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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.

Bruce Lee’s Fists of Vengeance

Posted by JoshSamford On December - 3 - 2009
The Plot: Bruce Lee, before he passed away, authored one final book that was meant to remain a secret. In the martial arts community however, word soon spread and now Jack Lee, the man who holds the only copy, is stopping in to Manilla to visit his friend Peter (Bruce Le). Peter runs his own Tae Kwon Do school and greets Jack by taking him to a local martial arts contest. Peter is unfortunately beaten by a Caucasian rival who just so happens to be in town with nefarious intentions. When this evil gentleman discovered Jack would be transporting this book into the Philippines he gathered his best men to stake him out at the tournament. After dispatching of his own opponents in the tournament, Jack returns to his hotel room where he is jumped by six assassins… who are all handled quite easily, thanks to Jack’s studying of Bruce Lee’s secret book. They return to their master who lampoons them and finds his next set of employees to take on Jack Lee. Will this evil man succeed in stealing this most precious book or will Jack and Peter manage to keep it out of the hands of evil doers?

The Review: If you don’t already own it, I’m going to throw out a really solid recommendation for you. It’s a DVD set called “Dragon 4 Pack” and it was apparently released by VideoAsia. Who that is I have no idea, but ever since picking this up it has been one of my most prized DVD purchases. I think I spent roughly five dollars on it and have not regretted that Abe Lincoln one bit. Why? Well, there’s a certain amount of pride a film geek can take in having a four pack of Brucesploitation sitting up on his shelf. Not only are the movies on the set of the absolute lowest standards possible, they’re all poor duplicates from VHS sources. It takes you back to those days of watching movies just for the sake of having said you’ve seen them, when getting them in their absolute best condition just wasn’t a possibility. The Clones of Bruce Lee may have been my sole reason for picking up the DVD set in the first place, but there’s a lot more to this set than just that turkey. If you get this set, you’ve got a turkey FARM in store for you. Bruce Lee’s Fist of Vengeance is just another nail of atrociousness that the Brucesploitation genre intends to jam right through your head if you’re stupid enough to sit down and watch it. Which thankfully, I most certainly am.

Even though I do it for every review for one of these types of movies, for those of you unfamiliar with the Brucesploitation genre I’ll go into a little background information. The long and short of it is that after Bruce Lee died, the Hong Kong film industry lost the largest cash cow it had ever seen up until that point. So, with a lot of young talent hanging around and Bruce Lee’s name becoming even more legendary with each passing day, many producers started casting their movies with actors who bore some kind of resemblance with the famous actor. So from there we got Bruce Le, Bruce Li, Dragon Lee, Bruce Lai and others. I’ve reviewed a number of these movies on the site over the years and I just keep returning to the genre. Much like the Italian cannibal genre, there’s just so much bad out there that it completely overshadows what good there might be. However, unlike that genre, what is defined as “good” here is completely and utterly subjective. When I go into a Brucesploitation flick I’m looking for garbage cinema. I want something goofy, funny and above all else entertaining. Bruce Lee’s Fist of Vengeance is almost the antithesis of any of those qualities. Essentially, it’s rather dumb, poorly made but not silly or insane enough to be all that memorable.

The movie is just so cheap, I wish there was more information about it available out there. As it went along I just knew that it wasn’t your average Hong Kong production. In fact, it’s not even a Hong Kong production at all! Going off of appearances, at first I just figured It looked like some kind of mainland Chinese production, but with all the talk about Hong Kong it slowly had me thinking it was some kind of cheap independent Hong Kong release… but I knew that just wasn’t right. There’s the foreigner bad guys, the Karate outfits and the fact that Bruce Le actually teaches at a Tae Kwan Do academy… not normally stuff you see in that many Hong Kong flicks. For those of you who don’t know, Tae Kwan Do is generally more of a Japanese or Korean sport. Then I took note of the look of the extras, like those at the academy, and didn’t see really any solid Chinese features. Then I put things together and figured it was a Filipino film. It was only until the third quarter of the movie where I actually heard someone mention Manilla that I knew my instincts were correct. It could have possibly been stated earlier in the movie, I’m not sure, but you watch it and tell me how easy it is to actually make out a good majority of the dialogue here!

