Monday, May 23, 2016

"Crippled Avengers" (1978) d/ Chang Cheh

 photo Crippled20Avengers201978_zpstcevu1ew.jpg
It's been a minute since we looked at any gung fu here at the Wop, so I figured we'd cover another late seventies Shaw Brothers classic from Chang Cheh starring his popular Venom Mob stable: The affable Kuo Chui (The Lizard), the personable Chiang Sheng (Hybrid Venom), the hot-headed musclebound Lo Mang (The Toad), the kick-riffic Sun Chien (The Scorpion), and the treacherous Lu Feng (The Centipede), the only fellow missing is Pai Wei (The Snake), but he'd turn up in other Cheh vehicles with his cinematic gang mates. Also on board, is the man himself, Johnny Wang Lung Wei, in another memorably villainous turn with a ball and chain (actual weapon, not a wife, don't get excited, SJW's). Maybe more surprising, is the participation of Chen Kuan Tai, usually a distinguished hero in these pictures, as a major cock of a bad guy.

 photo crippled_avengers1_zpsw38did8q.jpg
Being fitted for extending iron hands that shoot darts lessens the blow of having your arms amputated by angry bandits.
While Tao Tien Tu (Chen Kuan Tai) is away on business, his homestead is set upon by members of the ruthless Tien Nan Tiger gang, who proceed to chop his pleading wife's legs off and his young son's arms off (that's a calling card, huh) before he can return in time to dole out ample Tiger Claw retribution upon these villainous bastards. After his wife succumbs from her wounds, Tao vows to construct his newly crippled boy some nifty iron arms, to assist in his gung fu proficiency as he grows up. We then meet Tao Sheng (Lu Feng) as a bitter young Tiger style proponent with iron arms, who, aided by his equally bitter old man and his loyal henchman, Lin Wing (Wang Lung Wei), enjoys playing judge, jury, and executioner to every poor son of a bitch that they deem to have shown disrespect in some regard. Their brutal martial bullying leaves the wanderer Chen Shun (Kuo Chui) blind after Sheng gives him the Iron Moe Howard to his ocular orbits, the iron smith Wei Da (Lo Mang) dumb and deaf, Hu Ah-kuei (Sun Chien) loses his legs, and Wang Yi (Chiang Sheng) gets his head squeezed in a vice until he's an idiot. These guys don't mess around...

 photo crippled_avengers3_zpsqexiimks.jpg
"Which one of you bastards would like a crippling lesson?", queries Tao Tien Tu (Chen Kuan Tai).
Wang Yi's teacher takes in the crippled bunch as students, repairing their bodies and minds with gung fu, as is so often the case. The men craft some iron legs for Hu, and Chen and Wei are taught to use their handicaps to their pugilistic advantage (as is so often the case). Meanwhile, Wang Yi is able to fight as he did before the torture, he just has the attention span of a child on four bowls of Super Sugar Crisp. In between more incapacitating life lessons served up by the evil trio anytime someone bumps into one of them or mentions Sheng's handicap (which, for the record, is a lot), even more cronies are hired for protection with a party celebrating Tao's martial accomplishments on the horizon, making the already laborious task of exacting revenge near to impossible for our heroes. Will they be able to defeat the Tiger Claw master and his small army? Will there be ample doubling and blood drenched two man kata action to wow even the hardest of gung fu fanatics to please? I shouldn't have to spell it all out for you, grab a copy, and see for yourselves!

 photo crippled_avengers2_zpsc3z6yj3j.jpg
"Second word...sounds like anacusis...martial bruises? Oh, it IS anacusis..."
Not to be confused with 1979's Crippled Masters, which featured actual handicapped gents, one with no arms, and another with no real legs to speak of. That's another review...Tonight's,  also known as Return of the Five Deadly Venoms,  is one of the wilder entries in Cheh's canon with the full Venom Mob, filled with bloody limbs, torture, and the usual dazzling display of skills we've come to expect from the familiar cast of characters. The fight scenes maintain the same standard of excellence, and some impressive acrobatics from Kuo,Chiang, and Lu throughout the production. Wang Lung Wei does his thing, and Chen Kuan Tai is effective as a villain here, as well. One of my favorite Cheh productions of the period, it should become one of yours, too, if it isn't already. Three Wops, and highly recommended.

