Film Review: Return of the 18 Bronzemen (1976)

Also known as: Yong zheng da po shi ba tong ren (original Chinese title), The 18 Bronzemen Part 2, 18 Bronzemen II
Release Date: August 14th, 1976 (Taiwan)
Directed by: Joseph Kuo
Written by: Chien Chin, Ting Hung Kuo, Han Meng
Music by: Fu Liang Chou
Cast: Lingfeng Shangguan, Peng Tien

Karlot, Kuo Hwa Motion Pictures Co., Taiwan Li Cheng Film Company, 93 Minutes

Review:

I don’t know if the dubbed version of this that I watched missed a lot of things in its translation but the film was hard to follow from a narrative standpoint.

The main character is a prince. He decides to go through the trials in the temple where all the Bronzemen from the first film are. There is some sort of conflict and the prince isn’t supposed to become a supreme warrior under the monks that control the Bronzemen but he hides his identity and trains to be the biggest badass in China anyway.

There were a few decent fights early in the film but the first half of this picture was really slow and incredibly boring. The action bits helped to break that up but it was a real drag to get through.

However, at about the midway point, things really pick up. The back half of this movie is much better. Things shift into high gear and our prince hero goes through each room and corridor, fighting Bronzemen and trying to survive their other trials.

The physicality in this movie is great, the fighting is above average and the choreography was nice.

Unfortunately, it is bogged down by being too incoherent and for the first half being literal Ambien.

If you do have the urge to watch this, you probably just want to start at about 45 minutes in. I hate saying that but I can’t recommend the first half. The second half is a different film where everything you want in a ’70s kung fu movie is all crammed into half of the normal running time.

Rating: 4.75/10
Pairs well with: Its predecessor, The 18 Bronzemen, as well as other mystical Hong Kong martial arts films of the era.

 

Film Review: Riding with Death (1976)

Also known as: Codename: Minus One (UK)
Release Date: 1976 (original episodes), 1981 (TV movie edit)
Directed by: Michael Caffey, Alan Crosland Jr., Alan J. Levi
Written by: Leslie Stevens, Steven E. de Souza, Frank Telford
Based on: Gemini Man TV series and The Invisible Man by H.G. Wells
Music by: Lee Holdridge, Mark Snow, Billy Goldenberg
Cast: Ben Murphy, William Sylvester, Katherine Crawford

Harve Bennett Productions, Universal Television, NBC, 97 Minutes

Review:

“You have any idea who those turkeys were?” – Sam Casey

This is another film that was featured on Mystery Science Theater 3000 that wasn’t really a movie but was actually two television episodes edited into a feature length cut. And like the other examples of this terrible phenomenon, this was an atrocious and unwatchable mess.

However, there was a pretty amusing fight scene in the middle of the movie where one of the two main dork dicks was performing, got heckled and then a bar fight broke out featuring the other main dork dick using his mastery of invisibility to cheap shot rednecks.

Frankly, that weird bar fight is about all that I can even recall from this film that I just watched last night.

There were some sci-fi bits I guess, which is why the dude had invisibility powers, but this was such a mess it was hard not to zone out for most of this film.

I don’t know, unless you’re a hardcore MST3K completist, this one is really friggin’ hard to get through.

There’s trucker stuff, sci-fi wizardry, invisibility kung fu and acting so bad that everyone here could beat out Carrot Top for a Golden Raspberry Award.

As for the rating, it really gets a 1/10. I added that extra .75 for the invisibility kung fu.

Rating: 1.75/10
Pairs well with: Master Ninja I and II, Fugitive Alien I and IITime of the ApesMighty Jack and Cosmic Princess.

 

Film Review: Grizzly (1976)

Also known as: Claws, Killer Grizzly (alternate titles)
Release Date: May 12th, 1976 (New York City premiere)
Directed by: William Girdler
Written by: Harvey Flaxman, David Sheldon
Music by: Robert O. Ragland
Cast: Christopher George, Andrew Pine, Richard Jaeckel

Columbia Pictures, Film Ventures International, 89 Minutes

Review:

“Kelly, you’re a maverick. We don’t have room for mavericks!” – Charley

I saw this when I was a kid. I didn’t think it was good back then. I always wanted to revisit it though because I like killer animal movies in general. So when I saw that a RiffTrax version of the film was streaming for free on Amazon Video (for Prime members), I fired it up. Well, at least my popcorn was good. And laughing along with Mike, Kevin and Bill is always fun.

