Film Review: Robo Vampire (1988)

Also known as: Robovamp (Spain)
Release Date: 1988 (Hong Kong)
Directed by: Godfrey Ho (as Joe Livingstone)
Written by: William Palmer
Music by: Ian Wilson
Cast: Robin Mackay, Nian Watts, Harry Myles, Joe Browne

Filmark International Ltd., 90 Minutes

Review:

“Now that Tom is dead, I want to use his body to create an android-like robot. I’d appreciate you approving my application.” – Soldier #1

This is easily one of the worst things I have ever seen, hands f’n down. This makes all of those other Godfrey Ho movies look like Fellini films.

To be honest, I don’t even know what the hell I watched. This is a Godfrey Ho movie but his pictures are much better when he just throws a bunch of ninjas at each other. This saw a fake Robocop take on vampires dressed in ornate Chinese garb that bounce around like pogo sticks with their arms outstretched. I’m not shitting you. The threat is bouncy zombie dudes dressed like a maître d’ at a super fancy Chinese restaurant.

The fake Robocop suit is so damn bad that it made my head want to explode with confusion and bewilderment. But not a good kind of bewilderment. I think I made a better Robocop suit out of tin foil and duct tape when I was nine years old.

This pile of donkey dung was terrible in every way. The acting was atrocious. The dubbing was deplorable. The directing was reprehensible. The cinematography was nonexistent. The music was barf inspiring. Nothing about this worked in any way whatsoever.

You know how a bad movie can be sort of good because it is so bad? Well, this is so bad it made me want to take a rotary sander to my face just to hide my eyes from it.

One time when I was in third grade, I did what I thought was a fart while I was in class. I got a little surprise though… it was more than a fart. It was a fart with a wet, physical friend. That experience was less horrifying than this one.

So let me use that analogy to segue into what we all know must happen. Robo Vampire absolutely must be run through the Cinespiria Shitometer. The results read, “Fuck you, asshole! I am not analyzing this cinematic calamity! – Sincerely, the Cinespiria Shitometer”

Rating: 0.25/10
Pairs well with: Bowel cancer.

Film Review: John Wick: Chapter 2 (2017)

Release Date: January 30th, 2017 (Arclight Hollywood premiere)
Directed by: Chad Stahelski
Written by: Derek Kolstad
Music by: Tyler Bates, Joel J. Richard
Cast: Keanu Reeves, Common, Laurence Fishburne, Riccardo Scamarcio, Ruby Rose, Ian McShane, John Leguizamo, Claudia Gerini, Lance Reddick, Bridget Moynahan, David Patrick Kelly, Franco Nero, Peter Serafinowicz

Thunder Road Pictures, 87Eleven, Summit Entertainment, Lionsgate, 122 Minutes

Review:

“John Wick, you’re not very good at retiring.” – Bowery King, “I’m working on it.” – John Wick

Having finally watched the first John Wick, I figured that I would check out the sequel, as it is available on HBO but is soon expiring.

This film is longer than its predecessor and it is also packed with a lot more action and I thought that those sequences were orchestrated really well. Although, I didn’t like this film’s story as much and it seemed forced in parts and disjointed in others.

Still, this was enjoyable and a good followup to the first chapter.

Here, John Wick is pulled back into his life as an assassin. He is called upon by an old acquaintance that he owes a favor to. Wick refuses, has his home destroyed and finally decides to do the favor. However, like a typical film-noir, the plot has a lot of swerves, surprises and is hard to predict. While this approach worked well in the first film, I found this one a bit harder to follow. Plus, they introduce new characters left and right and the amount of people in the film is a bit overwhelming and bogs down the flow of the narrative. But I guess when a film needs to get by on murdering the crap out of everyone and everything, you’ve got to throw characters at John Wick in order to keep piling up the bodies.

Also, the dog isn’t murdered in this movie, which is a plus.

While the first film did well and got the sequel treatment, this film, I don’t know if I have much interest in watching more of these. I like Keanu, I like the action but there isn’t much else to sink my teeth into that satisfies my palate.