 photo crippled_avengers4_zpssyanquy6.jpg
"Let me blow this sneezing powder in your'll be hilarious, come on!"
 photo nu3w_zps21ec95cd.jpg

Thursday, May 19, 2016

"The VVitch" (2015) d/ Robert Eggers

 photo witch00_zpsxwwn2f4h.jpg
Ignore the tentative online reception of this whopper of wanton witchery spelled with a pair of capital V's,  as doled out by those obese oracles of ordinary genre film,  as streamed live from the backseat of mother's Prius in the parking lot of Ollie's Bargain Outlet, it would seem. Not enough arterial splatter or brain dead boobs for the retro-Freddy crowd, methinks. The authentic 17th century settler-speak as encountered in tonight's review also seems to have put a damper on the Puritanical proceedings for those with no ear for such language, a side effect of the hundred forty-four character Twitter minds who refuse to put down their smart phones and pick up a smart book, instead. No matter,  chums,  for what we have before us tonight is a hauntingly shot, brilliant horror cauldron with an intelligent script, an excellent original score provided by Mark Korven, and enough atmospheric chills and implied grue for any connoisseur of genre cinema to wrap his or her mind around. I think I'm in the market for a goat...

 photo thewitch01_zpsau5vv7gs.jpg
"We can live to the ripe old age of thirty-four here in this paradise, if God so willeth!"
After departing the Puritan colony for greener pastures, William and Catherine (Ralph Ineson, Kate Dickie) laboriously struggle to plant roots with their family, nearly a day's ride away in a pasture surrounded by suspicious, dark forest. Their simple Christian homestead is instantly beset with unpleasantness when baby Samuel inexplicably disappears under Thomasin's (Anya Taylor-Joy) watchful eye during a spirited round of peekaboo. Inside a foul witch's twisted tree hovel deep in the woods, the infant boy is gleefully utilized as bloody bath and body wash for the Satanic spellcaster (Bathsheba Garnett). When William's crops fail miserably, he's forced to sell his wife's silver heirloom goblet to buy food for the impending winter months, his stubborn refusal to cop to the act only leads to further religious bickering and in-fighting between the family. Outside, young Mercy (Ellie Grainger) and Jonas (Lucas Dawson) insouciantly romp about with the family goat, a personable, handsome fellow named Black Phillip.

 photo witcvh02_zps6lmob3ps.jpg
"I haven't seen a white buffalo yet, Uncle Ted!",  notes Caleb (Harvey Scrimshaw).
Not content with his current list of broken promises, William takes young Caleb (Harvey Scrimshaw) into the woods to hunt down some dinner for the folks, only to be outsmarted by a particularly sinister-looking jackrabbit. Equipped with the layout of the forest and knowledge that the family plans to trim its number to lessen the economic strain through eavesdropped late night whispers, Caleb and Thomasin enter the ominous woods themselves, but only Thomasin returns, after a groggy Caleb,  having been split from his sibling, stumbles upon the witch's secluded flat to find a sultry seductress (Sarah Stephens) within. The young children begin relating secrets to their older sister, after having been entrusted with them, guessed it, the pet goat. Accusations of Satanism begin to fly from every direction, and no family member is exempt from the weeding out process. I'll cut the synopsis short here, as the final reel is something you'll really have to see for yourselves to truly appreciate. Brilliant.

 photo witch03_zps0ojsus45.jpg
Thomasin (Anya Taylor-Joy) uncovers a secret succulent stash of strawberry preserves.
So yeah, ignore anybody that tells you this one is anything other than a modern masterpiece... or you can just as easily take their word for it and retreat into your horror spaz/hipster comfort zone of forty dollar Andy Milligan blu-rays and  glow variant super deformed urban vinyls of Cute-thulhu, waiting eagerly for the next cookie cutter slasher reboot that Hollywood squeezes into the cinematic toilet. The choice is yours. Call me an idealist, but I'd like to think none of my tastefully cerebral Wopsploitation readers out there fall into the latter category. Five, at the most. If you subscribe to the former camp, on the other hand, congratulations, you've just seen one of the best movies of the year, and arguably one of the best of the last decade. Naturally, a perfect score of Four Wops and my highest recommendation are bestowed upon it. I can hardly wait to sit down and watch the infernal beast again. Obviously, loved it!

