A Weekend of Trash

(plus a couple of ‘proper’ films)

Below is an article I wrote for my blog a couple of weeks ago.  I was meaning to cross-post it as my first article for Row Three, but never got round to it.  Plus I was worried the trashy nature might have created the wrong impression.  It’s all good fun though, so enjoy!


TrashVHS

I got together with some friends this weekend for one of our regular filmathons, which generally consist of the trashiest films we can find on VHS mixed with a few classier genre titles.  This session was no different, squeezing 11 films into one weekend.  I’ll admit a few of the films weren’t watched too closely and most of the dialogue in the trashiest efforts was overshadowed by us taking the piss throughout, so I’ve not always given a rating and I’m going to keep the reviews very brief.  I’ve also added some trailers and clips for your amusement, so enjoy!

FRIDAY:

Vengeance Squad

Year: 1987
Director: Jett C. Espiritu
Writer: Bing P. Santos
Starring: Efren Reyes Jnr, Chona Castillo, George Estregan

I only caught the last half an hour of this, but from what I saw and from everyone else’s reactions all I can say is ‘what the hell?’  It’s an extremely confusing mess of a film with very little going for it.  It’s naffness knows no bounds, and the horrendous camerawork and editing caused much amusement, setting the trend for the rest of the weekend.

The Being

Year: 1983
Director: Jackie Kong
Writer: Jackie Kong
Starring: Martin Landau, Bill Osco (AKA Rexx Coltrane), Jose Ferrer

A cheap monster movie featuring Martin Landau with a monster luckily kept in shadow for the most of the running time.  In fact most of the film was kept in shadow (or it might have been the TV we were watching it on) and we couldn’t always tell quite what was going on.  It was pretty bad, but an improvement on Vengeance Squad, with a more coherent story and some enjoyable sequences, especially the monster showdown at the end, which was hardly Aliens, but provided a few laughs and cheers.  There were some very random scenes though including a drunken Jose Ferrer seemingly ringing a phone sex line?!

 

Ninja

Year: 2009
Director: Isaac Florentine
Writers: Boaz Davidson, Michael Hurst, Zaki Rubenstein
Starring: Scott Adkins, Tsuyoshi Ihara, Mika Hijii, Todd Jensen

Our first quality film came in the shape of Ninja, a top-notch action movie which reminded me of the no-nonsense action films I used to love from the 80’s and early 90’s.  It’s story is nothing to write home about and the dialogue and acting is hardly award winning, but the action comes thick and fast, never lagging during it’s 90 minutes or so running time.  The fight sequences are fantastic and show off the skills of Scott Adkins and Tsuyoshi Ihara to great effect.  Their showdown at the end is especially impressive and luckily the action is shot and edited properly, showing that these actors really know their stuff and the violence isn’t implied through over-zealous editing as with most Hollywood action films these days.  It’s not a perfect film, Adkins, although a great fighter, is a little dull as a lead actor (Ihara on the other hand makes a great villain), it’s pretty cheesy at times and as mentioned before the plot is pretty thin.  For martial arts and action fans though this is a film well worth waiting for – it’s due a DVD release in March 2010 and I’d recommend it to anyone who enjoys a bit of the rough stuff.

SATURDAY:

Master Ninja (TV Series – one episode watched)

Year: 1984
Series Creator: Michael Sloan
Starring: Lee Van Cleef, Timothy Van Patten, Sho Kosugi, George Lazenby

A cheesy TV series from the 80’s cashing in on the kung-fu/ninja craze, Master Ninja (aka The Master) is daft, cheap and textbook, but I had fun with the episode we watched.  Lee Van Cleef strolls around with a huge medallion and conveniently wears his full body ninja outfit whenever he’s needed for an action scene (not that you can expect a man of his age to do his own stunts).  George Lazenby seems to have forgotten that he only did one Bond film as he spends the whole episode in a tuxedo and drives an Aston Martin.  The young lead Timothy Van Patten is a cookie cutter character who’s as wooden as, well, a piece of wood, but it’s all so silly I had a laugh watching it.

