Sunday 30 August 2009

13 Game Of Death

13 Game Sayawng
aka 13 Beloved

‘‘People who play make their own choices’’
Released in its native homeland as 13 Game Sayawng, this is another example of inventive and at times extreme cinema from Thailand. Focusing on the moral dilemma’s of a simple man in an immoral society, given the choices of redemption or the riches beyond that of most attaining in a lifetime. Fate is always waiting, and when it delivers the consequences are far reaching !.
When salesman Pusit, or Chad as he is called in the English dubbed version of the movie, falls upon hard times it is difficult for him to see a way out of his growing debt. His car is taken away as he has fallen behind with payments, his warmth towards his mother in not being able to refuse her financial assistance is hitting his pay packet, and to top it all his competitive business colleagues cost him not only a good sale but inevitably his job !. Chad has hit rock bottom, but even rock bottom has multi layers beneath it as he is soon to discover.

Down on his luck and seemingly no way out of his financial dilemma Chad receives a call to his mobile. An anonymous voice tells him of an opportunity to pick himself up out of the gutter and make himself a millionaire. All he has to do is undertake thirteen tasks. The first of which is simple enough, he is told to kill a fly. Upon undertaking the request he is informed that his bank account has just received a healthy financial deposit, which if he so chooses may multiply upon the undertaking of other tasks. Bemused yet intrigued, and certainly not unhappy at receiving payment for his part in merely dealing with a pesky insect, Chad follows up his first act in eating the squashed fly as instructed. With the promise of greater monetary rewards, with continued completion of tasks, Chad is soon signed up. Once embroiled in this bizarre take on Who Wants To Be A Millionaire and I’m A Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here Chad is informed that he will only get to keep what he has already received, and attain the ultimate pay off of the million dollars upon absolute completion of All thirteen tasks !. How can he possibly stop now !?.
With each new task comes a far greater extremity, ultimately leading to consequences testing Chad’s morality, all for the reward of avarice beyond his meagre standing. Of course the undertakings become more outlandish, bizarre and harmful to both Chad and those who come into contact with him. Just how far will Chad go to achieve a life for himself that will put him outside of the day to day struggles of regular life ?. Is the reward of financial security more important than that of friendship, compassion and humanity !?.
The farther Chad progresses towards the final thirteenth task the more he has to endure, but also he starts to recognise a similarity with his past within the structure of what he is being told to do. Is there actually a meaning to what he is doing, and if so what awaits him should he achieve his final goal ?.
Thai cinema in recent years has painted a cinematic canvas of the extreme in terms of horror and visceral delivery, to both intrigue and shock its audience. Here is a smart overture to the world of intrigue that embroils its viewer into the spiralling decent of a good person, tortured by temptation and yet spurred on by the belief of redemption. A very clever weave of cat and mouse where the cat may have very big and sharp teeth, but the mouse has all the cunning and guile of a fly weight able to box beyond its designation with one heck of a bloody punch !.
There are several startling tasks that Chad has to undertake and a couple that will have you wide eyed in startled awe at the sheer gravity of what unravels, not to mention the scenes of gory despatch that place this in the adult viewing category just beyond the half way viewing stage !. What starts out as a game of chance becomes one of consequence right through to the neat conclusion that delivers its lethal blow !.
The movie is likely best undertaken in its intended format, watching in original language with deployed subtitles. The English dubbed take is well managed but does have that somewhat flat feel of an older Jackie Chan movie, one that all too often brought about unintended levity from what was actually a hard hitting Action flick. There is also a very irritating mobile phone ring tone in the dubbed version, not to mention the complete change of names for all concerned, to no doubt Americanise proceedings.

Whichever version is watched ,however, 13 Beloved is definitely worth your time. The success of this Asian cult film in the making is sure to have a sequel, which will work due to the nature of the thematic elements of the movie that do not rely upon requiring the return of any previous stars, and doubtlessly we can expect an English language remake before very long at all.