 photo witch05_zps3m5yhk1s.jpg
"Pssst, youse guys heard of mah cuzzin...Black Francis?"
 photo nu4w_zps43affeb5.jpg

Monday, May 16, 2016

"The Boy" (2016) d/ William Brent Bell

 photo the-boy-2016-2_zpspaj2ai7w.jpg
We last touched upon one of director William Brent Bell's films when we tackled his The Devil Inside (2012) four years ago. While that film dealt with the sexy subject of Satanic possession, tonight's review deals with an elderly British couple and their young son, and  by "son", I may actually mean creepy lifesized porcelain doll, but let's not get ahead of ourselves. The film stars Philly native, Lauren Cohan, who you will probably recognize from her role as Maggie in the wildly popular Walking Dead tv series or Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, which I've still yet to sit through. I'm in no great hurry to see any superhero stuff, thanks.  Her co-star Rupert Evans, was also in Hellboy (2004) and provided voice work for the uber-mint and equally difficult video game, Demon's Souls, in 2009. Jim Norton and Diana Hardcastle flesh out the supporting cast, as Lauren's aging employers. It all starts like this...

 photo 7762f04004d0363f_the-boy-BOY_356_DF-10912R_rgb.xxxlarge_2x_zpsd6rw2jwl.jpg
"Go ahead and interrogate him concerning the stack of Hustler's I blagged from under his bed..." 
Greta (Lauren Cohan) is a young American girl who's just escaped a smothering boyfriend in the states and accepted employment as live-in nanny to the young son of two mysterious pensioners (Jim Norton, Diana Hardcastle) in a big old creepy estate in the British countryside, only it seems he's passed away years ago, as evidenced by the gravestone bearing his name (Brahms, of all things) on the property, leaving the couple to dote endlessly over a realistic porcelain substitute, as if it were their late son himself. Zoinks, Scoob. She's given a list of do's and don't's before they beat a path to the exit, seemingly for a vacation from their own quirky regimen of bedtime story reading and pointless dinner plate setting for a doll. Luckily there's Malcolm (Rupert Evans), a horny delivery boy willing to shed light on the Heelshire family manias, helping the young woman to forget the relationship mistake she's distanced herself from, in the process.
 photo images204_zpsmmc09pfp.jpg
"Fight through the tears and tell me where Geppetto touched you, Brahms..."
Interrupting the strange phenomena she's experiencing in the foreboding darkness of the house (shoes gone missing, the doll seemingly moving from room to room on its own, children's voices, etc. ), is the arrival of aforementioned ex, Cole (Ben Robson), who's successfully stalked his former flame directly to her current place of employment. Meanwhile, the vacationing Heelshire's mail off a letter to their son, before walking into the incoming ocean tide together in a suicide pact. To compound matters, Cole makes the scene with intentions of dragging his ex-girlfriend back to America, whether she agrees to it or not, and her interaction with the surrogate boy only further infuriates him, to the point of getting rough with Malcolm, and even raising the doll violently by the legs into the air,'ll want to see where this all ends up for yourselves.

 photo 58999758-f526-4c10-89d8-0e0e8534776f_zpsfhfdic4l.png
"...and right about here is your nasopharyngeal tonsil."
Bottom line, after the big reveal, which I wont be revealing here, mind you... I was reminded more than once of glorious similar plot devices from made-for-television classics dating back forty or more years, and I like that kind of prompting when I sit down to watch horror moves. I like it a lot. I'm rarely so careful as to avoid spoilers around here, but I'm maintaining a conscious effort to leave all the watching up to you cats out there. If you're anything like me, you'll appreciate the lengths this one goes to deliver quality atmosphere and tension throughout it's run time. For that, I think Three big ones is a fair assessment of the material under the wop-roscope here tonight. Recommended.

 photo tumblr_o4vd4wPXLr1vpx72uo1_1280_zps3tsswthi.jpg
Porcelain privilege: He's a lot whiter than you are.
 photo nu3w_zps21ec95cd.jpg

