1 | Varied Celluloid

Shaolin vs. Ninja

Posted by JoshSamford On December - 20 - 2011

Shaolin vs. Ninja (1983)
Director: Mai Chen Jsai and Robert Tai
Writers: Chang Chien-chi
Starring: Chi Ping Chang, Shun Chien and Alan Chui Chung San

The Plot: Set around a Shaolin temple in China, the film follows the exploits of the monk Wei Chin who finds it impossible to deal with the Japanese ninjas who have become lords over the region. The Japanese soon devise a way to set Wei Chin up, and it involves instigating a battle between Shaolin with several other martial art schools in the area. However, this proves to be impossible, so the Japanese take a more forceful point of action and kill off a prominent monk, and then lay the blame on Wei Chin. With this accomplished, multiple schools within the martial world are now turning their anger towards the Shaolin. Eventually Shaolin and the Japanese are wrapped up in a deadly rivalry. A tournament is eventually held, and pride certainly proves to be on the line for both nations. However, a revelation will come during this tournament that will shed light on the death that instigated all of this animosity. Will the Chinese manage to survive this horrific ordeal, and will the few Japanese with any sense of honor step up and fight back against the evil lords who control them?

The Review
As I discussed in my Wu Tang vs. Ninja review, few things were as popular as “ninjas” were during the eighties. They became the leading heroes, and villains, for a number of martial art films that were imported from multiple countries. Although I consider myself a fan of the “ninja” concept, I have to admit that I have seen far more bad movies featuring these hooded assassins than I have seen good ones. If the movie in question doesn’t feature white guys dressed up as ninjas, then the movies are so ridiculously cheap that they become exploitative. The film that we are reviewing today, Shaolin vs. Ninja, certainly falls into the latter category. While I would like to say that it is a fun and inventive ninja movie that delivers on all of the zany action that audiences crave, it unfortunately comes nowhere close. The ninja action is quite intense, I have to give the movie that, and for that I was very pleased. This isn’t one of those “Ninja on the box, but nowhere to be seen in the actual movie” sort of flicks. No, we get black cloth ninjas in all of their ninja-star throwing glory. Unfortunately, it is the rest of the movie that falls short of the mark in every possible way that this genre ever could.

Like many of the worst films within the kung fu genre, this movie treats its plot as a secondary concept. Honestly, if I had not hit rewind and been very specific in my notes, I probably couldn’t explain the plot. There really isn’t much about the film that seems to make much conventional sense. Why exactly are these “ninjas” in China? Why are they the masters of this particular area? The film doesn’t seem to be set during any period of Japanese occupation, instead it simply seems as if it were set in some sort of weird reality with a alternate version of history. I am over-thinking this far too much, however, as historical context was something that I honestly doubt ever entered into the mind of our filmmakers. Shaolin vs. Ninja is skin deep and doesn’t attempt to be anything other than what it is: a Shaolin movie with a bunch of ninjas running around. There would be a certain charm to this, if only the movie were relatively entertaining. Unfortunately, the deck is absolutely stacked against the movie in terms of cinematic decency.

Honestly, there comes a point in Shaolin vs. Ninja where the viewer simply stops caring. I am not one to go into hyperbole all that often, but I honestly began to dread the time that I was wasting on the film. Between all of the horrid technical merits and the disastrous job that the distributors did on the film, the movie is annoyingly poor in its presentation. However, even with bad picture quality/dubbing/localization aside, you can tell that this was never a solid martial arts film. Although the martial arts tournament between Shaolin and the Japanese may break up the slow pace, it still eats up a huge portion of this short film’s running time, and it serves little or no purpose. Once it begins, you might think that it will only last for two or three fight scenes, but you would certainly be wrong. The movie initiates the tournament, and it simply seems to go on forever. I found myself spacing in and out, only coming back to full attention when something creative would happen. With zero character motivation or narrative progress at stake, such a scene seems to have little meaning. At this point, honestly, you are only watching a series of kung fu demonstrations.

