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Screaming Tiger, The

Posted by Josh Samford On December - 9 - 2011

The Screaming Tiger (1973)
Director: Kim Lung
Writers: Unknown
Starring: Jimmy Wang Yu, Cheung Ching Ching and Lung Fei



The Plot: Jimmy Wang Yu plays a wandering martial artist who found his beach-side village completely decimated by the Japanese, and demands vengeance on every single Japanese man who crosses his path. After leaving China for the Japanese shore, he wanders into a local village where a group of bandits cross his path attempting to pickpocket him. Wang Yu manages to catch them in the act, and quickly gives them a beating. When he notices a man following him, who wears the dress of a Komuso monk, he wanders outside of town to see just what this person has in mind. As it turns out, the man is really Chinese and he tries to persuade Wang Yu from holding bitterness in his heart. Wang Yu doesn’t take the advice all too serious, and instead heads back into town where he is then pickpocketed by a young woman. He attempts to follow her, but this only leads him to trouble. He and this young woman become romantically involved, and as Wang Yu discovers more about her, he finds that searching out her boss may very well lead him to the man who destroyed his home.

The Review
You’ve seen the giant sets in stores before. Twenty martial art films in one box set for a ridiculously cheap price. If you’re a kung fu film nerd, chances are you own one or three of these sets already, and if this is the case I am sure you have run into The Screaming Tiger once or twice. Sometimes it goes by the name The Screaming Ninja, or even Wang Yu, King of the Boxers, but the movie is almost always the same print. Low on quality, but high on Jimmy Wang Yu action, Screaming Tiger is a wee bit underrated amongst martial art film loyalists in my opinion. While it is not his very best work by any stretch of the imagination, there is still some magic to be found in this film. Wang Yu still looks great and tries to invigorate the audience with the insanity that he is well known for. A bizarre figure within the world of Hong Kong action, Jimmy Wang Yu himself is one of The Screaming Tiger‘s greatest attributes, and the delivery on the action is everything that kung fu film fans could ultimately hope for from the master.

Screaming Tiger was a movie that I came across years ago during my initial raids of Wal-Mart looking for cheap kung fu titles. Since then, I have collected a few copies of it in various other collections, and I have actually watched it on more than a couple of occasions. It was a title that made a fairly big impression on me the first time I sat through it, due mainly to how new and unique Jimmy Wang Yu’s style of choreography seemed to be. My first film from the man was the remarkably underrated Return of the Chinese Boxer, and Screaming Tiger seemed to underscore just how consistent his work seemed to be. Critics can say what they like about Wang Yu as a person, as his offscreen temper tantrums have made him notorious, but he was a performer who knew how to deliver. His films were often packed full of no-nonsense action that demanded the attention of its audience. Screaming Tiger is a film that feels bigger than it probably is, but Wang Yu doesn’t relent in shooting for the moon with his picture.

The Screaming Ninja, The Screaming Tiger and Wang Yu, King of Boxers, all of these are alternate titles, but not one of them accurately describes the film. If I were to name it, I think I would go with the much more descriptive Jimmy Wang Yu Beats Up Japan. This title seems to be far more fitting, because Wang Yu’s xenophobic view of the Japnese is seemingly more brazen than your average kung fu title looking to go over similar territory. Whoever wrote this picture painted it with their very bitter disgust for the Japanese, and this anger can be felt throughout the picture. The film sometimes takes a fairly dark turn, and these racial tensions stop feeling light and humorous and start seeming dark and slanderous. At the point where we see Jimmy Wang Yu take on and beat four sumo wrestlers, the movie almost seems as if it is preoccupied with defaming all facets of Japanese culture. The film tries to save itself from being pure propaganda by including scenes where Wang Yu is punished by being sternly spoken to for being so racist. However, it is too little after too much. The “fish out of water” scenes that explain the cultural differences between China and Japan are entertaining, and they do manage to lighten the mood a bit. However, they still seem to have the impact of poking fun at the Japanese rather than explaining the differences between cultures. Only one side is shown as being “correct,” and that is the side of the Chinese.

