Sudden Impact (1983)

SuddenImpact_B2-1-500x692Country: United States
Director: Clint Eastwood
Starring: Clint Eastwood, Sondra Locke, Pat Hingle, Bradford Dillman, Albert Popwell
Music: Lalo Schifrin

I am sure that I do not have to introduce the character of Dirty Harry Callahan. Sudden Impact was the fourth film in the Dirty Harry series, preceded by Dirty Harry, Magnum Force, and The Enforcer. And preceding The Dead Pool.

I have very mixed feelings about Sudden Impact. On one hand, it is a sleazy repugnant little film. Easily the worst of the Dirty Harry films. But for me, it represents one of the rites of manhood. The film was released in 1983, with a ‘R’ certificate, which meant that in Australia, no one under the age of 18 years could see the film. I would have been around 15 years old when the film was released, and therefore was too young to go to a screening.

At this time, I still lived in the country, up north on the Murray River. But frequently the family would make trips on the weekend to Melbourne. We would often stay at my aunt and uncle’s place and sleep on the floor, as it was cheaper than hotel accommodation. One of these trips coincided with the release of Sudden Impact. And somehow, I managed to convince my father and my uncle to take me to see the film. My thinking was, that if I was accompanied by two men who were clearly over 18, then the staff at the cinema would not question my age. So it was, the three of us went into the heart of the city to see Sudden Impact on a Saturday night.

I remember walking beside them, proud as punch. I also remember, the sex show spruikers asking us to “step this way gentleman, show starts right away”. With a firm hand on my shoulder, my dad steered me past these temptations, and towards the movie house. There was no trouble at the cinema whatsoever, and we all enjoyed the film. And that is one of the things about Sudden Impact; it is a film, that should be seen on the big screen and with a crowd. The film has quite a few comedic moments, and these play a lot better with a crowd. When the crowd laughs, you laugh. And this comedy balances out the more sleazy aspects of the film.

This is something that I noticed years later when the film became available on video. On television, and without a crowd behind me, my reaction to the film was very different. Initially, at the cinema, I thought the film was fantastic. An exciting blend of blazing Magnum action, and witty dialogue. But on video, with much of the humour diluted, you’re left with a tale of rape and revenge, and even Callahan’s motives are dodgy. At the end of the film, he puts himself above the law, allowing a killer to go free.

But the film reached a level of popularity beyond its story, when Ronald Regan – President of the United States at that time – quoted the ‘Make My Day!’ line from the film. Much like Rambo: First Blood Part II, the film and its loner hero came to epitomize the new America – a country that was regaining its sense of worth after the Iran hostage situation. Many words have already been spent analyzing the political content in the Dirty Harry films – so I’ll move on, leaving that to the experts.

The story is quite simple. Sondra Locke plays a woman who, along with her sister, was gang raped by a bunch of students led by a psychopath. Many years later, she starts seeking revenge shooting the offending members. After the few few deaths, the psychopath cottons on to what’s happening, and decides to strike back. But naturally enough, standing between both parties is Harry Callahan – armed with a new weapon – the .44 Magnum Automag. Gun-porn fans rejoice.

It almost seems funny looking back at it now, and seeing how far Harry Callahan had changed from the original Dirty Harry, to the stylized and somewhat sleazy mayhem in Sudden Impact. It’s only Eastwood’s presence and the .44 magnum that ties it all together.

As I said, I have very mixed feelings about the film. I know it is not very good, but maybe because of the built in affection I have for it, I cut it more slack than most.

Sudden Impact (1983)

The Bodyguard (1973 / 1976)

bodyguard_1976_poster_01Country: Japan
Starring: Sonny Chiba, Etsuko Shihomi, Aaron Banks, Judy Lee, Bill Louie
Director: Tatsuichi Takamori (1973)
Director: Simon Nuchtern (1976)
Cinematographer: Joel Shapiro
Music: Maurice Sarli
Producer: Susumu Yoshikawa (1973)
Producer: Terry Levene (1976)
AKA: Chiba The Bodyguard, Viva Chiba
Original Title: Karate Kiba

Sometimes in this day and age it is easy to forget how videotapes, DVD and Blu-ray have changed the way we watch movies, especially coupled with the search and buying options available through the internet. As a young boy growing up in rural Australia, I had no inkling of the films of Sonny Chiba. The were certainly not given a drive-in release in my home town, and were never going to turn up on commercial television at that time.

The interesting thing here, is that if Chiba had been available to me, it most likely would not be in the format I am used to today. Now this is not intended as a product endorsement — more to illustrate the way I am used to seeing Chiba film — down under there is a company called Madman, that has an off-shoot called Eastern Eye which specialises in Asian cinema. There films are gorgeously presented in widescreen and they often plum for the original language audio, with English subtitles for their releases. There are exceptions, such as the Godzilla films where they give you the option of subs or dub. But generally they serve up pretty authentic releases, served up the way the films were originally meant to be seen. Some of their Chiba releases have included Bullet Train, Golgo 13: Kowloon Assignment, The Street Fighter’s Last Revenge and two of the Yakuza Deka films. All these films look great; are hip and funky in a ’70s kind of way, and suggested a certain style in a Chiba movie — that being tough crime films with a serve of high impact martial arts.

Bodyguard8Of course there is more to the story of Chiba, and these films only whetted my appetite for more of Chiba’s unique kind of thrills. Next I tracked down a film called Satomi Hakken Den (Legend of the Eight Samurai) directed by the chameleon Kinji Fukasaku. As much as I enjoyed Satomi Hakken Den – especially the giant Muppet centipede – what intrigued me more on the disk were the trailers for other Chiba features. One of these features was G.I. Samurai and the trailer suggests it is the story of a band of modern combat soldiers, led by Chiba, who slip through a crack in time and land in the middle of a turf war between two warring clans in feudal times. My jaw dropped, and I audibly exclaimed “Hell, yeah!” This is a film I need in my life.

