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Violence Jack 1-3

Posted by Josh Samford On May - 7 - 2010
The Plot: In the first movie Harem Bomber, a man known as Slum King controls the lands and doesn’t take kindly to Violence Jack stepping into his territory. Jack does battle with some of Slum King’s men and they are separated, but Violence Jack has his eye on the Slum King. At the same time as this is happening, a young girl named Mari is kidnapped by the Slum King’s men and is sent to a sex camp to live her life as a slave. Her boyfriend Ken however, who she hasn’t seen since the great earthquake that destroyed Japan, is now a member of the Slum King’s army and will look to rescue Mari from this horrible situation. In the second entry in the series Evil Town we are introduced to an underground civilization that has been split into three sections. In one group there are the respectable men from older Japan who want to establish order, in the second there is a violent biker gang lead by the psychotic Mad Saurus and in the third section all of the women have separated themselves from the other groups due to their being raped. When the respectable men discover Violence Jack amidst all of the rubble, it creates a new tension between the three groups as to who will control Violence Jack. In the final movie Hell’s Wind Hin we see a small village in the desert wastelands who are being tormented and tortured by the psychotic biker gang The Hell’s Wind. Violence Jack, always looking for a challenge, introduces himself to the bikers but is gunned down. However, bullets are not enough to actually kill Jack. He just needs time to recuperate. Along the way he’ll seek the aid of a young boy who simply wants to hide from the villains, as well as a young woman who had everything she has ever loved ripped away by these evil men. Will the forces of good prevail?


The Review
In the field of Japanese anime I am still very much a ‘noob’. At this point in time, I still have not seen anything from director Hayao Miyazaki who is the undisputed king of the Japanese animation market. My brain, when it comes to anime, is still very much stuck in my past. A past that was shrouded in a bizarre fascination with violence and insanity. As a younger man I finished off the classics, such as Vampire Hunter D, Akira and Ninja Scroll. However, the world of Japanese animation is an impenetrable force for me as it is simply so huge! There are animated series to wander through, tons of OVA (original video animation, straight to video anime) releases and so forth! It is a difficult and vast genre to try and wrap your head around. So, the anime titles that ultimately end up drawing my attention may not be the very best that the genre has to offer, but they are usually pretty fun! In the case of Violence Jack, ‘fun’ may not be the best description!

The brain child of controversial manga artist Go Nagai, Violence Jack is just another one of his violent, subversive and cruel creations. There are three separate OVA titles that I will be reviewing here and they are some of the most disturbing anime titles I have ever seen. These mini-movies almost make the Legend of the Overfiend series look normal in comparison! And that is a series about demons raping humans! Violence Jack takes you into a world that is dark and pessimistic, where ignoring common morality ends with the wholesale slaughter of any person on screen. Set in a desolate wasteland that used to be Japan (as is so often the case with anime titles), these titles absolutely wreak havoc on your brain as you watch them one after the other. Regardless of the possible depression or disgust you may feel afterward, there’s no getting past the fact that the Violence Jack has power behind it. It’s an absolutely brutal piece of animation and today I plan to take a look at all three titles. All three films being reviewed are from their uncut form.

VIOLENCE JACK 1: HAREM BOMBER
The first entry into the series establishes the world in which our stories take place and it also introduces us to Violence Jack himself. The funny thing is that with each successive feature, Violence Jack changes as much as the scenery does. Truthfully not a single entry in the series is connected to any of the other titles. Each time Violence Jack simply wanders into a situation and with him, violence comes to pass and destroy everything around him. This first entry in the series is ultimately the tamest by comparison in terms of exploitation and gore, but it certainly has its moments of bloody violence. Jack slashes and hacks through his enemies with his gigantic blade, making his way to take on the Slum King himself! The love story that blossoms throughout is interesting and we are given our first look at the interesting moral dynamic of the Violence Jack series.

Each feature in the series has its own moral guideline and message that it delivers by using some pretty extreme parables. Ultimately this first film is about doing what is right and being considerate towards others, a theme that pops up throughout the OVA’s and likely the original manga as well. Each film shows us the sins of our characters and ultimately shows us that their crimes will not be forgiven and their repentance comes in the form of a ten foot tall giant who kills them in brutal fashion. It is hard to detail the exact scene that justifies the moral judgment that the film makes, but I will say it comes near the end of the movie and a lead character refuses to repay Violence Jack’s kindness and instead chooses cowardice. This ultimately leads to this character’s death and brings about the end of our first foray into the world of Violence Jack.

