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Xian fa zhi ren

A punch and a kick can solve anything
First off, "Angel's Mission" ("Born To Fight 2" in my country, apparently "Born To Fight 5" in others) has nothing to do with "Born To Fight 1", since the merging of separate films into a 6-part "series" is an invention of the cinema distributors at the time.

Anyway, we see Yukari Oshima as a Japanese police officer in Hong Kong on the trail of a girl trafficking ring. In doing so, she realizes that her mother (!) has a managerial role there. We are also watching a Gangster boss who hires a new member as his right-hand man, which insults the previous Number One and leads to his betrayal. Whatever the problems are, Yukari has many opportunities to punch or kick bad guys, and that's really just about it. A mediocre action movie.

Jaguar Lives!

Expensive trash
This was the first movie role for karate and kickboxing Champion Joe Lewis, whom director Pintoff described as "a cross between the sensitivity of James Dean, the rage of a young Marlon Brando, and the flamboyance of Errol Flynn". Let's say this was a slight misjudgment for a young man without any acting experience. Lewis could have played a supporting role as a fighter, but here he has more dialog than Clint Eastwood in five movies. Joe's hair is growing longer or shorter, being colored brighter or darker, changing from scene to scene, so his coiffeur could probably tell in which order the scenes were shot. After "Jaguar Lives", Lewis was never asked to fulfil the contract for 4 movies he had signed.

"Jaguar Lives" is a bizarre combination of expensive Hollywood hubris and cheap action trash. On one hand, they got plenty of stars like Donald Pleasance, Christopher Lee, Joseph Wiseman (Dr. No), Barbara Bach and even ancient Hollywood legend John Huston (in a wheelchair!). On the other hand, they used a script which is a random collection of scenes without any story or character development (Lewis fights one boss in Hong Kong, one boss in Rome, one boss in wherever, while an off-screen narrator - always the last means of help if nobody understands the story - explains they all work for the same criminal network).

The funniest scene is when Donald Pleasance as general boasts about his precious helicopter with machine guns and rockets, promptly stolen by Lewis - and you see him take off in a totally unarmed old chopper which barely flies. An episode of the TV series "Airwolf" must have had a higher budget than this epic.

"Jaguar Lives" at least has a couple of good fights, a brave star who does dangerous stunts (even the 'cling to the car roof' scene) himself, some funny moments (Donald Pleasance seems to enjoy the part of the general) and is watchable once, but it feels like a disaster of a movie from the moment when Woody Strode watches Joe's Tai Chi practice and tells him how awesome he is. The audience never shares the feeling.

Death Line

Lonely, desperate, broken and crying
When reviews of a movie are so extremely different, from underrated masterpiece to total bore, you may have something unusual on your hands. This seems to be the case for "Death Line" (aka "Raw Meat" in the US, aka "Tunnel of the Living Dead" - sic! - in my country).

Very slow moving shots reveal every detail of the props, turning around 180 degrees just to show what a complete and realistic environment this is - dust, darkness, corpses in various stages of decay, an atmosphere which is intense and scary. Then, a monster that isn't just there to be chased or killed, but instead creating empathy like in very few other horror movies. He is lonely, desperate, broken and crying. "The Man" degenerated to a degree where he can hardly use human words anymore; "mind the doors" became a Dadaistic phrase to express anything. This horror movie has the courage to deny fast paced action to the audience, challenging them with slow, painful and inevitable decay instead of destruction with a big bang.

Donald Pleasance is breathing a lot of life in his lead part as the inspector. There are so many facets of his character, how he is mercilessly pushing the policemen to work harder, how he plays with his teabags like a kid, how he gets silly drunk, how he fights with a sharp intellect for his case against the visitor from MI5 (Christopher Lee!). His inspector becomes a believable human being with strengths and weaknesses, in opposite to many one-dimensional fighters for law and order the flicks of the 70s gave us.

Unfortunately these talents, from prop master to DOP to actors, are wasted on a dumb story lacking logic and credibility. Of course when people had already been disappearing for decades, The Man would have been discovered much earlier. If the men who were locked in a tunnel underground found a way out soon enough to get food at a station with other people, they must have known an exit in the first years of their situation already instead of staying down there for so long. There is no reason why speech should have been lost within 2-3 generations, that should take many centuries. Patricia knows that something is wrong at the train station where she found the first body and more people disappeared since, but goes back there alone at night. To cut it short: too many things are annoying the viewer to allow for satisfaction after watching "Death Line". But some memories will last of the gruesome scenery, haunting and disturbing like only few other low budget flicks of the time.

