Well I was able to check out the 1977’s ‘Black Samurai’ for the first time and I’m not quite sure why I put it off for so damn long, I think it might have something to do with the shoddy looking cover art on the VHS copy I had. Being a HUGE fan of ‘Enter the Dragon’ and having such an amazing time seeing ‘Black Belt Jones’ on the big screen here in Portland Oregon for the legendary Hollywood Theater’s Kung Fu Theater a few years back with a packed crowd I should have certainly done it sooner. Yep Jim Kelly is once again a total bad ass in some of the most outrageous scenarios of his whole career! The proof is in the poster alone…
So I really wouldn’t say he screams of a “Samurai” per say here in any real way even though there’s a brief scene of him messing around with a samurai sword. Here’s really more of a 007 James Bond type of guy here, an Agent of D.R.A.G.O.N. to be exact, who’s using his crazy kung fu skills to annihilate any asshole who he can get his damn hands on! And boy do throw some real wild ones his way for a total ass whooping. The whole plot revolves around Kelly hunting down a satanic black magic cult who’s kidnapped his lover, lead by the most geeky unthreatening, snake obsessed, white guy, villain boss I’ve surely laid my eyes upon. Kelly’s challenged by all sorts of his evil minions, tuff guy street thugs, tribal type warriors, insane little people with whips and most bizarre, the cult leader’s evil giant pet vulture! Yes he has a hand to hand battle with a damn vulture and also flies around in a jet pack, has a couple rad car chases and hangs at a mariachi party all while looking the most stylin’ and ripped as Bruce Lee while doing it all.
That’s not to say the sleazy cult director, Al Adamson makes it at all flow smoothly as there’s some seriously ridiculous yet fully satisfying martial arts battles here to gloriously behold. Jim Kelly still has the kick ass moves, but the crazy choppy editing and some of the perplexing overdubbed dialogue thrown into scenes has just got to be heard and seen to be believed! This certainly has got me on a Jim Kelly kick lately because this one was so satisfying, after this pandemic cools down I’m sure this one needs another play with a group of friends. It’s a full on train wreck of fun that plays out just like a grimy pulpy comic book adventure.
Jim Kelly’s one of the coolest 70’s action heroes and here in Black Samurai he proves once again exactly why he can’t be messed with especially if you decide that kidnapping his girlfriend is somehow a good move (it’s NOT). It’s well paced, throws everything but the kitchen sink at you and to be quite honest most of it sticks to the wall. From his rad track suits to his flashy sports cars, Kelly displays a suave, cocky swagger that never gets old. Let Black Samurai take you back to the 1970’s for on hell of an over the top adventure! Check this trailer out if you’ve never seen it before if you’re in doubt!
Here’s a great interview with Jim Kelly:
The world is a crazy place right now, so you might want to take a moment to disconnect from the madness just for a minute to see Arnold Schwarzenegger in the role of ROBOCOP!!! Ok that is all for today!! You may now go back to the regular scheduled programming!
Well the quarantine rages one! So naturally I’m taking advantage of the situation by watching as many cool movies as I can get my hands on! I checked out some pretty excellent Japanese movies from the late 80’s/early 90’s the other night and I won the jackpot as somehow BOTH movies delivered the damn goods! I mean that rarely ever happens when blindly grabbing two oddball movies I’ve never heard anything about.
First up was was 1988’s “Cyber Ninja”, which obviously by the title showed some true promise! This wild sci-fi action film tells the story of a cyborg ninja who’s battling an evil empire that uses giant dinosaur like robots along with a gang of robotic ninja’s of their own to wreak havoc upon a kingdom of samurai warriors. Yeah basically that’s the story, nothing fancy here just a bunch of wild action and robot ass kicking for a lean 80 minutes. There’s some cool martial arts as well and really sweet robot designs at play here that mix feudal japanese elements into their look. There’s these giants mechs in particular that have a sort of Japanese tree house melded as the control center, kinda of like a play on a Star Wars ATST walker. There’s also a ton of that ultra colorful hand painted laser/electricity/energy blasts fx that accompany the martial arts mayhem. It’s a ton of fun and it seems this was perhaps an inspiration for the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers? The movie was release by Namco, which later merged with Bandai, both famous for their video games. Cyber Ninja is must watch if you dig weird, 80’s action and fantasy stuff & was great little viewing surprise that doesn’t require your attention span to be in full swing either.
