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Hot Potato (1975) June 26, 2011

Posted by Cal in : Comedy, Action, 1970s films, Bad Films, Non-Asian , add a comment

Director: Oscar Williams  Main cast: Jim Kelly; George Memmoli; Geoffrey Binney; Irene Tsu; Judith Brown  Territory: USA

By 1975, Warner Bros were struggling to find a vehicle to propel Jim “Enter the Dragon” Kelly into the big time, and Hot Potato is a rather transparent attempt to recreate Bruce Lee’s hit on a smaller budget and with a wider audience in mind.  And without Robert Clouse behind the camera…

Filmed entirely in Thailand, and with a deliberate variation on the Enter the Dragon score, Hot Potato is a sequel of sorts to the earlier Blaxploitation flick Black Belt Jones, although this is an entirely different animal.  Whereas the earlier film was a low-budget, gritty, urban action film, this has a mainly white (and Asian) cast, comedy sound effects, and family-friendly humour.

The plot features a Han-lite villain in Mr Rangoon, whose villainy is somewhat vague but, of course, ruthless.  He and his cronies kidnap a senator’s daughter for ransom, leading the US military to send in its top man – Jones (Kelly).  Thankfully, he is not once referred to as “Belt” in this instalment.  Jones recruits his team – a random pair of idiots – and heads off to find Rangoon and rescue the hostage.  Along the way, they encounter their contact, who is…gasp…a woman.

For years, Hot Potato and its predecessor have only been available on grainy, full screen, bootleg releases.  However, Warner Bros have now released these films, along with Black Sampson and another Kelly vehicle Three the Hard Way in their Urban Action Collection (sadly only available on Region 1 at present) and the difference is quite staggering.  While the audio is still shaky (some performers’ voices appear to be overdubbed – quite badly), the widescreen, remastered (I assume) presentation transforms the film, making it seem much more than a cheap action movie.  And for fans of Hong Kong cinema, you get to see Yuen Biao, Lam Ching Ying and Eric Tsang as stuntmen – although they reappear in virtually every action scene, making it seem like Rangoon has infinitely regenerating henchmen.

Sadly, it still doesn’t disguise the fact that it really isn’t a very good film.  While well meaning, the crude and corny humour and “zany” characters can often irritate.  The comedy isn’t particularly funny (and has dated very badly indeed) and the attempts at depth – Johnny Chicago (Binney) has a tragic secret, and falls for the senator’s daughter’s double - are entirely superficial.  In fact, it’s the latter’s death at the hands of Rangoon that provides the best laugh.  But don’t worry; the heartbroken Chicago gets over it very quickly.

hot-potato.jpg 

“NOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!  IT’S ALL HAPPENING AGAIN!!!”

Hot Potato is regarded very badly amongst genre fans – even more so than Black Belt Jones.  And while I’m probably one of its biggest supporters, even I have to admit it is sometimes a bit of an ordeal to sit through.  And what the title refers to is never alluded to – all of which means this particular potato is half baked indeed.

The Executioner II: Karate Inferno (1974) August 18, 2010

Posted by Cal in : Comedy, Action, 1970s films, Wacko, Bad Films , add a comment

Director: Teruo Ishii  Starring: Sonny Chiba; Makoto Satô; Eiji Go; Yutaka Nakajima; Etsuko Shiomi  Territory: Japan

These Sonny Chiba films from the 70s (and especially their sequels) are a lot like cinematic fast food – cheap, dirty, low quality fodder that can also satisfy completely when you’re in the mood.  This sequel to The Executioner is completely divorced from its parent, relying more on toilet humour than cheap gore and action.

In fact, the subtitle Karate Inferno seems conspicuously misplaced – the film boast but two action scenes.  The film’s plot, if you want to call it that, is about a jewel heist in which our trio of unlikely heroes con a paraplegic out of a priceless necklace.  If that sounds weird, well, you ain’t seen nothing yet.  The acting is particularly poor from the westerners (as usual) and said paraplegic (another westerner) is awful, although that doesn’t stop Chiba looking up her skirt when she’s asleep (yes, it’s that kind of film).  While I think about it, the opening credits are a wonder in themselves – promising stunts, fights and boobs galore.  I don’t remember seeing that many bare breasts in the actual film, but perhaps I miscounted. 

