HK and Cult Film News's Fan Box

Tuesday, January 25, 2022

BATTLE ROYALE: THE COMPLETE COLLECTION -- DVD review by porfle




With two versions of a controversial, neo-classic Japanese action epic, one version of its  inferior sequel, and a whole extra disc of extras, Anchor Bay's four-disc BATTLE ROYALE: THE COMPLETE COLLECTION is a viewing experience that should keep action fans off the streets and out of trouble for awhile.

BATTLE ROYALE (2000) begins at the dawn of the 21st century in a Japan whose society is falling apart.  With thousands of students boycotting school and youth violence and unemployment at an all-time high, the fascist government "bigwigs" pass the BR (Battle Royale) Act in hopes of curbing juvenile delinquency.  Thus, a graduating ninth-grade class is chosen at random once a year, taken to a deserted island, and forced to fight each other to the death until there's only one survivor.  If more than one person is alive at the end of three days, they all die via their nifty exploding necklaces.   

Hey, sounds like a pretty effective idea at first, but darn if we don't start sympathizing with these troublemaking teens as soon as their school field trip suddenly morphs into their worst nightmare.  There's Shuya (Tatsuya Fujiwara), the cool but troubled kid whose dad hanged himself on the first day of school; his sorta girlfriend Noriko (Aki Maeda), a nice girl who is constantly bullied by the mean girls; Shuya's nerdy foster-home roommate and best pal Nobu (Yukihiro Kotani); and several others who are familiar to us because they're like a lot of kids we grew up with ourselves.  The odd man out here is the mysterious Kawada (Tarô Yamamoto), a former winner being forced to play again although he'll eventually become a crucial ally to Shuya and Noriko.


The classroom scene that sets up the whole situation gets things off to a shocking start with its offhand carnage.  Frustrated teacher Kitano (actor-director Beat Takeshi at his understated, laconic best) has had enough of being belittled, ignored, even stabbed by his students and relishes the opportunity to preside over some official payback.  He indulges his newfound freedom to punish bad behavior such as whispering in class with summary executions, and the exploding necklaces each student wears are demonstrated in grisly fashion when an unruly student dares to mock him.  (An incongruously amusing instructional video augments his lethal lecture.)

As the seriousness of their predicament dawns on the teens, we get the feeling that we're in for some serious mayhem as soon as they're let loose into the wild with their randomly-selected weapons (guns, knives, hatchets, crossbows, etc.) and other provisions.  No sooner are they all out the door than the first tentative attacks begin, with some students' instincts for self-preservation kicking in faster than the less aggressive ones. 

The action then breaks down into isolated skirmishes fueled by quick, startling bursts of violence that are often brutal, while handy intertitles keep us informed of the running death count.  Making things even more difficult are the "red zones", which are regularly rotated and mean instant exploding-necklace death for anyone caught in one at the wrong time.

We quickly get to know various characters and their stories as they gather in pairs or groups--mainly the same couples and cliques carried over from school--in which they feel some measure of safety.  Even in such circumstances, however, the slightest suspicion or wrong move can erupt into a blood-splattered melee, as when a group of pacifist girls barricaded in a lighthouse suddenly go Rambo on each other when their situation takes an unexpected turn.


While the good kids are banding together for safety or, in the case of some enterprising tech nerds, to beat the system, the bad kids simply play the game the old-fashioned way.  The cunning and way-scary mean girl Mitsuko (Kô Shibasaki) and trigger-happy psycho Kiriyama, a sullen transfer student with spiky red hair who is actually there because he volunteered, prowl the jungle picking off anyone they come across like predatory animals.

The action scenes are quick and explosive.  One of the most sustained action setpieces is the lighthouse scene, and even this messy, disorienting eruption of senseless violence is over before we know it.  In a film that's littered with such scenes from start to finish, there's no need for prolonged shoot-outs or gratuitous sadism, and the fact that we know and empathize with these characters enough to root for them gives it all considerable emotional impact.

While not as gory or as violent as I expected, the shock value comes from seeing all these innocent (and not-so-innocent) school kids killing each other in a variety of gruesome ways.  Of course, dead teenagers are a familiar sight in just about every slasher flick from the 80s onward, and there's no more violence here than in the average Jason flick or, say, KILL BILL VOL. 1.  So if you're used to movies like that, there's no need to be braced for any really over-the-top shocks here save for a vicious knife thrust to a guy's crotch (delivered by Chiaki Kuriyama, who played "Go-Go" in the aforementioned Tarantino flick), a severed head, bullet hits and slashings galore, and lots of spewing blood.


