Friday, 14 October 2011






Friday, 9 September 2011

Cross Mission

(It's been a while, screenshots and videos to follow shortly once I get on a computer that can do those two things)

Cross Mission is a sorry excuse for an action film that plods along as if it doesn't even want to; lambast various other B-grade directors such as Lamberto Bava, Mattei and Fragasso all you want, at least they weren't Al Bresica, who cut so many corners his films were just a few milimetres away from being totally one-dimensional. Taking place in an ambiguous Latin American country (in this film's favour, it makes a change to the painfully similar setting of Filipino jungles), Cross Mission focuses on General Romero's corrupt business as a politician; to the UN he is removing his country's marijuana crops, in secret he is still growing them and shipping them off. His right hand man William is turned to the good side by an investigative reporter called Helen who he finds himself overwhelmingly attracted to after knowing each other for such a short amount of time, and soon the two are waging war alongside rebel forces against Romero's oppressive and sly rule. The relatively confused and standstill plot is spiced up just a bit by the classically exploitative inclusion of Ratman star Nelson de la Rosa (famed for his extremely small height) as a supernatually-powered dwarf called Astaroth, but his presence is simply to make stand out what is unfortunately a very non-daring expedition into familiar territory.

While indeed slick-looking in some instances, with semi-decent acting and a catchy synth score, Cross Mission's flair is limited and its action sequences are neither exciting or explosive, consisting mostly of very still scenes of simple machinegun spraying and some small explosions. The nadir of which is a final beach battle that is shot in day-for-night and consists of not a lot going on (the film slips up and shows the beach at day time when shown one of Romero's monitors, even though it's meant to be at night). Of course, much of the entertainment is going to come from picking this one apart, but don't expect anything to throw itself at you like many other titles will, this one is very reserved and even goes so far to culling footage from Umberto Lenzi stinker Bridge to Hell. The romance subplot in this one deserves a footnote in how appalling it is, only here could the hero declare his love for the woman he wants to save and then promptly dive at another woman he's been talking to. That, and the many little snippets of sexism make for unusual laughs, otherwise, the majority of the dialogue is unnoticeable.

What could have been an exciting and slightly original little title of heated battles in untouched land for Italian filmmakers and a fight against a voodoo dictator and his magical midget (Nelson de la Rosa is woefully underused) is really something for completionists of this sort of thing only. Mildly interesting, but General Romero and his sparkling telekinetic lie detector is not going to win fans easily for this title.

  • Midgetsploitation: 2/5
  • Music: 3/5
  • Being a wasted opportunity: 5/5

Review source: Japanese VHS
Title information
  • Production company: AM Trading International SRL
  • Year of release: 1988
Alternative titles:
  • Missão Mortífera <Lethal Mission> (Brazil)
  • Mafia Power (France)
  • Combat Attack (West Germany)
  • 追跡大陸グレート・ミッション "Tsuiseki tairiku gureeto misshon" <Continent track: Great Mission> (Japan)

Wednesday, 10 August 2011

So, what happened?

It's been nearly a month since the last update, do not despair, Forgotten Junk is not falling into the previous trap of being on hiatus for nearly a year. There are some important factors in this though... I now work, this cuts down my time a little bit more, and right now as I'm sure you're all aware, England is in a state of panic because of several kids with no education and because England has always been a nation easily controlled by fear. I am due to down in London in two days as well, so here's hoping I don't get mugged or shot, and actually come from. Things are on their way, but they have had to be obstructed for the meantime.


Friday, 15 July 2011

A definitive re-write

Is there really much else that can be said about M.D. Geist? It's an inglorious title of the direct-to-video animation market of 1980s Japan that has been regularly dug back up to play havoc on the anime community much like the titular character himself; he is less so on life support as he is a poltergeist, causing anime fans everywhere to groan with the racket he makes while a minority loyally support him. He's more than likely to keep coming back; in a way, if you love anime, you will hate M.D. Geist. If you hate anime, you may hate M.D. Geist, or you may love it! Though to be frank, generalisations are of poor taste. Japan's home video market for animation (Original Video Animation, OVAs) carries slightly more positive connotations than "direct-to-video" ever will in the west; the restrictions of TV serial anime were not to be found in the OVA market, which opened up far more doors for various creative forces, giving anyone the chance to do what they wanted without fear of censorship and with a strong target audience willing to buy, buy, buy. There was a bit less focus on the long-term money-making possibilties of a product and more of a focus on the overall creation process. OVAs allowed everyone on the production side to make a bit more money, even if the overall output in the long run was not entirely good. Regardless, pop stars and voice actors would keep themselves circulatory, while designers of any sort would give themselves more curriculum vitae ammunition.

M.D. Geist itself is a 40-minute outing by then-rookie Koichi Ohata, a mechanical designer first and a storyteller second, concerning the reawakening of a super-soldier on the war-torn planet Jerra. The proceeding events in Geist's misadventures on a planet much unlike the earth in Fist of the North Star feature commonplace mistreatings of the English language (frankly standard for anime) and acts of violence against the entire human form. The 'story' that was ultimately decided upon for the feature is really a springboard for Ohata to show off his drawings, animation is ropey throughout and fragmentary plot-expanding dialogue is ultimately bombastic and adds to the incoherence. Ohata, a man whose voice is unfortunately not often heard on the topic of his creations, said in the commentary of the thankfully fruitful US DVD that the original version of M.D. Geist is pretty damn poor, but hey, he was young and at the end of the day him and writer Riku Sanjo are still in the business, Hironobu Kageyama launched his singing career through appearing on the soundtrack to M.D. Geist and Norio Wakamoto walked away with a bit more money in his back pocket from voicing a character with not many lines. M.D. Geist's poor qualities stem from Ohata's youthful arrogance back then; his relatively low-budgeted animation team were often at odds with him over his mercilessly complex designs, which he refused to tone down because this project was his baby.

Geist is a product of a time long gone by in Japanese animation, and this is one reason why his popularity persists; if anything, Ohata created Geist to be antithetical, and antithetical he was. Appearing on a different end of the anime format spectrum for one, Geist was a protagonist designed to go against the grain of teenage heroes in shows coming out in the success of Mobile Suit Gundam, he was designed as being someone who took total glee in battle and the whole production has a somewhat nihilistic touch in that nothing nice EVER happens. However, we follow from Geist's side with his theme songs and background guitar solos highlighting his destruction. With this in mind, the overall unpolished quality of the production can be factored in as well. Being a representation of all of the above, the character and the title are now only more of an antithesis in today's anime industry, in which new fans have sprung up to defend Geist as someone and something fairly atypical of anime. Granted, there are still many naysayers, in which case, how has M.D. Geist's widely-known negative reception come to be? Aside from everything about it pissing off the highest elite of anime snobs from the 1990s, CPM's saturated promotion of the title is essentially what did people in. President John O'Donnell became infatuated with the title and it led to him licensing the character as his company's mascot for their U.S. Manga Corps division, meaning that every tape, Laserdisc and DVD under them greeted their viewers with a stiffly-animated CGI Geist The constant ballyhooing certainly garnered the title its interest as something new and exciting, but as time went on the propaganda became tedious, with great emphasis placed on how Geist was somehow a particularly artistic and deadly serious title, in reality it was a cartoon about a lot of people dying because the director thought his country had too many fictional lead heroes.

Without John O'Donnell though, the title would just be a relic dug up only by animation enthusiasts and regarded with a "hey, look at this" attitude. O'Donnell's love may have been for better or for worse, but through his actions he was able to publish a prequel comic to the original OVA and even gathered the money to fund a director's cut of the original and a sequel. The funds were raised from a customised Harley Davidson being bought off Marvel in their promotion of their Ghost Rider franchise and being used in motor shows to promote M.D. Geist and CPM; with "Geist" meaning 'ghost' in German, it was an amusing tactic. The director's cut touches up on several animation errors seen in the original (while rather frustratingly, inserting diabolical digital zooms that blur the image), adds several new short sequences and features an entirely new audio track. This cut doesn't so much add to the story (it slightly expands the opening sequence primarily, and in a flashback of stills draws a parallel to the prior prequel comic) as it does increase the gore quota. The sequel on the other hand, being made ten years after the original for one, is seemingly made with an entirely different mindset and focuses less on Geist, offering a fairly more serious and sombre story (that works to an extent), its biggest flaw however is that the animation in it is intensely limited. Regardless, despite what CPM had launched Geist into, their (or at least O'Donnell's) efforts have to be thanked for boosting the title's longevity.

Perhaps Geist is just unfortunate for being stuck in the harshly critical anime community, never entirely getting the dues he deserves. While the overall title is something very flawed it's not something I would regard with venom because of its bad qualities, nor would I really call it so "so bad it's good". However way you watch it though, all three animated incarnations of the character are entertaining, or at the very least feature some fantastic artwork and have incredibly good soundtracks, something which is oddly overlooked in many reviews of this anime. This writer would also like to stress that viewers perhaps try watching the director's cut and the sequel in the Japanese audio if possible; both of these audio tracks feature incredibly good VA work that has been sadly overlooked in favour of the 'entertaining' (to me, it's unbearably atrocious) English dub. Yeah, it makes it so bad it's good bla bla but the original production should be entertaining enough, so try enjoying it with the Japanese audio track. Ohata has been lucky getting the recognition he has gotten as a mechanical designer who began his career by working on some fairly unknown shows, and it's a damn shame he no longer seems to release things fully overseen by him. His fanbase is small, but dedicated; the fact that Ohata himself has seen a customised Revoltech figure of Geist is testament to this.

