Sunday 19 July 2009

Project UFO: The Phillip J. Roth Files

Dragon Fighter

If fire breathing dragons trouble your day forget about the female boss and take charge of the nights viewing with Dragon Fighter. Get drawn back into a pre credit setting of 1109 AD Southern England where the grassy hills are kept short not by ye old lawnmower but something far more hot to trot. Local folk are part of an early fast food chain where ending up a crispy flambĂ© is the Twelfth Century equivalent of a drive through. With a fire breathing dragon swooping down from the sky above this is actually a fly by and he’s not too particular on napkins to clear up the afters either. The CGI created winged beastie is passable enough and certainly one that draws the guard of the realm to hunt it down. Cornered in a rocky cavern he creates an inferno but one that ends up causing a cave in, leaving it and the brave warriors buried alive.

Catapult forward to the modern day and star Dean Cain pilots a helicopter toward a secret scientific base hidden below ground. He plays Captain David Carver, a high security clearance military man, commissioned to deliver his scientist passenger safely to the holding and take his position as chief security officer. The scientific laboratory is where top secret cloning is carried out and Carver’s commuter just happens to be delivering the fossilised remains of the preserved dragon.

The film style adopts a snappily edited real time feel that also adopts a regular smattering of split screen paraphernalia along the same outline as TV hit show 24. This for the most part works well and gives good perspective P.O.V shots from both human and later dragon eye views. Yes indeed it doesn’t take more than a spatula full of common sense to work out that the crazy scientist amps up his Doctor Frankenstein chamber and starts screaming it’s alive, as Dodo dead dragon soon gets reanimated. The incubation period for the scaly misfit of science proves to vastly surpass the regulatory time scale and escalates out of control like the ice age hit with a billion flame throwers all at once.

Captain Carver has to take to the helm and steer the gathered biologists away from the test tubes as the embryonic monster rapidly grows into a full sized pyromaniac with wings. Dean Cain once again takes on the mantle of Super Man as he proves to be a modern knight in a set of fatigues with a sidearm for a sword. Cleaning up after cloned dogs and rats is one thing but squaring off against a mightily miffed fire breathing carnivore is way past what he signed up for.

With newly hatched dragon hot footing its way down the myriad of corridors the facility goes into lockdown and all communication to the outside world is severed. The cast start becoming the prey as their progeny gets a taste for hot things and fries, with a particular liking for 21st Century human roast. The menu soon starts to look a little bare as Carver’s job to protect and serve calls for hunt and kill tactics to be added to his resume. Action chase time as two hunters stalk the dimly lit low level corridors with similar aplomb to Alien but here the headline reads Super Dragon VS Super Man. If that big ole ‘S’ is emblazoned upon Dean Cain’s chest here it sure as heck stands for something a little more descriptive that appropriately links well following the word scared … !. A change of underwear is the least of his worries though as the facility panic button has been hit and Captain Carver has a very short time in order to evacuate the surviving team members.

This is Big Fun escapist entertainment that actually pumps itself into a frenzy of satisfying silliness come the barn storming end sequence. Prepare for a true old school Monster ‘B’ movie finale that’ll strap you in for a wild ride guaranteed to have you rooting for the effects team.

Review Paul Cooke / Source USA NTSC DVD

Dragon Fighter (2003)
Director Phillip J. Roth
With Dean Cain, Kristine Byers, Robert Zachary,
Marcus Aurelius, Robert DeTillio & Velsa Dimitrova

