merklekranz

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Reviews

The American Snitch
(1983)

One time writer. One time director. Full time failure.
Way up there on the stupid scale, this frantic send up of tabloid headlines, is one of the most ridiculous scripts ever. There is zero sense to what is essentially a lame send up of "National Enquirer tactics, inventing stories that grab attention, yet have no substance or credibility. Seeing the "Three Wise Men" in a "cowpie" is perhaps the best this supposed comedy can offer. The cast is not without interest however, yet all concerned must have realized they were in a "train wreck" of epic proportions. George Lindsey ( The Andy Griffith Show), Toni Kalem "The Wanderers", and Lane Smith "The Scout", had to be desperate to get involved. - MERK.

Elves
(1989)

Not to be confused with "good bad".
Just so you are spared the agony of watching this truly pathetic excuse for a horror film, I will enlighten you about what you are in for. First this is not a "good bad" film. It has very little in the way of amusing dialog. It does have a bunch of "F bombs" that seem totally misplaced. The entire movie seems to have been filmed in dark "Blurryvision", to obscure the rubbery man in a suit elf. That's right one elf, in a film called "Elves." The Nazi , virgin, Christmas Eve, copulation is something that isn't even amusing and after awhile all the nonsense becomes extremely tiresome. Acting is grade Z, including Dan Haggerty. Best scene by far is Deanna Lund's endless dying performance in a bath tub. AVOID. Merk.

Making a Killing
(2018)

One of the most underrated films on IMDB ......
Based on a true story this murder mystery has more "red herrings" than a seafood market. This works both for and against the screenplay. One is never sure exactly who might have fired the fatal shot, leaving the ending dangling somewhat uncomfortably. Nevertheless, the acting is quite strong, especially by Mike Starr, and in a supporting role, Sally Kirkland and Christopher Lloyd. It's nice to see a great character actor like Starr, in a staring role for a change. The film has very little action, but the quirky goings on hold interest throughout. It's "Cohen like", so admirers of that type should be pleased. A rating of 4.9 is totally unacceptable, and a 6.0-7.0 is really deserved. MERK.

Quel caldo maledetto giorno di fuoco
(1968)

Strange "Spaghetti"
"Gatling Gun", or as it's called on video, "Damned Hot Day of Fire", might also be known as "Strange on the Range." It is really a conglomeration of scenes that are supposed to tell a historical Civil War story, yet the gayety that surrounds the tale fails to elicit any war-like substance. In fact in the middle of the film, a rodeo suddenly appears out of nowhere, that seems totally out of place. Another aspect of the movie that is bizarre, are unrelated scenes that somehow are trying to convey a vague social message about racial injustice. Overly dark shootouts in a house and a cemetery, only further add to the frustration. Finally the jazzy musical score seems like it is from the wrong film. Overall a disappointment. MERK.

Per pochi dollari ancora
(1966)

Different than the usual quest for gold .......
Giuliano Gemma (Montgomery Wood) in a restrained performance, that quite possibly is his best "Spaghetti Western." The story of a plan to raid a Union Fort by tunneling into the garrison, while it is under attack from the Confederates is terrific. Character development is among the best of any non Leone Italian Western. Technicolor-Techniscope photography yields vivid color saturation, and the Morricone musical score is wonderful. "Fort Yuma Gold". A.k.a. "For a Few Extra Dollars", is flat out an exciting, extremely well plotted, "Spaghetti Western", that is entertaining from the opening credits, till the extremely satisfying conclusion. MERK.

Il mio corpo per un poker
(1968)

Don't bother ........
If you buy the "Wild East" DVD for the fine film, "Black Jack", you can skip this second feature, "The Belle Star Story", altogether. It is a real mishmash of poker games, flashbacks, sexual tom foolery, outrageously inappropriate makeup, sexual teasing, forgettable gunplay, and the like. The fact that it was directed by a woman, shows how the west might have looked through female eyes, but the audience is men, and they will be bored beyond belief with "The Belle Star Story." Believe me this is a real snooze fest, and the story is not only not believable, but beyond boring. I feel sorry for George Eastman and Robert Woods being dragged through this loser of a "Spaghetti Western." Not recommended. MERK.

Black Jack
(1968)

Sadistic "Spaghetti" filmed in Israel .........
There really is a nasty streak to the anti-hero played by Robert Woods, in this violent revenge tale. So many of these Italian Westerns are based on the revenge plot, it gets your attention when one like "Black Jack" separates from the crowded genre. After an ultra clever bank robbery, Woods is turned on by his gang, and left with none of the stolen money, a broken leg, and the strongest of revenge motives, after his Sister is raped and scalped. The rest of the film follows Woods as he tracks down his tormentors, and cruelly dispatches them with some creative kills. The musical score is quite good, and the Israeli locations are intriguing, including what appears to be a real mine of some sort. Definitely one of the better "Non Leone Westerns." MERK.