Sonny Chiba - The Executioner 2

There’s no escaping the fact that The Executioner II is primarily a comedy though.  And the comedy is extremely low-brow, and mostly unfunny to today’s sophisticated audience.  Having said that, like anything of this nature, when one joke out of a hundred hits the spot it really makes you laugh, and a running gag involving a glued hand to a table had me chuckling along.  There are only so many fart gags I can stand though, and the humour can wear very thin.

But the thing is, those two action scenes I mentioned earlier are actually pretty excellent.  In particular, the climax is outstanding.  And no matter how hard I try, I can’t bring myself to despise the movie.  It’s charmingly naff, vulgar and unnecessary, and I occasionally like that in a film.

Delinquent Girl Boss: Worthless to Confess (1971) July 11, 2009

Posted by Cal in : Action, 1970s films, Exploitation, Bad Films , 2 comments

Director: Kazuhiko Yamaguchi  Main cast: Reiko Oshida; Masumi Tachibana; Yukie Kagawa  Territory: Japan

vlcsnap-222644.jpgHow can you pass up the opportunity to see a film called Delinquent Girl Boss: Worthless to Confess?  Apparently the fourth instalment in a series of quickly made Pinky Violence films, this one doesn’t have much “pink”, but has a fair bit of violence…

It also has a barely-there plot about a wayward daughter and her estranged father paying off her debts.  There’s a bit of a moral message in there too and a sizeable chunk of melodrama.  But mostly it’s about a bad good girl (or good bad girl, depending on your point of view) Rika (Reiko Oshida) and her former jailhouse chums kicking the ass of a Yakuza mob.

Delinquent Girl Boss: Worthless to Confess is not a well made film.  It screams cheap and quick, and even has one shot along a street where a passer-by stops and looks straight into the camera and watches intently as the shot progresses.  But Reiko is cute with her long hair and short skirts, and is even better when she’s in mourning when she favours hot pants and knee boots.  If you’ve been following these pages for any amount of time you’ll know I have a particular soft spot for the style and kitsch of this era, and I loved the night club scene where an entire rock band start mining along with a piano-and-vocal-only song. 

As mentioned earlier, there isn’t a whole lot of nudity in the film, but there are a few laughably obvious scenes (a bath scene in a women’s prison springs to mind).  There are also a few really strange touches, like when a minor “sister” character appears to playfully fondle Rika’s breasts for no reason and the inclusion of a few mild allusions to underwear fetishism.  The standard revenge plot, when it kicks in, will not have anyone in suspense, but delivers a bucket or two of blood. 

All in all, Delinquent Girl Boss: Worthless to Confess is enjoyable but light sexploitation/revenge flick fodder.  Quite good for a Sunday afternoon, but unlikely to be in anyone’s ‘classic’ list. 

Machine Girl (2008) October 28, 2008

Posted by Cal in : Uncategorized, Horror, Comedy, Action, Exploitation, Bad Films, 2000s films , add a comment

Director: Noboru Iguchi  Main cast: Minase Yashiro; Asami; Kentaro Shimazu; Nobuhiro Nishihara  Territory: Japan

After schoolgirl Ami’s (Minase Yashiro) younger brother gets killed by a gang of bullies, she stumbles on a list of his tormentors and goes on a rampage of vengeance.  Even after losing an arm, Ami hardly misses a beat – especially after a huband and wife team of mechanics fix her up with a replacement in the form of a high-calibur machine gun.  But the final revenge will not be easy – the head bully’s father is a Yakuza chief, expert in the use of a katana.  But even he is no match for his psychotic wife…

Machine Girl is the latest film from Noboru Iguchi, the man responsible for the ultra-mad Sukeban Boy.  As you would expect, it’s another blend of gore, bad acting and unconvincing fight scenes, but this time it looks like he had a budget for the film.  There are even a few bargain-basement CGI effects thrown in for good measure, and it’s got more of a cinematic feel to it. 

