Thursday 24 December 2009

Thomas 'Tinsel' Tang Treat

Ninja Condors
aka Ninja Condors 13
(1987/Hong Kong)

Filmark hit the ninja trail running full on like a quarter back in complete body kit, readied for the fray and prepared to get bruised. It’s Miller time folks, and this one goes down a treat. A Tomas Tang production that saves ten dollars on leaving the ‘H’ out of his name in the credits, to allow for a cut and paste free movie all of its own with the reinvested proceeds . Yes indeed, Ninja Condors is an entire film from start to glorious finish, and rendered to DVD in super Ninja wide screen vision with welcome relish. There’s no need for Richard Harrison to parade here with a head band decal stating Ninja, it’s clear what’s on offer and the Action show reels deliver the goods like Santa on smack.

Alexander Lou is Brian, who as a young boy witnesses the killing of his father in barbaric fashion. Hunted down, by the henchmen of a regional gang boss, he is tied and bound, stretched out by his four limbs, attached to revving motorcycles, and then ripped apart as the bikes tear off in different directions. Brian is left alone, but with a burning rage building within him as he grows into man hood, to take revenge upon his fathers murderers !.
Along with another youth Brian is raised in the ways of martial arts and the path of the Ninja, by a kindly master. Blinded by his desire to take revenge Brian falls in with an organisation that is steadily culling the region of its gangland tyranny, by replacing it with its own !. Now a man and honed in the skills of the Ninja Brian is known as White Eagle, and those that took his father from him are swooped down upon in remorseless retribution.
As the organisation garners absolute power, distributing its blades of death upon the drug cartels, prostitution racketeers, and gambling iniquities, with a lethal deftness attributable to the way of the Ninja, Brian questions his own path taken. When innocent bystanders and children are caught up in the distribution of death to those that are truly deserving he knows that the organisation has become as callous as those that it set out to bring down. Power has corrupted the head of the organisation, the one that Brian grew up with under the tutelage of the master, a man now calling himself Lucifer !.
When expected to kill a police officer who helped him when his father was slain, and his pregnant wife, Brian is compromised and his inner conflict prevails to the code of the Ninja. He rebels against the organisation, putting himself top of Lucifer’s list of priorities to deal with. The White Eagle goes in search of his master, and Lucifer’s Ninja follow in pursuit, ordered to kill !.
Brian runs into a larger than life, solid rock of a fighting man, at a bar. A big black dude named Eddie, who introduces himself by picking a fight with everyone in the bar and involving Brian to help him out. Eddie sticks around, even though Brian wants to journey alone, but with a path constantly beset by aggressive Ninjas looking to clip the White Eagles wings, Eddie’s groove grows on him. Together they play off each other like born brothers at arms, dishing out fist sandwiches with relish and whooping up a storm of Ninja magical mist to take out all that foolishly throw themselves at them. They are like the clones of Bruce Lee and Fred Williamson, brought together to beat down the bad guys and put the righteous brothas back where they belong.
With black garbed Ninjas springing out at them from everywhere, like Cato surprising Inspector Clouseau from the Pink Panther films, the rinky dink duo break bones, snap spines and spike heads in retaliation. There’s more Ninja nuttiness on display than a schizoid squirrel hoarding Snickers bars for winter. It’s tree flying, gravity defying, Ninja wizardry, vanishing into thin air following a puffing plume of multi coloured smoke, lethal steel star throwing acrobatics, and the deft dance of White Ninja Vs Black Ninja, swords of death style !.
Set piece scene stealers include a boat yard Ninja ho down and a Ninja duel on ice at a rink. Even though the movie manically jumps about like a leopard in a leotard, for shear entertainment value Ninja Condors knocks the spots off most Western made kung fu capers paws down.
The final showdown is a bring the house down classic as White Eagle squares off against Lucifer in one Hell of a round house Ninja riot. Brian and Eddie storm Lucifer’s stronghold hellacious coastal haven. Pop your corn and let your lady lick the lolly as the excitement value goes off the chart, Ninjaculation style. John Woo would be proud of the body count, and sheer amount of explosive Action on display at the finale, as the bullets fly and the grenades get launched. Blade upon blade sets the sparks flying, and a rapturous reality shift rounds proceedings off as sheer Ninja nonsense comes gleefully into play. For fruit loop frolics just add movie milk and Ninja nitrous to this scrumptious bowl of Ninja Condor goodness. This Tomas Tang treat tastes so very good.

