Movie Reviews That'll Put Yer Eye Out, Kid!

Girl Slaves of Morgana Le Fay

Girl Slaves of Morgana Le Fay (1971)

The film opens with a buxomish belle enmeshed in velvety bondage. Serving as her audience a gaggle of elderly women listen somewhat cheerfully as a churlish dwarf reads the edicts of the bound beauty's sentence. To this our captivating captive defiantly responds: "Punish me, beat me! Take away my perfumes!" This plucky act of rebellion segues into a jaunty tune accompanied by an image of a small car weaving its way up a serpentine mountain road. Bouncing along inside the car are two lesbians on a road trip, a dirty blonde and her equally dirty brunette friend, their destination unknown - perhaps Belgium?

In need of wetting their whistles, the delightful duo pull off to the side of the road and park in front of an antediluvian pub. The salty patrons within aptly mirror the pub's exterior. Hunched over their beer the gang of oldsters ogle the ladies as if they were dressed in pretzel costumes. After the tantalizing twosome peruse some mulled wine, the barkeep turns the tables and offers them a tip, warning them in a hushed voice to stay away from the village; all of this transpires under the watchful eye of the ubiquitous dwarf.

On the road again, heedfully steering clear of the village, our trusty travelers quickly become lost on the endlessly repeating forest road. Finally, they see a barn in the distance and pull over to rest their weary heads, (and possibly experience an illicit roll in the hay?). Once situated inside the barn, pillow talk is soon smothered by a pair of lustful libidos. Later, Francoise wakes up startled to find Anna missing. Outside the dwarf emerges from the forest, beckoning Francoise to follow him, as he claims to know of Anna's whereabouts. Never one to doubt a dwarf, Francoise soon finds herself traipsing through the hinterlands behind her diminutive guide.

Before breaking a sweat the pair stumble upon the shore of a mysterious lake - a castle its crowning jewel. On the beach there's a small boat festooned with greenery, which floats Francoise towards a shore equally festooned with nightgown-clad women. Once inside the castle Francoise is bathed and coddled and soon meets the magnanimous Morgana Le Fay. All the while the dwarf, whose name is Gurth, bemoans his servitude and plots to usurp his Fairie Queen. With Anna's safety foremost in her mind, Francoise is relieved when it is revealed that Anna is also being indoctrinated into Morgana's slavegirl cult. Ultimately Francoise and Anna must decide whether to return to a life of freedom and uncertainty (Belgium?) or become one of Morgana's minions, achieving immortality, eternal youth - and perhaps along the way discovering how much wine a castleful of lesbians can actually consume.

Girl Slaves of Morgana Le Fay is more erotic fairy tale than horror fare. But it is nevertheless effective and makes for a fine viewing experience. The eroticism could best be described as quaint rather than titillating (although they do try to put the "tit" in titillating), and the nudity reaches its climax during a feast bearing a bevy of supple female flesh that might leave audiences wistful for erotic cinema of the 70s dabbing their moist eyes tenderly.

The cinematography will also make viewers with an eye for the picturesque quite happy. To be sure pleasures of the flesh are not the only subjects of lovely imagery as the film was shot with an eye for atmosphere and elegance. The locations serve the story rather well and help link the film to its Arthurian origins. As one might imagine and possibly hope for, given the title, the cast is primarily filled with attractive young women, who all avail themselves quite well in various stages of undress. Less attractive but equally memorable is the fully-clothed dwarf played by Alfred Baillou.

While the plot is relatively bereft of twists, the story has elements which retain the viewer's interest, and will probably serve as more than just a mere night's entertainment for fans of Jean Rollin's films. The film's seductive imagery and languorous pace might spell boring for many viewers (especially those unable to spell languorous), but those willing to check short attention spans at the door might find themselves rewarded.

Once again, Mondo Macabro has proven to be on the forefront of releasing obscure and deserving cinema to a wider DVD audience. In addition to presenting a virtually flawless, anamorphic widescreen, Eastman color print, expect a very graceful menu that reminded me of a naughty doily. And as if this were not enough, special DVD features include deleted scenes, an exclusive interview with director Bruno Gantillon, the trailer, a bonus Bruno short, extensive background information written by Pete Tombs, a large still and poster gallery, and the always enticing Mondo Macabro previews. Enjoy!