That leads me to my biggest conundrum with the movie. Was the terrible audio something that was messed up by the distributors here in the US when it was originally released or was it messed up in the trasnfer to DVD from VHS? If it was part of the initial distribution, I’m willing to judge it as a part of the film since it was a lot closer to the original filmmakers at that point. Yet, if it’s just a goof up on the DVD I’m going to feel bad for thrashing it… but still, I have to say, I have never seen dubbing this poor. Andreas Schnaas’ Zombie 90 Extreme Pestilence comes pretty close, but the two might have to share a podium for this one. We literally have gun shots being seen at least two to three full seconds before we actually hear them. We have characters who are apparently speaking English on set but are dubbed over with the same exact dialogue – but STILL manage to completely muck up the sync. It is frustrating while watching, but still leads to some of the better laughs found in the movie as it becomes so ridiculous and unintelligible. Well, part of that comes from the really poor plot progression, but that’s a given.

Going into Bruce Lee’s Fist of Vengeance, you know that it’s going to be bad. We all know that. However, there’s over-the-top bad where the film remains fun and doesn’t take itself so serious and then there’s dumb-bad. This is unfortunately more a case of the latter than the former. It certainly has it’s moments that shine, such as the first time Jack Lee opens the book by Bruce Lee; the scene was likely added by the US Distributors, but it’s a sequence where Jack opens the book and all of a sudden the theme to Enter the Dragon hits the soundtrack and we go into a two or three minute montage of still photographs of Bruce Lee only to come back out of it with Jack closing the book up. It’s so incredibly out of place and bizarre that I couldn’t help but kind of lose it at that point. Jack Lee is also tortured by having his legs placed over his head where his nose is buried into his crotch. Bruce Le sleeps with a spotlight above his bed where a Bruce Lee poster hangs above him. Then there’s that dubbing and some of the really odd dialogue choices. My favorite bit was from our Caucasian bad guy who was never given a name that I could pick up on. Well, Bruce Le yells the name out at one point but the audio was so atrocious I couldn’t actually understand him. Anyway, this white guy is talking to one of his girls who is supposed to go undercover to retrieve the great Bruce Lee Book of Information and he gives this sterling piece of advice: “You cannot fail… If you fail… I fail… and I don’t like that… I never fail.” Even when dubbed over, you can literally FEEL how stilted the performances are. Absolutely amazing.

The fight sequences here seem to get a lot of guff but I really didn’t have a major problem with them. Not to say that we’re dethroning Yuen Woo Ping or Sammo Hung with this one, but I didn’t see too much bad to put it on level with the fight choreography of Dolemite. The first showdown in Jack Lee’s hotel with the six assassins is both ridiculous and entertaining for its insanity. Jack manages to pin his opponent against the door with his back, then throws a kick over his shoulder three times in a row, busting the guy’s chops over and over again. Then the fight takes on a comedic edge as he start playing peak-a-boo with this magical book by Bruce Lee. It is unfortunate how repetitive the movie becomes though, as the good majority of the fight scenes all take place in this same location: Jack Lee’s hotel room. There must have been a short amount of time allotted for this set to be used or something because there are four or five fight scenes shot on this one location. Four or five out of probably seven total fight scenes. It’s an absolutely terrible movie, there’s no getting past that. The best bet of having fun with it is if you’ve got a room full of friends over but by and large, it’s not the best example of a fun Brucesploitation flick. I gave it a one out of five, because there are a few redeeming qualities and it’s not the worst movie ever made… but yeah, it’s pretty awful.

Criminally Insane 2

Posted by JoshSamford On July - 12 - 2009

The Plot: Ethel is back and ready to attack! This time, several years after her killing spree in the original Criminally Insane, the hospital she is staying at has had to severely limit itself due to budgetary concerns and has sent along many of their patients to live in a halfway house. Things seem to be going swimmingly when Ethel arrives, no killing at the start and the promise of three square meals a day for Ethel sounds like a decent start. However, once the first soup is served – Ethel has had enough. The straw that breaks the camel’s back however is the attendant in charge to look over the house when the owner (Mrs. Batholomew) is away starts teasing Ethel and eating candy bars in front of her. Ethel just isn’t the person to be teasing with candy, let me tell you. Now, will this situation break down into another case of wholesale slaughter or will Ethel somehow come out of her killer rage? Meh, don’t count on it.

