Film Review: Alice, Sweet Alice (1976)

Also known as: Communion (original title), Holy Terror (edited version), The Mask Murders (reissue title), Sweet Alice (Sweden)
Release Date: November 12th, 1976 (Chicago International Film Festival)
Directed by: Alfred Sole
Written by: Rosemary Ritvo, Alfred Sole
Music by: Stephen J. Lawrence
Cast: Linda Miller, Mildred Clinton, Paula Sheppard, Niles McMaster, Brooke Shields

Harristown Funding, Allied Artists, 98 Minutes, 108 Minutes (unrated version)

Review:

“She is a weird little girl. Did you notice her tits? When I put the tube around her she looked at me, like she wanted me to feel her up.” – Detective Cranston

Many people try to debate over which movie was the first slasher film. While this one isn’t it, it does predate Halloween by a few years. Although, it did come out after Black Christmas. But to me, none of those are the first and I feel like slasher films were born out of Italian giallo. The reason I even bring that up is that this is considered a slasher movie, and it is, but it has a strong resemblance to the giallo style.

This isn’t an Italian picture though. In fact, it was made in New Jersey. But it very strongly takes its cues from the films of Dario Argento, Mario Bava, Lucio Fulci and others.

It’s lacking the visual allure of giallo, as it has a more natural and muted color palate but the story structure, the violence and the general tone just fits well with those cool flicks.

The story is about a little girl who is believed to have horribly murdered her younger sister in the church during her first communion. While things aren’t quite what they seem in this movie, the little girl is a real shit and she’s certainly pretty fucked in the head.

However, this seems to be more about tapping into the fear of the nuclear family breaking down in American society. It also might be a critique on the Catholic church. Many people seem to think so. Personally, I think it’s just a story that happens to take place in and around the Catholic church, which has a big presence in New Jersey and the Northeast in general, especially in the ’70s.

All things considered, this is a film that probably shocked some of its audience in its day but it’s hardly as shocking as a lot of the exploitation movies that were at their peak in the same decade. All the things that would’ve caught people off guard all stem from the fact that the title character is a young child.

This isn’t really gory. There’s some blood but the worst stuff is more implied and happens once the camera cuts away. That could also be due to the budget of the production.

Overall, this was a cool movie to check out. It has some cult status among ’70s horror aficionados but it doesn’t really hit the mark for me. At least, it doesn’t reach the heights of the best giallo pictures and I certainly wouldn’t put this above Black Christmas or Halloween.

Rating: 6.25/10
Pairs well with: other ’70s slasher pictures and Italian giallo.

Film Review: Fatal Fury: Legend of the Hungry Wolf (1992)

Release Date: December 23rd, 1992 (Japan)
Directed by: Hiroshi Fukutomi
Based on: Fatal Fury: King of Fighters by SNK
Music by: Toshihiko Sahashi, Toshio Masuda

Fuji Television Network, Nihon Ad Systems (NAS), Star Child Recording, 46 Minutes

Review:

There were Street Fighter kids, there were Mortal Kombat kids and then their were Fatal Fury kids.

I was a Fatal Fury kid and actually loved all the fighting games put out by SNK on the Neo Geo. And that’s not to say that I also didn’t play the shit out of the other two games but the style of those SNK fighters lured me in.

So when Fatal Fury animes started coming out, I bought them all and watched them almost weekly. I just dug the hell out of these films.

This one, the first of three, is the shortest and probably the worst but it’s still worth a watch for fans of the franchise that would evolve into the uber popular King of Fighters game series.

The story isn’t super exciting and it’s standard fighting game story fare. A bad guy, in this case Geese Howard, killed the two protagonists’ father. The two brothers decide to get revenge when they’re adults ten years later. They meet a Muay Thai ally and all three go to war with the scumbags ruling the city. They also kick ass in a big fighting tournament and draw the attention of the big bad guy.

The main issue I have with this film is that it’s too short. The story could have been better and richer but this just cuts to the chase, sets everything up quickly and then lets the characters duke it out.

If you aren’t familiar with these games, then this probably isn’t something you’ll give a shit about. If you are an old school Fatal Fury fan, this is worth checking out if only to build up towards the third film, which was pretty fantastic from my memory.

Rating: 6/10
Pairs well with: the two Fatal Fury movies that follow.

Comic Review: 1985

Published: July 22nd, 2009
Written by: Mark Millar
Art by: Tommy Lee Edwards

Marvel Comics, 146 Pages

Review:

This comic book was cool as hell!

It sort of reads like it’s a season of Stranger Things but where the small town is haunted by Marvel villains instead of weird shit from the Upsidedown. This also came out in the decade before Stranger Things, so it was kind of ahead of the curve but like Stranger Things, knew how to tap into ’80s nostalgia in a brilliant way.

