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Robo Vampire

Posted by JoshSamford On June - 11 - 2014

Robo Vampire (198)
Director: Joe Livingstone (alias)
Writers: William Palmer (alias)
Starring: Robin Mackay, Nian Watts, Harry Myles, and Joe Browne

The Plot: Somewhere in Hong Kong (presumably), there is a gang of drug peddlers who are at war with the law. There is one man in particular that seems to constantly get in the way of their nefarious goals, and that man is Tom. The mob are soon working with a witch doctor, of sorts, who devises a plan to create the ultimate vampire in order to defeat Tom. This ultimate vampire looks a lot like an ape… so yeah, the ape man’s former girlfriend comes back from the dead as a ghost in order to marry the ape-man-vampire which is supposed to soothe his spirit. This has no bearing on the plot, but it’s fun to mention. Tom does eventually fall in combat to the ape-man-vampire, but thanks to the miracles of modern medicine he comes back as a Robo Warrior, complete with a spray-painted outfit that is supposed to look like metal. The Robo Warrior, with his arsenal of firearms, begins blasting hopping vampires and random goons for the rest of the movie. Also, there’s some subplot from another movie cut into the action that I could not figure out how it was supposed to work with all of the Robo action.

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42nd Street Forever: The Blu-ray Edition

Posted by JoshSamford On July - 11 - 2012

42nd Street Forever: The Blu-ray Edition (2012)
Director: Various
Writers: Various
Starring: Various

The Review: Although I had no experience with the 42nd Street Forever series before taking on this review, I was certainly familiar with the basic framework for these collections. An assortment of trailers that have been placed together in hopes of emitting the atmosphere of what used to play in the infamous “grindhouse” theaters that lined New York’s infamous 42nd Street during the seventies, 42nd Street Forever is a unique experiment that could only work with the technology that we have in today’s modern world. Film geeks who find themselves pining for the days of old, or simply looking for solid recommendations, need look no further than this compilation piece that combines the best of the first two installments in the 42nd Street Forever series. If you’ve come for insane cinema, then you’re here for all of the right reasons.

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1990: The Bronx Warriors

Posted by JoshSamford On September - 10 - 2008
The Plot: The year is 1990, and the Bronx section of New York has become nothing more than a breeding ground for crime and chaos. The police and the government have simply turned their back on the neighborhood and the gangs have taken over, with The Ogre taking over as the king of the Bronx. However, a small gang of bikers lead by a young man named Trash take the spotlight after their leader interrupts a potential rape lead by rival gang The Zombies on a young woman named Ann. Ann, unknown to anyone, is the daughter of the president in charge of the worlds largest arms dealer. The president of the company has sent in Hammer (Vic Morrow) to establish further chaos between the gangs with the hope of sneaking in, grabbing his daughter and getting out. However, Trash and Ann have fallen in love and the two aren’t willing to give that up simply for daddy. Will these two be able to escape daddy’s claws, make a deal with The Ogre, fight off the zombies AND not fall into Hammer’s plans?

The Review
To completely butcher the works of one of the most famous and respected playwrights in all of history: What’s in a name? That which we call a post-apocalyptic film. By any other name would it not be as quirky? Two things become apparent within the first ten minutes of 1990: The Bronx Warriors, first this is obviously a not-so-coy attempt at cashing in on the popularity of Walter Hill’s masterpiece “The Warriors” and the second thing you’ll notice is that the film follows in much the same path as other popular post-apocalyptic Italian action titles from the period – except there has been no actual apocalypse here. Much like the school kids of Japan in Kenji Fukasaku’s Battle Royale – in Enzo Castellari’s world the Bronx in 1990 became so heavily violent and unruly that the American government just kind of washed their hands of the whole situation and left them to their own devices. So, you can’t technically call it a Post-Apocalyptic scenario, but that’s only if you’re incredibly anal about your genre categorization. Made just two years after The Warriors, Bronx Warriors is far from relaxed in the “borrowing” of that films concepts. Including the whole idea of our warriors having to make it across gang infested territories, and of course the blazingly obvious use of highly cartoonish gangmembers all wearing uncharacteristic uniforms that match professions. There’s a gang of hockey players, tap dancers as well as what appear to be socialites. The film takes from many others as well, including Carpenter’s Escape From New York (by having the dead-zone of the bronx, as well as having a presidential-esque character trapped inside – despite being there of her own free will). Does all of this add up to a failure of a b-movie? Not at all. Enzo G. Castellari shows his talent, once again moving outside the parameters of your average genre film and makes a very fun take on this worn out genre. We all know going into a flick like this that you’re not going to find a lavish script or amazing focus for character development and for what it is, The Bronx Warriors is pretty spectacular.