The Review: The whole reason I ever even started up Varied Celluloid was essentially to bring the world reviews for films like the one I’m discussing today. I originally reviewed Criminally Insane back when the site first started up (2003) and I was always kind of proud to be one of the few people out there having any kind of comment or analysis for such an obscure title. Little did I know back then that there was also the Death Nurse series which was basically spawned from Criminally Insane AKA: Crazy Fat Ethel. I knew that the original Criminally Insane spawned SOME sort of cult audience, but enough for four films? It’s amazing, but I suppose the interest was there. Afterall, I’ve seen Priscilla Alden referred to on more than one occasion as a “cult horror icon”. I don’t know if I’d stretch it and say Icon, but these b-level horrors certainly deserve some sort of notoriety. Not for any reasons that one would call “good”, but how many “heavyset woman kills so she can eat food” flicks have you seen recently that aren’t titled Criminally Insane? I thought so. This sequel picks up several years down the line from the first, with Priscilla looking a little older but still having that cold demeanor that actually kind of worked in the original flick. The jump from film to video however isn’t a gracious one, and is ultimately very unforgiving due to its muckier visuals.

In a sixty minute feature, you know you’ve got problems when the first fifteen minutes are mostly flashbacks to the original. It didn’t work in The Hills Have Eyes 2 (not the sequel to the remake, the original sequel) and it doesn’t work here. This is sort of the first hint out of the gate that Criminally Insane 2 isn’t going to be as memorable as the original. Which really doesn’t bode well since the original was only memorable because it was one of those cinematic oddities that you just can’t believe was actually made. Now you’re left scratching your head throughout the duration of this film because who can believe they actually made a sequel to Criminally Insane! On a serious note however, if you haven’t seen the original film one of the few interesting things it had going for it was the arthouse style approach it took instead of just being a straight ahead exploitation shocker. With a soundtrack (that transports itself back in this sequel) of jangly piano notes being played, with plenty of lingering shots that drone on forever. The same format is brought back for the sequel, for better or for worse. Well, let me just save you the drama, it’s definitely for the worse.

I’ll try not to be too negative on Criminally Insane 2. It’s like shooting fish in a barrel, picking on a flick like this. Although a fairly boring affair, it does seek to spice things up by putting Ethel in the house with someone that could very well be her match, another cold blooded killer who could maybe avoid her traps – but this lasts all of about ten minutes before the film falls back into the patently repetitive “Ethel kills anyone who stops her from eating” routine. Then there’s the whole arthouse style that at least separates the series from the rest of the slasher genre. Let’s not kid ourselves though, Criminal Insane 2 AKA: Crazy Fat Ethel is just about everything you could expect it to be. It’s a slow paced sequel made up with about a quarter of it’s running time with clips from the first film, shot on video with non-actors (aside from Priscilla, who is certainly amusing in her role but not because of any expressions of acting talent) and very little violence. Hey, it is what it is. B-movie fans should definitely flock to this one, simply for the sake of having it in their collection. However, aside from a few unintentionally funny bits (“Granny, give me those pretzels back!!!”) it really doesn’t have much going for it at all. It’s a 1 out of five, because it’s not so dreadful that it causes physical pain to sit through and it’s not entertaining enough to warrant anything higher.

