Published Saturday, April 29, 2006 by Brian.
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 Horrorview.com
Recommended and related products:Girl Slaves of Morgana Le FaySatanico PandemoniumA Virgin Among the Living DeadVenus in FursLiving Dead GirlLips of Blood
Labels: dvd, girl slaves of morgana le fay, mondo macabro, review
Published Tuesday, April 18, 2006 by Brian.
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
Labels: discotek, dvd, lupin III: strange psychokinetic strategy, review
Published Wednesday, April 05, 2006 by Brian.
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 Horrorview.com
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
Labels: dvd, female convict scorpion, jailhouse 41, meiko kaji, review, shunya ito