In one of the most stylish and impressive moments in the film, as well as being a scene that essentially sets up the entire plot for the next 70 minutes, we are treated to a stunning sequence right beside the Brooklyn bridge (and the Bronx this is not). One of the few shots in the film that takes place on location in the US, as most was shot in Italy of course. As we see the familiar bridge in the background, we hear a pulsing drumbeat over the soundtrack as our motorcycle driving leads come into the frame – but as the camera gives us a wider angle we see that the drummer isn’t just in a studio somewhere – he’s right out in this vacant parking lot! That’s right, the drummer is on location providing the music. Why would some guy have his drumset just sitting out in a dusty parking lot? Who knows, but it’s visually intriguing and a fun little twist that keeps the film interesting. As the scene plays out the lead gang’s members all form up in a line that makes a perfect “W”, for the shots that show them from a higher angle. It’s all so ridiculous – but that’s kind of the point: to be over the top and to be interesting and different, as well as to tell a story. That’s why you have characters named Hammer, The Ogre, Hot Dog and Trash. I won’t stick my neck on the chopping block and defend this as spectacular art or anything of that sort, but I see that many on the web have crucified the film and I feel that’s pretty unnecessary when you have such an unabashedly fun little movie such as this. I had a far better time with this movie than I have had with any others I have seen of a similar nature. The New Barbarians, also from Enzo and featuring a few similar cast members (will get to that in a minute) was a lot of fun and I reviewed it recently – but was at times rather dragging and really didn’t feature much I couldn’t find elsewhere, other than the violence that really can’t be beaten, but in the end it’s just a very good little flick that at times teeters on boredom. With 1990: The Bronx Warriors, I didn’t feel any of that. With the incredible mishmash of blatant stealing, homages, far better executed action sequences than films of this type usually have (I won’t lie, there are still a few very obviously pulled punches throughout) as well as a decent bit of the gory violence. However it’s the fast moving script and the characters that kept me impressed the whole time. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Fred “The Hammer” Williamson can make any movie better, and unlike in The New Barbarians he isn’t suppressed here and really lets his toughguy persona hang out in the breeze. Smoking his trademark cigar, using some of that Hammer-fu and generally being as friggin’ cool as The Hammer always is. I really enjoyed him here, but he isn’t alone. You have the late and great Vic Morrow putting in a really great turn as the villainous “Hammer” (not to be confused with Williamson, who uses the nickname offstage as well as on) and really comes into his over-the-top best in the final sequence where he dons a leather military outfit and laughs obnoxiously for no real reason. There are more greats of Italian cinema that pop up like Christopher Connelly, Joshua Sinclair and of course the undisputed villain of the century George Eastman, who puts in a brief but great portrayal of his usual eccentric scumbag – for lack of a better word. Hey, even Enzo himself takes a part as well as his daughter in the role of Ann as the lead female.

You really get the feeling of a family atmosphere with some of Enzo’s casting choices and the film exerts this. I know not everyone is going to feel the same way as I do about the movie. It’s not going to be for all tastes, you really have to be willing to forgive a lot of the budget constraints as well as not take offense at the thievery of the movie and see this as something that makes it just a little goofier and a little more… fun. The fact that no one uses a gun in the movie, which in itself is another ripoff of The Warriors, this isn’t a reason to dislike the movie – who needs a gun when you have Hammer FU!? I’ve said it a lot in the course of the review, but I really did have a blast with The Bronx Warriors and I hope I won’t be the last. Fans of the film, at least to the degree that I am, seem few and far between but you can’t judge a film by what others think – and you’ll never find me saying that my opinion is anything more than what it is. Some will love this movie, others will not and probably hate it as much as I do the Italian cult classic Burial Ground. I give the film a four out of five, it’s a wicked good time and the best Italian “post apocalyptic” flick I have seen so far. Give it a chance sometime with an open mind, I guarantee you can have fun with this one.

