Tuesday, 26 October 2010

Bronx Warriors Pre Screen coverage

In anticipation of our screening of Bronx Warriors on Monday the 1st, November at the Mucky Pup in Islington, we present to you a little write up -

A suspiciously well-groomed man and his leather waistcoat lead a crew of rough diamonds across near-future New York City, battling gangs with outlandish, but strict, dress codes. Meanwhile the authorities decide that a maverick sociopath is their best hope and send him into lawless near-future New York City on a rescue mission. Sound familiar? It should.
1990: The Bronx Warriors (aka 1990: I guerrieri del Bronx) is part of the proud tradition of Italian cheekily-similar-to-a-recent-blockbuster Cinema.

Back in the heady post-Jaws, pre-multiplex, late 70s/ early 80s, anything was possible. Given a low enough budget and a quick, thrifty, plagiarism-schmlagarism, approach to film-making, knocking out a film with a similar title and theme to a recent box-office smash could turn a profit. The Italians seemed particularly adept at this: Producing spurious classics such as the bogus space opera Starcrash, the Conan-a-like Gor and the Escape From New York/ The Warriors mash-up we are discussing today. Whilst primarily designed to sneak a bit of reflected publicity and dupe the occasional sucker into the wrong cinema, these pictures are more than just flim-flam. While the cinema-goer may not be watching the film he thought he was, he still expects a solid 90 minutes of entertainment. Here is where The Bronx Warriors delivers.

A well-to-do heiress runs away from her responsibilities, as the future head of an evil arms corporation, into the dark concrete jungle that is the Bronx. Now abandoned by the law and one big turf-war. Her life of privilege has left her unequipped to cope with the rigours of living in the Bronx. Luckily she wins the heart of Trash, the leader of some rough-and-tumble yet noble bikers who enjoy gang-fights and decorating their vehicles with Halloween tat, and they take on the world together. Evil Inc. cannot understand why she'd chose the free wheelin' life of an outlaw over selling arms. They send in Hammer, a particularly evil man, who, while chewing on hyper-macho tough guy dialogue, sneaks around trying to escalate the simmering tensions between the gangs into all out all-out warfare. And then it really kicks off... cue battling street-thugs, shaky alliances, betrayal, love, loss, "You fuck! It could be a pile of shit from someone's asshole!", "Shut up, fag-face" are among just some of the beautifully crude exchanges. All the while, set to a futuristic score by Walter Rizatti which mixes the usual 80s action synth score with panpipes, church organ and a choir to great effect.

The film is made up primarily of unknowns and peppered with a couple of more familiar faces. Our hero, Trash is played by Mark Watson, a man director Enzo G. Castellari spotted working out at his local gym. With the well muscled, smooth body of a Tekken character bearing the grumpy head of an teenage metal head, Mark Watson was an unusual choice to play the leader of a bunch of grizzled future-bikers (many played by genuine motorcycle gang members) and his incongruous presence adds to the fun. Brawny veteran bad-ass Fred Williamson delivers his role as Ogre, the self proclaimed King Of The Bronx (NOT the Duke Of New York, totally different), with gusto and sports the most awesome moustache in a career full of awesome moustache-having. Vic Morrow, in his last role before being tragically killed on the set of The Twilight Zone movie, takes a similarly lusty approach to the cruel, murderous, law man Hammer.

Fans of spotting the cracks in movies will have a ball with this one: including such delights as an unexplained drummer, drumming away, during a meet between rival factions, a spectacularly non-threatening tap-dance gang, and clearly visible traffic in a supposedly abandoned wasteland. Some may jeer at this film's flaws. but I ask them this: Name me a film, where when one half of a shaky alliance turned to another and said "I've got a surprise planned for you", right at the point when a betrayal would make total dramatic sense, have you been genuinely surprised by the outcome? This unashamedly exploitative movie surprised me, skip-back-a-chapter-on-the-DVD-because-I-couldn't-believe-what-I-saw surprised me.

Wilfully unoriginal, but a blast to watch, 1990: The Bronx Warriors is, to quote eccentric-cinema.com, "The fake real thing."

Buy Bronx Warriors from Shameless Screen Entertainment here
Many thanks to Shameless for allowing us to screen Bronx Warriors.

Top Six Results!!!

