aka: Xue zhan wu ying quan, 血戰五形拳
Director: Godfrey Ho, Kim Si-Hyeon
My Rating: 7.0/10
A feud between two clans is settled with a showdown between two masters. One master is trained in the snake fist style, the other in the crane fist style. Whoever looses must leave the area and allow the other to teach it’s style in peace – the snake fist master is victorious… 25 years later, Dragon (Dragon Lee), a disciple of the snake fist style leaves the area to get married but also to teach in a territory where the crane fist clan resides – inevitably the old rivalry is once again started..
A classic showdown between good and evil. There’s not really any questions on which one will come out on top – to me it doesn’t really matter, as this type of story is mostly about the ‘hero journey’ – Jammed with non-stop action, spectacular physics, a stereotype japanese guy (with a bandana, wielding a really small samurai sword), eyegouging and a unusual amounts of gore (for the genre).
With high entertainment value, this doesn’t fall that far behind other Godfrey Ho greats like Duel of the Tough and Golden Dragon, Silver Snake and is indeed well worth checking out.
aka: Onna Jigoku: Mori wa Nureta, 女地獄 森は濡れた
Director: Tatsumi Kumashiro
My Rating: 7.5/10
A woman is on the run accused of murdering her mistress. Eventually, after three days, she starts regaining her senses and thinks she can forget about the murder if heading back to town. On the way back she gets picked up by a Noble Lady, eventually, offering her to stay at her mountain hotel for a couple of days. Upon arrival the Noble Lady ques the woman in on her cruel husband and her unhappiness but also she is willing to share her legacy and servants with her – however, the situation quickly takes a turn as the husband knows about the woman’s identity.. Blackmail and depravity ensues..!
To me one of Kumashiro’s better efforts (after Pleasure Campus, Secret Games and Lovers are Wet). I like the where it starts, it’s kind of brief but the backstory is enough to make the movies one major set-piece work and, atleast to me, that’s really what it’s all about (for it’s time – this scene, and the following one, is really something in the depravity scales, even in todays standards!).
I’ll have to say I appreciated the movie more this time around, I have small gripe with the setting – there’s kind of a cultureclash where the european inspiration feels partly embraced. The major negative (which supposedly is a statement of censorship) is the black bars used to censor nudity, impossible not to be distractive. One of the many great things about Nikkatsu’s Roman Porno series though is it’s diversity, even threading into Sadean territory – it’s no Eugenie… the Story of Her Journey into Perversion but still a pretty good one that easily goes recommended.
Director: Peter Malota
My Rating: 6.0/10
A nurse is being interrogated by two FBI agents about a classified case regarding the Russian mafia and a certain injured hit-man…
Starting of with a prologue briefing the backstory into an action-packed flashback sequence showing how ‘our hero’, Van Damme, survives a shootout ending up in a hospital. The rest of the story is from the interrogation point of view told through flashbacks regarding what happened in the hospital.
It’s fairly easy to cherry pick the negatives seeing as there’s a first time director effort falling into some of the usual pitfalls. To me there’s to much half n’ half, with no real main focus in the story-line – there’s the good cop / bad cop (Peter Stormare) interrogation , the flashbacks.. but also vignettes introducing the “bad guys” even if the only have about one scene each (pointless if you ask me). The main negative would be the locations – they’re just to every-daily.
Without spoiling anything, the ending is borrowed from a very well know movie from 1995 with a film-noir variation to it. (Spoiler →: The Usual Suspects)
The positives being if you end up searching up a movie like this in the first place then your ambition is probably not the highest either, and this is fairly well invested pass time. Having seen everything available (as far as english-language-friendly goes) with Van Damme so far, of course I have to watch this – and id say that it’s slightly above average and worth a look.
aka: Jigokuhen, 地獄変
Director: Shiro Toyoda
My Rating: 9.5/10
A tyrannical lord wants the walls of his temple to be painted with images of buddha and heaven. He is unable to assign the task to a korean painter who only “paints-what-he-sees” – seeing how the common man (or slave) is treated under the lords outspoken desire for glory – the painter is only able to draw his nightmarish visions. The painter denies his daughter from seeing a japanese man, whom she truly loves, inevitably leading to the lord taking a liking to his daughter at first sight. Eventually the lord will assign the painter the task of painting a ‘portrait of hell’…
There is a progressive feel to how to the film is shot which reflects the story, starting of with beautiful rural landscape scenery, cherry blossoms and bright costumes.. eventually shifting to darkness, rivers of blood, sometimes pitch black scenery with an overhanging feeling of dread and doom. The fantastical elements to the story allows for a “dimension” of fantasy/horror further enhancing the story!…
To me the partly theatrical acting works great (mainly the daughter, but also present in some longer dialogue scenes) as some scenes are more dialogue heavy but also working well with the period-setting. I can’t fault a thing about this movie, finding movies like this one is my reason for dedication – familiar, yet unique. I’m a sucker for “downbeat” ‘slowly unfolding’ progressive stories that is set to “explode” and this one goes highly recommended.
(As a headsup – there is a cut in the UK Artsmagic DVD. I grabbed this version regardless. INFO: http://bbfc.co.uk/releases/portrait-hell “Compulsory cut required under the Cinematograph Films (Animals) Act of 1937 to sight of cock fighting.“)
aka: Mayonaka no shôtaijô, 真夜中の招待状
Director: Yoshitaro Nomura
My Rating: 7.5/10
A woman visits a psychiatrist, not for herself but for her fiancee whose three brothers have mysteriously vanished. Without hesitation the psychiatrist starts the investigation and is early on lead to various clues (such as a common dream shared among the brothers, and seemingly coincidental dates of when they all disappeared)..
Well produced and well crafted mystery simply put. There’s a constant slowly unfolding development of the mystery early on. Many of the clues points towards the subconscious (Jung being cited etc) as well as a handful of characters are introduced along the way to keep things interesting. The only negative to me was when things are about to come together it gets sort of trailing and a bit repetitive, although the ending ties everything neatly together.
A first (and certainly not the last) for me from seemingly prolific director Yoshitaro Nomura. Mostly recommended.. slightly generous rating from me..