 

Cold Steel

Year: 1987
Director: Dorothy Ann Puzo
Writers: Dorothy Ann Puzo, Lisa M. Hansen, Moe Quigley, Michael Sonye
Starring: Brad Davis, Sharon Stone, Jonathan Banks, Adam Ant

An action revenge movie from the 80’s, Cold Steel was one of the better cheesy 80’s flicks that we watched at the weekend.  It was a bit slow at times and was pretty by the numbers throughout, but it had a couple of things going for it.  For one, some of the violence was surprisingly brutal, with an early killing and the finale standing out and actually eliciting some ‘ooohs’ from an audience that generally just laughed at everything.  There’s also a random car chase in the middle that although nonsensical, contains some really impressive stunts.  All in all it was pretty forgettable, but worth seeing for the aforementioned scenes as well as the curiosity of watching a young Sharon Stone and Adam Ant (?!).

The Warrior and the Sorceress

Year: 1984
Director: John C. Broderick
Writer: John C. Broderick
Starring: David Carradine, Luke Askew, Maria Socas, Anthony De Longis

Riding the wave of Conan’s success, The Warrior and the Sorceress is an uber-trashy sword and sorcery flick that rips it’s plot from Yojimbo/A Fistful of Dollars.  It’s very, very silly, featuring a bizarre talking lizard, some very camp warriors and a woman with four breasts.  Yes you read that right, not two, but four breasts.  Clearly realising how bad the film was going to be, writer/director John C. Broderick threw in as much nudity as possible (all women in the film are naked at least 90% of the time, seriously) and the famous quadro-boobed lady to make this a memorably sleazy offering.  David Carridine is clearly just there to earn an easy buck, and looks pretty rough through most of the film.  The action is generally quite bad, although the swordfights were still quite enjoyable, and you can’t expect much more from a film of it’s age and background.  It’s worth watching for a cheap laugh, but make sure you back it up with plenty of alcohol.

 

Charlie Valentine

Year: 2009
Director: Jesse V. Johnson
Writer: Jesse V. Johnson
Starring: Raymond J. Barry, Michael Weatherly, James Russo, Tom Berenger

After an overdose of cheese, we decided on a classier film to bring us back to Earth on Saturday.  Charlie Valentine is a slickly produced low budget gangster film from British director Jesse V Johnson.  It’s a handsome looking film with some brutal and unflinchingly violent scenes that will satisfy action fans.  For me though, after a strong opening 20 minutes I found that the film tailed off a bit into predictable gangster territory.  The dialogue especially is lifted from a dozen other films and it didn’t offer anything new to the genre.  Also, although the lead actor Raymond J Barry delivers a solid performance I felt he was let down by a lot of the rest of the cast, especially Michael Weatherly who plays his son in the film.  He’s not terrible, but he’s very forgettable and uninteresting, which could be more of a fault with the writing, but it’s not a scene-stealing performance.  That said, the finale is satisfying and as I mentioned before it’s a good-looking film with some powerful action scenes, so I’d still recommend it.

Trapped

Year: 1982
Director: William Fruet
Writer: John Beaird
Starring: Henry Silva, Nicholas Campbell, Barbara Gordon, Gina Dick

From the DVD case, I was expecting Trapped to be another entry to our gradually building list of laughably naff 80’s movies, but it was actually pretty good.  It’s quite generic at times and features some painfully dumb ‘heroes’, but overall it’s a well made backwoods horror film that still holds up after 27 years.  Henry Silva, usually known for small supporting roles, gives a disturbing and powerful performance as Henry, the self-appointed ‘leader’ of a small town hidden in the back roads of Baker County, USA (the original title of the film).  A group of students witness him murder an outsider who has slept with his wife and Henry goes about trying to tie up the loose ends.  The hicks in Trapped are given much more depth than is expected from a film of this type and they end up being much more interesting and well rounded than the group of students who do some of the most ridiculous things.  Where most of the film seems to shy away from cliches, whatever the students do seems to have come from the ‘Idiots Guide To What Not To Do In a Horror Film’.  They have several opportunities to escape in the film and every time they go back to the town only to get caught or chased again.  The infuriating ‘good-guys’ aside, this is an enjoyable horror gem that’s worth a watch if you can track it down.