L-R: Asami Miyajima, Minase Yashiro 

With lines like: “Wash your hair in your son’s blood!”, random ninja attacks and a soundtrack that sounds like your typical 80’s straight-to-video action film, you know you’re talking major-league exploitation revenge-flick trash, and this is probably as good as it gets.  In fact, I’m really surprised not to see Tarantino’s name anywhere on the Region 1 release, and I imagine it’s already up there as one of his favourite films. 

It seems pointless to talk about characterisations, but there has been an effort to give mechanic Miki (Sukeban Boy’s Asami) some character developement from her initial hostillity towards Ami (she believed Ami’s parents were murderers) to being a strong friend when her son is killed alongside Ami’s brother.  Even bully Sho’s father is a more interesting character than at first appears due to his villainy being trumped at every turn by his demented wife. 

Athough the acting is generally poor, this guy really nailed the part. 

Which brings us back to the gore.  This really is a showcase for old-school effects, and like Sukeban Boy, it reminded me of the video nasties from the late 70’s or early 80’s.  Whether you think the gore effects are stupid or not probably depends on your fondness for those films, I suppose, but I thought they were a lot of fun.  I wasn’t quite sure whether the whole film is actually a satire on these kinds of films, and whether it was in fact a lot more intelligent than it appears at first glance.  It’s definitely possible.  But the important thing is that it’s a fun, mad little film that rips along at a breakneck speed ideal for those times when you want to see something completely over the top.

Oh, and that drill bra…!

Black Belt Jones (1974) June 12, 2007

Posted by Cal in : Action, Blaxploitation, 1970s films, Bad Films , add a comment

Director: Robert Clouse  Cast: Jim Kelly, Gloria Hendry, Malik Carter, Scatman Crothers  Action Director: Robert Wall  Territory: USA  Production Company:  Sequoin Films

I thought it was probably time to mix it up a little with another 70’s Blaxploitation movie.  Black Belt Jones is an ultra low budget wisecracking movie with eye-rollingly corny dialogue, some dodgy editing and a couple of performances so wooden they present a fire hazard.  But it also has heaps of funny lines (both intentional and otherwise), a full-on funky score and that authentic 70’s atmosphere that just can’t be recreated. 

Robert Clouse was a bit of an oddity in that he scored such great success with Enter the Dragon and then went on to direct one cinematic turd after another.  From the films I’ve seen of his (by no means his entire catalogue – I’m not a masochist) this is by far the sloppiest – and yes, I’m including Game of Death here.  Either he had next to no time to shoot or he genuinely didn’t care about certain things like actors accidentally talking over each other or delivering their lines in a very stilted manner.

The plot involves a Mafia plot to take over a small Karate school run by Poppa Byrd (Scatman Crothers, who looks like he’s infinitely relieved to be killed off part way through the movie), as the land will be invaluable for an upcoming renovation.  The Mafia enlist the help of local black drug dealer “Pinky” Pinkus (Malik Carter, who gets most of the movie’s best lines - and some of the best shirts), who sets about “persuading” Pop to hand over the business but is thwarted by Black Belt Jones (Kelly), who previously refused to try to infiltrate the Mafia’s impregnable fortress.  When the inevitable happens and Pop is killed, the business is handed to his estranged daughter Sydney (Gloria Hendry), who is put under the protection of Jones (known as “Belt” to his friends – seriously!).   But Sydney reveals that she, too, was taught how to fight at the age of three by Pop, and the pair take on the Mafia and Pinky’s gang.

