A legendary film that feeds on it's legend more than real merits
Sorry folks, but for me Crippled Avengers (AKA Return of the Five Deadly Venoms - named so probably for the marketing purposes alone, without any connections to the earlier film, except the director and the cast) was a let down, one of the glorified Shaw pictures I found less gripping than many others shaded by it's legend.
It doesn't take a genius to see that Chang Cheh just let it rip with the script and story instead of trying to make a point or create any menacing moods or great wallowing in traditional virtues (although there's a dose of loyalty, friendship and your regular good old heroism and self-sacrifice thrown in for a spice). The story must be one of the most cartoonish in Shaw history, excluding their pure fantasy adventures, and this time in a bad way.
Although in Kung Fu films, action is what mostly counts, I'd like to see some story development and good characters, and mostly there was neither. Even in my eyes the almighty Chen Kuan Tai is plain and hammy in the role of evil master Dao Tian Du. The sympathetic heroes do their best for what is given to them, which is not a lot, script-wise. And instead of a good story, we have a script that just routinely moves from set-piece to other, culminating in the final, mandatory and satisfactory revenge, and that's it, folks.
Then, after all the complaining and bashing, the good things. And of course, there's the acrobatic skills of the cast, being dizzying at best. There's also something compelling about the brashness of the film's most cartoonish fantasy elements, mainly the iron prosthetics that have unusual kill skills and hidden secrets. These add spice to otherwise routine script. And like mentioned earlier, the main cast do their best, especially Philip Kwok in the role of a blinded man, in my eyes definitely the best performance in the film.
Somehow I feel this movie owes it's status to the nostalgics who have seen it first time dubbed in English in the 70's in some grind-house or Chinatown theater. And I can't blame them for that, being a nostalgic in some matters myself. In my books, however, this is more of run-of-the-mill "Another Shaw production" as they called their flicks themself, with some unique spices added on. Entertaining, yes, but doesn't cut the custard like it's reputation lets you think it would.
Oh my... bad clothing, worse synth music and the worst: David Hasselhoff. The 80's are back with vengeance in Witchery, an American-Italian co-production, helmed by infamous Joe 'D'Amato on the production side and short-careered director (thank heavens for small miracles) Fabrizio Laurenti directing . Marketed as a kind of sequel to Sam Raimi's Evil Dead series in Italy (that was dubbed "La Casa" in there), Witchery delivers some modest gore groceries and bad acting.
A mix of ghost story, possessions and witchcraft, the film bounces clueless from scene to another without letting some seriously wooden actors and hilarious day and night mix-ups slow it's progress to expectable ending, topped with some serious WTF surprise climax. (I just love the look on her face...) Surprisingly Laurenti manages to gather some suspense and air of malice in few - very few - scenes; unluckily for him, these few glimpses of mild movie magic go down quickly and effectively.
The plus sides are experienced, when the gore hits the fan. This department is quite effective and entertaining in that classic latex and red paint style of the 80's Italo-gore, when things were made 100% hand-made and as shockingly and vivid as modest budgets could allow. I could only watch with sadistic glee and few laughters all the over-the-top ways that obnoxious characters (and actors) got mangled and misused, one by one. I only felt sorry for Linda Blair, who apparently haven't been let to try any other than that good old possessed girl / woman role ever in his career, or so it looks like when checking out his filmography.
Well, folks - not much more to tell, and even less to tell home about. Don't expect too much when spending some rainy afternoon with this, and probably you'll experience at least some mild fun. It also helps if your rotten little heart pounds in the beat of 80's euro gore horror. And speaking of hearts - every movie that has David Hasselhoff getting skewered by a sizeable metal object and bleeding heavily around the room and corridors, MUST have it's one on the right place.
Tight and bleak vision of Law and Order, or Good vs. Bad
At times you get positively surprised, when you look forward to a film and expect to see some quality work, and you get what you seek out but in a very different way than you thought, and possibly even more. This was the case when I popped Killer Constable into my DVD player and got way more than your regular Shaw Kung Fu hour-and-a-half epistle.
