Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Bird of Paradise (1932)

An American romantic adventure directed by King Vidor.
An American boat arrives at an island in the south Pacific. The islanders greet them on canoes and when a shark approaches, one of the sailors tries to catch it but gets pulled into the water when caught in his fishing line. An island woman saves him who turns out to be the daughter of the chief and the two fall in love against the will of the tribe. They try to stay together, but continue to encounter difficulties.
For an old film, this looked alright. The acting and editing didn't seem weird at any points, but the quality of the audio and video definitely reflected the era. The plot was very traditional and the characters fit well into it's framework. I noticed that the American man was teaching the Pacific Islander woman English, but not learning her language. This is how it would happen in real life, but not the way that things should work. I actually liked the vintage style or flavor of the film, as it reflected 1930s American pop culture's romanticized notion of island life. I'm rating it adequate because I consider it to be well made and a reflection of the time in which it was created.

Beneath the 12-Mile Reef (1953)

An American adventure directed by Robert D. Webb, starring Robert Wagner.
Competing families of sponge divers quarrel over territory while a young man from one side falls in love with a young woman from the other.
Romeo and Juliet has already been done, but with sponge divers? The plot was obviously lifted from Shakespeare and the characters were a little lame. The style was almost unique and not quite good enough, though there were some underwater scenes that looked cool. The sound was absolutely wretched. I'm rating this poor for lack of originality. The only thing that saved it from bad was underwater cameras.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Beat The Devil (1953)

An English adventure by John Huston starring Humphrey Bogart.
The leader of a crime gang and the owner of land rich in uranium meet with their wives in a port in Italy as they wait for the boat to be ready to leave. The wives get to know each other's husbands and seem to begin a simultaneous affair with these men, switching partners. When the boat leaves, the crime gang and the couples are on board when it sinks.
I liked the plot and thought it was interesting. Apparently, the script was written on a day-to-day basis while filming was taking place. The characters were good and the acting was adequate. There seemed to be something missing though, style. There was none. I'm rating this o.k. because it was mediocre and only slightly interesting.

Bank Alarm (1937)

An American film noir directed by Louis J. Gasnier.
A group of gangsters, tired of the same old crime, decide to start robbing banks. A pair of these gangsters intentionally get picked up for vagrancy and spend a night in a jail that is also a post office in order to steal some money. A detective, clumsy photographer and their lady friends try to catch the gangsters.
I think that this was very well made. The production, editing and acting fit the time period, but looked pretty alright. The plot was a little thin and didn't keep me very interested though. The photographer seemed to be used as comic relief, but in a film noir this seems out of place. For doing an alright job making a mediocre film, I rate this o.k.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Attack From Space (1964)

A Japanese American science fiction directed by Teruo Ishii.
A superhero is sent from an alien planet to prevent another group of aliens from destroying the Earth. An Earth scientist who built a rocket is captured by the aliens, who want to force him to build a rocket for them.
This was a joke. The quality was sub-par in a good way. This includes simple plot, simple characters, lo-fi '60s style and all that jazz. The science of the film is what really made me laugh. When the superhero flies through space, there is wind and when he enters a spaceship, he just opens the door and walks in. No goddamn airlocks (Aliens) or anything. He just opens the door like it's a screen door on a sunny afternoon. Aircraft speed is another thing that had me in tears. Mach 120? 91267mph? Our fastest spacecraft today go mach 25 (19013mph) to re-enter the Earth's atmosphere. This is the spacecraft with no airlock doing this AND THEN running into a space station! I have a feeling that there would be some serious problems if this was attempted with real-world laws of physics. Last bit of science fact, bending the satellite antennas on a spaceship will not cause it to explode. That would be like crossing the bunny ears on an old TV to blow it up. Ridiculous. I rate this adequate because it made me laugh. Only good for one viewing though. This picture looks too good to be true, so if it belongs to someone, let me know and I will take it down.

Ambush Valley (1936)

An American western directed by Bernard B. Ray a.k.a. Franklin Shamray.
A gang of outlaws is in conflict with settlers in an area and one of the outlaws shoots a settler in a bar. The sheriff tries to deal with the situation before everyone kills each other.
Clocking in at 47 minutes and 44 seconds, it didn't take long to get through. What was there was a little convoluted and murky of plot, unidentifiable of characters and totally lacking in style. The acting and editing was horrible and it featured only diegetic music when non-diegetic would have been better (my opinion). It seems to me that they focused all their energy on quantity of plot and characters rather than quality of anything at all. I'm rating it poor.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Ali Baba And The Seven Saracens (1964)

An Italian action film written and directed by Emimmo Salvi.
A new king is to be chosen from all the groups of people in an area. This contest brings a group of rebels into contact with the royalty against which they are rebelling. The leader of the rebels falls in love with a royal woman.
Lame, boring, poor quality, just another old movie. There was really nothing that stood out about this film to the positive or negative (and we all know how I despise mediocrity). The production value and editing were bad to the point where the video looked dirty (and not in an X rated way). The sound had similar qualities, but not as pronounced. The plot was a little murky at times and it was a little difficult to tell one gladiator from another in the ending conflict scene. The chariot action was as good as or better than Ben-Hur. I'm rating it o.k. because it was just a murky, scummy old movie.

