The more that I think about it and revisit these classic comic book covers, it becomes so apparent, that Bill’s Sienkiewicz is quite possibly the greatest comic book cover artist of ALL time! Here with New Mutants annual #1 from 1984, we again get to see Bill’s amazing craftsmanship on display. I’m honestly quite surprised that bands from the 80s didn’t employ him to create their album covers! They would have been truly epic andvutterly unforgettable! Here’s the Proof!
Here’s a sweet little Hong Kong horror/action/comedy hybrid from 1985 that really put a BIG smile on my face, ‘Those Merry Souls’. Yeah this all but forgotten flick has some serious star power, featuring the likes of martial arts legends like the charming Yuen Biao & the late horror icon “Mr. Vampire” himself Lam Ching Ying (RIP) together for one spooky comedic action packed romper.
Now as you can see the poster here. makes it look maybe like a full on comedy, and in many ways ‘Those Merry Souls’ plays out like one. However it also has a serious supernatural aspect and threat that slowly rears it’s head to the final genuinely creepy action packed finale. This one tells the story of two stuntmen one a wildly talented martial artist and his bumbling whiny cousin who’s obsessed with a beautiful local club singer. Oh yeah and their uncle has recently developed a rare creepy ability to astral project and has been helping people who die find their way to the other side. He helps those merry souls but during his waking life doesn’t remember a lick of it ever happening.
The two bosom buddy stuntmen spend most of their time trying to ridiculously find romance and getting into trouble while doing so, one of the best scenes takes place on a beach where Yuen Biao shines showing his kick ass martial arts skills taking on a gang beach bullies in only his skimpy little swim suit. Biao really should have been an international star, he’s got the skills and a similar raw charisma of Jackie Chan. Things do get a bit dark and scary here though and what starts off like the perfect 80’s Hong Kong buddy comedy morphs into a pretty thrilling little supernatural tale.
This happens when their uncle, while in his astral form is instructed to take the soul of his own nephew when he’s injured doing a wild stunt on a movie set. At the moment of truth though he decides to let him live & spare his soul a mistake that costs him his own life and sets forth an evil entity upon them. In a way it’s a tiny bit Final Destination and when they employ the help of their other uncle, played by Lam Ching Ying, who’s of course got some secret magic skills of his own to ward off evil, things get really interesting.
The film’s finale is joyous as the whole gang along with their girlfriends all face off the evil entity along with their taoist priest uncle in an action packed final showdown. The stakes get high and the action is off the rails bonkers in true Hong Kong fashion as the entity possesses members of the group and soon things erupt into a crazy supernatural kung fu battle.
We even get to see Lam Ching Ying and Yuen Biao go at it full force, which is treat to behold. Bottom line here, ‘Those Merry Souls’ is a damn good time balancing out the comedy, kung fu & supernatural elements in all the right ways, something I’ve noticed many Hong Kong films of this era seem to fail at in my opinion more often than succeeding. If you’re looking to get in 80’s Hong Kong Horror I highly recommend ‘Those Merry Souls’ as the perfect party movie to share with a hungry gang of movie maniacs!
And for fans of Yuen and LamChing Ying check this out too..
Ok it’s really no secret that the Presidential debates the other night was a complete and total shit show! I’d go as far to say that it may have been the worst “debate” I’ve ever seen. Anyway apparently I’m not the only person who thought that, in this crazy election year we’ve got the legendary crazy nerd pop star Weird Al Yankovic weighing in with another bonafide cult hit! Check this out as Al gives you his thoughts on these two candidates!!
I’m not real familiar with with Indonesian cinema, but last night I watched a dvd (yeah a DVD folks!!!!) I got in the mail from Netflix that’s been in my queue for well over a year. The 1984 Swords and Sorcery fantasy martial arts adventure, ‘The Devil’s Sword’ from director Ratno Timoer. I really didn’t have any expectations, in fact I was fully prepared to turn this one off after 10 minutes, however that was most definitely not the case. Nope! Instead The Devil’s Sword immediately won me over with some impressive joyfully bad choreographed magical martial arts battles taking place in a truly stunning exotic jungle location. If you’re a fan of cheezy fantasy movies from the 1980’s then this one’s gonna be right up your damn alley. It’s also alerted me to the Indonesian action star Barry Prima, maybe I’m late to the Prima party, but a quick look on Letterboxd at his filmography revealed what appears to be an overload of action, fantasy, horror hybrid gems just waiting to be leaped into.
