Insomnia File #46: Enter the Ninja (dir by Menahem Golan)


What’s an Insomnia File? You know how some times you just can’t get any sleep and, at about three in the morning, you’ll find yourself watching whatever you can find on cable or Netflix? This feature is all about those insomnia-inspired discoveries!

It’s been nearly a year since I did my last Insomnia File.  To be honest, as much as I enjoy writing these posts, I feel like the idea behind the Insomnia File format has become obsolete.  The days of people dealing with insomnia by randomly flipping through movies and infomercials have pretty much come to an end.  Now, if someone has insomnia, they’re more likely to binge an old show on Netflix.

That said, if you had insomnia at one in the morning last night and you didn’t feel like binging The Office for the hundredth time, you could have turned over to TCM and watched the 1981 film, Enter the Ninja.

What would you have gotten out of Enter the Ninja?  Five words: France Nero as a ninja.  Seriously, what more do you need?  Nero plays Cole, a former mercenary who goes off to Japan, trains to become a ninja, and then heads off for the Philippines, where his old mercenary friend, Frank (Alex Courtney), owns a farm.  Frank and his wife, Mary-Ann (Susan George) are having problems because evil businessman Charles Venarius (Christopher George, chewing up the scenery as the bad guy) is determined to force them off of their land.  Add to that, Frank is a pathetic drunk.

Soon, Cole is putting on his white ninja suit and fighting to protect the farm and also dealing with Venarius’s ninja, who just happens to be an old rival of Cole’s.  Cole is also carrying on an affair with Mary-Ann but that’s not big deal because Frank isn’t much of a man.  One of the most interesting things about Enter the Ninja is that it may be a martial arts film but it’s also a modern western and a domestic drama.  Cole could just as easily be a gunslinger, protecting the homesteaders.  Frank and Mary-Ann could just as easily be a couple on a daytime drama.  Instead, they’re all in a ninja film.

The main appeal of Enter the Ninja is Franco Nero, an actor who — in his prime — was one of the sexiest men to ever appear in the movies.  He spends a good deal of the film with his face covered but the important thing is that you can still see those beautiful blue eyes.  As usual, Nero gives a good performance with so-so material.  Nero brings his trademark intensity to the role and he does actually seem to care about whether or not his friends lose their farm.

Enter the Ninja was directed by the legendary Menahem Golan, a filmmaker who understood the importance of never letting the action slow down.  Enter the Ninja is dumb, over the top, and entertaining.  Plus, it’s got Franco Nero!  What else do you need at one in the morning?

Previous Insomnia Files:

  1. Story of Mankind
  2. Stag
  3. Love Is A Gun
  4. Nina Takes A Lover
  5. Black Ice
  6. Frogs For Snakes
  7. Fair Game
  8. From The Hip
  9. Born Killers
  10. Eye For An Eye
  11. Summer Catch
  12. Beyond the Law
  13. Spring Broke
  14. Promise
  15. George Wallace
  16. Kill The Messenger
  17. The Suburbans
  18. Only The Strong
  19. Great Expectations
  20. Casual Sex?
  21. Truth
  22. Insomina
  23. Death Do Us Part
  24. A Star is Born
  25. The Winning Season
  26. Rabbit Run
  27. Remember My Name
  28. The Arrangement
  29. Day of the Animals
  30. Still of The Night
  31. Arsenal
  32. Smooth Talk
  33. The Comedian
  34. The Minus Man
  35. Donnie Brasco
  36. Punchline
  37. Evita
  38. Six: The Mark Unleashed
  39. Disclosure
  40. The Spanish Prisoner
  41. Elektra
  42. Revenge
  43. Legend
  44. Cat Run
  45. The Pyramid

Cleaning Out the DVR #24: Crime Does Not Pay!