Alias John Law (1935)

An American western written and directed by Robert N. Bradbury.
A cowboy and his old, deaf partner get into a shootout with an outlaw gang and a local sheriff comes to their aid, only to be shot. He deputizes the young cowboy who goes into town for help. In town, there is a trial held to determine the heir to the estate of the cowboy's wealthy deceased relative. The pair of good cowboys has to prove legal rights to the estate, stop the outlaws and help the wounded sheriff.
This is one of the few films that I've seen with only diegetic music (no score or soundtrack, only triggered by characters in the film). The plot and characters were to my liking and I think that the lo-fi production and editing worked in the film's favor. I really like the old cowboy archetype in old westerns and the young hero was portrayed well as well. At about 50 minutes running time, it's like old western film candy to me, so I rate it good.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Africa Screams (1949)

An American comedy adventure directed by Charles Barton, starring Bud Abbott and Lou Costello.
Abbott and Costello work at a book store where they threw away a book about Africa. Some people come in looking for the book and offering money for a map that was in it. Abbott and Costello coerce their way into the African safari.
The plot was full of sub-plots, as most comedic films are, and the characters seemed to be repeating their roles from previous work that I haven't seen. There were a few physical comedy acts that I found amusing, but otherwise, nothing special. It's just really good to watch something that isn't kung fu. I rate it poor.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Street Fighter Series (1974)

A set of Japanese kung fu films directed by Shigehiro Ozawa and Kazuhiko Yamaguchi starring Sonny Chiba.
A tough guy lives a life full of violence as he tangles with the police, the mafia and drug dealers. He breaks his friend out of jail, is followed by a young female sidekick and is searched for by his sister.
The only way that I was able to watch this series was to pay as little attention to the film as I could. The audio and video quality were atrocious and the editing was horrendous. The second and third films featured multiple martial arts demonstrations that seemed like they were just thrown in as filler, but these turned out to be the best parts of a horrible series. The second film features a fight scene in which the hero punches his enemy and causes the man's eyes to eject from the front of his face. This was viewed as comic relief. I'm rating it bad.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Ninja The Protector (1986)

A Chinese kung fu film directed by Godfrey Ho.
Standard Godfrey Ho story: cops looking for criminal ninjas.
What a worthless film! At least it was only an hour and 7 minutes long. Crappy plot, crappy characters, lame-ass action scenes. you get the idea. Don't watch it. I'm rating it bad.

Ninja Death Series 1-3 (1987)

A Chinese kung-fu directed by Joseph Kuo.
A bouncer at a Chinese whorehouse finds out that he is actually Japanese royalty and must learn kung fu in order to defeat a grandmaster ninja in gold pajamas. Along the way, he gets training from older men and rapes women.
This is the grandaddy of all lo-fi kung fuvies. The quality of the actual video was extremely low. The audio sounded horrible and the video was so bad that it actually performed color-shifts due to poor lighting. The characters were identifiable and the plot coherent. When most fuvies can't boast coherence over an hour, this one sustained it for 3 films of about an hour and a half each. Not only that, but in a film with a ninja title, THERE WERE ACTUALLY NINJAS!!!!! There was some occult ritual in the film involving someone being turned into a grandmaster by using snake blood (reptilian freemasons anyone?) and the main character makes the pyramid hand signal in the opening sequence (picture). The fight and action scenes featured state of the art special effects like "splicing the film reels" and "change playback speed" which I thought was really cool. The epic training scene in the first film alone is worth watching as the student is boiled, frozen, oiled and otherwise abused while the master smokes what looks like an opium pipe.
I'm rating this adequate because it is the epitome of all lo-fi kung fu flicks.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Kung Fu Kids Break Away (1980)

A Chinese kung fu comedy written and directed by Kan Ping Yu.
A vagrant child kung fu master arrives in a village and befriends a pair of other orphan street children. An adult martial artist is also in this town and somehow they all end up fighting the "evil" leader of the village.
More of the same dung-pu. The audio is what made this one especially unbearable. Most of it was one child voice actor screaming through a distortion pedal. Add the single-track musical score and the same 2 or 3 adult voice actors from literally every other English-dubbed kung fuvie ever made for extra ear pain. The plot was relatively well-presented, although there was a gap commonly referred to as "why are they fighting?". The characters were identifiable by appearance, although not by the sound of their voice (see above). They used speed adjustment as a special effect in the fight scenes to give the kids better fu skills, which I thought was kind of cool. This is best demonstrated in the bean curd fight. There was a full-frontal male nudity scene in this when the orphans are bathing in a river. Why did we need to see a little kid's microscopic penis? Oh well, must be an equal rights thing to even out for the naked women in other films. I'm rating it bad.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Kung Fu Arts (1978)

A Chinese kung fu directed by Kuang Hui A.K.A. Kim Young.
A sick princess is cured by a monkey and forced to marry him. The cruel emperor sends her and her new husband away on a boat to die or be forgotten. The man who sent the monkey to cure the princess finds her and they return to dethrone the emperor.
It was stupid, annoying, insipid and pointless. The audio was absolutely horrible, with certain phrases like "uncle monkey, uncle monkey" being repeated endlessly and consecutively. The camera-work during the fight scenes blew donkey nards and I couldn't see what styles the fighters were using. For being named "Kung Fu Arts", one would think that there would be talk of different styles, but no. No drunken boxing, no animal styles, no tai chi. HOWEVER, the plot was coherent and the characters identifiable. These are grand achievements for a film of this genre and are not taken lightly. Note the female equivalent of epic sideburns and the boy's Tarzan costume in the picture. I'm accepting the flaws inherent in the genre and rating this o.k. because I could understand the story and knew who the main characters were.