Friday, September 20, 2013

A new podcast: The Human Centipod!

Yeah, we finally took the first step to produce a proper podcast. Us? That's me and the awesome Jason Meredith of the Cinezilla blog! We've been discussing it for a long, long, long time, and finally we sat down and geeked out (totally!) about one of our favorites, Sean S. Cunningham's 1980 classic Friday the 13th!
Without bragging... I think it went fine and it captures the detail-obsessed rants, the slightly nostalgic memories of how we first bumped into Jason Voorhees and friends, the geekery... the awesomeness fo discussing great movies with a great buddy.

And yes, it's only 22 minutes long - so everyone and their mutant mother can listen to it on their way to and from work without worrying to miss out on the juicy bits! ;)

We both hope you will like and love it, and feel free to give feedback! And you're even nicer if can can share it everywhere, on Facebook, Twitter... yeah, you know the deal. I, for one, would be very grateful! Of course you can also download the The Human Centipod from Soundcloud and listen to it through every device of your desire!

Monday, June 24, 2013

Varför inte investera i Sveriges första rejäla monster-film?

Det brinner i knutarna. Inte bokstavligen givetvis, utan för att Sverige behöver mer genre-film. Visst, vill ni se menlösa komedier och trista snutfilmer - då lever ni i det göttigaste landet någonsin! Gratulerar! Men medan Norge, Finland och Danmark öser ur sig intressant genre-film så halkar gamla Svedala efter.

Visst, det har gjorts lite grann - en del riktigt bra, men de flesta riktigt usla. Jag har skrivit ett fantastiskt manus som heter DEN GAMLE OCH MONSTRET. Jepp, precis så heter den. Men den internationella titeln är HERMIT: MONSTER KILLER - och det låter väl ballt? Målet var ett skriva en film så fylld av action, humor och monster att den skulle slå allt annat som inte ens är gjort i Sverige. 

Jag tror jag lyckades. Idag blev jag ombedd att skriva ihop en liten text som skulle förklara filmen, det här blev resultatet:
Värmland, Sverige – där människor är lyckliga. Ren luft, kristallklart vatten, gröna skogar. Långt där ute i vildmarken lever en surmulen eremit och hans trogne hund. Det enda de behöver oroa sig för är snorungar som pallar äpplen och en och annan vilsen turist. Det är ett bra liv, kanske lite ensamt, men långt ifrån det sämsta man kan ha. 
Den närmsta lilla staden är en liten håla med en sunkig pizzeria och en enda polis som har håll på lagen. Det är också hemmet åt Palle, en lycklig förlorare som trivs ganska bra som det lokala rugbylagets maskot och ständigt är djupt förälskad i sin vackra flickvän. Visst är livet perfekt ändå? Ja, i alla fall till den dagen det där händer. Ja, DET DÄR. Monstret. 
Nu är det upp till eremiten, Palle och hans rugbyvänner, att stoppa, döda och utrota den mystiska best som hotar att slita isär och käka upp varenda man, kvinna, barn och husdjur som kommer i dess närhet! Snart är den tidigare så vackra naturen fylld av skräck bortom våra hjältars vildaste fantasier! 
Bara en man kan sätta stopp för monstrets framfart: den gamle eremiten – och ett laddat hagelgevär!
Jag tycker det låter kul. Och det ÄR kul. I Augusti sätter inspelningarna igång och produktionen behöver mer ekonomiskt stöd. De behöver finansiärer som vågar satsa lite. Det behöver inte vara mycket stålar, men ändå... det ska räcka för att kunna hjälpa till med något. Inget går till löner, det känns oviktigt i nuläget. Filmen måste bli gjord först och främst. 

Vill du investera (och då menar jag inte att ni ger bort era pengar på samma sätt som på Kickstarter eller IndieGoGo), även om det kanske inte rör sig om om SÅ mycket... kontakta då producenten Gustaf Karlsson på den officiella hemsida. Den hittar ni här. Hälsa från mig, Fred Anderson. 


Tuesday, February 19, 2013

New blog: Ninja Dixon is now... Ex-Ninja!


I'm leaving this museum of reviews to start all over again at Ex-Ninja. It's bascially the same kind of movies, but I will try to write more free, expand my texts to articles and columns. And most of all, all the stress I felt with Ninja Dixon is now gone. I can start all over, I can get a little peace of mind.

The first review out is the forgotten, but good, anthology movie Trapped Ashes - directed by Joe Dante, Sean S. Cunningham, Monte Hellman and Ken Russell!

This blog will still be here, so if you need to come back to check out older reviews it won't be any problems. I have no plans to export them to the Ex-Ninja.

So if you feel for it, welcome over to my new place :)


Thursday, February 14, 2013


It's just not fun anymore. The visitors is getting less and less, everything has been written. There's nothing new to add to genre cinema writing.

I know I've said it before, but always come back. This time I must go on and quit Ninja Dixon while I still have some interest in this once so magical artform.

Might start over someday, under a different name. It's just not important.

Take care.


Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Toolbox Murders (2004)

My plan yesterday was to watch and review Toolbox Murders, but I ended up with Mortuary - also directed by Tobe Hooper. Today I searched the apartment again and found it! It was right in front of my eyes all the time, of course. I watched this first when it came and then forgot about it, bought the DVD some years ago and forgot about it again and now I understand why. This is by far one of Hooper's weakest moments, but it's still better than a lot of other generic, crappy DTV horror films. I'm not gonna make any comparison to the original 1978 movie, mostly because they're totally different films and I just don't believe in comparing everything new to stuff produced during the over-hyped the golden years of cinema. 

The original is actually damn boring and completely lacks talent (except the always awesome Cameron Mitchell of course!). But 'nuff about that!

Toolbox Murders suffers from the same problem as Mortuary: great ideas, a fun concept - but none of the ideas is fully developed and we're left with a boring slasher-esque thriller who hardly even tries to be scary. I know Hooper can do better and I'm afraid I think this was just another paycheck for him. It glimmers here and there, but the characters and the dialogue is the best - the horror is just something we've seen before a thousand times.

Hooper tries to provoke and produce disturbing images, but to receive R rather than the dreaded NC-17 the filmmakers was forced to cut the kills down and left is a (almost) bloodless mess. I'm pretty sure the horror would have been better with more gore, more violence. If this had been produced today it would probably never have suffered the same form of tasteless mutilation, but what can we do about it today? Nothing it seems.

I've heard the uncut kills is included as a bonus on the R1 DVD, but hey... there's no point in watching them outside the movie. I want them in the movie, where they belong.

On the good side, the cast is excellent. From the always enjoyable Angela Bettis in the lead to reliable character actors like Rance Howard, Juliet Landau and Greg Travis supporting the thrills it's a nice way to spend an evening. It's the same style of quirky, slightly disturbed Tobe Hopper-characters we're used to see - and that's a good thing, because it's part of his style. I need to see people like that in his movies, it's the last thing he has left from a far more successful career.

The idea used in the film is good, but it's surprising they never used it to something more. The occult and the old Hollywood always creates magic. Mysterious apartments, old actors remembering the past, long corridors, hidden symbols and weird noises. It's good stuff, it's great stuff. But everything is thrown away just to making something more simpler, something more... cowardly.

Until there's an official director's cut out I just can't recommend it. Sorry. 

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Mortuary (2005)

Tobe Hooper is a curious fellow. I've always admired his worked and always tried to look beyond that first movie, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, that since then has become a curse for Hooper. He's far from a one-trick pony, with excellent stuff like The Funhouse, Poltergeist (yeah, I know some people claim Spielberg did all the directing, but you'll find many who claim Hooper did the job also), Lifeforce, TCM2, Eaten Alive and of course Salem's Lot. His TV-work and some of his less famous stuff from the eighties and nineties is good also. Seriously. Stop comparing, please. He's worth a more serious approach.

It took me four times to actually watch Mortuary. This time I managed to watch more than the first twenty minutes. It's my own fault, because I've been listening too much to the fancy schmancy bullshitters out there, people who prefer to look back into the past than analyzing the work of directors who doesn't want to repeat themselves. That's also Hoopers curse. He will be the director of TCM for his whole career and I think it's no coincidence that Mortuary has a weird, off-beat and macabre dinner-scene and odd redneck-esque characters acting strange. That's his burden and I guess it pays the bills.

