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Friday, January 30, 2015

Ladyhawke (1985) - Review

The 1980’s certainly was a great time to be a kid going to the theatre as fantasy movies lit up the screen like never before with such great films as Dragonslayer, The Dark Crystal, Conan the Barbarian and one of my favourites and today’s pick Richard Donner’s Ladyhawke.

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The story takes place in 12th century Europe where although everyone may have French or Italian names it being a Hollywood movie there is nary an accent to be found. The first character we are introduced to is Philippe Gaston (Matthew Broderick) known to all as “The Mouse” who we see struggling to escape from the dungeons of Aquila via the sewers. Philippe’s most interesting characteristic is his running commentary with God, “We have come full circle, Lord. I would like to think there is some higher meaning in this. It certainly would reflect well on You.” It is a testament to Broderick’s skills as a comic actor that this bit doesn’t get old or annoying.

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The Mouse that roared.

When Marquet (Ken Hutchison) the Captain of the Guard informs the Bishop of Aquila (John Wood) of the escape the Bishop is rather nonplussed as no one escapes from the Dungeons of Aquila, “It is considered an historic fact.” Marquet and his men scour the countryside looking for Philippe and just when they get their gauntleted gloves on him Etienne of Navarre (Rutger Hauer) shows up and with his double action crossbow saves Philippe and the two manage to escape the soldiers.

Navarre 
Hawk Man to the rescue.

Navarre needs Philippe because Philippe is the only one known to have ever escaped the dungeons of Aquila and Navarre wants his help getting in so he can kill the Bishop. To say Philippe is less than impressed with the idea of returning to Aquila would be an immense understatement. They travel together for a while as Philippe becomes less and less enchanted with his situation; one night he is saved by a great black wolf and then meets a mysterious beautiful woman by the name of Isabeau (Michelle Pfeiffer) whose haunting beauty captures his soul.  Neither of these events make Philippe comfortable with the direction his life is going.

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A beauty like no other.

As this strange trio of a man, a boy and a hawk make their way across the countryside we begin to learn of the curse that plagues Navarre and Isabeau; by day she is a bird but when the sun sets she changes into the beautiful maiden while Navarre shifts into the form of the black wolf.
moment in time 
Always together; eternally apart.”

For me one of the best elements of this movie is the way Richard Donner handles the transformations, there are no extreme make-up effects aided by puppetry and air bladders here. No, for this movie the changes come with a flare of sunlight or a flash of lightning- poetic and beautiful much more in keeping with a classic fairy tale story. And what fairy tale would be complete without a great villain and John Wood as the tyrannical Bishop of Aquila is just perfect as a man so jealous that he turned his back on God to ask aid of the Devil in cursing the young lovers.

The Bishop 
A powerfully corrupt man who people fear, so a man of the cloth then?

Next on the fantasy story agenda is the encounter with a hermit who can provide information the heroes need to be victorious. In this case the hermit happens to be the priest Imperious (Leo McKern) who just so happens to be the very priest who accidentally betrayed Navarre and Isabeau’s secret love to the Bishop. God has finally granted him a vision as to how the curse can be lifted; they both must stand before the Bishop in their human forms in three days’ time, “When there will be a day without night and a night without day.”

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And happy endings all round!

Ladyhawke is full of everything one could want from of a fantasy film; stalwart heroes, a beautiful maiden and dastardly villains. We even get a bonus villain with Alfred Molina as Cezar the wolf catcher who meets a rather ghastly end in one of his own traps. Rutger Hauer plays the tortured hero like he was born to it (Its truly a shame he wasn’t cast in more heroic roles like this) and if you don’t fall in love with Michelle Pfeiffer’s Isabeau you may want to check and see if you have a heartbeat. Casting Ferris Bueller in a medieval period piece may seem to be one of the strangest choicest a director could make but it really worked here and Broderick proved his versatility.

Trivia Note: The studio had actually cast Kurt Russell as Etienne Navarre and Rutger Hauer was to play the villainous Marquet. Thank god for whatever reason caused Russell to bow out.

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Yeah, I don’t see it.

The one niggling thing that has always bothered me is the score; for me the choice of Andrew Powell and Alan Parsons just didn’t quite feel right for when I think medieval fantasy I don’t normally think of contemporary progressive-rock. Now watching it again I’m a bit more forgiving and find there is a lot of good stuff in that score but when the synthesizers are going full bore with the main theme I still cringe a little.
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Special shout out to Othello who played Navarre’s mount Goliath.

