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The Exterminator Review

Posted by Josh Samford On February - 10 - 2010
Hey everybody, back once again! I’m really thankful to everyone who read the Ringo Lam article! It took me quite a while to research and get that one out there and the site has seen a really awesome amount of visits from it, so I’m super glad and thankful for that! Believe me, more articles will come in the near future! For now, here’s a review for the Robert Ginty classic: The Exterminator! I’m a little late in discovering this one, but oh my, what a film! Check out the write-up!

The Plot: Robert Ginty plays John, an ex-Vietnam veteran who has come back to the real world with his one close friend Mike (Steve James), as very different men. In the war they saw a great deal of brutality but learned to depend on one another and that carried on once back at home. The two work alongside one another at a packing plant and look after one another whenever necessary. When Mike finds a few punks stealing cases of liquor from their storage building on the job, he and John tool the young guys quickly. They think their troubles are over, but the punks find where Mike lives and decide to teach him a lesson. They choke him with a chain and plunge a stabbing object into his back, after everything is over Mike is left paralyzed with a broken neck. John swears vengeance on the punks who did this and tracks them down, killing them one by one. His problems don’t stop there however, as now John feels it is his responsibility to earn some kind of money in order to look after Mike’s family. He finds himself now tracking down gangsters and criminals in order to take the cash necessary to keep Mike and his family afloat. However there is a detective on John’s tail, but will he put an end to this extermination of the criminal element?



CONTINUE READING THE REVIEW HERE

Exterminator, The

Posted by Josh Samford On February - 10 - 2010
The Plot: Robert Ginty plays John, an ex-Vietnam veteran who has come back to the real world with his one close friend Mike (Steve James), as very different men. In the war they saw a great deal of brutality but learned to depend on one another and that carried on once back at home. The two work alongside one another at a packing plant and look after one another whenever necessary. When Mike finds a few punks stealing cases of liquor from their storage building on the job, he and John tool the young guys quickly. They think their troubles are over, but the punks find where Mike lives and decide to teach him a lesson. They choke him with a chain and plunge a stabbing object into his back, after everything is over Mike is left paralyzed with a broken neck. John swears vengeance on the punks who did this and tracks them down, killing them one by one. His problems don’t stop there however, as now John feels it is his responsibility to earn some kind of money in order to look after Mike’s family. He finds himself now tracking down gangsters and criminals in order to take the cash necessary to keep Mike and his family afloat. However there is a detective on John’s tail, but will he put an end to this extermination of the criminal element?


The Review
The Exterminator is, without question, the definition of a cult movie. Taking place within strong genre stereotypes, it’s the sort of flick that doesn’t flirt around with pushing things over the limit. It jumps head first into the darkest edges of reality that it can find, then somehow manages to make these things seem… dare I say it, fun? The Exterminator is an entertaining movie, there’s no getting past it. In the same way that we gleefully watch Charles Bronson blast some young hooligans into next week – there’s that same level of satisfaction in watching Ginty go to work on the vermin of New York City. It’s a fantasy that we’ve all had in some form or another, but The Exterminator is interesting in the lengths that it takes in showing the depravity and utter lunacy taking place on the streets. Kicking things off with the brutality of the Vietnam war, where we’re shown a scene featuring Ginty and his friend Mike captured and forced to watch as their buddy has his head quite literally slit from off of his shoulders. The scene is a punch to the liver, because no one walks into an “action” movie expecting brutal gore such as this. It completely throws you into a new element when you’re watching and causes you to step back for a second. It’s a punchline to end the scene, but it starts off our movie with a bang and causes you to re-evaluate just what you were expecting in this movie. It also shows us that the violence in this movie can and will be ugly. Within the realm of “action” cinema, it might be the goriest and most disturbing scene I can think of. Coming so early in the movie, it just makes all of the future violence seem that much more brutal.