While Mortuary has some serious flaws - including sloppy editing, some really awful physical and digital effects and sometimes a lack of energy from the director himself - it also have a lot of good stuff going on. The story, from writers Jace Anderson and Adam Gierasch, isn't half-bad. Just a bit unfocused. It's an original twist on the boring zombie-theme with some truly original and bizarre ideas. It has a lot of black comedy - my favorite being the scene where the mother is sorting out her embalming equipment from the kitchen equipment! The dialogue is witty and mostly very fun in that quirky, strange way only characters talk in films by Hooper. The actors feels a bit awkward in the beginning, but they're soon in peace with their characters and the dialogue and in the end I would say this film has some of the more interesting people I've seen in a low budget, direct-to-video horror film that everyone hates.

Why? For example, the adult characters behave good. They don't act like assholes. The mother, played by Denise Crosby, is a good mother. She understand her son isn't a saint and gives him some freedom, but still cares about him. When she sense smoke on him she's more worried that he's in to heavier drugs and when she discover he's been out in the graveyard two in the morning she just tells him to bring a baseball bat the next time, for protection. Every adult character behaves in the total opposite way than they usually do in similar films. This is also one of the few genre productions I've seen who has a normal gay character who's treated like everyone else and behaves like everyone else.

How's the horror then? Hooper works hard with the little horror he has, but most of the power of the scares is let down by terrible make-up, lousy set-dressings and one of the worst final scenes I've seen. I can see his idea here - a reference to the almost otherworldly, unrealistic style of Eaten Alive - but that belonged in the drive-in's during the 70's, here it just feels like a bad episode of Xena: Warrior Princess.  The lack of real gore and that final, nasty horror-punch he's usually so good at, makes a weak horror movie.

What makes it worth watching is the ideas, the acting, the dialogue. That's the Hooper I love.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Unlawful Killing (2011)

When I was seven years old me and my best friend Kristian were playing with a tape recorder at my mothers house, outside Sigtuna. Kristian brought some cassettes from home, belonging to his father. His father was, like almost everyone at this quiet community, an recovering alcoholic and a deeply religious man. We put one cassette into the recorded and pressed play.

What we heard was his father confessing a murder. He killed someone. He was in deep angst, I remember him sounding sad - almost crying. It was scary and we turned off the tape and I ran to my mother... Anyway. Nothing came out of this. It was forgotten and for many years I didn't think about it. Until my mother mentioned she heard that Kristian's dad nowadays had his own religious community, some kind of church. And it all came back to me. I think this imprinted my mind to look for mysteries, the unexplained.

Everyone loves a conspiracy, especially me after this episode of my life. But I'm also a sceptic. I'm an atheist, I don't believe in UFO's, Bigfoot and too absurd government cover-up's. What I do believe in is the eternal evil and greed of humans and I know, for a fact, that a person - or several - can do what ever is in their power to get what they want. Remember, it takes only two persons to create a conspiracy.

Like all decent human beings I pretty uninterested in royal families and crap like that. They're a left over of a very non-democratic way of reasoning and for me they're just spoiled brats who toys around with the peoples money for their own pleasure and luxury. And no, they're not good PR for the countries either - because that means every country who doesn't have a royal family sucks at tourism - and that's just not true. Even the smallest damn monkey understands that. They're a waste of money, energy and intelligence.

Actor, comedian and author Keith Allen, part conspiracy nut, part smart dude, has made the most interesting and wittiest documentary on the "murder of Princess Diana" so far, Unlawful Killing. Before I watched the movie I read what ever I could find on the case - on the net, I just don't have time to read books nowadays - and got myself a pretty clear view on the pro's and con's of the theory. Allen and his team has a clear anti-Royal stance in the movie (and no, there's hardly any objective documentaries made - ever, because all of them are made by a filmmaker who have decided to tell a story, whether he understands that or not) and that can be bad, but for an anti-royalist like me it's like heaven. He goes through everything around the accident, points out clear - and confirmed misses from the police and media - ask questions that never got answered, lets the people who didn't believe in the accident-theory and was heard by the police talk about what they know. It's not a sloppy production, it's well-made and rude in that wonderful British way we love so much. There's no ass-licking here towards the inbred family living a life in glamour behind those castle walls. Of course there's people who will refute the evidence presented here, but let them do that. They've done it since the accident and always had the media and cops behind them anyway.

There's a lot of chilling moments, of course - like all good docs - constructed to evoke more emotion for the victims, Diana, Dodi and Henri Paul, the driver. Dodi's father has his son buried in his garden and burns the former royal symbols from Harrods outside his house. It's a man who spends most of his time talking to his dead son and the story of Dodi is told in a more respectful and intelligent way than how he was portrayed by the world media. What I found most interesting his that there's never been any proof that the paparazzi's was near their car. Not even the verdict states this - it's just in the imagination of newspaper editors and us fools believing in them. There's a lot of stuff like this in Unlawful Killing.

I can't say this documentary is wrong. I can't say it's true. But it's a fine piece of conspiracy theory, far from the typical nutcase-films produced by home grown wackos in the US. It delivers suspense, satire and criticism in an elegant manner. But still, it's a documentary. And a documentary, like all kind of journalism, only delivers the opinion of the creator. Remember that the next time you're upset about something your read in the newspaper, on Facebook, Twitter or any other timewaster that blocks your mind.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Leviathan (1989)

The year of 2013 will go the history as the end of the life-long battle of which monster-in-underwater-base is the best. Jocke over at Rubbermonsterfetishism claims that Sean S. Cunningham’s Deep Star Six is superior to Leviathan (No Jocke, it’s not!), but in the end I think we both can agree that The Rift is the best and coolest film in this small sub-genre of monster films. Anyway, I decided to watch Leviathan for the tenth time (or something like that) and see if it still had the magic I’ve experienced before.

And you know… it still has.

I’m not entirely sure why I like it so much. It could be because of the awesome cast – from always reliable leading man Paul Weller to character acting legend Richard Crenna and excellent supporting actors like Daniel Stern and Ernie Hudson. Oh, and don’t forget Hector Elizondo (who I saw in the fantastic The Taking of Pelham 123 recently) and of course the lizard-eyed Meg Foster. Everyone is good and the dialogue is realistic and all of the characters, with the exception of Lisa Eilbacher, is written with depth and intelligence. I’m pretty sure screenwriters David Webb Peoples (who also wrote Blade Runner and Twelve Monkeys) and Jeb Stuart got the orders from the producers to try to copy the realistic style of Ridley Scott’s Alien, with the same fast and witty dialogue.

Alien isn’t the only inspiration – the atmosphere and characters is directly from that film, but much of the storyline and twists is taken almost directly from John Carpenter’s The Thing. With some slight changes of course. Personally I love this, because I could watch Alien and The Thing rip-off’s all day long, especially if they’re so ambitious and drenched with money as Leviathan. It never reaches the excellent paranoia of The Thing – and it’s not the focuseither, this is more the anxiety over the infection, people looking for signs of illness etc. It works, but in all honesty it could have ripped The Thing even more here.

Leviathan is foremost a monster film and the special effects, the action, is extremely well executed. It goes from the usual slime and gore to a fifties sci-fi film complete with a silly (but cool) looking fish monster, just bucket or two of slime from being black & white and starring opposite Richard Carlson! It looks quite cool, but I guess there’s a reason why it’s kept quite hidden most of the time with just a few wide shots which lasts less than a second. It’s a pity, because the man behind the monster effects is Stan Winston and he and his crew has done a fantastic job.

Leviathan is produced by the nephew of Dino De Laurentiis and like his uncle he knows who to spend the money on the production. It’s big and gory and has a sensational cast, which must have been a dream for talented director George P. Cosmatos. The rumor says he got fired from one production for spitting in the face of an employee at the production office! One of the last movies he was involved with was Tombstone, but he was just hired to pretend to be the director. He just sat around the sent, relaxed and watched Kurt Russell do the job. But he still did good work and Leviathan, while lacking a personal stamp of some kind, still is one of my favorites from his interesting filmography.

There’s just one question left regarding the film: what use did the crew have of big, futuristic flame-throwers down in the underwater base?

