Film Review: Mother’s Day (1980)

Release Date: September 19th, 1980
Directed by: Charles Kaufman
Written by: Charles Kaufman, Warren Leight
Music by: Phil Gallo, Clem Vicari Jr.
Cast: Nancy Hendrickson, Deborah Luce, Tiana Pierce, Gary Pollard, Michael McCleery, Beatrice Pons

Duty Productions, Saga Films, Troma Entertainment, 91 Minutes, 76 Minutes (cut version)

Review:

“You’ll get what you deserve in them Deep Barons, you lez-beans! You won’t be causin’ no one no trouble no more!” – Storekeeper

This movie just flew under my radar for decades, which is surprising to me as I’ve seen dozens of films put out by Troma since the ’80s and this is something that I would’ve dug when I was obsessed with slasher flicks as an ’80s kid.

I discovered it just recently when it was featured as the first movie of the third season of The Last Drive-In with Joe Bob Briggs. That episode had Eli Roth on as a guest and he revealed that this was one of his all-time favorites. So much so, that he watched it with the other kids celebrating his bar mitzvah.

This takes the Texas Chain Saw Massacre formula and moves things to New Jersey and gives us a film that is a lot more comedic and playful than its terrifying inspiration. By 1980, this formula had already been recycled quite a bit but this picture is more memorable and entertaining than most of the others.

I really liked the killer family, even though they were evil and batshit crazy. All three of the actors really hammed it up and gave their performances their all. I also liked that the head of the family was the mother, who somehow could play a sweet, charismatic old lady while also being completely deranged and sadistic, as she commanded her demented, pervert sons to, “Make mommy proud!”

I also thought the three females leads were decent. The one with the glasses actually had a pretty good character arc over the course of the movie, as she starts out as the shy, reserved girl scared of everything and eventually steps up to the plate to take this evil family out of existence. The final kill was bizarre yet very satisfying.

Although, the girls trashing that dude’s store in beginning was pretty fucked up. Clean up your mess, don’t be an asshole. Honestly, by slasher film logic, they all should’ve died horribly for knocking over that guy’s shit and bolting after acting like complete jackasses.

Anyway, this is a solid horror comedy with lots of violence and gore. It fits well within the patented Troma style and if those movies are your thing, this will most assuredly entertain you.

Rating: 6/10
Pairs well with: other slasher films with crazy families, as well as other Troma pictures from the ’80s.

Film Review: The Elephant Man (1980)

Release Date: October 2nd, 1980 (New York City premiere)
Directed by: David Lynch
Written by: Christopher De Vore, Eric Bergren, David Lynch
Based on: The Elephant Man and Other Reminiscences by Frederick Treves; The Elephant Man: A Study In Human Dignity by Ashley Montagu
Music by: John Morris
Cast: Anthony Hopkins, John Hurt, Anne Bancroft, John Gielgud, Wendy Hiller, Hannah Gordon, Freddie Jones, Michael Elphick, Dexter Fletcher, Kenny Baker

Brooksfilms, Paramount Pictures, 124 Minutes

Review:

“I am not an elephant! I am not an animal! I am a human being! I am a man!” – John Merrick

Few motion pictures are truly perfect. This is one of those few.

As far as I’m concerned, this is still the greatest thing that David Lynch has ever done. And while I like his visual style and artistic quirkiness, I’m not a big fan like many other film aficionados are.

That being said, this is his most normal picture. He doesn’t get overly bizarre and lost in trying to put his own dreams to celluloid. Here, he has a real story to tell and given a more defined framework, I think he excelled as a director with this movie above all of his others.

What’s strange about that, is that this is only his second feature film after the absolutely bonkers, shrill and disturbing nightmare known as Eraserhead.

The success of this film led to Lynch getting the offer to direct Return of the Jedi, which he turned down, as well as 1984’s Dune, which I like but ended up being such a bad experience for Lynch that he pretty much quit mainstream movies and went back to making bizarre, personal art films more akin to what he did with Eraserhead and his short films before that.