Northville Cemetery Massacre
(1976)

Cut the crap we come for guns ............
Any movie with an underground bunker built like a World War 2 submarine, has to be seen to be believed. With a periscope coming up in the gun merchants front yard through a Madonna lawn ornament, this is just so cool. The film is built around real bikers, which gives "The Northville Cemetery Massacre" a unique feeling of authenticity. Slow motion blood squibs abound, the biker music soundtrack is totally appropriate, and the acting, while crude, only lends to the film's reality feeling. If you are into "biker films" like "Born Losers", or "The Glory Stompers", this is a must see. If it sounds like I am pounding the table for "The Northville Cemetery Massacre", I am indeed. MERK.

Nudo e selvaggio
(1985)

Savory Brazilian Cannibal Cuisine. .........
Entertaining because several "good bad movie" qualities sent this jungle adventure soaring on the "good bad scale." A leading actress who looks good undressed, but would rather be a race car driver, a leading man who bombed in Hollywood, and a supporting cast of local thespians. There is a language barrier of epic proportions, and a free wheeling Italian Director, who seems to have simply said to his actors, "surprise me." One stand out example would be when the girls are captured by cannibals, striped naked, and subjected to some kind of evil Witch Doctor's torments. Both show zero terror or emotion of any sort, but simply stare at the threatening Cannibals as if they were watching a National Geographic Channel program. What makes the film special, is it does develop characters before they are cannibalized. The Brazilian jungle locations are well photographed., and the dialog is priceless. MERK.

Comin' at Ya!
(1981)

Derivative with spectacular 3D
When you are the last of the "Spaghetti Westerns", with some 200 plus films having gone before "Comin' At Ya! ! ", naturally you have a lot to "borrow " from. Tony Anthony had his laconic Clint Eastwood imitation well perfected from the "Stranger" movies. This film is mainly interested in the spectacular 3D images, with the story simply wrapped around flying spears, fire arrows, red hot pokers and the like. I will say that the bat sequence was more or less ridiculous, with the furry harmless brown bats causing panic. The script, what little there is, seems to have been snatched from "Blindman" { abducted women), with a smattering of the "Leone classics." The film has a squeamish scene with rats, that definitely adds to the 3D effect, but will drive any remaining females out the door. MERK.

Adiós gringo
(1965)

I have watched a lot of non Leone "Spaghetti Westerns" and this is one of the best.
There is no hunt for missing gold. There are no Mexicans, despite the questionable title "Adios Gringo." There is no anti-hero like the "Man With No Name. What this film has that so many inferior Italian "oaters" lack is a comprehensive storyline, and strong character development. A damsel in distress (Evelyn Stewart) is rescued by a falsely accused fugitive (Giuliano Gemma). Gemma is trying to find the man who cheated him, and clear his name. This is a simple tale, but refreshingly different than the usual "Spaghetti Western" storyline. Gemma, as always is a very likable hero, and his support from a Sheriff and Doctor, who are both sympathetic to his just cause, adds immensely. Seek this one out, and you will be rewarded. MERK.

Un dollaro bucato
(1965)

Spaghetti "light"
Definitely not a full fledged "Spaghetti Western". "Blood for a Silver Dollar" does have some anti hero elements, but not enough to distance itself from a more "Americanized oater." When Giuliano Gemma sneaks up behind a bad guy, and before shooting lights his cigar for him, I was suddenly take back to "For a Few dollars More." The dubbing is especially terrible in this film, the action is mostly concentrated towards the finish, and character development sorely lacking. Another weak point would be the main villain being not menacing enough. There are moments of enjoyment dealing with Confederate weapons, and a couple weak attempts at humor. "Blood for a Silver Dollar" will never be confused with a Leone Western, but is totally watchable, mostly because Gemma is so easy to like and root for. MERK.

Mio caro assassino
(1972)

Complex, confusing police investigation.
Combining giallo with a "whodunit?" proves marginally successful. While "My Dear Killer", is somewhat lacking in logic, and throws more "red herrings" at the viewer than a fish market, it is nevertheless watchable. The problem is that the story seems unnecessarily complex, which leads to audience indifference. This is a case where less would have been best, because a frustrated viewer is never a good thing. The quarry location is one plus, and Morricone's score is a mixed bag. At times it adds to the suspense, while at others it seems more annoying than it should. At best a one time watch, at worst a skip it for it's confusing storyline, "My Dear Killer", will leave the slasher crowd feeling a bit cheated, while those looking for a solid police investigation, should look elsewhere. MERK.