On that note, I have to come own the original title's soundtrack on vinyl, have framed the poster that came with it, I also own the OVA in book form, the Japanese complete works book, the UK and US DVDs, the sequel's soundtrack on CD, an autographed copy of the US graphic novel and the jewel in the obsessive crown would be two sketches of Geist himself signed by Ohata, with one of them sent to me by him. Writing my umpteenth take on the production is only further indication of my infatuation with this anomaly of an anime. If I had the option to fund Ohata for a full-fledged reboot of M.D. Geist though with the right money, you can beat your intestines I would.

Some trivia about M.D. Geist...
Those guys have names!
Believe it or not, the bikers have names. Aside from Mash, there is Golem, who Geist promptly kills, Gista who promptly dies on his motorcycle, and Beast, who possibly dies after hurtling off his bike when Geist jumps aboard a mech (he returns momentarily in the Director's Cut). Their names are all in the credits, but only Golem is referred to by name in the US comic, the rest are only named in production materials.

She also has a name!

And it's not "Vaiya", it's "Paiya". It's seems that for all this time, CPM mistakenly used the name Vaiya without correcting it. To be fair though, it's an easy mistake to make; the katakana characters for ba (what can be interchanged as 'va') and pa look similar but are not identical. A simple oversight is all, it's just that it persisted for so long.

At the same time, she doesn't have a name...

Just like the bikers, Paiya is never actually referred to by name in the original Japanese audio. If you listen closely, she is referred to as "nesan", which means "big sister". CPM tried to do the good thing by helping create familiarity by inserting her name anyway, but the truth is the only way you would be able to tell she was called Paiya is through the credits! On a similar note...

All the names of the 'big players' are from the horror genre

Geist is from poltergeist, Paiya is from vampire, Golem is from (what else?) golem, Crutes is the Japanese pronunication of the Spanish word cruz, which means cross, as in holy cross. The associations are obvious, but only Geist and Crutes actually have meaning, Paiya and Golem are mostly named that way for aesthetic value.

That also has a name

The robot Geist fights at the end is called the Final Striker, and manages to be referenced that in the concept art book and in the sequel. Interestingly, the CPM comic calls it the "Final Terminator".

Confusing credits
Ohata was never initially billed as the director M.D. Geist in 1986, that billing went to Hayato Ikeda, someone who seemed to help out with some of the production. His name was used as it was feared a first-time director (who was really a mechanical designer) would look bad. Hayato Ikedia makes a cameo in M.D. Geist, he is the President Ryan character, who is dead.

Further reading...


Monday, 11 July 2011

Final Score

With the vigilante film genre established, exploitation directors now had another genre to railroad with their celluloid mixtures of action movie set pieces and typical revenge subplots. Of course, they completely dodged whatever artistic merit the likes of Death Wish, Dirty Harry and possibly even Taxi Driver had, and simply showcased a lot of people dying, usually against the backdrop of the then-still-mentally-fresh Vietnam war. One such movie that is arguably a cut above the rest of exploitation titles is The Exterminator, which was about a Vietnam vet who took out bloody revenge against street punks and corrupt individuals alike after a race attack was committed on his best friend. The Exterminator received notoriety after it was lashed with a scathing review from Roger Ebert for its extreme violence and harsh scenarios, it was technically better made than most exploitation movies, but received a less-notable sequel that was ultimately something more exploitative.

With that in mind, this 1986 Indonesian flick is probably a closer sequel to the original Exterminator than its real sequel ever was, especially if you wanna go by the exploitation standard of branding a sequel; if a movie has come out and has more than a few themes similar to a previous low-budget movie (Mattei's Terminator 2 not being counted), then it can be considered a sequel. The plot to Final Score follows Richard Brown (Christopher Mitchum), a Vietnam war veteran (seeing the similarities already?) living peacefully in Indonesia with his family, having made his wealth from being involved in a computer business. On the day of his son's eighth birthday though, just as Richard goes out to buy him a toy gun of all things(!), his home is invaded, and his son and servants are murdered while his wife is gangraped and then added to the bodycount. Utterly distraught, Brown takes the law into his hands as he brings back his skills as a soldier to track down each of the men who ruined his life (taking out of all their gangs too). He learns that their leader is a corrupt business rival called Mr. Hawk (Mike Abbott with eyes that stare bullets into you), who has enough evil in his mustache and range of suits to make Mr. White, of similarly-excessive wacko Indonesian revenge adventure The Intruder, to quake in his shoes. With Hawk in his sights, Brown is joined by Julia, a woman also seeking revenge for what Hawk has done to her, as their fight becomes ever-more personal.

This is a cocktail of bad taste that just has to be enjoyed, Brown's assortment of different ways of killing people is just too fun. With a child death and gangrape no less than ten minutes into the movie, this is overkill from start to finish in such a classically shameless exploitative fashion. Granted, in terms of technical structure, it leaves the similar Intruder in the dust, but also similarly its wooden acting, silly dialogue and dub work are not going to make the rape of Brown's wife particularly horrifying, just slightly uncomfortable to watch. Mitchum blankly gets himself through some pretty insane situations while spouting monotone dialogue, while Abbott just gets to widen his eyes a lot. With Mitchum's slight resemblance to Exterminator star Robert Ginty, this very well could have been sequel in some part of the world, all it's missing is a lead character name change. Of course though, you're not watching something like Final Score for acting, you're watching this to see Mitchum build himself a body pile to heaven, with lots of black humour sprinkled in between. Oh, he does alright; there's plenty of stealth kills to go around, along with a baddie getting a piece of hot iron shoved up his ass, and some insane car chases with a passenger ultimately getting impaled on a branch! As always, explosions top off most of Brown's killing sprees, with the best bang being saved for last (you best believe rocket-firing motorbikes can fly). With everything else on explicit display, the only consensual sex scene is somewhat tastefully left private.

Dialogue is incredibly cheesy, with much of the nameless goon chatter really making you feel like this is some sort of head-shaking comedy. As for the music, it's all fairly unmemorable. Directed by the singularly-named Arizal, who quite impressively worked from the 70s right up until 2000; he competently gets the action filmed well. On the other hand, the script is by, shock of shocks (almost), Deddy Armand, the same writer behind The Intruder (final name drop)! This is super-violent, super-stupid and absolutely unabashed, Final Score is a blast. This really is one of the most brainless flicks ever, one that is simply overflowing with entertainment.
  • Action: 5/5
  • Convincing me 'explosion' is a second Indonesian language: 4/5
  • Bodycount: 7/5
-James, 20 August 2010 (original date)

Review source: Japanese VHS
Screenshot source: Japanese VHS

Title information

  • Production company: Rapi Films
  • Year of release: 1986
Alternate titles:
  • Strike Commando (West Germany)
  • 皆殺しの挽歌 "Minagoroshi no banka" <Funeral song massacre> (Japan)

Monday, 4 July 2011

The lyrics to "Violence of the Flames"

The lyrics to the end credits song from M.D. Geist have actually been scarcely reproduced in Japanese over the Internet, while the lyrics can be found in English if you look hard enough. To my knowledge a partial translation exists in the CPM release of the original OVA, as well as a non-professional translation seen in an AMV, and an entirely different translation in the official CPM releases of both soundtracks. I took the time today to write up the lyrics completely in Japanese using the original lyric sheet that came with the soundtrack as a guide, and my own translation to boot. My translation is slightly liberal, opting to try and sound close to the song without losing any meaning. Below are the lyrics, followed by them in English as translated by me, and finally in romaji...

Original Japanese:
Never, never, never... 止まらない
聴こえる破滅への    あのメロデイー
Come on! Come on! Come on! もう戻れなり

It's the only crazy game
It's the only foolish game
気がつけば 逃げられない おまえも...!

燃やせ! 炎のバイオレンス
地獄に堕ちた 戦士たち

Lover, lover, lover... 呼んでいた
冷たくひびわれた 胸の奥
Come on! Come on! Come on! 今よみがえれ

It's the only crazy dream
It's the only foolish dream
この腕て 抱ましのてもやれずに

燃やせ! 炎のバイオレンス
地獄に堕ちた 戦士たち

It's the only crazy game
It's the only foolish game
何もかも 滅びるだけさ

燃やせ! 炎のバイオレンス
地獄に堕ちた 戦士たち

燃やせ! 炎のバイオレンス
地獄に堕ちた 戦士たち

Translated English:
This world we have always known, is an endless war
Never, never, never... Ceasing never
It's in all that pain and death, I listen to that melody...
"Come on! Come on! Come on!" No! We cannot flee

It's the only crazy game
It's the only foolish game

Just coming to, in a place where you cannot flee, you've got to be...!