So faced with a staggering list of lists a mate and I sat down with some ale and wine and sifted through it all.
In total, there were 87 films suggested. A few from left field and a few sure things never mentioned, and then films like The Omen only getting one mention. One of my personal favourite evil child films, next to the Children.
All seven of the Top Six films span less than a ten year period from '73 - '82, six of them are American productions, two of then have the same director, and one of them is a favourite of mine.

Tied at sixth place with 5 votes each -
1973's The Exorcist

1980's The Shining

Squeaking ahead with 7 votes for fifth place -
The gargantuan the beast that broke free in '74 - The Texas Chainsaw Massacre

In forth with a fairly solid early lead with 8 votes, none other than a Cigarette Burns favourite -
Dario Argento's eye melting 1977 production: Suspiria

Our third is definitely seasonally appropriate , with 9 votes, this bomb was dropped in '78 by John Carpenter - Halloween

In second place, and a bit of a surprise to me, is George A. Romero's '78 sequel to Night of... Dawn of the Dead

An cementing, certainly his place on this list, if not in Cigarette Burns Cinema's heart forever... John "Make Them Squirm" Carpenter comes in at number one, with FIFTEEN fucking votes!!! A clear lead if there ever was one with none other than his masterpiece Cigarette Burns!!!

No, I'm kidding, but I had to didn't I?
Seriously though... John Carpenter's The Thing came in at number one with 15 solid votes-

It raged strong from the beginning, I know you could debate that it's more Sci Fi, and please do, but out of 87 films and 40 some odd horror fans, The Thing is clearly an unstoppable classic.

There you have it, definitive? No, fun? Yes.
Thanks to everyone who sent in their votes, it's greatly appreciated.
I'll do a follow up post with everyone's lists including the remaining 80 films.

Monday, 25 October 2010

Top Six intro

So the Guardian decided to do a series of top 25 films across a series of different genres. Fantastic and brave undertaking, indeed one which they must be applauded for. People griped on the twitterwebs about the Crime 25, angrily decried omissions in the SciFi 25 and couldn't be bothered with the Drama 25 (well I couldn't at least).
But then they weighed in heavy on the Horror genre, wide ranging, comprenesive and with some nice surprises.
Now my twitter feed went mental.
Debates sprung up, fur flied and I thought, "Alright then, what is the Top 25 then?"
I asked twitter to submit their Top Six.
Six? I figured that would be enough to cover each sub-genre, country, era, obscure and common and still have that one extra for a Wildcard, say you can't pick your favourite Craven? Have two!
Generous me.

I'll start with the write ups.

Justin of FilmBar 70 weighs in with the following -

Frankenstein must be Destroyed (1969)

Director: Terence Fisher


This tragedy of Jacobean proportions finds the Barons at his most ruthless and manipulative. No one gets out alive!

Frightmare (1974)

Director: Pete Walker


Britain has never been bleaker in Pete Walker’s gentile repose to ‘The Texas Chainsaw Massacre’.

The Brood (1979)

Director: David Cronenberg


Blood runs thicker than water in Cronenberg’s meditation on family values.

The Seventh Victim (1943)

Director: Mark Robson


The ultimate in urban Satanist chic, Lewton’s pessimistic thriller packs an astoundingly nihilistic punch.

The Beyond (1981)


Director: Lucio Fulci

Anti-logic ago-go in Fulci’s expert foray into spatial and temporal disorientation.

The Birds (1963)

Director: Alfred Hitchcock


Siege horror at its starkest, as Hitch brutally tortures his cast in the possibly the finest final half hour of cinema – ever!

Noel from Filmrant and various other ventures hits us with these hammers -

Carrie (1976)

As much a story about the evil of religion as it is the danger of a woman scorned, Carrie is for me one of the most powerful horror movies ever made. For the most part, we're forced to stand by and watch as young Carrie White is hammered into the ground by almost everyone in her life. Even when the vaguest sliver of happiness looks unusually close to providing this downtrodden teen with just one perfect moment, it all disappears in the cruelest possible way. Despite the fact that, in a strange way, we as the audience are made to feel implicit in Carrie's ultimate humiliation, there's an indescribable joy we're left with when she wreaks her terrifying revenge.

Halloween (1978)

While it may already be widely accepted that John Carpenter's Halloween played an integral role in, not just the slasher film, but horror cinema as a whole, the style and grace with which it did so should never be underestimated. In 1978, we were were introduced to a psychosexual killer that would spawn a million imitators. But, to this day, not one movie has emerged from the same sub-genre that carries the same level of suspense, terror and innovation as the story of the night Michael Myers came home.

