Amazons (1986)

AMAZONS (1986)
Article 3867 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 3-7-2012
Posting Date: 3-16-2012
Directed by Alejandro Sessa
Featuring Ty Randolph, Penelope Reed, Joseph Whipp
Country: Argentina
What it is: Epic fantasy suffering from anemia

A group of Amazons must do battle with an evil magician, but their greatest warrior is sent on a quest to find a magic sword that will destroy him.

I suspect the only reason the warriors are Amazons is so that the bare chests can be more exploitable. The budget is obviously near the very low end of the scale, the action/battle scenes are unconvincing and badly choreographed, and unless you’re looking for laughs of the wretched cinema variety, about the only reason to catch this one is for the scenery (both natural and human). Yet I do have to admit to being a bit awed at this one; I’ve never seen a movie where the acting is all at the same consistently low level, because not only is every actor giving a bad performance, but they’re all giving the same level of a bad performance. When that happens, I usually suspect the problem is in the direction; obviously, the director likes his acting that way. Well, at least it keeps the overacting in check; it’s even worse when that happens, but it only occurs during the climactic battle scene. I think that’s all anyone really needs to know about this one.

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The Adventures of Ultraman (1981)

THE ADVENTURES OF ULTRAMAN (1981)
Feature version of edited episodes of “Za Urutoraman”
Article 3848 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 2-16-2012
Posting Date: 2-26-2012
Directed by Nagayuki Toriumi and Takeyuki Kanda
Featuring the voices of Gary Morgan, Sean Reilly, Buck Kartalian
Country: Japan
What it is: Space opera

A military task force finds themselves faced with an invasion from an intergalactic tyrant. Can even Ultraman face such a dangerous foe… or is it possible that Ultraman may bring forth even greater help?

For some reason, this movie does not have a listing on IMDB, though its sequel (which is cut from the same cloth) is listed. When I first was able to find this movie, I was disappointed to find that the TV series was animated; I’ve seen the original series from the sixties, and for me, much of the charm came from the fact that it was live action. As I actually watched this movie, I was also surprised to discover that the story was more of a big space opera rather than a series of monster encounters, but I suspect that this was due to the fact that this movie was edited from the last four episodes of the series, which delves into Ultraman’s origins and provided a big climax to the series; if the series description on IMDB is correct, most of the series involved the usual monster antics. Only one monster appears in this movie, and it’s not until near the end of the movie. It’s limited animation anime, with lots of explosions and silly dialogue. For what it is, it’s passable enough, I suppose, but I still miss the live-action charm of the original series.

Anthropophagous 2 (1981)

ANTHROPOPHAGOUS 2 (1981)
aka Absurd, Rosso sangue
Article 3805 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 1-4-2012
Posting Date: 1-14-2012
Directed by Joe D’Amato
Featuring George Eastman, Annie Belle, Charles Borromel
Country: Italy
What it is: A slasher/zombie movie

A horribly injured man is taken to the hospital, but it turns out that he has incredible powers of healing. He is also insane and homicidal. Can he be stopped?

The title implies that this is a sequel to ANTHROPOPHAGOUS, which I reviewed under the title THE GRIM REAPER. It’s really not, thought it’s somewhat in the same mode, and features the same lead actor and the same director. The title is also deceptive, in that this killer doesn’t appear to be a cannibal, just an insane killer. In some ways, it’s like a zombie movie in that he is only vulnerable by an attack on the brain, though this is no more a regular Italian zombie movie than REVENGE OF THE DEAD was. The set-up during the first half is the more interesting part of the movie as far as I’m concerned, mostly because I was pretty curious as to what was going on here. The problem with the second half is that I don’t think it really manages to ratchet up the suspense as well as it could, as the contrivances become rather blatant as the movie progresses, and the denouement is rather unbelievable. However, gorehounds will probably be quite satisfied, as the movie is very bloody. To me, this was a mixed bag.

