Film Review: The Gauntlet (1977)

Release Date: December 17th, 1977 (Japan)
Directed by: Clint Eastwood
Written by: Michael Butler, Dennis Shryack
Music by: Jerry Fielding
Cast: Clint Eastwood, Sondra Locke, Pat Hingle, William Prince, Bill McKinney, Michael Cavanaugh

The Malpaso Company, Warner Bros., 109 Minutes

Review:

“You cheap shot, gutless bastard! You really get off roughing up girls, don’t you? Big man! Big 45 caliber fruit!” – Gus Mally

People often confuse this movie as a Dirty Harry film. It’s not but it is damn similar to that series and it fits well within its style and tone. I actually think of it as Dirty Harry 3.5 and often times mix it in when watching some Dirty Harry flicks.

While they actually played with the idea of making it a Dirty Harry picture, the film wasn’t originally made to star Clint Eastwood. In fact, Marlon Brando and Barbara Streisand were original cast for the film. Brando had some issues and was replaced by Steve McQueen. McQueen and Streisand pretty much hated each other and then both left the production. Clint Eastwood and his then significant other, Sandra Locke, were cast in their place. Eastwood’s production company then got involved and Eastwood ended up directing the film, as well.

The film’s plot is pretty simple. A tough-as-nails cop has to escort a prostitute from Las Vegas to Phoenix. However, the mob and someone on the inside of the police force wants her to die before she can make it to Phoenix. So Eastwood must protect her and get her to the finish line while dealing with an army of cops, criminals and a biker gang. Everything comes to a head in one of the greatest action movie finales of all-time, which sees Eastwood drive a bus into downtown Phoenix where he is met by the entire police force, who are armed to the teeth and dead set on preventing the bus from reaching its final destination.

That finale is so damn good and iconic that I think that people fixate on it when thinking about this film and forget about how good the movie is as a total package. In fact, this is my favorite non-western Eastwood film after the original Dirty Harry. And honestly, it’s pretty close in quality to Dirty Harry and I’d even say it has better replay value.

The action in the film is incredible, especially for the time. I don’t know if the movie holds the record for squibs used but it’s got to be pretty close to the top.

Also, it’s a picture that has aged tremendously well and plays much better than most modern action films that are created for the ADHD generation that needs constant engagement and for every stunt and action sequence to be bigger than anything they’ve seen before it. The Gauntlet is a very grounded film that feels real and seems plausible unlike one of the thirty-nine Fast & Furious movies.

If you’ve never seen The Gauntlet or just haven’t seen it in a long time, you should probably check it out. Eastwood is an absolute badass, Locke is tremendous and the greatness of that finale will outlive us all.

Rating: 8.5/10
Pairs well with: the Dirty Harry film series, as well as the Death Wish movies.

Film Review: Black Belly of the Tarantula (1971)

Release Date: September 4th, 1971 (Turin premiere)
Directed by: Paolo Cavara
Written by: Marcello Danon, Lucile Laks
Music by: Ennio Morricone
Cast: Giancarlo Giannini, Claudine Auger, Barbara Bouchet, Rossella Falk, Silvano Tranquilli, Barbara Bach

Da Ma Produzione, Produzioni Atlas Consorziate (P.A.C.), 89 Minutes, 98 Minutes (uncut)

Review:

Paolo Cavara was better known for making mondo films. However, he also made two giallo pictures, this being one of them.

Since I had never seen this but heard good things, I figured I’d check it out. It also stars a young Giancarlo Giannini, as well as the immensely beautiful ladies, Barbara Bouchet and Barbara Bach.

Like many giallo pictures, this one plays like a proto-slasher movie. And while it is very artistic and vivid, as giallos go, it doesn’t look as overly stylized as the works of Argento or the two Bavas. Still, it is a beautiful looking picture, a product of its unique time and country of origin, but it feels a bit more grounded in a gritty reality.

The method of the killer in this movie is unique and kind of cool, as he kills his victims in the way that a spider wasp kills a tarantula: paralyzing them with the sting of a needle and then slicing open their stomachs as they are conscious and can feel the agonizing pain without the ability to fight back or scream.

Giannini plays the detective trying to stop the killer but in doing so, finds himself and his girlfriend as targets of the deranged, mysterious killer.

While I can’t put this on the same level as the best giallos to come out of Italy, it is still memorable because of its killer’s methods, as well as the superb cast.

This also came out just as the genre was finding its style and getting its stride. So it might not feel as refined, beautiful and as opulent as later films in the genre but it did help pave the way for them.