Raging fires of violence!
These warriors have plummeted to hades

It was in the middle of all of that, that I chose to glance behind me
"Lover", "lover", "lover'... I heard it called
This frozen heart of mine, it is cracked and split
"Come on! Come on! Come on!" Now, return to life!

It's the only crazy dream
It's the only foolish dream
Affection cannot hold me back, my skills as a killer have got to be...!

Raging fires of violence!
These warriors have plummeted to hades

It's the only crazy game
It's the only foolish game
Everything you know, is going to completely die!

Raging fires of violence!
These warriors have plummeted to hades

Raging fires of violence!
These warriors have plummeted to hades

Sekai wa eien no senjou sa
Never, never, never... Tomaranai
Kikoeru hametsu e no ano merodeii
Come on! Come on! Come on! Mou modorenari

It's the only crazy game
It's the only foolish game
Kigatsukeba nige rarenai omae mo...!

Moyase! Honoo no baiorensu
Jigoku ni ochita senshi-tachi

Ano toki furimuita katagoshi ni
Lover, lover, lover... Yonde ita
Tsumetaku hibiwareta mune no oku
Come on! Come on! Come on! Ima yomigaere

It's the only crazy dream
It's the only foolish dream
Kono ude te daku mashi note mo yarezu ni

Moyase! Honoo no baiorensu
Jigoku ni ochita senshi-tachi

It's the only crazy game
It's the only foolish game
Nanimokamo horobiru dake sa

Moyase! Honoo no baiorensu
Jigoku ni ochita senshi-tachi

Moyase! Honoo no baiorensu
Jigoku ni ochita senshi-tachi


Tuesday, 28 June 2011


One country in particular that pumped the VHS market the world over in the past with appallingly cheap exploitative Vietnam trips was the Philippines, the local backlot to many Italian action films then. Filipino action and warsploitation flicks were typically shoddier than their Italian counterparts though, often having lower budgets, worse actors, worse music, worse dubbing and murkier production histories, if you're lucky enough to find out some of them. Teddy Page's Fireback fits the above bill nicely, but does that mean it's not enjoyable? Opening the movie is Richard Harrison as American colonel Jack Kaplan, stationed in Vietnam. Harrison, who in total straight-facedness to hide his complete reluctancy at being in such a role, is introducing his men to the most re-cock-ulous gun prop ever; the Omega, the most impractical fictional gun to exist before the gunblade of Final Fantasy VIII (though the gunblde is not even a third as cool). The Americans however are ambushed by Vietcong and all captured (no the gun does not actually do much in the way of holding them off). Meanwhile, in a place the film wants us to believe is America, a man by the name of Duffy Collins (Bruce Baron) complains to a girl called Eve (Gwendolyn Hung) about how Jack Kaplan's wife Diane ignores his advances and he wants something done about it (Duffy, for whatever reason, always has his face obscured throughout the movie). After a rescue operation is launched, Jack is returned back home only to find Diane is missing, and goes on a search for her, being led from distraction to distraction, who all come in the form of nameless characters that have no real dialogue (such as a man with a golden claw for a hand, a guy who looks like a French freedom fighter who lives with a cat, and a ninja).

Kaplan is eventually led to Diane's location, only to find her dead (not much of a big shocker, especially when the UK VHS box actually has "they thought he was dead and killed his wife, but he came home for revenge" in the tagline!), Nameless Police Chief (Mike Monty with bleach-blond hair) puts a hunt out for Kaplan because of all the murders (apparently what sets him off though is how Kaplan is blamed for a murder he did not commit) and the battle is taken to the jungle (this is meant to take place in America still, by the way), in which Kaplan customises a car and even makes his own shotgun/crossbow/bazooka hybrid-gun (this sequence is actually very cool). A second encounter with the ninja sees Kaplan mysteriously kill him off (then again, it's to be expected from a man who can apparently "turn an ordinary soft drink straw into a weapon", too bad we don't actually see that) and he dons his outfit to infiltrate Duffy's headquarters, here Duffy tells him that the reason he killed Diane was because if he can't have her, nobody can (of course, the bad writing means that comes out a bit more prolixiously and awkwardly than it has to be, and as to be expected, Duffy doesn't have a real reason for liking Diane at all). Kaplan slashes Duffy to death and then the film freezeframes and ends incompletely, dismally delivering a caption saying that Kaplan was shortly imprisoned and then died of a disease after release. What. A. Washout. Though to be frank, it's a hilarious example of terrible filmmaking.

The script, apparently written by Richard Harrison under a pseudonym, was evidently cobbled together overnight for the production company to have enough reason to make another film for the video market; characters spring up left and right like barely-cooked toast and stay that way. The super-impractical multi-calibre weapon that the film proudly carries about on its cover artwork is featured only long enough to be an insignificant point, at most it makes way to show off Kaplan's weaponry mastery (the only tiny smidge of actual character development in the whole movie, but really, I've no reason to complain about that aspect) in which he makes his own almost-streamlined, lesser-due-to-poorer version from car parts (yes), but even that does not feature for very long. Kaplan himself is only ridiculously likable because he's played by the aforementioned Richard Harrison, a man who seems to inject every scene with the boredom or pain he is feeling as an actor now working in this armpit of the film world. Music cues for the drab synth score are laughably schizophrenic while the risible action is, as always in these sorts of films, satisfying in a way.

An almost polarizing piece of bad movie fare, fans of the genre will either find this to be laugh-a-minute material like the average Bruno Mattei flick (in comparison, this easily makes one of his films look so much more spectacular) or will find it to be a drag because of its relatively drab atmosphere. Lovers of bad Filipino movies will no doubt already have this nestled among their collections, proud of its reprehensible cinematic qualities. An insightful read is an interview with Rihard Harrison's son, who appears in it as an extra, the interview can be found at Bamboo Gods and Bionic Boys. The film is excessively poor, needless to say, it would have gotten a greater marking in terms of entertainment if it was Richard Harrison killing people with an adapted Nerf gun and showing half the skills he is made out to have. On, the other hand, the trailer succeeds at making it seem like a serious movie, all the while making it even more funny.

A stoner's movie at best.
  • Convincing me this took place in America: 0/5
  • False advertisement: 4/5
  • God I wish I had that gun
-James, 02 July 2010 (original date)

Review source: UK VHS
Screenshot source: UK VHS

Title information

  • Production company: Silver Star Film Company
  • Year of release: 1983
Alternate titles:
  • 復讐! 炎のコマンドー "Fukushou! Honoo no komando" <Vengeance! Commando of Fire> (Japan)

Sunday, 26 June 2011

New bootleg releases of Phantom Soldiers & Death Warmed Up provide us with more bootleg DVDs of hard-to-find titles, upping their availability. This time being the elusive Filipino action epic Phantom Soldiers, easily the best movie of Teddy Page's junky career directing explosive, exploitative spins on the Vietnam war, and Death Warmed Up, New Zealand's first zombie movie, preceding Peter Jackson's tasteful Bad Taste by three years.

Click here to find Revok's DVDs for purchase.

Friday, 24 June 2011

Rolf: The Last Mercenary

Rolf is shit, muddy, dirty and nonsensical shit, in which its own shortcomings come together to make a product that makes you want to wash once it's over. Coming out in 1983 as fast as possibly can in the wake of First Blood, this revenge tale (of course) borrows heavily from the Stallone vehicle, while the speed of its production really shows in the overall product. Being a slice of cash-in trash, rather than present a sympathetic look at a direly-treated war veteran, it plays out like a cruel observation of a character effectively having the world defecate on him every step of the way. It's not the filmic equivalent of watching someone kick a puppy, but it borders on that. Written and directed by Mario Siciliano, a man better known for his prior pornos, this surely says a lot about what we're in for.

The film follows Rolf, a mercenary-turned-commercial pilot living in an unnamed Middle Eastern town, who seems to shower rarely as proven by a dialogue between him and his girlfriend Joanna. The police don't get on with Rolf, it seems they don't like his past as a mercenary; is the film presenting a nationalistic friction between a caucasian ex-soldier and the people of a race he may have previously killed as some sort of social critique? Or is it just ripping off First Blood? They let him off, but not after they've stuck his hand into an unflushed toilet! Rolf is the standout among his former mercenary friends, who are led by John, one of the slimiest looking guys since before Clarence Boddicker, and his men in tow are a colourful bunch of vile bastards.

John offers Rolf the chance to make $50,000 exporting hard drugs. Rolf declines, but when John makes a crack about his dead mother he has none of it and bashes John's head against a wall before kicking him out! When Joanna hears about him passing up such a sum, he tells her a painful memory of how his prostitute mother was given a drug overdose in front of him by her pimp, along with a bit of expository dialogue on how he was the most athletic in college, but yeah, Rolf's a good clean guy. Rolf is later caught by his the entire group of his former friends; after the beating they give him, he resets his own knee in a real squirmer of a scene and he faints in a bush full of leeches! Police bias prevents them from putting a search out for Rolf, leaving Joanna to look for him on her own, the police do end up being nice enough to stop two rapists following her though! After she finds him, Rolf learns he has been fired from his job, so he gets together with a friend and hijacks a plane loaded with John's drugs, only to piss all over them and hurl them out! For this, John and his boys break into Joanna's home, and in a very uncomfortable sequence, take turns raping her; the frequent POV shots and the incredibly inappropriate porn-like theme in the background make it actually quite disturbing. The film at this point obviously does what you've been waiting for and kicks Rolf into Revenge mode, you can tell where this goes. 