After Jaws came out in 1975, there was a big wave of animal horror films that followed. Almost all of them were terrible low budget affairs that used the shtick but lacked the magic. This one stayed on land and gave us a giant killer grizzly bear, which was probably apparent by the film’s title and poster.

Most of the killer bear footage is comprised of two thing. The first, is shots of a normal sized bear growling while the camera work tries to used some force perspective tricks but fails. The second, is a dummy bear arm with claws that is used to crash through balsa wood cabins before clubbing people in the face to poorly imitate a bear attack. The effects are bad, the editing is worse and some of these kills are much more hilarious than terrifying.

This has Christopher George in it. He’s not a great actor or anything but he was in Enter the Ninja and Pieces, two films the great Joe Bob Briggs would consider “drive-in classics”. Other than George, there’s no one of note in this and the acting is below average.

In all honesty, this feels like a TV movie from the era albeit with a bit of blood thrown in. It’s just not terrifying and the bear just looks slightly annoyed and not like the ravenous killer beast he needs to be.

Rating: 4.5/10
Pairs well with: Day of the Animals, Prophecy and Alligator.

Film Review: Track of the Moon Beast (1976)

Release Date: June 1st, 1976
Directed by: Richard Ashe
Written by: Bill Finger, Charles Sinclair
Music by: Robert G. Orpin
Cast: Chase Cordell, Leigh Drake, Gregorio Sala

Lizard Productions Inc., 81 Minutes

Review:

“I wish I was kidding Mac, I’m not! Now there is an answer and I think I know what it is and it makes me sick to think about it!” – Johnny Longbow

The world has seen werewolf movies a million times over. But were-lizard movies? Those are much harder to come by. Thank god we were given this film to satisfy the were-lizard fans of the world. Sadly, it is as excruciating to get through as a were-lizard gnawing on your face.

I guess it is worth noting that this film was penned by Bill Finger, a man who died in poverty after Bob Kane took all the credit (and money) for creating Batman. Hulu recently did a documentary about Bill Finger and you should check it out for the full story. But he’s a guy instrumental in the creation of my favorite hero, so I thought his involvement in this was worth pointing out, even if the end result wasn’t anything worthwhile.

This film stars no one that anyone would recognize. And other than Bill Finger’s involvement, I haven’t heard of any of the other people involved either.

The story is about this Native American guy trying to solve these strange murders. It plays out like a werewolf movie but it’s got that lizard twist, which makes it completely original. Well, not really. The creature, called the Moon Beast, is created by fragments of a meteorite coming into contact with just some normal human dude. Actually, it gets lodged into his brain… his brain! He goes on a killing spree because these things have to happen in these sort of pictures and eventually, he is destroyed by an arrow made of the same meteorite. In fact, the magic meteorite arrow makes his whole body explode because why wouldn’t it?

Did I spoil the plot? Well, the entire film spoils itself and everything it comes in contact with.

I guess I have to give some props to the filmmakers, however, as they completely steal the most iconic scene from a great 1940’s horror film, Val Lewton and Jacques Tourneur’s The Leopard Man. It’s the scene where someone is trying to get into their house, a loved one leaves them locked outside to teach them a lesson and then the loved one hears horrible screams from the other side of the door, as a pool of blood creeps into the house from outside. Granted, this sequence was completely butchered and looked like shit in this film but it was a nice attempt at an homage that most people would never pick up on. Or maybe it was just outright thievery.

Lastly, there is a band in this movie that plays a set that is entirely too long and feels like it takes up half the damn film. Okay, maybe like five to ten minutes but man, it’s terrible, terrible stuff.

This film is only worth your time if you watch it get riffed on MST3K. It was featured in the final season of the show’s original run.

So this is going into the Cinespiria Shitometer. The results read, “Type 3 Stool: Like a sausage but with cracks on its surface.”

