Sunday, 28 June 2009

Flash Ming's Well

Trigon Fire

‘‘If I die I take you with me !’’

A somewhat initially neutered Sam Flash Gordon Jones, as a doctor of medicine, gets caught up in a global terror plot involving a super nuclear bomb. Known as the Trigon Factor, there are three separate parts to the mighty weapon safeguarded around the world. A plot is in action to bring the three ‘phases’, as they are referred to, together by the head of the Palestinian Revolutionary Front. Lots of guys dressed all in black with matching balaclavas, looking like a cost cutting grunge variation of Ninjas with no stealth, just brawn and a complete lack of colour coordinated fashion statement head band wear, steal away the three parts but keep them still separated. Headed up by a former defence minister named Abdul he instigates a bidding war to secure the Trigon. Libian backers come in way above the competition with an almighty $20billion.
The C.I.A are on immediate alert and place a bounty of $1 million on the head of one Sirian McCoy, known as The Irish Terror, wanted around the world and known to be directly involved with the organisation behind the multiple heist. A professional terrorist bounty hunter named Shield is hired to locate McCoy and learn of the whereabouts of the three Trigon phases. Due to a last minute identity change poor old Sam Jones gets mistaken for Shield and is soon dodging bullets. His character Doctor Ford, no not Doctor Zarkov !, is assisted by a local agent operative named Manuel. Masquerading undercover as a cab driver Manuel is equipped to protect Doctor Ford, initially believing him to be Shield. With the bad guys off his scent Shield benefits from the benefits of anonymity allowing him a little extra time to get a close look at his target McCoy, and learn about the incoming Trigon parts to the area.

Sam Jones is wastefully inept for the first part of the movie as his character truly is a regular guy. It is when his wife and child are repeatedly shot down in cold blood by the militant group that he is forced to adapt to a more recognised role as an aggressor and take up arms against the killers. Assisted by Manuel in double quick time to handle a weapon, and accepting Manuel’s help, the two men turn into a combined force that actually engage the enemy in pursuit of the Trigon themselves !. Almost like a cut down version of The A-Team they are joined by a female reporter, who herself is a mysterious government agent, who can handle herself extremely well but may not be all that she appears !?. Together the intrepid trio cause havoc amongst the inept forces guarding the Trigon Factor and incredibly manage to start securing the parts !. Not even ‘‘Howling Mad’’ Matt Murdock was this crazy !.

Though thankfully delivering a Flash of Action at the end, not even Sam Jones can save the world from this merciless ‘Ming’ atrocity !. Shield provides at least a semblance of what an Action hero should be, as he storms in with the cavalry just in time to at least raise viewing interest to some degree come closure.
The mind numbing banality of the movie is as wooden as Pinocchio’s carved flaccid pee shooter, and just as unlikely to stand up to a repeat showing.

Review by Paul Cooke / Source Japanese NTSC VHS
Trigon Fire (1989)
Director John Lloyd
With Sam Jones, Blueberry, David Light,
Jim Moss, Erwin Hahn, Jerry Beyer & Mike Monty

Sunday, 21 June 2009

For The War Horse ... Nick Nicholson

Recently Ballistic Blood Bullets brother of bravado Nick Nicholson was rushed to hospital following a heart attack. Not good at all. But Nick is a tough guy of old school biblical proportions, and even the thought of sharing a weed pot noodle with the big man upstairs isn't enough to take this mighty War Horse from the 'Pino pastures of God's green Earth.

Wishing Nick all the very best for a speedy full recovery, and as a well intentioned gesture of mirth injection the following review brings about a wry smile. Forget the thumb spinning anal jockeys who have thrown diuretic drivel at this slam bang bodacious Zombie flick, here's my spin from a while back when the oh so very welcome Shriek Show DVD came out.

This One's For You Nick

Zombie 4 : After Death
Armed with a type writer he is a delirious joy, but loaded up with the duties of a Director Claudio Fragasso is downright frenzied. Even at the end of the Italian Zombie cycle cheerful Fragasso peddled his wares to a Production crew, already bewildered by the ‘B’ movie making might of cohort Bruno Mattei, and pulled off the most ham fisted , low budgeted, reel of dumfounding Zombie nonsense that makes Zombie 3 seem like a classic.
The story is simplistically derivative as a well meaning scientist searches for a cure for cancer. Along with his wife and six year old daughter he sets up a lab on a remote Filipino island, but in offering a remedy he unwittingly brings about the death of a young girl who just happens to be the daughter of the resident voodoo priest. Soon the doorway to hell is opened and the dead rise up to take vengeance upon the doctor and his family. They flee for their lives with the spritely undead in pursuit as clearly aided by the genes of Carl Lewis.
These living dead could relay for Team America at the next Olympics although their tendency to spew green bile may not sit well with the impartial Judges. With the Zombies closing in for the kill the doctor and his wife stem the charge, sending their little girl running off all alone, comforted only by a strange medallion dangling around her neck.