Compared to other Shaw Brother's period Wu Xia and Kung Fu works, Killer Constable differs from the lot quite a bit, and in a very positive way. Director Kuei Chih-hung's background in crime films really show, as he takes interesting elements from hard-boiled crime films and Japanese samurai films, among others, and bring them seamlessly into the Wu Xia movie.
It's more than rare in these films to see the protagonists being as a part of the Manchu dynasty's government. This is probably the main reason why we have such a dark character as the main protagonist. Chen Kuan-tai as the Killer Constable himself is a dark type of hero, bordering the anti-hero nearly all of the time. Along in his company of ever-vigilant law-officers, there's no place for your typical sleek-cheeked do-gooders in the posse, as we soon see, when this group of tough law officers go for their mission to capture and punish the bandit who's responsible for stealing a large sum of Emperor's gold. Also, a bit striking are some features you can see in the villains of the movie, some of them who have unusually humane characteristics, giving less stereotypical image of the characters than your usual black-and-white Good vs. Bad composition found in many of the genre pieces.
While always being a solid actor and great martial artist - one of my very favourite Shaw Bros. stars - Chen Kuan-Tai really shines in his role. He has the powerful presence and charisma as the stone faced law officer who discovers that he is only a tool and gets betrayed by the system he has abidingly served, that the role gets nearly immortalized.
Beautiful use of lighting and scenery, tight script, good balance of action and story, and especially interesting main character make this one the winner all the way. I also have to dish out some bonus points for the very bleak ending shot that somehow emphasized the futility of it all and concretely showed what kind of destruction greed, corruption and following orders without any questioning can lead you to. (This last one may very well be only my interpretation more than the message that was intendedly embedded in the film, but that's how I felt when the last images hit the screen.)
The blend of these elements make Killer Constable very atmospheric and exceptionally dark piece of martial arts mayhem, guaranteed to satisfy the genre fans and most probably being an interesting piece also for the people who are not familiar with the genre. Definitely one of my all-time Shaw favourites!
Being somewhat of a junkie for early martial arts and Asian adventure films, it's always a fascinating experience to get your hands into something completely new to you, of what you have no clue of beforehand. In some cases you can find a hidden gem, however in many cases you can really understand why the film has made it into the list of the forgotten ones. Now I can thank Fusian Films for seeing this apparently quite rare early Wu Xia effort on DVD, although again the question rises, was this really worth saving from total obscurity?
Bloodthirsty brothers and a sister (our main villain) of Five Flower Sect murder a government official who is one of the men behind the death of their father. From the wholesale slaughter of their family only the official's son survives, who in turn swears to avenge his loved ones and bring down the rest of the sect. So does the young man start his perilous journey to seek out eccentric super-fighter Master Ou, who can help him in achieving his goals.
Again revolving around the theme of vengeance repeatedly used in the films of the genre, Absurd Brave blends some slapstick comedy in the mix, even stylistically hinting towards the traditional ghost stories for a brief moment. Still, being the comedy at times intentional and in many cases unintentional, it nearly constantly borders the Turkey Territory. Film's pacing is quite OK, but the rhythm does not work and the story feels sloppy. Apparently many things were left open for the future adventures of Master Oh and his new apprentice. Did they make any, that I don't know.
The acting is mostly wooden or way over the top, nearly all of it in a bad way. Most of the intentional comes from the character of Master Oh, who is completely off the wall with his ridiculous looking glasses, sheep skin coat and enormous knobbed pipe. (Ahem. Subtlety? Noooo, we don't need that. Phallic symbolism, anyone?) The laughs are cheap, although admittedly they can make you chuckle for few times.
And then the battle scenes... oh boy. Of course, Absurd Brave has filmed before tightly choreographed Kung Fu driven films invaded the scene, but even for the swashbuckling variety, the fights look criminally sluggish and lack all tension. As if this is not enough, they just have to use good old 'let's show the film backwards' and 'if we speed this up, it looks insanely fast' techniques, both of them badly.
Few nice ideas, a blend of and experimenting on few different approaches and passable story prevents this vehicle from totally sinking. Still, it's too sloppy to be truly entertaining Wu Xia adventure, but not sloppy enough to be good turkey entertainment. Worth a peek for Wu Xia enthusiasts who seek some curiosity values on a very boring, rainy Sunday with nothing better to do.
