Wednesday, January 30, 2019

THE ENCHANTING GHOST (Hong Kong 1970) dir: Chou Hsu-Chiang

Original HK poster (from HKMDB)
I've just watched the Shaw Brothers horror film THE ENCHANTING GHOST from 1970. Today's Netflix audiences would probably moan and feel faint due to the lack of gore, torture, jump scares and special effects - but I loved it.
 
It's a Chinese costume drama about a young male scholar (played by Yang Li-Hua, incidentally a lovely young woman) who loses her home due to her wicked uncle and thus has to move into an abandoned, haunted ruin outside of town. The setting is very much like that of A CHINESE GHOST STORY (1987). 

The young scholar discovers that a young, beautiful woman (Chang Mei-Yao) has already moved into the haunted house with her dying mother. The scenes in and around the house all look to be made on a stage and they're very colourful. I love the fact that you can see it's a stage. I love the colours and the crisp dialogue. I love the Chinese music in the film and the superb acting. Was I scared? No, not at all. But then again what does scare a seasoned horror fan?

Celestial put out the film a decade ago but for some reason they decided to only include it in their video-cd line. However, it was later release on DVD by Zoke Culture over in mainland China. I've got both releases and they look wonderful. However, 88 Films in the UK have recently put out a spiffy blu-ray release of the film (which I haven't got).
HK video-cd (Celestial) Mandarin audio/English & Chinese subs

I tried to look up the film in my HK film books but none of them include the film. This - and the fact that I have never come across any other release in any format - makes me suspect Celestial's VCD is the very first home cinema release of the film. 

Before watching the THE ENCHANTING GHOST and before writing this review I hadn't read one single review of the film. I have absolutely no idea of what other fans or reviewers think about it. But then again, I couldn't care less. I loved the film and I highly recommend it to fans of world-weird cinema/horror and open minded film-goers in general.

Mainland China DVD (Zoke) Mandarin audio/English & Chinese subs

UK DVD & blu-ray (88 Films) Mandarin/English subs

THE ENCHANTING GHOST on HKMDB:


TRAILER:
 



Wednesday, January 23, 2019

STRYKER (Cirio H. Santiago, US/Philippines 1983) blu-ray/Kino Lorber

I'm just about to post about a new(ish) cool blu-ray release of one of Cirio H. Santiago's MAD MAX II clone flicks, and it occurs to me that it's been almost four years since I posted about Santiago's most recent post-apocalypse film, WATER WARS. A film which also, unfortunately, became Santiago's last film before he passed away. He didn't even finish the film shoot and Jim Wynorski had to take over directing the remaining part (go here for my old post).


During the three and a half years between then and now we have been blessed with a good number of blu-ray releases of cool Cirio H. Santiago US/Filipino coproductions filmed in the Philippines. Code Red have put out a handful of these films (cheers, Bill Olsen, you madman!) but the film I'm posting about here is from the good people at Kino Lorber (USA). STRYKER from 1983.

MAD MAX came out in 1979 but it's not really a post-apocalypse film, and it wasn't until 1981 that the genre took off as we know it thanks to MAD MAX II (which the American distributor retitled "The Road Warrior" to hide that it was a sequel to a film released by another label). When the Italians saw how popular MM II became they were quick to jump on the bandwagon and put out their own "MAD MAX" films (plural!) in 1982. And over in the Philippines Cirio H. Santiago thought, "Hey, I can do that!" and so in 1983 he made STRYKER! And just like the Italians made not just one clone but a whole series of MAD MAX clones, Santiago followed STRYKER with no less than six Filipino MAD MAX clones (knock-offs, rip-offs, call 'em what you want); RAIDERS OF THE SUN, DUNE WARRIORS, WHEELS OF FIRE, THE SISTERHOOD, EQUALIZER 2000 and WATER WARS (working title: "Road Raiders").

EDIT: I forgot one of Cirio H. Santiago's post-apocalypse films; He didn't do six other films but seven!! (eight in total). The last one is FUTURE HUNTERS. I urge you to read Andrew Leavold's incisive and info filled review here.


PLOT: We're in the wasteland. A narrator (in an Aussie accent, of course) informs us about the end of the world as we know it. Or rather knew it. It went into the toilet long ago and now the most precious thing is petrol, uh, I mean water!

