6 Classic Trailers For May 13th, 2022 (RIP, Fred Ward)


Originally, I was going to devote this latest edition of Lisa Marie’s Favorite Grindhouse Trailers to all of the Friday the 13th films but then I heard the sad news that the great character actor Fred Ward had passed away at the age of 79.  Needless to say, I changed my plans.  There will be many Friday the 13ths but there was only one Fred Ward.

Fred Ward lived a life that could have been a movie.  He ran away from home at a young age.  He spent three years in the Air Force.  He spent some time as a boxer.  He worked as a lumberjack in Alaska.  He worked as a cook.  He worked as a janitor.  He spent some time in Rome, dubbing Italian films for the American market.  Much like Lance Henriksen, someone from Fred Ward’s tough background may have seemed like an unlikely actor but he proved himself to be one of our most memorable.  Ward brought an authenticity to even the wildest of parts.  He was a smart actor who could play dumb and, by most accounts, a down-to-Earth nice guy who could be totally intimidating on screen.  He was one of the best.  Here are 6 Fred Ward trailers.

  1. Time Rider (1983)

After appearing in a few supporting roles (most memorably as a trigger-happy redneck in Southern Comfort), Fred Ward had his first starring role in Time Rider.  In this film, Ward plays a dirt bike rider who travels through time.

2. Remo Williams: The Adventure Begins (1985)

After playing tragic astronaut Gus Grissom in 1983’s The Right Stuff, Ward was cast as Remo Williams in Remo Williams: The Adventure Begins.  Ward performed all of his own stunts and, if the film had been a success, he would have had a chance to be an American James Bond.  Unfortunately, Remo Williams bombed at the box office and was only later appreciated by fans of action cinema.

3. Tremors (1990)

Perhaps the most beloved of all of Fred Ward’s films, this horror comedy featured Ward, Kevin Bacon, and a bunch of killer worms.  What could have been a standard B-movie was elevated by a witty script, energetic direction, and Bacon and Ward’s playful performances.  The way that Ward and Bacon bounced dialogue off of each other was almost as fun as all the monster mayhem.

4. Miami Blues (1990)

The same year that Tremors came out, Ward co-starred with Alec Baldwin and Jennifer Jason Leigh in Miami Blues, a film that showed all three of those performers at their best.

5. Cast a Deadly Spell (1991)

In this film, which was made for HBO, Fred Ward plays a role that was perfect for him.  He’s a tough, hard-boiled P.I. working the mean streets of Los Angeles in 1948.  The catch?  In this version of 1948, everyone uses magic!  This is a fun movie and I recommend it to everyone.

6.  Full Disclosure (2001)

Even though Ward’s career as a leading man slowed down a bit in recent years, he still appeared in movies and often, he was the best (any maybe only) reason to watch them.  I’ve never seen Full Disclosure but if I ever do track it down, it will be because of Fred Ward.

Fred Ward, R.I.P.

 

The TSL’s Grindhouse: Avengement (dir by Jesse V. Johnson)


I’m not really sure if “Avengement” is actually a word but, regardless, that’s what Cain Burgess is determined to get.  AVENGEMENT!

Martial artist Scott Adkins plays Cain in this 2019 British film.  When we first meet Cain, he’s in prison but that quickly changes once he manages to escape.  Cain heads to a pub, one that’s owned by his brother, Lincoln (Craig Faibrass).  After he’s taken everyone in the pub hostage, we learn about how Cain not only came to be a prisoner but also how he ended up with some rather prominent facial scars.  It turns out that Cain likes to tell a story and, for whatever reason, the gangsters are willing to sit around and listen.  Through the use of flashbacks, we see how Cain went from being an innocent martial artist to being the most feared man in prison.  We see how he learned to kill and how not even getting acid thrown in his face could slow him down.  Cain’s a scary dude and he’s out for revenge!  Or avengement!