 

Double Revenge

Year: 1990
Director: Armand Mastroianni
Writers: John Sharkey & Brian Tobin
Starring: Joe Dallesandro, Vinny Argiro, Ray McCloskey

Right, back to the real trash.  Double Revenge is a forgettable, dull, revenge thriller.  The bank robbery, ensuing hostage situation and chase at the start of the film are OK and gave us promise for the rest of it, but it all went wrong after that.  It’s a film that takes itself way too seriously and just gets quite boring.  OK, so it didn’t help that it was our 6th film of the day and we were getting tired, but there’s very little action apart from the opening 15 minutes, a passable car chase in the middle and the predictable showdown at the end.  I’d normally be fine with that if what was in between the action was good, but it really wasn’t.  It’s got an incredibly heavy handed overuse of the American flag throughout, trying to make a ‘bold statement’ about the judicial system, but there’s not enough substance here to back that up and I didn’t buy the plot contrivances that attempted to do so.  All in all it’s a tedious and pretentious thriller that should stay in the VHS graveyard that it came from.

Trailer for Double Revenge

SUNDAY:

Black Cobra 3

Year: 1990
Director: Edoardo Margheriti
Writer: ? (unavailable on IMDB)
Starring: Fred Williamson, Forry Smith, Debra Ward

To wake us up on Sunday we ‘treated’ ourselves to Black Cobra 3: The Manilla Connection, a Fred Williamson vehicle from the early 90’s that looks like it should be from the early 80’s.  Wow, this was pretty bad.  The opening scene where a soldier breaks into a jungle compound is hilariously silly (check out the way he gets past an electric fence!) and our introduction to Williamson shooting up a supermarket is a laugh (check out the clip below), but most of the film is pretty slow and just plain bad rather than being so bad it’s funny.  There’s lots of silliness of course and a few sub-A-Team action scenes, but not enough to sustain my attention.  It’s one of the longest 90 minutes I’ve spent watching a film.

 

The Yakuza

Year: 1974
Director: Sydney Pollack
Writers: Paul Schrader, Robert Towne & Leonard Schrader
Starring: Robert Mitchum, Ken Takakura, Brian Keith, Herb Edelman

Before I left to drive home I wanted to end on a high note so we thought we’d watch a more respectable film to round the weekend off, and we definitely made the right choice.  I really should write a longer review for this, but writing up the whole weekend of films has been epic and I don’t think I’d do it justice.  All I can say is that I thought The Yakuza was brilliant.  What really struck me was how respectable it was to Japanese culture coming from a largely American cast and crew.  It was one of the only Hollywood films I’ve seen that tackled samurai and Yakuza subject matter and actually felt like a Japanese film (bar the language of course).  It’s slow paced, but well performed, beautifully shot and when called for, tremendously tense and exciting.  The action scenes are short and sharp as they should be, with a drawn out climactic showdown that is absolutely stunning.  Robert Mitchum and Ken Takakura are fantastic and their final scenes together are very powerful.  It’s an absolute classic that deserves a lot more recognition, standing tall amongst it’s talented crew’s back catalogue of established classics.

(I wanted to include a trailer but I couldn’t find one online, only some clips that ruin the film, so I decided not to include them)

TheYakuza

 

Sort by:   newest | oldest | most voted
whitechapel
Guest

Any post with a VHS tape immediately has my attention! Good on ya, sounds like you guys had a good time.

Kurt Halfyard
Admin

I found that over the past couple years there is a fascinating nostalgia/niche for foreign and weird VHS releases that probably have not migrated onto DVD. Despite Blu-ray, DVD is still only ~60-80% there in terms of VHS titles being converted over, which leaves a lot of nooks and crannies. I know that the VHS trade thread over at twitch was for a while the most popular and read thread in the entire user forum.

Jandy Hardesty
Admin

It's fun to sit down for a weekend with like-minded friends to just watch a bunch of crap. Haven't been able to do that for a while, so I'm glad to live vicariously through reading this. Thanks!