With Ladyhawke Richard Donner brought us a gorgeous fantasy film full of action and humor and easily one of his better films. It’s a shame that aside from Superman he stayed pretty clear of the genre.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Killer Fish (1979) - Review

When taking in a 70’s film that was marketed as a Jaws rip-off I was not prepared to find myself watching a taught thriller centered around a group of thieves and millions of dollars in jewels guarded by a school of nasty piranha. Colour me surprised.

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The film starts off with a bang and I do mean BANG. Down in South America a group of thieves clad in black leather sneak into a secure facility to make off with a fortune in emeralds and diamonds, but to get in they must cause a distraction which for this group that means blowing the crap out of the place. An entire freight yard full of train cars as well as several massive tanks bursting with oil explode in a fiery conflagration which should result in the relabeling our thieves as terrorist for they probably caused more property damage than what the jewels were worth. Why go with subtlety when overkill is so much more fun?

the heist 
The A-Team of crime.

The team is led by Lasky (Lee Majors) and Kate (Karen Black) whose boyfriend- Paul (James Franciscus) provided the inside Intel they needed to pull off the heist. The gang orchestrates a daring escape; eluding dogs, security guards and local military by escaping up river while their getaway vehicle is detonated as a secondary diversion. Their plan is quite brilliant, for Kate then tosses the lockbox with the jewels into the river above the local dam with a yellow marker for easy finding later; they then ditch their thieving attire over the side of the boat and become just a group of tourists out pleasure fishing. When the police, who are out in force looking for the crooks, stop them they of course find no sign of the stones. Unfortunately for them that is the last thing that goes right.

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Six Million Dollar Robber.

Sadly the term “Honor among thieves” does not apply to these guys and when Paul tells the group they are to wait sixty days for the heat to blow over before recovering the jewels a couple of the members are not down with that and decide to make an early aquatic withdrawal. This goes badly as Paul took some extra security measures months ago in the form of breeding piranhas in the water above the dam. Before you can say “Fish Food” the gang of six is down to three.

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Subtract three and add some sex appeal.

Meanwhile a group of Americans have arrived for a fashion shoot; Ann (Marisa Berenson) the producer, Ollie (Roy Brocksmith) the photographer, Tom (Gary Collins) the pilot, and Gabrielle (Margaux Hemingway) the model. When Gabrielle and Lasky meet sparks fly and a shower scene is imminent but when he finds out about his eaten friend’s tensions mount. Kate and Paul decide to cut Lasky out of the picture and head to the damn to recover the jewels and because of Paul’s supposed heart condition Kate gets the job of going in with the piranha.

the lovers 
Things we do for love and profit.

Kate barely makes it out alive but she does retrieve the case with the stones only for the two to discover that their boat has been sunk, they assume by Lasky, and now they will have to make it back to their resort on foot. Lucky for them they come across the tour boat laden with the fashion team, but luck only runs so far as also on board is Lasky. Then Mother Nature throws her hat into the ring as a nasty storm sends a water spout crashing into the damn smashing it to pieces and sending all that water, and piranhas, cascading down to where our hero’s boat is anchored.

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Attempts to swim to shore go poorly.

Will Lasky and Paul duke it out to see who is top dog? What exactly is wrong with Paul’s heart? Can our heroes make it off the boat before it sinks below the surface of the piranha infested waters? Who will get those precious stones? All these questions and more are answered in this really fun and exciting crime thriller. The cast members are all excellent with Lee Majors the stand out as the jaded but cunning Lasky and while James Franciscus does an excellent turn as the smarmy villain whom you love to hate and can’t wait to see get his comeuppance, and Karen Black holds her own quite well as a woman torn between loyalties.

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 Director Antonio Margheriti and screenwriter Michael Rogers blend the man against nature/man against man elements beautifully, creating a suspense filled caper flick that keeps the viewer always guessing as to what is going to happen next. That and some really nice piranha attack sequences makes this movie a delightful surprise and a must see.

Avalanche (1978) - Review

Big budget disaster movies ruled the 1970s and just before the genre had given up the ghost Roger Corman took a shot at it with his movie Avalanche. The most surprising thing about this film is that even before frame one had been shot one of the big television networks offered Corman $2 million dollars for the broadcast rights and as the budget was only $1.7 million he was already in profit mode before production had even started. Now the network wasn’t going to pay that kind of money for the film to star one of the Roger Corman players so in this instance we have a New World Picture with two bona fide movie stars; Rock Hudson and Mia Farrow.