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We’re way overdue for a Cleaning Out the DVR post – haven’t done one since back in April! – so let’s jump right in with 4 capsule reviews of 4 classic crime films:

SINNERS’ HOLIDAY (Warner Brothers 1930; D: John Adolfi) – Early talkie interesting as the screen debut of James Cagney , mixed up in “the booze racket”, who shoots bootlegger Warren Hymer, and who’s penny arcade owner maw Lucille LaVerne covers up by pinning the murder on daughter Evalyn Knapp’s ex-con boyfriend Grant Withers. Some pretty racy Pre-Code elements include Joan Blondell as Cagney’s “gutter floozie” main squeeze. Film’s 60 minute running time makes it speed by, aided by some fluid for the era camerawork. Fun Fact: Cagney and Blondell appeared in the original Broadway play “Penny Arcade”; when superstar entertainer Al Jolson bought the rights, he insisted Jimmy and Joan be cast in the film version, and…

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Gone With The Whaaat?: MANDINGO (Paramount 1975)


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If you’ve never seen MANDINGO, be prepared for loads of gratuitous sex, violence, debauchery, depravity, racism, incest, nudity, and other such unsavory stuff! Some people today discuss the film in a scholarly manner, dissecting the sociological implications of pre-Civil War decadence in the deep South, the plight of the abused slaves, the overindulgent cruelty of the slave owners, and blah blah blah. I’m gonna talk about what the movie really is: pure, unadulterated Exploitation trash, in which some scenes will have your jaw dropping in shock, while others will leave you laughing at the exaggerated overacting and ludicrous dialog!

The movie centers around the Maxwell family and their plantation home, Falconhurst. It’s no Tara; Falconhurst is a run-down, gloomy, decrepit mansion that looks like it belongs in one of those “hillbilly horror” schlockfests of the 60’s or 70’s. Family patriarch Warren Maxwell wants a grandson to carry on the family…

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A Movie A Day #281: The House Where Evil Dwells (1982, directed by Kevin Connor)


When writer Ted Fletcher (Edward Albert) moves his family into a house in Kyoto, Japan, he does not know that the house comes with a violent history.  140 years ago, the house was occupied by a samurai and his wife.  When the samurai discovered that his wife had taken a lover, he killed both them and himself.  The three spirits remain in the house, haunting Ted and his wife, Laura (Susan George).  When a possessed Laura starts an affair with Ted’s best friend (Doug McClure), will history repeat itself?

When I was growing up, The House Where Evil Dwells used to frequently show up on television.  When you are a kid, anything that combines ghosts, sex, and samurai swords is automatically the coolest thing that you have ever seen so I used to really like The House Where Evil Dwells.  A few weeks ago, I rewatched it for the first time in years and I was shocked by how boring the movie actually is.  There are a few well-composed scenes with the ghosts silently watching the Fletcher family and Susan George does the best she can do with what she is given but has there ever been any two actors as wooden as Edward Albert and Doug McClure?  Any film about passion and anger is doomed to fail when it stars two actors who cannot show emotion.  This is one haunted house movie that will make you want to hang out with the ghosts because the living are just too boring.

 

A Movie A Day #14: Eyewitness (1970, directed by John Hough)


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In Eyewitness (which is also known as Sudden Terror), eleven year-old Ziggy (Mark Lester) witnesses a policeman (Peter Vaughan) assassinating a visiting African dignitary but, because he has a history of “crying wolf,” he can’t get anyone to believe him.  Not his older sister, Pippa (Susan George).  Not his grandfather (Lionel Jeffries), the lighthouse keeper.  Not the housekeeper, Madame Robiac (Betty Marsden).  Not even Tom Jones (Tony Bonner), a tourist who fancies Pippa.  When he sees two policemen driving up to his grandfather’s lighthouse, Ziggy panics and runs.  Though John Hough’s direction, which is full of zoom shots and Dutch angles, is dated, Eyewitness holds up well as a tight thriller.  Susan George was beautiful in 1970 and Peter Vaughan is a great villain.

If Sam Peckinpah had ever made a children’s movie, it would probably look a lot like Eyewitness.  The movie starts out with Ziggy playing on the beach and pretending to be a soldier while imaginary gunshots and explosions are heard in the background.  It ends with a strange joke about a man who looks like Hitler, followed by a cheery freeze frame.  In between all that cheeriness, the assassin and his brother (Peter Bowles) chase Ziggy across Malta and kill anyone who gets in their way, from a friendly priest to a ten year-old girl being held by her father.  I counted ten onscreen death, which is a lot considering that this British movie was released at a time when some were still arguing that Jon Pertwee-era Dr. Who was too scary for children.  There’s even an exciting car chase that ends with one car overturned and the blood-covered survivors struggling to drag themselves out from underneath the wreckage.  How many British children were traumatized by Eyewitness?