Overall Harem Bomber is likely the most ‘fun’ you will have in the series, since the gore and rape is scaled back to only minimal levels. Well, keep in mind that when I say ‘minimal’ that still means we get graphic lesbian rape and various women being beaten with whips. I give this entry a three out of five, as it truthfully lacks the intrigue that later episodes bring about. Instead we’re given a rather generic post-apocalyptic adventure story that is pretty common in the world of Japanese animation.




VIOLENCE JACK 2: EVIL TOWN
And oh buddy, this is where the audience really decides whether or not Violence Jack is for them or not. This is where the series takes its audience directly into the mouth of hell. Ironically it does so while showcasing a group of underground dwellers! Evil Town is easily the most vile of the series and the most well known due to its extremely graphic nature. In terms of violence and sex, it is nearly pornographic in its display of both. In fact, in the sex that is shown you might as well call it pornographic since the sex is as explicit as you could possibly make it in Japan. With mosaic blurs placed over all of the crotches, of course! There is a fairly infamous sequence during the middle of the feature where we finally discover that the seemingly normal males of this underground society actually gang raped all of the women after putting them to sleep. The rape sequence is of course shown in graphic detail with various sexual positions run on various women, while they shout and scream in agony. It is at this point that we are truly welcomed to the world of Violence Jack.

Keeping in tune with the mythos that was detailed in the first movie the film sets itself up with a relatively simple formula. When Jack comes to any town and his violent ways are flared up ultimately all involved will die or destroy themselves. He is essentially a walking curse and in this underground society that means the three classes fighting with one another will ultimately destroy one another as you might have guessed. However, once the violence starts to roll you’ll be surprised at the amount of atrocities you will witness. A room full of children is turned into a slaughter house as they are stabbed and slashed to death right before our eyes. Another rape sequence pops up that is even more graphic than the first and the infamous cannibal sequence may just turn your stomach. Evil Town is as nihilist as the series could possibly get and it may be the most shocking anime feature you will ever get your hands on.

However, while it is most certainly a gory and sadistic entry into the series, it continues that same bizarre moralistic approach to the material. This time the story deals with man’s intolerance and the responsibility of those who are stronger. Where these men should be minding over the women, protecting them from wrong, they instead give into their base emotions and ultimately pay the price for their sins. Had the three groups been able to peaceably live with one another and had Jack there to help them escape, all would have survived but instead they sealed their own fate. This very simple morality tale once again leads to a slaughter unlike you have ever seen. I think the extreme parable works well however and the levels of depravity that the feature takes on may hide its moral compass, but I like that and think it makes the movie all the stronger for it. Easily the best of the series, I give it a four out of five.




VIOLENCE JACK 3: HELL’S WIND HIN
In the final installment of the series, we start things off with an extremely brutal bit of gory violence in order to let the viewer know exactly what they are in for. Showing a young man and his wife being chased down by a biker gang known as Hell’s Wind, we see as he runs over a member of the gang in his pursuit to outrun them but he is soon forced out of the vehicle and is brutally murdered. How is it done? With a chainsaw of course. This bit of chainsaw carnage takes the intensity of the scene from Scarface but amplifies it by adding this extremely gory violence. While this happens though, it shows the world in which Go Nagai crafts for his audience. There is no escape, there is no hope for a hero to show his face and stop this atrocity. We are simply forced to endure the cruelty of man.

When the story takes on its Seven Samurai inspired plot, things slow down a bit but without the complication of too many characters (as was displayed in Harem Bomber) the story remains interesting enough to keep our attention. The violence of course doesn’t stop during this period, as we see the Hell’s Wind break into this town and begin their extreme torture and brutality on the innocent civilians of this community. Humans are decapitated, bodies split in half and intestines are thrown around like confetti. It’s a pretty brutal sequence, but after the chainsaw scene and the immense brutality of Evil Town it is hard to feel much of anything. Yet, with all of this extreme cruelty, overall Hell’s Wind Hin certainly feels like the most positive feature in all of the series. It also dissolves the myth of Jack being a cursed being who brings nothing but death to the lands, as the ending to this feature is slightly more positive in its outcome than the previous features. However, with the amount of antagonism that was on display in Harem Bomber and Evil Town that can mean just about anything.

