Sunday, 26 April 2009

Unsheath Your Katana ... It's Bikini Babe Time


Oneechanbara: The Movie
aka Chanbara Beauty
(2008/Japan)

 
It’s Zombie High Noon Japanese manga in motion style, as a bikini clad cowgirl beauty slices ‘n dices better than a magi mix, with buttons in all the right places.
Eri Otoguru stars as Aya, a sword wielding vixen of vengeance out to serve justice upon her sister Saki and the maniacal Doctor Sugita. Releasing a compound that virulently attacks the blood molecules of humans, Dr. Sugita turns the world into a planet of the living dead. His most despotic deed, however, is in indoctrinating a very young Saki, as he leads her to clinically kill her own father !. Elder sister Aya, hiding nearby, witnesses the execution and from that moment the two sisters destinies are indefatigably defined !. They grow into young adulthood, honed in fighting skills taught by their father and furthered to the point of perfection, one for the virtues of good and the other in the pursuit of evil.

As Dr. Sugita perfects his serum he creates a personal army of super Zombies, more aggressive than the legions of un-dead rambling the surrounding regions beyond his laboratory, and ably equipped to do battle at their creators behest. With her portly male companion, also in search of a sister taken from him by Saki to experiment on by the nefarious Sugita, the sexy cowgirl Aya dispenses with the dead like a super short order chef at a Sushi bar. Her lithe body censored only by matching bra and panties, draped by a faux fur white boa under her sleek Stetson, and adorned by a poncho. A hybrid take on the man with no name from Director Akira Kurosawa’s Yojimbo (1961) and Sergio Leone’s classic spaghetti western variation A Fistful Of Dollars (1964) . A wondering female samurai brandishing a Katana rather than a six shooter, and also unlike Clint Eastwood completely stubble free. Even in a world overrun by Zombies this Chanbara babe follows the traditional ways of ‘wax on, wax off’!. The only bikini line showing here is likely the queue to the store to purchase the not so furtive gear, sported by Eri Otoguro in the movie, by fans looking to perhaps imaginatively expand upon their viewing experience.
The background story plays out in short interludes amidst the arterial blood letting and limb lopping dished out by the Zombie slaying Aya. Her skill with the sword is evenly matched by her speed of motion, as she evades the swarms of human flesh craving creatures back from the dead. Even the superiorly evolved super Zombies are no match for the bladed babe, with a skill for separating sinew from skin and bone from body in a siphon of splattering blood. In true comic book style even the camera gets bloodily blotched from the close up action with a Manga mayonnaise.



Saddle up with cowgirl Aya, her supply carrying man servant and voluptuous shotgun sidekick Reiko, as together they take on the might of the evil Dr. Sugita and his hordes of Zombies. It’s sword fight at the O.K corral come closure as the sisters are doing it for themselves. Good and evil never looked so ‘Wicked’ together.

Review: Paul Cooke / Source Japanese DVD Region 3 NTSC
2008 CN Entertainment LTD
Director Yôhei Fukuda
With Eri Otoguro, Manami Hashimoto,
Chise Nakamura & Taro Suwa
Delivering final rites to the dead is a heavy toll for one to bear though, so when another agile babe of the realm gate crashes a night of the living dead ghoul gathering, it’s a twofer tango to take out the trash !. Enter Chise Nakamura as Reiko, set astride a motorcycle and dispensing never ending bullets of death from a short barrelled double shot gun. A leather clad courier delivering packets of pain upon hapless customers who’s post codes don’t mean zip anymore !. These two babes will put a smile on any predominantly male orientated audience, as together they raise the dead with body and soul. As for any further Clint Eastwood references, my mistake, make that three hundred coffins !.
This is J-Cinema, shot on video greatness that stands out in a sea of throw away trashiness. Movies such as the recent The Machine Girl (2008) are gory delights, enjoyed best with your brain put in neutral, delivering outlandish moments of pure shock schlock, but Oneechanbara: The Movie sets a higher standard of overall entertainment in Asian budget film making.
Fans of Japanese horror and Kung Fu will delight in the fantastical cross references to many recognisable themes from genre classics. There’s even a Kill Bill (2003) Chiaki Kuriyama homage to her character Gogo, as an enhanced Zombie takes on our heroes with a lethal spin on the deadly spiked ball on a chain.

Tuesday, 21 April 2009

VICTOR BUONO, YOU DEVIL, YOU!


THE EVIL (1977)
(aka. THE EVIL BELOW, CRY DEMON, HOUSE OF EVIL)

(USA)

CAST: Richard Crenna, Joanna Pettet, Andrew Prine, Cassie Yates, George O' Hannon Jr. , Lynne Moody, Mary Louise Weller, Victor Buono, Robert Viharo, Milton Selzer, Ed Bakey, Galen Thompson, Emory Souza
DIRECTOR: Gus Trikonis
PRODUCER: Ed Carlin
A Rangoon Production
VIDEO SOURCE: Embassy Home Entertainment
RUNNING TIME: 88 min. 23 seconds



"DISTURB NOT HE WHO IS HERE HELD IN CHAINS"

The late 1970's and early 1980's were the prime time decade for various big spooky house flicks circulating your local middle of the road drive-in. This of course hit one of it's peaks with the supposedly true life events unfolding in the home of George and Kathy Lutz's newly purchased digs off the coast of Long Island, in THE AMITYVILLE HORROR (1979). Many of the haunted house pictures of this decade (and in actuality, nearly every haunted house film in general), however, can almost all give an inspired tip of the hat to the classic 1963 Robert Wise chiller, THE HAUNTING - which came some 16 years before anyone had ever heard of Amityville, New York. And although it too came over a decade after Wise's supernatural masterpiece - perhaps still today not enough people are even remotely aware of a fun little possessed mansion creeper that surfaced in 1977, simply called THE EVIL.