Anyway, this is a review of The Elephant Man and not a review of Lynch’s career.

I love that this was presented in black and white, as it gives it a truly timeless feel and it generates the same sort of aesthetic as many of the great classic horror films of the 1930s and 1940s. It also has the same sort of cinematography, as it employs a chiaroscuro visual style with high contrast between light and shadow.

Given the film’s setting and the makeup of the title character, this visual style gives it a real majestic, classic cinematic feel that probably wouldn’t have been possible if this was released in color. It helps set the mood with the more horrific elements, while also giving the film a quality of old world naivete, which is important in allowing the audience to connect to the pure innocence of Merrick, the Elephant Man.

The picture is stupendously acted. Anthony Hopkins and John Hurt are absolute perfection in this and you really fall in love with both men through this incredibly emotional and very painful journey. But you also feel their emotion to the bone when the best parts of humanity find a way to outlast the worst parts. This is a film that is just as much about the darkness of humanity as it is about humanity’s light. That’s probably another reason why presenting this in black and white is so effective.

There are terrible human beings in this movie and frankly, it’s impossible to watch this and not be emotionally effected by that darkness. This is a really hard film to experience because of that but ultimately, a positive light does push the darkness back and while the ending is tragically sad, it’s also strangely satisfying knowing that the film’s subject left on his own terms in the only place he truly felt at home.

That being said, for me at least, this is one of the most emotional experiences I’ve ever had with a movie. It’s not something I can go back and watch often because it really does drain on your soul, even with the mostly positive outcome.

I have no idea what it is about this film that makes it a legitimate masterpiece. I think it’s simply a perfect storm of everything just working together, wonderfully.

The Elephant Man is truly cinematic magic in how it can give you both the worst of human nature and the best. It is an astounding, exhilarating and terrifying experience.

And again, it’s motion picture perfection.

Rating: 10/10
Pairs well with: David Lynch’s earlier work, as well as other top notch period dramas of its era.

Film Review: The Exterminator (1980)

Release Date: July 21st, 1980 (UK)
Directed by: James Glickenhaus
Written by: James Glickenhaus
Music by: Joe Renzetti
Cast: Robert Ginty, Samantha Eggar, Christopher George, Steve James, George Cheung, Irwin Keyes

Interstar, 104 Minutes (Director’s Cut), 101 Minutes (original cut)

Review:

“Hey man, whatcha doing? Come on man, don’t fuck around! Hey! Hey! Don’t do that! Come on, man. Whatcha doing that for? Stop!” – Chicken Pimp

Before he was one of the world’s most prolific Ferrari aficionados, James Glickenhaus was a film director. While his movies might not have connected with most people, I’ve always liked his work. I hadn’t seen any of his pictures in awhile, though, so I figured I’d watch the one that immediately comes to mind when I think of his films: The Exterminator.

This movie is a simple vigilante story. It also plays like a Punisher movie if the Punisher was actually allowed to get uber hardcore and get revenge in a balls out, unrelenting ’70s/’80s action film sort of way. Plus, the vigilante here really likes using a flamethrower, which just adds an extra level of extremism to his brand of street justice.

The film essentially starts out as a war movie as we see our would-be hero and his buddy getting tortured by sadistic captors during Vietnam. They escape and make it back to New York City. There, the friend is paralyzed after trying to stop some piece of shit thugs. So the would-be hero decides to make the scumfucks of the NYC slums pay for their scumfuckery.

The Exterminator is action packed and gritty as hell. However, it wasn’t as hard as I remembered it being even though some baddies are turned extra crispy. I feel like this really should’ve gone full on exploitation, grindhouse style and maybe it’d be a bigger cult classic than it is.

I like the action and the story isn’t bogged down by unnecessary plot filler. This just gets to the point once it gets going and it doesn’t let up until the final frame.

I dug revisiting this a lot and I especially loved how enjoyable Robert Ginty was as The Exterminator.

