4 | Varied Celluloid - Page 27

Horror Rises From the Tomb

Posted by Josh Samford On May - 3 - 2011

Horror Rises From the Tomb (1973)
Director: Carlos Aured
Writers: Paul Naschy
Starring: Paul Naschy, Emma Cohen and Víctor Alcázar

The Plot: Our story begins in France, 1454 when practitioners of black magic Aleric de Marnac and Mabille DeLancré are sentenced to death by Aleric’s brother Armand and his friend Andre Roland. Before they are killed, the warlocks curse the execution grounds and the names of their executioners, vowing to wreak their revenge when a relative of Armand de Marnac befriends a relative of Andre Roland. We then cut to France, 1973: Maurice Roland, a local painter, is attempting to piece together his latest work but he never comes close enough to finishing it. His good friend Hugo de Marnac and their girlfriends Paula and Sylvia eventually spend some time together with a couple who tell them of a great psychic. Hugo denies the abilities of the psychic so everyone else pitches in to prove him wrong by going to a séance hosted by the psychic. After a spiritual encounter with the severed head of Aleric de Marnac who tells them of his burial ground, Hugo is still unconvinced; to try and prove he’s right, he offers to drive the group up to his old country home where, according to legend, Mabille and Aleric were executed and buried. Maurice agrees to go as well after he finally completes the painting: A cloaked, decapitated figure holding the severed head of his friend Hugo. The two men and their lovers head out to the estate, following a trail drawn by the relentless curse that promises the rise of the two warlocks once the head of Aleric is unearthed. Will our intrepid heroes survive?

The Review
Horror Rises From the Tomb is one of those kind of Horror movies that carries a lot of entertainment value for several reasons. While certainly maintaining the gruesomeness and brutality required for a good Horror flick, it also carries a solid story arc, a lot of build-up and decent characters to present themselves. Yet, despite this, the presentation value and overall quality is so under-budgeted and unintentionally silly that the movie works in a party setting as well; Horror Rises is the kind of film you can watch seriously, yet still manage to get a good laugh out of it and never feel like a moron for doing so.

First, I have to say it’s always a little odd watching a movie about people being accused of witchcraft and demon summoning being put to death. I always remind myself of how many innocent people in history were killed because of another group’s dogma and beliefs… but in these spiritual Horror movies it always turns out the people being put to death really WERE black magic users and they demonstrate this by cursing their executioners (see also The Devonsville Terror). I bring this up mostly because the opening narration in the movie leads us to believe Aleric and Mabille aren’t really evil doers and that many people in Europe were killed for suspected witchcraft. Well, inappropriate opening narration aside, this movie’s not too bad.

As I said before, the movie has good build-up to it. We get to know our four main characters a little bit before the warlock’s curse is unearthed; everyone is fleshed out pretty well save for the character Sylvia who is honestly just a morality booster with a pretty face along for the ride. The acting overall is what you’d expect in a low budget Spanish Horror film: it’s good, but you get this feeling of archetypes being used a lot in the film. I’ve seen a few Spanish Horror films now and it seems that there’s always a group of characters who are often killed by their own avarice or motivated entirely by greed. It’s like watching an Italian movie and the characters at one point have to talk about vinegar as a primary recipe.

Most character reactions are relatively believable, though. If anything the character of Elvira (one of the house servants that Hugo grew up with) is a little stoic throughout the movie mostly when she has to show sadness. Hugo comes across as a bit of a jerk, but he’s a responsible one. Plus, Hugo is played by the film’s writer, the late/great Paul Naschy, a Spanish novelist/director/actor/light weight champion who produced and acted in several Spanish Horror films. The man had a competent screen presence, and he comes across as a somewhat likable hero in this. Granted, Paul also plays the villain Aleric de Marnac and once again proves to be a good performer in that role, too. He looks pretty intimidating in a cloak and spirit gum and he’s got the crazy eyes necessary for a mystically evil character. Honestly, seeing Naschy as the villain in this movie makes me think he’d play a Shakespearean character very well.