Bad Bunch, The

Posted by JoshSamford On June - 28 - 2008
Plot Outline: White Vietnam veteran Jim (Greydon Clark) returns home after the war and takes it on himself to deliver a letter, that his black friend wrote before dying, to his family. He soon gets into a confrontation with the dead man’s brother and his gang. Add to all this a love triangle with two hippie chicks and the dead man’s brother out to put a hurting on Jim and you’ve got the movie in a nutshell.

The Review: Have you ever watched a movie where you were certain that the director had high intentions for his film in making a grandiose statement, but somewhere along the way he kind of lost his path? The Bad Bunch falls into this category without question. From my own personal vantage point it seems that Greydon Clark was trying to make a film that ultimately questioned all sides of the race issue, but somehow was pressured into adding a gaggle of unnecessary exploitation along the way. That or perhaps he was just let down with his own lack of talent. Clark, who should be well known to b-cinema afficianados, kind of reminds me of Ed Wood. The only difference is that as his career went onwards he didn’t sink so low as to start making porn flicks. He is a filmmaker with great intentions but limited means, and The Bad Bunch is a shining example of this.

I’m serious about this Greydon Clark thing, I’m fascinated by the guy for some reason. I know nothing about him however and I’ve only seen two of his films. The Bad Bunch and Final Justice (on mst3k) being those films, of course. Maybe I haven’t fully explored his filmography due to that recurring theme of his: Badness. Well ‘badness’ is one particular theme, lack of budget is another and the fact that he likes to cast himself often is another staple of his work. Here he’s the star, but in Final Justice he plays a sheriff near the beginning. Anyway, I realize all of Clark’s work after this film tends to be just quick drive-in fare aimed to make a buck, but I think this film is a little different. It’s just as bad as those films, but I think Clark really thought he was going to make something with this movie, but instead he delivered a film that just goes in way too many directions and gets extremely sloppy towards the end.

Unlike a review I read a while back, I don’t think the film is really all too prejudice. I think it shows both races that are explored in a particularly bad light. I think Clark was trying to deliver a racial drama that he felt was true to life, but the unnecessary nudity, cheapness and the amateur acting takes away from any artistic integrity the feature may have hoped to achieve. At one point in the film, everything kind of stops for like five minutes when the ‘bad bunch’ of the title, all go skinny dipping with a bunch of upper class white kids at their pool party. This could have been a scene to further the plot in some way I imagine, but instead it just seems tacked on. The entire film could have went without it, but it seems like a rather cheap device to get some nudity out there and is just one of the many things that feels like it could have been added so they could sell the film easier. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think this film is any kind of masterpiece and Clark was a hapless pawn in the producer’s game. Heck, the man made “Satan’s Cheerleaders”, so you know he’s to blame for a whole lot of everything.

I’m no filmmaker myself, but I believe there has to be a rule about not overusing your scenery. I mean if you’re going to use the same set, at least shoot it differently. It makes sense right? Well, obviously this never crossed Clark’s mind because in the film we are treated to about four different scenes on the same plain “motel” set. Near the end of the film, we are actually treated to two scenes in a row. One woman walks out the door ending the scene and another walks in starting another. I couldn’t help but laugh because if you’re going to re-use a set so often the least you could do is make it a good looking set. Shoot on location in a real hotel if you have to, just give the audience something to look at!

The acting is shoddy, the camerawork is terrible, the sets are incredibly cheap, and the film isn’t really all that fun. I can’t really recommend it, but I’m sure there are some who would enjoy this film. I came close to it, but after thinking it over and re-watching the film I came out with a different opinion. I’ve given it one star for effort and minus four for everything else.

