Archives for June 2011 | Varied Celluloid

Archive for June, 2011

“Take a Hard Ride” Review

Posted by Josh Samford On June - 30 - 2011

Hello all, we’re back yet again with a classic piece of western cinema. This time it’s a title that features a litany of big names including Lee Van Cleef, Fred “The Hammer” Williamson, Jim Brown and Jim Kelly! How does this spaghetti western/blaxploitation hybrid work? You’ll have to read on to figure it out!

The Plot: Kiefer (Lee Van Cleef) is a bounty hunter who takes his job perhaps a little too serious. We learn this by watching him gun down a good man who committed a crime decades in the past and has since certainly worked off his crime. He’s not a man concerned with justifying his line of work, he’s just concerned with doing it well. When Morgan, a wealthy rancher who is trying to move $86,000 to Mexico, dies of natural causes he leaves his best friend and ranch hand Pike (Jim Brown) in charge of this mission. This makes Pike one of the most wanted men in all of the old west. He soon meets up with the cunning and dangerous Tyree (Fred Williamson) who wants his own shot at the gold, but is willing to help carry the money to Mexico before making his play. Along the way these two stumble upon a family who have been slaughtered by cowboys. Amongst them is Kashtok (Jim Kelly), the Indian raised African American who uses his fists instead of a gun. This strange group of travelers are going to have to contend with every gun in the west, as well as the dangerous Kiefer, as they travel all of these lonely miles.

Take a Hard Ride

Posted by Josh Samford On June - 30 - 2011

Take A Hard Ride (1975)
Director: Antonio Margheriti (as Anthony M. Dawson)
Writers: Eric Bercovici & Jerrold L. Ludwig
Starring: Fred Williamson, Jim Kelly, Lee Van Cleef and Jim Brown



The Plot: Kiefer (Lee Van Cleef) is a bounty hunter who takes his job perhaps a little too serious. We learn this by watching him gun down a good man who committed a crime decades in the past and has since certainly worked off his crime. He’s not a man concerned with justifying his line of work, he’s just concerned with doing it well. When Morgan, a wealthy rancher who is trying to move $86,000 to Mexico, dies of natural causes he leaves his best friend and ranch hand Pike (Jim Brown) in charge of this mission. This makes Pike one of the most wanted men in all of the old west. He soon meets up with the cunning and dangerous Tyree (Fred Williamson) who wants his own shot at the gold, but is willing to help carry the money to Mexico before making his play. Along the way these two stumble upon a family who have been slaughtered by cowboys. Amongst them is Kashtok (Jim Kelly), the Indian raised African American who uses his fists instead of a gun. This strange group of travelers are going to have to contend with every gun in the west, as well as the dangerous Kiefer, as they travel all of these lonely miles.

The Review
Many things can probably be said about director Antonio Margheriti, but I can’t imagine many people claiming him to have ever been a boring director. Like most Italian genre film directors during the seventies, he was a workman who took on whatever project was sent his way and during that time he worked with many of the more popular actors within his native Italy. It was during this time that he met Fred Williamson on the set of the original Inglorious Bastards, and the two seemingly hit it off in a big way. When it came time for the two to pair up yet again it would be in a co-production between American film studios and Italian benefactors with the spaghetti western title Take a Hard Ride, which seems to be the perfect combination of blaxploitation attitude and western archetype reconstruction via the spaghetti western subgenre. A film that is rarely dark, always fun and features some of the most charismatic actors of 1970’s era genre-film, Take a Hard Ride is a film made entirely for the sake of fun.

Margheriti had to be placed under a certain amount of stress, with this being his first American co-production, but you really wouldn’t think it while watching the film. Considering that studios generally hate experimentation since it breaks away from the patterns that have lead to success in the past, and this was true even in the pre-Jaws 1970’s, it’s interesting to see Margheriti do his best to hit all of the weird high notes that make up the Italian system for building a “Western”. Starting the film off with a massive close-up in the fashion that this film does, it almost seems almost like the entire film is intended as a love letter written specifically for Sergio Leone. Starting off on a close-up of Lee Van Cleef playing a harmonica, this long panning shot backs away in a moving fashion and we see that the camera has traveled through a wooden fence. The shot is complex for this sort of production and hardly seems to allude to any nerves on the part of Margheriti, who seems to enjoy playing with the genre while the producer’s backs are turned.