While the acting and dialogue is painless, exposition pulls a little overtime here. After the first spiritual killing spree in the movie, Hugo and Maurice talk about how the mayor and gendarme of the village won’t help them look into the crimes, how the local kids hate their arrival, how the town drunk knows something about what’s going, but we never see any of this.

The cinematography isn’t too bad. The director knows where to point the camera and there are a lot of decent shots. There are several moments though where the camera shakes around as if this were a shot-on-video movie. There are a few questionable scenes in it, like when Hugo and Maurice leave the house armed with a shotgun in hand but they do this for no reason; the next time we see them, they’re in their PJs! There is also one awkward scene near the end where Mabille and Aleric are heavily petting a scantily clad woman they have captive and the scene goes on for about two minutes, again, for no reason. The music that plays is really intense, but there’s no nudity in the scene or anything intensely sexual or any connection to later or current events; I know it’s just padding, but for a movie about warlock related phenomena, you’d think a scene like that would be something plot related.

As a European Horror movie from the seventies, the movie is quite brutal. Most of the female victims will end up getting their tops ripped off before getting killed (you may notice I can’t show most of the gore because of shots like that). The gore effects are pretty decent as well and definitely show a better budget in that department than the rubber bats used for the cavern scenes. However most other death scenes come down to throat slashing and a few off-screen heart-rippings. The death scenes do get a little cheap, though. The first time someone gets their heart ripped out in the movie it happens almost too quick; I can understand someone with mystical powers ripping into another person’s chest cavity and pulling their still-beating heart out (like when Mabille does it, or in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom), but an ordinary person with a farm tool… that’s a bit of a reach, even for this movie. Truthfully, that’s nothing compared to when a human body gets reduced to a skeleton wearing a wig or when a guy dies from an intense back scratching; if the latter were the case, my ex would’ve killed me years ago!

Of course, this being a Spanish Horror film released in the states, it’s got its share of dubbing, but thankfully it’s decent. The dub actors play it straight throughout the whole movie, though occasionally, there will be one actor who sounds a little like a pirate. The goofiest performance out of them though has to be the monotone Hispanic voice for Aleric who is supposed to be dark and intimidating. It doesn’t help either that the first time we see him in the present day, he’s a severed head in a box giving orders to the possessed. *

Then there’s the soundtrack. The music in this movie is really something to behold. The soundtrack relies mostly on organ music not unlike Gene Moore’s work in Carnival of Souls, but without the talent. The organ music here carries many Roller Rink sounds to it and is often followed by a relentless wood instrument. The music gets so over the top and fantastical to the point where it sounds like soap opera music. The love theme between Maurice and Paula in particular was pretty goofy. Throughout the movie, I couldn’t keep myself from quipping: ‘Will Elvira be the next of Aleric’s victims? And Will Maurice ever change out of his pink sweater? Tune in tomorrow to find out on the next exciting and touching episode of Days of our Warlocks.’

There’s even a weird scene with Hugo and Elvira where the music is edited awkwardly: the soundtrack kicks in with this inappropriately spooky music and just stops abruptly. The only time the soundtrack works is with the second-long musical stingers. Regardless, the soundtrack was recorded so high and played so intensely, the audio will more than likely cause you to jump out of your seat and reach for the Volume Down button.

Something I thought was unique about the movie was the ancient relic used to ward off the warlock’s evil. Instead of the usual crucifix, the heroes uncover a talisman from Nordic mythology. Okay, it’s kind of weird a holy relic of Nordic mythology would be in France, but it’s still a much welcome break from the standard. Now while the story is interesting and not badly conceived, I couldn’t help but wonder why Mabille and Aleric, two hated and despised Warlocks, were given tombs? I understand burying Aleric’s head from his body in a separate place, but cavernous tombs for criminals?

The Conclusion
In summation though, Horror Rises from the Tomb is a fun Horror movie. It’s a little hard to take it seriously sometimes, but it’s in those times you can get a genuinely good-laugh out of the movie. Plus it’s got an easy story to follow that was pretty well written with a lot of violence, nudity and a random zombie invasion, so it’s all the more recommendable.