That introduction is also interesting for the fact that it’s the most we ever see of the world outside of this decaying version of America. The budget for this sequence alone had to probably eat up the majority of the film’s money too. Literally the movie opens with an explosions that catapults a GI roughly eighty feet into mid-air. It’s quite something the dramatic turn we take when the film hits America, as we’re lead to believe that this is going to be a much larger movie than could have been expected. However, once it’s back at home in the states, the movie turns into the psychological revenge film that you might have imagined it to be. That is to say, it scales back down quite a bit. As we watch John’s transformation from an every day Joe into The Exterminator, we are able to get into his mind better due to the stripped down nature of the movie from this point out. Mind you, we still have car chases and squibs galore – but The Exterminator is a low budget take on genre cinema and it can’t help but look and feel a lot smaller than a movie like Death Wish. Certainly not a bad thing, as it brings with it that vibe of Punk Rock cinema. Where things are done by limited means, but with far greater intentions. The movie keeps itself together by a strand of narrative, which being so bare kind of fits with the stripped-down aesthetic. There’s a nearly legendary sequence in the film where John discovers that his friend is paralyzed and must then confront his friend’s wife, after consoling the poor woman we immediately cut to John with a flame thrower and one of the punks responsible. It completely breaks the mold in terms of what a “revenge” movie is supposed to be. Normally, you would expect this character to start small or spend days tracking down those responsible – but not in The Exterminator. Here, the quest for revenge lasts roughly a nano-second. You just have to love it. It’s confrontational, it’s different and it once again changes the perspective that you’re watching the movie from. At this point, who knows where it might go?

The Exterminator is a mixed breed of varying genre elements. It has its moments of visual intrigue and artistic flare, such as a moment where John flashes back to killing the Vietnamese leader who was responsible for his torture – while essentially recreating the event and shooting a gang member in much the same way. An interesting idea that works in the context of the movie and makes you see the world from John’s point of view for a second. A world where people chain you up and butcher you and your friends. A world where a loving father is beaten and maimed without a reason. At this point the character sees his enemies all around him and he chooses to vanquish them. Maybe that’s a little too deep for this movie, but it’s there if you want to see it that way. As well as having possible dreams of artistic integrity, you have to take note of all the fun little moments that surround the movie. There’s that exploitation level of “coolness” that the movie looks to bring about with it. Things like John adding poison to the heads of all of his bullets. Such a thing would be redundant, superficial and likely wouldn’t even work in real life anyway: but in the context of this movie, you just have to shake your head and say “that’s awesome!”. There’s also a positively amazing moment where John kidnaps and threatens a mafia boss while hanging him over a meat grinder! I won’t spoil the conclusion of that scene, but let’s just say it’s probably everything you expect!

Although, The Exterminator is not a perfect film. Not by a long shot. As much as I loved it for its cult appeal it does suffer from some rather tedious plotting and to be honest, I wonder if the “police investigation” angle was completely necessary in the first place. This film, unlike Death Wish, doesn’t actually deal too heavy into the politics of the vigilante – so you would at least expect the officer on the opposite side of the law would offer some exposition while maybe fleshing out a hard boiled character. That is not the case here. Christopher George, who most of us remember from Lucio Fulci’s City of the Living Dead, plays the cop James Dalton who is hot on the trail of Ginty but unfortunately his character is running around in what could be a completely different movie. His character becomes embroiled in a love affair with this female nurse and the point of it all is lost on the audience. These scenes just add nothing to the story. The character of James Dalton has no real character growth because of this love affair, the nurse never gets involved in The Executioner plot line, the two never join forces to discover The Executioner’s identity… the subplot is just there and ultimately doesn’t feel necessary or pertinent. I say this as a fan of Christopher George too! While on the other hand I had never seen anything else from Robert Ginty, but absolutely loved the man in this film. It has been said a million times over in a million reviews for this movie – but the guy really does not LOOK the part of a vigilante out for justice. However, through sheer charisma and bravado, he takes command of this role and really makes it his. His quiet but cool performance holds the entire movie together and his every-man appearance adds so much to the movie.

The Trivia
  • Writer/Director James Glickenhaus has had a working relationship with another well known genre film personality, that of Frank Henenlotter. Glickenhaus produced the two Basket Case sequels as well as Frankenhooker and even had a cameo in his most recent film Bad Biology.

  • Bares a strong resemblance to The Executioner series of books originally written by Don Pendleton throughout the 1970’s. The series follows a Vietnam vet who becomes a vigilante when the mafia intimidates his family back at home. The series is said to have also inspired the Marvel Comics character The Punisher.

  • The opening “Vietnam” sequence was shot in the Indian Dunes desert, just outside of Palm Springs California.

  • In territories outside of the US, the ending of the movie was changed to a more somber affair. This was due to legal issues in certain countries that refused any film that glorified illegal activity without showing direct consequences.


  • The Conclusion
    The Exterminator isn’t a perfect movie. Not by a long shot. The moments that drag, mostly from the love affair that Christopher George has, takes a lot out of the movie. It is still a very solid revenge/vigilante flick, even with these negatives. That’s why I’m giving it a four out of five. It’s humbled, but not stumbled by these goofy moments. It’s still the sort of movie you really HAVE to see as a genre fan and I’m glad that I was finally able to do so!