Kinji Fukasaku's direction is superb without resorting to a lot of needless cinematic tricks, and the camerawork is also fine.  There's an expansive, full-bodied orchestral score by Masamichi Amano that reminded me at times of Alex North's music for DRAGONSLAYER.  The screenplay by Kenta Fukasaku is finely-rendered pulp fiction that fully realizes its premise and then some.

The director's cut, entitled BATTLE ROYAL: SPECIAL EDITION (2001) is, from what I could tell, pretty much the same movie but with the addition of a few extra scenes.  Several flashbacks of our main characters bonding during a school basketball game (filmed about a year after principal photography) are interspersed throughout the film, and the ending is beefed up with some brief "requiem" vignettes.  My favorite addition is a revealing flashback which gives us a clue as to why bad girl Mitsuko turned out the way she did.



And then, for better or worse, there's the sequel.  After enjoying the first film so much, I was filled with keen anticipation for its follow-up, a feeling that BATTLE ROYALE II: REQUIEM (2003) didn't quite live up to.  It may not be the worst sequel to a good movie that I've ever seen--MAD MAX BEYOND THUNDERDOME and EXORCIST II: THE HERETIC are more worthy contenders for that title--but my socks were in little danger of getting knocked off while watching it.

It's three years after the end of the first story, with Shuya now a notorious terrorist waging war on the world's adult population from his island bunker.  We meet a new BR class who will be the first to go into battle under new rules--storm Shuya's island, engage him and his followers in combat, and kill him (with extreme prejudice) within 72 hours.  This time the participants are paired up boy-girl, and if one dies or wanders more than fifty meters away from the other, both collars explode.  All of this is explained to our group of cowering students by a new and much more hostile teacher, Takeuchi Riki, who hams it up with such unbridled ferocity that you wouldn't be surprised if he started hammering nails with his eyeballs.


Instead of the free-for-all competition for survival we got in the first movie, this one starts out as a fun, but somewhat average war flick made interesting mainly because it's a bunch of terrified ninth graders doing the fighting.  The island siege is filmed like a junior version of the Omaha Beach sequence from SAVING PRIVATE RYAN, only with sloppier editing and lots more Shaky-Cam.  It plays a little like something you might see on the SyFy Channel, but with a bigger budget and extra helpings of entertaining violence generously slathered on top. 

(One thing that had me wondering, though--why, if the government wants these kids to take out Shuya, do they continue to make things hard for them with the boy-girl collar thing and by continuing the red-zone policy from the first movie?)

Eventually, of course, we meet Shuya, who now sports a bleached-blonde mullet, has evolved into a brooding, full-of-himself bore with messianic delusions, and seems to be mired in a perpetual state of resentful adolescence.  Apparently, we're meant to sympathize with Shuya in his amorphous battle against "the adults" which he fights by blowing up several skyscrapers (two of which bear a distinct resemblance to the World Trade Center) as the film waxes poetic about how noble and romantic terrorism can be if committed by a cool guy like Shuya.  This, along with some annoying anti-American sentiments thrown in for good measure, constitutes the sort of blobby, self-important political hogwash that bogs the movie down for much of its running time. 

Even when the government sends in its crack commando forces to eradicate the terrorists once and for all (which had me wondering why they didn't just do this in the first place), the furious battle action is diluted by gobs of maudlin sentiment, mawkish dialogue, and some unintentionally funny dramatic touches that may have you either wincing in pain or rolling on the floor laughing. 

Every time one of the "good guy" characters gets mortally wounded, all the intense fighting around them comes to a dead stop so they can perform a dramatic dying speech while Shuya reacts with renewed grief and outrage.  Even at this point we still get the same death count intertitles but by now the "battle royale" concept has been so thoroughly diluted that they only serve to remind us how the movie we wanted to watch in the first place never actually happened.

In addition to the wildly overacting Takeuchi Riki, Shûgo Oshinari also lays it on pretty thick as the the leader of the student warriors, Taku.  Ai Maeda does a nice job as Kitano's daughter Shiori, who volunteers for the BR in order to come to terms with what she believes was her father's murder.  Beat Tageshi returns briefly in a touching flashback that shows his character in a more sympathetic light.  The rest of the performances cover a pretty wide range from good to not so good, with Sonny Chiba doing a blink-and-you'll-miss-it cameo. 

