Thursday, April 21, 2011

Three Films Make A Post: The Cyclonic Cavalcade of Electrifying Sensations That Makes Your Eyes Pop Out And Your Heart Skip A Beat!

Black Jack (1968): If ever there was a perfectly mediocre Spaghetti Western without any remarkable elements, then it must be this film directed by Gianfranco Baldanello. Baldanello's filmography as a director is full of boring competence, and Black Jack fits snugly among his other films. I'd love to, you know, actually say something about the film, but there isn't anything there to talk about, except for mentioning my annoyance at the intensely racist way it portraits its Indian character (it's the old rape and scalp thing), and the silliness of the faces lead actor Robert Woods makes when he's getting tortured. Black Jack's certainly watchable, just don't expect to remember anything about it the day after you've seen it.


The Swordmates (1969): As if to demonstrate how to make an ultra-generic movie but keep it entertaining, this Shaw Brothers wuxia directed by Cheung Ying and Poon Faan comes along right after the less pleasant example of Black Jack.

Evildoers are planning to topple the Ming Dynasty and have laid their plans down on a practical little scroll that's transported in a jade statue of the goddess of mercy. Do-gooders - as is their wont - do their best to thwart these plans; fighting ensues, long-lost relatives are reunited in an incredibly perfunctory manner and backstory is more ignored than explained. But that the film doesn't seem to care about its own plot isn't much of a problem: it is sprightly paced, the fights are dynamically staged, and an uncommonly high number of handheld camera shots for a Shaw production as well as an at times pretty creative use of environmental objects during the fights are enough to keep even the twelfth fight in twenty minutes fun. Lead actress Chin Ping has at this point in her career gotten so good at the wuxia heroine business (and is of course cute as a button) that not having an actual character to play doesn't hinder her from being impressive, and the older cast members are doing more of the physical action than usual. That might not sound like too much, it is however more than enough to keep me entertained for the eighty minutes the film lasts.


Zombie 5: Killing Birds (1988): When its American distributors saddled this film about a group of very old college students looking for an obscure bird but finding…well, not much, honestly and Robert Vaughn financing his new swimming pool, with the Zombie moniker, they were honest in a skewed way. While Killing Birds doesn't contain too many zombies (or killing birds), its snail-like pacing is as zombie-like as anything you'd care to imagine. If you want to suck enjoyment out of this movie where nothing ever happens - but very slowly, you need an unhealthy love for watching people walking through an empty, brightly-lit house for what feels like hours; a lot of alcohol might help, too. In case you need your movies to have any sort of pay-off, or want them to include anything enjoyable, you'll be better off watching a fireplace DVD.

I usually have a high tolerance for this sort of thing, but Killing Birds has me beat: there's nothing at all on screen for me to recommend it to anyone I don't hate for the horrible things he, she or it has done to my loved ones. The best I have is the comforting fact that director Claudio Lattanzi did never direct a film again.


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