Shot in New Mexico, on location at the Armand Hammer United World College of the American West, under the eye of director of mostly down home exploitation fare and TV work (as well as the former husband of the lovely, Goldie Hawn), Gus Trikonis, THE EVIL assembles a reliable cast of name thespians. Richard Crenna - the commanding acting stalwart who would later go on to be perhaps best known as the superior to Sylvester Stallone's vigilante subordinate, John Rambo, in FIRST BLOOD (1982) and the subsequent Rambo sequels, as the decorated Col. Trautman - takes on leading duties here. In one of his first straight horror pictures, Crenna is C.J. Arnold - a distinguished psychologist, who accompanied by his Doctor wife, Caroline (Joanna Pettet), look to set up shop in a gargantuan old, out of the way mansion, with the intent to purchase the creeky structure and transform it into a fully functioning drug rehab clinic. The brooding landmark, as the couple learn from the realtor (Milton Selzer) on the drive up, has somewhat of a sordid backstory attached to it, however.

As the tale goes - the home first belonged to one Emilio Vargas, who was responsible for building the mansion, pre-Civil War, but went into a self-imposed inner exile, rarely spotted after his 30th birthday. Those who knew him would only catch fleeting glimpses of the now strangely white-haired recluse. From there it was turned into a women's music conservatory, only for the school to fold and the gigantic quarters be taken over by the County after several years of remaining vacant. Now, and for the first time in ages, the sole inquiry into the seemingly lonely and hollow dwelling falls upon Dr. Arnold and his wife. Mr. Decker, the realtor, also reveals to the couple that Vargas bulit the mansion on vast Indian territory, rife with natural mineral baths, steam pools and sulpher pits. "Valley of the Devils, the legends called it", Decker tells them. Vargas wanted the home to absorb so much from it's surroundings - including the warmth it produced - that he even placed it directly upon a large fumarole in the Earth's crust. Oddly enough though, his hopes for the continued thriving of the sizeable crevice dried up almost immediately upon the home's completion, along with the fumarole itself and all other geothermal activity in the area. Caroline is soon led to believe that there's far more than nature's work at hand here, though, convinced while coming down the stairs during the grand tour, that she's just spotted some kind of a paranormal apparition. It appears as only a semi-transparent white fog, but somehow she seems to know immediately upon sensing its presence, that it's more than that. This combined with part of the ceiling coming down on C.J., as well as Mr. Decker's brief mention of a few "accidents" having taken place there, and you'd think these folks would go against their better judgement about buying the place. No such luck...and there'll be none to follow either.

It's not long before the deal is finalized and the Arnold's begin preparation for set-up in the new practice. With 200 rooms, there's much to be done, so C.J. enlists the help of colleague, physics Professor, soon to be Doctor and friend, Raymond Guy (Andrew Prine), his student and sleepover mate, Laurie (Mary Louise Weller), and three of his current patients going through the rehabilitation process, Mary (Cassie Yates), Pete (George O'Hanlon Jr.), and Felicia (Lynne Moody). C.J.'s longtime electrician, Dwight (Robert Viharo), is also hanging about, trying to restore the lighting and power throughout the house, which has been down for years. Of course, this is a horror film above all, so these extra folks on hand can only mean more lives for whatever malevolent spirit lies in wait, to vanquish. Its only a matter of time before this superior force - already established as inhabiting the residence at this point in the film - starts into it's reign of unholy terror.
What unfolds from this point on is a solid story from a picture that does its best to, and succeeds at, shifting itself away from what would inevitably be looked at as it's clear cut influences - those being THE HAUNTING, and perhaps to some extent even THE EXORCIST (1973). Instead - albeit with a slight camp flair - THE EVIL establishes itself as a contender for one of the better films of it's ilk, sadly overlooked as much now in 2009, as it in all probability was when it was initally quietly released to theaters in May 1978. The source of destruction and death in THE EVIL both serves as effective, and at the same time provides the catalyst for the aformentioned high camp - which mainly finds its way onto the screen upon the final big revelation. In the meantime though, we get our fair share of ghost spotting, spontaneous combustion, electrocution, poltergeist-like shenanigans, saw blade mishaps, pets turned nasty, re-animation, trembling foundation, quicksand, cobwebs, caverns and cackling laughter in the night. These unfortunate events seem to all be related to the removal of a small, but heavy cross that C.J. discovers in the basement, buried in dust on top of what would seem to be an old, blocky, cement covering sealing up something maybe similar to a fruit cellar. Not even forbidden fruit lies here though. Rather, something more overpowering that forbids life.

The film for the most part and during the bulk, is meant to be taken seriously - although there are moments that stretch credibility and tickle the funny bone unintentionally - such as when Crenna at one point suddenly finds himself engulfed by the entity and unable to control his body, looking like a screaming wolfman as Pettet brandishes the cross wildly. And then there's the finale, which I can't help but get to here in just a little bit. The mansion itself (actually an old World College as mentioned previously) is a perfect match for the movie - overwhelmingly huge, ominous, dimly lit, dusty, full of distant echoes and desolate coldness. Peyton Place, this is not. Director Trikonis and company are also careful not to make the ghostly movements and furniture tossing temper tantrums too mechanical looking.

On the acting front, all invloved seem to be willing participants - maybe in it partially for paycheck, but also all believably having faith in the project before them. Richard Crenna
(BODY HEAT '81, LEVIATHAN '89) is perfect for the role of psychologist, C.J. Arnold - a man seeking logic in everything. Crenna is not nearly as dry as the character though, as when the time calls for it he gets right into the moments he's portraying full on. As stated, mainly remembered for his recurring role in the Rambo films (and for being an excellent character actor all around), but nonetheless, this is a fine Crenna performance. Veteran London born actress, Joanna Pettet (CASINO ROYALE '67, WELCOME TO ARROW BEACH '74), also turns in a strong showing as Caroline Arnold, who shoots down hubby Crenna's "rational explanations", knowing full well there is something devastating among these walls. THE EVIL would be one of Pettet's last feature film roles, rounding things out with much TV work, both in series and television film, before calling it a career following one last appearance in the Philippines-shot actioner, TERROR IN PARADISE (1990).