Overall, this was pretty enthralling from the perspective of one who generally likes these sort of films. I can’t necessarily call Cavara a giallo maestro just based off of this one film but it did make me want to check out his other giallo picture: Plot of Fear a.k.a. Bloody Peanuts.

Rating: 7.25/10
Pairs well with: other early ’70s Italian giallo pictures.

Film Review: Gus (1976)

Release Date: July 7th, 1976
Directed by: Vincent McEveety
Written by: Arthur Alsberg, Don Nelson, Ted Key
Music by: Robert F. Brunner
Cast: Don Knotts, Edward Asner, Gary Grimes, Tim Conway, Harold Gould, Ronnie Schell, Tom Bosley, Louise Williams, Dick Butkus, Dick Van Patten, Bob Crane, Johnny Unitas, Richard Kiel, Stu Nahan

Walt Disney Productions, 96 Minutes

Review:

“Ready, Gus. Oich!” – Andy Petrovic

I was an avid viewer of just about every live-action Disney film put out from the ’50s up through the early ’90s. I had the Disney Channel, in its original subscription form, back in the late ’80s and a bit beyond. So stuff like this was on my television all the time. It’s also hard not to be an old school Disney nut when raised in Florida.

Still, this movie remained unknown to me until I got Disney+ and saw it available on there. Since I had never seen it and since I love Don Knotts, I had to check it out.

Unfortunately, Don Knotts isn’t in the movie anywhere near enough. He plays the wacky coach of a loser football team but most of the film focuses on Andy and his field goal kicking mule.

This is one of many Disney animal movies, as well as one of many Disney sports films. It’s cool seeing the two things come together though, as the concept, at least by this point, hadn’t been done to death courtesy of the Air Bud franchise and it’s 97 sequels and spinoffs.

At its core, this film is lighthearted and positive. It’s also got a lot of slapstick humor and some seriously good physical gags. My favorite sequence in the film features Tom Bosley and his buddy trying to capture Gus, the mule, in a supermarket. It plays like a live-action Road Runner cartoon, as the bumbling goofs continue to get upstaged and made into fools.

I can’t really say much on the sports elements of the film other than you have to turn your brain off because this is, after all, a movie about a mule playing in the National Football League.

While the team in the movie is fictitious, I liked that this was made with help from the NFL and featured some of the iconic teams, as well as former players and legends in various roles.

Gus isn’t a bad movie but it’s far from great. It’s one of the more enjoyable Disney animal comedies of the ’70s but for most people, this will probably come across as a very dated relic that will just be dismissed as stupid schlock.

And it could’ve used a lot more Don Knotts.

Rating: 5.5/10
Pairs well with: other wacky live-action Disney movies featuring animals.

 

Film Review: Tales from the Crypt (1972)

Release Date: March 8th, 1972 (New York City premiere)
Directed by: Freddie Francis
Written by: Milton Subotsky
Based on: Tales From the Crypt & The Vault of Horror by EC Comics, Johnny Craig, Al Feldstein, William M. Gaines
Music by: Douglas Gamley
Cast: Joan Collins, Peter Cushing, Roy Dotrice, Richard Greene, Ian Hendry, Patrick Magee, Barbara Murray, Nigel Patrick, Robin Phillips, Ralph Richardson

Amicus Productions, Cinema Releasing Corporation, Metromedia Producers Corporation, Twentieth Century Fox, 92 Minutes

Review:

“[reading Arthur Grimsdyke’s revenge letter written in the dead James Elliot’s blood] “You were cruel and mean right from the start, now you can truly say you have no… heart”.” – Father

As a fan of Amicus Productions and Tales From the Crypt, I don’t know how I didn’t discover this film sooner. I just assumed that the ’80s television series and the few films that followed were the only live-action versions of the franchise, which started in the ’50s as a comic series put out by publisher EC.

Furthermore, this has Peter Cushing and Patrick Magee in it. It also has Joan Collins, who would go on to have great fame a decade later.

This is an anthology movie like many of the films that Amicus put out. It’s not their best effort but it is still cool seeing them recreate EC Comics stories from Tales From the Crypt and The Vault of Horror.

Like most anthologies, the stories are a mixed bag. What’s interesting about this one, however, is that it crams five stories and several bookend/bridge scenes within its 92 minutes. Most of these movies would give you three tales.

That being said, some of the segments feel rushed and too quick. However, the ones that are good are pretty fun and cool.

As a film on its own, without the Tales From the Crypt branding, this just feels like another Amicus anthology lost in the shuffle with most of the others.