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

"E tanta paura" (1976) d/ Paolo Cavara

 photo PlotOfFear_zpsotzpvrzw.jpg
A mere glimpse of Corinne Clery gives me an impossible testosterone boost, and I'm suddenly compelled to stealth-creep on a game animal dressed in an Enter the Dragon tracksuit, gut it from underneath with a butterfly sword before it can even notice, grill it (slightly) over an open flame, chew the freshly charred flesh between my teeth, swallow and digest it, while pounding my chest like a tattooed Tarzan. Or maybe some push ups. Either way, Clery is surely the living embodiment of sensuality, as clearly evidenced by her top ten inclusion in the Wop's Top Twenty Sex Sirens of Cult Cinema post last year. She demands full attention in every frame she appears in during E tanta paura, aka/ Plot of Fear, the 1976 effort from the man who brought you La tarantola dal ventre nero aka/ The Black Belly of the Tarantula, an excellent 1971 giallo that featured the likes of Claudine Auger, Barbara Bach, and Barbara Bouchet. Besides the aforementioned beauty, this one has a lot going for it, including solid performances from Michele Placido and Eli Wallach, a groovy rock-driven score from Daniele Patucchi, and an engaging screenplay with plenty of violent twists and turns, as co-written by the director himself.

 photo d50f4be1-9462-4f87-bc5b-2630ecdf9fca_zps54z5nisk.png
It's always hard coming to a realization that your wife fancies a gallop upon a strange pony now and again.
Detective Lomenzo (Michele Placido) investigates the recent brutal murders of a pair of members to a secretive social club known as the "Fauna Lovers", with the each of the crime scenes decorated by torn out pages from a German children's book called "Shock-headed Peter". His assistant (Enrico Oldoni) recollects a case involving the club from five years prior, only the file has mysteriously disappeared, and the disgraced Inspector Del Re who handled it seems to have gone missing, as well. When he's not rolling between the sheets with his busty black girlfriend (or jokingly reminding her how black she is), he theorizes that Villa Hoffman, the estate where the club held their meetings and Hoffman (John Steiner) himself housed several big game animals in a menagerie, some for later sale to zoos and circuses, must be involved in the current evil doings, after serving as the center of the former case. The author of the children's book whose pages turn up at murders? Also Hoffman, it should be noted. Neither his frazzled superior officer (Tom Skerritt) nor tech-mad independent investigator, Peter Struwwel (Eli Wallach) offer much in the way of assistance.

 photo plotoffear3_zpsx5zpvp0z.jpg
...that's all the time we have this week, on "Cook a Hooker".
Black Ruth (Mary Ruth League) flies the coop for a flamboyant photographer with a woman's name at the same disco that Lemenzo encounters Jeanne (Corinne Clery), the striking model who's not averse to turning rich tricks and the subject of his recent carnal obsessions. In exchange for some artsy, erotic sex, Jeanne fills him in on the events of the earlier case, that the Fauna Lovers was little more than a thinly disguised elite swingers' club, where a young hooker named Rosa (Sarah Ceccarini) in attendance of one of their high brow sex parties dropped dead after the drunken group mock-fed her to one of the caged tigers. Meanwhile, other members of the secretive group are dropping like flies; men receiving Dwyer headshots on live television while being interviewed about the very case, women tied to trees and burned alive, and other brutal deaths begin to pile up. Naturally, things aren't always as they seem, and this effort only reaches conclusion after several hair pin turns, which you should enjoy greatly if you're a fan of this sort of movie, and decide to screen it for yourself.

 photo tanta4_zpsayjd4xkb.jpg
Open mouthed Clery kisses with a tongue that's tastier than tiramisu. Place my order. 
Cavara got his start co-directing the legendary 1962 Prospero and Jacopetti shockumentary. Mondo Cane aka/ It's a Dog's World. He'd also helm 1963's La donna nel mondo aka/ Women of the World with the duo, though uncredited for his work. Sadly, tonight's review would stand as his last foray into gialli, and he'd pass away at the age of fifty-six in 1982. Placido also appeared in things like 1977's Kleinhoff Hotel and even the rarely seen 1973 giallo Mia moglie, un corpo per l'amore aka/ My Wife Has a Body to Die For. Speaking of which, Clery would also appear in Kleinhoff Hotel, as well as Pasquale Festa Campanile's Autostop rosso sangue aka/ Hitch Hike (1978), the following year. Of course you remember John Steiner from Argento's Tenebre (1982). Three Wops for this one, it's a good time to be had, for sure. Check it out!