I guess we will never find out…

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Undisputed III: Redemption (2010)

Me and G's mutual action favorite is Scott Adkins, a marvelous fighter and sometimes quite a good actor also. His magnum opus so far is the (masterpiece) Universal Soldier: Day of Reckoning, John Hyams sensational fifth (if counting the TV-movies) sequel to the 1992 semi-classic starring Dolph Lundgren and Jean-Claude Van Damme. They're both elderly statesmen of action cinema now, and it's up to Adkins to save the day and take over the torch. The biggest difference between him and the older generation of fighters his how he (like JCVD nowadays) dares to show emotions, work more with the acting part and not be afraid to be a little bit weak from time to time. He gives the characters depth and intelligence, even if they're here just to kick someone in the head. In Undisputed III: Redemption he gives us more of Boyka, the earlier so shallow typical Russian bad guy, and everything becomes so much better.

Boyka is now a broken man after the nasty knee-injury Michael Jai White gave him in the last movie. But when he gets a chance to fight the new champion his former employer Gaga, a ruthless businessman and gambler, gives him a new chance. He's transferred to Georgia where there's a prison tournament and a lot of money is at stake. One of them is an American, Turbo (Mykel Shannon Jenkins) and they soon - after some ruckus - becomes close friends, but something is fucked up in the tournament and they both realize it's not an honest game... and now they need to fight extra hard to survive!

I know it's very easy to read in gay sub-text in very male-dominated action movies like this, but the thing is that I can swear it's not even a subtext. It's there on the screen. Boyka is the ultimate closeted macho-man, giving his time to god and praying when he's really only lusting for his new opponent Turbo. His refusal to talk about kids and women, his acceptance of Turbo's flowers to him and how terribly jealous he acts when Turbo is gonna meet his wife. Not to mention that they both are referred to boyfriends, lovers etc all the time from the other characters. It's interesting, because Boyka never reacts to this. He's quietly accepting it. Turbo becomes irritated at one point, but forgets it fast.

But gay subtext belongs in action movies, I think we all can agree on that. So how about the action? Scott Adkins is THE best fighter we have now (forget about those short, silly Indonesian fellas!). His physique is outstanding and even if he's bigger and bulkier than most expert fighters I've seen he's working the floor, the fists and feet like he was born Thai or Chinese. The fights are plenty and brutal, lots of blood and slow-mo. Most of it seem to be real contact, but from time to time it's easy to see how how far the feet and fists are to the other body. But it's a movie, dammit. It's not snuff!

Undisputed II, who we watched again a couple of days ago, is still a good movie, but it's very weak (except Adkins) compared to part III, a film packed with bloodshed and broken limbs. I especially like the small twists, the dialogue and the brave decision to give the characters some... character. It's a few surprises here and there and far above the average DTV action film. I loved it! Can't wait to see was Isaac Florentine and Adkins will do with Ninja 2, currently shooting in Thailand!

Monday, February 4, 2013

Deep Star Six (1989)

Somewhere along the road (aka "the end of the eighties") the almighty movie moguls decided that movies set on an underwater base is the ultimate way of earning money. James Cameron's The Abyss, George P. Cosmato's Leviathan, Juan Piquer Simon's The Rift and finally Sean S. Cunningham's Deep Star Six all came out between '89 and '90 and they're all quite cool in their own ways. Cameron's film is the worst one, boring as hell - but is very well-made and has a wonderful cast. Personally I prefer when the genre gets a bit cheaper, grittier - and gorier, and I'm afraid peaceful water aliens isn't my cup of tea. It took me many years to actually open the DVD of Deep Star Six, but as usual - while searching for another movie - I found myself standing with this DVD in my hands instead of the Tobe Hooper movies I wanted. And going Hooper to Cunningham isn't that farfetched anyway...

This time the unlucky crew of stereotypical (the black tough guy with a heart, the white asshole, the good-looking hero wearing a cap, the female scientist, the token Russian dude that bites the dust faster then you can drink a small glass of vodka etc etc), hard-working, underwater technicians has spent their last six months by installing an missile base in a remote part of the sea. They discover that there's a huge cave under the place where they put the missile-stuff and when the ground gives away... something (yeah, I know - it's a damn monster, looks like a big, mutated mix between a crab and... something else down at the bottom of the sea) escapes and attacks them with deadly force!

My main complain with Deep Star Six is the lack of monster. There's a monster, but it takes almost an hour until we finally can see that darn creature and from then on it's in very short glimpses! I mean, I came here to watch monsters and kick ass and I'm all out of monsters! What I can see of the monster it's cool and it's fairly aggressive, killing off the characters one by one in not so gory fashion. The two bloodiest kills isn't by the monster, which is odd - but also quite original. Kinda unexpected - and both of them has to do with air pressure, which always is cool and gory. Deep Star Six also has a different kind of asshole in the form of Miguel Ferrer, the guy to go to when it comes to play asshole. But he - and the script - gives him a little bit more to do this time and he's not a total wanker in the end. Just a bit sensitive for monster-induced stress.

Even with the lack of monster Sean S. Cunningham keeps up the pace quite well and the focus is on adventure and rescue missions. I sense that he wanted to do something else than horror, but one of the final shots in the film still reminds me of the one of the final shots in his classic slasher Friday the 13th (but to be fair, it's almost a copy of the ending in Cosmato's Leviathan instead). The presence of Harry Manfredini as the composer of the score and some neat scare scenes still makes this a typical Cunningham film, even without that hockey masked crusader we love so much.

Could have used more monster, but at least it didn't bore me! That's - I guess - not bad at all.

The Cyclops (1957)

I've written it before, but Bert I. Gordon is one of my favorite genre directors EVER. I might have been treated badly by the losers at Mystery Science Theater 3000 and laughed at by serious critics, but they can - as you all know - go and fuck themselves hard with a broomstick (no lube!). What's his strength then? Well, he's one of the few that only make movies as entertainment. He doesn't even pretend to put some message in or any deeper meanings. He's a 12 year old boy in a grown mans body, enjoying monsters and special effects, handsome leading men, adorable actresses and action.

His daughter, Susan (who very sadly passed away in 2011) claimed Bert was the best father a daughter could have. And he seems very nice. I bought his charming autobiography (and got it signed to!) and it tells the story of a man who's as interested in making money as making fun movies. That gave his movies a lot of heart and passion.

The Cyclops is a very simple monster movie. A couple of years ago an airplane disappeared over Mexico and now, finally, the girlfriend, Susan Winter (Gloria Talbott) of one of the victims arranges one final expedition to find the airplane and (probably) the bodies. They land in a remote valley and finds themselves in the middle of a world with giant animals - and also a hideous Cyclops, probably Susan's boyfriend in a mutated state! Will the ever get away from the valley of the Cyclops, or will they stay there and... DIE?!

That last sentence is a as silly as the movie itself, but like most films by Mr BIG, this is also one helluva entertaining romp that clocks into just over one hour. That means there's hardly any time for silly romance or unnecessary storylines, just big animals and danger around every damn corner.

The Cyclops (he's not a real Cyclops, because obviously he lost one of his eyes in the airplane accident and then mutated a little bit more to make the other one huge!) is very cool, very impressive make-up work by the legendary Jack H. Young, still today very good and imaginative. But what to expect from a man who worked on movies like Salem's Lot, Apocalypse Now, The Brood, Walking Tall and Wizard of Oz?

It's still not Mr BIG's best movie, but here he's starting to find his form of storytelling. He perfected the art of monster movies the years after, cheaper and grittier than most other similar movies of the time, but judging by how famous they still are - for different reasons - I guess he came out like the winner. Hardly anyone talks about Tarantula and Them nowadays, (good movies, no doubt about it), but it's the insanity of Bert I. Gordon's films that comes to mind when good old monster flicks is brought up in discussions.

The Cyclops is out on a nice-looking, uncut (yes, a spear in the Cyclops eyes was removed from certain prints) DVD from Warner Archive and is a must for collectors of fifties horror- and sci-fi classics.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

The Puppet Masters (1994)

I like the early nineties. It was a time when the production companies strove to produce slick, not-too-original genre movies with a dash of gore and good production values. The X-Files had just taken over the world and now was the time to make movies in the same genre. One of the now forgotten mainstream attempts was The Puppet Masters, based on the Robert A. Heinlein story. An earlier film adaption was The Brain Eaters from 1958, which is quite good. What I really like about this version is that it easily could have been a feature film length episode of The X-Files. The characters of Sam (Eric Thal) and Mary (Julie Warner) is similar to Mulder and Scully and Donald Sutherland is a mix of all the dark, complex, father-figures inhabiting the X-Files universe around the main characters.

