Forty Guns (1957)

upsteSamuel Fuller’s FORTY GUNS begins with a roar and ends with a sexist joke.

The roar is an impressive 40 horsemen riding along a dirt road, behind Barbara Stanwyck, for the length of the opening credits.

Then they race on either side of a wagon containing the 2 U.S. Marshals and their kid brother. Its a dusty, thundering, awesome cinematic display of the sheer power of the title’s 40 guns – another one of Fuller’s brilliant visual triumphs.

Fuller’s story is flimsy at best. Something about the Marshals coming to arrest some hired gun who robbed the federal mail. The hired gun is in the employ of Barbara Stanwyck, who is the boss of this little town and whom all the men are lusting after. One of the men even wrote a little song about her that no one is allowed to sing anywhere near her because: it is a terrible song; it objectifies the tough as nails businesswoman.

Hijinx ensue. Guns are fired. Love is followed. But that is neither here nor there, really. Let’s get back to these jokers known as the Forty Guns. 

The first twenty minutes or so of the movie really moves the extras around. Aside from the striking opening images, there are two more scenes with the gunmen before they basically disappear from the screen.

One is when they all ride into town. The whole gang is seen coming in, then standing in front of the sheriff’s jail. Its an intimidating group. It drives home the unmatched power and brute influence of the Stanwyck character.

The second is a near surrealist scene. Alluding to the long tables of Knights in Shining Armour movies, Fuller lines a banquet table with the well coiffed mugs mugs of the hired gunmen with a sparklingly dazzled Stanwyck at the head. She playfully dismisses them, which takes a good amount of grunting and shuffling to get them into the adjoining room.

These are troop movements. The parade of men – dangerous, absurd, and powerful. These are true movie moments. I loved them.

I give this 5 out of 7 Giddyups because there was some damn fine shooting at the end.

Island of Lost Souls A/K/A Isla de los hombres solos (1974)

René ricardo_montalban_herve_villechaize_fantasy_island_1977Cardona Sr’s  ISLAND OF LOST SOULS is a prison island movie. A cinematic interpretation of a Costa Rica best selling novel by a similar title – “Island of Lonely Men.” Based on the real life imprisonment of author Jose Leon Sanchez.

The plot is hopeless, depraved, and exceptionally badly paced. But this is the case of all Cardona’s pictures – they are overlong and unnecessarily boring.

For instance, we begin the story very promisingly, as a government mayor torments a young couple. Finally driving the husband to hack the mayor to bits with a machete.

Then the husband is sent to the Lonely Men Island. From this point on its all loin cloth clad and long filthy bearded prisoners all the time. Sadly, all these prisoners are basically nameless and interchangeable. Leading to no real investment, drama, or plot.

Slowly, though ever so slowly, the warden and two of his guards emerge as antagonists, but even they are somewhat bland and flavorless tyrants. There is something about the warden declaring himself a sovereign president. There is a great moment when the prisoner’s only cannon is blown to bits, but otherwise the new nation mainly consists of a long dance sequence. The dancer is one of the homosexuals in the prison, and somehow he got a g-string and a blue boa to accent his dance moves.

There is some brutality in this movie. For instance:

There is premeditated and justifiable murder of guitar.

Some guards throw a window mannequin off a cliff into the ocean.

A man posing as a seagull is blown to bits with a stick of dynamite.

And finally, there is a lot of whipping and beating of naked men by the prison guards.

The last 30 minutes of the movie is the worst chase scene I’ve ever seen. Basically two prisoners float along the tides trying to hide from police rafts until they are shot by some villagers when they tried to come up on the beach. Neither one of them exploded into bits, either!

I give this movie 3 out of 6 ball and chain leg irons only because of that cannon scene.


Rawhead Rex (1986)

mv5bmwnhowu2ztgtnwqxzc00zwy4ltgyzjutnti4mdhmzjm5ztezxkeyxkfqcgdeqxvymjuyndk2odc@._v1_sx1777_cr0,0,1777,999_al_George Pavlou’s RAWHEAD REX plays like a hackneyed 1950s B-movie monster picture – right down to the horrible latex creature mask and cartoony lightning effects at the end. While Clive Barker was disappointed because he turned in a script featuring a giant penis creature tearing up the English country side. Barker’s conception of the monster was always phallic and a tremendous winking joke – get it “rawhead” and “Rex” or otherwise “King Cock.”

