Archives for June 2008 | Varied Celluloid

Archive for June, 2008

Bandidos

Posted by Josh Samford On June - 28 - 2008

Plot Outline: Richard Martin, a well renowned gunman is traveling by train in the old west in our introduction. Things go bad when the train is hijacked and robbed by the sadistic Billy Kane. Kane begins killing any and all witnesses, that is until he gets to Martin’s cabin. Martin and Kane have a small confrontation and we learn that Martin is actually the man who taught Kane all he knows, but Kane has the upper hand (is that a pun?) when he draws faster than Martin. Martin is lined up against the cabin and Kane puts a bullet through each of his hands. We skip forward in time and find Martin now runs a small traveling ‘old west’ carnival show. Here he displays a gunman by the name of “Ricky Shot” who is soon ‘shot’ dead by a stranger in the audience who wants to test his skills. Martin gets angry and starts a fight with the outlaws, he eventually wins too with the help of a young man. Martin sees the talent in the kid and offers him a job and training. He accepts and becomes the new “Ricky Shot”. Martin has more ideas than just making some easy money off the kid, revenge is on his mind.




The Review: Your loyal webmaster ‘il pantsman’ is having a bit of a spaghetti western revival this week.In case you haven’t got it just yet, every movie reviewed during this revival is going to start with that same sentence. Anyway, even though whoever may be reading this isn’t going through all of these ‘sgetti western reviews in the order in which they were written, I’m still making sure people know the numbers. This here is number three on the revival, and so far, this has been the best. CompaƱeros and The Big Gundown were both great and fun little sits, but Bandidos is definitely the only ‘classic’ I’ve reviewed thus far. I mean classic in every sense of the word. It’s pulp cinema, but it’s also the kind of film that will stick in your head days after watching it. A film that may have been made on a low budget, but never the less inspires whoever watches it. The style, the technique, the characters, the writing and most of all; the fun. It’s a fun film, not overly long (about 90 minutes) like many Italian westerns tend to be and it’s just brimming with so much substance that it’s almost surprising to find in a cheap western that time has nearly forgot. Nearly forgotten is right too. No dvd release and with basically no buzz or cult following surrounding the film, I had no expectations walking in. Well, if I expected anything, I expected it to not be very good. It seems like Cut Throats Nine had more hype surrounding it than this film. Maybe I’m just seeing gold when it’s really plastic, but I couldn’t help but fall in love with this film.

Within the first ten or so minutes of the film I remember thinking to myself, ‘man this film is violent!’ It must have been some time around the point where a innocent circus performer is shot dead on stage for no other reason than being a good shot. Before that in the beginning of the film, our lead villain massacres about fifty or so people on a train. He and his men just walk around the train shooting anyone who moves. It’s not violent like The Wild Bunch, it’s more of a subconscious thing. The pure viciousness of the murders and the cold heart of the murderers themselves gives death a significance in the bundles of people who are murdered. It’s something you really don’t see much of in these ‘sgetti pictures, usually if someone is seeking revenge it can almost seem phony because of how untouchable our heroes are, but here the man seeking revenge is crippled. This is why I loved the old man’s character so much. His character was deeply flawed, but still righteous. His using Ricky Shot to get his revenge came out looking incredibly selfish on screen, but the reasons for his wanting revenge were so strong, more so than just his hands being shot by him. Then there’s our hero Ricky Shot, who at first seems like a gullible hooligan, but transforms into the ultimate toughguy. His reasons for following the old man aren’t really revealed until later in the film, but it all comes out so effortless. It could be argued that the characters are just generic anti-hero spaghetti western stars I’m sure, but the characters are more flawed than I’m personally used to. Even Billy Kane, who is as about as despicable of a villain as you can get, wasn’t hated by me. There’s a certain turning point in the film where Kane shows that, even though he is a sadistic human being, he is still incredibly loyal, which at this point is more than we can say for our ‘hero’.