Next, independently, Keith at Teleport City reviewed Wolfguy: Enraged Lycanthrope. Once again, that little voice in my head shouted “Hell, yeah — this is a film that I need in my life.” And at that point, I sadly realised I knew nothing about Chiba, and I had to dig deeper. Those pristine, widescreen prints were going to be a thing of the past. All I knew was my viewing was going to consist of murky second generation dupes, and it was going to get bloody. First stop…The Bodyguard (well almost!)

Bodyguard7Before I started watching The Bodyguard there was a not-so-subtle hint that my world of Chiba was going to change. Firstly I went to ‘special features’ on the disk and there was a teaser for Street Fighter’s Last Revenge. As I alluded to earlier, Street Fighter’s Last Revenge was a film that I had already seen on an Eastern Eye disk. I thought that it was a great little action film with an impossibly funky score. But I chose to watch the teaser, and the first thing that struck me was that it was a dub (rather than subbed, as I know the film). The smooth, modulated dialogue was no longer there. Instead Chiba was angry and shouting “Don’t anybody move or I’ll rip this motherf*cker’s head off!” I knew Terry, The Streetfighter as a tough, man-of-action, but here, he was presented as one crazy, wild-eyed, bad-ass motherf*cker. This was a man who makes Maurizio Merli, Steven Segal and Michael Dudikoff or anyone who specialised in ‘revenge flicks’ look like boy scouts.

Next I moved on to The Bodyguard and it appears to be a film released in Japan in 1973, and then reissued in America in 1976 with some extra footage and atrocious dubbing. But first things first. I know it’s no longer cool to like Quentin Tarrantino any more. I know his films are a bunch of stolen moments from other films. But I like his films – I thought Inglourious Basterds was brilliant – and I must admit it still gives me a thrill when I discover the source of another of his in-jokes. The Bodyguard provides a clue to a moment in Pulp Fiction, when Jules (Samuel L. Jackson) explains to Tim Roth, that his is the wallet that says ‘Bad Mother F*cker’. But now I see that maybe Jules wasn’t the aforementioned ‘Bad Mother F*cker’, but Sonny Chiba is. How so? The speech that Jules says to scare his intended victims, Ezekiel 17:25, is presented in the opening credits of The Bodyguard, however where Jules quotes it correctly, The Bodyguard has the cheek to modify the words.

The path of the righteous man and defender is beset on all sides by the iniquity of the selfish and the tyranny of evil men. Blessed is he, who in the name of charity and good will, shepherds the weak through the valley of darkness, for he is truly his brother’s keeper, and the father of lost children. And I will execute great vengeance upon them with furious anger, who poison and destroy my brothers; and they shall know that I am Chiba the Bodyguard when I shall lay my vengeance upon them!

So Jules’ speech in Pulp Fiction is a homage to the Baddest Mother F*cker of them all — Sonny Chiba! Can ya dig it!

BodyguardTCThe film opens in New York, with a scene that could be ripped off from The Godfather. An underworld Don, Salvatore Rocco and his family are gunned down on the steps outside a large church. The newspaper reports suggest the police are now searching for the Rocco’s Japanese mistress who is said to have disappeared.

Then we cut to a far to obvious, new scene that has been shoehorned into the film. It features two martial artists,Aaron Banks and Bill Louie, two real life martial arts champions, who are debating the strengths and weaknesses of Bruce Lee and Sonny Chiba’s fighting styles, including a demonstration of Bruce’s double nung-chuck technique. They round out the conversation by informing the audience that Chiba is on his way back to Tokyo.

The movie skips forward to the flight and a bunch of badasses hijack the flight. They hijack it for one reason, and that’s because Sonny Chiba is on the flight. Sonny, not only is the world’s number one martial artist, but he is also a fierce opponent of drugs and drug trafficking. These goons who have taken control of the flight, want to kill Chiba because of his interference with their drug trade. But even though there are five hijackers with guns, Chiba still kills each one of them with a series of power punches that have the bad guys spitting blood and teeth – that is before they die.

Upon arrival in Japan, Chiba appears on television vowing to stop the flow of drugs into the country, and furthermore offers himself up as a bodyguard to anybody who has information that can put the drug cartels out of action. One girl, Ricoh comes forward and asks for Chiba’s assistance. Before he will help her, he needs to see some proof. She says she has some evidence in the glove box of her car. Chiba sends his sister, Maggie down stairs to collect it, but the bad guys are waiting for her. As Chiba’s sister, Maggie has some fight skills of her own, but up against four men, she is outmatched. They knock her unconscious and strip her naked and lay her out. The shadow from the cross at the top of a church steeple covers her body. It’s actually quite a good visual moment – possibly better than this film deserves. After a while, when Maggie hasn’t returned, Chiba heads down to investigate. He finds her with the words ‘Cosa Nostra’ carved into her arm. Chiba now knows for sure he is up against the mafia.

Bodyguard4Convinced that Ricoh is in danger, Chiba agrees to protect her. They go back to her apartment, and Chiba does a sweep to check that everything is okay. The apartment appears clean and free from danger. Later that night, however, a gang of assassins cut their way out of the furniture (couches and armchairs) where they have been hiding. I guess when you think about it, it is pretty goofy, but this scene represents one of the highlights of the whole movie, so I recommend basking in the ‘goofiness’. Chiba, of course, then fights with the bad guys in his usual rib shattering and arm snapping way.

