Psichedelico Jazzistico

Artist: Ennio Morricone
Released by: él / Cherry Red Records

Here’s a quick look at another Ennio Morricone compilation CD, but substantially different from The Legendary Italian Westerns. These tracks are taken from the late sixties and early seventies, and while not quite as ‘psychedelic’ as the title would imply, they are certainly surreal, and in places have an almost dream like quality. But these dreams aren’t always nice dreams. As some of this music is taken from Giallo films, the music is often creepy and, at times, abrasive. But that is one of the many charms of this release – the diversity of sounds and musical styles on it.

Sometimes the music drifts into religious choral sounds, backed up with church organ, and at other times it slips into very sinister carnival music. There is one track that can only be described as an ‘organ freak out’. There’s even some straight ahead 70’s grinding funk. Also, as you’d expect from Morricone, there is a wide variety of pianos and keyboards.

If you have heard only Morricone’s soundtracks for The Mission and a few Spaghetti Westerns, you may be in for a bit of a shock listening to this. These tracks aren’t all nice melodies (although there are those on the album too). But the bulk of these tracks, mess with your head. If that’s a mind space that you like being in, then you’ll find a lot to enjoy here.

Track Listing

1. Plume Di Cristallo
from L’Uccello Dalle Plume Di Cristallo
2. Non Rimane piu Nessuno
from L’Uccello Dalle Plume Di Cristallo
3. Corsa Sui Tetti (AKA Black Glove Underground Pt. 1)
from L’Uccello Dalle Piume Di Cristallo
4. Come un Madrigale
from Quattro Mosche Di Velluto Grigio
5. Quattro Mosche Di Velluto Grigio
from Quattro Mosche Di Velluto Grigio
6. Sauna
from Metti Una Sera A Cena
7. Alla Luce Del Giorno
from Metti Una Sera A Cena
8. Uno Che Grida Amore
from Metti Una Sera A Cena
9. Sospesi tra le Nuvole
from Forza G
10. Forza G (Psichedelico Jazzistico)
from Forza G
11. L’Assoluto Naturale
from L’Assoluto Naturale
12. Studio di Colore
from L’Assoluto Naturale
13. Indagine Su Un Cittadino Al Di Sopra Di Ogni Sospetto
from Indagine Su Un Cittadino Al Di Sopra Di Ogni Sospetto
14.Terraza
from Il Gatto
15. Marianzela e la Seduzione
from Il Gatto

Psichedelico Jazzistico

Bruce Lee Fights Back From the Grave (1976)

Director: Doo-yong Lee
Starring: Bruce K.L. Lea, Deborah Chaplin, Anthony Bronson, Steve Mak
Music: Wong Kuei Yen

Following the success and death of Bruce Lee many imitators stepped up to take his place. Most of these ‘Bruceploitation’ films never made it to the cinemas in Australia. But when the video boom hit in the mid eighties, these films flooded the market. Time has clouded my memory, I watched a whole swag of these films featuring actors who called themselves Bruce Le, Bruce Li, Bruce Leong and Bruce Lang.

As I mentioned, my memory of these films is hazy at best, but one of the weirdest films I saw featured Bruce Lee in the afterlife. In heaven or hell (wherever Bruce went), he is attack by a legion of guys in skeletons suits. Naturally a legion of skeletons is no match for the martial artistry of Bruce Lee. So the big guns are dragged in to kick Bruce’s ass. First James Bond is sent in. Bond’s Walther PPK is no match for Bruce’s fists of fury, and 007 is bested. Next they send in ‘The Man With No Name’. Yep a cheroot chomping man in a poncho is sent to teach Bruce a lesson. Of course the pseudo Eastwood also gets his comeuppance.

That’s about all I can remember of the film. Not that the film was all that good, but after all these years I thought I might track it down and watch it once more. Was it really as goofy as I remember?

My first hurdle was finding the film – I couldn’t even remember the title. Then I stumbled upon Bruce Lee Fights Back From The Grave. Could this be the film? The short answer is NO, but since I have gone to the effort of obtaining this piece of crap, I thought I might as well review it. My suffering shall be your suffering. Here goes…

The film starts with a lightning bolt striking Bruce Lee’s grave stone. A man (presumably Bruce) leaps up out of the dirt. So Bruce is alive once more. But this doesn’t really matter. This cow catcher looks like it has been tacked on at a later date. This opening does not match the rest of the film, and in fact this is the only reference to Bruce Lee made in the film.

The film proper, opens with Wong Han (Bruce K. L. Lea) arriving by plane in Los Angeles. Wong gets into a taxi and as the car moves through the streets, Wong flashes back to three years previously, in Hong Kong where he was working with his brother Go-Hok Han as a kung fu instructor. Go-Hok has had enough. He wants to make money, and large amounts of it, and working as a Ku Fu instructor doesn’t seem like the way to get it. He quits the business and heads across to the other side of the world and attempts to make it big.

