Archives for December 2011 | Varied Celluloid

Archive for December, 2011

Memphis Heat: The True Story of Memphis Wrasslin’ – Review

Posted by Josh Samford On December - 28 - 2011

I don’t know what it is, but for some reason film geeks are often wrestling nerds as well. I personally think it comes down to our interest in niche cultures, and our curiosity gets the better of us. Memphis Heat: The True Story of Memphis Wrasslin’ is the perfect film for geeks, as it combines a lot of this into a stylish and entertaining package. Click on the cover art in order to read the full review, but needless to say, this one is certainly worth searching out.

The Plot: Memphis Heat: The True Story of Memphis Wrasslin’ is a documentary focusing on the Memphis wrestling territory during the formidable years between the 1970s and the 1980s. Following a very large spectrum of wrestlers during this period, the film simply focuses on the Memphis area and the big names who were created there. These were the men who helped make this “scene” as rowdy as any wrestling territory in the world. The film details some of the biggest stars that younger fans may recognize, such as Jerry “The King” Lawler and Rocky Johnson, as well as some older wrestlers who had a huge impact on the industry, such as Sputnik Monroe and Jackie Fargo. These wrestlers lived a hard life, traveling over 100,000 miles per year cramped inside of small cars, but they brought to life personas that were much larger than mortal men could have ever dreamed to be.

Memphis Heat: The True Story of Memphis Wrasslin’

Posted by Josh Samford On December - 28 - 2011

Memphis Heat: The True Story of Memphis Wrasslin’ (2011)
Director: Chad Schaffler
Writers: Chad Schaffler
Starring: Jerry Lawler, Bill Dundee, Jimmy Hart, Sputnik Monroe and Jackie Fargo



The Plot: Memphis Heat: The True Story of Memphis Wrasslin’ is a documentary focusing on the Memphis wrestling territory during the formidable years between the 1970s and the 1980s. Following a very large spectrum of wrestlers during this period, the film simply focuses on the Memphis area and the big names who were created there. These were the men who helped make this “scene” as rowdy as any wrestling territory in the world. The film details some of the biggest stars that younger fans may recognize, such as Jerry “The King” Lawler and Rocky Johnson, as well as some older wrestlers who had a huge impact on the industry, such as Sputnik Monroe and Jackie Fargo. These wrestlers lived a hard life, traveling over 100,000 miles per year cramped inside of small cars, but they brought to life personas that were much larger than mortal men could have ever dreamed to be.

The Review
For full-disclosure purposes, I am a wrestling fan. Like many, I find myself waning on personal interest from time to time, but I always seem to come back to this quick and action packed form of dramatic entertainment. I have a theory that Pro Wrestling, as it is seen today, is one of North America’s greatest contributions to the world of dramatic theater. Although numerous nations can lay claim to certain aspects of Pro Wrestling, the way that it came together is such a distinctly American concept. Memphis Heat: The True Story of Memphis Wrasslin’ does a good job in explaining these early years of professional wrestling, but it started off ostensibly as a traveling circus act. Beginning as a carnival sideshow attraction where a big man would offer prizes for anyone who could stay in the ring with him for [X] number of minutes, the spectacle of this backwoods form of entertainment reaches into the heart of the American midwest. Sure, it wasn’t the most sophisticated form of entertainment, and it probably still shouldn’t be considered that, but it was a pure piece of Americana. Skip forward some years, and a strange integrated secret-society within the wrestling community has developed. A new language is created, and this new society consists of “Marks”, “Heels”, “Babyfaces”, “kayfabe stories” and “blading.” Although it will never achieve a great amount of notable respect, Pro Wrestling is one of the most fully fleshed out and uniquely protected forms of American entertainment. Memphis Heat, the film we are looking at today, is a dedication to that protected artform, and a love letter written for a very select time and place that can never truly be duplicated.

Within the first few minutes of Memphis Heat, director Chad Schaffler establishes everything he wants to show the audience about the Memphis territory through one brilliant montage. Taking a page out of the Not Quite Hollywood playbook, this doesn’t attempt to be your everyday run-of-the-mill documentary. This is going to be a fun ride, and Schaffler doesn’t shy away from this fact. That isn’t to say Memphis Heat is not informative, because it most assuredly is. The film is a blunt and focused look at the wrestling scene during this very intense period of time. We are thrown headfirst into this world with only a thudding rock & roll soundtrack, the sort of bluesy seventies-era southern rock music that brings to life the “good ol’ boy” mentality and expectations that one might have when discussing this topic. As a audience, we honestly don’t need to hear the forthcoming stories of hard partying in order to understand that this was a huge part of the lifestyle. Chad Schaffler fills his film to the brim with this sort of excitement, while also trading in insider information for the fans who are already well versed in this “scene.” Although one questions whether non-wrestling fans will be able to keep up with all of the insanity, the dizzying recollections and dramatic use of footage is enough to cause most viewers to revisit the film in the near future.