One thing that always made Wang Yu special was how much his films loved to focus on varying martial art styles. The Chinese Boxer films and the One-Armed Boxer series were perfect examples of this. Featuring martial art skills from all over the map, these movies actually shed some light on the Chinese view of arts such as Judo and Muay Thai. Screaming Tiger, due to its focus on Japan, certainly mixes things up, and it shows multiple battles between Japanese karate/judo with Chinese kung fu. The film actually demonstrates a decent amount of knowledge about these arts, as the fight scenes are very well choreographed. Arm locks and traditional judo throws are shown during some fight scenes, and it adds to the overall sense of a martial-arts-variety that Wang Yu seemed to have a fascination with. So many of his films capitalized on this. One gets the sense that it was either a stigma that audiences had when picturing his work or it was something he generally cared a lot about. Surely he didn’t have creative input on every last one of these films, so you have to imagine that this was just a gimmick that audiences expected from Jimmy. However, knowing his temper and control-freak attitude, I wouldn’t be surprised either way. Seeing the intensity of his choreography, one has to imagine that there was a personal interest involved in these projects.

What has, and always will be, the main selling point for this movie is the culminating battle between Jimmy Wang Yu and the evil Japanese karate villain. Climactic fight scenes are supposed to be fairly epic in their scale, but The Screaming Tiger takes things to rather ridiculous heights. Starting off on a dirt road, then traveling onto a moving train, and then jumping off of a bridge into a waterfall, this sequence is one that needs to be seen to be believed. Everything up until this point has seemingly been very by-the-books, with the exception of some varying martial art styles, but when this final battle begins, the movie changes into something else entirely. There are stunts, the fighting becomes much more furious and the entire movie seems to enter into true “WTF?” territory. Although I think the first half of the movie is definitely quite solid, it is only a seventy minute martial arts picture about a man getting revenge against the killer who took his family: We’ve traveled this road before. The finale, however, provides a level of entertainment that is seldom seen in movies.


The Conclusion
Like I said, the movie definitely has its issues. It is xenophobic and nationalistic. It is incredibly short as well, and every print I have ever seen has looked absolutely awful. However, there is a really intriguing piece of kung fu cinema lying just beneath the surface. Not everyone will agree with my assessment, and this could just be nostalgia putting blinders over my eyes, but I give the movie a four out of five. It is more than likely better seen as a three, but if this is one of the titles that pops up on a martial arts cheapie pack that you buy – it immediately makes it worth whatever you’ve spent on it.




MST3K: Mighty Jack

Posted by Josh Samford On November - 8 - 2011

MST3K: Mighty Jack (1991, original air date)
Starring: Joel Hodgson, Trace Beaulieu and Kevin Murphy



The Plot: Joel Robinson is trapped on the Satellite of Love with a group of robot friends who he has created. This crew of misfits are forced by the evil Dr. Forrester to endure many incredibly bad movies. The only thing that makes this process bearable is the fact that they riff and crack jokes during the entire ordeal. This week’s film is the Japanese spy flick Mighty Jack! In our story, Q is a nefarious and evil organization bent on world domination. To combat this, the president (prime minister) of Japan enlists the service of a special group of men and women in order to fight for justice. This group is called Mighty Jack, and they are Japan’s leaders in international espionage. When top agent Harold Hatari goes missing, it remains up to Mighty Jack to find him and discover just what Q is planning. Their inevitable goal is world domination using a new form of ice that doesn’t melt at room temperature.

The Review
Many critics who take their time out and review episodes of the Mystery Science Theater 3000 series will do so in a variety of fashions. Some will focus on multiple episodes in one sitting, some review the episodes instead of the movies, but sadly there are also many who are ridiculously condescending towards the original films being shown. I sometimes wonder if this isn’t because so many new viewers are not used to the magical world of b-cinema. Truly, if a film does show up on MST3K, it is most certainly because it is of questionable quality. However, if the viewer isn’t entirely familiar with the world of b-cinema, they may not recognize what type of b-movie they have just watched. You see, the world of bad movies packs quite the variety. Some films are just generally awful because the filmmakers didn’t know any better, such was the case with Manos: The Hands of Fate. Some are bad due to budgetary reasons and poor special FX, such as The Horrors of Spider Island. Then there are those which are bad only because of the poor treatment that the film received through North American distribution. Films such as The Magical Voyage of Sinbad and the Sandy Frank version of Gamera are prime examples of this. Mighty Jack, too, is a beast of the same variety.