And I'll definitely make sure I catch The Yakuza as I catch up on my New Hollywood films – that's my current project, as pretty much all of my most embarrassing filmwatching gaps are from that era.

Bob Turnbull
Admin

I've had The Yakuza sitting at home unwatched for nigh on a year now – it was part of the Mitchum box set and I just haven't got to it (though I did already watch a couple of the Noirs the set had). I need to remedy the situation.

As far as embarrassing filmwatching gaps go, the problem with being a generalist (ie. liking stuff from so many different genres and styles) is that you keep noticing more and more gaps that need to be closed. Sometimes those gaps don't look overly appealing though (there are several "high profile" films that almost feel like watching them will be like doing homework), so I don't expect I'll ever completely close off some.

But yeah, there's vast amounts of the 60s-70s American films I still need (and really want) to catch up with…

Kurt Halfyard
Admin

David. Wink. No Problem. (I like playing aesthetics nazi!)

Mike Rot
Member

I don't know you well enough David, so I don't know what to you would constitute too heavy, but myself I like most of what I have seen of Bergman's, but I also find some of it a chore to get through.

My favorite Bergman is perhaps Scenes from a Marriage, a television series he did thats now on Criterion. Wild Strawberries is solid Bergman too.

Bob Turnbull
Admin

And for some lighter Bergman, I highly recommend "Smiles Of A Summer Night". Just a delight.

And the stacks of unwatched stuff never go down…Having just got a region free player, I fully expect them to now grow at exponential rates (one of my first purchases was "Kuroneko" – just gorgeous B&W).

Kurt Halfyard
Admin

I tend to gravitate to the weirder and more horror-side of Bergman, particularly Hour of the Wolf.

Jandy Hardesty
Admin

Seconding Smiles of a Summer Night. I have a lot of Bergman left to go, though. Kurosawa and Japanese film in general (heck, Asian film in general) is another big blind spot for me.

But with regards to the '70s, I really have gotten to the point where I don't feel like I can call myself a competent film buff without having seen M*A*S*H, The Godfather Part II, Raging Bull, The Exorcist, etc. So I'm reading Peter Biskind's Easy Riders, Raging Bulls and watching the films he's talking about as I go.

Bob Turnbull
Admin

I like the idea of watching the films as you go through a history of a period. The documentary "Easy Riders, Raging Bulls" is pretty good too, but I think I liked "Decade Under The Influence" even better. I can't actually recall why now…Both have lots of interviews and clips.

Jandy Hardesty
Admin

Bob, I'm planning on watching those once I get a few more of the films under my belt. I don't want to risk getting spoiled for any of them that I don't know yet. Either Sundance or IFC plays A Decade Under the Influence fairly often; I'll have to record it for future viewing. Glad to know it's worthwhile.

David, you'll have to give me some Asian film recs! (Still waiting on some from Bob, too, heh.) I've liked most Chinese and Korean films I've seen, but Japanese ones I have a hard time connecting with. I'd like to get over that (one of my 2010 goals), if it means renting the entire Kurosawa set that Criterion just released.

Kurt Halfyard
Admin

Even though I was not solicited for Asian picks (*sniff* *sniff*)

Here is a short list:

Contemporary:

In The Mood For Love / Chungking Express

3-Iron

Vital

A Snake of June

The King and The Clown

Memories of Murder

Sympathy For Lady Vengeance

Fist of Legend / Legend of Drunken Master / Iron Monkey

Feather in the Wind (Git)

A Taste of Tea

Kung Fu Hustle (Well, really any Steven Chow)

Cure

Bright Future

Audition

Shall We Dance?

Raise The Red Lantern

Shanghai Triad (again, there are more obvious Zhang Yimou choices, as in the one above, or the more flashy wuxia flicks he seems to make these days)

Tokyo Sonata

What Time Is It There?