*: Curse of the Brain That Wouldn’t Die… I like that

Great Texas Dynamite Chase, The

Posted by Josh Samford On April - 23 - 2011

The Great Texas Dynamite Chase (1976)
Director: Michael Pressman
Writers: David Kirkpatrick and Mark Rosin
Starring: Claudia Jennings, Jocelyn Jones and Johnny Crawford

The Plot: Candy (Claudia Jennings) is a simple kind of girl from a simple farming home. After spending some time in the joint, she finally concocts a plan to escape from prison. When all goes as planned, her sister is waiting for her with a car just outside of the prison and Candy is then set out on the town. Ellie-Joe Turner (Jocelyn Jones) is a bank teller in a small Texas town, where nothing exciting ever seems to happen. When Candy roles into town though, she brings just the right variety of excitement. She walks into Ellie-Jo’s bank with two sticks of dynamite and threatens to blow everyone up if they don’t hand over the money. She executes her robbery perfectly and takes the money she makes in order to save her families farm before heading out West. Along the way she meets up with Ellie-Jo once again, as the young woman has taken to hitchhiking in order to find some form of excitement similar to what she has just experienced. It is here that the two form a close bond and start planning out their very next robbery.

The Review
The subgenre known as Hixploitation may be offensively titled, but it is a genre with at least some semblance of respect or honor for southern culture. Although these films may display outlaws and troublemakers, that in fact is a part of the southern way of life. There’s a certain amount of adoration for rebels to a degree, and growing up in the deep south I have seen this first hand. For better or for worse, we absolutely love a good outlaw. Certainly in the first half of the previous century, that rebellion remained very much intact with far more precedence and focus on the civil war being a part of the every day man’s life. Today, many kids might not know the difference between Robert E. Lee or Ulysses S. Grant if their battles weren’t immediately on the study-agenda at school. For those born prior to 1990, in my experience, there has always been a tiny bit of historical knowledge instilled in our minds. From the Looney Tunes cartoons we grew up watching (with their random Civil War references), to our own parents and upbringing, we caught the tail end of a streamlined diet of southern traditionalism. Whether or not it caught on, that was dependent on the person, but if you were born and raised in the South it is a cultural stigma that can never leave you. The Great Texas Dynamite Chase isn’t so much a cultural study on Southern heritage or upbringing, as much as it is a study on foxy-ladies who whip all kinds of serious butt.

Women taking revenge and generally kicking the butt of men doesn’t make for the most revolutionary of cinema by itself. The concept had been done before this film and it was surely done many times over since the release of this film, but the manner in which these familiar genre tropes are tackled are what makes the project as memorable as it is. The most fun movie on Shout! Factory’s Roger Corman Action Packed Triple Feature DVD set, The Great Texas Dynamite Chase is a mixture of adrenaline packed action and southern attitude in a movie that can only be described as a precursor to Thelma & Louise. While I have never actually seen Thelma & Louise for myself, everything that I have ever gathered from the movie seems to point to the fact that it ultimately follows a very similar plot structure as this one. The major differences coming in the form of a shirtless Brad Pitt as well as stockpiles of dynamite, in each film respectively. There seems to be strong similarities between the two films, with both being about female empowerment whilst two women go on the run from the law, but in typical Roger Corman fashion The Great Texas Dynamite Chase offers a substantially more male-targeted vision of girl power. Expect ample amounts of nudity and just enough action to move us from one plot point to the next.

The tone that Great Texas… grabs is really pitch perfect for this genre type. Right from the very beginning, we are set in the world of hayfields and country music. The music is a mix of bluesy tunes with a little honkytonk piano along with strings. Craig Safan provided the music and he perfectly captures the popular culture of the time (blaxploitation funk) mixed with that raw southern twang. I like that the film isn’t afraid to experiment with various sounds, and the overall soundtrack is intense because of it. The film is generally quite brave in varying areas other than just the music, howver. Our two leads are given very uncompromising and sexual roles, with which they help sell the sexual revolution. These girls are tough and rebellious in their nature and we get to see this when Jocelyn Jones demonstrates her feminine powers at the very start of the film by having an apparent one night stand with some dolt who she quickly tells to leave once morning time has come. The picture of these tough, no nonsense, working women with sexual desires that need to be fulfilled is very quickly drawn out for the audience, and although there’s an exploitative edge to most of the sex in the movie, the women are ultimately the ones who incite most of it and do so while not appearing “loose” or ignorant.