This one has pretty much got it all, wildly stupid martial arts, sword battles, magic, monsters, babes & hunks galore! All of it 100% ridiculous, macho man Barry Prima stars as “Mandola”, basically “Rambo the barbarian” looking remarkably similar to Sly Stallone (with a smooth fully stupid dub track that seems like it might even enhance viewing pleasures). He’s also got a radical bad ass female co star, who right out of the gates lays a smackdown on a gang o’ goons & who aids the mighty Mandola in his epic quest to destroy a wicked witch, the sultry and seductive Crocodile queen! She’s indeed quite a woman and has tons of male sex servants one of them the kidnapped husband of Mandola’s female ally! She’s also got a gang of some of the worst, most idiotic looking, crocodile/human minions that really just have to be seen to be believed. Some of these fights too go on for way, way too long but in that sort of “They Live” sorta way. I mean check this out if you think I’m full of shit!
Mandola ends up on this epic quest when some of The Crocodile Queen’s assassins injure his master’s legs and he himself is forced to saw them off! The Devil’s Sword definitely doesn’t skimp on some wild gore either, limbs and heads are chopped off, accompanied by sprays of blood. There’s also a dab of indiana Jones thrown in as Mandola explores caverns filled with hordes of bats and one supremely stupid looking giant cyclops! I guess they were lucky that Indonesia is such a beautiful place, because some of the locales add a solid a layer of legitimacy to the whole experience, suddenly I’m eyeing Indonesia as a future dream vacation.
The Devil’s Sword has really energized an interest in not only the country but also in some of the wild cinema it had to offer back in the 70’s & 80’s as well as a strong curiosity in it’s main man, Barry Prima! Check this flick out, it’s the perfect watch with a case of beer and some friends to enjoy all the unintentional wackiness strewn about the screen. There’s a dvd out there that Mondo Macabro put out years ago I think you can still snatch, or hey if you’re like me just put it on the dvd by mail list from Netflix!
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!
I’ve been checking out a lot of 1980’s and 90’s foreign horror movies lately and the ones from Hong Kong are most definitely the most outrageous of them all. 1992’s ‘Wizard’s Curse’ is certainly proof of that, a mix of raunchy sex comedy, horror, fantasy and action all rolled into one big weird ball. A pair of “on the run” criminal lovers rumored to be practitioners of dark magic are hunted down by local police lead by a taoist priest. Using his own unique supernatural abilities he aids the cops, managing to personally slay them both. Soon after, a local cult leader resurrects their spirits into a one shared physical body, granting them superhuman powers & leaving them thirsting for human brains. They set out on a mission, to track down the priest for revenge and seeking to eat the brains of a virgin to gain ultimate powers of evil. This sets into motion a chase as the priest battles them to protect his daughter and the life of a tuff guy virgin cop who becomes entangled in the case.
Yeah it’s a weird one. It features Ching-Ying Lam better known for his role in the iconic ‘Mr. Vampire’ movies of the 1980’s as the even tempered ass kickin’ priest. The bad guy & girl share one body, change sexes at random & wear a totally 80’s leather clad outfit that’d make ‘The Terminator’ jealous. They rip though Hong Kong eating brains and murdering people with a huge glowing phallus, that’s used most of the time like a super powered snake like battering ram. There’s some really great 80’s style fx work going here, creepy moments and some frenetic action sequences keep Wizard’s curse moving at a brisk pace. Together (literally) they make a unique villain and the camera tricks utilized to make inhabit the same body are a lot of fun as well.
Ching-Ying Lam never disappoints with his kung fu either, he’s one of the best and there’s some incredibly fun supernatural kung fu battles to behold. However the movie is also entirely unsure of what it wants to be as it’s littered with sex & dick jokes when you least expect it. A lot of these Hong Kong horror movies of that era go lots of different directions and while it certainly makes things interesting this one could have really benefitted by keeping the raunchy comedy to a bare minimum. Also watching the movie with it’s rudimentary english subtitles leads me to believe the comedy may have played better if I’d have actually understood the language they’re speaking. My bad.