Featuring a dub that puts almost all other kung fu dubs to shame, Shaolin vs. Ninja rarely gives the appearance of being a legitimate “movie.” Made in the early part of the eighties, this was most certainly a cheapie production shot in Taiwan. Director Robert Tai was no stranger to the world of low budget cinema, but this doesn’t prove to be one of his most earnest efforts. The American distributors, when they grabbed ahold of this title, decided that they had no intentions of retaining any sort of artistic credibility. Knowing that a proper and professional mix for the new English dub would cost much more than they were willing to throw into this project, the distributors decided to maximize their profits by putting as little effort into the release of the film as possible. With performers who sound as if they are falling asleep while reading their lines, it seems obvious that few “actors” were actually used in the recording of this dialogue. The synchronization is done so sloppily that it appears that actors speak without ever even moving their lips. Several times throughout the movie you will also notice all of the background noise simply seems to drop out completely, and sound effects seem to be missing as well. During a pivotal moment in the film where a key character is killed off, he is stabbed by an assassin but is given no sound effect whatsoever. The only noise heard comes from the poor performance of the “actor” who whimpers in a very unrealistic tone.

As horrid as I feel that this film may be, I have to give credit to the fight choreography. Although it is nothing special for the most part, some of the intricate movements and acrobatic choreography almost gives this movie a additional point in its rating. During one of the many fight sequences during the “tournament,” one character actually uses a flying body-scissors in order to take down his opponent. I don’t think I have ever seen such a move used in a kung fu title from the seventies or eighties. That sort of thinking is certainly worth giving some credit. There are also a few scenes that feature nunchaku, which are impressively used, and this is something that is actually rarely seen within Chinese martial arts pictures. I appreciate this aspect of the movie, and I enjoy how it tries to veer off of the beaten path in delivering on some rare items for the genre. The mix of styles and varying techniques from outside of traditional Kung Fu makes for some visual eye candy. Unfortunately, the fight choreography is just about all that this movie has going for it.

The Conclusion
What else is there left to say about the movie? Aside from a few surprising moments during the fight scenes, Shaolin vs. Ninja is a painfully boring title. It is as vanilla as movies of this variety can come, and it will push the nerves of any hardened old school Kung Fu fan who dares give it a whirl. If you absolutely must watch it, however, keep an eye on the choreography and try not to fall asleep. I give it a one out of five.

Demon, The

Posted by JoshSamford On May - 14 - 2011

Review originally written by Prof. Aglaophotis

The Demon (1981)
Director: Percival Rubens
Writers: Percival Rubens
Starring: Jennifer Holmes, Cameron Mitchell and Craig Gardner

The Plot: This tale begins when a prowler breaks into the isolated Parker house, tying Mrs. Joan Parker up with a plastic bag over her head and running off with her fourteen year old daughter Emily. The father comes home in time to save his wife, but the prowler has his way with the daughter in the nearby forest. After days go by and the search for Emily fails, the Parkers hire retired Marine Colonel turned psychic Bill Carson who can identify the killer and find their daughter by using his telepathic powers. In the meantime, our bulky leather strapping killer picks up a ride, asphyxiates the driver and attempts to rape and murder unsuspecting young women. It seems the killer is trying to kill a sassy young kindergarten instructor named Mary, who lives with her cousin Jo who is trying to hook up with a flashy rich boy named Dean Turner. Col. Carson reveals two particular aspects about the killer: 1) he has a deadly obsession with random young women and 2) his faceless visage suggests that he is not human or is at least possessed by something evil. Knowing this and how every attempt to stop him fails with fatal results, will Mary have a chance to evade the killer once he comes for her?

The Review
When looking through obscure Slasher movies, you’ll often come across some generic titles to surprisingly entertaining Horror movies. There’s a genuine sense of reward you get when you pick up movies like Stage Fright, The Prowler, House on Sorority Row or even Joe D’Amato’s Horrible and find some creepy atmosphere or gut wrenching death scenes that make you wonder why they’re often ignored. Then there are the titles that sound generic but have no payoff to them. The ones that make you feel like an idiot after having watched it. The Demon is one of them.