After watching the movie myself, my first instincts were to simply restart the entire thing all over again. Packed with names, places and information that I had never been privy to, as a wrestling fan I wanted to hear more about all of these characters and get to know more about them. A deep connection is made with the viewer, and I think that this is the strongest aspect of the movie. After Memphis Heat is over, audiences feel as if they know these characters in a deep and personal way. The insider view of this very insular culture grabs the audience by its coattails. Even for those who aren’t intrigued by this world of men clad in tight shorts, the strange culture is enough to draw in any audience members. One of the strangest and most intriguing facets of this period was how serious wrestling had become, both with the audience and the wrestlers. Memphis was on fire every Monday it seems, and the pandemonium of public reactions are well detailed throughout Memphis Heat. These wrestlers were stabbed, cut, punched, and even had babies thrown at them during riots! The wrestlers took their jobs just as serious, however, and it is apparent that these were men who valued their role as “tough guys.” Throughout the film, they even debate about who was tougher during their prime. In some ways, it is the “reality” of the situation, or the suspension of disbelief, that made such a period so very special in comparison to the much more tame version of Pro Wrestling that we find today.

As with any documentary focusing on the Pro Wrestling business, there are going to be a number of really great stories along the way. Memphis Heat is not lacking in this department. The film details several periods in the Memphis Pro Wrestling business, and it gives opportunity to a number of big stars to talk about the world that they once inhabited. The largest section of the movie, however, has to be the time spent talking about Jerry “The King” Lawler. Best known today as one of the most well known color commentator that the WWE has ever had, within Memphis during the 70s/80s Jerry Lawler was a god amongst mortals. A man who didn’t fit the ideal mold of an athlete, he progressed into a brilliant performer. Memphis Heat shows Lawler telling stories about his entry into the business with that same conviction that he is known for in modern entertainment. One of the most interesting aspects of the film has to be his recounting what happened between himself and Andy Kaufman. Although this story has been detailed elsewhere, I have never heard it told with such clarity and amusement as it is told in Memphis Heat. Although it is only a small portion of the movie, this very popular story (that detailed a “is it real? is it fake?” series of run-ins between Jerry Lawler and comedian Andy Kaufman) stands out as one of the most entertaining segments of the film in my opinion. Amongst the most culturally responsible sequences, we are introduced to Sputnik Monroe, a heel wrestler who actually managed to do a lot of great things for Memphis’ African American community. At the height of segregation, he was a man who decided to step up to authority and demand fair treatment for the African American population in-and-around Memphis. Although it covers wrestling for the most part, this is most certainly a documentary that encapsulates a entire era.


The DVD
The DVD is a absolute “must buy.” If you’re interested in the film, search out the DVD, because the special features are a extension of the movie in many ways. Featuring countless interviews, there are so many stories told on this disc that it can easily drain away a complete afternoon. There is more talk about Sputnik Monroe, a fun bit where Jerry Jarrett talks about naming Hulk Hogan, and a short package titled “The Galento Incident” that is so good it is a shame that it couldn’t make it into the movie. This “Galento Incident” details a backstage rivalry that sees a wrestler named Mario Galento enter into the ring in order to jump another wrestler, but in turn has his own eyeball bashed out of his head. Furthermore, he comes back later and attempts to kill Jerry Lawler with a straight razor! Thankfully, Lawler is saved by another wrestler who brought a gun into the auditorium. All of this simply shows the severity and insanity that this business inspired during this time and era.


The Conclusion
I can’t honestly say whether I hold a bias for this film or not, but I can promise that it was a thoroughly entertaining experience. As lively and absorbing as Not Quite Hollywood or Machete Maidens, Memphis Heat is a must-have documentary for wrestling nerds. For everyone else, it is a rock and roll look at a culture that audiences may not “get,” but afterward they will most certainly be left in awe by its sincerity and “wow” factor. I give it a four out of five, only on the basis that I fear it may be a bit insular for outsiders. For the most part, however, I find it hard to pick many faults out while discussing this movie. It teeters towards a five, and in time, I may even list it as that. Pick this one up! You can find it via the official website located at Memphis-heat.com




“Girl Boss Blues: Queen Bee’s Counterattack” Review

Posted by Josh Samford On December - 26 - 2011

Hey everybody, the Kung Fu Christmas festivities have come to a close… but we still have a few reviews at Varied Celluloid that are in desperate need of posting! It has been too long since Varied Celluloid has featured any new pinky violence titles, so today we take a look at Girl Boss Blues: Queen Bee’s Counterattack! Remember, click on the artwork in order to read the full review!