Twenty years later an outboard motored boat with a cargo of thrill seekers made up from ex-military types is mysteriously pulled in by the current of the very same island. The draw is accompanied by the drone of the wailing dead, competing for audio dominance with the brash disco sound from composer Al Festa. The gaggle of friends we later learn includes the returning doctors daughter, now grown into womanhood as portrayed by the attractive Candice Daly.

The arrival of an intrepid trio of explorers to the mainland island at the same time, seeking out the Book Of The Dead , leads to the re-emergence of the rotting dead as a passage is read to invoke them. Having discovered the tome, which conveniently has the words Book Of The Dead boldly emblazoned on the front dust cover for just such idiots to happen on, the lead male and Fay Wray wannabe female colleague are soon sharing their body parts with the gums of the risen dead in bloody fashion. Centre stage is then taken by clean cut hero Jeff Stryker, who rather ironically gained infamy as a gay hard core porn star. Clearly his thespian skin apprenticeship stood him in good favour as after helping raise the dead he then proves to be a dab hand at handling the stiffs !.
It isn’t too long before Stryker comes across the other party, who are just discovering the island has a strangely aggressive indigenous people with a rather flaky line in facial makeup and skin care. Introductions are unnecessary as Stryker knows how to handle himself and soon shows them the only way to deal with the welcoming committee, with a swift bullet to the Zombie cranial region.
Holed up in a dilapidated shack with makeshift barricade the living and breathing survivors, naturally having discovered a stored cache of weapons, take on the Zombies in a fun fighting highlight. Enshrouded with billowing fog they take on casualties which before too long leads to members of their friends coming back from the dead for an entre all their own, complete with undead speaking roles !.

The release to home video DVD format is a very welcome one for this truly inept but insanely amusing yet silly Zombie entry. As well as the joyous delights of such a wonderfully bumbling outing is the bonus material of star interviews and a particularly enjoyable discussion with Director Clyde Anderson aka Mr. Claudio Fragasso. His very insightful sharing of the fact that the movie was made for only one hundred thousand dollars is not surprising, but the fact that he pretty much shot the entire movie at night following his daytime duties on the set for Director Bruno Mattei’s Action romp Strike Commando 2 is truly amazing.

To finance the Bruno Mattei outing with stars Richard Harris and Brent Huff good old Claudio finished daytime duties and then purloined the very same camera, along with some of the crew to serve up his own picture to offload for the same Producers. This bodacious initiative ingeniously offset expenses by reaping back expenditure via the European market. Amusingly enough Action hero lead Brent Huff actually called his girlfriend of the time to the set for more than just companionship as actress Candice Daly was also recommended to Fragasso as his female lead for Zombie 4. Look out too for regular Filipino stalwart support star Nick Nicholson as Rod. A bearded badass who chews up the jungle scenery and dumps dialogue for a turn of expressive Action beyond wasteful words.

This really is a great package for all the ‘B’ movie, Zombie fun loving fans of Eighties Italian shlock, and if, as intimated by Fragasso, all the excessive gore had remained intact may well have actually been even more so !.

With all the classic Zombie moments from previous outings cram packed into the closing scenes the ending is set up for Stryker and Daly to save the day and plug that hell hole with the talisman adorning her neck. Rescuing the world from the Book Of The Dead proves to be more ludicrously entertaining than Bruce Campbell taking on the deadites. However, imbued with the writing blither of Fragasso even he audaciously saves a hybrid penned page torn from many a Lucio Fulci finale. Bloody in places and bloody funny in others you have to admire the audacious tomfoolery brought forth from the table of Claudio Fragasso, just keep the napkin handy to wipe away that smile of ridiculous disbelief.

Review by Paul Cooke / Source U.S NTSC DVD

Zombie 4: After Death (1988)
Director Claudio Fragasso
With Jeff Stryker , Candice Daly, Massimo Vanni,
Jim Gaines & Nick Nicholson

Sunday, 14 June 2009

A Prior Jungle Incursion

Jungle Assault

‘‘Any blade can get dull, but the steel is still there’’

A guerrilla hit squad is taking out U.S. military personnel in central America. Retired General George D. Mitchell is concerned for the well being of his errant daughter Elaine, who is there in support of the rebel alliance. Believing in them for what she feels is a stand against the dictatorship of the American oppressors. The general has fought against communist aggressors in Vietnam and uprisings across continents, and he knows only too well what the rebellion in central America is really about. Drugs and arms dealers with connections to other communist state sympathisers. His daughters altruistic construct is misplaced, and her understanding of her patriotic father is misguided by those she aligns herself with. General Mitchell wants his daughter out of danger, and there are only two men he trusts to go into central America to retrieve her.