Of course, we also can’t help but notice that a lot of Cain’s adventures feel as if they’ve been lifted from other British crime films.  The talkative gangsters bring to mind the films of Guy Ritchie.  A lengthy chase scene owes more than a little to the opening on Trainspotting.  Even the fight in the pub owes a bit to the finale of Shaun of the Dead.  It’s all a bit familiar but then again, that’s part of the appeal of the modern British crime thriller.  We watch these films specifically for the posh villains and the pub fights and the often indecipherable dialogue.  The familiarity is often exactly what the viewer is looking for.  (That said, I was a little bit surprised by the lack of Russian mobsters wearing track suits.  That was a missed opportunity.)  I think the other reason why Americans, in particular, like British gangster films is the novelty of seeing that British gangsters can be just as unnecessarily violent as American gangsters.  It’s nice to be reminded that America isn’t the only country that breeds violence.

Speaking of violence, Avengement is a very violent film and it’s also often a very bloody film.  When you consider how much of the film takes place in prison, it’s not surprising that there’s a lot of stabbings.  (What is somewhat surprising is that there are also a lot of stabbings outside of prison, even when there are guns nearby.)  I’m usually not a fan of gratuitous violence but Avengement handles it all with a certain wit.  The violence is so over-the-top that it’s hard not to suspect that the filmmakers are commenting on the excessive nature of other British gangster films.  There’s a lengthy montage of Cain just fighting anyone who comes near him and it goes on for so long that it actually becomes somewhat humorous.  It’s hard not to feel at least a little admiration for Cain’s determination to start a fight with every single person that he sees.  He certainly doesn’t give up.  Scott Adkins is a gymnast, along with being a martial artist, and there’s a grace to his movements that comes through even when the film is at its most brutal.  Early on, I joked that the film would only work if its ultraviolent protagonist turned out to be likable and strangely enough, that’s exactly what happened.  Scott Adkins, to my surprise, turned out to be not only an exciting fighter but also a pretty good actor.  He shows enough screen presence in Avengement to make viewers hope that he’ll someday get a major action role.

Avengement is a ferocious but entertaining and unpretentious action film.  Watch it.  Experience it.  Just don’t worry about trying to understand what everyone’s talking about.  Just assume that everyone has a reason to want Cain dead and Cain has a reason to want the same for everyone else and there should not be any trouble at all.

Quick Review – Grindhouse (dir. by Robert Rodriguez & Quentin Tarantino)


The following was posted on 4/6/2007 from my LiveJournal on Grindhouse (which is celebrating it’s 15th Anniversary). I’ll admit I respect Death Proof a bit more now than I did back then:

Gotta write fast. Have to jump into shower and head for work.

I got into the movie theatre at about 8pm, and spent the hour talking with a pair of film students from the School of Visual Arts. At 9 (an hour before the movie), the rest of the sold out crowd appeared. I was officially 3rd in line. Sweet. 🙂 I didn’t my preferred seat (the single one on the right reserved for patrons coming in with someone in a wheelchair), but did get a seat in the empty row (meaning I could stretch my legs, even better).

The short of it: Grindhouse is paying one low price for 2 bad movies, on purpose. You get 3 great built in trailers, and two mini movies. Between the two mini movies, I loved “Planet Terror” (the Rodriguez one) more than “Death Proof” (The Tarantino film), simply because Death Proof had too much of Tarantino’s conversational style that all of his films have. It’s like you’re listening to a conversation that absolutely doesn’t tie itself to any of the storyline’s major points. It’s just “cool” stuff, but I literally almost fell asleep until Kurt Russell showed up on screen. I think that if one knows to expect this from Tarantino, it comes across better. It’s like watching both Kill Bill volumes back to back. The first one’s cool and action packed, and the second one has some action (the chase scene alone in Death Proof had me wondering how they did that), but is so slow before getting there, you want to sigh.

Being a Charmed Fan, it was great to see Rose McGowan again, and there were so many cameos to laugh at. Fergie has a cameo, and Michael Biehn’s (“Hicks” from Aliens, Navy Seals) even in this. Where did they dig up these guys?