This time a UFO lands far out on the countryside and it's passengers, which is parasitical creatures consisting of 60 % brain and belong to one big hive mind, takes over the bodies of three teen boys who witnesses the landing. Soon the infection, if you can call it that, spreads among the citizens of this sleepy little town and Sam, an agent, Mary, a doctor and Sam's father, who's the boss of the organization, is sent out to investigate. It won't take long until the parasites has taken control over the whole town and now they want to spread even further. But who's infected and who's clean, who can they trust? The paranoia is growing for each day and the aliens seem to have an uncanny talent for sticking their tentacles into the necks of even the most unexpected people...

The Puppet Masters is a daman fine little sci-fi movie. A lot better than I remember it to be. Sure, it's hardly original and we've seen it many times before. But the stylish production reminds us of The X-Files and it makes us feel safe. We know this is gonna be a tense little experience without going downright silly with spaceships and laser guns. It's down to earth and the focus is on the paranoia and some delicious slimly creature effects, which is a mix I like a lot. It's not as good as Philip Kaufman's brilliant 1978 remake of Invasion of the Body Snatchers, which is a more brooding and dark film. This is more a bright, expensive TV-movie without any deeper allegories but with a lot of entertainment. This also means it's more focused on cost-effective chases and not so complicated-action, instead of advanced animatronics and early computer animation (and it has quite much of the animatronics, really good stuff also). The stunts is great, old-school, gags. Car-chases, fight in helicopter, falling down stairs, something out of a PM Entertainment movie, except with no martial arts and less explosions.

Donald Sutherland is also one reason to watch this film. I've always been a fan of his work (which reminds me, he's also in Invasion of the Body Snatchers!). He's one of those actors who can work in any crappy production and still (with maybe the exception of Baltic Storm) come off as edgy and very in to his part. He works a lot with very small facial gestures and when he in this film, during a short scene, stops doing that he looks like he's over-acting like hell, but he's just acting like a normal actor would work - a bit on the nose. Here it serves an important purpose and it's a brilliant trick of the mind from an excellent actor.

The script has some problems, very minor ones. I have a hard time believing that alien parasites wouldn't notice if anyone of them was killed, especially when they're attached to a human being. The hive mind is powerful and if one of the "citizens" suddenly disappeared from the radar in the middle of the night, on the street when they expect to be attacked it's likely that they would notice this death, because it's a part of them all. This happens from time to time, and it's not something that bothers me - but I thought about it and it's rarely I give a shit about contradictions in the movie I'm watching - because it's... just a movie.

The Puppet Masters is out on a cheap blu-ray, together with Stephen Sommer's brilliant monster film Deep Rising on the same disc. A great double feature, two fine movies for very little money. 

Saturday, February 2, 2013

The Last Horror Film (1982)

"I never seen a hooker run so fast" says Luke Walter, Joe Spinell's best friend in the interview featurette on the DVD of The Last Horror Film. The running prostitute has just seen Joe sitting on the toilet, in his robe, with hundreds of lit candles around him, showing his cock while demanding "Blow me!". I can imagine the shock, because Spinell was totally crazy when he made this oddity, and it's also one of his most fascinating and interesting performances outside Maniac.

I'm not sure why, but TLHF have never been as appreciated as Maniac. I think it's in the same league, but also in a very different one. Where Maniac is dark and gritty, TLHF is just far-out insane and packed with odd jokes, some amazing guerrilla-style filmmaking and Spinell being - it seems - drunk or high during many scenes. Something that doesn't take away what an amazing performance he gives, so edgy you can cut yourself on it. This is far from being traditional exploitation film and instead focuses on satirizing the exploitation cinema and how absurd that world is. It's set in a different universe where crappy z-horror movies is regarded as fine culture, which shows during the wonderfully funny scene where the Cannes jury watches Caroline Munro getting burned to death with a blow-torch and at the same time commenting her amazing performance, hoaw brilliant she and the movie-within-the-movie is. It's a daring movie, because it's one of many scenes that's way to smart for the audience that probably saw the movie later.

For you who haven't seen it, this is Joe Spinell playing a stalker, obsessed by a horror movie star played by Caroline Munro. He travels to Cannes to, in secret, without her knowing it, shoot a movie with her in the lead. Soon people around Munro starts to get killed in gory ways and the only suspect is of course Spinell...

But TLHF is so much more. It's an orgy of colourful documentary footage from the film festival, often starring real life celebrities like Kris Kristofferson, Karen Black and Marcello Mastroianni as themselves - also without permission and tons and tons of bystanders acting as extras in the wacky adventures of Spinell's very special way of acting. Many scenes was shot directly after the real celebrities has left, and Spinell would enter the scene (for example the hotel lobby or cinema) to pretend to be a big star, getting all the photographers to go crazy over him. This is movie magic. Pure fucking movie magic. This and the experimental style makes it a unique and not entirely commercial experience. I'm pretty sure there was a lot of ad-libbing and non-scripted scenes shot in the moment. It's visible and it feels like that, but it also fits perfectly in this very original and slightly chaotic slasher-mystery-satire.

Joe Spinell chews the scenery as much as possible, but he's also very good. There's one scene when he breaks into Munro's bathroom and threatens her with a broken bottle and he's so real, so "in there" that it's kinda scary to watch. Spinell was a magnificent artist and actor, one of those few that completely committed himself to the part - and probably used other peoples fear of, his looks and style, without hesitation. An original man. With Spinell in the cast all other actors kinda disappears, but they're doing what they're suppose to do and at least doesn't sink the movie by abandoning the characters because of Spinell taking over.

I honestly thing The Last Horror Film is a brilliant film. An original piece of arty exploitation. There's never been done anything like it before and after. It has gore, nudity, satire, Joe Spinell and female underwear, Caroline Munro and disco scenes. That's what I demand from a good film. And so should you. 

Friday, February 1, 2013

Dr. Giggles (1992)

The Doctor Is In...sane!

I first saw Dr. Giggles on TV, one of those early channels in Sweden who only showed feature films (and probably sport, who the hell cares about sport?, something like Filmnet or TV 1000. I recorded it and it's still somewhere down in the basement. I remember watching it a lot during those teenage years, over and over again until I got bored with it, the tapes got buried in cardboard boxes and I went on to find more interesting films. But deep down there in my mind it's always been waving friendly, looking at me, maybe offering me candy - everything to make me follow the good doctor into the forest one more time. I ignored him until a couple of weeks ago when I saw that the blu-ray was extremely cheap, almost free - and I thought "what the heck", and ordered it.

One thing that strikes me when I watched it again was how much money must have been poured into the production. This is one handsome fucker of a movie. Remember, this was a four years before Wes Craven's Scream and horror was still very unpopular, and launching a new franchise, a tongue-in-cheek one, must have been an odd idea at the time. A movie relying heavy on humour but still had a lot of quite creepy sequences and seriously violent scene - just like Scream later on. Together with the movie a two issue long comic book adaption was released, two different CD's (one with the soundtrack and one with the Brian May score) and a big marketing campaign all over the US - but the film failed at the box office (according to Box Office Mojo it took in eight million dollars totally, which I guess was less than the budget) and fast forgotten.

Which is a damn pity.
Mostly because Dr. Giggles is a very well-made and ambitious slasher.

It was before its time, that's part of the problem. The script, or maybe more the story, isn't anything special, but the over-the-top witty dialogue, the acting (especially from Larry Drake as the good doctor) and the gorgeous production values, from the sets and special effects to the wonderful cinematography (by Rob Draper, who also shot the boring but nice-looking Halloween 5) is really a sight to behold. It's not overly gory, but has a couple of excellent scenes and it's a violent film, make no mistake about that. The morgue-sequence is still one of the creepiest scenes I've seen in a slasher, and you who have seen the film will not forget that shocker! It's stuff like that, the pitch-black comedy, the wonderful performance of Larry Drake and the glossy, almost advertising-style, look makes it almost a surreal experience.

