Blu-Ray Review: The Climber

The Climber_AV089Don’t feel a bit sorry for poor Aldo (Joe Dallesandro) in The Climber (L’ambizioso), writer/director Pasquale Squitieri’s slick, sleazy 1975 crime action flick. The guy is so damn stubborn right from the get-go that all his big plans keep exploding in his handsome face thanks to his bull-headed determination to out gangster all the Italian gangsters who’ve ever gangstered. He scores some hefty wins in the material world, but it’s all a façade as the clock is ticking down on him as the bodies pile up.

It’s a great role for Dallesandro although he’s saddled with a derivative script that has him be a complete block-headed goon and most of his opposition be just as dumb or dumber. That said, if you love violent crime dramas with great soul-jazz-rock soundtracks and can flick off your story-starved brain for a spell of mindless violence, this is a pretty solid little movie when all is said and done.

After skimming profits from a Don Enrico’s (Raymond Pellegrin) illegal cigarette take, New York-transplanted Aldo is badly beaten and tossed onto a roadside (ouch). He gets lucky after he’s picked up by a gorgeous redhead named Luciana (Stefania Casini) who takes him to her apartment where he gets lucky a second time when she decides to sleep with him. The next day, he’s off to get revenge against the Don by looking up a guy he used to be partners in crime with in order to plan a heist (that goes wrong, of course). Our non-hero gets away with his ill-gotten gains, but he’s swiped off the street not long afterward and taken to the Don for punishment. “Is this the end of Rico Aldo?”

Well, not quite.

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VCI’s Fall 2017 Lineup: Eclectic, To Say The Least

VCI logoVCI Entertainment has been around for decades (I’ll let you read their “About Us” page at your leisure) and with a library of over 5000 titles from vintage to modern in nearly every genre available in physical, download, or digital rental format, you’ll very likely find something to watch.

The company’s fall 2017 lineup is a small but nice one with a bit of horror, history and a little rock ‘n roll to get the neighbors out of bed and pounding on your door late at night if your TV is up too loud. Hmmm… perhaps they’re all bringing over some popcorn and beverages so they can join in on the fun at that hour… as they’re not getting in otherwise. Anyway, let’s take a peek at what’s coming below the jump.

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Some Kiwami Films For Yakuza Fans

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With Yakuza Kiwami out now and hopefully selling well for Sega as an evergreen title into the future, overall interest in the long-running series over the past few years seems high enough that I’m thinking some of you folks might be interested in a few of the many Japanese gangster films out there. If you’re new to them, this very short list of recommendations may pack a ton of surprises on a few fronts.

If you’ve played Yakuza 0, Yakuza 4 or more recently, Kiwami (which means “extreme” in Japanese), you’ll very clearly see cinematic influences in abundance throughout the series. Even though the games are set in a more modern version of Japan, most of these films have very similar scenes that show how in general, some criminal behavior never really changes and it’s quite a draw for some who choose to live that lifestyle despite the risks.

Anyway, just step into this alley over here and I’ll set you up right… or set you upright after setting you up, right?

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Cops Vs Thugs * – Prolific director Kinji Fukusaku made a number of great yakuza-themed films, but this 1975 gem is probably his best. Notable for a brutal interrogation scene where an actor playing a gangster is actually beaten by actors playing crooked cops (the rehearsal footage is included as one of the bonuses), that scene is somehow very tame once added to the assorted forms of other violence on display.

When crooked but loyal to a fault cop (Bunta Sugawara) and his equally crooked and loyal to a fault Yakuza pal Hirotani (Hiroki Matsukata) clash with a gung-ho young detective who wants all corruption purged from the force, plenty of mayhem ensues. There’s not a dull moment at all here and it’s also a case of seemingly minor characters having major roles as the plot twists pile up.

Fukusaku’s candid camera catches it all, sometimes tilting mid-action during certain scenes and freeze-framing during others for added emphasis. The imminent threat of random violence and no clear black and white heroes makes you almost root for both sides. But you’ll see that there’s no winners here when all is said and done. This one’s a must despite the kind of goofy title as well as a great way to embellish your Kiwami experience outside the game.

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Blu-Ray Review: The Love Of A Woman

TLOAW_AA015I’d never heard of director Jean Grémillon (1898–1959), but thanks to Arrow Academy, I’m now well-schooled in one of his great films. While not flawless, The Love Of A Woman works just about perfectly if you’re a fan of the pot-boiling tear-jerker romance genre. Granted, it also works fantastically as an example of fine film work as Grémillon was a master behind the camera and there are some striking images here to behold.

When Dr. Marie Prieur (Micheline Presle) decides to take over the job from a well-aged doc at the end of his career on the small island of Ouessant, she’s met by wariness from the locals and made fun of by a part of a crew of men working on the island. After a practical joke by the men on their supervisor, André Lorenzi (Massimo Girotti) ends up in a fight where the doc has to show up to fix a broken nose, Lorenzi begins calling the doctor incessantly asking for a date. After some nudging by a never-married older schoolteacher (Gaby Morlay), The good doctor agrees to André’s request, but their date is ruined after a local child falls gravely ill.

