Archives for April 2010 | Varied Celluloid

Archive for April, 2010

Criminal Woman: Killing Melody

Posted by Josh Samford On April - 23 - 2010
The flood of pinky violence classics just keep rolling along here at Varied Celluloid! I just can’t help it, when I see Reiko Ike or Miki Sugimoto listed in the credits – I can’t help myself! Criminal Woman: Killing Melody is certainly one of the more fun features I have seen in the genre and I hope more people get to check it out some time soon!

The Plot: Reiko Ike plays Maki, a young woman whose father was forced to distribute illegal drugs and then laid to waste by the ruthless Oba clan. After the murder of her father, these Yakuza came back and raped the young girl. With vengeance on her mind, she located her first target and slashed him dead in a club. She is immediately incarcerated, but refuses to take a lenient sentence by confessing the motivation of her crime. She spends her time in prison, mostly isolated from the other inmates. She immediately is at odds with Masao (Miki Sugamoto) but after a fight between the two, she is able to at least live amongst the girls. She even makes friends with most of them, who ultimately decide to help her in her quest for revenge after they are all released from prison. Masao however remains as distant as possible, because unknown to Maki, she is Hayama’s (leader of the Oba clan) main woman. Maki goes ahead with her plan however and soon turns the entire Oba clan on its head by staging a war between their group and another yakuza clan in the area. Will Maki’s plan come to fruition and will her vengeance be fulfilled?






CONTINUE READING THE REVIEW HERE

Criminal Woman: Killing Melody

Posted by Josh Samford On April - 23 - 2010
The Plot: Reiko Ike plays Maki, a young woman whose father was forced to distribute illegal drugs and then laid to waste by the ruthless Oba clan. After the murder of her father, these Yakuza came back and raped the young girl. With vengeance on her mind, she located her first target and slashed him dead in a club. She is immediately incarcerated, but refuses to take a lenient sentence by confessing the motivation of her crime. She spends her time in prison, mostly isolated from the other inmates. She immediately is at odds with Masao (Miki Sugamoto) but after a fight between the two, she is able to at least live amongst the girls. She even makes friends with most of them, who ultimately decide to help her in her quest for revenge after they are all released from prison. Masao however remains as distant as possible, because unknown to Maki, she is Hayama’s (leader of the Oba clan) main woman. Maki goes ahead with her plan however and soon turns the entire Oba clan on its head by staging a war between their group and another yakuza clan in the area. Will Maki’s plan come to fruition and will her vengeance be fulfilled?


The Review
If you’ve been following Varied Celluloid within the past six months or so, you’ll have noticed an influx of Pinky Violence films. As with many things, I am more than a little late in discovering these amazing pieces of cinematic history. Their history is rich and here in North America they have started to really gain an audience within the past few years. No doubt this resurgence comes from Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez bringing such films as Lady Snowblood and various yakuza movies to the forefront. The timely release of the Pinky Violence Collection from Panik House (which this film is found on) has also helped to spread their notoriety. The pinky violence genre itself is interesting in the fact that it carries weight with modern audiences more than any other cult genre from seventies-era Japan. Sure, the yakuza pictures of Kinji Fukasaku certainly had the retro fashion that the pinky violence genre does, but the yakuza market is very much stuck within a cultural crevasse. They are films made about a subculture that few are going to instantly have a history with or know their customs. It also doesn’t help that they are uniquely and predominantly male-only films. The pinky violence films of Toei are action filled masterpieces that push their unbridled Girl Power right in your face and have little regard for cultural dispositions. Criminal Woman: Killing Melody is a perfect example of this. Although not a film shot by a luminary of the genre such as Norifumi Suzuki, Teruo Ishii or Yasuharu Hasebe, director Atsushi Mihori would direct this stunning cult item and deliver a film that seems to knock on all pillars of the genre and still add enough intriguing elements that allow it to become something different and new.

These new and interesting concepts are no doubt the entirely exploitative elements that are introduced to the genre, with a considerable focus on the action side of the storytelling rather than simply the fashion and attitude. Not that the pinky violence movement needed any additional exploitation, but for once that doesn’t simply mean more bare breasts. Even though you can be certain that this film features plenty of those. No, it’s the violence, the outrageousness and the sadism of key scenes in Criminal Woman: Killing Melody that give it a memorable edge over some of the more simply sexy films of the time. It’s a little over the top, and when you’re saying that about movies that usually feature girls wearing sunglasses bigger than their heads kicking the tar out of guys who outweigh them two times over, you know it means something. There are some interesting characters introduced, such as a gangster who can spit out tiny metal stars that stick in the flesh of his enemies. This character is inconsequential to the main story and I truthfully can’t even remember whether he was given a name throughout; but his inclusion in several scenes gives him a personality that stands out. Another great character is the “wild man” Tetsu, who is unequivocally unhinged in his performance. An alcohol swilling lunatic with frizzy hair, a leather jacket and a devil may care attitude. Although the character is unfortunately introduced halfway through the movie and doesn’t get as much screen time as I would have enjoyed, he grabs your attention and holds it with each scene he takes part in. His consistent laughing and dialogue shouted-so-as-to-be-intense performance easily makes him the most interesting male in the main cast. Although he is almost shown up by another yakuza who actually wields a chainsaw during a torture sequence! Who ever thought they would see a chainsaw in a Ike/Sugimoto film?