This year's essential menswear

Clouse poached a couple of personnel from the previous year’s Bond movie Live and Let Die for this – Gloria Hendry played Rosie Carver, and one of Pinky’s henchmen played “Whisper”.  Hendry becomes a tough talking bad-ass in this (she can make you look like a sick faggot, apparently), and though her moves are more the result of editing than ability, she does bring a certain amount of class to the film.  Jim Kelly does more to impress in this than he does in, say, The Black Samurai, but he still doesn’t come across as A-Grade superstar material, and is doubled a few times for the more acrobatic moves.  The man apparently responsible for the action choreography is none other than Bob Wall, and he can be spotted behind the wheel of one of the cars at the end.  Also in attendance is a kid I always remember as a petty thief from a largely forgotten Dracula spoof called Love at First Bite.  It turns out his name is Eric Laneuville, and he went on to bigger and better things, including directing several episodes of The Best Television Show Ever™, Lost.  How about that?

Kelly hated mobile phone users on trains.

Back to Black Belt Jones, it’s the dated dialogue and outrageous clothes that are the real stars of this show and make the viewing experience worthwhile.  Some of the dialogue is intended to be funny, and surprisingly some of it is pretty effective.  The scene in which Sydney is put down by Jones and told to “do the dishes or something” is predictable but funny nevertheless.  And the 70’s slang is always going to raise a smile with everyone calling each other “brother”, “cat” and so forth.  You dig?

This film appears in the top 50 worst movies of all time according to some list or other, which I just take to be another recommendation to watch it.  In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if one day this gets re-released with the full “Quentin Tarantino Presents” treatment as I’m sure it’s right up his alley.  For now, sadly, it remains unavailable on DVD in a legitimate form.

Oily Maniac (1976) June 1, 2007

Posted by Cal in : Horror, 1970s films, Wacko, Bad Films , 2 comments

Director: Hoh Mung-Wa  Cast: Danny Lee, Chan Ping, Ku Feng  Territory: Hong Kong  Production Company: Shaw Brothers

It must have seemed like a great idea at the time: a sort of superhero-cum-monster movie set in Malaysia with lots and lots of topless ladies and the shark theme from Jaws.  The title alone sold it for me – any film called Oily Maniac is a must-have as far as I’m concerned. 

Danny Lee plays the eponymous Maniac – a polio victim who gains his powers when his mentor, shortly before his execution for murder, gives him the key to superhuman powers.  All he has to do is dig a hole in his own house (which is built upon some kind of bewitched ground) and the magical oil will bestow its power.  What it boils down to is this: if he covers himself head to toe in oil (of any kind), he becomes an invincible killing machine.  He can switch between two forms at will: an oil slick (great for sliding along the ground or ceiling and slipping into the tiniest of cracks) or a more-or-less human form (great for throttling his victims).  The Maniac then goes on a killing rampage righting the wrongs he sees in his everyday life as a clerk in a solicitor’s office.

Honey!  I'm Home!

I’ve just reread that plot synopsis and realised I’ve just made Oily Maniac sound a hell of a lot more exciting than it really is.  It tries to be both a superhero movie (the monster is kind of like the Incredible Hulk in a way, and the mild-mannered Danny Lee character is like any number of superhero alter-ego average Joes) and a horror film.  It doesn’t really achieve either thanks largely to some terrible – and I do mean terrible – special effects.  Plus, it’s about as scary as an episode of Postman Pat. The oil slick effect wouldn’t fool a five year old today, and it probably didn’t look too convincing back then, either.  As for the human form of the Maniac – well, it’s a guy in a (badly made) rubber suit.  Add to this the blatant ripping-off of the Jaws theme tune whenever the Maniac is about to appear, and it all makes for one hell of a wacko experience.  Actually, if it wasn’t for this piece of music popping up all over the place, I’d swear this was a lot older than 1976 – if not for the effects, then for the fashions which seem more like they’re from the late sixties or early seventies to me.

No comment.