Tears of the Black Tiger

Mongol

Hardboiled / The Killer

Election (parts 1 and 2)

The Mission / Exiled

Battle Royale

A Scene By The Sea

A Tale of Cinema

Classic:

In The Realm of the Senses

A Touch of Zen

Come Drink With Me

Dersu Uzala (Although there are no shortage of more well known Akira Kurosawa flicks)

Enter The Dragon

The 36th Chamber of Shaolin

Hanzo The Razor (Parts 1-3)

Silip

(I'd perhaps recommend Ozu, Im Kwon-taek, or Mizoguichi, but they are holes in my own watching!)

Jandy Hardesty
Admin

Sorry, Kurt! I'll accept your unsolicited suggestions anyway. Of those, I've seen and loved Chungking Express and Raise the Red Lantern. And I think I've seen The Killer (John Woo?), but didn't like it that much. Unless I have it mixed up with another Hong Kong film I didn't like. Which is possible. I've tried to watch Ozu, but failed. The others that I've heard of are all ones that sound interesting, so I'll try to check them out.

David, sorry for derailing the comments away from your actual post! Tokyo Drifter is on my list already. And I've seen most of Miyazaki's post-Princess Mononoke films, but I know there are earlier ones I could pick up. I think I actually have Nausicaa burned (shhh!) somewhere. I LOVE Kill Bill, so I'll definitely look for Lady Snowblood.

Is the Vengeance trilogy the one that includes Oldboy?

Bob Turnbull
Admin

Rats! I never did follow up with you regarding those suggestions did I? Well, Dave and Kurt have already covered a wide swath, so I'll stick with some Japanese stuff not on either of their lists:

– Kurosawa, Ozu and Mizoguchi are the big three masters of earlier years of the classic film era. Haven't seen much Ozu myself, but definitely try our Mizoguchi's "Ugetsu". Those Eclipse sets have provided a wealth of lesser known films from each of them and I understand most are extremely good (I just haven't found the cycles to dive into any of them).

– Speaking of Eclipse sets, the Nikkatsu Noir one is pretty sweet. Since you love Film Noir, you should dive headlong into this (I can't remember, did we already discuss "take Aim At The Police Van"? It's an early Seijun Suzuki and it's really good).

– I've already proclaimed my love for Suzuki, so you know where I stand on him. Here's a few links to older reviews I wrote for Pistol Opera, <a href"http://eternalsunshineofthelogicalmind.blogspot.com/2007/12/seijun-suzukis-princess-raccoon.html&quot; rel="nofollow">Princess Raccoon and <a href"http://eternalsunshineofthelogicalmind.blogspot.com/2008/07/tattooed-life.html&quot; rel="nofollow">Tattooed Life (all image heavy – for good reason!)

– Two of my other favourite directors are Masaki Kobayashi ("Harakiri", "Kwaidan", "Samurai Rebellion" – all on Criterion and all amazing with great pace and fantastic cinematography) and Masahiro Shinoda ("Samurai Spy" and "Double Suicide"). Kobayashi's 9.5 hour epic "The Human Condition" was just released by Criterion as well. Can't wait to watch it, but I need to block off some serious time for it.

– I also love Kinji Fukasaku (director of "Battle Royale" which was one of Tarantino's favourite films of the last few decades). He did lots of great yakuza films in the 70s and brought a dynamic style to them. Tons of handheld camera work. He's the director of those 5 films in "The Yakuza Papers" post I recently put up (sigh, 3000 words and no comments…sniff, sniff).

– There are several series of films from the 70s: Lady Snowblood, Female Prisoner 701 (both mentioned above), Wandering Ginza Butterfly, Stray Cat Rock, etc. All of them are firmly in the exploitation realm, but have energy to burn and are good fun. They all coincidentally have Mieko Kaji as their star…Pardon me while I take a moment…Sigh.

– Kitano. Pretty much anything.

Black Tight Killers

– Onibaba (1964)

– The Demon (1978)

– Ballad Of Narayama and The Eel are my two favourites by Shohei Imamura (also his two Cannes winning films), but Vengeance Is Mine is pretty extraordinary as well.

