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Charlie Cho: The Cinematic Lover

Posted by Josh Samford On January - 27 - 2014
DonThe legend of Don Juan dates all the way back to the 14th century. Originally showing up in a play by Tirso de Molina, this ancient story has been retold countless times in all manners of artistic expression. The story, in most retellings, focuses on a prosperous libertine man who has dedicated his life to seducing women of all sorts. This character has become synonymous with the Western concept of the “ladies man.” This is a character that is obsessed with copulation, the opposite sex, and holding dominance over these women. I put forth to you today that the greatest variation of this mythos within the East would be through the cinematic lover known as Charlie Cho. He, unfortunately, remains little known to those outside of the darkest recesses of Hong Kong cinema, but for those who have seen his work: there becomes a desire, something that is impossible to resist, that they must help spread his reputation within the west.

Charlie Cho in False Lady (1992)

Charlie Cho in False Lady (1992)

Cutting past all of this BS, Charlie Cho is one of the very best onscreen perverts that the world has ever known. An actor who has, outside of his perverted roles, performed in several high quality projects, his sparse Western fanbase rallies behind him not for his role in Jackie Chan’s Police Story, but instead for the incredibly cheap sex comedies that he made during the 1990s. These movies were ludicrous and obscene in most regards, but they dominated the Category III film market during the late 80s-to-early 90s. For those who are unaware, Category III, or CAT III, is a cinematic rating within Hong Kong. It’s nearest equivalent would be the 18 rating within the UK, or NC-17 within the USA. In the West, the best known films from this category would be the various extreme crime thrillers that have become cult favorites. Films such as The Untold Story, Ebola Syndrome, and Dr. Lamb have all had plenty of time dedicated to them, but Hong Kong sex comedies have unfortunately been left, mainly, for the superfans. Within this genre, there are several notable “cocksmen” who deserve mention. Stuart Ong, Lee Chung-Ling, and Elvis Tsui are all actors who made numerous films within the CAT III market, specializing in films about seduction, stupidity, and obsessing over breasts. However, of all these actors, one man stands out as king. That man is Charlie Cho Cha-Lee.

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V/H/S now on VHS!

Posted by Josh Samford On February - 5 - 2013

V/H/S now on VHS!

V/H/S has received a rather mixed reception from many of my personal friends, but I must say that it was one of my favorite horror films of last year. While it probably isn’t purely a throwback title in the purest sense of the word, especially since one of the shorts in the movie features recorded Skype conversations, there is a certain amount of nostalgia to be felt within the movie. As of today, if you want to celebrate that nostalgia in its purest form, then you can do just that! V/H/S has now hit the VHS format. So, for those of you who still have a functional VCR, this awesome little gimmick might be too good to pass up.

If you want to grab a copy, then order it via right here!

Cinema of the Absurd

Posted by Josh Samford On July - 17 - 2008

So last night I’m just sitting around doing very little with my free time, bored out of my mind when out of the sky comes a white shining horse come to save me from the despair and loneliness that a twenty three year old single dude with no personal life might have – that horse, that beautiful horse came in the form of a personal favorite of mine: Videodrome. A film I suspect many reading this should be pretty familiar with. Watching this film on that evening got my ticker turning and I thought: ARTICLE TIME! Since I don’t have much else rolling around in my brain. Especially nothing I can squeeze almost a thousand words out of. Well, for those unfamiliar with this film essentially Videodrome is a very simple story… for the first twenty minutes. Telling the story of a man named Max Renn who is the president of a small TV station that focuse mainly on the most sensational forms of entertainment they can track down. Max even has his video pirate friend tracking the videowaves in hopes of finding bizarre television shows in foreign markets. One night, Max finds just what he has been looking for. A show called Videodrome. A gameshow of sorts, except no prizes… or questions… or anything really resembling a gameshow format. I call it that because the characters in the movie sometimes do. Videodrome is live torture, in a clay-encased room usually followed by the murder of the “contestant”. No plot, no meaning, just death and humiliation. Max is astounded, and his newly found girlfriend who dabbles a bit in sadomasochism is in love. The pirated signal at first seems to be coming from Malaysia, but it is soon found that it’s really just a delay and Videodrome is being produced right here in America. As Max sets out to find out just what Videodrome is, he begins to have hallucinations. As things progress, it gets worse, until Max’s life is so blurred that he nor we the audience can any longer tell what is fact, what is fiction and where the lines between reality and fiction had even started before their blurring.