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High up in the mountains millionaire entrepreneur David Shelby (Rock Hudson) has built a massive ski resort, much to the chagrin of environmentalists, and has invited winter sports athletes from all over the world to compete at the opening of his winter wonderland. Also arriving for the big opening is Caroline Brace (Mia Farrow) David’s ex-wife who is in this movie because you can’t have a disaster film without an estranged couple of some sort. I think there may even be a law or something.

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Between a Rock and a cold place.

Adding to the drama is wild life photographer Nick Thorne (Robert Forster) whose job in this film is to warn David about the dangers of an impending avalanche but more importantly to sleep with Caroline so we can have a romantic triangle. We certainly aren’t going to fill the ninety minute running time without some serious padding and that’s just the tip of the proverbial iceberg we also have…

• David being investigated for illegal campaign contributions that got him the land for his resort.
• World class skier Bruce Scott (Rick Moses) cheating on his emotional damaged girlfriend.
• Sports announcer Mark Elliot (Barry Primus) and his cheating spouse (Cathey Paine).
• Bruce Scott narrowly escaping a small avalanche to heighten the oncoming threat.
• David’s mother is here and spends most the time with David’s bookkeeper getting a tour.
• Nick Thorne stealing explosives to trigger a small avalanche…this achieves nothing.
• David sleeping with his secretary so we can get in some nudity.

Rock Hudson’s character is a cross between the idiot mayor from Jaws and his character from Giant as he both ignores the dangers, “We can’t close the beaches, it’s the Fourth of July!” and is a rich and arrogant bastard whose attitude towards women is a tad prehistoric. Now normally this would be enough to place the blame for the oncoming disaster squarely on his shoulders but not for this movie, oh no we also have David demanding that his assistant fly in important papers, despite the terrible weather conditions, which results in that poor dude’s plane crashing into the mountain and causing the giant avalanche. So not only is he a callous, sexist, arrogant jerk he’s also a murdering asshat.

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Rock Hudson seen here looking for his motivation.

Finally at about the hour mark we get the titular avalanche and for the most part it is pretty exciting; snowmobile racers are sent flying, skiers swept away under tons of snow, people trapped high in the air on damaged chairlifts, and the almost total destruction of the ski lodge.

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Tens of dollars were spent on these effects.

And because this is a Roger Corman production it must have at least one WTF scene in it and for this movie we get the emotional damaged girlfriend of skier Bruce Scott, who upon seeing him in bed with another woman decides to kill herself with an overdose of pills, but before she can down the bottle she is killed by the avalanche. That is some hard core dark shit there. Believe it or not that isn’t even the only weird death in the movie as there is a bit where the sports announcer and a small boy are hanging for dear life from a broken chairlift and just as the boy is rescued power lines hit the chairlift cables and poor sports announcer is electrocuted, falls and misses the safety net held by the rescue team because…well, because they really suck at their job.

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Rescue teams were also unable to uncover a plot.

The big dramatic death in the film has to do with David’s mother Florence Shelby (Jeanette Nolan) who along with David’s bookkeeper is trapped in the buried ski lodge and in danger of asphyxiating due to broken gas lines. They are rescued in the nick of time but then the ambulance that is rushing poor Florence to the hospital loses control on the snowy road and careens off into a chasm and explodes. Proving that sometimes it just doesn’t pay to get out of bed or be in a Roger Corman movie.
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Roger Corman also has a love of stock footage.

I do give the film bonus points for it ending with Caroline telling David that she loves him but still getting in a cab and leaving him in the dust. So at least director Corey Allen leaves us on a nice note, and I thank him for that, but sadly the dramatic ramblings of the script really hamper much of the film. This isn’t the worst of the genre but its low budget and pointless subplots hamper it from being a disaster movie worth recommending.

Trivia Note: The makers of Meteor borrowed some of the avalanche footage from this movie because apparently bad opticals and Styrofoam snow is at a premium in Hollywood.

The War Chief: Edgar Rice Burroughs - Book Review

war chief ballantine coverWestern stories were easily one of the biggest selling genres during the twenties and thirties so it is no surprise that Edgar Rice Burroughs would take a crack at it so today we will look at his first western entitled The War Chief.