 photo tanta2_zps97jhhxgc.jpg
"Yeah, ya done good dis time, Hoffman. Dose are some nice gams...bring her closer to muh cage...yessssss."
 photo nu3w_zps21ec95cd.jpg

Sunday, May 8, 2016

"The Haunted Palace" (1963) d/ Roger Corman

 photo 1f2b84866ba73fe5da6faf4190b5aae2_zpsmnozmdpn.jpg
This sixties slice of gothic garishness masquerades as an adaption of E.A. Poe in name only, when in reality, it's a loose adaption of Howard Phillips' own The Case of Charles Dexter Ward, as realized for the silver screen by such genre heavyweights as Lon Chaney, Jr. and the inimitable Vincent Price in the title role, with Debra Paget, who you'll recall from The Ten Commandments or Love Me Tender opposite Elvis, as his faithful spouse. My current copy is an MGM dvd double bill with another Price favorite, 1962's Tower of London, for those collectors out there that might give a damn about such things. Anyway...Onward!

 photo The-Haunted-Palace-1963-2_zpsr4v1t5m1.jpg
 Mrs. Ward (Debra Paget) is surely a dime piece of early sixties arm-cake, dads.
100 years after being burned alive for sordid warlockery and young maiden-based Necronomicon rites by the inhabitants of Arkham, placing a wicked curse of rotten luck upon them for this thing they're now guilty of, Joseph Curwen (Vincent Price) is given a living vessel of reincarnation in his own great grandson, Charles Dexter Ward (Price), who's arrived in town with his beautiful young wife, Ann (Debra Paget), to assess the value of his grandfather's estate, which he's recently inherited. He's instantly recognized as a descendant of the male witch by a descendant of one of the men who condemned him to death, Edgar Weeden (Leo Gordon), and treated with much prejudice and scrutiny on account of this, by the townsfolk who've seemingly sired a weird sub-race of mutants that they lock away like wild animals. Then there's Simon (Lon Chaney Jr), a servant that suddenly turns up out of the darkness at the estate, to generally assist the warlock's spirit and creep everybody out.

 photo 1963hauntedpalace01_zpsfjshyk49.jpg
"I shouldn't have displayed my 'Trump 2016' badge in front of this unreasonable gaggle of social justice warriors..."
Naturally, Ward is hypnotized by a portrait of his ancestor, which leads to spiritual possession, further Necronomicon spells in the estate's secret witchcraft chamber, handily equipped with it's own multi-armed and budget-shabby demi-god at the bottom of a well, and Ten Little Indians-style retribution upon those specifically responsible for his death over a hundred years earlier. For Ann, it's no picnic either, as she's projecting her husband's sudden transformation into an abusive heel, into attention from the town doctor, Willet (Frank Maxwell) who tries to help her free her husband from the clutches of the vengeful ghost, before he can resurrect his lost love from her current status of long dead, and rotting in a coffin. If all of that doesn't interest you, perhaps there'll be a twist ending of sorts to win you over in the final reel. Perhaps...

 photo haunted-palace-monster_zps6fbc5yb8.jpg
I had a rubber Kresge's bought one just like this that Big Jim and G.I. Joe had to combine resources to defeat in the killing fields of my backyard.
You'll recognize Elisha Cook, Jr. from his memorable roles in genre-stuffs like Blacula (1972), Dead of Night (1977), Salem's Lot (1979), and Messiah of Evil (1973). Frank Maxwell showed up in Corman's own The Intruder (1962) as well as the Bronson vehicle, Mr Majestyk (1974). Arguably the last decent thing Lon Chaney Jr was ever to appear in, I'd wager. The participation of Price alone, with his masterfully theatrical take on duality of character, complete with the full range of exaggerated facial expressions we came to recognize and love to watch, elevates this one into intermediate levels of watchability, and would've been a hoot to see at the drive-in of the period, I'd imagine. Two Wop respectability here, one of the better Corman films of the era. Snag a copy.

