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Old 03-24-11, 10:02 PM   #28
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Re: LIST THREAD 2nd Annual Drive-In/Exploitation/B-Movie Challenge March 31-April 30

04-03-2011: Added titles 1-6
04-09-2011: Added titles 7-13, added reviews
04-11-2011: Added titles 14-17, added reviews
04-17-2011: Added titles 18-26
04-24-2011: Added titles 27-37
04-25-2011: Added reviews
05-01-2011: Added titles 38-47, added reviews
05-03-2011: Added reviews
05-04-2011: Added reviews
05-06-2011: Forgot to add one title (42. The Pom Pom Girls)!

LAST YEAR: 53 films

All films are DVD format unless otherwise noted.
Bold = first-time viewing
* = wildcard selection
  1. Ghost Warrior (1986) - VHS. In 16th century Japan, a samurai named Yoshimitsu (Hiroshi Fujioka) is mortally wounded and falls into a freezing lake after failing to rescue his wife from kidnappers. Four hundred years later, Yoshimitsu's frozen corpse is found by hikers and is revived by a medical research company in California. This raises many questions, the biggest one being, "Why?" I can see how there would be some merit to reviving a thawed caveman, but there's no scientific or financial benefit to reviving a samurai. Physiologically speaking, there's little difference between 16th century humans and those of the 20th. They may as well have found some Japanese actor, claimed that he was 400 years old and saved themselves however many millions of dollars it costs in order to bring the long, long departed back to life. Anyway, the usual "man-out-of-time" antics are compounded with culture clash once Yoshimitsu escapes from the research facility and reaches Los Angeles. When he runs afoul of a street gang, it's a race between his handler (Janet Julian) and the police to find him.
    Ghost Warrior is fairly amusing if you can put aside the faulty logic upon which the film is built. Despite the presence of Albert and Charles Band in the credits, there's nary a mutant or monster to be seen in the story. The real star of the movie is perhaps Richard Band's score, performed by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and conducted by Shirley Walker. Robert Kino (Night of the Creeps) plays a Japanese antiques expert.
  2. Timerider: The Adventure of Lyle Swann (1982) - Fred Ward plays Lyle Swann, a motocross rally racer with a superbike that's been tricked out by his Silicon Valley friends. He strays off-course and inadvertently enters the test site of a company's time travel experiment. Swann travels back to the 19th century, where he encounters Claire Cygne (Belinda Bauer), a tough-yet-tender frontier woman. Cygne and Swann's "machine" are stolen by a pack of outlaws (led by Peter Coyote, with Tracy Walter and Richard Masur), and Swann teams up with the local lawmen and a con man (Ed Lauter) to get both of them back.
    Director William Dear may spend a little too much of the film's initial runtime on motocross footage, but things markedly improve once Fred Ward's character makes the jump back in time. Straightforward performances by all principles are what really sell the fantastic premise. Ward's performance as Lyle Swann borders on deadpan comedy. Up until the film's quasi-Oedipal ending, Swann shows absolutely no awareness to the fact that he's traveled back to the days of the Wild West. It either makes him the densest movie protagonist or the most normal movie protagonist of film history.
  3. G.I. Samurai (A.K.A., "Time Slip") (1979) - Sonny Chiba plays Iba, an officer in Japan's Self Defense Force. Iba and other participants of a joint military exercise find themselves inexplicably transported back to the country's Sengoku (or "warring states") period. He forms an alliance with a warlord and convinces the other soldiers that altering the course of history is their best chance at returning to their own time. Can eleven soldiers armed with modern weapons take on an army of hundreds? The film has perhaps the most lyrical depiction of time travel that I have ever seen. Tonally, it erratically shifts from being somber anti-war allegory to bro-mantic fantasy. The epic battle sequences and scenes of wartime brutality are all mitigated by a single shot of Chiba's character and his warlord buddy doing tandem headstands on the beach.
