Monday, February 25, 2013

IMAGES: Peek A Boo

Goldfinger (1964)

Stargate (1994)

Thunderball (1965)

From Russia with Love (1963)

The Ultimate Warrior (1975)

Goldfinger (1964)

The Mark of Kriminal (1968)

Thunderball (1965)

Stargate (1994)

The Ultimate Warrior (1975)

The Black Falcon (1967)

Thunderball (1965)

Thursday, February 21, 2013

i SPY ASIASPY: The Black Falcon

The Black Falcon
Director: Takumi Furukawa
Year 1967

The Black Falcon is a fun and inventive Asiaspy flick brought to us by the always entertaining Shaw Brothers and the intrepid filmmaker, Takumi Furukawa. Steep in James Bond mimicry and splashed with a vibrant color palette, this engaging spy effort showcases enough action, romance, and wacky antics to satisfy anyone out there who happens to love this particular genre. With its charismatic lead and its string of strange characters, The Black Falcon is a tremendous second effort for the Shaw Brothers, which following in the footsteps of 1966's The Golden Buddha, comes off as a damn fine and ridiculously fun production.

The film follows the exploits of the secret nefarious agency known as Black Falcon, an illusive group which specializes in mayhem, murder and all things illegal. Frustrated that they can't seem to recover enough evidence to take the organization down, the Hong Kong authorities assign international spy Zhang Shijie to the case as he attempts to infiltrate their ranks by courting the daughter of the organization's leader in order to expose the group and their various activities. What follows is a wild ride into uncharted territory for our hero, as he comes to find out that the organization is in the midst of an internal takeover, sparking a bloody civil war within Black Falcon, which results in making Zhang's mission that much more perilous and unpredictable. Good luck buddy, you'll need it.

Paul Chang takes on the role of super agent Zhang Shijie, a Bond-esque spy who has all the right moves and doesn't mind showing off a bit. When it comes to charisma and style, Chang's got it down, as he injects a healthy dose of debonair driven confidence into his lively hero while staying sympathetic and genuinely entertaining. He fits the visual bill of a secret agent to perfection with his good looks and sure-headed disposition, and on top of that he pulls off the action portions of this espionage entry with splendid ease and a classy swagger. Of course if you're treading on James Bond territory, you have to infuse your agent with an insatiable appetite for women and Chang does just that as he woos multiple lovely ladies, often bedding them at random. It's safe to say that the greatest aspect of The Black Falcon is Paul Chang's enthusiastic portrayal as agent Zhang Shijie.

Accompanying and opposing Chang in this most dangerous of missions is Jenny Hu as Julie Tan and Margaret Tu Chuan as Hu Mei. Jenny Hu's character plays the love interest to agent Shijie and also the daughter to the leader of Black Falcon. Ambiguously performed and delightfully portrayed, Hu does a commendable job with the character, forcing us to ponder over her affiliations and intentions towards our dynamic hero. On the other side of the fence is the vivacious and highly venomous Chuan as Hu Mei, the top femme fatale of the Black Falcon organization. Commanding and vicious in nature, Hu Mei is a force to be reckoned with in this movie and Chuan effortlessly demands us to take notice of her sexy curves and deadly ways. With the combination of these two lovely ladies, The Black Falcon makes for a beautiful smorgasbord of eye-pleasing imagery.

When it comes to action, The Black Falcon has that department covered as well, as there are a number of pulse-pounding sequences and hard hitting moments that amp up the pace of the picture with tremendous fervor. From car chases, to gun fights, to hand to hand combat, this film has it all and it's all displayed in the most energetic of ways. One moment in particular features our spirited and determined spy trading blows with a gargantuan of a man, played by Siu Gam, who comes off as Hong Kong's answer to Richard Kiel's Jaws character. Explosive in execution and brutal to boot, the scene depicts a whirlwind of a fight which joyfully displays actor Paul Chang getting the living shit kicked out of him by his larger than life foe. The scene is just relentless as the two fighters savagely go toe to toe and blow for blow, and the end result of this extended fight scene is quite a spectacle and highlight of the movie.