Today’s readers having been exposed to many deconstructed views of the Old West where such films as Dances With Wolves depict the Native Americans in a more accurate and nuanced portrayal rather than the murderous savages they were often depicted as in dime store novels and the movies during Hollywood’s golden years but in 1927 when Burroughs wrote The War Chief he was way ahead of the curve giving a very detailed and honest look at the how the White Man and the Indian really were during that turbulent time period. This shouldn’t be too surprising to fans of Burroughs as his 1926 novel The Girl from Hollywood tackled some pretty tough topics of the time and deromanticised Hollywood as well as the West.

The story of The War Chief centers around the Apache Indian named Shoz-Dijiji or the Black Bear who was the adopted son of Geronimo the War Chief of all the Apaches. The book begins with the murder of a pioneer family but whose baby is spared because not only does he not cry when one of the Indians holds him up by a leg he also looks very much like an Indian babe, this being because his mother’s grandfather was a full blooded Cherokee Indian, and so Geronimo orders the babe spared and adopts him and raises him as one of his own.

Shoz-Dijiji is raised to hate the white man not knowing that he in fact is white and when the villainous Apache chief Juh calls Shoz-Dijiji a white man this eventually leads to Juh’s death as there is no greater insult in Shoz-Dijiji’s eyes. Burroughs spends a good amount of time showing how the Apaches live and play, what their religious beliefs are and how badly they have been treated by the invading white man, but the most interesting thing about The War Chief and its sequel Apache Devil is that Burroughs paints both the Indians and the whites with many shades of grey. There are good Indians as well as bad ones just as there are good and bad people among the whites, but Burroughs also doesn’t sugar coat the amount of raiding and murdering of innocent whites whose only crime was to be living on or passing through land that once belong to the Apache. Now make no mistake Burroughs completely understood their hatred and resentment of the white man who murdered their kind like animals, stole their land, broke treaties so often as to be beyond embarrassing and the book as whole mostly sides with the Indians which certainly makes this book stand out among its contemporaries.

Now I do have some criticism of this book, as much as I enjoyed it, this book could have worked just as well if Shoz-Dijiji was not white but rather a full blooded Apache for when his character is shown refusing to kill women and torture captives, unlike all the others in his tribe, we are left thinking this is not because of how he was raised but because white man’s blood flows in his veins.   Burroughs tries to dance around this by giving all kinds of reasons for Shoz-Dijiji’s anti murder and torture stance but it basically comes down to Burroughs not wanting a hero who would do those kind of things and being we know the hero is different by blood we can’t help but draw the conclusion that he is good because he is white. If Shoz-Dijiji had been written as a full blooded Apache then these character traits would just have been things that set him apart from his friends and family and not something from his genes. So whatever Burroughs intent was it does come off as a tad racist which is unfortunate as the book is by far very pro Native American in most respects.

Side Note: This book may be pro Native American but it is definitely not pro Mexican. The Apaches have been at war with the people of Mexico way before white man came to America so Burroughs takes this fact and has most of the raiding and killing being done against Mexicans as this surely makes it easier for your average American reader to side with Shoz-Dijiji when he isn’t spending most the book brutally murdering white people. We do hear of Shoz-Dijiji raiding white owned ranches and the like but these are in passing and not dwelt on.  The Return of the Mucker contains many more examples of Burroughs dislike and stereotypical views of the Mexican people that show that a great author can have certain blind spots.

The book deals heavily with the Apaches being screwed over and being treated poorly resulting in them going on the “War Trail” on multiple occasions with Shoz-Dijiji becoming a greater and craftier fighter because of it but there is one chink in his armor and that is love. Growing up he fell in love with a strong and beautiful Indian maiden but when the sneaky and jealous chief Juh tells her that Shoz-Dijiji is dead and takes her away with him this results in her death due to a cavalry attack while she was with Juh’s tribe and then later Juh’s death when Shoz-Dijiji catches up with him and murders the hell out of him. She of course wasn’t the novels true love interest she was just the place holder until Shoz-Dijiji met up with Wichita Billings a white daughter of a local rancher who Shoz-Dijiji saves from a nasty frontier villain aptly named Cheetim who runs an Indian trading posts as well as a brothel where he plans on placing Wichita. Though Wichita finds herself greatly attracted to Shoz-Dijiji she spurns his love because she is a white woman and he an Indian. The book ends with racism conquering love which isn’t something I expected from a Burroughs adventure but I’m pretty sure love will prevail in the sequel.