When the film kicks off a gang of lowlifes are chasing after a young woman in the sand dunes - where she kinda lives (?). They want her ... water! She's then rescued by two good guys which both just happened to drive past. One of the guys is our main character and hero, Stryker, played by Steve Sandor. Sandor was once a bad guy in the cool exploitation flick BONNIE'S KIDS (1972) and he was also in heaps of psychotronic stuff on TV. Very odd to think of when you watch STRYKER; The thing is Sandor has the charisma and facial expressions of a tree log.

I'm not going to bother going into more detail of the plot line. Santiago wrote it on the back of a half burnt matchbox and I've already said more than what was on said box of matches. There are some bad guys, some good guys, there are some sexy amazons (their leader was a playboy centrefold), they drive around, they fight, they take revenge, and they all wear Mad Max style clothes. And  Stryker is a loner. If you're familiar with Filipino cinema it won't surprise you when you see scenes of 20-25 dwarfs popping up out of the dunes to attack people. Those dwarfs were in so many films I've lost count. According to Andrew Leavold a lot of them worked at the same "dwarf restaurant" between making films. I'm not kidding you!

The film is probably made on the same budget that MAD MAX II spent on catering. On one day's worth of catering mind you. But kudos to Cirio and his inventive crew who made the cars, motorbikes, and other futuristic vehicles look so bloody cool.

I quite like STRYKER. It's a fun film. Some of the dialogue is slow and there's a couple of romantic scenes that are so schmaltzy you feel like you're gonna lose your lunch. Hahaha. 

If there's one thing I wish they had done differently it's to find another actor for the lead part. I dare you to find another actor in the film that has as few facial expressions as Steve Sandor. Even the Playboy centrefold has more!


THE BLU-RAY
If I wanted to watch the film before I got this new spiffy blu-ray release from Kino Lorber I had to dig out my old VHS tape from Greece. Worn, fullscreen and big Greek subtitles that cover a third of the screen. This new blu-ray (from 2017) is certainly a most welcome release (they also put out a dvd release). Unfortunately, in contradiction to say Code Red, Kino Lorber didn't bother to mention what source was used for the blu-ray. Was it a film negative, a 35mm print, a betamaster, or what? But in any case the print looks good. Slightly worn and the colours are kind of faint. But that's alright, it suits the film. There are a handful of trailers (for Santiago's other post-apocalypse films) and a commentary track by Jim Wynorski. The film has optional English subs. That's it!

Go here for a smashing interview Andrew Leavold did with Cirio H. Santiago in 2007.

Thursday, January 10, 2019

Wolves Don't Eat Meat AKA Kuwait Connection (Samir A. Khouri, Egypt 1973)

MONDO MACABRO'S ABANDONED WORLD-WEIRD PEARL
Here's a film you've never heard of. Or have forgotten you heard about. Or maybe you've heard of it but you've never seen if. Well, not unless you 1) watch world-weird cinema - and 2) don't limit your world-weird viewing to films that are being handed to you on a plate from the well-known labels.


In 2008 Mondo Macabro was planning to put out a weird and wild Egyptian film from 1973 that has gory violence and nudity. Pete Tombs of Mondo Macabro described it this way in an interview to "Cinema Strikes Back":

"We've also got this Egyptian exploitation film. Yeah, we've got a couple of Lebanese/Egyptian movies. They're pretty interesting, as if Jess Franco met Jean-Luc Godard, you know, with a lot of (boobs). The guy who made them worked in Italy, with people like Sergio Bergonzelli, so he had that kind of sleazy stuff, but he had a political side, and an intellectual arty side. And he liked filth, and sleaze, and naked girls. So you put that all together and it was the early 70s and you've got a pretty good package. Kuwait Connection, it's called. "Wolves Don't Eat Meat" is the other title."

Unfortunately, MM never released the film. Later Pete said (on Cinehound forum), "I spent a long time talking to the Khouri's about this one, but we couldn't get the materials sorted to our satisfaction. It's not a no, but more of a maybe, if and when."

But the film exists on Arabic dvd (a pretty good English/French friendly release actually) and the film is a world-weird blast. I wish MM or somebody else would put it out on blu-ray so it could finally get the love it deserves.

I realise my post is shit in regard to being a review so I urge you to check out Todd Stadtman's cool and informative review over at Die, Danger, Die, Die, Kill!  
(PS: and check out the 7 year old comments section!)

EN LEJEMORDER SER TILBAGE in cooperation with PSYCHOTRONIC BROADCASTING proudly presents ... SICKMAN



The music in the background is a quite scratched copy of the original vinyl LP of Jan Johansson's "Jazz på svenska".

