Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Below The Belt (1980)

I've seen a few films about professional wrestling, and starring wrestlers, and they are all pretty awful... except for Below The Belt which follows Rosa (Regina Baff) as she leaves her dead-end life in New York to join the (wrestling) circus.

However this isn't the glitzy and media rich world of the WWE nowadays, this is the rather lo-fi wrestling scene of the 1970s (the film was made in 1974 though not released until 1980). Wrestlers did the hard yards travelling from town to town living out of a suitcase, shedding blood for a baying crowd for a handful of dollars. Although about wrestling this film can be seen more as a road movie... with head locks.

The relationships of the wrestlers makes this movie, the new blood and the old soaks. Hopes and dreams... for some still burning bright, for others fast fading away.

It's a terrific film, dosed in 1970s Americana: big cars pounding endless freeways, popcorn stands in grubby arenas in the back of small towns. Easily the best wrestling film I've seen, of course that doesn't mean much considering the competition. Just trust me that this obscure film really is pretty special. Like Rosa, the film might not look much but it's got it where it counts.

Sunday, February 25, 2018

Megaforce (1982)

Megaforce is apparently an elite US rapid deployment team who drive buggies and ride flying bikes. They are sent to deal with a tinpot dictator somewhere in the desert and hilarity ensues.

That hilarity is unintentional (naturally). This film is horrific in many ways, with poor effects, a ropey plot and acting.

The main selling point of the film, the Megaforce, is also rather poor. "Elite forces" who'd struggle to blow the door off an old barn. It is well worth seeing of course for the pure cheese value.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Young Rebels (1989)

Young Rebels has the same director and writer (Amir Sheravan) and some of the actors (including the legendary Robert Z'dar) of Samurai Cop and Killing American Style but somehow lacks that certain something that elevates a bad film into cult classic status.

So it has bad acting, cheesy dialogue, a plot that makes no sense (and is basically one long fight between our heroes and a drug gang), gratuitous nudity and awful fight choreography but... Well it's not all bad, the film is unintentionally hilarious because it is so dreadful.

Plus without this film there may never have been Samurai Cop and a world without Samurai Cop is not one i'd want to live in.

Saturday, February 17, 2018

Gymkata (1985)

Well it stands to reason doesn't it? Gymnastics and martial arts are a match made in heaven. Let's make a film about it...

Gymkata is a very odd film and definitely in the "so bad it's good" drawer with plenty of unintentional humour. An actual Olympic gymnast Kurt Thomas was bought in as the star (and truth be told he is a non-actor but you will see a lot worse acting in these kinds of films by people who are supposed to be professionals). Our hero is sent into a tiny Central Asian country where the US wants to put a satellite monitoring station. The reason a gymnast martial artist and not a diplomat is sent in is because this little country gets foreign visitors to take part in an extreme endurance event chased by local warriors. A cute custom though as it results in most entrants deaths it can't be doing much for the tourism industry.

Win the event however and you are granted your wish, and hence a satellite base. Which is why the US sends in Kurt Thomas and not Casper Weinberger who I suspect is not that good at kung fu.

So that's what the film is about and it is all very silly. The Central Asian country is basically still in the Middle Ages and a very dangerous land full of grotesque stereotypes and freaks. The action is good though but the gymnastics part of the film is a bit contrived, remote villages just happening to have a pair of parallel bars...

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Why me? (1983)

This is quite an unusual HK film, especially for it's time. It is rare in because it deals with the issue of mental illness. It is typical of HK cinema however to make a film about the tragic story of a mentally ill man (played by Kent Cheng who won an award for his role) and his dying mother (and boy, this is epic in it's tragedy!) but wrap it up with silly goofy humour and some half-baked romance.

That's not to say this film is bad but there are times when your finger does hover over the STOP button on the remote. You should refrain though because this is a pretty good film... overall though could have been so much better. Olivia Cheng and Chow Yun Fat play 2 social workers who are also a couple. Olivia happens upon the mentally ill man and his poor mother who refuses to accept charity.

Olivia tries to get them better housing and a place at a special school but the queue is wrong. Olivia tries to get the queue jumped but as Chow says, the queue is full of people who are just as deserving. Olivia also has family problems of her own including a dead beat dad and Eric Tsang as a step-father, however it's not one of his best roles. His usual jokey clown act seems rather jarring and forced here. These sub-plots are all rather incidental to the main plot of the film which comes to a rather predictable but powerful all the same climax.