Among its supporting cast, THE EVIL has the distinct pleasure of housing a spirited performance from the talented and always fun, Andrew Prine (SIMON, KING OF THE WITCHES '71, NIGHTMARE CIRCUS '74, GRIZZLY '76) as suave gigolo teacher, Ray Guy. Between slyly spouting off like only Prine can, to bedding his best student and catatonically hacking into his own hand, Andrew is a blast here
who manages to be subdued and over the top at the same time. It would not be the last time Prine would pop up in haunted house horror, also taking the role of Father Tom in 1982's popular prequel, AMITYVILLE 2: THE POSSESSION. Prine is definitely another reason to kick back with THE EVIL. The remaining backing players are all serviceable and add their characters into the mix well, but ultimately fill their parts as victims of the house. Lynne Moody (SCREAM BLACULA SCREAM '73) in particular, is quite decent as recovering heroin addict, Felicia Allen, fresh off the smack and getting attacked by far more than a withdrawl. One of the most memorable scenes in the film has Moody roughed up and stripped down by an unseen assailant - clearly demonstrating a force with a fetish for the flesh.

Alright, it's time. Here comes the part of this review where I break the usual mold and for the sake of speaking about one of my absolute all time favorite character actors, am going to reveal a vital plot development that most viewers likely figured out at this stage anyhow. The greatest supporting performance in
THE EVIL does not come from cult favorite, Prine, or the pretty Joanna Pettet. No, my friends, that honor can only go to one man and one man only... Give it up for the generally jolly Victor Buono as The Devil! Where do I begin with, not only what a treasure to acting Buono was, but what a total hoot he is here playing a Satan dressed to kill...in white! We knew that incessant laughter throughout the film was that of a familiar voice, but when Crenna and Pettet finally get down into the thick of hell (which looks like it was just nailed with two coats of ultra-glossy primer), it is all too apparent that not only is it the lovable Buono, but he's having one fuck of a good time! No seriously - was Victor watching reruns of 'Get Smart' in there? Hell must be more fun than we've been led to believe.













Buono's dialogue is priceless, and he certainly is making the most of his time as Beelzebub, tossing hammy lines about that bounce off Crenna and stick to the walls like magic. "Forgive me, but you are an endless source of amusement.", he scoffs. Demands are delivered to Crenna by Buono for the cross that was happened upon earlier, who makes it clear what value he has for it, inquiring with, "By the way, where is that piece of holy excrement?". Resistance from Crenna's character only assists in making Buono even more outrageous in the part. "I feed on terror, Mr. Arnold. Your puny fears give birth to it and you suckle it like swine until it overcomes you", Victor entertainingly rambles before momentarily taking on the guise of a completely facially transformed grotesque demon. The part is also a wonderful example of Buono's range - a man gone far before his time who could take to the stage, play sociopathic stranglers, dignified white collars, recite Shakespeare and poetry at will, and here, play the epitome of evil - maybe even all in the same night if you'd have let him. He was a genuine treasure in the entertainment business the likes of which you so rarely see today. By the time THE EVIL was being shot in 1977, Buono while only 39 years of age, had been an acting pro for nearly 20 years. Over time, his weight - which was always an issue - has blossomed considerably. Sadly, Victor Buono would have less than 5 years remaining in his life, passing away suddenly on New Year's Day of 1982 at his ranch in California, found deceased by a caretaker in the wee hours of the morning on the dining room floor. The iconic Victor Buono was just 43 when he left us. A sad end to a man who brought so much to so many, yet here, in THE EVIL, Buono is eternally brought back to life in an off the wall and gleeful outing that should be revisited especially to watch him ham it up. If the term "one of a kind" ever fit a particular individual like a knitted sweater, it was Victor Buono without question.


Criminally, THE EVIL has yet to be made available in any other format than home video. This is insane considering some much lesser pictures in the genre that have made their way onto the shiny format. Even more criminal is that some variants of this floating about out there have totally removed the entire sequence featuring Victor Buono! Blasphemy! The source of viewing for this review was the Embassy Home Entertainment release, which is regrettably darker in spots than it needs to be. Some enterprising company needs to honestly take a chance with this title, locate a nice print, and maybe even splurge for some interview bonuses. An Andrew Prine interview on THE EVIL would be most enjoyable I'm sure, as he himself in the past has mentioned the film as being one he looks back on more fondly than some of the others he took on in the 70's. Hopefully this will start to get the message out there that people want to see this on DVD, if for above anything else, a nod to the terrific madness of Victor Buono. Until that happens though, don't hesitate to seek it out!

Sunday, 19 April 2009

Project UFO: The Phillip J. Roth Files


A.P.E.X
(1994/USA)

In the future of 2072 the Earth is threatened by a bacterial outbreak. An underground research facility explores the boundaries of time in sending robotic probes back into the past. Human time travel is non sanctioned in order to eliminate the possibilities of creating a paradox. That glitch in the time line is breached when an A.P.E.X ( Advanced Prototype Exploration Unit ) is spotted by a family vacationing in the Mojave Desert, upon its designated retrieval mission back in 1973. The A.P.E.X humanoid form robots are programmed with in built defensive mechanisms in order to protect the time line, and its discovery by the travelling families young son triggers its prime directive attack mode.
Doctor Sinclair, as played by lead star Richard Keats, breaches protocol in an attempt to save the family placed in peril and so steps through the time conduit back into the previous century. His actions cause a temporal time rift that has far greater reaching consequences upon his retrieval back into the year 2072 !. The time that he left is no longer on the fringe of viral outbreak but near genocide decline and the threat of human extinction is validated by the uprising of the relentless A.P.E.X machines. These sleek designer suited alloy masses of robotic destruction have emerged as a threat to their creators due to the altruistic intervention of Dr. Sinclair the century before. It’s Terminator time on future Earth as man goes up against machine, with Sinclair thrown back into a parallel existence where familiar faces know him, but in his capacity as a foot soldier not as the renowned scientist !.

The Post Apocalyptic landscape is littered with scavenging people, and pockets of marines stand their ground as best they can against the randomly appearing A.P.E.X machines, as they travel down the recurrent time line homing in on their adversaries surgically implanted receptors.
There are some very neat touches applied by Director Phillip Roth in painting his apocalyptic visionary canvas with recognisable references, as battling marines gear up akin to those from ‘Aliens’, going into battle against the similarly referencing ‘Terminators’ of the future. In this nightmarish alternate time zone Sinclair must rediscover his research lab in order to unravel what happened one hundred years in the past, and to stop the original probe from being sent.