 photo tumblr_luw2ulIhU91qd3ucoo1_500_zps8zjztdmm.jpg
"Not good enough for Instagram, not even good enough for a FaceBook selfie, as it were, my dear..."
 photo nu2w_zps47906b42.jpg

Saturday, May 7, 2016

"Revenge" (1986) d/ Christopher Lewis

 photo 512MeZMtbxL._SY300_QL70__zpstfyaeoav.jpg
You may or may not remember me examining director Christopher Lewis' debut effort, the shot-on-video slasher of the clamshell variety, Blood Cult (1985), some three years ago now. Clink the link, in any case, and reacquaint yourself with my thoughts on it. Tonight's review stands as the 16 mm-to-video sequel to that movie, starring Patrick Wayne, who'd fallen to these Wednesday night video rental depths from his epic drive in portrayal of Sinbad in 1977's Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger, and the prolific John Carradine in one of six appearances he'd make two years from his death in 1988. Thanks to the yobbos at VCI, you can dump a tenner for the dvd, then question your very sanity, wondering why you ever bothered, just like I did...

  photo RevengeCaps_001_zpsa1aenz8j.jpg
"Maybe you should have stuck to handing out Lenin propaganda to hippies at the squat, Bernie..."
Those crazy Caninus cultists are back at it again, gutting nosey reporter broads in dark alleys, leaving behind those doggie coins at the scene of the crime as a sort of plastic-looking calling card for exactly... nobody who seem to be investigating the murders. When they give Carlton Moore (James Potts) an axe-face death for foolishly investigating that weird noise in the barn, it leaves only his plucky wife, Gracie (Bennie Lee McGowan), to fend off the real estate-maddened zealots, who try to scare her off with a lone motorcyclist, a madman who performs minor ramp jumps and menacingly (not really) kicks her pickup door in hopes that she'll sell the farm to the cult, seeing how their sacrificial altar to Caninus happens to fall inside her property line. Couldn't you guys just kill her and be done with it? Apparently not. The suffering continues...

 photo RevengeCaps_004_zpsimwqjkdg.jpg
No amount of percocet can remedy this Axe-head(r)in' headache.
Luckily for Gracie, a savior arrives on the scene in the form of Mike Hogan (Patrick Wayne), a former neighbor who's looking to sate his curiosity on the mysterious events surrounding his brother's death after paying respects to her late husband at his funeral, where the secret cultists strongly suggest she dump her farm deed in the wastepaper basket, right next to this movie's screenplay, I'd imagine. Some more brutal deaths, including a beheaded local horny bikini teen in a hot tub, lead the unlikely duo to investigate together, eventually booby trapping the cult's backwoods digs to rain on the sacrificial parade on an unholy night, with even a U.S. senator (John Carradine, looking more arthritically twisted than usual and mostly unaware of his surroundings) in attendance. Gee, I hope there's not a foreseeable twist ending in the works.

 photo RevengeCaps_006_zpsyab54h0i.jpg
Michael's sister really appreciated those free tickets to the Nu Shooz concert.
At the time of this release, around my junior year in high school,  stuff like this was delegated to the middle of the week in my inner circle, and recognized as cheap thrills in comparison to the European stuff we were also tuning in to in the mid to late eighties. Compared to some of the direct-to-video junk being churned out these days, it's actually not that bad, though it certainly isn't good, either. The rubbery demon suit in the finale was kind of ambitious considering the blood letting leading up to it is downright miserly in volume, and far too infrequent in between great periods of uninspired dialog between John Wayne's son and a poor man's Angela Lansbury in Bennie Lee McGowan. Alas, I'm not about to let my teenage nostalgia sway the one Wop score this one surely deserves as revenge for making me endure it again after all these years. Looks good on you, Revenge. Wear it proudly.

 photo RevengeCaps_018_zpsrnm8qpop.jpg
"The Reese's Cup melted in my pocket on me...I hate licking my fingers."
 photo nu1w_zpsb81401ad.jpg
Connect with Facebook