The bad guys are literally bad in this entry and the decent people truly are decent, which is certainly a turn around from Nagai’s previous two films which essentially showed the better part of humanity as pond scum. Despite its twists in the format of the episode, it still retains the morality tale as we see that man’s indifference towards evil ultimately proves to be an evil all to itself. As the little boy in the story seems to learn, we must all find the courage within us to fight off whatever evils we may confront in life. When we ignore those evils, we pave our own road to hell in essence. While this may not prove to have the power that Evil Town proved to have, I still think it’s the second best of the series due to its change of pace. It’s a nice way to end the series and takes away some of the depressing sting that the other two films had. I give it another four out of five, although if I did half-stars I think it would be in the 3.5 range.



The Conclusion
This series won’t prove to be for everyone. It’s a dark and morbid curiosity for those looking to see the darker side of Japanese animation, but at the same time I think it proves to be an interesting assortment of ideas that could prove to be a more intelligent output than some would give it credit for. However, I could just be crazy and I’m rationalizing my enjoyment for a series of films so disturbing and horrifying. I have no shame though, so you should know better. If after reading all of this you still hold some interest, then perhaps you are the type of person who can handle Violence Jack. If you’re feeling a little queasy after reading about the various atrocities though, then maybe not! I have no doubts that his films are certainly better pieces of artistry. If you’re looking for sleaze instead, this is the place to find it!

God of Gamblers: Returns

Posted by Josh Samford On May - 5 - 2010
The Plot: Ko Chun (AKA: The God of Gamblers) is a veritable one man wrecking machine when it comes to the art of of high stakes gambling. His skills are unmatched in any game of cards, or in any other form of gambling actually. Ko Chun however has decided to settle down with his beautiful wife and finally enjoy life as he anticipates the birth of his first son. When Ko Chun’s friend arrives, The God of Guns, the two decide to go out for some target practice behind the house. While the two are out having fun, a new challenger arrives for Ko Chun. He is The Devil of Gamblers, a talented man of vice who doesn’t share the gentile and nice qualities that have made Ko Chun so popular. He is an evil man who will do anything for the love of money. When Ko Chun’s wife informs The Devil of Gamblers that under no circumstances will her husband play him in a game of cards, things get ugly. The Devil of Gamblers takes over the mansion with his armed guards and disembowles Ko Chun’s wife so that he can remove the child from her belly and place it in a specimen jar. She is still alive when Ko Chun (after a massive shootout) finds her, but her final words pre-emptively shut down any quick shot at vengeance that Ko Chun might have had planned. She makes him promise that he will not gamble nor admit that he is The God of Gamblers for one whole year. With some time to waste, Ko Chun then sets off to travel across Asia in order to explore his own mind. During this time he finds a young boy and his father, who is a gentile old gangster, who are assaulted by forces working alongside The Devil of Gamblers. The father is killed during a battle between factions leaving the young boy in Ko Chun’s hands to look after. Ko Chun’s group of friends gets larger as he takes this boy and eventually finds a group of gambling swindlers who may not be the brightest con-artists of all time, but they have their hearts in the right place. With his new array of friends, the days pass and it is almost time for The God of Gamblers to make his return!

The Review
Chow Yun-Fat is about as iconic an actor as one can find in all of cult cinema. He is an actor that carries a presence that few others can pull off. The same on-screen presence is found in actors such as Bruce Campbell or maybe Kurt Russells. Chow Yun-Fat, through his work with legends such as John Woo, Tsui Hark and Ringo Lam, managed to plaster his face as the new breed of Hong Kong hero and cinematic legend throughout the eighties and nineties. The most notable of his films have been well covered throughout the blogosphere and websites dedicated to cult cinema. Films such as Hard Boiled, The Killer and the A Better Tomorrow series have deservedly been well documented through various outlets, but the God of Gamblers series remains one of the few talked about major hits in Chow Yun-Fat’s massive Hong Kong library. The series, unlike his other more well known films, would feature Chow hamming it up onscreen in a much more comedic fashion than some might expect. The first film in particular is well known for this fact, as it features Chow essentially playing a child trapped in the body of a grown man. This second (or fourth, or sixth depending on who you ask) film in the series returns Chow to his more charming and debonair self… for about thirty minutes of its running time. At the very least it beats the original film in that regard, as Chow was only seen in his tuxedo for maybe five minutes in that film. The most shocking addition to the series however isn’t Chow dressing in plain clothes and acting silly, it is the film’s propensity to violence and heroic bloodshed in the same vein as his work with John Woo!