Sunday 12 July 2009

In Memory Of Sifu Linn Haynes

On my journey through the alternaverse that is the Internet I have been fortunate to meet many diverse and interesting people who share the same love of movies that I do. Amongst the cinematic crew of collectors, critics and fans there have been a few that I have truly been able to engage with beyond the veil of the world wide web. These honest and passionate folk are amongst my true friends. One such decent person stood as a shinning example of everything good in the world of sharing accumulated knowledge. Never one to refuse a fellow fan in providing an invaluable piece of rare insight into the world of movies. With an enclyclopaedic knowledge of the Shaw Brothers movies and all things Kung Fu, Mr. Linn Haynes truly was a Sifu of cinema.
Linn introduced me to the legend that is Jimmy Wang Yu. My eyes were open to the glorious Shaw Brothers films and right in time for their catalogue of movies being brought out in all their fabulous glory on DVD by Celestial. It was The One Armed Swordsman starring Jimmy Wang Yu that had me asking Linn all about his movies and also seeking further information about the great array of Shaw Brothers films. It was a great day for me, and an opportunity to pay Linn back, when in Japan the as then never properly released film The One Armed Boxer (1971) was released in a very limited run by Spike Dragon on to DVD. I picked up two editions, one for myself and one for Linn. When I sent one of the DVD's to Linn he was ecstatic, not just at receiving the movie, but in telling me that the release was now no longer available.
No sooner had the film hit the shiny format than it had completely sold out. We now were the proud owners of an extremely rare release. I will never forget the feeling of shared pleasure that time gave us, a real high point and one I could not have shared with anyone more deserving than Linn.
Sadly Linn died earlier this year in a tragic accident. He gave so much in such a short time. His goodness and generosity will stay with those that knew him for always. Thank you so very much, Sifu Bobby Linn Haynes.

For Linn

The Man From Hong Kong
(1975/Hong Kong/Australia)

Chinese superstar Jimmy Wang Yu is used to being upfront in his on screen roles, but here he’s outback in Crocodile Dundee territory and up against one time James Bond George Lazenby this time in the role of bad guy.
Fight choreographer and cameo role player Sammo Hung is an Asian go between for a drug cartel, kangarooing between Hong Kong and Sydney Australia peddling narcotics. Opening with a coach trip exploring the vast Australian landscape Sammo’s character is along for the journey, replete with Connair travel bag he’s there to put the money back in the box. Hard cash is his return package in exchange for snow white wares, but this is no Disney production as Director of infamous exploitation flick Turkey Shoot Brian Trenchard-Smith is at the helm.

The opening sequence soon establishes the motif behind proceedings to follow, but also gives early credentials to the pace and level of explosive Action to anticipate with vigour. Local operations police break months of undercover policing to apprehend Sammo and recipient dealer cohort but not without giving chase, and involving an energetic pre-credit sequence that has a car and helicopter chase of explosive quality. Federal narcotics operatives call in Jimmy Wang Yu, a top Inspector of the Hong Kong Special Branch, to travel to Australia to extradite Sammo Hung’s character. It’s not long before Wang Yu is in Sydney and attracting an Australian bird, but not of the ostrich family as he does more than just bury his head for this antipodean delight. Amongst the cultural police interaction reception committee is Mad Max bad guy Hugh Keays-Byrne, remember him as the gang leading antagonist role as The Toecutter ?, well here with his out of control Seventies grooming statement he’s more in need of The Hair Cutter !. The visual of two burly Australian characters with Jimmy Wang Yu stood between them is an interesting contrast not only in style and appearance, as Wang Yu cuts a dashing clean cut look in modern day setting suit attire, but also in stature as the Hong Kong icon truly is almost as tall as his western counterparts which is an atypical sight. Led to the police prisoner holding room Jimmy Wang Yu’s character Inspector Fang Sing Leng applies Hong Kong methods to attain information, questioning of the flying fist variety as his opening exchange unpacks with a punch. The sight of Jimmy Wang Yu going one on one in a confined space with Sammo Hung is what fans of Hong Kong cinema will revel in. Inspector Leng want’s more than just a criminal collar he expects to hang out to dry the main suit behind the drug running inter continental organisation.