Although not nearly the dark epic that most of Leone’s westerns always turned out to be, Take a Hard Ride is instead much more taken by the comedy side of the business. Taking a page out of the They Call Me Trinity playbook, the movie becomes a much more slapstick affair and rides on the charisma of its two main stars: Fred “The Hammer” Williamson and Jim Brown. Although Jim Kelly receives equal billing and certainly shares a decent amount of screen time, since his character is unable to speak he never really gets to demonstrate his onscreen presence. So instead we saddle up with Williamson and Brown who have never really been better. Jim Brown is quiet and menacing, which probably wouldn’t be hard for any man his size, but he manages to actually craft a real character within this role and stands up well next to the much more outspoken Williamson. The character that Williamson plays, Tyree, is the perfect sort of loudmouth braggart for Williamson to slip into and make lovable, as only he could. Speaking with a really strange southern accent, “The Hammer” is absolutely brilliant here.

Although this is basically the Western version of the “chase movie” (See: Eat My Dust, Grand Theft Auto and Smokey Bites the Dust), the amount of genre veterans who were in their prime while working on this simply made it invulnerable to formula. Although he was a bit past his prime even at this point, Lee Van Cleef does an honorable job in servicing the film as well. At this point in his career he had started to look pretty old, but he had not yet become the pudgy version of himself that would be involved in the Master Ninja series. Still, when you see Cleef you immediately think “spaghetti western” and he is perfect in doing that for the movie. His character, who sports a long black duster, also works as another visual reminder of Sergio Leone’s work. Why it was needed, I certainly can’t say, but I enjoyed its presence.


The Conclusion
Although this isn’t a title that really deserves a lot of concise evaluation, it is still fairly great in its own right. It rides the dusty and well trodden hills of genre-convention, but it doesn’t get bogged down at any one given point. The cast are all spectacular in their roles and the movie on the whole is riddled with excitement. If there’s one thing that boosts this from being a three into the four territory, it has to be the chemistry between Jim Brown and Fred Williamson. These two steal the show and craft some truly great moments as their friendship unfurls before our eyes. Definitely search the Shout! Factory disc out, which is bundled with Rio Conchos, as you really can’t go wrong with this set.




“Camille 2000” Review

Posted by Josh Samford On June - 29 - 2011

Hey everybody, we’re back with all sorts of sexy fun! Quick, hide the kids because today we’re looking at the European arthouse erotic classic “Camille 2000“, directed by Radley Metzger.

The Plot: Armand (Nino Castelnuovo) is a young man from a wealthy family who is newly visiting Rome from his home in America. Marguerite, also known as Camille due to her love for camellia flowers, immediately catches Armand’s eye. Seeking to learn more about this beautiful girl, he begins to follow her party habits and before long the two are spending a great deal of time with one another. Marguerite however isn’t the type to settle down, which is much to the dismay of Armand who wants her to be only his. These two lovers will have to overcome a number of obstacles along the way, most notably Armand’s father who would never have his son tied down to a woman of such low notoriety. Can their love make it through or will everything fall apart?

Camille 2000

Posted by Josh Samford On June - 29 - 2011

 

Camille 2000 (1969)
Director: Radley Metzger
Writers: Alexandre Dumas and Michael DeForrest
Starring: Danièle Gaubert, Nino Castelnuovo and Roberto Bisacco




The Plot: Armand (Nino Castelnuovo) is a young man from a wealthy family who is newly visiting Rome from his home in America. Marguerite, also known as Camille due to her love for camellia flowers, immediately catches Armand’s eye. Seeking to learn more about this beautiful girl, he begins to follow her party habits and before long the two are spending a great deal of time with one another. Marguerite however isn’t the type to settle down, which is much to the dismay of Armand who wants her to be only his. These two lovers will have to overcome a number of obstacles along the way, most notably Armand’s father who would never have his son tied down to a woman of such low notoriety. Can their love make it through or will everything fall apart?

 

The Review

About as polarizing a figure as you’ll find within the realm of cult cinema, directer Radley Metzger will produce very different reactions from every other person familiar with his work. Demonized as a purveyor of sleaze with no artistic merit but also celebrated as a cinematic-artisan and icon of sexual liberation, the relatively obscure filmmaker isn’t one without controversy. Crafting a style that was uniquely his own, Metzger seems to bring to life a general love of voyeurism and spruces the cinematic landscape up a bit with his European arthouse influences. As an American in Rome Metzger used Camille 2000 to make the ancient city his very own personal playground. Taking the famed French writer Alexandre Dumas’ “The Lady of the Camellias” and updating it with a very sixties appeal, Metzger explores many themes of love, sexual growth and the pains of monogamy. With this film Metzger directs an Italian piece of erotica that is more concerned with cinematic experimentation than it is with simple sex scenes. This is a fact that possibly turned off viewers during its initial release, but this same fact gives it new life with modern film fans who are interested in the world of cult oddities and sexual expression.