  4. Sonny Chiba's Dragon Princess (1976) - Despite Sonny Chiba's prominence in the title, he only appears for about twenty minutes in the film. Chiba plays a karate master who is forced to leave Japan after being ambushed by his rival and his rival's cronies. In his years of exile, Chiba trains his daughter Yumi (Etsuko "Sue" Shihomi) to exact revenge on his enemies. Once in Japan, Yumi teams up with a mysterious man (Yasuaki Kurata) to take on her father's rival. It's a pretty boilerplate martial arts movie plot (and perhaps owes some credit to Lady Snowblood), but I prefer this film to Shihomi's better-known "Sister Street Fighter" movies. Shihomi has never looked better than she does in this film.
  5. Karate Warriors (1976) - Sonny Chiba plays Chico, a stranger who comes to a town overrun by two rival gangs led by feuding brothers. The gangs are fighting over a cache of heroin which their late boss hid without revealing its location before dying. If you've seen either Yojimbo or A Fistful of Dollars, then you pretty much know how this scenario is going to play out. Chiba picks up a kid sidekick in this fourth installment of the "Street Fighter" film series with disastrous results. While it's fun to see Chiba throw him around like a ragdoll, the child actor is abysmal (the dubbing probably doesn't do him any favors, though). Take him out of the picture, and you've got a fairly decent martial arts film with some remarkably contemporary camera effects.
  6. The Street Fighter (1974) - The film that introduced Sonny Chiba to an unsuspecting world and made American film history by being the first movie to receive an "X" rating for violence. The simulated X-ray cutaway shot is a classic.
  7. Duel of Karate (1971?) - The wife of a martial arts master gives birth to fraternal twin brothers. They are both getting tattoos when the master of a rival school and his four Japanese teachers show up looking for a rematch. A fight breaks out, the twins' parents are murdered, and the brothers are separated. They meet again years later. However, they fight on opposite sides, and neither knows who the other truly is.
    I've seen some cheap Taiwanese martial arts movies, but this one truly achieves the rank of black belt in cheesiness. Fights often appear as though the actors are brushing their enemies aside or pushing their way through a crowd of disinterested extras. Words cannot adequately express how awful the wire work is in this film, so I'll just let this montage that I found on Youtube do the talkiing:

  8. Drunken Tai Chi (1984) - VHS. Donnie Yen makes his film debut in this martial arts comedy directed by Yuen Woo-Ping. Yen plays the spoiled rich son of a salt merchant. His father dotes upon him while neglecting Yen's older brother. When an ambush by Yen's rival backfires, the boy's father hires a mute assassin to murder Yen and his family. With his father and brother killed, the fugitive Yen turns to a puppeteer and the puppeteer's fat wife for shelter. The couple eventually teaches Yen the "soft style" of Tai Chi, but is it enough to defend himself from the assassin?
    Drunken Tai Chi is not without its problems. First, there's really very little drunken boxing in the film. Yuen Woo-Ping paints most of the characters in broad, comic strokes. The story is rife with anachronisms (BMX bikes, basketball and breakdancing apparently go all the way back to some indeterminate period in Chinese history). However, the training sequences and one fighting contest involving an ink brush are particularly inventive. Also, there's an unexpected sentimental subplot involving the killer and his child which gives the wordless assassin a touch of humanity as well as sets up the hint of emotional conflict in an otherwise stock villain.
  9. The Bloody Fists (A.K.A., "Deadly Buddhist Raiders") (1972) - A sniveling Chinese traitor returns to his hometown with a pack of Japanese fighters. The Japanese want to open a martial arts school and get their hands on the village's "dragon herb." When the two brothers who run the local martial arts school are unable to defeat the Japanese, it falls upon a fugitive to rescue them. Chen Kuan-Tai plays the lead Japanese fighter (who dresses like a Japanese rock star). Yuen Woo-Ping's fight choreography is disappointingly rote, but it show brief glimpses of the creativity that would distinguish his later work. Sloppy editing doesn't help, either. The film's original soundtrack has been replaced with generic library music for the home video release.
  10. Moonlight Sword and Jade Lion (1977) - Angela Mao Ying is sent on a mission to find her master's missing brother. Character after character is introduced, and very little is explained. I appreciate a complex plot, but being too oblique can also be a problem. Fortunately, the fights and gimmicks are frequent enough to keep viewers from getting bored.