The initial bank robbing sequence is quite nerve wrecking to be honest. We watch as Claudia Jennings walks into the bank with her stick of dynamite and strikes it up while making her demands toward the teller and those around her. Although the fuse length seems to go back and forth between cuts, the speed of the fuse remains fairly fast and we in the audience start to wonder just how much longer it has before it will finally explode. Despite the continuity gaffes, the tension of the scene actually works quite well. The film overall seems to survive due to the tension created from various action scenes, the quick witted character moments that are sprinkled in throughout and ultimately one of its biggest helping hands comes in the form of the humor. Comedy is as much a part of the story as the chase scenes and the action. Scenes such as the second bank robbery, where we discover that most of Candy’s dynamite sticks are duds, is a funny case of misfortune as humor or a comedic version of Murphy’s Law. The entire bit reminds me of current trends in comedy, where ideas such as this are rode to their extreme. The entire “Meet the Parents” series is based entirely around this concept, and after the first movie it was already beat into the ground. Ultimately though, I think the character moments and the interaction between the cast are what makes this movie as memorable as it is. The cast are all spectacular in their roles, with Claudia Jennings and Jocelyn Jones lighting up the screen as ferocious pieces of female empowerment.

The Conclusion
The film ultimately has its issues, as any movie does, but I think for a piece of hixploitation/carsploitation from this time and era: you really can’t go wrong. A very solid outing with a terrific cast and a focus on delivering pure fun through a cinematic cyringe. Overall, the entire package is stout and worth picking up, but The Great Texas Dynamite Chase is the standout film from the Roger Corman Action Packed Triple Feature. Check it out!

Gleaming the Cube

Posted by Josh Samford On April - 21 - 2011

Gleaming the Cube (1989)
Director: Graeme Clifford
Writers: Michael Tolkin
Starring: Christian Slater, Steven Bauer and Min Luong

The Plot: Bryan Kelly (Christian Slater) is a young teen who cares for very little in the world outside of his daily doses of skateboarding, punk rock music and rebellion from all of society. His adopted Vietnamese brother Vinh Kelly (Art Chudabala) is the flip side to that coin, as he is everything that a parent could dream to have. He does well in school, he behaves, shows respect and doesn’t try to rebel against everything his parents stand for. When Vinh discovers some odd numbers shifting around on the books at the local shop he works for, he begins to investigate. His boss, Colonel Trac (Le Tuan) apparently has something else going on behind closed doors, and when Vinh gets close to the truth he is abducted and tortured by Trac’s business associates. When the torture goes a bit too far, young Vinh is left dead by strangulation. Trac and his men make the death look like a suicide, but his brother Bryan isn’t so sure. Distraught over the death of Vinh, he begins to question his own senseless rebellion and begins to investigate what exactly happened to his brother.

The Review
Sometimes a film comes along that perfectly captures the heights of a very specific subculture… but then multiplies those heights, and then pads out the rest of the movie with a fairly generic plotline that allows for things to enter into the world of the criminally absurd. While I won’t stake my claim that Gleaming the Cube is anything other than an over-exaggeration of skateboarding culture during the eighties, it ostensibly sets itself up as both a philosophical and action packed mix of teen-angst melodrama with the groovy attitudes of skateboarding videos from the time. The end mixture is something that deserves its place in any time capsule examination of this time and culture. Featuring an excellent cast of supporting actors, Gleaming the Cube is an almost star-studded examination of the world of late eighties skateboarding… only with a murder mystery plotline and a love story subplot that is mildly awkward. A film that doesn’t stand out on its own merits as a thrilling or new piece of cinema, the accolades that I would like to place upon it are for the entertainment it delivers and the utterly strange world that our film seems to take place in. A toned down version of Prayer of the Rollerboys, never has the world of action sports seemed so otherworldly and surreal.. while also gritty and urbane.

