My friends and I recently got together for another one of our regular ‘trashathons’ – you may remember I covered the last extravaganza in one of my first posts here at Row Three. Basically consisting of watching as many cheap and cheesy genre titles we can handle in a weekend, our get-togethers have become a quarterly staple that I always look forward to. We’ve watched some really bad films, but we’ve also dug out some real gems in the past, many of which have disappeared completely with the DVD boom. Yes, I’m talking VHS here. Throwing picture quality out the window we’ve been scouring the bins for some long forgotten titles. This time round we didn’t manage to squeeze in quite as many films (we spent hours at a car boot sale purchasing more!) and a few aren’t obscure by any means (only two titles were on VHS this time), but I still enjoyed myself and thought you guys might like to hear what we got up to. Again I’ve dug out some trailers and clips for your amusement.
P.S. Ratings are probably not worth it for most of these titles, but I’m going to give some scores for shear entertainment value, so don’t take them too seriously.
Missing in Action
Director: Joseph Zito
Writers: Arthur Silver, Larry Levinson, Steve Bing, James Bruner, John Crowther & Lance Hool
Starring: Chuck Norris, M. Emmet Walsh, David Tress, Lenore Kasdorf, James Hong
What trashy genre weekend would be complete without an entry from Chuck Norris. So we let the man who doesn’t sleep, but waits (fact!) set us off. After a strong start featuring a ‘nam flashback that ends in Norris leaping at a Vietnamese soldier with live grenades in either hand, the film unfortunately takes quite a nosedive and was pretty tedious for the most part. Things pick up towards the end once M. Emmet Walsh makes a surprising appearance and Norris lets rip on his bulletproof dingey (sorry, ‘assault raft’), but generally this is pretty lame even by The Bearded One’s standards. There are far too many scenes of gratuitous toplessness and ‘tense’ climbing sequences to sustain one’s interest.
Friday the 13th
Director: Marcus Nispel
Writers: Damian Shannon, Mark Swift & Mark Wheaton
Starring: Jared Padalecki, Danielle Panabaker, Amanda Righetti, Travis Van Winkle, Aaron Yoo, Derek Mears
There’s not a whole lot to say about the 2009 remake of Friday the 13th. It’s not particularly bad, but it’s not particularly good either. It’s a totally by the numbers slasher film that is effective enough, but never offers anything new. That said, I kind of liked the fact that it didn’t try and add too much of an unnecessary history to Jason Voorhees like some of these ‘reimaginings’ do, it just sticks to what the Friday the 13th films do best, killing vulnerable and sexually active teens. The killings are occasionally quite inventive and well staged, the pace is solid and it never gets dull, but you can’t get away from the fact that it’s been done countless times in the past in exactly the same way.
Director: Teddy Page
Writers: ? Not listed on IMDB
Starring: Richard Harrison, Bruce Baron, Gwendolyn Hung, Jim Gaines
The first really obscure VHS title we pulled out was Fireback, a truly dreadful action movie starring Richard Harrison, the go to guy for bad ninja movies in the 80’s. This isn’t a ninja movie though unfortunately (although one makes a baffling appearance), it’s a shoddy revenge thriller following Harrison’s search for the kidnappers of his wife. The box promised non-stop explosive action featuring a ludicrously over the top weapon, but this swiss-army gun (it even has an inbuilt radio!) only makes an appearance in the first 5 minutes, which incidentally are the best 5 minutes of the film. Elsewhere we just had to put up with atrocious dubbing, painfully wooden acting and poorly choreographed action sequences. Not the hidden trash gem we were searching for.
Director: Paul McGuigan
Writer: David Bourla
Starring: Chris Evans, Dakota Fanning, Djimon Hounsou, Camilla Belle, Neil Jackson
After the atrocity that was Fireback, we decided to watch something modern with an actual budget, so we pulled out Push, a film that just sort of came and went in theatres last year with little fanfare. The three of us had previously met one of the supporting actors, Neil Jackson, at a film festival my friend curates and he seemed to be a genuinely nice guy, so we thought we’d give this film a go after he mentioned how much fun he had making it.
I was pleasantly surprised actually. I wasn’t expecting much, it just looked like a bog-standard straight to DVD sci-fi film, but it was an enjoyable and fairly original action romp. It was a little overlong perhaps and suffers from a few sci-fi contrivances, but I liked the use of its Hong Kong location and it had a quirky, colourful vibe to it that set it apart from most films of its kind. When the ‘force’ powers are used to their full effect in the latter third of the film it’s great fun too.