Two Vietnam veteran war buddies, Kelly (William Zipp) and Becker (Ted Prior), are having a drink in a beat up bar when a gang of degenerates barges in pulling a frightened young woman with them. Led by a 350lb plus man mountain who has one intent in mind, and that is to rape the woman. Sprawling her across a pool table the gang molest her. Kelly and Becker, witnessing enough, spring into Action and put the beat down on big poppa belly and his repugnant crew. Fists fly, chairs and pool cues hit bodies, and bottles smash heads as the two saviours rack ’em up. The Wurlitzer whirls to the tune of toes to chins as the hits keep coming. With just Kelly and Becker left standing, into the bar comes a face from the past, their old commanding officer General Mitchell.

The general wants the two men to bring back his errant daughter, and gets them on board to undertake a mission deep into drug country. He briefs them with all the information he has and gives them Intel on the guerrilla factions leader, a clever and ruthless female named Rosie Garcia. The general describes her as probably more lethal than any man they have ever met !. She has at her side a calculating killer mercenary known as McClusky, Garcia’s second in command.

Kelly and Becker have kept in pretty good shape and are soon prepared and kitted up to get back in Action. Air lifted by helicopter, into known rebel territory, the two men soon find themselves targeted as the drug runners come calling. They get an assist from an arranged contact, but having saved them from their attackers reveals himself to be none other than the mercenary McClusky !. Kelly and Becker are immediately up to their necks in the smelly deep stuff, as they are bound and taken directly to the camp of Rosie Garcia. McClusky and Garcia want to know who these two soldiers of fortune are, who sent them, and why ?. The two men are tied up, and torture begins !.

With Kelly getting the more hands on treatment from McClusky it is up to Becker to get free from his bindings, and offer assistance to his buddy. Together again they attempt to break out of the rebel encampment and drag the uncovered generals daughter with them. The resulting coup only leads to Kelly managing to escape back into the jungle. McClusky and a handful of armed men set off shortly after him, readied for a man hunt. With a Russian backed major finance operation to hit the American embassy beckoning, and a guaranteed retirement pay day, Garcia and McClusky want all loose ends tied up. Kelly and Becker have other ideas !.

Trained to survive in the jungles of Vietnam Kelly soon puts all of his experience to conclusive use. With a head start on his pursuers he sets traps and readies himself for a fight. One by one McClusky’s men are picked off as life taking pitfalls do their job, and Kelly deploys sticks and kicks against those who stray. Outwitted, and soon equal numbered in opposition, McClusky scurries back to camp. Garcia has her own battle going on as Elaine Mitchell has finally wised up, and having emancipated Becker and rejoined with the returning Kelly the fight for freedom ensues.

It’s more ‘Z Team’ than The A Team, but with paintball bloody splatter body pops, and explosions a plenty, there’s enough Action taking place to enjoy when a plan comes together. Sure to induce more than the odd disbelieving smile and ‘‘Oh come on’’ reaction. But can there be anything more rewarding than having both reactions at once !?. You’ll surely agree when witnessing a bad assed bodacious babe experiencing a full body bazooka lobotomy to go out on with a bang !.

Review Paul Cooke / Source Japanese NTSC Video
Jungle Assault (1989)
Director David A. Prior
With William Zipp, Ted Prior, Mario Rosado,
David Marriott, Darwin Swalve,
Jeannie Moore & William Smith

Sunday, 7 June 2009

Seagal Slays 'Em Dead

Against The Dark
‘‘We’re not here to decide who’s right or wrong, we’re here to decide who lives and who dies !’’

The worlds turned against humanity in the form of natures population cleanser, a virulent virus with no known cure. A disease that turns people into creatures of the night, with a thirst for blood. Living off the uninfected, killing for their blood like vampires. A cancerous infection that needs to be put down, and who better to serve last rights than the Ebola enema that is Steven Seagal !.
Pockets of survivors forage for food and supplies during the day, when the infected hide away from the daylight, to role reverse at night as they seek sanctuary away from the darkness that shadows the world that once was. One small band of adults with a young girl hold up in a multi storey medical facility, seemingly safe from the hordes of creatures intent on taking their lives. From dusk till dawn they must traverse down through the facility in order to seek exit from the only way out of the secured complex. They have only until the morning to get out through the lower floor security lock down gate, as they believe the power to engage it will diminish with the buildings back up generator at any time. Their haven of safety soon turns into a tomb of terror as the farther they descend the more apparent it becomes that they are not alone !.
On the outside the army prepare for an air strike at the city and the medical facility is part of their destructive objective. Lieutenant Waters, played with military clout once again by Keith David, is under higher order to cleanse the city of its diseased before the dawn but the survivors need the cover of day to best escape their predators. Where the soldiers fear to go by foot, renegade bands of professionals calling themselves Hunters tread with intent on assisting those that desperately need their help. One such band of Hunters is headed up by Steven Seagal, as team leader Commander Tao along with mighty man mountain sidekick Tagart, and two hot to trot femme fatales, the Hunters enter the medical facility to cleanse the way for the group of survivors and terminate the terminally affected.