Saturday, October 13, 2018

The Corpse of Anna Fritz

Spain (2015)
Spanish title: El Cadáver de Anna Fritz
Director: Hèctor Hernández Vicens
Reviewed release: blu-ray, Njuta Films (Sweden) Spanish audio w/subs in DK/S/N/FI (no Eng. subs)


I've got the flu and I'm sick as a dog. But I still managed to watch THE CORPSE OF ANNA FRITZ and what a great little horror flick it turned out to be. A dead (hot and female) movie celeb begins her last journey to the local morgue. Unfortunately for her the morgue assistant and his two friends have the hots for this particular celeb, and while they're messed up on booze and drugs it becomes less apparent to them that she's, well, dead. They reckon she's nude and willing. The night doesn't quite turn out the way they expected in their messed up stupor. 
Unfortunately, I missed the film when it screened at the local horror film festival, "Bloody Weekend", in 2015 but the good people at Njuta Films have put it out on a spiffy blu-ray. Incidentally, the 2015 Bloody Weekend festival screened not one but two dead woman in the morgue flicks; The other one being THE AUTOPSY OF JANE DOE*. If I had to choose between the two I'm afraid AUTOPSY comes up tops, however, as I said CORPSE is still a highly enjoyable ride. Recommended.

*Edit: it may have been the flu talking! The Autopsy of Jane Doe was screened at the 2017 festival, not in 2015. 


Thursday, September 20, 2018

The Last Hunter

Italy/Philippines (1980)
Italian title: L'Ultimo Cacciatore
Director: Antonio Margheriti (as Anthony M. Dawson)
Reviewed release: Code Red blu-ray (2016)
Cast: David Warbeck, Tisa Farrow, Tony King, John Steiner, Bobby Rhodes, Margi Eveline Newton, Massimo Vanni, Alan Collins, Dino Conti, Gianfranco Moroni, Edourado Margheriti, Jim Gaines, Ron/Romano Kristoff


Antonio Margheriti's THE LAST HUNTER is without a doubt one of my favourite Vietnam War flicks from the Philippines. Well, from any country actually. I rewatched the film recently on the cool reg. 1 DVD from Dark Sky that I bought a couple of years back. The presentation was as awesome as I remembered it. Cool picture quality, anamorphic letterbox and cool extras. Well, I've just got hold of Code Red's blu-ray (that came out in 2016) and it basically blows the DVD out of the water! The picture quality is that good!

THE PLOT. David Warbeck's character is an ex-draft card burner who's now fighting the Viet Cong in the Vietnam War. He gets assigned to go deep into territory behind enemy lines to blow up a radio transmitter. To help him on the journey he hooks up with a group of badass tough guys, Tony King, Bobby Rhodes, Edourado Margheriti (Antonio's son)  - and a female reporter that they're assigned to escort thru the jungle. She's played by Tisa Farrow. And yeah she's Mia Farrow's lesser known sister. She was also in a few other legendary Italian genre films among others ZOMBIE FLESH EATERS (Zombi 2) and BLAZING MAGNUM (Una magnum special per Tony Saitta). According to Wiki THE LAST HUNTER was her last film. She's dubbed in the film for some reason.

Anhoo, the road thru the Viet Cong jungle is paved with death and gore (old-skool practical effects fortunately!). At some point they make it to an American division located in a cave in a mountain. The commander is John Steiner who is always great fun to watch in Italian genre films (the blu-ray has a new interview with him and Tony King). At some point the cave is attacked by the evil VC but Warbeck's character makes an escape. He thinks his friends are all dead but, well, that would be a spoiler if I told you. Enough plot details. THE LAST HUNTER is full of shootings, violence, gore, and action.

Margheriti made two Vietnam War movies that star Warbeck (he made more than two Vietnam War flicks but, alas, the rest sans Warbeck). The other one is TIGER JOE which, unfortunately, hasn't been released on neither DVD nor blu-ray (the fully letterboxed Japanese VHS is currently the best release anywhere). THE LAST HUNTER is the better of the two films, though.


I highly recommend the new Code Red blu-ray but if you either stumble over the Dark Sky DVD on the cheap - or you just have money to burn I highly recommend you get hold of the DVD as well as it has a pretty good doc presented by Antonio Margheriti's son Edourado Marghetti. Filipino film regulars Jim Gaines and Ron Kristoff are also in the film but uncredited.

PS: John Steiner is now a real estate agent in California. Check out his website here.


Danish trailer:



Danish ad-mat:

THE LAST HUNTER played in Denmark as "Junglebrigaden".