    Ringo Lam: The Unsung Hero of Hong Kong Cinema Article

    Posted by Josh Samford On February - 8 - 2010
    Hey everybody, back with something a little special. Up until this point I’ve used my “articles” section for my Rogue Cinema writings. However, I’ve decided to only hold onto a few of those that actually fit the definition of an “article” and instead I’m going to focus on adding my own VC exclusive articles. I plan to make these as thorough and focused as possible. First up is this biography of Hong Kong filmmaker Ringo Lam, who I find terribly under appreciated with contemporary Asian cinema fans. The man has made a laundry list of brilliant features in his time and so few seem to know much about him or have any experience with his work. Hopefully this article can bring a few titles to your queue and maybe get you started on the way to becoming a Ringo Lam fanboy! Click the image to read more about this brilliant, if quirky, filmmaker!

    Ringo Lam: The Unsung Hero of Hong Kong Cinema

    Posted by Josh Samford On February - 8 - 2010
    Although he is a figure that is all too familiar for fans of Hong Kong cinema, in recent years the name Ringo Lam has slightly lost its luster. Asian cinema fans have either forgotten about this master of heroic bloodshed, or never knew about him in the first place. A filmmaker that is uncompromising and irritable in his personal life, but has delivered a treasure trove of beloved and respected films that spread throughout numerous genres: Ringo Lam can not be forgotten or looked over. His work is a mix of varying styles, concepts and ideas that have seemed to change throughout the entirety of his career. What film you get is based entirely off of where the filmmaker is at in his own personal life. Trusted by studios after one big success, but then reviled after the very next film is received poorly – Ringo Lam’s story is that of turmoil with up and down successes. For those who can appreciate Hong Kong cinema however, it is almost always interesting! Although the two both dabbled in crime cinema from time to time, this magnetic filmmaker was the polar opposite to John Woo’s heightened sense of beautiful violence. When he tackled the criminal world, Ringo Lam did so without any blinders on. The people are dirty, sweaty, they have no money and they’ll do what it takes to survive. And the violence? In a Ringo Lam film, the violence is universally ugly and soul shattering.

    Born in 1955, Lam was drawn to the arts at a young age. At age 18, he enrolled in the Shaw Bros. Acting Training Program at the former TVP television studio. This course was the television branch of the famed Shaw Bros. studio who are best known for producing an uncountable number of martial arts films throughout the seventies. This class was also where Lam met a personal friend and a future star in Chow Yun-Fat. The two were known to be quite the roustabouts and stories of their partying ways are legendary, so much so that a particular night of infamy they shared has gone on to become cinematic history. In the John Woo films A Better Tomorrow and A Bullet in the Head, there are sequences that either talk about (A Better Tomorrow) or feature (A Bullet in the Head) scenes where characters are forced to drink urine. This actually came from the lives of Ringo Lam and Chow Yun-Fat who were hanging around rougher neighborhoods in Hong Kong and came across some local Triads who gave the two some pretty heavy grief!

    Soon Lam decided that acting was not his forte and that his place was to be behind the camera, in light of this he emigrated to Canada and enrolled at York University in Toronto. Although he didn’t graduate, Lam learned from his time in Canada and left for Hong Kong once again in 1981. It was here that Lam would cut his teeth in the cinematic world and go on to do his most memorable work. He, along with Tsui Hark and John Woo, formed a new movement in Hong Kong cinema and helped change the curve for years to come. Things didn’t start off easily however, being a fresh face in the business meant that his choices for projects were fairly slim and the creative control offered to him was limited. With his first directorial role he was brought in to work as assistant director for the Cinema City ghost-comedy project: Espirit D’Amour (1983) which soon ran into trouble when director Leung Po Chi was let go, and Ringo was tapped to step in as director. Why Leung Po Chi (famed director of Hong Kong 1941) left the project is uncertain. It is said that he either came down ill or producer Karl Maka didn’t like the dailies that he was seeing. Regardless, Lam finished the project and after this there were a couple of other comedies (The Other Side of Gentleman – 1984, Love God Number One – 1985) followed by his entry into the wildly popular Aces Go Places series, which were kind of like a Hong Kong James Bond film collection, that were riding their peak at the time. Lam directed Aces Go Places 4: You Never Die Twice and had another very successful feature on his hands. This gave him a little more credibility within the industry and lead to Karl Maka giving him the leeway to make whatever kind of picture he so desired.