I highly recommend picking up the Shout Factory box set, Mystery Science Theater 3000: Volume XXII, even if you do it only for the excellent special features. Amongst the two featurettes on the disc is an excellent introduction by Japanese film expert August Ragone. I’ve been familiar with the man for a while now, but before he started popping up on these Shout Factory! discs I had no idea he was such a charismatic speaker. He, yet again, fills the audience in on the background information surrounding Mighty Jack, and all of the history that went behind this series. You begin to wonder if there’s any aspect of Japanese culture that Ragone isn’t familiar with. Apparently Mighty Jack was another, like Time of the Apes, expansive series that Sandy Frank condensed into a quick ninety minute version. Originally thirteen one hour episodes, somehow Sandy Frank’s company was able to compile all of this footage into one small portion. Unlike Time of the Apes though, this movie severely suffers from the transition. Confusion is everywhere once Mighty Jack begins, and if it weren’t for the MST3K crew then this would be entirely too difficult to sit through.

Mighty Jack, if one were to come into it unprepared, would have to easily rank as one of the most decidedly infuriating spy movies ever made. Although Joel and the bots continually riff on the film for not making sense, I have a feeling that if you watched the movie without commentary, and took notes on every single character, then it could perhaps make some form of logical sense. In the format that it is now though, it is a boring and tedious film with very few good qualities. This is what happens when you take a very intricately plotted spy television series and cut it down from thirteen full hours into just one and a half. The plot becomes almost impossible to follow without creating flash cards in order to keep your memory constantly refreshed over just what is happening. In fact, the film is so confusing that it only takes the MST3K crew about five minutes into the movie to flatly admit “I’m lost.” On top of this poor editing, the film is packed with many wordy scenes that are filled to the brim with expositional information, but due to the poor audio mix on the original film it is more than likely that audience members will miss out on much of this vital information.
If the movie is completely and utterly a drag, at least the riffing done is of a high quality. Joel and the bots were, at this point, very well versed in the world of poorly treated Japanese dubs. This can be seen in how they incorporate numerous in-jokes from throughout the MST3K series at this point. Running gags are the norm here, including the resurrection of the famous “toy boat, toy boat, toy boat” line originated in the previous Gamera episode. This classic line also gets a twist when it transforms into “toy diver, toy diver, toy diver” when the filmmakers obviously try to use a miniature in place of an actor who is supposed to be diving underwater. Another inside joke from previous episodes is the classic “Sandy Frank Theme Song,” which made its debut during the Time of the Apes episode, but is only sung in small sections here and isn’t given the full backup vocals. Overall, the quality of riffing during the Mighty Jack episode is actually very well done. Considering the fact that this film feels like an endless series of individual short movies, with no connection to one another, the guys actually manage to create a much more humorous narrative than what Sandy Frank could have ever envisioned.


The Conclusion
Overall, when the movie is this puzzling it is hard for the episode to really raise too high above expectations. With what they were working with, the MST3K gang did a very good job. A solid, but not spectacular, episode, I give Mighty Jack my go-to rating of three out of five.




MST3K: Gamera

Posted by Josh Samford On July - 17 - 2011

Gamera (1991)
Starring: Joel Hodgson, Trace Beaulieu and Kevin Murphy



The Plot: Joel Robinson and his robotic friends Crow and Tom Servo are stuck in outer space aboard the Satellite of Love where they are forced to watch bad movies by the evil Dr. Forrester. The crew try to make the most of the movies presented to them as they continually crack jokes while the movies play on for the audience. In this particular episode Joel and company are forced to watch the original Kaiju classic: Gamera. This is the age old story of a boy, his pet turtle and a gigantic monster tortoise who destroys cities. After an airplane carrying nuclear explosives is shot down in the Antarctic, out of the icy terrain the ancient monster Gamera is awakened. A massive turtle who breathes fire and feasts on destructive energy, it seems that earth can in no way compete with this monstrous beast. However, a small boy named Kenny realizes that while Gamera most assuredly does destroy nearly everything in his path – he has a heart and is a friend to all children!