Of course, as most people would have guessed, Ricoh is the ‘missing’ mistress of Salvatore Rocco (the underworld figure shot down at the start of the film). Therefore she is not really interested in stemming the flow of narcotics into Japan. She simply wants Chiba to protect her form the various gangs — the Mafia and the Yakuza — who are after her and the drug shipment she has arranged to be brought into the country.

Essentially this makes Chiba a stupid dupe and he follows her around Tokyo while she makes arrangements to unload the drugs. When he finally wakes up to what is going on, for some strange reason he still agrees to help her. It is all very silly, sloppy and contrived. Some of this may be due to the American re-editing and dubbing of the film, but I think even the original Japanese version of the film would be low hanging fruit.

Bodyguard3The amazing thing about Chiba, is no matter where he hits an opponent, you can be sure that the guy spits blood. He could punch a Yakuza gang member in the knee cap, and sure enough, the Yakuza would keel over and a bubble of thick, bright red blood would dribble over his lips. It is a unique talent that Chiba has, and a talent that generally makes his films so entertaining. Not so, The Bodyguard. Sure there’s plenty of blood spitting, even a few teeth flying, but on the whole this film is pretty muddled and uninspiring.

Visually, the camera shots are tightly focused and there is an over abundance of hand held cinematography.Some of the fight scenes are so dimly lit and jerkily edited, it is hard to tell if they are well choreographed or not. Which is what you really watch a Chiba picture for – the stylised fight scenes. But when they are stylised and filmed in such a fashioned, it renders the film physically impotent.
Co-starring with Chiba is Etsuko Shihomi, who also starred with Chiba in a whole swag of films including; The Legend of the Eight Samurai, Shogun Ninja, Golgo 13: Kowloon Assignment, Bullet Train, The Streetfighter, The Streetfighter’s Last Revenge, Sister Streetfighter and many others.

The Bodyguard is not great Chiba, and I think I’ll keep searching for a copy of G.I. Samurai to slake my thirst for Chiba’s unique style of mayhem, and I’d suggest that other Chibafiles look elsewhere too.

The Bodyguard (1973 / 1976)


PaybackDirector: Brian Helgeland (and reshoots by John Myhre)
Starring: Mel Gibson, Gregg Henry, Maria Bello, James Coburn, Kris Kristoferson, Willaim Devane, Bill Duke, Lucy Liu, David Paymer, Deborah Kara Unger, Jack Conley
Music: Chris Boardman
Based on the novel ‘The Hunter’ by Donald E. Westlake (under the pseudonym Richard Stark).

The book, The Hunter on which this film is based, was previously filmed as John Boorman’s classic sixties crime film, Point Blank, which starred Lee Marvin. When I first heard that they were remaking it, I was pretty disgusted. There is certainly nothing wrong with the original. Why remake it? I saw it as another example of Hollywood’s lack of imagination.

When I finally saw Payback I wasn’t too impressed. To begin with, it’s opening scene features a bullet riddled Mel Gibson lying on a table. The dodgy doctor, who is about to patch him up, takes a long, long swallow from a glass of scotch, then refills the glass. This time he drops his operating tools (scalpels and the like) into the glass. At the time of viewing I had just finished reading Mickey Spillane’s The Black Alley. In the book, Mike Hammer has been shot up (again), and has to be patched up by an alcoholic ex-doctor. You know the kind, the ones you have been crossed off the medical register, because they botched an operation and the patient died. Now they drink to forget. Added to that, the next book I started reading was Robert Ludlum’s The Bourne Identity, in which Jason Bourne is patched by a drunken doctor. Clichés are a funny thing. Sometimes you don’t notice them until you are hit over the head two or three times in a row.

For me, at that time, another ‘drunken doctor’ story device was an unwelcome cliché. And let’s face it, it’s a hoary old chestnut to begin with, featured in numerous crime films from the 1940’s (the Humphrey Bogart movie, Dark Passage springs to mind).

Then I thought back to Point Blank and tried what recall how Lee Marvin had recovered from the bullet wounds. Actually we don’t see how Marvin got patched up. In fact we don’t see how he got off Alcatraz Island (for those who haven’t seen Point Blank, that’s where Marvin’s character is double-crossed and shot). Naturally for a tough guy like Lee Marvin, no explanation is necessary. It’s a given that he will survive.

That brings us back to Payback. On my first viewing my vision was cloudy by the crap clichéd opening. Added to that Gregg Henry and Lucy Liu’s characters have a very weird, violent sexual relationship going on. It added an element of sleaze to the film that wasn’t necessary. Needless to say, I didn’t enjoy the film too much.

But years have passed, and I sat down to watch Payback again. This time, I just let the film wash right over me. It’s been a few years since I have seen Point Blank, so Lee Marvin’s long shadow has diminished somewhat, and I know the film is a clichéd mess, so all that’s left to do is to enjoy the film for what it is…a piece of B-grade trash, with an A-grade budget. And I must confess I did enjoy the film, but I looked at it more as a quasi film-noir, rather than a remake. And hey, maybe appropriating ‘noir’ elements like the drunken doctor were in keeping with the type of film they were making.

So what’s it all about? Mel Gibson is Porter (no first name). Porter is a career criminal who steals things. He teams up with Val Resnick (Gregg Henry) to steal a suitcase full of money from the members of a Chinese numbers racket. Porter and Resnick’s plan works to perfection and they get away clean with $140,000. Porter is expecting a half share totalling $70,000. This is where things go wrong for Porter. Porter’s wife, Lynn (Deborah Kara Unger), who had been driving the getaway car, shoots her husband in the back a few times (talk about a messy divorce!) Porter is left for dead, and Lynn drives of with Resnick who had pre-arranged the whole double cross. It seems Resnick needed all the money to pay off a local crime syndicate.