Arabian Adventure (1979)

ARABIAN ADVENTURE (1979)
Article 3765 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 11-23-2011
Posting Date: 12-5-2011
Directed by Kevin Connor
Featuring Christopher Lee, Milo O’Shea, Oliver Tobias
Country: UK
What it is: Reheated Arabian nights

A prince, wishing to marry a beautiful princess, is sent out on a quest by an evil sorcerer to bring back a magic rose; the sorcerer believes it will give him ultimate power. However, the only one who can reach the rose is a little beggar boy…

Given the reviews I’ve read of this one, I was expecting the worst; however, though it is pretty weak, it’s not as bad as all that. In its own threadbare way, it’s trying to be the STAR WARS of Arabian nights movies, but it’s badly crippled by a criminally underdeveloped script. Most of the characters are not developed past their role in the story; the hero is a hero, the female love interest is female love interest, the evil villain is an evil villain, the toady is a toady (and a toad as well before all is through); in short, the script gives them no character past these functions. It’s really noticeable in the comic characters; both Milo O’Shea’s toady and Mickey Rooney’s inventor are supposed to be comic roles, but neither one is given anything funny to say or do; Rooney in particular is left with little to do with his role other than cackle maniacally. The story itself is just another variation on THE THIEF OF BAGDAD, but I think the movie works best when it comes up with sequences that I haven’t really seen in other Arabian Nights movies; the scene where the evil sorcerer summons up a wind storm to defeat some revolutionaries, and the scene involving the inventor’s workshop inside the volcano are real visual highlights in the movie. Other special effects sequences fall flat; in particular, the battle on the flying carpets near the end of the movie is muddled and unexciting. There’s a number of name actors in the movie, but they’re mostly wasted in unmemorable roles. If it weren’t for the aforementioned visual highlights, this movie would be a total waste of time.

Autopsy (1975)

AUTOPSY (1975)
aka Macchie solari
Article 3749 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 11-7-2011
Posting Date: 11-19-2011
Directed by Armando Crispino
Featuring Mimsy Farmer, Barry Primus, Ray Lovelock
Country: Italy
What it is: Giallo

A wave of suicides, possibly caused by sunspots, runs through the country, keeping the doctors in an autopsy center very busy. A woman begins to suspect that one suicide was actually a murder, but she finds that the murderer may be much closer to her than she expects…

There are some words that, if you put them in movie titles, raise certain expectations, and the word “autopsy” is one of them; it seems to promise a certain level of gross-out. And, for a while, the movie actually manages it; with an opening that features a series of non-stop suicides and a grotesque hallucination sequence in a morgue where the bloody dead rise up, the movie does achieve that level. Eventually, though, it settles into a confusing giallo plot that ultimately tries just a bit too hard to be effective. There’s just too many sick, twisted and unhealthy characters here; even the heroine of the story seems to be one baby step away from madness, and that makes it really hard to warm up to anyone. As a result, I found myself not really caring a whole lot about the movie, despite the facts that there are some pretty odd plot twists along the way. It is stylistically interesting, and I do like it better than the other Armando Crispino movie I’ve seen for this series, THE DEAD ARE ALIVE. I just wish he’d come up with ways to get us to care about his characters.

Albino (1976)

ALBINO (1976)
Article 3748 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 11-6-2011
Posting Date: 11-18-2011
Directed by Jurgen Goslar
Featuring Christopher Lee, James Faulkner, Horst Frank
Country: West Germany / UK / South Africa / Zimbabwe
What it is: Revenge story

When an albino terrorist rapes and kills his fiancee, a police officer takes the law into his own hands and sets out to avenge the deed. However, his actions put him at odds with his own police force, and as he hunts the albino, the law is hunting for him…

The movie has your basic revenge story setup, and I usually find these movies to be fairly predictable in their manipulation techniques; just make the villain heinous enough, and the audience will automatically want the hero to take any action necessary to bring him to justice. Fortunately, the movie is well acted, and it adds a few other layers of complexity; the African setting and the political complications add a bit more meat to the bones of the story. The movie has some messages as well, but as always, it’s easier to send messages in works of fiction where you can stack the cards any way you want to. Still, that doesn’t mean the movie doesn’t have its uses, even if much of the mechanics of what happens is standard issue plotting. What the movie is not is a horror movie. Nonetheless, it is often mistaken for one, probably due to the fact that Christopher Lee (who plays a secondary role) is given top billing, and other than the fact that there’s a bit of talk about the albino terrorist being a witch doctor of sorts, there is no fantastic content to speak of. So, despite the areas of interest, for the purposes of this survey of fantastic films, it should be considered as another false alarm.

