Wednesday, October 24, 2007
aka THUNDER (I-III)
Directed by Fabrizio De Angelis
The THUNDER series of loopy 80s Italian action films represent the initial directorial work of long-time exploito producer Fabrizio De Angelis (he begat Lucio Fulci’s string of classic 80s horror flicks) and are utterly half-baked and dangerously close to being bafflingly inept. But then why are they so damned fun? Well, they posses that wacky and wonderful ineptitude that permeates most of the genre output of Italy's failing 1980s film industry, a creaky, barely-held-together accidental aesthetic that time has proven to be overwhelmingly entertaining. There are few examples from this decade and this country that do not entertain so it should come as no surprise that these obscure titles fit that bill to a tee, despite their seeming cinematic retardation. The first, and to varying degrees it's sequels, is total blatant rip on the then recent action hit FIRST BLOOD but also looks back to such 70s revenge thrillers as BILLY JACK and WALKING TALL. That the hero is a Native American also suggests comparisons to legendary exploitation producer Dave Friedman's wonderful JOHNNY FIRECLOUD, but it would seem if anything that that fly-by-night production had a much greater budget and overall better acting talent to drive it onto Drive-In screens than this series, which is plagued by a "one take and go" mise-en-scene approach and horrendously bland acting from basically the entire cast. But as noted above these limitations bloom into something rather exiting if one is willing to let go of Hollywood and Arthouse born artistic expectations. But then if you are reading this, chances are you aren't that engaged by these particular aesthetic prejudices. So let's get it on, Thunder is waiting!
The opening film in this loose trilogy is entirely structured to match the narratives of the previously mentioned movies. Thunder is a wandering Native American tough guy, a warrior like his esteemed ancestors, who returns to his Arizonian homeland in order to marry his childhood sweetheart. Unfortunately he finds the situation there brimming with racial and cultural conflicts as a development project dooms his ancestral burial grounds. His defense of this territory leads him into open violent conflict with the developers as well as the local police force, all of whom are of course rabid racists intent on keeping the "redskin" in his place. Basically they "push him too far" and his reaction is devastating. This is the most successful aspect of all these movies, the protracted and fairly elaborate action scenes which boil over with sensational (if not entirely realistic looking, not a problem for me) violence. The bad guys are really, really bad. I mean cartoonishly bad. Only sheriff Bo Svenson shows any aptitude for honor, and even he gets in on the race-hate action here and there as Thunder keeps getting the best of his overmatched, buffoonish deputies. Loose narrative threads and willfully illogical situations abound as the movie steams ahead. The climax is particularly daffy as Thunder steals and drives a bulldozer from the desert and into the town at a snails pace. And yet somehow the impotent coppers never seem to be able to catch up with him. By the time they do reach him he's already destroyed both the bank that funded the blasphemous construction project as well as police HQ. Meanwhile Thunder escapes easily unscathed to fight another day. Wow. By no means a "good" movie this first entry is nonetheless an entirely satisfactory trash cinema experience and I was never less than entertained throughout. On the other hand there's the second film ...
In this brainscramblingly goofy sequel Thunder returns to the town he nearly destroyed and joins the very police force he fought tooth and nail in the first movie! What the ... ? Did I miss something? How did this happen? We'll never know. Like the first movie we aren't privilege to the backstory details as to how Thunder comes to return to this dusty, intolerant scrap of earth. But does it even matter? Not really, if you just laugh along and look to have a good, albeit stupid, time. Sadly, this one falters a bit with the slam-bang action stuff, bogging down with a silly plot about drug dealing punks and the corrupt cops they have underhanded dealings with. One of the cops, a particularly nasty number named Rusty (one of the few actors reprising a role from the first film) has really got it out for our hero and so frames him for his own crimes. Before we can even process this plot twist Thunder is rotting away in a harsh isolated desert prison and giving the diamond-tough prison guards none too easy a time dealing with his innocent ass. But the movie doesn’t really capitalize on these potentially juicy machinations, and again before we know it Thunder has broken out and is out looking for town-wide vengeance. The destruction he inflicts isn’t nearly as fantastic as in the first film and unfortunately the climax just kind of peters out without giving us enough of the mayhem we are jonesin’ for . But needless to say, Thunder comes out on top, with even Sheriff Bo Svenson offering a sympathetic viewpoint as the movie draws to a close. But then … there is a little insignificant and totally confusing twist at the end that had me howling with laughter as well as scratching my balding head. What exactly was going on there?