Nothing nice ever happens to Rolf, in virtually every scene the poor man is shown to be suffering one way or another, from being picked on by every cop in town to having his girlfriend raped and murdered, to having his hands riddled with bullets and spending the rest of the film disabled. He is effectively played up to be Jesus, with the build laughably culminating in him raising his bloodied hands to the sky and begging "God, help me!", along with the final scene depicting him against the setting sun. Despite every scene being one ineptly-shot sequence chained together in the name of exploitation, there is a delightful dirtiness to it that could have perhaps been much more and could have elevated it to a bang rather than a sigh. The appalling production values work in its favour in a way if the intention was to upright create a grimey feature. No one is likable and some OTT touches nicely crank up the scum factor; one of the mercenaries is so abject he even steals his fallen comrade's watch and wallet, and then uses his blood as make-up to play dead! Their canteens are even loaded up with cocaine instead of water! The antics of the particularly venomous-looking John are interesting to say the least, he randomly beats up a woman in the street, then randomly forces a bottle down the mouth of another without anyone batting an eye, and then shoves away a woman trying to kiss him! She and her friend bizarrely don't stop though, and seem to pamper him in fondles. Hell, he's just a lonely, tortured soul, just listen to the pain in his voice when the police ask him about friends and he responds with "what friends? I don't know what you're talking about".

The ropey narrative as you would expect serves only to continually dish out brutalities; the film opens with a flashback of the mercenaries blurredly tearing up an entire village, but you would only guess this as soon as other flashbacks begin to pepper the story, depicting John and his goons using free-falling children as target practice and Rolf being the saviour behind their backs. A lack of polish leaves the many scenes of violence hollow, giving us only a poke not a punch. This is further held down by the general absence of background foley, on top of that the dubbing is lifeless and at times incoherent, mainly because the actors barely open their mouths more than a little. At times, it seems they don't even twitch their lips, and in one instance, Rolf opens his mouth fully to yell and the dubber's dialogue amusingly doesn't match up.

That said, the music by the great Fabio Frizzi also isn't very up to scratch, the most notable piece of music is however, Rolf's theme song! Yes, Rolf gets this soothing synth-rock melody play at some of the wrong times in the film, but the lyrics are irresistable, and it's the only thing credited in the end titles! As a bit of trivia, some poster art for the film shows Rolf holding a gun he never uses in the film, along with a blonde-haired Joanna clinging to his leg, this drawing of her however has been cribbed from the poster for Clint Eastwood's The Gauntlet! Erase the music entirely, do away with the sillier elements and you would have something seedy enough to be on par with Day of the Woman/I Spit On Your Grave, this is for completionists of Italian exploitation only. In the immortal words of Rolf's theme song... Rolf, your vengeance can't die! The fire in your eyes, says it all!     
  • Action: 3/5
  • Brutality: The outline of it all is there
  • Natural lighting: 5/5 
-James, 14 November 2010 (original date)

Review source: Japanese VHS
Screenshot source: Japanese VHS

Title information

  • Production company: Metheus Film
  • Year of release: 1983
Alternate titles:
  • Viimeinen taistelija <The Last Fighter> (Finland)
  • Der Tag des Söldners <The Day of the Mercenary> (West Germany)
  • Rolf: ワイルド・アウトサイダー "Rolf: wairudo autosaidaa" <Rolf: Wild Outsider> (Japan)

Hell of the Living Dead DVD re-release in Japan

Better late than never, Japan now have a new DVD release of Bruno Mattei's Hell of the Living Dead AKA Virus that is up to par with the Blue Underground all-region DVD, in fact, it appears to be the same disc! The original Japanese DVD is now long out-of-print and looks like it may have been a cut down, 4:3 VHS-ripped presentation, so this justice is long overdue. While seemingly having no features already not on the Blue Underground DVD, the cover is now colourful and lavish, and it is nice to see Mattei still being relevant. Two of his more recent films, The Jail and Island of the Living Dead, were both previously released on DVD this year also in Japan, Rats is most likely to be next for a re-release, now if only we could get his other films remastered and re-released.


Thursday, 23 June 2011

The Seventh Curse

Short-lived directors and actors are a bunch to weep over, having pumped out a limited number of productions that thankfully at least blossom into a cult following, but for their sake you can't help but wish their careers continued. There are directors such as FJ-favourite Koichi Ohata who are still circulating fortunately, but no longer seem to do the work they are most known for (for us sadly, Ohata has not made an animation in his style since 1996) and there are directors like Nam Lai Choi, who made some of the strangest films you will ever see come out of mainstream Hong Kong cinema, but can unfortunately be counted on two hands and three extra figures. Nam Lai Choi somewhat mysteriously (the dark reality: he probably wasn't making money) disappeared after his magnum opus Story of Ricky, presented here though is one of his far earlier dabblings in film. Seeing the chaos unfold in this film's trailer: action movie theatrics, adventure elements, voodoo magic and superfluous gore; would seemingly point to this being based on a manga much like Story of Ricky. Shock of shocks (almost) though, The Seventh Curse is actually based on a series of books about the exploits of a character called Mr. Wisley (this film's original title being "原振俠與衛斯理",'Yuan Zhen-Zia yu Wei S-Li', which translates to "Dr. Yuan and Mr. Wisely") and there are numerous movies by numerous directors with a different actor playing Wisley each time. However, The Seventh Curse seems to be the show-stealer, and without that prior knowledge, it still seems like this could have only come out of the combined genius/madness of Nam Lai Choi and Jing Wong, Wong being the guy who brought us Future Cops, AKA, 'Chinese Street Fighter: The Movie'!

Right off the bat, the film greets us with the author of the original books indulging his concubines in how the inspirations for his stories come from everyday chit-chat. For this particular story though, he takes influence from two friends of his, Dr. Yuan and Mr. Wisley (why yes, that is the author of these characters, in the same universe as them), might wanna hold on to something, because the following is just any other day for these guys. Dr. Yuan (Chin Siu-hou) is a world-renowned medical expert while Mr. Wisley (Chow Yun Fat) is a pipe-smoking, mini-putting playboy, except for the majority of this film, Yuan is the focus. Why Yuan? Well, other than his medical expertise he suavely spends a night at a glitzy pool party after punching and kicking his way through terrorists at a risky hostage situation in a hospital. As if he couldn't get any more stereotypically super heroic, he heads home for a spot of sex with his caucassian maid, only to be promptly interrupted by a huge martial artist. The intruder declares himself as Heh-Lung and tells Yuan that he must go to Thailand, as a full year has passed since Yuan's blood curse was cast on him. Heh-Lung tells him to stop the acceleration of the curse's effects, he must stay away from sex. That doesn't stop the lascivious Dr. Yuan though, but part of his leg does pop blood during the middle of intimacy.

Where and how did he get this curse? Consulting Wisley, Yuan reveals that in the past while on a expedition in Thailand to find a cure for AIDs (80s) he also failed to do what he was told, as he got his curse because he got too close to a tribe that practiced withcraft (and all because he saw a pretty girl). Yuan's inability to do what he's told led to him staging a one-man rescue operation against a leaping, flesh-eating skeleton that could transform into an interdimensional demon, having his entire crew be slaughtered brutally before being captured and cursed himself by the village's insane sorcerer Aquala; Yuan's curse involves seven holes popping in his body, the seventh and final one will be his heart. Escaping thanks to Adventure Movie cliche's, Yuan is aided by the girl who was about to be sacrificed (she is the missing tribal chief's daughter, rather unexotically named Betsy), who cures his his curse by making him eat part of her breast (yes). Cut back to the present, Yuan must now journey back to Thailand to find Betsy so he can get a more permament cure for his fatal curse, as well as put an end to Aquala's reign of terror in the region.

This hectic trip of a film sees one segment of story bridge one action scene to another, with each scene upping the last in terms of how eclectically crazy they are. At its core, The Seventh Curse is an adventure film heavily styled after Indiana Jones with thick lashings of excessive, grossout gore and ineffective yet endearing horror, with frantic action scenes of well-choreographed martial arts and satisfying pyrotechnics bookending several parts of the feature. Demon fetuses, flesh-eating skeletons, body-popping ailments and expendable extras paint the screen red, there is never much reasoning for anything and it's all highly entertaining, it very much is a Hong Kong-centric fusion of the aforementioned Indiana Jones and Evil Dead, almost. This whole affair seems to transcend quality storytelling with its madness; plotholes abound, characters are never developed, but you simply cannot hate anything you are seeing. Fans of unconventional practical special effects owe it to themselves to see this for the many ghouls on display, the cheap effects and even cheaper studio sets only make this all the more lovable.