The Review
Take Mystery Science Theater 3000, now combine it with one of the most notable Kaiju series to ever come out of Japan and then what do you get? Well, you get MST3K Vs. Gamera, the latest box set from the fine folks over at Shout! Factory. This was ultimately a no-brainer for the company as they own the rights to the Gamera license as well as MST3K and when you look back on the many episodes from the series throughout the years you have to admit that any episode where the inhabitants of the Satellite of Love were to watch a gamera movie: the results were generally pretty spectacular. This box set packages all five Gamera episodes and today we start off with a look back on the very first in the epic series. If you read this site, you’re likely already vaguely aware of our love for Gamera from our review of the previous Gamera: The Giant Monster Shout Factory release, but I promise that with the English dub and the masterful riffing of Joel and the bots – this is a completely different movie experience entirely.

The history between this show and the Gamera series actually travels all the way back to the original KTMA local access station that originally hosted Mystery Science Theater 3000 before it was picked up by what would later become Comedy Central. Although the Gamera series would be visited in those early days, it wasn’t until the show had been given an actual budget that we would truly get a feel for what these two giants of Geekdom could produce when paired together. The Gamera series on the whole is rather child-like and surreal to enough degree that it would make for perfect fodder for this show, and it seems that the MST3K crew realized this. The original Gamera might prove to be one of the most serious entries, but Jole and the bots manage to keep things from being able to be taken as stoneface as it was originally meant to be. In the post-war years that the film was made in, and with the cold war threat of looming nuclear apocalypse surrounding it, the original Gamera was another stern look at the results of nuclear warfare. With the help of Sally Frank however, who distributed the series some time after their initial release, the movie becomes a bit of a farce and Joel & company perfectly capture the sense of silliness inherit in this new version of Gamera.

Although you’ll see in my Gamera: The Giant Monster review that this can, and very well should, be taken as a somewhat legitimate film in its original format, when Sandy Frank grabbed ahold of this series he sort of put a hole in all of that. With ridiculously over the top dubbing it proves much more difficult to picture these characters as anything remotely three dimensional. As anyone who has ever seen a Kung Fu movie can tell you, when it comes to children being dubbed the results are almost always annoying. Such is the case with young “Kenny”, the lead child and inevitable friend of Gamera himself, who in this dubbed form becomes an annoying nuisance. His whiny voice and hysterics over his recently deceased pet turtle grabs the attention of Joel, Crow and Tom Servo, who lampoon the young boy without mercy. Throughout the movie it becomes a running gag for the crew to insert “evil” lines of dialogue into the young boy’s mouth as things play out. The idea is ludicrous and generally makes no sense, but as they insert these evil lines about murder and Satan worship, you’ll find it impossible not to laugh.

As with each film featured on the MST3K Vs. Gamera boxset from Shout Factory, you can expect some very high quality special features. On this first disc there is a very nice featurette that details the background history between the show and the entire Gamera series. The background delves into both Gamera’s North American distribution as well as the original KTMA coverage of the series, all featuring interviews with the majority of the cast. The featurette is relatively short but incredibly informative and frankly its always nice to see the cast in their current day appearance. The DVD set is rounded off with cool mini-flyers as well as a metallic case that should look pretty swank on any collector’s DVD shelf.


The Conclusion
Easily one of my favorite episodes and a great start to a classic collection. As good, in its own unique way, as the original Gamera: The Giant Monster, the MST3K treatment creates comedic gold. Some of the best riffing from this period in the show’s history and a really great episode of an amazing series, you can’t go wrong with snatching up the box set.




Vengeance is Mine Review

Posted by Josh Samford On May - 20 - 2010
Hey everybody! It’s a little late but I managed to finish it up! My take on Imamura’s classic Vengeance is Mine! Look forward to more coming in the next few days, including a review for the immortal Death Race 2000!

The Plot: Vengeance is Mine tells the story of Iwao Enokizu (Ken Ogata), a psychotic killer who commits several murders while on the run from the law. Raised by Christian parents in Japan during the great war, Iwao rebelled from his parents early on. Deciding that to turn the other cheek was the wrong way of handling nearly any situation. As he grew into a man he found himself getting in trouble with the law more and more.











CONTINUE READING THE REVIEW HERE

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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.

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