The bleak vision of human despair is a recognisable theme well realised by Roth, as is his pen-chance for the strong female character, here played by Lisa Ann Russell as Natashia Sinclair ( The wife / love interest for Dr. Nicholas Sinclair in each paradoxical realm ), in a situation where only the strong will survive !. With such an overwhelming atmosphere of doom it does not go unnoticed the strength of the human will, and unquenchable use of humour as a defensive mechanism in warding off danger. The indelible image of a last resort act from a suicide bomber, grabbing hold of an A.P.E.X unit, is as uplifting as the bitchily thrown line at Natashia, by an embittered marine of, ‘‘I’ll slap you so hard you’re first child will be born dizzy !’’.
With the A.P.E.X automatons on their heals a select corps of marines, with both Dr. Sinclair and Natashia among their ranks, seek out the exploratory facility under a diverse foray given by Sinclair. They overcome a scavenger attack, which includes a particularly salacious knife to the forehead neat rewind moment , and of course they have to lock and unload upon the ever encroaching robots.

Time stands still for no man however, and Dr. Sinclair is up against more than death dealing aggressors, as he has to unlock the paradox he created, and foreclose on the virus gregariously inflicting its insidious ravages upon mankind.

Phillip Roth and his creative team have created an intelligent Sci Fi movie that not only belies its budgetary restraints but has shrewdly captured a look and style that does not obviously give away the year of production from which the film has been made. Costume and setting, along with the aversion of any vacuous dialogue, give the overall production an output of clear attention to detail, with a timeless appeal that will hold up to repeated viewings for future generational audiences to come.
Review: Paul Cooke / Source: USA VHS (NTSC)
A.P.E.X
1994 Unified Film Organization
Director Phillip J. Roth
With Richard Keats, Mitchell Cox, Lisa Ann Russell,
Marcus Aurelius, Adam Lawson & David Jean Thomas
UFO Web Site:

Wednesday, 15 April 2009

The Last Hunter - War Warbeck!


The Last Hunter / L'ultimo cacciatore

Gico Cinematografica

Directed by Anthony Dawson (Antonio
Margheriti
)

With David
Warbeck, Tisa
Farrow, Tony King, Bobby Rhodes, John Steiner and Margit Evelyn Newton
"You hate the VCs
...""I don't have time to hate them... I kill 'em."

1980 Flora Film /


The Last Hunter is one of the very first films in the EuroAction explosion of the 80s and is also one of the best. Downbeat, violent and full of excellent direction by the maestro of miniature mayhem, Antonio Margheriti, this is essential for any fan of ballistic cinema.
1973-Saigon, not a good time to be an American G.I. by any stretch of the imagination, but Colonel Morris (David Warbeck) really has his hands full trying to keep his young charge, Steve, in line as the perturbed foot soldier has a complete meltdown while trying to enjoy the hands of the local ladies of the night. Not only is Steve exhausted, but he is haunted by his girlfriends voice... After mixing it up with some of the locals things get explosive as the whore house is blasted to the ground. Only Col. Morris survives, and the incident seems to spark him on to attempt a suicide mission deep in the heart of The 'Nam.

Dropping in, to the water no less, while under fire, Morris finds the entire jungle has gone mad around him. The enemy is almost the least of his worries, since the local soldiers have created a drug infused paradise/hell for themselves while hiding out in a series of caves. It certainly doesn't help that their leader, Major Cash (John Steiner) , has gone nuts and enjoys disciplining his men by having them forage for coconuts as the locals attempt to blow up the steeplechaser.


And then there is the tag-a-long lady reporter to keep him busy, and she is played by Tisa Farrow no less. Morris doesn't bother protecting her from attempted gang rapes, but he does eventually warm up to her a bit.
Everything goes wrong as the VC flood the caves with the blood of the Americans and the true mission is undertaken. Silencing a radio tower carrying the signal of an American woman telling the boys to go home to their girls...

As everyone around Morris dies, he grimly follows his mission plan-even surviving a horrific capture and rat infested water prison to go and finally locate his target. However...it may not be as easy as he hopes to finish up this foe.

Happily ever after? Not in this war soldier...not in this war.

The Last Hunter is a fantastic action film, but differs from many of the other EuroAction films made later as it does not feature crazed Rambo style heroics at all, instead Col. Morris is living through the depressed end of the Vietnam War. There is little hope and fewer heroes to be found, instead the Americans are more bizarre than those out to protect their homeland. Drugs are everywhere and Margheriti drags the viewer into this strange world with a brilliant use of tilting angles and exaggerated close ups of vacant faces. Violence is also everywhere, and while Antonio Margheriti is not exactly known for being subtle, The Last Hunter brings the gore and brutality right to the surface. Each death is ugly, and nobody is spared from total mutilation regardless of the side of the fight they are on.


Being 1980, there was not a wave of Rambo fuelled production money floating around, and Margheriti and screenwriter Dardano Sacchetti draw inspiration from The Deer Hunter (which the Italian title, L'ultimo cacciatore, is a play on) and Apocalypse Now. Instead of a rousing action picture that has the viewer cheering on a rebellious hero, The Last Hunter pounds the viewer with the intense action choreography and berserker explosions while it creates an atmosphere of danger that is truly unique and exhilarating.
This film would begin a relationship between Margheriti and and producer Gianfranco Couyoumdjian that would keep both men busy blowing up buildings and bodies for the rest of the 1980s. Couyoumdjian is an important producer in 80s EuroAction cinema, because not only did he produce this film, but he neatly bookends the cycle with the shoestring budgetted Last Flight To Hell (1990).
The cast helps things along, led by David Warbeck who really does a lot with Col. Morris-giving the character a very intriguing drive. He comes across as both burnt out and completely focused at the same time. Obsessive, yet utterly uncaring of anything around him, Morris is a one of a kind action hero. Surrounded by men with big guns and grenades, he sticks with his pistols, only using a flame thrower when totally necessary. Because frankly, when is a flame thrower not necessary as your enemies swarm all over you? Also great are the tag team of Tony King and (the great) Bobby Rhodes. The pair actually do the bulk of the heavy lifting by action film standards with machine gun slinging and tons of obscene screaming while gunning down every hut that stands in their way. The ladies are perfect as Tisa Farrow looks confused (she seems good at that) and Margit Evelyn Newton makes a few brief appearances as both the idealized Girl At Home and The Voice of Anti-War Propaganda.