Grindhouse is easily a party film. I’d go see it again in the theatre, but I don’t see myself getting the DVD. It takes you back about a good 30 years, and does that really well. There are missing reels, serious jump cuts in the film and the sound sometimes cuts out. 🙂 In that sense, it’s really beautiful. The audience laughed and applauded, though there were some that at the end were like “Man, that sucked.” In the 60’s and 70’s, Grindhouse movies were pretty bad. I guess it’s like watching one of those old Hammer films, mixed in with a cheap horror flick. You have to walk into this movie not expecting “The Departed” for it to work. Just have fun with what you’re seeing and remember, this is what your parents sometimes saw in the movies (it should be noted that my parents went to something of a Grindhouse once – the movie they went to see was Night of the Living Dead. The other movie that was in the show was John Carpenter’s “Halloween”, which freaked my Dad out).

The music in particular is really great. Robert Rodriguez, Chingon, and a few friends come up with a sound for Planet Terror that’s in essence a John Carpenter like sound. If you have access to the Itunes Music Store, give it a listen (I bought it). Plus, if you’re a fan of some of the older movies out there, you’ll find references to some of Carpenter’s films in there (for example, one of the songs from “Escape from New York” is actually used in the film). The same occurs with the soundtrack from “Creepshow” – The story with the drowned couple. There are also tons of older Tarantino/Rodriguez references in there. One fellow actually yelled out a line, word for word, from what was on screen. It took me a second to realize the line came from “From Dusk Till Dawn”. Sweet.

The in betwen trailers are absolutely fantastic. If I were to get the DVD, it would probably be for this reason alone. You can tell that Rob Zombie, Edgar Wright (Shaun of the Dead) and Eli Roth (Hostel) really had fun with their pieces.

So, Grindhouse is worth seeing in theatre at least once with a bunch of friends, but know what you’re walking into. The movie can get gross at times and no young kid should even be brought near to this (we got carded to actually get into the theatre, and a Weinstein Rep. was on hand after the film to let us take surveys). Also before the movies, one of the teaser trailers is for Rob Zombie’s “Halloween”. I haven’t been so excited for a horror film like this since Zack Snyder’s version of “Dawn of the Dead”. This looks really good, and I’m wondering what Michael Myers is going to look like when someone like Tyler Mane (Sabretooth from the first X-Men movie) is playing him. That’s going to be creepy.

6 Classic Trailers For March 25th, 2022


Since it’s Oscar week, it seems like a good idea to devote the latest edition of Lisa Marie’s Favorite Grindhouse and Exploitation Film trailers to 6 classic films that received not a single Oscar nomination. That’s the way the Oscars are unfortunately. Sometimes, the best films are totally ignored.

For instance….

  1. Chappaqua (1967)

1967 was a great year for the movie so perhaps it’s understandable that the Academy somehow overlooked Chappaqua.  Still, this film was far more deserving a nomination than Doctor Doolittle.

2. Beyond the Valley of the Dolls (1971)

Valley of the Dolls received an Oscar nominations for its score.  However, it’s unofficial sequel didn’t even receive that.  Not a single nomination went to Beyond the Valley of the Dolls, not even Best Original Song.  In 1970, the Academy just wasn’t ready.

3. Coffy (1973)

Ellen Burstyn certainly deserved the Oscar for Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore but still, how could the Academy not nominate Pam Grier for her work in Coffy?

4. Dawn of the Dead (1978)

The Academy will probably never embrace the zombie genre.  They certainly weren’t prepared to do so in 1978.  That said, it’s way past time to give Tom Savini an honorary award.

5. The Warriors (1979)

The Warriors is another classic that went unnominated.  Not even the music got a nomination.  David Patrick Kelly was totally snubbed.  The Baseball Furies should have been sitting in front row on Oscar night.  It’s a true shame.