Rating: 2.75/10
Pairs well with: Other films featured on Mystery Science Theater 3000 that deal with body transformation: WerewolfBlood Waters of Dr. ZI Was a Teenage Werewolf and The Incredible Melting Man.

Film Review: Family Plot (1976)

Also known as: Alfred Hitchcock’s 53rd Film, Deceit, Deception, Missing Heir (working titles)
Release Date: March 21st, 1976 (Filmex)
Directed by: Alfred Hitchcock
Written by: Ernest Lehman
Based on: The Rainbird Pattern by Victor Canning
Music by: John Williams
Cast: Karen Black, Bruce Dern, Barbara Harris, William Devane, Ed Lauter

Universal Pictures, 121 Minutes

Review:

“[to Fran] We’re gonna have to kill these two ourselves.” – Arthur Adamson

Family Plot has the distinction of being Alfred Hitchcock’s last film. It also proves that even in old age, the director was a true auteur that never lost his mojo. This is an engaging and entertaining motion picture that while it isn’t Hitchcock’s best, probably deserves more recognition than it has gotten over the years.

The plot is about one giant misunderstanding. Unfortunately for the nice duo, it becomes a big mess, as the other duo locked in this cat and mouse game aren’t nice people and in fact are pretty evil and dangerous.

Barbara Harris plays a fake psychic that swindles rich old ladies out of their money. She partners up with a crafty cab driver played by Bruce Dern. The two of them are given a job that will reward them with $10,000 upon completion. That job is to find a long lost heir to a family fortune and return him to the fold. What they don’t know is that this heir is a career criminal and conman. The conman thinks that he is being pursued by the duo because of something heinous from his past. The heir is teamed up with a often times reluctant accomplice played by Karen Black. The film becomes a chase where the mostly good guys keep finding themselves in over their heads and the bad guys are running in fear of what these do-gooders may have on them.

The plot is well structured and executed marvelously for the most part. My only real complaint about the film is that it seems a bit too drawn out. Hitchcock loved a two hour-plus running time and frankly, this could have been 100 minutes and been just as good.

I loved seeing a younger Ed Lauter in the movie and with Bruce Dern and Karen Black, this just has a really cool cast. The fact that these actors also got to work with Hitchcock is kind of impressive. Not because they aren’t capable, they certainly are, but because it’s a teaming of great talents from different generations.

Speaking of which, it was also really neat that John Williams got to score a Hitchcock picture. Two different artists that defined two different generations in very different ways came together and made something that worked to benefit both parties. Williams score here isn’t anywhere as well known as those that he’d do for George Lucas and Steven Spielberg but it enhanced the overall experience of Hitchcock’s Family Plot and gave it some life it might not have had with a less capable composer.

I really enjoyed Family Plot. I wasn’t sure what to expect but it exceeded any expectations I could have had, even if I knew more about it before diving in.

Rating: 7.75/10
Pairs well with: A lot of Alfred Hitchcock’s later work from the late ’60s into the ’70s.

Film Review: The Man Who Fell to Earth (1976)

Release Date: March 18th, 1976 (London premiere)
Directed by: Nicolas Roeg
Written by: Paul Mayersberg
Based on: The Man Who Fell to Earth by Walter Tevis
Music by: John Phillips, Stomu Yamashta
Cast: David Bowie, Rip Torn, Candy Clark, Buck Henry, Bernie Casey

British Lion Films, 138 Minutes, 119 Minutes (cut version)

Review:

“Well I’m not a scientist. But I know all things begin and end in eternity.” – Thomas Jerome Newton

David Bowie is in the upper echelon of artists I have loved and followed my entire life. I first discovered him, as a kid, when I was creeped out a bit by his music video for “Look Back In Anger” and enchanted by his video for “Ashes to Ashes”. I was really young, mind you, and this was all experienced when MTV was just sort of becoming a thing. I also grew up seeing him in Labyrinth and in other places, all while enjoying his tunes in the ’80s.

I never went back in time to check out The Man Who Fell to Earth until I was quite older. Actually, I first saw it in my early twenties, playing on television sets at a pretty intense party where the events and visuals in the film weren’t too dissimilar from the party itself.