  11. The Martial Club (1981) - Wong Fei-Hung (played by Gordon Liu) and his friend Wang Yin-Lin are like the "Goofus and Gallant" of ancient China. Fei-Hung is the carefree son of Wong Kei-Ying, one of the "Ten Tigers of Canton," legendary Chinese folk heroes. Yin-Lin seems to be only interested in using his kung-fu skills to impress the working girls at the local brothel. While trying to win a bet at whose martial arts skills are superior, the pair inadvertently cross paths with a Northern Chinese master (Johnny Wang Lung-Wei) who has been invited to teach at a rival martial arts school. It takes an ambush at the brothel for Yin-Lin to learn the value of humility, and Yin-Lin's injury teaches Fei-Hung that with great skill comes great responsibility.
    Director Lau Kar-Leung has crafted a colorful, lighthearted comedy packed between the sprocket holes with tightly-choreographed fights. The story's opening lion dance sequence is a truly arresting spectacle. The final battle between Liu and Johnny Wang has the combatants literally climbing the walls of a narrow alleyway. Although Johnny Wang plays the nominal "heavy" of the picture, he's not the stereotypical villain. Also starring Kara Hui (My Young Auntie) as Yin-Lin's sister.
  12. The Water Margin (1972) - This Chang Cheh martial arts epic is partly based on a Chinese novel that follows the exploits of 108 bandits during the Song Dynasty. Mercifully, we are only introduced to twenty-or-so of those bandits. Despite the large number of characters, the plot is relatively straightforward. When the leader of the 108 bandits is slain by an expert spearman, the bandits seek out the spearman's mentor and his protege Yen Ching (David Chiang) to help them get retribution. Unfortunately, the master's wife conspires with her lover to have the master imprisoned. The bandits must then hatch a plan to break the master out of jail before he is put to death. It's interesting to note that Chang cast two Japanese actors (Tetsuro Tamba and Toshio Kurosawa) in prominent roles as Chinese characters. Roger Corman recut the film and released it as "Seven Blows of the Dragon" for stateside distribution.
  13. Ten Tigers of Kwangtung (1980) - Chang Cheh assembles Ti Lung, Alexander Fu Sheng and Shaw Brothers' "Venom Mob" to tell the origin of the titular "Ten Tigers of Kwantung" (or Canton). Unfortunately, the story is told in flashback and is framed by a much less interesting assassination plot involving the Tigers' pupils. It almost feels as though Chang was contractually obligated to feature the Shaws' "rising stars" in the framing device. Everything is capped off by a terribly staged decapitation, which seems depressingly appropriate. Not quite the finest hour for all those involved, but it's still mostly entertaining.
  14. The Fatal Flying Guillotines (1977) - VHS. I watched this quickie Taiwanese kung fu trainwreck years ago in a half-awake daze, so I decided to give it a second chance and re-watched it with a mostly-clear mind. Guess what: It still doesn't make any damn sense! The movie begins and ends with a text crawl and voice-over narration, but they don't match up either time. According to some Internet sources, the film is an unofficial prequel to Master of the Flying Guillotine, but you wouldn't know it from watching it. The story has the Shaolin monks plotting against the Manchus (as though the Shaolin were some sort of political faction). Both the Manchus and Shaolin seek to recruit a reclusive master named Shen to their respective causes, but Shen is only interested in practicing his "lighting strike" style. It basically involves cutting people's heads off with a flying guillotine, but Shen has two of them. The arbitrary ending comes from out of left field and only exists to tie it to Jimmy Wang Yu's film (which only came out the previous year).
  15. Master of the Flying Guillotine (1976) - Jimmy Wang Yu returns as the "One-Armed Boxer" in this sequel to the film of the same name. The blind teacher of the two assassins from the first film sets out with the flying guillotine to avenge his pupils' deaths. Meanwhile, Wang and his students attend a fighting tournament hosted by the Eagle Claw school. The contestants include a variety of ethnic stereotypes from around Asia, including a memorable Indian yoga master who extends his arms to attack his opponents. While the film certainly is imaginative, it is perhaps more fondly regarded for its influence on modern pop culture.