In the time away, Go-Hok has made it. He is a successful business man and he summons his younger brother to come across to the US. The flashback ends, and Wong is still in the taxi. The taxi pulls up unexpectedly and the driver pulls a knife and demands all of Wong’s money. Wong hands it over, and then he is forced out of the car. The driver knocks Wong to the ground, and then drives off. But the driver hasn’t finished yet. He swings the car around and starts barrelling towards Wong. At the last moment, Wong gets up, sidesteps the car and kicks the driver side window in as it passes.

Later, Wong arrives at his brother’s gymnasium, only to find that he died the day before. The official verdict is suicide – but both you and I know that there far more to the story than that. Wong thinks so too, and starts to investigate a group of mobsters who had an association with Go-Hok Han.

Bruce Lee Fights Back From The Grave is a B-grade, grindhouse chop socky flick with truly awful dubbing. Wong sounds like a race caller on mandrax. Thankfully there is a fight scene every ten minutes and even though the early fights are rather un-involving, the fight choreography gets better as the movie goes along.

Bruce Lee Fights Back From The Grave is not the worst film of it’s kind that I have seen, but it is close. Unless you’re a kung fu junky who must watch all the seventies martial arts movies that you can lay your hands on, then I’d stay clear of this one. There is a rumour, and personally I find it rather dubious at best, that the film was directed by Umberto Lenzi (under a Korean pseudonym). If you look at any of Lenzi’s poliziotteschi, it is obvious that he is a far more competent director than what’s on display here.

The film I was searching for turns out to be called The Dragon Lives Again, which, no doubt in time, I will pick up a copy and relive the mad insanity that I remember. In the meantime, here is the title sequence – uploaded to Youtube by: animaniaco

Bruce Lee Fights Back From the Grave (1976)

The Burglars (1971)

Director: Henri Vernuil
Starring: Jean-Paul Belmondo, Omar Sharif, Dyan Cannon, Robert Hossein, Renato Salvatori, Nicole Calfan
Music: Ennio Morricone – conducted by Bruno Nicolai
Based on the novel by David Goodis

This Euro-heist caper, set in Greece and directed by Henri Verneuil, is a bit different to most. Rather than building up to the perfect robbery, the film starts with the heist, then spends the rest of it’s running time, seeing if the criminals can get away with the loot.

Three men and a woman; Azad (Belmondo), Ralph (Robert Hossein), Renzi (Renato Salvatori) and Helene (Nicole Calfan), drive up to a stately home in an un-named Greek city. Ralph and Renzi get out of the car and put stockings over their heads. They go to the front door of the caretakers quarters and ring the doorbell. When the caretaker answers, he is knocked to the ground then tied and gagged. They then signal for Azad to go to the main house. He does and makes quick work of the front door. Inside there are priceless works of art adorning the rooms. Azad ignores them and heads straight to the safe. He puts on his gloves and goes to work. Joined by Ralph (Renzi and Helene keep watch out side), a x-ray machine is used to work out the model number on the inside workings of the safe’s door. Azad looks up the details in a safe guide book (must be very handy for all safe crackers). He finds another series of numbers. At this point, Azad, opens a suitcase he has been toting along with him. Inside is like a little computer. He enters these numbers and he is directed to a key shape. He then selects the base key from a series he has pre-prepared. Then this computer, sort of becomes a key-cutting device, and shapes this key into one which will fit this particular make and model of safe. It’s all rather hi-tech and hard to put in words, but it is impressive. So now Azad has a key, but he still doesn’t have the combination to the four tumblers on the door.

Meanwhile, driving by is police detective Abel Zacharia (Omar Sharif). He notices Azad’s car parked out the front, and stops to investigate. As he snoops around, the bound and gagged caretaker tries to make as much noise as possible. Rocking his chair, he crashes into a fish bowl that smashes loudly on the floor. By now Zacharia’s suspicions are heightened. But before he can move in to the house, Azad scoots around the back to his car. Zacharia notices and comes across to question him, forgetting about the noise inside. Azad gives Zacharia a cock ’n’ bull story about his car breaking down. Zacharia trusts him for now, and goes about his business.

Azad returns to the safe, and using a listening device attached to his computer / cutter / suitcase, he cracks the tumblers and the safe. Inside there is a large amount of money and bonds, but Azad only takes one million dollars worth of emeralds. The heist is beautifully staged in its intricacy and precision. Azad and crew have made their score, now they have to get out of town. But this has been pre-arranged. They have made a deal with the captain of the ship, the Arax, to take them (and the emeralds) from the country, no questions asked. Unfortunately the ship has suffered hull damage as it came into port. It will be another five days before it leaves.

Azad and crew decide to wait it out and head their separate ways in the meantime. After Azad has dropped Helene off at the train station he notices he is being followed by somebody in a beaten up, dirty little car. In traffic, Azad tries to lose the unseen, gloved driver, but this driver is well up to the task and doggedly stays on Azad’s tail as the cars race around the streets, down steps, through tunnels, and basically on any surface a car can travel. It’s a great sequence.