Six months later, Porter has healed and wants his money back – all $70,000, which he feels he had earned. And Porter is prepared to intimidate, beat or kill anyone to get it. The rest of the film is devoted to Porter’s dogged determination in retrieving his money.

As I mentioned at the top, I haven’t seen the Director’s Cut, but all reports indicate that it is a very different beast to the one we have here. Here we have a quasi film noir revenge movie. The Director’s Cut apparently draws it’s inspiration from the early seventies crime dramas that featured tough anti-heroes. Apparently the decision was made to re-shoot and re-edit the film in 1999, because it was believed that the viewing public weren’t ready to see Mel’s nasty side. I’d love to see it, but so far it hasn’t made it to this part of the world. But until then, I guess this isn’t as bad as I first thought. It’s a serviceable crime thriller, with Mad Mel being a little bit nastier than usual.


Le Doulos

LeDoulosLike any film fanatic I have a huge mountain of films that I need to watch. I have a stack of Spaghetti Westerns that I haven’t even gotten close to, along with piles of Eurocrime, Eurospy and Eurosleaze films that are all crying out to be reviewed. I try, but a man can only squeeze so much into a day – and I have to squeeze a full days work into my hectic schedule too. Day after day, it’s only natural that I should feel jaded – a tad worn out.

But then along comes a film like Le Doulos. It is the perfect tonic for the jaded film goer. It has revitalised me. It has made me enjoy cinema again – not that I was hating it – but sometimes it’s easy to forget the joy of a great film particularly if you aren’t expecting it.

Over the years everyone has told me that I must watch the films of Jean-Pierre Melville. I was told that Tarantino said ‘Melville did for the Crime film what Leone did for the Western’. So I watched some Melville. Le Cercle Rouge – hey it’s a good film, but there’s nothing in it that I hadn’t seen in Riffifi. Next Le Samurai – again a good film, but a bit detached. While both these films are good, I was starting to think that Melville was over-rated. At times I think some people see a French movie and ‘have to’ like it, because it’s art.

So with a belief that Melville is over-rated, I tentatively started Le Doulos. I’ll admit that I was enjoying it from the beginning, but by the 25 minute mark, I was hooked. Sure it’s a noir style crime story, that I have seen one hundred times before, but this one grabs you by the scruff of the neck, gives you a good shake, and then throws you down onto the rug. And just as you’re getting settled on the rug, it rips that right out from under you, with one of the best endings to a movie that I have ever seen.

You may notice, I am not writing any of my usual plot description. I do not want to spoil any of the surprises this film has in store. They say writing a review for a good film, is a lot harder than writing one for a bad film. In that case, this may well be one of my shortest reviews.

I’ll briefly mention that Serge Reggiani plays Maurice Faugel, a career criminal who has just been released from jail after a four year stint. His best friend is Silien, played by Jean-Paul Belmondo. Silien is a two-bit gangster and police informer.

Now if you love crime films and you’re fond of French cinema, then I beseech you to track down a copy of this film and watch it. I want to ‘infect’ as many people as I can with this film’s brilliance. Watch it, enjoy it, then drop me a line with your thoughts.

Le Doulos


Author: Lee Goldberg
Publisher: Adventures in Television
Published: February 2012

McGrave is a quick fire novella from Lee Goldberg, based on a pilot script for a television show, which never eventuated. And its humble beginnings are very evident as you read it. It is written in present tense as a script would be, and the action scenes are described, rather than lived, if that makes sense. If that simple framework doesn’t appeal to you, then you’d probably find McGrave a rather annoying book.

However, if you have no qualms about how your thrills are served up, then McGrave is a balls-to-the wall action adventure that doesn’t let up. John ‘Tidal Wave’ McGrave is a no-nonsense old-school L.A. cop. He gets results, no matter what the cost. He the type of fellow who would destroy $250,000 worth of property to capture a criminal stealing $100 worth of goods.

After such an incident (although more was at stake than $100), McGrave is booted off the force. But like any cop worth his salt, he doesn’t give up the case and follows his leads to Berlin. Then you’ve got you classic fish-out-of-water story. Much mayhem and property damage ensues.

Maybe it’s just my age, and growing up watching material such as this, but I found McGrave to be an absolute hoot. There’s no message beyond ‘enjoy the ride’ and that’s just the way it should be.

Here’s Lee’s promo spiel:

Los Angeles cop John “Tidal Wave” McGrave is an unstoppable force of nature who always gets his man…even if it means laying waste to everything around him, including his own career…which is exactly what happens in his pursuit of Sebastian Richter, the ruthless leader of an international gang of violent thieves. When Richter flees to Berlin, McGrave chases after him…even though the cop doesn’t know the language, the laws, or the culture. But McGrave doesn’t care…he speaks the universal language of knee in the groin and fist in the face…and he won’t let anything get in his way.

What follows is, I hope, a wild, action-adventure novella that captures all of the fun, excitement, humor and pure escapist pleasure of the Dirty Harry, Lethal Weapon and Die Hard movies…

McGrave is an experiment for me. I set out to write something specifically for the Kindle that would take advantage of the way people read on the device…but that would also capture the pure, escapist fun of watching an action movie. I thought these were very compatible goals.


Hurricane Smith (1992)

Country: Australia / United States
Director: Colin Budds
Starring: Carl Weathers, Jürgen Prochnow, Cassandra Delaney, Tony Bonner, David Argue, John Ewart
Music: Brian May

When Hurricane Smith was released in the early 1990s, I didn’t realise it was an Australian film – so I didn’t bother with it – figuring I would catch it at some stage on video. I never did. The poster certainly doesn’t give anything away, and the casting of Carl Weathers as the hero, and Jürgen Prochnow as the villain, suggest it is an international action thriller. And I guess it is, but if you were to compare it to the other ass-kicking action blockbusters of the time, such as Lethal Weapon, Die Hard (and even the Beverly Hills Cop films – as Prochnow starred in the second), then this film comes up short. It doesn’t have the budget to compete with Hollywood action extravaganzas.