Next was 1991’s Mikadroid, also known as “Mikadroid: Robokill Beneath Disoclub Layla”. With a title like that you know you’re at the least in for something quite unusual and yeah it brings quite an intriguing little tale of terror to the screen. It’s super lean run time of 73 minutes also makes it much less of a commitment and the perfect companion to Cyber Ninja in more than one way. I’d say at it’s core, it’s really more of a horror movie, and go as far to even call it a “proto-slasher”. It follows a World War II soldier who was experimented on along with two others for a super soldier program.
However they went a step further in a secret underground bunker to transform him into a cyborg/droid and ends up looking like something straight out of a Hellboy comic. We flash forward to 1991 to a discoclub that was built on top the hidden bunker where some electrical issues awaken the WWII super solder robot from his long slumber (I guess a real Captain America kind of thing going on here more than I originally realized). The droid heads up into the parking garage where he conducts his killing spree on the oh so stylin’ Japanese party animals after their wild nights of drinkin’ and dancing the night away.
This movie’s certainly a unique slice early 90’s cinema. It’s quite beautifully shot as well as having a pretty kick ass looking robot and some really stunning underground locations. I was hoping for a bit more from some of the kills but the strange story is the true highlight. Enough so that this little oddity by it’s end unfolds into something truly unique for it’s time and relative obscurity. Released by Toho, it was originally intended to be a full on horror film for the straight to video Japanese Market. Originally set to be a a zombie horror film having the WWII soldier an undead killer instead of a robot . The day before filming began a child murderer was arrested, who had an open passion for horror films, and it resulted in almost all horror movies being essentially blacklisted from production at the time. The film’s plot was frantically reworked into a “sci-fi” film while still keeping the basic premise intact. That all being said, the changes made I think likely added to the movie’s bizarre but ambitious plot. If you go into the movie with few expectations you’ll find a truly charming little feature that firmly lands it in a league of it’s own for the time.
One of the true all time greats as far as comic book artists go is most definitely Bill Sienkiewicz! His style is like none other and as far as comic book covers go, he is one the BEST! Anytime you’d get a cover from Bill you knew you were in for something several notches above what was normally brought to the table. Here are 5 covers he did for the Marvel 1983 adaptation of Return of the Jedi, a bit different from his normal output in being they’re much more simplistic than what he’s normally known for. However his final painting for the trade paperback (the last image) showcases his epic classic style, this all brings me back to a time when Star Wars had limitless potential. Oh what could have been…..
I absolutely love seeing lost gems from the 1980’s, which is hands down my favorite era of cinema. So my excitement level upon seeing 1983’s ‘Rock and Rule’ was through the roof. I’m surprised honestly it took this damn long for it to materialize on my tv screen, being a big fan of hand drawn animation, it was a breath of fresh air in the CGI heavy era of today. Rock and Rule feels like the perfect companion piece to the cult classic ‘Heavy Metal’. It’s full of amazing music, the likes of Debbie Harry, Lou Reed, Cheap Trick, Iggy Pop & Earth Wind and Fire provide the soundtrack here, but more so are also the providing the songs that the characters perform in the movie.
This Canadian post apocalyptic tale of rock and roll adventure, follows the exploits of an evil & powerful rockstar named “Mok” who’s looking to unleash a demonic force from another dimension to aid him in ruling the entire planet. In order to do so though he needs to find the perfect voice that can hit the that special pitch, to enable the magical portal to open. The heroes of the movie are a band of human/animal hybrid mutants who perform in struggling rock band at dive bars all over the city. When Mok is out on the town one evening he witnesses a performance by them and sets his sights on the female vocalist of the band named “Angel”. Her jealous bandmate/co-vocalist Omar feels betrayed when the evil rocker invites her to his mansion on the outskirts of town. Soon it’s evident Mok has sinister plans for Angel, which sends Omar, along with the rest of his band on a fantastic journey to try and rescue her from his evil clutches. However it may be Omar & the band who actually end up needing to be saved.
This one’s just a ton of dazzling fun to watch, the story might be a bit flimsy but the musical numbers & the spectacular animated sequences more than provide enough enticing eye candy to keep the pace swiftly moving. The songs are a treat as well and were crafted especially for the movie, in fact some of the lyrics written actually influenced it’s plot. It’s quite interesting to see the passion some of the people like Lou Reed & Iggy Pop had going into this project as well as how much work different animators put into the different characters giving them their own unique look and movement. The color bursts off the screen with that iconic 80’s neon and the action sequences and animated band performances are truly epic to behold. The movie ignites a true nostalgia for simpler times bringing the tail end of the 1970’s on a collision course with classic 80’s movie magic. I can only dream of how much fun this must have been to see in a theater in 1983. Continue reading
Just a reminder to everyone out there, if you’d forgotten or ever wondered who’d win in a fight between Star Trek’s Spock & Wolverine, I’m here to remind you there is a definitive answer! Yep back in 1996, X-men did indeed meet Star Trek in a one shot comic book crossover and well, just take a look!
