Archives for December 2009 | Varied Celluloid

Archive for December, 2009

R.I.P. Chas Balun

Posted by Josh Samford On December - 30 - 2009
chasIt’s a sad day for horror movie fans the world over, as Chas Balun as passed. Although Balun was a bit before my time, I am very familiar with the man and recognize his immense contributions. He was a contributing writer for Gorezone/Fangoria and had a series of books detailing the very best of the splatter genre during the heyday of tape trading. I had read about battle with cancer recently, but his passing is still felt with equally as strong reactions. Without Chas, we would be without so many other great writers and his legacy will be standing for a very long time. I have a copy of The Gore Score around here some place that I might take a look at this evening just in remembrance. He’s the man who gave notoriety to such works as the Guinea Pig series (he was there during the Charlie Sheen fiasco) and Aftermath (after apparently walking out of a screening!). Even when he didn’t like a film he helped propagate it’s popularity!

Fangoria has an awesome piece up on the man right now and I highly recommend you check it out.

NOTE FROM JOSH – Also guys, this Sunday at 8PM Central, we at VCinema will be having a special showing of The Beyond in honor of Mr. Balun. Coffin Jon will be doing announcing and we hope any and all can make it. If you have anything you would like to say, you can e-mail us at vcinema@variedcelluloid.net and Jon can read it on air or anything you would like. The schedule is looking like this:

Memories and words
Mega “Gore Score” trailer loop (trailers for every film that Chas rated a 10 on his special ‘gore score’ review rating)
Selected readings from Chas’ library of work

Followed by a showing of one of Balun’s most highly touted picks and a classic of the genre, Lucio Fulci’s The Beyond. Please be there guys as we want to celebrate this genre pioneer’s life the best way possible: with the true horror fans.

The VCinema Podcast is Coming

Posted by Josh Samford On December - 29 - 2009


Well folks, there have been rumblings for a little while now. Coffin Jon and I have talked about it and mentioned it from time to time and now it looks like we’ll finally be doing it. A VCinema podcast! We both know that there are a good number of really great Cult Film podcasts already out there. The Gentlemen’s Guide to Midnite Cinema, The Mondo Movie Podcast, Cadaver Lab, ShowShow, Action Attraction, etc. but we hope that we’ll be able to deliver coverage for films that don’t have a lot of light on them within the Podcast world.

We’re still nailing down the specifics. We’re doing recording tests, getting music together and just gearing up for it as of now. We don’t know when we’ll have a first episode just yet all we know is that The Story of Ricky will likely be covered on that first show and we’ll likely have a keen interest in covering Asian cinema. So, keep an eye out because the VCinema home will be hosted here at Variedcelluloid. Exciting things are coming and we hope that you’ll all be there to experience it with us! Thanks, Josh

Kung Fu Christmas! Masked Avengers!

Posted by Josh Samford On December - 24 - 2009
It’s Christmas Eve ya’ll! Time for my last entry into this very Kung Fu Christmas! We’ve had our ups and we’ve had our downs, but most of all we’ve had fun! I end it all with some Chang Cheh and some Venoms. Although Masked Avengers is no Flag of Iron, I still like it and if you’re a fan of Kung Fu cinema you’ll probably dig it as well. Check out the review and stay tuned to Varied Celluloid! This next month we’ve got reviews coming for Women’s Prison Massacre, Shinjuku Outlaw and Tokyo Sonata! Can’t wait!

The Plot: When a young martial artist is attacked and stabbed multiple times by a gang of gold-masked killers, he manages to barely escape with just a few moments left of his life. He makes it back to his brothers at their school and informs them of the gang and what little he can recall to them to help them in their journey. He unfortunately is yet another victim from this school who has fallen to the gold masked killers, who have made sport of ambushing all who wander off from any large groups. So, with the knowledge that this group of masked-men are attacking within a confined area and that their are three bosses within their ranks, the leader Chen Cheung, sets the school off on their a path of justice by checking the nearby city which is home to a group who may just fit the bill for being the leaders of this masked-killing gang. There are three chiefs in this gang but as it turns out neither three knows the others’ identity. So tracking them down is going to be a tougher proposition than at first thought. Who are the three chiefs and what will it take to find them?