Although far from being the pinnacle of Chow Yun-Fat’s career, the God of Gamblers series certainly has its fair share of fans. That fanbase has mostly lied in the constituency of hardcore Hong Kong film fanatics, but their loyalty has helped the series catch on here in North America. Likely edging out some of Chow’s more obscure (but very solid) work such as Prison on Fire or Peace Hotel in terms of fan appreciation. Personally, as a film fan, I have to say that Hong Kong comedies are universally hit or miss with me. More often than not I find them striking out in a big way, but every now and then you’ll find a gem that actually makes the search worthwhile. I won’t say that the original God of Gamblers was THAT movie for me, it was interesting enough to warrant my exploration further into the series. This second entry, due to my familiarity with it from a highlight video of Chow Yun-Fat’s greatest gunfights, actually held the most interest for me. The original God of Gamblers was not an action film in any regard, which fit in line with everything I had already heard about the series up until this point, but this sequel actually manages to mix the comedy of that first film with the wild action that has made Chow Yun-Fat such a notable and historic actor in the eyes of cult film fans everywhere. Director Wong Jing has never been one to shy away from mixing up a strange brew with his films, but I think he actually managed to create something interesting here.

Packing along two very solid gunfights during its run-time, it would be unfair to lead you the reader on and say that God of Gamblers: Returns is a tremendous piece of action cinema. It is not. It is, with no hesitation, an action-comedy. You can believe me as well, there is a heavy emphasis on the comedy in that allocation of words. Your personal preference as far as Hong Kong comedy will go a long way in determining your level of entertainment here. For those of you who are inexperienced in Hong Kong comedies and what to expect, just imagine a very weaselly looking gentleman in your head. Now imagine this gentleman crossing both of his eyes. Then, when you have that ready, imagine this gentleman half-shouting all of his lines and making very silly faces in your direction. These comedies are usually very over the top and broad in their attempts at humor, so if you set your goals low you will either have fun while ignoring the silliest parts or you will find yourself rolling your eyes. Thankfully God of Gamblers doesn’t take the easiest route to its comedy, and while it does most certainly pack a very goofy sense of humor (a guy gets a nosebleed while looking at a pretty girl, characters instantly dress/undress in a moment’s notice, etc.) the film manages to mix in some very dark and violent moments that punctuate the overall aura of friendliness.

The introduction to the film features two very interesting elements that perfectly define these darker moments that I speak of. First, we get our introductory shootout sequence. The character ‘The God of Guns’ brings the same level of uncanny knowledge (or magic) that The God of Gamblers seems to have with cards, but instead translates his magic in the world of firearms instead. This shootout features Ko Chun and the God of Guns running rampant through a mansion shooting anyone and anything that gets in their way. Shotguns and dual handguns are the tools of choice as this scene establishes Ko Chun’s ability to dish out violence. However, the scene takes a bizarre twist as it comes to a close with The God of Gamblers finding his dying wife in her bed, with her stomach sliced open and his fetal son placed in a jar on a dresser across the room. The wind is taken out of our sails as Chow ultimately finds himself wandering around for the next few scenes, only to inevitably wind up in a few wacky situations where he can use his gambling skills and still remain secretive about who he really is. It is a 180 degree turn that we take after this violent opening, and inevitably other bloody sequences pop up throughout, but not before we can have some very silly fun along the way. Throughout much of the film, since the God of Gamblers isn’t actually allowed to gamble, we see Ko Chun instead use his friends as figurative puppets. This is very kin to the traditional martial arts ‘grand master’ who would use those who didn’t know Kung Fu in order to beat their opponents by simply kicking the back of their leg and forcing them to throw their own foot in the face of an opponent. This could be seen in various martial art films including Snake in the Eagle’s Shadow as well as various other Kung Fu comedies. The effect is well done and the comedy, in the face of the bloodshed, actually seems fairly subdued in spite of all the wackiness.

The Trivia
  • One of Chow Yun-Fat’s last films made in Hong Kong (along with the classic Peace Hotel) before his jump to the Hollywood film system.

  • Although it is often considered the first true sequel to the original God of Gamblers, because it is the first film to continue with Ko Chun’s character, there were roughly five other films made between the release of the first film and this feature. The official sequels were God of Gamblers II and God of Gamblers III: Back to Shanghai. Unofficial continuations come from Stephen Chow’s popular Saint of Gamblers series which spawned All For the Winner and the spinoff (of the spinoff) The Top bet



  • The Conclusion
    Overall, God of Gamblers: Returns is a pretty fun action comedy. It has its problems, such as the pacing which is pretty drawn out, and the various oddball elements (a telekinetic gambler, references to Dragonball, etc.) make the movie seem goofier than it probably deserved to be. Still, if you’re a fan of Chow Yun-Fat and you’ve exhausted your search for his greatest action roles – then this might be the ticket for you. It’s an obscure but fun piece of fluff that solidifies itself as a partial entry into the Heroic Bloodshed film genre. I give the movie a three out of five, as it was fun but certainly nothing that you would kick yourself for missing out on.