Originally published at

Recommended and related products:
Girl Slaves of Morgana Le Fay
Satanico Pandemonium
A Virgin Among the Living Dead
Venus in Furs
Living Dead Girl
Lips of Blood

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Lupin III: Strange Psychokinetic Strategy

Lupin III: Strange Psychokinetic Strategy (1974)

One of the most fascinating phenomenons in film is the animated cartoon: elastic, threatening, inanimate yet agitated - the cartoon is an art form with very few parallels. What can seem confounding, however, is when live action films seek to imitate the cartoon. How can “real” actors emulate the raw madness, the infinite potential for everything imagined, that a drawing can possess? For drawings are unique in that they are directly connected to the brain; and as this art form adjoins the brain, nowhere else can art be so directly connected to potential madness in all its sensual splendor. The only possible filters or censors are the ego and ability of the artist, and later on the nerve of the distributor or producer. This is why animation can seem so terrifying - nowhere else is reality so thin that a character can tear its own head off, then laughingly discourse with its torso while its legs ripple hideously. If this does happen in live action, it’s usually due to the touch of an animator, or with the sinewy puppetry of animation’s inbred cousin, special effects.

So it is rare when films come along that seek to emulate animation’s dynamic quality, and pull it off successfully. It is even rarer when the tricks they use to do it are limited to in-camera devices and the physicality of the actors alone. In this respect, Lupin III: Strange Psychokinetic Strategy (or Rupan Sansei: Nenrikichan Sakusen) from 1974 is quite a find. Based off of Monkey Punch’s famous manga, Lupin III, the film finds its charm in broad slapstick, stunts, and contrived situations that are generally done without use of the special effects department. All of Melies’s tricks are employed here: split screen, double exposure, and jump cuts are all used to comic effect. But the treats this film conceals are not limited to camera tricks alone.

The basic plot of the film is that Lupin III, a naughty trickster raised in a Catholic orphanage (who spent much of his time peeking up nuns’s skirts and boosting the sacramental wine), has fallen in love. With an extremely greedy thief named Fujiko who seems pretty ambiguous when it comes to Lupin III’s attentions, and forgoing the usual candy and flowers, wants Lupin III to pull off a big heist for her. To complicate things, Jigen, a gunslinging mafioso footsoldier, arrives to inform Lupin III that his father, Lupin II, had a huge mafia empire stretching across the globe that now needs Lupin III’s guiding hand. Lupin III’s not interested, but Jigen stays close to the kid’s side, loyal to the Lupin genetics. To further complicate things, the Maccherone mafia family (pronounced “macaroni”) wants to off Lupin III so that the Lupin mafia stays noncompetitive.
To further further complicate things, an incompetent cop named Zenigata is determined to arrest Lupin III at any cost, despite the fact that he has no physical evidence that Lupin III has committed any crime. And that’s just the first act - or just about.

What follows is a lot of great pratfalls, bonks on the head, popcorn spit, jokes bashing Lupin III’s sexual orientation (many of which pose Lupin III as the “feminine” type, with police officers acting as his “masculine” counterpart), and very little psychokinesis. In fact, the title Lupin III: Strange Psychokinetic Strategy barely seems to make any sense - just the source of a few jokes where Lupin III brags about his “psychokinetic” powers (which primarily seem to be used for opening safes and doors...and involve his hands) to Fujiko - until the third act. Then the object of everyone’s desire is an artifact that was made by aliens and possesses psychokinetic powers, which we don’t see used in any way, but must exist based on the fact that the Maccherone family is suddenly hot for the doll, and half the police force are sent to protect it.

As you can probably guess at this point, the plot is pure nonsense. But you don’t watch films like this for the plot, you watch it for the gems buried just underneath the skin.

Some of Lupin III’s pratfalls, as performed by Yuki Meguro, are an art unto themselves - with a completely stiff, still body he falls straight back like a cartoon cat recently hit by an anvil. Pure genius. Jigen, played by Kunie Tanaka, is the perfect blend of badass gunman (he packs an entire arsenal underneath his coat, despite the lack of wormholes or other dimensional rifts in the area) and frustrated ninny. But by far my favorite moment in the film is an entire non sequitur - for no reason whatsoever, Lupin III encounters a group of nuns walking the street at night. Perhaps reminded of his youth, he stops to check out the nuns, who lo and behold strip off their habits and break into song. But these singing nuns don’t stop there - nuns, as we all know, don’t fight fair, and these ladies soon surround Lupin III to begin some serious butt-kicking. But Lupin III, breaking all rules of honor in physical combat, parries their kicks and punches with tickling, kisses, and gropes. I watched that part twice. It was truly as amazing as it sounds.

