Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Lee Van Cleef- The Midas Man?

Made in the early 1980s this is part of a series of Canadian commercials featuring Lee Van Cleef and others playing off their spaghetti western persona. This is my favorite of the lot as it reunites the two stars of the great DEATH RIDES A HORSE. Now there's a film in need of a good DVD release.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

HUNDRA (1983)

Since my teenage years I’ve had a soft spot in my heart (or head) for the 1980s wave of sword & sorcery movies that thundered through cinemas in the wake of the success of CONAN THE BARBARIAN. I don’t think many of them are very good but I find them fun entertainments much as I do the similar wave of HERCULES inspired movies of the 1960s. They aren’t brilliant but they are something I can really enjoy. Unpretentious, energetic, colorful and often outrageous the sword & scandal epics can always be counted on as good, mostly clean Saturday afternoon romps. The 80s brand of loin cloth warriors were not as plentiful as their earlier brethren but what they lacked in number they made up for in blood, breasts and carnage. Who says the second wave can’t as good as the first?

But even with my interest in these movies I had never heard of HUNDRA until a few months ago. It was mentioned by a friend in the Euro Trash Palace Yahoo group but little was said and in the crush of daily events I quickly forgot about it. Then just this week I ventured into a local used DVD place and stumbled across the amazing DVD release from Subversive Cinema. Not only does it contain the film but a number of extras and a bonus CD of the (good but not great) Ennio Morricone soundtrack! SOLD!

Of course, the best news about finding this odd little film is that it turns out to be pretty good. Obviously patterned VERY closely on CONAN it follows that movie’s plot so well that once it finally diverges about midway it’s a bit of a shock. Laurene Landon plays Hundra, the sole survivor of a tribe of females who had separated themselves from mankind to avoid the horrors of men’s cruelty. Associating with males only to become pregnant they were happy living apart. Hundra at first sets out to avenge her tribe but is told by a wise woman that she must instead bear children so their kind can continue. Unhappy but respectful she sets off into the world to find a man worthy of her.

This set-up sounds like it could be the start of a pretty stupid sex film but that’s not the track the filmmakers travel. Each encounter Hundra has is symbolic of how women have to deal with men in various situations. This adds a level of intelligence to things which keeps it fascinating even as the pace of the story flags in the second half. Also keeping the movie popping is the satiric approach director Cimber takes. The actions scenes are exciting but also funny with some good slapstick mixing well with the pretty harsh swordplay. If someone had told me HUNDRA would try to be funny I would have doubted if the movie was even worth watching. But they actually pull it off here making it look easy most of the time. There are a few points where the tone shifts too fast for the story’s own good but overall they find the right distance between thrilling and silly.

The sword fights between Landon and her many adversaries are a blast and not only because she is clearly doing all her own stunts. Cimber uses very good editing and smart slow motion effects to maximize a small budget making the battles look truly fierce. I should also single out the excellent animal performance by a dog that acts as Hundra’s only constant companion. Very well trained this canine rides on horseback, cowers in fear to warn his master, leaps at the throat of a bad guy menacing a baby and even leads Hundra’s horse by the reins. There are lots of surprising things about this little movie but I guess the most surprising thing is that it turned out to be pretty good. I think I’m going to settle in and listen to the commentary track now.

Monday, August 13, 2007


A movie I read about for years before finally getting to see it via Synapse's excellent DVD. Not only an entertaining and influential revenge picture it introduced me to one of the most beautiful, sexy women of all time- Christina Lindberg. I really must show this to more folks.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Suck Summer 2007 continues

LIVE FREE OR DIE HARD- There hasn’t been a good DIE HARD film since the first one and this sucker continues the tradition. More accurately a TERMINATOR sequel in which Willis plays The McClaine-bot 3000 taking enough punishment to snap Arnold’s spine and liquefy his brain. Brucie-boy is shot, drives through walls, dangles over an elevator shaft, blows up helicopters and battles mano-a-mano with a fighter jet. Which is a shame as the story they’ve concocted is interesting and kind of smart. It’s just constantly undermined by the action scenes which are so incredibly over the top that they are completely unbelievable. Indeed, it seems at times as if the actions scenes (of which there are at least two too many) are from another film altogether. I wanted to like the movie because of the fine cast and interesting ideas but then another impossibly dumb thing would happen throwing it all down the crapper. Not that the plot is perfect as it kind of trips over itself a few times. (I love how Willis is able to drive across country so quickly when the entire country has been shut down and the roads are gridlocked.) But lots of folks love this one. Oh well. Coming soon DIE HARD 5- SAVE THE MOON!

FANTASTIC FOUR: THE RISE OF THE SILVER SURFER- There are few movies dumber than the first FF movie. I think that pound for pound, minute for minute the first film may actually be the dumbest super hero movie yet made. It was insulting, juvenile (in the worst sense of the word), poorly scripted and it also managed to jettison everything good about the Fantastic Four’s entire 45 year history. Yeah- I hated it.

Now we come to the sequel- because everyone but me LOVED the damned movie! It is probably damning this movie with faint praise to say it is better than the first one but sadly, saying that might lead unsuspecting viewers to think it might be good. It is not. If the first one was akin to a kick in the groin this one is less painful. Maybe like a kick in the stomach instead. Not a debilitating injury I guess, but one you’ll remember for a while. It’s not as insulting as the first but it still has Reed Richards acting like a complete idiot 90% of the time. It’s not as stupid but it still portrays Johnny Storm as a moronic prick in need of a few bullets. It’s not as clueless about the characters but it still shows they have nothing for Ben Grimm to really do except be the butt of bad jokes. It’s not as puerile as the first but it still somehow finds a way to get the Invisible Woman naked in public. Lowest common denominator every time, huh?

The only thing that comes off well is the Silver Surfer but only because he’s kept mostly a mystery with only a hint of his terrible history. I guess that’s something. But of course they did manage to screw up Galactus really well so Doctor Doom doesn’t have to be the only FF antagonist to be completely destroyed by the filmmakers. Did I mention Doom is in this one as well? If you thought the character was great in the first film (shudder) you’ll love his intensely forgettable presence here.

So- better than the first film BUT- still awful. If they stay on this incremental quality trajectory we might get a good Fantastic Four film by roughly 2022. Just in time for the comic book’s 60th anniversary. I hope that perhaps then we’ll get a movie about these characters that seems aimed at more than short attention span teenagers.


I really must one day write a long piece about this incredible movie. One of the best guilty pleasures every made YOR is fun & funny from start to finish. That it was made by one of my Italian cinematic heroes Antonio Margheriti makes it all the more enjoyable. I'm amazed by how many fan sites there are on the web for YOR. Everything from a MySpace page to dozens of fan tributes.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007


This was one of the first modern 'R' rated monster films I ever saw. It popped up late at night on HBO in the early 80s repeatedly and became a legend among those lucky enough to see it. Grotesque, violent and surprisingly well done it also has some disturbing monster rape scenes that are much nastier than anything Hollywood would try today. Definitely a 'Hard R'! There's a pretty good Roger Corman release of this here but I hear that the Japanese DVD sports a longer cut with even more nastiness. Hmmmmm.........