At the end of the day though, I definitely do recommend ‘Wizard’s Curse’, if even just for it’s sheer absurdity alone. Though it was released in 1992 it feels one hundred percent 80’s. Lots of neon, cool clothing, real stunts and a ton of 80’s FX work make it a unique little movie that never gets sleepy. It’s also filled with plenty of non PC “comedy” mostly revolving around sex yet never ends up being overly offensive some how. I liked the role of the virgin too being the wise crackin’ cop instead of the priests daughter, who regularly spends her time dodging super creepy advance & ploys from mega douchey men. The movie’s finale is pretty fun too as the Taoist Priest is forced to team up with his hilarious ex-wife who’s also a bad ass magician. And of course the movie’s final moment gag hinges on an over the top sex joke. If you’re looking for an utterly odd hybrid horror movie check this one out, it’s got a lot of weird ass shit going for it, if that’s your cup of tea!
Here’s a pretty neat little modern throwback horror movie I took a chance on recently that turned out be quite a bit of fun. ‘Book of Monsters‘ is a low budget British creature feature that clearly makes it’s best attempt to harken back to the gory glory days of 80’s horror flicks like ‘Evil Dead 2’ & ‘Night of the Creeps’. It takes place on the main character, Sophie’s 18th birthday, when she reluctantly decides to throw a birthday party at her house. Her and her two friends are hardly the cool kids in school and aren’t even sure anyone will actually show up. To their surprise the birthday bash attracts a whole crew of unruly teens and even a few of the school bullies. Well it doesn’t take long before some weird supernatural shit goes down due to meddling with a necronomicon type of book. A full on bloodbath occurs when some creatures emerge from another dimension, invade her house and begin to slaughter the rowdy party guests. Sophie and her pals must band together to fend off the attack and protect their classmates from monster carnage.
It’s a simple story to follow and with a short run time of 84 minutes it’s a perfect party movie (literally) to watch on a Saturday nite with a gang of old school horror fans. One of it’s strongest parts is the protagonist Sophie, who’s a totally likable heroine who struggles with self esteem, teenage sexuality and the strange events of her past which tie into the supernatural events that occur. She’s also one of the only gay horror hero’s I can really recall seeing and they present this aspect of her character in a way that doesn’t feel fully forced into the narrative. Sure we got some bigoted bullies and typical teen jerks but those were always prevalent in the 80’s teen horror movies that likely inspired this one.
Now onto the horror aspect of things, though I liked the movie, I’ve got to admit I’m a bit tired of the ‘evil book/necronomicon’ angle of things, it feels pretty played out and I kind of wish they’d have used a different reasoning for the summoning of the monsters. Hardly a complaint really as once things get going here it’s pretty fun & action packed. The monster & gore effects are pretty ambitious for the most part. For the budget they had to work with they deliver a fair share of cool practical fx work avoiding for the most part cgi entirely (if my memory serves me correctly). The monster designs are pretty good too, one looks a bit like it was ripped out of M. Knight Shyamalan’s the village, one’s like a standard slasher dude and the other is kind of like a “Natasha Henstridge” Species/cenobite type-o creature. They all do a decent amount of gory, goopy damage too & it’s all executed in a fairly cartoonish way so it could easily be digested by the light weight horror fans. Oh yeah some evil garden gnomes are thrown in as well, that with a little more budget could have been far more crowd pleasing- but still an “A” for effort. There’s lots of chainsaws and general ass kicking done by the three female leads and even though most Hollywood blockbusters are trying to currently shoehorn girl power into movies ‘Book of Monsters’ does it in a tasteful way that doesn’t feel like it’s blatantly pushing some agenda for brownie points.
If ‘Book of Monsters‘ had been released in 1987 it’d have been a bonafide cult classic, it’s a nice switch from all the shoddy CGI & digital blood of modern horror movies. It leaves the door open for a sequel and I think if it gets one with more cash behind it, there’s a possibility the second installment could very well end up as a modern day cult classic. For the meantime though I think the best crowd for ‘Book of Monsters’ are those who miss the glory days of 1980’s schlock, goofy gore & teen horror flicks!
I’d never seen a Roberta Findlay movie before up until a few days ago, but I’m pretty damn stoked to check out more of her work in the horror genre for sure! ‘The Oracle’ is a sweet yet nasty little horror film from 1985 that took me pleasantly by surprise. It really looks more like it was filmed in the late 70’s, even the clothing styles and general quality of the film has a gritty and dirty grindhouse vibe to it that certainly amplifies the charm. Taking place in the seedy areas of NYC during Christmas time (yeah a new holiday horror flick for the books) Jennifer & her asinine hubby move to a new apartment once occupied by an elderly psychic woman and soon stumble upon her creepy ass ouija board ‘The Oracle’ that she often used to communicate with the spirit world.