If deeply written characters and great acting isn’t your thing, you can always rely on the action, and action there is. Plenty of it. As I discussed in my The Big Gundown review, I sometimes expect either a Leone style standoff or a big gun battle to end most spaghetti westerns (or any western really), the ending here is of the big gun battle variety. A great gun battle it is too. Our hero and our villain have to face each other with almost the same exact skills. And Being good with a gun isn’t just being able to shoot a target in this film, much like El Topo, being good with a gun is almost equal to having super powers. Characters can basically shoot anything at any distance if trained hard enough. This aspect of the film reminded me heavily of the films of Change Cheh, or any kung fu film to be honest. That’s what makes the film so great! It’s as equally artistic as it is entertaining, and if you ask me if a film doesn’t have a share of both then it’s not worth your attention. Anyway, what really caught my eye while watching the film was the director’s choice of shots and all of the different angles. You wouldn’t expect there to be so much style, but after the scene where a character slides a glass down the bar and the camera follows it right until it’s in our character’s hand, I was hooked. The same trick is used once again in the film, and it’s still just as impressive. There are tons of moments in the film where I was just as impressed with the camera work, and it makes me wonder even more, why isn’t this film more well known?

The Conclusion
I could just be completely and utterly insane, and it’s quite the possibility, but I felt like Bandidos was one of the best spaghetti westerns I’ve seen in a while. How it would fair against Cut Throats Nine though, I’m not too sure on that one. I’m not recommending it for everyone because this may be a chance of ‘one man’s trash is another man’s treasure’, but for what it’s worth, I absolutely adore it. What’s the forecast for today? ‘Sgetti!


Basket Case

Posted by Josh Samford On June - 28 - 2008
Originally written in 2003, this review was one of my (Josh) first stabs at writing. There has only been some slight editing and revisions done here in 2010. If you think the review is bad as of now, I’m just glad you didn’t read it before the edits.

Plot Outline: Basket Case is the tale of a young man named Duane and his little brother Belial… who happens to be a psychotic Siamese twin mutant murderer. You see, when the brothers were young the decision was made by their parents to remove the disgusting blob of flesh known as Belial. Separated like they were, no one expected Belial to survive. After a very painful upbringing, the two are finally stretching out and looking to do something about the travesty of their separation. They travel to New York city looking for revenge on the doctors who separated the two when they were young. Somewhere along the way Dwayne falls in love and the deformed twin begins his rampage through the doctors who did them wrong.




The Review: As cliche as it may very well be to say, Basket Case is a true ‘so bad it’s good‘ kind of movie. For all the bad acting, directing, lighting, writing, etc. it’s still an extremely entertaining flick. The first classic that Frank Henenlotter would deliver to the world, it has that quaint feeling to it that so much of his work would go on to further establish. Perhaps I’m too forgiving but I can’t help but love the film. The star Kevin VanHentenryck has zero acting abilities, and can come off as a little whiny at times (especially when he’s drunk), but I still think he actually somehow comes off with some sort of charm. A charisma that defies any kind of true acting experience. His performance as Duane strikes me like the kid who is always giving away his toys so the rest of the kids in the neighborhood will hang out with him. The rest of the cast are all amateurs and deliver cringe worthy performances. Not on par with the original Sleepaway Camp but pretty bad none the less.

The special effects in the film are actually pretty terrible, as surprising as that may be. The claymation is just plain horrific, stuff that would make Ray Harryhausen shed tears. The scenes featuring the abomination of claymation also go on too long and are shown in far too great of detail. There are two ways you can look at this I suppose. The first instinct is to think: I can’t believe the people making the film didn’t realize how ridiculous it looked and try something else. When you’ve got no budget you’ll take what you can get I guess. The other way is that perhaps Henenlotter simply wanted to make a statement that “yes, this is ridiculous and yes it is perfectly fine to have fun”. The gore effects aren’t quite as bad as the clay, but they’re still not that great. The film doesn’t really suffer from the poor FX however. It is all so purposely campy that the effects just add to it.