 

Embracing the Melodrama Part II #54: Mandingo (dir by Richard Fleischer)


Mandingo_movie_posterUp until last night, I was under the impression that James Mason never gave a single bad performance over the course of his long career.  Oh sure, I knew that Mason had probably appeared in his share of bad films.  But I figured he was one of those actors who was always better than his material.  Just watch Lolita, The Verdict, Julius Caesar, Odd Man Out, Bigger Than Life, or Murder By Decree and you’ll see that James Mason was a great actor.

But then, last night, I finally got around to watching the 1975 film, Mandingo.

I’ve actually owned Mandingo on DVD for a few years.  I bought it on a whim, the result of having seen it listed as one of the worst films of all time in several different reference guides.  But I have to admit that I did not have any great desire to actually sit through the film.  Instead, it was one of those films that you buy just so your very ownership of it can be a conversation piece.

(“Oh my God, Lisa, what’s this?”  “Oh, that little old thing?  That’s my copy of Mandingo…”)

However, when I decided to do Embracing the Melodrama, Part II, I realized that this would be the perfect time to actually watch and review Mandingo.

Mandingo deals with life on a sordid plantation in pre-Civil War Alabama.  Warren Maxwell (James Mason) owns the plantation and he spends most of his time sweating and complaining about his rheumatism.  When a Satanic slave trader named Brownlee (Paul Benedict) suggests that Warren can cure his rheumatism by always resting his feet on the backs of two little slave children, Warren proceeds to do just that.  Seriously, this is a 127 minute film and, nearly every time that Mason appears on screen, he’s got his feet propped up on the children.

Warren’s got a son named Hammond (Perry King).  Hammond walks with a limp, the result of a childhood pony accident.  Warren expects Hammond to sire an heir to Maxwell family legacy but Hammond is only comfortable having sex with slaves.  Finally, during a business trip with his decadent friend Charles (Ben Masters), Hammond meets and marries Blanche (Susan George).  Blanche assures Hammond that she’s a virgin and, on their wedding night, she asks Hammond how to have sex.  “We take off our clothes…” Hammond begins.

However, the morning after, Hammond is convinced that Blanche lied about being virgin because she enjoyed having sex.  Once they return to the plantation, Hammond refuses to touch Blanche and instead ends up falling in love with a slave named Ellen (Brenda Sykes).  When Ellen gets pregnant, Blanche beats her until she miscarries.

And meanwhile, James Mason keeps popping up with two little kids resting underneath his feet…

But that’s not all!  Hammond has purchased a slave named Mede (Ken Norton).  Mede is a boxer and wins Hammond a lot of money.  In order to “toughen up” his skin, Mede is also forced to bathe in a cauldron of very hot water.  “Shuck down those pants!” Hammond shouts before Mede gets in the cauldron.

Blanche, who is now an alcoholic, gets her revenge on Hammond by having sex with the the legendarily endowed Mede.  Soon, Blanche is pregnant and Hammond and Warren are both excited.  Then the baby is born and all Hell breaks loose.

And, meanwhile, James Mason rests his feet on the back of two little kids…

Mandingo is one of those films that you watch in wide-eyed amazement, shocked that not only was this movie made but it was also apparently made by a major film studio and directed by a professional director.  (Before he directed Mandingo, Richard Fleischer directed everything from 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea to Doctor Dolittle to Soylent Green.)  I know that some would argue that Mandingo used the conventions of exploitation cinema to expose the sickening inhumanity of American slavery but let’s be honest here.  Mandingo is not Django Unchained.  Instead, it’s a slow-moving soap opera that is occasionally redeemed by some over-the-top dialogue and histrionic performances.

And it’s also proof that James Mason was capable of giving a bad performance.  According to the imdb, James Mason described Mandingo as a film that he did solely for the paycheck.  From his terrible Southern accent to the way that he always seems to be trying to hide his face from the camera, Mason gives perhaps one of the worst performances ever given by a legitimately great actor.

