Wednesday, December 31, 2014

In With the Old :: My Top Ten List of Favorite Film Discoveries for 2014.

Well, it's been a pretty great year of film discoveries. Between playing Criterion roulette on Hulu, having blind faith in Netflix recommendations, or just following my nose down several YouTube holes led to many a fulfilling film-watching experience in 2014. Finally polished of the Hanzo the Razor trilogy with Whose Got the Gold, and also managed to find a long coveted copy of Ghost Catchers, Ole and Johnson's follow up to their wild and woolly and whackadoodle Hellzapoppin'. Yeah, I had a ball with Silent Night, Bloody Night, Citizen's Band, Hobson's Choice, Confidentially Yours, Blue Ruin, Absentia, Curse of the Undead, The Killing of Jacob Marr, Sitting Target, Twisted Nerve, and Hot Summer Week. (On the other hand, I wanted to punch Goodbye World, Texas Chainsaw, Virus, and Movie House Massacre right in the face.) Hell, I even caught a couple of classics on the big screen as they were intended with Fort Apache and A Hard Day's Night

Saw some great documentaries this year, too: Harvard Beats Yale 29-29, Milius, Drew: The Man Behind the Posters, Dear Mr. Watterson, The Green Girl, Life Itself, and File 037's untitled doc on Johnny Quest, but I think my fave was Dana Brown's Step Into Liquid (2003), where he follows in his father's Endless Summer footsteps by highlighting surf culture around the globe, which only reinforced the long nurtured notion that I am a spiritual surfer trapped in a land-locked and gelatinous hayseed's body ... Anyhoo ... As great as all of those flicks already mentioned were, they didn't leave as big as impression as those listed below. And so, here are my personal Top Ten film discoveries for 2014 in no particular order.

I've already gushed about the distinct visual flare of Messiah of Evil (1973) but only focused on the two outstanding murder set-pieces. Well, guess what? The whole film is that visually trippy from beginning to end. A wonderful relic that's just itching to be gorged upon from a time when horror films were more about experimentation than plugging plot points into a rigor'd formula.

Ever have one of those days where it feels like you're ready to fight the good fight only to wind up tripping over your own intestines before expiring? If so, Have I got a movie for you! Super Ninjas (1982), which began life as Five Element Ninja, hits you right upside the head with a whole loaf of Shaw Brothers kung-fu whackadoodlery. Try to get your head around this: a Chinese sensei's martial artists beat a rival Japanese warlord's samurai. Samurai sends word to his brother, leader of an elite cadre of ninja, who possess the power of the elements (earth, wood, wind, water, and fire), before committing hari kari. Super Ninja and his brood wipe out the sensei and his men quite spectacularly, leaving one lone survivor to learn the skills he needs to be a Super-Dooper Ninja to exact his revenge, which he does, even more spectacularly. Now, I'm not the biggest fan of HK films, finding them to be a tad exhausting in the lather, rinse, repeat of their interchangeable plots, but this one is just so nucking futz. Staggeringly so. This display of eye-popping action, hilarious dubbing, grue, dismemberment, wire-fu, fists 'o' fury, and mad ninja gopher skills, had me Ctrl-Alt-Deleting my brain too many times to count. Truly amazing.

Finally took the plunge on Arrow this year, too, which soon found me crushing on Emily Bett Rickards and obsessing over Caity Lotz, which led me to The Pact (2012), where, after their abusive mother dies, two estranged sisters reluctantly agree to meet at the old homestead to settle the family estate. But when the younger sister (Lotz) arrives, the older sister seems to have vanished into thin air. And as more people inexplicable disappear inside the house, things take a supernatural twist when some seemingly malignant ectoplasm tries to force the surviving sister into a certain room. Now, I don't want to spoil some twists this film righteously earned, but, as our heroine digs into the mystery of the house and shakes a few skeletons out of her family tree, turns out that ghost isn't what it first appears to be. And then, Johnny Rico showed up. This was a great, no-budget thriller that I couldn't outguess and really surprised me. I love it when that happens.