Reiko Ike and Miki Sugimoto, the angels (or devils) of this genre, deliver once again in roles that pit the two against one another in a battle for supremacy. This actually leads to what I would consider one of the more visually memorable moments in all of their work together. During the prison sequence of the film these two goddesses of course rub each other the wrong way and are lead to an overblown catfight, but the scene is upped a notch by having the two women clench a cloth between their teeth and arm and the first one to let go is deemed the loser. The fight sequence is overly long and pushes the limits of interest, but visually it’s a very compelling moment and probably the one sequence that is really burned into the mind of its viewers after the closing credits fade away. The two girls once again couldn’t look any better and are a staple for judging beauty, in my opinion. Reiko Ike, who always looked far more mature than her actual age, starts the film off dressed as a school girl as she takes her revenge on one of the gangsters who enslaved her father and raped her. During these moments, Ike may have set the bar for her beauty because she has that simple girl next door look and it suits her so well. In many films she was dolled up and dressed in some pretty over the top costumes; but she shows her natural beauty here and she wears it so well. Miki Sugimoto is as stunning as usual, wearing a full yakuza tattoo that of course covers one of her bare breasts, another staple of the genre. Her moody character gives her a sexy stagger to almost all of her actions, as you can never tell exactly what team she is playing for. Although I hate to spend so much time talking about the beauty of these talented women, I can’t help but make mention of it because these films are such a celebration of this fact and these two women sold out theaters due to the lovely nature of their features. After so many years, not much has changed as young men like myself still find these women and fail to find any flaws.

The film presents a revenge inspired Yojimbo-like fable set in the lawless and feudal yakuza underworld that permeated 1970’s Japanese cinema. Although Toshiro Mifune’s character may not have had any personal motivation behind his actions in Yojimbo, Reiko Ike proves to be a different beast entirely as she uses her womanly ways to manipulate these men and force themselves into war. In the same way that the yakuza film of the time was separating itself from what had come previous, by showing the more modern and lawless yakuza who no longer lived by their own ethical code (ie: Battles Without Honor and Humanity, Sympathy For the Underdog), Criminal Woman: Killing Melody illustrates the more vengeful side of the fable. Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned as they say, and this journey through female vengeance ultimately proves to be empowering despite the exploitation angle. Scenes such as the torture sequence, which once again features some very heavy sadomasochistic imagery involving ropes and cigarette burns, are certainly there to entice those members of the audience who might be into that sort of thing – there’s still a very enlightened attitude in much of what goes on. Director Atsushi Mihori demonstrates that while he may not have been an overly experienced director (IMDB lists this as his only credit, but Panik House says he also directed a trilogy of films called “Cruel High School – Bad Boy” aka: Hijo Gakuen – Waru), whoever this man was he certainly had a flair for his job. He delivers a very stylish and visual film, where he uses great composition and framing skills to paint this lurid and colorful world of wild characters and outrageous acts. The film some times borders on the cartoonish, yet the visual nature of the film makes it rich and respectable; amidst all of the sleaze.

The Trivia
  • The final film featuring Miki Sugimoto and Reiko Ike together, afterwards they would both continue acting but not together. Neither actress would be featured in a film after the conclusion of the 1970’s. Ike would be embroiled in controversy after a drug charge and Sugimoto would go on to be married and settle down.

  • It is claimed that Reiko Ike initially had some issues with Toei over contractual disputes at some point, which saw Miki Sugimoto becoming more heavily promoted at the time. When the two were often paired together and their cat-fights would inevitably happen – Miki was often seen as the winner. As is the case in much of this film.



  • The Conclusion
    There is no getting past it, I really loved Criminal Woman: Killing Melody. It is a testament to the fun that one can have with this genre and while these pictures may not be packed to the brim with character depth or any kind of emotional baggage, they are the epitome of cinema as entertainment. If you haven’t experienced a film of this sort yet, then … Killing Melody would certainly make for a fun place to start!



    Blastfighter Review!