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The War Chief is a flawed but excellent book as the author avoids ennobling one race while vilifying another to give us a fascinating look at America’s greatest culture clash but hampered by the trope of “hero white man is better at being a native than the natives are.”

The Apache Devil: Edgar Rice Burroughs - Book Review

apache devil argosyWhen we last left Shoz-Dijiji he had been spurned by Wichita Billings and returned to his people with no intention of ever seeing her again but as this is a Burroughs adventure we know these crazy kids can’t stay apart for long.The book Apache Devil is not a story of two star-crossed lovers as its main narrative thrust is following the last days of the great Apache war chief Geronimo and tracks the historical accounts rather well without turning into a dry historical text which was the biggest problem with I am a Barbarian another of Burroughs historical books.

The novel deals with Geronimo and his people as they try and stay off the “war trail” but with the constant restrictions of reservation life and the cheating by the government agents he is unable to keep his young braves from seeking war. Geronimo just wants to leave peacefully with his family, raise crops and livestock but he will not do so at the expense of his honor. Thus Geronimo and the Apaches are hounded back and forth across the Mexican border by United States troops as well as Mexican military but Geronimo’s real downfall is due to the United States army enlisting other tribes to aid in the hunting and fighting of Geronimo and his people as it is very difficult to stay ahead or hide from ones who know all your tactics and are as well versed with the lands as you are.
This leads to Geronimo eventually surrendering to General Nelson Miles at Skeleton Canyon in 1886 but though Geronimo and the remaining Apaches with him agree to leave the land that has been their home for countless generations one Apache does not… Shoz-Dijiji will never surrender.

This leads back to the problem I had with The War Chief and that is when Shoz-Dijiji is depicted a such a badass who would rather die than surrender we are left thinking, “Wow, he’s the better than all of the other Apaches!” Which of course is a problem because he is actually a white guy and making him a better Apache than an actual Apache is a bit dick? As I said in my review of The War Chief all of this could have been solved if Burroughs had just made Shoz-Dijiji a full blood Apache.

Now when Shoz-Dijiji is finally told by Geronimo that he is white this information almost devastates him, nothing could be worse than to be a lying-backstabbing white eye, but this does not change who he is as though white man’s blood main be in his veins his heart is that of a true Apache. When Shoz-Dijiji and Wichita do finally meet up again, after she for the longest time though he was responsible for the murder of her father and he saves her once again from the nefarious Cheetim, she finally declares her love for him not caring that she is white and he is an Apache. The nice touch here is that Shoz-Dijiji never tells her that he is in fact white.

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Apache Devil is a great read and despite its few flaws provides the reader with a wonderful overview of one of America’s least shining moments.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Barbarian Queen (1985)

Part of Roger Corman’s nine picture deal with Argentina the Barbarian Queen seems to be an answer to the question, “Was Deathstalker rapey enough?” This entry was also helmed by local Argentinian director Héctor Olivera who’s most notable contributions to film is this one and the equally terrible Wizards of the Lost Kingdom. Bad acting, terrible dubbing, gratuitous sexual assaults, recycled sets and a plot that wanders around like a beaten lost puppy makes this one of the worst entries in the genre.

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Her steel is hardly the only thing naked here.

Do you remember the beginning of Conan the Barbarian where young Conan is being told about the “Riddle of Steel” by his father and then the village is attack by Thulsa Doom and his marauders? That was a pretty badass opening wasn’t it?  Well this film starts with a girl being horribly raped by soldiers before the village is attacked by the villain and his marauders which pretty much sets the tone for the rest of this movie.

Opening rape 
Viewers with taste may want to abandon the film now.

Descriptions of the movie claim it takes place during the days of the Roman Empire but as not one character dresses like a Roman and all the sets are reused ones from Deathstalker I never got that vibe. It’s basically just another evil king ruling from an evil city full of harem girls and gladiators with nothing to set it apart from other Sword & Sorcery movies except for the lack of sorcery that is.

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Lana Clarkson is The Barbarian Queen.

The village is attacked during the wedding preparations of marriage between Prince Argan (Frank Zagarino) and Amethea (Lana Clarkson) and most of the villagers are killed while the few survivors are taken as slaves including Argan and the poor raped girl who turns out to be Taramis (Dawn Dunlap) Amethea’s sister. Amethea only survives by setting fire to her hut and then taken cover in her bathtub.

Hot tub 
That party got out of hand.