Shaun Of The Dead (2004)

The perfect balance of horror and comedy can be difficult to achieve. When a director gets it right, we get An American Werewolf In London, get it wrong and... well, do I need to remind you of Lesbian Vampire Killers? In Shaun of the Dead, Edgar Wright and Simon Pegg achieve this delicate blend almost effortlessly, while imbuing the film with a love and knowledge of zombie cinema that seeps from every infected wound. From the bottom of my heart, I believe this to be the perfect film. Not just the perfect horror film, but the perfect film - and I could give you a million reasons why. Glorious.

Last House On The Left (1972)

Some would argue Last House on the Left is nothing but a cruel and dirty tale of barbaric misogyny and brutal, mindless revenge. I would argue that if you put that on a poster, you've got a hit on your hands. While the film opted for the now legendary 'To avoid fainting keep repeating, its only a movie...' tagline, I would also suggest there is more to this statement than just a convenient marketing jingle. Last House on the Left was one of the first films to use true documentary-style filmmaking to put audiences right at the centre of a real, tangible nightmare. It may be sinister, it may be mean-spirited, but it is also incredibly powerful stuff.

Nightmare On Elm Street (1984)

You could say there are many films that defined the 1980s when it came to horror. In fact, the VHS boom of the decade also meant you'd also have plenty to choose from. But in 1984, Wes Craven changed the landscape of the genre, just like he did 12 years earlier - and would again 12 years later. In this instance though, he'd also manage to create a modern day boogey man that would, in time, stand shoulder to shoulder with giants like Dracula and Frankenstein. Yes, there's no question that Freddy Krueger would later become little more than a fridge magnet, but in his first outing the Springwood Slasher was the stuff of true nightmares.

Suspiria (1977)

Every now and then a film comes along that rocks you to your absolute core. Suspiria has probably been doing this for people the world over for 30-odd years now, but for me, it was just a few months ago when I was finally welcomed into its dark, surreal club. From the first few moments of this film, I was absolutely captivated. Suspiria is as beautiful as anything I've ever seen on screen and boasts easily the most haunting and memorable score I've ever had the pleasure to hear. Often people will compare cinema to high art, often they'll be doing so to sound smart or culturally aware. I don't care what you think, this film belongs on a pedestal, or in a gallery... or on my telly... right now.

A fellow Cigarette Burner and host of our nights at the Mucky Pup, Will levels his sights at -

The Shining -
Jack Nicholson at the top of his game, Kubrick pushing Shelly Duvall beyond her physical limits so we get a genuinely distressed damsel, It pissed off Stephen King. Lovely stuff.
A Nightmare On Elm Street 3: the Dream Warriors -
To my mind the finest of the 80s slasher franchise cashcows. Freddy: I love that undead nonce.
The Descent -
proper, no-frills, buuiiiiiild uuuuup teeeeeeeeeeeeennnnssiiiiiiiioooooooooon: SCARYFACE! entertainment.
The Thing -
The cold, the isolation, Rob Bottin's grotesque art. Hope there's a cinema screening of this near me sometime soon.
Braindead -
(file under zombie or comedy horror, my favourite from both subgenres)
Ghostwatch -
Not strictly a film I know, but it's 90 minutes of audiovisual drama that really gets under my skin and creeps me out
If that's too much of a cheat bung in Carrie.

The venerable Glyn Jones from the great Fantastic Voyages blog, waded in with the following blows to the gut -

PSYCHO (1960)
hardly going against The Guardian's choice here, but for being pivotal, innovative and still very scary

for ghost story/chilling horror

for cult British Horror/folk horror

DEEP RED (1975)
for Italian horror/slasher/giallo

for American 70's new wave/zombie horror

THE THING (1982)
for 80's horror/full-on gore

This only leaves myself...
I'll be honest, I feel like a bit of a cheat here. I am privy to people's various votes and so could sway things but adding my choices. With that in mind, I will stand back at the minute and leave you with the above choices....

Sunday, 10 October 2010

Friday, 1 October 2010

Yes, Weng Weng, it is that time...

"The forces of good are our sworn enemy, and I repeat, they must be exterminated, and I mean lethally!"