I realize that I am using a number of hundred dollar words in a description of Christian Slater’s Gleaming the Cube, but the very least I can do for the film is show it some respect. So, please, bear with me in that regard. While the movie may not demand a really thorough examination in the same regard as the work of Frederico Fellini, and regardless of how dumbed down Gleaming the Cube can be at times, there are some really interesting decisions made behind the scenes that puzzled me while watching. The very first thing that caught my attention in the movie is the fashion. Of course any film made in the late eighties or early nineties is bound to feature some tragically awful apparel, but the clothing that Christian Slater and many of his skater friends wear closely resembles something out of a post-apocalyptic action film. His anti-conformity attitude is ratcheted to the n’th degree, and teenage rebellion has never seemed quite as over the top as it does here. In the third act, when Slater’s character starts to wear more traditional clothing (if you call wearing a dress suit to public school traditional for a teenager, that is) he doesn’t so much “sell out” by his rebellious code but instead adapts into his surroundings… which is another way of saying “selling out”, I suppose. In the fact that this “selling out” isn’t actually tackled or even discussed brings up another strange facet of the movie that leaves the audience slightly puzzled. In fact, that is precisely why I like the movie as much as I do. It is a movie that seems to come from so many varying directions that it doesn’t seem beholden to any given audience, and doesn’t even seem to perfectly endear itself towards the culture that it looks to examine.

The true joy and fun of the project ultimately comes through in the utter adoration that is shown to skateboarding itself. While I have never been a skater (I have the balance of a one-eared cat with no whiskers), I have always been interested in the culture as an interesting American phenomenon. The “X-Games”, an annual event showcasing the best in action sports (skateboarding, BMX riding, etc.) really brought skateboarding to its peak in popularity during the 90′s. However, skateboarding also came into popularity during the eighties despite the fact that in mainstream culture it was generally viewed as a interesting sideshow distraction rather than a legitimate sporting event. Gleaming the Cube captures the cultural sideshow presentation of the sport in full swing. In that regard, as previously mentioned, the film really works as a cinematic time capsule. Demonstrating the very worst fashion of the eighties, along with some very exaggerated interpretations of that Californian “skate kid” identity. The film could very well irk the nerves of some modern viewers not quite prepared for the over indulgence of style headed their way, but when watching as a cultural pathologist of sorts it is interesting to see where the sport started and how far it has come. It would nearly take another decade for the X-Games to bring skateboarding out of a deep depression that saw it decline heavily in popularity, but here in 1989 we can see how rooted the sport was within the punk-rock and DIY aesthetic of the time.

There are two ways you can look at a movie such as Gleaming the Cube. You either watch it and have fun with it or you have fun at its expense. You could just as easily sit back and make fun of the ridiculous fashion style and the rather over-the-top nature of the story, but the fact is the movie knows what it is and it appears that they just ran with it. A case of style over substance and fun taking the front seat, Gleaming the Cube is a hard movie to dislike despite all of its flaws and imperfections. The performances by most of the cast are amplified to the point of distortion, but that is part of what makes it okay to laugh “with” the movie. It doesn’t appear that Graeme Clifford had any pretensions about the sort of movie he was making and by running with it, he developed a very fun cult classic that delivers in all of the departments that one might expect. We have action, we have adventure, there’s some romance and even some head-ier things such as racial prejudices and family drama. How can you not like that?

The Conclusion
A no frills-all thrills attempt at bringing the spotlight on the world of skateboarding. What was at one time simply a spectacle, but has now developed into a sport, the movie offers insight into the skateboarding phenomena at an important time in its lifeline. The action, in terms of skateboarding, is rather simplistic in comparison to what would now be considered cutting edge, but that is part of the movies charm. Delightfully campy and fun, I can’t help but give Gleaming the Cube an honest four out of five. Take note that this is a title that not all audiences are going to feel instantly drawn to, but for those looking for a fun dose of eighties magic this might just prove to be the ticket.