Ringing Sword - presenting your Very Standard Wu Xia Adventure
Ringing Sword seems to be one of these small studio features that were produced and shot in Taiwan by Hong Kong based movie makers. As such, we've seen worse, but also way better introductions into the Wu Xia genre. The movie found me by accident from total obscurity, and I was interested enough to spend few dollars into it and take a peek. Let's say this wasn't the best investment in my life, but not too much of a disappointment.
This film is a very standard fare of old-school Wu Xia with your typical mysterious strangers, a tale of intrigue and revenge, lost relatives and the maintaining of honour, and that's about it. Unimaginative plot, almost extinct martial arts choreography and lazy looking fighting take the edge off the action and story telling, so there's not much to write home about.
On the plus side, the landscapes are beautiful and there's no corny looking studio sets. Soundtrack is very minimalistic and traditional and tries it's best to put some thrills into the action scenes, but however nice the music is, the burden is too much to bear only for it's shoulders. Alas. However, the visual output of our lady hero looks good, and we have some funky looking bad guys with some leopard-patterned attires, too. A special honorary mention goes to the fat bald man with weird looking beard and wicked looking sabre. Too bad he doesn't have more screen time.
There's lot worse movies out there from the genre, but there's nothing that makes this one positively separate from any of the basic Wu Xia swashbuckling epics from the 60's to the 70's. Not bad enough to induce unintentional comedy laughters, not good enough to keep your attention fully up. Still, for the Wu Xia fans there are also worse ways to spend your 90 minutes of lazy Sunday afternoon. If you are into this type, it's worth a look as a history lesson of smaller budget Wu Xia, but there's very little to come back to.
On the side note, I found a copy of this on all-regions DVD released by Fusian Films. The print is said to be digitally remastered, but still it seems like being in terrible shape and clearly misses bits of film here and there. The English subtitles are included and look like they are part of the original print. In spite of bad quality, it's in viewable condition, and frankly the movie itself was so mediocre that it really didn't leave me longing for a fully restored version.
Not much of a Kung Fu nor Spaghetti Western epic, but quite a ride
Jeez, only in the 70's... Antonio Margheriti brings us this quirky hybrid of spaghetti western and kung fu flick evolving around a treasure-hunt. The spices of this trashy co-production between Shaw Brothers and an Italian one-off company include humorous storytelling, off-the-wall happenings and some very tame T&A. Extra campy moments are being served by Lee Van Cleef's obnoxious wig, leather-clad bible-thumping psycho gunman Yancey Hobbitt (loveably hammed up by Julian Ugarte, the man who should've done way more obscure European genre productions than he did), wanna-be-witty dialogue, hilarious background music and completely laughable sound effects accompanying various little events (especially every jump made by Lo Lieh).
While this little piece of action falls fare and square into the Turkey Territory, it's great to see Van Cleef and Lo Lieh on the same screen, and you can't deny the charisma of this duo. Don't expect too much, and you'll get plenty out of it.
Quite a trip into movie magic, and possibly even deeper...
I must admit that while Jan Kounen made a movie like this, made it base on Blueberry comics, and names the movie 'Blueberry', he surely was asking for trouble. I do understand why many, or dare I say most of the Blueberry fans were riled when they saw the film. That is a shame, since Blueberry truly was and is a very beautiful film, not only visually but story-wise, too: to me, this is a haunting depiction of loosing and finding yourself, facing your inner demons and getting over it by becoming a better person.
This movie might also offend and/or shake you, if your view of the world is very rational and materialistic. (This quick-analysis is based on the reactions of my friends after seeing the film, and on the image I have of them as persons. Not very scientific, but seems true. :) The film is very heavy on symbolism, and the narration of the plot is on the spiritual side, quite loaded with shamanistic views, but it is not just a fancy gimmick to mess with your head. Most of all, it's not a weakness in this film, but it's strength. There really is a big truth to be found underneath all the visual candy and mysterious notations. Just be patient and SEE it. ;)
Apart from visuals and story, I loved Michael Madsen and his character in it. Blount was riddled with contradictions and filled with both mystique and madness, and the way he materialized it all on the screen with very minimalistic but intense gestures, mostly with his raspy voice. (Of course, you've seen him on screen doing mad things for dozens of times, but you have to admit, he's very good at what he's doing, right?)