Jungle Run

Walking with monsters
An expedition is looking for a lost family member (I think it was "Dad!", as they shouted it about 50 times). The kids are crossing the Amazon jungle, a wilderness where the arts of river straightening, lawn mowing and building modern wire cages are well known to the local tribes (actually filmed in a park in Florida). The adventurers' boat is eaten by Piranhas, because they love steel for breakfast. Nevertheless the team of heroes marches on to find dad, various CGI monsters, a magic green crystal... Whatever.

So bad it is hard to believe if you haven't watched it. The actors just stand around and don't seem to know what they are doing. Try to get "Anaconda" (1997) instead, because a quarter of a century ago, they still knew how to do silly B movies.

The Trident Force

Meet the unqualified specialists
Terrorist Abu Hassad who is so evil that he wears a fake black beard, loosely glued to his chin, can only be stopped by a special force called Trident. Trident's members are recruited from other special forces, we are told, yet they need basic military training before they can begin. This cheap war movie from the Philippines doesn't make much sense, I cannot imagine that they had a script to work with. However, there are plenty of shootings, and these battle scenes show some basic technical skills which is why I vote with 2 stars, not 1 star. Otherwise a total waste of time.

La plus longue nuit du diable

A night at a Gothic castle
An ancient curse on the family of Von Ronberg says that their daughters will turn into succubi. The current Baron von Ronberg (Jean Servais) had his baby daughter killed many years ago, but nevertheless a mysterious woman turns up at his castle one night, and then the Baron's guests begin to die, one by one...

This movie has great ingredients: a truly Gothic setting at a Belgian castle, haunting 70s music, colourful photography, a story with a great twist, and an impressive cast with Erika Blanc as succubus, Daniel Emilfork as the devil and Jacques Monseau as the priest who his asked to sell his soul. They don't make them like that anymore.

Più forte sorelle

Robbery and fireworks
A bounty hunter called Amen (Lincoln Tate) is hired by three nuns who were robbed by bandits. The nuns promise to pay him fifty dollars if he brings back their stolen money. Catapult, the boss of the bad guys, is easy to find because he loves fireworks. Amen gets hired as a new band member, robs a bank together with the bandits, but Catapult still doesn't trust the new guy...

In 1976, the big wave of Italian westerns came to and end, and this is one of the last tired attempts to keep it going - a comedy that is never particularly funny. Director Bianchi left the genre and continued with X rated flicks. This gives you an idea of the budget and camera work which was used already here.

Witches in the Woods

Or no witches at all
A bunch of young people are lost in the snowy forest. The increasing cold and psychological tensions (they are not exactly best friends) take their toll, and then there are legends of witches in that area. The forest is said to make you possessed. The photography is great, so many shots inside the car, even moving within that confined space, and the viewing angles never feel repetitive.

Despite the title, the movie never clearly shows anything supernatural going on, whether possession or just psychological issues are to blame for the murders is not explained, and I like that something is left open for the audience to make their own impression. Unfortunately, there are no sympathetic characters you'd care about, therefore the danger they get into isn't making you sit on the edge of your seat. OK to watch, I voted 5 of 10, but it didn't fulfil my expectations entirely.

Die Schlangengrube und das Pendel

A pendulum doesn't make it Poe
With the original title literally translating as 'The Snakepit and the Pendulum', this was an attempt at Gothic horror by the German film industry which remained an oddity. It succeeded at imitating the colourful imagery of Corman's Poe movies, but lacks the storytelling of its American predecessors. Basically the Pendulum, appearing as an instrument of torture, is the only thing in this movie that can be traced to Poe. The story itself - Count Regula (Christopher Lee) is executed, returns from the dead and then creates an elixir from the blood of 13 virgins that will immortalize him - is rubbish. The opening scene quotes Mario Bava's 'Mask of Satan' which makes the audience aware that many Italian gothic horror movies also were a lot scarier than this.

'Snakepit and Pendulum' (without any snakes, by the way, but a few vultures) was intended to start a new series similar to the successful Edgar Wallace movies from the same director, Harald Reinl. The budget was reasonable, popular stars were in the cast, a lot of promotion was done. The dvd issue I've got features some examples from TV interviews. But the audience gave it thumbs down and preferred the originals by Corman or Bava - I think, rightfully so. Still this is a well photographed movie, with recognizable locations in Bavaria and the Teutoburg forest.