Yes, this is well made from a visual, action and stunt standpoint. But I need more than that from a film. I don’t know, I admire what I see in these pictures but I just don’t feel connected to them. What John Wick goes through to setup these films is horrible but it is just backstory without any sort of real emotional context. Maybe it’s because you never really get to spend time with Wick and his wife, other than a quick sort of montage in the first film. I’m not saying that this needs to be The Notebook but I feel like they needed to show a their deep connection to really give Wick’s loss some weight. And by the time you get to this second film, the loss of his wife and dog are mentioned but the gravity of the situation is lost.

I would still probably check out the eventual John Wick 3 but I’ll go into it without any expectations other than anticipating solid action sequences and nice cinematography. Which is fine. I just feel like these movies had the opportunity to be so much better.

Rating: 7.25/10
Pairs well with: John Wick, as well as Atomic BlondePunisher: War Zone and Death Wish 3, which still has the best balls out grand finale in motion picture history. For some old school pictures with similar themes and visual flair: Tokyo Drifter and Le Samouraï.

Film Review: Ninja Condors (1987)

Also known as: Ninjas, Condors 13 (original title)
Release Date: 1987 (Hong Kong)
Directed by: Kuo-Ren Wu (as James Wu)
Written by: Godfrey Ho (as Benjamin King)
Music by: Sherman Chow
Cast: Alexander Rei Lo, Stuart Hugh, Timothy Johnson

Filmark International Ltd., 89 Minutes

Review:

Ninja Condors is a very shitty movie overall but like other ninja films that had some sort of involvement with Godfrey Ho, when there is action, it sort of makes up for the awful and abnormal shit show that the rest of the picture is.

The story is about this ninja who is in a clan run by a complete f’n mad man. The ninja decides that he wants nothing to do with that psychotic bag of dicks and rises up to reject the clan, thus painting a target on his back. It then becomes open season, as our hero and a buddy he meets, must survive a killer ninja horde and a killer ninja mad man that has a penchant for using chainsaws on pregnant women. For real, that shit happens in this movie.

Ninja Condors is poorly shot, abysmally acted and terribly written. It is a Hong Kong film that was given an atrocious English language dub that just adds to the overall absurdity and lack of quality. But the thing is, I don’t watch ’80s ninja movies for cinematography and a great story acted out by Daniel Day Lewis and Gregory Peck. No… I watch these movies to see fucking ninjas wreck the shit out of everything and if this includes the film itself, so be it!

Ninjas are probably the coolest thing ever created by billions of years of space dust compressing together and forming things. Don Johnson eating a bacon wrapped, bone-in tomahawk ribeye while riding an Elvis impersonating T-Rex, tattooed all over with Ferrari logos, still isn’t as cool as just one ninja from a mediocre ’80s film. And this film has a friggin’ horde of ninjas.

The movie is also full of fight choreography that makes absolutely no sense, defies everything any real scientist has ever known about physics and sometimes seems to be actually being played back in reverse. But ninjas have mystical powers and if I can suspend disbelief when playing Super Mario Bros. 2, then why can’t I just accept what’s happening in this movie?

I know, this movie is a cesspool of a lot of awful filmmaking faux pas but the fights just work for me and sitting through fifteen to twenty minute segments of boring, deplorable filler crap is worth the payoff when the violence gets going.

Still, the filmmakers could have made a better movie and there is no excuse for how bad the non-action segments are. I think I wrote better scripts when I was six and was inspired by Snake Eyes and Storm Shadow from G.I. Joe. Hong Kong really dropped the ball hiring me to write ninja epics back in my prime.

Rating: 4.5/10
Pairs well with: Other Godfrey Ho ninja movies: Ninja Terminator, Ninja the ProtectorNinja Empire, etc.

Film Review: Kung Fu Zombie (1981)

Also known as: Wu long tian shi zhao ji gui (original Chinese title), Zombie 9 (Turkmenistan)
Release Date: October 1st, 1981 (Hong Kong)
Directed by: Hwa I Hung
Written by: Hwa I Hung
Cast: Billy Chong, Chan Lau, Chang Tao, Cheng Ka Ying, Kwon Young Moon, Pak Sha Lik, Shum Yan Chi

The Eternal Film Company, 96 Minutes

Review:

I kind of just randomly came across this title while looking for kung fu movies with a horror flair to them. Granted, it does have both martial arts fighting and a horror element but it was just really baffling to watch and made little to no sense.