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Field of Fire

Philippines/USA (1990)
Direted by: Cirio H. Santiago
Cast: DAvid Carradine, Eb Lottimer, Henry Strzalkowski, Jim Moss, Ken Metcalfe, Steve Rogers
Version reviewed: PAL VHS (CIC Video, Denmark), fullscreen, English audio, Danish subs



Two days ago I watched Santiago's BEYOND THE CALL OF DUTY (check my review) and afterwards I checked the film's trailer on YouTube. The trailer's uploader commented that BEYOND uses leftover footage from another Cirio H. Santiago directed movie called FIELD OF FIRE. Later that day I mentioned this on the When the Vietnam War Raged... facebook page and Eric Spudic commented: "FOF is personally my favorite Cirio Santiago film. I've seen it probably 20 times." Woah! I knew I had to try and get hold of the film after this recommendation! ... And then it dawned on me that I had the very same film sitting on one of the shelves at my private grindhouse video cinema ("grindhouse" cos some of those video tapes sure are worn!). And I checked if I'd posted about the film on this blog before and discovered that I posted about having bought the tape ... bloody eight years ago!!!


THE PLOT
Vietnam. A new type of military fighter plane is shot down over enemy lines. One pilot dies, the other gets away but is shot in the leg. At the US military base head honcho David Carradine rounds up his most hardcore badass men and informs them they have to go and get the pilot out as "he's a walking encyclopedia" in regards to the new type of plane. The Viet Cong simply aren't allowed to get him first.

The lead from BEYOND THE CALL OF DUTY, Eb Lottimer, and his right hand from that film, top notch Filipino actor Henry Strzalkowsk, and a bunch of other guys, pack their gear and set off for the jungle once again (without Carradine. David is in the film for about 10 minutes or so even tho it's his mug plastered all over the front cover, and his name - the only actor's name - is written in huge capital letters. He sure was a selling point!). Little do they know that the evil Viet Cong are aware of every step they take as the VC's got a man on the inside of the US camp. From here on and for the remaining duration of the film it's one long and highly entertaining tour de force thru the jungle to find and get the wounded pilot out of there.

Will they succeed? Will they survive? And is David Carradine gonna do any of his "slowmotion kung-fu"? I urge you to track down FIELD OF FIRE and find out!

Lemme say it right off the bat, I fully agree with Eric Spudic! This is one muther of an entertaining flick!! And after BEYOND THE CALL OF DUTY I kinda needed that. I must admit I thought BEYOND was kinda lame (except for the last 20 minutes. See review from two days ago).

I haven't been able to find a DVD or a blu-ray so I reckon there probably aren't any. Boo-hoo! This needs a proper release on a shiny coaster. I highly recommend you find a VHS or a download of this and watch it right away.


For more company and cast info: Check Andrew Leavold's blog
For more detailed review: Check CritCon


Saturday, September 1, 2018

Beyond the Call of Duty

Philippines/USA (1991)
Dir: Cirio H. Santiago
Cast: Jan-Michael Vincent, Eb Lottimer, Jillian McWhirter, Vic Trevino, Henry Strzalkowski, Nick Nicholson, Steve Rogers, Mike Monty, Vic Diaz
Version reviewed: Reg. 1 DVD (New Concorde) fullscreen, English audio, no subs. 
Extras: three trailers


It seems the pile of Cirio H. Santiago films is a treasure trove that just keeps giving. You close your eyes, reach out and grab something. You hope for a beer, a peach or a boob but most of the time what you get is yet another Santiago flick that you haven't seen, hahaha.

THE PLOT
Vietnam 1975. The war is coming to an end. When our film begins the Americans are pulling out. We get about 25 minutes of fighting, shooting, and then some more fighting. Scenes that have absolutely nothing to do with each other. Towards the end of the 25 minutes of people jumping, falling, shooting, etc. I kept thinking this was probably the most disjointed film I'd seen. But then ... the plot actually began! The first 25 minutes were just, kinda, the intro.

An American patrol boat and its crew has just left the shore. They are on their way home when they get a radio call to come back to pick up an ex military guy who happens to be a war hero. At the same time a female journalist is trying to find said war hero but is chased thru the streets by angry Vietnamese men. They're not Viet Cong or anything they're just angry (it's one of those things. It just does not make sense).