Not to be confused with Universal's earlier 1934 version, which first paired Karloff and Lugosi, this incarnation of The Black Cat (1941) is a morbidly comic affair with Lugosi as a creepy groundskeeper (complete with Elmer Fudd outfit) constantly lurking around the mansion of an elderly crackpot and cat-enthusiast who dies under mysterious circumstances. Of course, this brings the heirs a running (Basil Rathbone and Alan Ladd among them), looking for their share of inheritance, which leads to the usual codicils, secret passages, and bumping-offs to increase the profit shares, leaving it up to a bumbling estate agent (Broderick Crawford!) to get to the bottom of things before anymore bodies turn up. Wow. This thing was just great. Wotta cast! One of the better whodunits I've come across in this genre, too; and, oh, if only Hugh Hubert provided the comedy relief in all of these classic creakers.

Hot-Rodding Beachniks, a roving gang of motorcycle hooligans, a jealousy-fueled love-triangle, goofy adults on the periphery played by famous and well-seasoned players, a goofy hang-out run by an even goofier owner, rumbles, riots, and, oh yeah, inexplicable musical interludes. For heavens sake even the action in the poster matches the action going on onscreen. Oh, holy crap. But I do believe that Dragstrip Riot (1958) is the Rosetta Stone when searching to unlock the cinematic fossil record, revealing the exact point when American International's morality-driven teenage-angst pictures switched gears into what would eventually become their Beach Party franchise.

When three disillusioned-with-life cogs (Robert Carradine, Melanie Griffith and Desi Arnaz Jr.) break from the wheel and head to the last frontier of Alaska, pursuing the last vestiges of the American dream of doing their own thing, alas, things do not go as planned in Joyride (1977). Soon robbed, fleeced, and facing a higher cost of living than expected, the only work to be found is on the pipeline via a crooked union steward who has the hots for Griffith. To make matters worse, when they do the right thing and disrupt the boss's embezzling racket, they're all fired and soon subsisting on dog food and, I kid you not, pissing contests to survive, trying to raise enough money to return to the lower 48. Things get so desperate they hatch a plan to rob the pipeline payroll, which eventually morphs into a kidnap and ransom caper that isn't quite as convoluted as it sounds. Pretty good slice of 1970s malaise and disillusionment, all told, even though the film felt like it lasted about half hour longer than it should have once the caper is pulled off, leaving everyone kinda flailing around. Still, I dug this movie a lot. The big surprise was Arnaz Jr.; he was really good. A lot better than I expected from Automan's second banana. Highly recommended.

Never, ever, not in a million years, would I have guessed this film would be that genuinely funny with that much emotional heft (-- especially with Nic Cage and Ryan Reynolds in the lead). After my first viewing of The Croods (2013), my sides were killing me and there was something in my eye. Love the production design, love the off-kilter nature, and the oddball flora and fauna of this fully-realized universe. So much so I immediately watched it again. And again. Aaaaaand again. RELEASE THE BABY!!!

I walked into Rituals (1977) expecting one thing and got something completely different when five doctors go on a hunting trip deep in the Canadian wilderness. Days from anywhere, they draw the wrath of someone lurking in the woods, who picks them off at leisure while these civilized men slowly devolve in front of our eyes into something that just might be able to survive these attacks as they're run ragged and survival instincts kick in. (I know I'll never look at Hal Holbrook the same way again.) Released in the States as The Creeper, I'm hesitant to call this a Deliverance knock-off because I don't want to poison the well, but, it is what it is. It's also really, really quite good and very disturbing on a primal level as far as these Canuxploitation cash-ins go. Just watch it. Trust me.

When an American diplomat is captured by the Viet Cong and taken into Laos for his eventual transfer to China(?), the CIA recruits The Devil's Advocates -- a quintet of surly Hell's Angels rejects, to get him back because of ... because of ... hrrrrmmmmm ... well, because of reasons. Apparently, most of these bikers are ex-servicemen, and after fleshing out their characters a bit, they Megaforce-ize their scooters and, soon enough, all hell breaks loose as this *ahem* 'clandestine mission' has all the sneaky subtlety of the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade. But! Things go south when they try to bust the prisoner out of the camp. Turns out the diplomat doesn't want to be rescued due to more of these 'reasons' as the film gets even dumber when we switch gears from gung-ho Fillipinosploitation action flick and director Jack Starrett brings out the clown-hammer of morality and mercilessly beats his production senseless until it's an anti-war screed. Again, The Losers (1970) is dumber than a bag of hammers; the mission and motivations make no sense whatsoever, but the sheer audacity of it, coupled with a fantastic cast (William Smith, Adam Roarke, Paul Koslo), and some incredible action set-pieces, makes this an exceptionally good time.