Granted, the problems with the version of this film that I saw could be due to bad dubbing on the part of the English speakers who translated this picture. Still, the movie is so bizarre and weird that it is mostly a distraction. Keep in mind that I’m a guy that usually looks for the bizarre and relishes in it, especially in movies.

None of what was in this picture really resonated with me, though. The make up and special effects were exceptionally bad. Even though this obviously had very little in the terms of a budget, I’ve seen better effects work in films that have had even less than what this film had to work with. Practical effects in the ’80s were truly an art form and true effects masters could actually make chicken salad with chicken shit. Although in this film, they just squeezed as much shit out of the chickens as possible and then just tossed it around the set recklessly.

I guess the fight choreography is okay but honestly, it still felt half assed. Billy Chong is an accomplished martial arts actor and even though he gave it his best with the material, as it was given, this still felt severely beneath his level of talent.

This is an incredibly cheap looking movie that barely tries to do anything with its interesting premise. I was pretty let down and know that I will never have the urge to want to revisit this.

All things considered, Kung Fu Zombie has to be run through the Cinespiria Shitometer. The results read, “Type 1 Stool: Separate hard lumps, like nuts (hard to pass).”

Film Review: The Black Dragon’s Revenge (1975)

Also known as: Long zheng hu dou jing wu hun (original Mandarin title), The Death of Bruce Lee (US dubbed version), The Black Dragon Revenges the Death of Bruce Lee (UK)
Release Date: November, 1975 (US)
Directed by: Chin-Ku Lu (credited as Tommy Loo Chung)
Written by: Norbert Albertson Jr.
Cast: Ron Van Clief, Charles Bonet, Phillip Ko

Yangtze Productions, Howard Mahler Films, 90 Minutes

Review:

Ron Van Clief was a legit martial arts badass that decided to become an action star during the height of kung fu and blaxploitation movies. Unfortunately, he lacks the charisma and charm of Jim Kelly, who was the true champion of black martial artists in this era. Van Clief’s moves are impressive and his skills would translate into being a fight choreographer on 1985’s cult classic The Last Dragon, as well as doing stunts in other pictures.

The film taps into one of the many strange conspiracy theories surrounding the death of Bruce Lee. Here, it is believed that Lee was murdered by greedy film producers. Really, this is just one of dozens of cheap attempts to capitalize on Lee’s popularity, just after his death.

The film starts off being a slight bit interesting but it doesn’t have a lot of steam to begin with and we are just treated to lots of fights. While the choreography and action are decent, this feels more like a cinematic display of martial arts skills, as opposed to feeling like a real movie. Even though I love kung fu flicks, this gets monotonous and boring pretty quickly.

The Black Dragon’s Revenge is also hindered by the quality of the prints available. They haven’t held up well and frankly, I guess it is what it is because no one will probably spend the money on preserving this long lost dud of a blaxploitation/Bruceploitation hybrid.

I have no real choice other than to run this through the Cinespiria Shitometer. The results read, “Type 7 Stool: Watery, no solid pieces. Entirely liquid.” I guess the trusty Shitometer felt the need to be harsher than I was.

Film Review: Blood Money (1974)

Also known as: El kárate, el Colt y el impostor (original Spanish title), The Stranger and the Gunfighter (alternate), Dakota (French video title)
Release Date: 1974 (Spain)
Directed by: Antonio Margheriti (credited as Anthony Dawson)
Written by: Giovanni Simonelli, Antonio Margheriti, Barth Jules Sussman
Music by: Carlo Savina
Cast: Lee Van Cleef, Lo Lieh, Patty Shepard, Femi Benussi

Compagnia Cinematografica Champion, Harbor Productions, Shaw Brothers Studio, Midega Films, Columbia Pictures, 105 Minutes

Review:

The king of the spaghetti westerns that isn’t Clint Eastwood teams up with the king of kung fu movies that isn’t Bruce Lee. Sure, that sounds like a diss but I am a pretty big fan of Lee Van Cleef and Lo Lieh. Both men owned the 1970s in their own way, so seeing them come together is pretty interesting.

