Influential Japanese cult director Sogo Ishii's Burst City is supercharged cinema anarchism at its most visually hyperkinetic and explosively chaotic. Rapid-fire editing, frenetic camerawork, blistering punk rock music, with the aesthetic fuck-you attitude to match - Burst City is the art of rebellion, a torch to tradition as a means of setting fire to the imagination and blazing new filmic pursuits.
Set in the future, with Tokyo in an utter state of dystopia, a nuclear power plant, under construction, serves as the catalyst for an escalation of protests led by a pair of dueling punk bands and their violence-prone devotees. When yakuza become involved and a gang of angry construction workers, aided by a couple of mutant bikers gussied up in Mad Max metal-wear, retaliate against their employers, riots ensue, with punk rock music leading the cacophonous charge.
Released in 1982 by a then young up-and-coming Sogo Ishii, Burst City was released by Toei studios, and unleashed upon a largely unsuspecting public, leaving its mark on Japanese cinema forever, and ultimately influencing many of today's most cutting-edge Japanese filmmakers - Takashi Miike and Shinya "The Ironman" Tsukamoto among them.
Burst City's episodic narrative is very loose, and to be honest there isn't much to it. Regardless, when viewing the film it becomes abundantly clear that traditional storytelling was not one of Ishii's pursuits with Burst City. Instead we get a complex sensorial experience that is equally hypnotic and overwhelming, magnetic and repelling. Much of the film has a rhythmic visual musicality that shifts and changes tempo rapidly as scenes pass and the film zigs and zags ahead towards its discordant ending. It's an approach that will not appeal to all viewers, but those open to movies that experiment and attempt to expand the medium as an art form, and explore the infinite possibilities of cinema, will find a lot to appreciate with Burst City.
The film's finale is a full-on melee in which a vast multitude engage in frenzied protest. Fueled by the fury of punk music erupting from two stages, its the violent surge the film has been escalating towards and an explosive final chord to a film that is, above all else, a blood-smeared, fist-flying punk rock manifesto.
Discotek's brand new DVD release of Burst City presents this classic film in anamorphic widescreen, and the image quality is exceptional throughout. The disc features the Japanese audio track in Dolby Digital 2.0 with optional English subs. Extras include the theatrical trailer for Burst City, in addition to other Discotek releases, a rare black and white stills gallery, informative text on the history of Burst City and the Japanese punk bands involved, soundtrack lyrics, an insightful insert written by Tom Mes, and a text essay about the See Saw label and rock festival that helped usher in many of Japan's most prominent punk bands (which are also featured in Burst City). While not heavy on the extras, a commentary would have been welcome, Discotek has done a great job bringing Burst City to DVD, allowing those anxious to see this rare film the opportunity to do so with a really great-looking release.
Director Massimo Dallamano's poliziotteschi, Colt 38 Special Squad, begins with a bullet-blazing gun battle between the police and a band of bad guys armed with high-powered artillery and big, bristly mustaches. Shortly after the shootout, police captain Vanni (Marcel Bozzuffi) receives an ominous phone call threatening his family. Rushing home, Vanni discovers that his wife has been brutally gunned down, right in front of their son, by a baddie operating under the mellifluous monicker, Marseillaise (Ivan Rassimov).
After his wife's funeral Vanni is ready to turn in his bullet-beaten badge, but when he receives the okay to form a covert squad of cops armed with Colt 38s, not to mention a couple of non-regulation mustaches of their own, Vanni's short bereavement comes to a sudden end when he responds with, "Now we're getting somewhere." (Oh poor Vanni, if only your wife had been murdered by that mean old Marseillaise sooner.) Now bearing 38s, some kickass motorcycles, and a license to shoot bad guys in the kneecaps, Vanni and his rogue police force are all set to rid the city of its recent crime wave, and give that old Marseillaise (now mustache-less) what for!