Hello everyone out there, I hope you’re all doing your best during these unprecedented times, staying inside and staying SAFE! Being essentially trapped indoors leaves plenty of time to watch movies, well the other evening I’d found myself thinking about the colossal failure of the Disney Star Wars “Sequel Trilogy”. If only they’d have given us fans what they’d always dreamed of, a cohesive compelling story that gave us a truly unforgettable send off to the characters we’d been waiting 30 plus years to see again AND brand new fleshed out characters who we could continue to follow on cosmic adventures for years to come. In many hardcore fan’s opinions we got neither and I was thinking of how awesome it would have been to watch this “sequel trilogy” over and over if it’d had been done with care and not flat out wasted classic characters like Leia & Luke Skywalker.
Mark Hamill in particular really got the short end of the stick and many fans of arguably the most iconic pop culture character, Luke Skywalker left ‘Episode 8’ feeling incredibly underwhelmed. Well many fans might appreciate an alternative to ‘The Last Jedi’ in the form of a largely forgotten sequel to ‘The Watchers’ (the totally 80’s super fun Corey Haim Creature Feature), ‘Watchers Reborn’. The star of the whole show? You guessed it Mark Hamill! Technically the 4th film in The Watchers franchise, it’s the only sequel that’s really worth tracking down and technically more of a sequel to the first movie anyway. Keep in mind this one’s a fully b-level monster flick, it’s cheezy, it’s low budget but it’s got a lot more heart than The Last Jedi! You’ll get a great does of 90’s Hamill front and center in a pretty damn fun little horror thriller. Another plus is that it’s directed by John Carl Buechler (RIP), practical fx wizard behind New World Pictures, who’s done some stellar work right up until his death in 2019 (Hatchet, Nightmare on Elm St 4, Troll, Friday the 13th part 7) .
You like classic alien abduction flicks as much as I do? Well the recently released ‘Dark Encounter’ brings to mind movies like ‘Communion’, ‘Fire in the Sky’, ‘Close Encounters’ but also brings some new dramatic plot points to the traditional alien abduction story. Basically we’ve got a small town scenario here where a family’s 8 year old daughter suddenly goes missing one sunny afternoon while home alone. A year passes, with no clues of her whereabouts and the family, along with some close friends gather at their home for a memorial, still trying to come to terms with what happened to her. As the night descends upon their gathering so does a seemingly sinister alien force. Mysterious lights in the sky are seen and soon members of the family begin to go missing in the woods that surrounds the house. It’s not long before the strange lights fill the home and the remaining must try to survive the night while piecing together the very mystery for which they gathered.
It all takes place in the 1980’s and much of it’s imagery is clearly influenced by those classics like ‘E.T’. & ‘Close Encounters’ but it still manages to set those similarities apart by going in unexpected directions. It starts off as the classic extraterrestrial abduction story but ends up with revelations far more disturbing to the family dynamic set up earlier. It looks great too, beautifully shot with plenty of tense scenes set out in the woods while strange colors shine through the trees. They capture a sense of a looming alien presence that’s purely unsettling and mysterious creating some great scenes of raw tension. There’s some great acting here as well, everyone’s quite convincing in their roles which lends tremendously to the mystery of it. As far as those little green men though, people waiting for alien mayhem might walk away a bit disappointed from Dark Encounter. While I ultimately appreciated the movie at it’s end for different reasons I was of course hoping things were going to climax with some human vs E.T. action. I still think someone needs to churn out a bonkers gray alien vs human abduction flick, I know it was attempted by ‘The Vicious Brothers’ with their 2014 film ‘Extraterrestrial’ and again with “Dark Skies” but somehow in my opinion just missed the mark.
That all being said I think Dark Encounter is most definitely worth watching for fans of the “Alien Abduction” film genre. It’s got an intriguing mystery at it’s core and goes in some surprising directions that also land it firmly into the family drama category as well. Hey if I’m going to watch a family drama this is the kind of move I want to do so with. It will leave you with a bittersweet feeling but it’s definitely an interesting encounter with visitors not of this Earth.