Videodrome is a classic in what I refer to as cinema of the absurd, it’s a form of filmmaking that doesn’t neccesarily have to make any kind of conventional sense – but is told in such a distinct and astonishing way that it entrances the audience. Videodrome is one of the few films I can sit down and watch backwards and forwards, then start the whole process over again. It is a tough cookie to crack, and I don’t believe I understand the plight of our lead character Max now any more than the first time I originally sat through it. However I do understand that this film may be Cronenberg’s greatest work and one of the best North American films produced in the eighties easily. Essentially, later in the film it is revealed that Max now has a tumor for reasons I won’t get into – but the tumor is what is producing these visions and in the process draws away the ability for both Max and the Viewer to grasp even the tiniest fraction of reality from what is going on within the film. Cronenberg created a sense of paranoia and confusion unlike any other film I can think of, but his vision of men with giant vagina-like caverns on their chest and television sets that breathe could have been inspired by the works of Fellini, David Lynch or Luis Buñuel. Unlike Fellini or Buñuel however, Cronenberg lets his audience get a taste for the normal, lets them sink into their chairs expecting a thriller and doesn’t pull out all the weird stuff just for the sake of creating underlying messages. Cronenberg tells a story and warns audiences about our culture and the reliance on television and technology at the time. In that sense, I find it a much easier film to sink into and try to understand.

Cronenberg and David Lynch are filmmakers that seem tied together in fans eyes, I suppose because both are North American and have a tendency to make films within this cinema of the absurd genre. Cronenberg has created more films that follow a straight and narrow plot structure, however films like the before mentioned Videodrome and possibly even Existenz to some degree – they have stuck with fans so much that the two just have to be linked together. Lynch however has dedicated his artistic output to this absurd form of cinematic structure. With films like Lost Highway, Mulholland Dr. and his most recent feature Inland Empire. All films follow a somewhat structured narrative for a short amount of time, before the entire world and climate change around our characters. Films like MD and Lost Highway can actually be understood to some degree, if you can piece together the scenes to try and understand what has happened, what is happening and where things are going. Built like puzzles as film, David Lynch proves to still be one of the most exciting and intriguing directors thirty years since the release of his completely bizarre debut Eraserhead.

There are many filmmakers belonging in this category, the previously mentioned Fellini, Buñuel, Takashi Miike (only occasionally), Shinya Tsukamoto and many others have delved outside the norm in terms of structure and they are just as welcome on this list of other great filmmakers. I essentially wrote this article to express my love for this small genre of filmmaking. Call it what you will, absurdist, expressionist, experimental, etc. What it comes down to though is storytelling in an unusual fashion and that to me is what cinema is all about. Anything to engage the audience in a deeper fashion and craft a story from nothing. In the end, if a filmmaker does that – there’s not much else more you can ask of them.

— Joshua Samford

5 Unsummer Flicks

Posted by Josh Samford On July - 17 - 2008

Originally Written For Rogue Cinema

Ahh, the summer is truly upon us. Down here in Louisiana, we have many months of humid, hot, muggy, wet, moisture laden days and rainy nights to look forward to. For some, they have bright days with sunny beaches in their near future. However, none of us live in those areas, so I think we can all join together and wish the very worst on people like that. Regardless, with these summer days busteling towards us, I thought I would do something in the spirit of the season. That is, I thought I would do something completely opposite of the season upon us. I get those two things mixed up sometimes. So, rather than writing an article on how Point Break is the perfect summer film and is without a doubt also the finest motion picture to ever grace the silver screen (and believe me buddy, it most certainly is) – I thought I would switch gears and write an article to help us take our minds off the rain and the heat. Instead, I thought I’d look to the grass on the other side of the fence and focus on more winter based films. As we all know, unbearable heat sure sucks so why not combat it with frostbite inducing cold temperatures! Yay! The worst of both worlds coming right at you… but keep in mind, these films are in no special order in levels of greatness. This is all just random blathering, basically, I think of a word – I put it to paper and hope that Duane (your loyal Rogue Cinema editor) doesn’t notice that I am slowly losing my mind.

The first flick that comes into my mind when I think of desperate cold, is also one of my favorite films of all time (funny how things like that work out). Stuck in the freezing wilderness looking after a fort that is all but forgotten, several military men fight the cold and their own insanity in the late 1800s. I remember when Ravenous was released vividly. I saw the trailers and TV spots, but being that I was just a wee bit too young to make it to the theaters to see it on my own – and of course we didn’t have internet piracy in those days; I sadly had to wait until it was released on video to finally check it out. When I finally was able to rent it, I picked it up the same night as I did The Matrix – and was actually much more enthused with Ravenous. Starting with the strange, relaxing and catchy synth score – Ravenous is a beautiful monster straight from the start. Dealing with the ideas of cannibalism and it giving the person who does the eating the power of the person who is… well, ate – few films capture so many emotions at one time. Partly a dark, dark comedy and mostly a devilishly smart cannibal film; few horror films I have met have been dissapointed.