It’s a riveting shocker that keeps the viewer involved throughout, certainly flawed but ultimately entertaining right to the conclusive reveal, with flaws inevitably due to budgetary restraint and cultural interpretation. Get your eyes on this prize and be rewarded as each layer is unwrapped, but do stay away from the restaurant Chad visits, as you’ll find the chef’s special hard to stomach.

Review Paul Cooke / Source Region 2 PAL DVD

13 Game Sayawng (2006)
Director Chukiat Sakveerakul
With Krissada Terrence, Achita Wuthinounsurasit
& Sarunyu Wongkrachang

Sunday 23 August 2009

A Faceful Of Spaghetti

Una Lunga Fila Di Croci
aka No Room To Die


‘‘He sure don’t waste a shot’’

Sixties spaghetti salivation with a spittoon splattering slew of varmints for saddle sore Anthony Steffen to bring down like shooting at a tree full of squirrels.
Opening with a pantomime hiss worthy villain, using the popular moniker of Santana, and his gang of heinous honchos, killing off a band of Mexican immigrants they dispatch of from their people smuggling trade to evade the army, No Room To Die soon pony’s up a recognisable western theme of good versus evil.
Star Anthony Steffen, he of the Clint Eastwood stubble and dead eye stare down, but too often nonchalant in his screen presence, is vaunted bounty hunter Johnny Brandon aka Django, as once again implied for the success of the International box office !. He soon deals with Santana, along with his gang of ill begotten gringos, and rides into the local town to claim the bounty on their heads.
Competition soon arrives in the form of William Berger as Everett Murdock, known as The Preacher, due to his proclivity to dress in an all black garb and carry with him at all times the Bible. Chapter and verse he too effortlessly dispatches of men with a price on their heads in the time honoured manner of a bounty hunter. Implication for the International box office success here is that Berger’s character is heavily implied as the iconic character Sartana. What he definitely shares with Sartana is his skill with a fantastical weapon. He deftly dishes out justice with his uniquely styled seven barrelled, repeat firing shot gun. A very cool weapon that is well in keeping with the best of Spaghetti western lore. This bible bashing harbinger of death stays off the hard liquor and instead readily downs a glass of milk. The calcium kid though he is not as he thinks nothing of putting bad boy bones into the ground, casket casing or not !.

Johnny Brandon helps Everett Murdock out of a sticky situation when The Preacher gets outnumbered and cornered in a quarry. In payment of kind Murdock agrees to team up with Brandon to take down a feared land owner, who is corrupting a border town and using Mexican immigrants in fear of their lives to fill his own pockets for personal wealth. Brandon and Murdock have an uneasy working relationship, but together they have a far greater chance of culling evil land owner Mr. Fargo’s iniquitous set up.
Fargo exploit’s the Mexicans and is surreptitiously bleeding the town that he rules dry of resources and wealth. When Brandon and Murdock ride into town things start to change as not only do the pair of skilled gunmen pose a real threat to Fargo’s position, but they are bounty hunters in paradise as all of Fargo’s hired hands have a price on their heads !. Every time there is a stand off or shooting melee you can almost see the dollar signs click up in the eyes of our two protagonists, as they kill from the most wanted roster like shooting ducks at a fair ground.
Director Sergio Garrone, no stranger to the world of Spaghetti westerns, handles proceedings like the seasoned professional that he is. The setting is suitably plaid in its weathered countenance and pretty much all that deserve to get their comeuppance do so with acceptable regularity. There is a nice twist of events come the final stages and of course you know that there is going to be a classic Sergio Leone inspired multi stand off gun draw in there to enjoy.

As Spaghetti westerns go this one nestles in nicely amidst the middle order selection, not the greatest but definitely worth your while seeking out. There’s enough classical scenes and recognisable themes to entertain fans of the genre, along with some welcome plagiarism. Both Anthony Steffen and William Berger do the very best with what is given to them to do, and their ill at ease relationship throws up a not unexpected turn to ensure everyone watching goes home grasping their entry ticket stub, rather than resigning it to the bin in disappointment.