6. Death Wish 3 (1985)

Give the Giggler an Oscar!

The TSL’s Grindhouse: The Scary on Sixty-First (dir by Dasha Nekrasova)


Now streaming on Shudder, The Scary of Sixty-First is a weird little movie.

Two friends who don’t really seem to like each other that much, Noelle (Madeline Quinn) and Addie (Betsey Brown), move into a fully furnished Manhattan apartment.  The apartment, they are told, has been uninhabited for a few years.  The realtor asks them not to play the piano.  One of the mattresses is stained with blood.  Hidden amongst the surprisingly ornate furniture are mystical books and mysterious cards.  It’s kind of a creepy place but it’s also in Manhattan and it’s affordable.

Addie, we’re told, has a history of mental instability and a difficult relationship with her family.  (Noelle, at one point, refers to Addie’s father as being a pedophile.)  Addie also has an idiot boyfriend named Gary (Mark Rapaport, who also produced the film).  Gary may be a little bit slow but he has his standards and when Addie starts to speak in a strange voice and ask him to take part in some truly perverse role play, he freaks out.

Meanwhile, Noelle meets a mysterious person who is only referred to as being The Girl (played by the film’s director, Dasha Nekrasova).  The Girl is hooked on speed and conspiracy theories.  The Girl explains that Noelle and Addie’s apartment was once used by Jeffrey Epstein and Ghislaine Maxwell.  The Girl says that she’s investigating their crimes but her investigation mostly seems to consist of watching YouTube videos and walking around New York.  Within hours of meeting each other, Noelle and the Girl are lovers but when The Girl tries to demonstrate why Epstein couldn’t possibly have hanged himself, Noelle appears to deliberately hesitate before saving the Girl’s life.  Later, as they walk around New York, the Girl spots a woman who she claims is Ghislaine Maxwell.

As for Addie, she’s having nightmares and when she’s not dreaming, she’s sleepwalking and doing even more.  She’s also becoming obsessed with the British Royal Family.  She’s especially interested in Prince Andrew….

“Epstein didn’t kill himself,” as the saying goes and one reason why people are still saying that years after Jeffrey Epstein’s death is because it’s obvious that, whether he killed himself or not, he still took a lot of secrets with him to the grave.  I’m a student of conspiracy theories but I wouldn’t call myself a believer.  I tend to assume that most of what happens in the world is due to random fate as opposed to the unseen hand of some secret organization.  That said, I totally accept that there’s a very good chance that Jeffrey Epstein was murdered on the orders of the rich and powerful people who he previously flew to his private island.  One reason why The Scary of Sixty-First works is because, as bizarre as the film gets, it’s still dealing with a conspiracy theory that even most skeptics find to be plausible.

And indeed, it’s a bizarre film, one that plays out like a filmed dream.  Little about the film makes sense and, at the end of it, you’re still left with a lot of unanswered questions but then again, that’s a feeling that will be familiar to anyone who has ever gone down a conspiracy rabbit hole.  Are Noelle and Addie truly being possessed by evil auras of Epstein and Maxwell or are they just allowing their own paranoia to drive them mad?  Much like a dream, the answers are there but they’re hidden.  It’s a film that many people will find to be distasteful but, at its best, it captures the speed-fueled logic of the modern conspiracy theorist.  It’s a jolt of psychosis captured on a film.  The apartment becomes a metaphor for both the sins of the past and the uncertainty of the present.

Understandably, many will find the film to be distasteful and it often is.  But, at the same time, The Scary on Sixty-First captures the atmosphere and the paranoia of our current cultural moment.  After all, Epstein didn’t kill himself.

The TSL’s Grindhouse: C.C. and Company (dir by Seymour Robbie)


As our long-time readers know, I’ve seen my share of bad movies but it’s been a while since I’ve seen one as bad as 1970’s C.C. and Company.