Another great fight scene occurs directly after this battle, as agent Shijie takes to the streets in an effort to escape from a handful of Black Falcon thugs. Surrounded in an expansive courtyard, Shijie deals out a series of deathblows in an outstandingly choreographed fight sequence which expertly showcases the film's kinetic style and fun-filled embrace. The great thing about all of these engaging fight scenes, is that they are filmed in some of the most picturesque and exotic of locations. Unlike the Eurospy craze, Asiaspy films tended to stay close to home in their location hopping and in this feature the filmmakers decided to use the beautiful backdrops of both Hong Kong and Macau to represent the style and panache of the picture. Even with its lack of spacial and cultural variety, The Black Falcon uses the stellar venues, interesting characters, and energetic sequences to its advantage, weaving an intricate little spy tale that is anything but ordinary.

The Black Falcon is an ambitiously derived little gem that has all of the trappings of a Bond film, yet transposed into a culture and environment that is anything but familiar to 007 and company. Immersed in a plethora of wacky characters and equally zany situations, the film relies on the fun-factor of the James Bond franchise as it highlights all of the formulaic elements that we all know and love. In this most mirrored of concepts, the movie surprisingly takes on a life of its own as it blends its own style and substance into the trademark etchings of the cinematic espionage world.

Paul Chang is fantastic in the role of super agent Zhang Shijie, and his charismatic turn as the unstoppable spy is one of the film's most enduring qualities. Not only that, but The Black Falcon has another pair of assets in the form of Jenny Hu and Margaret Tu Chuan, who both bring a much needed feminine touch to the proceedings. As for action, suspense and espionage, this film is jam-packed as it goes from one sequence to the next, guiding us across its plethora of pleasing venues and picturesque locations. In the end, the feature aims to do one thing and one thing only, and that's to make a movie that is a whole hell of a lot of fun to watch. Mission complete. The Black Falcon is an.....

Kick him in the nuts!

Damn! He really did it!

Love what you did with the place.

Go fish!

I like your nude painting pretty lady. Want to be my girlfriend?

Get your feet off the table you filthy animal!

Look at who's spending some time at make-out point.

Staring contest..... GO!

You're really creepy me out buddy.

Well look what we have under here.

Quit blowing bubbles and get back to work!

Oh no! What a horrible time for diarrhea!

I like your boobs. Real slick Zhang.

It's time for a beat-down.

My... my... Looks like someone has been doing some trimming.

Hello, operator. Get me more bubbles.

Looks like it's just about rape time.

Get back in your seat you cock-blocking son of a bitch!

Sunday, February 10, 2013

IMAGES: What's On?

Sayonara Jupiter (1984)

Prince of Darkness (1987)

Battle Beneath the Earth (1967)

Conquest of Space (1955)

The Earth Dies Screaming (1964)

Sayonara Jupiter (1984)

Prince of Darkness (1987)

The Black Falcon (1967)

Forbidden Photos of a Lady Above Suspicion (1970)

Sayonara Jupiter (1984)

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

REVIEW: Battle Beneath the Earth

Battle Beneath the Earth
Director: Montgomery Tully
Year 1967

Battle Beneath the Earth is a neat little sci-fi centric thriller, which, though wildly ridiculous, makes for one hell of a fun and outlandish time. Headlined by the always reliable Kerwin Mathews, this spy-like actioneer is enjoyably campy and wholeheartedly off the wall as it gives us moments upon moments of unbelievable action that can only serve to exist in this warped and fabricated cinematic world. As kitschy and strange as they come, Battle Beneath the Earth is a highly enjoyable action adventure flick that manages to impress thanks to its entertaining cast of characters and its tendency to not let reality hold it back. Let the battle begin!

The film opens with a hysterical man named Arnold Kramer, who claims that an invading army is burrowing under the United States, threatening to take over the country by force. Thought to be a crazed lunatic, government officials ignore the man's rantings, that is until a team of US Navy soldiers, led by Commander Jonathan Shaw, run afoul of a renegade Chinese general named Chan Lu who has amassed a secret army underneath American soil in a series of intricate tunnels that lead all the way across the Pacific Ocean and back to China. Is it too late to stop this madman who is hell bent on the nuclear annihilation of the United States or will Commander Shaw and his brave team thwart his diabolical plans? You know the answer, so let's just get right down to it.