I should be honest with you, dear reader, this movie doesn’t feature an actual demon; much like how the tag line to The Prey does not feature an axe wielding monster but instead a mutant beatnik played by the bad guy from Battle for Endor.

The easiest assessment would be the fact that our killer is simply possessed by a demon which is why he kills, but that information is hardly lucid in the movie itself. It is hard to say whether the killer is really a demon since there are times where we can clearly see the man’s face and hair, as well as times where he suddenly no longer wears a white Halloween (or Alice, Sweet Alice) mask and instead has white face paint on. ‘But why are you looking into this,’ you may be asking. ‘Why analyze the title and its connection to the movie?’ Why? Because that’s the only interesting thing about this movie. The Demon is a confusing, lagging, poorly shot crap-fest of an ‘80’s Slasher movie. The only demonic specification the poor chump carries is his propensity to grunt and growl and his nearly obscure distaste for midnight radio evangelists. I actually had a hard time re-watching this for a review. The structure of this failed ‘80’s Slasher Film is so broken that not even a modern day remake would fix it. This is one of those movies that you can clearly envision as a person, throwing its hands up in the air, shaking its head and failure and admitting “I just don’t know.”

We essentially follow three stories here one consisting of a brutally strong, strangulating, serial death-rapist, his plucky soon-to-be next victim’s cousin Jo and Cameron Mitchell. Rarely do these stories connect or represent any real conflict. Most of the Cameron Mitchell sections just consists of Cameron being a mysterious, but ineffective psychic as he occasionally sees the killer and how Mr. Parker wants to hunt the killer down. The Mary sections just consist of the build up to her young cousin Jo (rather than Mary), her life style and how it will be ruined once the killer finally attacks her.

The director seemed to have little idea how to make either story connect effectively, thus creating tension and conflict or make us care about any of the characters involved. Granted, some of the characters are well acted: Jennifer Holmes certainly breathes some life into the character, but despite all the screen credit she’s given, she’s given little screen time or dialogue compared to her heart struck cousin. Cameron Mitchell is pretty decent in the movie, too; he pulls the struggling psychic role off pretty well as he telepathically tries to track the killer by getting into his persona. However, it would’ve been better if he was the main character in the story and if he actually confronted the killer at one point. It would’ve felt more like a Halloween rip-off if he did, but at least HIS plot would’ve tied in with the the killer and even Mary’s plot! Plus, it’s kind of funny how he switches from being facetious to serious when he’s first introduced to the bereaved Parkers; maybe that explains why his story arc ends so abruptly and why a secondary character steals the best line in the movie.

The movie is so wildly obsessed with Mary’s cousin Jo and her relationship with Dean that the segments involving them get old fast; we spend several minutes watching these lame-brains getting to know each other through wine drinking, boat rowing and photo shootings. Ordinarily, I’d say these two characters are the build-up and the character development found in any good Horror movie. Unfortunately, these characters aren’t interesting! Sure, Dean has a back story and he’s acted fairly well, but he’s no different than Robert Taylor from the French in Action TV series (in kidding, they practically have the same back story… and why I remember that series so well I don’t know*)!! By the time the movie focuses on Jennifer Holmes’ character, there’s a very brief sense of fear and dread, but not enough to really care whether she makes it out all right.

The movie is flawed on a technical basis, too. The music consists of a relentless string quartet that goes to unbearably high pitches during the jump scares. There are rare moments where the soundtrack works, mostly in the Cameron Mitchell scenes or when Mary finally confronts the killer in the end. The lighting in the movie is quite horrible as the only real good lighting is natural light; some shots in the film were far too dark to notice any details. I kept adjusting the screen to the brightest notch on the gamut during nighttime and day-for-night scenes and I still had to squint in order to see anything. You may notice there’s very little shots of intensity or murder in the shots I picked. Don’t get me wrong, I managed to see a few shots that looked decent like close-ups of the killers claw-gloves, but because the lighting is so murky in the indoor scenes I couldn’t get a good enough shot without editing it. There are some continuity errors here and there, but nothing out-right hilarious, just confusing. There are moments where the killer is supposed to be wearing a plaster Last House on Dead End Street Mask but it’ll change to white face paint. There’s one scene near the end where Dean and Jo are in bed to which Jo says Dean has to leave, but the next scene shows them frolicking in the pool. Like I said, the continuity isn’t good, but it’s not hilariously bad, either.