This could have been a full 10 out of 10 film to me, but I must drop few points from the score, for the film being a bit too long and confusing at times, both in a bad way. A little tightening up of the story here and there wouldn't have hurt the whole package. You might also like to criticize the film for being based _very_ loosely (from what I've heard) on the Blueberry comic books, but that's not my field of speciality, since it's been years since I've read even one Blueberry album, so I leave it for you to decide, whether the liberties taken are a good or bad thing.
All in all, a must see for the fans of cinema. With open mind, it might give you a lot. If you like it, I'm sure you'll come back second time. I know I did, and will return again.
Entertaining old-fashioned swordsplay adventure from Shaw Brothers
I confess, I have a soft spot for these old-fashioned Chinese Wu Xia swordplay films, especially when they're happening in the fairy tale -like "martial world". At worse, they're harmless and forgettable, silly little camp packages. At best, they make you wish you were a child again and seeing this for the first time, eyes wide with amazement. GOLDEN SWORD surely fell into the latter category more than the first, taking me back to the time when I was about 10 years old and literally gluttoning all kinds of adventure stories, were they films, books or comics. A damn shame these films weren't around in Finland back then.
I won't go into the details of the story this time, suffice it to say it's quite typical of the genre and includes old themes of loyalty and courage, heroes defying gravity and other natures of law, a bit of intrigue and some subtle comedy, and quite well executed love story. The twists keep you interested enough, and it all has some sweet fairytale mood in it, both visually and story-wise. For some reason this reminded me very much of the Hollywood historical romance spectacles of the Hollywood in the 40's - 50's era, don't know exactly why. Perhaps the feeling came from the heavy use of studio sets and staging of 'outdoor' scenes, which gave the film lots of old-fashioned sweet charm. As a westerner, however, I found one very campy moment in it; there was one scene including dancing and singing that made me wish the time would fly a little faster, and / but luckily the scene was over quite quickly. In the long run, it didn't take the magic away from the film, and somehow also strengthened, in a good way, the 50's mood I just mentioned, since many of those films included these corny musical scenes.
If you're looking for loads of action and detailed fighting choreography, you can forget it: fight scenes are older than old school, more of a swashbuckling lookalikes than monumental opuses of Kung Fu style introductions. For me this wasn't a letdown, I enjoyed the 'lighter' approach, as it fits very well in the general style of the film.
GOLDEN SWORD is definitely a dated Wu Xia movie, but not at all worthless in it's efforts. You can watch this one with quite an empty head, as it does not offer you any mind blowing philosophy, but that's not a bad thing, since it doesn't even try. It has some eerie charm from the world and time already passed that kept me entertained and amused for the film's running length. Recommended for the people who like old adventure films and want to take a quick peek at their childhood.
Wow, this one really swiped me off my feet. When seeing a Fulci movie, you really don't expect much of an intentional comedy, but this time it's exactly what you get. At least in the macabre, grotesque way. With a healthy dose of gore and disturbing images.
Lester Parson is a cannibalistic psychopath and a degenerate gambler who kills ugly, rich women and steals their cash and personal property to fund his lifestyle. And he has meaningful conversations with a mysterious person he knows (or perhaps with his own voice?) through a tape recorder. Pretty soon Lester finds out that there's also the other killer around, who imitates his killings and leaves out evidence that all points to Lester.
This film is like a low-budget version of American Psycho. (And even with it's problems way better than the said drivel of Hollywoodism that so poorly tries to turn Bret Easton Ellis' text into film.) Lester's "adventures" are projected in a grotesque and hilarious light, and Fulci has succeeded in creating a very twisted humorous mood, which abruptly changes into horrific carnage. I found myself several times laughing my buttocks off, and within seconds I'm cringing and staring in shocked disbelief at the brutality of violence. That's a pretty hard stunt to do for a film maker, also considering that I've pretty much seen everything there is. :) I must say that Fulci has always had some extraordinary nihilistic vigor in the depiction of violence.