C.C. and Company is about a drifter named C.C. Ryder (played by Joe Namath, who was a pro football quarterback at the time).  Ryder rides through the desert on his dorky motorcycle.  He doesn’t have a job.  He doesn’t have much money.  He does have a lot of hair and he also has a lot of teeth.  We know that because it’s rare that there’s ever moment when C.C. isn’t smiling.  C.C. is perhaps the most cheerful amateur criminal that I’ve ever seen.  Even when C.C. really shouldn’t be smiling, he’s smiling.  There are moments when people try to kill C.C. and he responds with a smile.  This could be a sign of C.C.’s devil-may-care-attitude but I think it has more to do with Joe Namath being a really bad actor.

C.C. is apparently a member of a motorcycle gang.  I say apparently because no one in the gang seems to like him and they’re constantly beating up on him.  The leader of the gang is Moon (William Smith) and among the members of the gang is an intimidating figure named Crow (Sid Haig).  Smith and Haig were both professional actors and genuine tough guys.  They not only knew how to act on camera but they also knew how to throw a punch without faking it.  Having them act opposite Namath doesn’t really accomplish much beyond emphasizing just how terrible an actor Namath was.  Even though Moon is a Mansonesque creep, you still find yourself rooting for him whenever he and C.C. get into a fight because Smith creates an actual character whereas Namath…. well, he doesn’t.  I sat through this entire film and never once did I find myself wondering what C.C.’s initials stood for.  That’s how uninterested I was in C.C.’s life.

Anyway, C.C. meets the wealthy and chic Ann McCalley (Ann-Margaret) after Ann’s limo breaks down in the middle of the desert.  C.C. not only fixes the limo but he also saves Ann from Crow and Lizard (Greg Mullaney).  It’s love at first sight but, unfortunately, Ann has places to go so she drives off and C.C. returns to the biker camp and watches as Moon sends his girlfriend, Pom Pom (Jennifer Billingsley), out to make money on the highway.  As I watched all of this, I found myself wondering how everyone else in the gang got stuck with names like Moon, Lizard, Crow, Rabbit, Pom Pom, and Zit-Zit (my favorite) but somehow C.C. was able to keep his innocent initials.  The movie never explained the ritual behind receiving motorcycle gang names and I think that was a missed opportunity.

Eventually, C.C. trades in his dorky motorcycle for a Kawasaki, largely because Kawasaki apparently paid the film’s producers a lot of money.  C.C. enters a race and wins.  Ann sees him win and falls even more in love with him.  C.C. gets into a fight with the gang and then he and Ann head to …. well, it looked a lot like Reno but honestly, who knows for sure?  Eventually, Moon and the gang track C.C. and Ann down and it all leads to one last fight.  We never do find out if the “company” of the title referred to Ann and her rich friends or Moon and the gang.  Not even C.C. seems to know for sure.

So, there’s a lot of reasons why C.C. and Company doesn’t really work but mostly it all comes down to the lead non-performance of Joe Namath as C.C.  There’s nothing tough or intimidating or rebellious about Namath.  C.C. is the biker you can bring home to meet your parents.  William Smith and Sid Haig are a lot more fun but they’re playing totally disreputable characters.  Namath and Ann-Margaret have zero romantic chemistry and the entire film has the look of a cheap made-for-TV movie.  Between C.C. and Company and Altamont, 1970 was not a good year to be a biker groupie.

That said, there is one good scene in C.C. and Company, where C.C. and Ann go out dancing.  While Joe Namath awkwardly shakes his shoulders while flashing that ever-present grin, Ann-Margaret dances as if the fate of the world depended upon her.  One year after the release of this movie, she would prove herself as dramatic actress and receive her first Oscar nomination for Carnal Knowledge.

The TSL’s Grindhouse: Blind Fury (dir by Philip Noyce)


Nick Parker (Rutger Hauer) may have lost his sight in Vietnam but he gained something else.  With the help of surprisingly friendly villagers, Nick learned how to master his other senses.  He also became a proficient and deadly swordsmen.  Why would the villagers go out of their way to help an American soldier who, in all probability, they viewed as an intruder?