Review Paul Cooke / Source Pal Region 2 DVD

Ninja Condors (1987)
Director James Wu
With Alexander Lou, Stuart Hugh, Eugene Thomas,
Timothy Johnson, Richard Phillips, Edward Douglas,
Mary Johnson, Mick Murray & Jay Forster

‘‘I’ll carve your ambitions on your tombstone’’

Wednesday 23 December 2009



Santa Has A Thomas Tang Treat Readying For Delivery Christmas Eve ...

Prepare The Elf's For Reindeer As There Be A Ninja Turkey To Serve Ye All

Stay Tuned Folks And Thanks For Stopping By In 2009


Saturday 19 December 2009

Steve Reeves Spaghetti Six Shooter

Vivo Per La Tua Morte
Aka A Long Ride From Hell

‘‘I’ll remember, Freeman. I’ll remember everything. And one day I’ll kill ya. You’ll remember that !’’

The Herculean Steve Reeves trades loin cloth for denims and chariot for sturdy steed, as he rides tall in the saddle in his first and only spaghetti western. A fan of the genre but sadly due to an injury his foray into this forum of film was cut short in his prime. This then proved to be his initiation into the highly popular Spaghetti franchise of the Sixties, and ultimately his final big screen appearance. But, what a entry to make for the muscular man oak. A tale of injustice, suffering and ultimate revenge with Reeves as the star flexing his muscles to the tune of an Italian Spaghetti Western theme, that enhances his credible appearance.

Whatever ill doing is thrown at him he dishes back out come closing credits, and with a well regarded novel of the time transposed to screenplay the story is a solid one, and translates to screen very well. Finally then, A Long Ride From Hell, arrives Uncut on DVD thanks to Wild East, and it is a release that cries out for any Spaghetti Western lovers collection.
Steve Reeves plays the role of Mike Sturges, the elder brother and head of the family small ranch. Raising cattle and horses to trade at market to maintain a steady income for his dependants. When some of his men are attacked by masked cattle rustlers whilst taking cattle to town he rides off in pursuit, along with his younger brother Roy and his long time trusty foreman. Come night time they make camp at the side of the railway and become unwittingly embroiled into a spiralling decent into Hell. They are visited by an old friend of Mike’s named Marlin Mayner, who warns them not to stay as the Southern Pacific Railways have trigger happy agents patrolling the area. Mayner reveals himself to be an agent himself for the railway, but there is something that is not quite right about this chance encounter !?. When Mayner takes his leave, Mike takes a ride by horse around the surrounding area and is soon set upon by a gang of well armed men. He is shot in the leg, but left alive to bare witness to the events that quickly transpire with reckless and violent abandonment. The well organised gang of horseback riding professionals attack a train carrying a bullion of gold, as it comes to a stop to fill up with much needed water. The assault is swift and savage as no one is left alive in the barrage of bullets and explosives, ripping the train apart and leaving the robbers to escape with the gold.

Mike Sturges stumbles through the wreckage and finds his foreman dead at the scene. He crawls back to his nearby camp in search of his brother, only to finally pass out with exertion. He is forcibly awoken as morning breaks as the sheriff and his men arrive and take Mike and his wounded brother Roy as being members of the attacking gang left behind due to their injuries. Sheriff Freeman is a nasty piece of work and acts on the spot as judge and jury towards the Sturges brothers. He is prevalent in assuring the two of them get sent to do hard time at the infamous Yuma state penitentiary, knowing full well that Mike’s younger brother Roy will not survive the incarceration. Mike knows full well he has been set up and that Freeman is far from the law abiding officer behind the badge he wears.

Yuma is hell in the Arizona desert, an arid environment where the prison guards are vicious and more corrupt than the majority of prisoners that they lord over. The head warder is Bill Savage, a particularly nasty individual who takes against Mike Sturges immediately, but in order to break him he picks upon his weaker brother. Roy is tortured as an example to the inmates and as a direct act of provocation against Mike. The rage within Mike grows each day and with an inmate insurrection, led by a guy named Mason, coming to the fore Mike acts when coldly informed by Savage that Roy has died !. In the rock breaking quarry amidst the scorching heat Mike’s contained fury erupts and he strikes out at a guard, takes his gun and shoots all who stand in his way. Mason rallies the inmates and all hell breaks loose as the prisoners take on the guards in hand to hand combat, and an exchange of bullets as they overpower the weapon wearing guards.