The Plot: Girl Boss Blues: Queen Bee’s Counterattack begins with Reiko (Reiko Ike) setting up a salaryman in order to blackmail him. When the businessman isn’t looking, she places two girls in the trunk of his car while she proceeds to seduce him. She leads him to a love motel with the hopes of knocking him out and stealing all of his money. This introduces us to Reiko’s gang, known as the Athens gang, before they head out and try to steal another vehicle. Reiko’s group is then extorted by a motorbike gang who demand that the girls take a ride with them. These ruffians attack the girls, but they are soon rescued by a friendly yakuza named Jiro who knows Reiko very well. Afterward we meet young Yuko, a high school girl who wants to join Reiko’s gang. After her initiation, which involves popping her own cherry, Yuko is a full member of the group and is soon being taken care of by Reiko. However, when the group runs into trouble with a local yakuza syndicate, Jiro stands out as their only hope for survival. Unfortunately, both Yuko and Reiko have developed feelings for the young man.

Girl Boss Blues: Queen Bee’s Counterattack

Posted by Josh Samford On December - 26 - 2011

Girl Boss Blues: Queen Bee’s Counterattack (1971)
Director: Norifumi Suzuki
Writers: Norifumi Suzuki and Takayuki Minagawa
Starring: Reiko Ike, Keiko Yumi and Miki Sugimoto



The Plot: Girl Boss Blues: Queen Bee’s Counterattack begins with Reiko (Reiko Ike) setting up a salaryman in order to blackmail him. When the businessman isn’t looking, she places two girls in the trunk of his car while she proceeds to seduce him. She leads him to a love motel with the hopes of knocking him out and stealing all of his money. This introduces us to Reiko’s gang, known as the Athens gang, before they head out and try to steal another vehicle. Reiko’s group is then extorted by a motorbike gang who demand that the girls take a ride with them. These ruffians attack the girls, but they are soon rescued by a friendly yakuza named Jiro who knows Reiko very well. Afterward we meet young Yuko, a high school girl who wants to join Reiko’s gang. After her initiation, which involves popping her own cherry, Yuko is a full member of the group and is soon being taken care of by Reiko. However, when the group runs into trouble with a local yakuza syndicate, Jiro stands out as their only hope for survival. Unfortunately, both Yuko and Reiko have developed feelings for the young man.

The Review
The pinky violence genre can be a bit hard to decipher for many audiences. A lot of those who first come to the genre, including myself in the very beginning, assume that nearly any film from the 1970s featuring a group of Japanese females immediately constitutes its role as a pinky violence movie. Although there are numerous definitions for the genre, I believe that what separates these movies from the mainstream is a very-present attitude. It doesn’t hurt if the project features young female delinquents, or was produced by Toei studio, but those are not the only requisites by which my personal definition for the genre begins or ends. If you want to be as strict as possible, since the genre began as a part of the Toei film studio, films made outside of that studio should be out of bounds. However, if you do that, then you must limit titles like those in the Stray Cat Rock series which are considered definitive works within the genre. My broad definition for the genre may upset many, but it encompasses a larger spectrum of films that rightfully belong within this genre due to their purveying attitude. These are films that, in the midst of a very misogynist society, presented very strong female leads that defied the culture. Girl Boss Blues: Queen Bee’s Counterattack, the first film in the Girl Boss series (which features Girl Boss Guerilla), is a defining view of the attitude that really creates the title “pinky violence” in my mind. Produced by Toei, starring Miki Sugimoto/Reiko Ike, directed by Norifumi Suzuki, and featuring everything that makes this genre what it is, this is a movie to show anyone who has never seen a title from this genre. Afterward, they will know exactly how to define the pinky violence attitude.

The attitude is absolutely what sets these films apart in all ways. With Queen Bee’s Counterattack, a nonsensical subtitle that refers to nothing in this picture, we are given ample amounts of that reckless behavior that defined this genre. Straight from the start, the film is all about introducing us to the world that these girls live within. A man’s world where women are used only as objects, the Athens group stands out as a group who rebels against this very notion. They don’t act like the genteel or non-assertive “ideal” vision of Japanese women, but are instead brash and very willing to use their own sexuality as a weapon in defying male society. Sure, this is an exploitation film wrapped up in a package of violence, action and nudity, but there are also ideas working behind the scenes at all times. This is also one of the few pinky violence features, that I certainly can recall, that delves heavily into the background of this “delinquent” lifestyle. Although it seems like common knowledge that someone who participates in these criminal activities must surely have some baggage that has had to happen within their lives, few times is this mentioned throughout this genre. Queen Bee’s Counterattack differentiates itself in this regard. In the most potent scene in the film, where the character of Yuko and Reiko have a deep discussion, after their love triangle with the yakuza Jiro comes out into the open, we deal with these characters and their history. This is generally around the time where Reiko comes up with her “stray dog” analogy that defines their rebellious nature for the duration of the movie as well. Few times do these films deal with the prospect that their lead characters are “damaged” in a psychological sense, but this is one of those times, and we can more easily sympathize with the characters because of this.