    The Stepfather on Blu-Ray June 15th

    Posted by Josh Samford On May - 4 - 2010
    The classic “my dad is a psychopath” slasher/thriller is making its way to the digital age! Shout Factory is giving the film a new bit of polish as they re-release the feature in the blu-ray format.

    Without question a classic of the horror genre and perhaps the role that Terry O’Quinn will be most fondly remembered for. Well, I’ll say it is the role that I will best remember him for! For those rocking the new technology they will be able to enjoy O’Quinn’s spectacular HD manliness on June 15th! Here is the Shout Factory press release!

    80’s cult classic horror flick The Stepfather is set for Blu-ray release for the first time ever, remastered and featuring new bonus features otherwise only available on Shout! Factory’s 2009 DVD release of the film. Available on Shout! Factory on June 15, the film stars Terry O’Quinn (Lost), in a role that won him a nomination for Best Actor at the 1988 Independent Spirit Awards and the Saturn Awards. The Stepfather was selected as one of the year’s Top 10 movies by Vanity Fair, Village Voice and LA Weekly and featured on Bravo’s 100 Scariest Movie Moments special. A remake of the film from Screen Gems, starring Dylan Walsh (Nip/Tuck) and Sela Ward (The Guardian, Once and Again), hit theaters in 2009.

    Jerry Blake (Terry O’Quinn) is a man obsessed with having the perfect “American Dream” life — including the house with the white picket fence in the suburbs, an adoring wife and loving children. He believes he’s found it when he marries Susan Maine (Shelley Hack) and becomes the stepfather to Susan’s 16-year-old daughter, Stephanie (Jill Schoelen). But Stephanie gets an uneasy feeling when she is around Jerry with his “Father Knows Best” attitude — she can see that there is a darker side behind his cheerful exterior. Could he be the same man who brutally murdered his family just one year earlier?

    Inspired in part by a gruesome true story and written by Donald E. Westlake (The Grifters, The Hunter, later made as Point Blank), and Brian Garfield (Death Wish, Hopscotch, Death Sentence) the script was picked up by ITC Entertainment, and Joseph Ruben (Sleeping With The Enemy, The Good Son, The Forgotten) was chosen to direct the film.

    Special features include an audio commentary with director Joseph Ruben, film trailers (HD), a still gallery, and The Stepfather Chronicles – an all-new retrospective featuring interviews with director Joseph Ruben, producer Jay Benson, actress Jill Schoelen, author Brian Garfield and others on the making of the film and its enduring legacy (HD).

    Criminal Woman: Killing Melody

    Posted by Josh Samford On April - 23 - 2010
    The Plot: Reiko Ike plays Maki, a young woman whose father was forced to distribute illegal drugs and then laid to waste by the ruthless Oba clan. After the murder of her father, these Yakuza came back and raped the young girl. With vengeance on her mind, she located her first target and slashed him dead in a club. She is immediately incarcerated, but refuses to take a lenient sentence by confessing the motivation of her crime. She spends her time in prison, mostly isolated from the other inmates. She immediately is at odds with Masao (Miki Sugamoto) but after a fight between the two, she is able to at least live amongst the girls. She even makes friends with most of them, who ultimately decide to help her in her quest for revenge after they are all released from prison. Masao however remains as distant as possible, because unknown to Maki, she is Hayama’s (leader of the Oba clan) main woman. Maki goes ahead with her plan however and soon turns the entire Oba clan on its head by staging a war between their group and another yakuza clan in the area. Will Maki’s plan come to fruition and will her vengeance be fulfilled?