Review Paul Cooke / Source Region 2 PAL DVD

Una Lunga Fila Di Croci (1969)
Director Sergio Garrone
With Anthony Steffen, William Berger, Mario Brega,
Riccardo Garrone & Nicholetta Machiavelli

Saturday 15 August 2009

Super Salacious Sci-Fi From Spain

El barón contra los Demonios
(The Baron Against The Demons)
aka Star Troopers

‘‘You dominated my flesh but my spirit is strengthened’’

Feather the nest of your favourite perch as this one’s as cuckoo as it gets, but boy is it worth throwing all the eggs out of the basket to let this bad boy loose unto the world. Stickier than a space monkeys Simian sauce, served up on a sci-fi salver, this Spanish made fantastical saga is a salacious silo quay to the episodic cliff hanger yarns of yesteryear. An unbridled rhinoceros of a low budget juggernaut, rampaging across the screen with all the voracity of a wildebeest in mating season.
It’s the end of the 21st century and planet Earth is bereft of its indigenous populace. The human race as we once knew it now exists only in scarcely populated regions as scavengers. The multitude wiped out by an infestation of Satanic Evil. A band of soldiers and scientists escaping off world to form a resistance, and aligning themselves to a benign race of Aliens. Together they watch over the Earth, waiting for signs of the true Evil to show itself in order to deploy a retaliatory strike in a last ditch attempt to reacquire the mother world.
One last bastion of humanity stands his ground upon the Earth, a fearless savant of the sword and a living legend amongst the people. He is, The Baron. Honed from the muscular physique of a Greek God, and imbued with the anatomical healing capabilities of an Achilles. Both feared and revered by the inhuman heathens that trespass upon Earths pastures, as this clandestine apostle of God delivers both death, and the seed of life !.
In Satan’s servitude is the Earths self proclaimed matriarch, Lady Pervertum. A big breasted bitch babe torn from the page of a Boris Vallejo graphic illustration. A freak of fetish feminism, bespoke of bulbous bustier and adorned of minimalist body hugging leather garment. Little is left to the imagination, as the magnificence of her well honed physique is highlighted by a tightly tapered thong, tantalisingly traversing South to North betwixt her holy grail and the divide of Sodom !. A lustful harpy caricatured from Pamela Anderson in clay-mation form, sporting Steven Tyler lips, and a highly toned Bactrian bottom to compliment her camel toe vixen verity !.

Pervertum is at the pinnacle of her proclivity, and in this dystrophic society she is charged with bringing The Baron to heal. The draining of his life giving sperm will in cross procreation bring about the birth of a master race to rule the universe.
Traversing the underground caverns, to seek out Pervertum in her lair, The Baron falls into her grasp. She seeks to have him mate with her so that she in kind can then procreate with the hideous hermaphrodite beast that is Ragnorok. The combined gene pool of seminal fluid swiftly to gestate within the womb of the beast, to bring forth the required malignant Messiah to reign in totality.

Rigidly restrained in the perilous pit of Pervertum’s pantry The Baron is tortured to the point of passing out. Forced to copulate with the writhing Pervertum, he refuses to give in to her pervasive ways. Unable to break The Baron’s spirit Pervertum eventually takes what she needs, forcefully inserting a surgical suction implement directly into The Baron’s scrotum. With her objective acquired she slinks off to further her conjugal proclivities with Ragnorok, as together, conjoined in the ways of unearthly mating, they bathe in the Baron’s seminal fluid. The visual of vivacious vixen, and horny Harryhausen inspired beastie, squirms and spits like a wiener on a barbecue grill. The bump and grind of hellish creatures is the stuff of Salvador Dali.