As you’ve no doubt guessed, Zacharia isn’t quite as he seems. Actually he is, but he’s a little bit more too. He is a cop, but one who is looking to raise his lifestyle and willing to blackmail a few people on the way. Sharif appears to be having a great time, especially when eating, drinking and shooting.

Dyan Cannon’s role is little more than a cameo. She plays a glamorous photographic model that Azad picks up in a bar. Sure, there’s a twist, but there’s no real attempt by the film-makers to conceal it, so you won’t be guessing long.

This film has a series of amazing scenes that on their own are quite okay, but as a cohesive film they don’t link too well. The heist at the beginning is well staged, and carried out virtually without dialogue, but after Jules Dassin’s Riffifi, I guess all good heists have to be carried out that way. This is followed up by the fantastic car chase that I mentioned earlier in the review. When you review a car chase, it inevitably gets compared to the ones in Bullitt or The French Connection. Unlike many others, this is actually worthy of the comparison. It won’t surprise many people that it was put together by French driving legend, Rémy Julienne. Later in the film, there’s an interesting musical interlude at a strip club; some drunken target practice in a toy factory; and finally Belmondo shows us an interesting new technique for catching buses. All these sequences are good. But the film as a whole just doesn’t add up to quality of its disparate parts.

The Burglars isn’t a bad film, but it has dated. In the early seventies, the story may not have mattered so much. It was about style, and this film has early seventies jet-setting style to burn. But now with the world virtually at out fingertips, style isn’t so important. We want a story and characters that are engaging, and this film just falls short of the mark.

Belmondo catches the bus – from The Burglars – uploaded by sheriff85

The Burglars (1971)

Jonny Quest: Jonny's Golden Quest (1992)

Country: United States
Director: Don Lusk, Paul Sommer
Voices: Will Estes, Don Messick, Granville Van Dusen, Jeffrey Tambor, Rob Paulsen, Meredith McCrae, Jo Beth Williams
Music:
John Debney

The animated series and character Jonny Quest have been brought to the televison screen on numerous occasions. First was in the mid sixties, where Tim Matheson provided the voice of young Jonny Quest. Matheson keeps his spy credentials in check having recently put in the odd guest appearance on Burn Notice and he has even directed a few episodes too. Jonny Quest was next updated in the 1980s, where a series ran for thirteen episodes. This telemovie, Jonny’s Golden Quest was released in 1992 and then was followed in 1995 by Jonny Quest Versus the Cyberinsects. The last official series was The Real Adventures of Jonny Quest which had George Segal and John De Lancie providing the voice for Dr. Benton Quest.

This movie, despite obviously being aimed at the adolescent market, is actually very good and a lot more mature than you’d expect in a program of this type. Young Jonny has some real issues to deal with and quite a bit of ‘mixed up’ teen angst to work through.

The show opens with Jonny Quest (voiced by Will Estes) doing something that he shouldn’t. He is accessing some top secret information from a computer. He is discovered by ‘Race’ Bannon (voiced by Granville Van Dusen), who pulls a gun on Jonny. People who are not familiar with the series, may think this sounds rather plausible – but let me explain – ‘Race’ Bannon has actually been hired to protect Dr. Benton Quest and his son Jonny. Dr. Quest works for an Itelligence Agency known as I-1. So, the fact that Bannon is trying to kill Jonny means that there is something seriously wrong.

Jonny quickly ‘legs it’ with Bannon hot on his heels. Jonny’s blind attempt to escape leads him into a dead-end alley, and Bannon has him cornered. Bannon aims his gun and fires – and of course, this is all a training exercise. Jonny is fine. Bannon is almost like a second father to Jonny and would never hurt him.

This telemovie is slightly different to the preceding episodes in various Quest series over the years. In this show, it is not an ‘all-boys-club’. Jonny’s mother, Rachel Quest also lives at I-1 headquarters with her husband, Jonny, Bannon, and another young lad named Hadji – who knows a few mystical Eastern magic tricks. He can levitate and move small objects around. These skills come in very handy when there’s trouble.

And as it so happens there is trouble at the moment. Well, not so much trouble, but a mystery that needs investigating. Deep in the Peruvian Forests there have been reports of strange mutations and aberant behaviour by the animals in the region. So the Quest family, along with Hadji, Bannon and their dog Bandit (I didn’t mention him before did I?) head off to Peru. There they will be met by a civilian who will brief them on the situation.

The Quest plane (which I am sure has a name), lands on a runway in the forest. Their cars race out of the back of the plane and head toward their camp. Then from out of nowhere another car rushes out of the forest to intercept them. Bannon takes the lead and moves to block the agressive new-comer, only to find that behind the wheel is a woman named Jade Kenyon. Or more correctly, Jade Kenyon-Bannon. Yep, she just happens to be Bannon’s ex-wife. She is their civilian contact.