Director Massimo Dallamano, who directed the classic gialli What Have They Done To Solange?, and What Have They Done to Your Daughters? was a very fine director and an excellent cinematographer, working in this capacity on Leone's classic Westerns A Fistul of Dollars and For a Few Dollars More - both of which are Dallamano's most well-known contributions to cinema. Unfortunately, Dallamano's directorial output was fairly small as he died in an auto accident shortly after making Colt 38 Special Squad. I wish I could say that his final film was a great end to a notable career, but unfortunately it's pulp cinema at its most run-of-the-mill.
Colt 38 Special Squad looks quite nice - interiors oozing with '70s chic, good cinematography etc. - features a fun and funky score by Italian maestro Stelvio Cipriani, has some great chase sequences, stunning stunts, nifty action setpieces, more flavor savers than you can shake a Bic with an aloe moisturizing strip at, and even a Grace Jones cameo! But alas, Colt 38 Special Squad is sorely lacking in the area of story and character. Both are beyond simplistic, lacking any depth or color, and neither of these key elements hold up over the film's hour and forty-three minute running time. Dallamano's final feature is also surprisingly bereft of any real conflict beyond its initial setup, and the film is just largely uninvolving, with a few highlights here and there to keep one from completely falling off the couch and into a drool-induced state of slumber. At its best, the movie is moderately entertaining, looks great, and has a truly astounding car chase during its finale, but apart from this, to put it frankly, Colt 38 Special Squad just ain't that special.
You wouldn't know it by looking at NoShame's DVD cover, which only features the title Colt 38 Special Squad, but there is a second disc featuring a long-lost film by director Luciano Ercoli called, La Bidonata. The release of this DVD marks the first time La Bidonata has been released anywhere. Actually, the film never received a theatrical run either because the producer of La Bidonata was kidnapped (somewhat ironically, as the film deals in large part with a kidnapping).
Apart from the fact that both titles represent the final films from their respective directors, it's interesting that NoShame chose to include Ercoli's film with Colt 38 Special Squad, as La Bidonata is a caper comedy rather than your standard crime film. The story centers around a guy named "Shiny Shoes" Renalto and a couple of his buffoon-like buddies trying to pull the "heist of a lifetime." It has some funny bits, and the characters are more memorable than those in Colt 38 Special Squad, but it's a mediocre film that will surely disappoint viewers hoping for a second helping of Italian crime cinema. With his super-fun gialli Death Walks On High Heels and Death Walks at Midnight, Ercoli proved to be a talented director who infused his films with a lot of energy and style, but unfortunately, La Bidonata lacks Ercoli's usual visual flair.
Despite the fact that neither film impressed me very much, NoShame continues to amaze with their dedication to releasing Italian genre films in really spectacular fashion. Their DVDs are always top-notch, and the double-disc release of Colt 38 Special Squad and La Bidonata is no different. The uncut and restored print for Colt 38 Special Squad looks fantastic, and the film is presented in both Italian and English mono with optional English subtitles. The print for La Bidonata, which was derived from the original camera negative, lacks the vibrancy of Colt 38 Special Squad, and though not faring quite as well, is still without any major flaws.
Extras on disc one include the interview "Always the Same 'Ol Seven Notes" in which composer Stelvio Cipriani discusses his career, working with Massimo Dallamano and Grace Jones, and meeting Ray Charles. A second interview, titled "A Tough Guy" has editor Antonio Siciliano recalling the projects he worked with Dallamano on, and what a great director, cinematographer and human being Dallamano was. In addition to these two interviews the first disc also includes the original theatrical trailer for Colt 38 Special Squad. The only major extra on disc two is a short interview with Sergio D'Offizi, the cinematographer who worked on La Bidonata, who discusses his dismay at the film being shelved, and his much happier relationship working with his friend Luciano Ercoli.
After losing her husband and young daughter in a horrific and grisly automobile accident, a young woman named Sarah attempts to climb out of the pit of despair she has been languishing in for over a year, by joining a group of her close female friends on one of their annual adventure-seeking expeditions. Sarah’s friend Juno, the unofficial leader of the sexy sextet, has arranged for the group to go spelunking in a remote cave hidden deep in the Appalachians.