    Posted by Josh Samford On April - 16 - 2010
    Ahh, back again people and this time we deliver you your daily allotment of Lamberto Bava goodness! Well, goodness might be a stretch… more like sillyness. Yeah, we’ll go with that one. Blastfighter started off as a science fiction film but somehow became a southern style action flick. Ridiculous and over the top, it is what it is!

    The Plot: Jake “Tiger” Sharp (Michael Sopkiw) is a former police officer who has been released after seven years of incarceration. He was guilty of murder in his former life, after killing the man responsible for his wife’s death. After his release he turns to killing for a living, being hired on as an assassin, but he finds that he simply doesn’t have the stomach for violence any longer. He does however hang on to the weapon that his would-be employer passes on to him. A SPAS shotgun which can fire grenades as well as a number of varying projectile weapons. Tiger decides to run away from his worries and head back to his small Georgian home town. Things aren’t so simple for Tiger though, as he finds his old home town has been inundated with hunters looking to get rich off of a foreign investment group which is paying high dollar for deer pelts. Tiger, seeing the truckloads of dead animals and seeing the forests being ravaged by dumb rednecks – he can’t take any more. Along with Connie, his long lost daughter who stumbles into his life with very little reason or established motivation, he will put an end to this crusade of butchery! Although, he may have to fight off a seemingly ENDLESS number of hunters in the area.






    CONTINUE READING THE REVIEW HERE

    Blastfighter

    Posted by Josh Samford On April - 16 - 2010
    [imdb]0088818[/imdb]
    The Plot: Jake “Tiger” Sharp (Michael Sopkiw) is a former police officer who has been released after seven years of incarceration. He was guilty of murder in his former life, after killing the man responsible for his wife’s death. After his release he turns to killing for a living, being hired on as an assassin, but he finds that he simply doesn’t have the stomach for violence any longer. He does however hang on to the weapon that his would-be employer passes on to him. A SPAS shotgun which can fire grenades as well as a number of varying projectile weapons. Tiger decides to run away from his worries and head back to his small Georgian home town. Things aren’t so simple for Tiger though, as he finds his old home town has been inundated with hunters looking to get rich off of a foreign investment group which is paying high dollar for deer pelts. Tiger, seeing the truckloads of dead animals and seeing the forests being ravaged by dumb rednecks – he can’t take any more. Along with Connie, his long lost daughter who stumbles into his life with very little reason or established motivation, he will put an end to this crusade of butchery! Although, he may have to fight off a seemingly ENDLESS number of hunters in the area.





    The Review
    Lamberto Bava is one of my favorite directors from the laundry list of Italian exploitation filmmakers that never made it huge over here in the United States. Even though his father is easily one of the most recognizable filmmakers in the history of Italian film, that popularity hasn’t really been passed on to his son. The reason for this fact is pretty easy and as much as it pains me to say it… Lamberto has had a relatively spotty career. Aside from a hand full of relatively great genre pictures, the majority of his output can be pretty contrived. Despite this fact, even the worst of these titles for me holds at least some interest or entertainment value. Blastfighter, made in the mid-eighties, is Bava trying his hand at the action genre. Not just any particular kind of action title either, this is a hillbilly action caper! Made by Italians! If at this point you’re thinking that this sounds like it’ll end up being a hot mess, you would be correct! Now, there are two vantage points that you can look from when approaching a film such as this one. You can either look at it as you would any other movie, approaching with analytical reason and attention to detail, or you can simply admit that this is going to be a bad movie so why not try and enjoy yourself? I generally do not favor the “check your brain at the door” type of review, even though I am excessively guilty of it, but a film such as Blastfighter deserves at least some sympathy from its audience as well as myself as a “critic”.

    If you’ve heard my voice on the VCinema Podcast, then you probably already know that I’m a proud southerner. Although you may think this means I’ll be particularly hard on Blastfighter due to its brazen inaccuracies in southern culture and the disregard for any kind of actual authenticity, you would be wrong. Let’s be honest here, southerners being shown as rednecks sharing an IQ with the same amount of digits that they can find on their left hand, isn’t exactly new. We’re all fully aware of the stereotypes and this is a film made by those fed on a strict diet of Hollywood archetypes. So when I see a group of guys walk up to a singular man in the forest and tell him “ya’ll get your ass off this hill”, I don’t let it bug me. In fact, I tend to love stuff like that because it becomes something of an injoke for me. How anyone could think the word ya’ll could be used in a singular form is outside of my realm of understanding, but it produces a chuckle every time I hear it in a cheap low budget exploitation movie. The cultural carelessness is certainly a factor in why I tend to enjoy the movie myself, but for the rest of the world what little entertainment is going to be derived from a film like Blasfighter is going to likely be based off of the ridiculous action set pieces.