I’ve since seen it sober and with my full attention, free of distraction.

The Man Who Fell to Earth is a real work of art. It’s not an incredible film when you look at the sum of all its parts but there are aspects of it that are exceptional, unique and inspirational. It has gone on to influence other motion pictures since it’s release and Bowie fans still adore it generations later.

The film follows an alien named Thomas Jerome Newton. He goes to Earth in search of water, as his home world is suffering from an apocalyptic level drought. He teams up with a patent attorney and invents a lot of things, advancing the technology on Earth and making himself rich. His ultimate goal is to have the money and ability to transport water back to his home. Sadly, Newton becomes distracted and corrupted by sex, alcohol, materialism and all aspects of the physical human world on Earth. Ultimately, Newton loses his way.

While the film is a bit long and feels very drawn out, it sometimes moves at a pace that is too fast. It is sort of disorienting, at times, when you go from one scene to the next and its obvious that a large portion of time has passed due to the effects of age being apparent on the characters that aren’t Newton. But there was a lot of ground to cover and I haven’t read the book, so I’m not sure how it compares to it. I’d assume that a lot had to be left out because the time jumps leave you feeling like you missed something important.

For this being David Bowie’s first big acting role, he did a fantastic job. Granted, this is a role that seems tailor made for him, especially at this point in his career. He loved singing about space and aliens and now he got to take over the screen as an odd yet intriguing extraterrestrial.

Bowie is surrounded by a pretty good cast that features Candy Clark, Rip Torn, Buck Henry and Bernie Casey. The chemistry between Bowie and Clark is good and Clark is really sweet in the first half of the film. That is, until things go sour for the romantic relationship due to Newton being driven a bit mad by the vices that control him.

The film is trippy and surreal. The alien planet scenes are enticing and charming. Also, whenever alcohol makes Newton have visions, we get to go on bizarre rides through time, space and imagination.

The Man Who Fell to Earth is an underrated gem that almost seduces you from its opening moments and continues to lure you in at every turn. While it isn’t very well known today, I don’t think that it is a film that will ever be truly lost to time because of David Bowie’s presence in it. Bowie transcends music, movies and pop culture and even in death, he will always attract new fans and many of them will most likely have the urge to experience this strange and unique film.

Rating: 7.5/10
Pairs well with: The Man Who Fell to Earth TV movie from the ’80s. Also, for Bowie fans, this flows well with The Hunger.

Film Review: The 18 Bronzemen (1976)

Also known as: Shao Lin Si shi ba tong ren (original Chinese title)
Release Date: October 28th, 1976 (Philippines)
Directed by: Joseph Kuo
Written by: Hsin Yi Chang, Hung-Yan Kuo, Joseph Kuo, Chung Yen
Music by: Ying-Yu Chen
Cast: Chiang Nan, Jack Long, Peng Tien, Polly Shang Kuan, Carter Wong

Karlot, Kuo Hwa Motion Pictures Co., Taiwan Li Cheng Film Company, 81 Minutes

Review:

The 18 Bronzemen is an old kung fu movie I came across on Amazon Video while looking for old Wu-Tang movies to kill a Saturday afternoon with. After seeing this, I’m pretty sure it was in someway responsible for Wu-Tang Clan member U-God taking on the nickname “Golden Arms”.

The film features some great sequences of warrior brothers entering a sacred temple, guarded by 18 bronze soldiers. They must fight groups of these shiny metallic warriors in an effort to pass a myriad of tests within the temple. This portion of the film takes up the first half and it is damn fun to watch.

The second half of the film, sees the brothers and some allies unite in an effort to defeat an evil tyrant. The final confrontation starts when the tyrant’s impostors appear and the good guys must fight a band of evil tyrant clones.

This isn’t well written but most kung fu movies aren’t. This is fairly derivative of the style but the first half of the film is cool as hell. Then again, I’ve always liked temple adventures and warrior trials. The golden colored martial artists were an added bonus and frankly, these scenes are just cool as friggin’ hell.

The 18 Bronzemen also went on to have a sequel, which came out the same year. These movies aren’t in any way the best of the kung fu genre but if you like these types of films, they aren’t a waste of time and are pretty amusing.