Recently Rated Movies #46

Last post, I hinted that I had watched a couple of the cult classics from the 1970's in my buildup to going to Grindhouse. Well, I didn't just watch a couple -- I watched a whole slew of them, in a solid two weeks of sometimes sublime, but mostly cheesy goodness. Raw Meat, the film that I have discussed in relation to my frustrations with broken Netflix discs, was originally to be one of these films, but alas, it has proven not to be. (Some of the films from my Psychotronic trek counted as part of this marathon, but they are reviewed in other posts.) Blaxploitation, kung-fu, car crashes, blood, gore, sex, monsters, nudity (not necessarily the same thing as sex): every thing that made the movies from that era incredible at the time, and still amazing to see today. Not all of them hold up all that well, but sometimes, even the worst ones are some of the best times to watch.

The List:
Switchblade Sisters
Dir: Jack Hill // 1975 [DVD]

Cinema 4 Rating:
6
It had been about 20 years since I last saw this movie, and while I kind of dug it at the time, it took Tarantino's raving about it to get me interested in seeing it again. So much did he rave about it, that he ended up releasing it on DVD on his Rolling Thunder imprint. This is one no doubt a far more enjoyable effort if you are predisposed to flicks about girl gangs, which I generally am not. It's top-loaded with crazily over-the-top (and bad) acting, escape plots that just wouldn't work anywhere but here, and is absolutely ludicrous from frame one. And yet, like many a Jack Hill film, it's amazingly compelling and somehow succeeds in spite of itself. And just when you think you've reached the incredible finale, there's another even bloodier one to top that. The film never seems to stop working to beat itself to a pulp, and rather than seeming overlong by this breathless rampage of punky silliness (which it easily could), the viewer benefits from the movie proving to be the thrill ride that one often expects when one watches a film of this ilk but rarely gets. And, yeah, I know this film can be taken as a girl-power tract, and I know I saw the film years ago, but I didn't realize until now that I have been in deep subliminal love with star "switchblade sister" Joanne Nail all this time. Now, I'm going to have to watch The Gumball Rally all over again. (I was planning on it anyhow... it, too, has languished for 20-some years in my memory.)

Dirty Mary Crazy Larry
Dir: John Hough // 1974 [DVD]

Cinema 4 Rating:
5
I've got an old buddy who was, and probably still is, unbelievably enamored of the starlets that he grew up wanking to in the 1970's. Yeah, I've spoken of my personal favorites from that period -- Caroline Munro, Jenny Agutter, et al -- but he picks some odd ones. The one I truly can't figure out is Susan George, whom he swears by. Blonde and British -- a good start, to be sure, but then she is topped off by a set of what can only be described as "comedy teeth", which some guys from that era seem to think gives her a cute pout, but which looks to me as if she were trying out for the part of Chaka's girlfriend on Land of the Lost. And then there is her acting... look, I am a Peckinpah fan to a certain degree (he is at least a fascinating director, even if you, or I, do not like some of his films), but if he thought that using her in Straw Dogs and then having what happens to her in that film was going to elicit some sort of sympathy for her character, he's got another thing coming (well, I guess he doesn't since he is long dead). Sometimes my anger at a miscasting is such that I can no longer see the character and only the annoying actor instead. I am sorry to say this, but I can't stand her so much I want to see even worse happen to her in the film, and, really, not much worse can happen to her. In this car-chase "classic" which, again, I last saw over 20 years ago, she is not miscast: she plays a slutty recidivist criminal who hooks up with two supermarket robbers played by Peter Fonda and his mechanic buddy. As far as I can tell, they have only committed this robbery to drive fast and drive cool. Fonda almost always wears shades, and has multiple escape routes and cars laid out for the adventure, but there is a certain nihilism in his attitude, where he seems to know he probably isn't going to get away with this but is going to give the cops everything he has anyway. This would be great if Susan George weren't there to be as annoying as possible on the ride. I know it's a plot point that she is annoying the robbers, as well, but I think George goes over and above the call of duty here. Sometimes you see someone in a job of someone whom you can't believe hasn't got fired for just being, quite simply, bad at it; I think Susan George in her movie career is a prime example. (A great ending to this flick, by the way. Before director Hough got Disneyfied (the Witch Mountain movies, you know) he had the nerve to end this one right...

Kenka karate kyokushinken [Karate Bullfighter]
Dir: Kazahiko Yamaguchi // Japanese, 1975 [IFC]
Cinema 4 Rating: 6

Kyokuskin
kenka karate burai ken
[Karate Bearfighter]
Dir: Kazahiko Yamaguchi // Japanese, 1977 [IFC]

Cinema 4 Rating: 6
The first two parts of a trilogy that I have yet to complete, these films feature the tougher-than -- well, a bull and a bear, obviously -- Sonny Chiba as his real life mentor Masutatsu Oyama, who supposedly killed over 50 bulls in his martial arts career. The drama is suspect, though many elements did come from real life, but it is well-handled, and the fighting sequences are far more brutal-seeming than in most chopsocky flicks. Chiba meant the fighting to feel more like real fighting, and it shows, but I have a hard time with the bull scene, because I am never really sure just how fake it is. The bear scene in the second film is far easier to figure out; the only thing that has one wondering about the fight is whether the guy in the immensely cheesy bear suit (check out how he runs on all fours!) wandered off the set of a kaiju film where he had to play a giant bear. Really, they could have called the second one Karate Stuntmanfighter instead. While the films are enjoyable, the main problem is its choice of being called "biography": if Oyama killed this many people in his real life, he would have to be put down in a hail of bullets. Still, Chiba is always interesting, and here, his relentlessly stern expression fits the mood of the films well, and in the scenes where he is called upon to bring a lighter personal touch, the release of this expression works incredibly well. Growing up, my only real experience with Chiba was through the Street Fighter series, so these two films were most enlightening.

Comments

I'm almost positive I saw Karate Bullfighter under the title Killing Machine(gotta love that boom of vaguely bootleg asian action films in the late 90s). Is this the one where he rapes the woman, and apologizes by saying he thought she was a prostitute, and then takes her under his wing? Or maybe the apology part was bad dubbing. I also seem to recall him tearing the genitals off of a rapist, something he does in a few of his movies though.

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