Staying the night in some rented cabins, the group of women set off the following day for their distant destination - which Juno assures them will be both exhilarating and challenging. Unbeknownst to the others, Juno, in an attempt to up the adventure quotient, is leading them into an unmapped and unnamed cave system. Initially, this seems of no major consequence for a group whose motto is, “If there’s no risk, what’s the point?” However, the danger-laden cave will indeed test the mettle of these risk-takers, and moreover, something with a taste for human flesh, alive and lurking in the cave’s dank darkness, might very well claim their lives.
Having already been released throughout Europe to great acclaim, The Descent is a horror film that fully deserves its lauded status, and unquestionably establishes writer/director Neil Marshall as one of horror cinema’s best and most promising new directors. At the screening I attended, the audience collectively, and repeatedly, jumped and gasped throughout the film - especially throughout The Descent’s unnerving last half. Without a doubt, the Descent is an uncompromisingly tense, heart-bursting exercise in horror filmmaking that should also make a big splash on this side of the pond.
In addition to the film’s visceral visual assault, the script (written by Marshall over a two year period and numbering over ten drafts) is a compact but wholly satisfying horror yarn with some decently written characters that pull you into the story and their terrifying plight. At times six characters seems perhaps two too many, yet, overall the script fleshes the main characters out pretty well, giving them story arcs which eventually payoff. It’s also worth mentioning that the story takes its time setting itself up - in fact, the “horror" dimension of The Descent doesn’t bare its blood-soaked fangs until nearly forty minutes into the film. Nevertheless, The Descent is rarely boring or tedious and makes good use of its “slow” build, escalating tension as it creeps its way towards the memorably fright-filled, gore-strewn second half.
All of the actresses turn in some nice, truly physically demanding performances. The film’s protagonist, Sarah, played by Shauna Macdonald, goes through the biggest transformation over the course of the film - at one point recalling a blood-spattered Sissy Spacek in Carrie, and the next, proving to be more of a Ripleyesque badass, a la Sigourney Weaver. The character Juno, played by Natalie Mendoza, is the closest thing to a “human” antagonist in The Descent, as she is both deceptive and self-serving, and has an agenda that is ambiguous at best. Lastly, another standout is Nora-Jane Noone who plays Holly, a headstrong and humorous extreme sportswoman.
The Descent is also a prime example of a horror film that works wonders despite its modest budget. Primarily the movie was shot at Pinewood studios in England using six mock-up caves, miniatures and some matte paintings. If I hadn’t read this, however, I would be none the wiser because the caves certainly look like the real deal. It’s of additional interest to note the way in which director Neil Marshall and his DP Sam McCurdy (who also shot Marshall’s debut, Dog Soldiers) work within the parameters of having a film set in a cave. The Descent is lit to look as though only natural light sources are being used - flashlights, flares, and glow sticks - which really adds to the reality of the cave setting, and accentuates the claustrophobic feel that is prevalent throughout many parts of the movie. One clever addition in this regard, was giving the group a camcorder with a night vision function, which is used to maximum fright effect at one point when Sarah is separated and lost in the cave’s all-encompassing darkness.
Another of The Descent’s exceptional elements are the creatures dwelling in the cave, which the director has dubbed "The Crawlers." They are truly frightening creatures, emerging from the darkness unexpectedly, hanging from the walls and ceilings of the cave, only to viciously pounce and shred their victims into rags of red pulp and naked bone. The makeup effects are fantastic, and go a long way toward proving that traditional effects, if used properly, are often more compelling and eclipse their CGI counterparts. The sound design that accompanies the Crawlers is also sure to breed goose bumps, especially the chilling, high-pitched shriek that the creatures emit prior to attack. In total, a lot of good scary stuff that should have most audience members logging in some substantial ass-on-edge-of-seat time.
One major complaint I have with The Descent however, is its ending. Actually, it’s with the U.S. alternate ending. Two different conclusions were shot for the film, and for some reason Neil Marshall chose to use the alternate ending, not used in the European release, for the film’s release in the United States. Suffice it to say, it’s basically a disappointing, tacked on final shot that is a major misstep in what is an otherwise excellent horror film.
Despite this, The Descent is truly a frightfully exhilarating cinematic experience that I wholly recommend you see in a theater with an audience. And I dare you not to jump.