Left for dead in the loquacious lady’s labyrinth word of his distress reaches his brother in arms lieutenant Alexander. Surveillance studying the Earth from space, upon an alliance ship, Alexander demands that The Baron receives assistance in his solitary plight. Enter lieutenant Bowman into the fray. A lithe nymphomaniac soldier, curvier than a Betty Page poster babe who could easily open beer bottles with her perfectly pert nipples. If erotica had a sci-fi chick skin flick Bowman and Pervertum would be the hostesses, and The Baron would be their pimp daddy. This is indeed the resultant offspring of Barbarella (1968) bumping ugly with Flesh Gordon (1974) !.

Bowman breaches Pervertum’s defences and soon comes face to face with her small freaky army of masked midget men. Reminiscent of Anthony Hopkins ventriloquist dummy from the movie Magic (1978) crossed with Betty Davis’ garish character from Whatever Happened To Baby Jane (1962). These diminutive marauders are Lady Pervertum’s Larva !.
Once Bowman manages to reach The Baron, who has rejuvenated himself from his death dealt condition thanks to his ability to heal, together they set about dispatching the evil elves with all the precision of seasoned soldiers. Deftly dealing out sword searing amputation and decapitations with raucous bloody abandonment. Lady Pervertum sits astride Ragnorok and together they flee to seek out a safe solitude for the short cycle of gestation to take place. Only The Baron can stop them now, and he must do so with immediate haste !.

Director Ricardo Ribelles has conjured up one of the greatest ‘B’ movie cinematic cults ever !. Spawned from a short basic film, itself based upon his own comic book artistry and story, he first shot back in 1996 under the title Exorcio Deus Machine: La misión, he has worked tirelessly for ten whole years in getting The Baron Against The Demons to bear as a full feature film. His diligence to what is undoubtedly his proud cinematic child pays off to spectacular effect. This is no ordinary low budget ‘B’ flick, it is without question a standard bearer in pursuit of achieving the often unattainable. Surpassing most all in its tumultuous wake, with its shear scale of ingenuity and brilliance in set pieces and magnificent miniature work, Ribelles is to be applauded for his industrious pursuit in getting this jewel polished to nigh perfection, taking all the usual hurdles and restraints applied into appreciation for such an undertaking. The star of the show, The Baron, as played by Juan Carlos Romeu has stood by Ribelles it would seem as a true friend and believer also, as he played the lead character ten years ago himself, rewarded here again with the role of the gregarious hero.

Everything from the outlandish characters to the magnitude of the magnificent miniatures, and people perfect puppetry is so deliciously delivered up on the screen with a panache that is so rarely experienced from a fledgling movie maker. There is deliriously over the top dialogue delivered as if Conan The Barbarian was doing Shakespeare, wonderfully realised by the highly apt English voice over actors. With biblical overtures of the most profanely incongruous in this politically correct regime, you cannot help but want to get up and applaud this bodacious barnstormer of a movie.

Ricardo Ribelles displays great deference for the sci-fi genre with many acknowledgements to those that have been his forbearers in the field. The Star Wars (1977) overtures are evident, and most amusingly noticeable in the likeness of a young George Lucas in the persona of the character Lieutenant Alexander. Comic book artist Jack Kirby is the inspiration behind the uncanny appearance of an evil bulbous floating head that leads his evil acolytes into battle against the alliance crusaders. It is as if Kirby himself had rendered from page to film frame. Incredible stuff.

This is ‘B’ movie omnipotence born from upon high. Expect great things from Ricardo Ribelles, and if that means a big budget sequel return for The Baron then lavish him with all the pesatas he deservedly requires. El barón contra los Demonios aka The Baron Against The Demons is a midnight marquee masterwork that will surely attain cult status imminently. Catch it wherever and whenever it is playing to be a party to The Baron slicing and dicing with blood siphoning serenity. Bear witness to bulbous eyes popping prior to heads exploding, and cranial lobotomy’s competing with bloody decapitations for the attention of The Baron’s sword from the heavens.

Picture back to when Peter Jackson was unrestrained by the multi conglomerate studio system, and making his unrestricted pictures Bad Taste (1987) and Meet The Feebles (1989), and when George Lucas was a young and vibrant film maker, combine the elements with a fresh infusion of pure talent and you get Ricardo Ribelles. Long live The Baron and long reign Ribelles.