But really, can you blame him?

Is Rod Lurie’s Straw Dogs The Worst Film of 2011?


It’s probably a bit too early to answer that question.  After all, we’ve still got 3 months left to go in the year and Roland Emmerich’s take on Shakespeare (a.k.a. Anonymous) hasn’t been released yet.  So, no, Rod Lurie’s remake of Straw Dogs cannot be called the worst film of 2011 yet.  Instead, it’s just the worst film so far.

Straw Dogs is a remake of the 1971 Sam Peckinpah film.  In the Peckinpah film, David Sumner (played by Dustin Hoffman) is a pacifist who, upon moving to the childhood home of his wife Amy (Susan George), is repeatedly harassed by the locals until he finally takes his very brutal revenge.  It’s a flawed and uneven film that still carries quite a punch.  I wouldn’t say I’ve ever enjoyed watching Peckinpah’s Straw Dogs but it’s undeniably powerful film.  As for the remake, Peckinpah has been replaced with Rod Lurie, Hoffman by James Marsden, and Susan George’s controversial character is now played by Kate Bosworth.  None of these changes are for the better.

Lurie’s version of Straw Dogs almost slavishly follows the plot of the original.  He’s made just a few changes and none of those changes are for the better.  The most obvious change is that, while the first Straw Dogs took place in rural England, Lurie’s version takes place in Mississippi.  It’s pretty easy to guess Lurie’s logic here.  Lurie, after all, previously created the television show Commander-in-Chief in which President Geena Davis heroically struggled to save the nation from fundamentalists with Southern drawls.  Lurie’s vision of Mississippi is some sort of Blue State nightmare where everyone drives a pickup truck, goes to church, cheers at football games, and makes supportive comments regarding the War in Iraq.  In the original Straw Dogs, David Sumner is a truly a stranger in a strange land, an American who doesn’t realize just how out-of-place he is in rural England.  In the remake, David Sumner is just a guy on vacation from the West Coast.  He really has no excuse for being quite as dense as he is when it comes to not pissing off the locals.  By changing the locale, Rod Lurie essentially just makes his film into yet another example of Yankee paranoia.  This wouldn’t be such a problem except that Lurie seems to be taking it all so seriously.  He really seems to feel that he’s making a legitimate contribution to the whole Red State/Blue State divide.  Watching the film, I had to wonder if Rod Lurie truly believed that it’s impossible to get a cell phone signal in Mississippi. 

The other big difference is that in Lurie’s version, David Sumner is no longer a mathematician.  Instead, he’s now a Hollywood screenwriter who is apparently working on an epic screenplay about the Battle of Stalingrad.  (“I figured out a way to get Khrushchev in on the action!” he says at one point.)  To be honest, David’s screenplay sounds kinda boring and it’s hard not to sympathize with the “hillbilly rednecks,” (as David calls them) who ask him why anybody would want to watch his movie.  (The rednecks also ask him if he thinks that God had anything do with the Battle of Stalingrad.  Speaking as a nonbeliever, I have to say that this film was almost hilariously paranoid about any sort of religious belief.)  Part of the power of the first Straw Dogs came from the fact that David was an academic.  He was a man whose life was about theory and that made it all the more shocking to see him explode into action.  It also explained his non-existent social skills, because he was, after all, the product of a very insular, intellectual existence.  However, in the remake, David just becomes a condescending jerk who’s working on a screenplay for a film that most viewers would have little interest in actually sitting through.  (Add to that, it was hard not to feel that this new David was just Rod Lurie’s Mary Sue.)