Two other women survived the attack; Estrid (Katt Shea) and Tiniara (Susana Traverso) and Amethea convinces them to join her on her mission to avenge her ruined wedding day, “I’ll be no man’s slave and no man’s whore, and if I can’t kill them all, by the gods they’ll know I’ve tried.” They canoe down the river for a while until they come across a military outpost where they see some old dude raping a woman that is tied to a fence, they kill the rapist but the girl dies in the arms of Estrild.

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Rapist Interruptus.

The trio make quick work of the rest of the soldiers of the outpost and discover Amethea’s sister who has gone a bit funny in the head since her capture and one can assume multiple sexual assaults by the soldiers here. I don’t want to harp on this but for a movie called Barbarian Queen there just seems to be lot of violence towards women here and were not even at the fifteen minute mark.

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The first of our heroes many failures.

The four women take the horses of the now dead soldiers and proceed on their “Revenge Quest” only to be attacked by a rebel band of villagers that is until the villagers learn that Amethea and company are also enemies of Arrakur (Armando Capo) who lead the attack against Amethea’s people and who rules the land with an iron fist. The rebels lend the women a young girl named Dariac (Andrea Scriven) to lead them to the city as only she knows the secret way in.

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We’re told this a girl so I’ll take their word for it.

They are lead through underground passages into the catacombs below the city where they meet up with Dariac’s father the apparent leader of the underground rebel movement. He tells them that he can’t let them fight as they’ll start a battle that the rebels are not ready to finish.

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The rebel leader seen here with standard issue eye patch and “missing arm.”

Now is when things start to really go bad, for reasons unknown the group split up which allows traumatized Taramis to run off and join the evil Arrakur as she apparently is suffering from some form of Stockholm syndrome, when Estrild tries to find Taramis she is captured and raped by city soldiers and then later dies in the castle dungeon.

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“At least I’m out of this movie.”

When Amethea and Tiniara see Estrild being taken away they rush to her rescue but instead they themselves are quickly captured by the more of the city soldiers.
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I’m getting the impression that as heroes go, Amethea kind of sucks.

Tiniara is sent off to be a harem girl and sex toy for the gladiators while Amethea is interrogated by Arrakur himself who orders her to take her clothes off and when he tries to kiss her she bites his face.

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This kind of thing never happens to Conan.

Arrakur doesn’t kill her for this insolence but sends her to his chief torturer and we are “treated” to the film’s most bizarre scene as Amethea is tied spread eagle on a rack while some kind of mechanized steel gauntlet is aimed at her chest.

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Words fail me.

If this scene comes across as a tad fucked up how she escapes is even more so; the twisted bastard decides to move onto the sexual assault portion of his torture regime but when he starts screwing her Amethea clamps down on his dick with her super vagina muscles and she refuses to stop squeezing his manhood until he releases her hands. Of course when he does she kicks him into a nearby vat of acid.

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Liquefied rapist.

Meanwhile Tiniara as a harem girl has made contact with Argan who is now a gladiator and tells him that she and Amethea have made contact with the rebels and that with their help and the help of the gladiators they could overthrow Arrakur. That plan has a few hiccups being that Tiniara and the gladiators have no way of confirming with the rebels the details of the plan, they have no idea where Amethea is, and the rebels aren’t armed or remotely ready to start their rebellion.  Other than it’s a cracker jack plan.

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Would you trust her to plan anything?

The big finale has the gladiators being betrayed by one of their own but just as all seems lost the rebels show up and a brainwashed Taramis plants a dagger in the back of Arrakur saving Amethea from getting her head lopped off.

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You go girl.

I’ve seen my fair share of cheesy exploitation films but this one takes the cake, it would have been better off if they had just gone ahead and made it an outright porno. The action scenes were terrible with the only thing worse than the lame sword fighting would be the acting which was more wooden than the swords. As heroes go Amethea is about the worst as she fails almost constantly at everything and even at the end she has to be saved during her fight with the chief villain.  The only saving grace here is we get to see poor mentally shattered Taramis get her revenge.

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I’m assuming ten minutes later the rebels toss these idiots out of the city.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

El Monstro Del Mar (2012)

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There have been some great horror films out of Australia in the last few years and so I went into El Monstro Del Mar! with some pretty good expectations sadly this film fell a bit short.

el-monstro-del-mar-B&W
The movie starts off on a nice note as we see three provocatively clad women standing by their stalled car as they await their next victims. Director/writer Stuart Simpson chose to film the opening in black & white just in case we didn’t get that he was doing homage to Russ Meyer’s Faster Pussycat! Kill! Kill!