But this was also written by Mark Millar, a true master of his craft.

What’s unique and cool about this comic is that it doesn’t take place in the Marvel Universe, it takes place in our universe.

The story follows a young boy in 1985. He is having issues like any normal ’80s kid dealing with divorced parents. He bonds with his father pretty strongly though, as they both have a deep love of comic books and are experts on Marvel lore. At the same time, Marvel villains start showing up in the real world because there are no heroes here to stop them.

Overall, this was a really neat idea and for the most part, I thought it was superbly executed.

1985 is incredibly imaginative but it really worked so well because the art fit the concept and the tone. While Millar deserves credit for a great story, Tommy Lee Edwards gave it so much more life than just words on paper. And his style works better for the setting than having that sort of standard Marvel art style.

This is one of those comics that I’m happy to have discovered as an adult but wish would have been around when I was a kid. If you know a kid that loves Marvel but they’ve never read this, I think that they’ll probably love the hell out of it.

Rating: 9/10
Pairs well with: the Stranger Things comics, as well as other Mark Millar stories.

Video Game Review: Fire ‘n Ice (NES)

I never knew there was a sequel (or I guess prequel) to Solomon’s Key. In fact, I just discovered this while researching some of the background on the original game when I reviewed it recently.

Being that I love Solomon’s Key, I had to give the prequel a try.

At first, I didn’t like this. I would have preferred a game with the same gameplay as the previous one but with new levels and challenges.

The gameplay here is similar, but instead of creating regular blocks, you now create ice blocks and have to use them to defeat monsters, usually flames, and to figure your way through the mini labyrinth that is each stage.

My only issue is that you can’t create blocks level to the player like in Solomon’s Key, now they can only be created a level beneath you. So making blocks to climb like steps isn’t an option.

However, the more I played this, the more the physics of it started to click in my brain and I actually enjoyed it. Even if I got to a point where I was hung up, eventually I’d work through the solution and figure it out.

Well, until I got to level 7-10, where there was an ice platform blocking my path and there was no way around it. I ended up watching a video of someone else playing the level and they didn’t have the same issue, so I’m not sure if I’m missing a piece to the puzzle but that’s the point where I got stuck.

Despite that, this is still a pretty good puzzle game from the 8-bit era. I had hours of fun up until I got trapped. But had I bought this, I don’t think I would’ve had buyer’s remorse.

Rating: 7.5/10
Pairs well with: Solomon’s Key, as well as Monster Rancher Explorer.

Comic Review: Battle Maiden Knuckle Bomb

Published: September, 2019
Written by: Keung Lee
Art by: Keung Lee

Murakumo Comics, 64 Pages

Review:

I first came across this crowdfunded comic when Keung Lee was introduced on an episode of Ethan Van Sciver’s Comicsgate Live YouTube show. Being a fan of the manga style, as well as tokusatsu, this definitely peaked my interest.

I didn’t back it initially, however, but I kept my eye on it for quite some time. After more art came out and Keung Lee spent more time on other people’s livestreams talking about the project, I finally decided to back it a few months after the campaign launched.

Battle Maiden Knuckle Bomb is described as manga and tokusatsu presented in the reading style western audiences prefer. It absolutely works and I dig the hell out of Lee’s art style. Everything is so polished and nice to look at.

Beyond that, this also has a sort of cyberpunk superhero feel to it. While it’s not quite as futuristic and dystopian feeling as Akira, Battle Angel Alita or Ghost In the Shell, it certainly channels those franchises in a subtle way. At least, I see similar tropes and tones. Although, this is more lighthearted and taps more into the teen manga style than those darker, more serious books.

This is the first part of a larger story arc. So this serves as the introduction to what will be a bigger world and a bigger tale. It does a good job getting you invested in the characters and their unique world. After finishing this, I wished there was already a second volume to delve into. I guess we’ll have to wait some time for that but I’m pretty sure I’ll also back the follow up.

Out of all the recent crowdfunded comics, this is certainly in the upper echelon for me. It’s got beautiful art, a cool style and it makes you care about the story you’re reading.

Rating: 8/10
Pairs well with: future comics by Keung Lee, as well as other comics under the Murakumo imprint.

Film Review: Black Rain (1989)

Release Date: September 22nd, 1989
Directed by: Ridley Scott
Written by: Craig Bolotin, Warren Lewis
Music by: Hans Zimmer
Cast: Michael Douglas, Andy Garcia, Ken Takakura, Kate Capshaw, Luis Guzman, Stephen Root, Richard Riehle

Paramount Pictures, Jaffe-Lansing, Pegasus Film Partners, 125 Minutes

Review:

“I usually get kissed before I get fucked.” – Nick Conklin

Ridley Scott has done some great films. While Black Rain isn’t often times in the discussion of Scott’s best works, it is one of his best looking motion pictures.