Toshio Masuda's The Perfect Game (Kanzenna yûgi 1958) is an extremely well-executed morality play about five young turks who concoct an elaborate scheme to defraud a bookie by rigging the results of a race. And while this set-up takes up almost half the movie, and you expect their perfect plan to fall apart, you realize we haven't gotten to the meat of the story yet when the plan goes off without a hitch. The problem: the bookie doesn't have enough money to cover the bet, which leads to a brutal second half where the bookie's sister is kidnapped as collateral until he makes good. Things, do not go well from here. And to say much more would spoil too much. Another outstanding Nikkatsu noir that I cannot recommend enough. Wow.

Up next, I even managed to catch enough new films in 2014 to do Top Ten list for that as well. Stay tuned, Boils and Ghouls.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Happy Holidays :: The 9th Annual All-Night Christmas Craptacular Movie Marathon that Almost Wasn't.

Way back in August, yours truly suffered a two-punch combo of a gall-bladder attack and a massive coronary upheavel. Over the months since, the gall-bladder has been removed from the equation but my heart still isn't palpating quite right even though a succession of doctors and specialists assure me I am A-OK and on the mend. On the bright side, these health woes have put my Annual Seasonal Affective Disorder Blues into proper perspective. So, there is that. This also brings us to the Annual All-Night Christmas Craptacular Movie Marathon, where I spend the one night a year the paper I work for doesn't go to press with a pecan pie, a bottle of Wild Turkey, a foot-long sub, and do battle with a dusk till dawn onslaught of fractured, theme-specific films.

The problem? One, I don't drink anymore; two, since all this started I tend to turn into a pumpkin around 2am; and three, if I sit too long in one position my angina acts up something fierce. Yoinks! And so, after contemplating on just skipping the marathon altogether this year, I settled on a compromise instead: a three movie marathon on Christmas day, a pie, a sub, and some noble intentions. As for the theme this year, I wanted some holiday specific horror with the caveat that they had to be ones I'd never seen before. And after some digging into the bowels of YouTube, I managed to cobble something together for your post-Yuletide reading pleasure.

First up we had Elves (1989), which, turns out, is a tad misleading in that only one singular Elf ever appears in the picture. Ever. But, he is a Nazi Elf, so there ya go. Anyhoo, try to get your head around this: seems some crackpot scientist escaped from Nazi Germany and set up shop in America where he incestuously tinkered with his own blood-line over the next four decades, finally spawning the perfect Aryan virgin to mate with a glorified sock-puppet to fulfill a prophecy and create a new master race of Super-Nazi Elves that [Lugosi/] "Vill conquer da vorld!" [/Lugosi].

Now, the perfect offspring in question has no desire to have sex with a slack-jawed and barely articulate armature, who seems more interested in consuming beetles than consummating their relationship anyways. This I'm-my-own-grandaughter also works at the local mall, where she befriends the new mall Santa, played by Grizzly Adams, who replaced the old one who just had his balls stabbed off by our evil Nazi Elf while doing lines of cocaine in the john. (In the Elf's defense, he did threaten to molest his reluctant bride to be.) A cat toilet drowning, a cap-gun shoot-out at the mall, random Nazi face-punching, explosions, hot library research action, a bath-tub electrocution, and some of the most hilarious plot-dumps, courtesy of Dr. Science and Professor Exposition, all follow, leading us to thee *ahem*, forgive me, climax. *snerk*

Where does one begin when discussing the bone-headed hilarity of Elves? The plot is asinine. Gloriously so. The highly quotable dialogue is so blunt and matter of fact it causes constant ripples in the Space-Time Continuum. ("I've got to find the connection between the Nazis and the Elves." "Horrible day at work. Santa got murdered.") Special shout-out to Julie Austin as our virginal sacrifice. She deserved better than this flick. Also special nods to Christopher Graham as her snotty, foul-mouthed and perverted little brother, Deanna "Land of the Giants" Lund as Austin's cranky, cat-drowning mother and sister (complete with extended fake-boob nude-scene), and to Dan Hagarty as the pickled pickle-barrel with a beard who fails us all.