Dirty Mary Crazy Larry

Posted by Josh Samford On April - 11 - 2011

Dirty Mary Crazy Larry (1974)
Director: John Hough
Writers: Leigh Chapman, Antonio Santean, Richard Unekis (novel “The Chase”)
Starring: Peter Fonda, Susan George, Vic Morrow and Adam Roarke

The Plot: Larry (Peter Fonda) and Deke (Adam Roarke) are in town for a short period of time and they only have one thing on their mind, robbing the local grocery store. They’ve kept tabs on the manger, the location of the safe and have everything down to a science. The only thing they didn’t count on, was Mary (Susan George). A local girl that Larry picked up the night before the robbery, Mary follows Larry into town and watches as he robs the grocery store by having Deke hold the manager’s wife hostage at their home. With Mary knowing as much as she does, they have no choice but to bring her along for the ride, at least for the time being. As they make tracks across the county, a local sheriff (Vic Morrow), who is at odds with his chief, decides that he’ll stop at nothing to put Larry, Mary and Deke behind bars. Will he succeed or will our leads make their way south into freedom?

The Review
Cinema truly is the universal outlet for adventure. It’s our way of doing and experiencing things that we would never have done even if we lived a dozen lifetimes. For those of us who abhor violence, it provides us an outlet to experience the paranoia and fear that a killer might have to live with in the wake of his actions. For those of us with a fear of heights, we can watch daring men and women scale to the very top of the steepest of mountains. For those of us who drive like seventy year old women whenever we’re behind the wheel, we too can experience the excitement of a high speed pursuit! If you don’t get the subtle hint, that last example is a very apt comparison when it comes to my own driving versus the experience that I just had while watching Dirty Mary, Crazy Larry. Although many of my friends are genuine gear-heads and speed-junkies, I have always played on the safe side when it comes to my driving habits. I always buckle up, I always check my rear view mirror and I rarely pass any vehicles while on the road. Dirty Mary, Crazy Larry epitomizes the polar opposite form of highway etiquette, and while keeping the action in full view without so much as cutting away from the danger, it provides the audience genuine excitement that actually shows us just how daring these stunts really were.

In today’s world of 3D models and CGI excitement, audiences have unfortunately lost sight of how impressive the medium can be when it comes to presenting danger. As Harold Lloyd (Safety Last) originally taught is in the days of silent film, cinema can provide an adrenaline shot so brutal that it can make us sick. While I won’t say that Dirty Mary, Crazy Larry is the absolute be-all, end-all of roadway action films (there are arguments to be made for The Road Warrior and even Tarantino’s own Death Proof, a film that paid reverence to Dirty/Crazy), but it is certainly a brilliant reminder of a bygone era that provided genuine thrills and excitement. The danger that the film provides is truly one of its standout elements, and something that has no doubt continued to bring viewers in decades after its release. However, to be entirely fare, I think there’s a great deal of character work at play in the film that often gets overlooked due mainly to the tremendous action spectacle. While I won’t argue that the character depth is oceanic, the cast do their best in order to take the character moments that they have and make them as poignant as possible. On the outset the character of Larry, who is our main protagonist through the majority of the film, is a genuinely unlikable figure. We the audience see the way that he abuses and uses Mary, but as the narrative moves along and through the charisma of Peter Fonda, we can’t help but feel drawn to this wild man. The actors, who I will discuss further a little later on, all rope us in and give this outlandish piece of action cinema a true heart and soul, which may be the entire reason that it is still around thirty years later.

Based upon the novel The Chase, a quick read on the backstage ordeals that the movie ultimately went through and you can imagine just how different this film must be from its source material. John Hough, who was brought in from the UK late in the production, also spiced things up by encouraging his actors to take part in improvisational ad-libbing while on the set. So one can imagine that the end result is probably an entirely different beast than the Richard Unekis novel. I was a bit surprised to find, through the supplemental features on the Shout! Factory DVD, that some of the best lines in the movie were actually ad-libbed! Included in these lines were many of Peter Fonda’s outrageous quips such as “Every bone in her crotch, that’s what I’m going to break!” However, the dialog here is universally very impressive. The banter is back and forth in a style that seems more modern, but ultimately traces back to the days of film noir. The chemistry between actors helps give the tempo of the dialog, and the moments between Peter Fonda and Susan George are some of the best in the movie. The back and forth banter between these two can be brutal at times, due to the harsh attitude of Fonda’s character, but the way the actors dig deep and spit venom at one another is really fantastic to watch. As Mary does her best to get the attention of Larry, she finds herself being humiliated and although she may be simplistic at times, there’s an underlying layer of depth to her actions. Ultimately, you could say that the entire movie is based around her own growth as a character. She is a woman who defines herself by the men she attaches herself to, and by the time she finally discovers that she is her own woman, it may just be too late.