Circle of Witches
Owen the Hero, Keiran the Thief, Merlin the Sorcerer and Clothilde the Bombshell go on a quest to the island of Avalon, hoping to find a magic sword there, plus the body of King Arthur, and also Edwin, the lost lover of Clothilde. First they encounter Morgana and her mischievous circle of witches, though...

Must be seen to be believed. The incredibly cheap movie was probably filmed in somebody's backyard, a few drapes suffice to suggest a "palace", a bunch of zombies appears just for fun, and the producers didn't even rent a boat to let the protagonists sail to Avalon - they have to swim. It's a bit like Ed Wood meeting Luigi Cozzi's infamous 'Hercules' movies, including the laser rays. Most viewers will think it's a waste of time, but among trash fans with a special sense of humour, some may actually have a lot of fun with it.

The Seventh Scroll

The discoverers of the tomb
Duraid Al Simma (Tony Musante) and his wife Royan (Karina Lombard) are searching for the tomb of pharaoh Mamosis (Edmund Purdom). The villain Schiller (Roy Scheider) hears about it and steals their information, hoping to become the famous discoverer of the tomb himself, not to mention the great treasure supposed to be hidden there. Duraid is killed, but with the help of the adventurer Nick Harper (Jeff Fahey), his widow Royan keeps the chase for the tomb going.

This present day storyline is sharing the running time in equal parts with the events in Egypt thousands of years ago, where we learn how Mamosis wants to marry Lostris (Katrina Gibson) although she is in love with the warrior leader Tanis (Philip Rhys). A clever slave named Taita (Art Malik) helps his mistress to escape from the pharaoh while planning the tomb that our modern day heroes will search for. The link between the two storylines is the boy Hapi (Jeffrey Licon) who is the illegitimate son of Lostris, but adopted in our time by Royan due to some mystic snake god's basket travel arrangement (don't ask me how that worked).

Anyway, it a story that fills 250 minutes without too much boredom. The second of the three episodes seems to stretch the story a bit, when the heroes get captured and escape, just to be captured again and escape again. But by the third episode, when the race gets to its climax and deadly traps await the explorers, everything is fine again. This is not a masterpiece of its genre, though. There are some awful early CGI effects (the snake not really squeezing its victim's neck, the Windows 98 waterfall), some bad acting (the blonde assistant of Schiller is completely useless), some clichèd story bits and so on. But all in all, it's ok for TV entertainment and I rated it with an average 5 of 10.

Morirai a mezzanotte

Satisfactory thriller
"Morirai a mezzanotte" begins with a husband suspected to have murdered his wife, but when more victims die, it becomes obvious that there is a serial killer at work. As the inspector continues his investigation, he realises that his daughter is also on the list of targets...

A good thriller by Lamberto Bava, with fine craftsmanship such as the camera work in the museum, or the script's clever introduction of more suspects. Maybe not on the same level as some 70s giallo classics, but well done and worth watching.

The Mummy Rebirth

Beware, we have blanks!
The makers must have briefly watched "The Mummy" (1999) as source of inspiration, because the beginning with the lost love of a priest, hoping to return from the dead millennia later is copied straight from that script. Then two relic hunters are entering the tomb with a bunch of mercenaries, because that's who you usually bring, knowing that mummies always become alive. There is no background story about the two heroes, they just pop up - character introduction, forget it. The army guys are shooting with a lot of blank cartridges at the mummies (must be, because they neither hurt the mummies nor make holes in the walls). Nevermind, keep on shooting even if it doesn't have any effect. Sometimes you see people shooting to the left and right although there is nobody there!

The two heroes lose the boss mummy, later find it again by just walking into a forest, hoping to meet him purely by chance - and they do. And a huge dinosaur shows up, a digital creation which would have been rejected by any self-respecting video game developer 20 years ago. But then there's a magical power stone which... oh, I give up. It's amazing what kind of scripts some people spend money on to turn it into a movie. I give two stars instead of one because some of the actors weren't bad.

The Final Level: Escaping Rancala

Escaping Rancala, the sooner the better
"The Final Level: Escaping Rancala" tells the story of 3 beauties who get into a computer game (exactly like in the 2 recent 'Jumanji' reboots) where they have to survive against several enemies in 5 different levels. Their aim is to free a friend/brother who was locked inside the game. In order to achieve this, they also have to fight the self-proclaimed "King" of the game.