Directed by Norifumi Suzuki, the film packs in everything that you would expect from this director. Easily one of the most visual filmmakers of the era, his movies often come across as technicolor dreamscapes. His films are usually dictated by genre ideals more than true experimentation in narrative devices, but the visual flourishes found in his movies can only be described as brilliant. This movie is no different in that regard. Featuring amazing use of color, where bright reds are almost so blazing that they damage your retinas, the creation of “style” within these movies is almost immediate. Suzuki, despite his style, remains married to his genre ideals. From the overcompensation of plot, to the overdose in exploitation, Queen Bee’s Counterattack brings both the positive and negative effects of genre-dedication. The pinky violence genre, if it has one negative attribute, it is that these films can often devolve into something purely episodic. Queen Bee’s Counterattack certainly falls into this category. Repeating itself many times over, at times the movie seems to be a series of “scams” pulled off by our leading ladies. These scams are then followed by antagonism from the local yakuza, wash, rinse and repeat. The film does try to compensate for this, however, by incorporating two or three continuous subplots that travel throughout the movie. It doesn’t work to the effect that Suzuki likely hoped, but if there is any glue within the narrative it is the love triangle that Reiko is involved in (between the biker and Jiro) as well as the small bits where we meet the former-yakuza who has recently been released from prison. This former-yakuza forms a sizable amount of screen time, but his story seems absent from the movie at times. As if his narrative were on a completely different plane than that of Reiko and her Athens gang.

Reiko Ike and Miki Sugimoto would star together in several films throughout their career, but in this early title it is Ike stepping up to the limelight while Sugimoto takes the back seat in a small supporting role. This was a bit surprising to me as a viewer, but being a fan of Ike it wasn’t a terrible thing. Ike, who is always lovely within her movies, is even more beautiful than normal in this early Girl Boss title. Reiko sports red curly hair, which sets her apart from the “look” that she would become well known for throughout her career. In fact, she has such a distinctly different look that it took some real focus just to recognize her in the role. Different from what she would do in any other role, this character that Reiko Ike slips into is both atypical for the genre but not exclusively typical for her as a actress. Usually portraying a “wise woman amongst a gaggle girls,” this time out we see Ike actually playing the youthful role of a girl still fooled by the wild world around her. She is a character that doesn’t believe in the same fashion of love that society has passed onto her, but she doesn’t completely deny it either. Her fascination with the yakuza Jiro allows her to stretch out and go into some fairly interesting areas as a actress. Her dialogue, “To love someone, is to trust someone. I can’t trust this adult society,” probably says more about both the maturity and immaturity of her character than I ever could.


The Conclusion
Stylish, exploitative and absolutely fun, Girl Boss Blues is certainly one worth recommending. It might not be the very first film I would recommend to someone who is new to the genre, but it wouldn’t be far off. I give it a high four out of five. It may not do a LOT of new things with the genre, but it does them with a enthusiasm that is rarely duplicated in any genre.




KUNG FU CHRISTMAS 25 – Part 2: Opium and the Kung Fu Master

Posted by Josh Samford On December - 25 - 2011

This is it, people! The final review for our Kung Fu Christmas spectacular! Over 26,000 words written in one month, all about Kung Fu cinema. 26 movies reviewed. Very few obvious choices were made, but all titles were different, special and amazing in their own unique way. I hope you have had fun, and we will be back next December to do it all over again! Love, peace, respect and Kung Fu for all of you who read this. Now, we end the month with Ti Lung smoking dope. Enjoy our review for Opium and the Kung Fu Master!

The Plot: Tang (Ti Lung) is a former-member of the famed Ten Tigers From Kwangtung, but he has settled in with his own school instead of seeking a life of danger and action. However, acting as the main form of law enforcement in this small town has lead him into some relatively dangerous situations. While trying to keep track of his rather silly students, he becomes a pawn in a rather treacherous plot being hatched by Brother Yung (Chen kuan Tai). Yung intends to move a opium den right into the center of town, and after bribing a official, this plan is put directly into action. Yun intends to hook all of the locals on his heavy drugs, and then he intends to assume power over all of the citizenry. Tang initially gives license to Yung in order to build his opium den, but not knowing the effects of the drug Tang soon becomes a addict himself. His star pupil, however, quickly realizes what is going on within the community. He tries to persuade Tang that the opium is evil, but it initially falls upon deaf ears. Unfortunately, great tragedy will befall the house of Tang, and only then will he quit the drugs and take on the evil do’ers who have ransacked his community.
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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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