Another film that crosses my mind as being a pretty strict winter-setting, doesn’t actually feature much of a winter setting. I think it will always remain a Christmas type of flick in my mind mainly because of the ice encased snow storm where our monster is originally found. The film is The Stuff, and the plot is retarded. I’m sorry, that was offensive, mentally challenged. I must admit, The Stuff was a film I LOVED as a kid. I thought the idea behind a giant dessert attacking and killing people was absolute brilliance but sadly as I aged a little bit and re-watched the film a few years ago – childhood ideas aren’t always the best and the things we loved then don’t always translate to age-defying forms of enjoyment. I’m a big Michael Moriarty fan and I still couldn’t get into the film and I do realize that The Stuff actually does have a fairly decent fanbase – but I guess it was all the Cold War-era political spoofing that just dated the film beyond recognition for me… or it could be that it just wasn’t that good, either way, it’ll still remain a Christmas film to me regardless of what anyone thinks. It’s a shame it has nothing to do with the holiday.

Unlike The Stuff however, the next film actually has something to do with Christmas and is actually entertaining to me despite being a pretty bad flick! Silent Night, Deadly Night is the type of film that despite all the reasons you aren’t supposed to like it – you still have to admit you kind of do. Not just because it’s Plan 9 bad and there are funny lines, ha ha ha. There’s actually a soul to SNDN, a silly and quite goofy soul – but a soul none the less. With a crazy grandpa spilling his madness at a young boy who’s mother is raped and father murdered just hours later, SNDN is a laugh riot from the get go! Okay, maybe that doesn’t sound right… but I promise you, it’s hard not to have at least a little fun with it. Our leading man, who is also a deranged lunatic who seeks to kill anyone having a good time on Christmas, proves to understand that all great comedians need their own catchphrases in order to endear themselves to their audience. Git-R-Done, You Might Be A Redneck If and that classic of classics from Eddie Murphy’s golden days “suck my d***!” – our hero throws his own line out there in the form of “PUNISH!” as he launches an axe into the chest cavity of all the bad little boys and girls running around. If you’re not sold on this flick yet, you have no heart.

The second to last film is one that many of you may be familiar with… well, some of you are probably more familiar with the remake which I am not looking to discuss – but Black Christmas is one of the best and most underrated films of the slasher age. It had that same “classic” atmosphere that made Halloween, Texas Chainsaw Massacre and films of those variety so special; but even I had not actually seen it until about two years ago. That’s coming from a kid who dieted on nothing but slasher flicks growing up. Critters, Leprechaun, Childs Play, Halloween, Friday the 13th, Sleepaway Camp, Nightmare on Elm Street – I had seen it all, but somehow BC avoided my grasp. I had heard loads about it when I first discovered the internet, but it took years to track it down and when I finally found it; it was well worth the wait. Atmospheric, claustrophobic and a true horror film. Even though the voice that prank calls the girls throughout the film is slightly less silly than the duck voice in The New York Ripper, but still majorly silly – it works out somehow. Another highly reccomended classic.

Now here we are, speaking of classics… I guess the one film that barely needs an introduction I save for last. Really, what do I need to say for John Carpenter’s classic The Thing? Not much, by now hopefully everyone on the planet earth has seen it and respects it for the brilliant accomplishment it most certainly is – but for those who have not seen it by some grave misfortune; I am hereby begging you to get out there and give it a rent. Then, if you don’t like it, I’ll let you punch a random stranger in the groin. Trust me, you won’t be arrested, I promise.

And that ends another classic article from yours truly. Some of you are probably angry that I didn’t go on a three page diatribe about the greatness of The Thing – but c’mon, I’ve wrote several reviews for it already myself and I have to imagine just about everyone has at least heard about it. I think it’s illegal to be a film fan these days and not at least be vaguely aware of John Carpenter’s work and The Thing which is obviously one of his finest achievements. Anywho, I hope you’ve all enjoyed and I hope the summer heat doesn’t drive you mad like it apparently has me. I’m going to go take a dip in my two foot pool now and soak up some skin-cancer-inducing rays. See you all in chemo!