Dr. Giggles could have be a very fun franchise and the doctor could have elevated to one of the best "slashers" out there. It's well worth revisiting, both for the outrageous early nineties fashion, the interesting characters and the comedy - but it's Larry Drakes show in the end.

He's absolutely perfect in the part. And that what makes Dr. Giggles such a delicious treat to devour. 

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Kickboxer 5: The Redemption (1995)

The end is near, finally. One mans quest to watch a Van Damme movie made him go further into the catacombs of unloved sequels and finally his journey has come its end: Kickboxer 5: The Redemption! No Van Damme in sight of course, but even more strange, no Sasha Mitchell. Instead Mark Dacascos took over the tired franchise, now worn out like a cheerleader trapped in a dorm of horny jocks. You get my point. But I like Dacascos, even if he seem to spend every living hour nowadays being some judge at a cooking show and ignoring the fine legacy of DTV action films and supporting parts in more mainstream projects. Good for him, bad for us.

Anyway. David Sloan has been killed - which is mentioned quickly and we now follow kickboxing trainer Matt Reeves and his student, the very happy and optimistic Johnny (Denney Pierce). Everything is well until the day a couple of henchmen, controlled by the mega-evil psychopath and kickboxing-enthusiast Negaal (played by South African cult actor James Ryan), shows up offering Johnny a deal to join Negaal's kickboxing association - and if he doesn't join they'll kill him! And that's what happens! Soon Matt is on his way to South Africa to take revenge on Johnny (and David Sloan, I guess) and stop Negaal and his organization for good!

This actually doesn't much to do with the Kickboxer-saga at all. They manage to squeeze in the name of David Sloan, but that's about it - and I guess it just was another action script until someone needed another sequel as fast as possible. The setting is moved to South Africa, which is nice - but the setting isn't just as good as it could have been, and we're treated to a lot of claustrophobic hotel rooms and anonymous streets. Mark Dacascos is, I need to state very clearly, a good choice. He's a bit stiff acting-wise, but he's always been a talented action actor and often delivers some cool fighting and has that special, non-acting, charisma that keeps so many action actors alive over the years. But his masterpiece is still Drive, which is also one of the finest US martial arts action-comedies ever made.

The fighting by Dacascos is nice but it's sad that there's hardly any ring fights - except from one in the beginning, and it's fairly short. This is even more about chases and traditional action, which is surprising because the whole story kinda sets up to have a big finale in a ring, or during a tournament, but it never happens. Weird. Maybe they ran out of money? Or just got tired of yet another fight in such a controlled environment.

Kickboxer 5: The Redemption is more of a normal martial arts film (yes, with Dacascos posing in different forms of Kung Fu poses) set in South Africa. Can't say it's bad, but it's also a missed opportunity to do something more in the vein of part 4 (who clearly was going in the right direction after the odd part 3).

Here's a suggestion: why doesn't that someone who owns the rights to the franchise come up with some money, hire Van Damme again and do what Stallone did with his latest Rocky and Rambo - a more serious follow-up. A depressed and aging Van Damme sitting in Thailand (ignoring the all the other sequels of course) trying to survive as a failed kickboxer, until that day Tong Po shows up again and offers him something he can't say no to... and he's back in the arena for his last, and most brutal, fight.... 

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Kickboxer 4: The Aggressor (1994)

Albert Pyun is back in the director's chair in Kickboxer 4: The Aggressor, which also introduces Tong Po (this time played by Van Damme regular Kamel Krifa) back into the Kickboxer-saga. This means several things - It was probably shot very, very fast, it features at least one of Pyun's "own" actors, this time Nicolas Guest and, as usual, an interesting musical score by Tony Riparetti. For us "pyunboys" this is good stuff, we want it to be this way. It's like meeting old friends once again, it's safe and we know what we're getting.

It has a good start, a typical Pyunginning. A voice-over, someone recollecting the past, it's dark and edgy compared to part 3 and in a nice montage from the first two movies we learn how David Sloan (good ol' Sasha!) now is in prison after being wrongfully accused of killing a drug lord (well, he DID killed a drug lord and tried to take the body from Mexico to the US, so maybe he's guilty anyway...). Now he gets a chance to get out with helping the cops to go undercover and once and for all take down Tong Po - who also happens to have kidnapped his wife! David must now enter an illegal tournament and kick some ass once again!

Pyun really tries hard with his meager budget to go back to the seriousness of the old movies and he almost succeeds! The first part is damn fine, with a good performance from Sasha Mitchell and some short but effective burst of violence. Tong Po is this time even more over-the-top (and with a less effective make-up), a comic book villain played with a sense of humour. Here another of Pyun's trademarks shows up: the quirky, off-beat comedy - which is an odd thing in a movie like this, but when the budget is so low and the shooting schedule probably was shorter than a normal working week, it just adds some odd charm to the story. The scene where Tong Po tries to play sitar is both fun and unexpected.

My biggest problem with Kickboxer 4 is the last half hour. I'm pretty sure it just wasn't time to choreograph and shoot a better fight, but even with Pyun's standard it's pretty weak - and sloppily made. After some slow-moving pre-fights in the main arena, the end fight is basically David and Tong Po stumbling around in the garden (and on a dinner-set long table) in a very not-so-impressive "fight". It just doesn't seemed to had been time for much rehearsals...  I'm a big fan of Pyun and very forgiving because I know under which circumstances he worked, but I know he can do better than this! The rest of the film is packed with stylish cinematography, some imaginative directing and a decent cast.

But what makes it interesting for us pyunboys is the atmosphere. The editing, the music, the noir-ish voice-over in the beginning. That special, almost surrealistic and poetic form of filmmaking that Pyun is unique for. I doubt others will see it, but we who have lived with the guy for our whole lives can smell it, sense it. That's what makes even a very generic kickboxing-film like this interesting.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Kickboxer 3: The Art of War (1992)

Yeah, I'm one of those who have no clue when he should stop. If I've watched one movie with kickboxing I need to watch 'em all! Today, for example, I ordered Bloodfist part 1 to 8! Why? Because I need to see them... and own them. Even if I hate them. I guess that's some kind of disease? This time the Kickboxer-franchise, Kickboxer 3: The Art of War, goes a bit further than just being about sports and into that lovely territory called low budget action. Sasha Mitchell is back as David Sloan and Dennis Chan is, once again, Xian, and this time they're battling an evil white slaver, who also happens to have an interest in kickboxing.

The story is set in Rio de Janeiro and David and Xian is going there for a tournament. But first they have seven days of training and relaxing. The first day learn to know a boy, a thief who steals David's camera, and his sister - and it won't take long until the white slaver himself, played excellently by Richard Comar, starts lusting for her. So he kidnaps her and forces David to fight against the most evil fighter around, Marcelo (Miguel Oniga) - and loose of course, so Comar (or his character's name is Lane actually) can earn a lot of money on him. Something like that. Anyway. People die. And stuff.

Oh, that was a shitty synopsis! But you get the idea what's this is all about: trying to expand the Kickboxer-universe to something more thaan just fighting in a ring - and that can be both good or bad. The movie itself isn't bad at all - for being what it is. It delivers some action - but very little fighting, except during the finale scenes of course - but most of it is running, chasing and a lot of very bloody squibs. Not sure that Sasha really fits in those parts of the story, because he still looks like someone from Scooby Doo. What's even more odd is how Xian suddenly shoots down baddies with a gun, without hesitation. Very out of character for a peaceful, smart middle-aged Thai who's suppose to be the kickboxing-version of Mr. Miyagi.

Kickboxer 3: The Art of War looks good and boasts a fun cast, but for having a title like The Art of War it has too little action, or at least excitement, to feel interesting. I like Sasha and the rest of the cast and those few action sequences there is isn't bad at all - they're gory and bloody and very violent, but hey... these movies are about action and not people talking to each other, so on that front it's a little bit disappointing. It also misses the many silly soft rock songs that's smeared over every second of non-action sequence in the first two movies. I need songs where a generic male rock-soul voice literary sings what's happening on the screen or in the mind of the tormented hero!

In the end, at least,  I wasn't bored. Kickboxer 3 is fun but misses that little extra (maybe the steady direction of Albert Pyun?). I hope part 4 or 5 gives me a better mix of generic sports drama and b-action. And if I'm not that bored with life I will watch them also very, very soon and scribble down a few worthless words about them here.