I don't hold it against the movie that it looks cheap with ridiculous effects, for example the sharks and the fights with a purple comic book 'flash' for each hit. But if a movie is produced with very little money, it should have at least a few funny ideas to become a decent spoof of the original. Ideas are however totally absent here. I give it three stars, one for each of the ladies bravely wrestling with the non-existing script and non-existing digital opponents. I got the movie for free on TV, and now I know why.

Gungala la vergine della giungla

Gungala in the jungle
The bad guy is chasing jungle girl Gungala, because she currently owns a sacred jewel which years ago was stolen when it was the eye of a statue. He is ready to shoot her if he has to, but she can command the animals of the jungle, especially panthers, thus it won't be so easy...

Yet another mediocre Tarzan spoof with a female star (who doesn't get to speak any lines). Kitty Swan looks good in the title role, but I have seen this all better before, namely in "Liane, Jungle Goddess" (1956). Still they made a second Gungala movie a year later ('Gungala, la pantera nuda').

Die Tote von Beverly Hills

Comical tragedy
In 1964, this was the first cinema movie of Michael Pfleghar who is mostly known as a director of TV series such as 'Klimbim'. It is a rather anarchic movie, shot partly at Hollywood without any official permits, I presume, because there are passers-by staring into the camera, wondering what that foreign film crew is doing in the middle of the street.

The 'Dead Woman of Beverly Hills' is Lu Sostlov (Heidelinde Weis) whose body is found at the beginning of the movie. Many flashbacks to the past (which are in colour, opposed to the black & white scenes in the present) reveal step by step how Lu caused chaos in the feelings of several men she fell in love with. One of them probably killed her in jealousy, but who? The excellent cast includes Horst Frank, Klausjürgen Wussow, Alice & Ellen Kessler and Ernst Fritz Fürbringer. It's a comedy not without tragical ingredients, rather weird and not a movie for everyone.


Promising more than it can keep
So I dutifully watched it last night, and I had mixed feelings about it. There are some good, memorable scenes like the sudden encounter with the bus, its open doors, people aimlessly wandering around on the road, the kid panicking and shooting. On the other hand, some stupid behaviour like being in a safe hiding-spot, then opening the doors without the need to do so, leaving it to look for the killer. Although, which of the other parts of the series would I like to watch again? Only the earliest two, actually. The movie can't decide whether it wants Michael to be a supernatural being or not. First, they show him ignoring the mask but "feeling" it behind his back, causing major disturbance in the other patients' minds. Later, the killings are very natural, no special evil powers required. The introduction didn't really have a point then, except to promise something to the audience that later isn't fulfilled. I voted 6 of 10 since this is still better than some of the other sequels.

5 figli di cane

Explosives experts at work
USA in the 1920s. 5 men escape from a prison, and afterwards they are offered a dangerous, but well paid job by a gangster boss: to destroy a rival gang's storage facility with plenty of explosives. Sounds like fun, doesn't it? Just that many enemies are trying to stop them...

The cast is good featuring Wayde Preston (Grim), George Eastman ('Firehead' in the German dubbed version), Tano Cimarosa (Mancho), Archie Savage (Jeremias) and José Suárez (the engineer) are starring as the team of anti-heroes. Firehead holds some prejudice against Jeremias, the only black guy in the team, but learns to respect him until they become friends - nice touch for a movie from the 1960s. Otherwise it's an average action flick, plenty of ammo is used to keep the audience awake at all times.

The Beast

Hungry squid on the loose
"The Beast" tells about the battle of a coast town against a giant squid. I liked the craftsmanship in the movie, a good script with likeable characters the audience cares for (hardly seen that in new monster flicks recently). Nobody acts really dumb, they all have their flaws and motivation. The story is very much "Jaws" by the numbers, though. First a few people disappear, then a whole boat, politicians and a billionaire run unnecessary risks to use the whole affair for their personal advantage. Despite the feeling of seen-it-all-before, good work. I watched the "uncut" TV version which is nearly 3 hours long.

Deep Rising

Revisiting the ship of doom
Watching "Deep Rising" ("Octalus") for at least the third time in 2020 is still as much fun as it was 10 or 20 years ago. Actually even more, because you don't see so many naive monster movies anymore, they've been replaced recently by much more calculated "products" that follow certain formulas. Here it's just straight ahead mayhem, a lot of ammo spent on a seemingly indestructible opponent, and what adds to the fun is that you don't have typical heroes. It's a bunch of thieves, rogues and villains who have to fight the creature, only shades of grey make some better than the others. And there is nowhere to run as they are locked in with the beast on a ship. Excellent cast with Treat Williams, gorgeous Famke Janssen (Goldeneye), Wes Studi, Jason Flemyng (Primeval, League of Extraordinary Gentlemen) and Kevin J. O'Connor as a funny sidekick.