David is in Mississippi because it’s the childhood home of his wife, Amy.  The character of Amy is problematic in both versions of Straw Dogs but, to be honest, I found her character to be even more illogical and insulting in Lurie’s remake.  In the original Straw Dogs, Amy is portrayed as an idiot who flirts with every man she sees, taunts her husband to the point of violence, and (by that film’s logic) puts herself in a situation that leads to her rape.  The character is, in many ways, an insulting stereotype but at least she’s a consistent insulting stereotype.  The remake’s Amy is presented as being a considerably stronger character.  She doesn’t openly flirt with the local rednecks, she and her husband are a lot more obnoxiously lovey dovey, and (as opposed to in the first film), it’s never suggested that she actually enjoys being raped.  Kudos to Lurie for trying to make her a stronger character.  Yet, at the same time, the remake’s Amy still does a lot of the same illogical things as the original Amy.  The original Amy at least had the excuse of being an idiot.  The remake’s Amy just comes across as being an inconsistent, poorly-concieved character.  Eventually, it becomes obvious that director Lurie wasn’t trying to make Amy into a stronger character as much as he was just trying to be politically correct.  (Another thing that the two Amys have in common is that neither one of them wears a bra.  It made sense in the original film because the original Amy was presented as being something of a wannabe flower child.  In the remake, it just comes across as Lurie’s dirty boy excuse to get a peek at Kate Bosworth’s nipples.  Seriously, who goes jogging without a sports bra?)

Anyway, the remake follows the path of the original.  David and Amy return to Amy’s home village where they meet Amy’s ex-boyfriend Charlie Venner (played by an amazingly hot and sexy Alexander Skarsgard).  David hires Charlie and his redneck buddies to repair the roof of an old barn.  Charlie, who is obviously still attracted to Amy, spends the entire first part of the movie subtly humiliating David and basically being a bully.  Somebody strangles Amy’s cat.  Amy says it was Charlie and his friends.  David replies, “I can’t just accuse them.”  Eventually, David is taken on a deer hunt by Charlie’s friends and while he’s gone, Charlie and his buddy Chris rape Amy. 

(In the original it was a snipe hunt and the sight of Dustin Hoffman searching for a nonexistent creature while his wife is being raped was quite disturbing and perfectly symbolized his character’s impotence.  In the remake, David is once again left alone in the woods but this time, he shoots and kills a deer and, unfortunately, James Marsden isn’t a good enough actor to let us know what that means.)

Amy never tells David that she was raped, nor does she go to the authorities.  (This makes a sick sense in the original.  In the remake, it just seems like an effort by Rod Lurie to degrade a previously strong woman.)  The next night, David ends up sheltering the local sex pervert in his house while Charlie and his drunken friends attempt to break in.  This leads to David revealing that, as opposed to being “a coward,” he’s actually as vicious a killer as everyone else in the film. 

In the original version, this was a disturbing revelation if just because Sam Peckinpah emphasized not so much the killing as the fact that, as the siege progresses, David begins to enjoy the killing more and more.  Once Peckinpah’s David has given into the reality that he too is an animal, you realize that it’ll be impossible for him to return to being the essentially decent man that he was before.  In the original, you start out cheering David’s revenge but soon, you just want it to stop.  Much like the originalTexas Chainsaw Massacre, the film is so thematically nightmarish that you end up thinking you’ve seen a lot more blood than you actually have.  It sticks with you.

However, since Lurie’s remake is a film devoid of nuance or subtlety, the sudden explosion of violence on David’s part is neither surprising nor all that exciting.  And since James Marsden is no Dustin Hoffman (to put it lightly), you don’t see any change in David once the violence begins.  He’s not a man turning into an animal as much as he’s just a 90210 reject with a scowl on his face.  He kills a lot of men but he looks oh so pretty doing it and Amy cheers him on every step of the way.  (In the original, Amy was terrified of her husband’s new side.  I would be too.)  Since Lurie isn’t a good enough director to generate a sincere emotional response to seeing David turn into a killer, he instead lingers over all the blood and gore like a pervert struggling to catch his breath while secretly looking at a snuff website.  In short, the original Straw Dogs condemned violence by pretending to celebrate it.  The remake celebrates it by pretending to condemn. 

Okay, you may be saying, so it’s not a great film.  But is it really the worst of 2011 so far?  After all, Alexander Skarsgard gives a charismatic, bad boy performance and James Woods has a few good scenes as a venomous former football coach.  And director Lurie, while he may be incapable of keeping the action moving at a steady pace, does manage to make Mississippi look pretty.  That’s all true but I still say that Straw Dogs is the worst movie of the year so far.  Why? 