Kerwin Mathews takes on the role of Commander Jonathan Shaw, the leader of the team of soldiers who decide to take down the nefarious General Chan Lu, and in usual form, Mathews carries the picture with ease. After absorbing all of his various roles throughout his diverse career, from his work in The 7th Voyage of Sinbad, The 3 Worlds of Gulliver, Jack the Giant Killer, OSS 117 se dechaine, OSS 117 Panic in Bangkok, and The Viscount, it's safe to say that I've become quite a fan of his flicks and Battle Beneath the Earth is no exception. Exuding that trademark charisma and enthralling screen presence, Mathews gives the film an energetic boost which helps to smooth over the rather ridiculous premise of an invading army secretly digging tunnels under the United States. Wild plot aside, Mathews manages to twist this interesting science fiction thriller into a faintly recreated spy flick, with him replicating the personality of a secret agent and the villainous General Chan Lu taking the role of the power hungry madman, which is a staple of the 60's spy genre. Hell he even gets a sexy sidekick later on in the movie played by the ridiculously gorgeous Vivienne Ventura. Not too shabby Kerwin.... Not too shabby.

As previously mentioned, the role of General Chan Lu is one that is larger than life and Martin Benson is the capable actor who gets to fill in for the main baddy of the film. Of course there is nothing remotely Chinese about Mr. Benson, so the effects crew had to apply a ridiculous amount of makeup to Martin's face to give the impression that he was oriental. The end result is as campy and silly as the film, but when you're making a movie that centers its plot on the fact that an invading army is secretly digging tunnels under US soil and doing it seemingly undetected, believability and authenticity is not a factor worth worrying about. Aside from the laughable make-up, Benson does a wonderful job as the vengeful General Chan Lu, and he'd fit right at home battling 007 in the cinematic Bond world.

Like all good spy-tinged fair, technology and gadgetry are a huge selling point and with Battle Beneath the Earth we get a slew of interesting devices and machines for our heroes to monkey with. One in particular is the mining laser which Commander Shaw and crew use in order to infiltrate the Chinese's underground labyrinth. Strangely Bondian-like and immersed in science fiction staples, this drilling machine is quite an impressive piece of fictional technology and one that is used quite often in the later moments of the film. Though it's pure pulpy camp, I still love the hell out of it.

Further more this post Cold War sci-fi thriller with a spy-spirited adventure twist, isn't just content with gadgetry and a secret agent-like lead to give it a 60's spy edge. It swings for the fences as it showcases a plethora of kitschy espionage elements that truly harken back to the Eurospy films of years earlier. Take the main villain General Chan Lu's secret underground lair for instance. The man has an elaborately decked-out pad which includes a transportation pod-like device that services as an elevator, helping him move throughout his expansive underground world with ease. Not only that, but the guy has a pet falcon. A pet falcon! I rest my case. Whatever the intentions were in blanketing this production in a fine layer of espionage goodness, I'm forever grateful. Battle Beneath the Earth is a fun-filled extravaganza that is too ridiculous and silly not to be entertaining.

Battle Beneath the Earth is a wild ride of a flick that never takes itself too seriously, yet still maintains to be a straight forward sci-fi thriller. With never a wink to the audience or a second to pause on its ludicrousness, this feature disregards its premise as impossible and rather keeps to the task of telling a most unusual story in the most earnest of ways. In this frame of mind, director Montgomery Tully allows for the fun to stay at the forefront as we lap up all the zany aspects of the narrative and bask in the wacky nature of it all.

Kerwin Mathews lives it up as Commander Shaw and he is the perfect fit for what would be a highly unmemorable role if taken on by anyone else. His charisma shines in this production and the camp factor of the film actually adds to his appeal. The same can be said for Martin Benson in the role of General Chan Lu. Silly and extremely goofy, Benson gives it his all as the super villain and what we're left with is a hefty serving of pulpy goodness, courtesy of every spy cliché in the book. Thankfully that is something that will always interest me and grab my attention and in all honesty, these kind of wild productions can be extremely enjoyable if you just get into the right frame of mind. If you're looking for some good old fashion innocent entertainment, then give this one a go. Battle Beneath the Earth is.....

Everybody get your ear to the street and look what's going down.

Nice bathrobe weirdo.

Even in this stupid helmet I look good.

Hey nerd boy! You mind sharing with the rest of us?

This is my map and you can't have it!

Real sneaky buddy.

Calm down you big baby. It's just red paint.

General, that damn kid is listening to the Hip Hop again.

Beam me up Scotty.

Check it out Frank! The kid's a natural scratch master!

I'm fixing to snatch up your chick.

Oh Laser Borer, how you boggle my mind with your pretty lights.

What are you looking at bird brain.

Bold fashion statement, but it's so last season.

Me fan you long time.

Oh how I love you lion emblem.

It's a bird. It's a plane. Shit it's a nuclear fallout!

How romantic.