    The Review
    If you’ve been following Varied Celluloid within the past six months or so, you’ll have noticed an influx of Pinky Violence films. As with many things, I am more than a little late in discovering these amazing pieces of cinematic history. Their history is rich and here in North America they have started to really gain an audience within the past few years. No doubt this resurgence comes from Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez bringing such films as Lady Snowblood and various yakuza movies to the forefront. The timely release of the Pinky Violence Collection from Panik House (which this film is found on) has also helped to spread their notoriety. The pinky violence genre itself is interesting in the fact that it carries weight with modern audiences more than any other cult genre from seventies-era Japan. Sure, the yakuza pictures of Kinji Fukasaku certainly had the retro fashion that the pinky violence genre does, but the yakuza market is very much stuck within a cultural crevasse. They are films made about a subculture that few are going to instantly have a history with or know their customs. It also doesn’t help that they are uniquely and predominantly male-only films. The pinky violence films of Toei are action filled masterpieces that push their unbridled Girl Power right in your face and have little regard for cultural dispositions. Criminal Woman: Killing Melody is a perfect example of this. Although not a film shot by a luminary of the genre such as Norifumi Suzuki, Teruo Ishii or Yasuharu Hasebe, director Atsushi Mihori would direct this stunning cult item and deliver a film that seems to knock on all pillars of the genre and still add enough intriguing elements that allow it to become something different and new.

    These new and interesting concepts are no doubt the entirely exploitative elements that are introduced to the genre, with a considerable focus on the action side of the storytelling rather than simply the fashion and attitude. Not that the pinky violence movement needed any additional exploitation, but for once that doesn’t simply mean more bare breasts. Even though you can be certain that this film features plenty of those. No, it’s the violence, the outrageousness and the sadism of key scenes in Criminal Woman: Killing Melody that give it a memorable edge over some of the more simply sexy films of the time. It’s a little over the top, and when you’re saying that about movies that usually feature girls wearing sunglasses bigger than their heads kicking the tar out of guys who outweigh them two times over, you know it means something. There are some interesting characters introduced, such as a gangster who can spit out tiny metal stars that stick in the flesh of his enemies. This character is inconsequential to the main story and I truthfully can’t even remember whether he was given a name throughout; but his inclusion in several scenes gives him a personality that stands out. Another great character is the “wild man” Tetsu, who is unequivocally unhinged in his performance. An alcohol swilling lunatic with frizzy hair, a leather jacket and a devil may care attitude. Although the character is unfortunately introduced halfway through the movie and doesn’t get as much screen time as I would have enjoyed, he grabs your attention and holds it with each scene he takes part in. His consistent laughing and dialogue shouted-so-as-to-be-intense performance easily makes him the most interesting male in the main cast. Although he is almost shown up by another yakuza who actually wields a chainsaw during a torture sequence! Who ever thought they would see a chainsaw in a Ike/Sugimoto film?

    Reiko Ike and Miki Sugimoto, the angels (or devils) of this genre, deliver once again in roles that pit the two against one another in a battle for supremacy. This actually leads to what I would consider one of the more visually memorable moments in all of their work together. During the prison sequence of the film these two goddesses of course rub each other the wrong way and are lead to an overblown catfight, but the scene is upped a notch by having the two women clench a cloth between their teeth and arm and the first one to let go is deemed the loser. The fight sequence is overly long and pushes the limits of interest, but visually it’s a very compelling moment and probably the one sequence that is really burned into the mind of its viewers after the closing credits fade away. The two girls once again couldn’t look any better and are a staple for judging beauty, in my opinion. Reiko Ike, who always looked far more mature than her actual age, starts the film off dressed as a school girl as she takes her revenge on one of the gangsters who enslaved her father and raped her. During these moments, Ike may have set the bar for her beauty because she has that simple girl next door look and it suits her so well. In many films she was dolled up and dressed in some pretty over the top costumes; but she shows her natural beauty here and she wears it so well. Miki Sugimoto is as stunning as usual, wearing a full yakuza tattoo that of course covers one of her bare breasts, another staple of the genre. Her moody character gives her a sexy stagger to almost all of her actions, as you can never tell exactly what team she is playing for. Although I hate to spend so much time talking about the beauty of these talented women, I can’t help but make mention of it because these films are such a celebration of this fact and these two women sold out theaters due to the lovely nature of their features. After so many years, not much has changed as young men like myself still find these women and fail to find any flaws.