— Joshua Samford

10 Horror Flicks to Die For!

Posted by Josh Samford On July - 17 - 2008

Original Written For Rogue Cinema

There is nothing on this earth quite as spectacular as a good film list, am I right? Okay, yes, the artform (and trust me, IT IS) has been played out, beaten within an inch of its life and ultimately done to death more times over than I could possibly think of – but for me, I rarely grow tired of it. For me, there is nothing more fulfilling than promoting something that doesn’t receive press elsewhere and turning people on to knowledge of something I happen to really dig. I am of course as guilty, if not more-so, than anyone else of perpetuating movie lists. Film lists work so well because it does something for everyone who reads them. Note that I am talking about well written “lists” and not exclusively mine, I’m not that pompous to think that the following list is going to change lives. Lists are great because they help out both the uninitiated, like those of you who haven’t dealt a whole lot with Italian or Japanese cinema, as my following list is going to reflect a lot of my foreign influences and for those of us who are familiar with the items being discussed, it is often interesting to find out the opinions of others on something we can all reflect on together. Film lists are also great because they give people the opportunity to send in hate mail, which I sadly have not had the opportunity to experience. Maybe a slightly controversial film list will do the trick and get a few insane horror fans sending me their poetics words of disgust. I think to truly succeed though I’d have to slaughter a cow, burn a tree and vote Republicans (all things I have done and enjoyed) to really get a spurt of hatred from my audience… but, oh well, I guess I’ll take the ignoring of the masses as a deep-seeded hatred just waiting to escape and some day destroy me. So, with that, I’ll start up a fairly random list. Any one of these films would be perfectly reasonable to list at the top of any horror geek’s favorite film of all time list, but this article isn’t for you guys – go google search strangulation porn or whatever it is people other than myself do (okay, I do that too…), this article is for those of you who have yet to see every horror film ever released… in other words; the noobs. Films listed in level of importance that the n00bz of the world should see.

10. City of the Living Dead – Okay, so the ending doesn’t make a lick of sense. It’s a film with no real conclusion, but up until those final moments City of the Living Dead was heading down the path of a true masterpiece. It is indeed a shame that whatever happened to the original ending did happen (some say a foreign substance was spilled on the film negative) – but even with the obscure finale, Fulci put in some of his best work here. Amazing atmosphere, beautifully shot, gore scenes far more inventive than just about anyone else and a plot that moves along at a brisk pace. What can you say though, every came to see the drill through the neck and the girl literally vomit up her intestines. Those scenes trump all, and yeah, that’d be the biggest reason to see the flick. I know, I’m cheap.

9. House on the Edge of the Park – I personally just want more and more people to see this one. The man who brought you Cannibal Holocaust shows a very different form of inhumanity, in an urban setting. House on the Edge of the Park is one of the greatest “home invasion” type flicks you will likely ever see. It isn’t constant gore from the get-go, but far more psychologically damaging than any slasher on the market. Featuring some brutal and realistic mental torture from David Hess, who essentially plays the same type of character as he did in Last House on the Left but with a slightly more down to earth take. It’s the gritty realism and brutality of the Hess character that sells the film. It is without a doubt one of the best pieces of Italian exploitation made during its era.

8. A Blade in the Dark – If House on the Edge of the Park is one of the greatest pieces of pure exploitation and sleaze to come from Europe, Blade in the Dark is one of the most underrated and amazing Giallo/slashers to come out of Italy in that same era. Competing against Dario Argento is by no means an easy thing to do, but with this film, I think Lamberto Bava did just that. A tightly crafted and beautifully executed tale of crime and mystery taking place in a rich villa setting. Like many filmmakers from that time attempted, Bava created something that was uniquely beautiful with his camera-work – and also a film that was graphic and disturbing in its excessively brutal death scenes.

7. In the Mouth of Madness – Not only one of John Carpenter’s most underrated films, it is just all around one of the most underrated horror flicks of our time. I rented it on a whim long ago when I was first discovering John Carpenter and his early works like Assault on Precinct 13, from the get-go there is no way I could have expected the lunacy and horro that ITMOM had in store for me. Like an H.P. Lovecraft story come to life in the modern age, Carpenter twists and turns logic completely around for the audience until they are questioning their own sanity much like the lead characters in this story. Highly recommended for those looking for something to put the horror back into their favorite genre.