    City on Fire would turn out to be one of Lam’s most celebrated films, and in league for being one of the best Hong Kong films of the 1980’s. The film saw Lam teaming up with his school mate Chow Yun-Fat once again, with him taking the starring role as an undercover police officer who finds himself with a pack of jewel thieves. Playing opposite to Chow Yun-Fat was Danny Lee, who played one of the jewel thieves who becomes close friends with Chow’s character. Lee at the time was most commonly seen by audiences on the side of the law, as he was well known for playing police officers – but Lam decided to cast him against type as just another kink for the audience to deal with. The film explored the themes of loyalty and betrayal and painted the world in very broad grey strokes, where the complexities of friendship prevent things from being black and white. The film would come back and burst into the American consciousness whenever <>Quentin Tarantino’s film Reservoir Dogs would be called into question for possibly stealing material from Ringo Lam’s classic feature. Another independent filmmaker named Mike White, who is the creator of Cashiers du Cinemart magazine, would make waves for the expose when he made a ten minute short film that edited Reservoir Dogs with the final half hour of City on Fire to dramatic effect.

    After the success of City on Fire, Lam decided to make a series out of the title and followed his film up with Prison on Fire. A sequel only in the likeness of the name, this prison drama (once again starring Chow Yun-Fat) focused again on the loyalties of friendship and brotherhood under intense situations. Intensity would be an apt description for the entire project however, as it was shot and edited in only three weeks time due to a hectic schedule. Lam, who has never been the easiest man to please on set from all accounts, was even more neurotic and sensational for the filming of Prison.. which left him with a reputation that follows him to this day. Despite all of the hardships, the film proved to be a hit with critics as well as local audiences and so Lam decided to follow it up once again with School on Fire. Unfortunately, he would not find the same success with this outing – as the content of the film had him in hot water due to the levels of violence and grittiness of the picture. Dealing with school students being forced into prostitution and riled up youthful triads persecuting their teachers, it was a pretty bitter pill for some audiences. Producers wanted less glamorization of the Triad lifestyle, the audience wanted more action and thus the project was doomed. Despite it being received poorly at the box office, the film has survived over the years on its own merit and can be considered one of his best films.

    Following up the commercial disappointment of School on Fire, Undeclared War (1990) was an international film that did quite bad for its larger budget. Financially Lam continued to hit tough times as Touch and Go (1991) underperformed despite it being a Sammo Hung vehicle, who was quite popular. Then his two pairings with Chow Yun-Fat were only moderately successful. Those films being Wild Search (1989) and the more melodramatic but fast paced sequel Prison on Fire II (1991). Lam did however co-direct the popular Jackie Chan action-comedy Twin Dragons (1992) around this time, which saw Chan playing two versions of himself opposite Maggie Cheung. The film was made as a fund raising effort by the Hong Kong Director’s Guild and featured several collaborators, so it’s hard to gauge just how involved Lam was with the film. It is said Tsui Hark handled the more comedic scenes, where Lam handled the more serious and action oriented sequences. Sure enough though, it was a box office hit in Hong Kong. However, Lam would soon find any success from that being embroiled in controversy after he made a slightly negative remark in the aftermath of the Tienanmen Square massacre.

    Lam’s comments came about in the wake of the horrible massacre at Tienanmen Square, when all of China still felt like they were reeling from the tragedy. Lam’s comments, while likely not intended to be insulting or offensive, were taken that way. He essentially claimed that he felt it was time to move on and that events such as the Dragon Boat festival shouldn’t have been canceled. The quote was then held over the director’s head and he even received death threats sent to his offices. Lam took a vacation but was eventually lured back out by his good friend Chow Yun-Fat who specifically asked that Lam be brought in as director for his next project: Full Contact. At the time Chow had been making films with John Woo and had several extremely popular titles and series under his belt, so when he asked for something it was generally done. Lam took the project which was a Hong Kong takeoff on the Lee Marvin revenge film Point Blank. It saw the usually squeaky clean or debonair Chow Yun-Fat playing a dirtier, grittier sort of criminal who was left to die by his partners but manages to survive some how. When this character wakes up from his coma, he sets off on a path towards vengeance. Brutally violent, incredibly stylish and easily one of the best films from the Heroic Bloodshed subgenre of Hong Kong action films – it was a massive hit internationally if not domestically.