The early 80s were, without a doubt, a difficult time for the Philippines. But they were still years away from the People Power Revolution that would rid them of the human rights abusing, corrupt, shoe-hoarding regime of the Marcos’. Hard time often inspire great works of art. Luckily for us however, they can also inspire kung-fu-dwarf-spy films.
1981's For Y'Ur Height Only tells the story of the diminutive Agent 00 and his struggle to stop the ominously named, Dr. Giant from using the "N-bomb" (a highly technical doomsday device, not the most unimaginative of racial slurs) to hold the world to ransom. Employed by the Filipino government, Agent 00 is forever using his height, or rather lack thereof, to his advantage. Lying in wait, hiding in boxes, sneaking around where the less vertically challenged man could not, and repeatedly kung fu kicking crouching bad guys in the bollocks, Weng Weng is not one to be overlooked. Navigating his way round Manila's underworld, which consists of about two dozen mostachio'd guys who hand around smoking and hubristically referring to themselves as "The Forces of Evil”, he is aided by a series of tall, similarly lethal female agents, who of course fall for 00's cheeky chappy charms. Learning of Dr Giant’s evil scheme, he equips himself a jet-pack and flies off to the villain’s lair to save the planet.

This is a fairly standard Some-twat-gets-his-hands-on-a-world-destroying-weapon-secret-agent-gets-some-gadgets-and-stops-said-twat stuff, that we've all seen a hundred times, boiled down to its essentials leaving more screen time for a cheeky little bugger in a white disco suit to kick guys in the balls.

What makes this film special is its leading man. Our hero is played by the very charismatic and very short Weng Weng. Standing at a mere 2 foot 9 inches, Weng holds the world record for the shortest man to have the lead role in a film to this day. The one inch shorter Mini Me presumably begrudges the fact that he has never had a leading role, and the moody faced one from In Bruges is taller. Weng, real name Ernesto De La Cruz (Weng Weng being a nickname for a small yappy dogs), was born no bigger than a coca cola bottle. He lived a full and rich life, marrying a porn star and joining Imelda Marcos as her preferred duet partner in karaoke, before following fellow countryman, Herve Villaces', wee footstep and persuing a career in the movies. Teaming up with esteemed producer of crap, Dick Randall (a man partly responsible for the shockingly insensitive "Clones Of Bruce Lee" A film about cloning martial artists from the diseased actor's brain matter, released only 4 years after his death), and actor turned director Eddie Nichart they put together this film to showcase Weng's unique talents.

With a budget roughly the size of the leading man, the first hour was seemingly filmed on one block in Manila. The bulk of the action takes place in a spectacularly ugly multi story hotel, a disco that plays the first few bars of Boogie Wonderland on a loop, a couple cafes and a few warehouses. Dr Giant makes several references to his deadly shark tank, which, sadly is never shown. The English dubbing for all the characters is done by just two actors, reputedly a drug-addled American ex-pat husband and wife team. The large roster of male characters are kept distinct by giving them each a very broad, wholly inappropriate and often surreal accent; ranging from Speedy Gonzales to effete Englishman. All this merely adds to the film’s shambolic charm.
There is so much to enjoy in this film: the bizarrely slow-paced Q scene where Weng is kitted with a series of ever more rubbishy looking gadgets, a gang of bad guys terrified by a flying hat, Weng catapulting himself across an obviously over-polished floor being the mere tip of the iceberg.
Initially screened as part of the very first Manila Film Festival, an event designed to show off Filipino culture and cinema to the world. Sadly, only one film managed to be picked up by distributors… None other than For Y’Ur Height Only!

You're such a little guy though, very petite, like a potato.

And it’s easy to see why, the film can either be read as satire, ridiculing the 70s womanising, hard-as-nails, superspy action hero by making him tiny, or as a hastily put together film by some bloke with a martial arts knowing dwarf mate who'd seen You Only Live Twice once on a bootleg beta-max and vaguely remembered it. If no one else is, Weng Weng is very much in on the joke, winking and capering his way through his performance. Despite its change-down-the-back-of-the-sofa budget, insane dubbing, Tesco-Value James Bond plot and ripped off score, For Y’Ur Height Only is one of the most enjoyable cinematic experiences I've had the honour of watching. Causing even my low-budget-exploitation-film weary self laugh with pure joy.

Of course you can see this on Monday, 4th October at half 7 with a pint and some mates down at the Mucky Pup with us...
Or dig up the Region 1 DVD available through Mondo Macabro.