Besides, John Steiner demanding coconuts is always good, and he doesn't disappoint in The Last Hunter.

Overall, one of the best action films to come from Italy, and a true classic that belongs on every European genre film fans shelf.

4 Exploding Huts (with a bonus hut for Margheriti Magnificence in Helicopter HiJinx!)




Sunday, 12 April 2009

Who's Da Man


Dr. Who
Planet Of The Dead

It’s Easter time and David Tennant returns to us as the eponymous Doctor, in what is the first of his final four special appearances as the Time Lord for 2009, until he sadly then passes the mantle over to young pretender Matt Smith.

A cracking episode for sure, that sees him team up with Michelle Ryan, she of the short lived Bionic Woman show. In this highly entertaining episode she gets to flex her acting muscles as a high society cat burglar. Her character is Lady Christina de Souza, a feisty young woman with a strong will and the aptitude to give the Doctor a run for his money. She needs all her wits about her from the start, pulling off the daring theft of a priceless British antiquity from the International Gallery in London. The authorities are soon on her tail as the museums alarm is triggered just as she seeks to make a getaway. She eludes immediate custody by jumping aboard a London red bus, the very same ride that has the Doctor hopping onto for transportation himself. She has a back pack containing the tools of her trade and he has his, a bizarre hand held device that seems to be tracking something otherworldly !?.
With the police in pursuit the bus enters a tunnel, cordoned off at its exit point in order to bring the fleeing Lady de Souza into custody. Before the people carrier can complete its short destination a vortex of crackling light and energy envelopes it, sucking it and all its passengers into a foreboding new environment, a world beyond this one … The Planet Of The Dead !.

Christina and the Doctor , along with five panicked passengers and a very bemused bus driver, find themselves set down in a landscape of sand, and a sky with three suns illuminating the arid vista. One of the passengers has a psychic gift and can sense voices crying out all around, her ability amplified according to the Doctor because of the unusual alignment of the three suns.


Cool and calm in a crisis Christina takes control and rallies everyone together, sensibly designating the Doctor as resident authority on how best to proceed, beyond getting all out of the hot rays beating down upon them. In his usual quirky fashion of relaying in relative layman’s terms how they arrived at such a predicament, the Doctor conveys rhetoric of how he was tracking a tiny hole in the fabric of reality, one that suddenly got big, and the bus drove right through it. A door in space that has only allowed human form through it unscathed, due to the metal casing enshrouding them protectively in the shape of the bus. They cannot themselves step back through the wormhole without being immediately vaporised upon arriving back at their starting destination. It’s one stop too many then for the bus driver who tests the Doctors theory to his unfortunate detriment, slipping back beyond the ‘Star Gate’ like veil and eviscerating to a skeletal form upon re-entry on Earth.

There is only one safe return ticket home and that is to get everyone back aboard the bus and go back the way they came in, within its protective construct. The bus, however, is stuck in the sand and with attempts to dig it out is also soon out of petrol !. The Doctor and Christina explore their barren environment, in search of anything they may be able to use to assist them in their plight. As they seek, they too are being watched !.

The perfectly paired teaming of the two leads them into the clutches of an Alien race of humanoid fly beings. Their space ship has crashed upon the surface perhaps in the same way that the bus has done also. They are not a threat to the Doctor and his companions, and with the aid of the trusted universal translator the Doctor works in conjunction with them towards a combined escape from their situation. The fly creatures have a form of fuel and mechanisation that can assist the humans in getting the bus operational.
Lady Christina again proves her worth in a difficult situation in assisting the impressed Doctor. While the issue of escape is their priority, of far greater concern is a storm outside that is raging towards them, and something is alive within its wake !.

Time is running out for the Time Lord and Lady Christina, and the fly creatures need to get their crap together before the proverbial hit’s the fan. The reason behind this planets abundance of sand is discovered, and the plight that befell this once thriving world is fast approaching the living beings now stranded upon it. A swarming sea of extraterrestrial stingray like flying creatures, encased in a metallic exoskeleton, and bearing their perfectly serrated teeth readied for the feed. This is one school of fish that even the Doctor can’t better educate.

The setting for the show is perfect and the creature effects are terrific to behold, along with the Alien environment that the Doctor finds himself stranded. Michelle Ryan makes for a refreshing foil to David Tennant’s brilliantly assured character. Their on screen chemistry is a successful part of this highly enjoyable outing.

Can the Doctor get the bus working and send everyone home ?. Will Christina become the Doctors new assistant ?. And what does the psychic lady mean by her cryptically foreboding message to the Doctor of what is soon to come !?.
Be sure to catch the show to find out, it’s one of the very best for what has been an exemplary run as the Doctor by the superb David Tennant.


Next Time Dr. Who
The Waters Of Mars
Review: Paul Cooke / Source: BBC TV Broadcast 11/4/09 UK

Saturday, 11 April 2009

Chiller Theatre Presents ...

The Italian Invasion
(April 17-19, 2009)