Not many films present such a buffet of action, horror, comedy and even romance to such funny and overwhelming effects, with gore sloppily taking centre stage in the middle of the table. Ruthlessly ridiculous, The Seventh Curse hits you with one scene of insane carnage right after the other, definitely check this out if your like madness eastern and your films cult (and in the midst of all that, keep an eye out for how Dr. Yuan's glasses are only frames!).
  • Gore: 5/5
  • Redshirts: More than abundant
  • Warning you away from North Thailand: Successful
-James, 23 June 2011

Review source: HK DVD
Screenshot source: HK DVD

Tuesday, 21 June 2011

A bigger and better trash pile

For those of you who have been catching up with this new home for Forgotten Junk, we are still in the process of moving. It's tedious we know, for now though it has come to mine and Oli's attention that we are unhappy with some of the quality of our previous reviews. This is speaking from the heart too; copying and pasting all our massive old reviews and breaking them into new paragraphs feels quite unsatisying. Therefore, we want to re-write some, do not despair though, new content IS coming! Sooner than you think too, for now, stay tuned with our evergrowing new YouTube page, which will be far be more dedicated to our topic of bad taste.

Thursday, 16 June 2011

Quest for the Mighty Sword

Ever since I sampled the wondrous and campy delight that was Terry Marcel's Hawk The Slayer, you offer me a film featuring toy weapons, barren sets and moronic magical tales of chivalry against evil, you are guaranteed to hold my attention. Unsurprisingly like every brief movie craze during the 80's in this case the 'Conan-style' swords and sorcery genre, Italy wanted to ride high on the bandwagon and up the ante in terms of Z-budget antics. Already, Lucio Fulci had made his own stab with 1983's Conquest along with Albert Pyun's Sword and the Sorcerer and of course, the king of this underworld of fantasy tales: the Deathstalker franchise. Now surprisingly Bruno Mattei was not involved for this particular charade from as late as 1990, but the one you could consider his master: Joe D'Amato.

D'Amato who sadly died in 1999 was an especially seedy, sleazy director who has made no less than 200 movies. Like many of his fellow Italian exploitation buddies, D'Amato stuck to many genres in his lifetime including spaghetti westerns and war films; although he mostly stuck with soft and hardcore pornography which is what he is most notorious for. His resume includes such 'erotic classics' as Porno Holocaust, Caligula: The Untold Story and Hercules: A Sex Adventure. Needless to say, I had some trepidation about wading into his murky and potentially mentally scarring filmography. Now this movie Quest For The Mighty Sword is oddly enough both the technical fourth entry into D'Amato's Conan knock off series starring Miles O'Keefe known as Ator, as well as in Germany being the unofficial sequel to Troll 2 by Bruno Mattei collaborator Claudio Fragasso. Basically, the only relation this movie has with Troll 2 is the fact that several of Laura Gemser's troll/goblin costumes are reused. In terms of being an Ator sequel though this one was apparently meant to be a reboot for D'Amato after the third entry in the series Iron Warrior was disowned by him due to a different director being at the helm. 

To start with, we have a lone female warrior garbed in gold and a few bedsheets dashing across the scenery as the title cards roll. Intercut with this is a scene of silver-clad soldiers dragging civilians to be executed by Prince Ator, ruler of this very small bog pit with a gondola in the middle. These particluar felons have been charged with rape as reported by a dude with a goofy helmet that covers his eyes, funnily enough this is the first line of the film. As long as there is no rape involving cannibals and a character named Emanuelle within the first five minutes I might just make it. As a way of proving what little possible strength they may have over their leader, the criminals are offered to fight Ator in exchange for their freedom. Our hero steps into the pit with the Mighty Sword in hand, a plastic toy so heavy that our main actor can't seem to do more than one move with it. Just to show he's a hardcore family man he is also demonstrating his raw manliness in front of his wife and young kid.  Ator promises to his son who also happens to be called Ator imaginitively enough, that when he dies the Mighty Sword will become his to rule over the land; eyes subsequently roll at obvious foreshadowing. Ator in epic fashion begins his battle against the rapists in glorious slow motion. No, I'm not talking about the footage slowing down but Ator's movements are so lathargic that I can't believe that he actually hits anything. 

Surprisingly, Ator dispatches the crooks fairly quickly with each of the opponents receiving two different battle themes including a funky medieval disco tune and an oddly well done orchestral piece that sounds like James Horner on an off-day. But before Ator can lay down his arms, a mysterious metal-clad warrior named Tharn appears to challenge Ator for the sword; Ator naturally decides to literally stand his ground, holding the sword horizontally like a barrier loudly declaring his loyalty to his people. Tharn prepares to throw his spear when our female from eariler now named as Dejenira pleads while out of breath for Tharn to relinquish his anger; Tharn refuses and chucks his spear into Ator's gut breaking the mighty sword in two. Notice how the prop is so heavy it appears Ator is deliberately holding the spear into his gut. Tharn then decides to reveal himself as one of the snarling goblins from Troll 2 before disappearing in a gust of smoke. Now I know what you are thinking, with our main character Ator now dead after less than ten minutes this means the movie is over right? Nope, in his dying words Ator requests that his wife and child be taken to a supposedly wise goblin named Grendel so that his son can be brought up to be as strong as his father.

Meanwhile Dejenira flees from the scene and falls from exhaustion because I guess being a woman in a fantasy realm means jogging endlessly through recycled scenery isn't one of her strong points; some hasty editing later and she is captured by her kind and forced into some kind of hibernation for having feelings for Ator which can only be broken by another mortal. Gee, I wonder who is up for that task? Need I also mention this entrapment involves having a spear thrown into a wall causing a barrier of fire; I guess a light knock to the noggin was out of the question. Cut to eightenn years later as the now grown up Ator Jr (naturally played by the same actor as his father, go figure) is speaking to a sorceress about Dejeneria's curse and his fate to reclaim the mighty sword from Grendel, but first we need to take some backward steps courtesy of a flashback. 

Ator Jr and his mother venture to the home of Grendel, where their presence is not met with the most flattering of welcomes. I suppose the sudden jump to goofy music only makes the situation all the more awkward. The mother requests that the broken mighty sword be repaired to be inherited by little Ator for his eighteenth birthday; Grendel being a bitter old geezer requests for her love in return which she refuses choosing to rather drink a suicide potion. Instead she is given a love potion and proceeds to make love to Grendel, I've certainly heard of beastiality before but gnomeality is news to me. Learning about his mother's sudden love for plastic masks naturally angers Ator and in a fit of rage searches desperately for the shards of the mighty sword; unfortunately Grendel has none of it and tricks him several times with fake swords that smash over his head. Chortling to himself, Grendel never expects Ator to wield the deadly heirloom again as he blinds him with a potion...which wears off about two seconds later.

Take three now as Ator finally grabs the real mighty sword (after two tries no less) and finally slices Grendel in half, his crow laughing maniacally in the background. Ator with the sword in hand and a new set of unbelievably furry threads heads to a nearby cave where the sorcress from eariler claims that are Amazonian damsel in distress is hidden. Ator heads off when suddenly a silver (again) armor clad bandit sprints straight towards him obviously having no regard towards his massive sword of death.  If you look closely at the side of the villain you can spot a severed head dangling from it's side. Bit hardcore for a PG rated exploitation movie methinks. After performing the ancient technique known as 'swinging the giant plastic toy horizontally very slowly' Ator slays the bandit (complete with cheesy laser sound effect)  revealing itself to be the sorceress apparently testing Ator's strength. She warns him that even with the mighty sword it is impossible to defeat 'the king of the Gods',  whoever that is I guess. Even Ator seems unenthused by her warning with our actor brushing the line off as which to say 'you're kidding me right?' The sorceress as one last word of advice tells Ator to be wary of two guards that shield Dejeneira.

So what do these two guards consist of? A highly impractical two-headed robot that is defeated by getting stuck in a doorway (worst anticlimax ever) and a fire-breathing 'dragon' which heavily resembles a paper-mache Godzilla to me which is dispatched by Ator and his deadly laborious swipes. He discovers a few treasures and proceeds to proclaim VERY LOUDLY to the gods that he now owns some very special bling; with that superfluous plot point to never be mentioned again over he finally stumbles on Dejeneira's tomb, managing to wake her in the process. So how do our two heroes react to this whole charade? They instantly and I mean within about five seconds of meeting fall madly in love with one another. So the title of this movie has now changed from 'Quest for the Mighty Sword' to 'Quest for the Amazon Princess' and now it is currently 'Quest for the halfway pont between the Second Act'. Yep, we're still only halfway through. Naturally with the two meeting they must hastily escape the tomb because a sudden mass of stock footage lava is catching up to them. 