Sartorial elegance aside the Hunters dress code is black and predominantly leather. Steven Seagal pads the paunch with his requisite long black coat and sports a sword for a sidearm that he wields with swift aplomb to despatch any ill begot that even dares breach his personal radar within stepping distance. His two bodacious babes could strut the Milan walkways modelling designer underwear but in this time zone they slice flesh rather than show it. Only the super charged, multi muscled fighting machine Tagart displays more emotion than sombre in this elitist group, as his energy is channelled into not only slicing, dicing and bullet blasting his way through diseased dudes and dudets, but adding an injection of oh hell yea reaction whenever he does. One of TV’s American Gladiators, Tanoai Reed plays Seagal’s younger protégé Tagart. Reed is also cousin to one time WWE wrestling legend Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson, the similarity is evident for all to behold once Tagart gets to use all his combo moves, taking down the neo Zombies when all he has are his hands and feet to get him out of a scrape or two. This guy has a big future in ‘B’ movie Action roles as a lead player, if he wants to add to his resume of being stunt double for Dwayne Johnson and choreographing stunts.

The main story actually follows the small group of survivors brought together in the medical centre and their fight for freedom. They encounter all manner of nastiness and ghoulish creatures diminished of their humanity along the route to their objective. What they are completely unaware of is that the creatures are evolving, and where initially all form of cognitive processes were missing, beyond the base instinct to kill and feed, now awareness of a new race is prevailing and with it are the signs of hierarchy.

This is a definite change of genre for Steven Seagal and one that, although not perhaps as realistically violent as some of his earlier and best films, certainly is the goriest of all that he has made. The level of blood, gore and dismembered body parts on display is more associated with an all out horror movie from the like of Clive Barker. One scene shows a body deli of all you can eat for free of human buffet entrails, spewing out from ripped open guts of several unfortunates, strung up from a ceiling by their feet and left in grisly ignominy. The vampire like creatures equipping themselves for the feast fray by actually filing down their own teeth into razor sharp butchers knives, to more easily rip apart the flesh to gorge upon the warm blood that they crave from human hosts. It’s like happy hour at the burger bar but with all natural ingredients and no free gift for going extra large.

All the Action and real ‘B’ movie pleasure comes from when the Hunters are doing the business, and more specifically when Tagart is let loose to lock and unload his arsenal upon the nefarious Nosferatu’s. The gorgeous gal duo get to hold their own in nifty knife close combat, and who wouldn’t want these babes to hold their own !?. It’s take down or be toe tagged, and pretty much with Steven Seagal serving last rites to the creatures it’s a one way stretch to them being ‘Tao’ tagged !.

Keeping most of the movie to the confines of the close quartered complex, with its low lit corridors and darkened rooms, maintains the threat of the besieged survivors from their stalkers that may lurk around any corner, or lay in wait amidst the shadows. It’s a cross between Blade Trinity (2004) and The Omega Man (1971), a combination that works in its favour as a pretty well done ‘B’ movie hybrid.

Steven Seagal is the star name that sells the movie to his fans and direct to video Action patrons seeking ninety minutes of entertainment, not even coming close to challenging anything remotely synonymous with a Shakespearian text. This is then perfect for its intended audience of mid budget Action with more than enough going on to engage from start to finish, and indeed enjoyably genre crossing into horror with a large degree of entertainment value. It is perhaps ironic that with Seagal appearing on screen for only around one third of the movies duration he manages to deliver one of his most watch-able screen performances in quite a while. Suitably stoic and effortlessly nonchalant, but quirkily imposing. It is worth stating that whatever many may now think of Steven Seagal, without his name attached to this it is a movie that would go completely unnoticed. Genre hopping may be the way for Seagal to go, beyond shaping up to do Under Siege 3, as without a doubt, here kicking crusty creature butt crack, who else but Steven Seagal could win Against The Dark !?.

Review Paul Cooke / Source DVD NTSC Region 1

Against The Dark (2009)
Director Richard Crudo
With Steven Seagal, Tanoai Reed, Jenna Harrison,
Danny Midwinter, Emma Catherwood, Stephen Hagan,
Daniel Percival, Skye Bennett & Keith David