Fans of the late Seventies and predominantly Eighties Italian fantastical cinema rejoice, as our heroes from that prolific period of Euro greatness are to appear before us once again. Mark your personal organisers or use good old fashioned cerebral sense to etch permanently the period April 17th - 19th 2009. The venue - The Hilton Hotel, Parsippany, New Jersey, NY.
The guru of gatherings, Mike Baronas, brings together under one roof some of the biggest names, and iconic stars of Italian Action / Horror cinema. The event also celebrates the 30th Anniversary of perhaps the greatest Euro Zombie chunk blower ever made, Zombi 2 aka Zombie Flesh Eaters. A cast reunion of Ian McCulloch, Richard Johnson, Al Cliver and Ottaviano Dell’acqua - the masterfully made up worm eyed Zombie, that gave us all nightmares from a young age. An eye splintering line up not to be missed !.
A Lucio Fulci theme continues as two of the child stars from his 1981 made The House By The Cemetery will also be appearing. Look out for their adult name tags, Giovanni Frezza and Silvia Collatina.
The exploding alien eggs Director genius that brilliantly brought us Contamination (1980), Luigi Cozzi brings his very affable persona to the show, for what is bound to be a signature seeking jamboree and engaging Q & A for fans.
Fulci femmes fantastico, Cinzia Monreale, The Beyond (1981), Malisa Longo, A Cat In The Brain (1990) and Zora Kerowa, The New York Ripper (1982), shall all be present on the day to add charm and glamour to proceedings. Doubtlessly too sharing snipits of their experiences with Lucio Fulci and fellow performers on set and off. The mighty Michael Sopkiw, a hugely popular star around these parts as will become evident in time to come right here at Ballistic Blood Bullets, is sure to head up the frenzy for fan appreciation and form one of the longest queues for a signature. Star of the superlative Sci-Fi genre classic 2019: After The Fall Of New York. This charming American Action hero got to play alongside the mighty George Eastman, duking it out with him on no less than three occasions during his four picture deal with the Italians. His leading ladies are amongst the most beautiful Euro starlets of that time, Valentine Monnier, Suzane Carvalho, Valentina Forte and Miss. Italy 1977 Anna Kanakis. He was also Directed by two of the greatest Italian film makers of that period, Sergio Martino and Lamberto Bava. The guys credentials are right up there with the Euro giants, so do stop by and pay him his respectful just dues.

The three day event is sure to thrill and entertain a generation of fans both old and new. Be sure to swing back around here with any news because we'd love to here about it from you, the Fans. Enjoy.


Check out the News & Updates section of The Icons Of Fright; http://iconsoffright.com/news/2009/03/the_italians_are_invading_chil.html who have a pre-event triple treat of interviews from Ian McCulloch, Silvia Collatina and the iconic Michael Sopkiw himself.

The Chiller Theatre full event details may also be found here: http://www.chillertheatre.com/gt/italians/italians.htm

Friday, 10 April 2009

Teddy Chiu's Up The Scenery

Movie In Action
(1987/Philippines)

‘‘What kind of excitement are you looking for, real war !?’’

An Action packed opening explodes across the screen as an incoming helicopter drops a commando unit into a war zone. Before these tough troopers feet even hit the ground they are putting tags to toes, as enemy foot soldiers onslaught a barrage of bullets upon them. It’s shoot and run, pursued by roving tanks and targeted by mortar shells reigning down at them from all around. The American commandos target, a fortified hill. Their objective … ‘‘Cut’’ shouts Bo Svenson !. This is a precursor prologue to what in actuality is a movie within a movie. Star Bo Svenson is Frank, and walks tall in his star billing as The Director. He and his film crew are in fact on set, shooting the latest Action flick for producer Bill, played by the ubiquitous Mike Monty. The location for this war movie is the middle of Thailand.


An unusual premise but one that works remarkably well as the story provides boundless entertainment, along with some refreshing turns from the expected Action genus. Regular followers of this genre will be initially thrown by seeing the usual array of stars playing completely against character, but will soon embrace the idea as it is the off the wall performances that make this a winning concoction. Watching regular tough guy Jim Gaines flounce around as jittery sound engineer Brian, caught up in a world of guns and explosions, is as camp as a prisoner of war internment run by Liberace !. Hitting the hard notes is of course Bo Svenson, who when his leading lady Susan Jackson gets kidnapped by real soldiers of the Khmer Rouge calls upon his earlier experience in the military to organise a bodacious plan to rescue her.
Frank ‘The Director’ proposes that members of his film crew have all the right attributes to get the job done. Is he insane ?, maybe so but this is the movies !. Headed up by lead actor Mike Connery, he and five other members of the film crew, including the make up effects girl, prepare for some real Action. With starlet Susan Jackson still wearing her on set audio microphone, sound guy Brian requires a field extension receiver to enhance the range of reception in order to aid them in picking up her signal. The nearby military base has one, and so Mike along with Brian and the special effects man use their ingenuity to stage a break in and acquire what they need. The Fun begins as the use of gadgetry and movie magic, smoke and mirrors, brings about an infectious level of entertainment. In ’B’ movie Action lore, one that is perhaps topped only in sheer outlandish brilliance by the Fabrizio De Angelis barnstorming epic ‘The Last Match’ (1990).


Wounded in the leg by one of the Khmer rebels at the time of his leading ladies abduction, Frank stays behind to run the operation and keep in contact with team leader Mike by radio. Their call signs are Limping Snake and Movie Warriors.
The Movie Warriors head on into Cambodia with immediate use of combined movie trickery catching out the border guard. The minimal use of camouflage to make their jeep look like a horse drawn straw cart is classic, along with the misdirection of an explosive dummy body. Their trek through the Cambodian jungle is beset by chasing soldiers but their use of movie ingenuity and smart savvy makes for continued rewarding viewing. They steal military uniforms, along with required transportation, working together as a specialised team, achieving their objectives and uncovering where Susan Jackson is being held captive. The hijacks along the way are in equal measure with gun play and many an impressive explosion. This is some serious crazy arsed Action Fun, with the added bonus of constantly seeing Jim Gaines camp it up big time.

Huts explode all around as the Movie Warriors mow down the Khmer rebels, only to be blown away themselves when the true reason behind the abduction reveals itself !. Time still though for Bo Svenson to attempt to steal the show, storming right on in as a knight with his shinning white helicopter steed, big gun a blazing.


With the teams camera man not only part of the rescue team, but also still managing to shoot the entire escapade, this truly turns out to be one heck of a great ‘Movie In Action’.

Review: Paul Cooke / Source: Japanese VHS (NTSC)
Movie In Action
1987 Silver Star Film Company
Director Ted Johnson
With Bo Svenson, Robert Mason, Jim Gaines,
Don Holden, David Brass, Liza Hutton, Peter King,
Chantal Mansfield & Mike Monty

Monday, 6 April 2009

THE EURO EYE: ACTION SECTOR!