If you want to read about them, that is. 

Monday, January 28, 2013

Kickboxer 2: The Road Back (1991)

Of course it didn't take long until there was a sequel out to the highly successful Jean-Claude Van Damme classic Kickboxer, but this time without JCVD and with a new director doing his job, the one and only Albert Pyun. Like all good exploitation sequels a new character is introduced, the unknown brother (well, he's never mentioned in the first movie) David Sloan, played with charming charisma by Sasha Mitchell. He's not Van Damme, but isn't bad at all. I entered this viewing experience with some hesitation. I love and respect Albert Pyun, I've been a fan of his work since my teens, but I never really heard any good stuff about Kickboxer 2: The Road Back. That's of course a fact about most movies from the "Pyuniverse", but as usual that's just a sign of the stupidity of mankind. Pyun is awesome and will always be awesome, no matter the budget. I might one of the few that absolutely adore Heatseeker for example. Where's the special edition, restored blu-ray release of that one?

Anyway. In Kickboxer 2 the last of the Sloan brothers continues his family's legacy by working at kickboxing club/gym he owns. One day the greedy Justin Maciah enters the gym and offers David to be a kickboxing superstar. He, of course, says no and instead his friend and student Brian (Vince Murdocco) signs up for fame and money - but it's all very sinister, because behind Maciah is the EVIL Thai (most Thai's in kickboxing-movie is very evil it seems) businessman Sangha, played by the awesome and cool Japanese actor Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa (remember, in the US all Asians look the same!) and he wants to set up David against... Tong Po! Yeah, the ultra-mean bastard from the first movie (who also - we learn - killed the two other Sloan brothers since last time we saw him). Lucky for David, Xian (Dennis Chan) shows up very unexpected and learns him to be THE BEST KICKBOXER IN THE WORLD!!! Something like that.

Kickboxer 2 probably had a smaller budget than the first one and everything is shot in and around the gym and the arena, so don't expect jungles and explosions here. But this is also a good time to point out that Albert Pyun is THE best director to handle a sudden loss of budget, few locations and short of time to shoot the friggin' thing. He just knows that what the audience need is a lot of stylish camera work and better and bloodier fights. And he delivers. Everything is very similar to the first movie, but without the exotic locations, and even if it starts of quite slow it soon builds up to be a damn fine sequel - with the same amount of cheesy soft rock hits that populated the first film. The fights is brutal. Lots of slow-mo, feet crashing into faces, blood spurting all over the floor and the heaviest use of swollen make-up since Raging Bull.

Most people would never consider a movie like this a good movie, but hey... it delivers what you expect it to deliver. It's quick and dirty entertainment, made with talent and style and less money than what you probably earn during a year. I like it that way. Little money often boosts the creativity of the filmmakers and Pyun is one of those who always finds a solution. His movies has been fucked with his whole career, from the studios to the critics and audiences - but they sell and he's continuing to quirky stuff that no one else would do. This film belongs to the less quirky stuff, far from oddities like Hong Kong '97 and Radioactive Dreams, but is fine piece of silly action.

Kickboxer 2: The Road Back has so much cheese you can build a moon of it. Quote me if you want. I'll stand by my words.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Kickboxer vs. The King of the Kickboxers!

No, this is not some re-edited Thai movie "directed" by Godfrey Ho (but if it existed I would be the first one to watch it!), it's just me who had a weekend filled of cheesy kickboxing on the TV! I've been in a Jean-Claude Van Damme phase recently and decided it was time to watch Kickboxer (1989) again after approximated 150 years. I probably watched it the last time as a young teen on a censored VHS and most of it was erased from my memory by now.  In all honesty, I kinda stayed away from the kickboxing phenomenon at its peak. I felt it was too repetitive and just an excuse for stiff actors to try too look cool on the screen. I preferred (and still do) the more creative and imaginative Hong Kong cinema where everything was used in the fights and not just two dudes kicking each other in the face for 90 minutes.

What makes Kickboxer work is the presence of a very innocent looking Jean-Claude Van Damme and a cheesy, but honest, story about a young man, Kurt, who wants to take revenge on his brother (played by Dennis "The Terminator" Alexio) - who got his back broken during a fight against the dreaded Tong Po - and becomes a student under the slightly mad Xian (Dennis Chan). In a series of tests and exercises Kurt learns to control himself and be the best kickboxer in the world! And he also listens to the ghosts of Ayutthaya and flexes his muscles under water.

Kickboxer is very, very silly. But the story is timeless and the gorgeous locations makes it a nice movie to look at. It almost borders to parody and the drunke dance scene with JCVD is a sight to behold. But Van Damme is a good sport and it's quite visible that he's giving it all, even when the scenes is more than embarrassing both for him and the movie itself. The fighting is pretty decent also, but it's hardly the most spectacular ever filmed. Van Damme is excellent, but both him and the rest of the fighters seemed to be held back. Maybe the director is to blame for this. Still, it's a damn fine little action-drama and Van Damme is doing a better performance than he's credited for in countless reviews.

A film that doesn't hold back on the fights is The King of the Kickboxers (1990), which more or less is a remake of Kickboxer, just with the added concept of snuff filmmaking into the mix. This time goofy-looking Loren Avedon wants revenge on his dead big brother who was killed by the evil, evil, evil Khan (Billy Blanks) and heads back to Thailand to be taught by mad drunk master Prang (Keith Cooke) and, to quote myself "In a series of tests and exercises Jake learns to control himself and be the best kickboxer in the world!". And like Van Damme's Kurt he also runs around in the ruins of Ayutthaya, finding his inner self. TKOTK is a lot bigger and fancier than Kickboxer, more advanced, Hong Kong-inspired fights and explosions - but it's very similar to the 1989 classic. Several locations look the same also - and two actors worked on both of the movies.

It's a lot of fun, but the cockiness of Jake is more annoying than the more subtle, human Kurt. A lot of it is for fun, for a laugh, but it always irritated me when Americans come to some Asian country to show them that Americans are bigger, better and stronger. But I guess it's part of the genre. TKOTK also have a few interesting character actors showing up, Richard Jaeckel and Don Stroud, and both Loren Avedon (doesn't that sound like a soap or something) and Billy Blanks is awesome during the fight scenes. But it still lacks "it". That special kinda movie magic, that passion.

Kickboxer, a more modest and less bragging film, still goes winning from this fight. Much like the character of Van Damme. It has less action, but more heart.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Universal Soldier: Day of Reckoning (2012)

In 2009 director John Hyams surprised everyone by delivering Universal Soldier: Regeneration, a sequel that actually felt fresh and had non-stop, very violent action - and also marked the return of both Jean-Claude Van Damme and Dolph Lundgren. Even if both of them mostly have extended cameos, especially Dolph who pops up from a box, kills a bit and then... well, I don't want to spoil anything, but I think you can guess what happens to a bad guy like him in a movie like this. That was the second official sequel to the 1992 hit (fourth if you count the two miserable TV-movies starring Matt Battaglia and Burt Reynolds - Matt actaully plays the same character as JCVD, so they should be considered sequels and not spin-offs, but Van Damme himself seems to disagree) and how the hell could you take this franchise another step and still feel fresh? The answer came in 2012 when Universal Soldier: Day of Reckoning was unleashed on the world, with Scott Adkins taking the lead and the two old farts doing the same old extended guest appearances - but still makes it works like never before!

John (Scott Adkins) wakes up after being brutally beaten. He's been in comatose for nine months and he's ready to go out in the world again, but this time without his wife and daughter - who both got executed during the attack. The only face he saw was that of Luc Deveraux, now a rouge Universal Soldier who seem to have gathered an army around him, of other Universal Soldiers longing to find peace and freedom. John sets out to solve the crime and get back his memory, but Deveraux is on his back all the time and John is in constant danger, mostly from a man called The Plumber, a human war machine who is almost impossible to kill! Will he ever reach the heart of darkness or will Deveraux get him before he finds out the truth?

