Archives for May 2011 | Varied Celluloid

Archive for May, 2011

Swedish Sensationsfilms in NYC, May 31st

Posted by Josh Samford On May - 30 - 2011
Hey everybody, this is a little news tidbit that is only going to reach out to a very niche audience, but for those of you who are interested it sounds like it could be an amazing event! Tomorrow at Brooklyn Rod & Gun author Daniel Ekeroth will be celebrating the release of his book Swedish Sensationsfilm: A Clandestine History of Sex Thrillers and Kicker Cinema as well as presenting trailers from some of the outlandish films discussed in his detailed book. This book marks one of the largest explorations into the strange cinema of Sweden and appears to feature a vast catalog of genres. To read more about this must-have book, you can look up Bazillion Points Books and if you’re interested in showing up you can read the official press release after the jump!



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“Strike Commando” Review

Posted by Josh Samford On May - 21 - 2011
Bruno Mattei. Claudio Fragrasso. Truly the forebears of the Coen Bros. legacy. Today we present one of their most masterful pieces of work. The classic war drama known as Strike Commando. A truly touching and sentimental drama expressing the anguish of a country still torn apart by the Vietnam conflict. Read on and discover more of this classic Reb Brown vehicle!

The Plot: Sgt. Michael Ransom (Reb brown) is part of an elite unit known as The Strike Commandos. While investigating a camp of North Vietnamese during a covert operation, Ransom and his team are double-crossed by Col. Radek (Christopher Connelly) who sets off a series of explosives within the rebel base before Random and his crew were due back at the rendezvous point. The entire Strike Commando force are blown to bits, except for Ransom who is only knocked into a nearby river. As he floats down stream, he eventually stumbles upon a group of friendly natives who inform him of a Russian force making its way into Vietnam. When he manages to escape via a helicopter, the poor Vietnamese locals who helped him are captured. Ransom heads back home to confront Col. Radek but is given the opportunity to head right back to Vietnam as a rogue agent in order to discover proof of the Russian involvement within Vietnam. While doing this Ransom must also track down those who helped him and free them from captivity.


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Strike Commando

Posted by Josh Samford On May - 21 - 2011

Strike Commando (1987)
Director: Bruno Mattei
Writers: Bruno Mattei and Claudio Fragrasso
Starring: Reb Brown, Christopher Connelly and Louise Kamsteeg



The Plot: Sgt. Michael Ransom (Reb brown) is part of an elite unit known as The Strike Commandos. While investigating a camp of North Vietnamese during a covert operation, Ransom and his team are double-crossed by Col. Radek (Christopher Connelly) who sets off a series of explosives within the rebel base before Random and his crew were due back at the rendezvous point. The entire Strike Commando force are blown to bits, except for Ransom who is only knocked into a nearby river. As he floats down stream, he eventually stumbles upon a group of friendly natives who inform him of a Russian force making its way into Vietnam. When he manages to escape via a helicopter, the poor Vietnamese locals who helped him are captured. Ransom heads back home to confront Col. Radek but is given the opportunity to head right back to Vietnam as a rogue agent in order to discover proof of the Russian involvement within Vietnam. While doing this Ransom must also track down those who helped him and free them from captivity.

The Review
Have you seen Space Mutiny? That’s a good question for the start of any film review really, considering the reputation it has for being one of the worst films of all time, but in the case of Strike Commando it’s even more apropos due to it featuring legendary thespian Reb Brown (who also lead the stellar cast of Space Mutiny) in the role of our titular “Strike Commando”. There’s no doubt about it, this was a project just begging for a review here on Varied Celluloid. A lone-military-man sort of action caper in the same vein as First Blood Part II, Missing in Action or the utterly atrocious The Deadly Prey, this is a title filled to the brim with b-movie pastiche and all around incompetence… which is everything one could possibly hope for in a title like this!

Bruno Mattei and Claudio Fragrasso are responsible for some of the worst films ever made. Both while working on their own and when working together, their work is universally dreadful but occasionally between the two they were able to land on a few good ideas that were fleshed out into some truly magnificent pieces of b-cinema. Strike Commando is the rare case where these two were actually able to plagiarize enough and appeal enough to the lowest common denominator that they ended up with a movie that perfectly encapsulates all that is great in trash cinema. This is a film that can in no real way be classified as “well made”, but is certainly one hundred percent entertainment. From the braindead writing and the apparent lack of communication between filmmakers and actors, Strike Commando turns out to be a fantastic party movie. A movie that plays things as straight as they can get, but in doing so seals its fate in the great annals of b-movie history.