Does it matter?

Of course not!  All that matters is that 1990’s Blind Fury features Rutger Hauer as a blind swordsman who, 20 years after returning home from Vietnam, decides to to go to Florida to pay a visit on his old service buddy, Frank (Terry O’Quinn).  Frank, however, has developed a gambling problem and is currently in Reno, Nevada.  While Nick is getting to know Frank’s ex-wife, Lynne (Meg Foster), and Frank’s bratty son, Billy (Brandon Call), Slag (Randall “Tex” Cobb) shows up with two corrupt cops.  As you can probably guess from his name, Slag is a bad guy.  He’s looking for Frank.  Nick manages to kill the cops and run off Slag but, in the process, Lynne is killed.  With her dying breath, Lynne asks Nick to take Billy to his father.  Nick, of course, agrees.

The rest of this fast-paced film follows Nick and Billy as they head across the country.  Following them along the way is Slag and his men.  Frank has obviously made some pretty big mistakes and gotten on the bad side of some pretty dangerous people and it’s now up to Nick to save Frank, if just so Billy doesn’t end up an orphan.  At first, Billy is resentful and does things like demanding a window seat on the bus that they’re taking to Nevada.  (As Billy rather rudely puts it, it’s not like Nick has any use for the window.)  Billy also laughs when Nick trips in a puddle and then tries to trick Nick into eating a rock.  However, Nick soon proves himself to be more than capable of defending both himself and Billy.  Soon, Billy is calling him “Uncle Nick” and Nick …. well, Nick still seems to be wondering what he ever did that was so wrong that a part of his punishment was to get stuck with such a little brat.  But, that is a part of Nick’s charm.

And, indeed, Nick has a lot of charm.  That’s not particularly surprising, given that he’s played by the charismatic Rutger Hauer.  Hauer is convincing as both a blind man and a fighter and he bring a lot of sly humor to the role.  Nick may be a warrior but he’s definitely a warrior with a certain joie de vivre.  Beyond his own talents as an actor, Hauer was just one of those performers who had enough natural athleticism to look totally credible while swinging a sword at his enemies. One of the things that makes Blind Fury so enjoyable is that you never doubt that Hauer could actually do all of the things that we see him do.

Blind Fury is a fast-paced and entertaining film.  Director Philip Noyce keeps the action moving quickly and he’s smart enough to avoid getting bogged down with trying to convince the audience that film’s plot makes any more sense than it does.  Blind Fury is a B-action movie that’s proud to be a B-action movie and, as a result, it’s a lot of fun.  The film ends with a battle between Hauer and Sho Kosugi that is genuinely exciting to watch.  It also ends with the promise of a sequel, one that was sadly never made.

As I watched the film tonight (and, with the temperature currently being below freezing and a good deal of ice still being on the ground outside, I definitely enjoyed the escape that the film provided), it occurred to me that I’ve recently viewed many Rutger Hauer films.  I’ve seen a few bad films starring Rutger Hauer but I have never seen a bad Rutger Hauer performance.  Hauer always gave 100%, regardless of what else might be going on with the movie.  That’s why he was a great actor and one who is definitely missed today.

Blind Fury is definitely a very good Rutger Hauer film.  Watch it the next time you need to see that, with a little determination, anything is possible.

The TSL’s Grindhouse: Bolero (dir by John Derek)


The 1984 film, Bolero, tells the story of  Ayre “Mac” MacGillvary (Bo Derek) and her best friend, Catalina (Anna Obregon).  They’re young, they’re rich, they’ve just graduated from college, and, despite the fact that they both appears to be in their early 40s, they’re determined to lose their virginities to the most perfect lovers that they can find.