She explains that some of the animals in the area have mutated and have become particularly agressive. This is borne out when a two headed crocodile attacks Bannon. While this is going on, two ‘space gliders’ rise out of the water, piolted by some weird mutant lizard men. These mutants swoop in on Dr. Benton Quest (voiced by Don Messick) and Rachel Quest (Meredith McCrae), picking them up and then taking them away.

Bannon and the boys try to pursue the mutant in a 4WD but in the rough overgrown forest terrain they are impossible to follow. However Bannon does manage to fire a tracking dart into one of the ‘space gliders’ so he can follow them later.

The kidnapping and the mutations turn out to be the work of nefarious evil mastermind – and arch enemy of the Quest family – Dr. Zin (Jeffrey Tambor). Zin, who is carrying out his research in a hollowed out volcano (but, of course), is dying, and is searching for a way to prolong his life and make clones of himself. To prove his point, Zin creates a perfect duplicate of himself in front of Dr. Quests and Rachel, who are locked up in a cage above the laboratory.

At that moment, Bannon, Jonny and Hadji arrive on the scene. Their arrival is signified with a series of explosions. Zin sets his mutant henchman to destroy Bannon – but y’know, they’re just henchmen and become fodder for the fight that ensues. Seeing that his plan has failed, Zin flees on one of the ‘space gliders’ and as insurance, he scoops up Rachel as a hostage. Dr. Quest grabs a gun and aims it at Zin, but refuses to take the shot becauseRachel may get hit. Jonny watches as his father refuses to take the shot, and then witnesses as Zin escapes to a secret getaway plane he has hidden higher up in his villain’s lair. Zin forces Rachel into the plane and then lifts off to make his getaway, but at that moment, the volcanic underground lair explodes, and the resulting fireball blows up Zin’s plane, killing both him and Rachel.

Jonny is distraught that his mother is dead, and he blames his father because he didn’t shoot Zin when he had the chance. This drives a huge wedge between father and son – causing quite an large amount of friction between the pair over the duration of this movie.

This, as you may have guessed is just the set-up for this show. So far, there has been no ‘gold’, which you’d expect in a show called ‘Jonny’s Golden Quest’. And there is gold as the story gets moving again, and it’s the old ‘Philospher’s Stone’ story about being able to convert metal into gold. The Quest team’s research leads to Tokyo, then to Paris to examine some documents written by Leonardo Da Vinci (apparently they contain some kind of code – a ‘Da Vinci Code’ as it were!). From Paris their mission takes them to Rome, and the catacombs underneath, before finally leading them to the Australian outback.

You may consider this a spoiler, but if you have read this far, and have noted the salient plot points, such as super master criminal doing clone research, you probably have already guessed that Dr. Zin is not dead and the man behind the synthetic gold scheme.

I must admit, I have never really seen any Jonny Quest before this, and if this is the standard of the stories in the other Quest productions, then I am pretty impressed. As I stated earlier, the story is rather mature. Let’s face it, how many animated kids shows start with killing the heroes mom? It’s a pretty drastic story-telling device, and here it works well. Young Jonny becomes a rebellious youth – while not quite being Marlon Brando in The Wild One, he certainly has his little pig-headed tantrums which make him a far more interesting character than the usual one dimensional, stereotypical heroes that dominate children’s television.

This was a pleasant surprise and highly enjoyable.

Jonny Quest: Jonny's Golden Quest (1992)

Beware of the Dog

Artist: Hound Dog Taylor And The House Rockers
Released by: Alligator Records
Release Year: 1976

A live album can tell you a lot about a musician. It reveals the truth. These days with additional studio overdubs, the truth may be a little harder to find, but it’s in there somewhere. Beware Of The Dog doesn’t have any overdubbing. It’s just three guys, Hound Dog Taylor on guitar and vocals, Brewer Philips on guitar, and Ted Harvey on drums. And these three guys hammer out the blues. There’s all kinds of blues music. There’s the kind with guitar gods who spiral off into the stratosphere, with their eyes closed, and their guitars conveying their pain. And there are the guys who locked into a groove and ride it for all it’s worth. Hound Dog Taylor And The House Rockers fall into the latter category. The sound is pretty raw. No bass. No keyboards.

TRACK LISTING:
01. Give Me Back My Wig
02. The Sun Is Shining
03. Kitchen Sink Boogie
04. Dust My Broom
05. Comin’ Around The Mountain
06. Let’s Get Funky
07. Rock Me
08. It’s Allright
09. Freddie’s Blues

There’s no filler on this album. Each track on this album is straight ahead blues. Give Me Back My Wig, Kitchen Sink Boogie and Dust My Broom are full tilt rockers. Let’s Get Funky locks in on the ultimate blues groove. Only for Freddie’s Blues do they pull back and show you what they really can do. Hound Dog Taylor And The House Rockers were there to entertain and that’s what they did – and with this CD the music lives on.