As far as ancient sleeping pagan gods woken up by ding dong farmers go Rawhead is rather lame. I mean aside from eating people, his only other godlike power is his mysterious red eyes. Those searing pools of swirly ruby that hypnotize idiots into doing his bidding, which mostly involves shoving priests around or setting fires.

And even though Barker complains about the low quality of this flick, he is wrong that the movie disappoints. I mean sure, there isn’t the sheer perversion that old Clive wanted, but the movie delivers some real intangibles.

For instance, sure Rawhead is the bulbous smooth headed blood splattered phallus gleaming in the moonlight, BUT Rawhead is exceptionally brutal.

He eats a kid.

He throws puny humans around.

He baptizes his minion in piss.

Not to mention how much this movie hates cops. They are jeered at, they are bitten in half, and finally all of them are set on fire. That alone is worth it.

The monster gets a lot of screen time, too. In fact, the movie wastes no time revealing the hulking creature, he shows up for his first kill in the opening 10 minutes. And while the special effects and the monster costume are laughably amateurish, there is something to be said for the brazen embrace the filmmakers have in continuing to show it, well light and in focus, in all its latex glory.

I give this movie 7 out of 10 leaping leprechauns because Americans save the day. 

Treasure of the Amazon (1985)

treasure amazonRené Cardona Jr.’s Treasure of the Amazon is a rip roaring rip off of Raiders of the Lost Ark and jungle exploitation films.

The story is straight-forward enough. Three sets of treasure hunters set off in the same direction to hunt for treasure. All of them are idiots, real dummies, they barely have supplies, no real plans, and are mostly killed by headhunters.

First come the flyboys and their Southern Belle lady friend. We meet them flying around the jungle trying to chop bird’s tails off with the propeller of their seaplane. These are the worst treasure hunters in the movie.

Really. They didn’t even pack enough clothing and basically no supplies. But then they are grave robbing diamonds out of sacrificial graves – “these skeletons are all missing their heads!”

The blonde man gets his head chopped off and the dark haired gentleman spends most of his time NOT EVEN IN THE MOVIE!! He disappears to fix the plane and returns at the very end as a last minute “gotcha” moment.

Next come the filthy no good greedy double crossing rats. These two blackmail “Gringo” (played by one time Oscar nominated actor Stuart Whitman) into leading them into the jungle to find gold. Old Gringo has a different plan and some nasty flashbacks to the last group he took touring the jungle. The two blackmailers come to their own nasty ends. One is eaten by crabs. The other is shot dead.

Donald Pleasence plays a former Nazi on horse back. He is guided by a topless woman with long hair that kinda serves as a shirt in most of the scenes. I think he is a Nazi because Raiders had nazis, otherwise there is no excuse for Pleasence’s terrible, awful, no good, German accent. Which, by the way, he cannot even maintain through a single line of dialogue. He ends up dead too. Terrible.

Most of the movie is passable. But I’ve noticed now with my third Cardona movie, he has a few cinematic flourishes. For instance, he loves to put things like plants or columns or big obstacles in the foreground of many of his shots – especially when panning. The other thing, he loves stock nature footage inter-cut with the filmed action. Innovative use of stock footage? Not really, but it adds something when you see a bear or a deer or a tiger walk around.

I give this flick 3 poisoned blow darts out of 9 poisoned blow darts because there was some passable gore.

Carlos el Terrorista (1979)

Why Do I Have to Kill Everyone?

René Cardona Jr.’s Carlos the Terrorist is an exceptionally strange political thriller. Trust me though “strange” here does not mean good. The plot involves – if one can call it that – everyone is out to get the world’s most deadly terrorist, Carlos, who is trying to successfully sell the secrets he knows to the highest bidder.

But don’t worry about that plot because I suspect that the entire budget was spent on what low grade special effects they needed that they had no money to pay a script writer, let alone a sound crew to record any dialogue.

That’s what is most strange about this movie, aside from a droning narrator explaining complicated events between scenes and a few voice-overs by Andres Garcia, the movie has zero spoken dialogue.  This could have made the movie excellent, like a comic book telling its story through exciting visuals, but sadly that is not this movie.

Instead, CARLOS THE TERRORIST involves tough guys running around the city chasing each other. And the tough guys are either coked-up disco lounge lizards chosen because they could leap down flights of stairs. They all look like they were cut from the HOT COPS ENSEMBLE for being too stout and hairy.