However, if you were to look at Hurricane Smith as a late entry in the Ozploitation cycle, then there’s a lot of fun to be had over its meager 85 minute running time.

Billy ‘Hurricane’ Smith (Carl Weathers) is given a warm Aussie welcome by Shanks (David Argue).

Carl Weathers, plays Billy ‘Hurricane’ Smith, a Texan whose mother has just died. To settle affairs, he needs to find his sister Sally Mae, who he has not seen in years. Her last known whereabouts, was in Surfers Paradise, on the Gold Coast, in Northern Australia.

With only a few postcards to go by, Billy flies to Australia, and begins tracking his sister down. His first port of call is a fancy high-priced brothel, where he meets Julie (Cassandra Delaney – for those curious, Delaney was the naked, car hood ornament in the Ozploitation thriller, Fair Game).
Julie explains she used to share a flat with Sally Mae, but it was said she went back to the US.

‘Hurricane’ and Shanks, chased by Dowd’s minions in speedboats.

Billy knows this is not true and investigates further. This puts him into contact with two shady organised crime figures. The first is Howard Fenton, played by Tony Bonner. The second is Charlie Dowd, played by Jürgen Prochnow. Both are keen for Billy to return to the US, and express this desire, by having Billy beaten up, and then tossed from a moving car. Of course, Billy is not the type to turn tail – especially without knowing his sisters whereabouts.

The film is fairly professionally put together, but I suspect hastily filmed. Throughout the movie, there is barely one close up. Nearly everything is filmed in a medium shot – which is fine for the action sequences. But for the more dramatic scenes, it would be nice to be able to see the actors faces, and know what the characters are feeling. Secondly, I have seen a few production stills, which feature sequences not in the film. Of course, the shots could have been staged simply for publicity – but it wouldn’t surprise me to learn that the film was chopped and changed around as it was being made.

Shanks blasts away at Dowd’s minions – albeit with his eyes closed

Two local character actors, David Argue and John Ewart almost steal the movie from their international co-stars. Argue plays Shanks, a small time pimp, and loyal friend to Julie. He starts off against Billy, but as the film goes on, he comes around to the side of good and virtue. He also has a good line (well, it would have been good in 1990). In a moment of danger, as bullets rain down on his position, he says ‘he is too young for this shit’… obviously riffing off the popular ‘too old for this shit’ line in the Lethal Weapon films.

John Ewart plays Griffo, a crotchety old publican, who hates ‘septics’. For those who don’t know, us Aussies call Americans ‘septic tanks’, which is rhyming slang with ‘Yanks’. Ewart chews up every scene he is in, with his ‘ocker’ than ‘ocker’ performance. He’s great fun to watch.

The villainous Charlie Dowd (Jürgen Prochnow) holds a gun on Julie (Cassandra Delaney) – the tart with a heart

I am pretty sure, Hurricane Smith, was not a hit. But it is not a stinker. It is just a lower-tier, 80’s action film. It has a likeable cast, and enough mayhem to satisfy most action junkies. It’s strange that appears to have almost disappeared off the face of the earth.

Hurricane Smith (1992)

Oasis of Fear (1971)

Country: Italy
Director: Umberto Lenzi
Starring: Ray Lovelock. Ornella Muti, Irene Papas, Michel Bardinet, Jacques Stany, Umberto Raho, Antonio Mellino
Music: Bruno Lauzi, Claudio Fabi
AKA: Dirty Pictures, An Ideal Place to Kill
Original Title: Un posto ideale per uccidere

On multiple occasions I have extolled the virtues of the movie Flash Gordon, starring Sam J. Jones as Flash.. As such, I also am a fan of the actors in the movie – not so much Sam, himself, but Timothy Dalton, Peter Wyngarde, Max Von Sydow, Brian Blessed, and Ornella Muti.

Oasis of Fear features a very young Ornella Muti, which makes it compulsory viewing for an old degenerate such as myself. But before those who have an interest in seeing Miss Muti cavort around topless, I have to let you know, a body-double was used for this movie.

The film starts with a young couple, Richard Butler (Ray Lovelock) and Ingrid Sherman (Ornella Muti) holidaying in London. As London is more liberated than where they come from, they go to a sex-shop to buy two dozen porn magazines, which they intend to sell, to cover the expenses of their holiday. They also buy some 45rpm recordings of people having sex.

If I may interrupt the synopsis at this stage – and maybe it’s because I live in an age where pornography is so rampant, and easy to access, especially on the internet, I find nothing remotely erotic about listening to another couple have sex. I am sure those who have lived in share-houses will agree with me. Who would buy a record of sex sounds? Maybe those crazy ’70s Italians?

Anyway, these kids have bought this porn which they intend to sell from town to town as they trek through Europe. They sell it all – and indulge in wild hedonistic holiday hi-jinx. That is, until they run out of money. To refill their coffers, they decide to take a ‘Do It Yourself’ approach with a Polaroid camera.

They try pass some of their homemade porn to a cop and get busted. For there crime they are forced to leave Italy. But before they can leave, they are robbed by gypsies. Richard and Ingrid try to leave, but have no money for fares. It gets worse, as they run out of petrol. They plan to rectify this by stealing petrol from the nearest villa. They are caught in the act, by the lady of the house, Barbara Slater (Irene Papas).