What I find truly remarkable, it that when these shows were recorded in 1974, Hound Dog Taylor was 58 years old, and he was still playing three shows a night. Sadly though, the following year, Hound Dog Taylor died of cancer. Maybe he had it when he recorded this album. I don’t know, but it goes back to what I was saying earlier – each live album reveals the truth. And this one reveals that Hound Dog Taylor had a huge heart and soul, and was foremost an entertainer.

Beware of the Dog

Ali Baba And The Seven Saracens (1964)

AKA: Hawk of Bagdad, Sinbad Against the 7 Saracens
Director: Emimmo Salvi
Starring: Gordon Mitchell, Bella Cortez, Dan Harrison (Bruno Piergentili), Carla Calo, Tony Di Mitri

There seems to be a few versions of this EuroSword flick floating around and depending on which version you find, the hero is either Ali Baba (sans forty thieves), or Sinbad (sans sailing). The most common version available appears to be Ali Baba And The Seven Saracens. The film itself is a middling affair. Some of the sets are rather fake and the dubbing into English is quite wooden. All the actors shout at each other, vowing acts of vengeance and the like. The best thing about this movie is voluptuous actress Bella Cortez, who plays Fatima. She fills her costume in a way that very few of our modern actresses could do.

The film opens in an unnamed Kingdom in the Middle East. It appears that the Kingdom is without a king, and Omar (Gordon Mitchell) is filling in as care-taker. He is answerable to the unseen Magi (wise men, I guess), and the leaders of the Seven Saracens (or districts, if you will) that make up the Kingdom. But acting as care-taker is not enough for Omar. He is an evil tyrant-type who wants nothing but total control over the Kingdom, and to sit on the Golden Throne without interference.

The Magi decree, that to find the new King, a tournament will be held. Each of the Saracens will send their leader to fight in a battle to the death. Whoever is alive at the end will be the new King. Omar, with a massive strength advantage, is the odds on favourite to claim the crown.

One of the Saracens, the ‘Mahariti’ have been without a leader for some time. Ali Baba (who may be a Prince, but it is never really explained?) has been in exile. He returns to lead the Mahariti. Omar isn’t happy about this and sends some guards to capture Alia Baba. They fail, and Ali Baba escapes, only to be found by Fatima (Bella Cortez). In, what has possibly got to be the shortest romance of all time, Ali Baba and Fatima fall in love. No sooner than they have confessed their love for each other, than they are captured by Omar’s troops, and sent to the dungeon.

In the dungeon, Ali befriends a midget named Dookie (Tony Di Mitri). Dookie, who is small enough to crawl around the air vents and secret passages in the castle, has formulated a plan to free all the prisoners in the dungeon.

Ali Baba And The Seven Saracens is pretty silly in parts but it is fairly fast paced, which is a big plus. My main problem with the film is the character of Alia Baba. Nothing against Dan Harrison’s performance, he looks the part, but the character is simply not very convincing. He falls into nearly every trap set for him. SPOILER AHEAD: And even at the tournament at the end of the film, where he represents the Mahariti’s for the crown, his victory (yes, he wins, but you knew that, didn’t you?) is really hollow. He seems to win, more from good luck rather than outsmarting his physically stronger opponent. Personally I think he a bit of a loser, but he does get the girl in the end – so what more can I say?

Ali Baba And The Seven Saracens (1964)

The Legendary Italian Westerns

Artist: Ennio Morricone
Released by: BMG / RCA
Release Year: 1990

When it comes to film composers, very few people are as prolific and as popular as Ennio Morricone. And as popular and as diverse as Morricone is, his most successful soundtracks are his scores to countless Spaghetti Westerns. This compilation CD collects the cream of the crop and whacks them on one very enjoyable CD.

The opening track, ‘A Gringo Like Me’ has to be one of the toughest drinking songs ever written. It extols all the virtues and requirements it takes to be a man in this rough old world. How’s this for lyrics:

Keep your hand on your gun.
Don’t you trust any one.
Be the first one to fire.
Every man is a liar.

Don’t be a fool for a smile or a kiss,
or your bullet might miss…
keep your eye on your goal.

There’s one thing that’ll save you your life,
It’s your hand on your knife…
and the Devil in your soul.

I know, I know…it’s pure poetry. But in their defence, the liner notes state: “They were often written by lyricists whose command of the English language was at best primitive…” But the lyrics don’t really matter. It’s the tunes underneath, and what great tunes they are!

After ‘A Gringo Like Me’, which is from the movie Gunfight At Red Sands there are three tracks from Guns Don’t Argue. One of the three, ‘Lonesome Billy’ is from the same lyrical school as ‘A Gringo Like Me’.

Then we’re into the big guns (if you’ll pardon the clumsy western analogy). Next we’re treated to seven tracks from A Fistful Of Dollars. If that doesn’t get you whistling, nothing else will.