My only real complaint is that the vigilante hero didn’t look as cool as he does on the poster. He should’ve wore that badass black leather outfit.

Rating: 6.5/10
Pairs well with: its sequel, as well as other ’70s and ’80s vigilante flicks.

Film Review: Gamera: Super Monster (1980)

Also known as: Uchu kaijû Gamera (original Japanese title), Phoenix Dominator (Belgium), Space Monster Gamera, Gamera 80 (alternative titles)
Release Date: March 20th, 1980 (Japan)
Directed by: Noriaki Yuasa
Written by: Niisan Takahashi
Music by: Shunsuke Kikuchi
Cast: Mach Fumiake, Yaeko Kojima, Yoko Komatsu, Keiko Kudo, Koichi Maeda, Toshie Takada

Daiei Film, 92 Minutes

Review:

“Space ship Zanon is about to attack. Even Gamera is not powerful enough to stop it. You must find some way. You must!” – Giruge, “Sister, you’ll be all right!” – Keiichi, “Thank you, boy. If it’s true we are reincarnated after we die, then I should be born here again. Goodbye.” – Giruge

This seems to be the one Gamera film that people vehemently hate. I don’t, however. But I’ll explain why that hatred exists and why I don’t feel the same.

One has to understand that this did come out when Daiei was in financial peril. Because of that, they revisited a plan that bailed them out once before. This plan saw them create a new movie in their successful Gamera franchise but in an effort to make it as cheaply as possible and to maximize profits, they reused monster fight footage from previous films and wrote the story around that in an effort to make it work, narratively.

So we’re essentially stuck with the second “best of” Gamera movie just a few years after the first one.

However, this one is better than the previous attempt and that has to do with how ridiculous and cool the story was that tied this great mess together.

To start, it recycled elements of the previous “best of” and had an alien threat summon all the monsters of Gamera’s past to do battle with the giant turtle. With that, Gamera has suspiciously familiar battles with foes we’ve seen before and they all go suspiciously the same way. I do like the alien warship in this, though, as it is a deliberate ripoff of the Imperial Star Destroyers from the first Star Wars movie. In fact, this film even replicates the opening shot of A New Hope.

The grand finale, after all villain monsters are destroyed, sees Gamera take on the faux Star Destroyer.

Additionally, the film has a wacky plot about these three alien sisters that have a van that transforms into some spaceship thing that looks like a glowing yellow ball. They do weird dance movies, terrible karate and try to help this film’s annoying little kid, who is really only there to scream encouragement at Gamera.

The weirdness doesn’t end there, however. This film strangely splices in footage from to legendary Leiji Matsumoto animes Space Battleship Yamato a.k.a Star Blazers and Galaxy Express 999. Why this was done, I have no f’n idea but these two animated shows were immensely popular at the time.

It’s all this batshit craziness that makes me love this movie, though. I can’t help myself. This, to me, is just so damn bonkers I can’t not love it. And man, it just feels like pure, cheesy tokusatsu of the greatest caliber, especially for its time.

In my heart and in my head, I know that Gamera: Super Monster is a terrible film. But that doesn’t mean that it’s not a smorgasbord of wonderful, entertaining shit.

Rating: 6/10
Pairs well with: the other classic era Gamera films.

Film Review: The Blues Brothers (1980)

Also known as: The Return of the Blues Brothers (original script title)
Release Date: June 20th, 1980
Directed by: John Landis
Written by: Dan Aykroyd, John Landis
Music by: various
Cast: John Belushi, Dan Aykroyd, James Brown, Cab Calloway, Ray Charles, Carrie Fisher, Aretha Franklin, Henry Gibson, John Candy, Kathleen Freeman, Twiggy, Frank Oz, Charles Napier, Steven Spielberg, Steven Williams, Paul Reubens, Chaka Kahn, John Lee Hooker, Steve Lawrence, Jeff Morris, Joe Walsh, Armand Cerami

Universal Pictures, 133 Minutes, 148 Minutes (extended version)

Review:

“It’s 106 miles to Chicago, we got a full tank of gas, half a pack of cigarettes, it’s dark… and we’re wearing sunglasses.” – Elwood, “Hit it.” – Jake

This was a favorite comedy of mine, as a kid. It also probably helped develop my love of music, as it exposed me to styles that weren’t simply the standard pop tunes of the day. Given the film’s name, one could assume that this is full of blues music but it also features some soul, jazz, rock and a bit of country and western.