Le chevalier de Pardaillan

Swashbuckling adventure
Violetta (Michèle Grellier) is abducted by the evil Duke de Guise (Jean Topart). De Guise promised Princess Fausta (Gianna Maria Canale) to make her queen when he becomes king, so she is rather irritated by his interest in the beautiful Violetta. The knight Jean de Pardaillan (Gérard Barray) is in love with Violetta and comes to her rescue, fighting de Guise and a whole army of extras.

Fast moving swashbuckling adventure which is not boring for a second. It has its fair share of comedy ingredients, when the hero never takes his enemies too serious, but jumps at them with a broad grin, shouting "Ha, ha!" a lot, sabre always in hand. It is a bit weird to see Kirk Morris as Samson, though. He looks like he got into the wrong movie set by mistake.

Fei yan zou bi

Marilyn vs Nancy
Marilyn, an expert in Ninja skills, assassinates people at night on behalf of Nancy, leader of a criminal cartel (which officially is a shipping line). Nancy's brother Willy falls in love with the mysterious Marilyn. When Nancy tries to get rid of Marilyn because of the usual "she knows too much", Willy tries to stop her... He always thought Nancy runs a legal business, so there is a family crisis at hand. Sweet keyboards push this to a rather melodramatic level, and it must be said the movie was better before, when more action kept the audience awake. There are some good fight and chase sequences in the middle of the movie, for example the fist-fight of Marilyn versus Tiger, a huge guy thrice her weight. Altogether okay to watch once, because it's an unusual story: two tough women determined to kill who's in their way, and a sensitive guy gets between them. I watched the German dubbed version running 1:23:22. For such an obscure movie, the synchronization was remarkably good.

Spara, Gringo, spara

The gunman and the runaway
Chad (Brian Kelly in his only Italian western role) escapes from prison and needs a job to make some money. It seems like good fortune when Don Hernando Gutierrez (Folco Lulli) offers him the princely sum of 5000 dollars to bring his runaway son Fidel (Fabrizio Moroni) back from the US to Mexico. Little does Chad know how difficult his task is - and that Gutierrez doesn't want his son back for the reason of fatherly love...

Well paced and well written western from the hands of Bruno Corbucci who is otherwise only known for his comedies. Rik Battaglia appears in a guest role as an army captain while Keenan Wynn has a larger role as a renegade leader. Sante Maria Romitelli contributes a tasteful epic soundtrack. All in all a satisfying contribution to the genre.

Der Fluch der grünen Augen

The Curse of the Green Eyes
Six women were probably murdered in a lonely village. Inspector Dorin (Adrian Hoven) arrives and finds that the local people suspect vampires. He laughs at that superstitious nonsense and starts his investigations just when the seventh murder happens - next door to his bedroom. He is invited to the castle of Professor Adelsberg (Wolfgang Preiss) who seems to hide something...

'The Curse of the Green Eyes' aka 'Cave of the Living Dead' or 'Night of the Vampires' is a black & white production from the 1960s. Beginning with the Karl May western movies, there was a growing number of co-productions between West Germany and Yugoslavia at the time. With a handful of known German actors on the list including the excellent Carl Möhner as the dubious doctor, plus great locations, a result is achieved which is superior to many other B movies, also in acting and camera work.

La polizia incrimina la legge assolve

Calm down...
Mind you, I liked the collaborations between director Enzo G Castellari and his star Franco Nero a lot, usually. But in this movie, Nero pushes the restless energy of his character Belli to such a degree that he explodes with rage every two minutes, and about ten times in the movie, his colleagues have to tell him to 'Calm down, Belli!'. This is not anger, but rather impatience to a ridiculous degree. Instead of careful investigation to collect sufficient proof, Belli just gets involved in several shootings to progress (or maybe not) on the case. The quiet, but intense performance of Fernando Rey enhances the effect of hasty and thoughtless action by his counterpart. Belli is just no commissioner the audience can identify with, Nero appears to be a cross between a Duracell bunny and Charlie Bronson on a bad day. I still voted 6 of 10 because the pacing of the movie keeps you on the edge of your seat, regardless.

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