The movie plays out in pretty much three acts and each is as satisfying as the last, but it is perhaps the survival instinct of our protagonist in Yuma that stands out. The final third act of course has Mike Sturges fully fit and focused on exacting his vengeance upon the bad guys. He uncovers a deep rooted conspiracy that involves the sheriff and the Southern Pacific Railway itself, as well as unveiling the connection with his one time friend Marlin Mayner.

Steve Reeves did a great job in getting this production up and running and takes the lead role extremely well. He does perhaps overlook the traditional dishevelled look associated with Spaghetti Westerns that stood Clint Eastwood so well as the anti hero. Reeves chooses to stay mostly clean cut looking and sporting a head band even when breaking rocks during the hard labour at Yuma Penitentiary. When he does sport stubble it adds more credence to his character. As a hands on producer what he did do with clear distinction is gather around him a very solid cast of co-stars. The cast roster reads extremely well and Director Camillo Bazzoni gets great performances out of the likes of Mimmo Palmara and Wayde Preston particularly.
Shot in Spain with a predominantly Italian crew and production the film does play more like an American western, which of course is how a great deal of these films were shot as they were aimed at the bigger financial market of American audiences. The unmistakeable opening credits are born out of iconic Italian Spaghetti Western themes, as are the regular bursts of background jingles throughout the movie to keep the pace moving along. Steve Reeves is less engaging as a western hero than he was as the god like Adonis in his epic sword and sandal cinematic roles. It would have been intriguing, however, to see him have gone on to do more westerns as he would have become more comfortable and ultimately more at ease in the genre.

Mike and Mason evade capture longer than most of the less savvy convicts that break jail with them. Hot on their tail though is the slovenly warder Bill Savage, but Mike Sturges will not hide from this evil man when the inevitable face to face time arrives, and of course it does !. There are far greater problems to overcome though as beyond the solitude of Yuma is the searing Arizona desert heat, and laying in wait are the multitude of ruthless bounty hunters !. Mike has a reason to survive beyond the reasonability of most men, and his inner fortitude to return back home and take revenge upon those that done him wrong keeps him alive.

With the trend of so many Italian movie stars throughout the years seeing them go from the sword and sandal epics into westerns, then onto crime flicks during the Seventies and ultimately then etching out an extended career with the Action movies during the Eighties, who knows how much more we could have seen of Steve Reeves as an actor ?. Seeing him alongside Franco Nero and Maurizio Merli kicking crime into touch whilst racing around the streets of Rome in a police car would have been potentially big fun. Imagine then being asked by an Antonio Margheriti or Enzo G. Castellari, in his mid fifties to head up an all Action jungle commando flick as a seasoned mercenary or Vietnam commander in those glorious Eighties adventures. Now that could have been very cool indeed.

With A Long Ride From Hell, Steve Reeves bows out on a pretty memorable note though and it is satisfying to know that for him personally he got to achieve a personal goal in making a Spaghetti Western. Hercules with a hat, on a horse, now that’s some mighty movie muscle pulling power for sure.
Review Paul Cooke / Source NTSC Region 1 DVD
A Long Ride From Hell (1968)
Director Camillo Bazzoni
With Steve Reeves, Wayde Preston, Guido Lollobrigida,
Mimmo Palmara, Silvana Venturelli & Nello Pazzafini

Sunday 13 December 2009

Rumble In The Jungle ... WWE Style

Behind Enemy Lines

‘‘The only easy day was yesterday’’

A direct to video Action movie that puts many mainstream movies to shame. From the World Wrestling Entertainment movie production stable comes this canvas pounding, body bruiser of an outing, that puts a rocket into the rear pocket of bigger budget movies and leaves an indelible smile of satisfaction with its delivery of destruction.