The cinematography in Lupin III: Strange Psychokinetic Strategy is, for the most part, fairly ordinary, with one extraordinary exception. In one scene, while Lupin III and Jigen chat in a concrete drainpipe yard, Zenigata and his men attempt to sneak up on them. The result is a beautiful composition with three levels of action, all of which are connected by the swooping, curved lines of the pipes. But alas, where this film could fair well by taking a card from Mario Bava’s color palette a la Danger: Diabolik (a superior film in the genre of comic book adaptations), the colors in Lupin III: Strange Psychokinetic Strategy are often quite bland.

Overall, this is a film for fans of 70s films, particularly fans of Japanese 70s films. The wacky weirdness and fun, though not as spontaneous or potentially frightening as animation, work well. For viewers who enjoy physical comedy and cartoon-style silliness, this film is a gem. However, I would not recommend this feature to genre first-timers, as the story is a bit slow, and somewhat episodic feeling. Unless, of course, they just want to fast forward to the nun fight.

Written by MissMeat

Recommended and related products:

Lupin the 3rd: Strange Psychokinetic Strategy
The Castle of Cagliostro
Lupin the 3rd: The World's Most Wanted
Danger: Diabolik

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Last eXit

Last eXit (2003)

The ever-approaching digital revolution is considered by many to be both a blessing and a bane. For the sake of brevity I'm going to simplify a complex topic and say basically there are those who applaud the fact that digital filmmaking, with its affordability and flexibility, will ultimately "level the playing field" allowing a greater number of aspiring filmmakers access to filmmaking tools, thus, creating a larger variety of films for an equally diverse moviegoing public. While this is certainly a positive outlook, on the opposite end of the scale there are also those who warn that the accessibility of digital filmmaking equipment will merely result in a flood of really shitty films. With all the pitiful dreck that is churned out by movie studios it is hard to imagine that things could be too much worse, but then again, until recently I hadn't yet watched a little, independent, low-budget, digital turd called Last eXit.

If you're still reading, Last eXit isn't really a horror movie (wait... hold on, come back) in the traditional sense, but at many times, and in many ways, it is truly a horrid movie. Okay, anyway, so there's a character named Nigel who lives in Copenhagen and likes him some Danish porn (go protagonist, it's your birthday!), while his lonely girlfriend has a thing for drugs of the intravenous variety. While a marriage counsellor might be in order, the most pressing matter is a lack of money. Much to his wife's bemusement, Nigel manages to find out about a possible job opportunity from an eye patch-clad lad getting blind drunk at a local groggery.

Following this dubious lead, Nigel makes a clumsy phone call and is soon ushered in for an equally clumsy interview with a bald and blase = badass type hombre everyone simply refers to as The President (okay, imagine you're in Denmark... now how tight is that!). Unlike myself, Nigel's idiocy is put on hold as The President and his cronies excuse themselves in order to torture some fink in an adjacent room. Meanwhile, a real life sexpot bumps and grinds in front of Nigel so that the filmmakers can cut between glee and violence, because that against the grain Reservoir Dogs type shiznit is just about as keen as spelling Exit "eXit," or using the word shiznit.

Apparently, The President is in need of a nincompoop to fill an important capacity within his badass hierarchy, and thus hires our beloved Nigel to handle a valuable shipment of mysterious boxes. As an incentive Nigel then gets to walk around Copenhagen with the aforementioned sexpot, whose name is Tanya, and buy her ice cream on a stick (lest we forget she's sexy) before ultimately heading over to Tanya's digs for the type of action Nigel is used to paying a rental fee for. Despite the fact that Nigel reminds both Tanya and himself that he is a married man (lest anyone else forgot), he can't help but fall ass over ankles for the pot-smoking, money-grubbing, pork & beans-eating little minx that is Tanya. This of course ushers in the ubiquitous downward spiral, wherein Nigel dives headfirst into a pile of contrived shit and attempts to climb back out of it in an equally contrived manner, without anyone realizing that like the movie, he's both stinky and stupid.