Hell of the Living Dead

Posted by JoshSamford On October - 13 - 2008
Plot Outline: Our film begins in a secluded factory called The Hope Center. Things seem to be running fairly average until two regular Joe’s working on patrol find a dead rat lying amidst their room of toxic chemicals. Next thing you know, rat kills Regular Joe #1 and everyone is full of zombie juice. Rather than waste too much time on simple things like backstory, we move to some embassy in Europe. There, a terrorist group has taken a building siege and refuses to let their hostages go until The Hope Center(s) are shut down! Well, a conspiracy wouldn’t be a conspiracy if everyone knew about it, so the demands of the terrorists are not put on air. After these guys are dealt a nice hefty dose of lead by a squad of commandos, we join this rag tag team as they move on to their next mission in New Guinea. Before the group can even nestle themselves in their cozy little jeep they run into a horde of the living dead. While outside a village, Lia Rousseau, a tough no nonsense reporter, takes her cameraman to go investigate why the village seems so desolate. It doesn’t take long to run into a couple of zombies, and in the car Lia rode in on is a kid zombie who has just awoke with a big appetite. So let’s just get to the nitty gritty, the kid’s parents end up dead and Lia with her cameraman are left to catch a ride with our commandos. Now the six of them are left to make it through the harsh New Guinea terrain and face off against gaggles of zombies.


The Review: Somewhere in the annals of Italian cinema history, at one point Dawn of the Dead knockoff zombie films were successful and so were mondo films full of graphic native rituals. Somewhere along the way Bruno Mattei was handed a script that molded these two genres together into one painfully inept film. It’s really easy to just bash a movie like this to bits, and trust me I plan to do some bashing, but in all seriousness one can imagine it never had any chances of being anything other than a George Romero ripoff, but that’s part of why we like flicks like this. Zombi Holocaust took a similar route in ripping off all of the famous cannibal films of the time and plugging them into a film that ripped off Lucio Fulci’s Zombie, but Bruno Mattei outdoes that film in the degrees of just how much it flat out steals. If we weren’t dealing with something that takes it’s self so serious, a knowledgeable film geek might take the film for a spoof at first glance. I mean, two reporters meet up with a group of military men who escort them around. Who are they fooling? Placing our ‘elite’ military men in blue jumpsuits similar to those in Dawn of the Dead is only salt on the wound. Then there are the dozens of other moments of deja vu that I probably can’t even get into because if I did I would just go over the whole film rather than having any analysis. It’s a lot easier to just slam the film than to try and understand it I suppose, so what good qualities does it have? For one, it’s unintentionally hilarious. You can say that for just about ever b-movie ever made, but the seemingly moronic characters in Hell of the Living Dead make me laugh everytime they open their mouths. Some of the better moments are in the beginning where our characters sit around spitting this bland ‘macho’ dialogue, talking about chicks and their mission. The whole ‘toughguy’ bit rubs thin only minutes after they’re introduced to the camera. These characters aren’t exactly likable, not in the usual sense at least. The only real reason to like having them around is to laugh at just how inconsistent and far from reality they are. Much like most of the rest of the film, the only truly entertaining aspects of it arise from just how bad the film gets. The things that are genuinely good aren’t the things that solidify a ‘good’ film, like the score and gore effects. The score shouldn’t even count because it wasn’t even meant to be used in the film, they just lifted it from other films. The gore effects, while always being somewhat amateur, only seem to work well on occasion. Let’s get it straight, this isn’t a Hollywood production or anything so most of the budget on this thing went directly into the purchasing of meat and fluid to make blood. You judge the gore by comparison with other films of the same time and the same genre. Sometimes the gore is good and sometimes it’s miserably bad. Many of the bitings in the film work very well, and can be quite entertaining but there are other moments where it can seem embarrassing. At one point we see a zombie eating a man’s leg, but it’s quite obvious to anyone paying attention that the zombie is just using his teeth to drag out a hunk of meet he has hidden under his hand. Look for that in the native scenes, which I’ll talk about later. Also around that same scene, I swear I seen the same actor playing a zombie, shot in the head twice. That one I’m not so sure of, but the meat incident I still find funny. Hell of the Living Dead is a terrible film and anyone who plans to watch it should already know this, the only thing you can do while watching is make the best of a lousy situation.