– Kiyoshi Kurosawa is a favourite contemporary director. Cure is awesome, but Pulse is my favourite and I'll be reviewing that for the Doomsday marathon, um, soon (Kurt, I believe Kairo is the alternate name for Pulse, not for Cure).

– I'm also an unabashed fan of the Ju-On films.

Funky Forest!

Argh, I feel that's so incomplete…

Jandy Hardesty
Admin

Bob, did you recently review Take Aim at the Police Van on your blog? I know I saw it on someone's and added it to my Netflix queue, but I must admit that I sometimes forget whose blog I see stuff on! I know I commented about it, too. Anyway, yeah, Take Aim is pretty high in my queue right now, and Tokyo Drifter just hit Instant Watch, so I hope to get to them both soon.

The Noir one definitely sounds like a winner; I'm also hoping to catch up with some of (Akira) Kurosawa's crime films. I've heard they may be an easier "in" for me than his samurai ones. I have actually seen and enjoyed some (Kiyoshi) Kurosawa films – okay, maybe Retribution is the only one, actually. I haven't seen Pulse or Cure. I'll definitely be making some adjustments to my Netflix based on these lists, thanks everyone!

Mike Rot
Member

Kurosawa crime, High and Low. my favorite Kurosawa remains Red Beard.

Kurt Halfyard
Admin

The Criterion of H&L is sitting very near the top of my 'to-watch' pile, I should get on that.

Kurt Halfyard
Admin

Jandy, when viewing K. Kurosawa, do not neglect BRIGHT FUTURE, it is a little different than his usual stuff, and still very, very good. (See also: Tokyo Sonata)

Kurt Halfyard
Admin

I struggled mightily with THE EEL before giving up. Must have been very tired that night. But I never did re-visit it.

Mike Rot
Member

I saw Bright Future at TIFF, I don't know, not my cup of tea.

Bob Turnbull
Admin

I need to revisit Bright Future…Didn't quite work for me, but it was one of my first Kurosawas. It might fit better within his work now that I've seen more. Tokyo Sonata is terrific.

I found The Eel to be the easiest of all of Imamura films to sit through (that I've seen anyway – I've caught about 8 of them). That doesn't mean it's the best, but it's one of my faves.

And Jandy, I did indeed have a post about "Take Aim At The Police Van" (mostly about how the first 2 minutes sucked me right in) and you did comment…So hard to remember sometimes…

Andrew James
Admin

I never did ever see Machine Girl, but if you liked it, Tokyo Gore Police is along the same lines and you might like that too. I found it a bit repetitive and just too ridiculous – though it had its moments (the faux commercials are awesome).

Kurt Halfyard
Admin

I thought Vampire Girl Vs. Frankenstein Girl was the best of the three. At least Vg vs. Fg had a coherent story.

😉

And the Faux commercials from TGP were recently mentioned in a Twitch editorial on fake advertising and commercials within movies (written by yours truly) – http://twitchfilm.net/featured/2009/11/advert-sub

Bob Turnbull
Admin

Yep, VG vs FG was my fave as well. Had some swell moments (that "Singing In The Rain" moment was pretty great – until they edited the hell out of it) and didn't overstay its welcome too much. The sense of camp certainly worked well for it.

Justin
Guest

Well, what a fantastic discussion, which was bizarrely set off by our crazy video weekend a few weeks ago, eh Dave…!

I'm glad you enjoyed reading Dave's write up of that legendary weekend, which I'm really glad you enjoyed mate – hopefully you'll come back for more soon!

You missed a pleasant surprise – after you left we watched one of Seagal's most recent films – 'Driven to Kill', and although it's not great, it was enjoyable, unlike much of his other recent dross!

We finished off the weekend watching 'Angel Warriors', an early Scott Glenn film, which is pretty naff, but does feature one of my favourite exchanges in movie history:

Female hippy to scruffy biker: 'why do they call you crab?'

Scruffy biker grins and pull down his jeans, part way, to reveal his pubic region, which he gestures towards.

Female hippy : 'Ewrgh, that's horrible!'

Thanks for drawing me to this interesting site dude – will keep an eye on it.

Cheers, J

wpDiscuz