It is with absolute confidence that I call “Infra-Man” one of the most memorable films I have ever seen. That’s because I have yet to forget the sound the movie makes. A Hong Kong knock-off of Japanese superhero TV shows like “Ultraman,” this production from the prolific kung-fu studio Shaw Brothers is an endless barrage of noise. In the United States, it was promoted as “beyond bionics,” in an attempt to capitalize on the popularity of “The Six-Million-Dollar Man” and “The Bionic Woman.” The heroes of those shows had every superhuman action punctuated with a distinctive sound that let you know something bionic was happening. When the sound designers were working on this movie, they wanted to make sure everyone knew that our guy Infra-Man couldn’t take a leak without it sounding like the start of an Emerson, Lake & Palmer B-side. Continue reading
There are many different kinds of cult movies. There are those that are so specifically targeted at one particular sensibility that it’s nearly impossible for anyone but a handful to appreciate it, like “The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across The Eighth Dimension.” There are others that aspire for profundity and inspire a few dedicated souls to unlock its meaning, like “Donnie Darko.” There are some that have been lost to time and require adherents to keep its memory alive the way monks used to memorize manuscripts, like “Nothing Lasts Forever.”
But the strangest and saddest category of these films is the “never-was” cult movie. Hundreds of productions fall under the radar every year, seen by few and remembered by fewer. There’s nothing remarkable about these, by definition. What’s more interesting are the ones that could have become obsessions but didn’t for whatever reason. “Six-String Samurai” is one of these. Continue reading
For a good chunk of “Five Deadly Venoms,” it’s more John Grisham than Jackie Chan. There’s a long stretch in the middle that’s actually a legal thriller involving witness intimidation, false testimony, corrupt judges, phony confessions and finally the execution of an innocent man. It’s kind of like “A Few Good Men,” but if Tom Cruise got a needle pushed through his brain at the end. Continue reading
If you’re a woman in a horror movie, yours is often a lonely existence. If you haven’t been hacked to pieces or eaten before the end of the movie, you’re probably the lone survivor of the killer’s rampage. Whether you climb into the back of a conveniently passing pickup truck, float out into the middle of the lake in a canoe or get saved at the last minute by Donald Pleasance, you’re the Final Girl. Your friends are all dead, and you have to make it through the last act of the movie all by yourself. Being a woman in a horror movie usually means you either become self-reliant, find a man to save you, or you die.
That’s a big part of the reason why I found “Patchwork” to be so refreshing, because it’s one of the rare horror movies I’ve seen where the focus is on the relationships between women. Even if it’s not entirely successful in that regard, it’s at least attempting something different. Rather than make its lead characters stronger by isolating them, “Patchwork” focuses on its women surviving by getting closer together. You literally can’t get any closer together than the women of “Patchwork” do, as a matter of fact. Continue reading
It’s difficult to make 31 movies about a single character without repeating yourself a few times, and Godzilla is one of those characters. Whether he’s the hero or the villain, an intelligent creature or a mindless beast, the basic elements of a Godzilla movie have remained the same for the most part over the last 52 years. That’s why when a movie like “Shin Godzilla” is added to this long-running series, it’s something special. Like its star monster, “Shin Godzilla,” manages to take a familiar form but still be something unusual and unique.
On its surface, there isn’t anything about “Shin Godzilla” that hasn’t been seen before in any other Japanese monster movie. Godzilla emerges from the ocean, stomps on Tokyo, and it’s up to a brave coalition of scientists, military and civil servants to put an end to his rampage. Where the movie deviates from the rest of the series is in how the threat of Godzilla evolves over the course of the movie, its more grounded setting, and how it uses Godzilla as an allegory for real-world events. It’s a strange Godzilla movie, but it’s definitely a Godzilla movie through and through. Continue reading
Mesopotamia may be the cradle of civilization, but Australia is the birthplace of the apocalypse. Ever since George Miller unleashed “The Road Warrior” on an unsuspecting public in 1981, its feral, stripped-down version of post-Armageddon life has been the go-to setting when movies take place at the end of the world. “Post-apocalyptic” has become synonymous with rusting DIY war machines and dusty leather bondage gear, thanks to the Aussies. That’s why it’s surprising and refreshing to find a movie like “Dead End Drive-In,” another Ozploitation production that shares a lot of elements with the world of Mad Max but nevertheless has something very different to say about what it would mean to live during the end of the world. Continue reading