Apparently the first two were big enough hits that Director De Angelis and star Marc Gregory were able to squeeze out a third film. And Odin bless ‘em that they did, cause in many ways III is the best of all three, topping the others with more over the top, implausible and completely insane action and drama to drive you to dizzy distraction. Again, as with the initial entries, we are forced to suffer with Thunder as both he and his people have to contend with brutal and unchecked redneck oppression and uncooperative and unsympathetic police. The opening scene is completely insane. A self regulating paramilitary militia out on pointless maneuvers in the desert decides for no good reason to chase after two wild horses and gun them down in cold blood. Why they would do this is utterly mysterious, but as you might expect, protector of the downtrodden Thunder takes exception to the heartless abuse and confronts these drunk gun-toting morons. Sadly Thunder is outnumbered and gets himself a thorough ass-whooping. But things go a little too far when the militia decides to go after Thunder’s young hunting apprentice, who scampers frightened back to the shanty village where he lives with the rest of the local “Indians”. The militia then go all My Lai on the joint, firing indiscriminately and causing widespread damage and destruction. Not good. Thunder demands reparations, Sheriff John Phillip Law refuses, setting up the carnage to follow. Although the follow-through doesn’t quite manage the exhilaration of the first it is swathed in acceptable amounts of bad-ass-ness. It was a lot of fun, I must say. If only they had made more, I would have watched. Alas, this is Thunder’s last crusade. Enjoy it while it lasts, folks.
None of these movies are particularly well made, stylish or innovative in any way. They get by on sheer cheesy chutzpah and the undeniable charm that girds most 80s Italian exploitation cinema. As noted above Director De Angelis was a veteran producer and had his hand in many of the most extreme horror films that lurked out of the country in the late 70s/early 80s and this experience certainly serves him well. Action was, however, was the genre he most enjoyed making and it shows here. The movies, while consistent in violence and haphazard insanity, are fall less consistent in narrative and in acting performance. The most obvious casting inconsistency is the role of Sheena – Thunder’s loyal love interest, played non-effectively by different actresses in each movie. But at least it’s funny. As are the contrived and seemingly willfully implausible and contradictory story threads. But ultimately you can’t consider these films successful in any meaningful critically accepted way. But that’s OK. Sometimes you want crazed cheesiness. THUNDER WARRIOR I-III certainly does deliver that, so dig in!
Wednesday, October 17, 2007
Here's a selection of some awesome ones we found on the YouTube.
STRIKE COMMANDO 2!
HELL OF THE LIVING DEAD!
Wednesday, October 10, 2007
All the info you need to know:
A never-seen-before Turkish Superhero LOST gem. Another ONAR worldwide premiere! Freely based on the "Spy Smasher" classic comic, it's an altogether Turkish achievement. From the miraculous team that offered us KILINK, this movie guarantees endless masked action, kicks, stunts and nostalgic mayhem. The only surviving elements were surely rotten but ONAR's magic touch made the final result watchable enough.
Director: Yilmaz Atadeniz
Actors: Irfan Atasoy, Yildirim Gencer , Suzan Avci , Sevda Ferdag , Hüseyin Zan
1200 numbered copies
Turkish audio with English & Greek subs
Dolby Digital 2.0
Interview with Yilmaz Atadeniz
Friday, October 05, 2007
Here's a back log of astonishing digital disc news that we've scoured the internets for as to pass along to you who is too busy to track it all down for yourselves.
Read On, Brother and Sister Weirdos!!
Firstly, more Jean Rollin unleashed in Special Edition DVD format from the Netherlands' Encore Films! This time it's LE VIOL DU VAMPIRE getting the deluxe treatment.
It will encompass:
A two disc digipack with slipcase. Special edition limited to 2000 pcs., Feature film and audio commentary by Jean Rollin; (all extra's/interviews with English subtitles: l'Histore de la nuit des Horloges, Original trailer, Picture gallery, Interview Jaqueline Sieger, Interview Alain-Yves Beaujour, Interview François Tusques, Censored scenes, Book (English text inside), Essay on 'Le Viol du Vampire' by Jean Rollin, Lots of rare photos.
Not our favorite Rollin by a longshot but this is a must own nonetheless. Can't wait!
Soon! From Dark Sky Films! Curtis Harrington's masterful slow-burn disturb-a-thon THE KILLING KIND!
Paroled from prison, sex offender Terry (John Savage of THE DEER HUNTER) returns to the Hollywood boarding house of his mother Thelma (screen legend Ann Sothern), a former dancer with unwholesome ideas about tender loving care.