While it certainly has its share of bloody, shoot-em-up action and a couple of good dramatic moments here and there, BATTLE ROYALE II: REQUEIM ultimately comes across as an ill-conceived, wrongheaded, and sometimes just plain silly affair that qualifies more as a guilty pleasure than the follow-up to a classic.  In its attempts to be an emotionally powerful and thematically grandiose dystopian epic, it teeters precipitously on the verge of embarrassing itself.

Disc four in this collection consists of bonus features for BATTLE ROYALE.  The mostly self-explanatory titles include:

The Making Of BATTLE ROYALE
BATTLE ROYALE Press Conference
Instructional Video: Birthday Version
Audition & Rehearsal Footage
Special Effects Comparison Featurette
Tokyo International Film Festival 2000
Battle Royale Documentary
Basketball Scene Rehearsals
Behind-The-Scenes Featurette
Filming On-Set
Original Theatrical Trailer
Special Edition TV Spot
TV Spot: Tarantino Version


Bonus features are in full screen with Dolby 2.0 sound.  The three feature films are all in 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen with Japanese Dolby Digital 5.1 sound and English subtitles.  (BATTLE ROYALE: SPECIAL EDITION also comes with an English soundtrack.)  The packaging itself is exquisite, resembling a sturdy, hardbound book with thick cardboard "pages" that house the discs and contain key photos and artwork from the films. 

For someone unfamiliar with the "Battle Royale" films, I can't imagine a better introduction than BATTLE ROYALE: THE COMPLETE COLLECTION.  And those who are already fans will definitely want to own this cool-looking set, or at least take it for a test drive.  While I wasn't exactly bowled over by the so-so sequel, the original film itself is one that I'll be revisiting at least once a year--right around graduation day. 


Buy it at Amazon.com
BATTLE ROYALE: THE COMPLETE COLLECTION DVD
BATTLE ROYALE: THE COMPLETE COLLECTION Blu-Ray
BATTLE ROYALE DVD
BATTLE ROYALE Blu-Ray
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Monday, January 24, 2022

Supernatural Horror "THE TOUCHED ONE" Acquired by Freestyle Digital Media -- See Trailer HERE!

 


FREESTYLE DIGITAL MEDIA ACQUIRES “THE TOUCHED ONE” FOR FEBRUARY RELEASE

Supernatural-Horror Dramatic Feature Film Sets Digital Debut on North American VOD Platforms on February 15, 2022


Los Angeles, CA – January 24, 2022 – Freestyle Digital Media, the digital film distribution division of Byron Allen’s Allen Media Group/Entertainment Studios, has acquired North American VOD rights to the supernatural-horror dramatic feature film THE TOUCHED ONE. THE TOUCHED ONE will be available to rent and own on global digital HD internet, and satellite platforms on February 15, 2022 through Freestyle Digital Media.

THE TOUCHED ONE follows Chinaza, a woman anointed by a sacred ram to do good deeds, as she goes in search of a gang of men who did her wrong in order to correct them of their evil ways. One morning, Chinaza and two others board a local bus. Four men posing as passengers promptly abduct and take them deep into the woods for blood sacrifice. Chinaza is resigned to her fate when a mysterious ram appears and sets her free. Grateful to be alive, she pets it. 

Safe at home, she discovers that the hand with which she pet the ram corrects anyone she touches of their sinful ways. She is thus convinced this is the reason she is the sole survivor of the tragedy. Thereafter, she determines to find the kidnappers to guide them onto a righteous path. The families of the two other victims who did not make it that day have other ideas to exact their own brand of street justice on the men.

 

WATCH THE TRAILER:




Written and directed by Vigil Chime, THE TOUCHED ONE was produced by Happy Julian Uchendu and Vigil Chime. The ensemble cast includes Grace Ijeoma Agu (‘Chinaza’), Kenneth Okolie (‘Odinaka’), Emeka Amakeze (‘Lead Kidnapper Tochi’), Amaechi Muonagor (‘Chinaza’s Father’), Prince Nnanna Ndukwe (‘Paul’), and Clemson Cornel Agbogidi (‘Dibia Agbarakata’).