From here, the story does a u-turn from a swift moving Euro crime thriller to a quasi Gothic chiller with a hint of Giallo thrown in. Ultimately, the film is entertaining, but somewhat of a dog’s breakfast – not really sure what it wanted to be. But, if you a fan of Umberto Lenzi, then you’ll find a lot to enjoy here – and the performances from the cast, especially Papas, are quite good.

Oasis of Fear (1971)

She Shoots Straight (1990)

Country: Hong Kong
Starring: Joyce Godenzi, Tony Leung, Carmina Lau, Wah Yuen, Anglie Leung, Sandra Ng Kwan Yue Pik-Wan Tang, Sarah Lee, Agnes Aurelio, Sammo Hung
Screenplay: Cory Yuen, Barry Wong
Director: Cory Yuen
Cinematography: Moon-Tong Lau, Chi Ming Leung
Music: Lowell Lo
Producers: Lenard Ho, Sammo Hung
Original Title: Huang jia nu jiang

For fans of Hong Kong action cinema, Sammo Hung needs no introduction. Even the most cursory fan of Hong Kong cinema will have stumbled upon his work or possibly even seen him in the US television series Martial Law. However, maybe not quite so popular, is Sammo’s wife Joyce Godenzi. Joyce was a Miss Hong Kong pageant winner who drifted into acting. At first her roles played to type, as an attractive girl next door. Then Sammo Hung unleashed her as a guerrilla fighter in Eastern Condors, and suddenly she was an action queen. Although she didn’t come from a martial arts background she worked hard on the choreography of the fight scenes she was involved in, and was prepared to do a lot of her own stunts.

She Shoots Straight starts with the marriage of two police officers, Mina (Joyce Godenzi) and Bo Huang (Tony Leung). On what should be a day of celebration, becomes one of intense family squabbling. You see Bo Huang is the only son, in a family of five children. All five are police officers, but Bo, as the man is expected to carry on the family tradition. However, Bo’s sisters are happy to have a new girl in the family. In fact their jealously clouds the whole ceremony. The worst and most outspoken of the sisters is Ling (Carmina Lau). She is downright antagonistic to Mina, and refuses to be in any of the wedding photographs with her. With such a family dynamic, it will come as no surprise that there is a bit of the old Cinderella story going on here. Mina is treated as the ugly duckling and constantly put down by her step-sisters.

After the wedding, the Police Superintendent arrives to give Mina a bouquet, and to assign her to her next case, which starts on the following day. Duty calls – so much for the honeymoon. She has been assigned to protect a visiting princess. The film doesn’t say where the princess is from, but as we all know, princesses are special and need to be protected. Assisting Mina on the mission are three of Huang’s very jealous sisters, including Ling, who are very keen to make sure that no praise should come Mina’s way. The princess is visiting Hong Kong for a fashion show, and as a security precaution, Mina acts as a decoy, dressing as the princess with a veil covering her face. The fashion show has a square catwalk with a square glass pyramid position in the centre. For those unfamiliar with the mathematical equation, allow me to elaborate. Hong Kong action cinema + glass = shattered glass. But first things first, and that entails a snatch attempt being made on the princess. And four heavily armed gangsters arrive to do just that.

Meanwhile, two of Huang’s sisters decide to have a bathroom break, leaving Ling on guard. The gangsters march in and toss about some colourful smoke bombs, which look kind of arty, so the audience believe it is all part of the fashion show. Under the cover of the smoke, the gangsters snatch Mina, thinking she is the princess and march her out. Ling follows and the other two sisters stumble out of the bathroom in time to act. With absolutely no concern for Mina, who is being marched away at gunpoint, the three sisters open fire at the would be kidnappers. The gangsters could just pop one in Mina and be done with it, but obviously the princess must have some value so they don’t kill her. However a large scale shootout follows

The Huang sisters polish off three of the kidnappers. Of course, one of these gangsters is shot and flies back through the glass pyramid – I didn’t see that coming! Mina takes out the fourth, then rushes to the aid of another police unit who are in charge of protecting the real princess. This other unit shuffles the princess out into the multi-storey carpark, where, wouldn’t you know it, even more gangsters are waiting.

The princess is pushed into the back seat of a car, but before she car be whisked to freedom, the gangsters take out most of the police unit, and then in their car race up next to the vehicle the princess is in. They break the window of the vehicle she is in, and then drag her across the jagged glass, out the window, and then in through the open window of their car. Then they speed off, however, the princess is not completely in the car. In fact, the bulk of her torso and legs are still dangling out of the car.

As they try to get away, one of the Huang sisters starts shooting at the car. The thing is, what would happen to the princess if she were to disable the car? Would it careen out of control into one of the concrete pylons? Would the princess be killed or only severely whiplashed?

That is the biggest failing in this film is its lack of logic. Sure it is action packed and the stunts are great, but the shear illogicality of many of the sequences beggars belief. There is no ’cause’ and ‘effect’. If Dirty Harry and his imitators were chewed out by their superiors for endangering the lives of innocent civilians, then by the end of this film, the whole Huang family, which seems to make up the majority of the Hong Kong police force, would be constantly on suspension, or kicked off the force. The disrespect for human life and property is absolutely staggering. But, after all it is only a movie and not real life – so let’s press on, shall we?

Mina is called into action as the kidnappers escape onto the street in a brown car. From her position, high above them in the car park, she unholsters her weapon and opens fire despite the princess being inside (I won’t labor the point again). Mina then jumps onto a cloth banner and slides down the face of the building. Then she leaps onto the roof of a passing car. From there, she darts through a bus, from one window to the other, finally landing on the roof of the kidnappers car. From inside, the gangsters starts shooting at the roof of car, and Mina is forced to roll off, falling on the road, in the path of an oncoming motorcycle. Miraculously, the motorcyclist slides to a halt, and Mina borrows the bike to continue her pursuit.