Dejeneira reveals that while she lacks her prerequisite immortality, she has 'secrets of the gods' as a bonus. Five minutes later though she reveals that while she knows them she can't reveal them making the whole plot point completly redundant. Either way Ator suggests that they must travel to the 'Middle-world' in order to escape Tharn who naturally is brought up again to make this film's threadbare plot all the more convoluted.
Before that though it's time to rip off the Star Wars cantina scene as the two wander into a nearby bar complete with guitar playing goblins and a craps table made outof a glowing blue bedsheet. Here they spot three people, Laura Gemser (why not?),  a pretty skilful gambler and oddly Ator's mother who appears to have aged really well but is now also the brunt of good old drunken abuse. Ator rescues her with that nagging suspicion that he had seen her once before; confusingly enough Ator's helpful sorceress from eariler just so happens to be running the bar (guess thats her day job) and informs Gemser of his presence. Within seconds Gemser makes it her job to make him hers to control. We then immediately cut to Ator's mother visting him again for one last time, revealing to us that because of her lust for Grendel the gods transformed her into a whore to wander the earth for eternity. Ator to comfort her gives her a big old bear hug but that instantly turns her into an old, decrepit corpse; cue a cremation scene ripped straight from Return of the Jedi. Never thought I'd see a film which channels both Star Wars and Conan into such a plagiaristic whole. If only Jack Palance could appear right about now I could market this as Hawk The Slayer 2

Skiold, the name of the gambler from earlier decides to tag along after rescuing the couple from a pack of what appear to be tusken raiders draped in white blankets and cloth. What is with the set designs and the use of either bog pits or bedroom furniture? Well soon after introducing himself as a character with a 'debt to pay' motive Dejeinera is captured by a group of armoured soldiers with little to no effort. In fact all they do is quite literally run and bump into Ator and Skiold, knocking them out cold like they just grab a random girl as part of their daily run. Well we have to have some kind of rescue operation for the third act, right? It turns out that her captor is an old dude with a serious case of OAP acne named Gunther who just wants a bit of love from our now seemingly useless Amazonian damsel. Naturally to help him and his pervy ways is a troll for company, complete with a dubbed voice that sounds like an extra from Dilbert. He summons Gemser to disguise herself as a false Dejeinera for Ator which naturally is discovered by him very quickly upon his arrival to the castle, oddly enough he decides to be merciful to her as she loses her disguise and prances off to be never seen again. With this in mind it's time for the castle takeover in what is a showcase for the most incompetent castle guards in film history.
These feats include such wonders as:
  • Two armoured guards with silver helmets being killed by Skiold's wooden boomerang.
  • Another pair of guards charging at Ator failing to even attempt to stab him. Instead they flail their rubber rapiers like guests to a rave party as Ator lathargically swipes at them naturally decimating both in a single blow.
  • Yet another guard squadron that decides to split into smaller pairs despite the fact that logically it's obvious that Ator and Skiold only went in one direction.
  • Lastly a pair of 'expert' swordsmen deciding to do the 'Indy' routine of showing off all two moves they can do wih their blades. Ator using the power of jump cuts procures a wrist mounted arrow launcher and promptly shoots both of them in the neck. One manages to survive briefly and stabs Skiold killing him instantly.
Gunther despite losing a fair chunk of his men continues with his plan for Dejeinera, by very slowly lowering her into a vat of magic white liquid preserving her as a statue. Wonderful, I never thought the statue shagging scenes from Libidomania would be making a possible comeback. Well Ator shows up in the nick of time to deck some guards with his hunk of plastic and face Gunther in a final duel; however he decides to buck the trend in a noticeably anticlimactic fashion by killing himself and his troll partner in the vat of statue goop. 
Without questioning as to why his nemesis decided to off himself, Ator rescues his Amazonian bride and the two wander out of the castle into the unknown. But not before Gemser shows up out of nowhere to watch them leave, only then she reveals herself to really be Tharn all along for no particular reason. With this completely abrupt climax, the credits roll. Quest For The Mighty Sword  for me is easily the Italian equivalent to Hawk The Slayer on so many levels, the most obvious comparison being that it relies on fantasy cliches by the truckload. So much so that the plot has countless unresolved or downright poorly thought out sections of narrative that can be easily converted into a deadly drinking game. For a film that only runs for around 90 minutes, the pacing of the film ranges from being lightening fast to turgidly slow.

Much like Hawk The Slayer, the acting range is schizophrenic at best. The main examples of this being Margaret Lenzey's unbelievably wooden (and mostly out of breath) performance as Dejeinera to Eric Allen Kramer's role as Ator which comes off as almost as self-aware of the movies quality given his oddly sarcastic mannerisms throughout the film. The script itself, along with being as badly laid out as the overall plot, also contains a few painfully obvious plagiarisms from other fantasy films including the hilarious mention of a 'middle-world', Tolkien is rolling in his grave.

As expected there is also the mixture of both terrible and occasionally inspired costume and prop design particularly with some of the armoured soldiers as well as the mighty sword itself easily taking the award for most impractical fantasy weapon ever in my book, although the sets themselves are barren and very nondescript. The score by Carla Maria Cordio however is really not bad with Ator's theme having a funky disco beat and some of the battle music featuring some well made orchestral overtures fitting of the Conan-esque setting.

Quest For The Mighty Sword can be a very entertaining piece of trash if you look into it the right way. With it's nearly nonsensical fantasy narrative, comical action sequences and acting that would making even the most hardened critics holler, it will most likely be a blast with bad fantasy afficionados. Besides, it's not the worst thing D'Amato had unleashed on the world. Radioactive zombies with penises of death; 'nuff said.
  • Nonsensical plot point count: Enough to make Frank Miller's later work seem coherent.
  • Recycling from other films: 4/5
  • Incompetent villains: Always a bonus
                                         -Oli, 2 June 2010 (original date)

Review source: US VHS
Screenshot source: US VHS

Saturday, 11 June 2011

Goku Midnight Eye - Part 1

Judging from the various films and animations I have reviewed for this website, you would be right in assuming I am an advocate for the anarchic, exploitative days of the 80's and 90's where anything seemed to pass and noone played safe. Now, especially so with animation that trend has reversed. I admittedly hope I am not the only one who is somewhat exasperated by the glut of flashy 3D CGI toons chock full of inane pop culture references, yawn-inducing kid underdog stories and animation that no matter how detailed each polygon looked made me rather admire a gorgeously shaded cel crafted by hand any day.

Furthermore, practically no animation director seems to want to make the decision to create movies that tackled dark, unconventional narratives all while wrapped in worlds draped with hues of blue and black. Where women were not ungodly bobbleheads voiced by washed up celebrities, men were charismatic badasses with laser magnums and cyborgs fought psychics in battles that would bring multiple dimensions to their knees. Good thing Yoshiaki Kawajiri is their to delight me with his warped spins on reality. Kawajiri is mainly well known for his 90's gorefest Ninja Scroll as well as his recent take on the Highlander franchise in The Search For Vengeance; I myself was actually introduced to his work through Lensman, his debut in 1984. Eventually I also saw 1987's Wicked City which to me is honestly one of the finest animated films I have seen (something which I rarely say about most animations) with it's creative blend of horror and film noir supported by gorgeous animation and character designs along with a wonderfully macabre atmosphere. 

But out of all of his works, the one that seems to have slipped through the cracks is his two-part OVA series from 1989 Goku: Midnight Eye. This short lived animation was adapted from a three volume manga by Buichi Terasawa famously known as the creator of the kitschy space opera Space Adventure Cobra. So what happens when Terasawa's kitsch blends with Kawajiri's demon-encrusted imagination? The setting is a futuristic Tokyo, extensively rebuilt after a second great earthquake nearly wipes the city from the map. In this crazy world teeming with reprobates and criminals is the leather jacket sporting, no shirt on underneath (but still has a tie), hardcore private detective known as Goku. Immediately off the bat we know this guy is no ordinary cop (his dress sense notwithstanding) when he tangles with a cyborg accountant whose arms can stretch out like bubblegum. Goku with the help of a tiny metal rod, bashes one of the man's arms in half and stabs him through the stomach, all to retrieve a small key for the guy's turquoise haired girlfriend. The woman offers to repay him (*cough*sex*cough*) but Goku being a man refuses politely and requests for a payment to his account. 

Goku cruises into the brightly lit city ahead, driving the point home that no matter how many times Japan rebuilds itself it will come crashing down again one day. Naturally this leads to the title card. We cut to a bar featuring possibly the craziest looking erotic dancer known to mankind; a woman with motorbike handlebars and a gearbox protruding out of her back while an engine revs in the background with the music. Just for effect her breasts our jiggling too, just to make the place more 'adult.'

An observer in the bar stares in the direction of a shady looking man sitting motionless with a glass of red wine, his reflection clearly showing in a window next to him. The other man prepares to strike when all of a sudden, peacock feathers with glowing pink eyes stretch from behind the two way window. The glow transfixes the man who consequently commits suicide through a shot to the head. Is your mind boggled now by the way? It turns out that this is just another in a string of mysterious deaths that are decimating the ranks of the police's Special Investigations Section. Goku is informed by the police chief that the possible next target is his former partner Yoko, naturally Goku immediately disregards the chief's order to stay out of the investigation. Meeting up with Yoko at the firing range, Goku proceeds to catch up with old times and learn about who might be behind these obviously suspicious deaths.

While cruising across the city highways, Goku learns from Yoko that these deaths are most likely related to a notorious arms dealer by the name of Genji; if you havent guessed that the shady bar dude with wine was Genji, you clearly need to watch more 80's action movies. We are also shown that Genji also actually owns that same bar hidden insidea skyscraper with a design aesthetic akin to two massive glowing testicles. Manly indeed. Two other Special Investigation members are seen playing peeping tom on Genji's fortress, noticing straight away a voloptuous black-haired woman baring her shapely chest. With the two officers distracted, the woman (who bears a striking resemblance to Wicked City's female spider demon) bears a smug grin and shock horror, unleashes her peacock feathers of doom stretching out of her back; Genji certainly has an odd fetish for unnatural female protrusions.