Jennifer, hyped on her new place, throws a swingin’ housewarming bash and with everyone witnessing, uses “the oracle” to contact a angry spirit of murdered man who demands bloody revenge upon his killers. From that point on the ghostly presence relentlessly terrorizes her & tries to manipulate her into avenging his death. Eventually she complies, but soon the murderers (the dead dude’s ex-wife & greedy biz partner) become suspicious of her snooping, and they re-hire the psycho who’d carried out the vicious killing before to try and track down Jennifer.
There’s a lot to love here with this mean ass supernatural horror romp. it’s got some truly unique characters, a cool female heroine & the killer is equally interesting being a trans/lesbian villain who’s as nasty as they come for horror movie standard of the day back then. The movie doesn’t go out of it’s way to get the point across, but in today’s landscape I doubt that you could present the character at all in the light portrayed in The Oracle. Still it was interesting deviation from the evil traditionally male killers of the 70’s & 80’s. For the obviously low budget it has it makes great use of it’s big city locales & it’s charming, ambitious special fx work. Interestingly enough this film came out a full year before 80’s cult classic ‘WITCHBOARD’.
These two actually have very similar plots and while Witchboard remains the winner here as far as quality horror there’s definitely something awesome about Findlay’s attempt. It’s nastier and carries a sort of sleezy quality that genre fans of B-movies might actually appreciate more when all is said and done. There’s plenty of subpar acting going on here and decent amount of fairly impressive gore to be found. The end of course tries to go the distance with it’s limited FX budget and in my opinion delivers the goods via a sweet little supernatural encounter.
I’m quite curious to check out more of Findlay’s movies, from what I’ve read it seems she dabbled in directing “X-rated” stuff in the 1960’s, 70’s & 80’s before tackling the horror genre with this movie in ’85. I’m curious about her string of movies through the 80’s, her most popular being Tenement. If you’re a fan of trashy 80’s horror you just might dig The Oracle & now you’ve got an excuse to give this underrated gem a whirl during the holiday season too!
Ok so here’s an idea for the next “live action” ‘Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles’ movie that’s reportedly on the horizon. First, how about making it actually LIVE ACTION?! Cuz’ after re-watching the two classic 1990’s TMNT movies it’s come crystal clear what the direction this franchise needs to take for it’s planned “reboot”. The next movie, like the recent sequels to Halloween & Terminator, needs to be a DIRECT sequel to the 1990 classic! Ignoring everything but the first movie (maybe the second). It’d be the perfect move to reinvigorate the cinematic franchise, bring back those classic Turtles from that movie, bring back the suits, bring back Judith Hoag (who’s maybe somehow cuter today than she was back then) as April O’Neil and even Elias Koteas as Casey Jones!
It’s time to go back to those original characters, another cheap revamped CGI version of these classic characters is NOT what people want. Imagine the excitement of making a sequel to the OG TMNT, with the Jim Henson studio working on a new version of the Turtles suits, that look very similar to the classic designs but using the more advanced animatronics of today. Imagine a modern Turtles movie that actually utilizes real choreography & real martial arts, a concept like that is UNHEARD of in Hollywood blockbusters and people would be blown away to see what could be done today with the right talent behind it. You could even get the original voices of the Turtles back, yeah get Corey Feldman too to put the icing on the cake.
The plot could be an awesome “fish out of water” tale as well, here’s a quick idea, the original Turtles & their Master Splinter 30 years ago ventured further below the surface, far beneath the sewers of New York, where they disappeared and were never heard from again and for reasons unknown to the few who actually knew of their existence. There they’d, embarked on a dangerous mission and in result of it became trapped in some sort of suspended animation, kinda like the mosquito in the tree sap from Jurassic Park. Whatever you need to do to explain where and why they’ve been missing….Meanwhile April O’neil & Casey Jones (who remain friends or maybe even lovers?) have moved on with their lives and almost question whether their incredible experience with the Turtles & Master Splinter back in 1990 ever really happened at all. Something thaws the Turtles out of their extended slumber and they soon make their way back to the surface, finding a much different world 30 years later, eventually reunite with their two old friends to once again & face a new threat to the city. Who knows maybe April & Casey even have a kid now, Casey Jones Jr, boy or girl who take up his crime fighting mantle?!