Too bad that the film doesn't follow this line to the end, and the last 30 minutes is plunged into senseless drivel with some obscure doppelganger plot. Maestro Fulci fell into this kind of goofing so regrettably often, I must say. Also, the obviously small or almost non-existent budget unfortunately shows on this one, and the photography is depressingly ugly to watch. Still, I have to say that Fulci's experience shows in doing the best that can be done with the limitations.
Despite being flawed, ridiculous (in a bad way) at times, and ugly looking, my thumbs are way more up than down on this one. Still, it leaves me asking, what this movie could have been with better production and more thought out ending. Well, I guess we'll never know. Definitely recommended for the friends of grotesque comedy, despite the poor ending.
I myself am a big fan of the first Texas Chainsaw Massacre, which definitely deserves it's fame and holds a place in my heart as one of the most influential and powerful movies of all times. Having said that, I find it hard to believe the bashing and bad reputation treatment this film has had from the critics and many viewers.
I think Hooper did very wisely when he didn't try to duplicate the first one's very disturbing and authentic feel. Instead, we have way more light hearted and comedy-based film that is like a roller coaster ride through some very tasteless violence and morbid fun. And still, while this is a horror-comedy, it still succeeds in surprising you from time to time and pulling the carpet off from under your feet, just when you thought it was safe to laugh.
Please, people; take this film as it is, by it's own merits. Do not compare it to it's predecessor, since it's a completely different animal altogether. TCSM 2 is a very entertaining film with tons of morbid humour, intentional tongue-in-cheek action, fun dialogue and still some very disturbing imagery. Just open your eyes and approach it with an open mind. Highly recommended, especially for the people with a taste of bad taste.
In this movie from classic period of Shaw Brothers, we have a group of evil bandits that terrorize the land from their invincible mountain castle. The high commanding official decides to put a stop to this and commands one of his officers to gather a group of Kung Fu masters and put an end to the terror. But everything is not that simple and straight-forward, as we quite soon learn when the plot thickens.
KILLERS FIVE differs quite a lot in style from other pictures I've seen directed by Gang Cheng. To be honest, I have very mixed feelings towards this film. The plot keeps your interest up, but it twists and turns like a bad mountain road. This is a very typical feature in older Wu Xia films, but gets very emphasized when everything is packed within mere 81 minutes. Some of the photography and almost all of the settings are beautiful and powerful, but most of the cutting and pacing is messy and makes much of the fighting almost impossible to follow. However, there is a certain feel of innovativeness and hard trying, as well as the presentation of sentimentality and some high ideologies (if somewhat underlined), which deserve the kudos and my sympathy.
Although I like both old and new, fast-paced and slow-paced Wu Xia films, this one gives me some more headache than pleasure, when following the plot and the action scenes. Having so much everything in such a short film made me feel like I'm watching a fast-forwarded movie, rather than well paced and thought over piece of work. Also, some people might get offended by the brutality of violence that is depicted in few scenes. (I didn't mind, but you just might... ;)
For sympathy and being a fan of the genre, I'll give this one a 6 out of 10 and urge the fans of Wu Xia films to see this and figure it out by themselves, whether it was worth it or not. If you're not that familiar with Wu Xia genre or vintage martial arts movies in general, you may drop two points off and pass this one.
Touch of Zen is one of those movies that are on a class and genre of their own and probably never in the movie history will find their match. King Hu certainly lived up to his name, when crafting this piece of art that deserves even more respect and admiration than it has already had.
Blending different genres seamlessly together and paving the way for many movies to come, everything here is well balanced and thought over. The story that begins as a ghost story starts slowly but rewardingly layering up, developing and getting more dimensions, moving into Wu Xia styled action and politics drama, then leaping into the territory of Seven samurais -style tactical warfare depiction, finally getting some deeply mystical aspects in the end. Settings and photography are stunningly beautiful, and all the visuals are breath-taking timeless.