Universal Soldier: Day of Reckoning is without a doubt the darkest film in the series, and for being - in all honesty - a movie mostly made to be released on DVD and BD it's a stunningly ambitious project. It would have been so easy to do something more easy, something less complex, but instead the filmmakers gives us what could be called a Universal Soldier-take on Apocalypse Now and Rolling Thunder, with a healthy dose of David Lynch and mindfucking stuff like Jacob's Ladder and Hellraiser Inferno. The style is more European than American, with lots of wide shots, characters taking their time to say stuff, people looking at each other - and not just before kicking each other in the head. John Hyams and his teams clearly wants to tell a story here and not just a series of fights. I love Scott Adkins but I never really seen him act that much before - he's an awesome fighter, but can he act? He actually can act - it's a bit uneven at times, but it works and I'm pretty sure this performance will give him a new start in more character-driven movies (and I see now he's also starring in Kathryn Bigelow's Zero Dark Thirty).

Jean-Claude Van Damme is brilliant, as usual, doing a Deveraux how seems high both on himself and on drugs, cold and zombie-like, but with a rage inside that's hard to beat. Dolph has less to do, like in Regeneration he's mostly an excuse to deliver some danger for our hero. But don't worry, his character has some interesting turns and the use of him is original and a little bit radical.

As you all know, Universal Soldier: Day of Reckoning is also about action and while it doesn't have the absurd amount of action as Regeneration, it also probably the most brutal and graphic fights shot in a long time. We're taking long takes here, wide angles, lots and lots of bloody hits against head and body, often with a bloody and nasty conclusion. The Raid was fun, but there's a different seeing small guys kicking each other and seeing very heavy, tall dudes bashing baseball-bats in each others face in slow-motion. I prefer the later and it's very impressive fighting and stunts with lots of gore and squibs. This is an action movie for adults, not for people who wants to have yet another Jackie Chan-clone. I'm a bit mean to The Raid, it's good, but it's also very repetitive and unimaginative - it lacks that "it" that's so damn important.

And as I wrote here, Universal Soldier: Day of Reckoning is one of the best genre movies of 2012. Watch out for the US DVD and blu-ray, it's cut - I, myself, got my BD from Australia - so check around first so you'll get the movie in it's original version.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Friday the 13th Part III (1982)

WTF, Ninja Dixon is going mainstream? Well, Ninja Dixon has always been mainstream but what I'm doing is reviewing mainstream, commercial, movies that are so commercial that they nowadays stops to be mainstream. Get it? They're mainstream for a small amount of people or was mainstream for a huge amount of people ages ago. Friday the 13th Part III was one of the most successful sequels in the franchise, it scored 9 million dollars in one weekend, with a budget of 4 million - and generated over 30 million in total gross. That's pretty good for a movie at that time.

Much of it is because of the wonderful gimmick called 3D. I never seen in it 3D, until yesterday, when I decided to pop the cherry on the blu-ray and with some adjustments on the TV settings and trying out several different glasses we watched the whole movie like it's supposed to be watched and it's one of the best 3D I've seen on one of these old movies (The Hobbit still has the best 3D I ever seen, it's just stunning and so natural). I've always liked the movie itself, even without the extra dimension, but at the same time - it was missing something.

The story is without a doubt the thinnest ever in the saga of Jason, and with that I mean that it usually has some interesting emotional twists or just smart ideas to keep us interested. In part III some kids goes to Crystal Lake (two of them being over-aged hippies, which is very odd) and gets killed. That's it. I'm not even sure why they're going there, but it's probably only for the reason to fuck and smoke dope. Then there's some extra characters, some motorcyclists and the owners of a local store added just to be killed. It's not much to chew into actually.

But that's also part of what makes part III so strong when it's shown in 3D. Because the visual style of the movie, excellent work by Steve Miner by the way, and the silly characters fits perfect together with the extra dimension. It has no real story to tell, but it has fun angles, a camera that more or less always moves and awesome deaths. That's what part III is about. It was also the reason why the actors are among the worst in the series. All attention was put into the technical aspects of the film and the actors was more or less left alone doing their job. Larry Zerner is, without a doubt, the worst actors of the bunch - but also the most iconic character from the movie. He manages to give us some sympathy for him, even if he's the most irritating guy since the wheelchair dude in the first Texas Chainsaw, but utters his lines like he's never acted before. I think this is partly because of lack of involvement from the director.

Like every other Friday this was also trimmed to fit the fascists at the MPAA, but it's still blood and graphic and has some of the coolest deaths so far. Cheesy stuff, yeah, but that what works in a 3D sequel. My favorite is the eye popping out towards the camera and of course when Jason slices a guy in two, when the victim is walking on his hands! Lovely stuff.

The 3D gives this film the extra boost it needs and it's really the only way it should be watched to feel complete.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Santo and the Vengeance of the Mummy (1971)

We're back into the wonderful world of Mexican wrestling with this charming adventure, Santo and the Vengeance of the Mummy! Santo, who's real name was Rodolfo Guzmán Huerta started his professional wrestling career in the middle of the thirties and kept fighting until his retirement in 1983. About one year later he did a talk show appearance and showed his face, quickly, for the first and only time. He then went home about a week later he died. Did he break the magic? "Bullshit or Not?" as Henry Silva would say in Amazon Women on the Moon. We will never know, but deep inside I feel it was something weird going on. On the other hand, he was a great artist - an entertainer, and what a way to go!

This film beings, as usual, Santo fighting two dangerous opponents: Gori Casanova and Angelo, and is almost defeated - when he's suddenly gets his strength back and beats them both! Lucky for us, wouldn't be so much movie left without him! This time he follows his a professor and his crew out in the jungle to excavate an old Aztec (I suppose it is...) temple and their gold is to find the tomb of Nanoc, a legendary warrior! The find it - very easy - and goes back to the camp... but so does Nanoc - armed with bow and arrow, and he starts killing of the team members one by one... and now it's up to Santo to stop him!

Like the one I reviewed yesterday, Santo & Blue Demon vs. Doctor Frankenstein, this one has an amazing flow. It waste no time with character development, and instead we gets an awesome wrestling match - shot with a real audience and with the same typical flair as usual from director René Cardona. It feels real and the handheld camera and lack of a static studio background helps the action. Then there's a very typical, close to mega-generic, jungle adventure, but in that charming way - in a studio and with a few pick-ups here and there on location. It also sports some very neat stock footage from a bigger budgeted movie with Aztec Indians slacking around a very cool temple.

One annoying detail is the presence of Son of Santo, Santo's real son, who plays some farmer boy being adopted (!) by Santo! He's not as annoying and awful as the Japanese kids with short trousers and cap slumming in our beloved Kaiju films, but because of his stupidity the mummy actually kills more people than he what was probably planned from the beginning - and the boy even doesn't feel sad when his dear grandpa dies by the rotting hands of the monster!

There's not much wrestling in the jungle either, except the end fight between Santo and Nanoc - but it's never boring and there's two great fights in the ring to look forward to. Maybe not the best Santo movie to start with, at least if you want wrestling all the time - but its a good matinee adventure and well worth watching!

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Santo & Blue Demon vs. Doctor Frankenstein (1974)

I'm pretty new to Mexican wrestling films and I'm sure I've reviewed everyone I've seen so far (not many) here on Ninja Dixon. The thing is that I've love what I've seen so far. It's right up my alley of entertainment. It's like Godzilla, but with beefy Mexican wrestlers fighting baddies instead of monsters (well, some of them are monsters!) and saving girlfriends instead of the world. The biggest is of course Santo, but I'm sure Blue Demon wasn't far behind in popularity. They did a couple of extremely entertaining movies together and Santo & Blue Demon vs. Doctor Frankenstein is one of the more famous and popular ones. Not that it's original in anyway, but it has an amazing flow, it's never boring and a story so silly it's genius.

Dr. Irving Frankenstein, the son of Victor Frankenstein, has used some of inherited knowledge to give himself eternal life. But guys who lives forever easily gets bored and instead of just relax, see the world etc, Irving decides to be a master criminal instead and creates living dead henchmen who will help him to rule the world or something like that. He also needs a new brain for his girlfriend. But this time his luck runs out - when he kidnaps the girlfriend of Santo! Santo and his pal, Blue Demon, takes over the investigation - as usual - from the police and saves the day!