“I made THE TOUCHED ONE because I wanted to, primarily, make a story that mostly takes place outside,” said filmmaker Vigil Chime. “We are living in a very changed world now, with the whole world on lockdown. I thought it a breath of fresh air to set the events in the expansive space of a deep forest. At the same time, I wanted to tell a story about forgiveness. That a grave wrong could be done to someone and have her recover to forgive the very people that had wronged her. That is powerful.” 

  

 

Freestyle Digital Media negotiated the deal to acquire THE TOUCHED ONE with Vigil Chime of Breakfast Pictures Entertainment and Halle Mariner at APA.


THE TOUCHED ONE website



About Freestyle Digital Media

The digital distribution unit of Byron Allen’s Allen Media Group, Freestyle Digital Media, is a premiere multi-platform distributor with direct partnerships across all major cable, digital and streaming platforms. Capitalizing on a robust infrastructure, proven track record and a veteran sales team, Freestyle Digital Media is a true home for independent films. Recent releases include BEST SUMMER EVER the teen musical featuring a fully integrated cast and crew of people with and without disabilities, produced by Jamie Lee Curtis, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Mary Steenburgen and Ted Danson, THE WEDDING YEAR starring Sarah Hyland and Anna Camp, THE LAST PHOTOGRAPH starring Danny Houston, BERSERK starring Nick Cannon, UNTOGETHER starring Jamie Doran, Jemima Kirke, Ben Mendelsohn, Alice Eve and Billy Crystal. Other Freestyle titles include the action-comedy BETTER START RUNNING starring Academy Award-winner Jeremy Irons and Maria Bello, THE BACHELORS starring Academy Award-winner J.K. Simmons, Julie Delpy and Odeya Rush, the award-winning documentary HONDROS produced by Jamie Lee Curtis and Jake Gyllenhaal, horror documentary DEMON HOUSE starring Zak Bagans, host of Travel Channel’s highest rated show Ghost Adventures, sci-fi thriller THE RECALL starring Wesley Snipes, MILES starring Molly Shannon and Paul Reiser and the animated feature HELL & BACK starring Nick Swardson, Mila Kunis and Bob Odenkirk.

 

For more information, visit:

www.entertainmentstudios.com

www.freestyledigitalmedia.tv



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Sunday, January 23, 2022

OLDBOY (2003) -- Movie Review by Porfle



OLDBOY (2003) is very different from SYMPATHY FOR MR. VENGEANCE and might be seen as a stylistic evolution for Korean director Park Chan-wook.

Where the first film in his celebrated "vengeance trilogy" was more lean and straightforward, OLDBOY is an explosion of cinematic expression that almost overwhelms the viewer with its aggressive intensity. SYMPATHY invites us to sit back and gaze attentively at characters gradually sliding into inevitable ruin; OLDBOY straps us in and takes us on a wildly disorienting bumper-car ride.

Min-sik Choi gives a brilliant, intense performance as Dae-su Oh, a workaday family man who, after drunkenly celebrating his young daughter's birthday, suddenly wakes up in a motel room-like prison cell where he will spend the next fifteen years. During that time, his wife is murdered and the crime scene is doctored to make him the suspect, while his daughter is placed in foster care. He learns of this on television, which is his only link to the outside world.


After his release back into a world that is now strange to him, Dae-su is understandably obsessed with finding out who imprisoned him and why. Thus begins a mysterious and violent odyssey that eventually takes him back to a single indiscretion in his youth which ignited a chain reaction of tragedy for the person now devoted to punishing him.

Dae-su is aided in his quest by a sympathetic young sushi chef named Mido (the very cute Hye-jeong Kang), who becomes his lover and offers much-needed moral support and solace. As he gradually gets closer to the shocking truth, he finds that prison was only the beginning of a diabolical web of torment devised for him by his unknown nemesis.

In some ways, the incarceration has a beneficial effect on Dae-su Oh. Over the long years he builds his physique, becomes a fierce boxer by banging his fists against a figure he's drawn on the wall, hones his instincts and willpower, and develops the patience and determination of a caged animal. He also divests himself of the frivolity and childishness his character displays when we first meet him, becoming a ruthless force to be reckoned with.


His repressed rage later allows him to take on well over a dozen oppenents in a cramped hallway during what I feel is the film's most astounding sequence. Most of this furious fight is done in one incredible take with the camera slowly dollying along with the actors as they perform a dazzling series of choreographed fight moves with bone-crushing realism. (This surely ranks among the greatest long takes ever filmed.) Wielding a claw hammer and with a knife protruding from his back, Dae-su becomes one of the most thrilling action heroes in recent memory in a balls-out brawl that eschews fancy moves or wirework of any kind.