With Mina hot on their tail, the kidnappers break suddenly, and she rides the bike over the top of the car. Now she is in front, and the kidnappers start up again, chasing her. They fire their guns out the car window, and one shot hits the handle bars. Mina loses control, sliding to a halt in the middle of the road. The bad guys bear down on her. She leaps out of the way at the last second, and the car ploughs into the motorbike. The vehicle then careens out of control, flips over three times, coming to a crashing halt. The bad guys are bloodied, battered and bruised – as you would be if you were a passenger in a car that has rolled three times. Oh, the princess was in that car too!

The film conveniently doesn’t show us the princess. I assume she was okay, because the film cuts to an award presentation, where Mina is being presented with a commendation for outstanding police work. Yeah, right!

Above, my description is a very truncated version of what happens in the first fifteen minutes of the film, and I think I have laboured the point that She Shoots Straight is one action packed stunt fest that sets out to entertain rather than present any logical story. Having said that, in the middle of the film, there a sequence that gives this film an emotional core on which to hang the back end of the film, which once again is packed full of stunts and some impressive fight sequences.

The main plot is about a Vietnamese criminal, who is about to be deported from Hong Kong. However, he escapes from the deportation centre and goes on a crime spree throughout Honkers. It is almost as if he wants to make the city pay for trying to deport him. His first mad scheme is to rob the New World nightclub. But the police get wind of the plan and assign Mina and the whole Huang clan to work on the assignment. The operation goes horribly wrong, causing a rift in the Huang family. It also pisses of the arch villain who now wants revenge.

She Shoots Straight is directed by Cory Yuen, who certainly knows his way around an action sequence. In recent years however, he has also become a specialist gun for hire, as an ‘Action Director’ working on films such as Bulletproof Monk, Transporter 1 and 2, Cradle to the Grave, Kiss of the Dragon and Rogue Assassin (AKA: War). Prior to this however, he directed No Retreat, No Surrender and No Retreat, No Surrender 2 (and was allegedly and uncredited co-director on Game of Death 2). Yuen’s work can’t be faulted here – the the pace is sharp, only slowing in the middle when it needs to, to amp up a bit of human drama, and visually the film looks pretty slick. It only clocks in at 87 minutes, so as you can imagine, not too much time is wasted on needless plodding exposition.

I must admit, I went into this movie with pretty low expectations, expecting it to be a vanity piece for Sammo Hung who produced the film – that is to give his model wife a leading role in an action film. I expected Sammo’s pull in Hong Kong got this film made and Godenzi the leading role. And that may very well be true. But, despite any showbiz nepotism, this isn’t a half bad little action film, with some pretty good fight scenes. Godenzi acquits her self rather well, and although she seems outmatched in the final fight with Agnes Aurelio, her ability to portray conviction and pure single minded determination make the viewer believe that this slight, wafer-thin stick girl, could actually kick some serious ass. She Shoots Straight, aside from a few gaping gaps in logic, pushes all the right buttons as a cop action film. At one point Godenzi even seems to be carrying a .44 Magnum – not just ‘girls with guns’ but ‘girls with really big guns’ – which appeals to my pop-cop viewing sensibility. As a film that slipped under my radar (and may have slipped under yours), I believe it is worth seeking out, watching and enjoying. Just don’t think about it too much…just let the stunts, the fights, and the action wash over you and you will enjoy it.

This review originally appeared on Teleport City, February 2, 2011

She Shoots Straight (1990)

The Executioner II: Karate Inferno (1974)

Country: Japan
Director: Teruo Ishii
Starring: Sonny Chiba, Eiji Gô, Yutaka Nakajima, Etsuko Shihomi, Kanjûrô Arashi, Ryô Ikebe, Tetsurô Tanba, Makoto Satô
Music: Hajime Kaburagi
Original Title: Chokugeki jigoku-ken: Dai-gyakuten

The Executioner II: Karate Inferno is a broad comedic caper film, with a pinch of extreme violence added at the end (which may be somewhat jarring to Western audiences). As for the ‘Karate Inferno’ promised in the title, it is more of a ‘Karate Camp Fire’. There is very little fistic mayhem in this film compared to many other Chiba films. However, if you ignore the title, and enjoy caper movies, then you’ll find this film is very entertaining.

As the film opens, Lady Sabine, a rich heiress, is preparing to exhibit her jewel collection in Tokyo. The price piece is a necklace called The Star of the Pharaoh, which is valued at one million yen. However, before the exhibition, the necklace is stolen, and Sabine’s young daughter is kidnapped. The criminals want one million yen for the necklace, and the girl.

The insurance company – through a shady intermediary named The Commissioner (Ryo Ikebe) – recruit three super crooks to steal the money back from the criminals once the exchange has been made. The super crooks are Ryuichi Koga (Sonny Chiba), Takeshi Hayabusa (Makoto Sato), and Ichiro Sakura (Eiji Go).

The exchange goes wrong. Sabine’s daughter is rescued, however, the money and necklace remain in the hands of the criminals. As a result, the super crooks don’t get paid. Further more, Sabine deals directly with the criminals, paying an extra million yen to have the necklace returned.

Koga is not happy about being stiffed his fee, and decides to steal the necklace from Sabine. He scales the side of high-rise building, cuts through the window and steals the necklace, but only to find it is a fake. The real necklace is in a vault on the nineteenth floor, of a high-security building. The super crook team re-assembles to break into the vault – with the usual, caper film tropes in place.