Probably the biggest goof in the whole movie is when someone who has all ready been in contact with the police finds the killer and several other people know about this. So when the person gets inevitably killed by the killer… why doesn’t anyone take the initiative to get the police involved?? Seriously, the character finds the killer’s location, the killer offs him, dumps his body right where he’s staying and it’s found the next morning… What the Hell, are the police in South Africa really that dense?! After that character’s body is found, the killer stays there, too! The people who knew about the character’s going there could have easily sent more police there!! Why’d it take so long for someone in the movie to find Emily’s body? Was it just an excuse for the director to use that classic skeleton wearing a wig effect?

I will be a little fair to this movie, though: it’s not THE worst ‘80’s Slasher I’ve seen; it is ONE OF the worst ‘80’s Slasher movies out there, but it’s slightly better than The Prey. Unlike The Prey, The Demon has a few moments of intensity, mainly when Mr. Parker hunts the killer down and when Mary defends herself from the killer. In fact, the last five minutes of this movie are the most intense as Mary and the killer play a game of cat and mouse and the final scene itself is surprisingly inventive. The Demon also has its share of T&A which, again, makes it better than The Prey; Compared to another ‘80’s Slasher directed by and starring people involved in the Adult Film industry about horny young adults in the woods that featured no nudity whatsoever, The Demon certainly has the upper hand.

The Conclusion
I won’t kid you, though, The Demon is not an obscure movie tracking down, not even for Cameron Mitchell fans. I honestly can’t re-watch this movie without taking a break halfway through. I’m sure it had potential somewhere and somehow, but it certainly didn’t go very far and in short deserves to stay there.

Stinger: “Did your Extra Sensory Perception prepare you for THIS?”

*: Oh, wait, I know why I remember French in Action so well: Valérie Allain! Yuum!

Devil Hunter

Posted by JoshSamford On August - 22 - 2010
The Plot: Laura Crawford is a professional model and actress who is vacationing in a beautiful resort island location. Things turn out bad for Laura when those closest to her turn out to be kidnappers who take her hostage in order to ransom her off. Laura’s protectors aren’t willing to deal with these psychopathic kidnappers, so they send in Peter Weston (played by genre legend Al Cliver) who is a ex-Vietnam veteran and general toughguy. When Peter finds the jungle where Laura is being held, both groups discover the secret cannibal tribes who inhabit the island. They are lead by a living Cannibal God/King who thrives off of female sacrifices. Will Peter Weston manage to save the beautiful Laura or will she fall victim to this evil cannibal monster!?

The Review
Jesus Franco and I aren’t usually on the same page. Truth be told, I think it is pretty astounding that the man has developed as large of a cult following as he has. His forays into the cannibal genre have so far been pretty far from spectacular. Cannibal Terror (which he co-wrote) and Cannibals are two of the worst cannibal movies that I think the genre has ever produced. I suppose there are SOME glimmers of light in Franco’s filmography that have helped provide him with some cult appeal. Faceless was actually a really well made piece of legitimate horror. Before sitting through Devil Hunter, that was my last Franco piece in quite a while. So, I had that going for me beforehand and this time out Franco actually has a star in his film! The immortal Al Cliver delves back into the world of cannibal cinema, so maybe there would be some legitimate cannibal action and maybe this movie wouldn’t turn out to be quite as lazy and ridiculous as the previously mentioned cannibal movies! Also, maybe someone will donate ten billion dollars to me based solely on my writing abilities as displayed on this website!

Those were some big “maybes” going into Devil Hunter, and so far that donation hasn’t been made and Jesus Franco has not produced a worthy Cannibal title. Certainly not that I have seen! The worst sin that Devil Hunter commits is by being so terribly boring. Despite the intense setting, there is little to no atmosphere to be found. Despite the cannibal menace that should have been shaded in the background, there’s no fear or oppressive terror. Instead, there’s this incredibly clunky story with no real direction. Some of this could be attributed to the pretty horrible English dubbing that I originally watched the film in, but for the most part everyone else involved in this project seems as disinterested in the work as we are. Al Cliver sleep walks through his performance, as does the remainder of the cast and the very tired script boors along at a sluggish pace.