Violence punctuates the film at several points--a man is stabbed to death with a broken DVD, another has his teeth yanked out one by one, people are driven to suicide--culminating in an extended sequence within the mystery man's spacious penthouse suite which becomes an escalating ordeal of physical and emotional devastation. Each shot is carefully devised by Park for maximum effect as Min-sik Choi's performance reaches a peak that is stunning.


Dense, complex storytelling that is anything but light viewing, OLDBOY demands viewer involvement on a much higher level than the usual revenge flick. Like SYMPATHY FOR MR. VENGEANCE, the complicated story presents two identifiable points of view in a conflict that goes beyond the usual heroes and villains and refuses to offer easy or clear-cut resolutions.

Park Chan-wook's command over the language of film enables him to express all of this visually to a degree that's endlessly impressive. "They say you can't catch two rabbits at once," he reflects on his accomplishment. "I feel like we caught two rabbits, a deer, an otter, a badger, and many other animals."

Read our full review of Palisade Tartan Asia Extreme's eight-disc DVD set THE VENGEANCE TRILOGY



Read our review of SYMPATHY FOR MR. VENGEANCE
Read our review of LADY VENGEANCE



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Saturday, January 22, 2022

ANT-MAN -- Movie Review by Porfle



So, my electricity went off yesterday and, with the temperature inching toward a toasty 100 degrees, I decided to go to the movies for the first time since 2009 (STAR TREK) and see the new Marvel universe superhero flick, ANT-MAN (2015).  Not only was it my first big-screen movie in six years, but it was also my first modern 3D flick ever, which was an added thrill. 

Being somewhat hard-of-hearing and dependent on subtitles when watching TV, I missed out on some of the dialogue details.  But it's a very visual film and I was somewhat familiar with the old "Ant-Man" comics anyway, so it didn't matter all that much, even though the novelty of the 3D kept taking me out of the movie while I sat there noticing how cool everything looked with each new shot. 

Michael Douglas (SOLITARY MAN, BEYOND A REASONABLE DOUBT) plays Dr. Hank Pym, the original Ant-Man, as an older gentleman who has locked his special shrinking suit away for fear of its falling into the wrong hands.  But his former protege, Darren Cross (Corey Stoll, THE BOURNE LEGACY), Mr Wrong-Hands himself, is close to duplicating Pym's shrinking mechanism for less-than-noble purposes.  This unscrupulous young business tycoon even uses a faulty hand-held version to turn certain people he doesn't like into blobs of reddish tissue. (Blecch!)


Meanwhile, ace cat-burglar Scott Lang (Paul Rudd, OUR IDIOT BROTHER, THE 40-YEAR-OLD VIRGIN) has just served prison time for a politically-motivated crime and is now trying to find employment so that he can pay his child support and visit his cute little daughter Cassie.  Desperate, he ends up taking his friend Luis (Michael Peña, WORLD TRADE CENTER, "Ponch" in the upcoming "CHiPs" movie) up on a job offer to steal something very valuable from some rich guy's practically-impregnable basement safe.  It turns out to be the Ant-Man suit.  Scott takes it home, tries it on, and...suddenly he's the new Ant-Man!

Or he will be when Dr. Pym convinces him that he's the right guy for the job of breaking into the heavily-guarded Cross-Tech fortress, sabotaging Darren Cross' shrink-machine research, and stealing the Yellowjacket power suit that he's working on.  Thus follows a rigorous training montage with Scott learning how to use all the wonderful features of his suit and also how to communicate with actual ants so the helpful li'l buggers can aid him in his efforts.  Which pretty much sets up the rest of the movie.

Paul Rudd is just right when it comes to balancing the serious and comedic aspects of his role as a reluctant hero.  He really sells the heart-tugging scenes between Scott and Cassie (the very cute Abby Ryder Fortson) and conveys the frustration of dealing with his ex-wife Maggie (Judy Greer, JURASSIC WORLD) and her cop boyfriend Paxton (Bobby Cannavale, 10 ITEMS OR LESS) while still maintaining a wry attitude throughout.