Gatto nero
(1981)

The killer kitty with mind control ..........
It is a well known fact that cat owners can be completely controlled by their feline pets. Anyone who keeps a cat in their house, is really living in the cat's house. "The Black Cat" takes the controlling kitty one step further, with the seemingly innocent pussy exerting it's will over it's human, in this case, Patrick Magee. When mysterious deaths, with no apparent motive, begin piling up in a small English village, the Police are mystified. By the strange gruesome goings on. The film is far from perfect, but excellent on location photography, creates the proper atmosphere, for the weird, and difficult to follow story. There are also several loose ends that dangle uncomfortably. Magee's ability to record conversations with the dead goes nowhere, as well as his attempts to hypnotize. This muddled affair is uneven, but ultimately still watchable enough to hold interest. MERK.

I lunghi giorni della vendetta (Faccia d'angelo)
(1967)

Starts with a bang ............
With the fist scene in a rock quarry, things start with a bang, and rarely let up. This "Spaghetti Western" has above average photography, music, and interesting characters. Even though the story will be the quite familiar revenge for a wrong, Giuliano Gemma makes things lively and interesting, with his bag of tricks. It should also be mentioned that Nieves Navarro plays a very intriguing and mysterious character, and you are never quite sure whose side she is on. There is enough originality to distinguish "Days of Vengeance" from the average "Spaghetti Western", and thus this should be considered one of the above average non Leone Westerns. The Wild East DVD also has a very entertaining and informative interview with Nieves Navarro, where she talks about many actors she has worked with, including Lee Van Cleef. MERK

Il dito nella piaga
(1969)

Kinski admirers beware ..........
For Klaus Kinski admirers "TheLiberators" is surely a film to avoid. It is perhaps the most unrealistic war movie ever. You will not believe what is appearing on the screen. Kinski and two other American Soldiers successfully defending a small Italian village from a German infantry and tank assault. In addition to the totally unbelievable script, the dubbing is appalling, especially for Kinski, who sounds more like John Wayne than himself. Throw in some kind of religious theme that appears out of nowhere, and a melodramatic middle of the film, where tears flow, and you pretty much have an idea that this is going to be a disaster of epic proportions. There is absolutely no reason to watch "The Liberators", other than Klaus Kinski, and his performance it totally ruined by the atrocious dubbing. Avoid. MERK

Un uomo chiamato Apocalisse Joe
(1970)

Undervalued "Spaghetti".
"Apocalypse Joe" is never going to win any medals for originality. It is simply the overused, and quite familiar revenge plot of so many average Italian Westerns. Nevertheless, it does have a laconic "Eastwood" like hero character, with a bit of "Trinity" on the side. Unfortunately, this mix of serious and nonsense is one of the film's weak points, causing somewhat of an identity crisis. Another point of contention is the final gun battle, which seems to never end, much to it's detriment. Character development is adequate for the heroes, but not so much for the baddies. Overall the movie is watchable, and greatly enhanced by one of the best non Morricone musical scores. MERK

Quella sporca storia nel west
(1968)

Slightly above average "Spaghetti Western"
First the good. The revenge story has a somewhat unique feel to it, despite being simply another revenge story, with a Hamlet storyline for the script. This makes it seem like fresher "Spaghetti." The location shooting is good, with some unique geological rocks, and more importantly caves. It is intriguing to see a cemetery located in one of these underground caverns. The soundtrack by Francesco De Masi is appropriate and good. Now the bad. Acting by anyone not named Gilbert Roland is sub par, including the wooden lead performance. The stunt work is also at fault, especially the fight scenes, which appear weak throughout. The film is totally watchable, but certainly is no classic. MERK

Blindman
(1971)

Exhibits many of the faults of inferior "Spaghetti Westerns". ...........
Believability flies out the window in this typically inferior "Spaghetti." If you are going to accept the fact that Tony Anthony can live more than five seconds while confronted by sighted bad guys, then welcome aboard. All others beware. When Anthony's horse is smarter than almost e everyone else in the film, there is most definitely a problem. Character development is nowhere to be found. The editing is perhaps the worst feature, as scenes shift from day to night at whiplash speed. There are plenty of extras and the sets look like they could have taken more time to build than the script. Ringo Starr fits right in with the bad acting nicely. This is one to avoid. It is certainly far down the list of non "Leone" "Spaghetti Westerns." You have been warned. MERK