Escaping Thelma’s suffocating attentions by peeping on pretty tenant Lori (future LAVERNE AND SHIRLEY star Cindy Williams), Terry is unaware that he is being spied on by a neighbor (DEMENTIA 13’s Luana Anders) who keeps a place in her own fantasies for someone of Terry’s special talents.
Meanwhile, terrible things are happening to anyone who has ever done Terry wrong, from the judge (Ruth Roman, from STRANGERS ON A TRAIN) who sentenced him to the girl (Sue Bernard, of FASTER, PUSSYCAT! KILL! KILL!) who testimony put him behind bars.
Interview with Curtis Harrington (His last ever!)
And soon enough (next year, 1/29/08 to be precise) from Dark Sky, we finally get the long delayed Italian genre thrills of RICCO THE MEAN MACHINE and TRAGIC CEROMONY! Save your pennies!
Spaghetti Western specialists Wild East also have a heavy dose of Italian genre thrills coming down the pike and not all of it of the Western variety! Freak out on the covers of these forthcoming DVD releases!
Discotek Films have another HK sickie chomping at the bit with A CHINESE TORTURE CHAMBER STORY, out on November 13th of this very year!
Lookee! Cover, synopsis, specs, and a sultry screen shot!
A man is discovered dead after he was given an aphrodisiac so strong that it causes his penis to explode! His wife Little Cabbage and her lover are dragged before a judge, both protesting their innocence, and charged with adultery and conspiring to kill. In court, they must tell their story of how they became lovers. Little do they know that the real killers are the judge's son and his lover. In order to keep his son free, the judge tries to frame Little Cabbage into a false confession.
Chinese Torture Chamber is a bizarre fantasy mixed with hilarious comedy, sex, and absurd torture. It features the classic sequence where the scholar goes on a journey through the forest, only to run into a man and his extremely horny wife who engage in a long bout of flying sex, complete with appropriately named martial arts moves such as ‘invincible tongue’ and ‘wonder screw’. This scene is packed with wirework, slow motion shots, several gallons of ejaculate, and of course Elvis Tsui, who has the market pretty much covered in this kind of role.
Also starring Yvonne Yung and directed by Bosco Lam. Chinese Torture was produced by Wong Jing the mastermind behind Ebola Syndrome and The Untold Story. This film covers everything from Chinese martial arts movies to even a parody of the American film Ghost!
- NTSC Region 1
- Chinese with English Subtitles
- Anamorphic Widescreen
And according to various posts on the DVD Maniacs Forum in the pipline from Discotek we have Ringo Lam's BURNING PARADISE, Norifumi Suzuki's incredibly sleazy STAR OF DAVID: BEAUTIFUL GIRL HUNTER and Teruo Ishii's PORNO JIDAI GEKI - BOHACHI CODE OF HONOR! What a line-up!
And to wrap things up for this edition we just wanted to point out that our good pal Onar Films is having a sale on his outrageously great Turkish pop cinema DVDs for the entire month of October! Clip on the link to your right under 'DVD Squads' for the full lowdown. If you haven't yet checked any of these out yet or need to fill holes in your collection (and life) then NOW is your golden opportunity! And in further exciting Onar news dig this crazy tease posted a little while back on their website:
I thought that some people might care to know that I'm about to lay my hands on some "lost" turkish old films.
I had been looking for them and asking for them for 3 years now.
Everybody around the world, everybody in Turkey insisted that I should give up on them.
I had unleashed the best hounds after those titles.
I had made the best connections in the turkish cinema industry.
I had offered enormous rewards for the finders.
BUT, even before me, all the strongest collectors had spent a lifetime searching for them.
The actors AND directors of those films had been looking for them too!
I, too, had pronounced them "officially lost".
BUT, my greek village is known for its crazy people.
And like a crazy man, I never ceased the quest.
And NOW, I received official confirmation that many of those titles were discovered in 16mm prints!
The guys are ready to make contracts with me, BUT if I don't see screeners of the films I can NOT believe the story.
BUT, to get screeners I must pay loads of cash.
AND even if the films ARE there, I must pay to acquire them.
Plus, the license fees are enormous.
And since my sales are going from bad to worse I feel totally frustrated.
As for the titles, I just can't announce them before I actually see the screeners and this will obviously take some time.
Besides, right now, I feel as anxious and nervous and frustrated as ever, so here's a nice chance for you to share some of my anticipation and curiosity...
What can they be? We're just in the dark as you and going crazy with anticipation to find out what they are! So buy lots of crap from them so this will happen! Do you hear me? DO IT NOW!!