Author’s Note: While going through a lot of these reviews, it’s funny how you find how your opinion changes over time. I find with a lot of these earlier reviews (this was originally written back sometime around 2002 and posted in 2003) while not only being a shade of what I am capable of in terms of writing, they were written with a little less care in terms of judging films as a whole. Here I am about six years later and I still find myself wandering back to The Bad Bunch now and then. Say what you want, the film has staying power. I look at the score of one out of five and cringe now, because I think it deserves a little more than that. If I were to re-review the film now I would score it a three out of five. For what it is, The Bad Bunch is a very decent film. With time and many, many movies later you tend to learn that there are a million different ways to look at a movie and no matter what you think – there will be better and there will be worse. Greydon Clark is indeed a b-film director, but one that should draw a little more notoriety than he recieves. Overall, I now have to say I do reccomend Bad Bunch for fellow blaxploitation fans and drive-in afficianados looking for something a little bit strange.

— Josh

Assault on Precint 13

Posted by JoshSamford On June - 28 - 2008
Review contributed by Rat Faced Killa

Plot Outline: In seemingly unconnected events in Los Angeles, a street gang vows revenge against the police for killing 6 of their crew, a rookie cop named Bishop is handed the crappy job of watching a police station in the process of closing down, and a murderer named Napoleon Wilson is carted off to death row. These events soon culminate into the siege of the near-vacant police station by hundreds of violent gang members. Cut off from the rest of the city and low on weapons, the station’s few remaining occupants, Wilson, and another crook named Wells must trust each other in order to survive. Talk about a crappy first night on the job!

The Review: Picture Romero’s Night of the Living Dead. Replace the mindless zombies with random gang-members and the old country house with a nearly abandoned police station in the middle of a desolate inner-city neighborhood. Now you’ve got the simple but effective premise that drives this magnificent budget action picture from the golden age of exploitation film. No wonder this is one of Quentin Tarantino’s personal favorites (and referenced several times in his script for From Dusk Till Dawn), as it’s about as cool as these kind of flicks come. In the hands of another director, the film’s mildly contrived premise may have resulted in a forgettable B-movie, but Carpenter does several things to make it work. Each of the plot strands are intercut in such a way that even though it takes half of the movie to reach the center-piece of the film, the siege of the police station, the film is consistently interesting.

The time devoted to establishing the films premise helps to develop the character of Napoleon Wilson, introduce Bishop and the situation regarding the police precinct, and provide a motive behind the street gang’s actions.Even though most the characters are two-dimensional, each of them serve a clear purpose in advancing the plot(besides the secretary that gets killed….well, maybe that was her purpose). These elements help to retain a suspension of disbelief so that when the gang does attack the precinct, it’s easy to buy. There are no superfluous plot pieces and it seems to head in a definite direction throughout, so the film maintains a brisk pace. Made on a meager budget of a little over one hundred grand, Carpenter’s film looks like one of 10 times that, thanks to his skill with the camera. Much more advanced than his previous feature, Dark Star, Assault is filled with expertly handled shots and nicely framed widescreen photography, giving it a professional look. The main set of the film, the interior of the police station, looks as real as any seen on film. Although Carpenter hadn’t fully developed his musical skills, the score to Assault is effective in setting a mood, even if repetitive.

Also credited as the editor, Carpenter shows aptitude in the assembly of action scenes, particularly the shoot-out involving Bishop, Wilson and the gang members, in which he manages to make simple actions exciting. Also impressive is the assembly of the exterior precinct sequences. With the use of POV shots Carpenter creates the illusion of the desolate station surroundings, despite being filmed in totally different locations. Characteristic of most budget pictures, the acting in Assault is a little weak, with the exception of Darwin Josten who has a memorable turn as the anti-hero Napoleon Wilson. He may be a son of a bitch, but he’s a likable one. Wilson is a precursor to the anti-heroes that would show up in subsequent Carpenter films, such as Snake Plissken in Escape From New York or John Nada in They Live. He captures every scene he’s in as the cynical outsider who meets his problems with an apathetic attitude. Some of the other acting is particularly poor, especially a scene where Laurie Zimmer(Leigh)is shot in the arm and she doesn’t even flinch! As a Carpenter fan, I feel that Assault is one of his best works, and as a film fan, I feel that it is a minimalist action masterpiece. If you are interested in budget films or Carpenter’s work, this is a must see. In fact, if you are interested in movies at all this one should be on your rental list.




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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.