I, for one, welcome our new Elven Overlords. 

Up next, I was always hesitant to rent Silent Night, Bloody Night (1972) back in the glory days of VHS rentals at the late and lamented Video Kingdom. See, that delightfully macabre cover, courtesy of Paragon Video, would always stare back at me as I passed it in the Horror Aisle, where I always tried to avoid eye contact with that skull, whose blackened eyes tended to follow you, no matter if you ducked into the Action or Romance aisle. Now, having finally seen it, I am kicking myself over and over again for not giving it a spin sooner.

For you see, as the film progressed, despite the horrid print I watched on YouTube, I became totally engrossed in this morbidly creepifying tale, even though it barely made a lick of sense. I'm telling ya, once you thought you had a handle on things, the film kept pulling the rug right out from under you. Thus and so, the gist of it as you fight to stay upright is the old Butler mansion, which doubled as an insane asylum back in the day until something "bad" happened, is up for sale, much to the agitation and hand-wringing of several locals and the sole Butler heir, who breaks out of another asylum and makes a beeline for home, where somebody is knocking off all our players after luring them to the old homestead.

What Silent Night, Deadly Night lacks in cohesion is more than made up for in mood, mayhem and murder. (That flashback revolt at the Butler Asylum was AH-mazing in both concept and execution.) The cast really helps sell this runaway train of flashbacks and plot twists -- most of them leftover cogs from Andy Warhol's Factory. This film is a fever dream, and felt like a competent Andy Milligan flick to be honest. And now, if you'll excuse me, I'ma gonna go and order the restored version on DVD because I'd like to experience this film exactly as the lunatics who made it intended. TO THE AMAZON!

Once that order was placed, we wrapped up this Holiday Horror Triple-Feature with Don't Open Till Christmas (1984), which, sadly, wasn't as gonzo as Elves or as mesmerizing as Silent Night, Bloody Night, leaving me with a whole empty six-pack of "meh." Which is odd once you dig into the pedigree of this flick a bit. I mean it was produced by exploitation legend, Dick Randall, who had a hand in everything from skin flicks (Around the World with Nothing On), to Euro-Trash (The French Sex Murders), to Filipino midget spies (For Your Height Only), to gonzo giant creature features (Crocodile), and was directed by Edmund Purdom, an actor who was a favorite of Joe D'Mato and was in Randall's whackadoodle slasher knock-off, Pieces. But I'm telling ya, Don't Open Till Christmas is just awful because it commits one of the biggest cardinal sins by boring me to tears.

Also, turns out, as the film dragged on indefinitely, certain sequences kept sparking old memory streams, convincing me that I HAD seen this before but nothing stuck, apparently. (One day removed and most of this mess of a film is already gone again.) Quick and dirty: Some psycho has it in for Santa Claus and goes around killing anyone unfortunate enough to be decked out in the Red Suit and false beard. That's it. Stalk, stab, repeat. Oh, sure, there's a succession of Scotland Yard's finest trying to bring a stop to this nonsense but they mostly fail. There's another subplot about a kidnapped stripper, a witness to one of these Santacides, being held captive so we can get the how and the why but by then I simply did not care. And the less said about the rock-stupid ending the better.

Don't Open till Christmas is nigh incomprehensible. Even a musical number by Caroline Munro can salvage anything. Characters disappear. There is no real hero. The plot seems to keep changing its mind. And it appears to be edited with a Cuisinart. Further digging shows Purdom quit when he was only half done, leaving the production scrambling for nearly two years -- TWO YEARS -- to complete and release the film. This is the kind of garbage that gives slasher films such a bad reputation. Though it should be noted that almost all the victims here are male, and the one Santa who survives was a woman. A naked woman, naturally. *sigh*

And on that sour note, thus concludes our truncated 9th Annual Christmas Craptacular Movie Marathon. Until next year, Boils and Ghouls, Happy Holidays one and all. Or Bah! Humbug, where applicable. 

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Recouperating Recommendations :: What I've Been Watching While I Was Away, and You Can, Too! (Minus the Gall Bladder Attack and Removal 'Natch).

