About This Blog

A place to find my reviews not featured on epinions.com or horror-asylum.com, as well as opinions and lists on everything from movies to TV to music. It's all about me! Send hate mail to vegie18th@hotmail.com or just leave a comment beneath the posts. Review grading system assumes C+ is somewhere in the vicinity of a Passing grade or minor fail.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Review: Enter the Dragon

Bruce Lee, a British Intelligence spy and Shaolin monk (!) infiltrates martial arts tournament on super-villain Han’s (Kien Shih) remote island. Han is supposedly into drugs and slavery, and Lee also learns that Han’s goons killed his sister a few years back. Joining Lee in the tournament are Americans John Saxon and Jim Kelly, who see fit to enjoy Han’s whores and hospitality, whilst Lee is sneaking around and scaling the walls outside.

Overrated, now outdated 1973 Robert Clouse (“Black Belt Jones”, a wildly entertaining Blaxploitation kung-fu flick with Kelly) film isn’t really a kung-fu picture, but an attempt to bring martial arts to the US by mixing it with a little faux-007 nonsense (featuring Kien Shah as a rip-off of “Dr. No”). It plays out in hokey, but sometimes exciting (and violent) fashion. Lee is miscast as a super-spy, but is undeniably impressive in the martial arts scenes (particularly the finale) and an imposing presence, and there’s a good small role for a young-looking Bolo Yeung (who actually repeated some of the film’s dialogue in his memorable performance as the badass villain in “Bloodsport”).

A truly goofy John Saxon, who apparently became quite the martial arts student, doesn’t look at all convincing here in a role that screams for a James Coburn (who indeed was a student of Lee’s), and poor Jim Kelly (a real-life martial arts champ) never really was an actor, something perfectly evident here.

The film works in the martial arts action department, and as the film that brought Lee to international stardom, but real martial arts fans know this film is at the end of the day, a poseur (from the screenwriter of “Flash Gordon”, no less). Worth a look, but only for Lee.

Rating: C+

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Review: The Chain Reaction

At the WALDO nuclear facility, doctor Heinrich (Ross Thompson) accidentally gets a fatal dose of radiation poisoning in a flood from a containment breach at the facility. He is quarantined but makes an escape. Mechanic Steve Bisley and his wife Arna-Maria Winchester are having a private getaway in some remote area of Australia. But their sky rockets in flight (one for the Starland Vocal Band fans out there) are interrupted by the sudden appearance of supposed amnesiac Heinrich. At the same time, sinister mercenaries employed by WALDO arrive in the area to apprehend Heinrich, before he lets the public know the horrible fate that awaits us all. And now he’s dragged fast-driving Bisley and innocent wife Winchester (who tends to the sick man) into the mess. Hugh Keays-Byrne plays Thompson’s former colleague whom he tries to contact after his escape.

A nice try but this 1980 Ian Barry (a man with much TV experience in his first film directing gig) mixture of nuclear-thriller and “Mad Max” (featuring several cast members and director George Miller doing the action scenes) never quite comes together. Some of it’s fun, especially the well-directed and edited action sequences. Rugged “Mad Max” actor Bisley (he played the ill-fated Goose) is pretty enjoyable in the lead, a German-accented Thompson is OK if a little dour, and the always quirky Keays-Byrne (the uber-weird Toecutter in “Mad Max”) plays the most normal character I’ve seen him play, but the rest of the cast are uneven. Winchester is dull, and the villains in particular are badly acted by Ralph Cotterill and co, and that hurts the film.

Even worse, the story is really clunkily laid out, and really needed a few re-writes. It was certainly full of intrigue early on, and so whacked-out that you keep watching, but at the same token, the set-up isn’t quite coherent enough. I didn’t believe in the world that the writer-director had set-up for things to take place. I also don’t think Mr. Barry (who wrote the screenplay too) had the budget needed to sell what is essentially an apocalyptic scenario in-waiting. Lots of interesting cameos, notably a very brief appearance by a bearded Mel Gibson, as a mechanic.

Some of it’s fun, and I commend Barry and co for trying something really different, but it’s only watchable at best. But hey, it’s an Aussie genre film, thankfully not a dull kitchen sink drama or lame ocker comedy, so that’s something to be thankful for. It’s one of the better Aussie genre pieces of the period, from a pretty poor selection, but still, it does have a cult following. Terrific scenery too, and petrol-heads might enjoy it more than most.

Rating: C+

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Review: Smiley Gets a Gun

Keith Calvert is the well-meaning young tearaway of the title, who along with his ‘cobber’ Joey (Bruce Archer) is prone to causing all sorts of mischief, albeit unintentional. The constantly flustered local police sergeant (who else but Chips Rafferty?) comes up with a plan to teach the kid some responsibility. If he can commit a responsible act, he’ll chop a ‘nick’ into a tree with an axe, and if he gets enough ‘nicks’, he can have himself the rifle he’s been eyeing off from the sergeant’s office. But if he fouls up, away those ‘nicks’ will go and it’s back to square one. Sybil Thorndike plays crotchety, hermit-like local resident Granny McKinley, whom the boy starts to befriend, despite rumours of her being a witch. The cast is rounded out by Guy Doleman (whom you’ll recognise from countless British films including the Bond outing “Thunderball”) as a visiting journo, an amusing and youngish Ruth Cracknell (One of the genuine treasures of the Aussie acting world) as a humourless church organist, and Reg Lye as Smiley’s not so reliable dad.

If you can get by the slightly ‘on the nose’ plotline (a kid being rewarded for good behaviour with a GUN?), this is a really cute 1958 Anthony Kimmins (the first “Smiley” flick, as well as “Captain’s Paradise” with Sir Alec Guinness) Aussie flick, a mixture of TV’s “Skippy” and “Dennis the Menace” that has a lot of (admittedly antiquated) charm, and likeably hammy performances by young Calvert, and old pros Rafferty and Brit veteran Thorndike (the latter particularly chews a gluttonous amount of scenery, albeit charmingly).

I haven’t seen the first outing for “Smiley”, and I usually loathe ‘ocker’ representations of Australia, but this one was quite a pleasant, infectious surprise, and a must for Australian cinema completists. It’s cute, and too innocuous to hate. The screenplay is by the director and Rex Rienits (“Jazz Boat”, a minor British crime-caper), from a Moore Raymond (“Smiley”) novel.

Rating: B-