We all know that H.P. Lovecraft stories can be hard to translate to the big screen, but when I heard Richard Stanley was making his cinematic return with ‘Color Out of Space’ I was pretty damn excited to say the least. Stanley may not have the longest resume when it come to feature film but what he has done is pretty damn amazing. Both Hardware (1990) & DustDevil (1992) are lesser known horror gems & with ‘Color Out of Space’ it’s a complete and total return to form. Stanley also brings Nicolas Cage along for the ride, which after his fan fave performance in ‘Mandy’ has kinda given Cage his second coming as an even more beloved cinematic presence. Much like ‘Mandy’ there’s plenty of bizarre psychedelic imagery here to go around and a ton of visceral horror sequences that I guarantee will shock you.
Stanley seems to love a slow burn horror story and brings that approach once again, leaving us all with a twisted but beautiful spectacle to behold by the film’s final act. The story here is simple, one quiet evening an eerie glowing meteorite lands in the front yard of Nathan Gardner and his family’s Alpaca farm. They soon find themselves baffled by it’s effect on the plants & wildlife on property as well as their own suddenly strange behaviors. Soon it’s clear, a mutant extraterrestrial organism that infects their minds and bodies is roaming the woods at night & transforms their quiet rural life into the ultimate technicolor nightmare. Continue reading
So way back in 1988 Hong Kong had their own awesome version of Robocop, an ass kickin’ lady cyborg named Maria! Yes, the action/sci-fi flick ‘I Love Maria’ aka ‘Roboforce’ is easily one of the best 80’s movies I’ve seen coming from that region of the world since I started going down the rabbit hole of odd ball Hong Kong cinema a while ago. I must admit, a lot of Hong Kong films during that era are usually pretty hit or miss, many with confusing, nonsensical plots & often weird slapstick potty humor that likely loses something in the often rudimentary english translation provided. However ‘I Love Maria’ definitely hits the right beats on the humor, action & plot to make it stand out as not merely a foreign remake of Robocop but a uniquely charming little sci-fi adventure all of it’s own. The plot’s indeed pretty outrageous, but to a large degree that’s what makes it a so much damn fun. It’s also filled with some memorable characters that at the end of the day, leave you with some warm fuzzy feelings about friendship & the importance of true camaraderie. So what’s it all about you ask?
So the vicious “Hero Gang”, is a downright nasty criminal terrorist organization (I know odd name for the gang then huh?), hell bent on wreaking all out havoc upon the streets of Hong Kong with their unstoppable killer robots: Pioneers 1 and 2! While Pioneer 1’s a giant hulking armored unit, Pioneer 2’s been modeled after “Maria“, the Hero Gang’s devious second in command. When Pioneer 2 gets damaged during a secret assassination mission, it’s taken into the custody of a curious hi-tech weapons inventor employed by the police force named “Curly”. He secretly repairs & reprograms her with new coding that triggers changes to her logic center. Pioneer 2 begins to develop her own unique heroic personality and soon Curly finds himself caught in the middle of a deadly battle against The Hero Gang. Banding together with a drunken ex-gang member named “Whisky” & “T.Q.”, a bumbling news camera man, the four of them embark on a dangerous mission with the fate of Hong Kong in the palm of their hands!
‘I Love Maria’ is a must see for fans of odd 80’s sci fi, the three main human characters have some great chemistry together, one of which is cult director Tsui Hark (Detective Dee, Double Team, Once Upon a Time In China), who hams it up thoroughly as the heroic alcoholic ‘Whisky’. The special effects work is pretty stunning as well, especially when it comes to Maria battling the ‘Pioneer 1’ robot. They bash though walls, fire rocket launchers for their arms and fling eachother around like rag dolls on the streets of Hong Kong. They never skimp on spectacle here either as there’s a plethora of explosions, Hi-tech weaponry, martial arts battles, car chases & of course awesome robot beat downs to behold here. There’s also a pretty interesting duo of villains, the brother & sister leaders of The Hero Gang who also happen to be in love. Throw in “Mr. Vampire” himself, Lam Ching Ying in the mix to showcase his always amazing kung fu and you’ve got yourself a frenetic sci-fi action flick here that never lets up.
That all being said the real star of the show is clearly the charismatic cyborg Maria, who not only lights up the screen with her robotic butt kicking but also with her curious charm. A largely forgotten rad 1980s female action hero that more people need to discover. Hunt this one down, especially if you dig over the top, 80’s, sci-fi action stuff that really fires on all cylinders: unique characters, stunning practical fx, sets, locations and just pure cybernetic mayhem a’ plenty . Stick around all the way through the end credits as well, where you’ll some of the sweetest scenes of the movie. Someone needs to jump on releasing and cleaning up some of the amazing Hong Kong horror/sci-fi stuff out there from the 80’s & 90’s, there’s so many forgotten, rarely seen gems for fans of cult cinema in the USA. Until then this one’s actually pretty hard to find, but definitely worth the effort!