I honestly plowed into Mimesis (2011) thinking it was that Sid Haig 3D remake of Night of the Living Dead (2006). What I got instead was a group of horror convention attendees being lured to a party in the middle of nowhere, where they are drugged and eventually wake up to find themselves in different and yet familiar clothes and surroundings -- all of them surrogates for the characters of the original NotLD; and just like those characters, are soon surrounded by murderous, flesh-eating ghouls. In all honestly, the film that follows isn't that bad it just plays its hand too early when any kind of preternatural explanation is quickly chucked out the window for something a little more conventional when our players find themselves living out and trying to survive an ersatz snuff film disguised as a horror classic. (Our first clue that something different is going on is when the first bitten victim doesn't turn when he passes.) The villain's motivations are rock stupid but typical psychological B.S. for this kind of direct to video nonsense. Still, didn't hate it. If that has to do with the quality of the film or its surprise content due to some idiot thinking he was gonna watch something else, well, your guess is as good as mine.

Some horrific -- and I mean HORRIFIC -- tonal inconsistencies kinda scuttle some genuine chemistry between Hammer and Depp in The Lone Ranger (2013). (Frankly, the horse stole the whole movie.) The comedy bits play better, especially when they're dead-panning, but the plot is concerned with nothing but sensory overload -- though the FX are fairly top notch. And yet, I can't say I hated this. It made me laugh, on purpose, more than once, and, dammit, when we reach the climax and the sh*t gathers itself and hits the fan one more time and the William Tell Overture kicked in, well, the movie had me. Thankfully, all genre films aren't as nostalgic for the 1990s. Might have been better served as a full blown comedy. Maybe. Not as horrible as I'd heard, so, there ya Hi-Yo go.

In The 'Burbs (1989) Joe Dante brings us some mass psychosis in the suburbs when a conglomeration of cul de sac households grow suspicious of their quirky new neighbors. And as the circumstantial evidence of murder next door continues to pile up, these amateur sleuths cum urban commandos are bound and determined to get the evidence they need, property damage be damned. Spoilers Ahoy! I actually preferred the first climax of this flick when our hero, Tom Hanks, after blowing himself up, declares that he and his fellow snoops are the real menace on the block. Of course, the film cops out, they were just digging for bodies in the wrong place, and the creepy neighbors were, indeed, the true villains. *pfeh* Still, lots to enjoy as Dante's signature brand of mayhem and veneer stripping of social norms are all present and accounted for.

Finally caught up with Chronicle (2012). Dug it quite a bit. Top-notch F/X and razor sharp execution overcompensates for some rote After School Special subplots with a slightly disturbing revenge / wish-fulfillment fantasy taint. What it reminded me of most is a true life case from a few years ago where three or four DoucheBro's film themselves driving around at night and paint-balling random strangers and laughing their asses off at this felonious assault -- until they got caught, on their own film. Found footage angle both detracts and enhances but it definitely has me anxious to see director Trank's take on the Fantastic Four.

Coming on the heels of The Monster that Challenged the World and The Vampire (1957), I fear my expectations were a bit too elevated for Grammercy Pictures' The Return of Dracula (1958). It's not terrible by any stretch but it lacks a certain tangible 'something' those other two pics had that gave them an elevating edge over their like-minded brethren. And yet, the last five minutes, from the brief splash of color to the villain's gruesome demise at the bottom of the mine shaft definitely puts this one in the win column. Just not resoundingly.

Beautifully shot, yes, but the plot of The Horrible Dr. Hichcock (1962), where a flaky new bride is being squeezed out the by the ghost of the old, is so well worn the seams are starting to show. A few twists and tweaks stitch things together well enough (a sprinkle of medical deviancy here, a smattering of the necrophilia there) and the cast manages to hold things together quite admirable through the slow burn of the first two acts, rewarding the audience with a truly fantastic phantasmagorical finale. And in all honestly, Barbara Steele has never been more bewitching as far as I'm concerned. Nothing you probably haven't seen but well worth a retread.