News of the Asian officers arrival spreads fast and with Sammo Hung’s character now a liability it is not long before Jimmy Wang Yu is given a reason to extend his stay. He is soon leaping acrobatically around the streets of Sydney chasing after a hit man, visibly pulling off many of his own physical stunts with amazing aplomb. Jumping over and in front of moving vehicles and delivering an amazing high kick from a running start to the midriff of the motorcycle riding escapee. So consummate is Wang Yu in this role he later even gets to parallel park a sliding car to an impressive breaking stop. The chase culminates with a stand off fighting sequence starting in the kitchen of a restaurant, furiously playing out as a real crowd pleasing exchange of fury. The two men battle it out in frantic fashion , blow for blow and making full use of every available implement that comes to hand. All manner of knives, cleavers, metal hooks and a broken bottle are put to use in a brutal display of vicious intent as much blood is spilt. A deadly dish of its day and still a pick from the menu of today as the recipe hereon in is Action all the way.

Under the insidious front of an import export dealership George Lazenby is head honcho Jack Wilton, living from immoral means yet still a lean and mean fighting machine not fat from his pickings. He unwinds in his exclusive martial arts school within his private condo, showing off his own karate skills and looking supremely fit long since leaving Her Majesty’s Secret Service. Lazenby’s bad guy persona is a convincing one played with an assured arrogant strut that gives great credence to his eventual clash with Jimmy Wang Yu. Their hand to hand fight is another highly watch able moment within the film, be it all too brief yet flagrantly beefed up by the tag team presence of Lazenby’s professional hired help.

The movie is an Action roller coaster of stunt, fight and explosive entertainment value throughout its duration running time. Constant fisticuffs often employing all manner of weaponry that includes swords, spears, nunchakus and very sharp looking blades, make for a remarkably bloody outing. Even a fight atop a descending elevator goes down extremely well !. Include a stand out car chase late in the movie that is very much of Mad Max proportions and you’ll get a real feel for the Toecutter in this hair raising escapade.

Jimmy Wang Yu is a one man ‘Wrecking Fu’ and George Lazenby gets to throw everything he can at him right up to the inevitable final explosive showdown. Imagine The Man With The Golden Gun put in the mix with Enter The Dragon and given a Castlemaine Four ‘X’ Rating !. For a movie that pulls plenty of Action out of its pouch this is one highly enjoyable Australian made ‘Kanga Fu’ flick.

Review Paul Cooke / Source Australian Region 4 DVD

The Man From Hong Kong (1975)
Directed by Brian Trenchard-Smith & Jimmy Wang Yu
With Jimmy Wang Yu, George Lazenby, Peter Armstrong,
Rebecca Gilling, Hugh Keays-Byrne & Sammo Hung

Friday 10 July 2009

Zatoichi Meets The One Armed Swordsman!