A*P*E (1976)

A*P*E (1976)
aka Ape, Attack of the Giant Horny Gorilla
Article 3717 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 10-3-2011
Posting Date: 10-18-2011
Directed by Paul Leder
Featuring Rod Arrants, Joanna Kerns, Alex Nicol
Country: South Korea / USA
What it is: The nadir of the giant monster movies

A giant ape gets loose in Korea. Panic ensues.

For a while I was part of a movie-watching group called The Exposed Film Society which tried to dig up some of the worst cinematic atrocities for our viewing “enjoyment”. As time went by, three movies ended up having such a permanent impact on us that they became de rigeur for initiations of new members to the group. I’ve covered one of these so far (2 + 5 MISSION HYDRA). This is the second. The best summary of our reaction to this one came from one of my friends who said “This movie hates you!” I was quite startled to find that one of the IMDB reviews used almost the exact same phrase. So, taking this as my cue, I’m now going to give you “10 Ways the movie A*P*E Hates You”.

1) The movie has simply the most godawful special effects I’ve ever seen in a giant monster movie. Not only that, it doesn’t even care how bad they are. Any self-respecting movie of this sort wouldn’t try to pass off the plastic cow as a real one as this one tries to do.

2) If there’s any audience that would be most attracted by a movie about a giant ape, it would be children. This movie instead tries to present itself as a racy, adult giant monster movie, thus shooting itself in the foot.

3) Not only does it try to present itself as a racy, adult giant monster movie, but it does it badly. Those expecting a racy good time will have to settle for a few bad double entendres, a shot of Joanna Kerns in a see-through bra, a crass and stupid staged attempted rape (being shot for a movie), and lots of gratuitous cussing. Even a sequence where the ape peers into a window to watch a couple making love stops at the point that a woman has just taken off her jacket. Anyone expecting racy pleasures from this movie will walk away disappointed.

4) Every scene featuring Alex Nicols as the beleagured Army Colonel is painful. For the longest time I used to think it was the acting of Nicols himself, but upon watching it this time, I realize it’s because he was given the worst dialogue in the movie…. as well as most of the gratuitous cussing.

5) The movie makes some of the most repetitive attempts at utilizing the 3-D gimmick I’ve ever seen. How many times can you see a soldier aim a gun straight at you and fire? How many times can you see the giant ape throw a rock at you? How many gratuitous sequences can you handle that only exist because of the 3D effects? Some of these scenes are never even resolved, such as the one in which the giant ape interrupts the filming of a martial arts film.

6) When the giant ape is carrying around Joanna Kerns, her screams are constantly looped in the soundtrack. If this doesn’t annoy the hell out of you, you’re probably deaf.

7) Every time the military comes out in force, you will hear an endless loop of a “drum and bugle corp” melody that is sure to drive you up the wall. And that’s not the only musical motif that gets overworked during the course of the film.

8 ) Every time the giant ape battles the military, he waves his arms around in a meaningless manner that will leave you wonder what he’s trying to do. Is he conducting an orchestra? Swatting flies? Performing an interpretive dance? Trying to get his underarm deodorant to dry? Occasionally he manages to knock a helicopter out of the sky, but I’m sure it’s coincidence. But whatever his intention is, it’s pretty annoying.

9) The movie features puppet antics. And children whose sole dialogue in the movie is to laugh at puppet antics. This is never recommended.

10) And finally, there’s the moment when the giant ape flips off the audience. Yes, ostensibly it’s aimed at a helicopter he’s just destroyed, but I’m not fooled – I know it’s directed at me and at anyone else who sat through this movie. As my friend said before, this movie hates you.