Where should I start with the film’s inadequacies? How about the beginning, the staging for the rest of the film. During this sequence we see a lot of scientist and lab workers running around, talking about “Operation Sweet Death” until finally we’re stuck with two bozos in protective suits checking for radiation or something of that sort. Their conversation about boobs should have the audience in stitches. Finally they find a dead rat, this of course shows that there has been a leak even though later in the film the leak is shown to be a giant green gas which one would assume they would have seen if that had been the cause of death for the rat. I digress, the rat comes to life (ZOMBIE RAT!!!) and bites one of our suited fellows and somehow jumps from his hand to under his padded chest area. Now there is a zombie epidemic starting, blah, blah, blah. This whole sequence is so far removed from the rest of the film though that it almost seems as if it has nothing to do with anything. By the time we join our ‘mercenary’ fellows you’ll likely have forgotten all about this little detour because the two stories are so shabbily introduced to one another that it becomes easy to just not remember. After this we begin following our ‘elite’ agents, who I think it is stated work for Interpol but who knows. We’re never given any idea why they are sent into their mission in New Guinea, at least no reasoning that makes much sense on a second thought. What really makes this team so humorous though is the fact that even though they’re supposed to be the best of the best (or so the audience can imagine from their amazing work with the terrorists near the beginning), they all seem to be complete morons. For one, they’re walking around the jungle in bright blue jumpsuits so I guess they didn’t really see fit to camouflage themselves even though their are supposed wily natives running around. Then there’s the fact that even though one of them repeatedly tells everyone to shoot the zombies in the head, rarely does anyone ever heed his warnings. Not even the guy who made such a stink about shooting them in the head. There’s a moment in the film where this very character who scolded one of his friends for wasting ammo shooting a zombie in the stomach, proceeds to waste both his and another character’s ammo by firing off all their rounds into the belly of some undead ghoul. This whole fact has been documented several times in almost every review written for the film, but I can’t help myself, it gets so ridiculous that it almost makes you angry. My favorite segment in the film though is when one of our elite, best of the best, tough guy commandos actually has his holstered pistol stolen from his side by the female reporter. I couldn’t imagine anything more embarrassing if I was in his situation. Of course, not only are our living character’s completely inconsistent for the sake of cinema, so are the living dead. A personal favorite moment of mine is when Zantoro (The ‘wild’ member of the squad) starts taunting the zombies who try to kill him and his friends. He actually takes his arm and puts it close to a zombie’s mouth, yet for much of the film characters are shown being devoured by these unstoppable beasts. How does anyone die from these things? Obviously they’ve got the strength of a small child and the brains of a plant, what possible threat do these things hold? Romero never went so far as to show that his zombies were weaklings in his films, just slow. Zantoro actually walks into a horde of zombies and holds his arm up in their faces asking to be bitten. They grab his arm, but he’s just too strong for them, yet we’re supposed to be frightened of these unstoppable monsters? I think not.