A terrorist guerrilla militia known as F.A.R.C uses the unease in relations between Colombia and the American government to further their own propaganda amongst the Colombian people. Attacking innocent people in their own country, blaming the American dictatorship and even the Colombian army itself, brings about a pivotal turning point in one Colombian soldiers life. Alvaro Cardona is off duty and enjoying a day with his wife and child when a terrorist attack brings about an explosion which kills the two closest people in his life. He knows it is the F.A.R.C but rather than continue to fight the cause he joins up with it, embittered at his personal loss and despising the army that he fought for, he takes his military knowledge and imposes a strategic coup de grĂ¢ce.
In a remote farm land area, within an isolated barn, peace talks are set up between the Colombian army and the F.A.R.C forces, but when an American Navy Seals team is compromised at the scene through insider information it proves to be the perfect entrapment. Caught up in a staged show of might by the F.A.R.C against the Colombian representation, the Navy Seal team, headed up by Lt. Sean Macklin, witness a one sided slaughter as the Colombian soldiers are shot down like ducks at a fair. The Navy Seals are a well oiled fighting machine, but the overwhelming odds, in multitudes of equally well armed combative soldiers against them, leaves but one outcome. It’s an explosive showpiece of outstanding all Action greatness, but casualties and fatalities take the seal team down to three fit bodies, one of which is captured !.

With their own intelligence film equipment being retrieved from them Lt. Macklin and right hand wing man Chief Carter Colt not only have to rescue their captured fellow seal and friend, Petty Officer Kevin Derricks, but somehow retrieve the footage that is used against them in re-edited form to show the American soldiers attacking the seen to be peace treaty with lethal intent !. Lock and load, get ready to explode as these pissed seals don’t perform for fish, they act like fervent sharks, the smell of blood in their nostrils and a sea of problems to address. What follows is a tried and tested script formula but boy does it play out bigger, better, louder and more ballistic than pretty much anything else contending for the DTV Action awards. It’s a testosterone train wreck of tyrannical Colombian activists as passengers, hapless lemmings in the headlights of American Navy Seals, foot to the throttle, off the rails high end Action careening all the way to Redemption Day. Full steam ahead !.

Unleash WWE superstar Mr. Kennedy (Ken Anderson) into the film fray and his naturally gifted guile for the gab adds all the cocksure swagger to a larger than life on screen character, one that audiences both old and new to him will want to cheer for. He chews up scenery and spits out great one liners like Schwarzenegger chomping down on his big old cigar, dead pan and delightfully droll. When up to their necks in the deep stuff Anderson’s character, Chief Carter Colt, has to appropriate a means of transportation deep in Colombian hostile territory. Upon production of a working vehicle his commanding Lieutenant (Joe Manganiello) remarks, ‘‘This car smells like boiled ass !’’, to which Colt pointedly retorts , ‘‘Oh hey, sorry okay, it was the only thing I could find that didn’t have goats, chickens or people sleeping in the back ok !’’.
The Navy Seals training is superior to their enemies and both Macklin and Colt tick off names in all manner of quick kill plays, as they seek to free their captured fellow soldier and friend Derricks. Colombian neck ties don’t suit the trios apparel, but their use of throat adornment on their opponents comes with a red garnish at no extra charge !. Two men skilfully taking down a fortified holding facility to rescue one of their own becomes even more of a freedom fighter foray once reunited with Derricks. Yelp three seals of approval as the trio cut a swathe through the bad guys like a razor blade dividing up a line of crack. Getting up the noses of oppressors with all the same ill effects, leaving a blur of powdered residue to daze and confuse the hapless pushers of pain.
Back at American base camp their team commander, brilliantly played by Keith David, holds off the officious big wigs looking to tag their own with the can in order to tidy up a messy situation on a rogue unit !. Keith David is having none of it and spits defiance like a true leader, believing in his own men like a proud parent. His belief in his ‘children’ is a sound one as incriminating evidence against those truly responsible is within grasp of the die hardened surviving seals.
Director Tim Matheson proves he is as unassumingly adept behind the camera as he is in front, as this is a sterling piece of Action. A jungle incursion that explodes across the screen with great regularity as one ass whoopin’ navy seals team doesn’t give a F.A.R.C when it comes to Colombian extremists. Any beaten down captive soldier who can fight his way to freedom and still coolly deliver the line, ‘‘The bastards made me eat McDonalds’’, would normally steal the show, but here with a regular quota of dry quips that all hit the spot Ken Anderson steals the show. Joe Manganiello is however a great lead, enabling Anderson to fit the bill of supporting role perfectly, without having to live up to the mantle that may have been laid at his door. Major thumbs up then for Behind Enemy Lines: Colombia. Here’s hoping there may even be a sequel.

Review Paul Cooke / Source NTSC Region 1 DVD

Behind Enemy Lines: Colombia (2009)
Director Tim Matheson
With Joe Manganiello, Ken Anderson (aka Mr. Kennedy),
Channon Roe, Yancey Arias, Chris J. Johnson,
Anthony Matos, Steven Bauer & Keith David