The next four tracks are lifted from the film, A Gun For Ringo which starred Giuliano Gemma. Following this, we return to Eastwood territory with a fine selection of cuts from the For A Few Dollars More soundtrack. Here you get a bit of everything, from the twangy title tune, the showdown and even the musical pocket watch.

After that there are a few short brackets. First one number from Ringo Rides Again and then two tracks from 7 Guns For The MacGregors.

Next is the song ‘From Man To Man’ from Death Rides A Horse, which starred John Philip Law. Despite all the different roles that Law played, Sinbad, Pygar (the angel in Barbarella) – to me, he’ll always be Diabolik.

The CD closes out with four tracks from Once Upon A time In The West. I really love the track, ‘Man With A Harmonica’. If I could have a theme played every time I walked into a room, this would be it. But I guess it could get a bit annoying after a while…but I think it would impress people that don’t know you. Whoa…let’s not mess with this guy. He’s one tough hombre. Listen to his theme music!

I guess the big gaping hole on this compilation is that there are no tracks from The Good, The Bad and The Ugly, but that’s not to denigrate the tracks on this album. They are all pretty good, but the theme from The Good, The Bad and The Ugly is probably Morricone’s most recognised musical work, and as such, it seems like a strange omission. (It’s not on Volume 1 of this series either – that’s dedicated to American Western Themes) If you’re a Morricone lover, but you don’t want to buy all the soundtrack albums individually, then this compilation isn’t a bad fall back position.

The Legendary Italian Westerns

Escape From Galaxy 3 (1981)

Original Title: Giochi erotici nella 3a galassia
Country: Italy
Director: Bitto Albertini
Starring: Sherry Buchanan, Fausto Di Bella (James Milton), Don Powell, Chris Avram
Music: Don Powell

First of all, despite some marketing campaigns, this isn’t really a sequel to Starcrash. It uses the same space ships and models, and the heroine is called Belle Star, which is just close enough to Stella Star that those with poor memories may just for a second believe they are watching the same character. Only a second mind you, after all, Stella was played by dark haired and curvy Caroline Munro, whereas Belle is played by blonde Cheryl Buchanan. Also Caroline Munro got around in a very fashionable black leather bikini, and Belle flitters between tight fitting body suits and nothing at all.

The film starts when Oraclon: The King Of The Night™ (Don Powell) sails into ‘Galaxy 3’ in his star ship shaped like a giant hand made from blue Lego®. You may remember the ship from Star Crash when it was the property of evil Count Zarth Arn (Joe Spinell). You may also remember that Star Ship was destroyed at the end of Star Crash, which leads me to conclude that these super cruisers are assembly line build like your modern motor car. The Blue Hand model must have appealed to evil space tyrants who plan to take over the galaxy.

Masquerading as Starcrash 2

Anyway, Oraclon: The King Of The Night™ has been invading every planet and killing everybody in his path and now it’s planet Exalon’s turn. Exalon is ruled by benevolent King Zanor. Zanor also happens to be the father of Princess Belle Star. Zanor tries to fight off Oraclon, but his men are no match for Oraclon’s weapons. Zanor orders Belle Star and one of his trusted aides, Lithan (James Milton) to seek help in the Anteres System.

So Belle and Lithan flee in their space ship. Oraclon: The King Of The Night™ destroys Exalon and kills King Zanor. He soon discovers that Belle and Lithan have fled and sends ships after them. As they make their escape, a laser blast damages the controls, and they loose their navigation computer. Naturally Belle and Mithan escape, but have no idea where they are. They decide to land on the first planet they find.

The first planet happens to be earth, but not as we know it. Here the only population is a little village of primitive inhabitants. When they see the spaceship land, they believe it is a monster. When Belle and Mithan leave the ship, the inhabitants initially try to kill them by throwing rocks at them. But despite Belle and Mithan’s weird costumes and manner, their humanity shines through, and they soon make friends with the villagers.

During their stay, Belle and Mithan witness a weird ceremony where the female characters start dancing, what looks like a primitive version of the Bus Stop to the funky disco beat. This is the beginning of The Love Festival, of which soon Belle and Mithan are participants.

For a while things seem pretty good on the primitive planet. Belle Star and Mithan enthusiastically take lessons in love making from the villagers. You see, sex is a lost art form in Galaxy 3 and Once Belle and Mithan discover the fun that can be had – all they want to do is shag. There first attempt is ruined when one of Oraclon’s probe searches the planet for life. Their next tryst is interrupted when Oraclon’s men start shooting up the villagers. And finally, once they decide to leave the planet and get in their spaceship (their intergalactic shaggin’ wagon) and take off, when Oraclon catches up with them, they are at it again.

Half way through, this film veers off from your usual science fiction to (almost) softcore disco porn. It isn’t a porn film, but the story slows right down, the cheesy disco music is pumped right up and we see endless shots of Belle and Mithan pawing and caressing each other.