Much of the all-out comedy is handled by Scott's excitable roommate Luis--a nice guy who just happens to be a thief--and two of Luis' like-minded associates, Kurt (David Dastmalchian, the Joker henchman whom Harvey Dent interrogates in THE DARK KNIGHT) and Dave (T.I, GET HARD). These guys turn out to be useful enough during the film's climactic siege on Cross-Tech but bumbling enough to keep it funny.  

Now that we've seen Scott's extensive training in the ant suit, including martial arts sessions with Pym's daughter Hope (Evangeline Lilly, THE HOBBIT, "Lost"), we're chomping at the bit to see him in action.  After an early clash with the Falcon (Anthony Mackie) outside Stark Industries, things finally click into high gear when the good guys all converge on Cross-Tech for the big finale which will end with a thrilling battle between Ant-Man and the fearsome Yellowjacket. 

Thanks mainly to Douglas and Lilly as a father and daughter who are both still grieving over the late Mrs. Pym, who died "in action" during a superheroic exploit as The Wasp, there's adequate heft to the film's more emotional aspects.  Michael Douglas is reminding me more of his dad all the time, which is a good thing, and lends real authority to his role.  The lovely and likable Evangeline Lilly, meanwhile, is a real prize here, and I look forward to her possibly taking over as The Wasp in the future.


Director Peyton Reed (DOWN WITH LOVE, BRING IT ON) has done very little that I've seen besides location segments for "Mr. Show" but seems to have a handle on this superhero stuff.  The film is constantly dazzling to look at, with tons of CGI that looks artificial but still has a pleasing degree of comic-book believability.  (Note: keep watching for not one but two "sting" scenes during the final credits.)

It's thrilling to see Ant-Man running or flying bareback on his trusty ant-steed Anthony along with thousands of other ants through underground tunnels, sewers, and other seemingly vast spaces.  The final battle with Yellowjacket uses everyday objects such as toy trains (Thomas the Tank Engine makes a nifty guest appearance) and bug zappers to tremendously good effect. 

All in all, I was quite pleased with my big day out yesterday which was highlighted by the very fun, very enjoyable ANT-MAN (in 3D, no less!)  It isn't a "great" movie by any means, but it does all sorts of fun stuff with "good."



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Friday, January 21, 2022

THE BLOODY APE -- DVD review by porfle

Just so I don't give you the wrong impression, I want to say up front that this is a favorable review. I had loads of fun watching THE BLOODY APE, writer-director Keith J. Crocker's affectionate homage to the drive-in trash of yesteryear, and will enthusiastically recommend it to people who come knocking at my door trying to sell me a satellite dish or invite me to their church. 

Now that my disclaimer is out of the way and we can speak freely, I'll try to describe this surreal cinematic artifact to you. Imagine a cross between LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS, BLOOD FEAST, and your dad's worst home movies. Whatever your mind comes up with, this is worse. Though filmed in 1997, it looks as though it were shot in 1967, buried, and then dug up by somebody's dog in 1997. It makes PINK FLAMINGOS look like it was directed by Terrence Malick. In fact, it makes almost literally every other movie ever made look good in comparison, unless, of course, Billy Crystal is in it. 

All of this, however, is simply part of THE BLOODY APE's makeshift charm. Crocker, a devoted grindhouse film aficionado who for several years published the popular fanzine "Exploitation Journal" with his pal George Reis, eschewed the "shot-on-video" look of much of today's indy titles and went instead for the more traditional look of actual film. Super 8mm film, that is--exactly the same stuff that all of us pre-home-video auteurs used in order to make our own geeky home monster movies back in high school. Except here, Crocker managed to shoot a feature film and get it released, so you gotta admire him for that. It's this homespun ingenuity and love for moviemaking that help make THE BLOODY APE such a strangely fascinating experience. 

The gleefully bizarre screenplay by Crocker and Reis is another factor. Loosely inspired by Edgar Allan Poe's "Murders in the Rue Morgue", it's the story of a carnival barker named Lampini (after George Zucco's character in HOUSE OF FRANKENSTEIN) and his beloved performing gorilla, Gordo. After being screwed over by an abusive garage mechanic and a crooked rabbi, and then rejected by his girlfriend Ginger while he's proposing to her, Lampini decides to use his ape as an instrument of revenge. Taking a cue from Bela Lugosi's diabolical aftershave murders in THE DEVIL BAT, Lampini mails Ginger some of his special homemade banana cream soap. This lures Gordo to Ginger's apartment, where he kills her roommates in a frenzy of fake blood and banana-scented soap suds. 