CONTINUE READING THE REVIEW HERE

Masked Avengers

Posted by Josh Samford On December - 24 - 2009
Image Not Taken From DVD Reviewed, Review Based Upon NS Video ReleaseThe Plot: When a young martial artist is attacked and stabbed multiple times by a gang of gold-masked killers, he manages to barely escape with just a few moments left of his life. He makes it back to his brothers at their school and informs them of the gang and what little he can recall to them to help them in their journey. He unfortunately is yet another victim from this school who has fallen to the gold masked killers, who have made sport of ambushing all who wander off from any large groups. So, with the knowledge that this group of masked-men are attacking within a confined area and that their are three bosses within their ranks, the leader Chen Cheung, sets the school off on their a path of justice by checking the nearby city which is home to a group who may just fit the bill for being the leaders of this masked-killing gang. There are three chiefs in this gang but as it turns out neither three knows the others’ identity. So tracking them down is going to be a tougher proposition than at first thought. Who are the three chiefs and what will it take to find them?








The Review
For future reference, I’m writing this review as part of our annual Kung Fu Christmas here at Varied Celluloid. This particular year’s films have been… shall I say, less than spectacular. Not without purpose mind you! Even though I have plenty of other really great martial arts movies on my shelf, I thought I’d go with the cheaper and more exploitation oriented stuff. Simply because it seemed like more fun for me as the writer. So, after all the Brucesploitation and crazy stuff I think it’s time to go out on a high note. Although Masked Avengers surely isn’t the very best of Chang Cheh’s work and it’s not the best team up between the Venom clan and Chang Cheh, but it is a Shaw Brothers production and with that talent in one gathering it at least is going to be interesting. After all of the low brow, low budget and cheap garbage cinema I’ve rolled around in this month (I’m particularly thinking of Bruce Lee’s Fists of Vengeance and Dragon Lee Vs. The Five Brothers), we might as well go out with some class like only Chang Cheh could dare deliver. Well, when I say class I am of course picturing guys biting their own tongues off and spitting them out in a puddle of blood. That’s just the sort of flick Masked Avengers is.

I don’t want to talk over anyone’s head here, I’m just assuming everyone reading knows who Chang Cheh is so if you’re unfamiliar with the man’s work I’ll just say that for the old school martial arts movie – he’s one of the most important names out there. He directed a lot of seminal movies and had such an outrageous output that it would really take some serious devotion to go through his entire catalog. The movie he’ll likely be best remembered for would be The Five Deadly Venoms, a real classic of the genre and what many would argue as being the perfect blend of storytelling and Kung Fu action. Masked Avengers is one of a number of films that feature several of the actors that appeared in Five Deadly Venoms. They’re often reffered to as the Venom Mob, Venom Clan or any handful of other aliases. Anyway, Masked Avengers was one of their final team-ups and certainly has it’s moments of pure brilliance but by and large I don’t think it’s one of their best. There’s certainly worse out there, but Masked Avengers just doesn’t match the fun or excitement of a Chang Cheh outing. With these movies you can usually count on some kind of gimmicky device to push the story, such as characters with Golden Arms or a wandering band of recently Crippled warriors who each have their own technique, but Masked Avengers really doesn’t deliver in that respect. More or less, it’s your average martial arts movies with some artistic flourishes such as the great set decoration or the costume design on the masked killers. The masked killers, one could argue that they take the place of our gimmick this time out but unfortunately these villains are all about equal to one another so there just isn’t that feeling of something unique that could be found in so many of these other movies.

Masked Avengers might be best known as being one of the most violent of Chang Cheh’s films. Cheh was never afraid to show some of the red stuff, certainly in comparison to what was coming out at the time. Masked Avengers sits high up there alongside Chinese Super Ninjas as Chang Cheh’s bloodiest martial art movies. Although I don’t think it quite tops …Ninjas, I do have to say it gets pretty nasty in its violence. The tone for the rest of the film is really set within the first few minutes as we get repeated stabbings of this poor guy who we the audience have not even been introduced to yet. Then, in one of the few moments of gory special FX, he gets a pretty convincing trident impaled in his arm. This is all literally with the first… minute or two? Then, it’s not three or four minutes after that we get blood drinking and arterial spray. If it weren’t for the torso ripping in Chinese Super Ninjas, this would hands down be Cheh’s bloodiest movie that I have seen. With that said, modern fans of Hong Kong cinema, please do take heed of my warning. Like I said, this isn’t really “gory” violence as in Ricky Oh, this is just bloody violence. There’s a difference to be sure.