As I mentioned at the top, the film, which is so light in tone for most of its running time has an extremely violent ending – with eyeballs popping from their sockets, and a liver being torn from a body.

The sexual content is playful, but puerile (in an Animal House kind of way). There are upskirt shots and leering in high-rise windows scenes. It would also appear only half of Japanese women wear panties. It should be noted that Japanese movies and television have a different concept of what is offensive and/or adult. I remember when I was a teenager, visiting Japan in the mid 1980s, and flicking on late afternoon children’s television – and discovering a delightful little animated show, where a cheeky little bird would swoop down on young ladies, and rip the girls top off with its beak – thereby exposing the lady’s breasts.

I found The Executioner II: Karate Inferno to be a great deal of fun – if somewhat uneven. Now having said all that, I must point out that I have not watched the previous film, The Executioner – which is said to be almost the reverse of this feature. It is full of violence and nudity – and light on for comedy capers. So, if you were to come to this film from The Executioner, and were expecting more of the same, I could see how this film may disappoint. After all, Chiba does have a reputation for in-your-face actioners, and Karate Inferno never really delivers on that score.

The Executioner II: Karate Inferno (1974)

Hunter Will Get You (1976)

Country: France
Director: Philipe Labro
Starring: Jean-Paul Belmondo, Bruno Cremer, Jean Negroni, Patrick Fierry, Jean-Pierre Jorris, Victor Garrivier
Music: Michel Columbier
Original Title: L’Alpagueur

One of the first movies I ever ordered from France, was L’Apagueur starring Jean-Paul Belmondo. I was going through a Belmondo phase at the time and wanted to get hold of as many of his films as I could. However, I don’t speak French. But the Audio on the DVD was described as Francais et Anglais en Mono D’Origne. I figured that meant it had French or English audio tracks. It actually meant it had the original French soundtrack, with a small amount of English dialogue in it. Not much at all. I watched it, but understood very little, as it has multiple story threads happening at once. Sure, they collide at the end, but by then, I was well and truly lost.

The good news is, and it’s been out for quite a while now, L’Alpagueur is available in English, as Hunter Will Get You. The film is not a spy film, nor is a police film. It exists in that nether world in between. Belmondo plays, Roger Pilard, the ‘Alpagueur’ – or the ‘Predator’ in the English dub, and he hunts criminals who operate above the law. He is a mercenary, who does what the police are unable to do – for a price, of course.

The film opens early in the morning in Rotterdam, near the port. Some kind of sting is about to go down. The Predator, and his team are assembled, watching and waiting. Out of a water-side restaurant, three men exit carrying a briefcase full of money. The Predator’s team swoops. However, Pilard does not. He keeps watching and sees a pregnant lady exit the restaurant a few seconds later. He rushes after her, and starts kneeing her in the stomach. As you’ve guessed, she is not really pregnant. The kicks, knock free a padded pillow which had been strapped to her stomach. It falls from her skirt to the ground. He picks it up, and cuts it open, and inside is a shipment of heroin. Chalk one up for the Predator.

The organized crime syndicate behind the drug shipment of ‘H’ are very unhappy with Pilard, and set about finding out who he is (as nobody knows his true identity), and ultimately putting him out of business – and this becomes more prevalent as the story moves along.

While the crime syndicate is working on that, Pilard moves on to his next assignment – which is to shut down an illegal gambling operation. With fake eyebrows and a mustache, Pilard poses as an insurance agent named Roget, and within no time, he has routed out the bad guys.

Meanwhile, in Paris, in a pinball parlor, a juvenile delinquent named Costa Valdes (Patrick Fierry) is trying to rip the money tray out of one of the machines. He is observed by a violent criminal known as the ‘Epervier’ – the ‘Hawk’ in the English dub (played by Bruno Cremer). The Hawk recruit Valdes to assist in a robbery (for the tidy sum of $1000).

On the Hawk’s instruction, Valdes, armed with a pistol, walks into a jewelery store to rob it. The store owner hits the alarm switch. Hawk enters dressed as a policeman. Initially, Valdes in relieved, believing it is a great scheme employed by the Hawk. That is, until the Hawk shoots the store owner in cold blood. Then he draws a bead on Valdes. Hawk fires, hitting Valdes in the arm. He is about to finish him off, when two real policemen enter the store. Hawk turns and guns them down. Then he flees, leaving Valdes alive – the only man able to identify the maniac criminal.

Valdes is sent to prison, but he refuses to rat on Hawk – leaving the authorities once again, without a lead on Hawk’s identity.

After Pilard has taken care of the gambling operation, his next mission is to catch Hawk. With the only lead being Valdes, Pilard is given a fake identity and arranges to be sent to prison, and to share a cell with Valdes.

Unbeknownst to Pilard, the prison officials are corrupt, and this puts him on a collision course with the aforementioned crime syndicate – and ultimately leading to a showdown with Hawk.

Hunter Will Get You is an entertaining slice of 1970’s crime action. It’s not a masterpiece, by any stretch of the imagination, but it is a good solid thriller with good performances by Belmondo and Cremer. As a way of lazy comparison, this is the type of movie Charles Bronson made in the ’70s – which to your way of thinking, may be a plus, or a minus (I don’t think Bronson made crap until the ’80s, so, to be it’s a big plus). There’s a hint of vigilante to Belmondo’s character, Pilard. For the first two assignments, he takes a hefty fee. But when he is assigned to Hawk, he refuses to be paid, as Hawk is such a menace to society. In Pilard’s quest, laws are not really applicable – he’ll do what ever is required (so I guess he’s some kind of government sanctioned vigilante).

If you like Belmondo, or seventies action thrillers, this is worth a look.

Hunter Will Get You (1976)