Man, I miss the 80’s. Bad movies like this were a dime a dozen. Now the only place you can find flicks like this is Troma, everything else is either taking itself too serious or is shot on 8mm in some kid’s backyard. The days of a quality exploitation film being released in theaters seems to be over, and all we get is politically correct scream rip-offs. Oh well, there’s no use crying over it. We’ve still got Troma to deliver the occasional bad movie fix, and if there’s nothing in the present we can always look to the past.

The Conclusion
If you like eighties horror films, bad movies or campy movies then you can’t go wrong with a night of Basket Case. Everyone else, people with taste that is, you might want to stay far away.

Bad Bunch, The

Posted by Josh Samford On June - 28 - 2008
Plot Outline: White Vietnam veteran Jim (Greydon Clark) returns home after the war and takes it on himself to deliver a letter, that his black friend wrote before dying, to his family. He soon gets into a confrontation with the dead man’s brother and his gang. Add to all this a love triangle with two hippie chicks and the dead man’s brother out to put a hurting on Jim and you’ve got the movie in a nutshell.



The Review: Have you ever watched a movie where you were certain that the director had high intentions for his film in making a grandiose statement, but somewhere along the way he kind of lost his path? The Bad Bunch falls into this category without question. From my own personal vantage point it seems that Greydon Clark was trying to make a film that ultimately questioned all sides of the race issue, but somehow was pressured into adding a gaggle of unnecessary exploitation along the way. That or perhaps he was just let down with his own lack of talent. Clark, who should be well known to b-cinema afficianados, kind of reminds me of Ed Wood. The only difference is that as his career went onwards he didn’t sink so low as to start making porn flicks. He is a filmmaker with great intentions but limited means, and The Bad Bunch is a shining example of this.

I’m serious about this Greydon Clark thing, I’m fascinated by the guy for some reason. I know nothing about him however and I’ve only seen two of his films. The Bad Bunch and Final Justice (on mst3k) being those films, of course. Maybe I haven’t fully explored his filmography due to that recurring theme of his: Badness. Well ‘badness’ is one particular theme, lack of budget is another and the fact that he likes to cast himself often is another staple of his work. Here he’s the star, but in Final Justice he plays a sheriff near the beginning. Anyway, I realize all of Clark’s work after this film tends to be just quick drive-in fare aimed to make a buck, but I think this film is a little different. It’s just as bad as those films, but I think Clark really thought he was going to make something with this movie, but instead he delivered a film that just goes in way too many directions and gets extremely sloppy towards the end.

Unlike a review I read a while back, I don’t think the film is really all too prejudice. I think it shows both races that are explored in a particularly bad light. I think Clark was trying to deliver a racial drama that he felt was true to life, but the unnecessary nudity, cheapness and the amateur acting takes away from any artistic integrity the feature may have hoped to achieve. At one point in the film, everything kind of stops for like five minutes when the ‘bad bunch’ of the title, all go skinny dipping with a bunch of upper class white kids at their pool party. This could have been a scene to further the plot in some way I imagine, but instead it just seems tacked on. The entire film could have went without it, but it seems like a rather cheap device to get some nudity out there and is just one of the many things that feels like it could have been added so they could sell the film easier. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think this film is any kind of masterpiece and Clark was a hapless pawn in the producer’s game. Heck, the man made “Satan’s Cheerleaders”, so you know he’s to blame for a whole lot of everything.

I’m no filmmaker myself, but I believe there has to be a rule about not overusing your scenery. I mean if you’re going to use the same set, at least shoot it differently. It makes sense right? Well, obviously this never crossed Clark’s mind because in the film we are treated to about four different scenes on the same plain “motel” set. Near the end of the film, we are actually treated to two scenes in a row. One woman walks out the door ending the scene and another walks in starting another. I couldn’t help but laugh because if you’re going to re-use a set so often the least you could do is make it a good looking set. Shoot on location in a real hotel if you have to, just give the audience something to look at!

The acting is shoddy, the camerawork is terrible, the sets are incredibly cheap, and the film isn’t really all that fun. I can’t really recommend it, but I’m sure there are some who would enjoy this film. I came close to it, but after thinking it over and re-watching the film I came out with a different opinion. I’ve given it one star for effort and minus four for everything else.