But what he failed to do is create characters with any definition beyond their appearance; there is no difference between Berretta (Nelli Scarlet), Blondie (Karli Madden) and Snowball (Kate Watts) other than which Suicide Girls type tattoos they are sporting. Berretta is given the most lines and seems the bigger baddass, so that ostensibly makes her the leader of the group, and though Blondie is a little bitchier than the others I kept getting her and Snowball mixed up.

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“I’m named after a gun, which makes me the leader.”

Two hapless slobs pull over to help the girls and after a bit of flirting Berretta makes the “cut his throat” gesture then she cuts the throat of the one standing by her. Blood sprays in glorious Technicolor red as the film transitions from black and white to colour as the movie proper begins. The filmmakers do gore quite well but I do wonder if the film would have worked better if they had kept it in black & white. Berretta bitches at Snowball for getting blood all over the interior of the car even though she commanded the throat cutting while the guy was sitting behind the wheel. Did she think her friend could somehow magically direct blood? Even dumber is that they spend the next little while cleaning all the blood up only to steal car that belonged to their victims. Wouldn’t it have made more sense to just the role the murder scene/car in the ditch and torch the evidence?

El-Monstro-del-Mar-cutthroats 
“Did you pack the Windex?”

The girls arrive at a sleepy seaside town where they plan to lay low at cabin lent to them by a friend (I’m assuming by friend they mean someone they killed and stole their house keys from) and this is when the film shifts gears and becomes a B-Grade monster movie. The girls immediately decide to go frolicking in the ocean only to have an old coot in a wheelchair yell at them to get out of the water.

crazy ralph 
This film’s Crazy Ralph.

The old man is Joseph (Norman Yemm) and his warnings of doom are ignored by the three girls because at no point does he explain why it is bad to be in the water. Sure these three most likely would have ignored him if he told them it was full of man-eating piranhas but who exactly would listen to vague ravings of an old man?  Later we find out that fifteen years ago this now near empty town was full and after people went into the water a monstrous creature came out of the sea and killed EVERYONE but Joseph and his two year old granddaughter Hanna, and for fifteen years no one has gone into the water since with nary an explanation from this idiot.  Also this monster is only awakened by people swimming but not people boating or fishing? Was the monster’s child killed by a group of bathers and now she haunts the shoreline like an aquatic Mrs. Voorhees?

El-Monstro-del-Mar-frolicking 
Ringing the dinner bell.

The now seventeen year old Hannah (Kyrie Capri) is invited to party with the girls and though she is at first reticent to join, having never even had a drink before, she is eventually seduced to join the party. There is more flirting and implied girl-on-girl action but the film surprisingly avoids going for the full lesbian erotic scene so at most we get Berretta licking alcohol off one of the girl’s legs.

girl on girl action 
“We’re not gay, we just forgot to pack shot glasses.”

From here on out the film shifts into full on monster mode as we see local fisherman killed by the beast, the creature is apparently a huge monster with tentacles reminiscent of the graboids from Tremors, then come morning when Blondie is discovered missing Berretta and Snowball wander by the scene of a beach massacre with blasé “been there done that” attitude.

give them a hand 
“This was no boating accident.”

The final showdown is fun as we discover that monster is about the size of a house and our “heroes” must engage it in hand to tentacle combat. Timid Hannah steps up to the plate to be the Ripley of this movie as she wields a shotgun and axe against the creature while her wheelchair bound gramps hides in the basement. We get a fair amount gore and the monster effects are quite well done but when the blood finally settles I just found myself not carrying. Stuart Simpson never bothered to give anyone much of a backstory beyond brief flashbacks, the ridiculous history of the monster makes no sense at all and as a result I never found myself invested in any of the characters.

Bloody good party 
Sadly this awesome flashback of carnage has no bearing on the story.

Someone should have told Mr. Simpson that if you are going to homage a certain period or genre you can’t just reference elements you must have your own story to hang it on, sadly this film falls short of the bar.  I truly wanted to like this movie but between the stilted acting of most the cast and the lack of a coherent story I just couldn’t get behind.  And one finally question, “What kind of name is El Monstro Del Mar for a creature of the shores of Australia?

el-monstro-battle 
“Dammit, I’m trapped in a Japanese hentai movie!”