Spoiler? No, come on! It's a Santo movie. They're - what I have seen - built the same way: bad guy doing something bad, Santo having  a wrestling match with someone, baddie kidnaps his girlfriend, he takes over the investigation from the stupid cops and finishes the whole movie with yet another exciting game of wrestling. I love it. It's safe and entertaining and you won't be disappointed. But let's be honest. It's often not that much to analyze with a movie like this. It's exploitation. It's made to earn a quick buck at the local cinema, be sold to TV and then fade away into obscurity. But thanks to DVD many of these awesome productions gets a new life.

I'm not especially nostalgic, but I enjoy a movie like this for what it is - and that it's so shamelessly out there. It's just colours, cool fights, men in masks, beautiful women and cheesy storylines. Perfect for a hard-working Mexican man to sit down with after work, open a can of beer and fall asleep to. It's working-class cinema without teaching any lessons or pretending to have a message.

Truth be told, this one - and the others - are quite well-made. The stunts, often mixed into the fights, is cool and the fights themselves are fast and looks dangerous. Probably more choreographed than they look. This movie is also very stylish, in a comic book way. It's the same director, Miguel M. Delgado, who directed another fine piece of Santo/Blue Demon cinema: Santo & Blue Demon vs. Dracula & the Wolfman, a movie as awesome as its title. If you want to start watching Mexican wrestling cinema and think both these movies a prime examples of entertainment, a perfect start!

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Deranged: Confessions of a Necrophile (1974)

After Alan Ormsby-Honda heard of his twin brother's success with Gojira, in 1953, he bided his time and came up with the ultimate Kaiju, based on the real killer and, maybe, necrophiliac, Ed Gein. The result was Deranged: Confessions of a Necrophile, or like it was called in it's Japanese release: エドGein対メスの恐竜, which means literary "Ed Gein versus the Female Dinosaurs. He casted Roberts Blossoms, fresh from the success of his latest Tokusatu: "FIGHT! STRIKE! Pale Poetry Old Man, You Rule!", 110 episodes of Kaiju-action between a superhero reciting poetry and rubber monsters from France.

Shot in Canada, because the actors are more beautiful there, Ormsby and his team constructed a impressive miniature landscape in the form of a barn and a house, ready to be burned down at the end - a detail that was missed because lack of time and it's just explained in the end. It tells the story of giant monster Ed Gein, who can skin other monsters alive with his Mega-Laser-Action-Beam (from his nose) and an impressive knowledge of wrestling moves. It's cheesy, but never childish. The "female dinosaurs" (to quote the Japanese), Macobbalon, Maureenselbytron and Sallyorgon delivers a good fight before they're killed off one by one in spectacular, explosive fashion.

Much like the Koreans and Yongary, Ormsby-Honda hoped for a similar success - and it worked well. The script is gritty and quite violent for being a Canadian Kaiju, with impressive special effects and a wonderful dread all over the film. It's moody and has a lot of atmosphere, a dark and quite nasty monster movie the way only the Japanese-Canadian could do it. Especially Blossoms impresses with a multi-layered portrait of a monster who just wants to kill other monsters, but in the end kills one to many and is put under psychiatric care.

The film became quite a success and a sequel was planned, Ed Gein vs. Mecha-Ed Gein, but was scrapped because Tobe Hooper and Kim Henkel made a similar movie, much like Toho's Destroy All Monsters, with a whole family of flying, rotating, fire-breathing rednecks called the Sawyer Family. The movie is mostly known as The Texas Chainsaw Monsters, but we fans prefer to call it by it's original title: "The Super-Angry Flying Machine Man - The Friend of All Children" (that's a direct translation from Japanese).

Still controversial today, it's also one of the best Japanese-Canadian Kaiju-productions ever made. The miniature work is impressive and the fight between Ed Gein (or Ezra Cobb as he's called here, legal problems during the production) and the enormous Maureenselbytron is the highlight. Blossoms continued to work in television doing the lead in "Super-Mega-Canadian: Strike Force 10000!" and "Canadian Rider 1-2-3: GO GO GO!". Ormsby-Honda later tried to revive his success in the early nineties with Ed Gein vs. Mecha-Dahmer, but it failed at the box office.

It truly deserves a special edition blu-ray release and IF they can dig up that alternate ending, where Ed Gein is fighting a giant "Walrupus" I'm sure it's not only me that will be very happy!

The Fourth Man (1983)

This is going to be spoiler heavy, so if you haven't seen Paul Verhoeven's classic erotic thriller The Fourth Man I recommend you to stop reading now and see the film first, then come back to see what absurd things I have to say about it.

I'm not especially familiar with the earlier stuff of Verhoeven. The oldest movie I've seen directed by him is the excellent and totally insane Flesh+Blood, starring our favourite Rutger Hauer - and the legend says he and Verhoeven never got along good again after that movie, which is a damn pity. I love them both.

The Fourth Man is a masterpiece, there's no question about. It's a wild, European version of what Brian De Palma could have done the days he woke up brilliant, with a big dose Hitchcock and the usual European style of sex and violence and gorgeous cinematography by Jan de Bont - who later became a terrible and shallow director of Hollywood blockbusters. Fuck him. It's a steamy and graphic - both sexually and violently - story about a gay writer (Jeroen Krabbé) who gets spellbound by a blonde goddess (Renée Soutendijk) and starts a sexual and economical relationship with her, more or less to get his hands on her young, hunky lover (Thom Hoffman). But soon he notices that something is odd, something is wrong - she's been married three times and all of her husbands has been killed in macabre accidents. Is it just a coincidence, or is she a murdered - or even a witch?

I love every second of this film, it's so original and intelligent and open-minded. Lots of sex and even a very graphic, almost humoristic, death scene who could have come directly from an Eighties gory horror film. But what struck me the most is the films that the mysterious woman shoots with her Super 8 camera. Films of her three dead husbands, up to their very death, in graphic detail!

There's a lot of this footage to choose from, but what do you think of when you see these three screenshots?

Now, I'm a disturbed person. I often see stuff that's not there. I get bored if I don't do that. But here I see something very interesting, I see three clear references to famous Mondo-sequences. Yeah, well - it's more clear if you see the whole footage - and especially when it ties together in the end, in a true melodramatic, unrealistic Mondo-fashion.

The first two is obviously inspired by 1978's Faces of Death, the infamous fake documentary that was produced for the Japanese market and became very controversial - and a big success, bigger than Star Wars in Japan at the time. 99% of the footage is fake, not so well-done either, but it's pure, traditional exploitation. In that movie we see a girl (I think it's a girl, it's been a couple of years since I saw it the last time) getting killed by a boat propeller, crashing into her and also a skydiver who lands in the middle of a croc pond! What we see in The Fourth Man is one husband, first with shaky handheld amateur camera getting killed when a boat crashes into him and the other husband falling from his death when the parachute won't open. The footage is very similar to that in Faces of Death, and like this footage - or more like a flashback in the end - it suddenly transforms to something more advanced than just amateur footage. There's suddenly several cameras, different angles - stuff that would give away that the Faces of Death-footage was fake - but very few, at the time, dared to think that far. Real deaths is more fun, it seems.

The third one is even more interesting (and I'm not sure it was included in Faces of Death). When I was a kid I saw something on TV that I never forgot: a man stepping out from his car in a safari park and getting eaten by lions. This is footage that was created for Antonio Climati and Mario Morra's 1975 Mondo "Savage Man Savage Beast", and has since then become the truth. People still debate if it's fake or not, but it's fake - it's just too many cameras, too many angles, too many dramaturgical tricks to make it real. It's well-made, but it's just smoke and mirrors - and very similar to the scene in Verhoeven's film. 

Here it is, for those who want to see:

So Verhoeven uses three famous faked scenes from fake documentaries about death and destruction, as inspiration for his own little masterpiece. Is this deliberate or is it just coincidence? Personally I think it could be something he noticed and used, maybe even thinking it was real - like many others at the same time. Faces of Death was a big hit and the lion-sequence is still a famous piece of mythical "found footage". Maybe one of the best of it's kind, because it's still alive and still talked about.

The Fourth Man is a movie about confusing reality with dreams and visions, what is real and what is fake. What is madness? What is murder? Maybe we'll never now. Maybe the deaths in The Fourth Man just is strange coincidences and our hero is getting too absorbed in his storytelling and religious guilt.

Or maybe we're all fooled by the magic of film.