Peter Fonda had never been a favorite actor of mine, due mainly to my being inexperienced with his filmography, but I now find myself thoroughly intrigued by his work. While he had a lot to live up to with his family’s legacy, his odd career choices were certainly engaging in the fact that they cornered some very strange markets. With Dirty Mary Crazy Larry, Fonda goes a bit over the deep end as he portrays the radical Larry, but his charisma and the depth of the character gives the film an overall feeling of dignity. I like Fonda here, and it doesn’t hurt that he is surrounded by a litany of equally talented actors/actresses. Susan George, who will no doubt always be known for her role in Straw Dogs, is pure sex appeal from the second she graces the frame. Although the American accent she dons for the movie can be a bit distracting at first, it is easy to get over after only a a few scenes. Her character, to me, is probably the most important puzzle piece for the entire movie and I love the naive and subtle charm that she brings to the role. She is truly Americana as Mary. The third person in the car, not mentioned in the title (I suppose Dirty Mary, Crazy Larry and Brooding Deke doesn’t sound as catchy), is Adam Roarke in the role of Deke. Roarke is the polar opposite of Fonda’s wildman-nature. He is soft spoken but heavily contemplative, and he brings an intensity to the film that really was needed. Especially during the early heist sequence where we see Deke take the grocery store manager’s wife hostage. His quiet and all-business demeanor gives the audience the feeling that this man could literally do anything and we fear for the young woman and the child being held captive. As the film moves along, we learn that Deke, despite his persona, is the more open and human of the two criminals. However, like Mary, he ultimately has a need for acceptance and appreciation from others.

The Conclusion
Grading Dirty Mary, Crazy Larry is a difficult decision for me. I’m torn between a four and a five as far as the overall rating goes. I can tell you this however, this is a film worth watching for any action movie fan who loves the raw adrenaline pumping cinema of the seventies. A white trash adventure yarn, this is a film that really deserves some recognition on a wide scale. I ultimately give it a four, due mainly to the fact that there are some aspects that we have all seen before and I don’t want to get your hopes up too high. Pick up the double disc set from Shout Factory, along with Race With the Devil, sometime soon and prepare for unadulterated entertainment!

No Mercy For The Rude

Posted by Josh Samford On March - 11 - 2011

No Mercy For the Rude (2006)
Director: Park Cheol-hie
Writers: Park Cheol-hie
Starring: Shin Ha-kyun, Yun Ji-hye and Kim Min-jun

The Plot: Killa (Shin Ha-kyun) is a young man living with a short tongue that ultimately prevents him from being able to speak aloud, so instead he lives within his own mind. Looking for an answer to his short-tongued problem, he finds a doctor who offers him a chance to travel overseas for an operation, but this will cost a great deal of money. More money than a chef could ever hope to see at one time. So, leaving behind his days as a seafood chef, he begins a new life as a hitman for hire. Using a knife as his primary weapon, despite most in his profession now turning to guns, Killa establishes himself as a killer with a moral compass. No women, no kids and the only ones to die by his hands will be “rude” or “bad” men. As Killa gets closer and closer to his goal of attaining his operation, he is introduced to a young woman who forces herself onto him and the two begin a strange new relationship. Shortly afterward Killa also runs into an orphaned child who also enters into his life and three soon become a family unit of sorts. When a botched hit threatens to undo everything for Killa, he will have to discover a way to make things right and save those he cares about.