As you might expect, all this results in some unintentional comedy and an overall campy feel to the film.  Which is just as well, because the rest of it is a complete write-off. The morality of the film seems a little skewed, too, and some of the plot doesn’t stand up to close scrutiny.  I think the crew probably thought that if you throw enough topless ladies in, you could disguise the film’s shortcomings.  This is probably the most “breasty” Hong Kong film I’ve seen, although I’m sure it can’t hold a candle to Cat III films (of which I haven’t seen any, Officer, I swear).  The action scenes involving the Maniac aren’t too bad, though, but you can never get past the fact that it’s a man in a rubber suit.  The film’s conclusion was more than a tad predictable, too.

Oily Maniac is not so much a B-Movie as a C-Movie, but is entertaining enough in its camp way - and is probably the only place you will ever see a man beaten to death with his own bicycle.

Black Samurai (1976) May 11, 2007

Posted by Cal in : Blogroll, Action, Blaxploitation, 1970s films, Bad Films , 8 comments

Director: Al Adamson  Starring: Jim Kelly, Bill Roy, Marilyn Joi  Territory: USA  Production Company: BJLJ International Corp.

Agent of D.R.A.G.O.N Robert Sand (Jim Kelly) is ordered by his shadowy bosses to save his own girlfriend from certain death at the hands of the ruthless drug lord Janicot who has kidnapped her and is holding her hostage in a tower.  Although he’s on holiday at the time, Sand grudgingly agrees to save her.  What a guy.  Blah blah voodoo rituals blah villain has own personal army blah blah blah overwhelming odds etc etc.  You know the story.

There certainly are a few revelations in this film.  The first is it’s apparently based on a novel by a guy called Marc Olden, and amazingly some of his books appear to be still in print – even after this film.  The second is that this Blaxploitation picture is a bit of a departure for the director, who was more at home in the horror/ B-movie field.  A quick glance at his filmography makes me want to go and see his films, with titles such as: Blazing Stewardesses, I Spit on your Corpse! (You’ve got to include the exclamation mark or the title just doesn’t have the impact), Lash of Lust, Blood of Ghastly Horror, Dracula Vs Frankenstein, Horror of the Blood Monsters and Satan’s Sadists.  Sadly, I understand he was murdered and hidden under the floor of his own bathroom in the 90s. 

Anyway, the film.  Everyone should know by now I like the occasional “bad film” and I don’t think they come any worse than this.  It’s utterly utterly hopeless.  The acting is some of the worst I’ve ever seen, with some delightfully bad dialogue thrown in.  The open-air end fight is strange, too: the trash talking dialogue between the two combatants seems to have been dubbed on later from a small room.  There are also some crazy ideas in here – a couple of wrestling dwarfs and an attack vulture to name but two.  But rest assured, there’s more where that came from.

Kelly hated it when the staff forgot to wear their name tags.

You’ve just got to love an organisation that calls itself D.R.A.G.O.N – you can’t help thinking of the head of the organisation sitting around at a board meeting saying, “I want an acronym, and make it sound TOUGH!” And of course we never get to find out what D.R.A.G.O.N (God, I hate typing that) stands for.  Or what it does…

Jim Kelly was expected to be a big star of the seventies after his “introduction” in Enter the Dragon, but when he made stuff like this, it’s not hard to see why it never happened.  That being said, Kelly himself is reasonably OK most of the time – it’s just the film itself that’s a stinker.

Sadly, the only currently available version of this film has many problems.  The transfer is awful.  Sub VHS, even.  Secondly, it seems to be quite badly cut (either that or the editing is worse than I thought).  There even appears to be some dubbing or obscuring of swearwords in places too.  If someone were to remaster this in its uncut form, stick a “Quentin Tarantino Presents” sticker on it and put it out on sale, I think we’d have a winner on our hands.  But presumably Jim Kelly will be too busy lookin’ goood on the tennis court to do any promotion for it.