  16. Hong Kong Godfather (1985) - Mad Dog Wei, Playboy Lung and Sergeant Wen are all triad brothers who are loyal to their "godfather" Han (played by Shih Kien, who also played a Han in Enter the Dragon). When sycophantic Rotten Chi betrays Han to gain favor with an up-and-coming crime lord, the three brothers decide to take up blades once again and restore the name of their old boss. Johnny Wang Lung-Wei steps behind the camera to deliver an intensely brutal story of loyalty. The final blood-soaked 10-15 minutes are utterly jaw-dropping. Funimation presents the film in its most complete form for the very first time. Also, a little boy is thrown through a glass patio door:

  17. The Super Inframan (A.K.A., "Infra-Man") (1975) - A dragon disappears in front of a bus of schoolchildren, and the resulting catastrophic earthquake awakens strange beings trapped in a mountain since the Ice Age. A scientist transforms Rayma (played by Danny Lee) into humanity's last hope against the monsters: The Inframan! Shaw Brothers was quite obviously attempting to cash in on the Japanese tokusatsu craze with this film, and they mostly succeed. This film holds the special distinction of being the only film Roger Ebert has ever upgraded from his initial review.

    Before they were famous(?): Future Bruce Lee-alike Bruce Le plays one of Rayma's teammates
  18. The Green Slime (1968) - VHS. A team of astronauts (led by Robert Horton and Richard Jaeckel) is sent on a mission to drill and plant nuclear charges beneath the surface of an asteroid on a collision course with Earth. While Michael Bay took over two hours to tell the same story, Kinji Fukusaku and company do it in a half-hour. As an added bonus, they give us the story of a space station overrun by rubbery, tentacled aliens. Richard Delvy immortalizes it all in the greatest theme song ever recorded. Luciana Paluzzi has the unenviable task of playing the third point in a love triangle between herself, Horton and Jaeckel.
  19. The Mysterians (1957) - Cape-wearing aliens land at the foot of Mount Fuji and issue a couple of modest demands to their Japanese hosts. First, they want a small tract of land to settle. Second, they want access to Japan's women in order to repopulate their people. Earth's nations must unite in order to repel the alien threat with a variety of fantastic aircraft and weaponry.
    Ishiro Honda's third science fiction spectacle presents an interesting snapshot of a postwar Japan undergoing an identity crisis. On the one hand, the film effectively portrays the Japanese as the victims of nuclear aggression, with shots of destruction evoking newsreel footage from Nagasaki and Hiroshima as well as footage from atomic bomb testing. On the other hand, the film less successfully attempts to repaint Japan's culpability in World War II by placing itself in the role of defenders against a global threat rather than being the aggressors. Although the threat in the film originates from behind the moon, the Mysterians are ostensibly stand-ins (Stand-arians?) for the occupying forces in Japan following the end the of the war; and the film is clearly playing on anxieties about the potential loss of national identity with the encroachment of foreign culture (or "science" as the film codifies it). Note that the film opens at a Japanese festival with the festival goers dressed in traditional costume. By the time the sequel rolls around, most vestiges of tradition have been jettisoned for Western fashion and contemporary Western values.
  20. Battle in Outer Space (1959) - A new cosmic threat emerges from behind the moon, but the Earth doesn't wait to be invaded in this follow-up to The Mysterians. An international team of astronauts are assembled to do battle with the diminutive Natal at their clandestine moonbase. Political subtext is eschewed in favor for vastly improved special effects and daring acts of heroism in true space opera fashion. There's also an early depiction in the film of "missing time," a reported phenomenon among alien abductees.
  21. Gappa, the Triphibian Monsters (1967) - The wealthy publisher of "Playmate Magazine" sends an expedition to Obelisk Island in order to find attractions for the resort that he plans to construct there. The natives warn the expedition party of the "Gappa," whom the natives revere as gods. The explorers find a newly hatched Gappa and take it back with them to Japan, which promptly causes the parents to flip out. Mama and Papa Gappa fly to Japan and proceed to destroy it in short order. Sources claim that the film is a satire of other kaiju films, but it's really no sillier than some other Godzilla or Gamera films of the Showa period.
  22. Yongary (1967) - South Korea tries its hand at kaiju with this tale of a giant horned reptile who is awakened after a bomb is dropped in the Middle East. The monster inexplicably makes a beeline for South Korea, where it begins stomping through its cities and eating the country's oil reserves. Not only can Yongary breathe fire, it can also shoot beams from the horn on its snout. It falls upon a scientist, his astronaut buddy and a mischievous young boy to defeat Yongary. The film is pleasant enough, but there's really nothing outstanding or memorable to recommend it.