Saturday, February 10, 2018

Exterminators of the Year 3000 (1983)

This film is very confusing, the title implies it is set in the year 3000 but somehow 1970s cars are still running - along with advanced bionic children. It is yet another European Mad Max inspired movie set in a post apocalypse wasteland i.e. Italian or Spanish countryside.

The plot is very heavily inspired by Mad Max 2, complete with a tanker chase across the desert. There are gangs of marauders and lots and lots of violence. The film is pretty low budget with little story sense, bizarre dialogue and a singular lack of anything you might consider acting.

However despite all of that it is strangely compelling and remarkably enjoyable perhaps because it is so strange. The action scenes are pretty decent with some very good stunts. There is also plenty of unintentional hilarity especially with some of the dialogue.

It's also the only film i can think of where a robot child is got drunk on beer while someone tries to fix his arm.

Thursday, February 8, 2018

The Toolbox Murders (1978)

The Toolbox Murders is at times a rather unpleasant but compelling splatter gore / psychological horror movie, controversial in it's time and banned in the UK for awhile (one of the first so-called "video nasties").

A religious maniac starts killing women who he sees as sinful in an apartment block, using the contents of a toolbox (hammer, screwdriver et cetera) to perform his grisly and extremely bloody kills. The murders take place over a rather enjoyable country music soundtrack - which is probably the best part of this film to be honest.

The film makes little sense, you'd think four murders in the same block would have the police descending like a ton of bricks on the place but no they barely seem to investigate the crimes at all.

After the initial twenty minutes or so of mayhem the film slow down a lot and concentrates on the kidnap of a young girl and there is a lot of rather weird dialogue and psychological exploration of the killer's motives. The abrupt change in direction of the film can be a bit jarring (though not as much as a claw hammer to the head) but it somehow all holds together. Thanks to a nail gun no doubt.

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Black Oxen (1924)

Black Oxen is a slightly curious but enjoyable silent movie. A love triangle but with elements of fantasy and science fiction.

The film stars Conway Teale as a NY writer who falls in love with an Austrian countess played by Corinne Griffith. Clara Bow plays the other side of the triangle, in love with the writer but his attention is only on the countess and not the somewhat annoying flapper...

But the countess has a dark secret, she is using specialised treatments and X-rays to retain her youth and is really a much older woman and not in her twenties as she appears.

She gets found out in the end of course. Well apparently, only seven of the film's original eight reels are extant meaning the end of the movie (about twenty minutes) is now missing. Luckily original reviews can tell us what happens! All spoilers arn't bad.

Sunday, February 4, 2018

The New Barbarians (1983)

After the apocalypse the few starving survivors of mankind will apparently battle for survival in the desert wastes in battered old cars covered in spikes and weapons. Now it's not Mad Max but a very passable Italian film obviously inspired by it.

The plot is basic to say the least, a band of helmeted maniacs called The Templars seek to wipe out all other survivors on Earth. To stop them: our hero Giancarlo Prete (who is an ex-member of this group) and some friends.

Well the plot (which is a bit of a rip off of Mad Max 2 if we are going to be honest) is fairly irrelevant with a film like this. The most important question is: what is the action like? Well it is good, often very good in fact, despite the obviously tiny budget. The film consists of a number of bloody set pieces with people blown up, decapitated by exploding arrows, burned alive and run over. It is very violent indeed but also has a great deal of camp fun. And has a car with a giant corkscrew.

One thing to note about this horrific vision of the future is that its set in 2019...

Thursday, February 1, 2018

Häxan (1922)

Häxan is a curious and enjoyable Swedish/Danish silent movie. It is a documentary horror exploring witchcraft and superstition from the Middle Ages onwards with numerous dramatised vignettes featuring witches, black magic and various devilment.

Some parts of the film are tinted which adds to the creepiness and/or fun especially when the tint is red.

A controversial film, scenes of nudity and torture helped it be banned in several countries. The film is full of weirdness and the forbidden, it's a lot of fun. The early part of the film, which is mostly documentary, can drag a bit though.