Review Paul Cooke / Source NTSC Region 2 Japanese DVD
The Baron Against The Demons
aka Star Troopers (2006)
Director Ricardo Ribelles
With Juan Carlos Romeu,
Helena Lechmere & Gerardo Arenas

Thursday 13 August 2009

Project UFO: The Phillip J. Roth Files

Dark Descent

‘‘Take a deep breath…It might be your last’’

Back to the undersea facility for UFO! If you remember Outland (1981) with Sean Connery, than you’ll know what to expect here. Actually, you may know most everything that happens. But Outland was a virtual remake of High Noon (1952), so I guess Connery and Outland had it coming.
Dean Cain stars as Will Murdack, a marshall in the Deep Submersible Division (eh?) who has come to clean ship so to speak. His first day on the job and there are naked women running screaming in the halls… this literally happens during his orientation. No kidding, we know that there is trouble beneath the waves for sure. Murdack takes action, killing one of the thugs responsible for the nearly glimpsed breasts, but leaves his brother, the psychopathic Vlad Kristov alive. Vlad swears revenge, announcing this intent by yelling NOOOOOOOO--naturally. Good stuff… Murdack continues on his evil bashing ways presumably, and his time to leave the facility, now cleaned up of course, has arrived. But a rash of recent suicides and a mystery drug has him puzzled. Seems there is something making workers go berserk in the Xyloban (that is what they call it)…and there also seems to be some kind of alien force crushing up people in graphic CGI rendered sequences. Ah, you can’t be underwater without at least one explosive decompression sequence…UFO doesn’t disappoint on that front. Little CGI men in suits go sploosh quite nicely.
And then, it’s full on High Noon in your moms pool (I mean at the bottom of the ocean) as the baddies return, the deputy leaves and the final third of the film is a shootout that features some neat CGI tricks (a bisection is always good in my book). Dean Cain leaping in slow motion included. Well, it goes down smooth enough.
The story is thin in spots, and runs into an issue with subplots being generated and then dropped before ANTYHING can happen with them. Murdack is claustrophobic…but so what? Know what, it never gets used! His family dies while he is off boffing another woman (hey it’s co-star Biliana Petrinska, I can dig it)…so he has some serious sexual issues we are told. Never went back to that either. Ah well…there is lots of shooting and action, so I forgot about all that anyhow. The joy of being a target market never ceases.

As seems to be the norm, a little something unique is on show. Our lead is an utter and unrepentant prick. Yes, it’s hard to get behind Dean Cain as the reportedly sexually dysfunctional claustrophobe who works in an enclosed space here. He seems to just be a snippy ass clown with little redeeming value, and I don’t think Dean is really trying to go above and beyond the material let’s say. Hey, if he got shot up, would I really have been sad. Nope ! Again though, one of the lures of low budget films like this is the chance to step away from the cookie cutter at times and give the audience a hero so un-likeable you want to see him explosively decompress! Great underwater effects as usual…those guys at UFO ips really have that software mastered.
Review David Zuzelo / Source USA NTSC DVD
Dark Descent (2002)
Director Mitchell Cox
With Dean Cain, Biliana Petrinska,
Jochen Nickel & William Zabka