Perhaps the worst segment of the film though is without a doubt the sequence where our characters run into a tribal village and begin to mingle with the natives. The scene begins with our female journalist having to remove her clothes, paint her nude body and walk head on into the village. I imagine this was ripped off of Mountain of the Cannibal God, but it could just be a coincidence. Anyway, it’s the lamest excuse for nudity I can possibly think of. The only thing topping the sight of her running naked with paint covering her body is the blatant and idiotic use of stock footage. I believe most of it comes from some French film called “The Valley”, at least that’s what imdb says. The footage used would be laughable if it wasn’t so annoying. There’s this large, fifteen to twenty minute section of the film largely comprised of shots taken from other films. Mostly monkeys jumping from tree to tree or birds swimming over rivers and other such boring bits spliced between conversations between our characters. Once in the village we’re shown the most disgusting of the footage they bought the rights to, including an alligator’s stomach being torn open and it’s intestines removed as well as a dead body being covered with some kind of wax or mud. The grossest of film shown is a man eating maggots off of a corpse sitting in front of him. The funniest part of all of this though is the fact that in order to make it seem like this is actually happening anywhere near our character, they just cut to surprised looks on the faces of whomever is watching. Sort of like something Ed Wood did in Plan 9 From Outer Space, when that general was watching the Army combat the aliens. This is only less entertaining but equally idiotic. I sincerely hate stock footage in film and it’s always everpresent in cannibal films, but I can say without hesitation that Hell of the Living Dead has the worst ever appearance of stock footage I have ever seen in an Italian film. I hope I never have to see worse. The whole added bits of grossout footage was the last straw, it ended up just being pointless. Then again, the whole film just feels like a series of pointless scenes stacked on one another. Our characters walk through just about every genre cliché you could imagine, and the fact that they are all walking clichés themselves doesn’t help things very much. Each character in the film seems to be based on one pattern. There’s the lead of the squad, he looks like a cross between Marlon Brando and Tom Berringer. He is the patented ‘evil leader’ who never lets anyone have any fun. Then there’s Zantoro who is the wild and crazy guy, meant to be entertaining to the audience but hardly ever is. He’s no Bill Paxton circa-Aliens. The other two members of the commandos aren’t generally that interesting, one is a nerdy kind of guy. He’s always hopping around for something, generally laughing over something that isn’t funny. He’s also likely a homosexual because for some odd reason at one point he dresses up in a woman’s dress (I think it was a ballerina tutu, but I’m not sure) with a tophat and cane and then begins dancing. I swear I’m not making it up. The last member of the militants is the ever present ‘nice guy’. I only give this trait to him because I only remember him taking center stage once when he began talking with the female journalist. He was treating her nice and talking about sleeping with her when the big bad mean leader of the group came along and scolded him for doing so. The female journalist, or as she is listed on the imdb ‘Lia Rousseau’ (but I can never remember that name), probably needs very little said of her except she’s the most annoying character in the film. Being a know it all and her patented incessant nagging are her two strongest suits. Of all the characters, I wanted to see her die the most. The only other character of interest is the man we assume is her boyfriend, a photographer for her magazine/television station/whatever. He has very little to do other than being protective of the journalist so I find it hard to even comment on him. The cast as a whole really needs no commenting, it’s about on equal with everything else in the film.

The direction is shoddy, as is the editing and everything else. There was one shot in the film I rather enjoyed, that of a woman walking to her car while bleeding, with the camera inside the car behind the steering wheel. That’s about it though, the only other idea that I can think of that was rather entertaining was having a kid killing his father. I know that sounds repulsive, but can you really take a film like this seriously? The kid idea was obviously lifted from Night of the Living Dead as well as a few other zombie films, but no matter how cliché I still thought it was one of the funnier moments in the film. Just something stupid that you’ve seen in a million other films, only to see it executed worse here. The film isn’t intelligent, what else is there to say. It’s a cheap zombie film from a time and place where cheap zombie films were made. If you don’t like these rather stupid gore flicks, then it would be best to just pass on this one. I can’t say I could blame you. I’m giving the film a one because even though there are moments where it is extremely entertaining, it’s not the film that is entertaining me, it’s me that is doing the job. How can you recommend a film with almost no redeeming qualities of it’s own?

Satan’s Cheerleaders

Posted by JoshSamford On August - 22 - 2008
The Plot: Four young and sex-starved teenage girls gallivant around town in this Greydon Clark masterpiece. Bragging and flaunting their sexuality to all of the older prudes who can’t accept their sexy ways before the crazy janitor at their school, who is also a practicing satanist, puts a curse on them as they make their out of town trip to cheer at a game. The girls are: Debbie who is quite slutty, Chris who is quiet but usually speaks up with attitude, Patti who is soon to be possessed and in my opinion the hottest of the group: Sharon. That girls’ got some legs on her, rawr! So all of a sudden once this curse is revealed, their car breaks down on the side of the road just long enough for our crazy janitor to pick them up and kidnap them. He takes them to a satanic alter in the middle of the woods and straps Patti down as she is hypnotized and nude. Patti is then devil-raped by the pervert fallen angel Lucifer, who wants to make her his bride. When our janitor gets mad and wants in on the action, the devil chokes him out and when the girls come to he is dead at their feet and they don’t remember a thing. They make their way to the road and eventually find the sheriff… but the sheriff knows more than he lets on – and is all part of the satanic cult running the town.