There are many high (or low, as it were) quality selling points that will no doubt continue to lead Strike Commando into cult status. If I were to choose one shining attribute that keeps this one afloat, ahead of the rest, it has to be the cast. Two men in particular lead this films charge towards the cinematic pantheon. Christopher Connelly, who was known to the mainstream world best as an actor who starred on the soap opera Peyton Place for all five seasons, would make an indelible impression on the genre-film world with his starring roles in both Rugero Deodatto’s Raiders of Atlantis and of course our film here today. Although being a key cast member on Peyton Place is a big deal, I would argue that cult film aficionados likely endear the man more in their hearts than any other group out there.

Connelly plays Col. Redek, who doesn’t get to stand out in the plot as much as Michael Ransom (Reb Brown), but his grizzly performance is startling for a production such as this. He seems to fluctuate at times between simply being upset, to frothing at the mouth with anger. These are the two dimensions that he generally goes between, and he actually makes for an intimidating onscreen character. Reb Brown, our white knight of the film, should be noted for two very different reasons. First of all, the man had an impressive physique, there’s no getting past that. A body that was built for pro-wrestling, he certainly personified the ideal of an eighties action film star. The other notable attribute that Brown brought to the screen was his very unique vocal inflections. If you’ve seen the man in Space Mutiny, then I guarantee you know precisely what I’m talking about.

His scream, which is featured prominently throughout Strike Commando, comes off as sounding slightly whiny but is thrown out with such total conviction that it becomes completely hilarious. Although there are some scenes where you can maybe question Brown’s interest in the role, he subdues that train of thought completely when he lets out one of his grunting blasts of vocal-ity (if that wasn’t a word, it is now). When he’s not yelling or making crazy faces for the camera, he is actually a charismatic leading man. That doesn’t mean he’s a tremendous actor, but he is the perfect sort of actor for this kind of role. Although one has to imagine that it was difficult to shoot such a movie in the Philippines, with an Italian film crew no less, he does a fairly decent job at stabilizing the movie with his macho performance. However, even I have to admit that his attempts at serious drama (Reb Brown literally CRIES during one scene with a young boy dying in his arms) are less than successful.

The action in the movie is handled fairly well, considering the budget, and is probably one of the standout features of the movie aside from the cast. There are plenty of explosions to go around and even some VERY obvious miniature sets that are blown to smithereens as well. The budgetary restraints certainly hold this one back a lot, but that’s part of the fun. The Philippine setting is seemingly tropic and doesn’t have the same look that a Vietnamese backdrop would, which leads to many more unintentional laughs. However, the low budget texture is far from being the key to this one’s unintentional hilarity. Truth be told, there is no “key” feature here. It’s all just so patently ridiculous that it becomes amazing. A movie that will guarantee cries of “JAKOTA!” afterward and will cause you to pontificate on Disneyland as well as cotton candy mountaintops! Sorry, after watching Strike Commando viewers will feel obligated to cash in on all of the ridiculous dialogue.


The Conclusion
Offensive in its absurdity, but brilliant in its stupidity, Strike Commando is pure entertainment in a can. Obviously it won’t be for all audiences, but if you have a sense of humor then chances are you might get something out of this one. Formulaic and beautiful because of it, I can’t help but give the movie a four out of five.




“Run and Kill” Review

Posted by Josh Samford On May - 18 - 2011
Hey everybody, we’re back with some genuinely disturbing content! For the CAT III lovers out there Run and Kill is probably an oldie but a goodie, but for those who aren’t familiar with the genre: this is a sordid and harrowing masterwork of the genre! Read on for all the brutal psychotic fun!

The Plot: Kent Cheng plays Fatty Cheung, an overweight businessman who loves his only daughter but is constantly bossed around by his cruel wife. When he comes home early one day he discovers his wife has been having an affair with a local store owner, and he is sent into a spiral of self despair. While drinking during a night out on the town, he confides his angst with a female patron at the bar and she informs him that she has a friend who will lay a beating on his wife and her lover for only a small fee. Being drunk at the time, Fatty agrees and when he meets with the hired muscle a misunderstanding arises. While trying to tell the goon that he wants his wife “dead drunk”, the man takes it to mean that Fatty wants his wife and her lover murdered. The killer then takes all of Fatty’s money as a down-payment for the $100,000 it will take to commit the murders. The next morning, when Fatty finally makes it home he finds his wife and her lover making out yet again. As he starts to discuss the issue with his wife, a gang of killers burst through the door and proceed to murder Fatty’s wife and her lover after knocking Fatty himself unconscious. Now, with the police watching his every move as they suspect him as the killer, Fatty must also contend with the criminal organization who ordered the hit, because they want their money.