Because the film is taking place in the 1920, Mac and Catalina first travel to the Middle East in hope of finding a Rudolph Valentino-style sheik.  Accompanying them is Mac’s chauffeur and protector, Cotton (a clearly embarrassed George Kennedy).  Though Mac does manage to find a sheik (played by Greg Benson), her efforts to lose her virginity to him prove to be a failure.  Though the Sheik is willing, he indulges a bit too much with his hookah and ends up passing out right before the consummating the act.

Well, if a sheik can’t do it, how about a bullfighter?  Mac and Catalina leave the Middle East for Spain and it’s there that Mac catches the eyes of Angel (Andrea Occhipinti), a celebrated bullfighter.  Mac decides that Angel will be the one to take her virginity but it turns out that, once again, nothing as is easy as it should be.  It turns out that Angel already has a lover and he’s been with her since she was a teenager.  And a 14 year-old Gypsy named Paloma (played by Olivia d’Abo) has already decided that she is going to be Angel’s next lover, which is incredibly icky even before the film makes it even ickier,  

While Mac is trying to seduce Angel, Catalina is trying to seduce a Scottish attorney named Robert Stewart (Ian Cochrane).  “What do you wear under your skirt?” Catalina asks.  “It’s a kilt!” Stewart yells because he’s Scottish.  Anyway, Catalina eventually does get an answer to her question so yay Catalina!

As for Mac, she does eventually manage to win Angel’s attention but then …. OUCH!  Angel gets gored by a bull and yes, he gets wounded exactly where you think that he gets wounded.  Suddenly, Angel can no longer get it up but fear not.  “We’re going to make that thing work,” Mac says, before she then takes up bullfighting herself.  It all eventually leads to a scene that makes heavy use of dry ice and a neon light that misspells the word ecstasy. 

Bolero is one of those sex-obsessed films that tries so hard to be erotic that it actually goes in the opposite direction and becomes so firmly anti-erotic that one gets the feeling it could be used as a torture device in a George Orwell novel.  “The Anti-Sex League sentences you to watch Bolero!”  A huge part of the problem is that, even though everyone in the film is certainly attractive, there’s still next to no chemistry between Bo Derek and any of her potential lovers.  The film was directed by Bo’s then-husband, John Derek and, somewhat perversely, John continually films her in the least flattering ways possible.  John also tries to introduce some humor into the film — at one point, it turns into a silent film, complete with title cards — but it all falls flat.  Finally, the gored bullfighter is played by a very handsome Italian actor named Andrea Occhipinti who I immediately recognized as being the same actor who played the killer in Lucio Fulci’s The New York Ripper.  Though it was a bit unfair to Occhipinti (whose likable blandness was exactly what made him such a subversive choice to play the killer in Fulci’s film), I was worried every moment that Mac was left alone with him.  (Occhipinti is now one of Italy’s most respected film producers.) 

Produced by Cannon Films, Bolero was apparently a huge flop when it was released.  Bolero was considered to be so bad that it led to MGM announcing that they would no longer help to distribute any other Cannon Films.  I can’t really blame MGM.  Even when viewed decades later, Bolero is a dull romp that’s fit only for the Anti-Sex League.

The TSL’s Grindhouse: Revenge of the Ninja (dir by Sam Firstenberg)


After his wife and most his family is murdered by a rival clan, ninja Cho Osaki (Sho Kosugi) leaves Japan for the United States.  Not only is he leaving his home country but he’s also abandoning his ninja heritage.  As he explains to his mother (Grace Oshita), he no longer has any use for the violent old ways.  From now on, he just wants to sell dolls!

In America, Cho prospers and his mother continues to teach Cho’s young son, Kane (Kane Kosugi), how to defend himself.  When Kane is confronted by a bunch of bullies while walking home from school, he kicks their asses while his grandmother watches approvingly.  GO, KANE!  Seriously, there’s nothing wrong with a movie that opens with a bunch of obnoxious 11 year-olds getting beaten up by a 9 year-old.