Faccia a faccia
(1967)

Up there with the best non Leone "Spaghetti's." .........
Gian Maria Volonte gives a teriffic performance, not unlike his 'Indio" in "For a Few Dollars More." This time however he is transformed, and seriously corrupted, from a non violent professor, to a power hungry bandit. "Face to Face" is certainly a close second to Sergio Sollima's "The Big Gundown, and the story is quite original. Ennio Morricone does not disappoint in the music department, and the movie comes across as more of a spectacle than it actually is. Thomas Milan, William Berger, along with several other familiar faces are on board, but this is Volonte's film. No doubt about it. If you have been looking for an unfamiliar "Spaghetti Western", this is one to seek out. Others I would recommend are "Django Prepare a Coffin", and "Kill Them All and Come Back Alone." MERK

Preparati la bara!
(1968)

Superior "Spaghetti"
Terence Hill plays an excellent Django, substituting for Franco Nero. "Django Prepare a Coffin" is not only one of the more complex "Spaghetti Westerns", it is also one of the best., The film deserves a place among the very few good non Sergio Leone "Spaghetti Westerns." It is somewhat unique, exciting, well photographed, and enjoyable. There is so much more here than a simple search for stolen gold. The villains are pretty reprehensible, and dish out so much punishment to Django, that it borders on sadism. There are vague references to the Leone movies, including a cemetery finale, and an old man who helps Django. I really liked this one, and the BlueRay is the only way to fully appreciate the beautiful filming locations. Recommended. MERK

Ammazzali tutti e torna solo
(1968)

The Invincible Seven .........
Glorious "Spaghetti Western" made shortly after "The Good The Bad And The Ugly", which utilized some of the G. B. & U. sets and props. The movie has a grand scope which takes full advantage of the Spanish desert location shooting. There is not a single female in the film, so it gets right down to business, with no romantic distractions. Basically the plot revolves around Chuck Conners assembling a band of particularly skilled baddies, to help him steal Union gold coins for the Confederate high command, represented by Frank Wolfe. Never before have just seven men defeated almost an entire Union Army, until finally the band of cutthroats begin turning against each other. The film is not perfect. It is perhaps a bit too long. There is too much redundant slaughter of soldiers. The acrobatics and stunt work, while impressive, often seems out of place. Nevertheless, this should be considered as one of the best non Leone : Spaghetti Westerns." MERK

Bad Country
(2014)

Fake mustaches, fake accents, fake film ......
I give it three stars, one for Willem Dafoe, one for Matt Dillon, and one for Tom Berenger. This Southern shoot em up is beyond bad. There is very little character development. There are side stories that seem like they belong in a different movie. What was Dafoe's Father's purpose? His strange appearance, with zero introduction was beyond puzzling. The gunplay is cartoonish, and the cinematography so dark, it was anybody's guess who was shooting who? Then there are the fake mustaches, and fake Southern accents, which only added to the ridiculous goings on. Not worth watching, even if you are a fan of the actors. MERK

Hombre
(1967)

"Horse Opera" or "Soap Opera" ?
Paul Newman seems totally miscast as a passive White Man sympathetic to the Indians who raised him. Where was Charles Bronson when you needed him badly. Newman is so low key throughout the film, he is completely swamped by the other actors, especially Richard Boone. Cameron Mitchell, although in the movie, has a very minor part. The three females dominate many scenes with "woman chatter", and really nothing much happens. For a good part of the running time of 111 minutes it's just talk, with little action. Compared to "Spaghetti Westerns of the same era, "Hombre" seems dated and tired. Westerns generally mean action, not overly prolonged character development. This was a disappointment. MERK

The Ransom
(1977)

Understanding "Assault on Paradise" is like trying to burn snow.........Impossible.
Paul Koslo appears to be a crossbow killing phantom, since he often shows up out of nowhere, with no obvious means of getting there other than wings. His meaningless rants about the wind, only deepens a total mystery regarding his motivation for extorting the rich. Either an awful lot of this film wound up on the cutting room floor, or this is one of the most underdeveloped scripts ever. Stuart Whitman and Oliver Reed are charged with ending Koslo's mayhem, but to no avail as they seem to be constantly chasing smoke that simply disappears. Throw in the fastest seduction on film between Reed and Deborah Raffin, car chases for the sake of car chases, and you pretty much get the idea. The movie is watchable, because the desert scenery magnificent, but believability is nowhere to be found. MERK

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