In the end, it’s just okay but the high points saved it from being a dud.

Rating: 6/10
Pairs well with: other horror anthologies of the ’70s and ’80s.

Film Review: The Wicker Man (1973)

Also known as: Kult (Poland)
Release Date: December 6th, 1973 (UK)
Directed by: Robin Hardy
Written by: Anthony Shaffer
Based on: Ritual by David Pinner (uncredited)
Music by: Paul Giovanni
Cast: Edward Woodward, Christopher Lee, Britt Ekland, Ingrid Pitt, Diane Cilento, Aubrey Morris

British Lion Film Corporation, 88 Minutes, 99 Minutes (extended), 94 Minutes (final cut)

Review:

“Do sit down, Sergeant. Shocks are so much better absorbed with the knees bent.” – Lord Summerisle

This is my 2000th film review here on Talking Pulp (formerly Cinespiria) and I wanted to celebrate with one of my all-time favorite films. I also chose this one because I feel like it is now unfairly forgotten due to it having a horrible and justifiably mocked remake. You know, the one with Nicolas Cage screaming about bees.

Additionally, I was actually surprised to find out that I hadn’t reviewed this already, as it is a film I revisit every few years. But I guess I hadn’t seen it since before I started this site in November of 2016.

It’s a pretty haunting and effective film and despite its age, it still works. In fact, I think it may have gotten better over time but that could also be due to modern films not having the same sort of panache as films from this era, especially in regards to horror and suspense thrillers.

The plot to this movie is fairly simple. A detective arrives at a Scottish island in a sea plane. It’s far from civilization and the residents sort of exist in their own world. The detective quickly learns that the whole village is very, very pagan. He’s brought there because a little girl was reported missing. As he investigates, he starts to uncover some really dark things about the village and the mystery behind the missing girl gets weirder and weirder.

The detective is played by Edward Woodward, who American fans will probably most recognize from his hit television show, The Equalizer. His foil and leader of the community is Lord Summerisle, who is played by horror icon and total legend, Christopher Lee.

The cast is rounded out by Hammer horror starlets Britt Ekland and Ingrid Pitt, as well as a few character actors like Aubrey Morris, who is probably most recognized for his role of Mr. Deltoid in A Clockwork Orange.

The film plays like a slow burn but it is a very immersive and engaging experience that lures you in and grabs you around the throat. It builds suspense incredibly well and you’re never really sure what’s going on until you get to the big, incredible finale. In fact, if you’ve never seen this and don’t know where it’s going, it’d be best to go into this film blindly and just experience it completely fresh.

It’s certainly well directed with superb editing but the thing that really stands out is the acting, especially from the two leads. Christopher Lee doesn’t even come into the picture until you’re forty minutes in but once he does, he ups the ante greatly and you feel the pull of his magnetic charm, even if he does feel off and possibly mad.

The Wicker Man is a stupendous horror picture. It’s one of the best to ever exist and it does that by being cerebral, building suspense and dragging out the mystery with perfection. It’s chilling, haunting and pretty fucked up. But it’s also beautiful, kind of serene and makes you think about yourself, your mortality, your morality and it weirdly gives you hope in a hopeless situation, as the hero never relents, never stops doing what he feels is right and stands proud till the very dark end.

Rating: 9.5/10
Pairs well with: other religious or occult horror films of the ’60s and ’70s, as well as the spiritual sequel, The Wicker Tree.

Film Review: Kill or Be Killed (1976)

Also known as: Karate Olympia (South African English title), Karate Killer (original US release)
Release Date: June 17th, 1976 (South Africa)
Directed by: Ivan Hall
Written by: C.F. Beyers-Boshoff
Cast: James Ryan, Charlotte Michelle, Nroman Coombes, Raymond Ho-Tong, Danie DuPlessis, Stan Schmidt

Kavalier Films, Film Ventures International, 90 Minutes

Review:

When I watched and reviewed this film’s sequel, I didn’t know that this one existed. I guess it kind of flew under my radar for years.

Overall, it’s probably a better movie than its sequel but I’d say that it’s less enjoyable, as the sequel was more bonkers than this one and it was just much more over the top.

That’s not to say that this one also isn’t a bit crazy.

The story is about a Nazi general that felt embarrassed when his fighting team lost in the Olympics way back in the day because Miyagi, the leader of the Japanese team, paid off the judges with diamonds. Now, years later, the general trains and holds tournaments in a fortress in the desert.

This brings in James Ryan, as Steve – the same character he plays in the sequel, who is essentially a badass karate fighter that is forced to fight in the Nazi dude’s tournament. This movie is basically a ’90s fighting game with a Nazi twist to it.