The Blues Brothers also solidified John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd as two of the coolest guys working in Hollywood. Sadly, Belushi died two years later but my exposure and love of this movie led me down the path of watching everything Dan Aykroyd did for well over a decade. It also made me appreciate and love the work of director, John Landis.

A movie like this reminds of what movies used to be. It came out in a stupendous era for film and provided audiences with legitimate escapism from the harsh realities of the real world. This didn’t try to preach to you or force fed you some lesson, it was just a hell of a lot of fun, featured incredible music, didn’t take itself too seriously and offered up a tremendous dose of comedy when you didn’t have to worry about offending a small percentage of people that don’t buy anything, anyway.

This reminded me of why I watch so many retro movies and why I don’t really give a shit about new stuff coming out. At least for the most part. I’m am really intrigued by the newest adaptation of Dune, even if it is only going to be relegated to the small screen. But I digress, as I’ve gotten side tracked here. I just thought that it was necessary to explain what sort of feeling and thoughts this movie generated, seeing it in 2021 for the first time in quite awhile.

The Blues Brothers features dozens of great cameos of legitimate musicians essentially playing fictional versions of themselves. Strangely, this works. I think that also has to do with the film jumping around a lot and by putting the bulk of the acting work on Belushi and Aykroyd, who proved that even at their young age, they could certainly carry a motion picture and entertain just about everyone through their brand of comedy and music.

That being said, it also made me miss the really old days of Saturday Night Live. I was born after that show started but I did have access to a lot of those classic episodes growing up thanks to my uncle’s massive VHS library.

Anyway, this is just an energetic, lighthearted movie with soul and personality. It’s the type of picture that brings people together and leaves them all with a smile. I fucking miss movies like this.

I should also get the soundtrack on vinyl because not owning it should be a crime and I’m disappointed in myself for not having it.

Rating: 9/10
Pairs well with: other comedies by John Landis, also those by Ivan Reitman, as well as comedies starring Dan Aykroyd.

Film Review: Christmas Evil (1980)

Also known as: You Better Watch Out (original title), Terror In Toyland (Germany)
Release Date: November, 1980 (Pittsburgh premiere)
Directed by: Lewis Jackson
Written by: Lewis Jackson
Music by: Joel Harris, Julia Heyward, Don Christensen
Cast: Brandon Maggart, Jeffrey DeMunn, Dianne Hull, Andy Fendwick, Patricia Richardson, Mark Margolis

Edward R. Pressman Productions, Pan American Pictures, 100 Minutes, 95 Minutes (rerelease)

Review:

“But now I want you to remember to stay good boys and girls. Respect your mothers and fathers and do what they tell you. Obey your teachers and learn a whooooole lot! Now if you do this, I’ll make sure you get good presents from me eeeevery year. Ha ha ha… but if you’re bad boys and girls, your name goes in the ‘Bad Boys & Girls’ book, and I’ll bring you something… horrible.” – Harry “Santa”

I had never heard of this film until Joe Bob Briggs featured it recently on The Last Drive-In. For me, that’s odd, as I’ve delved deep into the bottom of the barrels of horror history, especially in regards to the ’70s and ’80s. However, this was lost to time, as it never really got a proper release due to problems with the production.

It’s only become known in the last few years or so but I’m glad that it did see the light of day and I mostly enjoyed it, even if it’s a bit slow and feels somewhat derivative (not its fault).

Although, this did beat the other, more famous killer Santa movies by a few years. Sadly, just about no one got to see it and the Silent Night, Deadly Night films would go on to steal its thunder and the venom of the do-gooder public that hated that a killer Santa movie could even exist.