6. Tenebre – Tenebre is the type of flick I usually point people to for them to test the waters of both Italian horror in general, or the filmmaking style of Dario Argento. Argento’s films aren’t for everybody, and granted Tenebre isn’t as completely surreal a film as something like Suspiria, but it features the same beautiful cinematography mixed with the graphic bloodshed he is well known. I also think it is one of his most compact and tightly knit stories to boot. Even if you check out Suspiria and find it isn’t your cup of tea, I recommend everyone go out and search for Tenebre immediately.

5. Audition – Everyone knows that I am a pretty hardcore Takashi Miike fan. Some might ask why exactly Audition is the only film of his I’ve added to the list, and the answer is simple really: it’s one of his only really serious attempts at the horror genre – and half the film isn’t even “horror”, but more of a set-up for a romantic comedy of sorts. It is only in the second half of the film that the tension and bone chilling horror really begins to catch up with the audience. Every other horror film I’ve seen from Miike has either been fairly by-the-numbers for his level of output, or something so far and away from the genre that it is almost parody or comedy. Audition stands heads and shoulders above the competition however when it comes to expertly executed tense psychological horrors.

4. Cannibal Holocaust – Without a doubt, one of the most horrifying films of all time and slowly beginning to get the recognition it has long deserved, Cannibal Holocaust is everything you have heard it was – and them some. Yes, real animals are slaughtered during the course of the film. Yes, the death scenes are often dramatic and shot in a realistic manner. Cannibal Holocaust is one of the most important films in horror history – and it’s not even something most horror fans will see and for a lot of them – something they don’t even want to see. That is completely understandable, because the violence to animals is absolutely deplorable, but if you can actually withstand all of this and watch the film for a gut-wrench cinematic experience – it delivers on all levels.

3. Suspiria – Do I really have to say much about Dario Argento’s undisputed masterwork? I guess I will since I’m writing about everything else – but Suspiria is one of those films I didn’t really “get” the first time I watched it, and to this day the whole premise of the film I’m not too sure on – but it is the visual beauty that catches me every time and has attracted me even before I considered it one of my favorites. It is probably the most visual horror film I can think of, outside of the work of maybe Alfred Hitchcock, but he never had the chance to really experiment quite as heavily in the colorful world of film that Argento so expertly delves into and crafts into something completely his own. I think Suspiria is one of those films that you can’t rightfully call yourself a horror fan until you have seen it.

2. The Beyond – Ooh, rating a Fulci film above Argento! Blasphemy! This is definitely the one that is going to get me the hate mail I so rightfully deserve. I will however re-enforce that this list means absolutely nothing more than whatever it is I am feeling at this particular moment, but for my money, few films meet the epic feel of Fulci’s The Beyond (it’s a film that takes its’ viewers beyond hell, deep into the wily lands of Louisiana) and still remains as fun and interesting as it so obviously is to me. I am a fan for life and consider it to be one of the greatest horror films of all time and will always have it on any “best of” list I probably ever write. It is the film that made me stand up and really give credit to the Italians and was really the one film that made me want to seek out and find out as much about the horror genre outside of America.

1. Kairo – Talk about coming from out of nowhere! Who saw this one coming? Not you I bet! Nor anyone! Muahaha! No, I am not purposefully trying to get hate mail. I really do believe Kairo is one of the most innovative, scariest and amazing horror films produced in the last decade. This list isn’t really a “greatest of all time” sort of thing, so don’t take it that way, but Kairo has impressed me as a viewer far more than any horror film I’ve seen since The Excorcist. Now that the remake has been released, and it apparently absolutely sucked, I am getting a lot of flak these days from people who simply do not understand where the film is coming from and instantly discredit it completely. Kairo isn’t simply a “scare” flick, it is one piece in a larger group of things, it is Kiyoshi Kurosawa’s attempt at showing alienation via technology and if you don’t know this director – I sincerely beg you to read more on him, and seek his films out! He is one of the most important filmmakers working right at this moment and I think Kairo so far is crowning achievement. Right alongside Cure. It is a film that showcases that you don’t have to show a whole lot to make a terrifying film, as a matter of fact, the less you show – the scarier it makes the movie! I really hope more people can get a chance to see the film now that the remake has come and gone, and I hope more people can keep an open mind and not judge the film as something an American product was made out of – but an artistic film from a man who could be considered alongside David Lynch and David Cronenberg for making absolutely amazing visual and novel films.

Need I say more? It is a controversial choice, but one not without merit. I highly recommend every film on here listed and think if you are missing any of them from your collection, that you are missing out on a whole lot. These are the best of the best, some are heavily obscure, some are not so much – but these are all must-see films and I recommend each and every one of you go out and pick up anything you haven’t seen.

— Joshua Samford





About Me

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.