Steve and his girlfriend want to escape the Nazi fortress but they run into problems along the way but end up getting assistance from other fighters and a midget that is sympathetic to them, even though he is the henchman of the Nazi general.

See, this movie is pretty nuts.

Anyway, it’s fairly enjoyable for what it is and I loved the locations where this movie was shot. South Africa is pretty beautiful and it provided some spectacular landscapes that made this low budget action flick seem like a much bigger production.

I thought the tournament fights and general action sequences were well done and even though this doesn’t hold a candle to the best action films Cannon made in the ’80s, it really channels the same sort of energy and vibe. It’s almost like this is a proto-Cannon film.

Overall, most people would probably serve themselves best by skipping this movie. But for those of us who enjoy martial arts schlock from outside of the US, this is worth checking out.

Rating: 5.5/10
Pairs well with: its sequel, Kill and Kill Again.

Film Review: And Now the Screaming Starts! (1973)

Also known as: I Have No Mouth But I Must Scream (alternative title)
Release Date: April 27th, 1973 (New York City premiere)
Directed by: Roy Ward Baker
Written by: Roger Marshall
Based on: Fengriffen by David Case
Music by: Douglas Gamley
Cast: Peter Cushing, Herbert Lom, Patrick Magee, Ian Ogilvy, Stephanie Beacham

Amicus Productions, 91 Minutes

Review:

“Ghosts galore. Headless horsemen, horseless headsmen, everything.” – Charles Fengriffen

An Amicus horror film that isn’t an anthology? Oh, yes!

I’ve never seen this one, which is surprising, as it features Peter Cushing and Patrick Magee in it. It also stars a young Stephanie Beacham, who I loved in a TV show no one but me remembers anymore called Sister Kate.

This is the story of a newlywed couple who move into the groom’s mansion which is haunted due to a curse placed on it, following a terrible thing that happened on the property years earlier.

It’s fairly predictable but the story is solid with good layers to it. The film also benefits from better acting than pictures like this tend to have.

More than anything, I liked the creepiness of this and in that regard, it felt like it was on a different level than your standard Amicus fair.

loved the effects, especially how they pulled of the severed hand that crawled across the floor. It looked real, effective and for the time, was damn impressive.

In the end, I can hardly call this a horror classic but I do like it better than most Amicus movies. And since that’s a studio whose output I really enjoy, I guess I was somewhat impressed by this.

Rating: 6.5/10
Pairs well with: other non-anthology gothic horror films of the ’60s and ’70s.

Film Review: Cry of the Banshee (1970)

Release Date: July 22nd, 1970
Directed by: Gordon Hessler
Written by: Tim Kelly, Christopher Wicking
Based on: a story by Tim Kelly
Music by: Les Baxter (US theatrical), Wilfred Josephs (uncut version)
Cast: Vincent Price, Elizabeth Bergner, Essy Persson, Hugh Griffith, Patrick Mower, Hilary Dwyer, Sally Geeson

American International Pictures, 91 Minutes, 87 Minutes (edited cut)

Review:

“Oona. Of course. Once I showed her mercy. I should have killed her…. Burke. I don’t care how you do it – bring Oona to me.” – Lord Edward Whitman

It’s hard not to like a Vincent Price movie but this one is really low on the totem pole of quality for me.

We already saw Vincent Price hunt down witches in Witchfinder General a.k.a The Conqueror Worm and because of that, these films sort of blend together in my head. But I do remember liking Witchfinder General quite a bit more. I’ll have to revisit and review it soon.

Regardless, this film is incredibly derivative of its similar predecessor and I feel like it was only made to try and piggyback off of that better movie. Granted, Price’s role here is a bit different but the subject matter is the same, as is the picture’s tone and style. This one just comes across as a cheap imitation, though, and I say that as someone that’s actually a fan of Gordon Hessler, this flick’s director.

The film moves along at a drunken snail’s pace and even though stuff happens, most of it isn’t all that exciting and everything in this movie has been done better in other pictures.

Cry of the Banshee isn’t terrible, it just sort of exists in this weird state of limbo. It’s certainly not the worst film featuring Price but there are two dozen or more that I’d rank ahead of it.

Rating: 5/10
Pairs well with: Witchfinder General a.k.a. The Conqueror Worm, also with Vincent Price and dealing with similar subject matter.