Saturday 1 August 2009

Mexican Post Nuke Nachos

Commando De La Muerte
aka Death Command
Mayan mysticism meets The Road Warrior in a Mexican made Post Nuke jungle Actioner, ripped from those glorious Italian made Eighties clones and with many of their enjoyable trimmings dutifully applied. Those familiar with the leather clad, mutant wrangling adventures of Conrad Nichols in Rush (1983) & Rage (1984) will be instantly at home with Commando De La Muerte. So much so that you’d be forgiven for thinking that Director Alfredo Gurrola is a would be South American applied pseudonym for Italian movie maker Tonino Ricci !.
It’s 2033 and the world has been decimated following the big bang. In the jungle region of Mexico pockets of survivors are formed into societies, one of which is of the anticipated despotic kind, feeding off the toil of others and taking care of anyone who challenges their position. When a free trading trio of mercenaries loose one of their number to the guerrilla gang fare, in a food for gems deal, the two commando compadres seek vengeance for their fallen friend.
Bring on the big guns, bulging biceps of man made fury, Mexican stand off style. Throw in some exploding huts Bruno Mattei style and a whole heap of inexplicable special powers that the lead bad guys possess, as if thrown in from the Alfonso Brescia cauldron of cinematic weirdness, and you have a ‘B’ movie beverage to savour along with your bowl of tortillas.

The style of the movie is definitely old school Eighties goodness. Full use of the location setting and ancient structures make the film come alive all on its own. The on screen players eat up the scenery and dutifully dispatch body blows and exchange firepower with frequent enough interjection to keep things interesting. Billowing smoke, pumped into shot doubtlessly by low paid off screen runners, adds to the low tech feel in that knowing warm smile of acceptability. This is a film that isn’t pretending to be anything other than a low budget, high camp, silly fest that wont win any awards other than that of its intended audiences affectionate embrace.
Special effects are all but exempt from proceedings, applied with the preferred effect of drawing upon imagination and visual bang for buck in the stunt coordination department. The Action and interaction of the diversity of on screen characters is what sells the movie, that and the sound effect that comes with the commando’s futuristic form of transportation. Why spend thousands on creating a 21st century super vehicle when you can throw in a beaten up old jeep that trawls through the jungle as if it is a hybrid fuelled behemoth !?. It’s amusing charm, that is guaranteed to bring a giggle every time it is seen and heard, is down to its evident heavy handed diesel machinations that are wondrously over played by a sweeter sounding electric tone. The engine seems to run forever only on an occasional refill of what appears to be an emulsified can of corned beef. Clearly this is the future result of Mad ‘Cars’ Disease !.

Pretty much the second half of the movie features Sergio Goyri as the lead honcho going up against the jungle overlords, as he is separated from his brother in arms, and only towards the end discovers his friends plight !. Goyri holds his own very well though and his run ins with most of the unusual occupants of the region is what sells Commando De La Muerte.

Before the inevitable final showdown between good and evil Goyri encounters a human birdman, replete with fully fashioned wings and a face mask setting off his comic book characterised body sculptured protective armour, who would not be out of place in an episode of The Green Hornet. A mysterious tree hugging bowman who keeps his distance but offers assistance in times of trouble, but who’s true allegiance is kept vague. Throw in implied sounds of unseen creatures, most notably what may well be a pernicious presence that lurks amidst the pools of water around the jungle, and there is an eerie tone that plays out, adding its own air of zaniness to the whole.

The movie is in Spanish with no subtitles, which actually adds to the viewing experience if you can manage the undertaking of what pretty much is a dialogue free Action outing anyway. Anyone with knowledge of a dubbed or subtitled version please do however step up and holler any details pertaining to a whereabouts, as this would be a scream on Mystery Science Theatre 3000 !.

Prepare then for the ultimate end face off as heroic hombre Sergio Goyri, aided by his Viking horned helmet activist leader, square off against el mucho madman and his aluminium foil head wearing sidekick in a jungle duel that Sergio Leone would have raised a third eyebrow at. Can Sergio save the day or will aluminium head ‘foil’ him to wrap things up !?.
Available on both VHS and DVD Commando De La Muerte has all the flavour of the golden age of Eighties Italian styled schlock, with the Post Apocalyptic cocktail worthy of your time. Throw all the positive ingredients together for this Mexican Action slammer and what you get is a big fun slice of Mad Mex !.

Review Paul Cooke / Source USA NTSC VHS

Commando De La Muerte (1989)
Director Alfredo Gurrola
With Sergio Goyri, Jorge Luke,
Cesar Sobrevals & Ernesto Yanez