Satan’s Blade (L. Scott Castillo Jr., 1984) – This rambling attempt to capitalize upon the early 80s slasher boom couldn’t be more of a mess. The plot involves a bank robbery which awkwardly leads into some bullshit about an evil mountain man with a magic knife straight from the devil’s asshole killing idiots who rent a cabin for a ski trip. Usually this manner of absurdity is alleviated by naked sluts getting carved the fuck up, and to its credit Satan’s Blade does have plenty of that. Unfortunately, the film is hindered by shoddy execution, boom mics popping in and out of the shot and it’s fucking dull as hell. Hardcore slasher fans will likely want to check it out – just make sure you a have strong drink in hand, you’ll need it.
Five Deadly Venoms (Cheh Chang, 1978) – Classic and influential, this absurd chop socky flick has managed to escape my gaze for years. I was initially disappointed as the first 40 minutes or so are painfully slow, with next to no actual fighting involved. Fortunately, when this film picks up it really improves, and even includes some pretty nasty bits thrown in for good measure. The fight choreography is about as stereotypical of the wuxia genre as you can get, with tons of wire-fu and incredibly fast arm techniques that tend to digress into what looks like slap-fights. It’s utterly ridiculous, but there’s a tightly-woven plot hidden beneath the surface. Worthy of a viewing for fans of martial arts cinema; it’s definitely a milestone in the genre.
Screamers (aka Island of the Fishmen, Something Waits in the Dark) (Sergio Martino, 1979) – A crazed biologist discovers a method to turn humans into aquatic fish monsters on drugs in order to pilfer the treasure of the list city of Atlantis. Although it sounds like a great premise, this marriage of The Island of Dr. Moreau with Humanoids From the Deep fails to hold much interest due to a disturbing lack of sex or violence. The proceedings play out as more of a whimsical island adventure film rather than what it really could have been, and that’s a shame. There are some decent special effects, and the film isn’t boring per se, it just left me wanting so much more. Barbara Bach (Black Belly of the Tarantula, Street Law) fans will likely find plenty to pull one off to – although she’s obviously very modestly dressed in this one. I always expect the best from Sergio Martino (Torso, All the Colors of the Dark) and this just doesn’t live up to those expectations.
The American release includes a new opening shot for US audiences featuring Cameron Mitchell (It Came Without Warning, Blood and Black Lace) as a swarthy sea captain leading a group of people though some seaside catacombs; this Something Waits in the Dark cut has way more gore and an almost Lovecraft-esque feel to it, but replaces about 30 minutes of footage from the original film. As a further kick in the nuts, on second release (under the Screamers moniker now) New World Pictures decided to up the ante by adding a segment with a man being turned inside out to the trailer, but the footage does not appear in any version of the film. Needless to say this went over like a lead balloon, the prints were sent back to New World to have the scene added, and it’s never been heard from since. The Scorpion Releasing Screamers Blu-ray does include the nefarious trailer, however.
The Unliving (aka Tomb of the Werewolf) (Fred Olen Ray, 2004) – The Unliving being the only film featuring the Waldemar Daninsky character that wasn’t written by Paul Naschy (Return of the Walpurgis, Hunchback of the Morgue) is heresy enough but Fred Olen Ray (Hollywood Chainsaw Hookers, The Alien Dead) in the director’s chair? I shouldn’t even need to explain how horrible this is – I was embarrassed even watching this drivel. Naschy is great as always even despite his obvious physical limitations at this point, it’s just that the whole production is a complete joke. It’s chock full of the cheapest CGI and effects possible, the plot is pretty much nonexistent and it’s crammed full of overly long softcore porn scenes that make the entire affair tedious and insulting. How this ever got made is a fucking mystery to me. I love naked sluts as much as the next person, but in this context it’s just a cheap distraction from the rest of this poor imitation of a film. I’d have had more fun rubbing dog shit in my eyes.
House (aka Hausu) (Nobuhiko Ôbayashi; 1977) – Japan’s answer to Jaws is all the proof I need to declare the whole country completely insane. This fucked up fever dream about a group of school girls vacationing in a house that tries to eat them one by one was apparently inspired by some ideas from Ôbayashi’s pre-teen daughter and includes bodily dismemberment, demonic possession, panty sniffing, cats puking fountains of blood… the whole thing is somewhat indescribable. The effects were intended to look very unrealistic, and the film has a very distinct style and color palette that suggests there was a lot of talent and thought put into it. Unfortunately too much zaniness and head-scratching moments ensue and I found myself giving up on it fairly early on. Honestly I don’t see what all the fuss is about, but it’s garnered quite a cult following the world over. I’m hesitant to suggest it’s in any way a bad film, it likely just isn’t my cup of tea.
Angel Guts – High School Co-ed (aka Jokôsei: tenshi no harawata) (Chûsei Sone; 1978) – More fucked up cinema from Japan, this one being the first in a series of nine pink films mostly produced by the Nikkastu Corporation and based on the manga series of the same name. The plot involves a small motorcycle gang that spends their days raping and brutalizing young girls. When one of the gang members tries to protect his younger sister from discovering how awesome they are at the raping, this causes the group to split and then she gets raped herself. Then more raping happens and sometimes fighting but a lot of raping. Have I mentioned this film has an overabundance of rape? Despite whatever one’s views on Japan’s strange proclivity toward misogyny and forced sex, Angel Guts – High School Co-ed is entertaining in its own right. The action scenes are great and the dynamic between the members of the gang is both compelling and at times poignant. The film doesn’t try and justify the actions of these brutes nor does it condemn them – this is merely an unblinking eye on the proceedings, where the audience is left to form its own conclusions. A worthy watch for those of stronger fortitude.
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