    The film presents a revenge inspired Yojimbo-like fable set in the lawless and feudal yakuza underworld that permeated 1970′s Japanese cinema. Although Toshiro Mifune’s character may not have had any personal motivation behind his actions in Yojimbo, Reiko Ike proves to be a different beast entirely as she uses her womanly ways to manipulate these men and force themselves into war. In the same way that the yakuza film of the time was separating itself from what had come previous, by showing the more modern and lawless yakuza who no longer lived by their own ethical code (ie: Battles Without Honor and Humanity, Sympathy For the Underdog), Criminal Woman: Killing Melody illustrates the more vengeful side of the fable. Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned as they say, and this journey through female vengeance ultimately proves to be empowering despite the exploitation angle. Scenes such as the torture sequence, which once again features some very heavy sadomasochistic imagery involving ropes and cigarette burns, are certainly there to entice those members of the audience who might be into that sort of thing – there’s still a very enlightened attitude in much of what goes on. Director Atsushi Mihori demonstrates that while he may not have been an overly experienced director (IMDB lists this as his only credit, but Panik House says he also directed a trilogy of films called “Cruel High School – Bad Boy” aka: Hijo Gakuen – Waru), whoever this man was he certainly had a flair for his job. He delivers a very stylish and visual film, where he uses great composition and framing skills to paint this lurid and colorful world of wild characters and outrageous acts. The film some times borders on the cartoonish, yet the visual nature of the film makes it rich and respectable; amidst all of the sleaze.

    The Trivia
  • The final film featuring Miki Sugimoto and Reiko Ike together, afterwards they would both continue acting but not together. Neither actress would be featured in a film after the conclusion of the 1970′s. Ike would be embroiled in controversy after a drug charge and Sugimoto would go on to be married and settle down.

  • It is claimed that Reiko Ike initially had some issues with Toei over contractual disputes at some point, which saw Miki Sugimoto becoming more heavily promoted at the time. When the two were often paired together and their cat-fights would inevitably happen – Miki was often seen as the winner. As is the case in much of this film.



  • The Conclusion
    There is no getting past it, I really loved Criminal Woman: Killing Melody. It is a testament to the fun that one can have with this genre and while these pictures may not be packed to the brim with character depth or any kind of emotional baggage, they are the epitome of cinema as entertainment. If you haven’t experienced a film of this sort yet, then … Killing Melody would certainly make for a fun place to start!



    Blastfighter

    Posted by Josh Samford On April - 16 - 2010
    [imdb]0088818[/imdb]
    The Plot: Jake “Tiger” Sharp (Michael Sopkiw) is a former police officer who has been released after seven years of incarceration. He was guilty of murder in his former life, after killing the man responsible for his wife’s death. After his release he turns to killing for a living, being hired on as an assassin, but he finds that he simply doesn’t have the stomach for violence any longer. He does however hang on to the weapon that his would-be employer passes on to him. A SPAS shotgun which can fire grenades as well as a number of varying projectile weapons. Tiger decides to run away from his worries and head back to his small Georgian home town. Things aren’t so simple for Tiger though, as he finds his old home town has been inundated with hunters looking to get rich off of a foreign investment group which is paying high dollar for deer pelts. Tiger, seeing the truckloads of dead animals and seeing the forests being ravaged by dumb rednecks – he can’t take any more. Along with Connie, his long lost daughter who stumbles into his life with very little reason or established motivation, he will put an end to this crusade of butchery! Although, he may have to fight off a seemingly ENDLESS number of hunters in the area.





    The Review
    Lamberto Bava is one of my favorite directors from the laundry list of Italian exploitation filmmakers that never made it huge over here in the United States. Even though his father is easily one of the most recognizable filmmakers in the history of Italian film, that popularity hasn’t really been passed on to his son. The reason for this fact is pretty easy and as much as it pains me to say it… Lamberto has had a relatively spotty career. Aside from a hand full of relatively great genre pictures, the majority of his output can be pretty contrived. Despite this fact, even the worst of these titles for me holds at least some interest or entertainment value. Blastfighter, made in the mid-eighties, is Bava trying his hand at the action genre. Not just any particular kind of action title either, this is a hillbilly action caper! Made by Italians! If at this point you’re thinking that this sounds like it’ll end up being a hot mess, you would be correct! Now, there are two vantage points that you can look from when approaching a film such as this one. You can either look at it as you would any other movie, approaching with analytical reason and attention to detail, or you can simply admit that this is going to be a bad movie so why not try and enjoy yourself? I generally do not favor the “check your brain at the door” type of review, even though I am excessively guilty of it, but a film such as Blastfighter deserves at least some sympathy from its audience as well as myself as a “critic”.