The lack of sex could very well be a key issue. Although touted as a piece of “erotica”, do not be fooled, this is much more than that. A film primarily concerned with human interactions and relationships, Camille 2000 does not work as a true piece of softcore smut. If you’re looking for titillation you would do much better in searching out whatever is playing on basic cable during a late night on any given weekend. While the movie certainly has its sexy moments and does deliver a heavy amount of nudity, the naked panting and caresses here are ultimately quite tame in comparison to some of the smuttier and enticing “sex films” out there. For me, this turned out to be an even more welcome surprise. With the focus less on sex and more on character, Metzger sheds his reputation and instead shows just why he is one of the more respected directors of Erotica out there. The fuel for his film is not simply the sex, but instead it is the characterization from the actors and the depths of imagination that the director chooses to plunge us into.

The one word that I find expertly describes the film has to be “lush”. I can think of few other words in my vocabulary that so eloquently describes Camille 2000 from an aesthetic point of view. Every real location used is magnificent and large. Mansions are utterly massive and the grounds that surround them are impeccably well kept with labyrinth-like shrubbery. Every interior room is decorated with bizarre and unearthly furniture, and the walls are painted as if they were done in a collage fashion. One wall may be decorated as if three separate designers had went to work on it. There may be a striped multi-color wallpaper for several feet, but in the middle of the wall it might change into a large crystal-like texture and then split off into something completely different. Sets are decorated with strange clear-plastic furniture as well as odd square boxes that emit light whenever the scenes are dim. Despite this being a film that deals with multi-faceted and realistic characters (to a degree), Radley Metzger isn’t afraid to delve into the realm of the surreal in order to create a breathtakingly beautiful piece of work.

Daniele Gaubert in the role of Marguerite, who goes by the nickname Camille which is where the title comes from, is stunning for so many reasons. Although she is most certainly a beautiful woman, her sexy and wise-beyond-her-years attitude adds a lot to the performance. The way she looks at the camera, her flirtatious batting of the eyes and general sweet demeanor makes her performance something to really hold onto. She has a very unique look to her and her exotic flavor certainly adds to the overall mystique surrounding both her, and the character. The cat and mouse, back and forth, game between the characters of Armand and Marguerite takes up a great deal of the film’s running time and could have been detrimental had I not been so heavily invested in their relationship. The character of Armand is endearing as an “every man” with very simple tastes in comparison to his counterpart. Although Marguerite seems to love Armand, her incapability at staying in a monogamous relationship is a real death blow. There is one shot in particular that sticks out where Metzger seems to quite literally say the same thing. A fantastic shot on a balcony where Marguerite finally concedes to a monogamous relationship with Armand, the two quickly embrace and kiss but within the background Metzger directs us to a funeral procession that is going on at exactly the same moment. It’s as if this sort of relationship is seen as either a death to Marguerite’s own sexual nature or simply a death of her former self. Then it also calls into play the inevitable doom that this romance seems to be pointing towards. Although I don’t want to spoil anything, Camille 2000 does not end on a happy note. It is ambiguous to a degree, but has an air of definitive sadness for many involved.


The Conclusion

At times it is delightfully over the top and within others it is somber and dramatic, Camille 2000 is not a particularly “easy” film. High art mixed lightly with the erotic, this is certainly one to check out. If for no other reason than to see the absolutely stunning art design and fashion that decorates nearly every frame of the film. You can pick up the film now through Cult Epics, who have done a fantastic job at restoring the film and giving it new life in both DVD and Bluray format. I give the film a very solid four out of five.




Tartan Asia Extreme presents “The Matrimony”

Posted by Josh Samford On June - 28 - 2011
The good folks over at Tartan Asia Extreme are back and will be releasing The Matrimony within the R1 universe next month, in both Bluray and DVD formats. This slice of Chinese horror comes from mainland director Teng Hua-Tao who looks to unleash an atmosphere of Alfred Hitchcock covered with a very traditional Chinese ghost story. Set in Shanghai circa 1930, The Matrimony features Leon Lai as a man reeling from the recent death of his former lover. We then watch as his mother marries him off into a new relationship that is ultimately devoid of love because of his grief. His new wife however won’t let Lai simply mope around forever and she desperately wishes for the two to consummate their relationship. Eventually she is visited by the ghost of Lai’s former lover who promises to help the new wife as long as she can overtake her physical form in order to have a final fling with Leon Lai. When Lai’s character finally starts to warm up to his new wife though, his former lover’s ghost starts to feel rather jealous. I can promise you nothing good will come of that!



The DVD and Bluray will be released on July 26th and became available for pre-order today! The discs look like they will feature some cast interviews, behind the scenes footage and a selection of trailers. If you want to know more, read-on after the break for the official press release!

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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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