What’s notable about this film is that it has a few recognizable people in it such as Jeffrey DeMunn, who would become most famous for playing Dale on The Walking Dead and being in just about everything Frank Darabont has touched, as well as Patricia Richardson, the mom from Home Improvement, and Mark Margolis, who has been in dozens of films but is probably best known for playing Hector Salamanca in Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul.

This is a pretty dark and brooding movie and it almost plays like a black comedy at times. I’m not sure if that was the director’s intent but scenes like the one where Harry a.k.a. Santa talks to kids about being good has an underlying fucked up humorousness about it. Also, the ending, which has apparently divided audiences, also exudes the same sort of vibes.

For the record, I liked the ending and while many saw it as weird and confusing, I saw it as something that was happening from the character’s psychotic point-of-view. I guess some people took the fantastical final moment too literally.

This is decently shot and it looks fine. There’s nothing special about the cinematography or general visuals of the picture but it also doesn’t need that. It looks just as good as other slasher-y type flicks of its era.

My only real gripe about the film is its pacing but there’s still enough here to keep its head above water.

Rating: 5.75/10
Pairs well with: other Christmas horror films, specifically slashers.

Film Review: Flash Gordon (1980)

Release Date: September, 1980 (Turkey)
Directed by: Mike Hodges
Written by: Lorenzo Semple Jr., Michael Allin
Based on: characters by Alex Raymond
Music by: Queen, Howard Blake
Cast: Sam J. Jones, Melody Anderson, Ornella Muti, Max von Sydow, Topol, Timothy Dalton, Mariangela Melato, Brian Blessed, Peter Wyngarde, Robbie Coltrane, Deep Roy, Kenny Baker

Starling Films, Dino De Laurentiis Company, Famous Films, 111 Minutes

Review:

“Flash, Flash, I love you, but we only have fourteen hours to save the Earth!” – Dale Arden

Far from great, this is still one of the coolest movies ever made. It’s certainly a product of its time, as it wants to exist on the same level as Star Wars but the rest of Hollywood hadn’t yet caught up to the magic that George Lucas possessed.

Regardless of that, this is still an enthralling motion picture that made the best out of all its parts, creating a one-of-a-kind, pulpy world that really felt like an update of the old school Flash Gordon serials it tried to emulate in many regards.

Also, this has more of a ’70s feel to it than ’80s. But it was technically made and shot in ’79, so there’s that.

Flash Gordon is overly fantastical and I mean that in a good way, as it’s so stylized and unique that it really stands out among a lot of the other epic science fiction space operas of its era.

The sets are incredible, as are the costumes. Sure, some things look ridiculously hokey, even for 1980, but they still work in this strange universe.

I thought that the cast was also solid, despite the lack of experience Sam J. Jones, who plays the film’s title character, had in front of the camera. He still shines and I’m surprised that this didn’t lead to bigger and better things. Although, he is overshadowed by some of the other actors, especially Max von Sydow, a legitimate veteran who seemed to be completely committed to the role of an evil, outer space madman hellbent on ruling the galaxy.

I also really dug Timothy Dalton and Brian Blessed in this. They’ve been two of my favorite British actors over the course of my life and this is actually the first thing that I saw both of them in, way back when I was a young kid that rented this movie quite a lot.

Sadly but also understandably, I think that this film is mostly remembered for its music, as superstar rock band Queen did the film’s theme, as well as some other awesome tracks. Their music in this is spectacular and it makes the film so much cooler than it would have been without their iconic tunes. But really, between these songs and the film’s stupendous style, it’s like a perfect marriage.

All in all, this is a film with some flaws and it’s probably way too hokey for modern audiences but for the time, it worked. I just wish it had as much of a cultural impact as other big budget movies from that incredible era of live-action space operas.

Rating: 7.5/10
Pairs well with: other sci-fi and fantasy films of the late ’70s and early ’80s.