One of the guys decides that before killing himself to chuck his friend out the window, plunging down to a bloody death on a car window. His eyes gleaming white, the second dude also takes flight to the streets below. Convenientely enough, Goku and Yoko turn up to watch the second guy splat against the sidewalk leaving our resident Kawajiri female protagonist the last one in the unit alive. Goku decides to take action and with scuba gear in hand proceeds to inflitrate Genji's abode, Yoko is left behind to provide support (in other words, nothing to taint his manliness). Soon after being flushed into the system, Goku rips his gear off to reveal he still refuses to conform to a sensible dress code. Alluding a few guards, Goku is a few minutes later cornered by a giant who bashes his face into a piano, as well as Genji and his growling (no joke) woman/motorcycle pet. Genji warns our wounded hero that his interference will cost him dearly and tests his latest weapon on him, a mosquito that paralyses humans after absorbing their carbon dioxide. This anime makes Metal Gear's technology look plausible. Goku faints, waking up dazed in his car and drives straight ahead; but out of nowhere, Goku's bad luck strikes again as the evil peacock lady hypnotizes him. In a desperate bid to escape, Goku proceeds to stab out his own left eye and promptly crashes into the sea. Now thats what I call a 'Riki-Oh' style getaway.

Goku slowly begins to return to consciousness, lying naked in a dark blue void. An ominous voice outlines that Goku now has a few alterations to his body inluding a new left eye. But this is no ordinary left eye, it's the most advanced computer terminal on the planet. What this means for Goku is he now with just a thought can access any computer system from any location as well as perform scans on anything and anyone. Goku has now officially replaced Bruce Wayne as the world's greatest detective. Adding to his omniscience, Goku also receives a new crime fighting tool of badassery. A metal pole that can extend to any length and can fire lasers, by decree I think this weapon should become a standard household accessory. Goku then proceeds to wander about the city testing out his new toys on various thugs throughout the city until realising that he left Yoko behind like a dimwit. He breaks into her apartment with his god-like eye, Yoko naturally not questioning where he went and proceeds to want to shag him, cue lots of boob shots and groping. Surprisingly with this wonderful erotic display in his lap, Goku refuses the sex (twice he has done this now) instead seeing to an invisible thug he spotted a moment ago with his eye.At the same time, Yoko tries to stab Goku after briefly spotting the peacock lady and is promptly knocked to the floor by his rod. I can't keep track of all of the 'rod' euphemisms I have used thus far. 

The thug is promptly blasted by Goku's thick rod laser (homoeroticism has just gone off the charts) and he tends to bringing a still nude Yoko to her feet. The nightmare hasn't ended yet though as the evil paralysis mosquitos swarm into the room and knock our hapless female out cold. Goku grabs her and rushes to the nearby elevator holding his breath to avoid the mosquito's deadly weapon. Kawajiri not wanting to stick to being remotely classy deicdes to also do a full on panning shot of Yoko's naked body in Goku's down to her crotch. Goku and Yoko leave the elevator in time to be immediately confronted by Peacock Lady who in the nick of time is blasted through the stomach by Goku's laser pole killing her instantly. Yoko is soon rushed to a hospital but due to the numerous mosquito bites, she does not make it though the paralysis and dies leaving Goku a solemn loner out for revenge. The police chief now forbids Goku entirely from taking down Genji knowing fully well the damage he may cause. Ignoring this entirely, Goku takes control of a television satellite broadcasting in the middle of the city his threat to kill Genji in cold blood.

Our villain rushes back to his base to finalise a new arms deal on a weapon with some shady businessmen. This weapon is beyond ludicrous and keep in mind this anime already has a lady with mind bending bird feathers. Genji's diabolical plan is to inject swans with a virus that is secreted from hormonal glands during sex. So that when the swans migrate and mate in the spring season, the virus spreads over the country they are in. At this point, I think any plausibility with this show is now completely non-existent. Oddly enough the businessmen agree to this bizarre weapon choice wihtout much questioning. Goku in an equally stupendously implausible entrance controls a helicopter (no build up to how he got it) and with his pole, vaults over an ENTIRE city block and crashes into a window on Genji's base alerting his guards. Genji is confident in his victory over Goku though despite his entire detachment of troops being battered and eluded by Goku's gleaming metal stick of awesomeness. Why is he so confident? Well moments later Goku is attacked by the crazy motorcycle woman now complete with pink mouth laser and an armoured midget driver. To be honest, nothing surprises me anymore with this show.

Goku defeats this concoction of WTF-ness by zapping the woman's head off. Controlling the disembodied head he scorches the midgets head as he cowers on the floor. Genji now can't stand Goku winning so he floods the entire floor hoping that he drowns and proceeds to finalise the deal with the businessmen over the swan virus (two words that shouldnt go together). Long story short, Goku uses his eye to direct the water through the building corridors and into Genji's office creating a tidal wave that sweeps Genji and his cohorts out of the window and into the sea below. Not just yet though, Genji still has a little fight left in him. He clutches for dear life on the window edge and aims his golden gun (subtle bond reference for the win) at Goku; in return Goku shows no remorse in using the motobike lady's severed head to blast a hole right through Genji's head. After making a good old fashioned cheesy death cry, Genji falls into the water below his headquarters and business in ruins. Goku regrets in a monologue how he can never love a woman without her being killed and pole vaults into the city to dispense some more manly justice.

Phew, you thought that was crazy? Well that was just the first half. Check out Part 2 for more insanity.

Friday, 10 June 2011

Future Cops

 DISCLAIMER: This movie flips balls and trips face, the following review spoils a great deal of the madness within, if you don't feel like knowing what you're going to get then I advise you get off this page and find a copy of the movie immediately.

We all know about the highly-prolific turkey that is the US Street Fighter movie, but over time it's become to be re-appraised as a masterpiece of cheese cinema, and hell, at least it's not that Chun-Li abomination, which should be stricken from the face of the earth. We're going to take a look at something a bit more obscure here, and while I may like to see "Korean Street Fighter" someday, I've got something a lot more fun until then, "Chinese Street Fighter"! 超級學校霸王 is this film's title in its native language, which translates to "Super School Overlord" apparently (it makes sense once you've watched it). Upon reading the name "Future Cops", the last thing on your mind would be Street Fighter, right? Well yeah, this thing, plot-wise, has almost nothing to do with the Capcom game, it's instead an unauthorized Hong Kong adaptation. Director Wong Jing is a big videogame fan, but as no one could get the rights to the characters, they used them anyway, changing the names while their appearances remained fairly faithful. Before I get into this review, I'd just like to list the name changes made to all the characters present:
  • Ryu = Lung 
  • Ken = Kent (really?)
  • Chun-Li = The only thing that stays the same (name wise)
  • Guile = Broom Man (fits)
  • Dhalsim = Ah-Sing
  • Vega (claw) = Ti-Man
  • E. Honda = Toyota (I like this one)
  • Sagat = Thai King (accurate enough)
  • M. Bison = General

We open to Hong Kong, 2043 A.D., as helpfully indicated by a news reporter, who also tells us that the evil General has been imprisoned by judge Yu Ti Hung, I guess the people of 2043 are forgetful and need to be reminded what year it is. Thai King, Toyota and Kent (yes, Ken is a villain here) have plotted to journey back fifty years to when Yu Ti Hung was young and unprotected so they can brainwash him into letting General go when it comes to his trial (I'm not even gonna get into the number of plot holes already punched into the story). Team General as I'm going to call them get into a fight with the Future Cops, which consist of Lung, Broom Man, Ah-Sing and Ti-Man (yeah, Vega is a hero in place of Ken it seems), and right after Thai King drives down a road in a flaming jeep being chased by guys firing lasers on flying scooters (!!!), we're treated to an incredibly game-accurate fight scene with plenty of Hadoukens and Sonic Booms. Of course, Team General hold them off and escape into their time machine, which self-destructs just as it sends them back! Before I move on, I have to say that even though 2043 is their present time, the Future Cops ARE called the Future Cops! Did the definition of 'future' just change?

The Future Cops' chief tells them they're obviously gonna have to go back in time too to protect Yu Ti Hung, except for Lung, who will be staying because he is the brother of the chief's wife (or they just couldn't afford the actor's star status for the entirety of the film, as he is played by Aaron Kwok, who is a bit of a big celebrity). Chief informs them that the people of the past love telling lies, and that there is a computer chip in their brains that shocks them if they lie, Ti-Man ensures him they'll never lie, in which they're all promptly shocked. I'm still struggling to get round the concept myself. Oh yeah, take a guess as to how the Future Cops journey back to 1993.

With a DeLorean rip-off? No.

With a self-destructing metal shed a-la what Team General used? No.

With any stock time travelling device? No.