A fairly effective found-footage fright-fest where a family of five camp up in the Appalachian Mountains of North Carolina, namely near a famous mound where strange lights are seen in the sky, where folks tend to mysteriously disappear whenever those lights start popping off. Three guesses on what happens next in Alien Abduction (2014)? Now, the reason for the constant filming is the camera belongs to the youngest member, who suffers from autism, and it works as some form of therapy. (Works for me.) Kudos to the cast of unknowns who overachieve on a plot that we all know by heart. Also, a nice twist in that the backwoods bumpkin encountered isn't an additional threat but an asset as they try to get off the mountain and are picked off, one by one. And as it unfolded, I do think the filmmakers blew a golden opportunity to convey the reasons the belligerent E.T.'s kept finding them, no matter how well they hid, or how far they ran, was by tracking the electronics of the ever present camera.

Bogarted my way through all six-episode of this Hulu original series and laughed my ass off. (I'd show you a picture but that'd just be weird.) The Wrong Mans (2013) boils down to a poke in the eye of Fox's 24 and the Beeb's own MI-5 done as a British comedy of manners and errors with the ferocity of an Edgar Wright crash-cut as two office drones are accidentally drawn into a kidnapping plot and several over-lapping webs of conspiracy with a local land baron and the Russian mob, making things infinitely worse while trying to do the right thing. Kudos to Mathew Baynton and James Corden as our blundering heroes who fall down this particular rabbit hole. Haven't laughed that hard, that consistently in a good long while. Hope they do a another season.

Here, Canadian Saturday morning animation stalwarts Nelvana stretch their legs with a fairly ambitious and hideously infectious feature-length, post-apocalyptic rock 'n' roll fable about a legendary rocker, who lost his edge and turned to the dark side, needing to find the perfect voice to open a portal to hell and summon a demon in his lust for infamy. And find it he does with the lead singer of a fledgling band, whose band-mates spend the rest of Rock and Rule (1983) trying to rescue her from the bad guy's clutches. Visually stunning in spots and extremely sloppy in others, the film is definitely influenced by the work of Ralph Bakshi in motion and character designs by Don Bluth (-- the latter influence almost to the point of distraction.) Still, good tunes (Lou Reed, Debbie Harry, Iggy Pop, Cheap Trick), and a great villain, and a definite visual flair puts this one in the win column for me.

Oh, children, boys and girls, gather around and hear my tale. A tale of something wonderful I did not know existed or had forgotten (more likely). Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus for there exists a movie where John Wayne and Sir Richard Attenborough get mixed up in a knock down, drag-out saloon brawl and punch each other in the face while "Aquarius" blares on the jukebox (after the piano is destroyed, 'natch.) Let the sunshine in, indeed. See, after looking fairly uncomfortable and completely out of place in McQ (1974), Wayne appears a lot more at ease with the change of scenery in this fish out of water tale -- well, more like a 500lbs sturgeon, but, yeah. Anyhoo, in Brannigan (1974) Wayne plays a Chicago cop sent to London with extradition papers for a baddie played by John Vernon. Things get complicated when said baddie is kidnapped by another faction out from under the nose of Scotland Yard's finest, Attenborough. Things get even more complicated from there with a few botched ransom drops, a hilarious car chase, several assassination attempts, and that aforementioned pub brawl. Along for the ride are Mel Ferrer as a slimy lawyer and the adorable Judy Geeson as Wayne's personal liaison, who had expendable dead-meat stamped on her forehead; but I love how Brannigan basically says "Not in my movie, Pilgrim" and derails this tired cliché. So much fun. Wish it had spawned a franchise with Wayne and Attenborough teaming up again and again to solve more crimes and keep right on punching each other in the face again and again.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

YouTube Finds :: Things Go Boom on Any Given Sunday in the National Commando League :: Fabrizio De Angelis' The Last Match (1991)

After she's framed for smuggling drugs out of the island republic of Midnightxpressistan, Susan Gaylor (Palmisano) sends out an S.O.S. to her dad, Cliff (Tobias), who plays quarterback for the Otisburgh Generics of the National Fauxball League. Naturally, a distraught Cliff exhausts every legal venue to prove her innocence and get his daughter out of prison. But confronted with impudent shoulder-shrugging from the American embassy and mass corruption everywhere else (the police, the prison commandant, even his own defense attorney), no matter how much he monetarily greases the wheels, Cliff only has one option left and it's the craziest audible ever called.