Because it’s not only a remake of a film that didn’t need to be remade but it’s also a remake that was apparently made by people who don’t have a clue about what made the original an important film to begin with.  It’s a film that’s gloriously unaware of its own tawdriness, a sordid mess that can’t even have fun with the possibilities inherent in being a sordid mess.  Arrogantly, director Lurie invited you to compare his film to Sam Peckinpah’s by not just ripping off the film’s story (as countless other enjoyable films have done) but by claiming the title as well.  It’s a film that represents Hollywood at its worst and for me, that’s why it’s earned the title of worst film of 2011 so far.

(One positive note: Perhaps this terrible, insulting remake will encourage someone to track down the original Straw Dogs and see how this story was meant to be told.)

6 Trailers From Out of the Past


From out of the shadows of our shared exploitive past comes 6 more of Lisa Marie’s Favorite Grindhouse and Exploitation Trailers.

1) Dirty Mary, Crazy Larry (1974)

This is a fun trailer.  It comes with its own theme song.  There’s no type of love Dirty Mary won’t make.

2) The Night Evelyn Came Out Of The Grave (1971)

This is one of those public domain films that seems to show up in every other Mill Creek Box Set.  It’s a guilty pleasure of mine and the trailer is all tacky goodness.  Plus, Erika Blanc’s in it.  (And the title has allowed me to have a lot of fun at my friend Evelyn’s expense.)

3) Four of the Apocalypse (1975)

Before he was hired to direct Zombi 2,  Lucio Fulci directed this spaghetti western.  Not surprisingly, it’s one of the darkest, most cynical westerns ever made.

4) Massacre Time (1966)

Nine years before Four of the Apocalypse, Fulci directed another western, this one with Franco Nero.  Have I mentioned the things I would let Franco Nero do to me if I could get my hands on a time machine?  Mmmmm….Franco Nero.

5) 99 Women (1969)

From director Jesus Franco comes “99 women  … without men.” 

6) Ilsa, Harem Keeper of the Oil Shieks (1976)

Don’t watch this trailer if you’re a toadsucker.  Or easily offended.

Poll: Lisa Marie Submits To Your Will


Last year, I gave up control to the reader of the site and you know what?  I kinda liked it in a sneaky, dirty little way.  So I figured, why not do it again?

Of course, I’m sure you’ve already guessed that I’m referring to my What Movie Should Lisa Marie Review poll.  This is the poll that led to me reviewing Anatomy of a Murder. 

Here’s how it works.  Earlier today, I put on a blindfold and then I randomly groped through my DVD collection until I had managed to pull out ten movies.  I then promptly stubbed my big toe on the coffee table, fell down to the floor, and spent about 15 minutes cursing and crying.  Because, seriously, it hurt!  Anyway, I then took off the blindfold and looked over the 10 movies I had randomly selected.  Two of them — Dracula A.D. 1972 and A Blade in the Dark — were movies that I had already reviewed on this site.  So I put them back and I replaced them with two movies of my own choosing — in this case, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and The Unbearable Lightness of Being.

Between now and next Sunday (March 27th), people will hopefully vote in this poll.  On Sunday, I will watch and review whichever movie has received the most votes.  Even if that movie turns out to be Incubus. *shudder*  (Have I mentioned how much I love Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind?)

Now, of course, there’s always the possibility that no one will vote in this poll and I’ll end up looking silly.  Those are the risks you take when you set up an online poll.  However, I have a backup plan.  If nobody votes, I will just spend every day next week shopping for purses at Northpark Mall and then blogging about it.  And by that, I mean blogging every single little detail.  So, it’s a win-win for me.

Anyway, here’s the list of the 10 films:

1) Barbarella — From 1968, Jane Fonda plays Barbarella who flies around space while getting molested by …. well, everyone.  Directed by Roger Vadim.

2) Barry Lyndon — From 1975, this best picture nominee is director Stanley Kubrick’s legendary recreation of 18th-century Europe and the rogues who live there.

3) Caligula — Yes, that Caligula.  From 1979, it’s time for decadence, blood, and nudity in the Roman Empire.  Starring Malcolm McDowell, Helen Mirren, Peter O’Toole, John Gielgud, John Steiner, and Theresa Ann Savoy.

4) Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind — Oh my God, I love this movie.  Jim Carrey breaks up with Kate Winslet and deals with the pain by getting his mind erased by Tom Wilkinson, Mark Ruffalo, Kirsten Dunst, and an amazingly creepy Elijah Wood.

5) Incubus — From 1969, this low-budget supernatural thriller not only stars a young William Shatner but it also features the entire cast speaking in Esperanto.  For.  The.  Entire.  Movie.

6) Inland Empire — If you want to give Lisa nightmares, you can vote for David Lynch’s disturbing 3-hour film about lost identity, sexual repression, human trafficking, and talking rabbits.

7) Kiss Me Deadly — From 1955, this Robert Aldrich-directed cult classic features hard-boiled P.I. Mike Hammer and a host of others chasing after a mysterious glowing box and accidentally destroying the world in the process.

8 ) Mandingo — From 1975, this infamous little film is a look at slavery, incest, and rheumatism in the pre-Civil War South.  Starring James Mason, Ken Norton, Perry King, and Susan George.  Supposedly a really offensive movie, one I haven’t sat down and watched yet.

9) Sunset Boulevard — From 1950, hack screenwriter William Holden ends up the kept man of psychotic former screen goddess Gloria Swanson.  Directed by Billy Wilder.

10) The Unbearable Lightness of Being — From 1988, Philip L. Kaufman’s adaptation of Milan Kundera’s classic novel (one of my favorite books, by the way) features Daniel Day-Lewis, Juliette Binoche, and Lena Olin having sex and dealing with ennui.  After I first saw this movie, I insisted on wearing a hat just like Lena Olin did.

Everyone, except for me, is eligible to vote.  Vote as often as you want.  The poll is now open until Sunday, March 27th.

(Edit: Voting is now closed but check below for the results! — Lisa)

9 Favorite Revenge Films


Having recently seen Michael Caine’s revenge film Harry Brown I got to thinking about other revenge-themed films I’ve watched through the years and I realized that there were quite a bit of them. There’s something just primal and Old Testament about revenge flicks. It doesn’t matter whether they’re high-brow art-house films or the cheapest grindhouse flicks in the end it all boils down to one individual raining down their own version of Divine Wrath on those who wronged them.

Who hasn’t fantasized or thought about going all medieval on someone who just screwed them over. Maybe it was an infraction that was minor that one didn’t need to get overly upset over or something so heinous that only violence at its most basest was the only response. Going through with such thoughts usually stayed there: in one’s thoughts and imaginings. Revenge films seems to be quite popular because they allow even the meekest and most pacifist to secretly live vicariously through the revenge-minded leads in the film.

The list below is not the best revenge films out there but they definitely are my favorites…

Oldboy – This revenge film by South Korean auteur Park Chan-wook wasn’t just a blast to watch but also happens to be one of the best films of the past decade. It takes a simple plot of a man imprisoned against his will for 15 years with no explanation whatsoever that he literally goes insane and back to sane during his captivity. Revenge being the one thing which keeps him going and revenge he gets to inflict on all those he discovers were responsible. The mind-twisting last act in the film takes the revenge-theme right on it’s head as we find out that the main lead wasn’t the only one on a revenge train of thought.

I Spit On Your Grave aka Day of the Woman – This grindhouse classic from Meir Zarchi is the epitome of the rape victim turned revenge valkyrie. The film is not very easy to sit through since there’s nothing subtle about how filmmaker Meir Zarchi filmed every exploitative scene. From the prolonged gang rape sequence to each subsequent revenge act by Camille Keaton’s Jennifer character. Some critics have blasted the film as pandering to the lowest common denominator while others have hailed it as a post-modern feminist film. I like to think that both sides are correct and that the film lies somewhere in the middle. It definitely will put a scare on any group of men who are having thoughts of shenanigans.

Death Wish – When people hear revenge flick they almost always say this iconic film by Charles Bronson from the 70’s. The film was adapted from Brian Garfield’s 1072 novel of the same name and directed by Michael Winner. While critics had mixed reactions to the film with some calling it irresponsible filmmaking, the nation as a whole embraced the film. Here was a film which screamed to the nation that the rising crime-rate in the U.S. during the 1970’s wasn’t going to go unanswered. While some people may have seen the film as a blank check to actually commit vigilantism in the end it just helped a country sick and tired of the crime they see day in and day out. Again here was art becoming a driving force in changing a nation’s collective malaise into something more positive. It didn’t hurt that Bronson was badass as Paul Kersey.