The masked-killers are definitely an interesting element in the movie. They’re very thinly drawn (What do you want? This is a Kung Fu flick!) and I actually like that. They’re so inconceivably evil and ruthless. A favorite moment of mine popped up right in those introductory moments as the gang interrogates a captured enemy who claims that his brother escaped their clutches. His hope is that this brother will return for vengeance on the masked killers and put a stop to their evil ways. How wrong he is, as our evil captors so love to point out. They reveal the missing brother to be just another victim hanging on their wall waiting to be killed. The reveal isn’t just a simple “look over there at that wall your brother is on!” either. The man is hidden behind a wall on a hanging gurney which flips around like a trap door. Then, of course, our killers proceed to murder one brother in front of the other. It’s almost a kind of shocking little moment as the idea behind it is so brutal and callous. Yet, the way it plays in the movie just seems like an incredibly childish and cocky thing for these murderers to be doing. This probably plays out that way thanks to the terrible English dubbing, but it’s a moment that actually endears me to the movie.

Like most of Chang Cheh’s better work, as crazy as it tends to be there’s still a certain amount of story to go with all of the action. The plot tends to lead the action, instead of the other way around. A route that so many other movies of the type seemed to a take. You could say that the plot here tends to be a bit heavier than what a movie such as this really calls for, and you might be right. Unlike Five Deadly Venoms, Masked Avengers doesn’t have the mystery surrounding its story to really carry it over. Nor the really great gimmicks that keep your interest during the slower portions. The movie tends to drag because of this, especially for the first two thirds, where the plot just sort of meanders a bit around this back and forth questioning over who the three chiefs are. It eats up so much time and even on repeat viewings, I never find myself as absorbed into the story as I have with other Venom films. Still, there are a couple of key ingredients that make it so interesting and the third act is really the best piece of the puzzle to be sure. The final fifteen minutes to Masked Avengers really makes the movie. The fight sequences are remarkable for one thing, the violence is amped up another eleven notches and the set pieces are at the top of Chang Cheh’s career. There’s all this technology that really shouldn’t exist during this time period (like that hidden gurney sequence mentioned above) that comes to focus in the back end of the movie, and I just love that. This strange science fiction element that is added to the mix, right in the midst of all of this martial arts mayhem.

The Conclusion
There are truthfully a lot better places to start with for Chang Cheh and there are are a lot better films to start with in terms of Venom stuff. However, if you are already familiar and just looking to expand into their catalog, it’s probably a “can’t miss”. The bloody Kung Fu might be what sells the movie overall. It’s probably why anyone might read this review and decide to check this one out. I can’t say I blame you, as it’s the same way I ended up buying it. However, I must say, be prepared for a good bit of plot to go with your zany martial arts. I give the movie a three out of five. It’s definitely watchable and an entertaining flick – but it’s far from perfect.



Kung Fu Christmas! Dragon Lee Vs. The Five Brothers

Posted by Josh Samford On December - 19 - 2009
Hey everybody, back again with more Kung Fu Christmas shenanigans! I might try and get at least one more done before Christmas, but I can’t really promise anything. Overall though, I think this little marathon run has been pretty entertaining! We’ve seen some really awful stuff and some pretty darn excellent as well. If I can squeeze one more in there though, I won’t promise much in terms of quality… because watching the really bad ones are just so much fun! As you can maybe tell with my presenting Dragon Lee Vs. The Five Brothers for you today. Unfortunately, this wasn’t one of the “fun” bad ones. Yeeeeesh.

The Plot: Dragon Lee plays Han, a rebel against the evil Chings in the old days China. When his good friend is murdered by the Ching, he takes on a mission left by him. He is given a letter that he is to deliver to Song Yi town. He is also given a ring with several passwords written on it. He’ll have to track down the rebels inside of the town and give them this letter. The Ching’s are aware of the letter though and have dispatched five shaolin fighters to help put an end to the rebel invasion. Each of these five fighters are deadly in the martial arts and will do what it takes to put an end to the rebellion. Han finds himself caught right in the middle of the rebellion and in a battle to the death. Along the way he meets a mysterious young woman with powerful kung fu, he is unsure of this beautiful woman however as has past is very illusive. Will Han and this young woman be enough to put a stop to these Ching warriors or will evil conquer over all?



CONTINUE READING THE REVIEW HERE

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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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