Author’s Note: While going through a lot of these reviews, it’s funny how you find how your opinion changes over time. I find with a lot of these earlier reviews (this was originally written back sometime around 2002 and posted in 2003) while not only being a shade of what I am capable of in terms of writing, they were written with a little less care in terms of judging films as a whole. Here I am about six years later and I still find myself wandering back to The Bad Bunch now and then. Say what you want, the film has staying power. I look at the score of one out of five and cringe now, because I think it deserves a little more than that. If I were to re-review the film now I would score it a three out of five. For what it is, The Bad Bunch is a very decent film. With time and many, many movies later you tend to learn that there are a million different ways to look at a movie and no matter what you think – there will be better and there will be worse. Greydon Clark is indeed a b-film director, but one that should draw a little more notoriety than he recieves. Overall, I now have to say I do reccomend Bad Bunch for fellow blaxploitation fans and drive-in afficianados looking for something a little bit strange.

— Josh

Audition

Posted by Josh Samford On June - 28 - 2008
Plot Outline: Ryo Ishibashi plays Shigeharu Aoyama a man going through somewhat of a mid-life crisis. After many years of being loyal to his deceased wife, he feels (after some encouragement from his son) it’s the right time to begin dating again. So after hearing this, Aoyama’s friend Yasuhisa who happens to be in showbuisness, decides to set up a fake casting audition in hopes that his friend can choose who he wants to pursue as his new wife. Aoyama then goes through countless portfolio’s looking for women to audition, but as soon as he sees the beautiful Asami’s picture he knows that she’s the one. After the audition Aoyama makes his move on Asami and the two then begin dating. Everything seems perfect at first, but is Asami all that she seems?




The Review
If you’ve never experienced the insanity of a film directed by the mad genius Takashi Miike, this may or may not be a good start for you. Of all his films I’ve seen, this is the most atmospheric, artistic, and even subdued. Yet in some ways, it’s also his wildest. The violence in the film isn’t as abrasive as in something like Ichi the Killer, but the fact that it’s more relaxed and less in your face gives it a much harsher delivery. How anyone could ever be disturbed by something as outrageous as Fudoh or Full Metal Yakuza I can’t imagine, but I can definitely understand how Audition could get under the nerves of some. When I first watched the ending it was an actual emotional experience, and anytime a movie can provoke a reaction like that from me I know it’s truly something special.

I’ve heard Miike compared to David Cronenberg or David Lynch for this film, but to my knowledge, as fantastic as both those directors are neither have ever done anything quite as drastic as this. For the first 60% of the film’s running time it seems as if we’re in a somewhat dark romantic film with a pinch of black comedy. Then somewhere along the way Miike starts to let things unravel, giving us glimpses at just how dark and seedy things can get.

The ending, while disturbing and graphic, is also extremely confusing. I still don’t understand it completely. Even so, I don’t really care all that much. What matters more than all that though is the emotional ride the film takes you on. I’ve probably already said a bit too much about the ending, likely some who read this won’t be too shocked when the finale comes. If you can though, try and disavow all I’ve said and watch the film with no expectations and see where it leads you.

Takashi Miike has slowly turned into one of my personal favorite directors. With this, Visitor Q, Dead or Alive 1, 2, Ichi the Killer and Fudoh he’s proven to be one of the most imaginative and prolific directors of all time. Miike has taken violent cinema to a completely different level. He isn’t afraid to show anything, but this isn’t the only reason to love his work. The style, ambiance and energy in his films are unmatched in my eyes. His style variations are as prolific as his pace of filmmaking, he can move from the fast paced editing of Giy Ritchie to the dark and moody atmospheres of David Lynch. If you haven’t seen any of his work then you really owe it to yourself to see this film at least. If only to check the waters.