Last eXit was shot for a mere $1,800 over just a paltry 18 days; suffice it to say, it shows. I imagine the time spent writing the script, which is populated by a bunch of hackneyed characters, was also equally brief. If not, I offer an apology. I've worked on a handful of low-budget quickies, and a couple of short films of my own, and feel that I'm speaking from a position of empathy and understanding when it comes to no-budget filmmaking. However, Last eXit is reminiscent of a caliber of filmmaking I'm familiar with from my days in a video production class in Junior College. While it might deserve an A for effort, it is quite simply an amateurish and shoddily made film. The movie is poorly lit (appearing to rely solely on insufficient natural light), horrendously photographed, and as mentioned, poorly written. While budgetary constraints can prove problematic for a production, there is really no excuse for bad writing. Yes, your imagination and scope must be kept in check, but for starters - uninspired dialogue, weak plotting, and cliche characters and story cannot be blamed on budgetary limitations.

I am all for expanding the cinematic language, breaking rules etc... but I have a strong suspicion that the director and cinematographer on Last eXit are unfamiliar with some of the basics. Use some of that $1,800 on a light meter and a couple of cheap lights with a c-stand (if you don't believe in light meters when shooting digital, at the very least get someone to show you how to use the "zebra stripes" feature on your camera). You might have to downgrade to a slightly less-sexy stripper (FHM magazine names this multitalented saucebox one of the 100 sexiest women in the world) but at least I'll be able to see your movie. Gritty aesthetic you say? Well, I'll just go ahead and let someone else take that doubtful leap. Also, eyelines are important, as is framing. Generally cutting off half of an actor's face, or an entire head with the top of your frame is a bad call. If you're attempting to add something by doing this, or perhaps create a sense of unease in the viewer, okay, but when it happens during banal conversations and idle strolls through the park it might create the wrong kind of unease, and it certainly doesn't engender confidence in the filmmaker's abilities.

Fight scenes are also tricky, but are made even more so when shot outside during a sunset. Allow for a second day if necessary, because a fight that takes less than one minute's screen time looks peculiar when it appears to end a couple of hours later and it's suddenly dark outside. Sure you're on a tight shooting schedule, but usually people who have given 18 days of their life to a project are not opposed to putting in 19. These little touches I've listed are also equally appreciated by those who have given 1 and 1/2 hours of their life toward viewing your little low-budget endeavor. While I'm tempted to say that there is not anything remotely good about this movie, there is however a scene wherein a character is beaten with a can of pork & beans that made me smile. In addition, some of the acting is palatable, and it's always nice to see a no-budget film where all the characters are not being played by eager twenty-somethings.

Heretic films does an exceptional job bringing yet another no-budget film to DVD. Also, as usual the DVD is brimming with extras including deleted scenes, a behind the scenes featurette, commentary, extended and alternate scenes, and a trailer.

Originally published at

Blind Woman's Curse Coming to DVD

This is some fantastic news from the fine folks over at Discotek (Zero Woman: Red Handcuffs) who will soon "officially announce" plans to release Blind Woman's Curse - directed by Teruo Ishii and starring Meiko Kaji. Currently a new print is being telecined and the DVD should be released at the end of this year!

In other good news, on June 27th Discotek will also be releasing two highly anticipated films by Sogo Ishii
, Electric Dragon 80,000V (2001) and Burst City (1982). Other upcoming Discotek DVD releases include Mikadroid (1991) with an August release date, Sars Wars ( 2004) on July 25th, War in Space (1977) on April 25th, Bye Bye Jupiter (1983) in September, and of definite interest to Miyazaki fans, Puss n' Boots (1969) will see the light of DVD on May 30th.

To view trailers for many of these upcoming releases simply click on the film's title.