Film Review: Cannibal Holocaust (1980)

Also known as: Ruggero Deodato’s Cannibal Holocaust (complete title)
Release Date: February 7th, 1980 (Italy)
Directed by: Ruggero Deodato
Written by: Gianfranco Clerici
Music by: Riz Ortolani
Cast: Robert Kerman, Carl Gabriel Yorke, Francesca Ciardi, Luca Barbareschi, Perry Pirkanen

F.D. Cinematografica, 95 Minutes, 89 Minutes (heavily cut), 90 Minutes (animal cruelty free cut), 86 Minutes (Quebec version)

Review:

“Man is omnipotent; nothing is impossible for him. What seemed like unthinkable undertakings yesterday are history today. The conquest of the moon for example: who talks about it anymore? Today we are already on the threshold of conquering our galaxy, and in a not too distant tomorrow, we’ll be considering the conquest of the universe, and yet man seems to ignore the fact that on this very planet there are still people living in the stone age and practicing cannibalism.” – PABS Reporter

I’ve seen bits and pieces of this film over the years but I’ve never seen it uncut and in its entirety. If I’m being honest, I never had much urge to, as I’m not keen on gore and shock just for the sake of gore and shock.

Plus, the way the film has been described to me, by everyone for years, made it sound like it was just a fucked up piece of shit that gorehounds love without much merit or relevance beyond that.

What I ended up seeing, for the most part, was a well shot, competent film that is definitely shocking but nowhere near as fucked up as my head made it seem, after filling in the blanks based off of the comments and critiques I’ve heard for years.

Granted, I’m pretty desensitized to violence and gore and the only thing that really bothered me about the movie was the legitimate animal cruelty, which was completely unnecessary regardless of “the art” or “authenticity”. I also don’t say that as some hippie vegan; I love eating meat. However, brutalizing animals to get a shot in a film is unacceptable, regardless of how you want to chop that up… no pun intended.

Anyway, despite not hating it on an immense level, I still don’t like the movie and found it tough to get through regardless of the shocking content. While it has an interesting premise that could be explored, this wasn’t the first movie of its kind and I don’t know if it’s the best either. I’d gather that these things are pretty cookie cutter and they’re just the product of a short fad in the exploitation realm of Italian filmmaking.

I don’t really want to ever see another one of these cannibal films again and the only reason I even relented and watched this in the first place was because it was featured on Joe Bob Briggs’ The Last Drive-In.

The truth is, I didn’t gain anything from seeing this, other than having more of an understanding about what the finished product is. But it’s really a film that I feel wasted the talents the filmmakers had.

As I’ve said, it was competently shot and there is a definite understanding of shot framing and the concept of mise-en-scène but that in no way makes it good; it just makes it better than the level of dreck I expected it to be.

The only other positive is its use of music. It uses certain musical tones almost ironically at some points and whether this was done intentionally or stupidly, it leaves an even more unsettling sensation than just the scene playing out on its own.

Ultimately, this is a really fucked up movie by a fucked up filmmaker that valued his terribly, shitty art over the lives of animals or the people in the film, who were forced into burning huts longer than they needed to be.

But hey, it got people talking! Am I right?

Rating: 3/10
Pairs well with: other cannibal and gory, violent exploitation films of the era.

Film Review: Maniac (1980)

Release Date: May 10th, 1980 (Cannes)
Directed by: William Lustig
Written by: C. A. Rosenberg, Joe Spinell
Music by: Jay Chattaway
Cast: Joe Spinell, Caroline Munro, Tom Savini, William Lustig

Magnum Motion Pictures Inc., 87 Minutes

Review:

“I told you not to go out tonight, didn’t I? Every time you go out, this kind of thing happens.” – Frank Zito

William Lustig made some really interesting horror films in his heyday. While I knew about Maniac Cop first, I spent a lot of my time in mom and pop video stores in the ’80s and discovered this at a pretty young age. It was one of those horror movies that left a lasting impact on me because I was much more scared of the real and plausible than I was of supernatural monsters or ghosts.