In one scene, we get to see what would've happened in PSYCHO if Janet Leigh's shower had been interrupted by a crazed gorilla instead of Norman Bates. Then Gordo chases another naked roommate around the livingroom couch a few times before squeezing the life out of her as she looks into the camera and laughs. Rabbi Rabinowitz and Vic White, the incredibly racist garage mechanic, are next on the list, having been given bunches of bananas by Lampini beforehand. I don't want to spoil too much of the intricate plot, but this is where Gordo rapes Rabbi Rabinowitz' wife and then disembowels her. Although this sounds horrible, the fact that the victim is giggling through the whole ordeal tends to soften the heinousness a bit. 

Gordo's reign of terror then goes on to include car theft--he drives around until stopped by a cop, whose head he pulls off--and the murder of an ill-mannered video store clerk, which is justifiable. Equally shocking is the scene in which a hippie is furtively taking a leak in some bushes when the confused ape mistakes part of his anatomy for a banana, and... During all of this, an incredibly racist police lieutenant named LoBianco (Reis, who also plays Gordo) is irrationally convinced that the whole killing spree is the work of an innocent black man named Duane Jones (after the lead actor in George Romero's NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD), which is a whole other subplot. With his ridiculous hair-helmet wig and fake goatee, Reis is as over-the-top hilarious as everything else about this movie. And as mechanic Vic White, Larry Koster is like a Jerky Boys character come to life. The early scene in which he browbeats the incredulous Duane (Chris Hoskins) out of the garage simply for wanting his car fixed sets the goofball tone for the rest of the film. 

Acting honors, however, must go to Paul Richichi as Lampini. With his dopey porkpie hat, cane, and Dracula cape, the ever-cheerful Lampini is a delightfully absurd character brimming with memorable quotes, as during his romantic dinner with Ginger: "The sky has never been bluer, the grass has never been greener, and Japanese sports cars have never been smaller, ever since I laid my head between your breasts," he gushes over a plate of Spaghetti-O's. "My love for you is as deep and as wide as the expanses of your vaginal cavity." To which the nonplussed Ginger responds: "What's the matter with you tonight? You're acting like a crackpot--like one of those self-proclaimed medicine men from the days of yore." Later, regretting his callous treatment of Gordo, he laments that he has become "so overwhelmed with repugnance for my enemies, that my love for my ape completely disappeared." 

Now, this is where I usually mention stuff like image and sound quality, but we'll skip that part and go on to the bonus features. The audio commentary is an entertaining gabfest with Crocker, Reis, Richichi, and Wild Eye DVD's Rob Hauschild, who directed the informative "making of" featurette, "Grindhouse Gorilla." Next is a Crocker short film, "One Grave Too Many", which boasts a crude sort of creepiness. Lots of other miscellaneous stuff is included: a gallery of covers from the "Exploitation Journal" 'zine, trailers for THE BLOODY APE and BLITZKRIEG: ESCAPE FROM STALAG 69, a pressbook, original VHS cover art, lobby cards, stills, and other related art. 

If you've read this far, you already know whether or not you should watch THE BLOODY APE as soon as possible or avoid it like the plague. It's loaded with exploitation goodies--nudity, violence, badly-done gore, bizarre situations, extreme characters, weird comedy--and done in such an unabashedly crude way that it radiates its own strange kind of fascination. As a Poe adaptation, George Reis accurately comments: "If you're running down the films based on Edgar Allan Poe, it's--one of them." As a study in miscommunication, as Crocker describes it, you couldn't find characters that are more miscommunicative. As cinema, it's like some kind of Super 8mm folk art whose worth can only be measured by each individual who watches it. As for me, I found it to be one of the funniest and most entertaining comedy-horror films that I watched yesterday.

 


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THE UNCHASTENED WOMAN (1925) -- Mini Review by Porfle

 

 

Currently watching: eternal vamp Theda Bara as THE UNCHASTENED WOMAN (1925). 

 
This was Theda's comeback film but turned out to be her last. 
 
She stars as a wealthy woman who finds her husband with another woman just as she was about to tell him she was pregnant. 
 
 

 
 So instead, she cruises off to Europe to cavort until she gives birth, then returns to the USA to get revenge on her philandering husband. 
 
Well-made (except for some jarring continuity gaffes) and fun if you're into vintage silent movies. 
 
As always, Theda's facial expressions are the main attraction. 
 
Running time 52 minutes.
 




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