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Run and Kill

Posted by Josh Samford On May - 18 - 2011

Run and Kill (1993)
Director: Billy Tang
Writers: Bryan Chang
Starring: Kent Cheng, Danny Lee and Simon Yam



The Plot: Kent Cheng plays Fatty Cheung, an overweight businessman who loves his only daughter but is constantly bossed around by his cruel wife. When he comes home early one day he discovers his wife has been having an affair with a local store owner, and he is sent into a spiral of self despair. While drinking during a night out on the town, he confides his angst with a female patron at the bar and she informs him that she has a friend who will lay a beating on his wife and her lover for only a small fee. Being drunk at the time, Fatty agrees and when he meets with the hired muscle a misunderstanding arises. While trying to tell the goon that he wants his wife “dead drunk”, the man takes it to mean that Fatty wants his wife and her lover murdered. The killer then takes all of Fatty’s money as a down-payment for the $100,000 it will take to commit the murders. The next morning, when Fatty finally makes it home he finds his wife and her lover making out yet again. As he starts to discuss the issue with his wife, a gang of killers burst through the door and proceed to murder Fatty’s wife and her lover after knocking Fatty himself unconscious. Now, with the police watching his every move as they suspect him as the killer, Fatty must also contend with the criminal organization who ordered the hit, because they want their money.

The Review
Although Category III may simply be a rating within Hong Kong, in the minds of Hong Kong film fans the term CAT III will always bring about visions of a very specific time and era. That time and era was Hong Kong during the early to mid 90’s, when the CAT III rating truly came into its own and helped produce a new wave of highly exploitative titles. Films such as The Untold Story and Naked Killer were trashy and violent, but there were also films that were light-hearted and sexy for the most part. The film we are going to be discussing today however leans more towards the trashy and violent category, but in reality it is best described as mean and harrowing. Directed by “Bloody” Billy Tang, Run and Kill is an upsetting piece of work that is sure to challenge and disturb viewers but it isn’t without merit of technical prowess. Similar to Dr. Lamb from Tang, this is a movie that doesn’t play games.

From what I have gathered from the strange phenomena that is CAT III cinema, when these movies aren’t vividly portraying topless women from all angles they are showcasing the most bizarrely violent and mean spirited ideas that the human mind can possibly conjure up. Although Billy Tang doesn’t have a massive library of shockers to choose from, the few movies that he contributed to the world of CAT III cinema has definitely made an impression on all who have watched his work. While Dr. Lamb was certainly a nasty bit of serial killer cinema, Run and Kill takes things to a whole other level of depravity. The third act is what features the majority of all violence, but after the movie is over chances are you won’t remember much else other than the final twenty minutes anyway.

Kent Cheng leads this all star cast of genre film favorites, and he does an exceptional job in a role that I never imagined seeing him in. Overweight actors in the Hong Kong film industry are relatively obscure, which is likely why you see Kent Cheng, Eric Tsang and Suet Lam popping up so much. These actors are relegated to a certain amount of onscreen punishment due to their weight and are often the butt of many “fat jokes” throughout every movie they are in. Run and Kill is no different in that regard, as we see Kent Cheng take a considerable amount of name-calling. However, Cheng manages to take all of this and craft a genuine character in the midst of all the cinematic chaos that this movie manages to throw around.

Featuring a blowout cast, Run and Kill steps up to the plate in terms of actors involved. CAT III staples and legends Simon Yam and Danny Lee both show up playing their usual psychopath and detective characters, respectively. However Kent Cheng is the real standout here as he manages to leave his regular “character actor” position behind for a little while and steps into the role of a leading man with relative ease. His performance is addictive from the start and we the audience can’t help but feel sympathy for this man as he has his heart ripped out of his chest and then stabbed with a dull butter-knife. Cheng has great onscreen chemistry with the majority of the cast, but the moments spent between he and his child are the real selling points. The two seem to get along great and we see how much this character loves his child right from the introduction. The torment and horrors that follow him become all the more aching due to this sentimental touch.

I will concede that the general plot isn’t something totally unique, that’s for sure. There are plenty of movies out there that deal with a “regular Joe” being absorbed into the world of crime, but there are few that take the parable to the extremes that Run and Kill does. That level of depravity and psychosis which seems to decorate our film today is what makes it such an interesting little film. Although it isn’t something that I am going to recommend for all audiences, due to the content, but I do have to say that there is more to the movie than simply the grit and the grime. Beautifully shot and well acted… this is a well made film, on top of being a straight up piece of disgusting trash!

I do not want to recommend this film to the gorehounds out there looking for dismemberments, as I think those audiences would be more than a little disappointed with a title such as this one. The CAT III genre isn’t one that I normally associate with extreme “gore” anyway, since most of the time the disturbing factor in these films are their ideas and not necessarily what they “show” you. Run and Kill features a bit of both, however. Never shying away from violence, but never going to the grotesque limits that many splatter movies would, Run and Kill is instead a very intense and sordid character piece that will leave you haunted and utterly destroyed by the time the credits role.


The Conclusion
I really can’t recommend this one enough. Although it’s a movie that is made for a decidedly niche audience, there are more film fans out there who would really get something out of this than you might at first think. A dark and gritty piece of work, check out Run and Kill if you’re looking for a really fantastic piece of transgressive filmmaking that will actually challenge you as a viewer.




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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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