A bunch of stupid stuff happens (like assassination by remote control toy plane) and Andres Garcia is semi-nude for most of the movie. So I guess that was one of the major box office draws.

I give this two out of fifteen hidden phone bombs.


Tintoreara: Killer Shark (1977)

tintorera3René Cardona Jr.’s TINTOREARA is an awe-inspiring mess of terribleness. Billed as a horror film / JAWS rip-off, it accomplishes only knuckle-dragging problematic machismo among a nonsense backdrop of the permissive party culture of the late 70s.

Briefly, here is what happens: Two American girls accept a ride with two Mexican orange farmers. The girls are sorta raped. An American woman falls in love with Mustache Jerk. They break up. She moves on to Gigolo Man. Then she is eaten by the shark.

Meanwhile, thinking the American woman left on an airplane, Mustache Jerk and Gigolo Man become friends so they can make it with more women. They go spear fishing and kill a lot of sharks.

A British Lady shows up and tames the Mustache Jerk and Gigolo Man into a weird no love three way affair. While showing off to the British Bird, Gigolo Jerk is eaten by the shark.

British Bird flies away because Mustache Jerk is, well, a jerk. In order to forget the loss of his bestie and his best girl, Mustache Jerk goes to a weird beach party. The two American Girls are there. They all go skinny dipping. One of the two American girls is eaten by the shark.

Mustache Jerk makes it his life mission to hunt and kill the shark. He is eaten by the shark.


I mean, what the hell did I just watch? It was part bad softcore porn, but without the sex. It was kinda animal Faces of Death. It was kinda just stupid and boring and there was no excitement nor drama. It was incredibly strange.

I give it two scuba bubbles out of 100 scuba bubbles because I think the shark ate everyone in the movie.


The Meg (2018)

jabberjaw-1976_l20I hate to say this but THE MEG  is incredibly disappointing. I hate to say it because I love giant monster movies. I love Jason Stratham movies. And I love Jon Turteltaub movies!

Okay, I have never seen another Turteltaub directed feature, so that last thing is a lie.

THE MEG is just a gigantic let down. Mostly because all we really get to see of the giant killer shark is its giant hungry mouth. That’s really boring.

I wanted to see a half nude Jason Stratham karate chop the megalodon on its nose or grab it by the dorsal and swing it out of the ocean into space where a rocket ship batted it off into the sun. And maybe the spaceship was driven by Danny Trejo or Cheech Marin.

Instead we are bored by a million plot developments most involving indestructible shark cages, underwater sea ships, and cute children and dogs in danger. Look I enjoyed that Stratham was the guy who saved people, but it was not enough for me. Even though he did look into the camera and mumble, “I got this.”

In the end, the megalodon, itself, proved too overwhelming for the filmmakers. It was too big to really be interested in eating humans kicking around in the water. And the director wasn’t interested in blowing up boats. So what are you left with? Shenanigans and foiled hijinx and Stratham diving into the ocean to pull open steel grates or whatever.

Sure there were some promising bits with fat kids and inner tubes, but it was wasted because hardly anyone got eaten. Plus really the shark could not have made it into that shallow of water – but that didn’t bother me as much as the fact that no one got chomped up into a gooey mess.

I give this five life jackets out of twelve life jackets because we did get to see Stratham in a towel.

Dark Song (2016)

A Dark Song... Photograph by Paul Doherty Photography
Alan Moore cameo in Dark Song.

If you are going to watch a movie on the tedium of ritualized magic, this is a good place to start. Basically, a re-telling of the Abramelin ritual – where a dingbat spends a year of their life locked in a house to gain knowledge or power from their “guardian angel.” Crowley undertook it at least twice and gave up, supposedly “interrupted” by this or that – probably an errand boy sent to collect a bill.


DARK SONG is meditative and angry in all the saddest ways. A mother (Catherine Walker) wishes to talk to her dead son so she hires a magician (Steve Oram) to perform the ritual in a rented county house. Hijinx ensue. Mostly, these consist of the magician barking orders and swearing at the sad mother who spends much of the movie whispering on the floor, surrounded by candles and white chalk.

There are hidden reasons the mother wants to talk to her “guardian angel” and the magician has “the curse.” Not that any of that really matters, since we are barely asked to invest very much in either of them. They both are written as damaged and not much else.