Sadly though, their talents and their team-up were wasted in this picture, which just doesn’t live up to whatever hype my mind might have had in the ’70s when this actually went down.

The film’s premise is pretty interesting though. Ho Chiang (Lo Lieh) journeys to America from China in search of his uncle’s fortune. He discovers that his uncle is dead and the only man that knows where his body is, is the one accused of murdering him, an Old West gunslinger named Dakota (Lee Van Cleef). Once the uncle’s body is found, the pair find clues that point to the fortune. This then becomes a real spaghetti western treasure hunting movie with kung fu flair. The reluctant pair must track down the uncle’s mistresses, each of whom have a section of the treasure map tattooed on their bums. Ultimately, the two men become friends and kick a lot of ass.

The problem with the movie is that the execution is poor and really kind of lazy. Van Cleef and Lieh are both solid but the script just isn’t there and everything is fairly pedestrian. This is a film that is an example of wasted potential. But then again, a studio specializing in spaghetti westerns didn’t have much experience creating kung fu pictures just as Shaw Brothers, even with their input on kung fu filmmaking, didn’t know how to make westerns. And really, I’m not sure how much input Shaw Brothers actually had, it seems pretty minuscule.

Still, if you like both of these men, this is worth checking out. It’s not a total waste but it won’t get you pumped up either.

Film Review: Fist of Fury (1972)

Also known as: The Chinese Connection (alternate), Ching Wu School (Canada), Tekken (Japan)
Release Date: March 22nd, 1972 (Hong Kong)
Directed by: Lo Wei
Written by: Lo Wei
Music by: Joseph Koo
Cast: Bruce Lee, Nora Miao, James Tien, Jackie Chan (cameo)

Golden Harvest, 108 Minutes

Review:

“Have pity? Who had pity for Huo Yuan-Chia?” – Chen

Fist of Fury, also known as The Chinese Connection, is the second major role that Bruce Lee had. This quickly followed his smash hit The Big Boss and it was just the second in a string of films pumped out to take advantage of his immense star power, at the time.

While his films were produced and released quickly, they still have a real level of quality to them, especially in comparison to the other Hong Kong kung fu films of the day.

In this movie, we meet Bruce Lee’s Chen as he arrives home just in time to witness the end of his teacher’s funeral. We learn that his teacher was murdered and there’s a conspiracy afoot. His school is then harassed and bullied by a rival school of Japanese karate students. Chen can’t stand down, even though his school and his new teacher demand peace and pacifism. What results, is Lee being a total f’n badass and taking on all comers but his actions also come with consequences and threatens those he cares for. It’s a story about revenge and how that path can lead to worse outcomes but it is also about standing up for oneself.

Lee was excellent and even though he essentially just felt like Bruce Lee in every role, he still owns it and has a presence that shines like a bright beacon. Lee was an exceptional talent and man, does it really show in this film. Not that it doesn’t in others but I don’t think people can really understand or appreciate the phenomenon that was Bruce Lee without actually watching him come alive in a motion picture.

Fist of Fury has some fantastic cinematography and fight choreography that work hand-in-hand. The sequence where Chen confronts the Japanese school and challenges them one-on-about two dozen, is glorious. Just after that, the big battle between the Japanese and Chinese schools is also a perfectly choreographed rumble of epic proportions.

Lee was a strong influence on those he touched and I feel like that rubbed off on the filmmakers he worked with. His fluid motions and exacting execution seems to translate to the filmmakers themselves, as his pictures have the same level of quality and perfection that Lee personally strived for. Sure, they were pictures limited by budget and resources but there isn’t really anything better that came out of Hong Kong in the 1970s and this isn’t a knock against other kung fu films, as many of the ones without Lee are also great pieces of filmmaking. Lee’s films just exist on a pedestal that is very real and not just some mythical structure built by legend and held together with nostalgia.

Fist of Fury isn’t Lee’s best picture but it is damn good. Then again, everything Lee did that came out before his death was solid gold.