    For a movie that was likely shot on a shoestring budget to say the least, I have to commend Lamberto for plugging as many vehicular explosions into this film as could logically be tolerated. Although the movie is slow to start, once the first truck initially goes up in flames; all of its brothers are just around the bend. Where most low budget titles from this time and era were lucky to get one vehicle to blow up in their movie, Blastfighter must have at least nine or ten. Each one going off in different scenes, one after the other. For a movie of this caliber, I have to admit it’s very effective in the action department. However, that doesn’t excuse it enough nor offer enough salvation for me to tell you the audience that this is a good movie. Truthfully, it’s not a great bad movie either. Starting off as a Deliverance style “normal man at odds with the psychotic hillbilly locals” genre picture, it morphs into a First Blood Rambo knockoff with a strange focus on conservationism. The last thirty minutes really does morph into First Blood, down to the sequence with Rambo stealth-killing all of the police officers. One reason the two sequences are too different to work is that in one film you have the police and the national guard all willing to risk their lives to hunt down one man, because that is their job. In Blastfighter, you have an endless number of hunters running head first into the forest looking to commit murder for apparently no reason in particular. The ultimate problem with Blastfighter comes from the fact that it’s too dumb to be taken serious and it’s not broad or dumb enough to be lumped in there with low budget action classics like Lady Terminator or The Stabilizer.

    Unfortunately Blastfighter is an overall bland mix that reaches certain levels of greatness, but then drops the ball just as things are getting interesting. Such is the case in almost all facets of the feature. For example, look at the electronic synth score that starts the movie off: it’s absolutely great. It brings up memories of delirious eighties cheese and gets your fist pumping. Then in short order the film dumps a cover of the Kenny Rogers tune “Evening Star” over our head, which is belted out by some wannabe starlet. Then it is repeated, over and over again! Our leading man, Jake “Tiger” Sharp (GREAT name) has some really interesting heroic qualities to him such as being an ex-cop who was placed in jail for seeking revenge. That’s a great backstory for a tough guy, and then we find out he is now a hitman as well? You can’t go wrong with this guy! Wait, no, I take that back, yes you can. Tiger might be the girliest tough guy to ever grace the screen. He fights back against hunters… because they kill dear. It’s not that I’m not sympathetic to ecological friendly people or those who have a great love for animals; but eighties action heroes usually fight for loftier goals in my book. They fight against nuclear devastation, life or death situations and not in order to save deers. It doesn’t stop there however, when his daughter first shows up on the scene he stumbles upon her after she breaks into his cabin. Tiger questions the girl and is quickly shouted down by the young woman who refuses to explain who she actually is. So what does Tiger do? Slap her? Kick her out? CALL THE POLICE? No, he takes his pillow and blanket so he can sleep on his own porch. Puzzling that this tough guy wouldn’t even be curious who this woman is that is kicking him our of his own home, much less take some kind of action in order to stop the situation. Then there’s the much ballyhooed SPAS shotgun that we get, which Tiger (what a great name for a leading man, did I mention that?) is given for an assassination job, which unfortunately gets about as much use as the script supervisor likely did on the picture.

    The Conclusion
    It’s a film where the sum of its parts are actually greater than it on a whole. There are moments of sheer over the top bliss, but it’s not enough to take away from the utterly bland moments that tie everything together. Not even George Eastman can save this picture, entertainment wise. I give the film a two out of five, which is possibly lower than it might seem to deserve but keep in mind that for every really great bit the movie throws at you – there’s something equally as bad right around the corner. I would save this one for fans of Lamberto Bava and Italian cult film enthusiasts only.



    Gamera: The Giant Monster Review

    Posted by Josh Samford On April - 7 - 2010
    Back so soon! Hard to believe! The good folks over at Shout Factory will be releasing Gamera: The Giant Monster on May 18th and I had the chance to take a look at the disc and now you all have my review! It’s a Kaiju film and certainly one of the bigger films from the genre, so of course it’s worth checking out, but just how good is it?

    The Plot: In the midst of the cold war, a group of Japanese scientists venture to the Antarctic in order to flesh out the story of an ancient beast called “Gamera”. Gamera is a giant turtle monster who breathes fire and is long since thought to be merely a legend. Dr. Hidaka, his assistant Kyoko Yamamoto and their press agent Aoyagi are enjoying this expedition into the Antarctic when a Soviet plane holding an atomic bomb is shot down by American forces near where our scientists stand – the icy ground cracks open and the great beast Gamera rises from his slumber. Standing 190 feet tall and holding the ability to project fire from his mouth, the beast seems unstoppable. All known ammunition seems to simply power this beast even more, with each attempt at destroying him failing worse than the last. Will our scientist team figure out the secret to this great turtle or will he completely destroy the great Island nation!








    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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