Zatoichi Meets The One Armed Swordsman

When it comes to Eastern Cinema fighting greats two of the most enduringly synonymous characters are without question Zatoichi and The One Armed Swordsman.
Throughout the Nineteen Sixties and Seventies stars Shintaro Katsu and Jimmy Wang Yu set the screen alight with dazzling skills of swordsmanship and so it came to be that their paths inevitably crossed , as in 1971 Toho Productions gave the world the film it wanted to see with , Zatoichi Meets The One Armed Swordsman.
The recent release of this classic encounter to Pal Region 2 DVD is as welcome an arrival for later day fans of Japanese Samurai action as it first was for the escapist seeking Kung Fu- aholics first time round.
With an original wide screen Cinematic scope ratio , that is made full use of with great Direction from Kimiyoshi Yasuda , you'll forgive the overly dark hues of the picture quality for the shear pleasure of the fighting coordination that never leaves the visual field of play as this old school , original special effects free Samurai Showdown , delivers an invigorating transcendental experience well worth seeking out.
When Wang Kong arrives in Japan from China to seek out spiritual enlightenment from a holy temple he is befriended by a family of fellow countrymen who make him welcome and offer to show him the path to what he seeks.
Soon they encounter the symbolic procession of traditional Nambu Samurai warriors which is by law given clear passage with the precedence to kill all who dare to cross before them and tragedy befalls the kindly kin when at a roadside encounter their young son runs out to collect his wayward kite which leads to the slaughter of all innocent bystanders witness to the event.
The abilities of Wang Kong enable the father to survive long enough to usher away his son only to be discovered by the travelling Zatoichi , who with the parents dying words is asked to take care of the boy.
It is not long before Wang Kong eludes the despotic attentions of the Nambu and lays claim to protector of the surviving youth by crossing Zatoichi's path in a tactful play that displays his prowess and the blind swordsman's tactful assessment of his opponent , in a masterfully subtle show of minimal exertion yet momentous examination , setting stall for the inevitable encounter to come.
The Nambu are revealed as tyrannical Yakuza who govern the surrounding land with fear over the simple villagers and when a bounty is placed on Wang's head all who try and harbour him and the boy are mercilessly slaughtered.
Zatoichi's natural instincts lead him into assisting the Chinese traveller and orphan as a mutual respect develops between them. Despite the language barrier the fledgling interpretation of the young Chinese boy aids them along the way to reaching haven at the temple but the journey is beset by deception , distrust and avarice as the local gang boss reveals Zatoichi's own Yakuza past.
A family that befriends the trio is assaulted and killed leaving only the daughter , a young woman , to survive but as Zatoichi rescues her in a superbly realised fight sequence , pitting him against a group of samurai in the enclosed environment of a darkened shack , his intentions are misinterpreted and his disappearance leads to Wang Kong believing him to be the enemy.
Amongst some very well choreographed short bursts of sword fighting , that gleefully details Zatoichi's great skill as he masterfully slices off ears and heads - just because he can , there is an intrinsic dash of humour that includes a marvellously realised moment that has a trio of comic relief , which includes another blind man , lining up outside a prostitutes room and each poking a hole through the mesh windows to peek through , but the sightless leader of course places his ear to the portal only to then receive a retaliatory assault on his sense of smell , from the equally inventive Zatoichi.
The tremendous fighting skills of Wang Kong are also showcased to perfection as he finds himself cornered in a quarry with dozens of assailants surrounding him within a work hut that is soon besieged and then set alight to. When the mighty Jimmy Wang Yu leaps up from out the roof you know that before his feet hit the ground there's gonna be some rowdy , rowdy and pretty soon the one arm swordsman hands out his own fiery display of fighting fu as he utilises his personalised short blade with vanquishing attrition.
There are a few more twists to the storyline and betrayals on route before the too late to get more popcorn finale is reached and that moment must have guaranteed a latrine queue free spell as the titular finale takes centre stage , with the only bodily fluid expulsion being a tear shed for a favoured hero as in defeat the ultimate battle is lost through the language barrier as Wang Kong believes Zatoichi to be his enemy as he misinterprets actions in place of meaningless words.
This is must see traditional film fare that tells a simple tale well with a measure of humour amongst the culminating action. Closing with the rewarding stand off that is worth the price of admission on its own to discover if the blind Zatoichi can see it through to the end , or whether the one armed swordsman can single-handedly win the day.
Film review by Paul Cooke
Film Reviewed: Zatoichi Meets The One Armed Swordsman
Format : DVD
Release : Artsmagic Ltd / Warrior Range
Coding : PAL Region 2
Sound : Dolby Digital Mono
Extras : Chapter Selection / Director Profile / Star Shintaro Katsu
Profile / Cast Pictures / Movie Stills / Warrior Title Range

Monday 6 July 2009

Banzai and Z...a pair that is Tough To Kill!

While this is more of a personal post, it is an explosive combination of wordsmithery and wit-the meeting of Banzai and Wee Z at Wrestlemania 20 is now available on DVD only at Ballistic Blood Bullets.

Happy times!