The Deathless Devil (1973) Tarkan Versus the Vikings (1971)
From the bizarre world of Turkish pop cinema our friends at Mondo Macabro have uncovered, polished up, and released to DVD a couple of real doozies that should leave viewers equally bewildered and delighted.
First, let's start with my favorite film from this demented double feature, the delirious epic that is, Tarkan Versus the Vikings!
Hidden beneath a ridiculous matted mop of a wig, our hero Tarkan, with his two trusty wolves (who are actually just dogs) escorts the fetching Hun princess Yorka to a lightly guarded Hun fort. Shortly after their arrival, Tarkan starts with the crazy talk when he says, with a piercing stare, "Water sleeps, the enemy doesn't," Which begs the question; is something afoot, or is Tarkan's wig merely one size too small? Although the latter might be true, Tarkan's cryptic non sequitur proves prophetic when an army of be-wigged Vikings storm the Hun's fort. Thus begins a battle in which dogs are hurled through the air before latching viciously onto meaty Viking throats or unsuspecting ankles, and, amidst the clashing of weapons, women, children, and even infants meet their fate in a deliriously over-the-top fashion.
Tarkan is wounded during the battle, but is revived by one of his wolves (Kurt) only to discover that his other wolf (Kurt's father) has been brutally killed by those damned Vikings. But which damned Viking? Henceforth Tarkan vows to find the Viking who killed his dog (which will be tough since the Vikings keep reusing the same wigs whenever one of them dies) and avenge his death! Oh, and slightly lower on Tarkan's to-do list, our hero also plans to rescue the kidnapped Hun princess - if it's not too much trouble that is. Of course, over the course of the film trouble comes in many guises, some of those being: deadly snake-pits, a Chinese seductress, a face-eating falcon, a giant rubber octopus, not to mention an orgy wherein sweat and blood flow as abundantly as the tangled tresses of an orange Viking wig.
Tarkan Versus the Vikings is the kind of movie I can attempt to briefly describe, but which you must simply experience for yourself. Although the film does borrow freely from multiple sources (listen for the musical themes from 2001: A Space Odyssey, and Once Upon a Time in the West to pop up in weird places - which would be any frame in the film ) everything is haphazardly tossed into a Turkish blender, resulting in a transcendently harebrained, but singular, concoction. Though at times repetitive, the film is quite action-packed and filled with the kind of whacky violence that is most likely to garner a lot of chuckles. The film's many shortcomings, which are also chuckle inducing, are more often charming than annoying and really add to the overall oddball nature of the film. In short, Tarkan Versus the Vikings is just a lot of fun, and should prove quite enjoyable for fans of trashy Turkish pop cinema.
The second feature, The Deathless Devil, while odd in its own right, is not quite as enjoyable as Tarkan Vs. the Vikings. At the beginning of the movie, the film's protagonist Tekin should be stunned to learn that his father was actually a famed, lame mask-wearing crime fighter named Copperhead, who was killed by his arch nemesis, Dr. Satan. However, never one to let a shocking and silly revelation get him down, Tekin appears rather nonplussed by the news, and quickly dons his father's silly mask, along with the name Copperhead, and picks up where his father left off - doing battle with the evil mustachioed one.
The Deathless Devil features some nifty stunt work, a truly annoying and "clueless" sidekick (who thinks that he's Sherlock Holmes and that he's funny), bad dialogue/acting, horrendous art direction, crappy costumes, a ludicrous story (I'm not even sure the word story really applies here) and a big cheesy robot. All of this might equal fun, and there is a good time to be had, yet I felt The Deathless Devil was lacking in comparison to Tarkan Vs. the Vikings, and simply wasn't quite as entertaining. Nevertheless, it makes a decent double feature, and leaves one hoping that Mondo Macabro will continue to dig up some more of these Turkish delights!
All things considered, Mondo Macabro does an admirable job bringing these two ultra-obscure films to DVD. In addition to the two short Pete Tombs essays that accompany each film, and the Mondo previews trailer, the disc includes a really nice documentary entitled "Turkish Pop Cinema" which highlights films and filmmakers from Turkish cinema's abundantly interesting past. Also, the DVD menu is structured to look like a comic book page, with scenes from both films playing in each panel; a great idea that perfectly captures the essence of these two wild films.