By the time the ritual finally takes hold, it was too late for me to care very much. And the ultimate resolution is so incredibly Catholic, though it adds an unmerited gravitas to the film that it neither merits nor earns.  Damn.

Mandy (2018)

tumblr_pf78r8xncj1qk4fe1o6_r1_540MANDY is a rare Nicolas Cage movie, meaning that Cage has few lines and scant opportunity to chew the scenery. Cage exudes a cosmic overacting.

Instead of exploiting Cage’s energy to make a cinematic fool of himself, MANDY exploits his uncanny presence. Bathed in pink hues and painted in blood, Cage throws his body into this movie with a muted insanity. His character’s power comes from an infusion of rage, insane grief, and revenge. All conveyed as much by Cage’s past performances as the one we watch.

Therein is hidden the key to MANDY.  Everyone reviewing the movie seems intent upon using the words “fever dream” or “hallucinogenic nightmare” as a lazy way to describe the skewed visuals and off-kilter collage of styles. While no one points out that feeling is created, in part, because the movie is 100% referential to other horror films.

Each scene hints at a familiar visual source, nothing is original. By stitching together a bastard monster from a 1000 corpses, Panos Cosmatos jr. recreates the frightfulness of the horror genre. He manages to create a visual presence –  a nauseating experience of dreadful associations very much like a real nightmare.

For instance, Cosmatos’ makes visual references to HELLRAISER, EVIL DEAD 2, THE DESCENT, THE CELL, RAISING ARIZONA, GHOULIES, PSYCHOMANIA, HEAVY METAL, HE-MAN, THE SHINING to name a few. With direct scenes of the movie – especially the dueling chainsaws reworking famous scenes from TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE 2 and PHANTASM II – completely lifted from their sources.

In addition to horror references, Cosmatos’ laced his film with the tension between music fans that defined the 1980s culture wars. Fan bases reached near cult-like fanaticism as metal heads hated hippies and hippies hated Jesus-freak rockers. Mandy wears BLACK SABBATH and MOTLEY CRUE (Shout at the Devil) t-shirts, while Jeremiah Sand is a failed hippie folk rock star god.

It is a commentary on musical taste and rivalry AND male fragility that Mandy’s laughter at Sand’s song is the catalyst for violence. And when Red goes on his rampage he forges a weapon that resembles the CELTIC FROST logo.

The final thing I thought about the movie is that it would be possible to construct a whole theory around the fact that Red does not recover from the stab wound nor never frees himself from the barbed wire. Instead, everything that follows that scene exists in the dying fancy of a broken man.

I guess MANDY has a cult following already – Cheddar Goblin and other custom action figures are in collector’s hoards – and is an incredibly polarizing movie. It makes sense. It is completely and utterly visually frustrating – like a hangnail you can’t stop working back and forth. Painfully satisfying.




Paradox (2017)


Yip Wai-Shun (Wilson Yip) of IP MAN fame takes a run at a Wes Anderson-inspired quirky non-joke filled comedy.

The plot of PARADOX revolves around two Chinese hipsters, who meet in a cafe, exchange some drolleries, and then decide to go to Thailand to get tattoos. On their adventure, they are joined by a superstitious police officer, a mayoral candidate, and a lonely meat packing executive. All smoke too much and engage in disaffected one liners on the nature of existence.

I mean. I wish that were true.

Instead, PARADOX is mixed bag of lumpy martial arts / string fu crime action. Yip summed up the plot perfectly, a cop’s daughter has bad things happen to her and her father tries to find her.

The action scenes are intense. There are a lot of punches and body blows and swing around a motherfucker’s face before kicking another motherfucker in his face power moves. One innovation, even since the JACKIE CHAN kung fu-ery movies, is the force of landed punches/kicks – they have managed to make it sound like ham hocks are pounding into flank steaks (I don’t know anything about meat, actually). Add that to the perfected stunt work of digital correcting and harness pulleys of Sammo Hung’s choreography and you got excitement, no doubt.

But the movie is problematic because basically it is saying the Chinese family must sacrifice itself so that the Thailand family may live. Now that might make you go, yeah the PARADOX of the title, right? Wrong. It is all Chinese propaganda. I mean, China is ready to LITERALLY give its heart so the government of Thailand may live. Or something. Here is something about it, kinda.

I give this four out of five HI-YAAAAHS because Tony Jaa can fly.