Film Review: The White, The Yellow, and The Black (1975)

Also known as: Il bianco il giallo il nero (original Italian title), Samurai (Canada), Ring Around the Horse’s Tail (US dubbed version), Shoot First… Ask Questions Later (US alternative title)
Release Date: January 17th, 1975 (Italy)
Directed by: Sergio Corbucci
Written by: Amendola & Corbucci, Santiago Moncada, Renee Asseo, Antonio Troisio, Marcello Coscia, Sergio Spina
Music by: Guido & Maurizio De Angelis
Cast: Giuliano Gemma, Tomas Milian, Eli Wallach

Filmel, Mundial Film, Tritone Cinematografica, 112 Minutes

Review:

“[about to be hanged by a gang] I’ll never die without my boots on, and a star on my chest.” – Sheriff Edward Gideon

I’ve seen and reviewed about a half dozen Sergio Corbucci spaghetti westerns in recent years. I didn’t know about this one, however, until I stumbled across it while looking for something else. But I’m glad I did, even if it’s one of Corbucci’s weaker westerns.

Still, it’s a well cast film with three cool characters that had nice chemistry and provided solid performances that required dramatic and comedic acting with a little pinch of badassness sprinkled in.

People today would probably find the fact that Italian actor Tomas Milian plays a samurai in the Old West to be “problematic” and while the character is written mostly for laughs by tapping into cultural stereotypes, Milian still gives his character a certain panache and coolness when push comes to shove.

Spaghetti western legends Eli Wallach and Giuliano Gemma also add some fun to the proceedings, with Wallach playing a Sheriff and Gemma playing a typical western cowboy.

The plot sees this unlikely trio come together to track down a stolen Japanese horse that was intended to be a gift for the US government. The three men end up embroiled in a rivalry with a band of desperadoes that are made up of former Confederate soldiers.

Side note: this film was actually made as a loose parody of the Charles Bronson starring Red Sun. Milian’s samurai character would also reappear in the film Crime at the Chinese Restaurant in 1981, directed by Sergio’s younger brother, Bruno Corbucci.

Out of the Corbucci westerns I’ve seen, this one is, unfortunately, the weakest. But I can’t fault the director for trying to do something different for his last picture in the genre. While the characters are amusing and work fairly well together, the movie does kind of miss its mark and pales in comparison to Django, The Great Silence, Compañeros and The Mercenary. I’d also rank it behind Navajo Joe, which wasn’t anywhere near as goofy and borderline slapstick-y despite having more humorous bits than Corbucci’s other spaghetti westerns.

This also lacks the gravitas of those earlier films. Not that that’s a bad thing, per se, but Corbucci sort of had a particular style with his westerns and this plays more like a generic western comedy than the great action flicks one could expect from Corbucci.

Overall, I like the casting and I enjoyed their characters but apart from that, this is almost forgettable and probably only stayed afloat in a sea of spaghetti flicks due to who made it.

Rating: 6/10
Pairs well with: other Sergio Corbucci spaghetti westerns.

Film Review: Mad Monkey Kung Fu (1979)

Also known as: Mad Monkey (Germany)
Release Date: October 5th, 1979 (Hong Kong)
Directed by: Lau Kar-leung
Written by: Ni Kuang
Music by: Eddie Wang
Cast: Hsiao Ho, Lau Kar-leung, Lo Lieh, Kara Hui, Ching Chu

Shaw Brothers, 116 Minutes

Review:

This was one of my favorite kung fu movies that used to pop up on cable when I was a kid. I’d watch it every time I came across it and my cousins and I would often times try to replicate what we saw in the film.

It’s also one of the pictures that led to us actually taking up martial arts. We wanted to be as cool as the heroes in this film, as well as the heroes in other innovative martial arts flicks like it. Then as the ’80s rolled on, we got more into ninja shit but it all really started with the clever and amusing Shaw Brothers films like this gem.

Watching it now, it all sort of came back to me. Honestly, I barely remembered the movie and a lot of the kung fu pictures of that era sort of blended together in my head. But certain scenes and sequences just triggered that nostalgia bug in my brain.

For what this is, it has aged really well and the film has this cool, youthful energy about it that makes it a lot of fun to watch, even as an adult with back problems that can’t do 1/10th of the martial arts that he thought he could do well as a kid.

As much as I enjoy Lo Lieh’s work, I actually forgot he was in this. It was cool seeing him get to ham it up while also being a total badass.

This is one of those kung fu classics that is really the perfect type of late ’70s/early ’80s drive-in action movie. It’s got just about everything you’d want in a Shaw Brothers film and just a wee bit more.

Rating: 7.75/10
Pairs well with: other Shaw Brothers kung fu flicks.