Here is part one of a featurette that will be included in Mondo Macabro's forthcoming Bollywood Horror Collection. The first volume will feature the films Bandh Darwaza (1990), and Purana Mandir (1984) and will be released in September. You can also view part two of the featurette here.
Next, on September 12th Takashi Miike's The Great Yokai War will be released on a double-disc DVD from Tokyo Shock. You can check out the English language trailer at YouTube and the film's official Japanese site is also worth visiting.
Last, Paramount is finally going to release Let's Scare Jessica to Death on DVD, which is great news for the many fans who have been eagerly anticipating this film's DVD debut.
Here's a review of Romero's Land of the Dead that I wrote last year after attending an advance screening.
It was with some minor trepidation that I entered the theater for an advance screening of George A. Romero’s fourth installment to his now classic series of zombie films, and the legendary director’s long awaited and much anticipated return to the big screen. My own anticipation, amplified by my sincerest hope that the film would be good, and of the caliber of Romero’s best work during the prime years of his career, was the main cause for my trepidation. Well, that and the movie’s trailer.
To be honest, after first seeing the trailer for Land of the Dead a few months ago I was rather underwhelmed, feeling that the best parts of the preview were the clips taken from Romero’s previous films and inserted into the trailer rather than the flashes of new footage. Now I’ve seen plenty of good trailers for bad movies and good movies with bad trailers, so I’m usually leery of making any snap judgments based on these rapidly edited collisions of seat-rattling sound and celluloid. Despite the fact that the trailer did little to boost my confidence in the film or assuage my trepidation, I’m genuinely glad to report that shortly after the lights went down in the theater, and the indelible black and white Universal logo of yesteryear flickered across the screen, as odd as it may sound, a great deal of boosting and assuaging began to take place.
Land of the Dead is set in a period defined simply, and somewhat bluntly, as Today. As the title of the film might suggest, the world of today is a grim, gray, desolate place, populated by humans who might be described in similar terms, and overrun by hordes of flesh-munching zombies. The humans are split into a basic hierarchy of the haves and the have-nots. The haves live in a high-rise dubbed Fiddler’s Green, the inside of which is a kind of mall-nirvana (which I’ve dubbed mallvana) overseen by the the dictator-like Kaufman - played by an unusually low-key Dennis Hopper. From inside his plushly furnished penthouse Kaufman plays puppeteer to the population living forty-stories beneath him (the literal and figurative lower-classes) with all manner of vice and distraction - including a kind of zombie blood sport in which one can bet on ravenous zombies as they combat over various fleshy foods whether it be cats, dogs or Asia Argento (as a prostitute named Slack).
Eager to escape this lifeless existence and take his chances by moving north to Canada is the character Riley ( Simon Baker) and his scar-faced comrade-in-arms Charlie (Robert Joy). Riley’s foil is Cholo (John Leguizamo) an enterprising and aspiring social climber who has his lower-class eyes and heart set on an upscale pad inside the Fiddler’s Green high-rise. When his dreams are dashed by Kaufman, Cholo attempts to escape from the societal cage by illegally commandeering a heavily armed and armored zombie combat vehicle humorously called Dead Reckoning. Cholo threatens to turn Dead Reckoning loose on the “living” unless his demands are met. Riley is sent out to track down Cholo and bring back the combat vehicle before Cholo makes good on his threats. Along for the ride are Riley’s sharp shooting chum Charlie, Slack, and some uninvited but heavily armed guests.
And then there are the zombies. While the living are splintering into groups and fighting against each other, their undead enemies are assembling into one large gutchomping legion led by a zombie named Big Daddy( Eugene Clark) . Under his tutelage, the zombies look to be learning a few new tricks, or are remembering a few old ones, and are quickly evolving as they slowly shuffle their tattered forms towards the boundaries of the city and its unsuspecting populace.