For the first 70 minutes, The Last Match a/k/a L'ultima meta (1991) is a rather tedious Lifetime Original knock-off as the film bides its own sweet time with daddy/daughter/worthless boyfriend melodrama mixed with an oddly sanitized Women in Prison flick to get to the climax that amazing, seemingly too good to be true, poster art promises. And what's truly amazing is how accurate the poster actually is (-- well, except for the blatantly misleading Orange Crush era Denver Bronco uniforms --) in describing the action for the last 25 minutes or so when this thing reaches a whole 'nother level of inspired lunacy.

For you see, with nowhere else left to turn, Cliff calls on his team for help -- and rather blunt help at that. Led by his coach, simply referred to as Coach (Borgnine), several teammates (all ex-servicemen, apparently) arrive, armed to the teeth, with every intention of busting Susan out of prison. And, after a brief training montage (-- a shameless grope at The Dirty Dozen), this commando assault on the heavily fortified prison is executed, wait for it, IN FULL UNIFORM!

E'yup. That's right. As Coach calls the plays from a circling helicopter, a platoon of armed, helmeted, and padded-up football players pull an A-Team by way of Golan 'n' Globus and a New World Filipino shoot-em-up. (Hut! Hut! Hut! Hut! Hut! Hut!) Filling these roles are several true NFL veterans. (I only recognized Jim Kelly). And all one can do is watch and boggle as this unfolds, with wave after wave of guards being mowed down, 'splosions, and limited peripheral vision, culminating with a grenade being stuffed into a football and then punted into an approaching helicopter which promptly explodes. No. I am not making that up. And what's even more amazing, from the arrest, through Cliff's failed efforts at diplomacy, to the assault, this whole thing takes place between two Sundays! As the post-International incident epilogue finds the whole gang back on the field to win one for the one guy who, quite laughably, didn't make it.

From the brazen hook to the asinine plot wrapped around it, The Last Match really did feel like a Cannon product, especially when considering a cast that's littered with Ernest Borgnine, Martin Balsam (as the corrupt lawyer), Charles Napier (as the worthless ambassador), and Henry Silva (as the lecherous commandant). But, no. This film can be traced to Italy.

I was not real familiar with director Fabrizio De Angelis, but his producing credits are quite impressive, covering everything from body-count flicks, to zombies, to post-apocalyptic barbarian/biker movies. Also adding a lot of genre clout were co-scriptwriters Vincenzo Mannino and Gianfranco Clerici, who worked rather extensively with the likes of Umberto Lenzi, Lucio Fulci and Ruggero Deadoto, with Cannibal Holocaust, The New York Ripper, The House at the Edge of the Park, The Last Shark, and The Beyond written between them. And with that pedigree, you'd think this thing would be a lot less cartoony and a lot more sleazy.

As is, The Last Match runs the gambit of boring to baffling to completely bonkers. And as far as I can tell, though it appears to be shot in English for that market, the film was never released "legally" in the United States. However, there are several gray market options available and last check there was a decent print streaming on YouTube (-- with what appears to be Cantonese subtitles). But as a Public Service Announcement, since I've already given away the set-up, feel free to fast-forward to the raid on the prison because, for once, the poster and video box do not lie. Well, at least for the last twenty or so minutes.

The Last Match (1991) Fulvia Film / EP: Mark Young / P: Fabrizio De Angelis / D: Fabrizio De Angelis / W: Gianfranco Clerici, Vincenzo Mannino / C: Giuseppe Ruzzolini / E: Adriano Tagliavia / M: Guglielmo Arcieri / S: Oliver Tobias, Ernest Borgnine, Charles Napier, Henry Silva, Martin Balsam, Melissa Palmisano

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Movie Poster Spotlight :: Foreign Jobs :: A Set of Italian Photobustas for Ishirô Honda's Destroy All Monsters (1968)

Destroy All Monsters (1968) Toho Company :: American International / P: Tomoyuki Tanaka / D: Ishirô Honda / W: Ishirô Honda, Takeshi Kimura / C: Taiichi Kankura / E: Ryôhei Fujii / M: Akira Ifukube / S: Akira Kubo, Jun Tazaki, Yukiko Kobayashi, Yoshio Tsuchiya, Kyôko Ai
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