Police Assassins (a.k.a. Yes, Madam)
Director: Corey Yuen
Writer: Barry Wong
Starring: Michelle Yeoh, Cynthia Rothrock, John Sham, Mang Hoi, Tsui Hark, Sammo Hung
We stayed in Hong Kong for our next film with a martial arts favourite, Police Assassins (a.k.a. Yes, Madam). I’m a big fan of the genre (it’s my biggest guilty pleasure) and I’ve been meaning to see this for a while as it’s Michelle Yeoh’s first leading role and I’d heard good things about it. In its action scenes it certainly doesn’t disappoint. The final showdown is spectacular and shows the world that women can pull off action sequences of astonishing athleticism that are easily equal to those of their contemporaries, Jackie Chan, Sammo Hung, Jet Li etc. Some of the moves and stunts are so fast, fluid and god-damned dangerous that I was blown away at times. Unfortunately these scenes are thin on the ground for the majority of the running time and as with most martial arts films of that period, slapstick comedy takes centre stage to fill the gaps. Admittedly I had a chuckle here and there and Tsui Hark of all people plays one of the comic relief characters and does a pretty good job, but ultimately I don’t watch films like this for their comedy and there’s only so much Benny Hill level goofing around I can stand in an hour and a half. So martial arts fans out there will get a big kick out of this, but be sure to have your remote on handy to fast forward certain sections.
The Roller Blade Seven
Director: Donald G. Jackson
Writers: Donald G. Jackson & Scott Shaw
Starring: Scott Shaw, Frank Stallone, Karen Black, Don Stroud, William Smith, Joe Estevez
I can safely say without hesitation, that The Roller Blade Seven is the worst film I have ever seen. From the cover it looked like trashy fun (roller blading samurai!), but oh boy were we wrong. It actually plays out like a drug-induced student art film that has taken over the shell of a trashy B-movie. It’s insufferably dull and to rub salt in the wounds consistently repeats shots again and again and again for no reason. The film makes no sense as it ‘treats’ us to early 90’s music video visuals and improvised mumbling from its confused and clearly intoxicated cast (what the hell is Karen Black doing in there, she was in Nashville and Easy Rider for god’s sake!). There are attempts at action sequences that are so slow and totally unpractised that they look like a bunch of kids whacking each other with plastic swords – in slow motion and on repeat. Doing research into this film I discovered that producer Scott Shaw described it as the first film adopting the ‘Zen Filmmaking’ style, where everything is shot on the fly and improvised in a short period of time. It sounds like an admirable thing, but from these results I wouldn’t get excited. I’ve made improvised films with groups of 8 year olds in school workshops that are more effective than this. I also found out through my research that this is the first in a Roller Blade Seven trilogy and the producer has made dozens of ‘Zen’ films. God help us all….
I could go on, but I can’t bear thinking about it anymore. If you ever have the chance to see this film, don’t. Trust me, you may want to laugh at how bad it is, but it’s not even worth it for that. Just check out the clips below and you’ll see.
Embedding has been disabled on the trailer unfortunately, but here’s a link to check it out in all it’s glory (the film is even worse, trust me).
And here’s an actual sample of the film that I found elsewhere:
The Man From Hong Kong
Directors: Brian Trenchard-Smith & Wang Yu
Writer: Brian Trenchard-Smith
Starring: Jimmy Wang Yu, George Lazenby, Hugh Keays-Byrne, Roger Ward, Ros Spiers
Maybe it was because we were coming off the back of The Roller Blade Seven, but I really enjoyed The Man From Hong Kong. It’s 70’s Grindhouse at it’s finest. A collaboration between an Australian production company and Hong Kong’s Golden Harvest studio, the film is an unstoppable juggernaut of fight scenes, car chases and gratuitous nudity. Yes at its heart it is a low rate James Bond rip off with a forgettable story and plenty of hammy acting, but it’s jam packed with everything we were searching for all weekend. Sammo Hung provides the action choreography (and a fairly large cameo) which as expected is top notch despite featuring less seasoned Western performers for the most part. Speaking of which, George Lazenby makes for an enjoyably cheesy villain and holds his own in the fight scenes against the One-Armed Swordsman himself Jimmy Wang Yu. A car chase towards the end is really impressive too. I wouldn’t be surprised if Tarantino has this in his collection (in the Death Proof ‘making of’ he cites Ozploitation movies as his chief influence). So all in all it was the perfect end to our otherwise less-than-inspirational weekend line-up.