I hoped that Land of the Dead would be a good film, but it turns out that Romero has created what is quite honestly a fantastic and exhilarating, blood-drenched piece of horror cinema. It is without a doubt a George Romero movie and it is a real joy to see the great director in such fine form. Universal has given the neglected horror auteur his first modest budget in years and he has done wonders with it, creating the kind of intelligent and entertaining horror film that he is known and admired for by fans and critics alike.
While there are a number of “psychological horror films” and directors who specialize in such, George Romero could be described as a master of the sociological horror film, and for anyone interested, Land of the Dead is teeming with social critique. There are occasions in Land of the Dead when Romero has a tendency to be a little too on the nose, and drives the point home maybe once too often and too hard, but to a great extent the social commentary only enriches the film. Also, for anyone who finds Trotskyist, Marxist ideologies a snooze, fear not, the movie is crawling with enough zombies and blood-spattered action scenes to balance and complement the social commentary.
The film looks great. The cinematography and overall visual feel of the movie is appropriately dark and gloomy and at times remarkably atmospheric. The zombie makeup is wonderful, and it is apparent that Romero and makeup effects supervisor Gregory Nicotero, and costume designer Alex Kavanagh, went to great lengths to make sure each zombie had a distinct look. The special effects are, well, effective and except for a couple of instances the CGI that is used looks pretty good and blends with the rest of the film.
Oh, and the gore. Well I’m glad to say that Romero douses the audience in brimming buckets of it; viscera vomits profusely from bodies and zombies greedily gorge on slimy red intestines and dripping hunks of flesh. At times the bloodletting in Land of the Dead seemed like a gorified union between the comedic carnage of Peter Jackson’s Dead Alive and the face-ripping, tendon-tearing bloodlust of Lucio Fulci’s Zombie.
The script itself has no fat on it, coming in at a very lean 88 minutes. Initially I was slightly concerned that this seemed a little short, but I left the screening feeling that the running time felt just about right. Romero manages to pepper scenes and the story with subtle touches, and throughout most of the film the writing is of a high caliber. That being said, I would have liked a little more character development in a couple of instances and once or twice we lose characters for longer than we should. I also felt that the film would have benefitted from dwelling in the city and its stratified makeup a little bit longer, but Romero does do a good job of giving you an overview of, and overall feel for the city in a remarkably short time.
The dialogue is quite good and is often suitably humorous, and the acting, which sometimes seems a little weak in Romero’s films, is actually pretty damn good as well. The only real quibble I had in this area was that Big Daddy’s inarticulate rage did begin to wear on me after a while. Finally, some viewers may want a little more conclusion to their endings, but I thought the ending for Land of the Dead worked. It’s also apparent that Romero has given himself a road to travel down if (fingers crossed) he should make another zombie film.
Like most people, I like to cheer for the underdog, and with a career that appeared to be lurching away like a rotting zombie towards the sunset, it was my hope that Romero’s return to what originally brought his career to life, zombies, might also be the very thing that could bring the great director’s career back from the dead . With Land of the Dead I believe that it has.
A flame-lashed, smoke-tailed meteorite crashes to earth, setting aflame the rural area, and the mind of an aged, gray-bearded fellow who finds the fiery space rock glowing hotly and beeping quirkily nearby. Perhaps wizened, but by no means unwise, the sagacious elder (beset by a blustery wind and a collapsing hut) transforms the smoldering meteor into a longish, unwieldy-looking sword. However, this is not your average longish, unwieldy-looking sword. No friends, this instrument of death is indeed the one...the only...longish, unwieldy-looking Devil's Sword!
In a local village, a man who looks both sleepy and bored is sacrificed to the infamous Crocodile Queen. (Note: Sacrifice meaning he dives into the water and swims to the Croc Queen's cavernous underground lair, where he is then greeted and fitted for a brightly colored headband. This, apart from that rather distressing headband, may explain the sacrificee's lack of concern.) Amidst a throng of women, the Crocodile Queen, dressed like the lone survivor of a disco ball accident, luxuriates on her toothsomely canopied bed and bids her headbanded harem of men, come hither. Thus ensues the most torrid, garishly-costumed gang-smooching I've ever witnessed (Spring Sing '87 be damned), but one which I simply haven't the stomach to relate.