That english dub I mentioned is easily one of the worst I have ever seen for a piece of Italian exploitation. It gives the film a resounding positive effect as the comedic value skyrockets. A similar effect was found in the cannibal spoof Isle of the Damned that was reviewed here on the site last year. Both dubs are dull sounding, hard to hear at times and are so incredibly out of sync with the action on screen that it seems easy to grow lost in the conversations. These bad dubs aren’t something I am all that accustomed to in my exploration of Italian cult cinema. Generally I’ve always found the dubs to be very well made, especially with the better known and more widely released titles. Devil Hunter is entertaining due to the poor production, but it is generally more inept than it is entertaining.

As poor as the film tends to be, there is a case to be made for b-movie film fans. The prosthetic effects used on the Devil God Cannibal King are laughable, to put things lightly. Notoriously cheap, it appears they took this man and super-glued two golf balls where his eyes are and then covered them with latex and paint. The genuine creepy atmosphere that is evoked early on comes due to this character being hidden from our view at all times. Once the cat is out of the bag, the character lacks any disturbing qualities. I’m not one to pick on any gentleman’s lack of manhood, but how does one generate fear when there’s a completely nude black man (who’s eyes look to be made of sports equipment) and let’s just hope that for his sake that these jungle sets were desperately cold. It appears that shrinkage was in high effect as he ran through the breeze here. Although I don’t want this to be a review dedicated to penis discussion, which is about as low a blow as any one man can deal towards another, but a simple towel over this guy’s crotch would have helped me as a viewer stop seeing our monster as so desperately human.

In terms of nudity, our leading monster isn’t the only one shedding it all for the picture. There is an abundance of nudity all throughout Devil Hunter and while that may sound like a good thing, if you’re a teenager at least, but there’s a general lack of eroticism throughout the picture. Simply staring at a woman’s crotch does not neccesarily make your movie erotic. Although Franco is well known for his eroticism, Devil Hunter seems as lazy as your average exploitation title from this time and era.

The Conclusion
Is there really more to say about this movie? For every thing that Franco was able to achieve within this picture, there were two or three pointless scenes to dull down any sense of purpose. There is a word for films such as these, and that is: chore. Devil Hunter is just that. A chore to sit through, and writing this review has seemed equally as much because I don’t like to write out such negative reviews. To be honest, those who will search this title out could probably care less about what I have to say. Cannibal afficianados simply must search this one out to complete their collection. I will say that it’ll be a hard, slow and painful journey for them as well. I give it a 1 out of 5, which is the lowest I have scored anything in a really long time. If it were just SLIGHTLY less boring, Devil Hunter could have been a very average 2. That simply isn’t the case however.

Prime Evil

Posted by JoshSamford On July - 7 - 2010
Review submitted by our good friend Prof. Aglaophotis!

The Plot: The story starts during the mid 1300’s when the Black Death struck Europe and monks across the continent felt their faith was being tested by God during the plague. However, Lucifer decided to use this time to offer a charismatic, faithful former servant of God an offer of eternal youth by rounding up his own faith-hood who wanted to avoid the Black Death; all the recipients had to do was sacrifice one of their immediate relatives. Thus enters brother Thomas Seaton (Beckwith) who is chosen to fill this role with an iron fist and he starts by subjecting his convent to join his side and live eternally or die right there on the spot.

We now take the story to present day New York where Seaton runs a church and his believers, old and new, are living long by individually sacrificing a relative of theirs every thirteen years. We quickly get acquainted with the soon-to be victims of the thriving cult, the main one being Alexandra (Moore), a social worker for the female criminal frame. Alexandra’s grandfather George and his own Satanic relatives are getting ready for Alexandra’s sacrifice, all the while George has every intention of filling Seaton’s shoes seeing how he’s the oldest living member next to Seaton. In the midst of this, Sister Angela of Seaton’s church is coming on to the cult’s activities as she is familiar with their home wrecking sacrifices and, with the Minister’s help, plans to thwart the up-coming sacrifice before another life is lost. Who will win in the bloody battle of good and evil?