Kill Bill: Volume 1-2 – Who else but the video clerk made good would make what I would consider the greatest genre mash-up film ever made. Quentin Tarantino’s ode to kung fu, spaghetti westerns and revenge flicks became so massive that he had to split the film into two volumes. I am talking about Kill Bill. Not his greatest film ever but I definitely consider it his most geek-friendly and most entertaining. Uma Thurman as The Bride tearing a bloody and witty path of revenge on those who failed to kill her created some of the most iconic fight sequences of the generation this film came out in. Every scene almost seemed to be inspired by other films of a similar theme and genre that film geeks everywhere must’ve exploded in their pants from all the awesomeness they were witnessing. Each volume had two great action sequences that were both fantastical and brutal.

Straw Dogs – One of the most controversial films in Sam Peckinpah’s controversy-filled directing career. Released in 1971 it told the story of how even the meekest person could be pushed into dealing out extreme violent justice on those who have wrong them and those they love. Seen by critics as quite misogynistic due to the nature of the rape scene of Susan George’s Amy character the film was banned for two decades in the UK for it’s unflinching look at violence. Being a huge fan of Sam Peckinpah I had to see it and when I did it automatically became one of my favorite films ever and not just a favorite revenge film. If there was ever a modern retelling of a Biblical-level fable it is this classic from Sam Peckinpah. Every revenge-fueled act by Dustin Hoffman literally oozes Old Testament justice. Just the way I like my revenge. 🙂

Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan – Speaking of Biblical this first sequel in the Star Trek film franchise still considered by fans and non-fans alike as the best in the series. Hard to argue with them since it’s also an opinion I share. The sequel takes a popular episode from the original series and follows it up with all the cast of characters older and more seasoned. In the case of Ricardo Montalban’s Khan Noonian Singh quite seasoned and classy as smooth Corinthian leather. It’s a film with Shatner’s Kirk and Montalban’s Khan in an everending cycle of revenge which would culminate in what would be one of film’s most heartbreaking scenes. One could taste the revenge emanating from the two characters as age-won wisdom and genetically-engineered intellect fell by the wayside to feed the vengeance sought by Kirk and Khan. This revenge flick also has one of the most awesome death speeches by a character on film.

Carrie – Brian De Palma’s film adaptation of one of Stephen King’s better horror novels still seen by many as the best film adapt of a King novel. It combines the existential horror of being a girl and her body maturing in the dog-eat-dog world of high school and the horror said girl can inflict on those tormenting her. It’s high school bullying and revenge with a healthy dose of Stephen King shenanigans mixed in. Sissy Spacek was great as the titular character. One doesn’t have to be a high school girl to feel for Carrie and what she goes through. Her snapping in the last act and inflicting her psychokinetic-brand of revenge on her tormentors must’ve gotten more than a few “Hell yeah!” from some of the teens and adults who went through high school hell. It also has a classic line uttered by Carrie’s mother played by Piper Laurie: “I can see your dirty pillows. Everyone will.”

Orca – This film was to be producer Dino De Laurentiis’ attempt to capitalize on the success of Steven Spielberg’s classic man-versus-nature thriller, Jaws. Starring Richard Harris, Charlotte Rampling and Bo Derek the film wasn’t a success when it first came out. While Spielberg’s film was a modern retelling of Moby Dick this killer whale version by director Michael Anderson was Death Wish on water with Paul Kersey as the killer whale. This was one of the first films where I realized none of the people on the screen were worth rooting for to survive. I was all for the killer whale who was on a warpath to avenge his mate and unborn wee killer whale who were killed by Harris and his crew. Shamu this killer whale was not and it always brought a smile to my face whenever the killer whale outsmarted the humans and killed each and everyone in inventive ways. I’m wondering if all the killer whales in all the aquatic parks are just biding their time before they too go all Orca on their handlers and the audience. I’d pay to see that!

Treevenge – Last but not least the greatest film ever made!