One of the things that lifted Starcrash above many of it’s other Star Wars rip-off competitors was the score by maestro John Barry. But Escape From Galaxy 3 takes a very different musical approach. Instead of sweeping strings and mellow horns, we get 80’s Disco. Actually it’s more like 70’s Space Disco. The music is provided by the villain of this movie Don Powell. Powell looks like he’d fit right in with George Clinton and Funkadelic. The strangest part of his appearance in this film is his beard. You know when (in your youth) you hit the town and drank everything that came your way, only to stagger home at six in the morning and pass out at your front door, while trying to find the right key – then you woke up several hours later to find that snails had blazed a trail across your inert form? No, I have never experienced that either, but if you did, I would imagine that you’d look like Don Powell. His beard looks like snails have been using it as a playground. I think it is supposed to look ‘silvery’ and futuristic, but it doesn’t.

In the end, you can’t really say that Escape From Galaxy 3 is a good film. But it is an interesting time capsule, and if 70’s disco is your bag, man, then this may very well be your movie.

Escape From Galaxy 3 (1981)

The Interrogator

Author: JJ Cooper
Publisher: Bantam
Release Year: 2009

I am a consumer and certainly not an expert on marketing by any stretch of the imagination. I do not know why ‘something’ sells, and why other things don’t. Therefore take my following comments with a grain of salt because I am not in a position to comment in an informative manner. However, when I look at the cover of JJ Cooper’s The Interrogator, I see a high-tech thriller in the vein of Chris Ryan or Andy NcNabb. The truth however, is that The Interrogator is actually a throwback to the sixties or earlier. At the risk of using a lazy comparison, at times The Interrogator reminded me of vintage Spillane – and not his Tiger Mann spy stuff, but the Mike Hammer books. And to me this is a great thing. I love hardboiled noir – Chandler, Spillane, Hammet – even Peter Corris. This story, while very definitely being a spy story,  has the type of characters who would inhabit a noir novel. But it puzzles me somewhat in the way this book was marketed – or more specifically, why this particular cover design was chosen. There are no characters running around with semi-automatic rifles – nor are there people rappelling from helicopters. The cover dumbs down the story. It is actually a very good labyrinthine thriller.

JJ Cooper
Author: JJ Cooper

I guess playing up the military aspect reflects more on author JJ Cooper than the content of the book. Cooper spent seventeen years in the Australian Army, at times as a member of the Australian Army Intelligence Corps.

The story starts with Jay Ryan, the Australian Army’s highest ranked interrogator in an interrogation room at a training base hidden away in the forests of the Gold Coast hinterland. But Ryan isn’t doing the interrogating. He is being interrogated. Brutally interrogated. He is wearing black-out goggles, handcuffs  as is tethered to a metal chair. He has been badly beaten and remembers very little about the night before. Standing before Ryan is a fellow interrogator named Primrose – and his interrogation methods are not quite ‘by the book’. He is savagely assaulting a fellow officer while his wife Catherine watches on.

You see, Ryan had an affair with Catherine, and now it is payback time for Primrose. In fact it goes a little deeper than that. Primrose wants more that a measure of vengeance, he wants Ryan to assist him in some shady dealings. Naturally Ryan doesn’t want to help, but Primrose was a few bargaining chips hidden up his sleeve. The first is video footage of Ryan with Catherine – which looks more like a rape than a consensual affair (a little bit of role playing in the bedroom – Catherine likes it rough!) Primrose threatens to release the footage to the police. His other bargaining chip is that he has kidnapped Ryan’s father, and if Ryan does complete the tasks requested of him, he’ll never see his father alive again.

Meanwhile in Canberra, SIS Agent Sarah Evans is interrogating a criminal named Lazarau who has been arrested for selling stolen military secrets. Her investigation yeilds one lead – Lazarau names Jay Ryan as a contact. From there, Sarah relocates her investigation to Queensland where she intends to ‘interrogate the interrogator’. Naturally she gets more than she bargained for.

I won’t say much more than that because I don’t want to give too much away in my synopsis, as it will only ruin the story for others. Also due to the twists and turns, it is almost impossible to strip down an overview to a few simple paragraphs and do the story justice. Needless to say, it is a wild ride.

I must admit, when the chase begins in the story, I like the premise of the main character being an interrogator. It gives the story a certain dose of reality that many spy stories lack. Think about it; most spy stories are about obtaining information of some kind, and who better to get it than a man who specialises in extracting information from people who are unwilling to divulge their secrets.

Another aspect of this book that I like is that it is Australian and also set in Australia – the beauty though, is that it does not slap you in the face with famous tourist attractions and landmarks as a backdrop – there’s no Harbour Bridge, Opera House or even the Big Pineapple. The settings are believable. The story could be set anywhere, and still pack the same punch.