The Review
Ah, the classic good and evil Ritual Sacrifice Horror movie. I must admit, I’ve never been an avid fan of the sub-genre, but I’m always willing to give these types of movies a watch because you never know that there’s good in a film unless you watch it. Sadly, there is some good in it, but you’d have to hold your breath to ward off the severe stink of crap inundating almost every aspect of the film in order to find it. Although once you do find some good in this movie, you’d probably choke from the remaining fecal matter the film manages to reproduce before you have enough time to savor the goodness. Leave it to the ex-wife of Micheal Findlay, who together filmed classics like Snuff, to make such a choppy, exhausting and stupid movie.

To sound less impetuous in my pessimism, the movie offers a fair premise with a compromising background and one convincingly deep heroine with a small assortment of good acting. All of these were wrapped tightly to a constrictive budget that wanted to do bigger things with its already small production value. Prime Evil is boring and lagging as it presents far more unimportant scenes of dialogue in abundance, making the scenes that are important whiz by in a manner of seconds. Worst of all, the beginning of the film is actually very hard to follow because it starts out with every separate scenario for various characters with quick jump cuts that never bother to tie together until the middle of the movie. Whew, now that I’ve got the summary out of the way, let’s look at what tries to make this movie what it could’ve been, shall we?

The cinematography was a bit varied as the movie starts out with a fairly lucid flashback coupled with some rather tiring narration. The disjointed scenarios following immediately afterwards don’t help our early understanding of the plot’s direction, which makes the movie feel like it has a number of different plot lines in different universes going on simultaneously until characters from each scenario start meeting up with others (sort of like Pod People, except the monster in this movie looks cooler… but more on that later). The lighting is pretty bad as every shot is dependent on natural light and very few artificial lights are used for certain scenes, making it difficult to find the details of many of the scenes.

The music has a half-and-half effect for the movie as the soundtrack is composed from a z-grade keyboard that’s similar to various spiritual mischief films of the eighties (the first two Ghoulies movies come to mind); the nutty evil-mischief sounds however are often coupled with pseudo mystical/evil chant tunes and some neat ambient notes. The sound effects seemed a bit bungled as well: a few sound effects are much louder than the dialogue. The sound shared a cheesy attribute to the movie as there was one scene in which one of the characters swears on screen, yet it’s cut out by the sound of someone’s feet shuffling across tile floors… yet all the characters present in that scene are standing still.

The visual effects in the movie were fair yet revealed a mass of cheapness to them as one character brandishes an obviously fake combat knife in preparation for a kill scene. The gore effects resorted to a few close ups of sharp objects going into flesh and one decapitation, yet most of which are sadly cut out. Apparently the version I got and the only version commercially available on DVD is censored of gore, a few possible breasts and the one curse word in the entire movie, though there’s little information about the possibility of there being an available uncensored version, not that there would be a significant difference (just more breasts and Argento style stab-wounds). The most remarkable effects would have to include some random page burning during a sacrifice that the antagonist performs, in which all of the papers come from a random book that are stuck on a knife and held over a candle, but instead of slowly burning, the pages immediately incinerate into a ball of fire. The pages were obviously flash paper, the kind you use for a magic show or MST3K skit (Manhunt in Space), but it was effective for the scene none the less. The demon I mentioned was fair as well, though far from scary as it was obviously a foot tall marionette used for one scene and a few quick shots. Still, it was refreshing to look at as its skin-less he-goat appearance was ghastly none the less. It didn’t have the same creepy effect as the horny he-goat demon in The Church, but it was still kinda cool.