Source: DVD Maniacs

Product links:

Electric Dragon 80,000V
Burst City
War In Space
Puss 'n Boots

Female Convict Scorpion: Jailhouse 41

Female Convict Scorpion: Jailhouse 41 (1972)

Another exceptional exploitation classic from Japan’s infamous Toei Studios, Female Convict Scorpion: Jailhouse 41, stars Meiko Kaji as a tight-lipped toughie named Matsu. A notoriously tenacious and deadly convict, Matsu is more infamously, and aptly, known as Scorpion among the hardened female prison populace. Thrown and locked away alone inside a dark and exceedingly dank underground cell for nearly a year, Matsu lies on the cold stone floor, the thick metal cuffs cutting and chaffing at her pale wrists and ankles.

With defiance in her eyes and a metal spoon clenched between her teeth, Matsu repeatedly scrapes the eating utensil across the floor, wearing away the spoon’s rounded edges. Above Matsu the door to her hellish cell bursts open and her arch adversary, a diabolical one-eyed prison warden, who lost his other peeper at the lethal hands of Matsu, peers down at his pitiful-looking prisoner. Believing he has finally bested and broken Matsu, the warden begins berating and threatening her before nearly drowning poor Matsu with a lengthy high-powered water hosing.

It turns out that an official prison inspector is soon to arrive and the warden is up for a big promotion. The prison warden parades his prisoners for the inspector who seems altogether pleased with the prison and the warden’s performance. Unbeknownst to the warden however, Matsu, aka Scorpion, still has some sting left as she strikes at the warden, trying to scoop out his one good eye with her sharp metal shiv. Shocked and frightened, the inspector soils himself and a prison riot erupts soon thereafter.

Narrowly escaping Matsu’s wrath and total blindness, the warden “sees” to it that Matsu is given a proper humiliation by having her brutally raped by a rabid gang of goons in front of the female prisoners who lionize her. However this soul-crushing debasement utterly feeds Matsu’s silent rage, propelling her and a ragtag group of female prisoners toward a blood-spattered trail of ruthless revenge that gives new meaning to the word manslaughter.

Like Toho’s popular Lady Snowblood films, which also stars the talented Meiko Kaji, Female Convict Scorpion: Jailhouse 41 was inspired by a popular Japanese comic book. Due in part to this, the film is a hyper-stylized action yarn full of vivid imagery and a ferocious amount of imagination. Oscillating between horrific butchery and poetic beauty, the movie is an exquisite eyeful of cinematic virtuosity that excels within, and exceeds, its exploitative origins.

As the character Matsu, Meiko Kaji gives a great, mostly silent performance (in total I believe she has two lines of dialogue). The character is a classic, stoic bad-ass that Kaji manages to bring to life wonderfully, conveying everything with her eyes, facial expressions and body language. In addition to Kaji, another standout among the great cast is Kayoko Shiraishi as Oda, an infanticidal madwoman. Oda serves as the Judas to Matsu, who is at times portrayed as being a Christ figure - a popular parallel often drawn in ‘70s Japanese exploitation films, especially when the heroine is being ruthlessly tormented and tortured.

With Jailbreak 41 director Shunya Ito, who directed the first three Female Convict Scorpion films in a series comprised of six, has made the best WIP (women in prison) movie I have ever seen. Surprisingly bereft of the usual plethora of nudity, the film is nevertheless brimming with enough violence, action and murderous mayhem to please even the most hardcore genre fans. Incorporating some artistically inventive storytelling techniques and a veritable feast of visual thrills, Female Convict Scorpion: Jailhouse 41 is cinema at its most astounding and an undeniable trash-art masterpiece.

The Image DVD - which unfortunately is currently out of print, but can still be found and is well worth hunting for - presents the film in its 2.35:1 theatrical aspect ratio. Ignoring some minor scratches and speckling, the film looks very good, highlighting the movie’s beautiful and rich cinematography. The original mono Japanese soundtrack is the only audio option, but it sounds reasonably good, and the English subtitles, though a little soft as they are burnt onto the film, are easy to read. The only extras are the film’s theatrical trailer and liner notes written by Chris D. - author of the excellent Outlaw Masters of Japanese Film. Despite the dearth of extras however, this unmissable movie makes the DVD an extremely attractive, must-find purchase.

Originally published at

Recommended and related products:

Scorpion: Female Prisoner # 701
Scorpion: Female Prisoner # 701 - Grudge Song
Scorpion: Female Prisoner # 701 - Beast Stable
Lady Snowblood (collector's boxed set)
Stray Cat Rock: Sex Hunter

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