  23. Reptilian (A.K.A., "Yongary")* (1999) - In this quasi-reboot of Yongary, archeologists discover a fossilized alien corpse and a mysterious jewel inside a cave that kills off their expedition. Two years pass, and one of the surviving scientists is overseeing the dig of an enormous dinosaur skeleton called "Yongary" in ancient hieroglyphs found in the cave. Alien invaders orbiting the Earth revive the dinosaur and teleport it to a nameless city, where it commences to wreak havoc. The military and the only other surviving member of the expedition manage to break the aliens' hold over Yongary, but can the newly freed Yongary stop the other monster beamed down to the planet by the aliens?
    I want to like this movie, but the filmmakers and actors make it too easy to do otherwise. For a film with an estimated $6 million budget, many of the special effects are decidedly less than impressive. The English-speaking cast's unbelievably atrocious line-delivery leads me to believe that they must have been under the impression that the film would never be shown outside of Korea and that their voices would be dubbed over. On the other hand, the movie features goofy little touches like soldiers in jetpacks. If the movie had a greater sense of humor about itself, then it might have been better received.
  24. King Kong vs. Godzilla (1962) - Two of the most famous monsters of filmdom square off in Japan, and the results are surprisingly disappointing. An expedition is sent by a pharmaceutical company to Faro Island to retrieve the giant creature that reportedly inhabits it. At the same time, Godzilla is freed from an iceberg in the arctic. The self-defense forces prove ineffective at repelling Godzilla from Japan, so King Kong is eventually dropped by balloon in the radioactive lizard's path with the hopes that the two monsters will destroy each other.
    The monster suits just are not up to the quality that Toho and Eiji Tsuburaya are known for. Frequent "news updates" in the U.S. version cause the story to come to a grinding halt (and why do the Japanese newscaster and Japanese characters pronounce "Hokkaido" differently?). The U.S. version also recycles effects footage from The Mysterians and still manages to be shorter than the original version. Still, it's hard to begrudge any film that begins with a line from a William Shakespeare play for its faults.
  25. Godzilla and Mothra: The Battle for Earth (1992) - Godzilla is roused from his slumber when a meteor crashes into the ocean. Meanwhile, a tomb raider is partnered with his ex-wife on an expedition to Infant Island, where they come across a giant egg uncovered by a storm related to the meteor. They also encounter miniature twins known as the Cosmos. The explorers take the twins along with Mothra to Japan, but they run into both Godzilla and Battra (a giant insectoid that resembles a spikier, darker version of Mothra) on the sea voyage back. The three monsters eventually do battle in Yokohama, and no buildings are spared! Some great special effects work is on display in perhaps my favorite of the Heisei Godzilla films. The Big G and Mothra look great (Battra falls victim to the "Dark, Gritty" aesthetic that plagued all forms of mass entertainment in the '90s). The human story is also surprisingly developed for what's basically filler in between monster mashes.
  26. Godzilla, Mothra and King Ghidorah: Giant Monsters All-Out Attack (2001) - This entry of the so-called "Millennium series" of Godzilla films messes around too much with canon for my tastes. Godzilla's origin gets a supernatural twist when an old man claims that the giant lizard is actually the physical manifestation of all the souls who died in World War II! Baragon, Mothra and Ghidorah are now guardian spirits! Rocks can work like ancient CDs! Almost fifty years of nuclear proliferation and ecological conservation allegory are thrown out in favor of jingoistic nationalism. Rather than end on an emotional note, the father and daughter protagonists of the film (an admiral and tabloid journalist, respectively) snap somber salutes to the Japanese Self-Defense Forces! This film is the most pandering piece of propaganda I've seen since Armageddon.