Looks like time simply cannot touch this movie, and that's why I compare this one to the works of Sergio Leone. Definitely one of the best movies I have ever seen. Now, if only my wish come true and we had some day better than watchable DVD release of this true classic, preferably fully restored from original film. One can only hope...
Without knowing anything about the film beforehand, when I expected Village of Eight Gravestones to be a tale of vengeance set in the background of historical Japan, boy was I surprised, when it turned out to be a mixture of murder mystery and a tale of supernatural vengeance set in the 70's Japan. Another surprise was that such a quality film seems to be quite unknown outside Japan. After watching it, I felt like I had a small hidden gem here.
To me, VOEGS is a righteously slow-paced, atmospheric piece of work with sudden changes of mood, when the story is told to the viewer through different characters and the flashbacks that narrate their stories and their history. The photography differs between realistic and minimalistic to some shoots that are very stylistic, giving strange beauty to even the most brutal visual elements of the film. Altering between pondering detective story and sheer vicious action, the movie kept me nailed to the seat until the end and guessing who is the guilty and what is his or her motive. Nice bonus was that the ending pretty much knocked me out.
Especially intriguing in the movie was it's way of leaving things to be judged by the viewer, rather than explaining the true way of things. Whether there really was a curse or not, is entirely up to you.
VOEGS surely deserves to be seen by bigger audiences. It's not a perfect movie, but well worth watching for. Fair word of warning: violence in the movie is quite graphic in it's nature, and so this is not a film for the kiddies. For friends and fans of slowly building suspense and mystery, and Asian movies in general.
One of the rare Finnish efforts in horror movies, Olli Soinio's Kuutamosonaatti is a tale of scandalous model that is sent to Finnish small town in north after some mishappenings in Milan, to cool it off for a while and let the dust settle. But there are more hardships ahead, as local maniac family's eldest psychotic son starts to harass her with dramatic results.
Watching Kuutamosonaatti can be a mind altering experience. You'll probably hate the movie, or love it. I remember watching this one first time years ago, and have been a fan ever since. Kuutamosonaatti has some of the most demented and questionable characters in the Finnish movie history, and the way it depicts a small northern Finnish village and it's inhabitants would probably scare away every possible tourist in the world. The movie has loads of both intentional and unintentional comedy, and to me it flies way deep into the Turkey Territory.
It's not a turkey because it would be badly acted or badly produced, without any professionalism. Most of the characters are spot-on, no matter how small or large their part is, or how twisted or strangely hilarious the going gets. The acting is mostly good, but the most of it is so over the top that the mood turns from scary into laugh-riot inducing. Maybe out of inexperience in making any kind of horror movies, the director Olli Soinio fails to deliver the real horror effect on it all, and instead what has meant to be menacing and creepy, turns out to be really cheesy and funny. Kari Sorvali as Arvo Kyyrölä the maniac easily steals the show with his corny one-liners, spot-ugly looks and over-the-top blown mannerism.
My rating for the movie is a some kind of median: As a movie it is around 3 or 4 out of 10; as a camp entertainment it deserves 10 out of 10. Still, so far it's the closest thing of Texas Chainsaw MAssacre that has come from Finland. I sure hope some company makes the effort to release this on DVD.
Curse of the mummy's tomb certainly is not a best effort from Hammer studios, as many of their true classics outshine it without any serious effort. However, it is not as much a disaster as many comments here in IMDb suggest. The movie doesn't have any Hammer's big stars in the cast, the story doesn't bring anything new into the mummy myth, and at few times the going gets unintentionally hilarious in the film. But on the other hand, the characters are acted quite solidly, even if the performances don't truly shine. Comical reliefs are mostly done with certain style, especially by Fred Clark as a P.T. Barnum replica, and the plot has few interesting twists. We even have here few scenes of surprisingly graphic of it's time, if a bit unrealistic screen violence, if that's your cup of tea. Slow pace and low action rate of the film works more for than against the movie, at least in my books, and the whole package is short enough, so the story can carry it all through till the end.
All in all, if you're a fan of old horror films, give it a go, whether you're a fan of Hammer studios works or not. At least this one certainly beats the stuffing out of it's follow-up, Mummy's shroud, which in my opinion truly deserves any public stoning it gets.