Back at the village, a wedding ceremony is rudely interrupted by the impromptu arrival of an evil warrior riding a giant floating boulder, laughing maniacally - more a comment on his mode of transportation, I believe, than any evildoing that may transpire. The warrior has been sent by the Crocodile Queen to stop the wedding, so a-stopping he must do. Consequently, a battle quickly ensues between the entire village and the warrior.
The village gets its ass kicked.
Yet, all is not lost, for in the distance a good warrior named Mandala, sitting atop a hill and astride his trusty horse, (in lieu of an airborne boulder I suppose) has looked on patiently while the village below has taken a profoundly thorough shellacking. At last, however, Mandala arrives fashionably late and confronts the evil warrior, first with a stern lecture and then with a discourse comprised of punches, kicks, and an abundance of swordplay. With Mandala having the clear upper hand, the evil warrior summons a group of crocodile men, who burst from the earth and mercilessly attack Mandala. At last, the evil warrior manages to kidnap the groom, delivering him to the Crocodile Queen, who is eager to press her hot, royal lips to some newly acquired man-chest.
When Mandala discovers later that his master is dying from "poison of fire snake"(symptom: profuse bleeding from kneecaps - cure: lopping off legs) and that a band of evil warriors who attacked Mandala's master are trying to get their grubby hands on the legendary Devil's Sword, Mandala's mission grows increasingly difficult, exceedingly dangerous, and yes, even more convoluted.
The Devil's Sword might very well be the brightest jewel in Mondo Macabro's treasure box of decidedly warped Indonesian cinema. The crackpot story and goofy characters are endlessly amusing, the acting, if it can be called that, is deliciously ridiculous, as is the dubbed dialogue. For example lines like, "Hear this: you'll regret this, you polluted bitch hound!" abound in a film that is chock-full of supremely silly scenes and nonsense at its most loonily entertaining.
The fight sequences are The Devil's Sword's "finest" attribute. Curiously choreographed and verging on chaotic, these are martial arts sequences quite unlike any others I've seen. Strange stances, midair combat that looks more like footsies in flight, fountains of arterial spray, limb-lopping weapons, wind-hatching parasols, black magic, and decapitations aplenty, all add up to spawn some insanely zany action set pieces. Add to this a low-budget action sequence "inspired" by the famous opening to Raiders of the Lost Ark (substituting the giant ball of stone for a giant stone cyclops) and you'll be wondering if the pervasive smoke that accompanies many scenes can be attributed solely to a fog machine.
Star Barry Prima has a nice screen presence, made all the more exceptional by the extras that populate the screen and appear to be thinking solely about what they're going to have for lunch. It's also good fun to watch Prima as the long-maned (surely the envy of his trusty steed) hero, throw himself wholeheartedly into the role, do battle with a bunch of crazily costumed foes, and still have time for some sweet, sweet loving with that kiss-crazy Crocodile Queen.
To be sure, this everything and the kitchen sink approach makes The Devil's Sword a hilarious, off-the-wall classic that should have fans of bizarre cinema salting their popcorn with tears of joy.
Mondo Macabro's restoration of the film, using the original negative, is absolutely outstanding, especially considering the obscurity of The Devil's Sword. The film is dubbed in English, horribly, which in the case of The Devil's Sword really adds rather than detracts. Also, as usual, Mondo Macabro has included some excellent extras to accompany the film. They include three text essays, one on the film, another concerning star Barry Prima, and the last details the historical significance of swords - as it turns out, swords fashioned from meteorites are actually historically accurate. The most prominent, and entertaining extra is an interview with the purportedly reclusive Barry Prima. Prima is a difficult and unforthcoming interviewee, to say the very least, but it's interesting to watch, in a rubbernecking sort of way (though I felt bad for the interviewer who makes a valiant effort). However, I'm glad Mondo Macabro chose to include the interview as an extra on what is truly an excellent DVD.
So be sure to grab a copy on July 27th, and bask in some of that potent, muscle-bound "Prima Power"!