  27. Gamera: Super Monster (1980) - Gamera goes out with a whimper in the final entry of the Showa series. Aliens travelling in what looks an awful lot like a Star Destroyer from the Star Wars movies send a female agent to Earth in order to expose three Spacewomen who live among humanity. Unable to reveal their pink unitard-wearing forms, the lead Spacewoman (a butch pet store owner by day) recruits the help of a little boy who loves Gamera almost as much as he loves singing about Gamera while at his electric organ. Almost all the giant turtle footage is recycled from the previous films, while the new footage includes Gamera flying around the cosmos with Space Battleship Yamato and Galaxy Express 999! The clunky product placement only emphasizes the cheapness of the production. Hardly a dignified curtain call for the Friend of All Children.
  28. The Heroic Trio (1993) - Before Johnnie To began making a name for himself with films like A Hero Never Dies, Running Out of Time and The Mission, he directed this light contemporary martial arts fantasy. Babies throughout the city are being stolen by a mysterious criminal known as Invisble Woman (Michelle Yeoh). The kidnappings attract the attentions of Wonder Woman (Anita Mui), the city's resident masked vigilante, and bounty hunter Thief Catcher (Maggie Cheung). All three women eventually realize their pasts are linked to a weird eunuch who is turning the kidnapped children into monsters in an insane quest to create a new emperor for China, and they join forces to stop their former master. The story takes place in an atmospheric, comic book reality that's a mish-mash of modern and anachronistic details, so Ching Siu-Tung's wire-heavy fight choreography does not entirely feel out of place. Anthony Wong plays a guillotine-flinging cannibalistic humanoid underground dweller.
  29. Executioners (1993) - Production on this sequel to the Heroic Trio must have begun either immediately after shooting on the first movie wrapped or immediately after the first movie premiered, because both films were released in the same year. Sometime after the events of the first film, the world is ravaged by a nuclear conflict. Uncontaminated water is scarce, and the city's supply is controlled by a mad genius (played by Anthony Wong). The three heroines of the first film have gone their separate ways, but they are once again reunited by fate when Michelle Yeoh's character is recruited for a mission to investigate a possible source of fresh water. The assassination of a religious cult leader leads to a military coup, Wonder Woman's family is split up while trying to escape (her husband is framed for the assassination and murdered), and the trio is splintered. One will make the ultimate sacrifice to save her friends, leaving the remaining two friends to face off against the mad genius.
    The film (co-directed by Johnnie To and Ching Siu-Tung) has a decidedly darker tone than The Heroic Trio, which doesn't necessarily work in its favor. While one could argue that both films are meant to play on Hong Kong audience's pre-Handover anxieties, the sequel makes the allusions a little more explicit. Scenes of police firing on panicked crowds undoubtedly are meant to evoke memories of the Tienanmen Square protests.

    Before they were famous: Taiwanese pop star Takeshi Kaneshiro (Chungking Express, House of Flying Daggers) makes his feature film debut as the cult leader
  30. Yes, Madam! (1985) - Michelle Yeoh (credited as Michelle Kheng in my copy) stars as a tough-as-nails inspector in the Hong Kong Police Department. When her former instructor-- now a visiting British diplomat-- is murdered, Scotland Yard sends their own two-fisted inspector (played by Cynthia Rothrock) to help with the investigation. The pair go in search of incriminating microfilm inadvertently stolen by three bickering small-time crooks (one played by Tsui Hark!), but they soon discover that the bad guys are after the same thing. Although the story is sandbagged by the comedic hijinks of the three thieves, the film really comes to life when Yeoh and Rothrock are allowed to cut loose. Crackerjack direction by Corey Yuen. Sammo Hung plays the thieves' mentor.
  31. The Inspector Wears Skirts (1988)
  32. Policewomen (1974)
  33. Slipstream (1989) - Google Video. Viewed in observance of Earth Day.
  34. The Magic Voyage of Sinbad (1962)
  35. The Day the Earth Froze (1964)
  36. Hero of Rome (1964)
  37. The Invincible Gladiator (1961)
  38. Robot Jox (1990)
  39. Rock 'N' Roll High School (1979)
  40. My Chauffeur (1986)
  41. Van Nuys Blvd. (1979)
  42. The Pom Pom Girls (1976)
  43. Malibu Beach (1978)
  44. The Beach Girls (1982)
  45. Hardbodies (1984)*
  46. Hardbodies 2 (1986)
  47. Crying Freeman (1995)
  48. Blue Tiger (1994)


Last edited by nezumi; 05-06-11 at 05:09 PM.
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