Kill And Kill Again (1981) April 29, 2007

Posted by Cal in : Action, Wacko, Bad Films , 9 comments

Director: Ivan Hall Starring: James Ryan, Anneline Kriel, Bill Flynn, Norman Robinson, Ken Gampu Territory: South Africa

Eminent scientist Dr Horatio Kane has discovered a way to get fuel from potatoes.  Unfortunately, a by-product of the process is a mind-control drug (how did they find out? – the mind boggles!) and it seems a megalomaniac named Marduk (Michael Mayer) has kidnapped the good doctor to work for him in his utopian state of New Babylonia.  There, Marduk is training his army to take over the world for some reason or other.  Head of the army is the Optimus, an impressive figure with a truly fearsome moustache.  The authorities draft Steve Chase (James Ryan) to go in there, sort Marduk out and come back with Dr Kane.  Steve starts assembling his crew for the mission: gadgets man Hot Dog (Bill Flynn), brawler Gypsy Billy (Norman Robinson), the mysterious Fly (Stan Schmidt), and wrestler Gorilla (the late Ken Gampu).  Also insisting on coming along for the ride is Kandy Kane (with a “K”), daughter of Horatio.  But the evil Marduk has one final knockout blow – he’s developed the mind-control drug further and is now planning to introduce is into the world’s water supply in a fiendish plan cryptically titled Operation Water Supply.  Can Steve and his plucky bunch of underdogs stop him in time?

Marduk (AKA Chuckles) was a demon on Karaoke night.

Admit it, you’ve never heard of Kill and Kill Again.  It’s a little-known film from South Africa and follows very loosely on from Kill or be Killed.  However, you don’t need to see that to enjoy Kill and Kill Again in its full glory.  In fact, skip the original, it’s awful. 

Kill and Kill Again is very much a family film (incidentally, the topless catfight scene on the back of the current DVD release of this film does NOT appear – that was a desperate attempt by the company to sell this film!) and they’ve clearly tried to tick every box possible.  For dad, we have the Karate scenes and some gorgeous eye Kandy…er…candy in the shape of the female lead.  Mom has the dreamy Steve Chase to drool over.  Little Johnny has the cool moves he can practice in the school yard to get himself expelled while little Janet has a great role-model in Kandy Kane to look up to – hell, she’s almost as good as a man!  And of course, everyone can laugh at the funny parrot and the group’s low-grade misogyny towards Kandy. 

The A+ Team: Gypsy Billy, Steve Chase, Gorilla & Hot Dog.

The film’s aim is clear.  It’s basically James Bond meets Enter the Dragon.  We have as many one-liners as you’d find in a Moore-era Bond movie – and every one of them falls hilariously flat.  It’s so unfunny, it actually becomes funny – and this was years before Austin Powers shagged his way onto our screens.

The characters are bizarre (for example, Hot Dog is a gadgets expert, but his knowledge seems largely limited to scattering a few tacks across the floor or handing Steve his nunchaku) and the actions of the characters are often highly questionable (at one point, in a tender moment between Steve and Kandy, he inexplicably licks her shoulder).  Plus, on the bad guy side, you have Marduk’s strange relationship with the pink-haired Minerva (Marlowe Scott Wilson) and a way too sentient parrot.  And don’t get me started on the Fly…

How not to be seen - our heroes in stealth mode.

All of this adds up to a whole bunch of fun.  Kill And Kill Again is a film I simply cannot stop watching, simply because it is so well intentioned.  All of the out-and-out wrongness is just the icing on the cake as far as I’m concerned.  And in its own special way, was something of a trailblazer.  The “crack team working together” angle pre-dates the A-Team by a number of years.  And let’s not forget that this film invented Bullet Time.  Yes, that’s right, the Wachowski Brothers learned everything they know from Kill And Kill Again.

Actually, I hate to piss on anybody’s chips, but this rumour (which is being circulated right now on the internet) is simply rubbish.  The effect in question appears close to what passes for “Bullet Time”, but is simply a bit of slow-motion to try to eke some kind of tension out of the climax – which itself is hilarious.  I mention this as I would hate anyone to watch this thing expecting to see movie history being made.  Just watch it for what it is.

I found Bill Flynn’s website once (he’s still working!) and sent him an enthusiastic email gushing on about my love for the film.  He didn’t reply. Maybe he’s not in the market for a new stalker right at the minute.  Hot DOG!

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