    Burning Paradise (1994) was given the green light and was Lam’s next film and although it didn’t make back all of it’s budget, which was considerable for a Hong Kong film at the time, it did prove to be an impressive and interesting feature. Lam created his own version of the period film – by throwing in decapitations, blood spray and some interesting wuxia style swordplay. Although a failure at the box office, the film its self wasn’t a disaster. Great Adventurers (1995) was next up for the filmmaker and saw Lam openly battling his star Andy Lau. Lau received an outrageous figure for the time to do the picture, $1.5 million dollars it is said, which Lam felt hurt the picture because it ate up a considerable amount of the budget – leaving Lam without the tools to accurately tell the story. Although these are all just rumors, it is also said that Lau ignored Lam’s direction while on set and that the two did not get along at all. Perhaps it was this drama and resentment that had Lam accept the call from Hollywood, as his next project was the Jean Claude Van Damme picture Maximum Risk in North America. This experience didn’t turn out to be any more pleasant however, as Lam didn’t enjoy his experience with Jean Claude either (going so far as to tell the actor he “couldn’t act for s**t”!) and when the film didn’t test well with audiences, it was taken out of his hands and re-edited. Lam left Hollywood in the wake of these things and focused on work back in Hong Kong.

    Ringo Lam hit another stride with his following two films; the absolutely brilliant Full Alert (1997) and the low key thriller The Victim (1999). Full Alert turned out to be a big hit locally as well as on the festival circuit, as it was just the right amalgamation of his gritty and urbane crime tales with enough visual punch to surprise even the most hearty of skeptics. The Victim, which didn’t do as well financially, was an equally impressive smaller film that saw Lam trying his hand at the supernatural thriller. Lam has continued to work since then, despite his spat with Jean Claude Van Damme, he has since worked with the filmmaker two other times (on In Hell – 2003 and Wake of Death – 2004). His most recent project was the three way directorial teamup of Ringo Lam, Tsui Hark and Johnnie To on Triangle. Although the film hasn’t found critical success, it’s interesting for the historical mix of these directors if nothing else.

    Although he doesn’t have the flare and action of a John Woo or the hip and youthful mix of a Tsui Hark, Ringo Lam remains just as impressive a figure from the Hong Kong film world. Perhaps even more impressive, as his films never really played into what the audience expected or wanted. He has his ups and he has his downs, but regardless of what the film is – if you go into a Ringo Lam picture; you know it has to be different. Whether subversive and nihilistic or gritty but with a hint of reluctant hope – the film world in which he crafts is unlike anything any other filmmaker could hope to achieve. A director who is due for a resurgence in popularity and I ask that you help bring it about, by picking up one of his films in the near future.

    — Joshua Samford

    References:

    HKFilm.net Biography
    AMC TV Biography
    City on Fire: Hong Kong Cinema






    Your Vice is a Locked Room and Only I Have the Key Review

    Posted by Josh Samford On February - 5 - 2010
    Hey everybody, back with some more Giallo action just for you! This review marks a slight turning point in the review format here at Varied Celluloid. If you take a look you’ll see a new section of the review for trivia! Now this won’t be stuff I’ve ripped from the IMDB or anything of that sort, as that would be fairly cheap, so this will come from facts that I dig up myself or find out from another source. Anyway, I hope you guys dig it and look for more in the near future!

    The Plot: Oliviero Rouvigny (Luigi Pistilli), is a failed writer and husband, who lives with his wife Irina (Anita Strindberg) in a sprawling mansion far from any prying eyes. Luigi has all but dedicated his life to torturing his wife, who he holds an incredible amount of antagonism for despite her being sweet and loving to him. He beats, humiliates and tortures her on a daily basis. He keeps a cat that she hates, which is aptly named “Satan”, and throws wild parties with the young hippies who live nearby. When his mistress is killed, it leaves Oliviero as the prime suspect for the local police who question him theroughly on the issue. Oliviero pleads his innocence but it falls on deaf ears. Especially with his wife, who knows that the night the young woman was murdered – Oliviero was actually late making it in. Things start to look worse whenever the colored maid who lives with this married couple turns up murdered in the hallway. Irina is at first going to report it, but Oliviero stops her due to the fact that no matter what is said Oliviero is going to once again fall under suspicion. Now Irina, who has never had it easy with this man, begins to fear for her life. With their niece, Floriana (Edwige Finech), coming in by train – will the killings stop? Is Oliviero actually innocent? And what kind of devious games will Floriana, who is a proven nymph, bring to the table?







    CONTINUE READING THE REVIEW HERE

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