THEY CATCH A FUCKIN' AEROPLANE, I GUESS TIME TRAVEL CAN BE PUT IN ANYTHING IN 2043. So as we go to 1993, we're introduced to the real focus of this story, Tai-Hung, a kid who eats fish balls that look like massive sponge balls; Tai-Hung is something of a manchild, being twenty-eight years old and still being in high school on the account of being a failure, of course that barely seems to matter, all the actors cast for the other students look about the same age as him. Tai-Hung is into a girl called Choi-Ney (I think they ignored the fact he is technically paedophilic seeing as how all the students look like adults) and is regularly bullied by Kei-On, a kid with a giant quiff that looks like it eats hair gel, he's also got a Filipino maid that follows him round. While on punishment duty (the subs get a little funny here), Tai-Hung indulges us about another love interest, Sui-Wai, AKA "Crab Angel"! Of course, it's obvious the original Chinese is not referring to those crabs, but still, hahahaha.

Sui-Wai asks for Tai-Hung to screw her because she takes pity on him, but it's really just a ruse for Kei-On to bully Tai-Hung some more because she's Kei-On's woman, and tells him not to bother coming to school the next day (funny thing here, just as Tai-Hung walks off, his shoe comes off and the actor promptly puts it back on, it doesn't look like it was intended but it adds to the fact Tai-Hung is a screw-up). When he gets home we learn Chun-Li is Tai-Hung's infinitely more successful sister, their mother is a crazy milf who offers her daughter things that look vibrators in case she gets attacked, she also has a bewildering and short meditation process. Tai-Hung drinks to his sorrows later while bitching at god and throws a beer can, only for it to come back as a barrel, but enough logic for now, the Future Cops have arrived! The Cops tell the misfit they're in search of Yu Ti Hung, and they offer to make him less of a loser if he lets them live with him until they complete their mission. He has to hide them though when his mum comes back with her boyfriend, Richard, because she's such a nice mum she tells her son to get to bed so she and Richard can get it on as he woos her with his English skills, until she sees the Future Cops walking round and starts freaking out about them.


The next day, Tai-Hung brings Ah-Sing as a servant in school as well as to teach Kei-On a lesson, while at home, Broom Man and Ti-Man eat a fridge... no I don't know. At any rate, Ti-Man needs to explain why he and Broom Man are in the house to Chun-Li, and he tries to get by by using Broom Man appropriately as a broom, until Tai-Hung comes in to save their asses by beating them (most notably punching Broom Man in the DICK, though he doesn't react). Broom Man gets himself enrolled as a teacher and even has a music video moment as he falls for Sui-Wai, while Ti-Man ends up as a student (note they get by through lying here, so what about the computer chips?). Though we see Ti-Man getting shocked when he tells Chun-Li he's come over to study because of the computer chip! Ti-Man takes her to an arcade as he tries to flirt with her, and even teleports him and her inside a Super Mario Bros. arcade game! For copyright reasons probably, they've got different colour hats, but they even have to jump over a Koopa! Chun-Li quizzes him of Ti-Man's lackluster courting skills and even takes a guess at how everyone in the future is gay! But according to Ti-Man, in his time, too many people have AIDS, so they have to let the AIDS carriers die and not make love! So all the kids are test tube babies. Oh yeah, the Mario references don't stop with the Koopa, Chun-Li even grows three times her height! After all that Ti-Man and Chun-Li go back and get it on after Ti-Man gets a knife in the back.

The next day there's a sports day on at school with Tai-Hung competing, Choi-Ney gives him a sweater she's been knitting... I don't know what it is, but something about this small scene is REALLY funny, it feels so randomly spliced in, is the sweater she knitted for him purposely terrible? What's even funnier is that he loves it enough to wear it! Oh, because absolutely no one has any confidence in Tai-Hung, Ah-Sing gives him some helping hands throughout each of the events, including give him Future Cop chips that let him inherit the strengths of each Future Cop! (They're literally plastic discs) oh, one of the commentators says that if Tai-Hung wins he'll eat his microphone, I'll let you guess how that goes. So after Tai-Hung wins everything at the competition, Team General finally appear on the scene! Think the movie had forgotten them? They find Kei-On in an arcade (playing STREET FIGHTER 2 of all things) and Kent tells him they want Yu Ti Hung and that he'll give Kei-On plenty of fortunes if he helps them out. Thai King and Toyota appear in school the next day to greet Siu-Wai and her nameless friend, who Thai King KICKS IN THE TITS, then Kent comes out of nowhere and Hurricane Kicks the two of them, because he needs to win over the kids as the new teacher. Kent poisons Ti-Man in the middle of class so that he'll quickly lose all his strength and intelligence, Broom Man learns about this little trick via the convenience of a plot hole and gets angry when he sees Siu-Wai swooning all over Kent as he takes her for a drive.

He follows them, shows off some of his Jedi mind tricks (I swear to god the subtitles for how he seemingly caught a lift on top of a car make it even funnier) and then confronts Kent, who has lost the admiration of Siu-Wai when he shows her his true colours. Broom Man and Kent get into a massively destructive fight with fireballs and cars being hurled every which way, it's a goddamn spectacle. Broom Man fails in the end though, and we learn that the now Ti-Manchild may soon be dead because of Kent's poison needles. That doesn't matter much though as Kent quickly appears after the drama to stab Ti-Man with the antidote, guess he does have some honour after all. Back in the future, some literally faceless intruders break into General's prison and let him free because they've got their own time machine, and General just wants to kill the Yu Ti Hung of old (what about the one of his time?). Back in Tai-Hung's time, Uncle Richard uses Tai-Hung's birthday party as a chance to declare how he and Tai-Hung's mum will be getting married next month, so Tai-Hung's surname will be changed to Yu. As per tradition with Richard's family it seems, Tai-Hung's name will have "Tai" changed to "Ti" to represent his generation (I can't really tell with the subtitles), if you haven't noticed it yet, Tai-Hung is now Yu Ti Hung, in retrospect I think a lot of people would have seen this coming but I thought it was a neat little twist. Oh, Kei-On was in attendance at Yu Ti Hung's party because Chun-Li is a bitch so he runs off to tell Team General, and you better believe shit goes down! General takes over the school and the whole place plunges into madness (M. BISON THE HEADMASTER, just let that sink in for a minute), with all the teachers having computer chips put in them that turn them into lunatics.


Of course, the Future Cops have computer chips of their own that can give Chun-Li and Yu Ti Hung the same superpowers (so Chun-Li FINALLY becomes Chun-Li), and because Yu Ti Hung is unlucky, his computer chip goes up his nose a lot like that thingy Arnie sticks up his in Total Recall. Though the chip only works if the user has a lot of courage, which as you can guess, Yu Ti Hung doesn't, it's only until he realizes he may as well save all the new friends he's made. As the Future Cops storm the school, plenty of explosions abound as Yu Ti Hung even flies in on his own flying scooter (why yes it doesn't tell us where he got it), until he crashes that is. Fear not though! He does balls up and make an epic return as Akuma of all Street Fighter characters! Just in time for one big brawl against General too, with Richard as Blanka and Chun-Li's mum as a second Chun-Li: Chun-Tai!

At the end of the big showdown we get a re-union with the guys of 1993 and the Future Cops, until Lung (Ryu, as you've probably forgotten) shows up! He brings news of a new super villain that has traveled back to 1993, but everyone just laughs this off and poses for the camera. The end. This is most definitely one of the strangest adaptations ever, varying between being 'better' and being 'worse' than the US Street Fighter, there's so many bizarre scenarios that the only way they could have been thought up was by not being under any drugs at all and just being a concentrated madman. To be honest though, it's nigh-incomparable to the guilty pleasure that is the Van Damme Street Fighter movie, which was at least officially approved. The movie is hysterical, both intentionally and unintentionally, with many laughs coming from just how impossible it is to take anything seriously. The editing and sound mix is at times sloppy, and even so the bizarre choreography of the fight scenes reflects the nature of the Street Fighter 2 game to an extent! Not to mention, the string effects are quite badly done, just look at how everyone flies away when an explosion is nearby! Also, while the characters don't look exactly like their videogame counterparts, the similarities are pretty faithful, though Akuma looks a bit more like Son Goku of Dragon Ball Z (even more so, the music that plays when he appears sounds like the first few notes from the very first Dragon Ball opening). The whole thing is full of plot holes and sadly lacks any Street Fighter 2 music and most sound effects, but goddamn it's a lot of fun.

Director Wong Jing made City Hunter earlier in 1993 starring Jackie Chan, this film is most noteworthy for the bizarre inclusion of a game-accurate Street Fighter scene, Wong Jing must have simply been itching to take this further and Future Cops was his chance. It's a bit hard to judge the acting in this because nothing is meant to be taken seriously, but everything is done pretty well, the cast inclusion of the very attractive Chingmy Yau (of Naked Killer fame, similarly, Simon Yam who was also in that film stars here as Ah-Sing) as Chun-Li is always welcome. I've no idea how this film could be hated, ridicule it and criticize it maybe, but hate it? You have to be one harshly unhappy person to do that. Find this movie and see it, all this insanity is going to poison me one day.

  • Madness: 6/5
  • Plot holes: 3/5
  • I should really make more categories to accommodate films like this