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Jerry Gets His Curtain Call…

Ugh. I was in bed the entire day thanks to not feeling so hot, but now that I’m up and find out Jerry Lewis has left the building, I’m wanting to go crawl back under the covers for a bit. Anyway, the first film that sprung to mind that I think you should catch was The Bellboy, written, directed and starring Jerry as Stanley, a silent bellhop hardly working at the Fontainebleau Hotel in Miami Beach. It’s weird and funny as hell with a few fun cameos and a corker of an ending.


 

There’s way too much to say about the man from his comedic talents (and some fine dramatic work in film and on TV) to his charity work that a great deal of today’s younger folks probably have little to no idea about (those MDA telethons used to be wonderful family time gatherings back in the day).

I suppose I could say a few more words, but it’s late in the day and I’m gathering a few thousand other writers have popped their own opining up. Me, I haven’t yet read my email since yesterday evening. Anyway, go watch some of his work at some point if anything just to see how remakes often don’t do the originals much justice.

-GW

Blu-Ray Review: Effects

Effects BRWhat you get out of AGFA’s great newly restored print of Effects very much depends on what you go in expecting. As a low budget 80’s horror flick “cobbled together with loose change” by a few friends of George A. Romero, the film does indeed retain a certain rawness throughout along with a tiny bit of graphic violence and a few shocking scenes here and there. The film also manages to be more than a bit prophetic about how today’s reality TV’s nonsense of cameras, cameras everywhere can actually be somewhat chilling and yep, desensitizing.

But let’s stick to what’s here first and foremost. There’s a horror flick being made in Pittsburgh and you’ve got a front row seat to the festivities. Again, don’t go into this one expecting bodies falling on cue and a predictable ending where you know what’s coming a mile and a few minutes away. SFX makeup whiz Tom Savini may be in this one, but he’s doing the acting and stunts thing this time out.

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Blu-Ray Review: Ronin

Ronin_AV098I’ve always viewed Ronin as a sped-up Alfred Hitchcock film, but yep, I’m nuttier than a fruitcake when I need to be. Late director John Frankenheimer’s mostly solid and thrilling 1997 action flick has a few Hitch hallmarks such as an obvious red herring as a major plot device, a bunch of men (and one woman) under pressure crammed into a tough situation, indiscriminate collateral damage thanks to high-speed chases and a story that has at least one major flaw one can overlook when all is said and done.

As usual, Arrow’s stellar Blu-Ray/DVD combo packs in the film and a load of bonus features worth a look. There’s also an alternate ending that is pretty darn awful, but we’ll get to that when we get to that.

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Ninja Nope

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Ha! Unholy masters of unintentional comic relief, if you ask me.

 

Confession time, again. I was never much into the whole ninja craze that hit America in the 80’s and despite oh, 30+ years of trying to watch a chunk of these films, they just bounce off my imagination like bullets off Superman’s chest. Sorry, but the sight of some guy in black or white pajamas throwing down a smoke bomb and a handful of sharpened jacks just makes me chuckle to on end. Give an American ninja a deck of Hanafuda cards and he’d still be a joke shilling 3-card monte on a street corner somewhere in Baltimore.

Granted, the films I’m referring to are primarily American-made and very intentionally cheesy (even if they try too damn hard to be serious). I’ve seen a few Asian ninja flicks that I vaguely recall being “okay” in that “Well, it’s made over there, so it’s not so bad” manner one says as he politely dismisses more guys in their pajamas tossing pointy metal stars and throwing gravel in the faces of their enemies as they make a clean getaway (snicker!). Yeah, I just think the whole idea of stealthy assassins dropping in on a catered or any affair to bump off some poor sap(s) is prime hilarity more than any actual threat.

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AGFA Delivers A Case Of Double Vision

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Well, ooh. This pair of grindhouse-y beauties arrived today from AGFA as did the big, honkin’ six-pound box of unsalted Keystone Pretzels I ordered two days ago (those bakers ship fast!). Part of my weekend is set, that’s for sure. I’ll very likely triple up the movies with the gorgeous Arrow Video version of Re-Animator, as I went through the special features yesterday and they’re all great stuff.

Back in a bit – I guess I need to figure out what goes well with a small bowl of pretzels other than some freshly made Colman’s Mustard. Eh, I’ll figure something out.

-GW

Romero & Landau: Two For The Road

We have to stop meeting this way, but so it goes:

night_of_the_living_deadGeorge A. Romero created one of the most influential, essential horror movies back in 1968 with Night Of The Living Dead, a film that still packs a punch on a few fronts. As his feature film debut, Romero’s flesh-eating ghouls would inspire a legion of filmmakers to copy and attempt to improve upon his film’s strengths. Some did, most didn’t. He stayed primarily and comfortably within the horror genre, making six follow-ups to the original along with some solid films such as Martin, Knightriders, and Creepshow.

I can still recall the first time I saw Night on broadcast TV late at night (I think it was ABC that ran it first), the network placed an on-screen overlay during the “news” segments that ran during the film so people wouldn’t think actual dead folks weren’t rising up to chomp on flesh. I forget how young I was, but even in its edited for, the movie had me half under a blanket and that surprise ending gave me nightmares for a few days afterward. A few years later when TV spots for Dawn Of The Dead popped up, I was actually so scared I decided not to try and attempt to buy a ticket. I saved that underage trial by fire for ALIEN, released a year later.

Side note: George lived up here in the Bronx – I believe in the same area I’m in now. Not that it matters much, but finding that out always made me think of another neighborhood guy who did well for himself.

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