The Review
No Mercy For the Rude is a title that has been explicitly recommended to me by my good friend Heavenztrash (from the blog In Nervous Convulsion) for well over a year at this point. His review for the film also secured its place in my “to watch pile” for the longest. In fact, I actually owe Heavenztrash a great deal of thanks for providing the images necessary to complete this review on time. Despite his glowing and well written review, it finally took the Korean cinema blogathon for me to actually give the movie its proper due. Although it hasn’t picked up the popularity that some titles have had within the film geek community, No Mercy For the Rude proves to be an exceptionally well made and entertaining entry into the professional killer subgenre. The film delves into some oddball territories now and then and turns out all the better for it, as the bizarre mix of comedy and action results in a film that delivers upon its fun premise.

Although there is a heart to No Mercy For the Rude, with real characters providing some semblance of depth, the meat and gristle of the project will no doubt remain its inventive use of gimmickry. Similar to many post-Tarantino crime films of the late nineties and early aughts, there is a primary focus on style and the “idea” factor. The idea factor simply boils down to the question: “how many gimmicks can we throw in one movie?” While I may sound sarcastic, I am not inherently against the concept. I hold no prejudice when it comes to spicing a movie up with some “out there” elements that alleviate the pains of regular genre-based movie making. For instance, our lead character portrayed by Shin Ha-Kyun (from Sympathy For Mr. Vengeance fame) isn’t solely a lonely hitman; he is also a former chef, aspiring bullfighter and an unfortunate mute who was born with a short tongue. Aside from these eccentricities, he also has a full “code” with which he lives by. His sole use of knives, instead of guns, also brings to mind Danny Trejo’s character in Desperado which was another title that made use of the “idea” factor. Along with our leading man, he also shares time with a league of other friends/killers who share very similar gimmicks. We have a former martial arts teacher who has turned to killing in order to make his living, and a former ballerina who regularly uses his superhuman agility in order to make for a better assassin.

The entertainment factory is certainly the leading reason to track down No Mercy For the Rude, but the film does offer some food amidst all of the delicious treats. The contradictory morality of our leading man is one instance that really jumps out for the audience, as we hear through his voiceover narration over and over again that he tries to justify his role in life despite the fact that we can clearly see his distaste for murder. His use of blades, while also being exceptionally “cool”, also allows for him to get close to those he kills so that he must confront their death face first. We see his character drinking heavily after going through with a job. We see him in moments of isolation and introspection immediately after killing a target, and we know that he doesn’t like this. His use of the knife, which results in him getting closer to something he doesn’t enjoy, reminds me of “mortification of the flesh” which is an act that many religions have been known to practice. The basic concept is that by torturing ones own flesh, usually with a whip across the back, you can scourge your soul of impurities. While our leading man surely feels that his work is justified by killing “rude” men, he also tortures himself by getting up close and personal with these murders as a way of purging himself of this heinous act. Sure, you can say it all just comes back to his being a seafood chef before his murdering days, but I’ll just assume that the subtext is there.

Despite the film being highly entertaining and comedic, the technical merits are actually quite impressive. The film is a visual feast, with a wide array of large framed shots that dominate the majority of the movie. The screen is constantly textured with incredible set design and strange camera angles that show off the talent of these filmmakers. In particular, I found myself impressed with our leading man’s apartment which is often shown via the corners of the various rooms. The filmmakers work well in displaying all dimensions of a room and usually fit the intersection between walls and ceiling within the frame, which gives a visual flourish that isn’t seen often. The cast, who fill up the frame, are also well handled throughout the movie. Leading man Shin Ha-Kyun is exceptional in the lead, displaying a wide variety of emotions despite having no real spoken dialogue throughout the film. He instead delivers his dialogue through voice over narration for the most part, and the combination might seem a bit cliche at first but the sardonic humor of his actions and the accompanying voiceover helps offer a good deal of the comedic moments. Jun Ji-hye, who stars as the femme fatale to our leading man’s lone-wolf character, offers the perfect mix of sass and beauty. The sarcastic wit of her character adds an extra dimension to the film and really helps to develop that undercurrent of dark humor that is painted on throughout the movie.

The Conclusion
A brilliant mix of genre types and ideas, No Mercy For the Rude may not be a perfect film but it is perfectly entertaining. I give the movie a very solid four out of five and for those of you who haven’t tracked it down, I highly recommend it. Equal parts No Blood, No Tears and A Bittersweet Life, this is a title that doesn’t deserve to be overlooked.




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.