The Conclusion
So, if you’re open to avant garde cinema and wanting to jump into the Japanese film scene, then Audition may be a good place to start. Just don’t expect a fast paced story or a gore fest, that isn’t what this film is about. There is some gore yes, but if that’s all your interested in then please stick to dead-alive, versus, premutos, or something else because this isn’t the film your looking for.

Attack the Gasstation

Posted by Josh Samford On June - 28 - 2008
Plot Outline: Our film details what happens when four rebellious Korean youths decide to hold up a gas station, and then when everything goes well, decide to do it again about a week or so later. Only, when they attempt to rip off the gas station this time, things don’t go as planned. It seems that the owner has started sending his money home every evening with his wife. The guys, not willing to walk away empty handed, decide to stick around pump gas for their own profit. Throughout the night we find out more and more about these peculiar individuals.




The Review
To sum up my feelings on Attack the Gasstation, I think it’s best to relay what a friend told me immediately after he watched the film” “Kind of a stupid movie, actually, but still very entertaining.” He’s right too. It’s stupid, it’s silly, but it’s a fun watch and if you have a certain sensibility that makes it an incredibly accessible kind of flick. After first watching it, I decided to spread the love around as much as I could. The friends who did watch it all seemed to like it, which says something only because the friends in question aren’t exactly known to be fans of Asian cinema. Ultimately, it’s a hard movie not to like. Even if it has some cringe-worthy moments (there is a sequence involving a boy band that will grind almost everyone’s nerves), it’s still just too much of a goofy fun time to pass up. Although I have essentially spoiled my review at this point, I’ll continue onward and hopefully support my argument somewhat.

After I had first watched Attack the Gasstation, my mind felt warped. It was as if I had made a trip into a completely different form of reality. My mind had been taken to a far away land where being punished meant that you were forced to stand on on your head, and where robbers didn’t carry guns but instead only fought with their fists and the occasional stick. Looking back, Attack… was likely my introduction to Korean cinema, and I don’t think I could have started with a better film. During the early 2000s, it seemed as if many of the most popular South Korean titles that were gathering any sort of notoriety were movies that were highly influenced by Hollywood. This film was also part of that era of films, but it delivered enough familiar content within it to make it seem accessible – but it also had a foreign kick to it that made it seem wholly original. It is a comedy that isn’t entirely different from what one might find in the American market, but the cultural differences are enough that it acts as a brilliant introduction for Asian cinema newcomers.

The movie also makes an interesting choice in picking out who the audience is supposed to root for. Ultimately, this isn’t a movie with truly “likable” characters. This isn’t one of those films where, throughout the picture, we come to understand the criminals and watch as they soften up just in time for the credits to roll. No, we do in fact grow to know these characters, and yes, depending on the viewer, they might even grow to love them, but these criminals never do really change. Certainly not in any heartwarming fashion. The film tells us who they are, but it’s up to the audience whether or not they will come to accept these rogues. During my first viewing of the film, at the halfway point I found myself a little frustrated that these characters were so… mean. Even to the nicest characters in the film, these guys are rude, but as the movie pressed on, I started to feel okay with it. Since we’re talking about these characters, rude or not, I might as well mention how quirky and humorous they are. The ‘genius’ artist, the music loving hipster, the failed athlete, and the hilarious stick-waving authority figure “bulldozer.” Each character is a bit of a caricature, sure, but they are all fleshed out during the movie and are played with a great amount of charisma. Despite the fact that our leads are essentially villains, they still walk away smelling like roses. Some of this is due to smart writing, but mostly it comes from actors who are fully invested in their characters.

The Conclusion
I recommend the film highly, but it is a movie that will speak to select audience members. If the idea of watching a fairly bizarre teen comedy, one that is done in a way that you’ve never seen before, entices you, then this flick is definitely the way to go. It’s certainly one of my favorites from the early years of the “new wave” of South Korean cinema.

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Varied Celluloid is a film website intent on delivering views on movies from all genres. Started in 2003, the website has been steadfast in its goal and features a database of over 500 lengthy reviews. If you would like to contact us about writing for the website or sending screeners, please visit the about page located here.

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