Being that this is pretty much neo-noir, it shares a lot of the same visual style as Blade Runner. However, instead of seeing a futuristic Los Angeles on the screen, we are given modern day Osaka. Or what was modern day in 1989.

Sure, this doesn’t have Replicants and flying cars but it does show us how late ’80s metropolitan Japan wasn’t too far off from Scott’s vision of the future.

The story follows two cops played by Michael Douglas, in maybe his coolest role, and Andy Garcia. They witness a Yakuza hit in New York City, capture the criminal and then have to escort him to Japan, where he escapes and they then have to work with the Osaka police in an effort to catch him and bring him back in.

What the cops soon find out, once their stay in Japan is extended, is that the Yakuza guy they caught is in a massive gang war. Now these two find themselves in the middle of it all while the local Osaka police are slow to act due to their hands being tied by their strict laws.

This is also like two buddy cop films in one, as Douglas’ Nick Conklin works with his New York partner for the first half and then has to work with his assigned Japanese partner for the remainder of the film. But unlike your typical buddy cop formula, we’ve got two guys from very different cultures, clashing but ultimately finding respect for one another. It’s kind of like what we would get with the Rush Hour movies nine years later and with less comedy and more testosterone.

The thing that I really like about this flick is not only the clash of cultural styles but the mixing of genres. You’ve basically got a neo-noir Yakuza biker movie. It also has a pretty hard edge to it and is unapologetic about its violence and what modern critics would deem “toxic masculinity”.

Black Rain is a cool fucking movie, hands down. While it is sort of a Yakuza movie seen through Western eyes and made for that audience, it really isn’t too dissimilar from the best films that genre has to offer. Ridley Scott doesn’t specifically try to replicate Japanese gangster cinema, so much as he just tries to make a film within his own style that just happens to take place primarily in Osaka. And frankly, it all seems to fit pretty well together.

Unfortunately, Scott had issues filming in Japan due to the budget. He actually had to shoot the big finale back in California. I really would have loved to have seen a sequel but I’m assuming that Nick Conklin only got one outing because of the financial strain of going back to Japan for another movie.

Then again, Scott didn’t really have much interest in sequels to his films until more recently. So maybe we can get Black Rain 2? Assuming Michael Douglas can still go at 75 years-old. But hey, Sylvester Stallone is bringing Marion Cobretti back, so why not?

Rating: 8/10
Pairs well with: Blade Runner, Someone to Watch Over Me, Rising Sun and ’80s neo-noir.

Film Review: Scandal Sheet (1952)

Also known as: The Dark Page (working title)
Release Date: January 16th, 1952 (New York City premiere)
Directed by: Phil Karlson
Written by: Eugene Lind, James Poe, Ted Sherdeman
Based on: The Dark Page by Samuel Fuller
Music by: George Duning
Cast: Broderick Crawford, Donna Reed, John Derek, Rosemary DeCamp, Strother Martin (uncredited)

Edward Small Productions, Motion Picture Investors, Columbia Pictures, 82 Minutes

Review:

“Very rare items. Pictures of a dame with her mouth shut.” – Steve McCleary

Scandal Sheet is a lesser known film-noir from the classic era but that doesn’t mean that it isn’t quality.

The film does start out a bit slow and I didn’t know anything about the story. But once the plot really starts to unfold, it is hard to turn away.

The story is about a newspaper man that has converted a paper into a popular tabloid. But you soon find out that this man has a past when his ex-wife shows up to confront him. This confrontation leads to the woman’s murder. The reporter that the newspaper man is mentoring decides to crack the case. As the film progresses and clues turn into evidence, the vile newspaper man has to decide between his freedom and the life of the reporter he cares for.

While the film doesn’t have the most famous cast. it does have Donna Reed. She is the shining beacon of talent amongst the group. That’s not to say that the other players aren’t capable, they certainly are, but Reed’s charisma and charm really shine through. Her presence is almost distracting looking at this through a modern lens. In 1952, however, she was in good company with veteran Broderick Crawford and John Derek, even though his career wasn’t as prolific.

This is pretty well shot and executed. However, there’s not a whole lot of visual allure that makes this stand out like some of the more famous noir pictures. It’s still a fine movie that was shot and captured pretty competently, though.

I’d say that this is definitely a better than average film-noir but it’s nowhere near the upper echelon.

Rating: 6.5/10
Pairs well with: other lesser known but good film-noirs: Shockproof, D.O.A., Side Street and The Prowler.