The acting, though straddling the lines of fair and pretentious, actually had some credible roles to them. Alexandra got to expose a few aspects about her childhood trauma in a wonderfully expositive scene (probably my favorite scene in the whole movie) and the fellow playing Father Seaton, though stereotypically one-dimensional and a little silly, played a wonderfully sinister antagonist; perhaps the only other actor I can think of that could match this actor being John Phillip Law of B-movie fame (Barbarella, Marylin Behind Bars & Space Mutiny). The dialogue seemed to fit for most of the characters: those important to the plot had clear, competent lines while those unimportant to the plot got to fill the screen with irritating, unbearable dialogue. Sadly, the latter group is the one we hear the most from. Halfway through, I was begging for the villains to kill off Alexandra’s friends, relatives, associates and the two cop characters; funny enough, I think most of those wishes came true.

None of the good bits in this movie save it though, Prime Evil is still a stinker. For one, it’s a great exercise in pointless scenes. The number of different scenes where Ben, the burly ‘garbage man’ for the cult (and probably my favorite character next to that he-goat/demon marionette), had to perform the task of kidnapping random young women off the streets and swimming pools of New York to use in the cult. You’d think this unfortunate young ladies would be used in some humiliating ceremony out of a warped John Van Meale painting, but no, this is what they do with the captured women: Padre Seaton gazes into their eyes a la Dracula, hypnotize them into getting into slinky robes, initiate them in horribly cut topless scenes where each girl gets a gash on the wrist and then they spend the rest of the movie standing around holding books for him to read!!

You mean to tell me this cult is so evil it has to kidnap people just to get a bookstand?! What, were actual book stands expensive in the eighties? Furthermore, what the Hell was with the random scenes of Alex talking to her porker friend at the local gym?? It led us into Alex’s character the first time around, juxtaposing her to a seemingly ‘bad’ girl, but later in the movie we get the same kind of scene, with no purpose, yet with deplorable length! Just the two of them talking, while Alex’s friend indulges in junk food as she exercises, expressing bad dialogue and brandishing bad clothes for no other reason than to piss me off!

The Conclusion
All in all, Prime Evil is left in obscurity for a pretty good reason. The only way I can recommend it to anyone is if you happen to find the unrated version of the movie as finding and watching that may be a bit more worth your time… that is, if it exists.

Stinger: “Well maybe I am just a bit extreme! But you’re extreme too, the OTHER extreme!”

Dragon Lee Vs. The Five Brothers

Posted by JoshSamford On December - 19 - 2009
The Plot: Dragon Lee plays Han, a rebel against the evil Chings in the old days China. When his good friend is murdered by the Ching, he takes on a mission left by him. He is given a letter that he is to deliver to Song Yi town. He is also given a ring with several passwords written on it. He’ll have to track down the rebels inside of the town and give them this letter. The Ching’s are aware of the letter though and have dispatched five shaolin fighters to help put an end to the rebel invasion. Each of these five fighters are deadly in the martial arts and will do what it takes to put an end to the rebellion. Han finds himself caught right in the middle of the rebellion and in a battle to the death. Along the way he meets a mysterious young woman with powerful kung fu, he is unsure of this beautiful woman however as has past is very illusive. Will Han and this young woman be enough to put a stop to these Ching warriors or will evil conquer over all?

The Review
This year’s Kung Fu Christmas has really been about the Brucesploitation it would seem. We’ve seen the good, a word I use with caution but still certainly fits the description for Goodbye Bruce Lee. We’ve seen the bad, ever present and on display with Bruce Lee’s Fists of Vengeance. Now, as you might expect, we have the ugly. Dragon Lee Vs. The Five Brothers is unfortunately everything you hope not to find in a martial arts flick. With these movies, usually even in the event that you might find a bad one you at least expect to find some entertainment value. Whether it be from the bad dub and unintentional comedy or just from some decently choreographed fight sequences. There’s a certain level of expectation based on a film just because of its given genre. In the case of Dragon Lee… it delivers on these base levels, but it in no way covers for the rest of the movie. What could have possibly been an entertaining and wild piece of martial arts cinema turns out to be a rather boring dud that was far too hard to sit through as a viewer.

