The first person to get rid of his hand of cards wins.
-A good card matching game for Ages 7 - 12... not much more.

Doesn't sound great but I'd love to at least see the sucker. Amazing. 

Friday, August 15, 2014

RICA (1972)

I don't know much about the "Pinky Violence" genre of Japanese women's revenge movies but I know what I like. And if this is a good example of them then I'm a big fan! Other than the Female Prisoner 701 films I've seen very little of this strange genre and was warned that not all were of the quality of those artistic movies. It's true that Rica doesn't have the high art aspirations of those films but it more than makes up for it by being a relentless, speeding bullet of a tale. Exhilarating and eventually exhausting, Rica is an amazing 'motion picture' with very little time spent without our athletic star either in action or in a tricky situation requiring her to devise an escape. And the nudity helps as well. Not so much the singing...

The time is the early 1970s as we are introduced to half-Japanese Rika Aoki playing (of course) Rica — leader of a small gang of tough girls with yakuza connections. The illegitimate daughter of a woman raped by American GIs, she's grown up as an outsider with a considerable amount of anger directed at the world. Raped herself at a young age by one of her prostitute mother's customers, she certainly has little love for men. So it's easy to understand why, as the film begins, she takes it upon herself to beat the hell out of a low level gangster who'd gotten a girl pregnant but left her on her own. After the girl dies in childbirth, Rica takes the infant's corpse to him and demands he bury the child. During the brawl that ensues the gangster is killed and Rica is sent for her first visit to a prison-like reform school. She is slipped notes from the outside informing her that the rest of her gang has been sold into sex slavery in South Vietnam. The actual turn of phrase used is a sneering "to be fed to the GIs" — that image of girls being imprisoned, used and discarded reoccurs constantly in the film.

Rica makes her first of many breaks form the reform school, extorts ¥3,000,000 from the businessman who raped her and tries to use the money to buy back her friends. The gang boss she deals with, however, is less than honorable (imagine that!) and only through the violent intervention of loner good guy Tetsu (Fuminori Sato) is she able to escape.

The gangsters seek revenge on Tetsu by kidnapping his girlfriend as bait. But Rica thanks her new buddy by striking a deal with yakuza boss Tachibana (Yoshiro Nakadai), in which Rica agrees to dance nude at his nightclub in exchange for the girl's freedom. Strange I know, but in the world of this film it actually makes sense. At least until you realize she sings as well as dances! Some things are more bizarre than others.

Some time after this, Rica learns that her long-absent mother has been spotted working in a nearby department store. But while there looking for her only parent our Amerasian heroine sees one of Tachibana's goons steal secret government papers from an older man. Tachibana doesn't trust Rica to keep silent and orders her killed but he fails to reckon with her feminine wiles. She seduces the thief sent to murder her, cuts off his hand and delivers it to the crime lord to throw it in his face. This leads to another fierce battle and soon Rica is off to reform school again. At a certain point I actually lost track of the number of times Rica escapes from the school. You'd have thought they might have realized she was going to get out somehow and just chain her to a tree or something. But I guess that might have gummed up the plot.

Once back on the outside she finds that the man who raped her as a child is the new gangster running girls to Vietnam. Rica manages to kidnap the man from his legitimate business office and reunite him with her mother, his old lover, who is now ravaged by venereal disease and near death. Using this situation to get the name of the ship being used to transport girls to Vietnam, Rica and Tetsu gather friends and plan an assault to free the women.

Believe it or not this is the short-form story detail for this film. There is so much plot crammed into this 90 minutes that it has the feel of an adaptation of a series of stories compacted down with just the good parts retained for maximum effect. And boy, are there plenty of good parts! An endless stream of fist fights, sex scenes, gun fights, prison breaks, nude dancing, car chases, criminal conniving, ridiculous coincidences and last minute rescues race by so fast its hard to keep track. The movie just keeps coming at you. I don't think I could really call Rica a great movie but it definitely kept me glued to the screen and smiling. Not that there aren't quite a few nastier elements that would make the average inexperienced exploitation viewer squirm. Most of the female characters get raped, only two of the male characters are better than scum and the unhappy fate of several characters is gruesome. But that is the nature of this particular beast. Vicious and cruel, just like the central characters, the Pinky Violence movies showcase a breed of women that were far from the norm at the time the films were made. Rica herself is a perfect example of what I guess would be a nightmare for the very male-dominated culture of Japan. Half Caucasian, taller than most of the men around her, violent and demanding the same freedoms men command, Rica would almost certainly strike fear into people on sight. Add to that a fierce desire for revenge and you have one of the scariest 'juvenile delinquent' concepts imaginable. And the wellspring for dozens of movies!

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)

I just wanted to note that GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY is the best damned film of the summer! I am a big sucker for the slew of Marvel movies that have been coming out since IRON MAN blasted onto screens and have enjoyed all of them to one degree or another. Some of these films have been so good it was like watching my childhood comic book collection come to life causing me to want to see them over and over again the same way I reread those 30, 35 and 40 cent classics of my youth. Director and co-write James Gunn and his crew have gone above the very high quality standard set by the previous Marvel franchise movies. They have crafted one of the most entertaining and exciting pieces of science fiction cinema in decades and the fact that it is incredibly funny as well as smart makes it one of the most satisfying movies experiences of the year. If you haven't seen this yet - do so immediately.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Santo Poster Art!

I've decided to watch a slew of Santo films in August and these are some of the movies on my stack to see! Wish I had time for more. 

Friday, August 08, 2014

Brief Thoughts - FRANKENSTEIN'S ARMY (2013)

It's a shame when a film has a great idea but just can't manage to craft a solid entertainment from that idea. Here the filmmakers had several things going for them - a good idea, a good setting, amazing creature designs - but made the crippling choice to shoot the film in the now tired Found Footage style. This decision destroys any chance of the story coming together in a satisfying way. The first hurdle is the usual 'why is he still filming' question which is never well answered in the movie. The second problem is that such cameras as are used in this film would seem to be either anachronistic or so out of the ordinary as to be prohibitively expensive to be sent out with Russian soldiers in World War II. 

As I said -a shame. Maybe one day a remake will find a good movie buried in this concept. They won't have to create more creatures but they will have to just shoot the thing as a proper film.