From JJ Cooper’s website:

THE INTERROGATOR

According to Greek Mythology, Aphrodite had a wayward eye and a loyal son. When Eros gave Harpocrates a rose to keep quiet about his mother’s little indiscretions, the rose became a symbol for secrecy. This is a story Jay Ryan has never heard — until his hand is nailed to a table and a red rose tattooed onto his wrist.

Jay is an interrogator with a dark past and a tortured soul; he’s also the keeper of secrets Israeli spies will kill to get their hands upon. Renowned for his skills, he is used to commanding a certain level of respect amongst his peers. Then one day Jay is drugged, tortured, tattooed and accused of rape. He is forced to reveal information that could further destabilise fragile Middle East relations and plunge the entire region into war. They are secrets he has struggled to keep hidden for four years — proof that the ‘Coalition of the Willing’ knew Israeli Mossad agents removed chemical weapons from Iraq before the launch of the 2003 invasion.

After escaping his captors, Jay discovers that he is wanted for crimes he didn’t commit and that his father has been kidnapped by his own intelligence agency. No-nonsense secret agent Sarah Evans and lively retired security guard William ‘Bill’ Hunter join Jay on a quest to get his father back alive and avoid Israeli spies hell-bent on eliminating them all. Together they uncover the truth behind two spy agencies playing a high-stakes game of espionage with a ‘winner take all’ mindset. After Sarah goes missing, Jay must choose between hunting his father’s kidnappers or saving Sarah and exposing Israel’s involvement in the removal of chemical weapons from Iraq.

THE INTERROGATOR is a story of betrayal and nightmarish conspiracy firmly rooted in the highest levels of government across international alliances. The story rockets toward a shattering finale that will leave the survivors changed forever. Thriller fans will enjoy the colourful characters, twisting, turning plots and fast action. The authentic military details gives the story a chillingly real context, drawing the reader into Jay’s world and not letting us go until the very end.

Like so many people, when shopping for books (particularly new books), I like to know what I am going to get. I want value for money – don’t we all! Therefore at times I can be reticent to try out a new author. The problem with that though, is then I’d miss out on a lot of good fiction. JJ Cooper would be a case in point…as a debut author he hasn’t got ‘brand recognition’ like the big authors, but The Interrogator is a bloody good read. I recommend it highly and am eagerly waiting Jay Ryan’s next adventure.

The Interrogator

Zulu: Original Soundtrack Recording

Original Soundtrack Recording & Selection Of Zulu Stamps
John Barry (1964)

One Saturday morning, in the not so distant past, I was scrounging around the record bins at a local fete when I came across the Soundtrack to Zulu. Strangely, I wasn’t too familiar with the music. Why is this strange? For one, I am a huge fan of John Barry, and secondly, when I was at college, I shared a house with a bloke whose favourite film was Zulu. He’d drag out his old VHS copy at all hours. In the middle of the night, I’d wake up in terror, hearing strange chants emanating from the lounge room. To cut a long story short, I picked up a copy of the album. Hey, it was only two dollars!

Since that day, I have found out that there are all sorts of re-issues, and re-recordings of the Zulu Soundtrack. The one I am talking about here is the 1964 version, with narration by Richard Burton (well you’d want that, wouldn’t you?), and on the second side of the album, what is described as a selection of Zulu Stamps. Well they are not exactly ‘Zulu Stamps’. They are sixties pop reworkings of John Barry’s themes from the movie. They do have an African influence, but they are hardly traditional ‘Zulu’ music. Here’s a snippet from Cy Endfield’s liner notes.

”A number of these great traditional dance and song themes have been studied by the brilliant composer and arranger John Barry, who scored the film, and converted to a music so that all of us who listen to this record can do a little dancing of our own. If you learn the Zulu Stamp you will be doing some of the exciting, groovy dance movements that the Zulus themselves use.”

With an enticement like that, I am sure that many bored sixties housewives, while their husbands were at work, and their kids were at school, urged on by the primitive jungle rhythms would throw themselves around the lounge room doing the Zulu Stamp.

The music on the first side of the album, however is quite brilliant. Not that I expected anything less from Barry. It is good stirring stuff, that reflects the bravery of the men who held their positions at Rorke’s Drift as wave after wave of Zulu warrior swept down upon them. I know that sounds pompous, but those who have seen the film will know what I mean.

TRACK LISTING:
Side One: Original Soundtrack Recording
1. Main Title Theme – Isandhlwana 1879 (Narration by Richard Burton)
2. News Of The Massacre – Rorke’s Drift Threatened
3. Wagons Over
4. First Zulu Appearance And Assault
5. Durnfords Horse Arrive And Depart – The Third Assault
6. Zulu’s Final Appearance And Salute
7. The V.C. Roll and Men Of Harlech

Side Two: Selection Of Zulu Stamps
1. Stamp And Shake
2. High Grass
3. Zulu Stamp
4. Big Shield
5. Zulu Maid
6. Monkey Feathers

Zulu: Original Soundtrack Recording