I definitely saw this film at a much younger age than I should have but us ’80s kids didn’t have great supervision and a lot of video stores would rent anything to anyone because society wasn’t overly pussified back then.

Anyway, this always had a special place in my mental nostalgia locker due to its impact on me, the fact that it has the mesmerizing Caroline Munro in it and because Joe Spinell was one of the coolest actors of his era. That could also be because I knew Spinell from the Rocky films and because he just has a very unique and memorable appearance. He, along with Dick Miller, were the two character actors that I started to notice in all the cool movies.

The one thing that is really cool about this picture is that it is American but it really has an Italian giallo style to it. Granted, it’s not as vivid, visually, and relies more on the gritty realism of New York City, at the time, but it still feels like it belongs in that very specific, short-lived genre.

I’ve talked before about how giallo kind of gave birth to the American slasher movie. This might actually be the best example of that. And while this isn’t specifically a slasher flick, as the killer uses guns and other tools, it really sort of bridges the gap between the two genres or styles.

Honestly, it just feels like it is both parts, a product of it’s influences and something that was a wee bit ahead of the cinematic horror trends. I don’t think any of that was something that Lustig thought about or planned for but it’s the way I see it and it really cements this film as one that is eternally relevant due to its significance to the larger picture.

Plus, this also has an awesome cameo by special effects maestro Tom Savini. The scene where he blows up his own head is one of the absolute best head splatter shots in motion picture history.

Also, this has an ending that is absolutely bonkers and kind of surprising.

Maniac isn’t a great film by any stretch of the imagination but it is a culturally significant one for those who love these sort of flicks.

Rating: 7.25/10
Pairs well with: other William Lustig films, as well as late ’70s/early ’80s slasher flicks and Italian giallo.

Film Review: Clan of the White Lotus (1980)

Also known as: Fists of the White Lotus (alternative title)
Release Date: January 1st, 1980 (Hong Kong)
Directed by: Lo Lieh
Written by: Haung Tien
Music by: Eddie Wang
Cast: Lo Lieh, Gordon Liu, Kara Hui, Johnny Wang, Hsiao Ho

Shaw Brothers, 95 Minutes

Review:

“Why worry. He’s not my match at all. To come after us is like seeking death.” – Pai Mei

It’s been awhile since I’ve watched a movie with the Pai Mei character in it. While it may be surprising to some, he is not a Quentin Tarantino creation and has in fact been the villain in several Hong Kong kung fu movies over the years. He’s also based on a legendary historical figure, also referred to as Bak Mei.

Clan of the White Lotus is a pretty cool film that actually features Pai Mei quite a lot. The displays of his skill and power in this are really cool and creative and you get to see him fight a lot, which is always badass.

That being said, the fight choreography in this film is stellar and impressive, even for kung-fucianados. I love all the big battles between Pai Mei and the hero but all the other core characters pull their weight. I especially liked the girl in this, Kara Hui. Even her early training sequence was excellent.

A unique thing about this film is that it exists as both a sequel and sort of remake of the 1977 film, Executioners From Shaolin. The films feature the same main players and the Pai Mei character. Some may find it interesting that Gordon Liu, who later played Pai Mei in Tarantino’s Kill Bill films, plays the hero that must conquer him in this one.

Liu’s hero character gets his ass kicked early on by Pai Mei but then he studies the “embroidery technique” from Kara Hui’s character, which gives him the edge in the final battle. Essentially, this technique works like the antithesis to acupuncture. Here, instead of using needles to heal the body, Liu’s carefully placed needles break down Pai Mei to where he can be defeated. It’s an interesting and neat concept even if it’s a bit bonkers.

This is a fast paced, energetic and enjoyable kung fu flick. I can’t call it a classic of the genre but for fans of Tarantino that like to look at some of the film’s that have inspired his work, this is worth checking out.

Rating: 6.75/10
Pairs well with: other Shaw Brothers kung fu films of the ’70s and ’80s, especially those featuring the Pai Mei character.