The classic 1990 Turtles would have a blast trying to fit in to modern times and of course the original April & Casey reuniting with them would be heartfelt cinematic gold. I’m certain this formula, with a more ironed out plot would be a HUGE hit and could re-start the Turtles franchise in a bold, nostalgic and exciting way. They need to give the fans something special this time around. The TMNT formula was never broken and the last thing people want is the Michael Bay era to rear it’s head. There’s a cinematic hit ripe for the picking and Hollywood needs to get creative and jump on it!!
I’ve been hearing lately that the ‘Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles’ movie franchise is going to again be rebooted after the shit show of the Michael Bay era of the reptilian heroes in a half shell. So it sparked me to revisit the original 1990 movie the other night which I hadn’t seen in probably 20 years or so. I was amazed at how well that movie has aged, seeing it in theaters back in the day I’d enjoyed it but kind of dismissed it as “kid stuff” at the time as my older brother in the 1980’s collected the original indie comic series and I’d had the chance to read them as a kid. If you’re aware of the TMNT early beginnings you’ll remember that it started off as a dark, gritty & violent comic series. I was blown away back then at the sheer oddity of the characters and the equally bizarre story lines of the originals. When I decided to revisit the 1990 TMNT film I’d forgotten just how dark that original movie actually is, especially considering today’s climate of safe moviemaking. The movie is almost closer to an R-rating than it’s original rating of PG. There’s kids smoking & drinking alcohol, robbing people, the foot beating up April O’neil, Raphael beaten into a near coma by The Foot and a badly beaten and bloodied up Splinter strung to a fence. It’s actually a pretty dark and gritty movie with the addition of the comedic surfer dude Turtles to lighten things up.
So currently we’ve got these new “TMNT” flicks, a big bloated Michael Bay produced, soul-less mess of CGI, uninspired storytelling and poor character development. The current franchise just hasn’t been connecting with fans the way they’d hoped, mainly with the amount of money that the films have made. Now they’ve got plans for a brand new reboot and it’s never been more clear just what this franchise needs to do: go old school.
So first off let’s address the obvious big issue, imo the latest Michael Bay era CGI Turtles look terrible. They’re massive 8 foot tall green hulking humanoid turtles with creepy ass faces and not in a good way. Compare the newest incarnations with the very original designs. They couldn’t be more opposite. Even the Turtles of the 1990 movie do essentially look pretty much like what you’d hope for, sure they’ve been made much cuter but they stay fairly true to the original vision. So let’s face the facts, the original designs of the 80’s weren’t broken so why try and modernize them by making them the opposite of what they were intended to look like? Bring back the smaller classic versions of these characters, go simpler with their general design. It’s a lot easier to digest and most definitely not rocket science folks.
Next I’d say you could go the similar route that many movies are taking by making the next movie a direct sequel to the original or at least setting the movie in the late 80s’ or early 90’s, it’s clear people love that era of film today (Stranger Things, IT anyone?). That being said bring back the suits!! Put real actors in real costumes with modern day animatronics the Turtles could look absoluterly mind blowing. The 1990 movie Turtles STILL look great and that was with a micro budget of 13.5 million dollars for the whole damn film. What they could do now would be incredible, we all want to believe that the TMNT are actually living breathing creatures and the latest movies sadly look like fakey cgi rendered cartoon characters inserted into the “real world”.
Lets get real here and let’s keep the budget low, we don’t need a TMNT movie to be on the scale of an Avengers film, we need a smaller more personal, more heartfelt movie with high stakes like the original. Next let’s get some real martial arts, real choreography and some real stunts again. One thing that blew me away revisting the 1990 movie was the actual real on screen martial arts that were displayed, it was pretty amazing actually and I’d love to see something in that vein in a brand new Turtles movie. It’d be like nothing out there in the mainstream that’s for sure. Lastly I’d love to see a darker more serious storyline, of course an “R-rated Turtles” movie would be my first choice, one that evokes the original comics would be absolutely insane. However, I know that’ll never happen so I think at the very least going as dark as the original movie would be more than good enough. Let’s see the Turtles roaming the city streets at night, jumping from rooftop to rooftop and roaming the dank sewers. Bring on the amazing real life set pieces, puppets and crazy creatures once again, I think fans would go bonkers for a throwback style TMNT. However I doubt Hollywood has the courage to try something as unique and inspired as the original movie. What do you think?!