So far this month, sitting through these movies has been a real breeze. I had been having a swell time up until now picking them apart, discovering new and interesting ways to watch these flicks and commenting on some of the more outlandish things done throughout. Then along comes Dragon Lee Vs. The Five Brothers with its terrible picture and audio quality, it’s tremendous amount of plotting and completely uninteresting story that ultimately kicked me in the throat. Although it has its moments and there are some fun ideas at work in this movie, the attempt at creating a very plot driven Kung Fu flick without the interesting characters just doesn’t work. With movies like Master Killer and Five Deadly Venoms, you were able to get involved with these characters. You could sit back and really dig into them, then when the really great training sequences or super powered villains came into play it just seems like icing on the cake. That’s just not the case here. Characters are introduced, their ulterior motives are exposed, we follow them for a while and then the plot switches gears and we watch similar events transgress with these other characters until we’re left with the final showdown. There’s just no heart here and no matter how much Dragon Lee himself tries to ham it up, the movie just remains an uninteresting mess.

Although it’s a Brucesploitation flick just for having Dragon Lee in the star, if you come into this one expecting anything really over the top in terms of Bruce Lee copying you’ll be sorely disappointed. Dragon Lee does do his best at impersonating the famous Lee in his style of fighting, doing the Bruce Lee nose flick in almost every single fight scene at least three times, but aside from that it’s really just your average low budget old school flick. This is my first Dragon Lee vehicle, though I’ve heard a lot about him before and maybe seen him here and there, this marks the first time I’ve watched him in a starring role. His resemblance to Bruce Lee is, like most Bruce imitators, rather limited. He actually looks more like Jason Scott Lee who played Bruce Lee himself in Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story. Maybe if Bruce had been more into pumping iron, Dragon Lee could be fairly passable. He’s just so much thicker than Bruce Lee ever was. Although not approaching Bolo Yeung standards, Dragon Lee is certainly one of the more physically impressive specimens from the time.

I suppose one positive comment I could make would be on the setting of the movie. Rarely do we get martial arts movies that take place during a winter setting. That’s kind of interesting, right? We get scenes of snow and a lot of smoke out of the mouths of characters as they speak. It’s one of the few things the movie has going for it that I haven’t seen elsewhere. Aside from that the five fighters are really the most interesting thing about the entire movie. Really if there’s something they really missed out on exploiting, ahead of the winter landscape, it would be these guys. Iron Hand is the real winner of the group and possibly the only character they got right. His “iron” hand is obviously just a silver glove in most scenes and I love how they didn’t even try to really hide this fact. During his first real fight scene, he seems like a Michael Jackson impersonator in contest against Dragon Lee’s take on Bruce Lee. The rest of the five fighters are simply regular guys though with better than average martial arts ability. It just seems to me rather unfortunate that there’s not as much focus on these characters, who actually could have been really interesting, but instead we’re forced to follow this very convoluted plot. I’m not against a decent story within a Kung Fu film mind you. Not at all. If you can deliver a really well plotted script with fewer fight scenes, I will be the first to commend that course of action. However, that just can’t be achieved when a movie is so poorly made. Believe me, there’s also difference in something that’s poorly made and then something that is boring and poorly made. If this movie had delivered more on the gimmicky Kung Fu fighters, it could have at the very least made up for the hard to follow plot. Instead, you basically get four tough fighters and one guy with an iron hand then a TON of plot that you’ll likely be bored with after the first ten minutes.

The Conclusion
To digress, I just have to comment on the title of the movie itself. Talk about your all time misleading titles. For a movie called Dragon Lee Vs. The 5 Brothers, it’s kind of strange that Dragon Lee is only in the movie for probably thirty minutes or so. He might break the halfway point (since this movie clocks in at an overly long 90 minutes), but he really isn’t in the movie as much as you might expect. There are various storylines going on at all times, with Dragon Lee’s possibly being the least interesting and least visited as the movie goes along. Also, there are no five brothers in this movie. There are five shaolin fighters, but they’re certainly not brothers and one might not even be a male. It’s definitely a case of distributors marketing a less interesting movie with a far more interesting title. I’m giving it a one out of five. It isn’t so unbearable that I had to shut it off and the final fight scene really stole the show and secured it at least one point. Still, if you buy the Fists of Vengeance box set full of Kung Fu crappiness, save this turkey for last.




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