THE EURO EYE:ACTION SECTOR!(Case File #1)

Before we get going with the worthy selection for this installment, let me say that it's with great honor that I bring one of my personal creations and favorite regularly presented columns to write - THE EURO EYE - here into Ballistic Blood Bullets territory. For those of you unfamiliar, THE EURO EYE is a special column that I had been beginning to offer frequently to the readers over at Cinema Nocturna (www.cinema-nocturna.com) as a fresh bi-weekly piece. Now I've decided to tweak it a little and introduce it to a second home, and one it will no doubt get a great deal of love at, here in the newly painted hallways of Ballistic Blood Bullets (a thick coat of red, of course). Those new to the piece with a flair for spotting the many eclectic, fascinating and familiar faces associated with European Cult Cinema will find hopefully, a great deal of enjoyment within. Through the gaze of THE EURO EYE, we look deep into the careers of some of the most beloved, the forgotten, and those that should have been but never were along the strip of International stardom, and down the dimly-lit streets of Grade Z European refuse. Different from Cinema Nocturna, I'll be breaking it into sections - or as I'm calling them, "sectors", to appropriately pay homage to those who left an indelible mark on their respective "specialty genres", if you will. Many of these outstanding (and sometimes not so outstanding) talents deserve the chance to duck a Ballistic Blood Bullet and instead get hit with the spotlight one more time. I also truly and most importantly hope THE EURO EYE serves to inform inquiring film fanatics as we go. With that said, for the first time ever in Triple-B Vision...
THE EURO EYE


ACTION SECTOR!
Looks at...


~RENE ABADEZA ~


















Skilled, entertaining, easily recognizable, yet largely unknown; this is a fitting description for Filipino veteran of Italian action, Rene Abadeza. Born Rene Abadesa to minor special effects technician, Apollonio Abadesa (who himself had a brief run working on a couple of Italian action pictures in the early eighties), young Rene picked up not only in the footsteps of his father's talents, but also beyond, stepping in front of the camera as an actor. He himself would take on the challenges of special effects work as his career went on, but prior to, and even today, Abadeza is spotted and remembered as a wily background player mainly in the films of Antonio Margheriti. Getting his start in 1982 with the prolific Margheriti when the director chose to film both his nod to INDIANA JONES AND THE RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK (1981) - I CACCIATORI DEL COBRA D'ORO (HUNTERS OF THE GOLDEN COBRA) - as well as its unofficial companion piece, FUGA DALL'ARCHIPELAGO MALEDETTO (TIGER JOE), in the Philippines - the stage was set for a long working relationship.

Often times in Margheriti's films, Abadeza was relegated to supporting and cameo spots, however, being such a unique presence, he still managed to stand out as a memorable character - even if he was often essentially playing the same one. He would turn up next in what I've cited on more than one occasion as his most entertaining role, playing the ill-fated jungle guide, Kim, in Margheriti's GEHEIMCODE: WILDGANSE (1984) (CODENAME: WILDGEESE). Rene swiftly leads his way through the jungle, but runs into a good spot of trouble in his final moments, as he's dispatched at the hands of a planted mine field, carefully creeping along in nearly all the right places before running out of luck. For one of Antonio Margheriti's more star-studded affairs, featuring Klaus Kinski, Ernest Borgnine, Lee Van Cleef, Mimsy Farmer and Lewis Collins (mind you, it's not the cast of KILLER FISH), little Rene Abadeza makes his impact here, with next to no dialogue, just prowling about the greenery and in the process, supplying one of the most pulse-pounding moments in the film. Following WILDGEESE, Abadeza would be kept working by Margheriti, along with remaining in the company of Luciano Pigozzi and Lee Van Cleef, who appeared as one of the leading co-stars in his next film, LA LEGGENDA DEL RUBINO MALESE (1985) (JUNGLE RAIDERS), again, one of the background players of an Indiana Jones style trek, headed up by Christopher Connelly in one of Connelly's most memorable outings. Another example of the case being that, while Rene Abadeza stood out among his fellow cast members, his roles, although energetic and fun, rarely distinguished themselves from one another. I guess it would be correct to state that Abadeza fell into the category of being typecast - perhaps even partially and unfairly due to his background and language barriers.













By the late-1980's, Rene Abadeza would find that he wasn't quite as much in demand as he had been earlier in the decade by Antonio Margheriti - due in part to the declining Italian film industry as a whole. Add also the fact that with the number of Italian productions dwindling, Antonio just wasn't travelling over as much to shoot in the Philippines as he had previously, and Abadeza was primarily a Philippines-based actor. He would however find work with another beloved veteran of European fringe film of all shape and size - the remarkable Bruno Mattei. Ol' Bruno was putting together a Vietnam rescue mission movie starring the generally wooden, but still appreciated and swooned over, Miles O'Keefe. Mattei needed a few good mercenaries, and Rene fit the bill, as uncredited and unremarkable as the part may have been. More importantly to Abadeza though, it would be the first time he'd have reign over special effects, coming full circle and following in the path of his father. The final result was the not generally favoured, DOPPIO BERSAGLIO (1987) (DOUBLE TARGET). Rene's next picture under the good natured watch of the man otherwise known as Vincent Dawn, coming also in 1987, is a film on the other end of the spectrum from DOUBLE TARGET - not necessarily in content, but rather cult appeal today. STRIKE COMMANDO - the amped-up, rip roarin', Reb Brown screamer that so many fans find endless joy in quoting mind-altering, voice raising dialogue from, would also become another noted film on Abadeza's resumé. While again finding himself as the nameless assassin type (this time a Viet Cong soldier), Rene's scant STRIKE COMMANDO screen time is enough to still solidify for me as another Abadeza spotted favorite, trying to keep Reb Brown's attention diverted just long enough to plunge a massive knife into him. The man's death scenes could often be as fun as the spry side characters he played to perfection, and that is certainly the case as well with this small role, as ragin' Reb simply takes him out with a time tested gun butt smash to the face.

Unintentionally, Abadeza would end up working with Bruno Mattei one last time during this period - when the director, along with his running buddy, Claudio Fragasso, took over the filming of ZOMBIE 3 (1988) from an ailing Lucio Fulci. While not much more in terms of depth, Rene would finally get the opportunity to move away from the constant typecasting that plagued his acting career and try something new. He would take on a simple cameo of sorts, albeit one that never grows old in terms of popularity, playing one of the living dead. As the eighties drew to a close, so did the on-screen career of Rene Abadeza, completing his last film with the man who gave him so many breaks early on, Antonio Margheriti. He would cast Abadeza as an Amazonian tribesman in his cry against destruction of the rainforests, INDIO (1989), featuring the acting debut of 'Marvelous' Marvin Hagler - ex-Middleweight boxing champ. Quietly, after INDIO, Rene Abadeza would leave the world of cinema for over the next five years before a chance mini-reteaming and final hurrah with none other than Bruno Mattei at the unlikeliest of times, brought the journeyman Filipino's name back into the mix.