    If you’ve heard my voice on the VCinema Podcast, then you probably already know that I’m a proud southerner. Although you may think this means I’ll be particularly hard on Blastfighter due to its brazen inaccuracies in southern culture and the disregard for any kind of actual authenticity, you would be wrong. Let’s be honest here, southerners being shown as rednecks sharing an IQ with the same amount of digits that they can find on their left hand, isn’t exactly new. We’re all fully aware of the stereotypes and this is a film made by those fed on a strict diet of Hollywood archetypes. So when I see a group of guys walk up to a singular man in the forest and tell him “ya’ll get your ass off this hill”, I don’t let it bug me. In fact, I tend to love stuff like that because it becomes something of an injoke for me. How anyone could think the word ya’ll could be used in a singular form is outside of my realm of understanding, but it produces a chuckle every time I hear it in a cheap low budget exploitation movie. The cultural carelessness is certainly a factor in why I tend to enjoy the movie myself, but for the rest of the world what little entertainment is going to be derived from a film like Blasfighter is going to likely be based off of the ridiculous action set pieces.

    For a movie that was likely shot on a shoestring budget to say the least, I have to commend Lamberto for plugging as many vehicular explosions into this film as could logically be tolerated. Although the movie is slow to start, once the first truck initially goes up in flames; all of its brothers are just around the bend. Where most low budget titles from this time and era were lucky to get one vehicle to blow up in their movie, Blastfighter must have at least nine or ten. Each one going off in different scenes, one after the other. For a movie of this caliber, I have to admit it’s very effective in the action department. However, that doesn’t excuse it enough nor offer enough salvation for me to tell you the audience that this is a good movie. Truthfully, it’s not a great bad movie either. Starting off as a Deliverance style “normal man at odds with the psychotic hillbilly locals” genre picture, it morphs into a First Blood Rambo knockoff with a strange focus on conservationism. The last thirty minutes really does morph into First Blood, down to the sequence with Rambo stealth-killing all of the police officers. One reason the two sequences are too different to work is that in one film you have the police and the national guard all willing to risk their lives to hunt down one man, because that is their job. In Blastfighter, you have an endless number of hunters running head first into the forest looking to commit murder for apparently no reason in particular. The ultimate problem with Blastfighter comes from the fact that it’s too dumb to be taken serious and it’s not broad or dumb enough to be lumped in there with low budget action classics like Lady Terminator or The Stabilizer.

    Unfortunately Blastfighter is an overall bland mix that reaches certain levels of greatness, but then drops the ball just as things are getting interesting. Such is the case in almost all facets of the feature. For example, look at the electronic synth score that starts the movie off: it’s absolutely great. It brings up memories of delirious eighties cheese and gets your fist pumping. Then in short order the film dumps a cover of the Kenny Rogers tune “Evening Star” over our head, which is belted out by some wannabe starlet. Then it is repeated, over and over again! Our leading man, Jake “Tiger” Sharp (GREAT name) has some really interesting heroic qualities to him such as being an ex-cop who was placed in jail for seeking revenge. That’s a great backstory for a tough guy, and then we find out he is now a hitman as well? You can’t go wrong with this guy! Wait, no, I take that back, yes you can. Tiger might be the girliest tough guy to ever grace the screen. He fights back against hunters… because they kill dear. It’s not that I’m not sympathetic to ecological friendly people or those who have a great love for animals; but eighties action heroes usually fight for loftier goals in my book. They fight against nuclear devastation, life or death situations and not in order to save deers. It doesn’t stop there however, when his daughter first shows up on the scene he stumbles upon her after she breaks into his cabin. Tiger questions the girl and is quickly shouted down by the young woman who refuses to explain who she actually is. So what does Tiger do? Slap her? Kick her out? CALL THE POLICE? No, he takes his pillow and blanket so he can sleep on his own porch. Puzzling that this tough guy wouldn’t even be curious who this woman is that is kicking him our of his own home, much less take some kind of action in order to stop the situation. Then there’s the much ballyhooed SPAS shotgun that we get, which Tiger (what a great name for a leading man, did I mention that?) is given for an assassination job, which unfortunately gets about as much use as the script supervisor likely did on the picture.

    The Conclusion
    It’s a film where the sum of its parts are actually greater than it on a whole. There are moments of sheer over the top bliss, but it’s not enough to take away from the utterly bland moments that tie everything together. Not even George Eastman can save this picture, entertainment wise. I give the film a two out of five, which is possibly lower than it might seem to deserve but keep in mind that for every really great bit the movie throws at you – there’s something equally as bad right around the corner. I would save this one for fans of Lamberto Bava and Italian cult film enthusiasts only.



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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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