Cho has found success opening art galleries and selling dolls.  He’s proven that he doesn’t need to be an elite assassin in order to be happy.  However, Cho’s mother doesn’t trust Cho’s business partner, Braden (Arthur Roberts).  She says that there’s something obviously evil about Braden but Cho doesn’t agree.  Well, it turns out that mom’s right!  Braden is evil.  He’s using the dolls to smuggle heroin into the country!  When the local mob boss (Mario Gallo) refuses to agree to Braden’s terms, Braden decides to wage war on the Mafia. It turns out that Braden is a ninja himself!

When members of the Mafia turning up dead in weird ways, the police bring in a local martial arts instructor named Dave (Keith Vitali).  Confused by the murders, Dave decides to consult with a friend of his to determine whether or not a ninja could be responsible.  That friend just happens to turn out to be Cho, who confirms that there is obviously a ninja in America but who also refuses to fight that ninja because Cho has abandoned the violence of the past and, as he explains it, he’s got a new art gallery opening soon.  Of course, what Cho doesn’t know is that the ninja is his own business partner….

The 1983 film Revenge of the Ninja has an overly complicated plot but the story that it tells is relatively simple.  Cho is done being a ninja.  Then, his family and his girlfriend Cathy (Ashley Ferrare) end up getting caught in the middle of a turf war between Braden and the Mafia and Cho is forced to break his pledge to lead a life of non-violence.  Revenge of the Ninja was produced by Cannon films.  It was preceded by Enter the Ninja, which featured Kosugi as a villain who fought Franco Nero, and it was followed by Ninja III: The Domination, in which Kosugi played a ninja assassin whose spirit ended up possessing a young aerobics instructor.  Of the three Cannon Ninja films, Revenge of the Ninja is the least interesting, as it doesn’t feature a star as charismatic as Franco Nero or a plot twist as wild as an aerobics instructor getting possessed.  Revenge of the Ninja does, however, feature several exciting fight scenes and Sho Kosugi’s athletic prowess goes a long way to making up for the fact that he’s not a particularly expressive actor.  Fans of low-budget but kinetic martial arts action should get a kick and a punch out of Revenge of the Ninja.

Finally, Revenge of the Ninja may not be the best ninja film ever made but it is a Cannon Film and therefore, it’s worth watching.

6 Classic Trailers For January 16th, 2022


Since today is the birthday of John Carpenter, can you guess what the theme of the latest edition of Lisa Mare’s Favorite Grindhouse Trailers is going to be?

Enjoy!

  1. Assault on Precinct 13 (1976)

Let’s get things started with the wonderfully grainy trailer for 1976’s Assault on Precinct 13!  Though the film may have been intended as an homage to Howard Hawks’s Rio Bravo, everything about the trailer screams grindhouse.  

2. Halloween (1978)

Assault on Precinct 13 may not have set the box office on fire but it did help build Carpenter’s critical reputation.  One fan of the film was the actress Angela Pleasence, who suggested to her father, Donald, that he accept Carpenter’s offer to play the role of Dr. Loomis in Carpenter’s next film.  And that film, of course, was Halloween!

3. Escape From New York (1981)

Donald Pleasence returned to play the President in Escape from New York and, of course, Kurt Russell appeared in his first Carpenter feature film.  (Russell had previously played Elvis in a Carpenter-directed television film.)  Though the film may not have been an immediate hit in the United States, it was embraced in Europe and it led to an entire series of Italian films about people trying to escape New York.

4. The Thing (1982)

Carpenter and Russell reunited for The Thing, another film that underappreciated when first released but which has since become a classic.

5. They Live (1988)

They Live is one of Carpenter’s best films and certainly his most subversive.  What may have seemed paranoid in 1988 feels prophetic today.

6. In The Mouth of Madness (1995)

Finally, in 1995, Carpenter proved himself to be one of the few directors to be able to capture the feel of H.P. Lovecraft’s Cthulhu stories on film.  In The Mouth of Madness, like other Carpenter films, has been rewatched and reappraised over the years and is now widely recognized as a classic.

Happy birthday to the great John Carpenter!