Starting again around 1995, Abadeza would dabble here and there after a long down time, in special effects for a few relatively unknown Filipino/Tagalog features. Offers hadn't come by way of the wildly inventive Italians for ages, and Rene likely wasn't expecting any of his old colleagues to pop up with something new. Then out of the blue, there he was suddenly in 2003 working behind the scenes after all those years with his respected former mentor of the lens, Bruno Mattei, as the director attempted singlehandedly and with a Herculean effort, to revive the long since lost Italian cannibal and zombie subgenres. The finished products were of course also some of the wonderful Mattei's parting gifts to the world - those being MONDO CANNIBALE (CANNIBAL WORLD) and NELLA TERRA DEI CANNIBALI (LAND OF DEATH), on which Rene Abadeza served as property gun master on both. A nice way to wrap up in Italian cult attractions for a man who in many ways, came all the way around in his career and life more than once - through the dream of his Dad to the directors he worked with and learned under. Rene Abadeza is certainly a rare and interesting individual among his peers in the annals of the exploding action picture's of Italy and it's a pleasure to give him his due through view of THE EURO EYE.

CHOICE QUOTE:
"Jakoda, over there!"

-Rene Abadeza in STRIKE COMMANDO before trying to dish out a bug-eyed stabbing to Reb Brown


RENE ABADEZA'S SELECT FILMOGRAPHY:

~IL CACCIATORE DEL COBRA D'ORO (1982) AKA. HUNTERS OF THE GOLDEN COBRA
DIR. Antonio Margheriti

~FUGA DALL'ARCHIPELAGO MALEDETTO (1982) AKA. TIGER JOE
DIR. Antonio Margheriti

~GEHEIMCODE: WILDGANSE (1984) AKA. CODENAME: WILDGEESE
DIR. Antonio Margheriti

~LA LEGGENDA DEL RUBINO MALESE (1985) AKA. JUNGLE RAIDERS
DIR. Antonio Margheriti

~DOPPIO BERSAGLIO (1987) AKA. DOUBLE TARGET
DIR. Bruno Mattei

~STRIKE COMMANDO (1987)
DIR. Bruno Mattei

~ZOMBIE 3 (1988)
DIR. Lucio Fulci

~INDIO (1989)
DIR. Antonio Margheriti

Who Punishes The Punisher !?


Punisher: War Zone
(2008/USA)

''Let me put you out of my misery !''

The Punisher returns with an incredibly visceral personal agenda against the criminal underworld responsible for the murders of his wife and kids. Primed to eradicate New York City of its gang land infestation. Serving death warrants upon the human vermin like the pied piper of pain. A soldier of no mercy etching his own brand of retribution against those evading the law and beyond reproach. But when he comes calling the badge of justice he displays is etched upon his bullet retardant chest protection. An emblazoned white skull, intimidatingly representative of a messenger of death !. This then is The Punisher, and he's unapologetically amped up on the shiny format in an Unrated form to die for.
Officer Frank Castle may have left the police force, but as The Punisher he is a force all of his own !. Torn up in side over the death of his family but relentlessly poised to rage a rampaging war against the scum of New York City. Here he unleashes a frenzied full scale assault against a psychotic gangland boss called Jigsaw. A surviving target of Frank Castle's one man militia The Punisher, who left him for dead in an operational mass bottle recycling machine. Billy Russoti is pummelled and pulped amongst the shards of glass, left unrecognisable in a bloody cocoon of sliced skin severed ligaments. Pulled from the device by the arriving police to be patched up by hack surgeons, due to a lapsed health plan (oh the irony of crime doesn't pay), Billy, with a patchwork face, names himself Jigsaw.
During this opening sequence of events The Punisher unknowingly kills an innocent. A wire wearing undercover police officer, infiltrating Billy Russoti's syndicate, gets caught in the cross fire. To Frank Castle's dismay this law enforcer leaves a widowed wife and young daughter. Is it time for Frank Castle to lay The Punisher to final rest !?. When Jigsaw springs his psychopathic brother Loony Bin Jim !, from the psycho ward, and goes after the wife and daughter, it becomes apparent that The Punishers work is far from done. Time to hook up with munitions pimp Microchip, and arm him self for the War Zone, as The Punisher injects an anger enema into Jigsaw's newly formed allegiance of street gangs.

Punisher: War Zone is an outrageously rewarding slice of trash cinema. Politically incorrect to the hilt and delivering violence like stormtroopers using real ammo at a paintball free for all. This is no picnic for societies pernicious low life as The Punisher dispenses with plastic knives and forks, cutting instead through his hamper of baddies with steel and lead. For desert he decapitates douche bags via double barrelled shot gun, and removes any remaining aftertaste with a chaser of ballistic bullet brûlée. This is a connoisseur of carnage, a perfectionist in his preparation and remorseless in his delivery. If you've caused someone pain, he'll do unto you the same ... with interest !. The climax to the movie is an audience rousing all Action roundhouse of the finest order. The Punisher unloads a world of whoop ass on the bad guys. There are more limbs shot off, and bodies blasted into oblivion than can be calculated on a super charged abacus. This is vivid comic book licence taken to the max. Marvel studios Marvel Knights production company have taken a dark character from their resume and thankfully stayed completely away from the Hollywood happy sparkles dust, to blow us away here with a fallout that even fledgling forensic scientists would throat barf at.
Ray Stevenson is perfectly cast as the stoically charged judge jury and executioner, The Punisher and the emotively tortured Frank Castle. He is believable in a role, that should there be a further sequel, he has now made his own !. This is then a powder keg of unyielding gratuitous violence. An unflinching furnace of Action catered for comic book fans who have long outgrown the requirement of parental guidance. A guilty pleasure that bleeds for its patronage and rewards with relish.

Review: Paul Cooke / Source: USA DVD (NTSC)