The Review: This marks my fourth foray into the world of Greydon Clark, after sitting through Final Justice, being somewhat impressed with his first feature The Bad Bunch and simply having a ball with Black Shampoo – I knew coming into this one that Clark can either make something that blows your mind or leaves your brain as empty as the film you just watched It really doesn’t matter if the film is good or bad however, because they are always interesting. He is one of the few really low budget filmmakers from the drive-in era that although making cheap and lurid films always had a little something going for his films. Whether it’s the attempted social commentary of The Bad Bunch or the machismo in a very feminine situation throughout all of Black Shampoo (by that I mean we have the most masculine man who has ever lived in the role of a HAIRDRESSER). Satan’s cheerleaders is no different, the tremendous amount of cheese and girl unity as well as the satan worship are about as awkward a mix as it sounds. The ten minute opening sequence of beach fun are utter torment to sit through, with the high school girls being introduced as well as their rivalry with the evil kiddos from Baker. All of the girl power is too much to stand, especially when in real life it seems like every girl you ever meet hates all of their girl friends. Seriously, how many times have you ever heard “Yeah, I don’t really get along with girls so much. They’re all drama, that’s why I hang out with guys mostly.” Unfortunately that seems to be the case in every situation other than in Satan’s Cheerleaders. Not to mention their annoying rebellion from all of normalized society. Then there’s the cheerleader coach who is as big a moron as her own students and perfectly encapsulates the “wannabe cool mom” that we all know and hate.

This kind of cheesy and naive hyperbole is anguish to sit through. You remember the standards of the acting in your average H.G. Lewis picture? Well, this makes Color Me Blood Red and and Wizard of Gore look like Brando level performances. There’s so much shtick flying around that it hurts, and I find it hard to imagine the audience that could watch this sort of unbearable “comedy” in the first thirty minutes with nary a satanist in sight. Somewhere around the thirty minute mark, whenever our groundskeaper takes the cheerleaders before the devil, things pick up ever so slightly. Unfortunately we’re still tortured beyond any man’s limitations with such totally hip and not at all corny lines such as “take a picture pop, it’ll last longer!” ZING! She definitely showed that old man who was totally checking her out while she spread her legs in order to get his attention! That’ll show him for doing what she was hoping for! The nonstop one-liners are cancer inducing. The cheerleading coach who seems to get dumber as the film goes along, and lets her students run amuck simply because she can’t understand the jokes, grates my nerves to the point where I had to pause the film and go for a walk around the room several times. The latter half of the film does become slightly more tolerable, with less focus on the absolutely terrible “jokes” and more on the girls running from the evil satan cult. The whole film itself at this point finally begins to resemble The Devil’s Rain (ever so slightly), the seventies satan-based film starring the legend himself William Shatner – which is how I had imagined the film before actually seeing it. I mean really, with a flick called Satan’s Cheerleaders there are a lot of things you can imagine but I wouldn’t think of spending half the running time on a corny cheerleading movie and the other half dealing with a cult chasing them in about the same manner as Scooby Doo and Shaggy would be chased from one door to another in those cartoons. The other way to look at it is that I got my cheerleaders, I got the satan and what else can you really expect?

Normally, this is about the time I say “well I know it sounds like I didn’t enjoy myself, but…” – well, there’s not much for a “but” this time around. It’s far from being the worst film out there but the redeeming qualities of Satan’s Cheerleader’s come nowhere near outweighing the truly awful bits. I haven’t given a really bad rating in a while, and I hate to do it to a Greydon Clark production because for one thing his work makes for an easy target and another, I do respect the guy. Clark has made some bad films no doubt, but as I said earlier he always has a little something extra going on in them. Satan’s Cheerleaders unfortunately doesn’t have enough to save it from pure mediocrity at best. The one thing that really stands out for the movie is the switch at the end, but I won’t go into that and spoil it but at the end it’s the only thing that makes you think you didn’t actually waste your time. I’m giving the film a one of five, the first rating that low in a long time. That isn’t the lowest however, but it isn’t a good rating that’s for sure. Hopefully others will take my warnings in stride though and definitely form their own opinions.




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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.