She comes across a church and decides to hide in there. Incidentally, a nun is holing up in there with a bunch of American bastards, haha. I'm not being derogatory here, they really are bastards as they're the outcome of American soldiers having had fun with Vietnamese women. And now the nun tries to hide these half-breeds cos the Vietnamese don't take kindly to these kids of half American origin. To cut to the chase; the journalist and the war hero both get on the patrol boat and from then on the film is one lone ride to get thru dangerous Viet Cong controlled waters. Lots of shootings. Lots of ducking. Lots of sailing, and more shootings and ducking. And at some point they get to a heavily guarded bridge. Oh, what to do now?


BEYOND THE CALL OF DUTY is by no means a great film. If Cirio H. Santiago had cut out the first 25 minutes it could have become a decent film. Now it's an okay...ish film. The final 20 minutes are what saves the film but it's still no masterpiece by anybody's standards.

There's quite a few familiar faces throughout the film; Nick Nicholson  is there, he even has a bit of dialogue this time around, and so is Steve Rogers, Mike Monty and Vic Diaz. The latter two are in the movie for 1-2 minutes each. What a waste. Henry Strzalkowski has lots of scenes and dialogue. There's probably some more I didn't recognise.

One of the main characters is played by Jan-Michael Vincent. Unfortunately, he's not too well these days. The hero is played by Eb Lottimer and the female journo by Jillian McWhirter. She has the screen personality of a fruit basket I'm sorry to say. She was in (at least) three Santiago films; this one, DUNE WARRIOR and STRANGEHOLD. Later she was in the truly unpleasant American horror movie THE DENTIST 2 (1998) (I'm not saying that in a bad way. I quite like horror flicks but I hate going to the dentist's and I find the two THE DENTIST movies some of thee most unpleasant horror films out there to sit thru!). She's dropped completely off the radar by now.

I found a trailer for the film on YouTube (unfortunately in the wrong aspect ratio, someone had changed the correct fullscreen picture to 16:9 widescreen, so I'm not gonna bother linking to it here) and the uploader pointed out that many of the scenes in BEYOND THE CALL OF DUTY are from another film (also by Santiago and from the same year) entitled FIELD OF FIRE (1991). I think I might have FIELD on VHS somewhere but I haven't actually watched it. It stars David Carradine and Eb Lottimer (check credits on Andrew Leavold's blog).


The DVD from New Concorde is serviceable - at least it looks slightly better than video. Part of the "American Valor" (sigh) DVD series.

The IMDb states the film is from 1992 but the print clearly says 1991.

PS: sorry about the glare from the window in my house. The DVD picture looks better than the pix in this post. 



 


Thursday, August 16, 2018

Cyberspace graveyard



I complain about a lack of hits on this ol'e blog but I'm no better myself. A minute ago I wanted to check something on Jayson Kennedy's awesome blog, Basement of Ghoulish Decadence, and not only do I discover the blog is now gone ... but that it went into the abyss almost two years ago! And I didn't even notice!! Argh!!!

In fact, every time I check out old blogs on my blog-roll I discover a bunch of them have died. Some of them are gone and a lot of them are floating aimlessly in Cyberspace like old dead Russian Mir space stations. Cyberspace has become a blog graveyard.

The truth of the matter is I hardly check blogs myself these days. I keep thinking I ought to get back into blogging, reading and writing. But then again, I often tend to think, "what's the purpose, nobody's reading this shit anyway - blogs are dead".

It was fun as long as it lasted. To me the world of cool film blogs probably had a 7-8 year lifespan and then went the same way as message boards; Into the fucking abyss. But even if I'm not here all that much I still do write; I'm working on a new issue of my old zine, STAY SICK! but most of you won't care as it's all in Greek (or Dutch or whatever the hell they speak on these shores that I'm squatting on). Anyhoo, I hope Jayson Kennedy is well and doing fantastic in whatever he's doing out there now.

I'll try and update here once in a while just for old times' sake. I'd hate to kill this place or even take it down. Man, En Lejemorder Ser Tilbage has been running since 2007!

You can still read the old posts on Basement of Ghoulish Decadence via Waybackmachine. Here's a direct link to the very last saved date (June 8. 2016).  

Friday, June 29, 2018

Klaus Lemke NIGHT on Tele5


Tele 5 is screening a night of KLAUS LEMKE films on Monday (including MAKING JUDITH which isn't available anywhere else).

Lemke has been making guerrilla style movies outside the ordinary film industry in Germany for the past 50 years. He's 77 years old and still more modern and fresh than any other contemporary German film director. He doesn't make action films, just films about young people that aren't set in their ways (young as old farts bore him). He's completely unknown outside the German speaking area. I'll be having my dvd recorder ready on Monday - that you can bite into your own nose at (see, you even learn Danish 1970s slang gobbling up my prose, dig).